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 37 Revenge Upon a Man

 

 

Aaron stood in the dark foyer of the great house in Hilltop waiting for Paul to come down. The sun wouldn’t come up for another hour, and he wanted to get on the road back home. He felt guilty for leaving town when Daryl wasn’t there, and worried that he’d already returned to find Aaron missing. The trip to Hilltop, he felt, was necessary. He wanted to see it for himself, to know that there actually was another community out there. He felt good about this place and its people, all except for Gregory, but Paul seemed to have things in order. Paul was good at that. Hilltop needed him to keep the balance. He might say that his only job was a scout, but he was much more than that. He helped Gregory make important decisions, made sure the people were happy and safe, and now he was a trustworthy informant to Alexandria. Still, Aaron thought there was something he wasn’t telling. When Aaron first met him, he’d mentioned trading with other communities, but he had yet to give up where any of those places might be. He was protecting them as well. Aaron thought that it wasn’t because he didn’t trust Alexandria, but that he was keeping information like that at a minimum for safety reasons. Maybe some of these places hadn’t been discovered by the Saviors yet. All it would take was one person to mention a name, and the secrecy of these places would be discovered. Whatever his reasons, Aaron was still thrilled to think that there were even more places where people were trying to return society to something normal.

 

Aaron heard a door open upstairs, and hushed voices speaking in the hall. Paul emerged from the shadows, and stood at the railing. He looked down and saw Aaron waiting. He waved and took a step towards the stairs when someone caught him by the arm and pulled him backwards.

 

“I gotta go,” Paul whispered.

 

“I know. Just one more thing,” said Alex, who wrapped his fingers in Paul’s hair as he brought him down for a kiss.

 

Aaron, feeling like an intruder, turned away, but he could still hear the sound of lips upon each other, and the rustle of clothes where hands roamed.

 

“Tonight?” Alex whispered seductively.

 

“We shouldn’t have last night,” Paul answered.

 

“Which time?” Alex said, the sound of laughter in his voice.

 

“I have to leave,” Paul said again to his lover.

 

“You could have said no,” Alex told him.

 

“I think I did.”

 

“Come on Paul. Why can’t we–”

 

“You know why. We tried. It didn’t work. And besides, you’re with Wes. Listen, I can’t talk about this now, and you need to get home before he gets off duty,” Paul said. The sound of footsteps came down the stairs.

 

Aaron waited until he knew Paul was all the way down before he turned around. He just caught a glimpse of Alex walking back to his room before the darkened hall swallowed him. His eyes turned immediately to Paul and he gave a tight lipped smile. “Ready to go?” Aaron didn’t know what else to say.

 

Paul knew Aaron had heard their conversation, and he seemed embarrassed. “I’m sorry about that.”

 

“Not my business,” Aaron told him as he picked up his pack from the floor.

 

They got in the car and took off for Alexandria. It was still dark, but the horizon was just starting to glow. It was very dim, but it got brighter with every second that passed. And each minute in the car together felt like an hour, as they traveled in awkward silence. They must have been almost halfway there before either man spoke.

 

“You must think I’m horrible,” Paul announced out of nowhere.

 

“Why would you say that?” said Aaron, playing dumb.

 

“Never mind.” Paul seemed to think it was better to drop the whole thing.

 

“It’s just . . .” Aaron started to say after a few silent moments, but he thought better of it.

 

“What?” Paul asked, curious about what Aaron was going to say.

 

Aaron thought for a minute before he spoke again. “When I asked, you said you had no one in Hilltop, but obviously–”

 

“It’s a long complicated story,” Paul interrupted.

 

“Again, it’s not my place to inquire,” Aaron said. “I apologize.”

 

“I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want anyone to know,” Paul admitted.

 

“Know what? That you’re gay?”

 

“Not that. I don’t care about that,” Paul answered.

 

“Oh, that you’re having an affair,” Aaron said. His tone was gently not harsh, in case Paul wanted to talk about it.

 

“It’s not an affair,” Paul defended. “Alex and I used to be a couple, but it didn’t work out.”

