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 51 The Distance Between



Aaron laid on his side. Daryl was at his back. They held one another as they rested, not yet asleep but too tired to hold a conversation. It was enough just to have Daryl with him again. For the first time since they reunited, Daryl wasn’t running off. He was making an effort now. Aaron had been worried. Daryl suffered trauma once again at the hands of an evil man. This time, he was forced to speak Aaron’s name aloud as he was assaulted. It all made sense now. Aaron was afraid that Daryl was going to disappear again, run off in the middle of the night. He was frightened of himself, of the Saviors, of Negan finding him and hurting those who harbored him. Bringing him to the cabin was the best idea they’d had. Here, in this place, Aaron and Daryl had always found solitude.


The fact that Daryl came to him while Aaron was in the shower showed that Daryl was committed to healing and getting past his most recent wounds. He still had a way to go, but this was a good start. Daryl trusted Aaron. He felt safe here. It was truly their safe haven in the chaos of the world.


Aaron felt Daryl’s hand come up his thigh and rest on his hip. His hand was rough and warm. His fingers twitched, unsure whether to do anything further or not. Aaron signaled his interest by pushing his backside into Daryl’s body. They were naked beneath the sheets, though neither one had made a move since lying down.


Daryl allowed a groan to escape his lips, and Aaron new he was interested, but hesitant. It was Daryl’s decision as to what he wanted. Aaron had already made it clear that he was open for anything at any time.


Daryl’s hand moved from Aaron’s hip to his stomach. He was dangerously close to Aaron’s growing desire, and he pushed back again, needing to feel if Daryl’s response was much like his own, but it wasn’t yet. Aaron released a breathy sigh, and kept grinding against Daryl’s body. Aaron reached back and put his hand on Daryl’s backside. Daryl laid warm kisses along Aaron’s neck and the back of his shoulders, sending electric charges scurrying along his spine. And then Aaron’s cock was being stroked. Daryl had him in hand, moving up and down along his length, spreading the anticipated droplets with his thumb. Aaron could feel Daryl’s cock start to come to attention against his ass. Daryl moved and his knee separated Aaron’s thighs. The hand left his cock and moved to his balls, caressing, gently squeezing. When he was done fondling Aaron, Daryl’s hand slithered over his hip the way it came and found its place between his legs. Aaron pushed his ass back again, this time arching his spine. It was taking Daryl longer to come about this time, but that was probably because of their adventures in the shower. Fingers teased Aaron’s puckered entrance, and he could hardly wait to see where Daryl was allowing them to go.


Aaron looked over his shoulder, and Daryl reached to kiss him. It wasn’t the most comfortable position, but that didn’t matter. The only thing they cared about was being flesh to flesh, and as much of it as possible. After a long and sultry kiss. Aaron rolled onto his back. Daryl’s body covered him, cocks side by side. Aaron’s was pulsing and hot, but Daryl still had some catching up to do. Daryl began writhing. Aaron was panting with anticipation. And then, like the wind leaving the sails, Daryl collapsed against him. Aaron couldn’t help notice how quickly Daryl began to deflate. He had never fully hardened.


“I’m sorry. I can’t,” he whispered with disappointment.



“Hey,” Aaron said, bringing Daryl’s attention to him. “It’s all right. It’s fine.”


“No, it’s not,” Daryl said. His body had given up and a shadow of inefficacy passed over his countenance. “I thought I could do this. I thought I wanted this. I mean, I do want this, but–”


“You don’t need to explain,” Aaron said sympathetically. “Maybe we’re moving too fast. We should slow things down.”


Daryl rolled off of Aaron, and plopped onto the bed beside him with frustration. “Fuck,” Daryl complained.


They laid in silence. Aaron moved onto his side and laid his arm across Daryl’s chest. He could feel the tension in tightened muscles. Daryl wasn’t relaxed.


“I remember being here with you, confessing my feelings toward you, trying to make you open up to me,” Aaron said to start a conversation.


“Seems like ages ago,” Daryl responded. “You told me what you saw in me that I couldn’t see in myself.”


“You were so reluctant,” Aaron said.


“You were very persistent,” Daryl reminisced. “But you saw right through me. You were always able to do that. Sometimes I think you know me better than I know myself.”


“I watched you starve your demons as you built your trust in me. I reveled in the joy I felt when you started to surrender to me,” Aaron reminisced.


“I remember it too. I had hid from myself for so many years, and there you were, reading me like an open book. It was so … freeing. I never had that kind of unrestraint before. I was always on the defensive,” Daryl added.


“I was on the opposite end of that defense once, your fist actually,” Aaron laughed.


Daryl huffed a laugh too. “Yeah, I knocked you out. Can you blame me? You grabbed me and kissed me, caught me off guard.”


“It wasn’t that I surprised you with a kiss, but rather that you liked it.”


Daryl thought and nodded in agreement. “Exactly. Your kiss, it … it awoke something in me, something I’d never felt, not like that. I knew right then that I wanted you.”


“That’s where I want you to be again,” Aaron said, making his point. “I don’t want to make love just because you think it will fix things. That’s not how it works. Your mind has to be ready. Your body must be accepting. You need to be sure.”


Daryl turned on his side and faced Aaron. His hand came up, fingers traveling along his jaw. Aaron turned his head toward Daryl and watched his eyes. They never left the trail his finger made, moving to his cheek, and then to his hair.


“We wasted so much time arguing … before all this happened,” Daryl said.


“Remind me what it was about.” Aaron couldn’t recall how it started.


