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 47 Restless

 

 

The room Daryl and Aaron were given was cozy. It was small, just a full size bed and a table with an oil lamp. The fact that they were given a room together made it clear that Paul suggested it. He knew they were a couple. No one else at the Kingdom would have known that. Aaron made a mental note to thank him next time he saw him.

 

Daryl sat at the foot of the bed, hung his head and gave an audible sigh. Aaron walked up to him and pulled Daryl’s head to his stomach, cradling him. “It’s been a long day,” he said.

 

“Been a long life,” Daryl responded as he wrapped his arms around Aaron’s waist.

 

Aaron’s fingers found their way into Daryl’s long black hair, pushing it from his face. “It’s going to be a good life soon. Once Negan is out of the way, we can–”

 

“We can’t know that for sure,” Daryl interrupted. “Morgan was right. We’re going to war. People are going to die. Our people will die, not just Saviors.”

 

“It’s part of the sacrifice that must be made in order to make a better future,” Aaron said.

 

“We’ve been pushing for that ever since the beginning. It seems that every time we take a step forward, we’re pushed back three.”

 

“Then we’ll make sure that the one step reaches far enough so that when we’re pushed back it won’t be as much,” Aaron said, smiling at the feel of Daryl’s hair. It had been a long time since they’d spent a quiet moment alone like this.

 

After a few moments, Daryl looked up into Aaron’s eyes, and just stared at him for a while. The connection made Aaron’s heart race and he wouldn’t look away.

 

“I missed you,” Daryl whispered. Every part of his soul showed in his eyes as he opened up to Aaron.

 

“I missed you too,” Aaron said.

 

“And I’m sorry,” Daryl continued. “I’m sorry for all those things I said to you. I wasn’t thinking, I was so full of rage. I know you’d never do anything to hurt me … to hurt us.”

 

“It was my fault too,” Aaron admitted. “You left town. We made a deal and I broke it when I went to Hilltop. I wasn’t there for you when you needed me most. I won’t do that again, not on purpose, anyway.”

 

Daryl inched his finger at him. “Come here,” he said in a low and sultry way.

 

Aaron sat on the bed next to Daryl. They came together, lips and tongues, arms surrounding each other, hands grasping to hold one another close.

 

There was a knock at the door, and Daryl groaned. “What do they want now?”

 

“Come in,” Aaron called. Daryl tried to push away from him, not comfortable with someone finding them in a compromising position, even if they were only kissing. Aaron wouldn’t let him though. “If you want them to leave quickly, don’t move.” They were still wrapped up in each other’s arms.

 

The door opened and a young man dressed like one of the Kingdom soldiers came in. As soon as he saw Daryl and Aaron locked in an embrace, he glanced to anywhere else in the room besides on the couple. “I-I’m sorry to … interrupt. Uh … um … Ezek-King Ezekiel asked me to check on everyone and see if there was anything you needed.” As he spoke, he was staring at the window.

 

“I don’t know,” Aaron said teasingly. “Daryl, is there anything you want?”

 

“How about some privacy,” Daryl grumbled, and the young man’s face flushed pink.

 

“Don’t embarrass him,” Aaron said. “He’s just doing his duty.” Aaron broke away from Daryl and addressed him. “What’s your name?”

 

“Oh, um, it’s Benjamin.” He somehow managed to look at Aaron and Daryl, and seemed relieved that they weren’t connected any longer.

 

“Nice to meet you Benjamin. I’m Aaron, and this is my boyfriend, Daryl.”

 

Benjamin smiled and nodded. He took a step forward and offered his hand. Aaron shook with him, but when the man made Daryl the same offer, Daryl just looked at his hand and grunted. Benjamin awkwardly pulled his hand away. “I’m s-sorry I interrupted. I uh, I didn’t know you were … together.”

 

“It’s okay,” Aaron said kindly.

 

“You got anything to eat around here?” Daryl blurted.

 

“Oh … yes … well, there’s always something available in the mess hall, usually fruit or vegetables. Three meals are prepared daily. Dinner isn’t for another hour. I can bring you something to munch on until then,” Benjamin offered.

 

“You don’t have to,” Aaron said. “We can go when we’re–”

 

“Bring us some fruit,” Daryl interrupted.

 

Aaron looked to Daryl, furrowing his brow. “Daryl,” he started to complain.

 

“He’s just doing his job,” Daryl told him. Then he looked back at Benjamin. “And if there’s anything besides fruit, bring that too.” He could feel Aaron’s judgmental eyes on him. “What? You never heard of room service before?”

 

Aaron huffed a laugh. “Don’t go to too much trouble,” Aaron said to Benjamin.

 

“No trouble at all. Be right back,” the young man said before leaving and closing the door behind him.

 

“What was that about,” Aaron asked when they were alone.

 

“I’m hungry and the kid was offering. You heard him. King Ezekiel sent him. Don’t want the kid out of a job do you?”

 

“You’re acting very peculiar, Mr. Dixon,” Aaron accused with suspicion. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were stalling or something.”

 

“I’m hungry. Can’t a man get some food first?” Daryl said lightly.

