To Wrangle a Dixon – Rick/Daryl

Chapter One

The sweat glistening on his skin, dripping down his arms in small rivers did not go unnoticed as Daryl hauled the deer carcass through the gate that Carl and Carol had opened for him. He looked up at Rick as he came through, the sheriff with his hands on his hips just eying the battered man as he walked in, deer dragging behind him. “Lost the truck. Ran out of gas. We’ll have to go back for it. I didn’t think it’d take that much. There might be a leak,” he said matter of factly as he dropped the legs and bent down to inspect his kill. “Meat should still be good though.”

Rick just nodded as several people came running down to help Daryl with the deer. They hoisted it up on their shoulders and hauled it off to be cleaned for dinner that night. The whole camp slowly started to come out of the prison, mumbles being heard from them all. Word spread quickly when Daryl was seen walking up as extra support was needed to fend off the walkers from attacking him and the best meal they had had in weeks. A feast was definitely in order tonight.

 

Rick couldn’t help the smile that formed on his face at the sight of the younger man. Every day when he walked out those gates, he worried that he would never see him again. Though, rumor is that it is impossible to kill a Dixon unless he does it himself. That’s a theory that Rick would never like tested with this Dixon. He clapped him on the back as Daryl stood, sending dirt flying from the leather vest. “Guess I should get my clothes washed, huh?” Daryl laughed.

“I’m sure Carol would be happy to help you with that,” Rick jested with a nonchalant point in her direction by the gate.

The joke fell flat as the hard features on Daryl’s face scrunched up and he shook his head, eying the sheriff sideways, saying quietly, “Rather do it myself.”

“I’m sure she’d be happy to-”

“Just not interested, Rick,” he interrupted, dragging his eyes up his body starting from the boots and finally landing on the baby blues. “Fuckin’ tired. I did just haul a deer back here for y’all, ya know.”

“Well then grab a shower and some sleep and we’ll get you when food is ready.”

A twisted smile crept across Daryl’s face, his voice lowering slightly. “A shower first huh? Why you so obsessed with me bein’ clean? You wanna come cuddle with me in my sleep?”

Rick shrugged, his own smile turning slightly suggestive. “Maybe – if you keep bringing deer back like that.”

Daryl blushed and looked around making sure no one had noticed this slight change in conversation. A little louder, he repeated, “Fuckin’ tired. Goin’ to lay down.”

Rick just nodded, watching as their best hunter stalked back into the cell block. He knew when he saw the man later he would still have the same dirt streaks on his skin and have on the same dirty clothes.

Making sure Carl and Carol were back on guard, Rick went back to his garden. There was some tilling that needed to happen if they were going to get their seeds in the ground in time for harvest before the hard winter came. Half an hour later, he looked up to see one of the Woodbury women coming towards him, walking with a purpose. Leaning on the handle of the tiller, he waited for her to approach him. “He’s a wild animal!” she huffed. Rick’s eyebrows raised, immediately knowing who she was talking about. When his stance didn’t change, she continued ranting in muttered stops and starts about “cleaning the wounds” and “peroxide” and “thrashing.”

Rick snorted, picking up his tools and walking towards the cell block. “You have to treat him like a trapped badger. Trapped badgers don’t like to be bothered like that,” he laughed slightly, knowing that wasn’t the full problem but not willing to tell this girl that Daryl was just Daryl and didn’t take well to strangers, especially not to strangers who tried to kill him previously. “I’ll handle it. Where is he?”

When Rick walked in cell block C, Daryl was breathing fire through his nose leaning over the bar from his perch. The women not on duty elsewhere were gathered at the other end of the cell block, looking as uninterested as possible but still keeping a weary eye on the agitated man above them. Daryl’s eyes lit on Rick the second he walked through the door, Rick just grinning up at him. Daryl huffed and pushed off the bar, wandering from his sight and back into his cell. The Woodbury women handed him a cloth, a rag in a bowl full of water, and the peroxide, giving short and curt instructions on where to look for the wounds, and quickly left the room. Slowly, he ascended the stairs, the grin never leaving his face as he laughed at this situation. “The fuck you doin’, Rick?” Daryl growled at him from where he lay as the sheriff approached the landing.

Rick looked down at him from just outside the bars. “The ladies came to get me to handle the fire breathing dragon.”

Daryl snorted again, rolling over, giving Rick his back. “I’m fine. I told them not to touch me. I didn’t hit them if that’s what you’re here for.”

“Naw. Just wondering why you’d turn down the opportunity to have a sponge bath from a pretty woman instead of me.”

Daryl rolled over and sat up. “You are not giving me a sponge bath and neither are those… whatever they are. All I want is some fuckin’ sleep and that’s what I told them. Are you their knight in shining armor now? Going to come hold me down so they can clean me?”

Rick’s eyebrow twitched at the thought. “Naw, they left. Come on, they said you’re wounded. At least let me look and make sure it’s nothing that we need Hershel to look at.”

Daryl grumbled, but allowed Rick to kneel in front of him. Slowly, he removed his shirt, flinging it to the foot of the cot. Leaning over slightly to his right side, he pointed at two spots. “I brushed up against something here, and scratched myself here. That’s all man. Ain’t nothin’.”

Rick nodded, still taking in all the other scars decorating the strong body in front of him. No matter how many times he saw them, they were still a shock. To Daryl, these scratches, no matter how deep, probably were nothing compared to the things he’d dealt with in the past, but how were the Woodbury women to know that? “You gotta be nicer to these people, Daryl. They just want to help you,” he said, taking the wet cloth and reaching towards the first wound.

Daryl quickly pulled away, knocking Rick’s hand away from him. “Said I’m fine,” he huffed, reaching for his shirt.

As he bent, Rick saw fresh blood on the pale skin of the redneck’s lower back. “What’s this?” he asked, pushing Daryl over slightly to get a better look. He wasn’t expecting the subsequent shove causing him to lose his balance. His body splayed out on the floor as he watched Daryl quickly pulling his shirt on before reaching a hand down to help him up.

“Sorry, said I’m fine though. Why don’t you go help the other ladies prepare the meat I dragged all the way back here?” he said, side-eying him.

Rick didn’t fall for the bait. “Daryl, you’re hurt worse than you think. There’s fresh blood on your back. Let me just see it. I don’t have to touch it if it really isn’t that bad,” he lied.

Instead of complying, Daryl flipped him off and laid down on his cot, throwing a forearm over his eyes. “Goodnight, Grimes. Now leave me the fuck alone.”

Rick sighed and stood up, glaring down at the obstinate man. A full minute ticked by before the expected tantrum started. “What the fuck, man?” Daryl screeched loud enough that Rick was sure everyone in the yard and anyone listening in on the other side of the door in C Block heard and scattered. His right arm flailed into the air, revealing the piercing blue eyes that were angry at his presence.

“We can do this the easy way or the hard way, Daryl,” Rick said slowly, his right hand going for the handcuffs that he had attached to the back of his pants.

Daryl huffed the hair out of his face as he contemplated his next move, the right side of his lips twitching into a smirk. “Going to handcuff me, officer?”

“If that’s what it takes to make sure that you are ok, then yes.”

Daryl stood up to stand toe to toe with Rick, the flicker of light in his eyes daring him to make his move. Rick had been in situations like this before, undoubtedly with people that probably came from something similar to Daryl’s upbringing. He was prepared. A quick motion, knocking the redneck off balance, grabbing a wrist and with a flick of silver it was cuffed and attached to one of the bars facing the common area of the cell block.

“Fuck,” Daryl groaned. “Fuck,” he repeated as he tested the handcuffs. With his one free hand he gripped Rick’s shirt, pulling him up his face. The corded muscles in his arm flexed with each huffed word as he spit out, “Let me go.”

Rick just grinned, knowing fully that Daryl could not and would not harm him, despite this bravado. “I will. And I will let you go to sleep once I see what all this blood is about on your back. I’m just asking for some cooperation here, Daryl.”

With a grunt and a huff, Daryl finally admitted defeat. A simple nod of his head had Rick making quick work of getting the shirt off of his back, letting it hang on the chain of the cuffs as Daryl gave the man his back. Gripping the bars in front of him, he braced himself for whatever Rick’s reaction would be. He was unaware that the lawman had seen the extent of his scars before, sneaking casual glances as the man had changed off to the side of their camp or while he bathe in the occasional lake that they found.

Gentle fingers traced the scars on soft skin. Dark patches with such darker memories. Daryl’s eyes closed as he felt the wet rag touch his back, wiping the blood away. “You knew this one was here. You had to. It looks like it stings. Why didn’t you show this one to me?”

Daryl just shrugged, wishing for this nonsense to be over. “It’d heal on its own.”

“Yeah but what if it got infected? You could get sick.” Rick’s voice betrayed his worry as he worked away at the long scratch low on the hunter’s back. “What caused this?”

Daryl grunted, shifting from one foot to the other. “What did this?” Rick tried again, allowing a more authoritative tone to enter his voice.

“Fell out of a tree,” Daryl mumbled. He wasn’t prepared for the abrupt bubble of laughter that came from the man behind him. “The hell’s so funny, Grimes?”

“Nothing,” he said, trying to stifle his laughter and his smile. Honestly, he was thankful it was just a tree and not the scratch of some kind of wild animal or worse, a walker.

“Ok, you saw it. Now let me go,” Daryl grumbled, clearly through with all of this attention.

Rick just smiled and shook his head, tossing the rag over towards the cell door. “I kinda like you like this.”

Daryl’s eyes narrowed. He turned towards Rick, placing his back towards the open cell block, his hands clinging to the bars behind him. Something in that stance made Rick’s heart flutter and heat course through his veins. “Kinda like me handcuffed in a prison cell?”

Rick snorted, as he moved in a little closer, placing his hands above Daryl’s on each of the bars. He waited until the blue eyes finished their travel up his body before finally settling on his own. “Kinda like that I know that you’rehere and alive. If I have you handcuffed here, in my presence I know that I don’t have to worry about you getting hurt or killed out there or worse, turning, and I’d never know. You just wouldn’t come back here; you wouldn’t come back to me.”

A soft blush swept over the tanned features of the trapped man. “You know I’d always come back,” he mumbled.

Rick’s hands came up, gently pushing the dirty hair out of Daryl’s face. “I know that you’d always try. I can’t lose you too, Daryl.”

Those hard blue eyes closed at the emotion in Rick’s words. “Won’t lose me,” he mumbled.

Rick shook his head, leaning his forehead against Daryl’s. “I need you. I…,” his voice faltered, emotion choking him up. Before he took the time to consider the consequence, he closed the distance between them, pressing his lips against the chapped ones before him. The kiss was not returned. Rick broke the contact, taking a step back in the event a blow would be coming from the one free hand Daryl had. Instead, he was met with the sight of a lax body against the cell bars, eyes still closed, face scrunched up in a look of soft confusion.

“Daryl, I…,” Rick said, starting to offer some kind of excuse, anything that wouldn’t drive the man in front of him away. Panic coursed through him as time slowly ticked by. He had no excuse for what he had just done other than overwhelming emotion that he wouldn’t dare call love. Perhaps adoration? Admiration?

Finally, Daryl just shook his head, blue eyes finally opening to him, the tears building up in them making his eyes shine. “I need you too,” he whispered and Rick was back on him in a heartbeat.

Their lips met in a fervent, heated kiss. Daryl’s one free hand coming around to grasp at Rick’s back, holding the man impossibly close to his body. Rick’s arms wrapped around the lithe, muscular chest, hands careful not to touch any of the new wounds as they grasped at the exposed flesh.

Daryl was the first to pull back, his blue eyes a violent storm of emotion and questions. “Not gay,” he muttered.

“Me either,” Rick answered. “Just…,” he sighed, “just for you.”

Daryl nodded, seeming to accept that response. “Now will you let me go?”

Rick snorted. “Only if you agree to take a shower.” Daryl huffed and grumbled, pulling at his wrist still in the handcuff. “I just wanted to make good on my promise out in the yard.”

With a snort, Daryl said, “Well then you need to take one too, farmer. Won’t have you in my clean bed looking like that.”

“Deal.”

 

Chapter Two

Walking back to his cell, Rick was met with Tyrese. “Everything ok? Someone said Daryl was tearing you apart.”

Rick snorted, grabbing his towel and soap from this belongings. “Yeah, everything’s fine. Daryl and I were just having a discussion about his safety.”

Tyrese nodded, understanding the danger that Daryl put himself in every day he would go out hunting. It was something that he did not envy of the man. “Can I help in any way?”

Rick smiled slightly. “Yeah, keep everyone out of the showers for a bit.” Tyrese just nodded as Rick moved past him and down the cell block.

As he neared the showers, he could hear the water already running. Rounding the corner, he stopped a moment, his breath stolen from his lungs by the sight before him. Daryl stood naked under the spray, water cascading down his body. His hands ran the bar of soap over his body, washing the dirt streaks off in little streams. The scars flashed red in the water and Rick resisted the urge to approach him and run his fingers over those wounds, whispering words of promise in his ears that no one would ever mark him again… Except maybe Rick. He grinned at the thought of leaving small love bites over Daryl’s body; leaving sucking little kisses along his tanned skin and teeth marks in places where people might be able to see if they got close enough. That thought alone had Rick quickly removing his clothing before walking in the shower room, sidling up behind Daryl and wrapping his arms around his body.

Daryl stiffened in his arms, his hands going to the shower wall in front of him. “Rick,” he whispered.

Rick smiled into the slick skin of his neck as the spray of the shower hit Daryl in the chest. “You had to have known I was there watching you.”

Daryl just nodded, his eyes closed, face muscles clenching and unclenching as if he was fighting the inner demons in his head. “Yeah… just didn’t think you’d come up behind me like that.”

Rick immediately backed off, going and grabbing his own soap and turning on the shower next to Daryl. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to spook you.”

Shrugging, he turned around in the spray, rinsing his hair in the water. “S’alright. Just gotta get used to it, I guess. Long as it’s you.”

Rick quickly lathered himself up, rinsing off in the spray before clearing his throat and saying, “You know I’d never do anything to hurt you. We don’t have to do anything that doesn’t make you comfortable.”

Daryl laughed slightly at his words, turning off the water. Walking over and grabbing his ratty towel, he mumbled loud enough for Rick to hear, “Never really been comfortable before.”

Rick washed his hair quickly and turned off his own water, padding over to where Daryl sat in his towel on the bench. Drying off with his towel, he noticed Daryl’s eyes were downcast, never really looking up at him. Taking his chin in his hand, he raised his face, bring those blue eyes up to his own. “You never have to be scared of me. Not scared of saying anything to me, looking at me, fussing at me, nothing.”

Daryl just nodded as much as he could with his chin still in the other man’s hand. “Trust you, Rick,” he said simply.

Laying out his towel on the bench, Rick sat next to him completely exposed, suddenly aware at how nervous he had become himself, now that their main purpose was finished. He shuffled his feet on the floor slightly. “Tyrese is guarding the door so no one comes down here. He doesn’t know… just heard you shout at me.”

Daryl nodded again, but finally risked a look at him. Rick turned, waiting a beat before leaning in. “I’m going to kiss you again, Daryl.” The lips before him parted slightly, blue eyes closing in anticipation. He moved slowly, allowing the thin chapped lips to guide their movement. The last thing he wanted to do was scare him. Bringing a hand up, he cautiously rubbed his cheek with the back of his knuckles.

Daryl swallowed the other man’s shock as he turned his body fully, one leg up on the bench, wrapping his arms around the thin body of the sheriff, pulling him closer. Fingers came up to curl almost painfully in the unruly, wet curls as the kiss was deepened, a battle of tongues ensuing. Rick groaned into the kiss, enjoying the sheer power of the arms around him.

It ended suddenly, as Daryl pulled back, his hands though never leaving Rick’s hair. His breaths came in deep huffs as his body reacted to the touch and proximity of the other man. Rick’s hands openly roamed the chest of the man before him, fingertips brushing softly through his sparse chest hair. “You ok?” Rick asked.

Daryl wordlessly just shook his head no, fingers curling even tighter into his dark hair. A slight wince of pain had him realizing how strongly he was holding on. He left off a little, instead settling for running his fingers through it, almost lovingly. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

Rick just smiled and flicked his thumb over one of Daryl’s nipples, enjoying the sight of the pleasure on his hunter’s face. “Like that?” he whispered. He nodded, opening his blue eyes to him again, darkened slightly with what Rick can only guess is lust. Running his hands around to Daryl’s back, he leaned forward, whispering to him, “Trust me.”

He nodded again, allowing the other man to lower him on his back and remove the towel from around his waist. The bench was too narrow for them, so Daryl set one foot down on the floor while the other pressed hard against the wall. Rick leaned over him, pressing his knee slightly against the hardening cock and soft balls before him, flicking his tongue over a taut nipple. Daryl gasped, his hands flying back into the dark hair as his hips ground against the invading knee, earning him a soft chuckle. “Guess that really does feel good.”

Daryl laughed slightly, shifting a little on the bench, grinding his hips now into Rick’s leg. Biting his lip, he clenched his eyes shut before whispering, “Don’t stop… please.”

Rick grinned against his flesh, shifting his weight to his left hand so he can trail his fingertips up his thigh. “Never,” he whispered back, wrapping his hand around Daryl’s cock and stroking it slowly. Daryl gripped his hair tight in his hands again, pulling his face up to his own, eyes wide with shock. Rick kissed him slowly as his hand worked, stroking up and down casually, occasionally brushing his thumb over the head. He was enjoying the soft sounds his hunter was making, squirming beneath him on the bench as his muscles involuntarily contracted and released with each pull. Pulling back from the kiss, Rick rested his forehead on Daryl’s, his eyes clouded over, mouth mumbling incoherent words as his hand picked up speed. Rough hands pulled at his back, but Rick fought off laying his body down along the vibrating one beneath him. He wanted to watch Daryl get off. He wanted to see every emotion that danced across his face so he could etch them in his mind.

It ended too quickly for both of them as Daryl’s eyes went wide, hips twitching as hot streaks of pearlescent cum shot across his abdomen. Rick stroked him until he started to pull away from discomfort, taking his own towel from the floor and wiping his stomach off.

Standing up, Rick ran his hands through his hair. Daryl continued to lay on the bench, eyes closed as he seemingly tried to remember how to breathe. “Thanks,” he mumbled, unsure of exactly how to respond to someone else jacking him off.

Rick just shrugged, his lazy smile forming on his face as he took Daryl’s hand and pulled him up. “We should be getting back before people start wondering what we’re doing down here.”

Daryl just shook his head as he stood. “You ain’t… not yet…,” he stammered.

“Its fine, Daryl. I can take care of myself later,” he coaxed, reaching down to grab his clothes from the floor.

In a swift move, Rick found himself pressed up against the cool concrete wall, Daryl pressing against his body. “This ain’t like that. I ain’t gonna do that to you,” he said, kissing him roughly, his own hand wrapping around Rick’s cock between them. There was nothing gentle about it, exactly as had been expected. They stood there, Daryl’s forehead pressed against his, sharing his air. Rick fought to main the heated eye contact with him, but with each flick of his wrist and ioh fuck/i where did he learn to do ithat/i had his eyes closing in pleasure, bucking his hips against the man in front of him.

In a brazen move, Rick knocked Daryl’s hand away, switching their positions and pushing him up against the wall. Wrapping his arms tightly around the abused back, Rick rutted against the slender hip, pressing his hips almost painfully against the other’s. Daryl keened in his ear at the sensation, his own hands clinging to any skin he could get ahold of, feeling the muscle in his back move against him. Rick knew it was too soon for him to go again, but with the brush of his own heated flesh against his, his cock stiffened. “iDaryl/i,” he whimpered in his ear.

“iFuck/i, Rick,” he moaned back, thrusting his hips back. They moved in a heated, almost painful friction.

Rick groaned, his fingers clutching painfully into Daryl’s shoulders, his cock erupting between them. “iShit/i,” he breathed, his hips stilling, resting his body against the warmth in front of him, laying his forehead against his shoulder.

Daryl, turned his head, kissing his forehead softly, wrapping his arms tightly around Rick as their breathing slowly returned to normal. “That was good,” he whispered.

“Still not ok?” Rick asked softly.

Daryl shifted his weight, tightening his arms around him. “No… I’m good. This is okay.”

Rick pushed back, running his hands through Daryl’s drying hair. “Good. Let’s get back.”

Daryl just nodded, reaching down to grab his clothes from the floor while Rick did the same. “Yeah, now I’m even more tired. Thanks, Grimes,” he said snidely.

Rick smacked his ass as they dressed quickly. “I promise you’ll sleep like a baby now.”

 

Chapter Three

Minor touches Rick kept telling himself, minor touches. That’s what you did with a scared animal that you were trying to lure. Though what they had done in the showers had been anything but minor. Watching Daryl’s back as they made their way back to his cell, Rick remembered the press of skin, the flick of his wrist, the heat of their bodies working together… He had to bite his lip to keep from smiling, to keep from reaching his arm out and taking the other’s hand. They had started something today. He wasn’t sure what it was or what it might one day be, but one thing for sure was that they had started something and to keep that something going, he had to focus on minor touches.

When they reached the cell, Rick hesitated at the door, not entirely sure if Daryl really wanted to take him up on his offer. He wanted nothing more at that moment than to hold this man close while his breath evened out into slumber, but that may be too much too soon. Minor touches, he reminded himself.

Daryl sat down on his bed, kicking his shoes off. Looking up at Rick briefly, he raised a hand and scratched the back of his head, his damp hair wetting the top of his shirt. “Never done this with a guy before…,” he mumbled.

Rick shrugged. “Me either… I can just go-”

Daryl shook his head, “Nah, I said you could stay here. ‘Sides, not like we didn’t just… uh… what we did.”

Rick snorted, moving to sit down next to Daryl on the bed, kicking off his own shoes and stripping himself of his shirt. It was still warm in the prison and Daryl’s body radiated heat next to him. He could feel himself being side-eyed, so he feigned confidence in the matter, laying himself down, his back against the wall.

Daryl watched the man lay down behind him, like it was that easy. He hesitated only a moment longer before letting out a long breath. He decided that hell, maybe it was that easy. Following Rick’s lead, he removed his own shirt, laying down on his side in front of the man who was patiently waiting for him, tucking the arm underneath his body under his pillow. A warm hand came over his side, fingertips gently dancing across his skin as it settled on his chest. “Is this ok?” Rick asked behind him. “Your heart is racing.”

