Safe Haven in the Chaos

BY : IdrilsSecret
Category: S through Z > The Walking Dead
Dragon prints: 3274
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 6 Fevered Dreams


The town was a small one, empty and cleaned out of anything useful. Aaron followed Caleb’s directions and they found the fire station easily. It was barricaded off by typical walker deflecting objects. Daryl and Aaron got out of the car and carefully made their way towards the fence. The place seemed deserted, but Caleb told them that the people usually stayed inside, and only a couple scouts watched the perimeter. The two of them walked along the makeshift fence looking for signs of life but it seemed there weren’t any. Daryl thought they were too late, and started to state the fact when he heard the familiar click of a gun being cocked.

“Drop your weapons,” someone called out.

“We don’t mean you any harm,” Aaron called back.

“I said drop your weapons,” the man repeated himself.

Daryl nodded at Aaron and they laid their weapons down on the street. They stood straight again, and Daryl spoke. “We’ve brought back one of your–”

“Mom!” Caleb yelled. He was supposed to stay in the car until it was safe, but he didn’t listen. “Mom!” he yelled out again.

The door to the fire house flung open and a woman stood in the threshold. She had long brown hair and pale white skin. She looked very thin and fragile, but she searched desperately for her son. “Caleb?”

“Mom!” Caleb called again and he took off at a run. He got to the edge of the perimeter and was trying to find a way around the razor wire.

“Caleb, don’t come any closer,” demanded one of the lookouts.

Caleb wasn’t listening. All he wanted was to get to his mother. His mother was telling him to stay back, too, but the boy was crying, obviously distraught and in need of a mother’s touch after all he’d been through. Caleb paced the barricade, his clothes catching on the very sharp razors.

“Caleb, stop honey. You can’t come in here. It’s not safe,” his mother warned.

“Why?” Caleb cried. “Mom, please. I need you.”

His mother broke down and started crying uncontrollably while still telling him to stay away. “You can’t come in honey. It’s not safe. We’re all sick, baby. I don’t want you to get sick too.”

“I don’t care. I need to be with you. Mom, please,” Caleb begged.

Daryl went toward Caleb to try and hold him back just in case he was going to break through the barricade. He put his arms around Caleb and told him to calm down.

Caleb was still calling out to his mother. “I’m sorry, Mom. I was only trying to help, but these men caught me, and they made me do things I didn’t want to do.”

Several more weapons clicked, ready to be fired, and a man called out. “Who the hell are you, and what did you do to the boy.”

Aaron rushed to Daryl’s side. “Whoa, whoa,” Aaron said, holding his hands in the air to show he was unarmed. “I think there’s a bit of confusion here. We didn’t do–”

“Shut up and step away from him,” one of the men demanded.

At that point, Caleb turned around and saw what was happening to Aaron and Daryl. All the men on perimeter watch had their guns trained on the pair. “Wait, no. It wasn’t them,” Caleb corrected. “They saved me. They brought me here. Please, they’re ok. They’re good.”

One of the men, a black man wearing a blue plaid shirt and khaki pants, came forward, but he stayed on the other side of the wire. “The name’s John. Who might you two be?”

“I’m Aaron, and this is Daryl. We have a camp about an hour from here. A few days ago, we were out looking for supplies when we came across these men. Said they wanted to do a trade for the stuff we needed.”

Daryl saw what Aaron was doing. He was being very careful not to mention Alexandria. By mentioning Reg’s men, he could establish some common ground with these people who had also had dealings with them.

“Yeah, I know who you’re talking about. We stopped dealing with them, though. They were up to no good.” The man, John, coughed at that point.

Daryl was very cautious. He took hold of Aaron’s arm and pulled him back a little. John watched him with a scowl on his face. “We heard some of you were sick,” Daryl called out.

“Yes, a lot more now than a few days ago,” John admitted. “How is Caleb?”

“He’s fine,” Daryl said. “Or at least he’s not sick.”

“What do you know about this?” John asked.

“A group I was with a while back started coming down with similar symptoms as the ones Caleb told us about. We lost a lot of people,” Daryl informed him.

“Looks like you survived. What did you do?” John asked.

Daryl glanced around as people started coming out of the fire house to see who the strangers were. All of them looked sickly. None of them looked like they could be saved. Even John was showing advanced signs of the virus. “I split before it got to me.”

“Huh,” John huffed cynically.

“Listen,” Daryl said. “Caleb shouldn’t come in there. He’s showing no signs, and if he was sick, we’d know by now, according to what he’s told us about the first of your people to get sick.”

“I agree,” John admitted.

“The boy just wanted to see his mother,” Daryl went on. “But we can take him with us, at least until it’s safe for him to join you all again.” But Daryl doubted that would be the case.

“No, I don’t want to leave. I just want to take care of my mom,” Caleb argued.

“Caleb, there’s nothing you can do,” his mom said when she heard him.

“I’m not leaving you again,” Caleb cried.

His mom went to John and put a hand on his shoulder. “Let me talk to him, John, please.”