 

“Fine then. I’m going to check on the others while we wait for room service,” Aaron said, and he kissed Daryl once more before standing from the bed. “We’ll pick up where we left off later.” He left the room and went down the hall.

 

>>------->

 

As a matter of fact, Daryl was stalling. Kissing Aaron was like a breath of fresh air, but he knew what it would lead to, and he wasn’t sure he was ready yet. All the horrible things that happened to him in the past couple weeks were still too fresh in his mind. He couldn’t talk to Aaron about it yet. He didn’t know if he could ever talk to him about it. How could he ever tell Aaron what happened … that he’d let another man take him … that he hadn’t fought hard enough to keep it from happening. He almost seemed to forget the reason why he couldn’t keep that bastard, Brady, from raping him. Even though he’d just been beaten within an inch of his life, Daryl still felt like he should have been able to prevent the atrocity.

 

So, to keep from having to explain anything, Daryl told Benjamin to bring up some food. It worked. Aaron went to check on the others. The kid would come back with food. They would eat and talk. That would be good. He just wanted to spend some quality time with Aaron. Tonight, however, might be a problem. He knew without a doubt that Aaron would want him. It had been far too long since their last intimate moment together. Daryl thought about it. As a matter of fact, the last time they slept together, they’d just had that huge fight, and Daryl left the house. He was still out to seek revenge for Denise’s death, his mind working like that of a madman. He knew he was going to leave, alone, and track Dwight until he found him and killed him. He was going to leave in the middle of the night, but something made him stay. A voice somewhere deep in his conscience told him not to go without seeing Aaron one last time. His anger was still very prominent, and he couldn’t just go to Aaron and forgive him or offer forgiveness. Daryl was driven by rage, and confused by his sudden need to rule Aaron. He remembered thinking that if Aaron was going to start paling around with Jesus, he better know what it was he had at home. Jealousy mixed with hurt and anger, and he went to Aaron in the middle of the night. He didn’t know what he would do until he got there. Maybe he was going to argue with him again, but that wasn’t want happened. In order to prevent questions, Daryl wouldn’t let Aaron speak. He crawled on top of him and fucked him. There was no foreplay, no loving words. It was just quick hot sex, a chance to relieve some of the tension without having to explain himself. At least that’s what Daryl started out to do. Then, something happened while he rode Aaron into oblivion. He couldn’t really put his finger on it, but it was the most amazing sex they’d ever had. Neither one held anything back. And because Daryl wouldn’t let Aaron talk, their minds focused on their bodies and the sensations they caused. For that brief moment in time, Daryl forgot about his anger and jealousy, and concentrated on Aaron. In his mind, he suddenly thought that it could very well be the last time they would ever lay together, and he made love to Aaron as if it was their last. Every ounce of love he held for Aaron was poured into every look, every touch, every thrust. It was … wonderful. And then he left.

 

It might still be the last time they made love. Daryl wasn’t ready. He still felt the wounds to his body. He was reminded of it every time he moved. The smell of that dark cell felt like it was infused into his skin. He had to get rid of it before he would touch Aaron intimately, or he feared he might contaminate his lover. Daryl knew it was ridiculous to think like this, but he couldn’t help it. It was burned into his brain.

 

This room, he thought, wasn’t much bigger than that cell at the Sanctuary. There was no bed, no window, but the vent on the ceiling was similar. He closed his eyes and heard that awful song that played over and over for countless days as Daryl sat naked in the dark. “I’m not there,” Daryl repeated in his head, but the memories wouldn’t go away.

 

The bedroom door opened and Aaron came in, but Daryl was still in the cell, and recalled Dwight coming inside to hand him a dogfood sandwich. But this wasn’t Dwight. It was Aaron. It … was … Aaron.

 

“Everyone’s good. Their relaxing as best as they can, but they all want to get back to Alexandria,” Aaron told him. Then his brows drew together with concern. “Hey, are you alright?”

 

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Daryl lied. He was feeling claustrophobic in the room, but he tried to ignore it.

 

“You probably just need to eat. I’m sure you haven’t had a proper meal since–”

 

“I’m going for a walk,” Daryl interrupted. He jumped up from the bed and went to the door.

 

“But Benjamin said he was bringing food,” Aaron reminded him. “At least wait until he comes back. You need to build your strength.”

 

“I’ll find something. I just … I need some fresh air,” Daryl said. “I won’t be long.”

 

Aaron looked disappointed in him, but he smiled anyway. “All right then. I’ll save you something in case the mess hall is empty.”

 

Daryl gave a half smiled and a nod. Then he left the room and hurried down the hall until he found the door that led outside. He burst out into the yard, and stood there looking around. This wasn’t the Sanctuary, he reminded himself. There were no walkers chained to a fence. And the people here were friendly. No one was going to send him away.

 

A woman was passing by. She was an older lady, probably in her early sixties, gray hair kept back in a ponytail. She had kind hazel eyes, and as she smiled at him, the crow’s feet at the corners stood out more. She wore a pouch tied around her waist with gardening tools tucked inside. She took off her gloves, shoved them in one of the pockets and wiped her hands on her pants.

