Safe Haven in the Chaos

BY : IdrilsSecret
Category: S through Z > The Walking Dead
Dragon prints: 3800
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 26 Under Siege


Daryl and Aaron were sitting at the kitchen table, enjoying a delicious meal. While Daryl had been out helping with the construction for moving the walker herd, he took the long way home, and was lucky enough to come across a wild pig. He knew one of their plans was to introduce livestock into the town, but he was alone and had no way to trap it and bring it back. The animal was pretty feral, too, so he decided it would be better used as food. He kept part of it for him and Aaron, and gave the rest to the kitchen. Now, he and Aaron were devouring a nice gamey roast, a couple beers, and each other’s company.

“I honestly have never tasted wild pig before,” Aaron said, going back for seconds.

“My brother and I use to hunt for boar all the time. There’s something about an animal that feeds off the land. It changes the taste of the meat. Ain’t nothing like the stuff you’d get from a grocery store. That shit was tasteless compared to this,” Daryl said.

“It’s amazing and delicious. Kudos to the chef,” Aaron jested. He finished chewing his last bite and wiped his mouth on a napkin. “So, tomorrow–”

“It’s only a dress rehearsal,” Daryl cut in. “We’re going down to the quarry first, and we’re going through each check point so that everyone knows exactly what to do. Shouldn’t take but a few hours.”

“And then the day after that it’s show time,” Aaron said dismally.

“It has to be done. You know that,” Daryl replied.

“I know. I just wish I was going with you. We’ve always made a great team. You know that. We watched out for each other’s backs.”

“I’ve got someone else watching my back. Two, to be exact. Sasha and Abraham will be there in the car. Something goes wrong, I ditch the bike, jump in the car, and we’re out of there,” Daryl explained again.

“No, you won’t abandon the plan, even if something goes wrong. I know you too well, Dixon,” Aaron said with a brow raised.

“You do know me, don’t you? I like the sound of that.” Daryl got up, and carried their plates to the kitchen.

Aaron smiled to himself and took another swig from his beer. He liked the fact that he and Daryl were so close they could easily read each other. Daryl knew Aaron was worried for him. He knew it bothered Aaron that he couldn’t come along this time. It’s why Daryl was making it all seem like a Sunday stroll through the park. He didn’t want Aaron to worry.

Upon hearing dishes being put in the sink, Aaron got up from the table, picked up a few serving plates and took them into the kitchen. He set the plates on the counter, and went to Daryl, who stood at the sink. Aaron observed Daryl wash the soiled plates, but then leave them in the sink.

“I thought I trained you better than that,” Aaron said from behind.

“What, I washed them off,” Daryl protested.

“But you didn’t clean them, and it’s your turn to do dishes. No wonder Carol insists on being our housekeeper,” Aaron jested. His arms slipped around Daryl’s waist. “Do I need to show you again what to do?”

Daryl glanced over his shoulder, eyes smoldering already. “Teach me, teacher.”

Aaron pushed his hips against Daryl’s backside, making him lean against the sink. He kissed his way up the side of Daryl’s neck, and whispered into his ear. “Who am I kidding? A bad boy never learns.” Aaron’s hand moved to cup Daryl’s awakening cock through his pants, making Daryl release the slightest moan. Suddenly, Daryl spun around taking Aaron with him, and in one swift move, Daryl had Aaron pinned against the sink, catching him off guard. “Ok,” Aaron said, surprised. “I guess you’ve learned a thing or two.”

Daryl started ravishing Aaron’s neck, unbuttoning his shirt, and nipping at his skin. “I’ve learned what turns you on,” he said, cupping Aaron and gently squeezing him to life.

“Oh yeah,” Aaron moaned. “You … certainly have.”

Daryl unbuckled Aaron’s belt and reached inside to stroke him. With his other hand, he undid his own belt. “Turn around,” Daryl whispered.

Aaron anchored his hands to the edge of the sink and let Daryl ready him. He felt the cool air on his ass, and then the heat of Daryl’s body pushing against him. He felt the suddenness of being filled, and Daryl’s tongue licking the back of his ear. Aaron’s fingers clenched the stainless steel, and he threw his head back as a moan escaped from his lungs. “Oh yeah, Daryl.”