 

“If it didn’t work out then why are you still sleeping with him?”

 

Paul shifted in the passenger seat and stared out the window. “I don’t want to. It just happens from time to time. Like I said, it’s complicated.”

 

“Yeah,” Aaron said. There was something about the way he said it that bothered Paul and he felt he needed to explain. He suddenly became very guarded.

 

“Don’t sit there and judge me, as though you’ve never acted on urges. What about you? You had a lover when you met Daryl. Are you going to tell me you never met him privately?”

 

“What Eric and I had was already broken before Daryl came to Alexandria. And when I decided what my heart really wanted, I ended it before I pursued Daryl.” Aaron’s foot pushed down on the gas pedal and they sped down the road. “I’m not going to discuss my love life with you. All I’m suggesting is that you shouldn’t lead someone on. It’s not right.”

 

“I’m not leading him on,” Paul said defensively. “You know what? Let’s just drop it. You wouldn’t understand.”

 

They were quiet for the rest of the way back to Alexandria. Once they got there, they parked outside of the gate and exited the car, grabbing their stuff from the back. Aaron didn’t want to leave things on a bad note, but he decided to keep it professional.

 

“I’ll talk to Rick about your ideas, but you’re going to have to let us in on these other communities you trade with. Hilltop can’t be the only one reaping the benefits. If we all have different things to trade for, we can help each other out better,” Aaron suggested.

 

“It’s definitely something to work towards, but until Alexandria has more to offer than muscle . . .” Paul negotiated.

 

“We’re working on that, but it won’t be until next summer when things really start to flourish. All in due time I guess.”

 

Paul smiled and offered his hand to Aaron. “We’ll keep working on it then.” He turned towards the road they just came in on and started to walk away.

 

“Don’t you want a lift back or something? I’m sure someone here can drive you back home,” Aaron offered.

 

“No that’s alright. I’ll manage. I’ve got a car stashed not far from here, and I’ve got some scavenging to do on my way back.”

 

Aaron had no idea Paul had a car. He was very secretive, and for good reason. “Take it easy,” Aaron said as Paul walked down the road. Paul waved at him, and then disappeared into the trees. Aaron headed for the gate. He looked up and saw Sasha with her shotgun, pulling guard duty like always. She looked down at him, serious straight face and no smile. That wasn’t unusual though. He went to the gate and pounded it twice. It started to roll to the side. Aaron expected to see Eugene, who usually had gate duty, but to his surprise it was Rosita. At first he was glad to see her, until it dawned on him exactly what that meant. Daryl came home early. Shit, Aaron said to himself. This was not how he wanted it to go.

 

“Rosita. Hey,” Aaron said surprised. “You’re back. Did you find the apothecary?”

 

“We found way more than we wanted,” she said somberly, staring at Aaron.

 

“When did you get in?” he asked. Maybe it had just been a couple hours.

 

“Got back yesterday,” she said, glaring at him. Something was off. She seemed much more tense than usual. “You need to find Daryl.”

 

“Why?” he said with instant concern. “What happened?”

 

“Denise is dead,” she blurted out with no emotions.

 

“What?” Aaron said unbelievingly. “She can’t be. W-what hap–”

 

“Go find Daryl,” was all she told him before she turned back to close the gate.

 

Aaron’s hand went to his head, fingers traveling over his short brown hair. “Shit,” he said quietly, and went towards home. Along the way, he passed Carol’s house. She was sitting on the swing, cigarette between her fingers, looking into the distance. She didn’t acknowledge him as he went by, and Aaron was in too big of a hurry to say hello, but he did notice the dirt on her face and clothes, and wondered where she’d been.

 

Finally, Aaron arrived at his house, and he went straight in. He looked to the kitchen and then to the living room. Daryl was sitting on the couch. Aaron slowly went to him, stood behind him, and laid a gentle hand on Daryl’s shoulder. Daryl was still and his muscles were tense. There was no reaction to Aaron’s touch.

 

“I just saw Rosita,” Aaron started. “She told me about Den–”

 

“Where were you?” Daryl said, his tone low and graveled like a tiger’s growl.

