Safe Haven in the Chaos

BY : IdrilsSecret
Category: S through Z > The Walking Dead
Dragon prints: 3986
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 9 It Was Good Until It Wasn’t


Aaron’s head was reeling. What the hell had just happened? One minute, he was anxiously waiting for Daryl to come over. The next thing he knows, Eric is at his door, begging him to come back. And out of nowhere, Eric grabs him and kisses him. Paralyzed with shock, Aaron couldn’t move fast enough to push him away, and suddenly there was Daryl playing witness to the whole thing, or at least the kiss. How could everything go so wrong this quickly?

What hurt the most was the hate and rage that instantly filled Daryl’s dark eyes and his murderous stare. Aaron tried to explain, but Daryl wouldn’t have any of it. His mind was already set, and he’d seen Aaron as a traitor. When Daryl walked away, Aaron went after him, only to find himself being threatened. For a moment he was sure Daryl was going to beat the shit out of him, but something stayed the man’s fist from bloodying his face. At that point, Aaron felt like it was justice due if Daryl laid him out. Instead, Daryl pushed him, and for the first time, Aaron felt his true power. Daryl was like a storm brewing, his push like a gust of wind, and his punch would have been like a lightning strike. Aaron was lucky. He also wasn’t stupid, and knew better than to keep following Daryl. Instead, he let him go. There’d be time to talk after he cooled down a bit. Right now, something Daryl said to Eric was bothering him. Aaron marched back up the porch steps and confronted Eric.

“What is he talking about?” Aaron asked.

“What?” Eric said innocently.

“He said you came to him about something. Did you tell Daryl to leave me alone? Is that why he quit the recruiter position? What the hell did you say to him?” Aaron demanded.

“I might have mentioned something,” Eric said, still trying to avoid a fight, but Aaron raised his fist. “Alright, alright. I asked him to step away. I told him it wasn’t fair to you that he should keep you hanging by a thread waiting for him to decide. I told him that if he didn’t have feelings for you, or if he didn’t swing that way to begin with, he should let you go, because … because I wanted you back in my life. As long as you were pining over Daryl, I knew you’d never give me a second glance.”

Aaron looked at Eric with disbelief, his brows furrowing together as it all started to make sense. “What the fuck, Eric? Why would you play him like that?”

“I love you, Aaron. I just want us to get back to the way things used to be.”

Aaron ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. “The way things used to be was an illusion. It’s my fault. I should have said this earlier, but … I was lost. I was desperate. I came to Alexandria, and there you were, someone like me, a gay man just as lonely and desperate as I was. I thought I could learn to love you the way you loved me, but instead I became your keeper, your guardian. I protected you, fought for you, tried to turn you into someone you’re not. I tried to train you to become a fighter, started taking you with me on runs. It worked for a while. We made a good team, but when you got hurt, I realized how very dangerous it was for you. It just isn’t in you to be like me, and it was wrong of me to try to make you like that.”

“But Daryl’s like that, isn’t he?” Eric asked with venom tinging his words.

 There was no use denying any of it. The only way to make Eric face the truth was to tell him everything. “Daryl came along, and … I don’t know … we just clicked. He was like me, a warrior, probably even more so. He’d been out there longer than me, seen more shit than me, experienced more.” Aaron hung his head, unable to look at Eric as he continued. “I’m sorry, Eric, but it’s Daryl I want to be with.” Aaron looked down the street, but it was empty now. Daryl was gone, and Aaron might have ruined any chance of being with him now.

“Why?” Eric seethed. “Why did you lead me on like this? You said you wanted to be friends again.”

“And I did. I do.”

“But you took me to Deanna’s dinner socials and Julie’s birthday party. We went for walks, and sometimes we’d stay up all night just talking. I thought we were getting back together.”

“We were doing things that friends do together, nothing more,” Aaron said.

Eric turned from him, and Aaron could see his shoulders heaving. “For two years I thought you loved me, and I put everything I had into our relationship. Now you’re telling me it was all a lie, and you’d rather run after some screwed up redneck who may or may not be like us. You’re willing to toss away the two years we had together for someone who might never be able to return the same feelings. I tell you that I love you, and that I want to be with you, but some dirty trailer trash douchebag who was ready to beat the shit out of you means more to you than all of the love I’ve shown you.”

Aaron didn’t like him talking about Daryl like that, but he understood his anger, and didn’t say anything. Instead, Aaron put a hand on Eric’s shoulder. “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have led you so far into believing what we had was nothing less than perfect. I thought that over time my heart would change. Every day I wished for that. I care about you, Eric. Why do you think I told you I didn’t want you going out on runs with me anymore? I feared for your safety. It would have killed me if anything ever happened to you. I couldn’t stand it when you got hurt that last time. It was too close. I thought I failed you. But even after all of that, my heart … it just … I can’t … and I’ve tried and I’m so sorry. I … I-I don’t love you in that way.”

