Daryl couldn’t move. He couldn’t blink. Fuck, he wasn’t even sure he was breathing. All he’d come outside to do was check the snares with Rick, maybe catch something bigger if they were lucky. Some nice, quiet time, just the two of them. That shouldn’t have been too much to fucking ask. Instead, well, right now he hoped Rick was as far away as possible, because Daryl would have one hell of a time trying to explain why he was currently rooted in place like a goddamn tree.
In his defense, there were two men fucking in the woods in front of him, and how the fuck was he supposed to prepare himself for that?
Daryl felt a bead of sweat work its way down the side of his face, and his fingers twitched reflexively. A small part of him wanted to move to wipe it away, but most of his brain was convinced that if he moved, 1.) the fuckers in front of him might notice him, and then they might react to him being there, and then he would have to deal with it, or 2.) Rick might notice, and he’d come back and ask him why the hell he was standing there watching two men go to fucking town, and then Daryl would have to deal with that.
The worst part, and the real reason Daryl couldn’t tear his fucking eyes away, was that the two men were both dark-haired, bearded, jeans-wearing men. These weren’t the “pansies” that Merle always ranted about. In the right light, these guys could look like Rick and Daryl himself. Fuck, the one in front even had long, messy hair. Daryl figured his brain could be excused from shutting off when he abruptly found what looked like a live porno of himself getting his brains fucked out by Rick.
To their credit, at least they looked like they were enjoying it. The man in front had his fist pressed up against a tree for balance, and he was biting the shit out of it to stay quiet. His other hand was clutching at the guy pumping away behind him, who kept pressing kisses to the other guy’s neck. It looked… There was clearly affection there, not just banging one out, and Daryl could not process this.
After well over a year living together, Daryl was used to avoiding thoughts like this about Rick. Whenever he caught himself fantasizing about it, or—on extremely rare occasions that he blamed on alcohol or fever or overly heartwarming moments—thinking of telling Rick, he shut that shit down. It wasn’t so much that he thought it was wrong, since the world had fucking ended, so who gave a shit, but… Rick was the closest friend Daryl had ever had. Ever. Unlike damn near everyone else Daryl had ever met, Rick had respected him right from the get-go, trusting his opinion and looking to Daryl to have his back. Daryl would not fuck that up because he couldn’t keep his gay-as-shit feelings away from his straight-as-fuck best friend. If there’d been a chance that Rick could be interested, maybe, maybe he could…
But there was no chance that Rick was anything but straight, and this was never going to happen, so Daryl needed to look the fuck away from the fucking men before—
Oh, fuck you, universe, no.
The archer nearly jumped out of his skin, raising his crossbow reflexively. His heart leapt into his throat as he turned towards Rick. The other man stepped tentatively through the brush, frowning as he ran his concerned gaze over Daryl. Daryl swallowed hard, abruptly hyper-aware of his burning cheeks and the sweat slicking his forehead. Fuck, fuck, fuck. He needed to move. He needed to be standing anywhere but at the crest of a hill looking down into a clearing with gay, fucking men in it. Right now.
If only his limbs would fucking cooperate.
Rick moved closer and peered into his eyes. “Daryl? You alright?” The archer could not respond, no matter how much he internally screamed at his lips to move. Daryl watched helplessly as Rick’s frown deepened, and he felt despair creep up his throat when the other man looked around for whatever had spooked Daryl.
When Rick glanced down into the clearing and froze, it took everything Daryl had not to immediately shoot himself in the head.
Oh god, he’s going to think I’m a pervert, he’s going to figure out that I’m into men, he’s going to realize that I’m crazy about him, fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK.
Oblivious to Daryl’s panicked thoughts, Rick stared at the two men in the clearing for a moment, blinked, and cleared his throat quietly. He leaned towards Daryl, briefly locked eyes with him, and jerked his head to the side.
“Let’s give them some privacy, huh?” he whispered.
Daryl nodded numbly and followed Rick as the other man headed back down the path that would take them to the prison. After a few minutes of walking in silence, Rick’s shoulders relaxed, and he paused on the trail. Daryl stared at Rick’s feet, heart pounding in his chest. He could feel Rick staring at him. He was probably wondering how he’d ended up with a faggot for a friend, probably thinking about how to get away from—
Rick cleared his throat again, breaking off Daryl’s thoughts. Daryl still didn’t lift his eyes. Rick gave a quiet huff and shifted his weight.