 

“Hello,” she said to him. “I’m Isabelle. You must be one of the guests that arrived earlier today.” She put her hand out to shake. Daryl looked at her hand a moment, and then took it.

 

“Daryl,” he said tersely.

 

“Nice to meet you, Daryl. Pardon my appearance. I was just doing some gardening.”

 

Daryl looked toward the direction she came from. He noticed how they used old tires and rusty filing cabinets as planters. He nodded in that direction. “That’s a good idea.”

 

Isabelle turned to see what he was referring to. “Oh, yes it is. Wish I had thought of it. It’s easier to grow herbs like that, and it expands our growing space. There’s a lot of concrete around here, and it’s not ideal for crops, so we brought dirt in and built it up in areas.” As she spoke, she noticed the old bruising on his face and gestured toward it. “Looks like someone got you pretty good.”

 

“That’s putting it lightly,” Daryl said.

 

She moved a little closer to him and whispered. “Did … they … do that to you?”

 

“They?” he questioned.

 

Isabelle looked around them and when she saw no one was close enough to hear she spoke again. “The Saviors.”

 

As far as Daryl knew, the people of the Kingdom didn’t know about Negan or the Saviors. Ezekiel had been very careful when he struck a deal with the Sanctuary. They made their trades outside of the community, and never stepped foot inside the Kingdom. Ezekiel wanted his people to feel safe, and took the burden of dealing with Negan upon himself, with the addition of a small crew of soldiers who went out to make the trade.

 

“You know about them?” Daryl asked.

 

“I wasn’t supposed to know, but I’m very perceptive. I noticed that the amount of food we harvest doesn’t match what is actually used to prepare meals. When you painstakingly grow twenty watermelons, and only ten show up in the kitchen, it tends to make you a little bit curious.” Isabelle scowled and shook her head. “They tried to tell me that half of them had worms when they cut them open, but I know they didn’t. I made sure to it that those were the best watermelons anyone had ever seen. The kids love them, you know. Do you like watermelon, Daron?”

 

“Uh, it’s Daryl,” he corrected her, feeling a little awkward doing so.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry. My mind is not as good as it used to be. I’ve been so forgetful lately.” She looked off into the distance, clearly having lost her train of thought. “Where did you say you’re from?”

 

“I didn’t,” Daryl said to make her feel better. “I’m from a place called Alexandria. We’re a community like yours, but not as big.”

 

“Do you grow watermelon too?” she asked.

 

Daryl thought it was kind of funny, her obsession with watermelon, but he went along with it. “No, we don’t have any.”

 

“Well now, you have to have that, especially if there are children where you come from. Before you leave, remind me and I’ll give you some seeds,” she said.

 

“I will,” he told her.

 

She observed his face again. “Oh my, who did that to you?”

 

Daryl was confused. She had already asked him that, but then she did say her memory wasn’t great. “I was captured by the Saviors,” he said, hoping it would jog her memory.

 

Isabelle gasped. “You know about them? We’re not supposed to know, but I figured it out.”

 

“You told me about that. Missing watermelon,” he said. “Who told you about them?”

 

“I went straight to King Ezekiel, and he told me. I’m not supposed to tell anyone else, but you look like you can keep a secret … uh … what did you say your name was?”

 

“It’s Daryl,” he said.

 

“Oh, that’s right, Daryl from Alleghany.”

 

“Close enough,” Daryl agreed. She was at least making an effort.

 

“Hello, Mrs. Milford. How are you today?” It was Jesus.

 

“Hello, Paul. What a surprise seeing you here. I didn’t know you were in town,” Isabelle said. Her whole face lit up when she saw him.

 

“I brought some friends with me to meet King Ezekiel,” Jesus told her.

 

She smiled and looked at Daryl. “Did you get to see his tiger?” she said excitedly.

 

“Yes, ma’am, I did,” Daryl said.

 

“How are the crops doing?” Jesus asked her.

 

“Just wonderfully.” She looked down at her attire. “I think I was just going out to do some weeding.”

 

“Actually, you were–” Daryl started to say.

 

“We won’t keep you, then. Good seeing you again, Mrs. Milford,” Jesus interrupted him.

 

“Come see me before you leave,” Isabelle told Jesus. “I’ve got some cucumbers for you to take home with you.” She turned to Daryl. “Nice to meet you Daniel.”

 

He decided not to correct her this time. “Nice meeting you, too.” When she turned to go back to the gardens, Daryl noticed Jesus smirking and trying not to laugh. He drew his brows together. “So, she knows you like ‘cucumbers’, huh?” he taunted.

 

“I don’t mean to laugh, but the look on your face.”

 

“Yeah, well, it’s a common mistake. She doesn’t know me.”

 

“She is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease. At least that’s what the doctor here says. There’s no way to run tests, but the signs are all there,” Jesus informed him. “I know it’s not a good thing, and it’s a disease that just gets worse and worse, but it’s not often I see someone aging and succumbing to normal medical conditions, and not dying because of roamers.”