John looked like he didn’t want to agree to it, but eventually he nodded in compliance. “Alright, but keep a safe distance.” The woman walked along the fencing and Caleb followed from the opposite side. She met him at a place where there was no possible way for him to get across. Daryl and Aaron watched the exchange.

“Why won’t you let me in, Mom,” Caleb asked.

“I’m sick, baby. I’m real sick. So are a lot of other people. Some of them have died. I don’t want this to happen to you too,” she told him.

“You’re not going to die, are you?”

“I hope not.” She smiled and it was obvious she wished she could touch her son. “Where were you, Caleb? Where did you go? I was so worried about you.”

“I know you told me not to, but I went back to find those men and make a trade for some medicine to make you better.”

“So it was you who took some of the guns and knives?” she asked gently.

Caleb nodded. “They wanted the shotguns, but I knew I couldn’t give them those. I thought I could convince them to take the handguns and knives. They weren’t happy with me, and they made me go with them to their camp.” Caleb paused as tears began to well up in his eyes, spilling over his lower lashes, and falling down his cheeks.

The mother was crying now, and Daryl’s heart was breaking for them both. She could tell something bad happened to her son. “Oh God, Caleb, what happened? What did they do to you?”

“I just wanted the medicine,” Caleb said, crying. “I thought, if I just did what they told me, I’d get what I went there for, and then I could make you better.”

Daryl couldn’t take it. He went over to where they were and helped with the conversation. She didn’t need to know what happened to her son. It was too late to change anything. It would just make her feel guilt. Daryl clasped a hand to Caleb’s shoulder. “Your son is very brave, ma’am. If it wasn’t for him, I’m not sure what would have happened back there. My friend and I were captured too, and Caleb helped free us.” The last thing she needed to hear was that her son had been raped.

She smiled. “That’s my boy, brave just like his daddy was.”

Caleb turned to Daryl, hope dancing in his eyes. “Can she some with us?”

“Caleb,” his mom said first. “I can’t leave here. I’m sick.”

“But Daryl said if you could make it to his camp, then he might could cure you,” Caleb said. This sparked the attention of a few people standing close enough to hear the conversation.

“Do you have medicine?” his mom asked desperately.

Aaron glanced at Daryl. They hadn’t wanted anyone to know about this. It could cause trouble. Aaron took over. “What we have isn’t enough for everyone here.”

“But you have enough for my mom, don’t you?” Caleb asked desperately.

“Hey!” one of the residents shouted. “Why should she get it and not the rest of us?”

Daryl was instantly on his guard. This was about to explode into something unpleasant. He took a step backwards towards the place where he laid his bow. Aaron was still trying to explain. Caleb was still campaigning for his mom, and the crowd was beginning to gather at the gate, if you could call it that. The firehouse was surrounded by razor wire and other pointy objects, but where the people entered and exited was just a couple sawhorses with guards on either side. Daryl made a quick evaluation of all the people he saw. None of them looked unaffected by the virus. Most had dried blood around their noses and mouths. Whatever medicine they had back in the town was not what was needed to cure the disease, not at the stage it was at.

“Caleb, listen to me,” his mom was saying. “You have a chance, sweetie. Stay with these men. They’ll take care of you.”

“No, Mom, I don’t want to go without you,” Caleb begged.

“It’s too late for me, but you’re not sick, and if you come in here, you will be.”

A couple residents were still making a scene about medicine and Caleb’s mom. She turned to them and told them she was not going, but the mob mentality was already firing up.

“Aaron,” Daryl called. “I think we need to get going.”

Aaron put a hand on Caleb’s shoulder. “Listen to you mom. She only wants what’s best for you. We have to go, Caleb. We’re out of time.”

Daryl stood with his bow and Aaron’s gun at his feet, but he wasn’t picking them up yet. As soon as he did, all hell would break loose, and they didn’t have Caleb yet. “Aaron, let’s go man.”

“Just a second,” Aaron called back, still trying to convince Caleb.

Daryl heard a scuffle at the gate and looked to see a rush of people pushing the two guards out of the way. There were too many of them. They couldn’t be contained.

Aaron looked over and saw the same thing. Now he grabbed Caleb by the arm and started pulling him away from the fence. His mom was begging him to go with Aaron, crying as she did. Caleb was sobbing heavily and reaching for his mom. Daryl bent down to pick up their weapons, but as he stood up, a woman was grabbing him, pulling on his vest.

“Give me that medicine,” she was demanding like a crazy person.

Daryl was trying to push her away, but he couldn’t help the thought that crossed his mind, to shoot her if she threatened his life. “I don’t have it. Get off me, lady.”

“Give it to me. Give it to me now,” she started yelling. Then she burst into a coughing fit and sprayed blood onto Daryl.

Instinct told him to push her away. He did, and she landed on the ground in a heap, coughing and throwing up blood on the street. Daryl was in shock as he looked down at himself. Blood was spattered all over the front of his shirt and vest. He lifted a hand and wiped his face. Blood was smeared on the back of his hand. Panic set in. He knew he’d been exposed.