 

“I just got back,” Aaron said, hoping to avoid what was coming, but he knew there was no getting around it.

 

“You left town,” Daryl said in the same dangerous tone.

 

“I did and I’m sorry, but the opportunity was there and–”

 

“I thought we had an agreement.”

 

“I know. It’s just–”

 

Daryl flew from the couch, away from Aaron’s touch. He went to the hearth and stood there with his back to Aaron. “Where did you go?” he asked calm and evenly.

 

“I … I was going to come back last night, but–”

 

“Where … did … you … go?” Daryl asked again, his words slow as anger was building.

 

“Daryl, please, let me–”

 

Daryl spun around, his eyes glaring slits of rage. “Where the fuck did you go!” he shouted, devoid of any patience.

 

“Hilltop,” Aaron answered. “I went … to Hilltop.”

 

“Why?” Daryl said with a raised tone.

 

“Paul was here, and we were talking about trade between our communities. He invited me to see Hilltop for myself, and so I went.”

 

“You shouldn’t have gone,” Daryl berated him. “It’s too dangerous out there.”

 

Aaron dared to approach Daryl, and this time he didn’t shy away. “I wasn’t going to. I know how you feel about that, and you weren’t here to talk to. I made the decision to go. I made the decision to stay overnight. But I needed to see it. I needed to know what Hilltop was like. I’ve only seen Alexandria since all of this started. I needed to know that there were people out there like us who just want to–”

 

“Did you sleep with him?” Daryl said in an accusatory way.

 

“What?” Aaron asked disbelievingly. “Who?”

 

“You know who. Did you sleep with him … with Jesus or Paul or whoever the fuck he is?”

 

Aaron didn’t answer right away. He was shocked that Daryl would think such a thing. “Of course not. Why would you even ask me that?” He was hurt that Daryl didn’t trust him.

 

“Because you fucking left town with him and stayed there for the night. So yeah, I’m asking if you fucked him. Is that why you went?” Daryl’s voice rose with the anger of a mad man.

 

Aaron backed away from Daryl, slowly shaking his head. He couldn’t believe they were having this conversation. “I went for the good of our community. I went because we need to move forward with an alliance with Hilltop. Because we need to do more than be their bodyguards.” Aaron’s hand went to the back of his neck and he bent his head down. He could feel a headache coming on. Ever since getting hit in the head and suffering from amnesia, he occasionally had migraines. They were usually brought on by stress, and right now he was aggravated and on the verge of outrage. “I don’t want a fight. Not now. Not with everything that’s happened.”

 

“You don’t even know,” Daryl seethed. “Denise is … dead. Eugene is at the infirmary.”

 

“Eugene?” Aaron said with shock. “I thought he was with Abraham checking on some abandoned building.”

 

“They were, and then he was snagged by the Saviors. He was hurt in a shootout.” Daryl bowed his head. “But Denise … she didn’t even know what happened. It was quick.” He went silent, the scene unfolding before him again.

 

Aaron rushed to Daryl, grasped his shoulders and tried to get them to connect, but Daryl wouldn’t look up. “Daryl, I am so sorry I wasn’t here. It was wrong. I know that, but you have to believe me when I tell you nothing happened between Paul and I. I would never do anything like that to hurt you. I know you’re emotional right now, and you have every right to be.” He tried to pull Daryl in, to hold him, but Daryl pulled from Aaron’s grasp and shook his head.

 

“I … I can’t stay here. I can’t do this right now. I just … I gotta get the fuck out of here,” Daryl admitted.

 

“I’ll go with–”

 

“No,” Daryl interrupted. “I … I can’t be here. Leave me alone, alright? I … I gotta go.” He pushed Aaron out of the way and left the house.

 

Aaron didn’t know where he was going, but he wouldn’t follow him. Daryl needed space right now. When he was ready, they would talk it out. Aaron just hoped he’d give up on the idea that anything happened between himself and Paul.