 

“So, do you come to the Kingdom often?” Daryl asked to change the subject.

 

“I make my rounds. We supply them with weapons, mainly spears or swords, and they give us fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. I also keep my eyes and ears open to the concerns of some of the residents here. This is why I brought you. There are certain people in the Kingdom who think it’s time to fight. They’re worried about Negan and his men. Tensions have been on the rise, and they feel it is only a matter of time before they’re attacked. Ezekiel just wants to keep the peace, and he thinks as long as the trade deals are honored, everything will remain as it is. I think you know better than that.”

 

“Eventually, people get greedy. The Saviors won’t always be this agreeable. Sooner or later, they’re going to want more,” Daryl said.

 

“Ezekiel knows this, but he’s choosing to ignore it. Listen, I know you think he’s an imposter, just some guy with a pretend kingdom. And yes, most of the time he’s putting on a show, but he’s a very smart man. You saw for yourself, all the people training. He’s not doing it just for show. First of all, it makes his people feel empowered to know they will be prepared to fight if they have to. Ezekiel’s downfall is that he won’t be the one to initiate that fight.”

 

“What he has here is a goldmine. People ready and prepared for war … he should be utilizing that. When we got to Alexandria, you know what they were doing? They were having barbeques and dinner parties. They didn’t know shit about fighting. We had to teach them, and still, some aren’t ready. The Kingdom is huge compared to what I’ve seen so far, and to know they’ve been training all this time makes them very valuable,” Daryl said.

 

“So imagine what we can do between the three communities. The only hurdle is getting Ezekiel to agree. He’s very protective of his people, and he won’t put them in harm’s way unless he absolutely has to,” Jesus agreed.

 

“I’m afraid by the time it gets to that point, it might be too late. We have to strike first, just like Rick said. We have to catch them off guard or we’ll never be able to defeat the Saviors.”

 

“I’m glad you see things the way I see them,” Jesus said. He smiled slyly. “I’d like to introduce you to someone. Actually, you’ve met him already, Richard, the man who let us in. He thinks like you and me. He wants to keep the Kingdom safe, but he knows that the way Ezekiel is handling it is only putting a bandage on a much larger problem. Ezekiel knows how Richard feels, but so far he hasn’t taken his advice. Maybe if he sees that Richard isn’t alone in how he sees the bigger picture, he’ll reconsider working together, and in the morning, he just might rule in our favor.”

 

“All right, I’ll meet him,” Daryl agreed.

 

“Great,” Jesus smiled. “Come on, Daniel, we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

 

Daryl huffed a laugh. Maybe Jesus wasn’t such a prick after all. At least he had a sense of humor.

 

>>------->

 

Jesus, Daryl and Richard met, and Richard invited them to his apartment. They talked about the Saviors, and the deals all three communities had with them. They talked about all the wrongs that had been done to them, and came to the conclusion that the Saviors were indeed becoming more aggressive. Richard invited Daryl to come with him so he could show him where the Sanctuary was. Richard had been making maps and observing from a distance, trying to find out how they operated. He was very excited about the possibilities that lay before them.

 

Daryl, however, couldn’t leave. He couldn’t take the chance of getting caught. “I don’t need to see where they are,” he told Richard. “I’ve been there already.”

 

“You’ve been in their compound?” Richard asked enthusiastically.

 

“Not by my choice, but yeah.” He didn’t want to talk about it.

 

Jesus could see Daryl’s discomfort and continued for him. “Negan took Daryl and held him prisoner.”

 

“How’d you get away?” Richard inquired.

 

“I had help, including Jesus. Now I’m on the run. He’s going to come looking for me. I probably shouldn’t be here, but I’ve got no choice right now.” Daryl had a choice, though. He could slip out unseen, and take off on his own, but he wasn’t sure that was the right thing to do now that he was with Aaron again.

 

“Paul, you’ve been there too?” Richard said.

 

“Barely. I watched them from the outside for a while. By the time I found a way to slip inside, Daryl was already free. Someone on the inside helped him escape. I just kind of picked him up, and we left.”

 

Daryl noticed how careful Jesus was when telling his part of the story. It was more than what he said. Jesus found Daryl crushing Joey’s skull. Daryl remembered the shocked look Jesus gave him when he found him. At that point, Daryl was losing his sanity, and began questioning who he was.

 

“Then we’re already ahead of the game,” Richard said. “With your knowledge of the outer perimeter,” he said to Jesus. “And your knowledge of the inside,” he said to Daryl. “We can finally start laying out a plan. We could sneak in there and storm the place.”

 

“We don’t do anything without conferring with Rick,” Daryl said.

 

“Rick seems like he knows what he’s doing. Why don’t we just go to him and tell him what we think we should do?” Richard was excited about the probability of finally having someone to work with, but he wasn’t seeing the bigger picture.

 

“This has to be done right,” Jesus said to him. “It needs to be well thought out, and everyone must be in their places. One mistake, one slip up, and the Saviors are on to us. We have to make a preemptive strike against them, or we won’t stand a chance.”