Just then, Aaron ran up to him, and the fear in his eyes confirmed Daryl’s suspicions. “Oh shit, Daryl,” Aaron said.

“Get in the car!” Daryl demanded, tossing Aaron the keys. “You drive.”

Aaron pulled Caleb along and forced him into the front seat. Daryl jumped in the back, and Aaron got in just in time. An angry mob of people were starting to pound on the windows. It was complete chaos. Why did he ever agree to this, Daryl thought to himself. There was a blanket in the back, and he wrapped it around his body, trying to contain the blood splatter to just himself. Lastly, he covered his mouth with a corner of the blanket. Aaron floored the gas pedal, and as the car sped off, people fell away. Daryl looked out the back window. Some of the people were still running after their car. Others just stood there in shock. And then he saw Caleb’s mom, covering her face with her hands, crying as she watched the last of her family disappear. They were already dead, Daryl told himself. There was no saving any of them. Besides, they couldn’t risk bringing that many diseased people to Alexandria, even if they had the cure. But as much as he tried to convince himself they were doing the right thing, he couldn’t shake the feeling that they were helping these people to their graves. They wouldn’t have graves, though. In a few day’s time, they’d be up and walking again. Just more walkers to have to take down later on.

* * * * *

No one spoke the entire way back to the cabin. Aaron kept looking at Daryl in the rearview mirror, panic set in his eyes. Daryl stopped looking back miles ago. He didn’t want anyone’s pity. He didn’t want anyone to know he was scared shitless, either.

They pulled up to the cabin, and Daryl jumped out of the car, still wrapped in the blanket. Aaron started to approach him, but Daryl put up a hand. “Stay away.”

“Maybe it didn’t get in your system yet. Maybe if you just wash up and–”

“A guy in our group had the same thing happen to him. He was dead in less than a week,” Daryl told him.

“We need to get back to town,” Aaron said urgently.

“Yeah, there’s only one problem,” Daryl said. “The car’s almost out of gas. I noticed the gage on our way to the fire station. All our extra trips has cost us.”

Aaron went back and looked. “Shit,” he whispered.

“Listen, get Caleb in the house. Get him settled. Don’t let him out of your sight in case he tries to run away or something,” Daryl suggested.

“What about you?” Aaron asked.

“I have to stay as far from you all as I can. It’s bad enough I was in the car with you.”

“You can’t stay outside.”

“I’m not,” Daryl said, looking towards the boathouse.

Aaron sighed. “This is screwed up. It wasn’t supposed to go down this way.”

“Yeah, and people weren’t supposed to walk around after they died either, but it happened. I’ve gotten through a lot of shit. I’ll get through this too. So get inside and get settled. Tomorrow morning, take my bike and go find some gas for the car.”

“Or you could just jump on your bike and head for town now. I’ll come along when I can,” Aaron suggested.

“We all go together. I’m not leaving you out here alone.”

Aaron was reluctant to the plan, but Daryl was more stubborn. Still, the worry in Aaron’s eyes didn’t help put him at ease. Aaron took Caleb inside, and Daryl made his way to the boathouse. He didn’t go in the boat, where the remains of the previous owner were shut inside. Instead, he found a bucket, filled it with lake water and washed off. Then he removed his vest and shirt, wringing them out in a bucket of fresh water. When he had his clothes spread out to dry, Daryl closed himself in the boat house. Now all he could do was wait, and hope they got back to town soon.

A while later, there was a knock at the door. Daryl opened his eyes and saw Aaron standing outside. “You can’t be here,” he said.

“I know, but I thought you needed these.” Under his arm, he held a pillow and blanket. In the other hand, Aaron held up half a bottle of whiskey from the other night. He sat it all by the door and stepped back. Daryl cracked the door open and took the bottle, pillow and blanket.

“Thanks,” he said. “How’s Caleb?”

“Cried himself to sleep. Poor kid. He’s been through so much these last few days.”

“He’s young. He’ll survive,” Daryl said, taking a swig from the bottle.

“You’re going to be ok,” Aaron stated. “We’re going to get you back to town, get you treatment, and get you well before you show any signs of being sick.”

“If they have the right medicine,” Daryl mentioned sounding skeptical. “You and Caleb will need to be quarantined too, but if there’s only enough medicine for the two of you–”

“You are going to get it first. Listen, Caleb is showing no signs, and I’m fairly sure I’m ok too. Odds are, we weren’t exposed. If anyone needs treatment, it’s you,” Aaron demanded. “You have to get better, Daryl. You just do, ok? B-because I … I need you to.”

Daryl sat with his back leaning against the door. He knew Aaron was sitting the same way on the opposite side as they talked. Maybe it was because they weren’t face to face, or because there was a chance Daryl wouldn’t make it through this time, but he was able to speak openly and honestly now. “Why, Aaron? Why me? What is it you see in me?”

“You’re different from anyone I’ve ever met, and I think that makes you like me. Don’t you feel it? We share something, some kind of connection. We have from the moment we first met,” Aaron confessed.

He didn’t answer at first, afraid to admit it, but finally he did. “I felt it,” Daryl whispered. “And it scared the hell out of me.” He drank deep again, the sloshing of the whiskey the only sound.

