Actions

Work Header

What the Heart Wants

Chapter Text

You join the huddle of babbling students waiting outside the lecture hall, your best and oldest friend stuck close by your side. You don’t know what you’d do without him. He’s been in your life since you were a kid and he’s practically your brother, despite him being much older than you. He has no interest in college but when you’d told him you’d got in, he decided to come with you. With no family ties and a job he could take anywhere he went, it was like a dream come true for both of you. Now he lives only two blocks away from campus and has just set up his own workshop where he repairs motorbikes.

 

‘You ready for this, kid?’ He says in his usual gruff voice, although the concern is always real behind the growl.

 

‘Hell yeah! This is going to be amazing!’ You say excitedly, throwing your arms around him and pulling him in for a big hug. He squeezes you briefly but drops his arms before you do, embarrassed by the display of affection and the looks it’s drawing. You give him a quick peck on the cheek just to wind him up further, and giggle at the slight blush on his face.

 

He presents such a hard exterior to the rest of the world but he’d always had a soft spot for you, ever since you were little and moved into the house next door to his. Curiosity had drawn you to his yard when you’d heard the rumbling sound of a motorbike and he’d caught you trying to clamber on top of it, quickly pulling you away before the thing had nearly fallen on top of you. Since then he’d looked out for you, and when your parents had died just as you’d entered your teen years, he’d taken you in and he became your whole family.

 

‘C’mon now, you don’t wanna be late on your first day,’ says Daryl, gently prising you off of him. You look over your shoulder to see everyone slowly filtering into the hall. He slaps you on the back and gives you his signature nod with a half attempt at a smile that indicates he’s going to miss you, before he walks away.

 

‘Can I swing by your workshop after school?’ You shout after him.

 

‘Sure, see ya later,’ he says in a low growl, uncomfortable with the stares his rough, oil-stained appearance is attracting from a group of students passing by. He rarely changes out of the clothes he wears when working on his bikes, and his long, shaggy hair and muscular figure give him a slightly dangerous look that’s out of place almost everywhere but his workshop. Just as you’re about to follow the last person into the lecture hall, Daryl turns around and calls back to you, ‘and Y/N… good luck. Hope you have a good first day, darlin’.’

 

You watch him disappear before heading into the lecture hall, immediately cursing yourself as you’re suddenly the last one in and nearly all the seats are taken. The only free seat you spot is at the front of the room, directly in front of the professor’s podium. With butterflies now raging in your stomach, you make your way over to it, trying to conceal your blush with your hair, and sit down just in time for the professor to enter.

 

Your jaw drops. A tall man with dark, wavy hair and astonishingly blue eyes comes to stand by the podium, just a few feet from you. His trimmed salt-and-pepper beard and strong features make the guys you’ve fancied in the past look like boys. His dark blue-grey shirt and black pants cling tightly to his discretely muscular figure. Your eyes roam unashamedly over his body, and as you look back up to his face he catches your eye, the corners of his mouth twitching slightly. You turn a deep shade of red and hastily look down at your hands resting on the fold-out table attached to your chair.

 

‘Hi everybody, I’m Professor Rick Grimes,’ he says, a delicious Southern accent to his deep voice. ‘But you can jus’ go ahead an’ call me Rick.’

 

You spend the next hour watching Rick from beneath your eyelashes, keeping your head bowed over your notes as much as possible. He exudes a subtle strength and charisma you find incredibly alluring; he isn’t cocky or obnoxious, but he’s confident, intelligent, and of course ridiculously attractive. Your heart pounds loudly in your ears for the entire lesson and by the end of the hour you’re finding it difficult to sit still, a combination of nerves and an excited energy you’ve never felt before rushing through your body like electricity as your mind races through a hundred scenarios involving you finding yourself alone with him.

