Safe Haven in the Chaos

BY : IdrilsSecret
Category: S through Z > The Walking Dead
Dragon prints: 3631
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 34 Dirty Deeds

 

 

The RV had just pulled in, and everyone in Alexandria ran out to meet the group. Aaron was the first one there, of course. It had only been a day, but it seemed longer than that. Everyone was anxious to find out about Hilltop.

 

Rick stepped off the RV first, holding a crate full of canned goods. The excited voices of the crowd escalated as other people came from the camper holding more crates full of vegetables and fruit. One of them was a woman who helped Olivia in the pantry and the kitchen. “We’re going to have to take care of those right away before they spoil.”

 

“I’ll help,” answered a couple other women in the crowd, and the crates traveled from hand to hand in the direction of those women.

 

Glenn and Maggie came out, and Glenn had a goat on a leash. He wrapped his free hand around Maggie’s waist. They were smiling from ear to ear, and she was rubbing her belly. Aaron went to them. “So? How’d it go?” he smiled with excitement.

 

“It was all true. They have all the things Jesus told us about, even the ultrasound machine,” Maggie answered. She glanced down at her stomach.

 

“Do we know if it’s a boy or a girl?” Aaron asked.

 

Maggie laughed. “It’s way too soon, silly.” Then she handed him a picture.

 

Aaron smiled as he looked at the ultrasound photo. “I don’t know what I’m looking at, but it’s still the best picture I’ve ever seen.”

 

“The fact is,” Glenn said, “we have access to a doctor, and most of the equipment we’ll need to bring a baby into the world. You don’t know how much of a load that is off my mind.”

 

“When I’m getting close to my time, I’m going to stay at Hilltop until I deliver the baby. It’s too far of a drive to wait until contractions start, just in case there are complications,” Maggie added as Aaron handed her the picture.

 

“That’s great. I’m so happy for you, for both of you.” Aaron pulled Maggie in for a hug.

 

“Oh wow! A goat!” Caleb yelled as he ran up to them. “Is it ours?”

 

“Yep,” Glenn said, handing the leash to the youth.

 

“Alright!” Caleb cheered. Then his face fell as a thought crossed his mind. “Wait, we’re not going to eat it are we?”

 

“No,” Maggie laughed. “She’s for milk.”

 

“I haven’t had milk in a long time,” Aaron mentioned.

 

“Right now, she’ll only yield enough for cooking, but hopefully we’ll have a male by springtime. Hilltop has just started breeding their livestock,” Maggie explained.

 

Aaron laughed as he watched Caleb’s excitement over the goat. “So, you had to ride with a goat in the camper for a couple hours?”

 

Glenn huffed and rolled his eyes. “Daryl bartered for a cow originally.”

 

“And we’re still going to get that cow too,” Daryl said as he jumped out of the camper with a box full of fabric.

 

“Daryl,” Aaron said, his face lighting up. He went to Daryl and took the box from him. “I’m glad you’re home.”

 

“Me too,” he answered, but there was concern in his eyes and on his brow.

 

“What is it?” Aaron asked. He knew something was wrong.

 

Maggie pulled away from Glenn and looked over at Caleb, who was on his knees petting the goat. “Why don’t you introduce her to the new livestock pen?”

 

“Sure thing.” Caleb started to walk away, but he stopped and turned back towards them. “Can I be in charge of taking care of her?”

 

“Of course,” Glenn told him. “But the first thing you need to do it give her a name.”

 

“Cool. Thanks.” Caleb trotted off with the goat.

 

Maggie, Glenn, Daryl and Aaron huddled around each other so no one else could hear them. Aaron didn’t like their long faces. Not everything went smooth apparently. Maggie spoke first. “I met with their leader, Gregory. He’s a real prick, by the way, but he knows how to barter. The fact is, we don’t have any goods to trade for, so we had to come up with something else. It’s how we got half of everything they own.”

 

“You got half?” Aaron asked, surprised. “What the hell do we have to do?”

 

Daryl shifted closer to Aaron and whispered. “We’re going to have to fight.”

 

“Fight who?” Aaron wondered.

 

“You know those biker assholes I torched? Well, there’s more of them. This guy, Negan, is supposedly their leader. They call themselves the Saviors, and go around threatening groups or communities, forcing them to cut a deal by killing one them. If they don’t have anything to hand over, they absorb the group into their clan. They take a hefty portion of a groups supplies in exchange for protection from walkers or other threats. But really, they are the threat. It’s nothing but bullshit if you ask me,” Daryl explained.

 

“How many of these Saviors are there?” Aaron asked.

 

“No one knows how many people he has, but Jesus said he’s seen a group as big as twenty,” Glenn explained.

 

“Something happened while we were there,” Maggie continued the story. “The Hilltop colony sends a group to deliver their goods to one of the Saviors’ compounds. Supposedly, their load was light, and half of the group was killed. Then they took one man, Craig, hostage and told his brother to kill Gregory or they would kill Craig.”

 

“Oh my God,” Aaron said, appalled.

 

“The guy shot Gregory, but Rick stopped him, and in the process he killed the attacker,” Glenn said. “Gregory’s wounded, but he’ll recover. Not the best way to become acquainted with a new community.”

 

“Here’s the deal,” Maggie spoke. “Negan wants proof that Gregory is dead by having someone from Hilltop bring the head. Then they will release Craig. Not only was this our chance to barter for Hilltop’s goods, but it’s our way in to the Saviors’ compound. I told Gregory that we would take out the Saviors and bring Craig home in return for half of their stuff. If it works out, we will be their protection from now on, and they will provide us with food until we can sustain ourselves. This should get us through the winter.”

 

 “We brought one of the Hilltop guys back with us,” Glenn said. “His name’s Andy. He was part of the delivery group. He’s been inside the Saviors’ compound many times, and knows his way around.”