“Well, that was unexpected, wasn’t it?” Rick mused softly. “Can’t say I think the woods were the best choice of location, but…to each their own, right?”
Rick…didn’t sound disgusted. Slowly, Daryl raised his eyes to his best friend’s. A faint smile was lurking around Rick’s lips. After a long moment during which Daryl tried to figure out why Rick wasn’t hurling accusations at him, the archer finally cleared his throat.
“You’re not—” Daryl paused and cleared his throat again, internally wincing at how hoarse he’d sounded. He tried again. “You’re not…offended by that? By what they were doing?”
Rick lifted an eyebrow. “No. There a reason I should be?”
Daryl stared at him. How could Rick be taking this so well? Did he not see Daryl staring at them? Did that not bother him?
Shaking his head, Daryl replied, “I…no, but. Being okay with stuff like that and seeing it, that’s two different things, right?”
Rick snorted loudly, then reached up to rub self-consciously at his nose. The former deputy smirked wryly.
“It’s nothing I haven’t seen before, Daryl,” he stated dryly. When Daryl just stared at him in response, Rick’s eyebrows furrowed, wariness easing into his expression. “Are you okay with it? With men…liking other men?”
Was he okay with it? Daryl blinked.
“Yeah, I’m, I’m fine with it. I’m not like Merle. I just. I’ve never seen it before, not like that.”
GodDAMN it. Why’d I have to go and say that?
Rick hummed and scratched at his beard. “I guess it would be a shock, wouldn’t it.”
“You’ve seen it like that before?” Daryl questioned disbelievingly. Rick looked mildly uncomfortable, lips pursed.
“I am a cop. People aren’t always decent when we come to arrest them.” Rick hesitated, then sighed. “And it’s not something that’s ever particularly bothered me, you know. It’d be kinda awkward if it were.”
The fuck was that supposed to mean? Daryl frowned and opened his mouth to reply, but before he could say a word, realization struck.
“You’re gay?” Daryl blurted because he was a fucking idiot today. It wasn’t possible, Rick had a family and kids and—
Rick shifted his weight again, then folded his arms over his chest. “I’m not gay, no, because I do like women. Obviously. I’ve just...” He looked away, seemed to gather himself, and returned his gaze to Daryl’s. “I’ve looked at men before. I’ve been interested in men before. I’ve never done anything about it, but… I’m bi.”
Bi. Rick was bisexual. Rick was interested in both men and women. Daryl silently processed this, feeling like the world had switched everything around when he wasn’t looking. If Rick were interested in men, then nothing made sense, because that meant that in some crazy universe, being with Rick…
Being with Rick would be possible.
While Daryl was busy trying to force this concept through his brain, Rick began to look more and more uncomfortable. The former deputy reached out towards Daryl, hesitated, and dropped his hand.
“Daryl, that doesn’t change anything between us, right?” Rick eyed him with a hint of uncertainty, as if he knew the answer but had realized there was a chance of Daryl freaking out.
A snowball’s chance in hell, but still.
Daryl regained enough control to firmly shake his head. “Nah, man. It’s fine, you can like men all you want.” He paused, watching as Rick visibly relaxed. He waited for the inevitable assurances that Rick would never be interested in him, but they never came. Swallowing, Daryl dropped his gaze. “You think… You think you would ever consider…”
He could not, for the life of him, make himself finish that question.
Thankfully, Rick finished it for him. “Dating a man? If it were the right man, sure.” A wistful expression crossed the other man’s face, but it quickly vanished. “Don’t think that’s going to happen, though.”
Daryl shifted awkwardly. He knew he should just drop this conversation and pretend it had never happened, but fucking Christ, Rick had just admitted that he would consider dating a man. He had to know more.
“Would you ever try something on with somebody at the prison?” he asked hesitantly. Rick’s eyebrows jumped up.
“I don’t know, maybe. I haven’t really thought about it, not since—” he broke off, expression darkening. Daryl nodded.
After a moment, Rick sighed and started walking again, jerking his head minutely. Daryl fell into step beside him, mind reeling. It was possible. Rick wouldn’t necessarily want him, but it was possible. Daryl couldn’t move beyond that thought, repeating it endlessly in his head in disbelief.
Eventually, Rick chuckled dryly. When Daryl looked askance at him, Rick shrugged.
“You know what I want? I want somebody else to make the first move, tell me that they’re interested. Every relationship I’ve ever been in, I had to do all the work at the beginning.” He smiled wistfully. “It’d be nice for someone else to step up for once.”