 

When the bell finally rings announcing the end of class, you’re the first out of your chair, desperate to escape the tension that’s been building inside you for the last hour. In your flustered haste you drop your open bag and manage to send its entire contents flying across the floor. Cursing a little too audibly under you breath, you reach down and start collecting it up as quickly as you can.

 

‘I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,’ comes a deep voice in your ear. You jump, almost tripping over your feet as you see Rick crouching beside you, close enough for the smell of his cologne to start fogging your head. He does his best to conceal the amused smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, drawing your eyes to his lips.

 

‘I’m assuming you want this back, right?’ He says with the hint of a chuckle hiding behind his tone. You try to snap out of your haze as you see him holding the contents of your bag in his arms.

 

‘Y-yes please, sir,’ you stammer breathily, internally kicking yourself for blushing so furiously at your blunder. Wanting to get out of there as fast as possible, you avoid Rick’s eye as you take your things from him and shove them unceremoniously into your bag, turn on your heel and head hurriedly towards the door. But somehow he’s there before you, standing in the doorway holding it open.

 

‘Hey, what’s your name?’ He asks just as you reach the doorway. You’re intensely aware of his proximity to you; you can feel his breath on your hair as he looks at you, waiting for an answer, his arm stretched out holding the door only tightening his shirt across his chest. You try in vain to calm your uneven breathing, terrified that he’ll hear the sound of your heart pounding in your chest.

 

‘I-I’m Y/N,’ you mumble, avoiding his gaze as you sense him staring at you. You don’t wait to be dismissed and it takes everything in you to keep your shaking legs from tripping you up as you stride hastily away.

 

‘Nice to meet you, Y/N!’ He calls after you, barely concealing the amusement in his voice.

 

You can’t believe you’ve made such a fool of yourself in front of your professor on your first day. You make a promise to yourself to sit at the back and do your absolute best to ignore him in tomorrow’s class. Which, of course, will be impossible given that he’s the teacher. But you can’t afford to start crushing on him. You’ve never even been with a guy before, and an older man like him would of course have much more experience than you. He wouldn’t even give you a second thought. But that won’t stop you from fantasising about him.

Chapter Text

After college, you head straight to Daryl’s workshop. Half of you can’t wait to tell him about your professor, but the other half is still reeling in embarrassment from making such a fool of yourself. As you reach his house, you see that the door to his garage is open. He has his back to you, crouching on the floor in front of a beaten-up Harley Davidson. You tiptoe as quietly as you can to the torn, scruffy couch by the door, next to the small fridge in which he keeps a constant stock of beer. You hesitantly open the fridge door and grab a bottle, careful not to make a sound. Then you flop yourself noisily onto the couch. Daryl doesn’t even flinch.

 

‘What’s up, kiddo?’ He growls, not looking up from his work.

 

‘How’d you know it was me?’ You say indignantly.

 

‘You’ve been tryin’ ta sneak up on me for the last decade, it ain’t gonna work,’ he says with a gruff chuckle.

 

‘Damn your hunter’s hearing,’ you mutter under your breath, cracking open the beer.

 

‘If you’re gonna steal ma beer you might as well get me one too, darlin’,’ Daryl says, getting to his feet and falling next to you on the couch.

 

‘Get it yourself!’ You cry with a mischievous grin. He considers you for a moment.

 

‘Alrigh’ then,’ he says, grabbing the bottle straight from your hands just as you raise it to your lips.

 

‘Hey!’ You try to grab it back but he holds it easily out of your reach. You dive across him for it but he pushes you back with a lazy flick of his hand. He takes a long sip of beer and smacks his lips appreciatively, smirking over at the affronted expression on your face.

 

‘That’s it,’ you snarl, rolling up your sleeves for dramatic effect. You launch yourself at him, straddling your legs over his lap and reaching to pull his arm down so you can reach the beer, but he’s much stronger than you and within moments he has both of your wrists trapped in the grasp of a single hand. You struggle against his grip but it’s useless, so you change tack and lift your leg up, trying to kick the bottle from his hand, but you quickly lose balance and fall onto your back. Daryl jumps on you before you have a chance to escape, pinning your arms above your head with one hand and trapping your legs with his knees pressing into your thighs. You snarl at him, face flushed and half laughing and he smirks even wider, taking another sip of beer.