He wanted to scream out that fuck no it wasn’t okay. They shouldn’t be here like this, allowing their bodies to be this close, and what they did in the showers was definitely not okay because holy shit he wasn’t gay. What he said instead was, “Yeah… s’alright.” Daryl shifted slightly, allowing for a few inches of space between their bodies. “You got enough room?”

Rick kissed the back of his neck, pulling the hunter closer. “Too much room.” Daryl’s body went rigid as his back met the warm skin of Rick’s nude chest. He felt Rick’s heartbeat fast against his back, giving away his own nervousness. Something in his shoulder twinged suddenly, making him shift uncomfortably. He tried to adjust himself to be semi off his shoulder but not necessarily laying completely on Rick. That would just be more uncomfortable and awkward.

“You ok?”

Daryl jumped at the voice in his ear before responding, “Yeah, just don’t normally lay on my side like this. Crossbow done fucked up my shoulder.”

Rick shifted behind him, gently pushing him to lay on his stomach. “Trust me,” he whispered. “Tell me to stop when you want to.”

Daryl nodded, but still completely unsure of exactly what the other man was planning on doing. Now fully on his stomach, face sideways on the pillow, he watched Rick straddle his narrow hips. His knees sidled up against his ribs as he sat gently on his ass. Daryl grunted softly, closing his eyes as his Rick ran his warm hands up his back and over his shoulders. “I normally have lotion or oil for this…”

“Some in my bag…,” Daryl mumbled. “Keep it for my crossbow.”

Rick smiled and carefully got up to go rifling through the other man’s bag that he took on runs, finding the small bottle at the bottom. “Lavender?” he asked, climbing back over, taking the top off and sniffing it.

Daryl shrugged as much as he could on the bed. “It’s what I found. Beggars can’t be choosers, Grimes.”

Rick leaned down, his grin growing wider as he growled in Daryl’s ear, “You, Daryl Dixon, are going to smell like lavender when I’m done with you.”

The prone man could not help his snickers. “Shut it, Grimes. Get off me,” he said, trying to roll over.

“Nuh uh,” he responded, pushing Daryl back down onto the bed. “You’re mine now, Dixon. Don’t make me handcuff you again.”

Daryl full out laughed at that. “You and them handcuffs are dangerous.”

The warm hands returned to his back, wet now with the lavender scented oil. Gently they kneaded into the offending shoulder, fingers rubbing along tired muscles, noting the feel of the years old scars crisscrossing the soft skin. Daryl closed his eyes and groaned at the sensation. “Fuck, Rick.”

Rick snorted, “I wonder how many times in one day I could get you to say that.”

“Asswipe,” Daryl retorted, his eyes still closed, body slowly relaxing into the thin mattress. The hands left his shoulder and moved to his other, repeating the motions before rubbing down his back, working out every kink that he felt.

Rick snorted as he sat up, rubbing his hands on his jeans and looking down at the beautiful sheen on Daryl’s scarred back. “You’re shiny now,” he whispered. Leaning over to look at Daryl’s face when he got no response, he realized that the man was dead asleep, his breath even and body limp. Rick smiled, laying back down against the wall and draping one arm over his hunter, nestling his face in the still damp hair, breathing in the scent of lavender and pure, clean Daryl as he drifted off to sleep.

Hours later, Daryl awoke, keenly aware of the weight pressing against his back. The sun was setting, casting a soft orange glow in the prison. He could hear people below milling about as he slowly came out of his slumber. “Daryl?” a soft voice asked from outside the cell.

He groaned, really wanting to roll over, but the weight on his back wouldn’t let him. “What?” he growled instead, opening one eye to see Carol peering in.

“Food is ready if you and Rick want to come down,” she said, smiling slightly before disappearing.

Rick. Fuck. Daryl realized the heavy weight on him, throwing his weight behind his shoulder, lifting the other man off him and knocking himself off the bed in the process. Rick was thrown awake as his back met the cold concrete wall of the cell. “Shit, Daryl, s’ok,” he mumbled sleepily.

Daryl blinked up at him from the floor, watching as Rick rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. “You have sharp edges, man. That hurt.”

“Carol,” he breathed from the floor.

“What about her?” Rick asked, sitting up on the bed, putting his feet down on the floor, running his hand over his face.

“She saw us. Fuck,” Daryl breathed, standing up and grabbing his shirt from the floor.

“Oh…,” Rick said, pulling on his own shirt. “I’m sorry…”

Daryl shrugged, running his hands through his hair. “She won’t say nothin’ to anyone, but she’ll have questions later.”

“You going to tell her?”

“Break her heart? Naw…” Daryl sighed.

“Daryl… we don’t have to… we can just leave it at what happened today,” Rick said, cautiously. “I don’t want to push you into anything that you’re not comfortable with.” His heart beat faster at the idea of just ignoring the fire that they had ignited earlier. He didn’t want to lose the man as his friend and closest ally at the expense of the hint of something stronger.

Daryl shifted uneasily in front of him. He saw his out. Rick was leaving the door open for him. Bringing a hand up, he chewed at a hangnail on his thumb. “You didn’t push nothin’. Wasn’t anything I didn’t want to do.”

Rick nodded, but that still didn’t answer his question. He wasn’t willing to push though. Making for the door, Daryl caught his arm as he walked by, pulling him towards him. With only a moment of hesitation, Daryl pulled him closer, pressing his lips softly against Rick’s. Fingers slowly uncurling from his arm, he pulled back, blue eyes meeting blue eyes. “I don’t want to tell anyone yet. Not ‘fore we know what we’re doin’.”

Rick nodded, a small smile forming as he raised a hand to run through Daryl’s messy locks, arranging them back into place. “Course.”

They walked down to the common area, smelling the deer meat far before they saw everyone. “Man, that smells good,” Rick said loudly as they entered. Each man took their seat next to each other, close but not close enough to be suspicious.

Daryl’s stomach growled as a plate full of venison and some form of vegetable that no doubt came from the garden Rick had been cultivating. Everyone was patting him on the back and thanking him for his kill, their gratitude something he would never get used to but silently appreciated even if he wouldn’t admit to it. Carol watched them from across the table. Daryl telling her with his eyes that he was sorry. She nodded a quiet understanding, tilting her chin at Rick and smiling. He blushed slightly but nodded. No words needed to be spoken between them for a full conversation and he was thankful for that.

Glenn slid into the seat next to Daryl, looking down at his food and then over at him. Daryl gave him a questioning look as the Asian leaned over and sniffed him. “Dude… you smell good. Like…,” he sniffed again. “Lavender.” Rick snorted next to him as Daryl’s face turned crimson. He had forgotten about the massage oil. “Smells good,” he said and turned back to his food.

Daryl side eyed Rick, silently threatening the man beside him. Rick just shrugged and smiled, turning back to his food.

 

Chapter Four

Three months, 4 days, and Rick estimated about 7 hours since he had followed Daryl out of those showers after “doin’ what they did” as Daryl had put it so eloquently that day. He huffed as he continued digging in his garden. “What they did” had been all that they had been doing and, frankly, he was tired. Not that it wasn’t good… feeling the flex of the lithe, hard earned muscle beneath the taut, tanned, and sometimes clean skin underneath his trembling hand as it moved down his broad chest, coasting through the light curls to wrap around the turgid flesh to stroke him to completion was high on his list of favorite activities. Thrusting against the pale hip, cock against cock was also high up there, possibly even above the handjobs, but that depended on the day. No… he just wanted a little more variety. Rick wanted to take their relationship to the next level, but he wasn’t quite sure how to do that. With women it had been a lot easier, but this was a man, and a sometimes highly volatile one at that.

Minor touches, he always reminded himself every time he almost suggested something different, but maybe it was time he just took matters into his own hands. After all, he was the one that had to initiate this whole relationship in the first place. If it hadn’t of been for his stupidly brazen move that day in the cell after Daryl had come back with the deer, they’d still be stealing glances and slicing the sexual tension with fucking butter knives. Rick sighed, sitting back on his heels, looking up at the watch tower where he knew Daryl to be.

Sure enough, as soon as Rick’s eyes lit on him the man on watch jerked his body, signaling that he had been caught staring. Rick just shook his head, smiling as he watched Daryl pace around the top of the tower, crossbow at the ready. His crossbow was ialways/i at the ready. There was a dirty joke in there that he chuckled to himself about, thinking that he needed to use that later. Maybe he could use it as a cheesy pickup line and have the hunter meet him somewhere tonight.

Movement out of the corner of his eyes drew his attention away. Carol walked by on her way to clear the fence, smiling slightly at him and nodding her head in acknowledgement. They hadn’t said much to each other since the first night after Rick had given Daryl a massage with the lavender oil. He cursed at himself for that nearly every day, but he didn’t know what he could say to her. He wasn’t sure everything that she knew and he didn’t want to bring it up and possibly end up in a confrontation that he couldn’t win. Fighting over a lover, especially a man… Rick just wasn’t sure about that.

“Growing any weed down here, Officer?”

Rick jumped slightly at the sudden voice behind him, whirling around though still on his hands and knees. “What would make you ask that?”

Daryl smiled down at him, crossbow slung over his back, arms crossed in front of him, bulking up his arm muscles. Rick openly stared at the man, sitting back on his feet in front of him. In the past three months he’s done a lot of staring across the compound, the prison, hell even the shower.

Daryl just smiled his lazy smile, tilting his head in the direction that Carol disappeared to. “You’ve hardly been working down here. Just kinda sitting and staring off. Thought maybe you had tapped into some good stuff that you might be willing to share.”

Rick patted the dirt next to him and Daryl sat. “Just been thinking…”

Grabbing a tomato from a plant and biting into it, Daryl asked, “‘Bout what?”

iUs/i he wanted to say. iSex. Love. Jealousy. All the things I can’t say to you because I don’t know the security of this…/i “Carol,” he answered instead.

Daryl’s face was almost comical as he tried to figure out what was ticking through the other man’s head. “What for?”

“Her and I haven’t spoken since that first night. I don’t know what to say to her. I’m sorry seems odd. I’m not giving you up either and I don’t share well.”

Daryl snorted, taking another bite of the tomato. “Nothing worth sharing. And I don’t share well either.”

“Did you talk to her?” He just got a nod for an answer, but without any eye contact. “What did you say?”

Worrying the cuticle on his thumbnail, Daryl shrugged. He had hoped to avoid this conversation, but he supposed Rick had a right to know. “Told her I’m sorry that I didn’t feel that way about her. Wasn’t nothing wrong with her, it’s with me. That she was better off without me and we’d run across someone that would sweep her off her feet soon just like in the fairy tales.”

Rick shook his head, moving to sit directly next to the hunter. “There’s nothing wrong with you. And for the record, you idid/i sweep ime/i off my feet.”

Daryl snorted again, side eyeing the sheriff. “Then maybe there’s something with iya/i instead of me.”

“So you told her… about…”

With a curt nod, he responded, “Told her it was a private matter. Asked her not to tell anyone else and I know she won’t. She walked in on us once, bet you didn’t know that.”

iFuck./i “No, I didn’t.” Rick cursed at himself. When did that happen? Shit they had to be more careful.

“S’why I told you not the showers anymore, cause I saw her over your shoulder. I think that hurt her more than me smelling like lavender.”

Rick bowed his head in contemplation. He had fucked up and didn’t even know it. Daryl had told him that they shouldn’t use the showers as a meeting place anymore only a month in. So she had seen them two months ago? No wonder she didn’t have anything to say to him. “I iam/i sorry that I broke her heart by stealing you out from under her.”

Daryl shrugged, kicking at the dirt slightly, running his hand through his messy, no doubt dirty hair. “Didn’t steal me. I wouldn’t have been with her anyways. She couldn’t’a been happy with me. I ain’t easy to settle with.”

Rick’s hand itched to reach across and run through the dirty locks, swiping them out of his lover’s face. He still couldn’t believe the low value Daryl put on himself, especially with how much he so obviously meant to him and all of those around them. “I don’t know what kind of man I would be if I had never met you Daryl Dixon,” Rick said honestly. “You’ve been there through everything with me. Pulled me back from the brink of insanity.”

Daryl just shook his head, standing and brushing the dirt off his ass. “Don’t get started on all that now. Tha’s all talk. Ya’d be just fine without me and ya know it. Might be a little skinnier though. I’m going to go take a nap. Been on watch all damn day and this Georgia heat got me.”

Rick watched him walk away. That was how they had not escalated their relationship. If you could even call it a relationship. Real feelings were never truly expressed and whenever he tried, Daryl would back away with some sort of excuse.

An hour later, Rick had wandered inside. The garden was as tended to as it could be for the day. He took a quick shower and headed up towards Daryl’s cell. Usually when they were napping, one would join the other behind the curtains that they had all put up in their cells for a small bit of privacy. Daryl’s cell was still far enough away from everyone’s that it felt the most private and Rick thanked God or whoever above for small favors as he pulled back the dark curtain. Daryl was laid out on his back, his hand under his pillow, no doubt cradling the handle of a knife that Rick knew he’d have to avoid before climbing into bed with the man. Stepping out of his boots alone alerted Daryl as he sat up, pulling the knife out from under the pillow. “Shit, Rick, ‘s just you. Thought you’d be here earlier,” he sighed, dropping the knife under the bed and laying back down but pushing himself against the wall, giving the other man plenty of room to lay down.

Rick lay facing Daryl, running a hand up and down the exposed flesh of the other man’s arm. “Just been thinkin’ while workin’ out in the garden.”

Daryl fidgeted a bit. Rick had an idea that the other man knew exactly what he had been thinking about. “Still? ‘Bout what now?” he asked.

“Us,” Rick answered honestly. “Whether or not there even is an us.”

Daryl scoffed but kept his voice low. “You breaking up with me now, Sheriff?”

Rick shook his head. “No, but I wasn’t entirely sure you…” He sighed. This was harder than he thought it was going to be. “I’m not sure we are both thinking along the same lines here.”

Daryl never lifted his gaze, but responded with, “You don’t think we want the same things?”

“Basically…”

“What do you want then? A warm body?”

Rick could feel Daryl’s defenses raising after knowing the man so intimately for so long and he knew that he had to get them lowered to get anywhere in this conversation. “No, Daryl I want you. I like you. I ireally/i like you and that terrifies me. Not just because you’re a man but because of this whole… situation… If something happened to you out there, on one of your hunts or a run or whatever, I don’t know… I couldn’t…”

Arms unexpectedly surrounded him, pulling him in close to the sun kissed body. Soft shushes were whispered in his ear, followed by, “You’re not going to lose me. I’m right here. I’m a tough sonofabitch, you know that.”

Rick wrapped his arms around Daryl, clinging to him. “I just want to know that you feel even somewhat like that for me.”

“Aw hell, Rick. I love that you’re Farmer Brown now. I don’t have to worry much about’cha,” Daryl smiled at him, blushing slightly.

“So then… are we… what are we?” Rick asked. He needed to know. He needed to hear it from Daryl and that just killed him. He felt no better than some teenage girl with raging hormones going after the school bad boy.

“Well I’m not calling you my boyfriend if that’s what you’re going for,” Daryl quipped as Rick rolled him onto his back, staring down at him.

Rick hummed, “Lover? Partner?”

“Do we have to have a label? Can’t it just be ‘us?’ We’ve been doin’ jus’ fine without semantics from the old world. Unless… is there something wrong, Rick? Is that what’s been botherin’ you?” Daryl finally asked, his blue eyes turning a shade darker.

Rick sighed. “I just wondered why we haven’t taken our relationship, ius/i, any farther than we have.”

“You mean like told people?”

Rick shook his head, drawing his hand down Daryl’s chest and cupping his flaccid crotch. “Any farther down here.”

“Oh….” This time Rick saw Daryl’s blush clearly. “I don’t know how…”

“Me either,” he answered, rubbing his hand on the jean clad crotch, feeling the encased cock stiffen slightly at his touch. “But I want to experiment with you. Will you let me experiment, Daryl?”

“Fuck, Rick. Don’t you think that’s… fuck,” he grunted at a particularly hard rub, “don’t you think that might be a little too…”

Rick nearly purred as he leaned in, licking a line from Daryl’s shoulder to his ear. He was completely turned on now, being so close to this man, smelling his musk, being in his bed. “A little too what?”

“Gay!” Daryl finally blurted and immediately regretted it as the hand instantly left his crotch.

“I thought we just decided…,” Rick started.

“Rick, I just. I like you man. I do. I just don’t think I’m ready to be that yet. I’m not gay,” Daryl said, running his hand through his hair and bringing his thumb down to bite on the cuticle.

“I’m not asking you to be gay, Daryl. I had a wife and have two children. I’m not gay, but I fucking…” ilove you/i was what he wanted to say. No way that was coming out now though. “I’m interested enough in you to want to express myself this way with you. Not as in like a one-time thing. I thought we had just established that there is an us.”

Daryl closed his eyes, almost wishing that they weren’t in his cell just so he could walk out. Sitting up, he rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes. Rick sat up as well, giving his back to Daryl as he rested his elbows on his knees. “Rick… it’s not…”

“You know, what? Forget it Daryl,” he sighed, tiredly, standing up from the bed and walking to the cell door. “Just don’t worry about it. Forget this ever happened.”

“Rick, it ain’t like that!”

“Apparently it is,” he huffed and walked out of the cell. Daryl cursed and punched his pillow.

Hours later, after the sun had gone down and everyone had gone to sleep, Rick lay awake in his cell listening to the quiet around him. He had avoided the rest of the prison after his confrontation with Daryl, just like he used to do in high school after a bad breakup. Running his hand over his face he thought back on their conversation earlier. Truth be told, Daryl had never said that he had feelings for the man. He just said he was thankful he didn’t have to worry about him out on runs because he was in the garden now. Shit, how could he be so stupid? Daryl didn’t really want anything to do with him like ithat/i.

“Rick?” came the soft voice.

Startled out of his thoughts, Rick sat up, mad at himself for not noticing the man though not all that surprised either. Daryl was fucking quiet when he wanted to be. “Daryl? You ok?”

A dirt-stained hand pushed the curtain back as the younger man padded barefoot into the cell. Rick almost snorted. It was a rare sight to see him dressed down like this, in nothing but jeans and a tank top. “Not really,” he answered. “Mind if I come in?”

Rick nodded, “Yeah, come on,” he said, scooting over on the bed so he could sit. “What’s on your mind?”

Daryl shook his head as he sat down. “Don’t be like that. Please.”

“Like what?”

“All… leader-like. I just,” he sighed. “I’m an ass and I don’t know how to say things the way I mean them sometimes.”

Rick’s eyebrows raised dramatically. Was Daryl Dixon apologizing to him? He scooted closer to him on the bed, sitting next to him on the edge.

“I didn’t mean things the way I think you took them earlier. I just meant that I had never thought…,” he coughed slightly on the words. “I never even thought about sex with a man before I met you. Or anything else of a sexual nature with a man. A handjob is easy. But the whole mouth thing… and… you know… sex… I just. I wouldn’t say I want to but I’m not saying I don’t want to. And I know that doesn’t make any sense.” Running his hands through his hair, he fumbled with his words, finally just giving up and looking at Rick. “I’m sorry, okay? I’ve fucked things up again. Merle and my Dad were right. I’m shit at dealing with other people.”

Rick chuckled to himself at the mess sitting next to him. So Daryl had been up in his cell brooding just the same as he had been all these hours. “It’s ok, Daryl,” he said, wrapping an arm around his waist and pulling their bodies together. Kissing the side of his head gently he whispered, “We only go as far as you are comfortable, okay? I’m new to this too. The idea of going down on another man… or fucking another man, not exactly something that’s run through my head either.”

Daryl nodded, leaning into the warmth. “Next time, just don’t run out on me, ok? Give me some more time to dig my own grave.”

Rick laughed. “I promise. I’ll even give you a shovel.” Daryl laughed, the sound turning into a yawn. “Did you even get any sleep after I left?”

“Nah, was too worked up. Ya messed me up, Grimes.”

“Lay down with me then. I haven’t wrapped my arms around you in awhile.”

“You sure you wanna lay down with a dog like me?” Daryl snorted.

“I’ll give you a flea bath tomorrow, but there’s no other man or dog I’d rather lay or be with,” Rick answered, kissing his lips softly to end the discussion. Sighing contentedly, both men laid down on the bunk. Fingertips played along the sun kissed skin of Daryl’s arm before moving down to his hip and pulling him back flush against the man behind him. The warm hand came around, fingers splaying on his chest, covering his heartbeat. The thought that he had almost lost this ran through Daryl’s mind as his eyelids grew heavy. Rick’s head resting against the back of his neck and their legs entwined sent a calming sensation throughout his body, pushing him down into sleep.

 

Chapter Five

“I don’t think you know the way this is supposed to work.”

“Nah, Rick, I’m telling you. I saw it in a magazine once!” Daryl told him, shifting slightly on his heels. They stood, eyeing a piece of what Daryl claimed was gardening equipment but Rick wasn’t so sure. Hershel wasn’t weighing in either way because he was in no rush to take either of their sides though he was certainly going to sit in a chair in the shade and watch the spectacle. The warm days of summer had dragged on, settling into the lowering temperatures of fall. The sun still shone hot during the day, but the nights were bearable with a thin blanket now. Planting season for the fall crops was in full swing with Rick and Carl and a few others helping out in the garden for endless hours. The ladies had collected canning and jarring supplies and had taken to preserving some of their summer crops. Daryl had commented about how there used to be machines that would do a lot of the work that he remembered from growing up in the country and how Rick’s back wouldn’t always be hurting him, but Rick never expected for him to actually go try to find one of said machines.

“Daryl, what the hell did you bring me?” Rick asked, still circling the contraption.

“It’s a… you know a… seeder… planter… thing. Fuck, I don’t know but it looked useful,” he finally succumbed.

Hershel snorted behind them, finally able to join the conversation now that the hunter had backed down. “It’s a tiller,” he said, raising his voice so the two men would hear him from his spot in the chair. “But its an electric tiller. You need electricity to run that thing, son, and it looks like the power cord was snipped off.”

Daryl huffed, hands on his hips, looking down at the machine he had hauled back in the truck all proud of himself. Rick looked at him, bright smile shining on his face. “I ‘preciate the thought. It would be useful. Once we figure out electricity, we’ll be good to go.”

“Ok, so I gotta reattach a power cord and get a generator. A noiseless one so it won’t draw more walkers.” Daryl nodded as if it were decided and such machines existed.