Aaron huffed a laugh. “The only thing I was scared of was you shooting me. Remember?”

Daryl laughed too. “I remember. Hunting rabbits, you said. You were following me, plain and simple. You never fessed up to it either.”

“Alright fine,” Aaron admitted. “Yes, I was following you. Deanna asked me to keep an eye on you. You’re the only one she couldn’t really read, not like the rest. I told her I’d figure you out.”

“Got more than you bargained for,” Daryl said.

“I think I found just what I’ve been looking for.” Aaron was quiet and so was Daryl. It was hard work, opening up and expressing their feelings. Daryl still felt the need to keep closed off to a point, but Aaron was good at getting him to feel, and that’s something no one had ever done to him before.

“You don’t want me,” Daryl said somberly. “I’m damaged.”

“Maybe you were at one time. Maybe you were going to be if the world hadn’t been flipped upside down. Did you ever think of what your life would be like if none of this ever happened? So, ok, for a lot of people it didn’t turn out well when everything changed. They’re lives were good, and now they’re roamers. Where do you think you’d be today if the apocalypse never happened? You told me a little about your family and where you came from, so here’s what I think. You’d be in and out of jail. You’d be smuggling illegal goods, running the family business, living the kind of life you never wanted but were born into, and doing it because you could never be yourself. You never would have met all the people you’ve met, befriending some who you never would have been friends with in your past life. We definitely would never have met.”

Daryl laughed. “That’s the truest statement of the year.”

“Here’s how I see it. People are like dice sitting on a flat surface, square, always staying on one side, forced to sit with the dice we were placed next to. And then Mother Nature threw us all into a cup, shook it, and spilled us out again. A lot of us landed on a different side of ourselves. Most of us came to rest next to someone we’d never met before. Granted, some landed on the same side. There are those who will never change.”

“Yeah, my brother was one of those,” Daryl said. “So what’s your point?”

“We all got shuffled and ended up somewhere different. When we tumbled out of the cup, we ended up near each other, putting us on our new path. We landed on a different side, and became different people. I think it was for the best for both of us, and I like where I landed.”

“You’ve got an odd way of looking at things, but I get it, and you’re probably right. My future was looking kind of bleak before the outbreak. And I have been able to be a better person, to become friends with people I never would have been allowed to speak to before … because of my family, and their screwed up views.”

“So don’t be afraid to explore new and different avenues. Don’t let the ghosts of your past dictate your future. You don’t have to be that person anymore. Embrace your new side because it’s not damaged,” Aaron advised.

“And how should I do that?” Daryl was curious to know what Aaron thought.

“Well, for one, when all this is over … when we’re all cleared of this virus, you could … y-you could move back into the house … with me.”

“Oh,” Daryl said, surprised by the offer. “Yeah, that’s one way, I guess, but what about Eric?”

“Eric’s made his choice. He gave me an ultimatum. I chose to do my job, and he chose to move out.”

“And so just like that, after two years, it’s over? Nothing is ever that simple, Aaron.”

“And no one forces me into a corner,” Aaron countered. “Do you know why Eric didn’t want me going on runs with you? He didn’t think you cared what would happen to me. He thought that if things went bad, you’d leave me behind just so you could get away.”

“I could have. You didn’t know me from a hole in the ground. I didn’t know you either,” Daryl countered to make a point, but Aaron wasn’t through.

“Remember what I told you that day you caught me following you in the woods? I said you knew the difference between a good person and a bad one, and I knew you’d never leave a good person behind, because you haven’t met many good people in your life. Someone who is damaged, as you claim to be, can’t make that judgement. You’re not damaged, Daryl, not in my eyes. You have scars, but who doesn’t? You just need someone who can look past the scars and still see the beautiful person you are.”

What could he say? Daryl never had anyone read him in this way. He’d been called a lot of things throughout his life, but beautiful definitely wasn’t one of them. It got uncomfortably silent, and then Daryl heard a rustle outside the door.

“Well, I better get back to the house. I’ll head out at first light, take Caleb with me, and hope to be on the road by midday,” Aaron announced. “Try to get some sleep.”

“Yeah, I will. And hey, thanks man.”


* * * * *

Just as he said, Aaron was gone by sunrise, but not before setting some food by the boathouse door. Daryl ate, but he could feel the back of his throat getting scratchy. The first signs of the illness were showing. Next would be a runny nose and a cough. Then chills and fever escalating to nose bleeds and coughing up blood. Hopefully it wouldn’t get that far.