Daryl pounded into him fast and hard, needing nothing more than a quick release. There was always time to make love slowly and thoroughly when they laid in bed at night, but a quick fuck against the kitchen sink made them come just as hard, if not harder. But it was the fact that Daryl could do this anytime he wanted to or needed to that provoked such animalistic behavior, not to mention the fact that Aaron didn’t complain when he did.

Daryl pulled Aaron against his chest, reached his hands around and felt the smoothness of Aaron’s stomach. “You make me so fucking horny,” Daryl whispered as he continued to manipulate his lover.

“Right there. Oh yeah, right there,” Aaron cried out.

Aaron’s calls of passion ignited Daryl’s desire, and he let himself drown in the feel of his orgasm. He hadn’t felt Aaron’s hands reach back and grasp his ass to hold them tight against each other. He didn’t remember taking Aaron’s solid cock in his hand and stroking him until his hand slid easily over the sticky flesh. All Daryl knew was the elation of his own flesh, alive with electric pulses that directed every pleasurable sensation straight to his buried cock.

“Why can’t we just stay in this state permanently?” Aaron said between heaving breaths.

“Why can’t I ever get enough of you?” Daryl growled in return.

After a few moments, Daryl reluctantly pulled from Aaron. They kissed slowly, tongues entwined, lips sliding perfectly together. When they finally separated, they looked deep into each other’s eyes.

“I don’t ever want you to get enough of me,” Aaron said, and then he smiled wickedly. “But I like it when you try.”

“Come on, let’s go upstairs. Leave the dishes for the morning,” Daryl pleaded. He had a sudden vision of the quarry, and of the sizeable feat he was facing. His lust turned to pure longing. He just needed to hold Aaron against him, submerge in the warmth of his body, and the strength of his arms surrounding him.

They entered the bedroom, undressed, and slipped beneath the covers. Their bodies drew together like a pair of magnets. They touched and caressed one another with love and excessive attentiveness. They embraced as though it was the first and last. They took their time when they finally made love again, and fell into a deep and comforting slumber knowing that right then, in that moment in time, they were together in mind, body and soul, and nothing could ever tear them apart again.


It was still dark when Aaron heard a rustling sound that woke him up. He blinked and cleared the sleep from his eyes, narrowing them in the dimly lit bedroom. Daryl was up and just finishing getting dressed.

“You gonna sneak out without saying good morning?” Aaron said with a groggy voice.

Daryl turned his head towards the bed as he finished buckling his pants. “I didn’t want to wake you, especially after last night.”

Aaron smiled as he remembered. “I’m a little sore, but in a very good way, mind you. Actually, I wanted to see you off this morning.”

“You don’t need to. This is just a practice run, remember? I’ll be back this afternoon.”

“I know, but you’re still going outside the walls. That alone is a risk. And I’m not going to be there with you,” Aaron reminded him. “You better be careful out there.”

Daryl went to Aaron’s side of the bed and leaned down to kiss him. It was the kind of kiss that usually led to more strenuous activities, as the one’s they explored the previous night. Just when Aaron felt himself surrender to Daryl’s seduction, it was over.

“You can’t get me all hot and bothered like this, and then just leave me here,” Aaron grunted in complaint as he stretched. The sheet fell away and just the corner covered his excitement.

“Let this be just a sample of the things I want to do to you tonight,” Daryl replied smartly.

“You’re such a brute,” Aaron jested. “And you never cleaned up last night,” he called as Daryl went to leave the bedroom.

“The way I see it, I think I cleaned up pretty well last night,” Daryl suggested playfully. “I’ll be back for my winnings later. Be ready,” he warned, and then he was gone.

Aaron still held the smile on his face as he collapsed back into his pillow. He put his hands behind his head and waited, listening for Daryl’s bike as it roared to life. “Now, all I’ll think about today is what’s in store for tonight.” Aaron closed his eyes and conjured up images in his mind until the sun came up. He finally got out of bed and dressed, went downstairs to make his breakfast, and washed the dishes. He’d never look at that stainless steel sink the same way again.

After a little while, Aaron left and went out for a walk. Everything was so peaceful today. It was a little quieter than normal, but that was to be expected. A lot of people went out to help, and those that stayed behind were worried about their loved ones. Aaron was one of them, though he kept his emotions buried.

As he passed the pantry, Carol came out carrying a basket full of canned goods and other food items. He crossed the street at a hurried pace to catch up to her. “Good morning,” he sang cheerfully. “Here, let me.” Aaron took the basket from Carol with a smile.