Rick just shook his head, knowing that no matter what he said, it wouldn’t matter. If the other’s mind was made up about something, he was set on it. Let him search for a noiseless generator. Some electricity in the prison would be nice again. “Well, until then, we’ll just have to keep working like we have been,” he said, turning around to head back towards the garden.

“I don’t like you doin’ that,” came the soft response behind him.

Rick turned around again, surprised at the response, glancing subtlely at Hershel, who politely looked interested in anything but the two men in front of him. “Daryl, it has to get done,” he said, lowering his voice as he walked closer. He knew Hershel wouldn’t spread rumors about them at the prison, but one of the last things he wanted was a religious lecture on how a relationship between two men was condemned in the Bible.

He was well aware of the scripture.

Daryl just shook his head, crossing his arms over his chest defensively. “Let those Woodbury people do it. We fought for our land and our home and welcomed them. They can pull their own weight for awhile.”

Hershel stood up, grabbing his crutches from beside the chair. “If you boys will excuse me, I’m sure I’m needed elsewhere.” Rick just nodded after him, thankful that there were still people with manners in this apocalypse.

“Daryl, those Woodbury people do carry their own weight. Those who can do physical work do and those who can’t, wash clothes, help cook and take care of the kids. Carol has them helping out with a lot. I promise you, no one is falling behind on their share.”

Daryl huffed again, still refusing to look at him. “Just don’t see why you gotta be killing yerself for all that when there are other capable people. Hell, I’ll do it,” he said, and started striding over towards the garden. Carl raised his head, his hands busy dropping seeds into mounds of dirt and covering them back up. He gave both men a questioning look as Daryl was walking in a fast stride towards them.

Rick grabbed his arm, spinning the younger man around to face him before he got too far away. “What the hell has gotten into you? I’m perfectly capable of it. I have to pull my own weight too.”

“You’re killing yerself over this,” Daryl said, stepping closer to him and lowering his voice so the rest of the people around them wouldn’t overhear. “Every night I see ya go into your cell and you can barely get outta your clothes.”

Rick grinned. “It’s called labor, Daryl,” he whispered back. “I’ll be ok. Just a few more days of this and it will be over, I promise. And what are you doin’ spyin’ on me getting undressed?”

“Ain’t spyin’. Just keepin’ watch. And yeah it’s just a few more days, but then you have each planting season. What happens when you can’t do it no more, Rick? What happens when-”

“Daryl,” he shushed the other man. “What do you always tell me when I tell you how I worry about you going out on another run?”

Daryl rolled his eyes, but smirked slightly. “That I’m a tough sonofabitch and that I’ll be right back to ya.”

“Exactly. And this is the same thing,” Rick smiled, checking around to make sure no one was watching them. Leaning in a little closer, he whispered, “But I wouldn’t say no to a massage at the end of the day.”

Snorting, Daryl rolled his eyes. “I still got that lavender oil. Suppose I could put that to use. I might have even brought something else back from that run.”

Rick raised his eyebrow. “Like what?”

Daryl shook his head. “Let’s just say the farmer’s daughter wasn’t as innocent as her daddy probably thought she was.”

That night after dinner, Rick made sure that Judith and Carl were set before excusing himself. Quickly, he got a shower before heading back to his cell to change into a bit nicer clothes than the raggedy things he wore back from the shower. He didn’t want anyone to see him walk from the showers directly to cell block B dressed in some of his nicest stuff. People would talk then and he wasn’t prepared for that. Hell, they weren’t prepared for that. Nor was he prepared for Hershel sitting in his cell when he pulled back the curtain. “Hey, Hershel. You alright?” he asked as casually as he could.

“Oh, I’m fine, Rick. I just had something I wanted to get off my chest ‘fore I laid down tonight,” he smiled, standing back up on his crutches.

“What’s on your mind?” he asked as he hung his towel up on the hook and set his bag of soaps down.

“Daryl. He’s a changed man since I first met him back on my farm.” Rick just nodded, not sure he was liking where this was going. “But in many ways he hasn’t changed, and I hope you realize that. He still looks to you for guidance. When you had your moment to yourself there, I was afraid he wasn’t going to be too far behind you before you pulled yourself out of it. But he held it together because he wanted everything to be okay for you.”

Rick sat on the bunk. He had heard all of this before, but it still daunted him. The enigma of Daryl Dixon weighed heavy on him, but Hershel had the viewpoint of a man of both experience and fatherly concern.
“He took to that baby as if it were his own, cradling her and feeding her like a natural,” Hershel continued. He saw the rolling wave of emotion crash over Rick’s face with each sentence, but he wanted him to know the severity of his situation. “I know you’ve seen him with her. He loves that little girl and he loves your son. And Rick…” He looked up as a hand clasped his shoulder tightly. “Rick, he loves you too. I hope you see that. That whole show today was about trying to protect you.”

Rick nodded, the emotion welling up in his chest. And he had doubted Daryl’s feelings? He felt more shame on himself than anything. “I know,” he said, dropping his head to his hands in his lap. “I love him, too, Hershel. And I would protect him with everything I had.” It somehow felt freeing to say that and mean it, especially to someone who knows that Rick actually did love Daryl. Hershel just probably didn’t realize what type of love it was.

Hershel just nodded. “I just wanted to get that out there to you, Rick. I know Daryl is all gruff and he puts up a lot of barriers, but many of those are taken down around you. I just wanted you to know that even outsiders and old timers like me can see how he cares for you and yours. Don’t be too hard on him when he pulls stunts like he did today.”

Rick smiled at him. “Thanks, Hershel. I would never be hard on him for caring about anyone. We’re all we have left in this world sometimes it seems. I’m actually getting ready to meet Daryl right now. We were planning on having a very serious discussion about a few things around here.”

Nodding, he moved to the door of the cell before looking back with a soft smile. “Let me know what I can do to help.” With that, he left Rick to his thoughts.

Quickly, he shed his grubby clothes, pulling on his nicest jeans and plaid shirt. He didn’t know why, but he knew this was Daryl’s favorite shirt on him, but then again, of course he would go for the plaid. Pulling his boots on and grabbing his python and a knife for his belt, and a flashlight, he headed off silently for cell block B.

“Thought you had changed your mind,” Daryl said, laid out on the best mattress they could find in the cell block in the biggest cell at the end of the hall. He sat up as the older man came into the enclosed space, turning off his flashlight since Daryl had turned on their Coleman lantern.

“Yeah, well, I was distracted by Hershel being in my cell after I got back from my shower,” Rick said sitting down next to him on the bed.

Reaching over, Daryl brushed the wet strands of hair out of his face, a surprisingly tender move that they both knew would only happen in the darkness of this cell far away from everyone else. “What’d he have to say?”

Rick grinned brilliantly. “That you obviously love me.”

Daryl snorted, rolling his eyes. “He did not. What did he really say?”

Rick shrugged, unbuttoning his plaid shirt as Daryl reached over to the table for the vial of oil. “No, he really did say that. He said that you’re a changed man ever since we first came to their farm but in some ways you’re still the same and one of those is that you still love me. He wanted me to know that you hauling that tiller back was your way of protecting me.”

Daryl growled, helping Rick pull his shirt off his back. “Whatever. I ain’t the same person that I was when Merle was around. There are some days I’m happy that bastard is gone and probably dead truth be told.” Like right now, he thought.

Rick just shook his head. “Blood is blood whether you want it to be or not, but he’s right. You’ve changed. I like this Daryl. My Daryl,” he added for emphasis. “Your protective streak is kinda sexy.”

He huffed again, but stood up to lay the older man down face first on the bed, straddling his hips like the other had done so many months previous. But once he got there, he was dumbfounded. He had to be a quick learner though, he needed to be. Rick sighed as Daryl settled his weight on him and took the top off the vial, pouring some liquid onto his hands. Trying to think back on how he had gotten massaged, he ran his slicked up hands up either side of the tanned back, framing the spinal cord. That earned him a soft happy grunt, which he took for encouragement so he did it again before running his hands over the shoulder muscles, kneading his fingers into them softly. “Mm, harder,” Rick grunted, his eyes closed as his head rested on the pillow, arms to either side.

Daryl snickered, but flexed his fingers, working them harder into the shoulders, rubbing up into his neck.

Rick smiled. “Didn’t mean it like that.”

“Nah, I know. But it was definitely a that’s what she said moment.”

Rick continued to smile into the pillow as the warm, oil slick hands moved down his sides, the tips of the hands coming back up, tickling him slightly. “I can think of another use for that oil,” he sighed softly, only realizing too late exactly what he had said.

Daryl’s hands stopped on his skin. “Do you… do you want to?” he asked hesitantly.

Rick blushed a deep crimson. “Nah, I’ll be happy with a massage.” He closed his eyes tightly, hoping that the simple statement smoothed over whatever damage he may have caused but also silently cursing himself at not taking the opportunity, so he spoke up again. “Unless, you know, you want to…”

He wasn’t really given a response but the hands continued to work on his body, alternating between gentle brushes and hard rubs. Just having them anywhere near his naked skin was causing a reaction farther south in Rick’s body. He tried to adjust discreetly but Daryl’s weight on his ass was making it difficult. “Why don’t you get those jeans off? Don’t want ya to chafe since you ain’t wearing underwear.”

Rick laughed softly as Daryl moved his body off to help him roll over and remove the offending material, his hard on bobbing freely once it was freed from this confinement. “How did you know I wasn’t wearing any?”

Daryl shrugged. “Normally I can see the waistband at the top of your jeans, but this time I’ve just been staring at your ass crack for the past 20 minutes.”

Rick laughed at the image but quickly noticed that, “Hey, I’m outnumbered here in the clothing department.” Sitting up he started tugging the tshirt material over Daryl’s head before laying the younger man down in front of him and ridding him of his pants.

“I think we’re even now officer,” Daryl said, his hand moving to stroke up the strong back as Rick straddled his body, his voice an octave deeper with desire.

Rick leaned forward, his blue eyes turned darker from his lust-blown pupils. He placed a chaste kiss on the sun burned lips as he ran his hands up the younger man’s chest, noticing the goosebumps emerging as he stroked. “Do I give you gooseflesh, Daryl?” he smirked.

“Fuck you,” he smirked back, trying to flip them over but Rick held firm.

“Nuh uh, not tonight. Tonight, I wanna love on you.”

“But-”

“No,” he silenced him with a kiss, tonguing his lips open and staking a claim with his tongue as he settled his body on top, starting the slow grind with their hips. Pulling back, Rick stared down at his lover. His hair was splayed across the pillow at all angles; his sunkissed face slack from being in a controlled and comfortable, safe environment, and his blue eyes a deep cerulean echoing the lust in his own. “Want to try something, Daryl. Will you let me try something?” he asked, his voice betraying his lust. A nod was his only answer as those cerulean eyes watched him duck down again, placing soft, sucking kisses to his skin. Teeth gently nibbled as he skated over a nipple, blowing cool air on the bud to watch it harden even more.

He was always surprised at how quiet Daryl was during sex, but he knew he shouldn’t be. The man was quiet in everything he did, so why not sex? Though small moans escaped his mouth as Rick dipped deeper, flirting with his chest hair with the tip of his tongue, tracing it down to his navel. This close, he could smell Daryl’s arousal. By now the younger man had to have a pretty good idea of what Rick wanted to do, but Rick himself wasn’t sure he could actually do it. It’s just flesh, he kept reminding himself. Just flesh that would be coated in a sticky residue once I get down to it.

With a short look up at the other’s face, just to make sure that what he was doing was okay, Rick was stunned, his cock throbbing heavily between his legs, largely neglected for the moment gave a twitch at the sight. Daryl’s cerulean eyes were mostly black now, the pupils blown wide as his head was lifted, watching every single move the sheriff made along his skin. Running his hands up the lean body, Rick pinched at the pink buds he had just tortured as he swirled his tongue over the head of the cock in front of him. “Fuck Rick,” Daryl moaned, still not breaking the eye contact.

Rick’s hands ran back down Daryl’s body, spreading his legs even farther apart so he had more room to work. Gently they rubbed at the soft hair on the underside of the thighs as his lips finally closed over the head, giving a single, experimental suck. “Holy shit,” Daryl breathed, finally breaking eye contact as he slammed his head down into the pillow. Rick did a happy dance inside his head, now knowing that to get Daryl to be vocal during sex, you just had to suck his cock.

Swirling his tongue around the head again, he took more in, giving another soft suck as he oriented himself to the whole process. He hoped it was at least somewhat good. Suddenly, a salty strange tasting substance unlike anything he had ever tasted before dribbled a little in his mouth. He tried not to make a face; he tried not to be affected by the acrid taste, but he feared that he failed as Daryl mumbled a small apology with a quiet, “I’ll warn you when it’s the real thing.”

Rick tried to convey his thanks by taking more of the shaft into his mouth before beginning to bob up and down slightly. He knew what he liked, but damn this was harder than he had anticipated. Now he felt bad about talking shit about the few girls who he thought were just horrible at giving head. It should be a fucking Olympic sport with this level of difficulty.

“Dad?! Are you down there?!”

Panic coursed through the naked bodies in the cell as Rick popped off Daryl’s cock, both men making a dive for their clothing thrown haphazardly on the floor. “Yeah, yeah, Carl,” he answered, trying to clear his throat to get the dark hint of lust erased. “Everything ok?”

“Hershel sent me to get you,” he said, his voice clearly coming closer, the sound of his shoes echoing slightly off the walls. Carl rounded on the cell just as Rick fastened his last button on his shirt and Daryl leaned casually against the wall, behind the table, trying to hide his tent in his pants from the kid.

“What’s wrong?” Rick asked.

“Andrea’s back.”

 

Chapter Six

“Rick, he’s rebuilding. I felt like I had to tell you. I couldn’t… Not after last time,” Andrea said, sitting on the bench in their common area. All of the other inner circle members were gathered around along with a few of the most trusted Woodbury people. Andrea’s presence was definitely a surprise. The group had grown to distrust her after the last war with Woodbury when the Governor had attacked the prison. Thankfully, they were able to defeat his army with the traps that they had laid and a few strategic posts and very skillful shots. Daryl remembered the battle well. It had looked like one of those videogames his cousin had always been playing when they were teenagers. It had taken them almost a month to recover from the war, but the healing process never really ceased.

Andrea had claimed to not know anything about Phillip’s plans and that she had regretted ever sleeping with the man. When the group did not accept her back, she had no choice but to return to Phillip. She had directed the Woodbury people unhappy with the crazy turn of their leader to the prison and though wary, the prison group had accepted them in. They had come to be good members of their little makeshift society, more than willing to pull their own weight. But now… with this news… Rick wondered if their loyalties would still lie with the prison.

“How do you mean ‘rebuilding?'” Rick asked, hands on his hips with a cautious glance back at Daryl. Their good mood had dissipated once Carl had started walking down the long corridor, but the real boner killer had been Andrea. They had been ithere/i and now that moment was gone. Licking his lips he could still faintly taste Daryl.

“A new army. We’ve had new people join us. They went on recruiting and scouting missions and brought back more people, more men. They have an ammo cache, Rick,” Andrea said. She was desperate. These were the people that had kept her alive for so long, her original post-apocalypse family. She looked around at every person she knew, taking the time to look them in the eye before she spoke again. “He’s not backing down this time. He’s ready for you. He wants this prison.”

Rick shifted his weight onto his right foot, contemplating his next move. They were going to have to go on weapons runs. They needed more ammo, more guns, more… everything. And whether he wanted to admit it or not, they needed a second location to get to in the event of the Governor overrunning their home.

Andrea abruptly stood up. “I have to go. I’ve already been gone too long. They’re going to start looking for me soon and I can’t risk that. I’ll come back once I have more information. Not sure I’ll be able to get you a day or anything like that but I might be able to give you some kind of warning.”

Rick extended his thanks for the whole group and walked her down to the fence line. Daryl walked slowly behind them, listening in on their conversation down the dirt path. “I wish there was a way we could just combine our forces and work together,” Andrea said, helping push the gate open slightly, just so she could squeeze through it. “I miss you guys.”

Rick nodded, placing his fingers through the holes in the chain-link fence. “We miss you too, Andrea, but you are proving very useful being with them. Just keep safe, okay?”

Andrea nodded, smiling and waving at everyone still up at the prison door before turning around and running into the forest.

“Think we can trust her?” Daryl asked quietly.

Rick nodded, his features taking on an ethereal glow in the pale moonlight. “I think we can. She’s done okay by us so far being over there.”

With a glance over his shoulder to make sure everyone had gone back into the prison, leaving the two men alone in the moonlight, Daryl risked running his fingertips down the exposed skin of Rick’s arm. “We’ll be all right.”

Rick smiled sadly at him before looking back up at the prison. In the darkness it was just as opposing as all prisons had been before the turn. Inside it though, his life breathed. This prison had become their homestead and he was going to defend it, come hell, high water, or ego-charged maniacs. Looking back at Daryl, he allowed his smile to reach his eyes. “You look good in the moonlight, you know.”

Daryl rolled his eyes, turning his back on him and casually strolling back up the hill. “‘S cause it’s dark and you can’t really see my face.”

Rick laughed, coming up behind the escaping man, grabbing him and turning him around. “I like your face,” he whispered huskily, before kissing the other man hard on the lips, fingers enclosed around his biceps in a death grip.

Pulling back Daryl glared at him, stepping away quickly once he was released from the vice hold. “Fuck, Rick. We’re out in the open,” he whispered, eyes darting everywhere to make sure they were alone.

Rick shrugged, only slightly offended. He knew it was a risk kissing Daryl out here on the lawn, but he couldn’t resist the moment. With the Governor coming he wasn’t sure how many more moments he’d have left. “I had to do it,” he grinned, reaching for the younger man again but Daryl darted out of the way of his fingertips running back up to the prison. Before he ran through the door, Rick called out to him, “Wait!”

Daryl stopped, hand poised on the doorknob, glaring at him suspiciously through his matted hair.

Rick approached him, close enough to feel the other’s body heat, but not daring to touch when the others were so close. “Stay with me tonight? All night? We don’t have to do anything…”

Biting his lower lip, the younger man thought, looking out at the fence and the walkers that roamed just on the other side. His mind’s eye went even farther, considering the new danger that had presented itself tonight. With a single nod, they both entered the cell block.

The next morning, Rick was the first awake, which surprised him. His arm was curled around Daryl’s side, holding him close to his chest. The heartbeat was slow and even beneath his palm; his breaths rhythmic against the pillow they shared. Burrowing in further, he threw his leg over Daryl’s, bringing the man back against him even more. Smiling into the back of his neck before placing a soft kiss, Rick knew that this was even more of a major milestone in their relationship than what they had attempted to do last night. Neither had ever spent the full night in each other’s cell. One or the other always left after a few hours of sleep.

Daryl grumbled in his sleep at his new confinement, mumbling something akin to “Rick” and “quit it.” But the older man just hugged him closer, kissing down his neck and to his shoulder.

“Rick?” Carol’s voice asked through the curtain covering his cell.

He sighed, resting his forehead against Daryl’s shoulder. “‘S ok. She can come in,” Daryl mumbled, still not opening his eyes.

“You’re awake, you bastard,” he whispered.

“Have been. You’re the one that sleeps late,” he whispered, laying his hand over top Rick’s on his chest.

Smiling, Rick said louder, “Yeah, Carol? Come on in.”

She pulled back the curtain, allowing for the rays of the early morning sun to enter the cell slightly. “Oh, there’s Daryl. I was just up in your cell looking for you too.” She got a grunt in response.

Rick smiled slightly, still not entirely sure how she felt about the two of them together, but she did politely pull the curtain back so no one else could look in on them. “What’s up, Carol?”

“I’ve collected a list of things we are running low on. I figured there was going to be a run very soon given what Andrea told us last night.”

Daryl opened his eyes at this, glaring up at her from the pillow. “You wanted to talk to us about a run for supplies this early in the mornin’? What else is goin’ on?” he mumbled, pushing Rick off his back so he could roll over.

Carol looked at the curtain as if she could see past it. “The Woodbury people are scared. They think that the Governor is after them because they left. They were up all night worrying. I just think it would be nice if you both could reassure them at breakfast today. Tell them we’re not going to kick them out or turn them over to him.”

Daryl sat up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. “Yeah, we can do that,” he said, looking back at Rick. “We ain’t gonna turn ’em out.”

Rick nodded his confirmation. “We’ll do that. Thanks Carol.”

She nodded, making her way for the curtain and pulling it back, but before walking all the way through it, she turned, a sly smile on her face, saying, “You know, you two do look awful cute together so early in the morning.” She laughed as she left the cell, pulling the curtain closed once again.

Daryl blushed furiously, pulling at his boots strings to bring them closer to him from where he had kicked them off the night before. Rick clucked behind him, knocking the boots out of the way and pulling the younger man down on top of him. “It’s still early,” he said.

Daryl scoffed. “People are up.”

Rick shrugged against the bedsheets. “So? This might be the only time we get alone together for a long time. Once we walk out of this cell today, it’s going to be preparation for war 24/7. And who knows…”

“We’ll make it, Rick. We always do.”

“How are you so sure?” he asked quietly. Daryl was the only person, excluding Hershel, that he would even remotely let know his fears of dying defending the prison.

“Because I will always have your back, no matter what. If something happens to you, it will happen to me too. And you better not fuckin’ let anything happen.”

Rick laughed slightly before Daryl bent down, brushing their lips together. When he pulled back, Rick asked, “So if you were awake, why didn’t you get up or at least wake me up?”

Daryl smiled down at him, sitting up to straddle his waist. “Cause you were sleepin’ so soundly. Wasn’t sure when the last time you got a good night’s rest in was.”

Rick smiled. “Liar. You liked being all curled up in my arms. Admit it!” He pulled him down on the bed, switching their positions. Pulling Daryl’s arms up above his head, he held them there, bending down until they were nose to nose. “Admit that you liked waking up with me this morning.”

Daryl grinned. “Never.” Rick rolled his hips down, forcing a small grunt out of his lover. “Fuck, Rick you ain’t playin’ fair.”

“Practice for war,” he whispered, running his lips along the sharp collarbone beneath tanned skin.

Daryl rolled his hips back, dipping his head to capture Rick’s lips as they made their way back up his neck. Small moans filled the cell as their bodies moved in unison, hands now grasped over their heads as their lips moved slowly, sensuously together.

“Hey Dad?”