 

The wind went out of Richard’s sails, but he was still on board with the idea. “Well, I’m just glad I’ve got help. No one has listened to me around here. I understand Ezekiel wanting to be careful. I get why he’s done the things he’s done. I don’t disagree with it, but enough is enough. His way of thinking got us to where we are now, but the times are changing. He’s not.” Richard went to a cabinet and took out a bottle of whiskey and three glasses. “You gentlemen care for a drink?”

 

“Thanks, but I don’t–” Jesus started to say.

 

“I do,” Daryl interrupted. It had been forever since he had a drink of anything.

 

Richard brought the bottle over and set the glasses on a table. Then he poured two glasses. He hesitated at the third, and looked at Jesus for his reaction. Jesus shook his head and turned down the drink. “Suit yourself,” Richard said, handing a glass to Daryl.

 

As time went on, Daryl and Richard were feeling no pain while the bottle emptied by half. Jesus stuck around, but he didn’t drink. He mostly watched and laughed along with the stories Richard and Daryl shared. Sometimes Jesus added his take on something. It was a good time, but it was getting late. Daryl realized that he’d missed dinner. No wonder he was so far into his cups. Drinking on an empty stomach was a bad idea.

 

“Shit, Aaron’s going to kill me. I wasn’t supposed to be gone this long,” Daryl said, but deep down he was glad he stayed away as long as he did. It meant he wouldn’t have to explain himself if Aaron wanted to . . . Daryl wasn’t ready to have that conversation yet.

 

“Then we better get you back,” Jesus said to him.

 

“Party pooper,” Richard complained while slurring his words. Daryl laughed. God, he hadn’t laughed in forever. Richard wrinkled his brow as something occurred to him. “Wait a minute. Why would Aaron give a shit where you were?”

 

Jesus smiled and looked down. He glanced up at Daryl through his long lashes, and Daryl held his hands out, gesturing for him to explain. “Go ahead,” he said to Jesus.

 

He looked bashful as Jesus told Richard. “Daryl and Aaron are . . .” He didn’t have to finish. Richard got the hint.

 

“No shit. Really? I never would have guessed. Hey, Jesus here is too,” Richard said, as though it was new and exciting news to everyone.

 

“Yeah, they know, Richard,” Jesus said. He stood and helped Daryl up. “We got to get going. See you in the morning.”

 

“You do that,” Richard said. He started to get up but fell back onto his chair. “You can let yourself out, right?”

 

Daryl laughed again. “You’re fucking wasted, man.”

 

“Hell yeah I am,” Richard agreed. He pointed his finger at Daryl. “I’ve got something I want to tell you about, but not now. I’m too shit-faced to make any sense. But it’s something I’ve been putting together in my head for a while. I think you’re just the guy who can help me out with it. I’ll run it by you sometime. You can tell me what you think.”

 

“Cool, man. Sounds awesome.” Daryl leaned on Jesus as he was led to the door.

 

“Goodnight, Richard,” Jesus said. He closed the door behind him.

 

They walked down a short hall and out of a door that led to the courtyard. It was a beautiful night, a slight coolness on the breeze. The stars were out, not a cloud in the sky. And because there was no moon, they were very bright and plentiful.

 

“For a while, I thought I’d never see the night sky again,” Daryl commented as they descended a set of short stairs to the walkway below.

 

“You’re safe now, and we’re going to do everything we can to keep you that way,” Jesus reassured him.

 

They took a few more steps until they were next to a garden made up of filing cabinets. Daryl stopped and so did Jesus. “Why are you helping me?” Daryl asked him. “You risked your life for me when you showed up at the Sanctuary. You could have been caught and killed.”

 

“I knew I could do it. I’ve done similar stunts before. Besides, you all were split up with Maggie and Sasha at Hilltop, and Negan is breathing down Rick’s neck. There wasn’t much anyone else could do,” Jesus explained.

 

“You didn’t do it for me. I know that because I’ve been a total dick to you since we met.”

 

Jesus chuckled softly. “All right, I won’t contest that statement. I don’t blame you, though. You don’t know me. And I did steal your shit.”

 

“Which I won’t forget,” Daryl returned lightheartedly. He ran his hand through his hair as he thought about how to ask the next question. There was only one way. “Did you do it for Aaron?”

 

“I did it because he was determined to go find you by himself. I couldn’t let him do that,” Jesus said.

 

“Because you like him,” Daryl said quietly, not able to make eye contact with him.

 

“Because he is my friend,” Jesus retaliated.

 

“That’s not what I meant,” Daryl challenged.

 

Jesus sighed and shook his head. “Daryl, please don’t–”

 

“I know you do,” Daryl interrupted. “The first time you met at Rick’s house, I saw how you looked at him. I know that look because that’s how I felt when I met him.”

 

Jesus was silent for a moment, considering how to answer. “Okay, you want the truth. Here it is. Yes, I was attracted to Aaron when I first met him. Yes, I flirted with him. That was my fault. I should have waited until I found out whether or not he was involved, but once I knew, I backed off. I’m not that kind of person. And quite frankly, you scared the hell out of me,” Jesus finished up saying with a jest.

