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 24 Feels Like Home

 

Daryl was in the master bedroom just starting to pack the few things he brought with him. He still needed to get dressed, and then they could finally be on their way back to Alexandria, back to being the stranger. The jig was up. Aaron was on to him. He knew this was all a set up. He’d probably never trust Daryl again. Daryl lied about Glenn hurting his foot just to get Aaron to go away with him. He brought Aaron to the cabin in hopes of loosening some of the memories they shared there. At first, he thought it was working. Aaron was having small flashes, like photos of the time they had spent alone, discovering things about each other. It didn’t work completely, though. Aaron was still convinced that he and Eric were the real couple and Daryl had been nothing more than a fling. Now he was out of options. There was nothing more to do. He had confessed to everything, to their relationship, to the lies Eric had been handing to him, and everything in between. It still wasn’t enough. Daryl had done all he could. It was a lost cause. It was over.

There was a soft knock at the door. Daryl opened it and immediately turned back to what he was doing without acknowledging Aaron. “I’m almost ready. I just gotta–”

“You told me you never said it before,” Aaron said.

“Listen, if you’ve come here to scold me or make me feel like shit, you don’t have to because I already–”

“You said you never told me, but you did,” Aaron went on, ignoring him.

Daryl abandoned his pack and turned to Aaron. “What the fuck are you talking–” But as he spoke, Aaron rushed to him and threw his arms around Daryl, hanging on for dear life.

“I remember Daryl. I remember that night by the fire pit, and the hit, and the yelling, and guns, and … and your arms cradling me … and … and … you said it. You said you loved me,” Aaron said into Daryl’s neck.

Daryl pulled Aaron off of him. He needed to see Aaron’s face. He needed to see his eyes and the recognition. Something had changed. Aaron hadn’t looked at Daryl like that since before the attack, and he’d definitely never looked at him like that since the amnesia. “Aaron?” he whispered with disbelief.

“I remember, Daryl,” Aaron smiled. “I remember it all, but most of all, I remember how much I love you.”

“But … how could you have heard me?” Daryl said, referring to that horrible night. “You were unconscious. You stopped breathing at one point. I thought you died in my arms.”

“I heard you. Through all of it and everything that happened, it was you who kept me alive. I held on to your words, and fought with every fiber of my being not to let death take me, and I think I was close.”

Daryl studied Aaron’s face, and with a loss of words, he pulled him into him and held him. “Oh God, Aaron, I’ve missed you. I thought I lost you for good. You don’t know how hard it’s been to see you and have you look at me like a stranger. But are you sure? You remember me now? Because I don’t think I can go through this again, you know, if this is just temporary or something.”

“I’m sure, and I’m not letting go of my memories again. I’m not letting go of you either. I love you, Daryl. Christ, I love you so much.” Aaron cupped Daryl’s face and leaned towards him. Their lips met, and they kissed slow and careful. Nothing was missing in that kiss. It was as familiar as the first time, and it was done with pure joy and longing.

They decided not to leave. Aaron needed some time to let everything sink in. He didn’t remember everything right away. It was more like it seeped in slowly, every drop connecting to another. As they reminisced, they familiarized themselves with each other and with situations. The important thing was that Aaron finally knew Daryl, and knew what they meant to each other. If he never remembered another thing, Daryl would be fine with it. Aaron was back with him, and that was the only thing that mattered.

They took a break from reminiscing, and while Aaron stayed on the couch, Daryl went to the wine cellar and brought a couple bottles up. He uncorked one of them in the kitchen, and came out with two glasses. Aaron watched him come to the couch, smiling at his handsome lover. He suddenly couldn’t get enough of seeing Daryl looking so happy and pleased. He had looked desolate and angry for so long.

Daryl laughed as he furrowed his brows when he saw Aaron watching him. “What?” he demanded.

“Have you always looked this handsome?” Aaron asked, trying to make him blush.

Daryl huffed. “You’re crazy.”

“And you still can’t take a compliment,” Aaron told him as Daryl handed him a glass and poured the wine. “I thought real men didn’t need glasses.”