Eric jerked his shoulder away from Aaron’s touch. “I can’t be here right now. I have to go.” He left without looking back, leaving Aaron alone on the porch. Within just a matter of minutes, Aaron lost the two people who meant the most to him. How did things get so screwed up so fast?

Just then, the lights went out. Eleven o’clock, Aaron thought to himself. He went inside and sat in the dark with his head in his hands. All he could think of was Daryl’s rage filled face, and all he could hear was the disappointment in his voice when he said he couldn’t trust him anymore. Aaron never felt like such a failure, not since the day he came out to his parents and they responded poorly. This was worse, though. These were the last two people Aaron completely trusted and cared for, and he had alienated them both. He really was a failure, he told himself, as he laid down on the couch to sulk the night away.

* * * * *

The next morning, Aaron heard about the break in at the weapons room while on his way to look for Daryl. He’d decided he needed to confront him. Even if Daryl punched him in the face, at least he’d know where he stood with the man. Aaron stopped the woman who he heard talking about the break in to her friend. “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear you. Do you happen to know what weapons were taken?”

“I heard a couple guns went missing, maybe a crossbow, but I can’t be sure,” the woman replied.

“Thanks,” Aaron said and rushed off to Daryl’s house. When he got there, Rick, Maggie, and Michonne were already there. Rick and Michonne were in their cop uniforms, probably investigating the break in, but Aaron knew this case was more personal.

Maggie approached him first. “Hey, Aaron, have you seen Daryl?”

“I saw him briefly last night, but not this morning. Something wrong?” Aaron asked, pretending that he didn’t know anything.

“There were some weapons stolen last night. A window was broken. That’s how the person got in. No alarm went off, so it must have happened after the power went down. The thing is, the missing weapons belonged to Daryl, and now he’s nowhere to be found.”

Rick came out of Daryl’s house. “The bike is gone too. Daryl’s spit town.”

“I’ll talk to the gate guard, find out about what time he left,” Michonne added.

While everyone was talking and trying to figure out what happened, Carol showed up. “Hi Aaron,” she greeted with a kind smile. “What’s going on?”

Aaron told her about the missing weapons, motorcycle, and the now missing Daryl. Carol cocked her head to one side and observed Aaron. He’d come to realize that she was good at reading people, and Aaron felt like an open book this morning. She waited until the others were out of earshot before she spoke. “Would you happen to know anything about this?” she asked with a gentle motherly voice.

“Maggie already asked me if–”

“I’m asking now,” Carol interrupted. There was something about Carol that Aaron couldn’t quite put his finger on. She was always kind, almost too kind to the point of suspicion, as if she was covering up her true identity. He got the feeling that you didn’t dare cross Carol or you’d find out more about her than you wanted to know.

“Daryl came by my house last night. He wasn’t there long and we had an argument,” Aaron explained.

“Argument about what?” she asked kindly.

“I … I can’t say. It’s not up to me to divulge that information,” Aaron told her. He’d sworn to Daryl he would never tell anyone about his personal life.

Carol got real close and whispered in his ear. “If this is about Daryl then you can and you will tell me everything you know.” She backed away and smiled sweetly, but there was something feral in her eyes.

Aaron released the breath he was holding, and pleaded with his eyes, hoping she would understand. “I’m sorry. I swore to him that I wouldn’t–”

“Carol,” Rick said, walking up behind them without their knowledge. Aaron felt very out of place. These were Daryl’s people. They had never completely trusted Aaron, and he was sure they thought he had something to do with Daryl’s disappearance. At least Carol had made that very clear.

Carol smiled at Rick. “I was just asking Aaron if he knew anything. Seems he doesn’t. Daryl came by his house briefly last night, and then he left.” Aaron noticed she didn’t say anything about an argument.

“What time, do you remember?” Rick asked.

“Maybe somewhere between ten and ten thirty,” Aaron answered honestly.

“Lights out is at eleven,” Maggie said. “That’s when the weapons would have had to been stolen.”

“Maybe Daryl just needed to get out of here for a while. You know how it is,” Michonne suggested.

“Yeah,” Rick agreed, “but he wouldn’t have broken into the weapons room. He was desperate to leave, but why?”

“Well, I’m going to see the gate guard who was on duty last night. If I find out anything, I’ll let you know right away,” Michonne said before she left the group. Maggie and Rick finished talking to Carol and Aaron, and then they left too.

Carol was the only one who stayed behind, and Aaron knew he was in trouble when she wrapped her arm around his shoulders. “Let’s take a little walk, shall we?” They walked until they were alone where no one could hear them. Then she released him, crossed her arms and stared at him with daggers darting from her eyes. “I know you had something to do with this, Aaron. You are going to tell me the truth, and tell me everything you know or so help me, the next time you go out on a run you’ll conveniently wind up missing.”

“I can’t,” Aaron responded.

“Talk!” she demanded.

“All I can tell you is that Daryl came by my house, we had an argument, and then he left,” Aaron admitted.