“It was after the Wolves and the wall falling. You wanted to keep recruiting and I didn’t. Things just seemed to tumble out of control after that. I said some things … a lot of things I shouldn’t have. I accused you of things that weren’t true.” Daryl looked down and away from Aaron. “I’d take it all back if I could. And now … it feels like I’m being punished. Here you are, back in my arms, in my bed, in my life, and … I don’t feel worthy of any of it.”


“Please don’t say that. Whatever happened before has no importance to what we have now. You’ve got me. You always have and you always will. You’re hurting and you need time to heal. I’ll be by your side every step of the way,” Aaron told him.


“Yeah, but you shouldn’t have to wait for me. It almost feels like I’ll never be a hundred percent who I wish I was free to be. I’ve tried time and time again, and something always happens. Pete, Gerrard, Allison … Wolves, walkers … Negan, Saviors . . .” Daryl paused for the longest moment before he went on with his list. “Jay … and now … Brady. More ghosts to whisper shit in my ear, and I’m not sure yelling at them to leave me alone will work this time.” Daryl allowed himself to gaze at Aaron once again. The fear in his lover’s eyes was destroying his heart. “But I will try, just like you always tell me to do.”


Aaron allowed the corner of his mouth to quirk up into a partial smile. “We’ve been through a lot. We’ve come upon so many hurdles, like when you got sick, and when I got amnesia. We have always made our way through. We’ll get through this too. I’ll be your anchor. I’ll be that one steady object you need so that you don’t feel like you’re spinning out of control. You can trust in that … in me.”


Daryl leaned toward him and kissed him gently. “Thank you.”


Aaron snuggled into Daryl’s chest, slid an arm around his middle, and draped a leg over his. They laid that way for the next thirty minutes or so, until a soft glow came in around the edge of the curtains. “Guess we better get up,” Aaron said.


“I don’t want to, but we probably should,” Daryl agreed.


They dressed and had a bite to eat. They spent a few moments watching the sun rise over the trees on the opposite side of the lake, taking in the beauty of nature, and the serenity of being alone with one another. But one question still remained. What would they do next? Eventually, they started the discussion.


“Rick thinks were at the Kingdom. We could just go back,” Aaron suggested.


“I don’t know,” Daryl said, unimpressed with the idea. “Ezekiel’s not willing to help us out. I get the feeling nothing either one of us could say would convince him otherwise. Seems like a waste to be there.”


“Well, we can’t go to Alexandria,” Aaron pointed out.


“That’s the first place the Saviors will go. They’ve probably already been there. I just wonder how everyone is.” Daryl glanced at Aaron. “You could go. Find out what’s going on there.”


Aaron shook his head. “No way. Wherever we go, we go there together. What about Hilltop?”


“Negan has a crew that goes there regularly. Besides, now that they know Alexandria and Hilltop were working together, they’ll be a suspect to my whereabouts.” Daryl was afraid to put Maggie or Sasha in harm’s way. He knew they were hiding out there too. “We … could stay here,” he said, leaning playfully against Aaron’s shoulder.


Aaron glanced sideways at him. “We always said we wished we could move into the cabin.” Aaron looked out across the lake. “What about the others? No one knows about this place. They won’t know where we are if they need us.”


“I guess we could get word to someone, check in from time to time,” Daryl said.


“The point is to join in the fight we’re eventually going to have against the Saviors,” Aaron reminded him.


“Yeah, I know, and we will, but in the meantime . . .” Daryl put his hands on Aaron’s hips and pulled him close until their bodies contoured against one another. Aaron turned in his arms and faced him. Daryl kissed him, his hands grabbing the fabric of Aaron’s shirt. Aaron’s arms snaked around his neck and the kiss deepened. He pushed his body against Daryl, hips grinding trying to rouse his lover. Things were getting heated, but then Daryl pushed back, separating himself from Aaron.


“Sorry,” Aaron said, realizing that his gestures were making Daryl feel uncomfortable.


“It’s okay,” Daryl said in return.


Aaron wanted to be supportive, so maybe Daryl was right about staying at the cabin. “We’ll stay,” he finally agreed. “For a little while.”


“All right,” Daryl said with relief. “Since that’s settled, I think I’m going to do some maintenance to the place.”


“Like what?” Aaron asked. Daryl was ready to go back inside so he followed.


“That roof ain’t gonna fix itself. I want my bedroom back.”


“Your bedroom?”


“I called it a long time ago,” Daryl jested.


“Is that so? Well, maybe you want to go ahead and move back into your bedroom. And good luck with that soggy, musty mattress.”


“Shit,” Daryl mumbled. “Then I guess I’ll just have to bunk up with you.”


“I can think of worse things,” Aaron smiled. It felt good to kid around with him again, just like old times. They weren’t completely back to normal, but it was a start, and a good one.


Daryl had gone out to the garage to look for tools and whatnot. He was hell bent on fixing the roof. Aaron didn’t dissuade him from feeling useful. Besides, the roof really was in need of repair.


After their talk, Daryl seemed a bit more relaxed, but he was still maintaining a certain amount of distance from Aaron. It was understandable after what he’d been through at the Sanctuary. It was just going to take some time, and Aaron had the patience to wait. It was probably good that they came here and that they were staying for a while. They just needed to get away from everything, but Aaron couldn’t help feeling like they were running away. Of all the suggestions, he thought the best choice was to go to Hilltop. They probably needed their help more than the other communities. Maybe he’d give Daryl a couple days here, and then suggest it again. In the meantime, they would just stay here, and make the most of this time together.


