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Rick is a dumbass. Everyone knows it. Hell, Glenn called it from the moment he found the man squirreled away in a tank surrounded by a thousand walkers in the middle of downtown Atlanta.

“I’m sorry,” he whines, literally whines, like a five-year-old-kid.

“Ain’t no trouble,” I grumble. I’m gonna take care of him. Course I am. I always do. Usually though, it’s helping him take care of killing walkers or hunting or making decisions. This time it was helping him stand up to pee.

I walk him out the prison doors and hold him steady. “Go ahead. Take a piss,” I tell him, acting much more put out than I really am.

“I can’t,” Rick giggles. “You’ll see my junk.”

“I won’t look.”

Rick pouts. “But I want you to look.”

“Yeah, why’s that?”

He looks confused for a moment like he already forgot what the question was about. This would all be much more understandable if he weren’t this damn drunk off two measly glasses of white wine.

“Wha’s the queshion?” he finally slurs.

“No question. Just waiting for you to unzip and take a damn leak already.”

“Oh yeah,” Rick answers, fumbling with his zipper and button. The seconds tick by...then they turn into minutes and Rick is still trying to wrestle open his pants. Eventually he just stops the fight.

“Hey, Daryl,” he says. “I thin yer cute.”

“Cute!? I ain’t fucking cute.”

Rick nods so hard he almost loses his balance. “Yeahhh yer so cuuuute.”

“And you’re so drunk. Are you gonna take your dick out or are you gonna piss in your own pants.”

Rick cocks his head as if deep in thought. “Wha’s the queshion?”

I finally walk around to the front of him and unzip his pants for him. I take out his limp dick as he continues to giggle and I aim it at the small tree in front of him.

“Pee,” I command. And he obeys instantly, trying to grab a hold of his own penis but missing by a good foot or so. For a moment I wonder if he’ll get a late night boner and need help with that, too. I’d help with that. For Rick. I would. Don’t care if it sounds gay. Hell, maybe I am gay. Gay for this goddamn dumbass. I roll my eyes. I can’t seem to pull away from his damn orbit. Even when he’s piss-drunk, when he’s half-crazy, when he’s broken into pieces.

I just keep going back, circling him, waiting for any crumbs he gives me. And I’m happy for any of it. This time what did I get? His limp dick in my hand as he took a leak. That’s fine. I’ll take it. His flirty comments aren’t new. He’s made sly subtle hints at interest before but I’m too damned insecure to believe them.

“I peed,” Rick says, his pants still open and his dick still in my hand.

“Good boy,” I say and I help him zip back up.

I practically carry him back up to his cell and dump him as gracefully as I can on his bed.

“Don’t go,” Rick whimpers.

I push him over a bit and sit on the bed next to him, running fingers through his sweat-damp curls. “Sleep will do you good, Rick.”

“I like the way you talk,” Rick mumbles.

“Oh yeah? How do I talk?”

“Like you’re hol’in’ back secrets,” he whispers loud enough to wake the dead. “I wannnna know wha’ they are.”

“Ain’t got no secrets,” I lied. I didn’t really. If Rick hasn’t figured out that I’m in love with him yet then that’s on him.

“Why don’t you tell me some of yours?” I suggest.

“Mmm...k,” Rick sighed. “Ummmmm I cry a lot.”

I tllt my head and look at him with an aching heart. I’ve seen him teared up many times, seen him broken and ruined. But is he insinuating more tears than I know about?

“When?” I ask, my voice its typical low redneck growl.

“At night when I worry ‘bout Coral. Durin’ the day when you been out too long huntin. When I see Maggie and Glenn in love and worry tha’ one day, one a them will inev...inev...inevtably die a horrible death. When I’m in bed alone. Lonely. Wishin’ someone else was there with me.” He sniffs and wipes a tear away, then continues. “When I know I’m gonna throw u…”

Rick throws up. Over his own face, his shirt, the bedsheets, the floor, and somehow a few bars on his cell door. I hadn’t seen projectile vomiting like that since little ass-kicker decided she didn’t like no peas.

I can’t yell at the man. He’s already in tears.

I peel off his shirt and use the clean parts to wipe off his face. I wipe off the bedsheets and the floor, clean off the bars of his cell door and come back to him with a cool rag for his forehead.

“It’s okay man. You didn’t have a lot in your stomach and none of us have drunk anything in ages.”

Rick still sobbed pathetically, hiding his head in his hands. “I wish you loved me like I love you,” he said through his heaving sobs.

“I do love you, Rick,” I say, tender and sincere.

He looks up. “For real or for pretend cause I’m crying.

This ‘will they’ or ‘won’t they’ is driving me nuts. The sly innuendo from the others, the constant subtle flirting between us. What are we waiting for? Tomorrow could be the end of all days, yet here we are dancing this ridiculous dance for no apparent reason. What are we waiting for, I ask myself again.

I look down at Rick and his eyes are reaching up to mine and begging for the answer he wants. I lean down and press my chapped lips against his plump, smooth ones and linger there long enough that there should be no question that the kiss was my answer and the answer was yes.

“Do you thin’ I tase like puke?” he asks quietly.

“You taste like Rick Fucking Grimes. You taste like mine. You hear me? You ain’t alone and yah never will be. I love you too, Rick. And if you wake up tomorrow and forget this conversation I’ll still love you. I have since you went to Atlanta to find my brother, have through the farm, through the days we couldn’t find shelter, through every second of being here at the prison. I hope you’ll remember this in the morning because I’m not so sure I’ll be able to go through it again.”

Confessing one’s feelings is exhausting. I feel the heat on my cheeks flushing, my heart is beating doubletime and it’s making me dizzy.

Rick’s red-rimmed eyes shine against his bright smile. “Stay with me. So I ‘member in the mornin’.” He scoots over and I submit and stretch out beside him.

“Can you tell me a story?” Rick asks, the slurring not quite as thick anymore.

I start one. “Once upon a time there was a man. Nobody thought much of him. He was a failure at everything and he was mostly angry and jaded. His parents didn’t love him. His brother mostly used him. And he had no real friends.”

Rick seems to be sleeping, but I continue the story anyway. “The man was always angry, always different. He hated everyone and everything because he knew no better. One day the world ended. And he was no longer different than anyone else. There was no rich, no poor. No elite and no destitute. Everyone was the same - a survivor.

I stopped and listened for Rick’s breaths, trying to judge if he was awake. “Then wha’ happened,” he muttered. It made me smile that he was so damn tired but he fought to stay awake just to listen to me talk.

“Anyway, the man had no one and he was alone in a group of unknown survivors. One of them introduced himself and he spoke in a way that he understood the grief and sorrow of the other. No one had ever empathized with the first man at all. And when man number two agreed to go back into near-certain death for man number one’s only brother...well, man number one was indebted forever. And as time passed, he continued to put man number two ahead of himself. At first he thought it was obligation. But soon he realized he had no other way. He was made to protect this man, to care for him and his family, to love him. One day the men would discuss it...sober. And then it could grow into one of the only beautiful things left in the world - True Love.”

“I like tha’ sorty,” Rick slurs.

“Good. Go to sleep and I’ll tell you another tomorrow.”

I continue to run my fingers through his irresistible curls and I hoped, prayed even, that Rick would remember his story in the morning.