Daryl had lived with the misconception that he was nothing more than a dumb redneck his entire life and it suited him just fine. No one ever expected anything of him, most people didn't even give him a second glance and again, that was just fine with Daryl. If he kept his head down and his mouth shut, he could make it through life just fine on his own. He didn't need anyone.
Of course then the frigging apocalypse happened and that shot Daryl's plan all to shit.
He still tried to keep his head down and his nose out of anyone's business, in the early days. He'd perfected the art of playing the dumb redneck growing up with his father and brother and whoever they seemed to attract at the time but there had been something different about Rick Grimes the first time Daryl met him that had nearly stopped him in his tracks. Rick's first reaction to meeting Daryl hadn't been like all the other first introductions he'd lived through over the years. Rick didn't look down his nose at him, didn't automatically assume that because Daryl rarely spoke, instead preferring to keep his head down and his mouth shut, that it meant he was as dumb as they day was long, as he'd heard more than his fair share of times over the years.
So yeah, Rick was the first person in Daryl's life to give him a chance. He gave Daryl the opportunity to prove himself and over time, he came to call himself Rick's second. Daryl would never admit to anyone how much his friendship with Rick meant to him. But it did and if everyone else in his life still sometimes overlooked him or assumed he didn't have a clue what anyone was actually talking about, well, Daryl was just fine letting them all believe it. It just meant more time for Daryl to do his own thing and not constantly have to worry about someone always around trying to get into his space.
But then Jesus happened and God have mercy on Daryl he wanted to strangle the other man mere moments after first meeting him. Forget just leaving him tied up in that tree, Daryl had actually, for the first time in his life, contemplated killing another human being, one that wasn't infected and trying to eat his insides.
And okay, fine, so Daryl could admit, on pain of death only, that maybe he'd judged the other man a little too harshly. It wasn't like Daryl could honestly say he'd never do some of the same things he was so pissed at the other man for doing. It was the end of the world as they knew it. Shit happened. People had to find a way to survive one way or another and the other man was trying to save his people. Daryl couldn't fault him for that. He'd done much worse than steal someone else's supplies since the world had gone to shit.
That was all besides the point though. The point to all of this was that Daryl had spent his entire life being the butt of everyone's jokes. He'd duck his head shyly acting half the time like he didn't even understand what people were saying to him. It got him through life just fine. So why now, all of a sudden, was someone choosing to take notice of him? Why was someone suddenly defending him to people that they'd known a lot longer than Daryl had been around? Why the fuck was some hippie that called himself Jesus suddenly so interested in Daryl's life?
It was driving Daryl up a fucking wall.
“...understand why you still choose to sit out here alone.” A voice said, interrupting his thoughts.
Speak of the devil. Daryl thought, snorting at his own joke. He looked up to see a small frown on the other man's face and he silently cursed.
“I like the quiet.” Daryl mumbled as he broke eye contact with the unfairly attractive other man. It was a frigging end of the world apocalypse outside and Daryl had a fucking crush. Not that he ever believed in God before but it seemed someone out there had a serious sense of humor. Daryl wasn't laughing though, thank you very much.
“Well, I can't exactly fault you for that.” Jesus said as he dropped down into the grass beside of Daryl. Close enough that Daryl unconsciously shivered. He wasn't used to anyone willingly choosing to be this close to him and it seemed like every time he turned around, there he was. Standing beside him close enough that it should have made Daryl uncomfortable. It did not. He refused to think on exactly what that meant.
And you can just fuck right off if you expected him to actually call the asshole Jesus. He had a name and Daryl was going to use it. Eventually. He didn't actually call the other man by anything but insults most of the time at this point in their, whatever the hell it was that they had going on. It was definitely something but Daryl refused to put a label on it.
“S'not so quiet when someone else drops in. Uninvited.” Daryl mumbled and out of the corner of his eye he saw Paul, and yeah there it was, smile.
“Yeah, but its awful lonely out here.” Jesus said, risking a glance up at Daryl from behind the hair that he'd let fall down into his face.
“Nope. Not alone.” Daryl said as he loosed an arrow and let it fly at the walker that had just come into view.