“My, my. Aren’t you chipper this morning. How’s married life?” she said.

“Married?” Aaron asked confused.

“Well, you might as well be now that you two live together.” She walked backwards in front of Aaron and gave him a critical eye before facing forwards again. “And you have a certain kind of glow about you. If you weren’t a guy, I’d suspect you were pregnant,” she teased.

“It’s called being blissfully happy. I know it’s only been a week since we moved in, but I really have never been so elated in all my life. Who knew it would take the ending of the world for that to happen though.”

“Speaking of which, while the others are out today, we need to keep up business as usual around here. Some of these people are on edge, especially those with loved ones out there. The rest, not so much. It’s just another beautiful day in the neighborhood.” Carol shook her head and waved at an elderly couple sitting on their front porch as her and Aaron walked by. “They are all so clueless. How are we ever going to get them to change?”

“Maybe we won’t have to. Once Rick and the others get that herd moved away at a safe distance–”

“There will always be threats,” Carol interrupted. “If not from walkers, then it will be outsiders. One day, someone is going to stumble across this community, and they’re going to want it for themselves.”

“Like Rick?” Aaron challenged.

Carol stopped walking and crossed her arms. Aaron stopped too, and turned to her. She cocked her head to the side as she regarded him. “Rick wants to see this place secure. He wants this place to work for everyone here. Trust me, if he wanted it for himself, everyone else would be out there right now.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean … Look, I trust Rick. I know he’s doing what he thinks is best. I just … I wish I was one of the ones out there right now. I feel like I know the land better than anyone, and instead, Rick has me here babysitting all those who stayed behind,” Aaron explained.

“You don’t think I want to be out there too? I’ve been with Rick since the beginning. I know what it means to take chances. This is the riskiest move we’ve ever made, and I’m not a part of it. Those are my people out there. I should be with them, and it’s killing me that I’m not. Instead, I’m talking recipes with the kitchen crew, and listening to Mrs. Neudermyer complain about boxed pasta. I swear, that woman is like fingernails on a chalkboard. She wouldn’t last five seconds out there. Yet, here I am playing Susie Homemaker.” Carol paused to laugh. “I called her out today. Did you know she smokes?”

“No, really?” Aaron replied.

“Yeah, I saw her through the window. She’s always telling everyone how to eat healthy and all that kind of bullshit, and there she was, puffing away on a menthol.” Carol shook her head as she chuckled at the vision. “Poor woman can’t even smoke right. Menthols?”

“Don’t tell Daryl. He said he wouldn’t be caught dead smoking those. Even if that was the last pack on earth, he’d quit before he’d give in to smoking menthols.”

They stopped and had a quick laugh over the silliness of it all. Then they started walking again. “Listen, Aaron, we all have roles to plays, and not every one of them will be the one we think we’re cut out for, but whatever is thrown at us, we just have to accept it and make the best of it,” Carol said.

Aaron nodded. “Thanks.” He looked down into the basket he was carrying. “So, what’s on the menu?”

“Oh, a little of this and a little of that. Some of the older women are having a bridge party later. I thought I’d make them a casserole. Keep them occupied. Mrs. Neudermyer will be there. I thought I’d throw in extra macaroni just to piss her off,” Carol smiled fiendishly.

They finally arrived at Carol’s home. Aaron carried the basket inside and set it on the kitchen counter. He took the items out and lined them up. Carol took out a glass casserole dish from one of the cabinets, and prepared to start putting her meal together. Aaron thought he’d stay and help her, but he was actually avoiding something. He was thinking about the photo hidden away in a drawer at home, the one he said he was going to give back to Eric. Carol caught him with a far off look and questioned him.

“Penny for your thought?” she asked.

“Just some unfinished business I need to attend to that I’m not looking forward to,” he answered.

“Oh, that explains why the sudden interest in casseroles,” she said, calling him out. “Does this have something to do with Eric?”

“Gee, how’d you guess?” he said sarcastically.

“I thought you were done with all that.” Carol retrieved a pan hanging from the pot rack and put it on the stove.

“For the most part, yes, but it’s not really over, not as long as we all live in the same community.”

Carol turned the stove on to start heating the pan. Then she got the cutting board out and put it on the counter. “Does Daryl know you two are still on speaking terms?” She sounded like a judging mother.

“We talked about it briefly.” Aaron sat down on one of the bar stools, and crossed his arms on the counter in front of him. “I think he understands that I can’t just ignore Eric.”