“Normally, no, but this is a special occasion, and we’ll celebrate it properly,” Daryl said with a refined voice, making Aaron laugh. He sat next to Aaron. They clinked glasses together in a silent toast and drank deep.

Aaron watched Daryl over the edge of his glass, eyes smoldering. “I’ve got a better idea for a proper celebration.” He took Daryl’s glass and his and set them on the coffee table. When he returned to Daryl, Aaron kissed the side of his neck, and then along his jaw line. “You haven’t shaved in a while,” Aaron whispered.

“Neither have you,” Daryl noticed, his fingers touching the stubble on Aaron’s cheek.

“I was thinking about letting it grow out some. What do you think?” Aaron asked seductively.

Daryl shrugged. “I kind of like it. Makes you look a bit rougher instead of baby face.”

“Baby face?” Aaron questioned, his lips now moving on to Daryl’s ear. “You like me smooth?”

“I like you hard,” Daryl growled.

“You’re in luck, Mr. Dixon,” Aaron said wantonly.

Daryl moved so that he was leaning over Aaron, and pushed him down onto the couch. “Let me be the judge of that.” Daryl undid the single button and reached inside the opening of Aaron’s pajama pants. “You weren’t kidding, were you?” Daryl teased, stroking Aaron’s length.

“Daryl,” Aaron breathed heavily. “Better make this quick. I’m not going to last.” Aaron’s back arched off the couch and his hips bucked upward to shove himself into Daryl’s hand.

“I know just the thing,” Daryl said, licking his lips. He slipped Aaron’s pajama pants off quickly, and slid his lips around Aaron’s cock.

Aaron’s fingers went straight to Daryl’s hair, twisting within the long dark strands. Daryl was relentless in his ministrations, and it didn’t take long to have Aaron crying out with satisfaction. While Aaron’s flesh was still sensitive, Daryl pushed Aaron’s t-shirt up, exposing his chest, and kissed his way up Aaron’s stomach, making him jump and squirm. Aaron chortled and tried to push him away, but Daryl insisted on tasting every inch of flesh up to Aaron’s mouth. They kissed feverishly, the taste of Aaron still prominent on their twining tongues. Daryl pushed himself up by his hands and stared down into Aaron’s face.

“I’ve missed this. I’ve missed us,” he confessed, looking deep into Aaron’s eyes. “It feels like home again.”

“It’s going to be alright now,” Aaron assured him. He took the hem of Daryl’s shirt, and pushed it up, helping him out it. Daryl paused from kissing Aaron, and let him pulled the shirt off over his head.

They kissed again, this time slower and more lovingly. Daryl did the same for Aaron by pulling his shirt off so they could be flesh to flesh. Aaron’s hands dipped into the waistband of Daryl’s sweatpants. His fingers kneaded the taught flesh, driving Daryl mad with desire. “Take these off,” Aaron said, pushing the pants down as far as he could. Daryl finished and kicked them off onto the floor. Now they were both naked, and delighting in the feel of their hard cocks rubbing together.

“Turn over,” Daryl demanded, and Aaron didn’t hesitate to obey. Daryl nudged Aaron’s legs apart and slid slowly into his body. The instant enveloping heat and tightness had Daryl pulsating with pleasure, and he knew that, like Aaron, he wouldn’t last long. Once Aaron had adjusted, Daryl set his rhythm, hips gyrating, ass clenching with every pump. Aaron was moaning luxuriously, exciting Daryl to know he was responsible. There was just one thing Daryl wished to do, something he’d never been able to do before. He went deep, pumping in short, hard bursts until he felt his climax build. Aaron cried out, once again taking his pleasure. Daryl wasn’t far himself, and when he pushed and stilled, buried well inside Aaron, he came like a volcano erupting. He bent down as his orgasm traveled through his body and confessed in a whisper behind his lover’s ear. “I love you, Aaron.” Finally, he collapsed onto Aaron’s back, and the two men were spent, breathing heavily, enraptured by their long-awaited coupling. This was better than their first time, Daryl thought to himself.

Daryl reluctantly slipped from Aaron’s body, and Aaron moved so he could lay next to him. They kissed and held each other, neither man ready to abandon the other for so much as a sip of wine to quench their thirst. Aaron turned to look up into Daryl’s sultry blue eyes. Daryl gazed back at him, but it didn’t take him long to feel uncomfortable by Aaron’s soul-searching eyes.