 

“If we can get him to draw us a map, then we’ll have the advantage,” Maggie added. “This is where we’re going to have to make our stand. It’s gotta be on their turf if we want to get our message across.”

 

“Wait. We’re going to fight the Saviors?” Aaron was trying to piece everything together.

 

“These are bad people,” Daryl commented. “Jesus said when they introduced themselves to Hilltop, shortly after the walls went up, they told Gregory what they would do for him and what they wanted in return. Then they killed a Hilltop resident … a kid … just sixteen years old. Bashed his head in right in front of everyone.” Daryl shook his head. He looked distraught. “We ain’t losing no more.”

 

Aaron knew what Daryl was thinking. Caleb was eighteen, and it could very well have been him if it had been Saviors instead of Wolves who came to Alexandria. “We’re not just going to fight them, but we’re going to have to kill them, aren’t we?” No one said anything, but the glum looks they gave Aaron answered his question. “Then I’m going with you.”

 

“No, you ain’t,” Daryl demanded.

 

“Look, you can’t tell me–” Aaron started.

 

Maggie interrupted. “Rick has called a meeting at the church in an hour. Nothing has been decided yet, but if we do this, we’re going to need every experienced fighter, and that includes Aaron.” She directed her statement to Daryl.

 

He looked unimpressed, but he knew she was right. Still, Daryl didn’t want Aaron getting involved in this. It was dangerous business, and it was going to be bloody. He knew Aaron could handle himself in a fight, but could he stomach the idea of murdering people? That’s basically what they would be doing. The world had become ‘kill or be killed’, and they needed to take down Negan and his men before these Saviors found Alexandria.

 

He nodded reluctantly. “I’m gonna head on over to the church,” he told the others, and they all went together.

 

>>------->

 

Aaron was laying on the bed, listening to the sound of the shower running in the bathroom. They had just gotten back from the meeting, and Daryl was getting cleaned up after a long day. He thought about Rick’s plan. It was risky … very risky.  He knew they would have to fight the Saviors, but to kill them while they slept? Aaron closed his eyes as he pondered the idea. He had killed before, but it was self-defense. However, to stab people in the head while they slept … the very thought sent chills up Aaron’s spine. He knew that once he went there, he’d never be the same again.

 

He thought about the people they would be killing. What had they done before the outbreak? Perhaps they were lawyers or secretaries, mechanics or telemarketers. They had normal lives, going to a job every day, perhaps raising a family or empty-nesters ready to retire. Aaron would bet his left nut that most of those people would never have imagined they would be part of a crooked outfit like the one the Saviors were running. But the grid went down, the world went dark, and people gravitated towards more instinctual behavior. The old ways didn’t count for shit anymore.

 

Aaron thought about what he might be doing by now if the outbreak never happened. Something he’d always wanted to do was spend a Gay Pride weekend in Key West, sitting under the palm frond roof of a tiki hut , drinking rum runners, and flirting with all the pretty tanned boys. Maybe he would have done that by now if the world didn’t end. Maybe all those people at the Saviors compound would be doing the things they’d always wanted to do too. But the old world ended, and the new world formed them into something they never could have imagined being. Aaron had to remind himself that these people chose this way to live, whether by desire or by fear. It didn’t matter, and he knew that they wouldn’t hesitate to kill the Alexandrians, if given the chance.

 

It was too depressing to think about anymore, and Aaron went back to dreaming about warm salty breezes and a white hammock made of rope hanging between two palm trees. He closed his eyes, settled into his pillow and let a half smile sit upon his lips. He heard the bathroom door open, and smelled the clean scent of soap. The steam from the hot shower permeated the bedroom, making it feel more humid. He imagined it was the Florida heat, and could almost taste a fruity frozen drink on his tongue.

 

“What are you smiling about?” Daryl asked.

 

Aaron slowly opened his eyes, and found Daryl standing at the foot of the bed, water dripping from dark spikes of hair, chest still damp, and wearing only a white bath towel wrapped around his waist. “Dreaming of ocean breezes, and dark tanned beach waiters bringing me a steady flow of margaritas whenever I snap my fingers.”

 

Daryl crawled onto the bed next to Aaron. “These waiters, are they coming on to you?”

 

Aaron smiled and stretched luxuriously. “Mmhmm, but only because they want a very … generous … tip.”

 

“I bet they do,” Daryl said as he straddled Aaron. Then he shook his wet head, sending water flying everywhere.

 

Aaron put his hands up to cover his face and laughed. “Daryl, stop. You’re getting me all wet.”

 

“Well we can’t have that, can we? Here, let me help you out of those wet clothes.” Daryl played along, and began unbuttoning Aaron’s shirt. But half way through, his fingers slowed and he seemed to lose interest as something else invaded his thoughts.

 

Aaron reached for Daryl’s still hands and squeezed. “Hey, you alright?”

 

Daryl didn’t answer right away. He was looking down at the bed, but it seemed like he was looking through it. Eventually, he gave a nod and a grunt. “I just don’t like this.”

 

“Yeah, I’ve been thinking the same thing,” Aaron said quietly.

 

Daryl nodded again, and his eyes turned to Aaron. “I’ve haven’t … I’ve … never had to do something like this before. I mean, I’ve killed people, but that was because they were going to kill me first. It was self-defense, but this . . .” He paused and shook his head.

 

Aaron sighed deeply and sat up on his elbows. “If you think about, this is self-defense. If we don’t do something now, people will die. We know these guys are out there. We know what they are capable of. If we sit with our hands in our laps, and the Saviors invade Alexandria, I’ll feel more guilt over our people dying rather than theirs.”

 

Daryl moved off of Aaron and laid on the bed next to him, looking up at the ceiling. “Yeah, I get your point. It’s still a tough pill to swallow.” He turned his head to look at Aaron. “Makes it even tougher to know you’re going to be in on it. I wish you wouldn’t go.”