“Why not?” Carol asked.

“You wouldn’t understand.”

Carol turned to face Aaron, pointing at him with her knife. “What you don’t seem to understand is that a person like Eric is like cancer to a relationship. He might be gone for the moment, but he is always lurking about ready to reattach when you are most vulnerable.” She went back to cutting up vegetables. “And look at you now. Daryl’s out there getting ready to do something dangerous … again … and you’re worried. It’s the perfect time for Eric to slink back in.”

“You have a very colorful use of analogy.”

“I’m serious, Aaron. You have to be careful. You may not see it because you’re too close to the source, but I see right through Eric. Sure, he’s wounded right now, but that doesn’t mean he’s given up. You open the slightest crack in that door, and he’ll be right back inside.”

The front door creaked open, and Carl came in with Judith. He’d been out for a walk after seeing his father off earlier. Aaron and Carol halted their conversation for the moment, but Aaron got the gist of it. He knew what she was saying was true, but he was sure he could handle things. Right now, at this moment, he just couldn’t completely ignore Eric. He feared what might happen if he did, and he didn’t want that on his conscience. Just before Aaron got his memory back, he and Eric were seriously discussing leaving Alexandria for another community rumored to exist somewhere, a place that Eric said was more accepting of people like them. Now that Pete and Gerrard were dead, and Alison was being segregated on the other side of town, it wasn’t as much of an issue. But Aaron knew that once Eric got an idea into his head, it was difficult to change his mind. It was for this reason that Aaron thought it was important to retain some kind of friendship with Eric.

“Hi Carl. How was your walk?” Carol greeted with a smile.

“Guess who I ran into?” Carl said.

“I don’t know, George Clooney?” Carol joked.

“Father Gabriel is still at it. He’s trying to get back into everyone’s good graces,” Carl informed. He took his jacket off and hung it on the coatrack. “I know Dad wishes he would just go away, and that he doesn’t trust him, but … I can’t help think that he’s being sincere.”

Aaron took Judith out of the stroller and held her in his arms. “I don’t know Father Gabriel like you all do, but from what you’ve said, it doesn’t seem that he can be trusted.”

“He said he wants to learn to protect himself. I tried to give him a few pointers when we were back at the church, but he refused to even listen. Now he’s willing to try, at least,” Carl continued.

“That man is the last person in town who needs to own a weapon,” Carol warned.

“But shouldn’t we allow people to have the ability to protect themselves? If we refuse them, we’re no different than Deanna making us lock up our weapons every time we come back to town,” Carl said, bringing up a very good point.

“We’ll see. When your father gets back, we’ll talk to him about it, ok?” Carol said.

“Sure,” Carl gave in. “Want me to take Judith upstairs?”

Aaron smiled as the baby held his finger. “No, I’ve got her for now. Go on and have some time to yourself, Carl.”

“Thanks.” Carl went upstairs to his room.

Aaron sat down, put Judith on his leg and bounced her until she giggled. He cooed and made funny faces, and she loved every minute of it. Carol kept her eye on them as she worked her magic with the casserole. She couldn’t help smiling. “You’re good with her. Did you have younger siblings growing up?”

“No, I was an only child. I don’t know. Kids have always been drawn to me for some reason, especially babies. It’s probably the only thing that I regret missing out on … you know … having a child of my own. I always thought that one day, I’d settle down with someone and we would adopt. It was becoming easier to do … for a gay couple anyways … before the outbreak. But that dream will never come true now.”

Judith gave a big yawn and rubbed her eyes. Carol wiped her hands on a towel and went to Aaron. “Well, you can come by here anytime and entertain this little bundle of joy.” Carol took the baby from him. “I’ll put her down for her nap. Be right back.”

“I have to go anyways. I’ll see you later,” he said.

“Alright.” Carol took Judith’s arm and made her wave. “Bye bye, Aaron. Can you wave bye to Aaron?” she said in baby talk. Judith stuck her bottom lip out and threatened to complain. “I don’t think she wants you to go. Why don’t you come back in a bit? By then, the casserole will be in the oven, and I’ll make us some tea,” Carol invited as she ascended the stairs.


 “Will do,” Aaron answered, and he slipped out the door.