“What is it?” Daryl asked, turning his eyes away.

“I’m perplexed,” Aaron responded.

“By what?” Daryl inquired again.

“How could I have ever forgotten any of this?” Aaron wondered.

“You didn’t forget. You just misplaced the memory for a while.”

“That’s a good way of putting it, I guess, but there’s still some things missing.”

“It will come back to you eventually, I hope.”

Aaron smiled and pulled Daryl down for a soft kiss. “I remember what’s most important to me. That’s all that really matters.”

“Let’s test your memory,” Daryl said. “How much of our last days together do you remember, before we returned to Alexandria?”

Aaron thought a moment before he answered. “Well, I remember the cannery and the walkers. I don’t remember how I got to the car, but I remember sitting in it, and your cigarettes, and kissing. After that it’s kind of a blank up until the time we entered the park and saw the meeting.”

“What about before that?” Daryl wondered. “You said you remember it raining.”

“Yeah, and you said we found an abandoned camper and got out of the weather, but I can’t recall it.”

“You don’t remember rockin’ that camper all night long?”

“We did?” Aaron said with an amused smile. “God, we must hump like rabbits.”

“What about the time you went down on me in the pantry?” Daryl asked.

“What?” Aaron said with shock.

“Or the time we went to one of Deanna’s social events, and we locked ourselves in the bathroom where I took you up against the wall.” Daryl told him.

“No, I don’t … The bathroom? Deanna’s house? Were we insane? We could have been caught.”

“You know what I think,” Daryl growled into Aaron’s ear. “I think we’re going to have to recreate some of these events.”

Aaron smiled, gazing into Daryl’s eyes. “You are a beast, aren’t you?”

“I’m just trying to be therapeutic. I think if we work really hard at it, we can get all of your memories back, and if not, then we’re creating new ones.”

“I’ll tell you what I do remember,” Aaron said. “You were supposed to move in with me. You finally agreed to that.” His eyes widened at the memory. “Hey, that’s when we got back to Alexandria with Morgan. I guess I remember more than I first thought.”

“You know, while you were recovering, I went through with our plans,” Daryl said softly.

“You moved in?” Aaron asked.

Daryl nodded. “I told you I would, and I meant it. I thought you’d wake up from that coma and come home, and we’d be together just like I promised.”

A bit of dolefulness moved between them. “And then I woke up and didn’t even know who you were.” Aaron cupped his face. “I’m sorry, Daryl. I can’t imagine how difficult that was.”

“Lucky for me, I hadn’t unpacked. I just took my bags back home.” Daryl sat up and so did Aaron.

“You’ll move in with me now, won’t you?” Aaron asked enthusiastically.

“I would except for one small problem,” Daryl reminded him. “Someone already lives there with you.”

Aaron closed his eyes, bowed his head and shook it side to side. “Shit. Eric.” He palmed the back of his head as though it pained him. “What am I going to tell him? How am I going to break this to him?”

“I’ll do it. I don’t have any problem with that,” Daryl said.

“I’m sure you don’t. I can’t just tell him to pack up and go.”

“Of course you can. Do you forget the lies he’s told you, the deceit? Eric deserves to be tossed out on his scrawny ass,” Daryl said with anger. There was no love lost between those two.

“Come on. That’s not fair, and you know it.”

“What’s not fair is the fact that he took advantage of you when you were vulnerable. He made me out to look like the enemy, and filled your head with bullshit,” Daryl said in a raised tone.

“He did it for love, though. He was a desperate man and he made a desperate move. Listen, I know you don’t like him–”

“That’s putting it mildly,” Daryl interrupted.

“But this is going to send him over the edge,” Aaron continued, ignoring Daryl’s comment.

“Yeah, over the edge of the wall. Well, I say good riddens,” Daryl said with absolutely no sympathy.

“I can’t have that on my conscience, so I need to break this to him gently. You understand that, don’t you?” Aaron needed to know Daryl was ok with that.