 

“I have to. You heard Rick. The best of us, he said, or are you going to argue that I am not one of the best,” Aaron said with a partial smile.

 

“You know you’re good,” Daryl agreed.

 

Aaron’s eyes traveled down the length of Daryl’s body, still wrapped in a towel and nothing more. “How good am I?” he said seductively. He rolled onto his side and played with the edge of the towel where the corner was tucked in.

 

“Very good,” Daryl growled, watching Aaron’s hand slide across his stomach.

 

Aaron tugged at the towel. “Nice to know you approve. However, I don’t want to lose my edge. You know, practice makes perfect and all that.” The towel fell away on one side, partially exposing Daryl’s nakedness. Aaron pushed the other side back, and began trailing kisses down his chest, licking and biting as he went lower. His lips glided along the line of soft dark hair, leading him to the object of his unending desire. Daryl was only half at attention, but coming to life with every lick of Aaron’s tongue. Aaron’s hand wrapped around the base, as he puckered his lips, and blew air along the hardening length. He brought Daryl standing when he took the magnificent cock into his mouth. Daryl’s hands reached for Aaron’s head, fingers running through his curly hair. Daryl kept his hair long like a lion’s mane, but he loved the feel of Aaron’s short hair tickling the palms of his hands erotically. Aaron swallowed him to the hilt, making Daryl’s hips lift from the bed. His tongue tantalized the firm yet satiny flesh until it pulsated against the roof of his mouth. Daryl tried to drive himself deeper, but Aaron had complete control. He manipulated the man beneath him using only the talent of his mouth, another thing Aaron knew he was good at. When he knew Daryl was close, Aaron moan as though he himself was about to come, and sent electrifying vibrations that roused every nerve in Daryl’s body. His entire being went rigid, and he cried out Aaron’s name, a sound that embedded itself into Aaron’s mind. ‘I did that’, he thought to himself, ‘and no one else ever will.’

 

When he was sure Daryl was completely sated, Aaron came to rest at Daryl’s side, and cleaned him with the towel. Daryl was still panting, but he wore an exhausted yet satisfied smile. “I don’t think I’ll ever understand how you manage to completely drain me like that, but … damn, you give the best blow jobs. I got nothing left.”

 

“Good. That’s how it’s supposed to be,” Aaron smiled, proud of a job well done.

 

“If you … give me a minute … I think I can–” Daryl panted.

 

“Don’t worry about me. Tonight was all for you.” Aaron kissed him.

 

Daryl kissed him back, tongues caressing. “Well, if you feel something coming up behind you in the middle of the night, I suggest you surrender immediately,” Daryl groaned in his ear.

 

Aaron smiled at the titillating thought. “Mmm, you promise?”

 

>>------->

 

The group was on their way to the Saviors compound, when Rick told Abraham to pull over. “Everyone hold tight. Glenn and I got something to do first. Keep watch. We’ll be back.”

 

Aaron noticed that Andy went with Rick and Glenn. He wondered what they were doing, but knowing Rick, it had something to do with their plans to storm compound.

 

“I’m going to check these woods,” Daryl told him, and he took his rifle in his hands.

 

“Want me to go with you?” Aaron asked.

 

“Naw, you stay here and keep an eye out,” Daryl told him, and he went into the tree line.

 

It was hot, especially standing around on the asphalt. Everyone seemed on edge, and there was a nervous vibe that surrounded the group. Aaron thought that he wasn’t the only one uncomfortable with the idea of blatantly killing people in their sleep.

 

Some time had passed, and Daryl wasn’t back yet. Aaron was beginning to worry when he saw someone coming towards them.

 

“Jesus, what the hell is that?” Aaron asked, disgusted by the sight approaching him. Glenn was walking up the road with three heads in his hands.

 

“You called me?” Jesus came up beside Aaron unexpectedly.

 

“Oh … uh … ha … I wasn’t … uh,” Aaron stammered.

 

Paul laughed. “I know. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. That joke’s gotten old at the Hilltop.”

 

“Yeah, I can see how that would happen,” Aaron said, distracted by the way Glenn carried the heads dangling by their hair.

 

“You’re one of the few people who call me by my real name, you know,” Jesus mentioned, drawing Aaron’s attention back to him. “Actually, there’s only one other person now who calls me Paul.”

 

“I can call you Jesus if you–”

 

“No,” Paul interrupted. “Please, call me Paul.” He smiled at Aaron, his bright blue eyes glimmering in the sun. He gazed at Aaron longer than was comfortable, but luckily Rick showed up to interrupt the awkwardness.

 

“So, Rick, what’s with the walker heads?” Aaron asked.

 

“That’s our ticket into the Saviors compound,” Rick admitted. He walked off to meet Glenn and Andy.

 

Aaron looked around, avoiding eye contact with Paul again. He glanced towards the RV, parked on the side of the road. Maggie and Carol were talking to Gabriel. Rosita was standing in the grass near the trees, by herself. Aaron wanted to talk to her, but she had been very unresponsive to anyone’s kindness since Abraham broke things off with her. Seems Abe took Aaron’s advice. Unfortunately, he did it at a most inopportune time, last night, the night before the group headed off to the Saviors compound.

 

“I know it looks weird,” Paul said. He and Aaron were still standing in the same place, watching from a distance as Glenn set the heads on the ground, and Rick and Andy studied them with a critical eye. “When Andy told you that the Saviors wanted Gregory’s head in exchange for Craig, the Hilltop man being held hostage, he meant that literally. However, as you know, Gregory is not dead. He’s nursing a gunshot wound back at Hilltop.”

 

“Why can you just put a large rock in a bag and tell them it’s done. We just need to draw the guards outside,” Aaron said.