“Hey!” Daryl called from the mudroom. He was coming in from the garage. “Guess what I found.”


“A case of beer?” Aaron guessed. It was only wishful thinking.


“There’s a box of roofing tiles and tacks out there. I’ll have no problem fixing the leak in the roof,” Daryl said.


“Leaks,” Aaron corrected. “There’s more than the one in the master bedroom.”


“Where?” Daryl asked.


“Come on, I’ll show you.” Aaron led Daryl through the house, pointing out places where there were water stains on the ceiling.


“I’ll give it a thorough inspection and patch up any bad spots,” Daryl informed.


Aaron wrapped his arms around Daryl’s waist. “Looks like you missed your calling. You’d make a great handyman.”


“It ain’t nothing you couldn’t do,” Daryl returned.


“Could do, but wouldn’t want to. I don’t have the patience for fixer upper shit,” Aaron said. “But that’s why I’ve got you, isn’t it?” He leaned in and kissed Daryl, who was caught off guard by his quick action. Daryl flinched slightly, hesitated, and then followed through with the kiss. He pulled away first, and came to look at Aaron apologetically.


“My fault,” Aaron replied.


“No, it’s all right,” Daryl said, kissing him again, but this time it was quick.


Aaron watched Daryl go back out to the garage, but he stopped before leaving the house. “Keep an ear out for me. If you hear a loud thump, check to see if I’ve fallen off the roof.”


“Okay, yeah,” Aaron laughed. Daryl left, but Aaron’s eyes remained on the doorway. It was an odd exchange they just shared. Daryl had never flinched from him before. He made a mental note to remember not to make too sudden a move toward Daryl. He wondered how long this would last, and how he could help Daryl get over his fears.


Aaron heard the sound of an extension ladder being hoisted up and knew Daryl was going up onto the roof. Well, if Daryl was going to work on the outside, Aaron would work on the inside. He decided to inspect the kitchen pantry, and look for any canned goods that went bad. The previous owner of the cabin had stocked it full, but it had been a long time since the beginning of things. By now, even canned food was starting to spoil. Soon, scavenging for food would be a thing of the past. He pulled out can after can, and found that there were quite a few that needed to be thrown away. It seemed like a waste, but there was nothing to do about it now.


“Why didn’t I think of this place before?” Aaron said to himself when he thought about him and Rick scavenging the boathouse. He should have snuck out and come to the cabin to retrieve whatever goods were here. That cellar full of wine would have been a bonus to Negan. Then again, better not give him too good of a donation or he’d expect more from them the next time. No, Aaron thought. No one will ever know about this place. It was the only thing him and Daryl had that was completely theirs.


He heard hammering coming from above. Daryl was starting to make his repairs. Aaron hoped the noise wouldn’t draw any walkers to the cabin. He continued with the kitchen until it was all cleaned up and in order. Then he unpacked their bags and added some of the items to the pantry. The rest, fruits and dried meats, he left on the counter for when Daryl came in to take a break. When he was done, he went to the living room and looked around. Next thing to tackle was the musty mattress in the master bedroom. He entered and looked up. More plaster had fallen away as Daryl worked above. There was nothing to do about that, but at least the roof wouldn’t leak anymore. Aaron looked at the mattress and sighed. It was one of those expensive memory foam models. Another waste, he thought, especially since they didn’t have any mattresses in Alexandria, no thanks to Negan. It became apparent how much Negan and the Saviors were embedded in their lives now. For Daryl, he was affected in a different way. Aaron got angry and disgusted when he thought about it. He wished he could have had a few minutes alone with the fucker that hurt Daryl.


The hammering stopped, and Aaron listened. He heard the crunching of someone walking around up there. At least he didn’t fall off the roof. A few moments passed and the hammer started again. Meanwhile, Aaron tried to lift the mattress to drag it out of the house, but it was too heavy. He’d have to get Daryl to help him. He abandoned the bedroom in search of another project to do around the house, and began clean up where the roof had leaked in other areas. There was fallen plaster in a hallway. It was easy to take care of because it had come down where there were hardwood floors. Not much water came in and the floor was not ruined. Another place, close to the mudroom, the wall was water stained, but that couldn’t be helped. After going through the entire house, it seemed the master bedroom was in the worst shape, mainly because of the leak onto the bed. It seemed that had been the main reason the house smelled sour when they first entered. It would have to go. Maybe if they opened the windows the smell would dissipate. Aaron would wait until Daryl was finished before he did that.


After about an hour, the hammering ceased. Aaron waited and listened, heard the backdoor open, and went to see what was going on. Daryl came in a sweaty mess, dirt on his arms from the roof tiles. His hair was damp from perspiration, and his shirt soaked through. He shucked the shirt from his body and tossed in onto a bench in the mudroom. His chest glistened with moisture. Aaron watched him from the living room, his steady gaze never leaving him. Daryl looked up and saw him.


“Hey,” Daryl said casually. “How’s things going in here?”


Aaron took a few steps toward him. “Fine. I cleaned up the pantry. Lost close to half of the canned goods. Spoiled, you know.” He took a few more steps closer, and inhaled Daryl’s masculine scent. It wasn’t offensive. As a matter of fact, it sparked a wanton desire deep within him. “Looks like that mattress in the master is a total loss. I’ll need you help to get it out of here. Maybe open some windows and air the place out.”


“Not too bad then,” Daryl responded.