Daryl eyed him thoughtfully. “Anyone in particular you wouldn’t want coming on to you?”
He braced himself, but Rick just laughed.
“Hershel? The man’s like my father. Or maybe Beth. She’s just too young.”
Daryl’s heart started pounding again. Rick still hadn’t dismissed the idea of ever being interested in him. He took a deep breath.
“I bet if a guy like me hit on you, that’d be your worst nightmare,” he stated, aiming for casual and missing by a mile. Rick turned to look at him, eyebrows raised.
“Daryl, if a guy like you hit on me, I’d probably take him up on it in a heartbeat.” Daryl stopped dead in shock. Rick chuckled, clapped him on the shoulder, and continued on his way.
The archer watched him leave, eyes wide. A guy like you, Rick had said. Rick would be interested in a guy like Daryl. What the hell did that mean? A redneck? A hunter? Or…
It didn’t seem possible, but what if Rick meant that he’d be okay with it if Daryl himself came on to him? What if Rick meant that he’d actually take Daryl up on it if he offered? Did Daryl actually have a fucking chance?
The prison was full of people these days, people from all walks of life, but Daryl couldn’t think of anyone else who’d come from his sort of background. If Rick wanted somebody like Daryl, he’d have to search pretty hard for anybody who wasn’t Daryl.
The archer couldn’t breathe. Fucking hell, fucking hell, he actually stood a chance. Assuming Rick hadn’t been joking. Assuming Rick could actually see him that way. The question was, could Daryl nut up enough to make a move? Actually put himself out there to be rejected?
“If a guy like you hit on me, I’d probably take him up on it in a heartbeat.”
Fuck. Fuck it. If it meant a serious chance at being with Rick, Daryl could risk it. He could. He could be a man, take the plunge, and ask Rick to be with him. He could…
He could ease into it. He could test the waters first, maybe…try flirting with him. Show his interest without ruining their friendship, just in case he’d read that conversation completely wrong. That would make sense, right? Be gentle with it, nothing too over the top. And if Rick reacted well, he could be a little bolder. Daryl would still end up doing all the work, just like Rick wanted, and nobody had to get hurt. Everybody wins.
He just had to figure out how you flirt with a man. Gay guys did it all the time, so it couldn’t be that hard to learn, right?
5. Spend time with him
Rick had kept an eye on his best friend for the last two days, ever since their conversation in the woods. Sure, Daryl had said that he was fine with Rick being bisexual, but…Daryl wouldn’t always tell him when something disturbed him, and he was a good enough friend to try to hide it if Rick’s sexuality made him uncomfortable. To his credit, the man didn’t seem to be too shaken up over it, but he had taken to staring at Rick when he didn’t think Rick was paying attention. The former deputy bit his lip, hands pausing as they checked the rope attached to the front gate’s pulley system.
What if he’d crossed the line with his last comment? He’d given Daryl an honest answer, but he knew how macho Daryl’s background was. Even if he didn’t hate men who were interested in other men, that didn’t mean that hearing that his best friend could be—theoretically!—interested in him was his idea of a good time. It would explain why Daryl had essentially avoided him all day yesterday, frowning constantly and mumbling darkly to himself. Rick sighed. Hopefully, Daryl would get over it soon.
If he’d known that his big mouth would put his friendship in jeopardy, he would’ve kept it shut.
Rick grimaced. To be fair, he’d never had a friend as stoic and loyal as Daryl before. Nothing seemed to rattle him, and even when he flat-out disagreed with Rick, he’d still back him up. Most days, it seemed like there was nothing Rick could do that would be so awful that there’d be no returning from it. Rick had been certain that his sexuality would, at worst, just be another one of those things that put Daryl off for a time, but then they would get past it. He couldn’t imagine Daryl ever leaving him over something like this.
God, he hoped he was right.
As if summoned by his thoughts, Rick heard a familiar tread approach him on the gravel driveway. Rick closed his eyes briefly, relief softening his tense shoulders. He knew he could have faith in Daryl.
Rick turned as Daryl came up to him, lips quirking upwards in a faint smile, but the smile dropped right off his face when he got a good look at his friend’s expression. Daryl’s eyebrows were furrowed, and his mouth was pinched like he’d been sucking on something sour. Rick felt a small pulse of anxiety. Why would Daryl come to him looking like that? Was something wrong in the prison? Or worse, could Rick have been wrong all along?
