"Dude, that doesn't even count! Everyone misses air conditioning."
Glenn cocked an eyebrow as he (rather clumsily) tied off a neon-green lure on the line of one of George's fishing reels. Beside him, Danny Royce cast his line into the water.
"Fine," he grumbled. "Arby's."
Danny let out a tiny groan. "Nice. Butter."
Glenn nodded in agreement, thinking back to the dry toast he'd had with breakfast that morning. "Cinabon."
"Uh...grapes." Glenn floundered a moment, before settling on the answer. Hell, he missed any kind of fresh fruit. He never thought he'd be so sick of canned peaches.
"Hot Pockets," Danny countered quickly, flicking a sweaty clump of his carrot-red hair out of his eyes.
"Ice cream," Glenn said longingly
"Oh yeah," Danny agreed, but didn't offer up the next roun. Instead, he sighed softly. "Hey G?"
"This game is fucking depressing."
Glenn laughed quietly, though there really wasn't anything funny about it. It was depressing, sitting there listing off things they missed in alphabetical order; things they'd likely never have again. Every time they started, one or the other of them would call a halt to it before they reached 'Z'. Hell, the furthest they'd ever gotten was 'K'. They kept doing it, though. He thought, sometimes, that it was easier to dwell on missing things like cold drinks and McDonald's fries than the important things he'd lost. His parents. His friends.
Glenn swallowed and tried to force himself to concentrate on the little red and white bobber that marked where his line was in the water. He and Danny were seated at the end of the wooden dock that stretched into the small lake on the campgrounds, with George's fishing tackle. The lake was well-stocked with bass, and had been their main source of protein since they'd set up camp. Everyone was sick to death of fish, but at least they were eating.
Unfortunately, getting enough for everybody required a near-constant rotation of people out on the lake. He and Danny didn't draw fishing duty often, as they were the ones who did the runs back into the city for other supplies, but they got stuck with it on occasion. Not that Glenn minded...it was nice to just hang out with Danny when they weren't both strung tighter than bowstrings, watching for geeks as they slipped through alleys and abandoned stores.
"Hey, Mom told me you were the one butchered up them rabbits the other day. Since when're you a mountain man?" Danny asked at length. Glenn looked up at him briefly, frowning slightly. Danny took note of his expression and his green eyes widened slightly as he put two and two together. He hunched his shoulders, immediately looking remorseful. "Oh...the boyfriend, huh? Sorry, G."
The Royce's knew the bare bones of his life...Andrew had asked on the way out of Atlanta if there was anyone he wanted to try and go back for, or that he'd arranged to try and meet elsewhere. He'd broken down then, the words of the National Guardsman finally really hitting him as he'd buried his face in his knees and sobbed out that no, his parents didn't live in Atlanta and his boyfriend...
His boyfriend was dead. Or one of those things.
Glenn sighed. "No...no, it's okay. Yeah, Daryl was--" he broke off with a laugh that was only slightly ragged at the edges. "He was such a redneck. I'm kind of surprised he didn't take me to a shooting range for our first date." It hurt...oh God, it hurt to talk about Daryl in the past tense. But at the same time, it felt good to share some of the memories. "He took me camping for our anniversary last year! And I mean, not even camping like this--" he jerked his thumb in the direction of the big meeting hall up the path behind them, "--I mean like us and a tent in the middle of the Georgia woods. We had to register our campsite with a park ranger so they'd know where to look for the bodies if we didn't check out when we said we would!"
Danny laughed. "Sounds like fun," he said sarcastically. Glenn shrugged one shoulder.
"Yeah...it actually was." Danny watched him for a moment, before leaning over to nudge him in the shoulder.
"You guys were the real deal, weren't you?" he asked gently.
