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 20 The Past Has No Future

 

Someone knocked softly on Daryl’s door. He stopped what he was doing, and went to answer it. Carol stood outside on the porch, smiling gently. “Can I come in?”

Daryl stepped aside and let her in. She looked around at the house. “You still going through with it?” she asked.

“I promised him I would. Why? You think it’s a bad idea or something?” he said on the defense.

“Not at all. I’m just surprised, you know, with everything that happened,” she replied.

Daryl picked up his duffle bag and stuffed a few more things into it. Then he picked up a shirt from the back of the couch, sniffed it, shrugged and threw it in the bag.

“You gonna miss this place?” she asked.

Daryl looked around and shook his head. “Naw, it was just a place to sleep. Besides, Aaron’s house is nicer … bigger.”

Carol picked up a dirty bowl off the coffee table. “Cleaner,” she mentioned and carried it into the kitchen.

“I owe it to him to follow through with my promise, and before that night … before … you know … I told him I would move in,” Daryl said to justify his motives.

“He won’t be there, though,” she said from the kitchen.

“Yeah, well, I’m used to being alone.” Daryl carried the full duffle bag to the front door and sat it on the floor.

Carol came out of the kitchen. “Is that all you have?”

“I’m a light traveler. If I don’t need it, I don’t keep it.” He stood in the center of the living room and looked around. “Is Morgan staying?”

“I don’t know. He hasn’t said one way or the other yet. Deanna was kind enough to give him time to make up his mind,” Carol answered.

Daryl cupped his hand to the back of his neck and smiled slightly. “Aaron told Morgan he could have this place. I gave him a hard time for giving away my house before I moved out.”

Carol smiled and rubbed her hand on Daryl’s back. “I bet he was so excited when you said you’d move in with him.”

“Are you kidding? He got all giddy like a little girl.” The smile faded as he looked up at Carol. “That’s why I have to go through with this. I mean, to me it’s just a house, but Aaron wanted it so much. It just … feels like the right thing to do. He would want me there.”

Carol cupped his face and pulled him to her, kissing his cheek. “You’re a good man, Daryl Dixon, maybe one of the last.”

“Yeah, well, don’t tell anyone.”

Carol walked with him to Aaron’s house. They went inside and she looked around. “It’s a lot of house for one person.”

“It’s alright.”

“Uh huh, well, I’m still going to come by and clean for you,” she said with a stern tone.

“I can clean,” he protested.

“I’ve seen your idea of cleaning. You need me,” she smiled. Carol went to the kitchen and saw the kettle sitting on the back burner of the stove. “Coffee?”

“I don’t know if there is any. Aaron was more of a tea drinker.” Daryl went to the living room and plopped down on the couch. He looked over at a chair in the corner. There was a grey flannel shirt draped over the back. Daryl remembered Aaron wearing the shirt a time or two. Funny the things he could remember, especially now that . . .

Carol came into the living room and sat next to him. “No coffee, but I found these.” She handed a bottle of beer to Daryl, and kept one for herself. “Look at all these plates,” she commented. “Virginia, Wisconsin, Florida, Tennessee, there must be one from every state.”

“Almost. No Alaska. Actually, he found one, but … he had to use is against walkers.” Daryl’s voice was sullen as he remembered. “Maybe I’ll find another one when I’m out.”

“Are you still going to recruit?” she asked.

“I gotta do something. I can’t just stay here day after day, and hope . . .” He cut himself short. Daryl got up from the couch and walked across the room to the fireplace. He picked up a small wooden figurine and mindlessly played with it. “You hear anything about Alison?”

“Oh yeah, I saw Rick earlier. Deanna has decided not to toss her out.”

“What?”

“She convinced Rick that the whole eviction thing is not a good idea. Better to keep your enemies close, especially when you don’t know where you’re sending them. It’s obvious that there’s a new threat out there. Who’s to say they aren’t recruiting the people that we turned away? Alexandria doesn’t need that right now. So, Alison is on a sort of house arrest thing. I don’t know, you’d have to ask Rick. He’s the one who set it up.”