He made his way home to get the photo and pay a visit to Eric. He felt bad about hiding it from Daryl. Weren’t they at a point where they didn’t need to do that anymore? Aaron thought they were, but he felt compelled to stick the photo in a drawer instead of telling Daryl that Eric left it behind. He probably wouldn’t care if he’d seen it. He might not understand if he found it hiding like that. Aaron decided now was the time to give it back to Eric, especially while Daryl was out for the day. Even though Daryl said he understood, Aaron just thought it would be easier to take care of this last piece of business without Daryl there. So when he finally got home, he went to the drawer, wiggled it open and took the photo. He looked at it once more, really studying it this time. Eric smiled ear to ear, so happy, as though nothing could ever go wrong again. As for himself, he noticed that his smile was more subtle. He looked content, settled. He wondered what he’d look like in a picture with Daryl next to him. For one, his expression of joy would be more genuine. This made him think that the next time he had a camera handy, he needed to have Carol take their picture. It was such a rare thing to have these days, a photo of a loved one. He could have used one now, a way to see Daryl when he wasn’t around, to feel closer to him. He had a mental image, but with a picture, he could see into Daryl’s eyes and think of all the times they’d shared such moments.

On his way to the townhomes, Aaron came across Maggie and Deanna. Maggie looked worried, but no more than usual. Deanna, though, she looked defeated at best. Aaron knew she was struggling to come to terms with the things she’d been overlooking. For so long, she kept Alexandria running smoothly, as though there wasn’t anything bad happening outside the walls. And she had done a phenomenal job at keeping everything as normal as possible. Only a handful of residents went outside, where they saw exactly how the world had deteriorated. The rest still thought of this place as a true safe zone, a place to live and survive until help arrived. But that was the problem. No one was coming. No one would ever come. Perhaps Deanna was beginning to realize that when she allowed Rick’s group to stay, and when she immediately put them in high positions above some residents that had been here since the beginning. It wasn’t about seniority, though. It was about knowing how to protect and survive, and that’s what most Alexandrians were missing. Aaron knew this. It’s why he was happiest being a recruiter. Out there, he was in charge. It was up to him to decide who would be a good addition to make the town stronger and more stable, and he was confident that his best decision was Rick and the others.

“Good morning,” Aaron greeted with a genuine smile.

“Hi Aaron,” Maggie said returning the smile. Deanna remained nonresponsive. Maggie glanced at her and then back to Aaron. “We were just on our way out to see where we will plant the crops for next spring.”

“Good. Wow, I’m really looking forward to having a supply of fresh vegetables,” he said excitedly. “So, where is that going to be?”

“Right now it’s just outside the walls that way. Abraham and his crew will be extending the walls to incorporate that area into the town, but we can at least get the ground tilled and ready before that. We want to make sure we get the planting season in place for the best chance at a healthy crop for next year.”

“Sounds good. Just be careful,” Aaron warned politely.

“I’m surprised you didn’t go with the others,” Deanna said, finally finding her voice, as weak as it was.

“Oh, well … Rick thought I’d be of better use here, you know, keeping an eye on Carl and Judith,” he answered.

“Rick is a smart man. He knows what he’s doing,” Deanna responded. There was something telling in the way she said it, as though she no longer felt that way about herself or her decisions.

“That he is, but you are our leader, Deanna,” Aaron said to let her know she was still regarded this way.

She made the connection, and there was a slight spark in her eyes as she looked at Aaron. She forced a smile. “Thank you, Aaron.”

“Well, I better be on my way. Got some errands to run,” Aaron said.

“See you later,” Maggie smiled. Deanna nodded. Everyone went on their way.

Aaron stood at the bottom of the steps that led up to Eric’s townhouse door. He paused for a moment to collect his thoughts about what he would say when the door clicked and opened. Eric emerged, took one step down, and saw Aaron standing on the sidewalk below. He stopped, closing his door behind him. The two men observed each other silently, neither one knowing what to say, waiting for the other one to speak first. Together they stammered responses, and then laughed at the silliness of their nervousness.

“Aaron, I’m surprised to see you here,” Eric said after Aaron gestured for him to speak first.

“Yeah, I uh, I was just checking to see how you’re doing,” Aaron said, his palm rubbing the back of his neck.

“I’m ok. You?”


Silence crept in between them again. “So, you want to come in?” Eric offered.

“Oh, I … I don’t know. You were on your way somewhere. I don’t want to keep you.”