Daryl looked distinctly like he was having a fight with himself about something, fidgeting with his empty pockets. Rick waited, but when no comment was forthcoming, he opened his mouth to ask Daryl what was going on.
“Let’s go hunting,” Daryl burst out gruffly. Rick started. Hunting? That’s why Daryl came out here?
“You just went hunting yesterday,” Rick slowly reminded him. Daryl’s lips became even more pinched. Rick glanced at them idly, then hurriedly lifted his eyes so that Daryl wouldn’t leap to any conclusions. Daryl glowered, raised his eyes to the sky, and then brought them back to Rick.
“Fishing. We can go fishing.” Daryl scratched at his nose, looking strangely shy for a moment. “I can make us some poles. Wouldn’t take long. We could go tomorrow.”
Rick stared at him for a long moment. He’d been worried for the last two days that Daryl might be too uncomfortable with Rick’s revelation to want to spend time with him, and here Daryl was, asking to go off alone together for several hours. A smile slowly spread across Rick’s cheeks.
He could always have faith in Daryl.
“Fishing sounds good,” he replied. “Don’t think I’ve had any fish in months.”
And the idea of spending several hours relaxing on a riverbank with Daryl sounded perfect right about now.
Daryl eyed him, swallowed, and nodded. “Alright. First thing tomorrow morning?”
Rick’s smile widened. “I’ll be here.”
Daryl shifted awkwardly, nodded again, and walked off. Rick watched him leave, at peace for the first time in days.
Everything was going to work out fine.
* * *
Fishing was the best idea they’d had since taking the prison, Rick decided happily as they walked back from the river. Three fish flopped around in his bucket, a pleasant justification for the long hours spent seated at Daryl’s side. Even though they’d had to constantly check over their shoulders for walkers and hadn’t spoken much, Rick felt more relaxed now than he’d been in months. Beside him, Daryl was walking silently, eyes scanning the woods for walkers. Rick shifted closer, deliberately bumping Daryl’s arm with his own. When the other man turned to look at him, Rick smiled.
“Thanks.” Rick’s voice was hushed. “I needed this.”
Daryl had an odd expression on his face, like he wanted to say something but couldn’t decide if it was a good idea. In the end, the man simply nodded and returned his gaze to the woods. Content with their comfortable silence, Rick walked his friend back to the prison.
4. Compliment him
“You’re a good shot.”
Rick paused, fork caught in midair. He blinked, wrinkled his eyebrows, and lowered his fork with a frown.
“I haven’t shot anything since winter.”
Daryl winced faintly. “I know that. But you’re a good shot. I’m sure you’d still be a good shot, even though you’ve taken a break.” His expression tightened again. “A break you deserved, I mean. I’m not saying otherwise.”
…Okay then. “Thanks.” Rick continued to watch his clearly uncomfortable friend, confusion rising up within him. “You’re a good shot, too.”
Daryl nodded stiffly. He glanced away, looked down, and then rubbed at the back of his neck. Abruptly, he lifted his eyes to Rick’s.
“You’re getting better at tracking, too. You don’t make as much noise as you used to,” he stated awkwardly.
Rick frowned. Was Daryl trying to butter him up for something? What sense did that make? He should know that Rick would give him almost anything he asked for, right? Rick shrugged.
“Yeah, well, I’m a long way from being as good as you are at it.” He eyed Daryl, then teased him gently. “If you think you’re getting out of giving me lessons any time soon, you’re crazy.”
Daryl shook his head. “No, that’s not what I—I’ll keep giving you lessons. I just thought…you should know. That’s all.”
Rick nodded slowly. “Thank you.”
Daryl jerkily lifted a shoulder. “No problem.”
An awkward silence fell between them, Rick fiddling with his fork and Daryl glaring at the floor like it’d done something to him. After a minute, Daryl nodded sharply to himself and backed up.
“I’ll just leave you to that,” he mumbled, gesturing weakly at Rick’s plate. Confused, Rick watched Daryl leave.
What the hell was that about?
3. Give him stuff
The distinctive roar of Daryl’s bike made Rick look up from his crops. He straightened up as Daryl drove closer to him and slipped off his gloves, slapping them against his sweaty hands. Daryl pulled to a stop in front of him and kicked down the kickstand, running his eyes quickly over Rick. The former deputy stepped closer, smirking.
“Have fun on your run?” Rick glanced at the rest of the returning group, noting happily that nobody seemed to be missing. Sweat trickled down his back, making him roll his shoulders. Daryl glanced at his shoulders, then at his chest, and then down at his bike. With a short nod, he stood up and dismounted.