“There you go again … always protecting the little twat.” Daryl shook his head and turned away. “I just don’t understand how you can stand up for him after all he–” Daryl cut his words off as a new thought developed in his head. He slowly lifted his eyes to Aaron, who was already watching Daryl as the realization made its way to the surface. “Did you … and … and him . . .” His words trailed off, but Aaron understood the question.

Aaron closed his eyes, tightened his lips into a thin line and slowly started to nod his head. “Only once, though.” Aaron waited for Daryl to start yelling or to storm off and lock himself in his room. Instead, Daryl stayed where he was. He didn’t move, didn’t speak. Aaron was afraid to look at him, to see the hatred or disappointment on his face, especially so soon after their reunion. He kept his eyes closed and his head hung. “You’re upset, and I don’t blame you, but–”

“I’m not exactly happy about it, but I’m not mad,” Daryl interrupted.

Aaron opened his eyes and dared to glance at Daryl. “You’re not?”

“I’ve had a lot of lonely nights to conjure up images of what might have been going on between you two. I wondered if he seduced you every night just to make sure you wouldn’t remember me or us, or what we had. I’m actually kind of glad to hear you kept your distance. It’s a lot better than what I imagined was going on. So, no I’m not mad. It wasn’t you fault to begin with.” Daryl spoke very understandingly, something Aaron wasn’t used to.

“If it’s any consolation, I always felt like there was something missing, even that one time.”

“Let’s never talk about it again, and consider it days gone by. Alright?”

Aaron nodded in agreement. “Yeah, alright.”

“So, when we get back, tell Eric in your own way. I’ll stay out of it unless he wants to confront me. Then, all bets are off,” Daryl warned.

“Deal,” Aaron replied. He leaned towards Daryl and kissed him. “How did I get so lucky to find someone like you?”

“Must be that great Alexandrian luck you all have,” Daryl jested. “Now, I suggest we move into the bedroom and get even luckier.”

>>------->

Daryl and Aaron didn’t leave the cabin until the following morning. They spent the entire previous day in and out of bed, talking, making love, breaking for the occasional snack, and then repeating. Daryl said they deserved a respite after everything that happened. And when they got back to town, after Aaron had a chance to speak with Eric, Daryl was prepared to move in. He was elated to finally have Aaron back. Not even Wolves, walkers or civil war could damper his mood. He and Aaron were finally going to live as freely as they’d always wished for, and though it might take some getting used to, nothing was going to stop him.

The car rolled up to the gate, and Daryl stopped before they entered. He glanced at Aaron sitting next to him. “You ready to do this?”

“So ready,” Aaron said, sounding relieved and glad to finally be getting his life back to the way it used to be.

Daryl stuck his head out of the window and whistled through his fingers. The gate slowly slid open and Daryl drove in. They parked off to the side and exited the car. The guy on gate duty closed it and walked over to Daryl. “Hey man, glad you’re back. Everything alright?”

“Fine,” Daryl replied, sounding happier than he usually did.

“You’re back just in time. Rick’s calling a meeting,” the guy said.

“Oh yeah? What for?” Daryl asked.

“Not sure.  Him and a couple other guys were out. Said they came across something that needs to be dealt with, whatever that means.”

“Great. Thanks,” Daryl said. He glanced at Aaron with a concerned look, as the two walked back to the trunk. “I wonder what that’s all about.”

Aaron opened the lid and grabbed his things. “Sounds serious. You think it has to do with Alison?”

Daryl shrugged his shoulders and flung his bow over his back. “I don’t know.” Before they left the car, Daryl put his hand on Aaron’s shoulder to stop him. Aaron wondered what he was doing when Daryl suddenly leaned forward and kissed him. Aaron was a bit thrown off. Daryl had always made a point not to show affection in public.

“I definitely don’t have all of my memory back,” Aaron commented when Daryl released him. “I can’t recall you ever kissing me out in the open before.”

“That’s because I haven’t. There’s no reason to hide anymore, is there?” Daryl said with his sultry voice and bedroom eyes trained on Aaron.