 

>>------->

 

The day passed quietly. The townspeople were in shock over Denise’s death. What would they do now? She was they’re doctor and she was gone. But even in death, she had helped the community by showing Daryl and Rosita where there was a stash of medicine. Luckily, there had been antibiotics mixed in with all of it, and they used that to help Eugene. The wound wasn’t as serious as they thought. He would be fine.

 

Aaron was going to check up on Carol, remembering her somber look when he’d seen her on her porch. She had had dirt on her face and clothes, and now that the thought about it, so did Daryl. It dawned on him that they must have buried Denise. The guilt of not being there for Daryl when he needed him most was overwhelming.

 

As he was about to cross the street to Carol’s house, Aaron caught movement in the gardens and saw Maggie kneeling in the soil. Even from this distance, she didn’t look well. Aaron went to her instead.

 

“Hi Maggie,” he greeted.

 

Maggie looked up, squinting against the afternoon sun. “Oh, hey Aaron.” She sounded short of breath.

 

“You alright?” he asked. Now he could see how pale she was.

 

“Fine,” she answered, but clearly something was bothering her. She could see that Aaron didn’t believe her. “I’m just really tired. Morning sickness has gotten the best of me today.” She tried to stand, but Aaron rushed to her and took her arm, helping her up. “Thanks,” she said with a fatigued smile.

 

“You should be resting. In your condition–”

 

“I’m not dying, Aaron. I’m pregnant,” she jested, but it was obvious she’d done too much already.

 

“Come on, I’ll walk you home.” Aaron linked his arm with hers and they went towards her house. Once inside, Aaron searched her cabinets until he found some tea. Then he put a kettle on the stove and waited. They sat together at the kitchen island.

 

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Aaron inquired, worried about her.

 

“I’ll be fine. It’s just been a long day. Glenn and I have been finding places to stash guns around town, just in case we’re invaded again. We shouldn’t get caught off guard like we did last time.”

 

“You’re worried about a retaliation too,” he stated and she nodded. “I don’t see how it’s not going to be an issue. What we did … no one would let that go by the wayside.”

 

“But we have to move forward, no matter what might or might not happen.”

 

Aaron took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Yeah,” he whispered, seemingly a thousand miles away.

 

“So, when are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” Maggie asked.

 

“Why would you think that?” Aaron said to cover his emotions.

 

“Come on, Aaron. I know you weren’t here when Daryl got home. I saw him yesterday. He was too quiet, and he wouldn’t let anyone near him. I tried to talk to him, but he brushed me off. He’s devastated about Denise.”

 

“He won’t talk to me either. He thinks I betrayed him because I left Alexandria.” Aaron pushed his empty teacup away, crossed his arms and laid his head on them. He couldn’t tell her that Daryl accused him of sleeping with Paul. “He hates me.”

 

Maggie rubbed her hand over his back to soothe him. “Daryl doesn’t hate you.”

 

Aaron lifted his head to look at Maggie. “You didn’t see the look in his eyes. We’ve fought before, but this was something completely different. I deceived him when I went to Hilltop. We made a pact that if one of us was away, the other wouldn’t leave. I broke his trust, and you know how difficult that is to acquire. I know he’s suffering over Denise, and the fact that I wasn’t here for him just made it all that much worse.”

 

“You need to talk to him. You need to let him tell you what happened. Do you even know? Has anyone told you?” she asked.

 

“I know they were ambushed, and there was a shootout. Eugene got hurt and Denise was hit and killed.” he told her. No one had gone into any detail. Perhaps it was too soon to talk about it. “I’m guessing it was the Saviors?” he inquired, afraid to know for sure.

 

“It wasn’t just Saviors. It was one in particular. It was the man from the burnt forest, the one Daryl saved, who held him at gunpoint and took his bike and his bow,” Maggie gently informed him.

 

“Jesus, I didn’t know that. Shit. Daryl’s always second guessed himself about letting that guy go,” Aaron said with regret. This information made everything worse.

 

“Rosita told me they were heading back to the car after getting the meds and they stopped for a moment. That’s when Denise was shot. No one saw it coming. Daryl feels responsible for her death. He’s taking it really hard.”

 

Aaron was stunned into silence. He stood from the stool and looked blankly around Maggie’s house. He shook his head in disbelief.