The air conditioning had gone out in Daryl's building again, and the air was uncomfortably hot and damp. What had started out as a perfectly promising evening had ended with them panting and sweaty for all the wrong reasons. They were currently stretched out together on Daryl's bed; sheets, blankets, and clothes discarded as they waited desperately--vainly--for the ceiling fan to do more than stir the hot air around in sickly eddies.
It was too hot to flop over Daryl's chest like he usually did, but he scooted as close as he could without actually touching his boyfriend's body, stretched out with his head on the pillow by Daryl's bare hip. Daryl was sitting up against the headboard, absently petting his hair, twisting the strands through his fingers. There was an oddly heavy quality to the silence between them, but he didn't pay it any real mind. Daryl would talk when he was ready and not one second before. He'd learned that within a week of knowing the man. Sure enough, Daryl eventually broke the quiet.
"Been thinkin'," he said softly.
He grinned playfully in the darkness. "Did it hurt?"
Daryl snorted, and tugged lightly on his hair in reprimand. "Don't be a dumbass. 'M serious."
"Okay, okay, I'm sorry." He hitched himself up so that he was sitting against the headboard as well. "What were you thinking about?"
"Just...look, m'boss is puttin' me up for a promotion at the garage next month."
"Really? Daryl, that's great!" he enthused, grinning widely. Daryl's mouth quirked a bit, not quite a smile, and he started picking aimlessly at the thin cover sheet beneath their bodies.
"Yeah. Thing is...look, it's more money an' I was thinkin' 'bout maybe gettin' a bigger place." He gestured around his crappy (and that was being generous) hole of a studio apartment. A strange expression settled on the man's face...if he didn't know better, he'd have sworn that Daryl looked--nervous. "An' I thought, maybe...well the two of us could probably afford somethin'. Y'know. Decent. At least a 'squat' instead'f a 'shit hole'." Daryl was very carefully not looking at him, seemingly finding the sheet fascinating. His heart had started to pound halfway through the sentence and now he set his hand over one of Daryl's, squeezing his fingers gently.
"Daryl," he said softly, because he'd hoped they were getting to this point, but he hardly dared believe it had actually arrived, "are you asking me to move in with you?"
"Yeah. Guess I am...if ya' want to." The words were casual, off-handed, but he heard everything Daryl wasn't saying in the man's tone. I want you. I think we have a future. I'm committed to you.
I love you.
"Yes!" he said, not even having to think about it. Daryl glanced up at him then, a slow smile--the real one--spreading across his face.
"Hell yeah!" He leaned forward, not caring about the heat anymore. Daryl met him halfway, wrapping his arms around his back and pulling him close as they kissed.
It felt like a promise.
"Yeah. I really think we were," he said softly. They were silent for several long moments, just watching their lines floating in the water. He briefly closed his eyes against a familiar sting and shook his head. "So...I think I figured out a way to get into that pharmacy over on 8th," he said at length. Danny accepted the abrupt subject change graciously.
"You thinkin' of using that alley off of MLK?" he asked, brow furrowing in concentration.
Glenn nodded. "One end is pretty well barricaded with vehicles, and there's a whole lot of cars on the street on the other side. I figure we could set one of the car alarms off to draw any geeks that way, then duck under the barricade and we should have a pretty straight shot to the back door of the pharmacy."
Danny was nodding thoughtfully as he spoke. "Could work," he said.
"Yeah...it's a little risky, but that pharmacy doesn't look like it's been broken into at all."
"Totally worth it," Danny agreed. "All right...sounds like a plan."
They travelled light by necessity, but Jill insisted that they take at least a couple days' worth of food and water with them in case they got cut off from their escape routes and had to hole up somewhere until it was safer to make a break for it. It had happened once before, and they had spent a very tense night on the roof of a department store waiting for a swarm of geeks to lose interest and wander off. Glenn had been very grateful for the bottles of water and granola bars Jill pressed on them.
He was just putting the last of the water into his backpack when Danny raced up to the large window that overlooked the main part of the building. His friend looked pale, but there was no fear in his face. "G!" he gasped, "G, you gotta come with me, right now!"