They talked a little while longer, until they finished their beers, and then Carol got up to leave. “You going to be ok staying here alone tonight?”

“When am I ever not ok being alone?” he answered smartly.

Carol went up to Daryl and kissed his cheek. She smiled and pushed his hair from his eyes. “You know, everything is going to work out, right?”

“Yeah,” he said, but there was no enthusiasm in his voice. He was only humoring her.

“Hey, what is it? What’s on your mind?” she asked with concern.

“I don’t know. I keep thinking about that night, holding him in my arms. I … I waited too long to tell him how I felt, and when I did, it was too late. I had so many opportunities, but I didn’t take them. I kept thinking that we had more time.”

“You can’t dwell on that, Daryl. It will only drive you insane.”

“I know, and I keep telling myself that, but … do you … do you think he knew? Do you think he heard me?” Daryl was thinking out loud. He didn’t really want an answer. It was all just a guess anyways. “I like to think he did.”

“Then he did,” Carol answered. She smiled at him again, and kissed his forehead. “I’ll see you later?” she said.

“Sure,” Daryl replied, forcing a smile as he watched Carol leave.

The house was too quiet, he thought. Maybe it was a bad idea to come here. It just wasn’t the same without Aaron. Daryl closed his eyes and imagined him there, walking around from room to room, straightening this or that, picking up after Daryl. When he opened his eyes, he was staring at the stairs that led to the bedrooms. Daryl knew he’d find more of Aaron up there, his clothes, his personal belongings, the bed they had shared on occasion. He couldn’t go up there, not yet. Instead, Daryl went out to the garage to tinker with his bike.

How did things go so wrong? He’d asked himself that a thousand times. Carol filled him in on everything that happened while he was gone on a run with Aaron. Rick finally confronted Pete about hitting Jesse, and things got out of control. It ended up with Rick and Pete brawling in the street, and nearly killing each other. Deanna finally stopped looking the other way and took Rick’s advice to separate Pete from his family. She also had Rick put on lockdown until they could discuss in a civil manner what should happen to him. Her usual reaction would have been to cast him from the town for stealing weapons and for his violent behavior, in which he almost strangled Pete to death. But Deanna knew that to send Rick away would mean his whole group would go with him. They were a family, and they did everything together. She still needed them, though, so she decided to settle things with a discussion and eventually a trial. They were having their discussion the night Daryl and Aaron arrived with Morgan. They had been talking with townspeople and with Rick’s people to come to a decision as to what to do. Rick wasn’t at the meeting, like he was supposed to be, and that made him look bad in the eyes of the town. Michonne and Carol stuck up for Rick, made excuses as to why he was late, and that he would be there soon. They could only do so much, and Deanna was about to give her verdict when Rick finally appeared, bloody and befouled, carrying a dead walker. He had been on his way to the meeting when he noticed no one was watching the gate. When he checked it out, he found the gate open, and blood and flesh smeared along the entry. Rick knew what was inside the walls, and frantically searched street by street, looking for the threat. He didn’t know how many had gotten in, but at least it wasn’t a herd. It came at him from out of the shadows, and he had to fight it with his bare hands. Then he carried the dead thing to the fire pit to show everyone what could happen, what did happen, what would always happen unless they smartened up and started listening to him. However, in the midst of his speech, Pete showed up drunk, carrying Michonne’s sword, threatening Rick, and telling everyone that Rick was the real threat. Reg, Deanna’s husband tried to calm him, to stop him. And that’s when Pete swung the sword to push Reg away, but the blade sliced Reg’s neck from side to side and he bled out. Abraham, who was closest to Pete, grabbed him and wrangled him to the ground. It was about that time when Daryl and Aaron showed. They caught the final act of the night, when Deanna told Rick to take care of Pete for good. And within only a few moments after that, Aaron was . . .

Daryl was going through a box of motorcycle parts as he reminisced about that night. He kept playing it over and over in his mind if there was something different he could have done. He didn’t see Aaron until it was too late. He tried to warn him, but there was no time. Every time Daryl closed his eyes, he saw the bat making contact with Aaron’s head, the loud thwack it made, Aaron not moving after that, and the blood. So much blood.