“What was the argument about?” Carol interrogated.

“It wasn’t so much what we said, but what he saw that pissed him off. He threatened to hit me if I followed him or ever spoke to him again, and then he was gone.”

“That’s not enough to go on. Listen, I know Daryl pretty well by now, and I know he’d never break into the weapons room unless he was desperate to get out of here. So something had to happen to make him break the rules. You need to tell me what you were arguing about. It might help me to figure out where he went. He’s been gone all night, and he’s alone out there. That’s not good. Now speak!”

She was right. Being outside at night and alone was about the worst situation someone could be in. What if his bike broke down? What if he came upon that heard of roamers Deanna was worried about. Yes, he’d sworn never to tell anyone about Daryl’s secret, but it could mean a matter of life or death now.

Carol smiled again, in that motherly way, fixed the collar of Aaron’s shirt, and looked up into his eyes. “I understand how loyal you are to Daryl, and I appreciate that in a person. You’re a good man, Aaron, and I respect you, but Daryl is my family, and I’m very worried for him. If you care about him too, you’ll tell me what you know.”

“I would never do this under any other circumstances. I’d die first before I broke a promise to Daryl, but I understand the desperation of the situation. However, I’ll ask that you be sworn to secrecy for what I’m about to tell you, and if you care about Daryl as much as I do, you’ll never tell another living soul.”

Carol smiled and raised her hand, holding up the first three fingers. “Girl scout honor, I promise.”

Aaron looked around to make sure they were still alone, and they were. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, preparing himself. “I’m only telling you this because I know you’re his best friend, and you’re just as worried about him as I am.” He paused. “Alright. I invited Daryl to my house last night, but while I was waiting for him to show, Eric stopped by.”

“What’s so strange about that? I thought you and Eric were a couple,” Carol said.

“We used to be, but not anymore,” Aaron told her.

“Ok, go on,” she gestured.

“Eric showed up unexpectedly, begging me to take him back. I told him I couldn’t, and that I just wanted to remain friends, but he wouldn’t listen. Then he kissed me, and I didn’t know what to do, I was so thrown off by it. In the meantime, Daryl showed up and found us like that.”

“So are you saying he saw you kissing Eric and was so offended that he ran away, broke into the room, stole his own weapons and left town without telling anyone? That doesn’t make sense.”

“It does if you know that Daryl and I were about to … embark on something new.”

Carol had no words. She stared blankly through Aaron. “Wait, are you telling me Daryl is … and you are … and you and him–”

“Yes,” Aaron answered tersely.

“My Daryl? My tough skinned, redneck, hillbilly, kick your ass for looking at him the wrong way Daryl?”

Aaron nodded. “He’d been through a lot throughout his life, and it’s something that’s always been an underlying complication for him, but lately, he’s been opening up and facing things, and … well . . .”

“You know, that would explain why I’ve never seen him interested in any of the women in our group. Even I tried, though subtly, and got nowhere,” she reminisced.

“Please don’t say anything to anyone, but especially Daryl,” Aaron begged.

“You have my word. So, what happened? Daryl came by to see you, but found you and Eric lip locked?” she asked for clarification.

“I tried to explain that Eric initiated the whole thing. He came by unexpectedly, and it was Eric that kissed me. I pushed him away, but not before Daryl saw us together. I went after him to try and explain, but he threatened my life, so I let him go. Honestly, I feel horrible, and if something has happened to him because of this misunderstanding, I’ll . . .” His words ran out as emotions bubbled in his chest.

“You really do like him, don’t you?” she asked.

“I do. I care for him deeply, which is why it’s killing me right now.”

“I think perhaps he’s gone off somewhere to lick his wounds. He’s done it in the past. Daryl always comes back in a day or two. Let me handle things with Rick and the others, and I promise not to say a word, alright?”

Aaron nodded in compliance. They’d just have to sit and wait this one out, and hope Daryl would be back by tomorrow.

Something wasn’t sitting right with Aaron, and he was restless over the next couple days. By the third day, he couldn’t take it anymore. Too much time had passed with no sign of Daryl. He was beside himself with worry, and he wasn’t the only one.

He decided to confront Rick, and find out if any of Daryl’s group had heard something. When he got to Rick’s house, other members of the group were already there, discussing Daryl’s whereabouts.

“Aaron, I’m surprised to see you,” Rick said after answering the door and inviting Aaron in.

“I just wanted to know if anyone knows anything,” Aaron said, and his eyes swept quickly around the room. Maggie and Glenn were there, Michonne, Carol, a few young women who Aaron didn’t know, and the Army sergeant, Abraham. It was Abraham who approached Aaron first.

“According to Rick, you’re the last person to see Daryl,” Abraham said in a threatening voice.

“Besides the gate guard, I suppose you’re right,” Aaron answered agreeably. The last thing he wanted was for this quite large fellow becoming upset.

“And it’s my understanding that you exchanged words?” Rick asked, coming up beside Abraham.