 

“They won’t bring Craig out until they see their proof. Once we have Craig in our safekeeping, then we’ll go inside after the others. But we need to take out the two guards first or they’ll set off the alarm. All this has to go down outside the compound,” Paul explained.

 

Glenn set the heads on the ground. Rick and Andy were studying them with a critical eye. Aaron walked up to observe the gruesome sight. He looked around for Daryl, but didn’t see him. He wished he was there to witness the crazy act.

 

“That one,” Rick said. “What do you think?” he asked Andy.

 

“It’s pretty close,” Andy answered, and Rick nodded. “Except for the nose.”

 

Rick turned back around to look at Andy and the head. “What’s wrong with the nose?”

 

Andy shook his head. “It’s not Gregory’s nose. Everything else could definitely pass.”

 

Rick leaned down and picked the head up by the hair. He cocked his head to the side, like an artist visualizing his work. Then he proceeded to punch the nose. Everyone took a step back and watched Rick beat the walker face. “There,” he said satisfied. He looked at Andy for his approval, but Andy wasn’t convinced, and seemed rather disgusted.

 

“That’s brutal, man,” Andy said.

 

Rick wasn’t in the mood. “Tell them he fought back and you punched him. That’s how you injured your hand.”

 

Eventually Andy agreed. The other two heads were tossed into the bushes, and it was time to get on their way again. Paul walked with Aaron back to the RV. “Rick is a no nonsense kind of guy, isn’t he?”

 

Aaron nodded. “He made a deal with your people, and he won’t break it. You can trust him. You can trust all of us.”

 

“I trust you,” Paul told him. “So if you say Rick is good at his word then I’ll believe it.”

 

Aaron smiled slightly at the compliment. “Why? Why do you trust me so easily?”

 

Paul smiled wide and shrugged. “You’re Alexandria’s recruiter. And you’re the one who brought Rick and his group into your community. You wouldn’t have done that if you didn’t think he was a good person. Takes one to know one.” He grasped Aaron’s shoulder just as Daryl broke out of the trees.

 

Daryl’s eyes narrowed as he approached them. As soon as Jesus spotted him, he pulled his hand away. Daryl went to Aaron. “Can I have a word with you?’ he asked.

 

“Sure,” Aaron said and turned to Paul. “Tell the others it’s time to go.”

 

Daryl and Aaron walked a little bit away from everyone before they spoke. “What’s up?” Aaron asked.

 

“What did he want?” Daryl said in an accusing tone.

 

“He was just looking for reassurance in trusting Rick to follow through with the plan. I told him there was nothing to worry about on this end,” Aaron told him.

 

Daryl grunted and watched Jesus gather up the other people. “I don’t like how he’s always coming up to you when I’m not around. I don’t trust him.”

 

Aaron huffed cynically. “Daryl, come on. You don’t really think he–”

 

“Yes, I do,” Daryl interrupted. He stood in front of Aaron to gain his full attention. “He’s got no one back at the Hilltop. Then he comes here and … whether you see it or not, he’s latching onto you. It might be all just friendly conversation right now, but he’s … I don’t trust him around you, that’s all.”

 

“Do you trust me?” Aaron said, looking into Daryl’s eyes.

 

Daryl nodded. “Of course.”

 

“Then that’s all you need to know.” Aaron’s hand rested on Daryl’s chest. “I’d never let anything or anyone jeopardize that.”

 

“Alright,” Daryl agreed, convinced that Aaron understood what was going on. That was enough to make him feel more secure about the situation.

 

>>------->

 

Andy told Rick where to stop the RV before getting too close to the Saviors compound. Following behind them was Tara, Gabriel and Jesus in the delivery van that the Hilltop people used.  From here, Andy would take the van and the head, and drive to the compound. The rest of the group would follow on foot, navigating the woods and using them as cover.

 

As they walked along, Daryl and Aaron overheard Carol complaining to Rick about Maggie being present. They couldn’t hear everything that was said, but Carol was definitely uneasy with the situation. Aaron didn’t much like it himself, but it was Maggie’s choice. Daryl kept a close eye on Carol, and once she broke away from Rick, he approached her.

 

“What’s going on?” Daryl asked.

 

“Nothing,” she said in an angry tone.

 

“Don’t sound like nothing to me,” Daryl coaxed, keeping up with her fast stride. As he walked with her, he had to occasionally duck to miss a low hanging branch, or jump to the side to avoid stumbling over the undergrowth.

 

Carol huffed with annoyance. “I just don’t understand why Rick didn’t put his foot down this time. Maggie should be home not here.”

 

“She’s hanging back,” Daryl explained to side with Maggie. “She’s not going into the compound with the rest of us.”

 

“It doesn’t matter,” Carol argued. She was unusually moody, and Daryl couldn’t remember her ever behaving like this before. “She shouldn’t be thinking about just herself anymore. Maggie has more important priorities now, but she can’t see it yet. I see it. I’ve been there. A woman in her condition has greater responsibilities.” Carol stared Daryl in the eyes. “She shouldn’t fucking be here.”

 

“Don’t start yelling at me. I’m not the one who let her come along,” Daryl defended himself.

 

“Hey,” Aaron said, coming up next to them. “Guys, we can argue about this later. Carol, if you’re that worried about Maggie, perhaps you should stay with her. Two sets of eyes are better than one.”

 

Carol was still glaring at Daryl as she answered Aaron. “Fine. We’ll hang back and keep an eye on the area while the rest of you go inside.” She agreed quickly. Then she broke away from the men and went to find Maggie.

 

“What the hell has gotten into her?” Daryl asked as he watched her walk away.

 

“I told you she was behaving strangely. Did you ever talk to her?” Aaron accused.

 

“No, I haven’t had the time,” Daryl said.

 

“I don’t know. I’m not an expert, but I think Carol is starting to have personal issues lately. I told you about her and Tobin, and how she said she didn’t’ think she was worthy of his attention. She’s struggling with something, and whatever it is, I don’t think she’s ever told anyone about it.”