Daryl’s ire got the best of him, and he took a spare headlamp out of the box and threw it at the wall. The glass shattered, a piece of it bouncing back and hitting Daryl next to his eye. “Fuck!” he shouted. He reached up to feel his face, and his hand came away bloody. It was just a nick, but it bled profusely. He took his red rag from his back pocket and held it over the wound. Daryl looked at the clock on the wall. It was about time to head out anyways. He would ask Denise to take a look.

Denise was the new town doctor, now that Pete was gone. She had been his assistant, more like his nurse. She paid close attention to his work and picked up a lot of things along the way. As Pete’s drinking got worse, she took over more and more of his practice. It was a good thing too. She was their only physician now.

Daryl arrived at the infirmary and went inside. Denise had seen him coming up the road with the rag to his head, and was already at the door. “What happened?” she asked, taking the rag away to have a better look.

“Dropped a glass,” he fibbed. “A piece of it got me in the face.”

“Well, come here and sit down,” she said. Daryl had a seat on a stool, and Denise examined his head. “You’re lucky. Just a little to the left and it could have gone into your eye. Doesn’t look like there’s any glass in the wound. It’s not deep and doesn’t need stitches. I’ll just put some antiseptic on it and bandage it.”

“Thanks,” he said.

“I thought you were here kind of early,” she said as she dabbed the cut with ointment.

“Yeah,” Daryl said tersely.

“He’s here, you know,” she said quietly.

“He works here now, doesn’t he?” He waited until she was done before he spoke again. “Maybe I should go.”

“I think you should stay. Actually, I think you and Eric should speak to one another. You did, after all, have someone in common. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone you can relate to who can relate to you,” Denise advised.

“Yeah, well,” Daryl said, trying to avoid being social. “I don’t think that’s going to happen. He still blames me for what happened to Aaron.” He flinched when she applied the peroxide to the wound. “Hell, I guess I blame myself too.”

Denise paused what she was doing and stood back to look Daryl in the eye. “It is not your fault, and don’t let me hear you say that again.”

They heard footsteps coming down the hallway. Denise cocked an eyebrow at Daryl. “Behave yourself.”

“I will if he will,” Daryl said.

Eric came into the room carrying an arm full of sheets from the patient beds. He stopped when he saw Daryl like a deer caught in a car’s headlights. Daryl only glanced at him, and then turned away.

“Everything … alright?” he asked Denise.

“Just a cut from some glass,” Denise informed him with a smile.

“I was just going,” Daryl said quietly.

Denise grabbed Daryl’s arm to make him stay. “It’s almost your shift. Might as well stay here.”

Daryl looked at Eric again, but he looked away, and carried the dirty sheets to the laundry room. Daryl figured Eric would stay there until he was done for the day in order to avoid him, which was fine. No love loss there.

When she was sure Eric was out of earshot, she spoke. “Good. You’ve proven that you can be civil around each other. Last time, you all got in a shouting match.”

“He started it,” Daryl said, sounding like a five year old.

“Well, I was just on my way to see Mr. and Mrs. Gibbs. They invited me for dinner, and I hate to cook so . . .” She took her jacket from the coatrack. “Did you eat yet, Daryl? Want me to bring you something? I’m sure they’ll have plenty.”

“Naw, I’m alright.”

“Ok then. You know the routine. I’ll be back in a few. Call on me if you need me. And behave yourself,” she warned teasingly. Daryl watched Denise leave and jumped down from the patient’s table.