“Yes,” Aaron said, feeling as though he was being ganged up on.

“And did you have some kind of argument?” Rick continue.

“We did, but it was very brief.”

“And what was it about?” Rick asked.

“It, uh … it was … it was nothing, really, but … well I … uh,” Aaron stammered.

Suddenly, Carol came forward and Aaron froze. “It was about the recruitment runs they used to go on together. Daryl wanted back in, but Aaron already found someone else.” She stopped and gave Aaron a look that said, ‘Ok, you take it from here.’

“Yeah, uh,” Aaron got his thoughts together quickly. “He wanted to go with me on the next run. I told him I had to replace him when he told Deanna he didn’t want that job anymore. I mean, I’d happily take Daryl back as a partner. He’s the best tracker I know, but I can’t just put him back in. There are rules to follow. Personally, I think he just wanted to get back out there … feel needed again, more so than sitting in a watchtower half the night. You know?” He glanced at Carol, who gave a slight nod of her head. Aaron was shocked that she was helping him to cover the real reason Daryl left. He just wasn’t sure it was a convincing lie, and the glare Rick was giving him said maybe it wasn’t.

“And you think that was enough to make him decide to break into the weapons room?” Rick asked skeptically.

Carol came forward again. “You know how it is, Rick, the need to get out there and make a difference. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We can hardly get Sasha to stay inside the gates. And you know Daryl has never really adjusted to life in Alexandria.” She huffed a breath of air. “Maybe if they didn’t take our weapons every time we stepped foot in town, we’d feel like we had a little more control.”

“And there isn’t someone on duty in the weapons room 24/7, although maybe there should be,” Aaron added. He smiled nervously. “Would it really be as big a deal if Daryl checked out his weapons instead of breaking a window and retrieving them in the middle of the night?”

Rick’s eyes narrowed dangerously as he took two big strides towards Aaron so that he was standing directly in front of him. “It’s a big deal because Daryl took off without telling anyone where he was going. It’s a big deal because he’s been gone for three days and no one has seen or heard from him.” Rick’s voice rose in anger with every word.

Aaron didn’t back down, though. He stood his ground and considered Rick pugnaciously. “Hey, I’m just as concerned. Look, you all know Daryl. He’s like family to you. Well, I know him too. We’ve become pretty good friends as recruiting partners, and I care what happens to him.  Why do you think I came here? I agree with you, Rick. Daryl has been gone too long, even for him.”

Rick considered Aaron a moment, and then he turned to the rest of his people. “We need to pair up and go out looking for him. If we each take a different area, we can cover more ground.”

Aaron interrupted Rick, who looked like he’d had just about enough. “Before you send out a search party, I’d like the chance to find him. After all, it feels like it’s my fault he took off in the first place.”

Rick rounded on him. “You want to go out there by yourself and find Daryl?”

“I think I might know where he went.”

“Well, if you’d just tell us, we can go and stop wasting time–”

Aaron shook his head. “I can’t just give you directions. It takes a good tracker to find this place.”

Michonne gave a cynical laugh. “And it just so happens we are missing our one good tracker.”

“No, you’re not,” Aaron replied.

Abraham’s eyebrows shot up. “You? You can track?”

“Who do you think taught me? When things got slow out there, Daryl started teaching me all he knew,” Aaron said.

“It’s true,” Glenn spoke up. “Aaron’s gone on a couple of runs with me. He knows his stuff.”

“Please, let me go out there and find him,” Aaron pleaded with the group. “I feel like it’s my fault he’s gone, and I’d like to make things right.”

Rick seemed like he was giving in, but he wasn’t completely convinced. “I don’t know. You say you know Daryl and that you’re friends, but none of us know you very well.”

Carol went to Rick and laid a gentle hand on his arm. She spoke lightly. “I think you should let him go.”

“By himself?” Rick countered. “You know what it’s like out there. We’re already missing one person. We don’t need to lose another one.”

“I trust Aaron, and I think you should too. Give him the chance to make things right,” Carol said sweetly, but Aaron remembered her threat from earlier. Carol was the type of person who you really wanted to be on her good side, because there was some whole other dark thing going on there.

Rick paced back and forth a few times. He stopped in front of Aaron and glared. “Fine, but you be back here by tomorrow afternoon, and you better have Daryl with you.”

“Tomorrow? That’s not a lot of time,” Aaron said.

“That’s all you get,” Rick demanded. There’d be no negotiating.

Aaron nodded in compliance. “I need to go now, then. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to–”

“Go!” Rick said with lost patience.

Carol took Aaron’s hands and squeezed. “Just bring him back.”

Aaron smiled, seeing the love and concern she had for Daryl. Everyone in his group was concerned. Aaron wondered if Daryl knew just how much these people needed him and cared about him. This was something he definitely needed to know. He was nowhere near as alone as he thought he was.