“So you prefer the company of the dead over mine?” Jesus asked teasingly and Daryl could feel his traitorous cheeks flushing.
“Didn't say that.” Daryl muttered as he picked at the grass where he sat. He was too old for this shit. And its not like he was ever good at it to begin with! Flirting was something was something that Daryl had honestly never had any desire to partake in. And then this asshole came along and apparently turned Daryl's whole world view on its head. Suddenly Daryl cared about his feelings and he wanted to know how his day had gone, especially when he'd been out on a longer than necessary run. It wasn't like Daryl was voicing any of this though. That just wasn't something that was going to happen. Not that he wanted it to, of course.
“So you're saying that you like my company then?” Jesus asked, grinning from ear to ear and Daryl had never known it was possible to want to kiss someone as much as they wanted to punch them. At the same damn time!
“Maybe.” Daryl said before he could stop himself and he felt Paul freeze beside of him. He cursed himself for his stupidity. It was only seconds later that he felt Paul relax and release a slow, stuttering breath. Daryl refused to look up at him. He refused.
“I like you, Daryl.” Jesus said quietly, almost carefully as if not to spook Daryl. But it didn't matter what tone of voice the other man used, Daryl was still close to shitting himself. There was no way Paul meant it how it sounded. Shit like that didn't happen to Daryl. He didn't have that kind of luck.
“Sure.” Daryl snorted, shrugging his shoulder and wiping at his nose with the back of his hand.
“You can believe me or not but that doesn't make it any less true.” Jesus said with a sigh before pushing himself to his feet and dusting the grass off of himself. He turned to leave before Daryl could say, or not say, anything else.
“Fuck.” Daryl cursed loudly.
“You know he's just like that, right?” Jesus cursed as he jumped, startled by Maggie's voice.
“Damn it, woman.” Jesus muttered as he turned to face her. “I don't understand how you can be as light footed as you are when you're as big as a damn house.” In front of him Maggie smirked. Oh, this was not going to be good.
“You wish you were as good as me, darlin'.” Maggie said as she rubbed her ridiculously large belly. “But back to my point. You gotta know by now that Daryl's gonna be himself no matter what. You're gonna have to take him as he is cause he ain't gonna change for nobody.”
“I'm not asking him to change.” Jesus insisted. “I just want him to open up to me a little.”
“I get that. I really do. I've known Daryl for, god, three, four years now and he's always been like this. He's always played it close to the vest. Don't take it personal. Its not just you. The only person he's even remotely opened up to is Carol.” Maggie explained with a sigh.
“Why do I always have to fall for the emotionally repressed types?” Jesus bemoaned. Beside him, Maggie snorted.
“There ain't no way you've ever fallen for someone like Daryl before. Mainly because there ain't no one else like Daryl. He's closed off and about as anti-social as they come but he'll slice a man's throat for you if he has to. And I ain't just talking about walkers. I've seen that man protect the people he cares about like he was the last line of defense in a war. He's as fierce as they come and just as stubborn.” Maggie urged and Jesus knew every word she spoke was the truth. Even if he hadn't known the other man as long as she did, he didn't doubt one word out of her mouth.
“But I-” He started.
“But you like him,” Maggie said with a grin. “Yeah, I know. Pretty sure he knows it too. He just ain't as good as expressin' himself as you are. You gotta have patience with him. Don't let him shut you out. Be firm with him. Make him understand that he's not just another passin' fancy for you. Cause he's not, is he?” She asked and Jesus knew he was screwed.
“No, Maggie. He's really not.” Jesus admitted, a little easier than he'd expected.
“So now you've said it out loud to me, made it known to the universe. Now go back and tell him.” With a smile and a pointed look in Daryl's direction, Maggie turned and left. Jesus watched until she was out of sight, just to make sure she made it back inside the Hilltop safely. Eight months pregnant and bigger than any pregnant woman he'd ever seen before, Jesus knew Maggie was still more than capable of taking care of herself. But, it never hurt to have someone watching your back.
With a look of pure determination on his face, Jesus turned and made his way back to where Daryl was still sitting in the grass, watching for incoming walkers.