 

“I remember,” Daryl smiled. He waited before he continued, picking a leaf from a basil plant. He broke the leaf in half and sniffed it. It smelled good. “Just for the record, I’m glad you’re his friend. I’m glad you were there for him while I was gone. And I’m glad you stopped him from going to the Sanctuary. What I need from you now is to remain his friend, just in case something happens to me.”

 

“Nothing is going to happen to you,” Jesus countered. “This is just the whiskey talking.”

 

“It might have something to do with it, but I’ve been thinking about this for a while. The booze is just making me brave enough to say it.”

 

“Daryl,” Jesus complained.

 

“No, hear me out. No one knows what the future holds, but if something happens to me, I’m asking you to be there for Aaron. I know he trusts you. He always has. We’ve had arguments over it before. If I don’t make it through this war that we’re gearing up for … Hell, if I don’t make it through tomorrow, Aaron is going to need someone to get him through the grief. I want it to be you because I know you care about him as much as I do. And don’t deny it.”

 

Jesus remained silent. Daryl waited for him to say something, but he didn’t. Finally, he clapped a hand to Daryl’s shoulder. “I’m glad you trust me too,” he said, and that was all. They had made the agreement.

 

>>------->

 

Aaron was worried when Daryl didn’t come back. Maybe he was just walking around. He’d been a bit standoffish since they came together again. Aaron thought he was changing that as they shared a kiss. They had a good talk and cleared the air between them. It felt like they were moving in the right direction, but maybe they were moving a little fast for Daryl’s liking. It must have had something to do with Daryl’s imprisonment. He’d yet to talk about it, not in full detail. Aaron didn’t want to push him either. He knew from past experiences what happened when you pushed Daryl out of his comfort zone, and he’d been beaten one too many times recently.

 

Benjamin eventually arrived with a satchel containing fruit. “Sorry it took so long. I got sidetracked.”

 

“No problem. Hey, did you happen to see Daryl anywhere?” Aaron asked.

 

“Oh, yeah. I saw him talking to Jesus,” Benjamin told him as he handed the fruit to Aaron.

 

“Thanks,” Aaron smiled politely.

 

“If there’s anything else you need, just let me know. I’m always around somewhere. I’m not hard to find,” Benjamin offered as he exited the door.

 

Aaron wasn’t really hungry. He’d asked for fruit for Daryl, since he hadn’t eaten much lately. He left the satchel on the table and sat at the foot of the bed, waiting for Daryl to come back, but he never did. By now, dinner was probably being served, he thought.

 

There was a soft knock at the door and Tara peaked inside. “Hey, we’re going to the mess hall. Want to come with us?”

 

“Sure,” Aaron said, joining Tara and all the others in the hall. He closed the door to his room and the group walked together. Rick was saying that he was concerned about getting back to Alexandria, and Michonne reminded him that they had the walkie talkie to listen in on the Savior’s conversations. They needed to talk to Ezekiel in the morning and see if he would agree to help them or not.

 

As they walked through the courtyard toward the mess hall, Aaron glanced around the area, looking for Daryl, but there was no sign of him anywhere. He didn’t see Jesus either, and that made him feel a little bit better. Hopefully wherever they were, they were there together. Jesus would keep an eye on Daryl. That much he knew.

 

The mess hall turned out to be a school cafeteria. Extra seating had been brought in to accommodate all of the residents. There were picnic tables placed about in the empty areas. People stood in line like students, with trays in their hands, waiting to get up to where the food was being served. It was a good system, and the people of the Kingdom looked happy. They weren’t happy in the way Alexandria was when Deanna was in charge. That had been happiness that covered their denial for the outside world and its ruin. The people of the Kingdom knew what the world had become, but they were safe here and they knew they were being protected. That had been because of Ezekiel and his strange front. He wasn’t crazy. He was smart, and his act was enough to satisfy the residents. Besides, how could you not trust a guy with a tiger as a pet?

 

Everyone seemed a little nervous about being here and roaming around in the Kingdom unescorted. Aaron took it upon himself to start. He picked up a brown tray from a table stacked with them, and got in line. Tara followed him, and then the rest.

 

“This brings back memories,” Tara said. “I just hope they serve something better than the old school lunches from before.”

 

“I think we’re good, considering those processed meats and other perishables are long gone by now,” Aaron said.

 

“You sure about that? I don’t know, our school had some pretty crappy lunches that looked like they could get up and run away,” Tara joked.

 

Aaron laughed. “I bet the walkers wouldn’t even eat that.”

 

Tara joined him in a laugh as they slowly moved forward in the line. Aaron kept checking the room to see if maybe Daryl was already here.

 

“Where’s Daryl?” Tara asked.

 

“I’m not sure. He was feeling a little closed in and he went for a walk. I think he’s with Jesus somewhere,” Aaron answered. “I was looking to see if he was here.”

 

“I’m sure he’ll turn up,” she assured him.