“Yeah, not bad at all,” Aaron purred, now standing before Daryl. He brought his hand up and touched Daryl’s chest. Of all the men he had dated, none had ever been so rugged and raw.


“I’m a mess,” Daryl said to him.


“I don’t know. I kind of … like it,” Aaron said seductively. He wrapped his hand behind Daryl’s neck and drew him in for a kiss. Daryl didn’t resist and allowed the kiss to deepen. It had been such a long time since they made love, and a blowjob wasn’t enough anymore. All Aaron could think about was Daryl’s sexy body covering him, his muscles tightened from hard labor, pushing him into the bed as he was taken hard and fast. Aaron tried to convey this through the kiss.


Daryl gently pushed him away, the resistance obvious but done kindly. “I must stink,” he used as an excuse.


“Not really,” Aaron replied. “It’s kind of a turn on.” He tried to wrap his arms around Daryl’s waist, but was stopped.


“I still got a lot to do,” Daryl said sounding regretful. “I want to get it finished before the day’s done. I don’t like all the noise I’m making. Maybe it’ll draw something here.”


Aaron got the message loud and clear. Daryl wasn’t ready to engage in any kind of sexual behavior yet. Seems a blowjob was his limit for now. Aaron backed up to give him space. Last thing he wanted was for Daryl to feel smothered or cornered by him. He wanted to help, not drive his lover away. “Want me to set up watch?”


“No. I think we’re okay for now.” Daryl shifted almost as though he was nervous, leaned toward Aaron and gave him a quick kiss. “I’m going back up. Just came in for some water.”


“There’s some bottles on the counter,” Aaron informed him, and he watched Daryl go to the kitchen, come out, and go toward the back door through the mudroom.


Aaron went and sat on the couch, his recent surge of lust cut short and headed off by an unresponsive lover. His mind told him to give it time, but his body was most disappointed. “Give it time,” he repeated to himself. It only made him feel slightly better.




Daryl was back on the roof, but all he could think about was turning Aaron away. He was mad at Aaron for expecting him to be persuadable, but he was angrier with himself for not being more accepting. Right now, his excuse was acceptable, but later when he’d had more time to cope with things, what would he tell Aaron? Daryl felt as though he might never be able to be with him in a loving way again. It wasn’t that he didn’t want the man. With every fiber of his being, he wanted to make love to Aaron, to recreate some of those magical moments. And every time they started to get close he was triggered, and the smells and sounds of his time at the Sanctuary haunted him. He was afraid to whisper his lover’s name, fearful of the voice he would hear, frightened that it wouldn’t be his own. Damn that fucker who poisoned his mind. His only saving grace for now was the work that needed to be done around the house. This place made him feel better, made him forget all the bad stuff, at least for a little while. It was important to preserve it.


By the time he finished up with the roof, Aaron had food ready. He washed up and came into the kitchen, taking a seat at the large island. It smelled delicious. Daryl was starving. And it looked impressive.


“Meat and potatoes?” Daryl questioned.


“Canned meat,” Aaron said. “Not scavenged anyway. This came from Carol. Apparently, the Kingdom cans their meat so it doesn’t go to waste. Pretty sure this is pork. The potatoes came from there too. I just decided to boil them in a pot over the fire. Butter would be nice, but the gravy from the meat will have to suffice.”


Aaron pushed a plate in front of Daryl and he dug in. It was actually very good, almost as good as Mom’s cooking. Wait, his mom never cooked. “This is delicious,” Daryl said with a mouthful.


He watched Aaron take a bite, and then another and another. Soon, both men were digging into their plates. They wouldn’t stop until they had licked it clean.


“Are you done for the day?” Aaron wondered.


“Looks like I am. Sun’s setting before too long.”


“How about some wine?” Aaron offered.


“Sounds good,” Daryl accepted.


“Great. I’ll go down and get a bottle.” Aaron started to walk away, but stopped.


“It’s your turn to clean up,” he reminded.


Daryl waved him away. “Yeah, yeah, I hear you.”

Why was he being so cooperative? Daryl wondered to himself. It was making this more difficult. He almost wished Aaron would ignore him, then there wouldn’t be this underlying feeling of guilt for pushing him away every time they started getting close. But no, Aaron was nice. He was kind and supportive. He was cooking and fetching the wine, and all Daryl could do was hold his hands out and keep him at a distance.


Aaron came back with a bottle and two glasses from the kitchen. He smiled across the room, closed lips and cautious not to make Daryl uncomfortable. “I only brought one. Our supply is starting to grow noticeably smaller.” Aaron approached and handed Daryl the opened bottle. “I’ll give you the honors.” He set the glasses on the coffee table and took a seat in the chair across from the couch where Daryl sat. Daryl poured and pushed one of the glasses over to Aaron’s side of the table. Both men drank deep, almost consuming the entire glass, and then set them on the table simultaneously. Daryl poured more and gazed across the table with narrowed eyes. Was Aaron trying to get him drunk? No, he didn’t do sneaky stuff like that. Probably just trying to make sure they were both in a more relaxed mood. Then he must have felt the tension between them. Up until now, Daryl thought it was only himself.


“Have you given any more thought about what we should do next?” Aaron asked.


“No,” Daryl said tersely. He thought they agreed to stay at the cabin for an undetermined amount of time.


“I mean, not to be in a rush or anything, but sooner or later we’re going to have to join society again. There’s a war brewing out there.”


“Yeah, and if they find me, that means war starts a lot sooner,” Daryl said.