The infirmary was a house that Deanna had set up as a doctor office. There was a kitchen to the left and a living room to the right. The dining room was transformed into a patient area with cots and tables like you would see in a doctor office. Daryl always wondered where they got those. This area was for people who came in with minor injuries or concerns. They could be examined here, and taken care of quickly. For those with more serious injuries, there were beds divided by shower curtains in what would have been a bonus room or game room. Denise told Daryl that there had been a bar and a pool table in that room, which they moved out. Across from that room was a den. It wasn’t a very big room, not big enough to get several patients into, but with the desk and a few other things removed, it made a nice size personal room for anyone who needed special attention and needs. There was a decent couch in there too, for anyone who wanted to stay with their loved one. Tara had been brought there when she had her accident. She was doing better. Eugene was always with her, taking care of her. He’d felt guilty for what happened to her. Tara was trying to protect him and keep him safe when she was hurt. Now, Eugene was returning the favor.

Daryl stood at the end of the hall, and gave a deep sigh. He took a step, but stopped when he heard Eric’s voice. “I didn’t expect you here. I would have been gone if I had known.”

“It’s your right to be here. After all, it’s your job now, isn’t it?” Daryl said without turning to him.

“My shift’s not up for another hour, but … if you’d rather I left–””

“Not necessary,” Daryl said without emotion. He walked down the hall and stood outside of the den a moment before opening the door. Then he slowly turned the handle, hoping to see something different. Once again, he was disappointed. Nothing had changed.

Daryl went into the private patient room and stood at the foot of the bed, looking at the man lying there. He looked so peaceful, just like he was sleeping. If it wasn’t for the gauze wrapped around his head, no one would know he was injured or in a coma. He even had that slight curl to the corners of his mouth, as if he was smiling.

Daryl took a seat in the chair by the bed. He laid his hand on the man’s arm and rubbed it gently. “Hey, Aaron. I’m here. You look good today. I think a little more of your color is coming back.” Daryl longed to hear him speak, to answer him, to make a joke, anything, but there was nothing but silence, just like it had been for the past two weeks. He looked up at the IV bag. It was nearly full. Denise told him that if he stayed in a coma much longer, someone would have to go out and find more supplies. They were running low since they had used the same thing for Tara. Without hesitation, Daryl volunteered to go. Glenn did too. Abraham said that if no one else would go, he would. They would go to every hospital, clinic and doctor’s office in Washington, D.C. to find what they needed, no matter how overrun it was.

“I moved in today,” Daryl said enthusiastically. “I, uh, I didn’t unpack yet. You know me. Hard to plant my feet and all. Carol doesn’t trust me to keep the place clean. She knows how you hate a mess, and she insists on being our cleaning lady.” He forced a chuckle, wishing Aaron would join him. On the side table was a bouquet of wild flowers. Maggie had told him that Sasha came by with them. She was doing better, but it was taking her a long time to adjust to Alexandria, especially after losing Bob and Tyrese. She was trying, Daryl thought. That’s what Aaron would have said, anyways. “Not much else going on. Morgan hasn’t made up his mind to stay or not. He and Rick have been at odds. I guess they go back a ways, come from the same county or something like that. Caleb asks about you all the time. A lot of people miss you, Aaron, but especially me. I wish you’d wake up and come home. I miss you. I-I need you, you know? We had plans.” He sounded desperate, but it made no difference. There was no response from Aaron, not even a flinch.

“If you don’t wake up soon, I’m gonna have to go out and find more medicine. I know you don’t like it when I go out alone, so Glenn and Abraham are coming with me. If I’m not here for a few days, that’s where I am, but I promise I’ll be back.”

“When are you going?” Eric asked from the doorway. He stood there with clean towels.

Daryl hadn’t heard him come in. “Not for a few days yet.”

Eric walked into the room, and put the towels on a shelf next to some blankets and other things for the patient. “I … heard you say you moved into the house. You think that’s a good idea?”

Daryl didn’t care for his tone, even though it was only tinged with jealousy. “Aaron asked me to move in with him, and I told him I would.”

“And how many times did you turn him down before you agreed?” Eric berated.

“I’m not going to have this discussion. You got something to say, then just come out and say it,” Daryl demanded. “Or are you going to start with the blame game again.”

“You already know how I feel,” Eric said.

“Yes, and you remind me every chance you get.”