 

Maggie stood and went to Aaron. She came up behind him and wrapped her arms around him, laying her head on his back to give him some kind of comfort. “Find Daryl. Make him talk to you. Listen to him. He needs someone to confide in or I’m afraid he’s going to do something very stupid. I’ve seen it before. But he has you now, and when you weren’t here to talk to, he folded in on himself and shut down. That’s a very dangerous place for Daryl to be, especially right now. I’ve seen him self-destruct. You don’t want to know what he’s like, and it’s even harder to pull him back.”

 

The tea was ready, but he’d suddenly lost his appetite. He made a cup for Maggie and stayed while she drank it, just to make sure she was alright. Aaron thought Maggie looked better now that she had rested, but she still seemed tired. When they were finished, he washed up her dishes and made her sit on the couch. “You need to stay home for the rest of the day. I’m worried about you.”

 

She smiled. “I told you I’m fine. Pregnancy makes women tired, that’s all.”

 

Just then there was a knock on the door. Maggie started to get up, but Aaron put a hand on her shoulder to make her stay. Then he went to the door, and let Enid in.

 

“Glenn sent me to check on Maggie,” she said.

 

“I’m in here,” Maggie called from the living room. “Tell Glenn I’m fine.”

 

Enid started to turn back towards the door, but Aaron stopped her. “You stay here and keep Maggie company. I’ll go and tell Glenn so he won’t worry.”

 

“You’re supposed to go and talk to Daryl,” Maggie yelled from the couch.

 

Enid looked at Aaron questioningly. “Why, what’s up with you and Daryl?”

 

“Long story and none of your business,” Aaron said with an arched brow.

 

“No one ever tells me anything around her,” Enid complained.

 

Aaron gave her a push towards the living room. “I’m going right now,” he called to Maggie.

 

“Good luck, Aaron, and if there’s anything you need, you know where I’ll be.”

 

Aaron left Maggie’s house and found that the sun was just beginning its descent. He walked down the street and thought about where he’d find Daryl. He would doubtfully be home, wanting to avoid Aaron at the moment. Aaron gave a sigh and wondered how to start the conversation with him. Before Daryl left the house, he couldn’t even look at Aaron. How was he going to get him to open up to him about his devastating experience? He gave some thought to Daryl and Denise, about the bond they were just beginning to form. She had really looked up to him, and had tried to get him to accept her. Denise had been there when Daryl got deathly sick. She had stitched him up more than a few times. He was going to teach her how to fight when they got back from their run. Aaron suddenly knew where Daryl would be. It was the same place where Aaron used to go after Eric died, the cemetary.

 

>>------->

 

Aaron looked around the corner to the graveyard, noticing all the head markers that now stood there. He hadn’t been here in a while or maybe he had only noticed Eric’s grave at the time, but it seemed like there were more now. He could see the mound of fresh earth and a makeshift cross erected at the head of a grave. Daryl was sitting on the ground Indian style, head hanging down, his long dark hair curtaining his face. He had something in his hand that he kept turning over and over, looking at it every once in a while. Aaron wondered how long he had been there, but it was probably most of the day. He entered the quiet sanctuary and slowly made his way to Daryl until he was standing next to him. Daryl never looked up, never acknowledged Aaron’s presence. Perhaps he deserved to be ignored, but this couldn’t keep going on. They needed to talk.

 

“Go home,” Daryl said in barely a whisper. His voice was horse, and Aaron wondered how long it had been since Daryl slept.

 

“I’m not going home without you.”

 

“Whatever,” Daryl complained.

 

Aaron sat down on the ground next to Daryl. He didn’t’ say another word. He decided that he would remain silent, and let Daryl decide when it was time to talk again. He knew Daryl needed to be in charge, especially when he was angry.

 

Thirty minutes must have passed, and still no one spoke. Then, Daryl took something out of his pocket, his fingers unconsciously playing with it. Aaron glanced sideways and saw that it was a keychain with the name Dennis on it. Daryl felt Aaron’s attention on him, and held the keychain in his palm.

