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The Right Call

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The first time Daryl comes to him is after Lori—

After everything is gone.  All he’d done, held onto, hoped for… all gone in the blink of an eye.

The prison was supposed to be a safe haven.  Rick had refused to let himself think much beyond getting the prison cleared, getting the group behind the sheltering walls of Cellblock C, getting his family cleaned up and fed and safe.

After, Rick had thought vaguely, was when he would talk to Lori, when he’d tell her he was sorry.  He’d spend time with Carl, teach him things a father should—things that didn’t involve blood.  After, they would have time to focus on the things that mattered.  They’d all get to know each other again, away from the horrors.  They’d be a family again.  They’d start to heal.

But nothing matters anymore because it turns out there is no after.  There’s just more terror and gore and death and—

Rick tenses suddenly at a noise, his hand automatically clenches around the screwdriver he’d been gripping lightly in his lap; he feels his legs start to coil under him, ready to spring, to attack—

Then he sees that it’s a man, not a walker.  It’s Daryl coming, warily, into the boiler room where Rick is sitting on the cold concrete floor, leaned up against one of the silent generators.  It’s dark in here, and Rick is pretty sure Daryl can’t see his face from where he is.

Rick watches Daryl approach, slowly.  It’s exactly the way he’s seen the man approach the animals they’d hunted in the past weeks—the ones that were wounded, probably fatally, but not quite dead yet.

When he’s close enough to touch, Daryl stops and squints down at him.

“I did another sweep.  This whole area is clear.”  Daryl pauses as if expecting a response.  Rick can’t bring himself to care.

“C’mon back to the cellblock, man.  You need to see your kid.”  A pause.  “Your kids.” 

The man’s voice is gruff—Rick feels himself flinch a little at the words, and Daryl’s expression changes.  He comes down to a crouch in front of Rick.

“C’mon, man.”  His voice is gentler now.  Daryl starts to reach out as if he’s going to try to pull Rick up or something—and Rick pushes the man’s arm away, suddenly pissed.  He probably shoves a little harder than is necessary.  Daryl pulls away from him and leans back on his haunches, surprised. 

The wary look is back on his face.

Rick notices that his own hands are clenched into fists and his arms are pulled protectively against his sides, ready to attack again.  His whole body is tense.  He thinks about how he doesn’t remember what it feels like not to feel tense all over.  He closes his eyes and puts some effort into relaxing his hands.  The screwdriver drops onto the concrete floor with a resounding clang.  Rick takes a breath.

“Leave me alone.  Get back to the group.”  He’s surprised at how normal his voice sounds. 

Daryl doesn’t move.

“You need to come back, man.  The others—”

Daryl is looking at him with a strange expression; a look Rick’s never seen on the man’s face before.  He looks like he’s—considering something important, weighing options in his mind. It doesn’t make any sense.  Nothing makes sense, but now Daryl looks like he’s come to some kind of grim decision.  The man is making like he’s about to reach towards him again, to pull Rick back into more shit he has to deal with, be responsible for, and suddenly—something in Rick snaps.  The world washes over in red.  The others can fucking take care of themselves for five fucking minutes. 

Rick pushes to his feet, violence on his mind, he’s going to—he’s not sure what exactly he’s going to do, but—

Daryl is too quick for him; the man’s reflexes are fine-tuned to anticipate attack from anything, probably honed by experience from long before walkers ever roamed the earth. 

Daryl has scrambled to his feet and is out of reach of Rick’s shoving arms before they can make contact.  Daryl’s still not leaving, though, and Rick is suddenly filled with gut-wrenching terror that the man will start talking again, will force Rick to face unbearable realities—and before he knows it, Rick finds himself lunging at Daryl, swinging wildly. 

The man jumps back out of the way, but there’s only so much space to dance around between the hulking generators and the metal tables, especially since Daryl’s not trying to fight back, and eventually Rick lands a solid hit on the side of his face.

Daryl’s whole body is swung around by the force of the blow and he stumbles back; catches himself on the side of a table, his arm braced behind him.  Rick stops, watches as Daryl brings his free hand up to wipe at his mouth with the back of his hand, his eyes still warily on Rick.  There’s a dark smear of blood across Daryl’s jaw now.

“Rick,” Daryl is speaking slowly, deliberately.  He talks the way a man who doesn’t talk much does: like he fully expects people to stop and listen when he opens his mouth.  “Rick, your boy needs you to pull your shit together and—”

Daryl’s still talking, but Rick can’t listen.  He can’t think about Carl now.  Rick can’t think.

Why won’t the man just leave him the fuck alone?  Rick lurches towards him again, almost convulsively; he needs to shut Daryl up.  Daryl immediately brings his arm up to shield his face from another blow.  Rick sees that coming, though, and uses Daryl’s distraction to aim lower, leveling his punch at the man’s unprotected flank instead.  Rick’s fist lands with a sickening thud and Daryl doubles over with a grunt.  After a few seconds of hoarse gasping, he squints up at Rick, hunched protectively over his injured midsection.  That weirdly considering expression is on Daryl’s face again, but he’s still not fighting back and he’s still not leaving. 