 

They finally got their meals and took their seats at one of the picnic tables. The food looked good. There was plenty of vegetables, and a modest serving of meat, pork from the look of it. It was very tasty too, but Aaron’s appetite was subdued because of his concern for Daryl. It wasn’t like him to go off for this long without Aaron knowing where he was. He kept in mind that Benjamin had seen him with Paul, and that helped keep his worry from getting out of control.

 

Dinner ended, and Rick and the group went to an area of the courtyard that was empty to discuss what would happen in the morning, whether Ezekiel would help them or not. The discussion temporarily took Aaron’s mind off of Daryl. He wished Daryl was here, though, since some of the discussion was about him. Rick said right away that Daryl shouldn’t come back to Alexandria because that would be the first place the Saviors would look for him. There was nowhere safe to hide him, and they knew the town would be ransacked. He couldn’t hide at Hilltop. Gregory put his foot down and was already at the end of his rope with Maggie and Sasha staying behind. Aaron had a thought, but it wasn’t something he could share with the rest. It might be possible for Daryl to hide at the cabin, if it was still there. It had been a very long time since they went, and right now they were very far from it. It was something to think about at least, something to suggest to Daryl, if he’d show back up. Where the hell was he?

 

It was late by now. Aaron laid in bed, on top of the sheets, still in his clothes. He stared up at the ceiling and tried to keep himself from starting a door to door search for Daryl. He had to trust that Daryl was somewhere. He hadn’t seen Paul either, and hopefully that meant they were together. Paul wouldn’t let Daryl run away without notifying Aaron. No, he thought, they were around here somewhere, but what in the hell were they up to?

 

Finally, after hours of wondering and worrying, the doorknob rattled and slowly opened. Paul and Daryl came in, side by side, Daryl’s arm around Paul for support. Aaron smelled the alcohol before they were past the threshold. Worry turned to relief, which now turned to anger. “Where the hell have you been all day?”

 

“I told you he’d be pissed,” Daryl grumbled to Paul.

 

“It’s my fault,” Paul said. “I introduced him to Richard, the man who met us at the perimeter. Richard is likeminded with the rest of you, and I thought by introducing him to Daryl, maybe he could help convince Ezekiel to join us, if he still had any doubts,” Paul explained as he walked Daryl to the bed. “I wasn’t planning on Richard to break out a bottle of whiskey.”

 

“Just one bottle?” Aaron asked, his judging eyes falling on Daryl.

 

“It was good whiskey,” Daryl answered, collapsing onto the bed.

 

“If it’s any consolation, I remained the designated walking partner to make sure he got back safe and sound,” Paul said.

 

Aaron patted Paul's shoulder and smiled. “Thanks, Paul.”

 

“I’ll see you all in the morning,” he returned. “You gonna be okay?”

 

“Yeah, no worries,” Aaron answered as he watched Paul leave, closing the door.

 

Daryl was laying on the bed, legs apart and arms spread out to the side. Aaron sighed and looked at him. Daryl lifted his head and watched him with a glassy stare. “What’s that face about?”

 

“This is my ‘why didn’t you tell me where you were’ face. Should I show you my ‘do you know what time it is’ foot tapping?” Aaron berated.

 

“Why don’t you come over here and give me your ‘I don’t care where you were, I’m just glad you’re back’ look. I think I like that one best,” Daryl returned.

 

Aaron had his arms crossed and shook his head in disappointment, but he couldn’t stay mad for long. “Drinking? Really?”

 

“It wasn’t that much,” Daryl countered.

 

“It wouldn’t take much with your empty stomach. Maybe if you joined me for dinner first, you wouldn’t be shitfaced right now.” Aaron’s complaint fell on deaf ears. Daryl’s eyes were closed as though he’d gone to sleep. “Great,” Aaron whispered to himself.

 

He couldn’t let Daryl sleep in his clothes, so he went to him and started with his boots, unlacing them and sliding them off his feet. Next came his socks, which Aaron stuffed into the boots and set on the floor at the end of the bed, the same place Daryl put them at home in Alexandria. He undid Daryl’s belt, button and fly, and pulled his pants down and off, letting them fall to the floor by the boots. Daryl hadn’t moved the whole time. Aaron thought he must have passed out from the alcohol. Lastly, Aaron unbuttoned Daryl’s shirt, and pushed the material to the sides. It wouldn’t be as easy to get him out of his shirt. He stopped what he was doing, but not because he was trying to figure out how to get the shirt off. Rather, Aaron stared at Daryl’s chest and stomach. He was thin, much thinner than Aaron had ever seen him. His stomach, which was always flat and slightly muscled, was caved in a bit, and the bottom edge of his ribs were noticeable. There were new wounds on his torso, one at his shoulder and one at his side. They were bandaged, and Aaron’s finger traced around the edge of the tape that held the gauze on.

 

“What did they do to you?” Aaron whispered quietly. He guessed that the shoulder wound had been from a bullet. He remembered seeing Daryl’s shoulder red with blood that night Negan stopped them in the woods. There had been a lot of blood, and Aaron had worried for him. Apparently, someone patched him up at the Sanctuary. At least they did that much for him.