 

“It was her brother’s name,” Daryl said, breaking the long silence.

 

“I didn’t know she had a brother,” Aaron said.

 

Daryl nodded. “They were twins. She said I reminded her of him.” He paused and huffed. “He must have been a dick.”

 

Aaron could hear the guilt in Daryl’s voice. He was blaming himself for what happened to Denise. It was a terrible position to be in, and Aaron feared what Daryl might do. This was the reason they needed to talk. Daryl started the conversation, which was a good sign. Aaron would listen and ask few questions. He wanted Daryl to be in control of the situation.

 

Silence fell between them, but it didn’t last as long as the first round. Daryl spoke once more. “We were heading back to the truck. We were almost there. Denise stopped because … she saw a cooler in a car. A goddamn cooler.” Daryl picked up a twig and started making lines in the dirt, fidgeting as he remembered what happened. “I should have dragged her ass away, but I didn’t. I let her do what she needed to do.

 

“What was in the cooler?” Aaron wondered.

 

Daryl threw the twig into the nearby hedges. “A fucking six pack of pop.” Daryl stopped, his head lowering until it seemed his chin touched his chest. After a little while, he regained his composure and finished. “Next thing I know, there’s an arrow sticking through her head. Not just any arrow, though. It was one of mine. Goddamn bastard shot her with my crossbow.”

 

“The man from the burnt out forest,” Aaron confirmed.

 

Daryl’s head bobbed in agreement. “It was him alright. He had Eugene, said he’d shoot him if we didn’t do as he said. He wanted us to take him to Alexandria. And then … man, I don’t know what happened. All hell broke loose, Rosita and I grabbed our guns, and it turned into a shootout. Abraham was hiding in the bushes, Eugene got shot, Denise was dead, and that fucking asshole and his men took off running. I was going after him, but Rosita stopped me.” Daryl shook his head. “I should have killed him back in that forest.”

 

“You only did what you thought was right,” Aaron reassured him. “It’s not your fault.”

 

“It is my fault,” Daryl retaliated. “I knew that guy was bad news. Deep down I knew it. And now . . .” Daryl stood from the ground and Aaron followed. They both looked down at Denise’s grave. The silence was thick between them. Aaron didn’t know what to say, and Daryl couldn’t speak of it anymore.

 

Aaron couldn’t stand it, the awkwardness, the quiet. It wasn’t usual between them. He felt even guiltier for not being there when Daryl returned. It was selfish of him to run off to see Hilltop. “I’m really and truly sorry, Daryl. I should have been here, and when you needed me most I wasn’t there for you. I won’t blame you if you–”

 

“Stop,” Daryl interrupted. “Quit talking. This isn’t about you.”

 

“I know it isn’t, but I want you to know I’d never do anything to hurt you.”

 

Daryl glanced to his side, looking at Aaron from the corner of his eyes. “But you did hurt me. You took off and left town when you knew you shouldn’t. It’s fucking dangerous out there. What if something happened to you?”

 

“I can take care of myself,” Aaron said, his belligerence aroused by Daryl’s insistence.

 

“That’s what Denise thought too, and you see where that got her.”

 

“Why are you being like this? I apologized and admitted I was wrong, but you keep pushing me away.”

 

“Because you’re not giving me any fucking space,” Daryl said angrily.

 

“And you want to confine me,” Aaron fired back.

 

“Oh, so that’s how it is, huh? I don’t need this shit.” Daryl pushed past him and left the graveyard.

 

Aaron threw his head back and looked at the stars above. “Goddamn it!” he shouted with frustration.

 

>>------->

 

Of course, Daryl didn’t come home. Perhaps he went to Morgan’s house, or maybe he just walked around for the rest of the night. Aaron tried talking to him. He tried to get Daryl to open up to him, but with every little piece he chipped away came distrust.

 

Aaron laid awake in bed tossing and turning. He felt guilty and angry, the emotions played off of each other. It took a while, but he finally fell asleep, and a part of him wished he wouldn’t wake up. He hated it when they fought. He just wanted everything to go back to the way it was.