“Well, I’ve been thinking about it, and Hilltop seems like the best place to go,” Aaron stated.


“No,” Daryl disagreed with a shake of his head. “Maggie’s there. I won’t put her in harm’s way.”


“She’s hiding there too. So what’s a couple more?”


“Because I don’t trust that Gregory fellow. He’d just as soon turn us in than let us hide in his town,” Daryl said to make his point.


“I don’t think he’d do that. If he turned you in or Maggie or any one of us, Negan would bring down his punishment on the Hilltop”


“Gregory only cares about Gregory, not his people.”


“Exactly, which is why I feel he’s bluffing when he makes his threats. He’s Hilltop’s leader, first to get his head bashed in,’ Aaron argued.


“He’s a slimy bastard who I think would make a deal with the Sanctuary in order to turn us in and save his own ass.”


“Where else can we go?” Aaron said, tone raised in frustration. “Hiding out here is keeping you safe for now, but we’re needed elsewhere. The Kingdom already has soldiers. Hilltop’s people are willing to fight, but they need training. They need us most. Right now, all they have it Maggie, Sasha and Paul, and you know Maggie can’t be out there overexerting herself, not in her condition.”


“Why’s it got to be us?” Daryl argued in return. “Why’s it always got to be us?”


“Because we’re already out here. We can hide at Hilltop just the same as we’re hiding here. I’ve seen the Saviors at Alexandria. They know every inch of that place. They know every face. You aren’t safe there. Hilltop is least likely to harbor Alexandrians, especially with Gregory at the helm. They know he’s a scared little pussy just as much as we know. So, we’ll go there, figure out a plan for when the Saviors come by, find a good hiding place. We won’t tell Gregory about it. He’s mostly in the dark anyway. And we’ll spend the rest of our time training his people, because God knows he’s not going to do anything about it. He’d rather bow down and submit to Negan to keep the peace. You know that’s only going to last so long. Eventually Hilltop will be absorbed by the Sanctuary. It will become another outpost just like all the rest … like that satellite station. I think that’s Negan’s long term plan, and soon he’ll own the whole east coast.” Aaron stood from his chair and looked at Daryl pleadingly. “Just give it some thought.”


Daryl watched him walk to the kitchen and disappear. Deep down, he knew Aaron was right. Hilltop was the place they should go, but for the first time in a very long time, Daryl was frightened of what might happen. Not so much for him, he’d already been through shit, and he’d go through it again, but for everyone else. He didn’t want the burden of carrying more guilt on his shoulders should someone die because of him again.


Aaron came out of the kitchen and headed for the bathroom. “You can go to Hilltop, but I’m staying here,” Daryl called out, but Aaron didn’t even look his way. The argument was through for now, but he knew Aaron wouldn’t give in easily.




A few days passed, and both men busied themselves with maintenance on the cabin. Daryl had the roof repaired. Aaron organized the kitchen pantry. They cleaned up the inside, dusting, sweeping and picking up plaster than had fallen down from the ceiling in a couple rooms. The food Carol gave them was almost gone. Aaron was hoping by now they would be on their way, but Daryl was being stubborn, and he wouldn’t leave the cabin. A few times, it passed his mind to leave Daryl here and go to Hilltop, but each time he found that his heart wouldn’t let him go. It would destroy him if something happened to Daryl and he wasn’t here. The cabin was secluded, and they hadn’t even seen a walker close by, but that wasn’t to say someone wouldn’t stumble across the place, especially Saviors out looking for Daryl.


They hadn’t talked much the last few days. They hadn’t done much of anything together, each man in his own world as they kept busy. Aaron had hoped Daryl would be better by now, but he seemed to be slipping further away. Why, he wondered, especially after the intimacy they shared when they first arrived? Now, Daryl was cold and distant, although they slept in the same bed. Aaron kept telling himself that Daryl was making the effort. He was staying in the bedroom the entire night, though he would wake up a couple hours before Aaron. The downside was neither man made a move to so much as touch the other. Daryl had his reasons, of course, and Aaron was afraid to push him further away. Besides, Aaron didn’t care so much about the physical part, though it was difficult not to show his affection in that way. He knew what horrors Daryl went through. It might be a long time before Daryl trusted himself to accept another man’s body. What Aaron worried about was the distance Daryl built between them. They could hardly hold a conversation now. Daryl was a man of little words to begin with, but now the silence was deafening. Love conquered all, or so he was taught, and he would wait as long as it took to get their relationship back on track. Aaron was willing to make the effort, but was Daryl? Only time would tell.


They had spent another busy day fixing up the cabin, which was just about to the point where there was nothing else to do. Daryl told him he thought it would rain this evening. The sky was already turning grey as thick clouds moved in. Being under the cover of trees, this made it even darker. The temperature was dropping. It would be cold tonight, and with the rain it would be bone chilling. Before it got too late, Aaron headed around back to chop wood for the fireplace. They would need it tonight. After a while, Daryl came out of the back door and stood at the edge of the deck. Aaron stopped what he was doing to look up at him, finding him with his new crossbow and his knife.


“I’m going hunting. Maybe I can get us something for tonight,” Daryl informed him.


It felt like that was the longest sentence Daryl had used in three days. “All right,” Aaron replied. “Want me to come with you? Maybe we’ll catch some rabbits.” Aaron smiled and winked.


“Naw, that’s okay. We need firewood more than we need food,” Daryl responded, ignoring the reference to their early days. “I’ll be back in a couple hours.”