“So, you're an asshole.” Jesus opened with, more than a little annoyed when Daryl didn't even seem to take offense to his words. “But you're a sweet asshole.” He finished with as he once again dropped down beside him on the grass.
“First time I've ever been called sweet before.” Daryl said with a snort.
“Somehow, I really doubt it is.” Jesus chuckled. This stupid man had turned him into a boy with a crush. This was not how he did things. Or, at least, it never was before.
“You ain't got no proof.” Daryl muttered but Jesus was happy to see a faint blush on the older man's cheeks. So far so good.
“I bet if I asked around, I'd find all the proof I need.” Jesus dared, grinning happily at the panicked look that now graced Daryl's face. “But I won't ask. I promise. We wouldn't want to mess with the whole tough guy rep you've got going on.”
“Jerk.” Daryl muttered, still refusing to look up at the other man.
“Okay, so I'm just going to be as honest as I can be here, Daryl because apparently my being subtle isn't working. So. I like you. I really like you, okay? And I'm not just flirting for the sake of flirting. If we'd met any other way than because of the stupid fucking apocalypse I'd have already taken you home with me. I'm sure even then I'd have done it wrong. Date first then sex but fuck all if I care because you are gorgeous. I'd have taken one look at you and bent myself over the nearest flat surface for you. No hesitation. But then I would have got to know you and I still would've stuck around. And I'm almost positive I'm not saying this right so let me try again,” Jesus said with a huff. “I like you. I want to be with you. I want to get to know you, the real you. Not this version that everyone else sees on a daily basis but the version I'm sure only Carol knows. I want to spend time with you. I want to kiss you. I want to hold your damn hand!” He exclaimed, finally deciding to risk a glance in Daryl's direction.
Daryl might not say much but that was completely by choice. He didn't like to talk much so he just kept quiet. Except this time, the one time he was sure he should speak up and say something, Daryl found himself completely lost for words.
“And yeah, I really want you to fuck me. But also, I want to fuck you so god damned bad I ache for it sometimes,” Jesus admitted, his voice pitched much lower than before. “If I was brave enough, I'd tell you that I love you. And I, I have never said that to another living person in my entire life. I don't do love. I do sex. That's it. But you, Daryl Dixon, have somehow managed to get under my skin and I can not for the life of me be upset about it. So, yeah, there you have it. Now you know. The ball is completely in your court. I just. I had to make sure you understood what I meant, what I wanted. And yes, I know its not just about what I want but I also know that if I didn't outright ask you what you wanted, you'd never admit to a damn thing.”
Still, Daryl sat almost not moving. What the fuck was he supposed to say to this stupid hippie? He knew he had to say something. He couldn't just sit here because it was becoming more than obvious that he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. Daryl closed his eyes and opened his mouth and prayed he said the right thing.
Jesus' head snapped up. His eyes wide and full of hope. He held his breath and waited to see what the other man had to say.
“I have no fucking idea what to say, man.” Daryl admitted and Jesus huffed in irritation.
“Nothing, Daryl. You don't have to say anything, just... give me something, okay? Am I completely off base here? Do I disgust you? If you want me to leave, just tell me and I'm gone. But if you want to me stay, if you want to try... something, man, I am here for anything, okay? I will literally take anything you give me.” Sure that he'd never sounded so desperate in his life, Jesus sucked in a deep breath and waited once more to see what Daryl might have to say.
“You confuse me, man,” Daryl muttered, tossing his hair back out of his eyes. With as much courage as he could muster, he finally looked up into Jesus' eyes. “I ain't never been in a situation like this before.”
“Like...” Jesus tried, hoping Daryl would expand of his admission.
“What? You think people were just linin' up to date some dirty, ratty redneck?” Daryl asked with a snort of irritation. “People avoided me. My whole life. I was always overlooked or forgotten about. So I got used to it. I kept my mouth shut and stayed outta every bodies ways. Its how I made it this far in life.” Daryl couldn't believe his own words. He wasn't sure he'd even admitted that to Carol.