* * * * *

Daryl had been hunting for nearly three days. He’d lost track of time, though. All he knew was that the sun went up and the sun went down, and he was still around to witness it. He’d almost cleared an area by himself, leaving a trail of motionless walkers in his wake. He wished he could keep going, but his body was shutting down. As long as he had to concentrate on killing, he didn’t have to remember why he was out here in the first place. But he couldn’t do much more. His arms and legs were sore. His hair was caked with grime and gore. His fingernails were split and broken. His body was scratched and bruised from some of the rough terrain he had to navigate. He was done, and he didn’t think he could take another step. Daryl didn’t know where he was. He’d left his bike parked along the side of the road, hidden poorly by some underbrush nearby, but he didn’t have the energy to go back. He had headed off into the woods, killing walkers as he went, and now he was lost. Actually, he wasn’t really lost. He could always find his way back to a road that would lead him somewhere. He just didn’t have the will to do it now.

He needed shelter, a place where he could crash for a while, let his body recharge. Daryl stumbled through the woods, not looking much different from a walker. He looked down at his body, and realized he still wore the same jeans and t-shirt he picked out to wear to see Aaron. A sharp pain like cold steel shot through his chest. He couldn’t think about that now. It would just wear him out. But it was too late, Aaron had already entered his mind. Embarrassment came first, followed by anger. Daryl told him things he swore he’d never repeat again. He told Aaron about being raped, but not only that. He shared some very personal emotions that happened during that awful time, stuff Daryl had never said out loud before. And then, just recently, he told Aaron that he wanted him. ‘I’m ready’, he had said … ready to give into his secret desires, to explore the part of him he’d kept hidden away for years. He was going to Aaron to submit himself, to give himself over to the only person he’d ever bonded with and trusted. But Daryl was betrayed, finding Aaron in an intimate kiss with Eric. Why did Aaron lead him on if he knew he still wanted Eric? Maybe he just wanted to be the one to tame the wild beast. He should have known better. It didn’t turn out so well for that horse, and it didn’t turn out well for Daryl. As soon as he saw it, the image of them kissing burned into the backs of his eyelids, and then he heard Jay’s voice laughing, as well as his father and brother. The ghosts were very prompt to that party, driving him insane with their ridicule.

Daryl tripped over a fallen branch and fell to his knees. The laughing subsided as he came back to the conscious world. “I can’t keep doing this,” he told himself. “I gotta find–” And it instantly struck him … the cabin. He knew where he left his bike, and he had a general idea of the direction he’d been going. It shouldn’t be far. He could crash at the cabin, clean up and get his shit together. He knew he could kill all the walkers in the world, it wouldn’t make him feel any better. Hunting had just helped occupy his mind so he didn’t have to feel the pain of rejection. Sooner or later, he’d have to face it. He couldn’t stay out here forever. His people would begin to wonder where he was, and if he knew Rick, it wouldn’t be much longer before he sent out a search party. He should probably go back before they did that, but he couldn’t face the town right now. Mainly, he couldn’t face Aaron. He couldn’t seem to get him off his mind either. He’d just have to try harder.

Finally, Daryl found the hidden cabin. He did his usual routine, checking to make sure it was still vacant, no visitors living or dead. The place was empty. First things first. He needed to get out of his nasty clothes and get clean. He didn’t like tracking the stench into the pristine cabin, so he went straight to the shower, stuffing the befouled clothes into a plastic bag from the kitchen. He would need to burn them, but decided to do it in the morning. Daryl stood under the raining shower water, and just let it wash away all the dirt and grime. He wished it would wash away everything else, but he wasn’t so lucky. His thoughts went back to Aaron.

Shit, how could he have been so trusting? Daryl only trusted a few people in his life. Beth had been one, but she was gone. Carol was the other, but he had never told her about his secret life. She knew everything else, about his rough upbringing, the beatings from his father, the verbal abuse from his brother. He knew about Carol too, her abusive husband and her miserable marriage. So why hadn’t he shared the rest of his story with her? He figured that the time was never right, maybe it never would be. Didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to revisit those desires ever again. He would just live a life of solitude, keep everyone at arm’s length just to be on the safe side. It was all bullshit anyways.

Eventually, Daryl emerged from the shower, a towel wrapped around his waist, and went to the master bedroom where he searched until he found a pair of slacks and an undershirt, something he normally wouldn’t be caught dead in. That was good enough for now. He knew there were other clothes in the spare bedrooms, but he didn’t want to go in there right now. He was having a hard enough time seeing all the little things that reminded him of the time he had spent here with Aaron. This was the place where he had told Aaron his secret, revealing all the things that Daryl thought made him weak and helpless. Aaron had made him realize that it was because of all the horrible things he’d been through that he was as strong as he was today. Well, he had more stories to add to that novel, he told himself as he flopped down onto the mattress. His whole body ached with fatigue. Two days spent hunting and killing tended to do that. He closed his eyes, thinking he’d take a brief nap. Two hours had passed by the time he woke up.