Daryl groaned. “I fuckin’ hate your kid,” he grumbled quietly.

“Me too,” he answered, sitting up and moving so he was sitting on the edge of the bed. Daryl repositioned himself into a not-so-compromising position next to Rick but far enough away. “Yeah, Carl?” he answered.

Carl opened the curtain, cradling Judith in his arms, a look of surprise on his face to see Daryl there too. “Oh… hey Daryl…”

“Hey, kid,” he said, successfully pulling his boots on this time.

Rick stood up and took Judith from his son. “Everything ok?”

Carl nodded, still looking at Daryl suspiciously. “Yeah, I was just wondering what the plan was with what Andrea told us last night.”

“Plan is for you to keep doin’ what you’ve always been doin’,” Daryl interrupted, standing up behind him.

Rick nodded. “We’ve got it covered, Carl. We’ll let you know when we need you.”

“You can tell me, dad. I can handle it,” he said hotly. “I’m not a kid anymore.”

Rick held Judith up to see her, checking her over to make sure she was still good since he last saw her. She giggled at him as he cuddled her back in close, pulling at the tank top he had slept in with her tiny, chubby hands. “I know, Carl. Your mother would be proud, but Daryl and I have this handled. We’ll call for you when we need you, I promise. For right now, you can help me by taking care of your sister. Daryl and I are going to be going on some runs this week.”

Carl sighed angrily, ripping his baby sister out of his dad’s arms. She let out a small wail of dissatisfaction, reaching out for Rick again, struggling against her brother’s strong grip. “Why can’t I go on a run? I always have to stay back and take care of Judith.”

Rick sighed as Carl turned and stormed out of the cell. Daryl stood up, checking outside the cell to make sure no one was lurking about before pulling the curtain back closed. “Guess being a teenager still means the same thing in the apocalypse,” he mumbled.

Running his hand through his hair, Rick just sighed. “I’m at my wit’s end, Daryl. I know he’s growing up but he ain’t grown yet. I’m just not comfortable with taking him out on runs.”

Knowing that they were in the confines of a cell, Daryl took Rick into his arms, kissing him softly. “He’s your kid and you’re a good dad. You want to protect him.” He shrugged, stepping away again to grab his crossbow from the wall where he had left it the night before. “That’s the way it should be. But maybe I can take him hunting or something.”

Rick smiled, grabbing his gun belt and wrapping it around his waist before pulling a shirt on over his tank top. “Want to spend time with my kid, huh?”

Daryl rolled his eyes, pulling the curtain back. “Don’t look too much into it. He’s a good kid is all.”

Rick’s grin grew wider. “Ah huh.” Stepping out of the cell, the putrid odor of the undead smacked them in the face. Exchanging a look of pure horror, both men made a run for the yard, already hearing screaming as they neared the door. Outside, chaos ensued amongst the few people that were awake. Others were quickly joining them, alerted by the screams. The walkers had grown in numbers overnight, thus increasing their strength. The first chain link fence barrier between them and death had broken down. The second fence was bending dangerously at the weight of the herd.

People were stabbing them with whatever they could get, but more walkers just kept coming, adding onto the strength of the pack pushing forward. “Fuck,” Daryl breathed before both men took off at a run.

 

Chapter Seven

“Stop screaming,” Daryl hollered at people as he ran by them, crossbow cocked and loaded. He got off a few arrows before making it to the fence. Pulling out his knife, he downed three walkers in succession before turning to seek out Rick’s location, making sure he was still safe. Rick turned as Daryl’s eyes found him, giving him a nod before continuing to knife the growing numbers of undead.

Carol came running out, collecting the women in the grass and telling them to get in the prison and close the door in the event any of the walkers busted through. People were scattered everywhere, some running away from the fences while some came running down from the prison. Glenn and Maggie rushed out of the door, dressed in their riot gear and armed with multiple guns. As they approached the fence, they tossed a few guns and rounds of ammo at people along the line before stepping in to help. When Rick looked over to see the progress being made, he noticed Carl down at the end of the line between Daryl and Glenn, raising his own weapon, knife securely attached to his hip for when he ran out of bullets. Daryl’s eyes slanted over every once in awhile, checking on him, stepping in when a walker got too close.

Rick’s heart swelled with both pride and fear at watching his son dispatch walkers so efficiently. Shane and he had taught him well back on the farm how to handle a weapon, but he had hoped and prayed that it wouldn’t come down to it until much later. Lori would be horrified at seeing her son on a death squad, putting down walkers that were breaching their compound. But Lori wasn’t here anymore. Looking back up at Daryl, he saw his own pride reflected in the sun-worn face.

“Rick!” screamed Maggie as she dispatched a walker right in front of him, outreached, decaying hand inches from his face. “Are you ok?” she asked, taking out another walker that was pushing through.

Shaking his head, he raised his weapon again. “Yeah, just my son… Carl’s down there. Wasn’t expecting to see him.”

Maggie looked down the line but turned back to Rick, looking seriously at him. “He’s with Daryl and Glenn. He’ll be all right.”

A few hours later, they were sitting in the grass watching some of the non-participants in the morning’s walker-killing activity drag the reeking corpses off, piling them in a mound far away from their main area. In another hour, their bodies would be burned. Water bottles were handed out to the exhausted group as they lay in whatever shade they could find to recover.

“Shit, Rick,” Daryl mumbled quietly next to him so the others couldn’t hear. “If the walkers can do that imagine what the Governor’s army can do. I don’t think we’ll be so lucky this time.”

Rick just nodded. They had used all of their tactics last time – hidden holes to trap vehicles and people, forest snares and the like. What could they possibly use this time against someone who was so unpredictable? They had to do something… They had to have a plan and fast. “We need a council meeting. Today.”

Daryl nodded, standing up slowly. “I’ll round everyone up. Tell them to meet us in an hour.”

That hour passed by slowly for all of them. Everyone trying to come up with their own type of plan that they could put forth, or at least a good idea or two that they could contribute. Sitting down around the table in the unused cell block, away from prying eyes and ears, Rick laid it out for them. “We don’t know what we’re up against and we haven’t improved much since the last time we met with the Governor. According to Andrea, he has more men, more power, and probably even a few things she doesn’t know about. Does anyone have any ideas on defense tactics?”

Looking around at the group, he could smell their fear and anxiety. Everyone remembered how close it had been last time. They couldn’t risk that again, especially with the walkers breaching their fences this morning.

Daryl, chewing on a thumbnail, spoke up from the back of the room. “We need ta fix the fence first. Maybe reinforce it somehow. Need ta raid an army surplus store and a home improvement place. Hell, even just a house with some serious fences around it.”

Rick nodded, hands on his hips as he looked back at everyone. “That should probably be our first priority.”

Carol meekly added, “We need to make sure that the children have a safe place to be that they can get to quickly while all of this is going on.”

Hershel added, “We also need to make sure that they can escape with a few adults in the event things don’t go our way.”

Rick sighed, running his hand through his hair. “I’ve been considering sending a scouting troop to look for a secondary location, in the event that the prison is a loss and we have to leave it suddenly. We could add some defenses and put some supplies there.”

“What if someone else finds it? What if the Governor figures it out on one of their scouting missions?” Maggie asked, leaning forward. “I’m not saying it’s not a good idea, but it’s dangerous. Whatever provisions we leave there could be easily stolen.”

“Then maybe we just have a few people staying there. They could be a lookout too. It could be a good backup plan,” Glenn added.

Rick nodded. “Ok, so first we have to see what’s out there. Maybe raid a library for some military history books so we can figure out something other than what we’ve been doing too. We also need a secondary team to find a new location that could hold us for a bit while we figure out what to do in the event the prison is overrun.”

Hershel agreed, standing up, he said, “Perhaps once you find this location, we should just move the children and those who can’t fight out there, to keep them safe.”

“Yes,” Carol said, “I agree. Keep them away from the danger.”

Rick nodded, looking at Daryl. This was going to take time and that was in short supply these days, especially if they needed to get two locations ready to defend. “We’ll get started on two scouting missions right away. We’ll plan it out tonight and then head out tomorrow. This needs to happen as soon as possible so we can be ready. I need the weapons and ammo counted. I want them all within easy access so we can get to them if we need to.”

“Glenn and I can do that. We can do the supply runs too tomorrow,” Maggie offered, looking over at her fiancé for his agreement. “Who’s going to do the scouting mission?”

“Rick and I will go. We’ll leave Michonne here in case anything happens while we’re gone. She can handle it,” Daryl stated. It seemed to be decided. They would split up to get things as quickly as possible. It was unlikely that the Governor would attack within the next few days or Andrea would have noticed the mobilization and informed them, at least, Rick had hoped. However, the most pressing matter for the day was fixing the fences and ridding their front door step of the rotting corpses.

The next day dawned earlier than anyone had hoped. The first rays of early morning sun breached the floor of the common area in the prison, urging people to rise and start their busy day. Maggie and Glenn were already bustling about. Rick could hear their hushed whispers as they got ready for their run. Glenn had been efficient the day before, planning out the places they were going to hit, mapping a route, and determining who was going. He was taking six people in total with two vehicles. The max time Rick told them to spend away was two days. Anything beyond that was dangerous.

The body wrapped in his arms twitched with a low groan. Sitting up on his elbow, Rick looked down into Daryl’s handsome face. With lips slightly parted and eyes squeezed shut, he looked like he was in pain. Nightmares. Everyone was having them these days. Running a hand down the warm skin of the exposed arm, Rick pulled him into his chest tighter. “You’re ok, Daryl. I got you. You’re with me now,” he whispered in his ear. “You’re safe.”

The body in his arms untensed slowly with a whispered moan that Rick would swear was something close to his name. With a soft kiss to the back of a shoulderblade, he settled back down into their shared pillow. Just a half hour more, he reasoned with himself. Daryl would be up soon anyways.

“Rick? You awake?” came Maggie’s harsh whisper through the curtain.

Groaning, Rick didn’t even open his eyes. Surely he had just fallen back asleep. “Yeah, Mags, everything all right?”

Maggie pushed back the curtain, peeking her head in. Her eyes went wide at the sight before her: Daryl wrapped lovingly in Rick’s arms as his forehead lay against the back of his neck. When she realized that neither man had actually seen her, she quickly closed the curtain again, deciding that talking through the fabric was probably her best option. “We’re getting ready to leave. Anything else you want us to grab?”

“Nah, I don’t think so. Daryl and I are gonna go out today and scout around for a second location. We’ll pick up anything we see too.”

“Y’all going to bring anyone with you?” she wondered aloud, especially given what she had just seen.

“Nah,” he answered again, stifling a yawn before continuing. “We’ll be all right. We can move faster with just the two of us.”

“All right,” she said. “Be safe out there then. See you by tomorrow night at the latest.”

Rick heard her footsteps as she walked away, rolling over onto his back, he stretched languidly. “You don’t want to take anyone with us?” Daryl asked.

Rick smiled into the semi-darkness of his prison cell. “No. I don’t. That a problem?”

Daryl rolled over to look at him, leaning up on one elbow to stare down into his face. “No…”

Manuevering his arm around, Rick was able to pull the younger man down, laying his head on his shoulder and aligning their bodies together. Resting his own head against the other’s, he whispered, “I thought we could use sometime outside of these prison walls alone together. It can be like our first official ‘not-at-home’ date.”

Daryl snorted, closing his eyes again, resting his arm over Rick’s chest. “People are going to be in here looking for you soon.”

Rick sighed. “Probably. Which means we should get up. The faster we get up, the faster we get on the road anyways.”

“Yeah,” Daryl grumbled, rolling over and sitting up on the edge of the bed. “Let’s get our asses moving. Leave some people in charge and get the fuck out of here.”

In two hours, they had a bag of provisions, two sleeping bags, weapons, a change of clothes in the event, and a backpack that Daryl wouldn’t let Rick touch. “Are we ready?” he asked as they closed the hatchback of the Sante Fe. Daryl nodded and headed for the passenger side door. Rick checked on the people securing the fences, making sure that all was well before climbing in the car. Waiting impatiently as the gate was pulled for them, Rick drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “So what’s in the backpack?”

Daryl shrugged, looking out the window. “Things we need.”

“Like food?” Daryl shook his head. “Clothes?” Another head shake. Rick sucked in his bottom lip in concentration as he drove through the open gates and out into the unprotected world. “Lube?” he asked, grinning. Daryl blushed, but kept looking out the window. “Holy shit, Daryl. Did you really pack lube?”

“What of it? We don’t haveta use it,” he growled.

Rick grinned evilly as he drove around a few walkers stumbling across the road. “Hell no, if you packed it, we’ll use it.” His heart beat faster in his chest. Daryl had really thought ahead to pack lube. All those times they had been so close but never quite made it and he had asked for more. He said he wasn’t going to rush, that they would take it slow. Now that the possibility has presented itself, Rick wasn’t sure that once he got started if he could go as slow as he might need to. But Daryl had brought a backpack… what the hell else did he have in there?

“That’s what I thought you meant when you said ya didn’t want anyone else going with us. We’ve been interrupted so many times… ‘Snot like people can interrupt us out here much,” he mumbled quietly.

An hour later they pulled over for a small break and to determine where their next turn off would be. Daryl stepped into the woods to relieve himself and Rick saw his opportunity but he had to be quick. From the driver seat, he reached over and unzipped the backpack, rifling through its contents. A rag… okay that made sense. The lube. KY warming jelly? When the hell had Daryl picked that up? Condoms. Probably a good idea. HA! That was where his handcuffs had gone… His fingers closed on what felt like flimsy cardboard at the bottom of the backpack but he couldn’t pull it up…

“Gettin’ nosy now officer?”

Rick jumped, looking up through the closed window as Daryl opened the door, smirking.

“You went and ruined your surprise now.”

“What’s in the box at the bottom?” Rick asked, since he had been caught. He sat up, turning the SUV back on.

Daryl fit everything back in the backpack and zipped it up. “What box?”

Rick looked hard at him but Daryl just looked back, cocky grin on his face. “Fine. But it looks like you were planning for a party.”

Daryl shrugged, leaning back against this seat and putting his foot up on the dashboard. “Maybe I was.”

Snorting, Rick continued on to their destination. Another hour down the road and they were pulling off into the forest on what they hoped would be a forgotten about place. It was a fort that many of them had remembered visiting when they were in grade school on a field trip. A pre-barricaded structure that had already survived at least one war. In his heart, Rick knew that he would not be the only person to think of a fort as a safe place to hide out but maybe people didn’t make it this far or knew where to look. Reaching across the car and taking Daryl’s hand in his, he sent up a silent prayer that the first place they looked for new shelter would also be the last. “You ain’t gettin’ mushy on me are ya Grimes?” Daryl asked, squeezing his hand in his own.

Rick smirked, entwining their fingers together. “I just hope everything works out the way we need it to.”

Daryl sighed, “Yeah, me too. If nothing else, then for Lil’ Asskicker. It’d be nice to have real walls instead of chainlink fence for her to run around behind.”

Rick knew better than to say much about Daryl caring about his kids, especially since they began this relationship, but it was growing more and more evident every day that he sort saw them as his own. “She loves you, you know. You’re the only one that she’ll quiet down for some nights.”

“I was the first that fed her. She sees me and thinks food, much like the rest of y’all.”

“That’s not what I see when I look at you.”

Daryl took his hand back from Rick. “Now ya are gettin’ mushy. Look at ya. Keep your eyes on the road.”

The intimidating walls of Fort Jackson loomed ahead. With the river just on the other side, it would be a natural defense as well as a source of food. Their mouths watered at the possibilities of adding fish back into their diet and who knows what else they could catch from this river. “Rick, stop!” Daryl yelled suddenly.

Slamming on the breaks, he saw why Daryl screamed. Three cars were already lined up outside the walls. “Maybe they were visiting when the outbreak happened. Maybe they’ve been there for a long time.”

“Go back and pull off on that side dirt road we passed. I wanna to check this out on foot before we go driving in on someone else’s territory.”

Putting the car in reverse, Rick carefully guided the car back to the path they had both seen a ways away from the fort. Once they were certain the car couldn’t be seen from the road, both men climbed out, grabbing guns and knives in the event. Daryl threw his crossbow around his shoulder with as many arrows as he could fit in his quiver. Keeping low to the ground and careful to not make much noise, both men crept closer to the fort. “Keep an eye out for traps,” Daryl whispered harshly.

They didn’t make it 100 feet before they were cautiously stepping over a line of bear traps carefully concealed in the grass. Both men looked at each other and back up at the fort. “Think we can steal those and use them around the prison?” Rick whispered.

“Gotta set ’em off to get ’em in the car. I wouldn’t trust a live trap,” Daryl whispered back. “Let’s see who our host is.”

Ducking down behind a mound of earth just the opposite side of the treeline from the fort, they had a perfect view of the parking lot. Right as they settled in another car roared up, parking next to the other three. Four men got out of the black sedan, popping open the trunk. They argued for a minute before hauling a body out of the trunk. “He’s alive,” Rick whispered harshly.

The man was hogtied with a bandana shoved in his mouth. They could hear random words that were just loud enough to travel the distance, but slowly they pieced together what was happening. “Holy fuck, Rick, they’re going to eat him.”

 

Chapter Eight

“Shit, Rick,” Daryl mumbled as he floored their Santa Fe out of the woods and as far away from the fort as possible.

Rick sat in a stunned silence in the passenger seat, right hand clutching the door until his knuckles turned white. He wanted to yell at Daryl to slow down so he didn’t drive them into a tree, but his voice had left him as they had run through the woods, dodging the bear traps. Not only had his great plan failed miserably, but now they were faced with a new problem. Cannibals. What if they found his group? What if they joined an alliance with the Governor and Woodbury against them?

As they roared onto the paved road, Daryl’s hand reached over, grabbing at Rick’s arm. “Rick, fuck, snap out of it,” he nearly screamed. “I got another place. Let’s just see…” He flicked his gaze down, checking the gas gauge before making his decision. He had to remember how to get to his destination from here. Surely they could make it on the gas they had left. They were fortunate in how early they had left the prison so the sun was just hitting overhead. With plenty of daylight left, Daryl kept the pedal down to the floor, dodging walkers as he drove, his hand clasping Rick’s arm the entire way.

“What do you think about Rick and Daryl?” Maggie asked Glenn casually as they roamed the aisles of Home Depot, loading fencing materials onto the flatbed cart.

Glenn just shrugged, “That’s an odd question. What do you mean?”

Together they lifted the whole roll of barbed wire down onto the flatbed, rolling their haul to the front of the store to load into the truck. “I dunno… I saw them this morning.”

Glenn snorted. “Yeah, so? I see them every day. They’re good people, good leaders, I guess.”

Maggie shook her head, rolling the cart out through the front doors. “No… I mean together in Rick’s cell. When I pulled back the curtains, they were both in Rick’s bed.”

“Oh…,” Glenn stopped and stared at her for a moment before lowering the tailgate slowly as to not make any more noise than necessary. “Like… what? Were they doing anything?”

“Just sleeping. But Daryl was all wrapped in Rick’s arms. I mean, I guess it’s just natural. I just never pictured them as…”

“Gay?” Glenn supplied, working the fencing onto the bed of the truck. “Yeah, me either, but I guess you get what you can now.” He thought about it as they maneuvered their load in the truck, trying to fit in everything possible that they could. Across the street the other members of their group were raiding what was left of a grocery store. He saw them walk out with mostly empty bags. With a sigh, he climbed down from the truck, turning to his fiancee. “You know, they’re good for each other actually. Rick is the only one Daryl really opens up to except for Carol. And we’ve all wondered why that never happened. I guess we have our answer now, huh?”

Maggie nodded. “Guess so. Guess we shouldn’t say anything about it. They haven’t told us yet.”

Glenn sighed, hands on his hips as he watched the other group approach. “Nah, not our business. But I’m happy for them. They deserve something in this world. ‘Specially Daryl.”

Maggie agreed silently, already plotting in her head.

Daryl rolled up on the housing development at what he had guessed was about 2 in the afternoon based upon the sun, but he could have been way off. He had gotten lost a few times, but eventually found his way as Rick’s hand had found its way into his own, intertwining their fingers together in a reassuring grasp. The development already had walls built around it, complete with a guard post at the front gate. Rick gasped as he took in the sight, wondering why he hadn’t ever thought of a gated housing development before. As they rolled up to the gate, he realized why. “Gate won’t open. No electricity.” Daryl turned to him and shrugged, rolling the window down and pressing numbers until the gate opened. “How the hell…,” Rick muttered.

Daryl just smirked at him. “Found this place awhile back on a run when I got lost once. Just started pressing numbers until one of ’em worked. Gates are operated on battery power now. Can jump start it just like a car battery.”

“How come you never mentioned this before?”

Daryl shrugged, driving slowly through the gate. “Never seemed like we needed a second place. Plus, I just been raiding this place whenever we needed supplies. It’s fulla walkers, but I cleared out some of ’em. Left the bodies to rot so we’ll need ta burn ’em.”

Rick looked in awe around him. They could have houses. The lawns were horribly over grown, but other than that, it just looked like people up and left aside from the few stray walkers that roamed the streets. “It’s completely walled in?”

Daryl nodded as he drove around the neighborhood, carefully eyeing each of the houses to make sure everything still looked somewhat close to how he remembered it while avoiding the walkers roaming the roads. “All the way ’round. Counted 35 houses at one point. Seemed safer to keep everyone in the prison, ‘specially when ya already had your garden going and all that. We drove the Governor off and I figured we were all right. Now though… I dunno. Seems like this place could be all right.”

Rick laughed maniacally. “Hell, he can have the prison. This… Daryl this is paradise.” Turning towards the other man, he couldn’t help but squeeze the hand in his own with a devilish grin.

“Did you pick one out for us?”

Daryl blushed slightly but shook his head. “Haven’t been back here in awhile. ‘Fore we… you know. Became what we are.”

Rick nodded, looking back out the window. “What about that one?” he asked, pointing out a yellow paneled house with a large bay window and nice front porch. “I could see Judy sittin’ on that porch with some lemonade in her hands.” Daryl pulled the car into the driveway.

Cutting the engine off, he turned to Rick, taking his crossbow up and making sure his knife was still on his belt. “Gotta clear it. Ain’t been in this one.”