“Got somethin’ for you,” he muttered. Intrigued, Rick moved to Daryl’s side and looked down at the large package strapped to his passenger seat. His eyebrows rose.
“Is that…” Rick reached out and unstrapped the bag, a small smile breaking out on his face. “Did you pick up some manure for me?”
“Thought you could use it.” Daryl reached into his pocket and pulled out a small packet. “Found these, too. Wasn’t sure you could use ‘em, but…”
Rick took the packet of seeds, nodding. “Zucchini? Worth a shot.” His smile widened, and he patted Daryl on the shoulder. “Thanks. I appreciate this.”
Daryl shrugged. “Like I said, I thought you could use them.”
Rick felt an unexpected burst of warmth in his chest as he looked at his friend. Everyone else had accepted Rick’s new way of life, and many of them had helped him set up his new farm, but this? This was surprisingly thoughtful of Daryl. Rick’s crops were doing well, and he didn’t need much help to maintain them these days, but knowing that Daryl had accepted his new role and supported him enough to go out of his way to get him supplies for it, unasked… That was worth a lot.
For a moment, Rick wondered what it would be like if Daryl were also interested in men, or even interested in Rick. He huffed quietly in amusement, shaking his head. Daryl frowned at him.
“What?” he asked defensively. Rick shook his head again, waving the packet in his hand.
“Nothing. Just, thanks.” Just thinking about what a good boyfriend you’d make. He huffed again. “I’ll try to get these planted today.”
Daryl hesitated, then nodded and climbed back on his bike. He grumbled irritably, “I see how it is. Get a guy some shit and seeds, get laughed at. See if I go out of my way again.”
This time, Rick laughed outright. “I really do appreciate it, Daryl. I do.” He slapped the other man on the shoulder with his gloves. “Tell you what, I’ll give you my first zucchini, all right?”
Daryl started up his bike, cheeks flushing slightly. “Yeah, yeah.”
Is he embarrassed because he did something nice for me? Rick shook off that particularly amusing thought. He does things for me all the time. Way to grow an ego, Rick Grimes.
Chuckling quietly at himself, Rick backed away from the bike. “I’ll see you later, Daryl. Thanks again.”
The archer nodded and took off towards the main compound without a second glance.
2. Do shit for him
“Hey, Hershel, have you seen Daryl?” Rick ducked his head into the older man’s cell. “Any idea where he might be?”
Hershel looked up from the book he was reading, a slow smile spreading across his silver-bearded cheeks. “Any particular reason you’re looking for him?” he replied easily.
Rick smiled gently. “That manure he got me is working wonders. All my crops perked right up. Wanted to thank him again for it.”
Hershel nodded. “That’s a good reason. Last I saw, he was headed towards the laundry. I bet you’d still find him there if you went looking.” His eyes were lit with amusement, though Rick had no idea why.
Vaguely confused, Rick nodded his thanks and moved away. He made his way outside and headed around the main building. Towards the back, where they’d managed to dig some small trenches with running water, several of the women of the camp were washing clothes. The outwash, what little there was, was carried down the hill away from Rick’s crops. Giggles carried up to Rick as he walked over to their group, but his steps slowed when he noticed an odd addition to the usual crowd.
Daryl was sitting off to the side, his face flushed. He was scrubbing something against a washboard, a tub at his feet. The woman beside him reached over and pointed at the washboard, but Daryl irritably batted her hand away. By the time the archer responded, Rick was actually close enough to pick up on it.
“Dammit, woman, I know what I’m doing. Just because I have a dick doesn’t mean I can’t fucking do laundry,” he snarled. Rick lifted his eyebrows, continuing on until he was standing behind the other man.
“Not that I’m arguing with that,” Rick started. Daryl swung around, face red. For whatever reason, the women around them went quiet, each one of them suppressing smiles. Rick continued, “But why are you out here doing your laundry? Never seemed like your preferred chore.”
Daryl looked shifty, eyes cutting away. He turned back to his washtub and resumed scrubbing the garment he was holding.
“Ain’t my laundry.”
Rick tucked his thumbs into his belt loops. “No? Then whose is it?”
Daryl didn’t reply. The former sheriff’s deputy leaned closer, taking a look into the tub. He frowned, abruptly recognizing the clothes in Daryl’s hand.
“Daryl.” He hesitated, glancing at the other man’s suddenly stiff shoulders. “Are those my pants?”