To keep his mind of the bad stuff, Daryl considered Aaron’s words of advice. How was it that someone like Aaron could see so deep into Daryl’s soul, see the things that he’d hid from his whole life, pull them to the surface, stick them in front of him and say, look, this is the real you. Be this person for this is who you’re meant to be. It was almost frightening to have someone see his secrets. It was terrifying to have someone say, I like you this way. But it was paralyzing to have someone tell him they wanted to be with him. Aaron wanted him to live in the same house. Daryl wasn’t sure he could do that. He wasn’t sure he wanted to. They could live as roommates, of course, but Aaron had made his feelings pretty clear. He was looking for something more, and Daryl wasn’t sure he was capable of that. Yes, he’d felt urges, especially that night they all stayed in his room. He’d held Aaron’s hand, simple enough, but still a very personal and submissive gesture. He’d be lying if he said he’d never thought about kissing him, but usually, those thoughts were sent away quickly, driven off by the sound of a leaky faucet. Daryl was afraid to admit that the sound he heard was beginning to fade. It was still there, just not as loud. But to move in with Aaron would mean that eventually he would want to move another rung up the ladder. Daryl had never been in any kind of relationship. He didn’t know the first thing about it. This was too much to think about, he finally told himself. Better to just concentrate on one thing at a time, and right now it was to get him back to Alexandria and get medicine.

Like clockwork, Aaron came back, driving Daryl’s bike, but he was not alone. He was followed by Caleb, who was driving a box van, a very familiar one too. They must have gone back to Reg’s camp and taken the van. That was smart thinking. It had been loaded with all kinds of supplies.

“Did you run into any trouble?” Daryl asked from the window of the boathouse.

“There were a few roamers, but nothing we couldn’t handle,” Aaron smiled, proud of his find. “And by some miracle, the tank is just about full. There’s plenty to get us back to Alexandria and then some. I know how worried you are about spreading this, so I thought you could ride in the back. We’ll make room and stick your bike back there too. Caleb can ride in the cab with me.”

“Good idea,” Daryl said, and then a cough hit his throat.

“It’s already starting, isn’t it?” Aaron said with concern.

“Started last night,” Daryl informed him.

“No time to waste, then. Let me grab a few things from the house. We’ll get your bike in the truck, and we’ll be home in no time.”

* * * * *

The ride back to Alexandria was uneventful, and they were there in just a couple hours. They stopped just outside the gate, and Aaron opened the back of the truck. Daryl closed his eyes to the blinding light. It was very dark in the van, and he felt like a vampire burning in the sun. Amongst the supplies were some towels. Daryl took one and covered his mouth with it, just to make sure he wasn’t spreading any germs. From what he knew of this disease, it was spread through body fluids like saliva or blood. He had to be extremely careful. Something like this could move like wildfire.

“I’ll wait out here,” Daryl told Aaron. “You go in, explain our situation, and see what they want to do. Make sure Maggie knows. Her father was a doctor. He cured a lot of the patients from the jail. She helped him, and she’ll remember whatever was in that concoction of meds they gave them.”

Aaron nodded and ran in to get help. Caleb stayed with Daryl. He looked scared as he stared at the tall metal walls that surrounded the city. “I ain’t never seen a place like this before. How did you find it?”

“We didn’t. They found us,” Daryl told him, remembering Aaron coming to the barn that the group had been staying in. He remembered his first impression of him, some nerdy guy with a backpack full of applesauce. He couldn’t stop talking, making stupid jokes and getting the group scared instead of putting them at ease. Like some kind of savior, he came in with pictures of the town and promises of a safe haven in the chaos. Nobody believed him, Rick most of all. Earned him a right hook in the jaw, knocking Aaron unconscious.

That was the same night that Eric got hurt, when Aaron decided he didn’t want him going on runs anymore. Daryl had almost forgot, but he was standing by the door where Eric was laid up, ankle wrapped in a cloth when Aaron pushed past him to get to his partner. He watched uncomfortably as they kissed feeling as though he was infringing upon their privacy. Aaron had been so worried and scared for Eric. And Eric, even though he’d come close to being zombie food, was still smiling and making lighthearted conversation. Perhaps Eric wasn’t as weak as Aaron made him out to be. At least he knew enough not to appear upset in front of Aaron. Daryl also remembered hearing Eric tell Aaron he loved him, and noticed even more that Aaron said nothing back. He just smiled at him. It didn’t mean anything to Daryl at the time, but now that Aaron had confessed his true feelings, it stuck out in Daryl’s mind. Aaron cared for Eric, worried for him, wanted to protect him, but he didn’t love him. Still . . .

“They’re making a place for you to go to,” Aaron said, coming around to the back of the truck. He was short of breath, must have ran back to the gate with his information. “They are going to quarantine you to a vacant house in one of the back lots. They’re stocking it for you as we speak.”

“What about Maggie? Did you find her?” Daryl inquired.

“Yeah, she’s already putting medicine together. It’s not what they had at the jail, but she thinks it will still work. It just might take a little longer. The fact that we got you here in the early stages will work to your advantage.” Aaron smiled and looked as though he wished he could touch Daryl. “You’re going to be alright.”

“What about you and Caleb?” Daryl wondered.

“They’re going to put us up in another house, start some meds, keep an eye on us, but Maggie doesn’t think we’re contagious. Looks like Caleb got away from his group before it spread to too many people. You were right. If he was sick, he would have shown signs by now. But they just want to be on the safe side.” Aaron looked to the ground, shifting from one foot to the other. “I won’t see you for a couple days. I have to stay in the house until they’re sure, you know.”