“Well, it’s true. If it weren’t for you, Aaron would have been far away from this place. He’d still be walking and talking, and–”

“You mean he’d be with you,” Daryl growled.

“He’d be safe,” Eric countered.

“I think you got that backwards. Who was the one that ran away that night because the big man with the bad mouth scared you?” Daryl accused. “Maybe if you had grown a pair of fucking balls, he’d still be with you.”

“And what is that supposed to mean?” Eric asked angrily.

“He was only with you because he felt he had to protect you. He was always worried something would happen to you. Poor defenseless little Eric can’t take care of himself.”

“That’s bullshit,” Eric yelled.

“Well, I don’t see you volunteering for a shift in the watchtower, or going on a supply run. Hell, I don’t even see you doing gate duty. But the infirmary needs a candy striper, someone to run errands, change bed pans or wash sheets, and you’re first in line … far from any danger. How many times did Aaron put his ass on the line for you?”

“Fuck you, Daryl!” Eric shouted.

“Fuck me? Who’s willing to risk his life to go out and find medicine for him?” Daryl stood from the chair and threatened to approach Eric. Surprisingly, the tall thin man stood his ground, even if his back was pushed up against a bookshelf.

“And who loved him and wasn’t afraid to say it?” Eric retaliated. “That’s what I never understood. I told him how much he meant to me every chance I got. I showed him and I said it often, and still, it was you he went to. It was you he wanted, even when you denied him. He wouldn’t give up on you, and after all I did to make him realize how much I loved him.”

That hurt Daryl more than anyone could know. Whether it was stubbornness or foolishness, Daryl couldn’t say he loved Aaron until it was too late. Now he laid there in a coma, and he might never wake up. “I do love him,” Daryl said softly.

“Then why couldn’t you ever tell him?” Eric said in a quiet non accusing way. “After all, that’s all he wanted from you.”

“He knew how I felt.”

“He wanted to hear it. It’s not the same thing.”

Daryl walked to the window and looked outside. The sun was setting. A mom was calling her kids inside. A flock of geese were heading for the pond where they’d stay for the night. It was all too perfect, except for the fact that Aaron wasn’t with him. If he was, Daryl wouldn’t be having this conversation with Eric. “What the fuck do you know about it,” he complained.

“He told me once. He said he told you he loved you, but you couldn’t say it back.”

“Well, I don’t see how it’s any of your business,” Daryl said, his anger on the rise again.

“Because we might not have been a couple any more, but he was still my friend and the only other person around here that was willing to listen to my problems. Jesus, Daryl, don’t you see? He gave up everything for you. The moment you arrived in town, I had no chance with him. He talked about you, and how he thought we could all be friends. He told me how he was helping you adjust to life in Alexandria, and how you were trying to fit in. He said you were a lot like us, shunned by even those you thought were your friends. And any time I tried to tell him he was spending too much time with you, or talking about you obsessively, he would get mad and shut down. That’s when I started to realize he had feelings for you. And I tried to do what I could to dissuade him, but he’d have none of it. I had to sit there and watch him pine over a man who, in my eyes, couldn’t give a shit.”

There was a metal tray on a table next to where Daryl stood, just begging to be knocked onto the floor. “I don’t give a shit? Is that what you think?” He swung his arm, pushing the tray over the edge, making it crash on the floor, and everything on it scattering. The sudden move made Eric throw his hands up in front of his face, just in case Daryl was going to throw something at him. Daryl took the opportunity to rush Eric, grab him by the collar and get in his face. “I give more of a shit than anyone in this whole fucking town. Who else has been with Aaron every single night, sleeping on this piece of shit couch, praying that he will wake up, fearing that he won’t, terrified that I’ll have to be the one to put a knife through his skull. Are you going to do that, you pussy son of a bitch? No, because it all falls on me … because I love him more than anyone else in this whole goddamn place.” Daryl released Eric, pushing him so that he fell backwards against a dresser, knocking a vase to the floor and smashing it to pieces. “So don’t give me your fucking bullshit, Eric, because there’s only one person in this room who–”

Suddenly, Aaron made a moaning noise, drawing Daryl’s attention away from bashing in Eric’s face. Both men stopped everything, even breathing, to hear it again. Aaron’s eyes were moving behind his closed lids. It was the most they’d seen from him since he was hit with the bat.