 

He was dreaming, of course. Daryl was with him. He could feel the heat of his body lying next to him. It was warm and comforting. He felt safe with Daryl contoured against him. This was how it was supposed to be, no complications, no arguments, just him and Daryl finding each other again. His hardness pushed against Aaron backside, eager, ready to fulfill a promise in the dark.

 

“Turn over,” Daryl whispered, and it all seemed too real, but when Aaron awoke from his dream, he found it wasn’t a dream at all.

 

“Daryl?” Aaron spoke with a groggy voice.

 

“Don’t talk,” Daryl said softly.

 

Aaron rolled onto his back, and Daryl got to his knees. He pulled the covers back and stripped Aaron of his underwear. Aaron saw that Daryl was already fully naked. He didn’t give Aaron any time to realize what was happening or to fully wake up, and Daryl was on top, lifting his legs to wrap around him. Aaron was instantly filled and stretched as Daryl let a quiet breathy moan escape. Daryl’s mouth devoured his neck, and Aaron arched into his lover’s embrace. Daryl made love to him slow, making sure every sensation was savored and remembered, as though this would be their last. They had made love many times, but this time was different, like a desperate attempt to reconnect with life as it was before all the recent events. Not once did Daryl quicken his pace. He would bring Aaron around slowly and find his own release.

 

Daryl dared to watch Aaron as he made love to him. Eyes shut, lips parted in silent ecstasy, he didn’t want Aaron to look at him. He just wanted him to feel every inch sliding with great care in making him come. He loved Aaron so much that it hurt. It was more painful than any wound he’d acquired, more than any wrong done to him. How could love be painful? Daryl wondered as his hips pumped, and Aaron’s arms surrounded him. His fingers dug into Daryl’s backside, pulling him in, needing him deeper. They writhed together in perfect rhythm, flesh upon flesh, slick and warm, the scent of sex inebriating their senses. It was exhilarating to be within Aaron’s willing body, but to stimulate him without hurry was euphoric, and he could see Aaron was experiencing the same thing. Daryl was ready at any moment, but he would try to wait for Aaron. He was close, though. Daryl could tell by the way he was being squeezed. It made his member pulse and he pushed forward, bringing Aaron’s hips off the bed. It took everything within his power not to start pumping hard and fast, and make Aaron scream his name like he so often did. Daryl continued his unhurried rhythm, feeling himself building and pulsing, loins tightening on the verge of release. And that’s when he felt Aaron shutter beneath him, and his cock pulsated as he came between their bodies. Daryl spilled, finally, liquid warmth purling within. It felt as though it would never end, the best fucking Daryl had ever had in his lifetime. Aaron’s body was still rigid, riding out every wave of rhapsody.

 

Aaron had never felt anything so amazing, and so deliriously confusing. He awoke from a dream into reality without the scene changing. Daryl took him to the brink time and time again until he could take no more of the torturous bliss. His body finally surrendered, and he dove over the edge, suddenly weightless in Daryl’s embrace. It was as if his soul separated from his physical form. Every nerve, every muscle was alive with electrical currents that kept him in this euphoric state, one he wished would never end. Slowly he became earthbound once again. Daryl had collapsed on top of him, his face buried in Aaron’s neck. When their breathing regulated, Daryl rolled from Aaron, coming to rest at his side. Aaron turned onto his side to face him. Daryl’s eyes were closed.

 

“Daryl,” Aaron started to say, but Daryl stopped him.

 

“No. Don’t speak,” he said.

 

Aaron watched him a moment, and then he laid his head on Daryl’s chest. Exhaustion eventually took him, and Aaron drifted off into a deep slumber, glad to have his lover by his side again. They could talk about it in the morning, all the things that had gone wrong, and Aaron would help Daryl deal with this latest devastation. For now, they were together and sated. Daryl wouldn’t have come back if he wasn’t willing to make up.