 

He looked curiously at the wound on Daryl’s side, and started to peel the tape away. He wanted to know what had been done to him. The bandage was half off, and he could see a stitched wound, about an inch long. A knife wound, Aaron guessed, thinking he’d been stabbed. As he was about to lift the bandage further to the side, Daryl’s hand grabbed his wrist. It was quick like a feline’s movements, and his grasp was hurting Aaron’s wrist. Daryl’s eyes opened, but he was staring at the ceiling.

 

“Don’t,” he said tersely.

 

“I’m sorry,” Aaron replied. “I was just curious.”

 

Daryl pulled on Aaron’s arm, making him abandon the wounds and move up on the bed so that they were face to face. Daryl turned his head to the side and looked deep into Aaron’s eyes. There was something animalistic that he hadn’t seen in a very long time, not since they first admitted their feelings for each other. If Daryl had just seemed comatose due to his abundant alcohol intake, he now seemed primal and ready to strike. And that’s what he did. Daryl’s body twisted and rolled so that he was laying on top of Aaron. It reminded Aaron of their last night together, when Daryl came to him while he slept, and made love to him without saying a word to each other. Aaron’s heart pulsed rapidly as he remembered how carnal, yet beautiful it had been, and he anticipated reliving the thrill again.

 

Daryl shucked the shirt from his shoulders before he covered Aaron completely and captured his mouth. Daryl kissed him hard and wantonly, then his mouth moved to Aaron’s jawline and his neck. He moved down until his hands felt Aaron’s belt, and made quick work of it. He undid the button and the fly, then slid his hand inside, and took up Aaron’s half hardened cock. Aaron gasped and let out a surprised yelp. The suddenness of Daryl’s movements made him surrender completely. It had been much too long since they had coupled. He wouldn’t last long. Daryl must have known this because he halted his ministrations and left Aaron needing more. He didn’t have to wait long. Daryl pulled Aaron’s pants off, and then his underwear, as he slipped out of his own underwear to join Aaron in his nakedness. Daryl came back up and laid on top of Aaron. Their cocks lined up next to each other, but Aaron noticed that Daryl’s was still pliant. Probably the booze, Aaron thought. It tended to dampen Daryl’s excitement, and took him a little longer to get hard. Aaron reached down and took Daryl in his hand to help him along. He could feel the silky member stiffen a bit, but it wasn’t yet at full standing. He pumped Daryl in his hand and sucked on the flesh of Daryl’s neck. Daryl was breathing rapidly, trying too hard to will his body to cooperate. Aaron had an idea.

 

He rolled them both so that they were on their side, then he moved over to let Daryl roll onto his stomach. Daryl seemed resistant, so Aaron whispered softly in his ear. “Let me take you this time. Let me come inside you and–”

 

“No!” Daryl yelled, and he turned violent. He pushed himself up from the bed and his hand shot out to the side, hitting Aaron in the chest and making him tumble from the bed. Daryl scrambled off the bed, and frantically searched for his clothes.

 

“Daryl, wait!” Aaron called out to him. He didn’t know what happened that made Daryl use such strong force against him.

 

Daryl stood and pulled his underwear on. Just like that, it was over, and Aaron was left confused with a flood of questions on the tip of his tongue. Daryl didn’t say anything. He fumbled with his pants, stumbling as he tried to get his second leg in. He was searching for his shirt, and Aaron realized he was laying on it. He pulled it out from beneath his naked form and stretched his arm out, offering it to Daryl.

Daryl’s eyes wouldn’t meet his as he snatched the shirt from his hand.

 

“I’m sorry,” Aaron finally said. “I don’t know what I did. I don’t know what triggered you, but if you’d just tell me–”

 

“Not now. I … I don’t know … The room … It feels … too small. I gotta get out of here.” As Daryl spoke, he put his shirt on, not buttoning it, and went to the door. “I’m sorry, Aaron,” was the last thing he said before he left.

 

Aaron was in shock. Nothing like this had happened before, not since they admitted their feelings for each other. He got off the floor and yanked the sheet from the bed, wrapping it around his body. Then he ran to the door and out into the hall. Daryl was just about to round the corner. “Daryl, please don’t go. Talk to me. Please,” he called, but Daryl didn’t even look back. He disappeared around the corner, and then out of the door that led to the yard. Aaron stood there and listened to the door close.

 

The commotion must have disturbed Tara from her sleep because she opened her door and looked out with sleepy eyes. Aaron was embarrassed as he stood there in only a sheet. She smiled awkwardly, and with her usual sense of humor said, “Toga party?” She knew right away that it was inappropriate and completely the wrong time for a joke. “Sorry,” she said immediately afterward.

 

Aaron slinked back into his room, and was left alone to worry and wonder what happened. Something was wrong with Daryl, and he knew it had to do with his imprisonment at the Sanctuary. He needed to get to the bottom of it, but getting Daryl to open up was never an easy task. However, this was serious, and he’d need to think of a way to go about it that wouldn’t make Daryl feel threatened.

 

“What the hell did they do to you?” Aaron wondered aloud as he sat at the foot of the bed, wrapped in the sheet.



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