Rick checked his own weapons before they both exited the car. The few walkers that had been on the road had followed them to the house. They were slowly making their way towards them, looking about starved as a walker can get. Rick figured Daryl was right that no one had bothered to try to get in and if they had tried to climb a wall they may have become one of these poor creatures looming ever closer. Quickly, the two men closed the distance between them and the walkers, dispatching them with practiced ease before heading up towards the house. “‘S perfect,” Rick whispered, trying the door knob. “Locked though.” He stood back, motioning for Daryl to do the same before he kicked strategically beside the doorknob, an old police trick he had learned in the academy and barely ever had a chance to use.

Inside, they were able to meet three walkers head on in the living room. Dragging the bodies out to the front lawn to later be disposed of, Rick finally sighed the tiredness and worry out of his muscles. They would be able to dispatch more walkers and drag these bodies to the edge of the development before they left the next day. Possibly even clear a few more houses to help pave the way for their new home. Walking back inside, they were able to take a look around the place, carefully inspecting everything and looking in closets, under beds, and behind anything where a walker or another survivor might lurk. “I cannot believe this place is completely untouched,” Rick whispered as they sat down at the table.

Daryl shrugged. “People probably didn’t want to take the time to figure out any codes. Or at least they hadn’t figured out codes. We might be able to rig the fence somehow so we can only open it by hand. I dunno, but that ain’t a worry right now.”

Rick nodded his agreement, still looking around the place. Three bedrooms, two baths, nice size kitchen, living room, dining room, front and back porches and a giant yard. Yeah, this would do. One of the bedrooms upstairs was decorated for a little boy, but he figured that they could convert it into Judy’s space, maybe lift some things from one of the other houses. Certainly someone had a little girl in this development. Daryl interrupted his thoughts by saying, “We should bring in our stuff and barricade the door. Maybe we can draft out a plan tonight.”

Less than an hour later, they were sitting on the hideously plaid living room couch, enjoying a can of beans and a can of peaches for their dinner. “I bet we could set up some kinda power source here like Woodbury has, get these houses back up with electricity maybe. Some of the Woodbury people might be able to help with that,” Rick stated, staring at the empty fireplace, letting them drift off into a long silence afterwards. Sighing,he leaned back against the couch, taking in the living room and the walls of books he knew Beth would love. Blankets. Real, soft blankets that he wanted to curl up in when the weather would turn colder in just a few weeks. Little knick knacks reminded him of a simpler time when they didn’t only care about the things they needed to survive. It reminded him of how much they had taken for granted. He had shared a house like this with Lori. He had shared a bed like the one upstairs with Lori too but more often than not in the last few months before he got shot did she pull away from him in the night. Her touch had become cold. Rick knew they had been heading for divorce, not that it mattered much now.

Now, Daryl sat on his right side. Always on his right side. His right-hand man. Rick snorted at his inner-dialogue joke. The man had been his rock before he even knew he needed one. When Shane had started to loose his mind… hell even before then. Emotions began to develop and change and he depended on him more than he ever realized. And now they had evolved into this moment right here and what was quickly becoming a pregnant, awkward silence. Daryl sat, staring down into his can as if it held the secrets of the universe.

Glancing over to the side, Rick saw the backpack Daryl had brought with him that he hadn’t been allowed to touch. Raising an eyebrow, he side-eyed the other man, wondering if he was supposed to make the first move or if Daryl would since he brought the stuff. A million questions ran through his head as the butterflies danced in his stomach. Tonight. But he wasn’t sure who was going to do what and how and man how did he get himself mixed up in this?

Daryl laughed nervously as the silence stretched out between them, setting his can down on the wooden coffee table. “Never been this awkward before.”

“We don’t have to do anything, Daryl,” Rick whispered, setting his own can down next to the other.

“I ain’t never… you know… with a man before,” he answered before looking at Rick. “But I’d like to try.”

Rick turned to face him, cradling his face in his hands before pulling him in for a chaste kiss. “Are you sure? I don’t wanna push ya into anything you don’t wanna do.”

Daryl nodded, “But I think we should take advantage of havin’ a real bed and not use the couch like horny teenagers.”

Rick snorted, standing up as Daryl went to go grab the backpack. “What if I want to be like a horny teenager.”

Daryl smirked, leaving the other man behind in the living room as he ran up the stairs. Rick ascended the staircase slowly, still trying to calm the storm in his stomach. This house was perfect; the neighborhood was perfect; he had Daryl here, alive and well; his two kids were back at the prison being cared for by people he trusted. Surely something was going to go wrong somewhere and he hoped that something had nothing to do with the cannibals or the Governor. As he rounded the landing at the top of the steps, he saw the backpack open on the bed, various things taken out of it laying on the bed and the mystery box opened and vacant of its contents.

As he approached the doorway, he saw Daryl, leaning against the dresser drawers, holding an open bottle of red wine in his hands, enjoying a healthy drink from the long neck. “Stole a bottle of wine on a run. Thought I’d save it for something special,” he said as a way of explanation, using the back of his hand to wipe his mouth and holding out the bottle for Rick to take.

At first sip, Rick remembered that they hadn’t had any real alcohol since the CDC. The liquid warmed his chest as it went down, flooding the butterflies. The taste of the fermented fruit on his tongue was heavenly even though the wine itself was not that great. Smiling he handed the bottle back to Daryl, “So is that what was in the box?”

Daryl nodded taking another drink of his own before setting the bottle down on the chest of drawers. “Forgot glasses though.”

“Guess we’ll make do,” Rick said, risking a step forward to wrap the other man in his arms.

“Who woulda thought Daryl Dixon was a romantic?”

Daryl snorted, “Ain’t no romantic. Just like alcohol.” Leaning forward, he brushed his lips against the other man’s. Rick took the opportunity to deepen the kiss, pulling Daryl in closer to his body. Running his tongue along the chapped lips, he begged for entrance, earning it and a soft moan as he claimed the other’s mouth. Fire erupted between them as hands raked over clothed skin, digging at the fabric, trying to pull it away. Frustrated grunts were shared between them as their hips brushed, trapped cocks rubbing uncomfortably against zippers and rough denim.

Finally they broke free long enough to rid themselves of their shirts. Rick pulled Daryl towards the bed, but he stopped them before they could make it across the room. “Rick… I…,” he started. A look of panic and confusion crossed his haggard features before Rick smoothed the hair out of his face, reassuringly, running his hands softly down his tan arms. Daryl couldn’t make himself say the words. He could hear Merle screaming at him in the back of his mind, calling him the names he had called him during his teenage years all over again when he had refused to fuck the women Merle had offered him. Fag. Fudgepacker. Going to bend over for it Darlena? Going to take it from a cop of all people?

He shook his head, reaching onto the bed and grabbing the lube. He handed it to Rick, pushing it into his palm. “Me,” was all he could manage. Rick was his leader, his everything at this point. He would submit to him willingly, but for some reason he just couldn’t vocalize it.

Rick nodded, knowing what the other meant. Carefully he laid him down on the bed, enjoying watching Daryl sink into the duvet, eyes fluttering closed at the feeling of something truly soft to lay on. Rick smirked against the warm flesh as he brushed small kisses along his stomach, up his chest and to the soft lips eliciting a series of small moans from the other man. Straddling the younger man’s hips, he hovered over him, faces inches apart. “We’re finally here,” he murmured, realizing only too late how stupid it sounded.

Rough, calloused hands came up to Rick’s chest, running down to unbuckle and unzip his pants. “Daryl,” he said, coming down to rest on his elbows, trapping the hands at his belt beneath him, and kissing their owner with a rough fervor. Pulling back, he stared deep into the other’s blue pools. “We don’t have to…”

Daryl rolled his eyes, pulling his hands out from between their bodies and smacking Rick’s ass to get him to move. “Ya asked for this. We haven’t been able to get anywhere at the prison. Now we’re here and ya keep stopping us to make sure I’m all right. For fuck’s sake, Rick.”

“Hey now,” he said, raising back up to push his pants and underwear down. “I just don’t want you to regret anything we do.”

Daryl quickly rid himself of his own clothing, tossing it over the side of the bed, onto the floor. “Don’t regret nothin’.”

Before Rick could climb back on the bed, Daryl reached down, grabbing the backpack and pulling something out of the front pocket. Smirking as Rick’s eyes widened, he said, “Ya didn’t think to look there, did ya?”

“A dildo, Daryl? Seriously?”

Daryl shrugged. “Vibrator actually. Thought maybe we could use this first before ya know, the real thing.”

“Where did ya get it?” Rick asked, climbing back on the bed and straddling the other man again. His focus shifted between the vibrator and the body beneath him. They had been here before, for the most part at least. Naked, together, in a bed much smaller than this and not nearly as comfortable. Hands had been all over the expanse of skin before him, caressing each scar, placing a healing kiss to each wound. But now the heat was turned up as he took up the tube of lube again that he had discarded to pull off his clothing.

“Told ya, that farmer’s daughter wasn’t as innocent as her daddy prob’ly thought she was,”

Daryl said, moving down lower on the bed, his hard cock laying against his stomach.

Rick rose up to sit back on his ankles. “Seriously?! You don’t know where that’s been, Daryl!”

That earned him a snort. “Have a pretty good idea, actually. I washed it though. ‘S all right,” he chuckled. “Used soap and everything.”

“When?! I don’t remember seeing you with this at the sinks.” He eyed the device in his hands. Some of his prior girlfriends had had these before but he had never actually seen one used. Though he had a general idea of how to use them…

“Shower,” he huffed, really just wishing Rick would get this show on the road.

Rick twitched an eyebrow. “In the shower?”

Daryl shrugged against the pillows, not looking at the other man, but pulling at him to try to get him closer, pull him in, capture that warmth from the skin that he so craved. “Maybe.”

Smirking, he swooped down on the other man, capturing his lips as he rolled his body alongside the heated body beneath him. “You tried it out,” he murmured against the other’s lips. Rick wasn’t sure why, but the idea of Daryl in the showers, foot propped with a vibrator up his ass thinking of him as he worked himself open flared hot in his bloodstream.

“Fucker, just come on,” Daryl muttered, responding with a thrust of his own, spreading his legs wider, allowing Rick to get in between them. His heart beat faster as he felt Rick’s cock nudge against his own. They had been here so many times, but had never planned on taking it farther than this. Now, he thrust up experimentally, feeling Rick’s heavy cock brush between his legs and nudge at his balls. Rick shifted, rubbing his cock along the cleft in Daryl’s ass, feeling the head nudge at the tight pucker, running along it. It pulsed against him as Daryl’s body rolled against the sensation. “Fuck, please,” he begged.

Rick smirked, opening the tube of lube and spreading some on his fingers, drawing his hand down between Daryl’s legs. “Tell me how you did it.”

Daryl shook his head, hands clenching in the sheets beside him as Rick’s fingers found his entrance, circling around it, teasing him. “Want me to dirty talk ya, huh?” His voice had turned hoarse with need, all senses being turned to want, need, claim.

Rick nodded, his eyes moving down to watch his hand as he let one finger dip inside. Daryl hissed, his hands flying to Rick’s wrist between his legs. “You ok?”

“Yeah,” he moaned. “Just burns a little. Not exactly used to this. Only did it once to see if it was somethin’…”

“I know. I won’t hurt you. I can’t…” Rick’s free hand came up to cup the back of Daryl’s neck, brushing his thumb over the defined cheekbone.

Fingers curled in his Rick’s dark hair, bringing him down for a hard kiss. “I know. ‘m okay. Just go slow.”

With one finger, he thrusted in and out carefully, using his other hand to run up and down the others legs, occasionally stroking the flagging cock in front of him. A crook of his finger created a wave of convulsions through Daryl’s body, eliciting a deep growl. “Again.”

Pushing in a second finger, Rick crooked both of them, brushing over the bundle of nerves he had found. “Fuck, Rick!” Daryl nearly screamed, thrusting down against his hand. He couldn’t resist watching his fingers disappear into Daryl’s body, the wet, slick feeling of lube making the movement easier and easier. A few more flicks over his prostate had Daryl muttering, “vibrator” over and over again, taking his cock in his own hand, stroking it slowly.

Rick nodded his understanding, though still not able to take his eyes off his fingers still encased in the warmth that was Daryl. Reaching over and grabbing the slim blue plastic device, he pulled his other hand free to coat the device carefully with lube. “You ready?” he asked.

Daryl nodded, widening his legs a little more. Rick’s own body was thrumming with desire but he knew he had to be slow. Minor touches, he reminded himself. Running his hand up Daryl’s inner thigh, he pushed the plastic tip against his puckered and slick hole, thrusting it up slowly inside of the other man.

“Fuck that feels good,” he moaned as the toy brushed against his prostate going in.

Daryl’s body was responding in ways that he had never seen, gyrating on the bed; first his hips then torso moving as if he couldn’t keep still. His hands kept alternating between his own body and Rick’s, rubbing in gentle circles or gripping tightly, begging for more. With a small smirk, Rick wondered if Daryl had left in good batteries and if he had actually signed out the batteries on the log they kept in the storage area that specifically required you to state your purpose for the materials. With a flick of a switch, the small hum filled the room and Daryl’s eyes shot open, hands shooting to Rick’s arms.

He pushed the vibrator the rest of the way in so just the black end with the on/off switch was sticking out. Brushing his fingers against the sensitive skin there, he could feel the vibrations. Leaning forward, he pressed a hard kiss against Daryl’s lips, his eyes squeezed back shut. The kiss was only partly returned between panted breaths. “How’s it feel?” Rick asked.

“Oh my fucking God,” was the only response he was given.

Positioning himself, Rick thrusted experimentally against the vibrating pucker, feeling the sensations transmit to his own cock. “Holy shit,” he moaned, thrusting harder against him, rubbing his cock down between the other’s asscheeks. “That does feel good.”

“Rick,” Daryl moaned, opening his eyes to him and wrapping his arms around his back, pulling him down to a hard kiss that was nothing but teeth and tongue and sheer fight for dominance. “Fuck me.”

Rick nodded, his own mind gone. Roughly, he pulled the vibrator out, careful to switch it off before tossing it somewhere on the bed so it wouldn’t be in the way. Nestled again between Daryl’s leg’s, he lifted them up slightly, putting his feet flat on the bed. The slick hole flexed as he brushed his cock head over it, pushing in slightly. Once the mushroomed head was all the way in, he settled his body over Daryl’s, taking care to hold him in his arms and kiss him softly as he let him adjust around the new girth. He could feel his body tense in his arms as he pushed in slowly. “Breathe, Daryl. I got you,” he husked. It was taking everything he had not to drive himself home and thrust up into the tight, wet heat. His body pulsed with need and the sheer fight for sex that he never realized he missed.

Daryl’s legs wound around the back of his thighs, pulling him in against him. “Come on,” he muttered, trying to coax Rick into moving.

With a single nod, Rick’s hips flexed and thrusted against him, moving his body against the comforter and fuck yes this was what he had expected it to be. All slick heat and a hot burn that enveloped his core as he felt Rick all around him and now inside him. Hot breath blew against his ear with his heated body pressed against his chest and it just wasn’t enough. Daryl thrusted his hips up to meet Rick’s, a cacophony of moans and grunts escaping them and filling the room. His cock was trapped between them but he didn’t care as the friction was just perfect between their bodies, glistening sweat helping them move against each other. But then one of Rick’s hands moved in between them as his other arm moved behind Daryl’s head, cradling his neck, bringing their lips together once again as his hand wrapped around his bobbing cock and that was all it took.

Daryl screamed into the kiss, fingers digging into the skin on his lover’s back as his cock erupted between them, spilling over Rick’s farm-calloused hand. He was barely aware of the erratic thrusts against him and the warmth filling him from the inside as Rick’s orgasm over took him, lips still hot against the skin of his face. “Fuck, Daryl,” he groaned, his body sinking into the man beneath him.

They lay wrapped in each other’s arms until both their breathing and heartbeats evened out. “Didn’t last as long as I thought I would,” Rick mused.

Daryl snorted, eyes closed as his head lay back against the pillow, arms wrapped tightly around Rick’s back. “Me either. Kinda embarrassing.”

“Nah.” Running his hands down the body beneath him as he sat up and got off the bed, Rick grabbed his shirt from the floor. He used it to wipe himself off before climbing back on the bed and straddling Daryl. “Open up for me,” he said, smacking his thigh.

Daryl snorted. “Ain’t ya had enough?”

“Smart ass. Got enough lube and cum on our new bed already. Wanna wipe the rest from you,” he said motioning with his shirt. Daryl spread his legs, hissing slightly as Rick’s touch was slightly less than gentle as he swiped over his pucker and around up to his abdomen. “Ya ok?”

With a curt nod, Daryl just closed his eyes. He figured the burn would disappear within the new few hours. For now that, he was fed, warm, happy, and sexually sated. Rick pulled back the covers from the bed, smacking at Daryl again to move. “We have an actual bed to lay in,” he said. “Wanna hold you.”

Daryl smirked. “Now who’s the romantic?”

They maneuvered their way beneath the covers of the bed, the setting sun streaming its final rays into the room as both men closed their eyes. Rick’s arms were wrapped securely around Daryl, holding him tight against his chest. Neither slept like they said they would. The moment was too precious to waste on sleep. For just a few hours, they pretended as if the world was not collapsing around them outside with no threats of a Governor or cannibals and no worries of not being able to survive another day.

 

Chapter Nine

The next day dawned earlier than either man had hoped. They had slept wrapped up in each other’s arms, kissing languidly as the sun rose behind them. Hands roamed over the expanse of exposed skin, sharing whispered promises and dreams for their new home.

“Guess we should get going, huh?” Rick said as Daryl dozed on his shoulder. Running his fingers through the hunter’s hair, he smiled up at the ceiling at Daryl’s grunt of protest. “Maybe we should just abandon the prison. Let the governor have it and take this as our own.”

“Like that idea,” Daryl grumbled, sleepily rolling over. “Now go back to sleep.”

Rick grinned, following Daryl’s roll until he was pressed against the other man’s backside, wrapping his arms back around him and pulling him flush against him. “I don’t want to go back to sleep. Still gotta finish that bottle of wine too.”

Daryl snorted. He figured if they made it back by nightfall no one would be worrying yet.

Maggie and Glenn rushed to the gates as they saw Rick and Daryl come speeding up the dirt road leading to the prison. The truck rolled slowly through both gates before coming to a stop just inside. Both men exited the vehicle, grinning from each to ear. The rest of the prison came down, some hesitating and staying closer to the building. As they neared, Rick turned to Daryl, sharing a smaller, more private smile, before turning to the rest of the group. “We found a place.”

Cheers went up in the crowd. Everyone immediately had questions. What does it look like? How far is it? Is it safe? When do we go?

Rick shushed them as they got their excitement out. “It’s a gated development. The walls are high and made of brick. The gate is electronic but it still works. Daryl figured it out,” he grinned over at him.

The look Rick gave the other man even made Maggie blush as she watched their interactions. Hershel shushed the group and motioned for them to all get back to the prison that Rick and Daryl would tell them all about it once they had some food and some rest from the trip. Daryl’s step as they walked back up to the cellblock was a little pained, making him favor his right side. “You all right?” Maggie asked him.

“Yeah, just you know, twisted something. I’ll be all right,” he said, casting his eyes downwards and away from her.

She smirked slightly, knowing he was lying but not willing to call him out on it exactly. “I can get Daddy to look at it. Don’t need one of our best men down and out because of a sprain.”

“Nah, I’m all right,” Daryl said, spying Carl standing in the shadows watching them. Rick was consumed by the other members of their little prison group, but Carl watched Daryl, his gaze unreadable. Nodding to Maggie, he excused himself and went over towards the younger Grimes. “Ya hear, Carl? We found a place.”

“Yeah, I heard,” he said gruffly, looking down at his feet and back up at Daryl. His eyes were hard and his body tense.

“What happened?” Daryl asked, suddenly concerned that something had gone wrong while they were gone. No one else had seemed bothered by anything. Maggie and Glenn and their little group had obviously already returned with the fencing and other supplies.

Carl hestitated, his youthfulness showing through the grit for mere moments before he squared his shoulders, stepping out of the shadows and up into Daryl’s face as close as he could get. “Why were you in my dad’s cell like that yesterday morning?”

Alarm bells started going off in Daryl’s head. He hadn’t thought of an excuse to tell the kid and now he had to come up with one on the fly. Shit. “Fell asleep in there that night. We were working late planning for the run. That what got you so worried?” he tried to feign nonchalance, but his insides were doing the macarena. What he and Rick had had been going on for months now and finally last night he had felt comfortable enough with Rick for actual sex. The thought of the kids finding out and what they might think had been on his mind but not lately. Though, he supposed, it should have been. Ever since the threat of the Governor resurfaced they had gotten closer, stealing whatever moments they could together and daring to sleep in each other’s cells. It was bound to happen at some point. Daryl was just hoping that ‘some point’ was way farther away.

The kid’s timing could have been better to find out about their relationship, but Daryl didn’t want to be the one to tell him, at least not alone. He figured it was better to hear from his old man than the man he was sleeping with, and man that still sounded so weird. But Daryl still stuck to his thought that he wasn’t going to call Rick his boyfriend. That was just too weird.

“Is that all you were doing in there?” His tone was accusatory and Daryl knew that he knew. He wasn’t sure how, but he figured it was just a feeling the kid had and he wanted confirmation.

Daryl cleared his throat, glancing nervously over were Rick was. Rick’s eyes were on them, worry showing on his face at Daryl’s expression. “Why don’t your dad and I come talk to you a little later?” he tried.

“I knew it,” Carl shouted, just as Rick was coming closer to them. “You’re fucking my dad!”

“Carl!” Rick shouted, his face going ghost white as he looked at Daryl.

“I didn’t-,” Daryl started to tell Rick.

“You didn’t have to tell me! I saw you! I heard you in that cell block the night I came to find you for Andrea!” Carl shouted again, tears beginning to stream down his face. “How could you do that to mom?” Turning on his heel, he ran back deep into the cell block, wiping his tears away furiously with the back of his hand.

Around them the prison had gone quiet. Daryl stood stock still as he felt the eyes on him, judging him. Rick turned, looking at each person in turn, but no one could hold his gaze save for Maggie, Glenn, and Carol. “Don’t you all have something you need to be doing?” he shouted, barely concealing his anger. The crowd quickly dispersed, their whispers loud in the concrete cell block. Behind him, a door slammed loudly. He whirled, knowing that Daryl had run out. Carol quickly followed after him after giving Rick the most pathetic look he had ever seen from the other woman.