It was still early enough in the day, and Daryl’s stomach was eating itself. He didn’t have the patience or the energy to go out and hunt for his food. That would take too long. So he settled for a can of cartoon character shaped spaghetti noodles with meat sauce. As he reached into a drawer for a fork, he remembered sharing a delicious meal of fresh caught fist with Aaron. They laughed at the thought of using silverware and plates again. It was such a luxury, and nice to share the moment with Aaron. “Damn it,” Daryl berated himself. “Why does every thought come back to him?”

With only a couple hours left until sunset, Daryl gathered up as much wood and kindling as he could find, and brought it into the cabin. It was still warm with the sun up, but it would get cold tonight, so he was prepared. He placed the logs inside the hearth, and tried to build them properly. He would wait to light the fire. He didn’t need it yet. He thought he should probably take his bow and head out into the woods, try to see if he could catch something for later, but his muscles ached. Besides, there was plenty of canned goods to choose from. He could roast a rabbit or open a can of green beans, it didn’t matter to him at this point. Food was only there to keep him from starving, otherwise he didn’t care.

That’s what got him into this mess to begin with. He cared too much. He never should have let Aaron in, his first mistake of many. But Aaron was good at making him open up. Daryl almost couldn’t help but share all those things he swore never to repeat. He was comfortable with Aaron. They had so much in common. They understood each other. Daryl was just starting to figure out his life, and Aaron had been a part of that. Now, he felt like he had to shut it all down again, stick everything back into the bottle and cork it up like . . .

“Wine,” Daryl said aloud, remembering the wine cellar. “I need something or I’m going to drive myself crazy.” He went and retrieved a couple bottles, brought them to the kitchen and uncorked them. He looked around for a glass, and then remembered he was alone. “No point in it,” he said and took a long swig right from the bottle. It was good, warmed him from the inside as it slid down and purled in his stomach. Daryl left the unopened bottle on the counter and took the opened one to the living room. He plopped down on the couch and drank heavily. Then he stretched his legs out on the couch and got comfortable. He closed his eyes, and replayed the kiss in his mind, the one he almost shared with Aaron. Maybe if those damn walkers hadn’t come along, he thought. They ruined the moment and the kiss never happened. Did Aaron think he would never come around? Did he get tired of waiting for Daryl to make up his mind? Was that why he went back to Eric? But why do it at a time when he knew Daryl was coming by? Because he wanted to rub it in, he thought to himself. Daryl sunk into the couch, drank more wine and tried to forget. It was working too, until . . .

Bang! Bang! Two very loud knocks on the front door made Daryl jumped out of his skin and off the couch.

“Daryl, it’s me. It’s Aaron,” he announced quickly, knowing a knock on the door would startle the man inside.

It took Daryl a moment to find his heartbeat. Then he went to the door, but didn’t open it yet. “Aaron? What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Looking for you. I had a feeling you’d be here. Will you let me in?” He sounded sincere.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Daryl said through the closed door.

“I need to talk to you … face to face … not like this,” Aaron said.

“I don’t have anything to say to you,” Daryl said.

“I know you don’t, which is why I’ll do all the talking.”

“Yeah, well you’re good at that, aren’t you?”

“Good one. Another zinger. Guess I deserve that. I can’t help it. I tend to talk too much when I’m nervous or trying to apologize to the man I care about.”

“Don’t say that.” Daryl was uncomfortable hearing him admit his feelings.

“But it’s true,” Aaron said in a gentle voice. “Look, either you can let me in and we’ll discuss this like two adults, or I can continue talking through the door until I lose my voice or attract roamers.”

Damn it, he just had to mention that, didn’t he. Yet another way Aaron was good at manipulating him. Daryl reluctantly unlocked the door and walked away. Aaron slowly opened the door and came in. His eyes swept around the cabin, finding everything in order. What did he think he would find, Daryl wondered. Then Aaron’s attention was on Daryl. “You look like hell. What have you been doing?”

“Did you see any walkers on your way here?” Daryl asked.


“Then that should answer your question.” Daryl was in no mood for niceties. “You said you got something to say, so say it and leave.”

Aaron was across the room. He looked worn with worry, like a man desperate for one last chance. He stretched his arms out to the side. “Daryl, I’m sorry.”

“Is that it? Is that all you got to say?” Daryl wished he had his cigarettes. He only had one pack, and he saved it for when he was deeply troubled or in despair. This counted as one of those moments.

“I could say all kinds of things, like the fact that I didn’t know Eric was coming over, or that he initiated the kiss, catching me off guard, but something tells me you don’t want to hear it.”

“You’re right, I don’t,” Daryl said in a dark tone.

“Then I’ll just say this. I don’t want Eric. I didn’t want that kiss. I felt nothing. What I really wanted that night was you. I couldn’t wait to see you again. All I’ve thought about since we were on that bridge is kissing you. All I hear is your voice telling me you’re ready, and I’m the one you trust.” As Aaron spoke, he slowly closed the distance between him and Daryl.