 

‘Mmmm, so good,’ he moans, rubbing it in your face.

 

‘Fuck you,’ you spit at him, unable to conceal your grin. He raises his eyebrows at you, his eyes travelling over your body beneath him. Something flashes across your face but it’s gone so quickly you’re sure you imagined it.

 

‘Okay kid, you can have it,’ Daryl growls, moving off of you to sit back down. You hesitate, certain it must be a trick, and sit up slowly, reaching your hand out expectantly. He moves to give it to you, then suddenly necks the whole lot before you even have time to register.

 

‘Oh you dick!’ You cry, punching him as hard as you can on his shoulder as he laughs, handing you the now empty bottle. You ignore it and go to the fridge to grab another, downing it before he has a chance to steal it again.

 

‘Easy kid, you know you’re a fuckin’ lightweight,’ says Daryl gruffly, the concern in his voice you’d long associated with him since your childhood is tinged with an amusement, and you wonder how far you could push it tonight before he reprimanded you. You’re eighteen now, maybe not old enough to drink legally but certainly old enough to have some fun and deal with the consequences yourself.

 

‘I’m an adult now, and I’m at college! I’ve gotta learn how to handle my alcohol at some point before I go making huge mistakes with boys I barely know,’ you argue with a mischievous grin. Daryl tilts his head back slightly, surveying you with narrowed eyes through his long, scruffy hair.

 

‘Alrigh’ girl, you’re on,’ he says gruffly. ‘But if we’re gonna be drinkin’, we’re gonna do it properly,’ he smirks, disappearing through the other door that leads into his house and returning a moment later with a pair of glasses and a bottle of whisky.

 

You set your empty bottle down on top of the fridge and hop excitedly onto the sofa, sitting cross-legged and watching eagerly as Daryl pours a glass of whisky and hands it to you. Without thinking, you taking a long sip and come up coughing and retching, the strong taste burning your throat and invading your nose.

 

‘Drink it slowly you idiot!’ Daryl guffaws, setting down beside you and spreading his arm across the couch behind you. ‘You sip it, savour it an’ make it last. An’ hold your breath so you don’t choke on the fumes.’

 

You approach with caution this time and take the smallest of sips with your breath held. It burns down your throat again but not so violently as before, leaving a pleasant warmth in your chest.

 

‘Hey, this isn’t bad!’ You cry.

 

‘Take it slow kid, this stuff is fuckin’ strong,’ Daryl growls with a sly smirk. You ignore him and take another sip and already your head begins to feel lighter.

 

‘So I met this guy today…’ you blurt out, desperate to get it off of your chest.

 

‘Oh?’ Daryl grunts, taking another sip and watching you carefully.

 

‘You don’t have to look at me like that, I’m not going to pursue it,’ you say, rolling your eyes.

He’d always been incredibly protective of you, even more so when it came to guys. He always made the point that no one was good enough for you, even though you’d never so much as kissed a guy before.

 

‘He’s smart and interesting and umm really good-looking and…’ Daryl raises his eyebrows as you shift uncomfortably. ‘…he’s also my professor,’ you trail off into a mumble at the look on Daryl’s face.

 

‘What’s his name?’ He growls in a low voice, breathing heavily all of a sudden. You notice his free hand is clenched into a fist at his side, his knuckles white with strain.