Daryl’s hands never stilled. “Yup.”
And now Daryl wouldn’t look at him. Rick stared at the side of his head, desperately confused. Why on earth…?
“Daryl, why are you doing my laundry?”
The archer shrugged. “Needed to be done.”
Rick left his hands on his hips, blinking as he attempted to process this. Daryl had decided to wash Rick’s clothes for him. Without being asked, since Rick wouldn’t ask anyone to take on that particular task for him. If Rick hadn’t come looking for him, would Daryl have even told him about it?
Slowly, Rick straightened. He didn’t have the faintest idea how to handle this one. Daryl was his friend, and if Daryl wanted to take it upon himself to do Rick’s laundry, he supposed he didn’t really have any objections. It was…odd, though. This wasn’t the sort of thing that friends usually did for each other.
But does Daryl know that? Rick wondered suddenly. He doesn’t seem to have had many close friends over the course of his life. What if he thinks this is just what he’s supposed to do?
Suddenly sad, Rick frowned at Daryl. He doesn’t have to go to these lengths for me. He shook his head, stepping back. He pulled up a smile, despite the fact that Daryl wasn’t looking at him.
“Alright,” he began with false cheer. “If that’s what you want to do, you’re welcome to it. I appreciate it, though.”
Rick paused. I’ve been saying that a lot lately. He cleared his throat. “And thanks again for the fertilizer and the seeds. My crops are doing well, thanks to you.”
Daryl slowed his scrubbing for a moment, still not looking at him. He nodded. “I’m glad.”
Rick backed away, gesturing at his own face. “You might want to get out of the sun, too. At some point. You’re a bit red.”
Daryl rolled his shoulders, but he didn’t reply. Still lost, Rick decided to quit while he was ahead, and he strode quickly back towards the front of the prison. That had been one of the more awkward moments of Rick’s life. How often do you come across your best friend randomly handling your dirty clothes?
And yet… Rick’s steps slowed. It was…nice, in a way. To know that someone was looking out for him. To have someone go out of their way to take care of something for him. He hadn’t had that since Lori. Hell, towards the end, he didn’t have that with Lori, either.
Rick came to a stop, rubbing his forehead wearily. Once again, he found himself wondering what it would be like if Daryl were doing this on purpose, being kind to him and going out of his way to make sure that Rick was happy and had what he needed. If Daryl weren’t motivated by friendship. He knew that his friend was attractive. He’d have to have been blind to miss that. What would it be like if this little slice of domesticity were real?
What would it be like to come up behind Daryl when he was scrubbing away at Rick’s stupid pants and wrap his arms around the other man? To show him how much he appreciated the little things that Daryl did for him?
Rick sighed, shaking his head. It’s never going to happen, Grimes. Put it out of your mind. He frowned wistfully at the ground.
…But it would be nice.
1. Touch him, you pussy
Rick was slowly going crazy. Not literally this time, thank god, but still. Crazy.
Over the last few days, Daryl had taken to touching him. It wasn’t that Daryl had never touched him in the past, of course, but he’d definitely grown “handsy” of late. It had started with a highly awkward pat on the stomach when Daryl was heading out on a run. Then Daryl started clapping him on the shoulder in passing. Then he was placing his hand on Rick’s back and leaving it there while they talked. And then he started sitting next to Rick at meals, thighs pressed together. Every time he did it, he wore an odd, tight expression on his face. Rick wasn’t sure what that expression meant, but he did know that his reactions were getting increasingly less appropriate by the day.
Daryl was driving him insane.
It never progressed beyond those casual touches. Daryl would invade his personal space, but then he would avoid Rick for a few hours, often refusing to look at him. Whatever the man was up to, he was clearly not entirely comfortable with it, just as he’d been when doing all of those other things for Rick over the last few weeks.
Ever since Rick had told him that he was bisexual.
Rick suppressed the urge to smack himself in the face. Of course. God, he was an idiot. It all made sense.
Once again, as if summoned by his thoughts, Daryl appeared out of nowhere and headed straight for him. Rick found himself smiling reflexively, as he usually did when confronted with Daryl lately. The other man’s expression softened as he approached the deputy-come-farmer. The second he came within arm’s reach, Daryl stretched out his hand and patted Rick on the shoulder.
“Hey, been looking for you. Hershel said he wants a chat with you.”
Rick glanced at his shoulder, where Daryl’s hand still rested, and smiled at the archer. Shaking his head, he placed his hand on top of Daryl’s. The other man froze.