 

“There’s definitely something wrong. She’s not her usual cheery self,” Daryl noticed. “Probably better that she hangs back.” Daryl stopped Aaron from taking another step. “And speaking of which–”

 

“I’m not staying outside, Daryl. I’m going in with you,” Aaron argued.

 

“Then stick close to me. We’ll clear the place together.” Daryl couldn’t win once Aaron had his mind made up.

 

“No more noise beyond this point,” Rick warned everyone. “We’re close.”

 

Not much further up, they stopped and took their positions in the undergrowth. They could hear the engine of Andy’s van running and then shut off. Suddenly, everything was lit up brighter than the sun. A man’s voice came over a loudspeaker, warning the person in the van to say who he was and state his business. Andy complied, and told them he had the package.

 

Aaron could see the building. It had a huge satellite on its roof, some kind of station obviously. He wondered if it had been military or something else. Whatever it was used for, it wasn’t good for anything but shelter now.

 

“He’s out of the van,” Rick whispered to Daryl. “Keep your eyes open and get ready.”

 

Daryl nodded and glanced at Aaron. “Remember, anything happens, you abort the mission with everyone else.”

 

“Yeah,” Aaron agreed just to make Daryl happy. The truth was, if anything happened to Daryl, Aaron wouldn’t hesitate to run in with guns blazing. He wouldn’t tell Daryl that though.

 

Now came the most difficult part of the plan, as everyone watched Andy take the head out of the bag and show it to the two guards. The shorter man examined it for the longest time. He didn’t look convinced, and the group thought their plan was about to go awry. Then, after what seemed like hours, the man smiled and laughed as he made fun of the fake Gregory head. He told Andy he’d done good, and sent the second guard inside to retrieve Craig, the Hilltop hostage.

 

“Now! Now! Now!” Rick whispered intensely.

 

While Andy was keeping the first guard’s attention, he never saw Daryl sneak up from behind. Daryl grabbed the man’s head, pulled it back and slit his throat. Before the blood or the body could reach the ground, Aaron and Glenn rushed in and carried the guard back to the bushes where they were hiding. Michonne grabbed his gun that he’d dropped, and all evidence was gone. In a matter of seconds, it was just Andy standing alone waiting for the second guard to come out.

 

The second guard emerged from the building with Craig, making fun of him for being scared. He shoved Craig towards Andy before he realized the other man was missing. He asked where his partner went. Andy shrugged, and at the same time, the second guard realized something was wrong. It was too late, and he looked down to find the point of a sword protruding from his chest. Again, Aaron and Glenn ran in and took the dead guard away to the bushes, along with any other evidence of his existence. Craig looked terrorized, hands tied and a gag in his mouth. Andy went to him and told him everything was alright. They were going home. They went back to the van, and drove out of sight where Tara, Gabriel and Jesus waited.

 

With Craig safely away from his captors, it was time to storm the compound. Now, everyone hugged the wall, guns, knives or swords at the ready. On Rick’s signal, they entered the building with quiet stealth. They had a good idea of where they were, thanks to Andy and his knowledge of the layout of the place. They still weren’t sure where the armory was, but they had a good guess. That was their goal, along with having to kill everyone inside the compound. They went in pairs, clearing each and every room as they went. Daryl and Aaron were not paired together. Daryl went with Rick and Michonne, leading the way. Aaron was with Rosita. Glenn and Heath partnered together, and Abraham was with Sasha. As they went, Daryl kept looking to see where Aaron was. He wasn’t distracted by this, but he just needed to know in case something went wrong. He saw Rosita and Aaron go into a room, and wished he was with them. His worry was undeniable.

 

The room Aaron and Rosita entered was empty. It was only a momentary sense of relief to know he wouldn’t have to kill someone. Of course, the next room might prove otherwise. His stomach was in knots at the thought, but he had to ignore it. This had to be done. There was no other choice. As he followed Rosita to the next room, Daryl flashed through his memory. Seeing him kill that guard without an ounce of mercy, without hesitation was something he hadn’t seen before. He had seen Daryl kill men, but they were trying to kill him. That guard never knew what happened to him. Still, Aaron knew it was necessary in order to protect themselves, the people of Hilltop and Alexandria.

 

Rosita opened the next door and looked inside. She nodded to Aaron, signaling to him that there were occupants inside. Aaron nodded back and gripped the handle of his knife. This was it. There was no turning back. They eased silently through the door. Two men slept soundly in their beds. Rosita went to the one furthest into the room. Aaron took the man closest to the door. They positioned their knives, hovering just above the sleeping men’s heads. Rosita began to count, mouthing the numbers one, two, but before she got to three, Aaron held up his finger to halt her. She furrowed her brows in frustration, thinking that Aaron was backing out. He mouthed the words, ‘one moment’, and Rosita looked angry. The longer they took, the better the chance these men would sense their presence and wake up. Aaron tried to swallow, but his mouth was as dry as a drought. He gripped the handle of his knife with both hands, knowing it would take extra effort to knife a fresh skull compared to the rotting head of a corpse. He raised the knife up, took a deep breath and noticed a picture taped to the wall next to the cot. It was the man he was about to kill with his wife and child. In the background was Cinderella’s Castle. The little girl, wearing a red dress with white polka dots, held a Mickey Mouse shaped balloon, and was smiling from ear to ear. It was a glimpse of life as it used to be, as it still should have been. This man was a father and a husband, had probably lost them to the outbreak. Had he seen them turn? Did he have to kill them? It was too much for Aaron, but he knew he had a job to do. Whoever this man was, he wasn’t that person anymore.  A tear tried to escape as Aaron closed his eyes. He used every last ounce of will he had and lifted his knife again. Just as he was about to do it, someone grasped his arm. He froze and his eyes flew open.