 

Daryl was still awake with no intention of falling asleep. He wasn’t staying. He couldn’t, not with everything on his mind. He slid out of bed, careful not to wake Aaron. He sat on the edge for a while, stealing glances of his sleeping lover. He felt bad for their earlier argument, especially after accusing Aaron of sleeping with Paul. He knew that wasn’t the case. Deep down he knew Aaron wouldn’t cheat on him, and tonight proved that. He had been angry and hurt, and to accuse Aaron of this made him feel temporarily justified. Now, he just felt like a jealous asshole.

 

He stood from the bed and dressed, although a part of him didn’t want to go. His conscience told him to climb back beneath the sheets and curl into his lover for the rest of the night, but he couldn’t. There was important business to tend to, a promise he made to himself that he had every intention of keeping. Maybe if he’d made a different choice, he could have stayed in bed with Aaron. Daryl had to live with the decision he made, but it didn’t mean he couldn’t go and avenge his friend’s death.

 

Daryl went to the bedroom window and gazed out to the street below. His mind took him back to where it began, in the burnt forest with a man who Daryl thought he could help. It ended with that same man killing someone dear to him. This was something Daryl couldn’t let go of. Ever since he made the decision to try and help the stranger, he felt like he had made a bad decision, and he had. He knew he should have killed him. He could have. He had the opportunity, but he let it go and took a chance. Now Denise was dead, shot by an arrow through the head, Daryl’s own arrow no less. Just thinking about it made him nauseous, and his ire began to rise. The feeling of the glorious moment he had just spent with Aaron was being pushed aside for the need of revenge.

 

He saw very clearly which direction the man named Dwight went. Daryl was prepared to go straight after him, find him and kill him, but Rosita stopped him. Eugene was hurt, they had to go. Daryl and Abraham carried Eugene back to the truck, but Daryl wouldn’t leave without going back for Denise. He wouldn’t leave her for walkers to find. She deserved a grave. He had been responsible for her on this run, and he was still responsible for her until she was put to rest. Now that Daryl had done that, it was time to hunt down her killer.

 

He turned back to the bed and watched Aaron’s sleeping form. He looked so peaceful, even wore a slight smile. Probably thought everything was alright again, too. Daryl had come tonight for nothing more than physical completion, even though they had a fight earlier. But what he experienced was something he never knew existed, and something he knew he would only ever find with Aaron. Maybe he should just stay, Daryl thought to himself once more. They would work everything out in the morning. All would be settled between them. That’s not what needed settling, though. Daryl’s anger and hate was pushing him forward to do what it was he set out to do before becoming distracted by physical need. He had to do this, and he had to do it alone. Aaron couldn’t be a part of it, and he would want to be if he knew what Daryl was up to. Either that or he would try to talk Daryl out of it. No, this needed to be dealt with right now, while Dwight wouldn’t be expecting it. The man had to die for what he did, and Daryl had to be his executioner.

 

Knowing he was deceiving Aaron, he looked down at him with sadness on his heart. If this was to be their last night together, at least it had been good. Hopefully, Aaron would know that his actions were a form of an apology he couldn’t muster.

 

Aaron laid on his stomach, one arm tucked under his pillow. The sheet had slipped down, exposing the top of his backside. Daryl’s heartbeat accelerated as he looked over his lover. He really did love Aaron, and he wished sometimes that he could be more outspoken about it. He hoped Aaron knew how much he loved him, even though he hardly ever said it. Lately, he didn’t even show it much. Why was Aaron with him? Why didn’t he ever get tired of Daryl’s hardened emotions? He should have been a better partner, Daryl told himself. When did Aaron ever accuse him of sleeping with another man? Never, because Aaron was so much better at reading him. He started to feel like a real shit, and what he was about to do proved it. But . . .

 

“I’m sorry,” Daryl whispered, sorry he had to leave, sorry he behaved like an asshole, sorry for any grief he might cause Aaron. He was sorry for a lot of things, but the one thing he wouldn’t apologize for was hunting down Dwight and finishing the job.

 

Aaron didn’t stir, thank goodness, and Daryl slipped out of the bedroom, down the stairs and to the front door. There was only about an hour left before the sun would climb into the sky. That was just enough time to gather a pack and his weapons. He left his guilt behind, and silently walked his bike out of the garage. Now began the hunt.



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