“I did trust you until I saw you with Eric, and for someone who didn’t want it, you weren’t in any hurry to end it.”

“I know it looked bad, and I can’t undo it. But I’m being honest when I say I didn’t want it. But that’s not what this is about, is it? You’re scared and I get that. You were hurt, damaged even, but I would never do that to you intentionally.” Aaron was almost in front of Daryl. For some reason, Daryl couldn’t move. He should have told him to stop, but he didn’t, and now he was almost upon him. Aaron continued. “I’ve wanted you for a while now, and I think you know that. I’ve waited patiently to find out what you’re feeling. It wasn’t until you took me on your bike that I knew for sure. I like the fact that you wanted to get me far away from everyone and everything. It was just you and I out there, and it felt so right. Tell me you didn’t feel the same thing, and I’ll leave right now.”

“I did want that, but … imagine what it was like for me to find you with Eric when I’d finally given in to all these things I’ve avoided my whole life. I trusted you with my secrets. I wouldn’t have done that unless I wanted you to help me figure stuff out. For the first time I wasn’t ashamed of what I was feeling. And then I find you with him, kissing.” Daryl’s ire came back. “You know what? I was wrong. I should never have told you anything. I should have pushed you away. You made a fool out of me.”

“For God’s sake, it was just one kiss,” Aaron replied, his own anger coming out. “And I didn’t even want it.”

Daryl took a step closer to challenge him. “Then maybe you should have pushed him away sooner.”

“I did push him away,” Aaron countered.

“Yeah, after I showed up. What would have happened if I didn’t come along right then?”

“You know, you’re making a bigger deal out of this than is necessary. I don’t fucking want Eric. I want you!” Aaron shouted.

“Bullshit!” Daryl yelled back. Now he got in Aaron’s face, the muscles in his arms tensing as his hands balled into fists. “You need to leave.”

“Why? You gonna kick my ass? Are you going to continue to live in denial because you saw something that wasn’t even my doing?” Aaron challenged.

“I was better off not dealing with this shit. I was better off alone. I was better off not knowing you,” Daryl seethed.

“You don’t really believe that.”

“Fuck you. You don’t know me,” Daryl said, only inches from Aaron’s face.

“I do know you. And I know you want this.” Aaron captured Daryl’s mouth with his own, kissing him hard.

The suddenness of it paralyzed Daryl with shock. A fire built instantly, burning him from the inside out. Aaron’s mouth was demanding, but at the same time a bit hesitant, fearing Daryl’s reaction. Daryl suddenly realized that he had total control over the situation, something he’d never had before.

God, his mouth felt good, and Daryl wanted more, but every instinct told him to stop. He fought hard in his mind, which was telling him to never let go. Finally, Daryl brought his hands up and shoved Aaron at the shoulders, bushing him back and breaking the kiss. His reflexes were fast, but not so quick that Aaron lost his balance. The man just stood there, breathing rapidly, lips swollen and parted, and desire staining his eyes. Daryl felt naked before him. He didn’t like being vulnerable, but with Aaron it felt alright. That trust he thought he’d lost was still there, had probably been there all along, buried by anger and … yes, jealousy over Eric.

No’, his conscience screamed. ‘You caught him reaching in the proverbial cookie tin when you saw him kissing Eric. Don’t trust him. Don’t let him in. Shut him out before he forces you to do something you don’t want. He’ll seduce you. He’ll use you. Then, he’ll throw you away just like what happened before.

Daryl’s anger had been flamed by his subconscious thoughts. He reached up and grabbed a fist full of Aaron’s flannel shirt at the neck. Aaron didn’t flinch. He wasn’t scared in the least, and that pissed Daryl off even more. Everyone was scared of him when he released his ire. He stared at Aaron with narrowed eyes. “I should punch you,” he growled. “I should beat the shit out of you for doing that. The last man that did something like that … he … he–”

“I’m not that man. I’d never be that man,” Aaron said in a calm voice.

How dare he bring that up, Daryl thought. He tightened his grip on Aaron’s shirt. His mouth tightened into a thin line as he clenched his teeth. He brought his free hand up, fingers balled into a fist aimed right at Aaron’s face. He brought his elbow back, ready to release his rage. Aaron still didn’t move a muscle. He didn’t close his eyes or look away. He just looked at Daryl with desire. Daryl’s hand shot forward, but instead of punching him, he grasped the back of Aaron’s neck and released his shirt. Daryl gazed at him another moment, and then pulled Aaron to him. He kissed him so hard, their teeth clicked. Daryl forced his tongue past the other man’s lips, and was allowed instant access. Tongues finally met and caressed each other. Daryl couldn’t seem to get enough. So long had he wanted this. So long had he dreamed of this moment. It was better than anything he could have imagined.