“Aaron?” Eric called out from across the room, struggling to stand up without cutting his hand on the broken vase.

Daryl rounded on him. “You stay the fuck back,” he seethed, and then he went to the bedside. Daryl took up Aaron’s hand and stroked it. “Hey Aaron. Come on, man. Wake up. You can do it.”

Aaron moaned again, his voice sounding raw and gravelly. His head moved a little to the side.

“He’s awake,” Eric said. “Aaron, it’s me.”

Daryl glared at him from over his shoulder, then turned back to Aaron. “I’m here. It’s me, Daryl. Wake up.”

Aaron furrowed his brows and parted his lips. “W-Water,” he moaned.

Eric was closest to a pitcher of water. He poured a glass and went to the bed. Daryl grabbed it from him, and pushed Eric back. Then he put an arm behind Aaron’s neck and lifted him forward a bit. He held the glass to Aaron’s lips and tilted the cup until the water barely touched his lips. Aaron drank a little, but he coughed, not used to using the muscles in his throat. He slowly opened his eyes, squinting against the light in the room. “Oh, my head,” he complained.

Daryl smiled. “You’re awake. I’ve been praying for this moment. God, you’re finally awake.”

“W-What happened t-to me?” he stammered, struggling to form his first words in two weeks.

“You were clubbed in the head. You’ve been in a coma, but you’re awake now,” Daryl told him.

Aaron blinked a few more times. He looked up at Daryl’s face, a smile already on his lips. It was the greatest thing Daryl had ever seen, that smile. He smiled back. “I’ve missed you so much.”

“I missed you t–” Aaron cut his words short and the smile disappeared as his eyes focused on the man before him. “W-Who are you?”

Daryl huffed with humor. “It’s me, Daryl. Who else do you think it–”

“Where’s Eric?” he asked.

Daryl didn’t understand, except for the fact that Aaron must have heard them fighting before he awoke. “He’s here.” Daryl took hold of Aaron’s hand and brought it to his lips. He kissed Aaron’s knuckles, but Aaron yanked his hand away.

“What are you doing?” Aaron asked, confusion on his face. “Eric?” he called out.

Eric looked at Daryl before he moved. Daryl glared, upset with Eric, but confused by Aaron. Now was not the time to cause any more of a scene than they already had. Aaron was probably very fragile right now, having just woke up. Reluctantly, Daryl moved away and allowed Eric to approach the bed. “I’m right here, hon,” Eric said, smiling down at him.

“Eric, what happened? Where am I?”

Daryl watched Aaron reach out and take Eric’s arm. Eric covered his hand. “You’re in the infirmary.” Eric looked back at Daryl. “One of us should go get Denise.”

“You better hurry,” Daryl said.

“Don’t go,” Aaron said to Eric. “I’m … I’m so c-confused right now.”

“Daryl, be a doll and run along.”

If looks could kill, Eric would have been chopped into a thousand pieces right now. Daryl looked back to Aaron. He was watching him. There was something in Aaron’s eyes, as though he was trying to place Daryl’s face, but it just wasn’t coming to him. “Do I … know you?”

“I’m Daryl,” he said.

Aaron closed his eyes and thought hard. Then they flew open with recognition. Daryl’s heart started to soar. “I know who you are. You came in with that group. There’s a bunch you.”

Daryl laughed nervously. “Come on, you’re kidding, right? It’s me, Daryl. I’m … I’m your, uh–” Lover, his heart said. “I’m your friend,” he said instead. Too much pushing would not be good right now.

“I-I know who you are. I recognize you, but … I-I don’t remember us being friends.”

“Maybe that’s because we’re actually–”

Eric cut him off. “You should really go and get Denise, just in case something happens.”

Aaron was still staring at Daryl with complete confusion. He could see the disappointment on Daryl’s face and felt bad. “I’m sorry. I just don’t remember right now.”