“Daryl. I get it. You don’t have to do this anymore,” he told him gently. Daryl stared at him for a long moment, then swallowed hard.
“Get what?” he asked roughly. Rick shook his head again.
“You’ve been going out of your way to be nice to me ever since I told you that I’m…well, that I’m bi. You don’t have to try so hard.”
Daryl’s lips parted, and his eyes darted back and forth between Rick’s. “I don’t?”
“Daryl.” Fondly exasperated, he grabbed the other man by the shoulders. “I appreciate everything you’ve done, but you don’t have to prove that you’re okay with being my friend. I have faith in you, you know. I knew that you’d get over it, even if it bothered you.”
Daryl stared at him blankly.
“So…you don’t have to try anymore, okay? I get it. You’re okay with me being me. You don’t have to put yourself out anymore.” Chuckling, Rick stepped back and stuffed his hands into his pockets. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a friend go this far to prove himself to me, you know.”
Daryl’s jaw worked, muscles jumping beneath his skin, but he said nothing. Rick smiled at him and then, on an impulse, gathered the other man in a hug. Daryl stood stock still in his arms. Rick huffed gently, then turned his head to speak into the other man’s ear.
“Thank you, Daryl.”
He released the archer and stepped back once more, only to find Daryl staring blankly into space. Shaking his head once more, Rick clapped his hand on Daryl’s shoulder and made his way past him.
Even though nothing more would ever come of it, Rick really was lucky to have Daryl as a friend. He would probably never find anyone so loyal and selfless ever again. And even if he couldn’t have him as a romantic partner, well…
This was enough.
+1. Just fucking TELL HIM ALREADY
Enough was ENOUGH. Daryl had been patient. He’d done all the little things that should have worked, goddamn it, and Rick still, STILL had no idea how Daryl felt? Seriously? What the fuck did he have to do, gift wrap himself?? Stick a rose in his fucking teeth and ambush Rick naked in his cell?
Daryl ground his teeth, sharpening the tips of his arrows with short, furious strokes. How could he have failed this badly? Okay, no, he wasn’t the best flirt in the world. He might not have been as obvious as he wanted to be, and he may have chickened out once or twice during this whole ordeal, but come the fuck on. How could Rick not have caught on? Everyone else had figured it out by now!
And fuck, wasn’t that humiliating. All the knowing glances he kept getting when he walked through the hallways of the prison. The giggles when he repeatedly commandeered Rick’s dirty laundry. The smiles when they caught him staring at Rick and willing the oblivious fuck to figure out what Daryl was trying to tell him. Even Carl had given him a nod of acknowledgement at one point, giving Daryl his silent fucking blessing.
Daryl had tried to be patient, he really had, but enough was e-goddamn-fucking-nough.
The archer abruptly slammed his arrow down on the table and leapt to his feet. He strode out of the cell block to curious stares, ignoring them all as he marched outside. The sun was just setting, painting the sky in reds and deep blues. Looking around, Daryl spotted Rick by the grill and lumbered towards the other man. Thankfully, the area was pretty much deserted due to the late hour.
Rick looked up instinctively as Daryl approached, and a soft smile spread across the other man’s face. While that was gratifying—at the very least, his efforts had clearly made Rick happy to see him—it didn’t put the slightest damper on Daryl’s towering anger and frustration. Without a word, Daryl grabbed Rick by the arm and dragged him off to a secluded corner of the courtyard. He shoved him back against the wall and crowded in, but Rick, newly irritated, snapped at him.
“Daryl, what the fuck—”
“I WANT TO FUCK YOU.”
His shout echoed in the silent courtyard, bouncing off the concrete walls like a ping pong ball of failure. All of Daryl’s rage deserted him, leaving him alone with his trembling hands and terrible decisions. He stared into Rick’s wide eyes.
Oh my god, what the fuck is wrong with me, he wondered semi-hysterically. I could have lived with being friends. I could have. Why the fuck would I say that to him, why would I shout it in his face. Why couldn’t I have taken a second to figure out a way to say that rationally…
Rick didn’t seem to be breathing during Daryl’s internal rant. Eventually, Rick gulped, his Adam’s apple bobbing.
“…What?” he asked hoarsely.
Daryl thought about taking his hands off Rick’s shoulders, but he couldn’t actually make himself move. He swallowed with difficulty and forced himself to repeat it.