 

Daryl had seen Aaron and Rosita enter the room, and he knew they had been in there longer than they needed to be. Worried that something had gone wrong, he entered the room, and that’s when he found Aaron struggling to kill the sleeping Savior man. He knew that to do this meant losing a piece of one’s soul. Killing someone when they were most vulnerable was murder, no matter whether or not these men would have done the same thing. Daryl couldn’t stand to see Aaron struggling with his humanity, and that’s why he intervened. He shook his head as Aaron looked at him, telling him not to go through with it. Aaron backed away and let Daryl do what he couldn’t. Daryl glanced at Rosita as they both raised their knives. With a nod, they simultaneously sunk their blades into the heads of the sleeping men. Aaron watched with horror, but also with sorrow that Daryl had to do this for him. He thought he was strong enough. He thought he’d blocked out the emotions, but that photo … it had gotten to him.

 

Rosita went to Aaron and patted his shoulder, no longer angry with him. Then she went to the door and looked out into the hall. Daryl wanted to comfort Aaron, ask him if he was alright, but they weren’t supposed to say a word while in the compound. The slightest whisper might alarm someone. Instead, Daryl hooked his finger under Aaron’s jaw and lifted his head until they made eye contact. Daryl raised his eyebrows and nodded in question. Aaron understood the gesture, sighed and nodded in answer. Everything was alright and he was ready to move on. Daryl pointed to the door and then in the direction of the way out of the building. He wanted Aaron to go outside. Aaron shook his head and his brows pushed together in defiance. He wasn’t ready to give up. He came here to do a job, and he was going to see it through. Daryl shook his head in disagreement, wanting Aaron to leave. They were having a silent argument with only gestures instead of words. Rosita grabbed their attention by waving her hand. It was time to go, and she was getting angrier by the moment. But before Daryl and Aaron could finish their argument, an alarm went off. Everyone froze and looked at each other.

 

“Shit,” Daryl said. There was no point keeping quiet any longer. They had just been found out. The three of them left the room, and joined Rick and Michonne in the hall.

 

“Guns out,” Rick said, and everyone switched from their knives.

 

Daryl knew Aaron couldn’t leave now that the Saviors were alerted to their intrusion. They had a battle on their hands now. They would have to shoot their way out. As a group, they fought on ahead, shooting at the men that were trying to shoot them. Abraham, Sasha, Glenn and Heath hadn’t been accounted for yet. First priority was to find them and kill the Saviors. There could be no survivors.

 

They were suddenly in a hail of fire from shooters above on a catwalk. Everyone scattered and Aaron and Daryl were separated. Aaron found himself alone in a room, and took a moment to collect himself. He was about to check his gun when someone knocked it from his hands, and it slid across the floor. A huge burly man attacked Aaron, and he fought him as best he could, but he knew he would be overpowered. The attacker grabbed Aaron by the throat and squeezed. Aaron pushed against his chest, trying to get him off, but he was beginning to see tiny bursts of light, as he was being strangled. He had to get this guy off of him and fast. With his free hand, Aaron reached for the knife at his side. He’d put it away when he took out his gun. Remembering the gun, Aaron tried to look for it, but the man’s grip was too tight. Finally, Aaron brought the knife up. The man glimpsed the silver flash of metal and grabbed Aaron’s wrist, which made him loosen his hold on Aaron’s neck. Aaron took as deep a breath as he could manage, and reached deep to find what was left of his strength. The position they were in gave Aaron an advantage, He pushed the knife closer and closer to the man’s chest until the point finally touch flesh.

 

“If it wasn’t you, it would have been us,” Aaron choked out, as though this justified what he was doing, and with all he had, he slid the knife between the ribs. The man sputtered and coughed, losing his strength with every breath. Aaron twisted the knife back and forth to do the most damage. The man went down in a limp heap at Aaron’s feet, and Aaron slid to the floor, depleted of all energy. It felt as though his esophagus was crushed, but it was probably just the muscles clenching in a spasm. One moment was all he needed, but the room began to spin from lack of oxygen. He looked down and noticed the blood on his shirt, and then lost consciousness.

 

Meanwhile, out in the hall, Daryl followed Rick and Michonne deeper into the compound, killing Saviors as they went. When they had a moment to assess their situation, Daryl looked back towards the way they came. Aaron was nowhere to be seen. “I’m going back,” he told Rick.

 

“We need to keep moving this way. We can’t stop until we find their armory and–”

 

“I’m going back,” Daryl repeated. He didn’t wait around to argue with Rick.

 

Daryl went room to room, gun raised, finding each one empty or with dead bodies inside. If there were bodies, he briefly checked them to make sure they weren’t Aaron. He silently berated himself for letting Aaron come here. He saw the struggle on Aaron’s face when he was about to kill the sleeping man. Daryl saw the picture on the wall too, and he didn’t blame Aaron for freezing, but pictures like that were just memories. The world was much different now. People weren’t who they used to be, and this man had chosen to involve himself with people who were bad. It was a good thing Daryl showed when he did. It tore at his heart to see Aaron question his action, trying to force himself to do what he knew he was there to do. That’s why Daryl stepped in and took over. Aaron didn’t need to be haunted by what he was about to do. Daryl would carry the burden for them. He was a little more hardened to performing such acts. It’s how he survived, how he made it this far.

 

He entered another room, and found Aaron sitting on the floor, back leaning against the wall. There was a large dead man on the floor next to him, and Aaron’s shirt was drenched in blood. His eyes were closed, and his breathing seemed labored. Was Daryl’s biggest fear about to become reality? He rushed over to Aaron and knelt on the floor next to him.

 

“Aaron! Oh God, Aaron, please,” Daryl cried as he tried to wake him. Slowly, Aaron came around, and even in the chaos, managed to smile at the sight of Daryl.