Maggie and Glenn stayed behind, waiting for Rick to turn back to them. As he did, his shoulders slumped, looking at them as if in waiting for their slurs and accusations. Instead, Maggie came up, wrapping her arms around the other man and kissing him on the cheek. “You’ve made Daryl so happy. We can see it, Rick. And you were happier too. Let us know what we can do to help with anything. We support you guys.” With that, they left to head to stand watch, leaving Rick alone in the cellblock.

“It was bound to come out at some point,” Carol said as she chased Daryl down.

“Don’t need ya following me, Carol,” he retorted harshly. “Better if ya stay here.”

“Where are you going? You can’t just leave Rick like that.”

Daryl whirled around, glaring down at her. “I’m going hunting. Don’t figure anyone thought to do that the past couple-a days.” He turned and started walking back towards the fenceline again, crossbow in hand.

“Daryl, we’re good on food. Rick needs you right now. That’s what a relationship is all about,” she said, still trying to keep up with the agitated hunter.

“Ain’t no relationship.”

“Daryl-”

“Carol! Just… just stop okay,” he shouted as she stepped in front of him to make him stop in his tracks. “Obviously it ain’t gonna work out. I ain’t gonna go back in there just so he can… Carl don’t like it and now that the whole prison knows, what do you think Rick is gonna do, huh? I ain’t goin’ back in there just to hear that ‘it ain’t you it’s me’ speech.”

“Do you really think Rick would be that low? He loves you Daryl. And you obviously love him. You can’t act like you don’t. He avoided me for weeks because he thought I was going to say something about you two.” Her small hands wound their way around his biceps, pulling him toward her slightly, just to make sure that he was actually listening. The scowl on his face proved that he was. “Do not tell me that you’re going to give up on this relationship because of this minor bump in the road. Carl will get used to the idea. You’re the first person his dad has been with since Lori died. He’s only ever known Rick and Lori, but he loves you too. He admires you. Don’t give up the fight for Rick. I know he’s not going to give up on you.”

“How do you know that?” His voice exposed his hurt, but his eyes were still cold as they bored into hers.

“Because he’s coming this way right now,” she answered, looking over his shoulder. “And you need to talk to him. Stop running from everything, Daryl. Let him love you.”

“Daryl,” Rick said as he neared. Carol nodded at him, before giving Daryl a stern look and letting him go. Slowly, she walked back up to the prison, only turning to look back at the two men twice.

They waited until they figured she was out of earshot before talking. “I’m sorry,” Rick started.

“Nothin’ to be sorry for. I shouldn’t-a said anything to him.”

“What did you say?”

Daryl’s head shot up then, accusations in his eyes. “Told ‘im I bent over for his daddy last night and this morning and that I fuckin’ liked it. What do ya think I said?”

Rick sighed, running his hand over his head and down his face, staring off into the distance for a beat before answering. “I’m not accusing you of anything, Daryl. I just want to know how he found out.”

“I was sleepin’ in your bed is how he found out. When he came in the other mornin’ I wasn’t even dressed. That’s a big fuckin’ clue if there ever was one. We shoulda known better, Rick,” he said, jabbing the other man with his finger before turning around. “This was a mistake. Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake.”

 

Chapter Ten

Fear griped Rick’s heart in a vice. “A mistake? Are you fuckin’ serious, Daryl?” He ran up on the other man, spinning him violently around to face him. Anger flowed between them, setting up an electric force field in the 6 inch gap between their chests as they stared each other down. “You planned last night. You brought that bottle of wine. Hell, you made the first move last night and now you’re telling me it was a mistake? Everything that we’ve done for the past, what? Almost five months? That’s all a mistake?”

Daryl spat on the ground beside him, turning his infamous Dixon glare back on the other man. “Yeah, that’s what I’m sayin’. We weren’t thinkin’ right. Your fucking ikids/i should come first. What we did- that was just… it was wrong.”

Rick’s heart broke in his chest, shattering the pieces throughout every inch of his body. “You’re going to see that you’re wrong. I was thinkin’ about my kids. They adore you, Daryl. Carl…,” he looked back up at the prison. No one was in the yard but he could see Maggie and Glenn in the far tower. “Carl will come around. I shoulda told him awhile ago.”

“Yeah, ya shoulda. That way last night woulda never happened.”

“I loved last night, Daryl. I never wanted to leave that house, that bed. If my kids hadn’t-a been here, I wouldn’t have come back. I would have kept you out there. I hope you know that.” Rick took Daryl’s face in his hands, running his thumbs over the high cheekbones that he had come to love. “I want that to be our future. I want to wake up with you in my arms every day and hear Carl and Judith downstairs laughing. I want to be able to kiss you without worry. I want you, Daryl Dixon.”

War waged in Daryl’s chest and mind. His brother’s voice was in his head, telling him now was his chance to get away. Now was his opportunity to not be the fag that he had become for this sheriff. But yesterday was nice. Rick made him feel cared about and loved, but most of all, he made him feel wanted. “It ain’t that easy, Rick,” he said, his body deflating slightly with defeat beneath the soft touch of Rick’s hands. “Carl… the prison…”

“We’ll deal with it. So now they know. Now I can do this whenever I want, not caring who’s watching,” he grinned, pulling Daryl into him unexpectedly and pressing his lips to the hunter’ s. His fingers wound through his unruly tresses at the whimper escaping the younger man at the contact, his body still stiff against Rick’s.

From the distance, they heard a whoop. Daryl looked over at the guard tower to see Glenn giving them a thumbs up, the sun reflecting off the white of his teeth in his giant grin. With a growl he gave the Asian a single-finger salute. Rick laughed as he said, “So Maggie and Glenn support us.”

“Damn voyeurs.”

Rick wiggled his eyebrows. “We can give them a show.”

“Fuck off, Grimes,” he said, turning back around to head out, but Rick caught his shoulder again before he could get too far.

“Wait, Daryl,” he said, pulling him back again to face him. “I want to know that you don’t really think this is a mistake. I want to be with you. I’m going to go talk to Carl…”

Daryl lowered his head, bringing his right thumb up to his mouth and chewing on the cuticle. Rick noticed the habit but never said anything. He figured the man had been doing it all his life. He was surprised the finger even grew skin anymore where he chewed it. After a few stuttering heartbeats, Daryl just nodded. “‘S a mistake… but one I kinda wanna keep makin’.”

Rick smiled, letting out a short laugh. “I guess I’ll take that. Come back inside with me?”

Daryl just shook his head. “Goin’ to check the snares and see what I can catch around the prison. No one’s probably checked them the entire time I’ve been gone. Probably just a dinner bell callin’ for walkers at this point if there’s anythin’ in ’em.”

“It’s gettin’ dark, Daryl,” Rick warned, looking up at the rosy pinks of the sky. “Less than an hour and you’ll be in complete darkness.”

“Won’t take long. I’ll be back before the streetlights come on, dad.”

Rick grinned and nodded. “Okay, as long as you don’t leave me alone for long. I’ve gotten kinda used to you being by my side.”

Daryl rolled his eyes and stalked off muttering something akin to “damn romance novel” or at least that’s what Rick thought he heard. Turning back towards the prison, he knew he had to talk to Carl. What exactly he was going to say, he wasn’t sure. It had always just been him and Lori. How did Lori handle the situation with Shane when they thought he had died? This time, Lori really had died. Carl had shot her to keep her from turning.

His boots sounded loud in the quiet of the prison as he made his way up to Carl’s cell. The rest of the residents had scattered after the incident. He wasn’t sure exactly where everyone was, but he was quite certain that his every move was being watched in here by at least two pairs of eyes. One of which, he noted, was Beth as she held Judith in her arms in her cell, singing to her softly. With a small smile, Beth handed the baby off to him, not able to meet his eyes as she scurried out of the cell and down the stairs.

Cradling Judith, he smiled down at her and her complete innocence. She had no judgement to give him and no preconceived notions of homosexuality or even heterosexuality. All she knew right now was love and that everyone loved her. For that, he was very thankful. Slowly he continued to Carl’s cell, hearing the teenager throwing things around. Rick rounded the corner just as a metal chair slammed against the wall, ricocheting off towards the doorway. Judith fussed in his arms at the noise, but he was able to calm her before an all out fit as Carl threw himself on his bed. “Go away, dad,” he muttered into his pillow.

“I think we need to talk,” he said simply, righting the chair and pulling it up next to his son on the bed. “It was my mistake to not tell you about Daryl and I.” Carl made a noise into his pillow, burrowing his head in further. “I know you loved your mother. I did too-”

Carl’s head shot up. “Liar! You didn’t even try with mom!”

“Carl!” Rick sighed. “Your mother and I did try, but there comes a time when a relationship just isn’t salvageable. Once you grow up, you’ll see that. I know that it’s hard for you to know that now, but sometimes adults just fall out of love with each other.”

“So what? You leave mom and just go to Daryl? Have you always been gay, dad or is that new too?”

Rick sighed again, shifting Judith in his arms, not taking the bait that Carl was throwing at him. Looking down at her smiling face and kissing her fingertips that reached for him, he considered his answer. “No. I didn’t just go to Daryl. I wouldn’t even say that Daryl and I are gay exactly. I’ve never looked at another man the way I do him. It’s hard for me to even figure out.”

“But you’re fucking him, so you’re gay.”

“Don’t curse at me,” he said, trying to keep his voice steady at his son. “Daryl and I… it’s been a development over time.”

“How long?”

“Almost five months.”

Carl threw himself back on his bed. “So you’ve been with Daryl for five months and didn’t even tell me?”

“We didn’t tell anyone, son. We didn’t know what we had for a long time. We just kinda figured it out too. We were going to tell everyone soon. We just hadn’t figured out how yet. Guess you kinda took care of that for us.” Judith yawned wide in his arms. Laying her down next to her brother, Rick leaned in close. “You and your sister are the most important people in my life. I know you know that somewhere deep inside, but right now you don’t believe it. Daryl loves you both too. I couldn’t ask for a better partner in life than him. I’m not asking for you to accept it right away. I just want you to give us a chance. We’re not much different than we were before.”

Carl sighed, playing with his baby sister’s hair as she drifted off to sleep next to him. “Why Daryl? Why not Carol? Or any of the new Woodbury women?”

Rick laughed lightly. “I wish I could answer that. I really do, but for some reason it just became Daryl. It hasn’t been easy for us as we’ve tried to figure this out. I’m sorry that you heard what you did when you came to find us that evening. We tried to remove ourselves from the main group so we didn’t disturb anyone.”

Carl sighed, never taking his eyes off of his sister. “I don’t like it. I don’t understand it. Just don’t like, kiss, or do anything else like that in front of me. Okay?”

Rick ruffled his hair, making the teen pull away from him. “Ok, no lovey dovey stuff in front of you, got it. So you’re willing to give us a chance?”

Carl grunted. “I guess. You can leave Judith here.”

Rick nodded, standing. He knew when he was being dismissed and this was probably the best he was going to get from his son at the moment. Now he just had to contend with the rest of the prison, but dealing with everyone was for a new day. He was tired from the trip and having to deal with his son and his and Daryl’s very public outing.

As darkness descended upon the prison, Rick paced the fenceline. Daryl had never returned and as soon as he saw the man he was surely going to give him a good what-for speech and then check him over and make sure he was ok. Possibly not in that order though. Carol had come down to check on him and offer him food, but he declined. All he wanted right now was Daryl back safe like he had said he would be. As he rounded the line again, he thought through all the different scenarios of what could possibly be taking him so long, not coming up with anything significant unless a giant buck was in a snare and he was having a hard time carrying it back. Even that though seemed unlikely.

Suddenly, behind him he heard a loud roar of an engine. Wheeling around, he caught sight of a giant white SUV speeding off, a giant flaming ball heading over their fence. Rick ran towards it, screaming for Glenn and Maggie as he heard their shots from the tower at the SUV. Ripping off his shirt, he flew towards the fire, dousing it quickly. Standing up, he saw what it was. “No… no,” he muttered quietly, looking all around, searching for the SUV again. The blond hair had been singed and the skin had burned, but he recognized the face. Andrea. “No!” he screamed at the fence.

“Rick!” He searched for the voice in the darkness. It was one that he knew well. Bright lights suddenly illuminated the woods on the other side of the fence, blinding him momentarily. “Brought you a present. She was of no more use to me since we found out she had ratted on us.”

Rick stuttered in his run towards the fence, falling once as he heard other people behind him, calling out to him to get away from the fence, but he couldn’t. As his eyes refocused from the light, he saw him.

“It’s ok though. I found myself a bargaining chip,” the Governor laughed, as he shoved Daryl’s shoulder with the barrel of his gun. “He was just wandering in the woods. Convenient really. How thoughtful of you to send him out alone.”

Daryl’s face was bloody; his arms were tied behind his back. His blue eyes pleaded with Rick to not do anything stupid to rescue him. Hot tears streamed down Rick’s face. “Let him go. You can have the prison, just let him go. Give us two days to clear out and you can have it. You can have everything.”

“You can’t possibly be that stupid, Rick. Come on now. I thought you were a smarter man than that. I don’t just want the prison.”

Rick felt the rest of his core group surrounding him. He could feel Carol’s gasp of surprise in his own chest as she laced her fingers in the fence beside him. “Anything. I’ll give you anything, just let him go.”

“I want you, Rick. I want everything. I want your people. I want your supplies. I want everything, but especially you.”

“You can’t have him!” Maggie shouted from beside him. “You can have the supplies and the prison, but the people go with us, including Rick and Daryl.”

Rick cursed her, turning to face her, but quickly turning back at the sound of the Governor laughing. “I’m afraid that’s not going to work then.” A single shot rang out.

The only sound Rick heard after that was his own screaming as Daryl fell down to the ground.

 

Chapter Eleven

Everyone moved in slow motion around him. Rick was caught in a liquid haze as he stared at the body he had worshipped that morning lay on the ground, motionless. He felt the hot tears stream down his cheeks and the hard sobs emanate from his chest. Every surrounding sound was muffled; the only thing he heard was his own heartbeat in his ears and the mantra repeating over and over again in his head, Take me then Take me then If you’re going to take him from me Take me then.

More words were said but it was up to someone else to listen because Rick had stopped caring in that moment that Daryl slunk down to the ground. The wings on his vest crumpled from the awkward position he fell in. He watched as the Governor’s henchmen kicked Daryl’s body, laughing at the screams of agony coming from behind the fence. The Governor taunted them to come out to rescue him, only pausing to kill walkers as they approached their group. If Rick thought his legs would work he would be out there; if only he had his revolver on him.

Rick heard his name multiple times, but he couldn’t respond. His eyes were glued to Daryl’s body, praying for any kind of movement, sound, even a scream of pain. When the group behind the fence grew silent, cried and screamed out, the Governor and his men sped away, laughing into the night. The gate was opened beside them as two people rushed out, dragging the body back inside before the walkers could get to him. When the gates were closed again, Tyrese and Glenn carefully flipped Daryl over for Hershel to get a look at the wound.

The crowd gasped as Daryl’s open eyes searched their faces, lips open and gasping for air like a fish out of water. “He’s alive, Rick!” Hershel called. “He’s alive. Let’s get him inside and I’ll check the damage there. Need lots of clean water and rags. We’re going to need those big lights we’ve been collecting, too. And the antibiotics!” People scattered to collect the old vet’s needs for surgery as Tyrese and Glenn picked Daryl up as carefully as they could and started to carry him up to the prison.

Maggie was about to run off to help her daddy when she noticed Rick still on his knees, staring out at the empty forest, seemingly completely unaware of the commotion around him. Gingerly, she knelt beside him, taking his face in her hands and turning it towards her. “He’s alive. Stop it right now, Rick. He’s alive and daddy is gonna save him, ya hear? We ain’t gonna let him die on us,” she promised.

Rick just stared at her without seeing. Take me then Take me then Maggie looked back up at the prison and back at the vacant look in Rick’s blue eyes. She plopped herself down next to him, crossing her legs in front of her. “Guess we’ll wait out here then for the news as it comes.” Rick turned to look back out past the walkers collecting around fenceline again, almost straining to see beyond the trees. “Tell me about your first kiss,” Maggie continued, trying to get the man in shock back down to earth.

“Why?” he choked out, eyes never leaving the forest.

“Because Daryl isn’t dead. He’s alive and daddy is gonna save him. Now tell me about your first kiss. We live in a prison so it couldn’t have been that romantic.”

“Alive?” Rick’s voice was broken, scratchy from the screaming. His lungs were tired. His body was tired. All he wanted right now was to wake up from this nightmare in that house that they had been in that morning, with Daryl wrapped in his arms, body warm from sleep.

Maggie nodded once, curtly, and waited patiently for him to process the information. Minutes ticked by before Rick settled down next to her. Though his body was still tense, his mind eased slightly. Glenn would find them if something happened… “I had him cuffed to a cell. He had come back from hunting hurt and I thought… I thought…,” Rick cleared his throat, wiping at his eyes. “It took something like that for us to act on it.”

“I’m glad you did. Glenn and I have been waiting for it for awhile. We noticed all those little looks and touches between you two. The constant innuendo.”

Rick snorted, still not turning to face her. “It’s been almost five months.”

“Do you love him?”

At that, Rick did turn to face her. That question toed a dangerous line, especially in this world. Standing up, he nodded at her. “Alive?”

“Yeah, daddy’s working on him right now.”

Rick kept the vigil all night long at Daryl’s bedside. Some people came and went, but he noticed that it was mostly his own people, not any of the Woodbury folks, save a few, came to see if he was okay. Maggie and Glenn hung around for awhile. Hershel would pop in almost every hour like clockwork to check Daryl’s vitals and make sure he was still breathing and that Rick was… well… alive.

Around 6am Daryl stirred slightly, pulling the blankets off his body with a small groan. Rick was on him in an instant, patting at his arm and his forehead, whispering words of hope, life, and love before he was finally greeted with a sliver of blue eyes. “Rick?” he asked, licking his dry lips.

“Yeah, I’m here. You’re gonna be ok.”

“Thought I had died,” he said, gratefully taking the bottle of water that Rick offered him as he tried to sit up a bit more. Propping the prone man up on an extra pillow, Rick stuck his head in the hallway calling for Hershel, not giving a damn if he woke up the whole prison. Daryl was alive and awake.

Within minutes, the older man hobbled into the cell on his crutches, looking barely awake. “Mornin’,” he said, clearing his throat slightly. “Good to see you, son.” Daryl coughed slightly before nodding at him. “You know, I’m gettin’ tired of usin’ my meager medical supplies on you. Maybe it’s time you turned into a farmer like your man, Rick, here. I bet he’d appreciate that too.” He smiled over at Rick as he checked Daryl over, making sure the wound was on it’s way to closing properly and changing the bandage. “Rick, you look like hell. Did you get any sleep?”

Coughing slightly, he wondered the same thing himself. He couldn’t rightfully remember if he had or not. “I dozed a bit,” he lied.

“Well, Daryl seems to be out of the woods and I don’t want you to be my next patient.”

“I’ll get some, Hershel. Promise.” The old man nodded, continuing to fuss over Daryl and ensuring that he was mending properly. He gave instructions that he knew would be ignored but hoped that maybe Rick would make him listen.

As Hershel was finishing up and the sun was starting to rise on the horizon, Glenn appeared at the door. He greeted Daryl, seeing that he was awake and still cranky as ever, but looked seriously over at Rick. “Can I talk to you for a minute, Rick?”

Nodding, he stood up and walked out of the cell, throwing one last look at Daryl as the other watched him walk out. “He’s doin’ all right, Glenn.”

Glenn just nodded, glancing back at the cell. “That’s good, Rick, but not what I need to talk to you about. Can you draw us a map to that housing development you and Daryl found? With what happened last night, and the Governor knowing that we know about his plans to attack and how he shot Daryl… We need to go now. I know Hershel isn’t going to let Daryl go anywhere and that you aren’t going to leave his side- which you shouldn’t- but we need to get our plan in action.”

Rick cursed inwardly. Of course. This was the other shoe dropping. “Yeah, I think I can draw you a map, but Glenn, it needs to be cleared and Daryl is the only person who knows the gate code. So you need to take a group out there and clear it. You can be there and back in an afternoon.”

“We’ll go today and clear it. We’ll check it out.”

The prison was coming alive around them. Everyone was coming out of their cells, glancing nervously at the two men talking in the common area. No one said anything as they walked by them. No one issued condolences or asked how Daryl was or if he was even dead. Not a single person, not even his son. No one said a word and for some reason, that pissed Rick off the most as he followed them all out to the main eating area they had set up for breakfast. “You know, he’s going to be okay. Thanks everyone for your concern about the man who puts the most meat on your plate,” he shouted. “Our lifestyle isn’t up for debate. He’s still the same person he’s been. Without him, your lives would be very different. So if you don’t like us being together, now is your chance to get the hell out of my prison.” With a hard glance around the area, noticing how people refused to make eye contact with him, he huffed angrily, clearly wanting to say more but decided against it.

“Rick-” Carol started, but she was quickly silenced as he turned and walked away.

An hour later, Rick was laying in bed, his back pressed up against the wall with his arm over Daryl’s chest, snoring slightly into the damaged shoulder. Carol walked in, bringing Daryl a plate of food from breakfast. He nodded gratefully as she helped him sit up slightly to eat it while trying not to disturb the sleeping man. “You know he made a scene at breakfast this morning,” she whispered, sitting down across from the bed.

Daryl set the plate on his stomach and picked at the food with his non-injured arm. “‘Bout what?”

“You. Told everyone that you were going to be okay and that life would be very different around here if you weren’t. He also told people to leave if they didn’t like you being together.”

Daryl snorted. “Not that they cared anyway. Still goin’ to be like it was only now people just goin’ to ignore me. Almost be better.”

Carol shrugged. “Some people care. Others just don’t know you well enough yet to not judge you.”

“You mean the way y’all did before Rick came stumbling outta that truck with Glenn back in Atlanta?”

Carol smiled knowingly, ducking her head slightly. “Exactly. I mean you are still Daryl Dixon. You’ve just been tamed slightly by a wiley sheriff.”

“Ain’t nothin’ tamed, woman.”

“You going to tell me that getting laid frequently hasn’t helped with your temper?” she quipped. “Lest you forget I did walk in on you in the showers. Y’all seemed pretty hot and heavy in there.”

Daryl’s blush crept up to the tips of his ears as he shoved a giant piece of a peach into his mouth. “Still sorry about that.” Rick stirred next to him, mumbling softly in his sleep as his hand pulled Daryl closer to him.