“I guess not.” Aaron smiled. “I like this new Daryl.” His hand went to the back of Daryl’s neck and pulled him in for another kiss. When they separated, they both caught movement in the distance and looked to see who it was. Up the street was Eric, coming to see who was at the gate. No doubt, he’d be worried and looking for Aaron by now. He stopped dead when he saw Daryl and Aaron kissing. He just stood there, staring, not moving, eyes narrowed on the couple.

“Shit,” Aaron muttered. “This wasn’t how it was supposed to play out.”

“He was gonna find out sooner or later,” Daryl said, not sounding sympathetic in the least. “You coming with me to Rick’s?”

“No, I better deal with this first,” Aaron said, watching Eric from afar. Both men started walking towards Eric, who was standing on the main street that led to the occupied houses. When they got a little closer, Daryl stopped Aaron.

“Here, let me have your bag. I’ll drop it off at your house,” Daryl suggested.

“Our house,” Aaron reminded him as he handed Daryl the bag. Then he smiled. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” Daryl took Aaron’s chin in his fingers and planted a solid kiss on Aaron’s lips to make sure Eric saw it. “I’ll see you in a little bit.” They continued walking until they had to pass Eric. Now that they were closer, they could see the absolute rage in Eric’s eyes. He didn’t say a word, only stood there glaring at both men. Aaron stopped, but Daryl kept walking. As he went past Eric, he seemed to grow three sizes with pride and his usual arrogance. “Sup, Eric?” he said, bumping shoulders in a threatening way. He seemed to growl when he said Eric’s name.

Eric stood his ground, and didn’t let Daryl’s threat go unnoticed as he spoke to Aaron. “I thought trash was left outside the walls.”

Daryl stopped dead, his head tilting up to the sky as he turned back towards Eric. “What did you say?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot you don’t understand anything if it’s not in redneck.”

Daryl let Aaron’s bag drop to the ground and charged at Eric. “Why you little fu–”

Aaron rushed between them. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s just take it down a notch. Daryl, you should hurry up for Rick’s meeting. Eric, you should just stop.” Aaron had a hand on each man’s chest to keep them apart, but they were determined to have a confrontation.

“Where the hell did you take him?” Eric demanded to know. “What did you do to him?”

“I did what you wouldn’t do. I told him the truth, you prick,” Daryl answered heatedly.

“You both need to calm down,” Aaron tried to mediate.

“He tricked you, didn’t he,” Eric accused. “Stole you away from Alexandria so he could have you to himself. Don’t try to cover for him. I know the whole thing with Glenn and his injured foot was a hoax. I caught him the next day walking around like nothing happened.”

“Eric,” Aaron tried to interrupt.

“And I bet his watchdog, Carol was in on it too. How convenient that she was at the infirmary when Glenn arrived, and whisked me away before I could ask questions,” he ranted.

“Eric,” Aaron said again, but Daryl pushed forward until he was leaning on Aaron’s shoulder, trying to get as close to Eric as possible.

Eric took a small step backwards by instinct, but he couldn’t control his mouth at that point. “You were gone for two days, and no one could tell me anything about where he’d had taken you.” Eric’s eyes narrowed on Daryl. “I bet you told him all kinds of things to turn him against me. I never did trust you. I always knew you were a piece of white trash shit.”

“Eric!” Aaron shouted to make him stop and realize what he was saying.

Daryl couldn’t get to Eric because of Aaron, and it was pissing him off. But he’d been in enough fights to know when it was time for an ass kicking and when it was better to wait. He backed off and took a few deep breaths, as though calming himself. Aaron still held his hand up, just in case Daryl lunged again. Daryl seemed to calm. He put his hands up in front of him as a gesture of submission. “Alright … alright, I ain’t gonna do this here. Besides,” he said tilting his head pugnaciously. “You ain’t worth it.” Daryl spit on the ground at Eric’s feet. “I got a meeting to get to anyways.” He turned to leave and only took a couple steps when he heard Eric’s haughty reply.

“That’s right, run off to Rick like you’re his bitch,” Eric muttered loud enough for Daryl to hear.