“Let’s slow things down a bit, ok?” Eric advised. “Daryl, you go get Denise, and then we’ll start sorting all of this out.”

“Can I speak to you a minute first? Out in the hall?” Daryl inquired threateningly.

Eric nodded and went reluctantly. Daryl closed the door to the room, and in one swift movement, pinned Eric against the wall by his neck. “What the fuck did you do to him?”

“What are you talking about? I didn’t do anything,” Eric protested.

“You’re with him all day. Were you filling his head with shit while he was sleeping, trying to alter his unconscious thoughts?” Daryl accused, his hand tightening around Eric’s skinny neck.

“You’re with him all night. Who’s to say you weren’t filling his head.”

“Because it’s you he’s asking for. I swear, if you’ve done something–”

“I did nothing of the sort. I don’t know why he thinks were still together. He WAS hit in the head. He doesn’t have all his memories back yet. Maybe he just needs time,” Eric tried to justify. “Please, just go get Denise in case Aaron slips back into a coma again.”

Daryl’s eyes narrowed on Eric, but he agreed to go. He released Eric, who rubbed his throat, and then he stormed off to go find Denise.

>>------->

“Oh my,” Denise smiled as she rushed into the room to check Aaron. “This is a surprise.”

“You’re not the only one. They’re telling me I was in a coma,” Aaron said. “Must be why I feel so weak.”

“You’ll have to do some therapy to get your strength back. I’m sure Daryl will want to help you with that,” Denise said, unaware of Aaron’s memory loss. Daryl leaned into her and whispered what they knew so far. She frowned. “What is the last thing you remember?” she asked him.

“I don’t know, bits and pieces I guess.”

“Well, do you remember getting hit in the head?”

Aaron thought a moment, and then shook his head. “No. I think I remember talking to Eric. We were standing around a fire. He was upset and wanted to go home. I didn’t go with him, but I don’t know why.”

“You suffered a major concussion. Your brain swelled. That would be enough to make you forget certain events that happened that night,” Denise informed him.

“What about Morgan,” Daryl said.

Aaron shook his head. “Who is Morgan?”

Denise reminded him. “You and Daryl brought him in the same night you were injured.”

Aaron shook his head with confusion. “I don’t know about that.”

“We were gone for days looking for survivors. We were in trouble. Morgan saved us. Don’t you remember any of that?” Daryl said desperately. “Y-You asked me to . . . And I-I agreed that I w-would . . .” His words faded as he saw the blank look on Aaron’s face. He didn’t remember their conversation about moving in together.

“I’m sorry, Daryl. I just can’t recall it right now,” Aaron apologized. He glanced at Eric and smiled, reached out and took his hand. “I’m glad you’re here,” Aaron said.

Eric smiled back, but he looked nervous and out of sorts with Daryl standing there.

Daryl couldn’t stand much more. Everything they’d been through together was wiped from Aaron’s memory. It was as though Daryl never existed. “I think I’m going to head home.” He went to Aaron and laid his hand on Aaron’s arm. “I’m glad you’re awake. We missed you around here.”

“Thank you Daryl. I hope I’ll remember more of you,” Aaron said sincerely.

Daryl gave a guarded smile. “Yeah, I hope so too.”

As he was leaving, Denise ran out the door after him. “We just have to give him some time. I think his memory will start to come back to him. Don’t get too discouraged about this. You have to remember the trauma he’s been through.”

“Yeah, I’ll keep that in mind,” Daryl said, and he was gone.

>>------->

He didn’t go back to the infirmary for a couple days. Daryl couldn’t bring himself to look like a stranger in Aaron’s eyes. He thought that maybe if he gave him some time he might start to remember. But to stand there and have him call for Eric just about broke Daryl’s heart. He moved back to his old house too. There was no point staying at Aaron’s house when he didn’t even remember. He told Carol what had happened, and she said he gave up too easily.

