Rick knew he was taking a huge risk. Daryl was like a brother to him and this could cause everything to change between them forever. As far as Rick could tell there were only two possibilities. Either everything would go to plan and Daryl would be eternally grateful, and their 20-year friendship would remain intact. Or Daryl would beat him to a bloody pulp and leave his sorry ass by the side of the road for the vultures to pick at. He didn't see how it could possibly turn out any other way.
He had no inclination to warn Daryl what was about to happen, or admit to his friend he was the one behind the whole scheme. If Daryl knew what was coming he'd hightail it to the woods and no one on earth would be able to track him.
That didn't mean his friend wouldn't learn the truth, that it had all been Rick's idea. Daryl would know everything almost immediately. Rick wouldn't have to tell him. The show's producer had explained they would have to come clean with him before any filming or anything else even began. Rick's hope was that Daryl would be so flustered and so stunned he'd kind of just fall into going along before he really realized what it all meant. That seemed like a long shot, a million to one long shot, but it was the only hope Rick had.
His intentions were good, the absolute best. Rick wanted Daryl to finally find the happiness that had always eluded him, and he was pretty sure this could be the thing that set him on that path. He and Michonne had watched the show several times and those five guys seemed to have a lot of success. If they couldn't make it happen Rick didn't know who the hell could.
Yep, he felt sure he was doing the right thing.
Pretty close to sure.
Thursday evening on his way home from work Daryl stopped in an old café for supper. He usually cooked himself up something at home but that night he just didn't feel like it. It had been a long work week full of challenges and on top of that he was fighting a nasty case of the blues. He wasn't even sure what the reason was for his current miserable state. He sort of had an idea but it was ridiculous to even think it, he didn't even know how to describe it. It was just that his life seemed empty. Like something was missing.
How could that be? He had it all. A good job, better than good, great. He was the shop foreman at a busy manufacturing company and yeah, it was a real good gig. He made a nice salary, had decent benefits including paid holidays and vacations. He had his own place in a good part of town, a slick little wooden boat perfect for spending time on the lake, and every kind of camping and outdoor gear a man could want. Life was perfect.
Yeah perfect. Except it didn't feel perfect. It felt empty. His mind went back to the same notion, something was missing.
He pulled the big Ford pickup into the drive and his neck seemed to just swivel that way on its own, just like it did every night when he got home. Over to the left, to her place. Sure enough there she was. Beth Greene.
The only reason he knew her name was because he'd had to go to the courthouse and give a deposition three months prior. There'd been an accident on the job and the injured employee was suing both the company and the machinery manufacturer. Because Daryl and one of the machine operators had witnessed the accident, they had to give sworn depositions about what they saw. Beth Greene happened to be the court reporter.
That was all he knew about her except for what he'd observed. She lived alone, no man and no kids so he was sure she was single. She liked to garden, she was always tending to the flowers in her yard and the potted plants and flowers on her front porch. As much time as she spent on the place you'd think it was her house, but he knew she was just renting because he knew who owned the little place, a woman named Carol Peletier. She and her daughter had moved out a couple of years ago, shortly after Carol's shithead husband turned up dead in a bar downtown. Another renter had lived there for about a year and when he moved out Beth Greene moved in.
That was pretty much everything he knew about her, except she was a beauty. She was delicate looking. There were no hard edges to her and he was sure she was soft to the touch and sweet on the lips. She had to be sweet, she always had a little smile on her face while she worked in her garden.
Man, what he wouldn't give to be able to walk up to her and have some kind of conversation, even just a few words. He'd like to know her, he'd like to take her out, but one look at her and he knew he wasn't quite good enough. She wasn't the kind of woman a guy asks out for a pitcher of beer and a couple games of eight ball. Not the kind of woman that goes for a guy like him. He was sure it was easier to just never make the effort than it would be to have her reject him.
That's why he came home at night, sat in the big pickup and just watched her for as long as he could without it being creepy, heaved a sigh and went in his house.
Thursday night he faced his usual evening routine with a heavy heart. He'd taken his shower and he was drinking a beer while an episode of Longmire played on the TV. He tried to convince himself that he'd cure his blues when he headed to the lake for the weekend. Being out there always helped him feel better. It was just that he was wondering if even the lake could cure him this time, the longing to know her was getting harder and harder to escape.