Daryl moved faster than anyone had time to realize. He pushed past Aaron and was in Eric’s face like a flash. “I ain’t no one’s bitch,” he said and punched Eric in the stomach. Eric doubled over and fell to the ground. Aaron stood by, still in shock, and palmed his head. Eric was struggling to breathe, having the wind knocked out of him. Daryl hovered above him, shifting back and forth on his feet. “Idiot,” Daryl huffed. “I’ll give him one thing, though. He’s got bigger balls than I would have thought, taking me on like that.”

“You didn’t have to punch him,” Aaron complained lightly, trying not to sound like he was sticking up for Eric too much. The guy had it coming to him.

“I was going to punch him in the face, but I spared his pretty boy complexion. It was the least I could do. He’s still an asshole, though.” Daryl’s arm swooped down to pick up the bag. He left the scene, and left Aaron to deal with Eric while he went off to Rick’s house to see what was going on.

Aaron stood over Eric a moment and shook his head. Eric looked up at him, pain and defeat on his face. “He seems angry,” Eric jostled.

“I warned you to stop,” Aaron said, bending down and helping Eric to his feet. “We have to talk, and I don’t want to do it here in the middle of the street.”

Eric studied Aaron’s face, and he could see something was different. “Oh no, he did, didn’t he. He turned you against me. Honey, listen, whatever he told you–”

“I got my memory back,” Aaron blurted out before Eric went on. “Well, some of it. Maybe about sixty percent of it.”

“Oh,” Eric said after a brief silence, still clutching his stomach. “And … which … sixty percent … is that?”

“The sixty percent that remembers I love Daryl.”

“Oh,” Eric said softly, knowing he was defeated.

“I don’t want to do this here. Please, let’s go somewhere and talk,” Aaron pleaded.

Eric ignored Aaron. “H-He’s brainwashed you or something. T-There’s a perfectly good explanation for–”

“I remember, Eric. I remember a lot of things. And I remember that you and I aren’t together anymore.” If Eric wanted to do this here in the street then Aaron wouldn’t hold back anything.

“But Daryl tricked you to get you away from here. He lied to you,” Eric protested.

“And you didn’t?” Aaron replied. “You made me believe that we were still a couple, and that I cheated on you with Daryl,” he said with absolute anger. “You made me think I was a piece of shit who strayed from our relationship.” Aaron stopped and stared at Eric, waiting for his reaction.

Eric’s chest heaved with quick breaths as he tried to figure a way out of the situation. There was nothing he could do. He’d been exposed. “Alright, fine. I did it. I did all of it, but I did it for you … for us,” he said after a long silence. “I never would have done any of it if you hadn’t called out to me when you awoke from your coma. It had been a long time since you asked for me, since you depended on me.” Eric turned his eyes to the ground, feeling shamed for having been caught. “At first, I just wanted to be there for you and help you. And then I realized you didn’t know who Daryl was. You seemed to push him away while you clung to me for stability. I couldn’t ignore that fact. It was as though it was a second chance for me and for us. I thought that if I could keep Daryl away from you, we could get our lives back … together. I’ve missed you, Aaron. All I’ve ever wanted was for you and I to be together again, and for a little while we were. I didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt.”

Aaron’s anger turned to sympathy. In a way, he understood how Eric felt. Aaron had a similar experience when he remembered his life with Daryl. He wouldn’t be able to stand it if Daryl ever turned away from him. The difference was Daryl loved Aaron back. Aaron couldn’t say the same towards Eric. As much as Eric said and showed it, Aaron’s heart just never completely opened to him, and that kind of realization must have been devastating. Still . . .

“But you did hurt someone. You hurt Daryl … and you hurt me by keeping me from him. I may not have known it at the time, but I know it now. It was wrong, Eric, and you destroyed any kind of trust I had in you.”

Daryl might have punched Eric in the gut, but Aaron’s words were a much harder blow. “I’m sorry, Aaron. I’m so so sorry,” Eric said pleadingly. “I didn’t know what I was … I just thought that if … Aw, dammit, Aaron. Can you forgive me?” He seemed on the verge of tears, but Aaron wasn’t going to give in. He wouldn’t berate him anymore, but he wasn’t quite ready to forgive Eric so soon after everything that happened. It was going to take some time.

“I’m going to need you to gather your things from the house,” Aaron said with little emotion. It felt like the only way to get through to Eric was with tough love.