“You think Eric is going to try and jog his memory? Hell no. As far as he’s concerned, Aaron is back in his life and you’re out of the picture. It’s like a dream come true for the little snot,” she complained. “Now you listen to me. You’re going back there, you’re going to tell Eric to get the hell out, and you’re going to talk to Aaron … alone.”

“You telling me what to do?” he said in a threatening tone.

“You better believe it. Now go,” she demanded.

Daryl did as she said, and went to the infirmary that day. Denise was happy to see him. She quietly escorted him to Aaron’s room. He was asleep, and Eric was sitting on the chair next to the bed, reading a book. Eric look up and set the book down. “You’re back,” he commented.

“Eric,” Denise said. She glanced at Aaron and then at Daryl, gesturing for Eric to give them some time alone.

“I don’t know if–” Eric started to protest.

“Go,” Denise said in a tone no one knew she had.

Eric had no other choice but to leave the room. He glared at Daryl as he passed him. Daryl didn’t know he had it in him to be so aggressive. He could understand why, though. Aaron was important to him. Well, Aaron was important to Daryl too.

With Eric gone, Daryl took up the chair by the bed. Denise took a quick look at a monitor, checking his vitals. She smiled kindly to Daryl and silently left the room, closing the door behind her. Daryl leaned forward, the leather of his winged vest crackling as he moved. The noise woke Aaron, his eyes fluttering open, and falling onto Daryl.

“Oh, hey there,” he said, surprised. “W-Where’s Eric?”

“He stepped out for a bit. Left me in charge.” Daryl said. “How you feeling today?”

“Not bad, I guess. My head still hurts … a lot. I’m dizzy when I try to get up, so I haven’t started walking yet,” Aaron said with a hopeful smile.

“It will take some time. I remember when I was recovering from that sickness, and I couldn’t get out of bed right away. It sucks. But you were there to help me,” Daryl reminisced.

“I was?”

“Yeah, you stayed with me every night, talked to me while I was out of it. You were there when I took my first steps, and you helped me walk.”

Aaron searched his memories with no luck. “I’m sorry, but I just don’t remember that.”

“It was a while ago, so–”

“You said we are friends,” Aaron mentioned. “We must be very close for me to have stay with you while you were sick.”

“Yeah, we, uh, we hit it off right away. Actually, you were the one who found my group and brought us here,” Daryl told him.

Aaron thought about it a moment. “That seems familiar to me.”

“That’s good,” Daryl said with enthusiasm. “Yeah, you apparently followed us for a while, left bottles of water in the road with a sign that read–”

“From a friend,” Aaron finished. “Wow! I remember that, and … and a man … Rich, no wait … Rick. Yeah, Rick. He’s your leader.” Aaron closed his eyes and thought. “There was a storm coming, a really bad storm. You came out of the woods, and told them you found a barn where they could take shelter.” Aaron laughed with excitement. “I can’t believe I remembered all that.”

“That’s amazing, Aaron,” Daryl said.

Aaron stared at Daryl a moment. Something about the way he said his name was familiar, but it was probably because they were friends. “Eric said we worked together as recruiters. So tell me, are we successful?”

“I like to think we are. We make a great team, anyways.”

“Where all have we gone on our recruiting runs?” Aaron asked.

“We’ve been different places, wherever Deanna sends us.” Should he tell Aaron about the cabin? It might help him remember. He decided not to bombard him with too much. “We’ve brought a few people back to town, and they have worked out very well for Alexandria.”

“That’s great,” Aaron said with little energy. “It sounds like we’ve done great things here. I just hope I will eventually remember.”

It was getting to be a little too much for Daryl. Time to make his exit. “Well, I just wanted to see how you were. I better be on my way.”

“Alright,” Aaron smiled. “Come by any time, Daryl. I enjoyed talking with you. And … you know where to find me,” he joked.

“I do,” Daryl replied. Their eyes locked, and Daryl’s were almost begging for Aaron to remember him, to remember them. Instead, Aaron looked as though he felt slightly awkward by the private moment. Daryl turned his eyes down and away. “Well, I’ll see ya.” With that, Daryl left.



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