 

“Hey, you’re here,” Aaron said, lifting his hand and patting the side of Daryl’s face.

 

“Are you alright?” Daryl asked, trying to lift Aaron’s shirt. “Are you hurt? Bit? Aaron, talk to me. What happened?”

 

“It’s ok, it’s not my blood. At least I don’t think it is.”

 

Daryl checked his flesh, but didn’t find any wounds. When he looked at Aaron again, he noticed the red marks on his throat. Aaron put his hand on Daryl’s arm as he reached out to touch the marks.

 

“I’m alright. I just passed out is all,” Aaron told him.

 

“We gotta go. Can you walk?” Daryl asked.

 

“Yeah,” Aaron answered and tried to get up. Daryl helped get him to his feet, and together they left the room “Wait,” Aaron stopped him. “Shouldn’t we knife him in the head?” Aaron wondered, looking back into the room.

 

“Naw. Leave him to turn so he can greet any more Saviors that come checking on this place,” Daryl said with disgust.

 

Aaron was putting all of his weight on Daryl, and they were moving slower than they would have liked. By now, they were alone. The rest of the group had either moved on or found a way out. “Where is everyone?” Aaron wondered.

 

“Hopefully they got out,” Daryl said.

 

Aaron stopped walking. “I don’t think–” he started to say, but his body went limp. He’d passed out again.

 

Daryl pulled Aaron to him, and was going to lay him on the floor, but suddenly, Jesus was there, and took Aaron’s other arm. “Let’s go.”

 

“You’re not supposed to be here,” Daryl said angrily. “If the Saviors see you here–”

 

“Doesn’t seem to matter anymore, does it?” Jesus answered. He nodded towards the way the group came in. “It’s mostly clear that way, and the fastest way out. We pulled the van and the RV up front. We’ll get Aaron out of here, and then go back to look for the others.”

 

Daryl had no choice but to work with Jesus. He nodded in agreement and together they dragged Aaron out of the compound. About half way there, Aaron regained consciousness. “Jesus, what happened?”

 

“I don’t know the whole story, but apparently you passed out and . . .” Jesus paused at noticing Aaron’s confusion. “You weren’t asking me specifically, were you?”

 

The sound of automatic weapons firing rapidly came from further inside the compound. Daryl and Jesus looked at each other, knowing one of them needed to go see what was happening. “You think we found the armory?” Jesus asked.

 

“Either us or them. Let’s hope it’s us,” Daryl said.

 

“You got him?” Jesus asked, letting go of Aaron’s arm.

 

“Yeah, just go and I’ll catch up after I get Aaron to the camper.”

 

“Wait, I’m going too,” Aaron said.

 

“No, you’re not,” Daryl and Jesus said in unison. They gave each other a quick glance after their combined answer. Seemed as though they were both looking out for Aaron’s welfare.

 

“Go,” Daryl said to Jesus to avoid any more confusion. Jesus nodded and took off. Daryl helped Aaron the rest of the way out, finding it clear outside. The RV was right there, and he got Aaron up the steps.

 

Tara took Aaron’s other side and helped him onto the couch. “What happened?” she asked with concern.

 

“Aaron will explain. I gotta go back in,” Daryl told her.

 

Andy came forward. “You need some help?”

 

“I need you to get Craig as far from here as possible. Take him back to Hilltop. Tell Gregory we held up our end of the bargain,” Daryl demanded.

 

Andy didn’t question him or argue. He nodded in compliance and helped Craig stand. Craig was hurt, but he looked like he’d be alright. He’d been beaten pretty badly. Gabriel went to the men and helped Andy get Craig to the van.

 

Daryl looked at Tara, and then to Aaron. “I’ll be back, but I gotta–”

 

“I know you do,” Aaron smiled. “Be careful.”

 

Daryl looked at Tara again, and she understood as she turned her back to them. Then, Daryl kissed Aaron, hoping this wouldn’t be the last. It didn’t feel like his day to die, and he wasn’t worried. He flew out of the RV and back to the compound to help his people.

 

Once it was just Tara and Aaron in the RV, she started looking him over. “I’m not a doctor, but I’ve watched Denise enough times. So, what happened?”

 

“A guy caught me off guard, tried to strangle me,” Aaron croaked. His throat felt raw and his vocal chords weren’t working properly.

 

“Can you breathe alright?” she asked.

 

“Yeah. Throat hurts though,” he said, not speaking too much because of the pain.

 

“Don’t talk anymore then. I think you’ll be alright until we get home and Denise can check you over. There’s a first aid kit, if you want me to look through it, and see if there’s anything that will help.”

 

Aaron shook his head. “No, that’s alright.” He stood from the couch and went to the opposite side of the camper to look out the window. From there, he could see the door to the compound. He wouldn’t take his eyes from it until he saw Daryl emerge. Only then would he feel relieved.

 

After a little while, Tara came up next to him. “I wish they’d hurry up.”

 

“Me too,” Aaron said.

 

“You shouldn’t try to talk,” Tara warned. Then she smiled sheepishly. “I think it’s beautiful what you and Daryl have. You really love each other, don’t you?” she observed, and Aaron smiled and nodded. “Yeah,” she continued. “I’ve seen the two of you. Not that I was gawking or being creepy or anything. No, I-I just noticed the way you are when you’re around each other. I can tell you all try not to make too much of a display when others are around, but there’s still this whole … vibe that you guys have. You just seem really relaxed in each other’s company.” Tara stepped back from the window and sat on the couch behind them. “I don’t think Denise and I are quite to that point yet. Or … maybe it’s me who isn’t.” The last part she said very quietly.

 

Aaron turned to her, giving her his full attention. “Why?” he whispered.