"Huh? What's wrong?"
Danny shook his head. "Nothing...just, dude, trust me. You gotta see this." With that, Danny turned and dashed back towards the front of the building, leaving Glenn no choice but to follow.
He dumped their backpacks on his cot as he passed it. More people were starting to stir, and several had already gotten up. There was a small crowd gathering around the door. Glenn frowned in confusion at the buzzing whispers slowly growing in intensity.
"--can't believe it--"
"I thought for sure there was no one else--"
"How'd the guy even find this place?"
Another survivor? Glenn perked up a bit. That certainly explained the thrum of excitement in the air. He wove through the crowd, just as curious as everyone else...though he didn't see what Danny was that excited about. Maybe the new person had brought a really great cache of weapons with them?
He slipped to the front of the knot of people, finding Jill and Danny standing there. Danny was almost beside himself, grinning broadly at him. Jill's arm was linked through her son's...and she, too, was grinning at him, tears standing out in the bright green eyes she'd passed on to Danny.
"What's going on?" he asked, a touch warily. Jill shook her head.
"Baby...just look." She and Danny stepped to one side, so Glenn could get a good look at whoever had shown up at the camp. He looked.
A battered, dirty pickup truck was parked directly in front of the building, the bed piled with a few boxes, a duffle bag, and a rolled up, collapsible tent. He could point out every rust stain and dent on the body of that truck blindfolded. He would have recognized it anywhere.
His knees suddenly felt weak, and his heart was suddenly pounding so fast he thought it might batter its way out of his chest. It was impossible. He took a trembling step forward. This was just impossible.
But there he was.
Leaning tiredly against the truck's tailgate, filthy and sunburt and gulping down a bottle of water George had evidently handed him. In one of his tattered old work shirts with the sleeves ripped off, with the heavy-duty crossbow that Glenn had (only somewhat jokingly) always referred to as his boyfriend's Mistress strapped to his back. Glenn could feel tears gathering, a lump rising in his throat as he took another shaky step forward.
"D-Daryl?" His voice sounded foreign to his own ears, choked and gutteral. Daryl stiffened though, snapping out of his exhausted slouch like he had been struck by lightning. His head whipped around, blue eyes Glenn had thought he'd never see again fastening onto him. The water bottle slipped from his hand, crashing to the ground and spilling over his boots. He took his own faltering step away from the truck.
"Glenn," he breathed. "Holy shit...oh holy shit..."
Glenn wasn't sure who moved first, but suddenly they were racing for each other. He couldn't believe it, couldn't believe it. It was impossible, but Daryl was here, he was alive. So perfectly alive and--
"G? Glenn...hey Glenn!"
Glenn's eyes snapped open at the whisper, at someone shaking his shoulder. He startled, his gaze darting wildly around the room, searching for his boyfriend. Danny's face swam into focus above him, his features twisted in confusion.
Danny sat back on his heels next to Glenn's cot. "C'mon, we've gotta get going if we're gonna make it to Atlanta before noon."
A dream, Glenn realized dully.
Just a dream.
He sagged back against his cot, the bitter realization literally stealing his breath for a moment. It was just a dream.
"You okay, G?" Danny asked softly. Glenn forced himself to nod, wiping one hand over his face.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Just give me a minute." Danny's concerned frown didn't disappear, but he rose from his crouch.
"All right--but you tell me if you're not feelin' up to this. Need your head in the game."
Glenn nodded tiredly. "I'm okay, I promise. Why don't you go grab our supplies and I'll be ready in ten, okay?" Danny still looked doubtful, but turned and headed for the kitchen, leaving Glenn alone in the pre-dawn light. He let loose a shuddering sigh as his friend left, throwing himself back onto his cot.
Just a dream.
He covered his face with his hands, pressing the heels of his palms into his eyes hard enough that he could almost believe it when he told himself that was why they were watering.