Aaron took another swing with the ax, embedding it in a large chunk of wood. He wiped his brow with his shirtsleeve, and put his hands on his hips. His smile disappeared as he gazed at Daryl. “Just be back before it gets dark,” Aaron said with little emotion. He watched Daryl jog down the steps and disappear into the woods. He shook his head as he looked at the ground. This was getting impossible.


It was nearly dark by the time Daryl returned. Aaron was beginning to worry, but when Daryl walked in he didn’t let his emotions show. There was a warm fire burning, and Aaron sat on the couch wearing a pair of lounge pants and an undershirt. He had a glass of wine sitting on the table, half gone, and he was reading a book he’d found in the office.


“Sun’s almost down,” Aaron said dryly.


“I said I’d be back by now,” Daryl replied.


“Catch anything?”


“A couple squirrels.” Daryl took a step closer to the couch and stopped. “You want me to throw them on the fire?”


Aaron shook his head. “No, not tonight.”


Daryl’s hand went to the back of his neck. “Sorry I didn’t come back sooner. I was tracking and lost track of time. I know I said I’d bring food back for dinner–”


“Don’t worry about it.” Aaron glanced at Daryl, catching his eye. “I’m just glad you’re back.” He gave a slight smile.


“Well, I’m filthy. I’m taking a shower.”


“Water’s cold. With the lack of sun and the cooler temps today, it never heated,” Aaron told him.


“That’s all right.” Daryl watched Aaron a moment and then left to take a shower.


Aaron wondered if Daryl was trying to send a signal. Last time they talked about the shower, Daryl joined him. This time, he decided not to make that move. If Daryl was ready, he would have to come to him first.


The fire was burning down to nothing by the time Aaron went to bed. He entered the bedroom, took off his shirt and crawled under the sheets. He stretched out on his back, staring up at the ceiling. He glanced over at Daryl, who was already sound asleep on his side, facing the opposite direction. Aaron wished he was turned toward him. He liked to watch Daryl as he slept. His face only ever looked peaceful then, and he knew the torment Daryl was in right now. The bedroom was chilly, and with the fire almost out, it would get quite cold throughout the night. At least they shared the bed and their warmth, Aaron thought as he drifted off to sleep.




He was dreaming of a beach, but it was cold. Aaron wished he could stretch out in the sand or take a dip in the ocean, but the day was not kind to him. The wind howled and sent a shiver over his skin. And then came the rain, violent and loud. Aaron looked around and found a rundown shack with a metal roof. He ducked inside to get out of the weather. Someone was huddled in the corner. He called out to the person, and to his surprise, it was Eric. He hadn’t thought of him in a very long time, and he felt guilty for it. Eric smiled the way he always did when he saw Aaron.


“Hey,” he said.


“Eric? What are you doing here?” Aaron asked. He was confused.


“I know it’s been months, but I wanted to see you … see how you were doing,” Eric said with a kind smile.


“Okay … I guess,” Aaron replied. He wrapped his arms around his chest, shivering from the cold.


“That doesn’t sound convincing,” Eric said. “Trouble in paradise?”


“Trouble doesn’t even begin to explain it.”


“Aw hon, why don’t you come over here and tell me about it,” Eric said with sympathy.


Aaron felt comfortable enough to tell Eric everything that happened since he died. However, he didn’t tell him about Daryl’s time at the Sanctuary, only that he’d been captured and eventually got away.


“I’m very sorry to hear about the loss. Glenn and Abraham were fine people. And Denise, I liked her. Spenser … I didn’t know him that well, but he never bothered anyone. Olivia … poor Olivia, such a lamb that one.” Eric backed up and sat down on an old lobster trap turned upright on its end. He crossed his legs and placed his folded hands upon his knee. “Now, tell me what’s really bothering you. Is it Daryl again?”


“Daryl and I are fine. We’ve just hit a slight bump, nothing more,” Aaron said, playing down the problems.


“Honey, there’s nothing slight or smooth in anything that happens with you and Daryl. I really never understood your attraction, but as they say … water under the bridge. Seems to me you need to talk to someone about your concerns, and you’ve picked your dead boyfriend to unload on. Not up to speaking to the living?”


“It’s not that. Well, kind of. We’re out here alone right now. There’s no one to talk to,” Aaron said.


“What about Daryl? If the problem is with him don’t you think he’s the one you should be talking to?”


“He won’t talk to me. That’s my problem. He’s shutting himself off to me. It’s like he’s reverting into the man I met when he first came to Alexandria. At one time, I was the only person he’d come to, but now he hardly addresses me about anything. I’m trying to give him his space. I know he went through some very troubled times during his incarceration. I’ve always been his anchor, but this time is different. I feel like I’m part of the problem so he avoids me in order to avoid any confrontation, even with himself. With every hour that goes by, we’re drifting further apart. I just don’t know what to do. I fear talking to him about it or he’ll run again.”


“Sounds like the Daryl I knew. Easier to run than to face the facts. I suppose you should let him know your feelings and take the chance. If he runs, maybe it wasn’t meant to be,” Eric advised. It was terrible advice.


“I shouldn’t be talking to you about this. You always hated Daryl. Even in death, you’d rather see us fail than succeed,” Aaron berated.


“Angry? What do I have to be angry about? Oh yes, he stole you from me … that smelly grease monkey.” Eric stood quickly and turned to face the corner where Aaron originally found him.