“Well, I won’t be going anywhere,” Daryl joked in his monotone voice.

Aaron looked up at Daryl through his lashes, the slightest curve of a smile on his lips. “No, you’re not going anywhere. Nowhere at all.”

The sound of people rushing up the road broke their private moment, and Daryl looked up to see all his people stopping at the open gate. Rick was first amongst them, Michonne and Carol next to him, followed by the rest of his crew. They all looked extremely worried. Most of them were at the jail when the outbreak occurred. They knew how dangerous and deadly a thing it was. They knew to keep their distance too.

“How’d it happen?” Rick asked.

“We found a survivor, Caleb. He came from a town where his people were living in an abandoned fire station. He left just as the virus was getting started. Aaron and I went to see if there was anything we could do, but they were all too far gone by then. Caleb’s mom was among them. He mentioned medicine to her, some of the other people overheard and things got ugly. I was trying to get us out of there before we got rushed by a mob. One of them grabbed me, begging me to help her. She was coughing up blood, it got on me, and here I am.”

“Damn it, Daryl,” Rick berated.

Aaron stepped forward immediately. “Daryl was just doing his job, looking for survivors. He wasn’t about to leave without knowing whether or not any of them could be saved.”

The whole group looked at Aaron cautiously as he came to Daryl’s defense so quickly. Carol was the first one to look back at Daryl, eyebrow raised questioningly. Daryl shrugged his shoulders. “It was a rough time out there. A lot of crap went down. I’ll fill you all in later.”

Everyone had questions, and Daryl answered them as best he could. He told them about Reg and his men, about their camp and the truck full of supplies. He told them about getting captured, and that Caleb had been raped without going into detail. He needed to tell Maggie, though, and have her see what she could do about having the boy start seeing the shrink in town. The one thing he didn’t tell them about was the cabin by the lake. There was something sacred about that place, something he and Aaron shared that he didn’t what anyone else to know. Aaron was smart enough to notice he didn’t speak of it, and Daryl was confident he wouldn’t tell anyone.

Eventually, Maggie came with Deanna. To his surprise, both women were dressed in hazmat suits. Suddenly, Daryl felt very self-conscious. He was a walking Petri dish of death, basically. He smiled, eyes narrowed and looking out from behind his long hair. “That’s a new look for you,” he said to Maggie.

She smiled through the plastic window over her face. “I thought it was a good outfit for the occasion.”

“When the outbreak happened,” Deanna explained, “some people took extra precautions. I found these in a doctor’s house. Never needed them until now.”

“Well, leave it to Daryl to find the mud and roll in it,” Carol said. She smiled at Daryl, but the concern in her eyes couldn’t be dismissed.

“Let’s get you settled first, and then we’ll take care of Aaron and Caleb,” Maggie said.

Everyone backed away from the gate, giving Daryl a wide berth as he entered the town. Maggie and Deanna walked on either side of him as they escorted him down the streets to the house set up for his quarantine. Maggie asked him all kinds of questions about his health and any signs he might be showing. So far it was just a sore throat and a cough, but he could feel a fever coming on. On the way there, Daryl told Maggie about Caleb, and she assured him help would be swift. He asked about Aaron and what they would do for him and Caleb. She told him what procedure they had planned, but that she was fairly certain they were alright. Still, a dose of medicine and a brief stay in quarantine was needed. It would be a few days before he’d see either one of them.

The house they arrived at was a small one story, something meant for a retired couple. Daryl laughed to himself when he noticed the white picket fence. One way or another he was going to end up in a place like this. Some might think of it as heaven, but to Daryl it was some kind of suburbia hell. It didn’t matter, it was temporary anyways.

Inside it was cozy with a living room, a kitchen and a hall that led to a bathroom and a bedroom. That was basically it, unusually small for the neighborhood, considering all the rest of the houses were some kind of mini mansions.

“You’ve got everything you need, food, toiletry items, clothes,” Maggie said.

“How about booze?” Daryl asked, but he already knew the answer.

“Not with the medication. I’m going to give you your first dose now. Unfortunately, your symptoms will get worse before they get better, but this should help keep the virus from escalating to an irreversible level. If you need anything, you have a walkie talkie here. You can reach me anytime with it, ok?”

“I got it. I’ll be fine, Maggie. Now go look after Aaron and Caleb while I get comfortable here,” he suggested.

“You look tired,” Deanna stated.

“Yeah, I’m going to lie down for a while,” Daryl said. He started to go down the hall but stopped. “Can I have visitors? I mean, through the door or something?”

“There’s a storm door on this house. Just keep the glass closed, and you should be able to communicate through it,” Maggie told him.

“Better than nothing,” he grumbled. He went into the bedroom, finding the bed already turned down. “What? No mint on my pillow?” he jested.

“I’ve never heard you joke around so much,” Maggie commented. “You should get sick for often.”

“I get like this when I’m nervous. Are you sure this is going to work?” he asked, taking on a more serious tone.

“You’re going to be fine, Daryl. I promise,” Maggie comforted.

“You shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep, but I believe you.”