His plan was to hit the road with his boat and tent just as soon as he got off work Friday. But like plans have a way of doing, that plan went to shit. Daryl had barely gotten in the house after work when his buddy Rick showed up at his door. When Daryl saw his friend was toting a 12 pack of cold ones, a quart of jack and looking miserable, he suspected the sheriff was having big trouble at home.
What can a man do? When your best friend shows up needing a drinking buddy and a sympathetic ear you do the thing. It's what being a friend is all about. You listen, you drink up and you never offer any advice, no one really wants that. So that's just what Daryl did.
How was he to know Rick was playing him? He and Michonne weren't having any problems at all. It was all horseshit. Rick needed Daryl to be home early Saturday morning. That's when things would start to happen.
In the meantime Rick was reminding himself that by Sunday it would have all played out and he'd either be a hero or a dead man.
They got through the 12 beers, the jack, two large "everything" pizzas, and another six pack Daryl had in the fridge. If Rick would have called and asked her to, Michonne would have come to pick up her drunk-ass husband. But that wasn't how the plan was meant to work. The plan called for him to stay at Daryl's all night, making sure he didn't leave. Which was just as well. Rick's drinking muscles were totally out of shape and he spent most of the rest of the night puking up beer, jack and pizza.
Daryl on the other hand was raring to go Saturday morning, hellbent on getting to the lake and getting a little fishing in. But he still felt the obligation to be a friend. He fixed Rick coffee, got him juice and told him the bitter truth, "Brother, marriage has turned ya into a piss poor excuse for a drinkin' man."
The knock on the door came promptly at 7am. Poor unsuspecting Daryl Dixon had no idea what he was opening his door to. Just as he reached it he heard the talking and giggling on the other side. His brow was already furrowed when he swung it open to see the five men standing there on his porch, all of them smiling happily and yelling "Hi Daryl!" There was also a cameraman, a sound guy, a makeup guy and a couple of producers.
True to his usual outgoing and friendly nature he asked, "Who the fuck are you people and what the fuck are ya doin' here?" Rick felt his stomach go sour again, but there was nothing left to throw up.
One of them, a tall dude with long brown hair parted down the middle, giggled as he put one hand on his chest and the other on Daryl's shoulder, "Oh my gawd you are just adorable. I can't wait to work on you."
That caught Daryl a little flatfooted, but just for a minute, "Don't fuckin' touch me and who the hell are you people?" He was now feeling 100% snarly.
That's when one of the producers stepped in. The only female in the group and it was lucky she was. That made her the only one of them Daryl wasn't liable to knock on their ass at any minute. "Daryl, hi, my name's Jane. I'm a TV producer and we're working on a television series. Maybe you've heard of it, 'Queer Eye'?"
He went easy on her, her being a woman and all. "No, I ain't. If they ain't playin' it on the wildlife channel then I ain't the one watchin' it."
That's when one of those other fellas said, "I just can't take it! I have to get started with him. This is by far the most delicious assignment we've had!" And then they all giggled and a couple of them even clapped their hands together.
Rick took him by the arm, "C'mon Daryl, come back in the house. Let's talk about what's going on."
Daryl's eyes squinted and he gave Rick what Rick was sure was the death glare, "Ya know about this?"
"Well yeah, I mean okay, yes. I did it for you man."
Rick felt his stomach go sour again, but there was still nothing left to throw up. He had a job to do though and he smiled, "Hi everyone, c'mon in!" All cheerful, like it was the best day of his life.
Daryl just looked at the man he used to call his brother like he was fucking nuts, shit he just invited a bunch of strangers in and it wasn't even his house.
That's when Jane thought she'd better step up. She placed her hand as lightly as possible on his arm and she felt pretty relieved when he didn't grab it and break it. "This show Daryl, it's all about these five very nice gentlemen helping out another man, a man just like you, to achieve something. In your case I understand there's a woman living just down the street, a woman you're interested in getting to know better, maybe even asking on a date. They're going to try to make that happen for you."
He looked at Rick and Rick knew, he was a dead man. It was guttural and threatening, but all Daryl said was, "You mutherfucker." He really didn't need to say more.