“I'm sorry if I'm making you feel like you've got to be something you're not.” Jesus whispered, suddenly ashamed of himself.
“No!” Daryl snapped and Jesus jerked his head up in surprise. “That's not what I mean.” He grumbled.
“I'm tryin' to tell ya. No one has ever give a shit about me before! Not for my entire life! And now here you are, sayin' what you said like its no big deal and it is! Its a big damn deal!” Daryl half yelled, his words almost frantic.
“No. Shut up. You had your turn, now its mine. You said I got under your skin? You're an asshole, Paul, because you fucking got under mine first! No one ever cared before like you suddenly did! No one but Carol but she's special except not, not in a way like most people except. She's, I never had a mom that gave a shit about me. She offed herself when I was a kid and left to me rot with my piece of shit dad. Carol showed up and just, she just cared, man. I didn't expect it, didn't fucking want it but she stuck around and I figured, okay, this is safe, one person is okay and then you!” Daryl bit out, pointing accusingly at the other man. “You stole our truck! Cost us our supplies! But instead of slittin' out throats in our sleep, you help us? Who the fuck does that?” Daryl asked incredulously.
“Me.” Jesus said, cheekily raising his hand.
“But you never left! You just didn't go! Why? Why didn't you just leave us alone? Why'd you have to push yourself into our lives like you care so fucking much?” Daryl asked, his eyes suddenly wet with unshed tears.
“Because I do care about you, you dumbass!” Jesus exclaimed. “Why is that so hard to believe?”
“Cause no one has ever cared before, so why should they start now?” Daryl snapped and Jesus had had just about enough, thank you very much. He lunged forward, arms outstretched to grasp Daryl by the face. He growled as he dove in, smashing their mouths together in a painful clash of teeth. He refused to let this stupid man who had wormed his way into his heart continue believing he wasn't worth caring for!
“I refuse to believe you are actually this stupid,” Jesus said, his lips still pressed against Daryl's.
“Prick.” Daryl mumbled back before diving forward to continue the kiss the other man had broken.
“I'm starting to believe your little insults are actually terms of endearment.” Jesus said with a surprising huff of laughter when he, once again, broke their kiss. Trying to catch his breath, he let his forehead rest against Daryl's shoulder. He could feel the archer's heart pounding against his rib cage as his hands clutched desperately at Daryl's shirt. Now that he had a hold of the other man, he'd be hard pressed to let him go.
“You ain't got no proof.” Daryl muttered causing Jesus to laugh. Despite himself, Daryl smiled. As unsure of things as he still was, even after what had just happened, he smiled. The stupid hippie had not only gotten under his skin, but somehow made his way into his heart. He should've been angry but for whatever reason, he couldn't find it in him to mind all that much at this point.
“Pretty sure I've got all the proof I need right here. Unless those are a walker's arms wrapped around me right now, I mean.” Jesus teased and Daryl groaned. What had he gotten himself into? “That and, you called me Paul before.” He whispered gently and Daryl froze. Well shit.
“Don't mean nothin'.” Daryl tried and even to himself he knew that was a lie.
“I call bullshit.” Jesus said, finally pulling back and looking into Daryl's eyes. He really was unfairly gorgeous. Especially when he blushed. Which he was doing right that very second. Jesus grinned. Finally.
So maybe it wasn't perfect. Maybe their lives never would be but that didn't mean they couldn't find their own little piece of happiness, in each other, even with the stupid apocalypse happening around them.
“I guess,” Daryl began and Jesus didn't dare to hardly breathe. “I guess I like you too, you dumb hippie asshole.” It was like music to his ears. Jesus laughed happily before throwing himself into Daryl's arms.
“I like you too, you dirty redneck.” Jesus said in return as he continued to hug the other man. “Now, can we please go back to my trailer where I will very happily bend myself over the nearest flat surface for you?” Seeing Daryl's face flush a hilariously bright red was worth getting shoved into the dirt for. And, he might not have answered Jesus' question, but that didn't stop him from following the younger man in the direction of his trailer.
Across the way, Maggie gave the men two thumbs up as she waddled her way across the yard toward the garden, cackling as she went.