Maggie injected Daryl with a concoction of medicine after he laid down on the bed. She finished up her instructions, and reminded him to use the walkie talkie if he needed it. Daryl’s eyelids started getting heavy, and he was asleep before the women left the house.

When he woke up some time later, it was dark. He was confused and out of sorts at first, forgetting where he was. Then the chill hit him. He was running a fever and he couldn’t stop shivering. He looked at the clock. It was late into the night. Daryl didn’t want to wake Maggie just to tell her he had a fever. It was to be expected, and there was nothing she could do about it. The virus needed to take its course. He got up, used the bathroom, went to the kitchen for a glass of water, and made it back to the bedroom. Just that little bit of work wore him out, and he climbed back under the covers, pulling them up to his chin. His skin was hot, but he shivered with cold. Now all he could hope for was the fever to break.

Daryl went back to sleep, hoping the medicine would kick in soon. Not long after, he started dreaming. He was in Aaron’s house, looking through every room, clearing them like he did whenever he entered a new place. There were no walkers. “All clear,” he called out. Aaron and Eric came in through the front door, looking relieved to know their house was safe.

“I’ll make us some tea,” Eric smiled charmingly to Aaron. “I love you.”

Aaron smiled, but said nothing in return. He just watched Eric disappear into the kitchen. When they were alone, Aaron came to him and stood before him. He stared at Daryl with sultry eyes dancing with desire. “I know you want me, Daryl. You’ve wanted me for a long time.”

“No, it’s not like that,” Daryl rejected.

“You have to stop lying to yourself. You have to learn to give in to your need. Quit denying yourself the ability to know a touch … a kiss. Let me show you what it could be like.” Aaron leaned into Daryl, their lips only a hair’s width away. “Tell me you’ve wanted to know what this would feel like. Be honest, Daryl. That’s all I’ve ever wanted from you is your honesty.”

Daryl could feel his warm breath against his skin. “Alright, yes. Yes I have wanted to know.”

Aaron smiled, his eyes falling on Daryl’s lips. “Good. Now let me show you what you’ve been missing all these years.” Aaron’s mouth covered Daryl’s, lips gliding, pushing against each other, tongues touching, caressing. It felt good. It felt right, and Daryl wished it would never end.

“Fags,” he heard his father’s voice say through the veil of time. “It’s not natural for men to want other men. It’s disgusting, a sin, an abomination on this earth.”

Daryl pulled away from Aaron to look for his father, but he found Eric instead. He was standing in the doorway of the kitchen, leaning against it with one shoulder, arms crossed, gazing at the kissing couple.

Aaron’s hand cupped Daryl’s face, bringing his attention back. “Look at me, Daryl. Do I seem like a freak to you?”

Daryl shook his head. “No.” He was confused as to why Aaron wasn’t worried about Eric.

“Do you still want me?” Aaron asked, ignoring the fact that Eric saw them. “Be honest.”

“Yes,” Daryl answered without hesitation, a wavering to his voice.

Aaron took his hand. “Then let me show you. Let me be your teacher.”

“I-I’m scared,” Daryl admitted.

“I won’t hurt you. I just want to show you what it’s like to give in. It’s the only way you’ll know.”

“Know what?” Daryl asked.

Eric was still watching, smiling. “I love you, Aaron,” he called, as though Daryl wasn’t even there.

Aaron’s attention never left Daryl. “I never loved him, you know.”

“Then why are you with him?”

“Because a man gets lonely, even a gay man,” Aaron answered. “But I was really waiting for you.”

Daryl heard some kind of distant chanting. It sounded like someone speaking underwater. “Do you hear that?” he asked, looking around the room. Everything looked distorted, but everything was changing. He was no longer in his quarantine house. “Where are we?”

“I know you want it, Daryl. You can’t deny me,” Aaron said. He started kissing the side of Daryl’s neck, and Daryl was giving into his seductive ministrations. He felt himself twitch and come to life, swelling painfully as Aaron ran his tongue up his neck.

“What’s this?” Aaron asked playfully, pushing Daryl against a wall, covering him with his body, gyrating, and making Daryl respond. “You’ve kept all this tension closed off for too long. You’re about to burst, aren’t you?” As Aaron spoke, his face blurred and his voice got deeper.

“Aaron?” he asked, suddenly panicked. “What’s happening?”

The chanting started to come in clearer, and Daryl recognized the voices. It was his father and Merle. They were repeating one word over and over, and Daryl suddenly felt exposed. “Fag,” they sang, their voices getting louder and angrier.

“Don’t listen to them,” Aaron said, his face still not clear. “They can never know about us. You know what your father will do. This has to be our secret.”

In the blink of an eye, Daryl was lying face down on his bed. Someone had him pinned down, their knees holding his legs spread apart. He was naked and scared, his heart pumping, and all the while he could hear the chant.

“Aaron, please. Don’t do this. You aren’t like this. Please. Let me go, Aaron,” Daryl begged.

“Who the hell is Aaron?” said the nightmarish voice.