“I never set out looking for another man. I hope you know that. My love for Daryl took me by surprise. It was something I couldn’t ignore.” As Aaron spoke, he moved closer to Eric until he laid a gentle hand upon his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Eric. I still feel the guilt sometimes. Maybe I should have handled it differently. Maybe I was too stern with you. I don’t blame you if you still hate me, but I want you to know that I never forgot about the promise I made to you. In fact, I guess it was the beginning of my downward spiral with Daryl. I broke a promise to him in order to fulfill the one I made to you. You were right all along. There are other communities out there, and now we are trying to work with them and come together to fight the Saviors.”


Eric slowly turned, tears in his eyes and a smile on his lips. “You did? You went against Daryl’s wishes for me?”


“I did and I went with my friend Paul to see it with my own eyes. It’s called Hilltop, and it’s similar to Alexandria. It’s behind walls and there’s a great house and trailers. They have a blacksmith and livestock. It’s amazing, but that’s not all. There’s another place called the Kingdom and it’s bigger than Alexandria.” Aaron was so excited to tell Eric about his recent finds.


Eric smiled and nodded as Aaron spoke. He waited for him to finish before he inquired. “Your friend … Paul?”


“Yes, Paul. Well, actually he goes by the name Jesus because of the uncanny resemblance, but–”


“Tell me more about this … Paul,” Eric cooed.


Aaron seemed confused, but he answered. “Well, he’s from Hilltop. He’s their scavenger/recruiter, though I don’t think he’s recruited very many people. Their leader is a bit of an assh–”


“Is he cute?” Eric said excitedly.


Aaron thought a moment before answering. “He’s good looking, I guess.”


“Is he gay?”


“As a matter of fact he is. Actually, I’m not sure what this has to do with–”


“I’m just curious,” Eric interrupted on the defensive. “I mean, I always thought there were other communities, but I never thought about other gay men living there. Is he taken?”


“In case you haven’t noticed, you’re dead,” Aaron reminded him.


“Oh, I’m not asking for me. I’m asking for you.”


“For me? Why would you say such a thing? You know I’m with Daryl,” Aaron argued.


“Of course you are,” Eric said condescendingly.


“He’s with someone … another man … at the Hilltop.”


Eric left the corner to stand in front of Aaron. He stood too close, and their bodies almost touched. He leaned slightly to the side so he could talk softly in Aaron’s ear. “And I bet he has the hots for you.”


“What?” Aaron shouted. “Where did you hear that?”


“I heard it through the grapevine,” Eric said with an impish grin. “Aren’t you the least bit curious about him? I mean, come on honey. A gay man nick named Jesus, a recruiter, good looking, strong, hopefully well-endowed.”


“How dare you,” Aaron said, finding that his feet were anchored to the place where he stood in the shack. He wanted to leave and face the whipping winds and stinging rain outside, but something wouldn’t let him move.


“It’s not like anything is happening at home with your white trash biker boyfriend. He’s wrestling demons. Seems like he’s always doing that while you wait on the sidelines for him to get his shit straight. Doesn’t it get tiring? Don’t you want to love someone who won’t ever turn you away?” Eric’s hand reached for Aaron’s shoulder and slowly slid down his arm. “I was that to you, had you just loved me back.” His hand left Aaron’s arm and went to his waist. “It was good between us once, even if you were just pretending.” Now Aaron felt Eric’s hand rubbing the front of his crotch. It was warm and the motion made him swell whether he wanted to or not. His hardening cock fit perfectly in Eric’s palm. As warm as it felt in the front, his back was freezing as it felt exposed to the cold raining beach. “Come on Aaron,” Eric whispered wantonly. “If you were truly happy with Daryl, you wouldn’t be dreaming about me.”


Aaron felt movement and realized it was him. He was gyrating his hips, pushing himself into Eric’s hand. “No, it’s not right.”


“Then why don’t you stop. You’re horny as shit and you’ve got no one to fuck. He’s right here beside you, and you can’t touch him,” Eric teased menacingly. “Is it because someone already used and abused him? Now not even you can get him hard and turned on. You could have had it all with me, Aaron, but you chose this instead. Go on. Try to rouse him and see what happens.”


Aaron couldn’t stop his body from moving. It was as though Eric had him spellbound. As he struggled, his vision became blurry and his brain was fuzzy. Slowly, he came out of the dream, realizing that’s all it was, and found himself spooned against Daryl’s back. He was indeed painfully hard and pushed up against Daryl’s backside. At that moment, Daryl came around from his slumber, moved a little, finding Aaron’s hardened cocked pushing against him and shot out of the bed as though Aaron was a stranger after a one night stand he didn’t remember.


The room was freezing, and Aaron’s back was exposed to the cold. He must have huddled against Daryl for warmth, and as the dream took him, he became excited. He sat up immediately. “Oh God, no. Daryl … I-I wasn’t . . .”


Daryl seemed confused and disturbed. He rushed around the room looking for his shirt and pants. “It’s fine. Eh-it’s okay. N-never mind.”


“I swear I wasn’t trying to … I was dreaming and … that sounds bad too. Daryl, please, come back. Let me–”


Daryl shook his head. “I’m up now anyway. I’ve got stuff to do today. I’ll just get an early start.” Without looking back at Aaron, Daryl left the room.


Aaron swung his legs over the edge of the bed. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, and his fingers digging into his hair. “Shit, shit, shit,” he berated himself. He knew how fragile Daryl was right now. That fucking dream got to him. He realized he was only huddled against Daryl for warmth because the sheets slipped away, exposing his back to the chill in the room. It was a natural reaction to curl into his man’s body. The dream and the actual warmth, finally snuggling against Daryl … it sparked something primal within him, and resulted with his dick poking into Daryl’s back. “He must think I’m a total asshole. Maybe I am.”