“I…I want to. I want to be with you.” His hands shook. Fuck, fuck, this was a terrible idea. What the fuck had possessed him? “Not just as your friend. That’s what. That’s what I’ve been trying to show you these last few weeks.”
Rick blinked at him several times, as if disbelieving his own eyes. “You have?”
Daryl glowered at him. “What the fuck else would I have been doing? I’m friends with Carol, but I’m sure as shit not going to clean her fucking underwear!”
Rick continued to stare. “Daryl, since when are you gay?”
Daryl opened his mouth to argue, but he paused. Had he actually told Rick that at any point? When Rick had come clean to him, had he indicated at all that he was also interested in men?
“I’m…” He pulled away slightly, embarrassed. “Rick, when have I ever talked about women to you? To anyone?”
“I just thought you were private about those things,” Rick replied quietly. His eyes were still as wide as dinner plates. “You’re interested in me?”
Daryl glared at him wearily. “Of course I fucking am, you idiot.”
Rick nodded slowly. “Okay then.”
Daryl’s words were cut off by Rick’s mouth suddenly landing upon his. The former deputy’s hands fisted in Daryl’s vest and jerked him closer. Groaning, Daryl pressed forward and pushed the other man up against the wall. His hands took on a mind of their own, skittering over Rick’s chest and sides. Rick made a low noise that shot through Daryl like a bullet, and the other man tugged Daryl flush up against him. When Rick’s hands landed on his ass and squeezed, Daryl choked off a noise and involuntarily thrust his hips forward. Rick let out a muffled groan and thrust his own hips in return, rubbing their erections together. Daryl thumped a fist against the wall, tearing his mouth away to gasp for air. Apparently, Rick had no such concerns, because the other man took the opportunity to kiss his way down Daryl’s neck, sucking hard at Daryl’s collarbone. This time, Daryl couldn’t hold back his moan, and the sound of it bouncing off the walls of the courtyard brought a bright, burning flush to his cheeks.
There was no way anyone hadn’t heard that.
Daryl gave considerably less of a shit about that when Rick ground out, “Fuck yes.”
Fuck, fuck, fuck, I’m not going to last, I’ve been waiting too goddamn long for this. Daryl reached blindly for Rick’s head and dragged the man up by his hair, kissing him desperately as they rubbed against each other. Rick growled and bit Daryl’s lip, sliding his hands upward only to inelegantly shove them down the back of Daryl’s pants. The sudden contact of skin on skin hit Daryl like a lightning bolt, and he couldn’t help himself. Groaning into Rick’s mouth, his hips stuttered as he came in his fucking pants like a goddamn teenager. Before he had a chance to come down from his high and feel bad about himself, Rick pulled him in for a few last, desperate thrusts, shuddered, and stilled.
The two men sagged against the wall, panting into each other’s mouth and kissing feverishly. Slowly, they began to calm down, kisses dragging out into longer and longer ones until they were essentially just leaning against each other, lips pressed together. Eventually, Daryl pulled his head away and lowered it to Rick’s shoulder, breathing heavily. Rick leaned his head against Daryl’s hair and pulled his hands out of Daryl’s pants. He stroked the archer’s back.
After a long, quiet moment, Rick spoke.
“Daryl, I’m sorry. If I’d had any fucking idea that you were interested, I wouldn’t have waited so long.”
Daryl snorted, lips curling upwards. “Everyone else figured it out, you know. Everyone. I think there’s a cat wandering around here somewhere, and it knew.”
Rick chuckled. “Sorry.”
Daryl ground his head back and forth into Rick’s shoulder. He gently clasped the other man’s arms, strangely afraid to lift his head.
“So we’re doing this, then?” he asked tentatively. “You and me?”
Rick briefly nuzzled Daryl’s head. “Look, I may be oblivious, but I’m not stupid. I’m absolutely willing to do this if you are.”
Daryl smiled softly. “Even though I suck at flirting?”
Rick laughed. “You kinda do, but you wanna hear the stupid thing? It worked. I’ve spent the last few weeks mourning what a good partner you would be.”
Only Rick. Daryl shook his head. “Well, great. I’m glad my torment had meaning.”
Rick fell quiet for a moment, then shifted. “I am going to ask you one thing, though. Something I’ve never asked anyone, not even Lori.”
Suddenly apprehensive, Daryl lifted his head and looked Rick in the eye. “What’s that?”
Rick grinned sheepishly. “Can you do my laundry again?”
Daryl burst out laughing.
“You asshole. Yes, I’ll do your fucking laundry.”