 

“I’m not … I’m just not ready. It hasn’t been that long. We’re still getting to know each other.” As she spoke, she paced up and down the aisle. “I’ve got all kinds of excuses. For instance, when I was leaving to come here, she told me she loved me. I … I couldn’t believe she said it. I didn’t think we were there yet. The thing is, I wanted to say it, but I couldn’t. I think … I think I’m afraid to, but it’s not because I don’t want to or that I don’t care. I do … very much. I didn’t want to say it to her, and then have something happen to me. Once that kind of confession is out in the open, there are responsibilities and worries.” She looked away and sighed. “Denise told me she loved me, and all I could say was that I’d tell her when I got back.” Tara shook her head, berating herself. “I’m so stupid.”

 

Aaron went to Tara and turned her towards him. She looked up into his face and he smiled. Then he pulled her into his chest and hugged her. “You’re not stupid.”

 

“I’m not so sure about that,” she responded.

 

Aaron wanted to say more, but his throat was very sore. And then they heard a commotion outside and jumped up. The group was coming out of the compound. Aaron and Tara left the RV and met everyone outside. Rick walked with Michonne, Abraham with Sasha. Glenn and Heath came out looking exhausted and baffled. Surprisingly, at least to Aaron, Daryl and Jesus walked side by side. Maybe things were changing between those two. Rosita was the last to come out. She walked alone and looked distant.

 

“Maggie, have you heard from her?” Glenn asked when he approached Tara.

 

Tara shook her head. “No, but we should radio her and Carol, and tell them to come back.”

 

Maggie and Carol had been lookouts for the group, hiding in the woods so they could keep an eye on the compound at a distance. Maggie had a radio, and she would have called Rick if anyone approached, but her radio was silent during the ordeal.

 

Aaron watched as Daryl and Paul had words. Daryl nodded and Paul clasped a hand to his shoulder. Then Daryl turned to Aaron and they walked towards each other until they were face to face. Daryl looked him over, and touched Aaron’s neck tenderly.

 

“You alright?” Daryl asked.

 

Aaron nodded. “Throats sore, but otherwise . . .” He smiled and touched Daryl’s arm.

 

Daryl lifted the edge of his shirt and pulled a gun out of his belt. “Found this,” he said, handing Aaron his gun. “Guess you dropped it.”

 

“Yeah, that guy who attacked me knocked it out of my hands. Thanks.” Aaron glanced towards Paul, who was speaking with Rick at the moment. “So, uh, you two getting along better now?”

 

Daryl looked to see who Aaron was talking about, and when he saw it was Jesus, he nodded. “For now. The man kept his word, told the truth.” He was reluctant to admit it.

 

Aaron turned to the compound, noticing how quiet it was now. “Is it taken care of?”

 

“Yeah,” Daryl answered quietly. “I think we got them all.”

 

Aaron looked to the ground. “I froze in there. I thought I could do it, but–”

 

“It’s ok,” Daryl comforted him. “That wasn’t an easy thing to do.”

 

“I saw that picture on his wall, and all I could think was–”

 

Daryl stopped him again. “It’s over now. No need to dwell on it. I was just glad I was there to–”

 

Everyone’s attention was drawn to the sound of a motor within the compound. Before anyone had a chance to make sense of what was happening, a man on a motorcycle drove out of the building. Right away, Daryl recognized it. That was his bike, the one that the guy in the woods took from him. “Hey!” Daryl yelled.

 

Someone fired their gun, and the man dropped from the bike. They both slid to a stop. Daryl was already running towards him, expecting to see the man from the woods, but it wasn’t him. It was one of the Saviors who had somehow escaped getting caught. Daryl jumped on the injured man, and started punching him as he tried to get up.

 

“That’s my fucking bike! Where the hell did you get it?” Daryl interrogated as he continued hitting the man.

 

Rick and Michonne were closest to Daryl and rushed to his side. They let Daryl interrogate the man while they aimed their weapons at him.

 

“Where’d you get the bike?” Daryl kept repeating, but the guy wasn’t talking.

 

“Let him up,” Rick said, pulling Daryl away. Then Rick stuck his gun to the man’s head. “You’re not answering my friend. Now tell us how you got the bike or I’m going to shoot you.”

 

“Fuck you,” said the Savior, and he spit blood at Rick’s feet.

 

Daryl didn’t like that answer, and he kicked the man a couple times, making him double over.

 

Aaron watched and waited to see how things would escalate, but something caught his eye. In the grass next to the bike he found a walkie talkie. He picked it up and took it to Rick. “Found this over there,” he pointed.

 

Rick observed the walkie talkie and showed it to the man. “Now I’m wondering who’s on the other end of this.” Rick tilted his head to the side and waited for an answer, but all he got was silence. He cocked the gun. “Daryl,” he called. “You got your bike back. You good with that?”

 

Daryl glared at the Savior through his long hair, wet with perspiration. “Not yet.” He kicked the man a couple more times in the ribs. The man groaned with each blow. “Now I’m good.”

 

“Seems like we don’t need you anymore,” Rick said, preparing to kill the last Savior from the compound, when the walkie talkie came alive.

 

“You, with the gun. Put it down. Put it down now,” said a woman’s voice.

 

Everyone began looking around the area, instantly on the defensive. Rick kept his gun trained on the man, but he watched for attackers too.

 

“You’re not listening to me,” she said. “Put down the goddamn gun and let him go.”

 

Rick slowly raised the walkie talkie to his mouth and pushed the lever to talk. “And why should I listen to someone I can’t even see?”

 

There was a moment of silence before she answered. “Because I’ve got two of your people. Do the names Maggie and Carol ring a bell?”

 

Aaron’s heart sank, but Daryl couldn’t feel anything but rage. He’d lost so much because of these Savior assholes. He was done with their bullshit. “They took my bike, my bow, my trust and my pride, but I’ll be damned if they’re going to take my people,” he seethed. “Now you got a redneck on your ass.”



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