“It’s fine. Nothing urgent.” Eric turned back towards his door and opened it. “Come on in.” He disappeared inside.

Aaron looked around the street first, feeling like he needed an escape hatch all of a sudden. Then he reluctantly went up the stairs and inside. There was a foyer with a set of stairs that led immediately to an upper floor. Next to the stairs was a hallway. Eric pointed that way. “The kitchen is in there. The dining room is to the right. Through that door on the left is an office. The living room is on the second level. And … bedrooms are on the third floor.”

“Wow, three floors. Interesting layout,” Aaron observed.

“Well, running up and down all these stairs keeps me in shape,” Eric laughed nervously. “There’s supposed to be storage space in the basement, but it was never finished. These townhomes were still being constructed when … well, you know. Deanna said that when she first arrived here, none of these places were finished. The material was all here, drywall, spackling, baseboards, stuff like that. Reg and their sons completed a few, including the one they occupy.” He stopped and cleared his throat. “I mean, the one where Deanna and Spenser live.” He looked around at the place. “There’s still three more units needing to be finished. Guess anyone who wants them will have to do it themselves.”

“Listen, Eric I can’t stay long, but–”

“Come into the kitchen. No reason to stand in the hallway,” Eric interrupted as he led the way.

Aaron followed him and was surprised by how big and open the kitchen was. “This is beautiful. I like the high ceilings.”

“Yes, they are lovely, aren’t they? Of course, the other floors have standard height ceilings.” Eric laughed at himself. “Would you listen to me, as though I’m a real estate agent or something? I couldn’t give a crap, but it is a nice looking place.”

Aaron laughed at him. “It does feel a bit silly, doesn’t it?”

“Something to drink?” Eric offered.

“Oh, well, I really should be–”

“Listen, if we’re going to put the past behind us and move on as friends, we have to stop acting like we don’t know how to act,” Eric told him.

“Alright. Whatever you have is fine.”

Eric went to the fridge and looked. “I have a couple beers.”

“That’s good,” Aaron replied quickly.

Eric turned with a bottle in each hand, making a disappointed face. “Unfortunately, it’s that apple ale stuff. Can you believe someone actually took the time to grab these and bring them back?”

“Guess it’s better than nothing, right?”

Eric handed one to Aaron. “Come on up to the living room. I’ll show you the rest of the place, if you’re interested.”

“Sure, why not.” Aaron followed Eric up a flight of stairs that opened into the living area. “This is a big space,” he observed.

“It’s pretty much all that’s on this floor. It’s kind of a pain to have to run down to the kitchen to grab something and bring it back here, but it discourages me from midnight snacking.” He pointed to the couch. “Have a seat.”

Aaron sat on the couch, and Eric took up an oversized chair with a matching ottoman.  He plopped down and threw his feet up. The large chair seemed to swallow his lithe frame. “So, where’s Daryl?” Eric asked bluntly.

“He’s out with the others doing a practice run for tomorrow. Hey, I want to thank you again for helping the other day,” Aaron said, taking a drink. He made a face as he tried to swallow the stale beer.

“No problem. It felt good, actually, to contribute. I haven’t done much of that lately. Is that why you’re here? You got another project?”

“No,” Aaron said leaning forward and reaching into his jacket. “I came here to give you something. You left it at the house, and I thought it was best that you kept it.” Aaron pulled out the folded paper.

Eric knew right away what it was. “I don’t want it. It’s yours to do with as you please.”

“Ok, then it will please me to see that you keep it.” Aaron got up and handed it to Eric. Eric closed his eyes, as though he didn’t want to accept it. Aaron could see his struggle. “It’s a good picture of the two of us. I know it was only taken a couple years ago, but we look so much younger for some reason.”

Eric reluctantly opened the paper and looked. “I remember when we took this.”

“So do I. Who was it that took the picture? I can’t really remember. It’s one of those pieces of my memory that didn’t come back.”

“Holly took it,” Eric said, sounding far away as he gazed at the photo. “You said it wouldn’t develop, but it came out alright. And then you handed me the key to the house.”

“I was just thinking about that the other day. You see, it’s like I said, this brings back good memories, and that’s why you should have it,” Aaron said softly.

“They were good memories back then, but now,” Eric paused and shook his head slowly. “Aaron, I don’t know that I can do this,” he confessed.

“It’s just a picture,” Aaron said.

“I’m not talking about the picture. I mean, I don’t know if I can stay here … in Alexandria.”