Carol stood up, taking the now empty plate from him. “People might talk, Daryl, but don’t you let that run you off from this. Rick loves you and he will defend you to his dying day. He was a broken man last night when he thought you were…” She paused, sniffling slightly.

Daryl nodded. Hershel had already told him about Rick when Glenn had taken him out of the cell that morning. What they had going had developed into something more than what he had intended when they first started this months ago, but it wasn’t like there was anything he could do about it, or even wanted to do about it. Death had always been a fact of life. Now it was reanimation after death that really scared them, not so much the dying part. “Got 9 lives. Think I got a few more left so no one really needs to worry. We need to get you out of here though with the kids. Get you ta that development.”

“Rick has already drawn Glenn the map. We just need the gate code and they’re going to go and clear it today. We might start moving the first group over there tonight.”

Daryl nodded. “There are houses. Rick and I have staked our claim on one. The number is 6135 so no one is allowed to take that one.”

Carol smiled. “Doubt anyone would want to sleep in that bed anyway with how long y’all had been gone.”

Daryl side-eyed her. “The other houses still need to be cleared,” he continued. “There’s a field in the back, looks like land that was supposed to be built on but never was. Could use that to burn the bodies and even for a little graveyard if we need it. Once Rick wakes up we can take y’all out there. Ya don’t need a map.”

Carol laughed slightly. “You think Hershel and Rick are going to let you go anywhere? And you really think you’re going to be able to shoot that crossbow after having a bullet removed from your shoulder last night? Let us take care of you two for once. Glenn and Maggie have this under control.”

Daryl sat in the bed, Rick’s arm suddenly feeling suffocating as he felt useless to the betterment of the group. “What can I do then?”

“Keep Rick sane. That’s the biggest part right now. Daryl, the Governor shot you. You think Rick is going to let him get away with that?”

 

Chapter Twelve

Daryl grunted as his footsteps on the hard concrete floor echoed through his body, resonating through his injured shoulder and aching head. Everyone was up and about, packing all of their meager belongings to make ready for the move to the neighborhood. Glen and Maggie’s crew had been there and come back already, excited to share the vivid details about the area and the treasures the houses held in them. Daryl huffed around the cell block, enjoying everyone’s nervous excitement about the new place and the terror that awaited them the longer they stayed at the prison.

He found Rick in Daryl’s own cell, shoving his belongings into an army rucksack. He turned when he heard the other enter, smiling weakly but not stopping his mission. “I’m sending you on with Glenn. I want you to start setting up our house and helping everyone get into theirs.”

“Hell no. If you’re staying here then I’m staying with you,” Daryl argued, trying to snatch the bag out of Rick’s grasp. There was no way in hell he was going to let Rick stay here when the Governor was back on his rampage. The other was too quick though, stepping away from him before Daryl could set in his grip.

“Daryl, I’m not giving you an option. He…” Rick faltered, looking down at his hands clutching at a sweat-stained t-shirt Daryl had picked up on a run the month before.

“I know damn well what he did last night. I feel it every time I take a step.”

“You probably shouldn’t even be up right now. Why don’t you go sit in the car and wait for them-”

“So that’s how it’s goin’ to be, huh? It’s back to the Ricktatorship. Well I ain’t your little housewife. I’m not just going to run an’ hide with my tail ‘tween my legs cause the fucker shot me in the shoulder,” he spat, his voice rising with each word.

Rick pursed his lips, looking at the wall and contemplating the best way to handle this. “Daryl, I can’t have anything happen to you.”

“Yeah, I heard you went all Scarlet O’Hara out there when I went down.” He smiled slightly, pulling Rick into him with his good arm, his burst of anger dissipating. “But I done told ya before, ain’t no one can kill a Dixon ‘cept for a Dixon.”

Rick kissed him softly, hands worrying that worn out tshirt still in his hands. “You’re still going with Glen.”

Daryl huffed and rolled his eyes, seriously contemplating a temper tantrum if he thought it’d get him anywhere and not injure himself further. “Ain’t goin’.”

“Yeah ya are. Glenn and Maggie need back up cause I’m keeping Michonne, Tyreese, and Bob here.”

Daryl sighed, still holding on to Rick as they heard fast footsteps approach the door to the cell. “Rick, Daryl?” It was Glenn, out of breath and arms full of stuff to take to the cars. “We’re ready to go in about 5 minutes.”

Rick nodded. “We’ll be down there.”

Daryl grumbled as he felt a gentle shove out of the cell. “Ain’t goin‘, Rick.” Putting both hands on the rail in front of him, he watched as people beneath them scurried back and forth, shuttling their meager belongings out to the yard to pack in the cars and bus. “Why don’t you just give him the prison? The whole group can leave together. There’s no reason why anyone should be left behind.”

Strong arms wrapped around him from behind. “He won’t stop at the prison, you know that. He’d come after us.”

Daryl nodded his agreement. He did know that, but he just couldn’t leave Rick to defend it without having his back. “Doesn’t mean I gotta go-”

“My son is going, Daryl. And Judith. I need you there… to help them move into our house.” Rick smiled into the skin at the back of his neck. “Our house.”

Daryl snorted. “Kid might kill me in my sleep ‘fore you even get there.”

“Nah, no one can sneak up on you when you’re alseep. Least of all a pissed off teenager.” They shared a smile between them, watching as less and less people were running about downstairs as everyone was packed and ready to go. “I need you to protect our family.”

Hanging his head, he realized the gravity of what Rick was asking of him. It wasn’t just for the moment or the day or even the week. He was asking Daryl to take charge in the event Rick never made it to the new settlement. “Need you to come back to us though.”

Rick nodded, stepping away and picked up the bag of Daryl’s belongings. “Of course. Otherwise Judy would never have any discipline. You already give her whatever she wants. Can’t imagine you in five years. You’ll be lookin’ all over Georgia for a damn elephant for her.”

Daryl snorted, following Rick down the stairs, blushing slightly at the sentiment even though he knew it was the truth. “I might be able to find one at a zoo…”

“See, you’re already thinkin’ about it. Someone has got to be around to tell her no at some point.” After a stop in Rick’s cell to grab the crossbow, they headed out to meet the others. The cell block felt empty and devoid of life with all their belongings piled up in their few cars and a bus they were able to salvage from the prison yard.

Rick handed Glenn Daryl’s bag so it could be stacked on top of the rest of the stuff in the back of the car. “Be safe,” he whispered, taking the gruff man into his arms, careful to avoid the injured shoulder. “I’ll see you soon.” Resting his forehead against his lover’s, they shared the unspoken words they needed to express, blue eyes meeting blue eyes with desperate understanding of you need to survive. Unable to hold back any longer, Rick pulled Daryl flush against him, capturing his lips in a passionate kiss, dragging his tongue along the thin line before being allowed entrance. They were met with hoots and hollers before parting with a final chaste kiss. A few of the Woodbury folks muttered underneath their breath at the open display of affection, but neither man paid them any heed. However, Rick would remind them later of exactly who found their damn safe haven and who kept them safe this whole time.

Daryl watched out the back window as Glenn sped them away from the prison, finally turning when the grey structure was out of sight. Carl was a silent but armed statue at his side, glaring holes in the back of Maggie’s seat in front of him as he held a sleeping baby Judith in his arms. “Want me to take her for ya, kid?” Daryl asked. It looked as though holding his baby sister was the last thing he wanted to be doing, but apparently Daryl had judged the look on his face completely wrong.

“Sure, she already loves you anyways. Guess you should get to hold her since you’re replacing Mom,” he snapped, nearly flinging the baby at him.

Daryl tucked Judy up against his good shoulder, using his bad arm to just cradle her close to his chest as he sunk back into the seat. “Ain’t replacin’ her, Carl,” he said quietly. Glenn and Maggie both tensed but thankfully didn’t turn around at the tone of the conversation in their back seat. “Ain’t no one can ever replace your Ma or anyone’s Ma. I don’t want to be that at all. I care about ya and Lil’ Asskicker more’n anything in this life, but I ain’t your Ma.”

“So you’re just fucking my dad then. Like I said before.”

Glenn’s head whipped around, but Daryl answered before he could reprimand the teenager. “Not just fuckin’ your dad. He’s somethin’ special ta me. I haven’t quite figured out what it is yet, but leavin’ him back there has been the hardest thin’ I’ve gone through since losin’ Merle. I know it must be hard on you too since he’s all ya got left in this world, but I ain’t gonna let anything happen to you or Judy.”

“Yeah, you did a good job at not getting caught by the Governor when you went out to check the snares by yourself.” Carl crossed his arms over his chest, glaring daggers at the older man.

Daryl snorted as Glenn growled out Carl’s name. “Okay, ya got me there. Goin’ out to check the snares alone was not a good move. Your dad told me that before I went and I did it anyway ’cause I was trying to run from a problem. I thought once everyone at the prison knew about us that Rick would just toss me out, that he’d be ashamed of me.”

Carl softened slightly, knowing that he was the reason then that Daryl had run and inevitably was caught by the Governor. Had he not outted them, maybe Daryl wouldn’t have been shot and maybe they wouldn’t be fleeing from the prison. “This is all my fault isn’t it?”

“Ain’t nothin’ your fault, kid. This world has gone to shit. We’re just tryin’ ta live in it.”

Glenn slammed on the brakes, sending Daryl and Carl’s upper bodies surging forward and effectively ending their conversation as a string of curse words emanated from every adult in the car. Their convoy behind them swerved to avoid a rear end collision as they saw the road block up ahead. “Is it the Governor?” Carl asked, peering around Maggie’s seat.

“I don’t think so,” Glenn whispered, eyeing the four cars blocking the road in front of them with a small army of armed men standing in front of the vehicles.

“Shit,” Daryl whispered, clutching Judith closer to his body. “Those are the cannibals we saw from the fort. Can ya back up or go around them? Shit, shit, shit.” He glanced around fervently looking towards the woods for any method of escape.

The men slowly approached each of the four vehicles, eyeing the giant bus at the end of the convoy. Glenn rolled down the window as a man approached. “Sir, can we just get by you? We’re not going to be any trouble.”

The man smiled, showing a mouthful of a lifetime of dental hygienic neglect. His dark hair was greased back, giving him the vibe of a creepy car salesman. “Well, sir, I just don’t think we can do that.”

“What can we offer you to let us go through?” Maggie asked from the passenger seat. “We have food, some fuel, clothing. We’ll give you supplies.”

The creepy car salesman smacked his lips, looking over at his associates who were circling the other cars and peering in the windows of the bus. Each of them looked well fed but in desperate need of a bath. “We have soap too…,” she offered.

“Little lady, soap and your supplies are not the things we are after.” He peered into the backseat, taking in Carl, Daryl and Judith. Daryl hugged the fussing baby closer to his chest, still trying to formulate an escape plan. He knew exactly what these men wanted and he was not willing to give up any member of their group. The stranger hummed as he reached out, stopping inches short of touching Judy’s hair, taking in the look of promised death on Daryl’s face. “A chubby little baby. We haven’t seen one of those in a long time,” he said. Raising his head, he shouted to his group, “Heya boys! We got a baby in this one. And a kid.” Carl scoffed in the back seat at the mention of him.

“Heya boss! We got a whole busload of kids and women back here!” shouted another man.

The creepy car salesman looked back down at Glenn, his grin widening as he said, “Well, Asian, looks like you brought us a motherlode. We haven’t had such a delicate treat as a chubby little baby and a kid in a long time. Now, be an obedient little group and get out of the car.”

“Fuck off,” shouted Carl, pulling out his gun as they heard screaming coming from the cars behind them. In a single, loud shot, the greased dark hair of the man the other had referred to as “boss” was streaked red as a bullet hit home in his forehead, sending the man sprawling backwards. Daryl dropped a screaming Judith down in the middle seat, buckling her in quickly so she couldn’t escape easily before grabbing his crossbow and darting out of the car. It hurt like a bitch but in a split second he had it loaded. Carl, Glenn and Maggie followed suit, sending the cannibals scattering as they pulled doors of the other cars open, dragging out the occupants before being shot at or fought against. The driver of the bus hit reverse before careening forward, taking out a small group of the men in a massive crunch of flesh beneath rubber and metal.

In a matter of minutes, the cannibals were firing back at their little group as they scrambled back for their cars. Squealing tires signaled the escape of at least one group of them as Glenn, Carl, and Maggie circled around with Carol shooting from the back of the pack from the bus door. Daryl fought from the safety of the car door as he kept one eye on Judith thrashing wildly and screaming her head off in the back seat. As the dust settled around them, an inventory was taken of their members as others searched the bodies of the slain cannibals, taking whatever supplies they could pull from their pockets and abandoned vehicles.

Daryl let the others take the inventories as he reached back in the car for Judith who was clearly disturbed by the loud noises and fear of being alone in the car. Dropping his crossbow onto the floorboard, he took her in his arms, shushing her quickly as she buried her face in his chest, giving him a “how-dare-you-leave-me” look of hurt. She clutched at his hair as it dangled in his face, still letting out a few whimpers but willing to let by-gones be by-gones as long as she was allowed to tug on the few wispy strands.

“Beth?!” Maggie screamed, running back to the bus frantically.

Daryl whipped his head up, hissing at the loss of a few strands of hair in Judith’s tight grip. Maggie repeated her sister’s name in a loud mantra as she searched for her but to no avail.

The cannibals had made off with her.

 

Chapter Thirteen

Rick dropped the shovel off by the old pig pens before heading back up towards the prison door. Michonne was walking her way up towards the entrance, steps determined as Rick approached her, Tyreese joining them from the other direction as they all headed inside. “Everything ready?”

Both Michonne and Tyreese nodded. “Rick, do you know what you’re doing? This can only end one of two ways,” Michonne warned.

“I know you want to get this son of a bitch just as bad as I do.”

Michonne nodded, “He killed Andrea and shot Daryl. I tracked him for months, you know that. Of course I want to kill him. But Daryl… you could leave now and get to him before the Governor even gets here. Tyreese and I can join you after. You know Daryl’s going to go crazy if you don’t come back to him.”

Rick paused in his gait, hands on his hips as he turned to face his two comrades. Thoughts raced through his mind, bouncing from Daryl to the Governor to his kids. Nodding, he replied, “Yeah… yeah I get what you’re saying, but I need to see it. I need to know that he’s dead. I need to know he’s not going to be coming after my family again. I know you’ve felt that. I know you know how that feels.”

Michonne stood still, giving a simple nod to his words. Rick looked over at Tyreese who gave a matching nod. “If we do this right, he won’t even know what’s coming.”

Rick nodded back, turning and continuing into the prison. Catching Michonne as she walked by, Tyreese whispered to her, “Hopefully he hasn’t been watching us and followed our people to the new place. I don’t know if Glenn, Maggie, and Daryl could keep them back by themselves.”

Michonne looked out over the fences. “I wouldn’t doubt he’d be smart enough to keep us on watch. He knows Rick’s weaknesses. They’re any man’s weakness. The Governor would be smart enough to use his kids and his lover against him, but they may already think Daryl is dead.”

“If Daryl had died, I think we’d be an entirely different situation than we’re in now.”

“It would be worse.”


“We have to find her!” Maggie screamed, tears streaming down her face. “Glenn, we have to go get her.”

Glenn wrapped his wife in his arms, holding her tightly. “We will. We will leave as soon as we get everyone to the settlement. I promise, but we have kids, Maggie. Beth would want us to get them safe.” Maggie nodded against his shoulder, her sobs quieting slightly as she stared hard at Daryl holding Judith on one side of the car with Carl on the other side, holstering his gun. “Let’s go, huh? We’ll get to Beth faster. Carol, Daryl, and Carl can help everyone get settled in and we’ll take off, okay?”

“I know where their hideout is. I can take you,” Daryl said, cradling Judith closer to him. Carl looked over to him and back down to his feet.

Glenn nodded, letting Maggie go and walking back to the car. “Let’s go then. The faster we do this, the faster we’re enjoying our new place.”

The rest of the drive to the settlement was uneventful, but everyone’s nerves were rattled, making them antsy to get out of the cars once their caravan made it through the gate. When the scouting group had come the day before, they had cleared the entire development. The smell of fetid and decayed burned flesh was still ripe in the air as the smoke plumes still billowed lightly out of the mound of corpses in the back.

Daryl directed Glenn to drive to the house he and Rick had picked out for their family. The direction was given to the rest of the group to pick a home but be careful of any hidden dangers or still lurking walkers that they may have missed the day before. The Woodbury members chose houses at one side of the development while the members of the original group from the Rock Quarry stuck together, as always. Maggie and Glenn had picked the house across from Daryl and Rick, dropping their stuff off quickly.

Daryl carried Judith inside, guiding Carl around the house as he dropped off his and Daryl’s bags in the foyer. “So you and dad both picked this house?”

Daryl nodded, taking the baby upstairs with Carl hot on his heels. “Your dad actually picked it. Said he could see Judy sittin’ on the front steps with some lemonade when she was older. I could see you sittin’ on the porch on the swing with your first girlfriend.” Looking back over his shoulder, he smiled as the teen looked away. “Maybe Beth.”

Carl blushed furiously, leaning against the doorframe of the baby room Daryl had stepped into. Laying Judith down, he pulled the small blanket over her little body. “This is a boy’s room.”

“Yeah, we thought we could raid some of the other houses for some little girl stuff to change it out.”

Carl nodded. “I can help with that.” Daryl smiled at him from the side of the crib, his hand still resting on Judith’s back as she slept. “I don’t think you should go Daryl.”

“What?”

“With Glenn and Maggie to find Beth. I don’t think you should go. What if something happened? You’re injured. You… your crossbow. You just can’t.”

Daryl shook his head, motioning him out of the room. Closing the door behind him, he led Carl down the stairs to collect their things. “You’ll be all right. We’ll just be gone a few hours. You killed their leader. I don’t think anything is going to go wrong, kid.”

Carl stopped on the bottom step, watching as Daryl bent down to grab the bag that Rick had packed for him. “What if Dad doesn’t come back? And you don’t come back?”

“That won’t happen.”

“But what if it does?!” Carl yelled.

Daryl stood up, crossing the few feet between them quickly, taking the teenager in his arms. “I won’t let it happen, ya hear? I’m comin’ back to ya. I love you and Judith and I’m gonna be back.”

“I agree with Carl.” Daryl whirled, grabbing for his knife still at his hip, keeping Carl behind his back. He was relieved to only see Glenn standing in the doorway. “If Rick doesn’t come back, you need to be here with them. You’d be the only family they had left. Maggie and I can get in and get out, just give us directions.”

“Glenn, I’ll be-”

“I know you’d be okay. But Carl is right. And the group can use you here if something happens. And you know I can do this. Don’t you remember Atlanta?” Daryl snorted.

Carl listened to Daryl and Glenn talk downstairs as he took his and his sister’s bags upstairs. Everything that he knew about this cannibalistic group was passed on, including the bear traps outside of the fort. In a last ditch effort, Daryl tried to convince Glenn to not go alone with Maggie. “You have a family now, Daryl. You have kids. Rick trusted you with them. They’re yours now just as much as his.”

“He’s coming back.”

“I know. He won’t leave you with them. Neither will we. We’ll be back soon.”

The door closed and the wood floor boards creaked as Carl heard Daryl walk into the living room area. Carl moved over to unload his sister’s clothes into the dresser, watching her momentarily while she slept. He knew he was right in the car. Judith did absolutely adore Daryl. If Rick or Beth wasn’t around, she would cry for Daryl until he would pick her up and whisper to her, rocking her in his strong arms. Moving from his sister’s room, he looked down the hallway towards the one other closed door. Carefully, he tiptoed down the hall, opening the door onto the room. Stepping into it, he closed the door behind himself, taking in the room. There was an empty wine bottle on the dresser, the bed was unmade and clearly slept in, and there was a t-shirt that he recognized as his dad’s. Clearly this had been where his dad and Daryl had spent the night when they found this development. And if his dad left his t-shirt here… Carl wrinkled his nose. He really didn’t want to think about what happened on that bed. The last thing he wanted to know about was his dad’s sex life and certainly not when it involved Daryl.

Creeping back out of the room, he checked in on Judith one more time. He smiled a little now that she was sleeping in an actual crib and there were toys for her to play with and clean clothes for her to change into. Walking back down the stairs, he intended to pick up the rest of their stuff from the foyer, but something caught his eye from the living room. Daryl was sitting on the couch, his shoulder hunched and shaking slightly. Was he….?

“Daryl?” Carl asked, tentatively stepping around the corner of the sofa. “Are you ok?”

Daryl sniffed, sitting up straighter and running a hand over his face. “Yeah… yeah I’m ok. Asskicker still asleep?”

“Yeah. It’s nice that she has a crib now.” Daryl just nodded, looking up at the ceiling. “And we have real beds. This is a nice place. Dad will really like it.”

Daryl snorted. “Yeah, he talked about having neighborhood barbeques in the backyard.”

“We used to do those a lot when I was really little. They were fun. You ever been to a barbeque?” The older man shook his head. “Well, basically a bunch of people get together with food and drink and the kids play in the yard.” Carl sat down next to him on the couch, facing the older man. He looked broken down and exhausted. “Dad’s coming back, you know. He found us outside of Atlanta after Shane told us he was already dead. He survived the Governor once. He’ll do it again.”

Daryl turned to look at him, a slight smirk on his face. “I know. He’ll be all right. It’s just weird to be here without him.” He rubbed his arm subconsciously feeling the bullet wound, remembering waking up and seeing Rick’s haggard face in front of him. He thought he had died and was in one hell of a fucked up heaven.

“Why don’t you go lay down? I bet Dad will be back by the time you wake up.”

Daryl snorted. “Nah. Gotta get everything set up here and check on everyone else. Make sure everyone is settling in okay and do up a list of things we need.”

“I can do that!” Carl went into the kitchen, grabbing a magnet notepad from the fridge and coming back, waving it at the older man as he stood up. “I can go around to everyone. Maybe even check the houses that people didn’t settle in and see if anything we need is in there.”

Daryl nodded. “Okay, you can start while I get mine and your dad’s stuff unpacked.”

Carl stopped in the entryway to the living room, looking back at Daryl as he stepped around the couch. “I’m glad you stayed.”

Screaming from outside suddenly interrupted their happy little moment, sending both of them running out the door. Daryl grabbed his crossbow and Carl unholstered his gun as they ran to the front lawn. “What’s wrong?!” Daryl shouted as a woman ran past.