Daryl cupped the sides of Aaron’s head, holding him in place while he they kissed, memorizing every salacious second. Aaron released a moan and his hands roamed down Daryl’s sculpted arms. His touch set Daryl ablaze in a way he’d never known before. How could a kiss have such an effect on him? He felt himself straining against the material of his borrowed pants, and when Aaron pressed his body against Daryl’s, they rubbed against each other. Aaron was just as excited.

“Daryl … oh God … I want you,” Aaron whispered between kisses.

“I … I don’t know–”

“Don’t worry. We’ll take our time,” Aaron reassured him. “Let’s go to your room.”

“That’s not taking our time, don’t you think?” Daryl said nervously. “Can’t we just stay like this?” He kissed Aaron again hoping to keep him where he was.

“Well, we could,” Aaron said smiling at Daryl. “But the more your mouth assaults mine, the more I want to take you to your bed.”

Daryl let Aaron kiss him wantonly, gave him control just to know what it might feel like. His lips moved to Daryl’s neck, a new sensation, and one that he was enjoying tremendously. So this was what it was like to have someone take care and seduce him properly. It mattered also that Daryl cared for Aaron. My God, he thought to himself. He actually had feelings for Aaron, and he admitted it to himself. The realization of that thought made Daryl release a little more of his anxiety, allowed him to relax a bit and give in to Aaron’s ministrations of his lips upon Daryl’s neck. It felt good. More than that, it felt … intoxicating. Could he do this? Could he really give himself over to Aaron? But just as he did, his demons came back.

Jay’s voice came out of nowhere. “Didn’t I try to teach you how to fuck someone? But you resisted, you little shit. As soon as I started in on you, you fought back. You were such a damn tease. You’ll tease Aaron too, and he’ll be forced to shove you onto the mattress. Once a man reaches that certain point of no turning back, he’ll get it. He’ll have his way whether you want it or not.”

Aaron’s hand traveled down Daryl’s chest, hesitated at his buckle and went lower until he found Daryl’s hardened desire, cupping him through his pants, kneading and caressing. “Oh Daryl, you’re ready. You’re so ready. Take me to bed. I want you so bad.”

“I … I don’t … I’m not sure,” Daryl stammered, confusion setting in.

“There you go again, same thing you did to me, but I got you, didn’t I? Aaron’s going to fuck you whether you want it or not. Go ahead and resist. See what he does,” Jay’s voice said again.

“Please, Daryl. Make love to me. Let me show you how. Let me teach you,” Aaron begged, his hand kneading harder and faster.

Daryl felt himself stiffening, felt the pain of his erection straining against his pants, but Jay’s voice was interfering with his desire to go through with this. “Stop, Aaron. You have to stop.”

“But you’re so ready, and I’m aching for you. Come on. Let’s go to bed. We’ll take our time,” Aaron pleaded. His hand was still working its magic, and Daryl thought he’d come undone right there, standing in the middle of the living room.

“No, I don’t want this,” Daryl said again, but he couldn’t move. Aaron’s hand felt so good on him.

“I know you’re scared. Trust me, Daryl. Let me show you the way. Please?” Aaron’s fingers wrapped around Daryl’s hidden length as best as he could manage through a pair of pants. Luckily they were kind of loose fitting.

Jay seemed to whisper in Daryl’s ear. “See? What’d I tell you? Won’t take no for an answer. We’re all alike, Daryl. We just want to get our jollies off on a sweet piece of ass like yours. Better give him what he wants, or he’ll leave you crying into your pillow like a bitch. You remember that, don’t you?”

“I said NO!” Daryl shouted like a man possessed. He pushed away from Aaron, but before the man could speak to ask what was wrong, Daryl clenched his hand into a fist, brought it up and punched Aaron in the face. Aaron stood a moment, with a blank stare on his face. Then his eyes rolled back and he fell to the floor. Daryl punched him so hard that he knocked Aaron out.

Daryl stood over Aaron’s body sprawled out on the floor, and looked down at him. His hand ached from the punch. “Oh shit,” Daryl said aloud when he finally realized just what he had done. He just wanted to scare Aaron. He just wanted to make him stop to make the voices stop too. He didn’t want to do this. What a mess it all was now. Daryl looked down at Aaron’s lifeless body, and watched the blood begin to trickle out of his nose. Damn it, did he break bones? He didn’t know how hard he’d actually punched Aaron. Obviously it was hard enough to knock the man out. He pulled his shirt off, knelt down and wiped the blood from Aaron’s face. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. Maybe he wasn’t’ cut out for this lifestyle after all. Daryl released a sigh, and shook his head, ashamed of himself for his abrasive behavior, for letting the voices have their way again. He got his hands under Aaron’s shoulders and lifted him. Then he dragged the body to his bedroom, and got him settled on the bed. Daryl felt terrible, but his reaction was mostly instinct. He’d never meant to actually hurt Aaron, least of all knock him out completely. He felt like a real ass. Hopefully, when Aaron finally woke up, they would be able to discuss this situation and Daryl could apologize. Hopefully, Aaron would forgive him.



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