Eventually, Aaron got up and dressed. He came out of the bedroom, entered the empty living room and heard dishes moving in the kitchen. Thank goodness Daryl was still here. He took a deep breath and went to the kitchen. Daryl was finishing a glass of water, saw Aaron and immediately turned away from him.


“Daryl, I’m so sorry. I swear I wasn’t trying anything,” Aaron started.


“It’s okay. I know how the male body works. Can’t help it sometimes, especially in the morning,” Daryl returned.


“I hope you know I would never–”


“Just drop it!” Daryl said angrily. Then his shoulders hunched forward. “Don’t worry about it. I know you weren’t.”


Aaron remained silent and watched to see what Daryl would do. When he didn’t speak or move, Aaron made an offer. “Want me to make us some breakfast?”


“Naw, I’m not hungry yet.” Daryl looked towards the window over the sink. “Looks like it rained a lot. I’m going to see if we still have any leaks.”


“Okay. Well, if you change your mind,” Aaron said, but Daryl left midsentence. “Damnit,” Aaron berated himself again. He stayed in the kitchen a while, waiting to see what Daryl would do now. He heard him walking around the house, going room to room. He was in the master bedroom when he heard an angry ‘Fuck’ come from there. Aaron left the kitchen to see what the trouble was.


A few days earlier, they removed the ruined mattress from the room, and cleaned up the plaster that fell from the ceiling. Aaron looked at the floor and saw more white flakes lying about, and the rug was wet, though not as wet as it has been before Daryl repaired the roof.


“Fucking, I thought I fixed that,” Daryl said, disappointed with himself.


“I guess it was a good thing it rained. Were there any other leaks?” Aaron asked.


“No, just here. This was the worst damage. Tree branch fell and fucked it up. I’ve got more tiles. I’ll just go up and lay more down. I’ll double what I originally did. That should do it,” Daryl said.


“Need help?”


“No, I got it.” Daryl left the bedroom, again without looking at Aaron.


He heard Daryl in the garage banging things around, obviously pissed with either the roof or Aaron. What a terrible way to start the day. Aaron was still trying to figure out what had happened. It wasn’t intentional, that’s all he knew. Daryl freaked out, and now he was doing everything to avoid a conversation about it. Aaron couldn’t really blame him. It was a bit awkward. “He must think I’m a real shit,” Aaron told himself. He decided to start cleaning up the bedroom again, and picked up the fallen plaster. And what the hell was that dream about? Sexual tension had been a big part of it, but for shit’s sake, did it have to be Eric? Why was his mind conjuring up him messy past?


The bedroom was about as clean as it was going to get. Aaron found some old moving blankets and laid them down on the carpet to help soak up the water. It wasn’t the best idea, but he didn’t want to soil up towels that would take extra work to get clean again. The cabin had no power. Washing clothes had to be done by hand, and towels were an important resource. He would allow the throws to soak up water and then take them outside and hang them over the deck railing to dry before putting them back in the garage. When Aaron was done with his work, he noticed that the hammering had stopped. He waited to hear Daryl coming down the ladder, but he didn’t. He was just about to go out and check to make sure all was well, when there was a soft knock on the front door.


Caution made Aaron tense up immediately. No one came to the cabin. No one knew it was here except Aaron and Daryl. The fact that someone was knocking meant they knew there was someone inside. Aaron glanced around the cabin, temporarily forgetting where he had put his gun. He had a knife at his side, but he wanted his gun. Then he remembered it was in the drawer of a small table in the front hall. He rushed there, slid the drawer open and took his gun. The knock sounded again, this time a little louder.


“Aaron? Hey, Aaron. Are you in there?”


What the hell? It was Caleb at the door. But how the hell did he … what the hell was he doing all the way out here? Aaron kept the gun at his side and went to the door, cracking it open. Sure enough, there was Caleb, and he seemed out of breath.




“It’s me. I … I know I shouldn’t be here but–”


“How the hell did you find this place?” Aaron inquired. Caleb had only been here once, when he and Daryl first found him and rescued him from those asshole pricks. They had taken the boy back to Alexandria with them, but he had never been out here since.


“I kind of remembered the way, but it was difficult. Took me a while to find it.” As Caleb spoke, his voice seemed shaky.


Aaron still hadn’t opened the door all the way, and he spoke through the crack. “What is it? What’s wrong? Has something happened?”


“Can you let me in, a-and I’ll tell you about it? P-please?”


Something was definitely wrong. Aaron opened the door all the way to let him in. “My God, Caleb. What’s happened? Is it Alexandr–” Before he could finish the sentence, a tear fell from Caleb’s eye.


“I’m sorry, Aaron.”


“Sorry? For what?” Aaron asked, but as he did, two men emerged from the bushes.


“You did good boy. Maybe we won’t kill you,” said a man with short brown hair and a beard, wearing blue jeans and a dark green flannel shirt. He had a gun aimed at Aaron and Caleb. So did the other man. They approached. “I’m Mac and this is Cole.” Both men walked up and Mac put his gun to Aaron’s head. “I believe you’re harboring an escaped prisoner who belongs to Negan.”


Cole, a man of similar height and build to Mac, put his gun to Aaron’s head. He growled through clenched teeth. “Where’s Daryl?”

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