 

‘Rick Grimes,’ you mutter, eyes wide as you watch Daryl. You’d not seen him angry in a very long time, not since you’d come home crying after your school prom, having been ditched by your date for another girl. ‘He wasn’t flirty or anything, at least I don’t think he was. I think he found it quite funny cos’ I dropped all my stuff and got all flustered in front of him when he helped me pick it up…’

 

‘Don’t get involved, kid,’ Daryl says gruffly, his breathing easing and his tone slightly gentler than before, but his hand is still balled up in a tight fist. Without thinking you put your hand over it, stroking your thumb over his rough knuckles until he begins to relax. He looks at you with an odd expression on his face: the same care and concern he had always shown you, but also something that looked like longing.

 

‘I won’t,’ you reassure him with a small smile.

 

‘I just don’t wanna see you get hurt, kid. An older guy like that, in that position too… it ain’t gonna end well for you darlin’,’ Daryl says, his voice softening as he frees his hand from yours and throws his arm around your shoulders, pulling you into a hug. You rest your head contentedly on his chest and you feel him bury his face momentarily in your hair before resting his cheek on your head. You both take another sip of whisky and for several long minutes you simply lie there in silence, breathing in his musky smell of engine oil, whisky and cologne.

 

‘So we gettin’ drunk or what?’ Daryl says gruffly, finally breaking the silence. You sit up as he tops up your glass with more whisky. ‘To your first day at college,’ he says, chinking his glass with yours.

 

‘To my first day at college!’ You cry with a wide grin. You and Daryl spend the rest of the evening chatting and laughing and playing truth or dare, which had always been your favourite game to play as a kid. But with the lowered inhibitions brought to you by alcohol, it quickly became the most fun you’d ever had with him.

 

‘Truth,’ Daryl grunts.

 

‘Why is it,’ you say in a slurred voice, ‘that you’re still single? I mean, you’ve been single as long as I’ve known you!’ You exclaim with a giggle, slopping whisky down your front.

 

‘Smooth,’ he chuckles, gently stroking his thumb across your lips to wipe the whisky off before bringing it to his lips with a wink. You giggle even louder, a blush creeping up your cheeks as you punch him playfully on the shoulder.

 

‘C’mon, answer me,’ you demand, attempting a stern stare but unable to wipe the smile off of your face.

 

‘I dunno, I just never found anyone I fancied,’ he grumbles, not meeting your eyes.

 

‘Aww, are you embarrassed?’ You mock, tousling his hair in a deliberately patronising way.

 

‘Shut up,’ he growls, grabbing your hand and throwing it away from him, but a smirk plays at the corner of his lips so you know you haven’t crossed the line yet.

 

‘Why haven’t you found someone you fancied?’ You press him. He looks up at you with the same look as when you’d mentioned Rick, but the longing is definitely evident this time and you can’t put your finger on it.

 

‘There is this girl,’ he says gruffly, shifting uncomfortably as he looks down at his whisky glass. ‘But I can’t have her.’

 

‘Why not?’ You say, the laughter gone from your voice as you realise he’s being serious. He meets your eyes in a long, piercing stare, like he’s trying desperately to read your mind.

 

‘Don’t matter,’ he mumbles, suddenly getting to his feet and grabbing the glass from your hand. ‘I’m tired. You’re welcome to crash on the couch in the house if you want, it’s too late for you to go walkin’ back now.’

 

You hesitate before following him through the door. You don’t say anything but you know you pushed him too far asking that question. For some reason the look he gave you makes your heart twinge, but you don’t know what it could possibly have meant. Daryl throws you a pillow and a blanket and retreats upstairs to his bedroom without another word. Mind racing, you make yourself comfortable on the couch in his living room, the liquor blurring your ability to concentrate properly on the questions running through your mind, trying to decipher what had just happened. Eventually sleep takes you and all thoughts of Daryl are washed from your mind by a wave of blissful nothingness.

Chapter Text

You wake up to a quiet house. The memory of last night comes flooding back to you and you sit up too quickly, your head suddenly spinning. You're surprised to discover that you don't feel too hungover, and inwardly thank Daryl for not letting you go overboard on the drinking last night. You might be a lightweight in as much that alcohol goes straight to your head, but it had never yet made you sick.