Rick is terrified that Daryl will start talking again, that he’ll say things Rick will need to think about, take charge of, fix—and he can’t.  Daryl straightens up some and starts to raise his hands, slowly, placating; he starts to open his mouth—

Rick throws his entire body at the man, hands aiming for Daryl’s throat.

Daryl wasn’t expecting that, and the force of Rick’s body knocks them both down to the floor; pushing the table back in the process.  Its metal feet make a nerve-chilling screech against the concrete floor. 

And now Rick is on top of Daryl, his hands still aimed at the man’s throat—he needs, he needs to choke the words back before they can get out—and Daryl is finally starting to put up something of a struggle. 

Rick’s relieved.  At last, there’s finally something to fight, something living that he can hurt

Daryl is thrashing under him now, the man’s hands are clenched on Rick’s wrists, nails digging into his skin, trying to keep Rick’s hands away from his throat, and at the same time Daryl is trying to knee up at him, scrambling with his legs to try to dislodge Rick, to push him off.  Rick can’t have that. 

He drops his full weight down on top of Daryl, pushes his own knees down to bracket the man’s legs and keep them pinned.  His hips are flush against Daryl’s now and the man squirms, bucks, trying to shove him off.  Rick wrenches one of his wrists free of Daryl’s frantic grip and leans up to punch Daryl across the face, once.  Daryl’s head snaps to the side and he stops struggling for a second, stunned.

Rick uses the man’s distraction to better secure his hold; he pushes Daryl’s arms down and pins them against the floor, using his own elbows to hold the man down.  Daryl starts struggling again.  His hands are free but he can’t do much other than claw some at Rick’s sides since he can’t move his upper arms.  He’s saying something that sounds like wait and let me up—but Rick can’t bring himself to listen.  He settles more of his weight down onto his elbows.  He can feel Daryl’s biceps strain under the pressure, and then give a little as Rick’s elbows dig further into his flesh.  Daryl grunts in pain and goes still for a beat.  Then, suddenly, the man’s eyes widen and he starts to struggle anew, even more frantically than before; now he’s trying to twist his body to slide out from under Rick—

But Daryl can’t do much other than squirm uselessly.  Rick’s got him completely pinned down now and the few extra pounds Rick’s got on the man are making a difference.

Now that he’s got Daryl immobile, Rick moves to get his hands around the man’s throat again, and—

And that’s when his brain finally catches up with what’s happening.

Rick’s body is flush against Daryl’s; he can feel every inch of the man underneath him.  He can feel the man’s hot, harsh breath rasping close to his ear, loud in the otherwise silent room.

And he can feel where he’s rock hard, his hips digging into Daryl’s.

Rick freezes, shocked. 

What the fuck is he doing?  He wonders for a second, frantically, if Daryl has realized what’s happening—but that’s a stupid thought, of course the man can feel Rick’s cock pressed hard against him, there’s nothing but the flimsy barrier of a couple layers of fabric between them.  It’s probably more than half the reason why Daryl’s struggles had suddenly taken on a more desperate note.

Rick realizes, then, that Daryl isn’t struggling anymore.  There’s no movement in the body underneath him, frantic or otherwise.  Rick pulls his head up and looks down at Daryl; he feels like he’s actually seeing the man for the first time since he’d come into the boiler room.

Daryl’s watching him, steadily.  His face is unreadable. 

Then, slowly, deliberately, Daryl turns his face to the side; he slides his gaze away from Rick and towards the emptiness at the far end of the boiler room.  His body is still taut and immobile under Rick’s. 

Apparently, Daryl has had enough of Rick’s pathetic bullshit.

Numbly, Rick starts to move off of the other man, shifts his legs first so that he’s no longer pinning Daryl’s down.  He’s about to pull his upper body off—desperately trying to think what the fuck he should do now, one other fucking mistake to deal with, on top of everything else, when—

Rick feels something land on his hip; a soft pressure, almost insubstantial through the cloth of his pants.  It’s Daryl’s hand, he realizes.  The man had stopped trying to push him off, and now he’s moved his hand to rest on Rick’s left hip, fingers curled just a little, almost like—like he’s holding him there.  Then Rick feels Daryl’s hips shift, minutely, under him. 

Rick’s eyes immediately snap back to Daryl’s face and at the same time his hips automatically thrust down, his body reacting unconsciously before his mind can even begin to process it.  Daryl’s still got his face averted; Rick can’t see the man’s expression, but—Rick doesn’t care anymore.  Suddenly, blindingly, everything in Rick is focused on the heat between his legs; he can practically feel all the blood and everything else in him rush to that focal point, to that beautifully gratifying pressure.  He thrusts his hips down, again, grinds down on the solid warmth underneath him.  He hears Daryl grunt, softly.

Vaguely, through the urgent haze of pleasure, he’s aware of a weak, nagging, still-sane corner of his brain telling him to stop, that this is a bad idea—

But he shuts down that part of his brain before it can get through, no mercy; kills it with the hard thrust of a spike through the eye socket; the same way he kills the walkers.  He can’t think.  He won’t think.  Not now, not in this second when he finally feels something good, when he finally feels something.

