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I found out what it means to be believed

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Hand to heart, Paul's imagination can spin him some wild adventures, but the real thing is, without a doubt, yet unsurpassed.

His imagination, for one, downplays everything: from Daryl's stubble rasping against his lips, over his unwashed hair greasing his fingertips, to his tongue's ability to liquify his insides.

For another, it fails to prepare him for the sweetness he could not have anticipated with a gruff man like Daryl, but Paul is far from complaining. In fact, he sends out praises to the universe.

They're reused breath in a cramped space, inquisitive fingertips on starving skin, insatiable mouth dying for just another taste. Paul savors it because it's so much more than he could have hoped for after the world went to shit. He would have expected his choice to be between the dead, the homophobes, and the happily married, although as experience has taught him, these categories are not mutually exclusive.

Daryl's not only a rough diamond in the wild, he has a good heart, and he likes Jesus back. Probably. Maybe. Certainly. Shut up, brain. This is not the time for self-doubt.

But it does certainly seem too good to be true. A new group arrives at the Hilltop and they just happen to have a guy who is exactly Paul's type and they're willing to fight Negan? What are the odds? (Though truth be told, Paul is anything but picky these days, or any day for that matter. He believes in giving people chances. Turn the other cheek, if you will, although that came later.)

Paul would have loved to take his time, to not have to feel like looking over his shoulder all the while, but if anything, he holds out for another go, one unclouded by desires pent up so long they deafen you to the experience, especially if your partner has wounds you need to remember to skirt around, but then you don't because you're too caught up in the moment, and he hisses and you curse yourself and hope you didn't ruin it, but his hand is gripping you tighter, although it's not moving any longer and it takes you a while to catch up, because your fingers are still working their magic and you're kind of entranced by the way Daryl's head falls back and his jaw works. Everything about him is so subdued, as if he were afraid he might be caught any second.

Paul remembers what that was like.

He props Daryl up before his knees give out and crash to the ground. He maneuvers them to a sofa in the living room before he finishes himself off, somewhat awkwardly because he knows that Daryl is watching.

"Jesus," Daryl breathes, but it's more a statement than the invocation of Paul's nickname.

Paul can't help the smirk that pulls his lips apart. "They call me that for a reason, you know."

A pointed silence follows.

"Shut up," Daryl says finally, and buries his head in the crook of Paul's neck.