 

Once the room stills, you quickly fold up the blanket and pillow and leave it in a neat pile on the couch. 

 

'Daryl!' You shout to the house, but you're met with silence. You assume he's in his workshop so you head to the garage, only to find it empty. Then you spot a piece of paper on the seat of the Harley he'd been working on yesterday and snatch it up, instantly recognising Daryl's scrawly handwriting.

 

Just headed out to get some parts. Breakfast is on the table in the kitchen. Come round after school today, want to talk to you. Have a good one x

 

Folding up the letter and placing it in your pocket, you head to the kitchen. A smile draws across your face as you spot the buttered croissant and bottle of your favourite mango smoothie on the table.

 

Glancing at the clock on the wall you suddenly spring into a panic. Class starts in 15 minutes and it's with Rick so you desperately want to get there early enough to secure a backseat, but it's a 10 minute walk back to campus. 

 

You hastily grab the food, slip on your boots and your bag Daryl left for you by the table, probably knowing you'd wake up late, and run out of the door, pelting across the streets at full speed. As you finally reach the corridor outside the lecture hall, you're pleased to find only one person is stood waiting by the door, and you go to stand behind him.

 

Panting and sweating, you start wolfing down your breakfast, not wanting to give Rick an excuse to call you out for eating in class. The guy in front of you turns around, one eyebrow cocked upwards and an amused expression on his face. You realise you must look an absolute mess; you hadn't brushed your hair and you can feel stray strands of it clinging to your clammy face. You inwardly thank yourself that you don't usually wear make-up. What's more, your cheeks are currently stuffed like a hamster with croissant.

 

'Wha-?' You exclaim indignantly, accidentally spitting a bit of croissant from your mouth. It falls on the guy's cheek and you feel your face redden. He's extremely cute, with big brown eyes, stylishly messy, dirty blonde hair, and a kind face. 

 

'I know they say "sharing is caring" but I'm afraid I already ate,' he chuckles. 'But thanks!'

 

You swallow your mouthful noisily, blush deepening. 

 

'I'm so sorry,' you say, but you're half chuckling too. What a way to introduce yourself. 

 

'I've seen worse,' he winks with an amused but kind grin. 'I'm Jack, it's nice to meet you and err, your breakfast,' he says, holding his hand out to you, his grin widening as he watches the embarrassment paint across your face.

 

'I'm Y/N, and I swear I'm normal,' you laugh, shaking his hand. His grip is strong but warm and friendly and you find your hands lingering a little too long, until the sound of approaching footsteps from behind you brings you back to your surroundings.

 

Jack glances down at his watch. 'I reckon we can go in now, want to sit next to me? I haven't really made any friends yet so I'll take anyone at this point,' he says with another wink, making you giggle.

 

'I guess you seem alright,' you reply with a smirk. 'As long as we sit right at the back though, I kind of made a bad impression on the professor yesterday...'

 

Jack raises an eyebrow at you. 'You mean when you sent all your stuff flying across the floor in front of him? I thought that was deliberate...'

 

You shake your head vigorously, the blush returning to your cheeks. 'Of course not! Why, do you think I fancy him or something?!' You exclaim, trying to sound insulted to hide your embarrassment at the suggestion behind his words.

 

'I was kinda hoping you don't, actually,' he grins before turning away and heading into the lecture hall. You stumble in after him, flustered and confused, and undeniably a little pleased at the direction this conversation was heading. This is the sort of guy you should be crushing on. Hopefully he'll be able to distract you from fantasies of Rick during the lecture.

 

But as you enter the hall, you see it isn't empty: Rick stands at the podium, reading something from a book perched on the stand. He looks up as he hears you come in and an amused smile tugs at his lips as he sees the state you're in. You hastily look down at your feet and follow Jack to the back corner seats, then make a fuss out of getting your stuff out of your bag as the rest of the class filters in, blocking you from view.