He’s still grinding down on Daryl.  The pressure is delicious.  Rick shifts his arms a little to get better leverage, moves his elbows so that he’s not pressing them down directly into Daryl’s muscles, and he hears the man let out a gasp of—relief?  Pleasure?  Rick’s not sure, but he is pretty sure that Daryl could get out from under him now, if he wanted; that he could shove Rick off and punch him in the face, if he wanted.

Daryl still doesn’t move, still doesn’t look at him.  His hand is still on Rick’s hip.

It’s all the permission Rick needs.

Rick lowers his head, braces himself better on his arms and starts to thrust up against Daryl’s body with purpose.  It’s unrefined, animalistic rutting; he can feel the buttons of his pants digging into his skin with each thrust, the concrete is hard and cold under his knees, and he has to press crudely against Daryl, at an awkward angle, to get the pressure he needs—

But, it feels amazing. 

Daryl is warm and solid and alive underneath him.  God, it’d been so long, months and months of fear and no human contact; nothing since those few stolen moments at the farm with Lori—

Rick closes his eyes and pushes harder, digging his hips in with each thrust.  He listens to Daryl’s breaths; they sound like they’re being pushed out of him, harsh and in sync with the jolting motions of Rick’s body above him.

And, Rick just—feels, he doesn’t think, his mind is wonderfully empty, all he knows is the blissful pressure building in his lower belly; it coils tighter and Rick thrusts harder, drives himself down even more forcefully against the warm, unresisting body under him.  It feels so good; he’s almost there, he just needs—just a little more—

Rick feels Daryl’s grip tighten, just then, at his hip and he feels the body underneath him push up, hard, once, twice—and, he’s—there, there.  Rick sucks in a lungful of air and grinds his hips down roughly, once more, and holds there as the final waves of pleasure overtake him.  He can hear himself gasping, loudly.  It almost sounds like he’s sobbing.

This, this is what he needed.

His feels his body tremble a few times, after, the soft crests of aftershocks rocking his body.  His mind is wonderfully, blissfully empty.  He collapses on the warmth underneath him and closes his eyes, breathes.  Lets himself enjoy the silence in his head, just for a moment.

~

When he comes back to himself, he can feel the uncomfortable, sticky mess inside his pants.

He’s still lying on top of Daryl; his forehead is pressed against the side of Daryl’s neck, right above the man’s left shoulder.  He’s half-braced on his upper arms; his body is still more or less pinning Daryl down.  A distant, uneasy feeling starts to coil in the pit of Rick’s stomach.  He lifts his head to look down at the other man.

Daryl’s still got his head turned, his face twisted to the side away from where Rick had been resting his head.  Rick can’t see his expression.  The man’s eyes are closed and he’s panting a little, quietly.  His body is tense underneath Rick’s.

Rick moves his hips, cautiously, trying to gauge if the other man had gotten off, too.  He doesn’t feel any hardness underneath him.  But, then again—had Daryl even gotten hard?  Rick realizes, with a sick clench in his gut, that he hadn’t been paying attention.

Daryl shifts slightly at the movement above him.  Rick watches, warily, as Daryl’s eyes crack open and flick towards him in that familiar, sidelong way, but man doesn’t fully turn his head. 

Then Rick feels a pressure on his left hip and he realizes that Daryl had kept his hand there through—all of it.  He’s pushing at Rick now, though—pushing him away.

“Get off me, man.”  The voice is hoarse.

Rick immediately rolls off of Daryl and slides his body away, to the right.

Now they’re both lying on their backs, a handbreadth of space between them.  Rick stares up at the dirty ceiling.  He feels himself shiver as the cold of the concrete floor seeps up through his clothes.  Daryl must be freezing, Rick thinks, dimly, he must be—

Rick opens his mouth.  Closes it.  He has no fucking idea what to do next.  What the fuck do you say to the man that you’d just—?  What the fuck had he just done?

He stiffens at a slight movement at the corner of his eye, feels himself bracing for—God only knows what.  A tense, interminable beat, then—

He feels Daryl’s hand, the one that hadn’t touched him before, come down on his thigh, softly.  It’s warm.  Daryl rests it there for a second, squeezes, once, then pulls his hand away and starts to sit up.  Rick lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding.

He watches as Daryl pushes himself up to a sitting position.  The man rubs his biceps where Rick had been pressing him down, wincing a little.  Rick swallows.  Tries not to think about bruises in the shape of elbows.

Daryl gets to his feet and stretches; Rick can hear the man’s back crack.   Then Daryl looks down at him, steadily, and reaches out to offer Rick a hand.

“C’mon back to the cellblock, man.”

Rick closes his eyes briefly, takes a deep breath, and opens them.  He feels the thoughts, the fears, the responsibilities, all slide back into his head and start to swirl around again.  The brain reanimates.

Rick takes Daryl’s hand and pulls himself up.