“They’re here! They followed us! You said this would be safe!” she screamed and continued running.

“Holy fuck,” Daryl muttered, looking at Carl before both of them ran towards the front gate.


Rick watched as two SUV’s pulled up to the chainlink fence surrounding the prison, taking a full circle of the prison before coming back around to the front. A white pickup truck pulled up between them, the Governor stepping out with his gun already out. “Rick! We’ve come to claim what’s ours!”

Rick stepped out of the shadows, gun still holstered as he walked out into the yard a ways before coming to a stop. “Then you’ve come to the wrong place because this isn’t yours and never will be.”

“Believe what you want. I’m taking this prison and that absolutely lovely neighborhood you sent everyone else. It really is quaint. How nice of you to find that for me.”

Rick’s heart stopped in his chest. He should have known that the Governor would have spies on them. It was stupid of him to believe otherwise. He had to get back there now. “You can’t have the prison and fuck you if you think you can take the neighborhood.”

“No. I know I can. Our men are there right now. I’m sure that they’ll be tender with your lover and your children. So happy to hear that he lived by the way. It would have been tragic for you to lose him while you were still alive.” The Governor smiled as his men exited their own vehicles, guns at the ready.

“Fuck you,” Rick screamed, taking a box of matches from his front pocket, lighting one and dropping it down to the ground. “I hope you rot in hell.”

The spark surprised the men on the other side of the fence as it quickly ran closer towards them. The Governor screamed for them to run and get down but none of them were fast enough before the C4 ignited. The cars flew up in the air, shrouded by the dirt and debris sent flying by the blast as well. Rick didn’t wait for the dust to settle as he ran for Daryl’s motorcycle under the tarp by the prison. As he started it up, he headed for the hole the blast had made, running as fast from the prison as he could. The sound of the Triumph’s engine was the cue for Tyreese and Michonne to light their switches and run for their car.

As he got out onto the dirt road, the small car flew out of the brush behind him and they sped off as fast as the motorcycle could go. He wasn’t sure if Michonne and Tyreese had heard the threats of the Governor taking over their new home, but at that point he wasn’t prepared to stop and brief them. He had to get there.

In the mirrors of the motorcycle he saw the explosion, feeling it rock the ground beneath his tires. Even if the Governor survived the first blast, he would never have the prison now. No one ever would.

 

Chapter Fourteen

Daryl ran towards the front gate just in time to see a smoke bomb clear the brick wall, plumes of who knows what type of gas emitting from the small sphere. Pulling his shirt up over his face, he turned back to see who was still around. Carl ran up behind him, coughing and waving his hands at the smoke. “Pull your shirt up over your face,” Daryl instructed, motioning to his own shirt covering his nose.

Carl nodded, pulling his t-shirt up, but it didn’t eradicate the awful smell of the smoke. Walkers almost smelled better. Daryl slowly edged his way closer to the smoke bomb, trying to get beneath the plume in any way that he could. When he got close enough, he snagged the bomb, tossing it back over the wall where it came from with a loud, “Fuck off back where ya came from!” tossed with it.

“So nice to hear your voice, Mr. Dixon,” shouted someone from the other side, the smoke immediately doused once they heard it land. Daryl couldn’t place the voice, but he had no doubt the group the man was associated with. “We thought for sure the walkers would get you the moment we drove away!” Loud cackles followed the comment.

Daryl wanted a snappy retort. He wanted grenades to launch over the wall and a pet walker to unleash on their leader, but the only thing he had was his crossbow and that was useless at the moment. “I said fuck off. Ya ain’t gettin’ in here. We’re done with ya!”

“Actually its us that are done with you. The Governor is just taking care of your boyfriend back at the prison. Once he gets here, we’ll have both the prison and this nice new development you picked out for us. So thoughtful really!” Daryl’s shoulder was starting to ache from the tension stretched throughout his body. He kept telling himself that Rick had a plan, he knew what he was doing. Hell, he had Michonne and Tyrese with him.

Bob had elected to stay with Sasha and help with the kids on their move over on the bus. At that moment, he ran up to Daryl and Carl, a medical bag in one hand, weapon in the other. “What do we got?”

“Assholes from Woodbury on the otherside,” Carl muttered.

“But no Governor. At least not yet,” Daryl added, hoping and praying that Rick, Michonne, and Tyrese would get to the gate at the same time as Glenn, Maggie, and Beth and that maybe one of those groups found a tank or some heavy artillery.

Carl tapped his arm, motioning with his eyes over towards a cluster of trees that had full foliage and were close to the wall. “I can climb those trees quietly and get a look at everything they got that they’re not showing through the gate,” he whispered.

Daryl looked at the trucks outside of the iron gate and the long, brick wall. “Yeah ok, just be ready to drop down in the event someone sees you. Don’t need you gettin’ shot ‘fore your dad gets back. He’d have my balls in a vice.”

Carl snorted and ran back down the street, away from the wall so as not to alert any of the men that could see through the fence. “Where’s your little step son going? Huh? You know you’re his daddy now. The Governor done killed his real daddy.”

Daryl squared his shoulders, looking at Bob and the cluster of people hiding behind buildings, out of sight of the men at the gates. “Ya don’t know that. Michonne already took his eyes. I bet Rick comes back with his hand,” he answered. The men cackled and howled at his retort, fully enjoying the pissing match between the two of them. Daryl thought about loading his crossbow and just taking out as many as he could before they took him down, but what if this man was right? What if the Governor had actually managed to kill Rick? Then he would be left with Carl and Judith. Not that the rest of the people here couldn’t take care of them, but it wouldn’t be right for him to expect that if he could avoid it.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Carl shimmying up the tree, the branches only swaying slightly under his light build. They needed to keep these men distracted and their attention off their surroundings. Perhaps he could get several armed men high enough to take out enough of them at once if their numbers were small enough. “Ya sure got a lot of trust in this Governor. Ya sure he isn’t just going to take the prison for himself and say fuck y’all? Leave y’all here to be killed by us and burned in our back lot?”

The group of men howled again with laughter. “You really think you could take us, gay hick? You and your band of rejects from our town? So the old and young with the sick and dying can really take up arms against us? That’d be the fucking day.”

Daryl gritted his teeth, but the roar of his motorcycle cut out any thought of an answer that he would have. His heart full of thanks, knowing now that Rick was safe, Daryl risked a glance over at Carl who was boring holes in the side of his head trying to get his attention. He flashed his fingers in a signal of 20 men and 4 vehicles but the truck beds were empty. That held some kind of promise. They could take 20 men, especially now that Rick, Michonne and Tyrese were there.

Taking up his crossbow, he saw Carl take his gun from his holster, still in the tree. Beside him, Bob shouldered his medical pack and ensure that his clip was loaded in his gun. Giving Daryl a nod, both men cocked their weapons, sure that Rick would give them a signal when it was time to fight. They could overhear snippets of their conversation about bombs, explosions, and there being no more prison and no more Governor, but Daryl’s trigger finger was just itching.

Sure enough, a single shot rang out. No one knew where it came from or who fired it, but that one shot started it all. Carl fired from the tree, fully hidden by the branches and silent as the night. Daryl and Bob shot through the fences with a few other men and women who had decided to join the fight. From the otherside, they could hear the sound of Rick’s Python firing, round after round. Daryl knew he was going to run out of bullets and he didn’t know if he had anymore or another weapon. They needed to get those gates open and get their people inside.

Giving a single look to Bob, the other knew what he was going to do as he shouldered his crossbow. He made a run for the gate under the cover fire, hitting the button from the inside, praying that the battery was still charged enough to work. The gate opened slowly, stalling after only three feet. “Fuck,” Daryl breathed, looking out at the chaos. “Rick! Michonne! Tyrese! Let’s go!” he shouted at them.

Both Tyrese and Michonne made a run for it, falling two people on their way inside the gates. Rick made a dash back for the motorcycle, taking the handlebars with one hand and shooting as he gassed it up and drove it towards the gate. Daryl’s heart beat hard and fast in his chest as he watched him get closer and closer to the gate, his hands on the bars ready to push it closed manually since the battery died. “Shit Rick, come on! Forget the bike!”

Rick weaved in and out of the crowd, circling around to the gate before shooting a last person before coming through. Tyrese and Daryl manhandled the gate closed, taking care to lock it as the carnage on the other side calmed. Bodies lay everywhere, some drowning in pools of blood. As the gates closed, any Woodbury men who were left alive were in the trucks and speeding away from the site.

Rick parked the Triumph, dismounting as Daryl ran up to him. Both men gave each other a visual once over before inspecting every inch of exposed skin. Rick pressed tenderly against Daryl’s injured shoulder, taking his crossbow from him now that the danger was passed. Carl ran up to them, tackling his dad in a hug. “He said you had died.”

Rick laughed softly. “When the Governor said that he had a group here, the only thing I could think about was getting back here to you guys. Where’s Judy?”

Daryl motioned towards the house. “When we got here, she was asleep, so Carl and I laid her down in the crib.”

Rick grinned brightly. “In her crib, in our house?” Daryl laughed, nodding slightly. Looking around at everyone that had gathered since the fighting had ended, he felt proud of their accomplishments. They had won this. They had fought for their freedom and survival and won. “If y’all didn’t participate in the battle it would be helpful to get those bodies in the trucks they came in and haul them to the burn site to be burned as quick as possible. Put something through the head first and then dilute the blood with anything you can find that won’t call walkers.”

Quickly, people who were afraid to join the battle scurried to manhandle the gate open to get to work on clearing the bodies. They wanted to keep their place in the community. They needed to stay with the winning side, especially in their nice new fancy houses. Rick didn’t need to tell them twice that they needed to haul their own weight.

Turning back to Daryl and Carl, Rick smiled, “I want to see her.”

Stepping back into the house was surreal. Rick looked back at Carl and Daryl as they stood in the foyer. His heart swelled with pride and love with a solid beat of family. Slowly and quietly, they made their way the stairs collectively. Judith still lay in the crib, just as she had been left, sleeping soundly despite the world being torn up around her. Rick smoothed his hand over her hair, smiling as she shifted in her sleep at his touch.

Turning back around he pulled Carl into him and Daryl on his other side, kissing him softly. “Thank you for keeping our family safe. Both of you. I saw you in that tree you know. You were always good at that kind of stuff.”

Carl snorted softly.

Two hours later found them going through items in the house, moving things around to their liking, and putting other stuff in a box for the “community exchange” to be held over the next few days of items that people didn’t want from the houses they had claimed. A soft knock came on the door. Rick opened it, smiling, happy to hear that sound again, knowing that it meant a neighbor was coming over for a visit, only to have his good mood squelched by what he found on his doorstep. “Glenn?” The Asian’s face was pale, eyes puffy and glassy with emotion.

“I just wanted to let Daryl, I mean you guys know, that we’re back. We didn’t…”

“I’m sorry, Glenn,” Daryl cut in, coming to the door. Behind them, they heard Carl run up the stairs and a door slam shut.

Rick looked at Daryl, slightly confused by the situation. Whispering quietly in his ear, Daryl told him, “Beth was taken by the cannibals on our way here.”

Glenn nodded. “Maggie’s real tore up about it. Kinda feels like its her fault. She thinks she should have been watching more closely, but I told her that didn’t matter. Hershel… he’s beside himself, but we’ll get through it.”

“We did the best we could.”

Glenn sighed. “I just wanted to tell you we’re back and across the street.”

Rick’s grinned widened at that. “So I can finally say hi neighbor?”

With a small laugh, Glenn sadly nodded. “Yeah, hi neighbor.”

“We’ll come over in a bit, Glenn. Help out with some stuff,” Rick reassured him.

“Yeah, we’ve all lost someone man. Now we’re all we got left,” Daryl added in, wrapping his arms around Rick’s waist from behind. “Might as well make the most of it.”

 

Chapter Fifteen

Daryl stood inside of the house, awkwardly seasoning and skewering his catch from that morning to throw on the grill. It still wasn’t the burgers and hot dogs that Rick had talked endlessly about when they found a charcoal grill to put in the backyard, but he supposed it was close. He wasn’t quite sure exactly what seasonings he was putting on the meat, but Carl had said that his dad had always seasoned the meat before putting it on the grill.

Daryl huffed at his efforts before picking up the tray and carrying it out into the backyard. The entire neighborhood had come to their little get together/barbeque for Judith’s birthday. It had originally been Carl’s idea and Rick had jumped onboard. Daryl still wasn’t sure about all of this nonsense with people milling about in their backyard, but Judith was babbling along happily using the new sounds that she had learned. Rick kissed his cheek as he plopped the tray down on the table next to the grill. “Hello, Chef,” he grinned.

Grumbling, Daryl just shrugged. “Not sure how it’s going to taste. Don’t know what to put on a squirrel to make it not taste like a squirrel. Rabbit is usually good whatever way though.”

Rick set the tongs down on the table, pulling Daryl into him for a proper kiss. “I love you, you know that. I’m sure it will taste great. Thank you for doing all this.” He gestured around to all of the decorations and the small pile of presents hastily wrapped in bright pink paper on a table next to the food their friends had brought. “I have no idea how you hid all of this stuff from me.”

Daryl smiled softly, ducking his head. “Carl helped, but it turns out no one thought to raid the party stores. Was pretty easy to get this stuff actually.”

“Well, it’s made this birthday party for our little princess feel almost like it was before the turn.”

Glenn and Maggie rounded the corner of the back of the house. Rick waved enthusiastically as Daryl walked over to them. “Hey guys. Thanks for comin’. How ya feelin’ Mags?”

Maggie laughed slightly, rubbing her hand over her still mostly flat stomach. “I think the morning sickness has gone for the day. Thanks for finding that ginger root. I think that really helps.”

“Yeah, glad I could do somethin’. Will be nice to have another little one around for Lil’ Asskicker to play with ‘sides me.”

Maggie sat down in a chair, waving at the others who had already arrived as Glenn wandered over to Rick at the grill. She smiled up at Daryl as he brought her a glass of water. “You know you will always be her favorite toy. She adores the hell out of you. And I think you would be heart broken if she found a better playmate. Can’t wait until she comes of age and finds a boy to date.”

“Yeah yeah. Luckily that doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen. Her daddy and I are going to judge any boy comin’ in here.”

Maggie snorted. “Maybe we’ll have a boy. Think you’d let her date our son?”

Daryl shifted on his feet, twisting his face in overdramatic thought, as he looked between Maggie and Glenn. “I dunno… I’ll have to interview him when it comes time.”

Maggie shook her head at the overprotective streak Daryl had come to display over Judith once they had lost Beth just a few months prior. “Where is the little birthday girl anyway? You got her locked away somewhere, daddy?”

“Nah, she’s with Carol over sittin’ on a blanket. She’s learned a new trick though. She’s mastered walking a few steps.”

“Oh really? That’s big.”

“Yeah, watch this.” Daryl crouched down, making sure to catch Judith’s eye as he did so. When she saw him low to the ground, she immediately pushed away from Carol, stumbling over to him, having semi-mastered walking a grand total of five steps before resorting back to scooting along on the ground, much to the chagrin of those who changed her diapers. Daryl picked her up, swinging her around in the air as she giggled with delight and Maggie clapped at her success. “Let’s go see what we got goin’ on over here,” he told her, carrying her towards the present table.

“Daryl! Presents are later!” Rick shouted at him, turning from his conversation with Glenn.

Ignoring the other man, he picked up a small bag, holding it out to the little girl in his arms. “What’s in here, Asskicker? Huh?” he asked as she stuck her hands deep inside. She squealed as she pulled out a stuffed elephant, instantly taking one of its large ears into her mouth to chew on. Putting her back down, Daryl watched as she made her way over to Carl to show him her new treasure.

Going back over to the grill where Rick was shaking his head at his lover, Daryl just smiled. “Found her that elephant a few years early.”

“Elephant?”

“Yeah. You told me as we were leaving the prison that I’d probably search high and low for a damn elephant for her because I couldn’t say no. And just so you know, it only took me a week to find.”

Rick snorted. Daryl would remember something like that. “You are awful at saying no.”

“How do you think you got this house?”


“Is she down?” Daryl asked from the bed, putting his book down on the nightstand.

“Yeah, for like the fourth time. What did you feed her today? Did you slip her coffee when I wasn’t lookin’?” Rick sighed as he slid back into the bed, burrowing his face in his lover’s neck.

Daryl wrapped his arms around Rick’s torso, turning off the lamp before settling in comfortably in the bed. “You think I would do somethin’ like that on her first birthday? I’m saving coffee until she’s at least 5.”

Rick snorted, unwinding himself from Daryl and rolling onto his back. “You know, today was perfect. It was everything I had wanted for her since she was born. Thank you for making that possible.”

Daryl shrugged against the soft white sheets. “Wasn’t nothin’. Carl and I collected the stuff. Everyone else helped plan it. It was a group effort. Everyone loves Lil’ Asskicker. She’s our hope for the future.”

“Yeah. Her and Glenn and Maggie’s baby. Think they’ll name it Hershel or Beth?”

“I dunno. I think it’d be kinda weird if it were either of those names honestly. Least Hershel had the dignity of a heart attack and not being eaten by cannibals or walkers.” Daryl shifted awkwardly in the darkness. He always hated thinking about those that they had lost, especially Beth. If he hadn’t of asked Glenn and Maggie to drop them off at the development then maybe they could have gotten to her in time. Maybe they could have saved one. “Still feel selfish.”

Rick sat up, moving to straddle the other man and look down into his ocean blue eyes in the moonlight cascading in from the open window. “You saved so many people that day. You saved our family. You saved all the other kids. Hell, Daryl, do you know how many people could have died if you had gone to fight them at the fort? We wouldn’t be here right now.”

Daryl sighed, running his hands up Rick’s nude thighs to the hem of his boxer briefs. “I know, but we coulda saved her, Rick. Maybe Hershel wouldn’ta had that heart attack then.”

“Nah, that would have come on at any point. You never know with those. We gotta focus on what we have in front of us. We have Carl and Judith. Both are happy and healthy and trouble. Maggie and Glenn have their new baby on the way. Sasha and Bob are talking about feeling safe enough to start a family. Look at everything you have given us, Daryl. All of this is because of you. You found this development. You saved our family.”

“You kept us alive,” Daryl’s voice broke as he spoke. Feelings weren’t something he was accustomed to sharing, especially those of the non-violent, non-angry variety, but for Rick he had been trying. “Ever since the rock quarry, it had been you. Just didn’t want ya to feel like you had to do all the heavy liftin’ all the time.”

Rick leaned down, pressing his lips to the other’s softly. “I love you.”

“Love you too.” Daryl smiled, pulling Rick down to lay flush against him. “Think she’s really asleep?”

“I don’t hear her whimpering anymore. I think we’re safe.” Both men shimmied out of their underwear, Rick leaning over and grabbing lube from the night stand drawer. “We’ve gotten good at this. Always had Carol or Beth at the prison to keep her at night.”

“Stop talkin’ so much. You’re gonna wake her up,” Daryl growled, spreading his legs as he pulled Rick’s hand towards his ass.

“Someone’s getting pushy,” Rick grinned, dribbling some lube onto his fingers before pressing them against his lover’s opening.

“It’s been a week, Rick.”

“Hey, I sucked you off just yesterday!” The two fingers started to work themselves in and out of the flexing hole, stretching it before adding a third.

“So?”

“You owe me one.”

Daryl grunted, taking his own cock into his hand. “Ya know I’ll suck at some point. We ain’t gotta keep tabs on this.”

Rick snorted, pulling his hand out to lube his cock before wiping the remaining lube off on his underwear. Lining himself up, he pressed his hips against Daryl’s, both men sighing with near relief as they joined together.

Fuck,” Daryl breathed, his nostrils flaring. “Why is every time like the first time?”

Rick wrapped his arms around his lover’s back, pulling their bodies flush together. “Means we gotta do it more then.”

“Like when?” Daryl grunted, shifting his hips slightly, trying to get comfortable, but hissing as Rick’s cock moved inside him with each movement.

Rick clamped down on his body with his arms and legs. “Hold still. You know it just takes a minute.”

“I know, but ugh I want to just get on with it.” Daryl sighed, as Rick’s lips brushed along his jawline, trailing kisses up to his ear.

Moving his hips slightly when he felt his lover relax, Rick grunted as Daryl squeezed his channel, wrapping his arms tight around his back. “Fuck, Daryl. Don’t do that or this won’t last long.”

“Aw come on, big daddy. You can’t handle a little pressure?”

Sitting up on his elbows, Rick grinned. “I’ll show you a little pressure.” Bracing himself, he slammed his hips against Daryl’s, making the other man stifle a shout.

“Fuck, I love it when you do that.” Hands roamed down Rick’s back, clutching his ass, pulling him in deeper with each thrust. Daryl loved feeling the muscles in his lover’s backside work as he thrusted his love into him.

Rick sat up, moving Daryl’s legs out wider, hooking his knees around his own arms holding himself up. “I love you being like this with me. Why didn’t we do this sooner?”

Daryl moaned out his response as he felt his cock drag along inside him slowly nudging his prostate along the way. Pressing back down against him, he began to meet each thrust, wrapping his own hand around his cock, pumping it furiously between them. “Please, Rick,” he whimpered.

Rick moaned, dropping his lover’s legs to let them wrap around his waist, pressing a kiss to his lips before restarting a bruising pace. The muscles in Daryl’s arm flexed as he stroked himself. Rick’s lips found the twitching muscles in his throat as he moaned and pleaded for release, for him to move faster, for anything. Their bodies tensed against each other, balls drawing up as they released. Rick’s cock shot streaks of white deep inside his lover as Daryl painted his stomach, back arching slightly off the bed as his hips thrusted on their own accord.

They cleaned themselves up quietly, tossing their soiled cloths and clothing into the hamper before settling back in the bed, Daryl’s head on Rick’s chest, listening to his heart beat. It was a sound he would never get tired of. It meant life and liberty. It meant they were safe together, able to lay like this and shut out the evil in the world around them. The cannibals had left them alone after the bloody fight in the road that one fateful day and the Governor’s men had disappeared into the woods.

They lay together, both thinking the same thoughts but neither voicing them. Home. A real home with their kids and people they had come to call extended family, but most importantly each other. Daryl closed his eyes, breathing in Rick’s scent, letting the slow and steady heartbeat escort him to sleep as he felt the other man drift off.

 

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