 

'You okay? You look pretty flustered there,' Jack whispers next to you, making you jump. 'Are you still embarrassed about spitting food at me? Generally I like a girl to at least buy me a drink first, but I didn't mind that much,' he chuckles.

 

'Shut up,' you grin, punching his arm. You're quite surprised by how easy he is to get along with, usually it takes you a lot longer to get comfortable with someone. Then again, you didn't usually start a friendship with someone by spitting food on their face.

 

'I hope we're not disturbing you back there,' comes Rick's voice from the front as the entire class turns around in their seats to look at you and Jack. Your face burns and you meet Rick's eyes momentarily across the room. He looks at you with a disappointed expression and your stomach squirms uncomfortably. You drop your head and stare at your hands, but Jack perks up beside you.

 

'Sorry Professor, you were saying that today we'll be looking at the basic principles of quantum mechanics and it's impact on Einstein's theory of general relativity,' he chimes back unashamedly.

 

You gawp at him. You hadn't even noticed that the class had started and you had to admire his guts. You glance at Rick out of the corner of your eye. His eyes are narrowed and his jaw tight as he regards Jack, his eyes constantly flitting between the two of you sitting in the back corner together. After a moment he composes himself.

 

'Good,' he says with a sarcastic edge to his voice. 'Now if you don't mind, I'd like to get on with the lecture,' he says curtly.

 

You perch your elbows on the table and hide your face behind your hands as you stare at Jack, who now scribbles furiously beside you as Rick starts talking.

 

'How did you know what he'd been saying while you were talking to me? I hadn't even noticed the lecture starting!' You whisper in a hushed voice.

 

Jack doesn't look up from his notes but you see his lips curve into a smile and he taps his nose enigmatically before pointing to you, then his ears, then to Rick at the front, motioning for you to listen. You glare at him and his eyes flick up from beneath his eyelashes to meet your stare briefly. He gives you a wink and flashes a row of perfect white teeth in a sly grin.

 

You scowl back at him but can't help the smile tugging at your mouth as you turn to the blank paper in front of you and begin scribbling down everything Rick is saying. Meanwhile your imagination takes you off into a world of your own, but this time it features Jack. You resist the temptation to look up at Rick at any point in the lecture, and try to keep your mind from focusing too much on his deep voice as the memory of yesterday's encounter threatens to push it's way into your brain. Instead you allow the memory of your embarrassing introduction to the guy sitting next to you to swallow you up in a combination of shame and excitement.

 

You don't know Jack at all, maybe he flirts with everyone like that. You can't imagine why he'd be interested in you given then state you're in after leaving so late from Daryl's. Daryl! Now you're thinking about what it is he wants to talk to you about later. You wonder whether it has anything to do with the girl he mentioned last night, the one he said he couldn't have. Perhaps he's planning on doing something about it and wants to ask your advice. But then there was that look he gave you, that sad longing in his eyes, the anger when you'd told him about Rick...

 

You shake the thought from your head. It was utterly ludicrous - Daryl is family. You'd known each other for over a decade, and lived together for almost half of that. He's seen you in your worst states and you've always trusted him to be honest with you. It must be something else you couldn't figure out, maybe a nostalgia for when he was the biggest thing in your life, and now your life was moving on he was probably worried that you would move on from him. You make a mental note to reassure him when you see him later on that he'll always be the most important person in your life.

Chapter Text

‘So d’you fancy grabbing a bite to eat tonight?’ Jack asks you casually as you both pack up your things at the end of class.

 

‘Umm, sure! Why not?’ You reply with a grin, trying to hide the excitement in your voice.

 

‘Promise to keep your food in your mouth this time?’ He winks, nudging your shoulder with his as you make your way along the row of chairs to the door.

 

‘We’ll see,’ you wink back with a small giggle.