Eric’s desolate mood changed to anger faster than seemed normal. “What? Are you letting him move in now? Already? Do you think that’s wise?”

“Daryl was preparing to move in with me before the attack. You were just prolonging the inevitable,” Aaron answered dryly.

“So this is it then?” Eric said with desperation in his voice. “After all we’ve been through. After all we’ve meant to each other, it’s over?”

“It was over a long time ago,” Aaron said, sympathy returning to his voice.

“But you said you loved me. Don’t you remember? We made love, and it was so incredible. Then you told me you loved me,” Eric pleaded. “I know you. You’d never say something like that unless you meant it. Dammit Aaron, I had you first. When you came to Alexandria, you were defeated. You were all out of answers about yourself and your past. I still remember talking to you when we first met. You opened up to me right away. We were alike, you and I. There was no one else like us, and we understood each other. That was part of the magic. We just clicked and everything else fell into place. And it was so good. That’s all I wanted, Aaron, to have you back like that.”

“And you lifted me, Eric, you really did. It’s true, when I came here I was in a bad place. What I realize is that I wasn’t broken. I was just bent, and you helped me straighten out. I’ll always be grateful to you for what you did. I needed someone who understood what it was like to feel that there was no one left in the world who was like me. But I took advantage of that too. That was my fault, and I take full responsibility,” Aaron explained.

“So are you saying our relationship was a mistake?” Eric questioned.

This was the real question, and however Aaron answered, it wouldn’t come out right. He hung his head in defeat. “It was a convenience,” Aaron admitted in a whisper.

Eric seethed and nodded his head as he looked around, not able to focus his sight on Aaron at the moment. “I see. Any port in the storm. You were only with me because there wasn’t another gay man in town. And then HE came along, and you … what … upgraded?” Eric moved closer to Aaron and spoke close to his ear. “Two years, Aaron. I was devoted to you. I loved you. I would have died for you, and all I was to you was just a convenience fuck? Now who’s the liar?”

“That’s not true and you know it. I cared about you. For God’s sake, I still do. I was prepared to spend whatever time we have left with you,” Aaron tried to explain, but it wasn’t coming out right.

“You settled. You never really loved me, not the way I love you.” Eric backed away and looked towards Aaron’s house. “You want me out? I’m out then. Stay with your precious Daryl. I hope he really does care about you, or you’re going to find yourself in the same situation I’m in now. And you better hope like hell that another fag doesn’t wander into Alexandria or Daryl might drop you for a better model.” He stormed off to get his things.

“Eric, wait. Don’t be like this,” Aaron called out, but Eric ignored him. How did the tables get turned and suddenly Aaron was the cause of the devastation? But then again, Aaron created the false sense of love and security when he chose to be with Eric. It was his own fault. He just wished this went a bit smoother. He was fooling himself to think Eric would accept any of it. Aaron just wished they could remain friends. It was true that he still cared for Eric, but as a friend and nothing more. That, obviously, would never be enough for Eric. And that’s why Aaron had gotten tough with him. Well, he thought to himself, give him a few days to stew over it. Keep out of his way, and check back on him in a little while. Maybe by then, Eric will have cooled down enough to speak to him again. In the meantime, Aaron couldn’t go home in case Eric was there packing up his belongings. So he decided to go to Rick’s house and join the meeting, find out what all the urgency was about.

>>------->

By the time Aaron got to Rick’s place, the meeting had been going for a while. It had been going on before Daryl even got there too. Aaron came in while Carter, one of the Alexandrian residents, was arguing with Rick about something. There was a map of the area spread out on a table. Daryl was there, looking at it, his brows drawn together as though in deep consideration. He looked up and interrupted Carter.

“It’s the only way. Rick’s right. We can’t just leave them there, plug up the dam and hope it holds,” Daryl said. He saw Aaron come into the room and went to him. His hand grasped Aaron’s shoulder and squeezed. “Hey, how’d it go?”

“I told him to move out. He’s not happy about it, of course. I-I couldn’t go home so I thought I’d come here instead.” Aaron looked past Daryl to the map. “What’s going on?”