“You can’t leave. Where would you go? Surely, you don’t still mean to look for that community,” Aaron questioned. Eric put his head down and looked away. “You can’t,” Aaron said again. “You don’t know what’s out there. You don’t even know if this place exists. Where did you even hear about it? Who told you there was another safe zone?”

“Back when I was seeing Alison for therapy, she told me about it.”

So there it was, the missing piece of the puzzle. “Alison? And you believed her?”

“I did back then,” Eric admitted.

“She tried to get us banished. She was going to take over Deanna’s position and throw Rick and his group out too. She’s deranged or haven’t you noticed.”

“I know all that,” Eric countered. “But she was trying to help me. She knew Alexandria wasn’t the place for me, for people like us. She warned me that something was going to happen. I tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen, and then you were attacked. It all went down just like she warned it might.”

“I don’t think it was so much a warning as it was a glimpse of what was going to happen. Who do you think got Pete and Gerrard all frenzied? Who do you think helped them get their weapons? Alison was the ringleader. She didn’t give a shit about you.”

“She gave more of a shit than you, off gallivanting around with Daryl. You left me, Aaron, and I was completely alone. I’ve never been alone before. Why do you think I started going to her? I needed her help so I could cope.” Eric stopped himself. He hadn’t wanted to argue, but there were some things that still needed addressing.

“And you deceived me when I was most vulnerable,” Aaron shot back.

“That’s because I loved you,” Eric yelled standing from his chair. He walked over to the window so he didn’t have to look at Aaron. “Dammit, I still do, and it kills me to see you with him.”

Aaron stood and went to Eric. “And it hurts me to think that you’d rather lie to get me back than tell the truth and see me happy.” Aaron laid a hand on Eric’s shoulder. “Look, neither one of us did the right thing here. I led you into a relationship that I couldn’t really contribute to, and you lied to me with fake memories. Eric, I don’t want you to hurt anymore. I want us to be friends. I want you to know that I’m there for you. I need you to understand that I want you here. I’m asking that you find a way to make this work, and whatever you do, please don’t leave.”

Eric finally turned from the window to face Aaron. There were tears misting in his eyes, and he embraced Aaron as he whispered. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry that I lied.”

“I’m sorry too,” Aaron said in return as he held Eric to him. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t love you the way you loved me.” Aaron separated from him to look him in the eyes. “We will be ok. This can work. You gotta know that. I’ll always be your friend because I care about you, and that’s something that’s always been there between us.”

Eric nodded and wiped a tear that escaped down his cheek. “I want it to work.”

“It will, Eric, as long as you know the boundaries, and I think you do. We can be alright, you and me. Ok?”

“Yeah, ok,” Eric replied, his voice choked up a bit, but he wore a smile.

“Now, how about we find a frame for that–” Aaron started to say, but he thought he heard yelling outside. “What was that?”

Eric creased his brows and shook his head as he turned to look back out the window. His breath hitched. “Oh my God! Aaron!”

Aaron dashed to the window and looked to the street below. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “What the hell?” There were people in the street, and they weren’t residents. They were armed with bats and machetes, knives and axes. They were dressed in dark dirty clothes.

“Who are these people? How’d they get in here?” Eric asked. Suddenly, their friend Holly ran out into the street to confront a man. He took out a knife and slashed at her, jabbing it into her side. She collapsed to the ground.

Aaron pulled on Eric’s arm. “Get away from the window.” It was his first instinct to hide so that these intruders didn’t see them upstairs and come into the townhouse. Eric ducked onto the floor, and Aaron crawled back to the window. He peeked over the edge. “We’ve got to go help her.”

“But … but that guy, he … he–” Eric stammered.

“He’s gone I think. We need to go to Holly. She might still be alive. We have to see.”

“Aaron, who are these people? Are we under attack?” Eric asked with panic.

“I don’t know. Listen, you have to help me. The infirmary isn’t far. We’ll take her there,” Aaron said, ignoring Eric’s questions.

Eric looked stunned, and he wasn’t seeing Aaron. Aaron, on the other hand, knew they couldn’t stay for fear of these people going from house to house. There was no back door to the townhouse, and they would be trapped. Aaron went to Eric and grasped both of his shoulders. “We can do this. We used to do this kind of thing all the time.”

“You did, not me. I used to hang back while you went in to check places out.”