One of the men, a blonde man whose hair stuck up just a bit in the front chimed in, "Seriously Daryl. We're here for one short day and I feel confident enough to say that at the end of this day you'll have a date with Beth Greene. I'll tell you what, let's make a bet. I've been told you like to fish. If what we're going to try doesn't work out, I'll personally buy you a new Shimano rod and reel. If I win you don't owe me a damn thing. All you have to do is go along, just a little bit."
Who knows why, but Rick got brave, "C'mon man, you've got nothing to lose and everything to gain."
If it wasn't for her, for maybe having some kind of chance with Beth Greene he would have grabbed his shotgun and told them all to get the fuck away from him and his house, including Rick Grimes.
But dammit, he'd been into her for a while now, what if it really could happen? Shit, that'd be something worth everything.
The death glare was still in his eye but at least he asked, "Whaddya got in mind?" And damn if they didn't all get giggly again. That shit was going to take some getting used to.
It was the guy with the blonde hair sticking up who piped in then, "Well I'm going to start with having a look around your house." Then he just made himself right at home. He walked from room to room of the two bedroom house, checking in the closets and the cabinets and then declaring, "Not bad, not bad. You're really very tidy and that's a huge plus. We don't see that too often. But Daryl, sweetie, things are a little stark and dark."
Daryl had to bite his tongue at the sweetie shit. No one had ever called him sweetie, but if someone was going to that someone better be named Beth, not Bobby.
Blonde Bobby went on, "You like a certain lady and ladies like things a little brighter, you know, a splash of color here and there."
"Yeah well I like it the way it is, it's comfortable."
"I agree, comfort seems to be the theme here and I'm not going to change that. Not completely. I want you to be happy Daryl, but what if you could also make Beth happy? Wouldn't you want that? Don't you want her to walk in and think to herself 'Wow Daryl has a really nice place?'"
Shit, how could he argue with that? "Well yeah I guess so."
"That's the spirit and it will be really nice, it's an easy fix, I promise. I'm not going to make you get rid of one single thing. You and I will just do a little shopping and pick out a few things to lighten and brighten it up. You know, some cheerful new bedding, oh, oh, oh and a nice little blanket for the sofa so you and Miss Beth can snuggle up. Some throw pillows for the sofa and chair will really add some style and warmth."
"Shit, are you fuckin' kiddin' me man, it takes all that, huh?" But shit is right, she was worth way more than that to him. Hell he'd even think about buying a new house if that's what it took.
Blonde Bobby still wasn't done though and Daryl was getting a little edgy. This was probably a huge mistake. Yeah, he should just tell them all to go fuck themselves, he had fish to catch. But what about Beth? What if they really could somehow do something to help him at least have a chance to talk to Beth Greene? So he listened as the guy went on, "Now for the kitchen, don't get me wrong, there's not a thing the matter with a quaint little kitchen Daryl. But I think if we add a few small touches we can make it just adorable. One thing we have to discuss though is, I mean really Daryl? Melmac dishes? You cannot serve the woman of your dreams on plastic dinner plates."
"Dinner? What the fuck ya talkin' 'bout now?"
That's when a hip looking young guy just spoke right up, "Oh goodie, it's my cue! Hi Daryl I'm Antoni and I'm so excited to have a turn to chat with you."
Oh goodie was right. The first thing the guy wanted to know was what Daryl's favorite dinner was. "Don't even gotta think about that. Chicken fried venison steak, mashed taters, green beans with bacon and a big stack of white bread and butter."
The guy looked at him like he was simpleminded as he patted him on the shoulder, "That's sweet. I think we can make something like that work. In a way. Let's see what you keep in the fridge." He swung the door open and the only thing left in it were a few condiments in the door, one can of beer and a half-eaten slice of pizza. He looked back at their subject, "Daryl, man, we need to go shopping."
Pfft, yeah, no shit.
By then another guy with a swoopy poof of blackish grayish hair and an English accent was going through his closet. "Well Darling Daryl this is a bit of a disaster. I mean I guess I understand a man needing one shirt with the sleeves torn off, but it seems to me that's your official wardrobe."
"Well dear, have you ever thought of maybe leaving the sleeves on a few things? I mean we do have winter even here in Georgia. I for one am enjoying admiring those arms, and I'm sure Beth Greene likes them too, but maybe she'd like to use her imagination once in a while."