“Rick was out, heard something, and found a quarry full of walkers. Thousands of them. They’ve been falling in, filling the pit. Looks like someone moved some semi-trucks to block them in, but the ground around the quarry has been slowly eroding away. Eventually, it will cave in and the walkers will get out, and with the hills and the terrain, they’ll all funnel right towards town. It’s the biggest herd we’ve ever come across, and if they come this way, not even these steel walls will keep them out. Now we know why Alexandria hasn’t seen many walkers. They’ve been getting trapped,” Daryl explained.

“What’s Rick propose we do about them?” Aaron asked.

One of the attending residents answered when she overheard Aaron ask. “He wants to let them out like a herd of cattle, and lead them away from here.” She didn’t sound convinced by the plan.

Carter was still arguing with Rick. “We’ve got plenty of materials left at that construction site. I say we reinforce what someone has already put in place. We can make it so they never get out.”

“The problem is the noise they make. It’s drawing more walkers in all the time. And as I said, the ground is about to cave in. These trucks are parked right at the edge. If just one falls in, walkers are getting out,” Rick countered.

The woman who spoke to Aaron was now contributing to the conversation. “I say we just torch them all, find a bunch of propane tanks, open them up, and throw them in the pit. We could use flares to ignite it.”

Michonne stepped forward to address the woman. “You can light them up, but they won’t die. Then you’ll have a few thousand flaming walkers trying to get out. And what if some escape? At this time of year with the dry air, and the ground covered with dry dead leaves, they’d wander into the forest and set it on fire. Eventually it would spread to Alexandria, and destroy all we have. That’s a chance we can’t take.”

Another man spoke up with his opinion. “Couldn’t we let a few at a time trickle out and kill them? Eventually we’d get the herd down to a manageable size.”

“We don’t have enough ammo or man power to take on a herd this size,” Rick answered. “I appreciate everyone’s input, but I don’t see any other way around this. So here’s what I think we should do.”

Rick went on to explain his plan. They would line up cars along the road to keep the herd from wandering. Where they needed to turn them in a different direction, they would use steel from the construction site to make bumpers, forcing them to head a specific way. They could use flares to focus their attention on a certain direction. Everything would be mapped out and put in place in order for this plan to go off easily.

Aaron listened to the entire plan before he asked his question. “So, who will be the pied piper?” Everyone in the room turned to see what he was talking about. “Well, someone has to be out in front of the herd leading them. Who’s going to do that?”

It was silent for a moment, and then Daryl spoke up. “I am,” he said.

Aaron spun around and eyed him questioningly. “You?”

“I’m going to rig my bike, make sure it’s extra loud. As long as I keep my distance in front of them it should be alright. They’ll be attracted to the motor and follow. It will be slow going, but it’s the only way.”

Aaron shook his head. “No. It’s too dangerous. Just you in front of a few thousand roamers? What if something happens? What if your bike breaks down? No, I don’t like it. I think it’s much too risky.”

“This whole plan is too risky,” Carter said.

“Well, it’s a risk I’m willing to take to make sure Alexandria remains safe,” Rick said angrily.

“What if we did a dry run first,” said the woman from earlier. “You know, a practice run, so we at least know the route, and know what to do.” She looked at Carter for an answer.

Carter looked around the room, and eventually nodded. “Alright, I’d feel better about this if we just went through the motions first.”

Rick was getting impatient. Daryl could see it in his eyes. “We still have to get everything ready, and that’s going to take a few days. We ain’t got time to practice. We need to get it done, and do it now.”

Daryl, sometimes the voice of reason, put a friendly hand on Rick’s shoulder. “It’s actually not such a bad idea,” he whispered. “Remember who they are.” He was right. These were people that didn’t know what it was like to deal with walkers, let alone a herd of thousands of them.”

Rick considered Daryl’s comments for a moment. He looked at Carter, who, Daryl thought, seemed frightened by all of this talk. Finally, Rick nodded in agreement. “Alright. We’ll go through the motions one time, and one time only. Then, we’re on the clocks. In the meantime, we got a lot of prep work to do.” They spent the rest of the day pouring over the map, marking off certain areas of concern and making lists of materials they would need. Tomorrow, they would begin.



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