“Holly is our friend. If we don’t go to her, no one else will. Are you with me? I said, are … you … with … me?” Aaron demanded.

“Y-Yeah. Ok,” Eric said nervously. He followed Aaron downstairs, but stopped him. “Wait! We don’t have any weapons.”

Aaron glanced around quickly, ran to the kitchen where he found a butcher’s block, and retrieved two of the largest knives from the set. “This will have to do, but hopefully we can get her to the infirmary without any trouble.”

They went to the front door, and Aaron opened it a crack. He held his hand out behind him, signaling for Eric to stay put a moment. When it looked like no one was in the street, he gestured for Eric to follow him. They snuck down the stairs, always staying alert. Aaron looked forward while Eric watched their back. Whoever had done this was gone, but they didn’t know where they were or how many there were. Finally, they got to Holly, who was lying face down on the pavement. “Keep watch,” Aaron said, “while I check her.”

Eric kept an eye on their surroundings, glancing towards Aaron. “How is she?”

Aaron turned her onto her side, revealing a pool of blood. “She’s hurt pretty bad. Fucker left the knife in her. She’s still breathing though.”

Just then, Holly struggled to open her eyes open a crack. “A-Aaron … help … m-me.”

“It’s ok. Eric and I are here. We’re going to get you over to Denise.” Aaron looked around once more. “Ok, help me get her up.”

Eric struggled to help Aaron, but with both their attention on Holly, no one was watching out for the intruders. Holly was almost like dead weight, and she didn’t have much strength to get up herself.

“Aaron! Eric! Oh my God! What’s going on?” It was Tara, rushing across the street when she saw the three of them.

“Holly’s been hurt. Help us get her to the infirmary,” Aaron told her.

Tara immediately took over Eric’s position, and he stepped out of her way. Then he started watching the area around them, following Tara and Aaron as they practically carried Holly across the street. They burst through the door, finding Denise and Eugene standing in the middle of the room. Denise looked dumbfounded. “What the hell is going on out there? I heard shouting and looked out to see people running around attacking us.” As she spoke, she glanced down at the blood soaking Holly’s shirt. Then she saw the white knife handle. “Jesus,” she muttered, and for a split second she froze. Then Denise shook herself back to reality. “Uh, over there. Put her on the table.”

Tara, Aaron and Eric got Holly on the examine table, and then stepped out of the way. Denise looked her over quickly, lifting Holly’s shirt. Denise cringed at what she saw. “She’s lost a lot of blood.”

“I’m O positive if that helps you any,” Eric mentioned.

“It would if I knew what type she–”

“Holly told me once that she’s A positive,” Eric said, interrupting Denise.

“That will work. I have to do this now. Are you up for it?” Denise asked.

“Sure, anything you need.” Eric rolled up the sleeve of his shirt and Denise got out the material she needed.

“Just have a seat there, and I’ll get you hooked up in no time.”

Aaron stayed and watched, but his mind was on Alexandria. He wanted to go out and see what was going on. He remembered what Rick told him, and all he could think about was seeing to Carl and Judith. And where was Carol in all of this? Meanwhile, Denise was prepping Holly, and she had removed the knife. Now she was second guessing her abilities to treat such a serious matter. Tara and Eugene were trying to talk sense into her. Eric was sitting next to Holly, giving her his blood. He gazed across the room to Aaron. He looked scared and worried, which made Aaron come to a decision about what he should do. Eric must have seen the determination in his face, and shook his head.

“Aaron, please,” Eric begged before anything was said.

“I have to go,” he said.

“There are dangerous people out there. You don’t even have a weapon,” Eric argued.

“Someone has to get to the weapons room.”

“I’m coming with you,” Tara said after convincing Denise she could help Holly.

Aaron didn’t argue. He knew Tara was a good shot, and right now they needed all the man, and woman, power they could muster. They both looked around the room at the others. Eric was giving blood and Denise had to save Holly, which left Eugene.

“I can’t go. I’m sorry,” Eugene said.

Aaron was fine with that. There was no time to argue, but Tara wasn’t through. She tried to talk Eugene into helping them, but he refused. There was no more time to waste, and Tara and Aaron headed for the door. Aaron paused before leaving to look back at Eric. Clearly, Eric didn’t want Aaron risking his life yet again, but there was no stopping a determined man, especially one like Aaron.

“I’ll be back, I promise,” Aaron said just before he slipped out of the door.

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