"Do ya always talk this way or are ya just tryin' ta fuck with me?"
"Daryl don't ask a gay man a question like that. Now let's talk seriously."
"I see you like jeans and khakis, that's alright. I like them too, when they're a little more nicely made and a bit more fitted. As for the shirts, I see an awful lot of plaid here Daryl, and flannel. Now there's nothing wrong with either of those things, but it doesn't hurt to have a little variety. It is the spice of life you know."
"Spicey huh? Yeah well I'm mostly salty."
"I don't think so. I have a feeling that underneath that salty he-man exterior you're a sweetheart."
"Hey um, what's your name?"
"Oh, I thought we'd been introduced, I'm Tan."
"Yeah well Tan, don't push you're fuckin' luck. I'm nobody's sweetheart."
The man named Tan with the swoop of black gray hair didn't miss a beat, "That may be the case now, but you want to be Beth Greene's sweetheart so I'm going to encourage you to listen to me. I have one word for you, the word is blue. You would be absolutely gorgeous in blue with those eyes and that yummy skin tone. We need to go shopping!"
No sooner were those words out of his mouth when poof, here was the tall dude with the long brown hair parted in the middle. "Oh you hunka hunka burning love, did I hear someone mention skin tone? Let me have a closer look at your skin Mister Darling Daryl."
"Fuck man, what's your name?"
"Jonathan at your service Mister Dixon."
The guy was out there, had it all going on and Daryl tried to shut at least part of that down. "Dude, Jonathan, I let ya get away with the Darlin' once, it ain't gonna happen twice. Got it?"
"Oh gosh Daryl you're spoiling all my fun and you know, Beth's liable to think you're a big old meanie stick in the mud if you keep that shit up."
"Yeah, whatever. So what's your job here Jonathan? You gonna tell me what time I'm s'posed ta take a piss?"
"Oh my God I hadn't thought about that, but I can if you want me to. But no precious, the reason I'm here is because you are one fierce looking man, and I'm going to work a little magic that will make you even more fierce."
Jonathan was apparently oblivious and also immune to the Daryl Dixon Death Glare and his gravel-toned snarl, "The fuck are you talkin' about?"
Jonathan just smiled and went on. "Listen now, I know you're not a big fan of grooming, that's just a little obvious. But as pretty as you are right now I can help you be even prettier."
"I ain't fuckin' pretty ya weirdo, I'm a man for fuck sake."
"Well gee Daryl I'm a man too and look how pretty I am!" And then the guy flipped his hair back and struck a pose.
Daryl could see nothing was going to faze this one. He had half a mind to walk out of his own damn house and never come back, what stopped him was his mind also kept going to the pretty blonde neighbor. He couldn't help hanging on to the tiniest glimmer of hope that these guys, who called themselves The Fab Five, really could pull this off.
That was the thought going through his mind when the fifth man in this crazy group piped in, "Hi Daryl! I'm Karamo and I'm here to talk to you a little about culture. Why don't you tell me all about the things you enjoy in the way of music and art?"
Daryl looked at him like he was speaking a foreign language, "Culture? Shit I don't know, and I sure as hell don't know nuthin' about art. Ya see any Mona Lisas hangin' on these walls?"
The man named Karamo smiled what Daryl could swear was one of those smiles you give someone you feel sorry for, because they're just plain stupid, and asked, "Well how about music? What do you enjoy listening to?"
"Depends on what I'm up to. If I'm gettin' my drink on I like some good old country music like Johnny Cash or Waylon Jennings. When I'm out ridin' my bike I like a little sumthin' hardcore like the Ramones, Minor Threat or the Clash. But when I'm fishin' I get all mellow with some Allman Brothers or Taj Mahal."
Now the man looked a little like he might actually be in pain, "Hmm, well we'll see if we can't come up with something you like that's a little more umm, let's see, how can I put this, quiet. We wouldn't want the conversation drowned out by the noise when you're entertaining Beth."
Before he had a chance to worry about all that they were out the door and all of them, including Daryl Dixon, were climbing into a great big black SUV. They were on their way for groceries, grooming, a little art, some home furnishings and new clothes.
Now it was Daryl Dixon thinking he might throw up.
Until they drove by Beth Greene's house and he saw her there watering her flowers and he knew, yeah, he'd try damn near anything for a chance with her.