Daryl struggled to look over his shoulder and confirm his suspicions. He was right. It wasn’t Aaron. It was Jay. Daryl looked around the room, and it was no longer his bedroom in Alexandria. It was Jay’s garage, and Daryl was on the filthy mattress being held against his will. The chanting melded into the sound of the leaky faucet, water dripping onto the stainless steel sink, the place where he’d just been, where he’d let Jay complete him, where he moaned in pleasure as this man he trusted stroked him into nirvana.

“Let me go, Jay,” Daryl begged, his voice young and cracking, like that of a boy going through puberty. “I’m scared. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

“You’re a fucking tease, you know that?” Jay said angrily. He covered Daryl with his body, forced his legs apart and started lowering himself onto Daryl’s back. “You’ll do this, and you’re going to keep your mouth shut, boy.”

Wait, Daryl thought to himself. I’m not a boy. What the hell was he talking about? Daryl was a long way from being a boy. He’d killed people. He’d killed walkers. He’d been out in the middle of this apocalyptic world and survived on nothing more than his own will to live. He didn’t have to give in to Jay. He was a grown man, probably stronger than his attacker. Daryl felt his confidence build with every breath. “I said let me go, asshole,” he demanded.

“Get off of him!” Aaron shouted from somewhere in the garage.

Jay was distracted by Aaron, giving Daryl just the chance he needed to overtake Jay. He flipped over, sending Jay rolling off the dirty mattress. Aaron stood over the man, aiming his gun at Jay’s head. “You will never hurt him again,” he said slow and deliberately so Jay understood every word. The gun clicked. Daryl closed his eyes. It fired, and Jay dropped dead on the floor. When Daryl opened his eyes, Aaron was standing there, blood splattered on his shirt and face. He still held his gun pointed at Jay.

“He’s dead,” Daryl assessed. “You shot him. He’s finally dead.” Daryl stood from the mattress and watched Aaron’s shocked face. The gun slipped from his hand and tears formed in his eyes.

“Was I supposed to do that?” Aaron asked.

“Someone had to,” Daryl said. “You saved me. I never realized it, but you’ve been saving me ever since we met.”

Aaron turned to the sink. The water still dripped annoyingly. “It’s your turn,” he said to Daryl. “Turn it off.”

Daryl went to the sink and tightened the handle. The water dripped less and less until one final drop clung to the edge of the faucet. It never fell, it just stayed there, frozen in time. “It’s done. It’s finally over,” Daryl said.

“Come here,” Aaron called to him with open arms.

Daryl gave in to his emotions, letting everything wash over him. He was tired of being someone he was not. He just wanted to be himself for a change. He went to Aaron and let himself envelope into the warm embrace. Aaron pulled back and looked Daryl deep in his eyes. He smiled and leaned forward. They kissed, and Daryl’s hands traveled around to the back of Aaron’s neck. They went lower, fingers grabbing at Aaron’s back, taking the material of his shirt into his fingers, grasping him tight, and pulling him against his body. But something was strange. Aaron’s shirt fell away in his hands. His skin slipped from his bones. It was wet and sticky, the sweet pungent scent of death assaulting his nostrils. Daryl pulled back, and he was no longer holding Aaron in his arms. It was a walker, but not just any walker. It was what was left of Jay.

“Miss me?” he gurgled in the sound of a walker.

Daryl tried to push him off, but his skin ripped from his body. He was slippery with decay. The more Daryl struggled, the harder it was to get Jay off. He pushed at his face, and the skin came away revealing nothing but his skull, maggots filling his eye sockets, spilling out onto Daryl’s hands. He couldn’t escape, not this time.

“Get off me,” Daryl screamed. “Go away. Leave me alone. I hate you. I hate you!”

“Daryl! Daryl, stop!” someone said from beyond the room, from beyond the dream.

The last thing Daryl saw was undead Jay about to rip his teeth into his neck. He felt it, he smelled it, it was so real. “No! No!” Daryl repeated, struggling against a pair of gloved hands.

“Daryl, wake up. Wake up!”

He awoke drenched in sweat. His pillow was soaked. The bed sheets were twisted around his legs. He was holding someone’s arms tight in his grasp. Daryl couldn’t catch his breath. His lungs ached and he started coughing.

“Maggie, it’s happening again!” It was Aaron’s voice, and he sounded scared.

Daryl looked up to see Aaron dressed in a protective suit, calling for Maggie. “Aaron?” he questioned anyways between coughing fits. By instinct, he pulled the edge of the sheet up and covered his mouth. When he took it away, there were small splatters of blood. “Oh shit,” he whispered. He looked up at Aaron’s worried face protected by the hazmat suit. “I’m still sick. It’s gotten worse.”

Aaron looked up, and instantly, relief changed his countenance. “Oh thank God. Hurry.”

Daryl didn’t see who Aaron was talking to, but he felt a sharp prick on his arm. “What’s going on?” he asked, and instantly felt dizzy.

“Just try to relax. Everything’s going to be just fine,” Aaron smiled. That was the last thing Daryl saw before everything went black and he passed out.

You need to be logged in to leave a review for this story.
Report Story