 

‘Y/N, can I see you for a moment?’ Rick suddenly calls across to you over the shuffle of students filtering out of class. You glance back at Jack, who looks at you with a slight crease between his eyes.

 

‘Shall we say 8 at the pizza place?’ He murmurs quietly enough for only you to hear. You give him the tiniest nod as he passes behind you to join the string of students leaving. Keeping your eyes to the floor, you head to the front of the class where Rick stands gathering papers into his arms.

 

‘Yes, sir?’ You mumble, not raising your eyes. You’d never been in trouble before, and your mind is racing trying to figure out what you could have done.

 

‘Come with me to my office,’ he says sternly in that delicious Southern accent.

 

You keep your eyes on the back of his legs as you follow closely behind him out the class, through the crowded corridor and into a small but incredibly cosy office. A large wooden desk stands beneath the window which looks out into an orchard. On one side of the room the wall is lined with two enormous bookshelves; on the other sits a large, extremely comfortable-looking couch that could probably fit two people lying side-by-side across it.

 

Rick holds the door open for you, gesturing you to the chair in front of his desk. You drop your bag on the floor and perch yourself on the edge, crossing your legs and clasping your hands on your knees in front of you. Rick closes the door and you hear the click of a lock.

 

‘Do you know why I’ve brought you here, Y/N?’ Rick says in a low voice, resting against the desk in front of your chair. The scent of his cologne and his proximity send your heart racing. You keep your eyes fixed on a framed photograph of a pretty-looking woman with long, dark hair and a bright smile, hugging a young, freckled boy who looks a lot like her.

 

‘Have I done something wrong, sir?’ You ask in a small voice, shifting guiltily in your seat. When he doesn’t answer you glance up at him and find your eyes suddenly fixed by his bright blue stare.

 

‘Far from it,’ he assures you with a smile, that same half-amused expression.

 

‘I don’t know what you mean, sir?’ You say quietly. Something flashes across his face when you refer to him as ‘sir’ and he clears his throat, quickly recomposing himself.

 

‘I’ve had a look at some o’ your papers from your senior year at high school, they’re… brilliant,’ he smiles widely, flashing you a row of perfect white teeth, his blue eyes crinkling. ‘I feel like the firs’ year syllabus might not push you enough and I assume you’re thinking of doin’ some graduate study after college?’

 

‘Umm, yeah maybe… I hadn’t really thought about it yet, but…’ You’re embarrassed to admit that you’d been thinking the first year work looked much easier than you’d expected. ‘But I do think there isn’t anywhere near enough detail in the first year course. I already, well… already know most of it just from the reading I did this summer…’ You blush and drop your eyes back to the photo of the boy and the woman. Rick gives a small chuckle at your embarrassment but then he goes quiet. You don’t tear your eyes away from the photo for fear of giving away the thoughts you’re hastily trying to suppress.

 

‘Her name was Lori,’ Rick says gently, following your gaze. ‘And his name was Carl,’ he mutters barely above a whisper, his voice suddenly hoarse. You look up in shock to see tears glistening in his eyes. ‘They’re gone now.’

 

‘I-I’m so sorry…’ you whisper, instinctively reaching towards his hand resting on the desk, but your brain catches up and stops you. You can tell Rick had noticed.

 

‘Thank you,’ he says with a small smile, meeting your eyes. ‘Y/N umm… would you be up for havin’ some… extra lessons? Prepare you for grad work?’

 

‘Err would that not look like favouritism, sir?’ You mutter awkwardly, averting your gaze down to your hands again.

 

‘I’m allowed to mentor one student a year who… shows potential…’ he says, his expression split between embarrassment and amusement, leaving you completely perplexed as to what he’s thinking. You notice him shift along his desk slightly so his legs are almost touching yours. You breathe in sharply as your mind becomes an incomprehensible jumble.

 

‘Okay,’ you breathe, your hands now gripping each other so tightly that your knuckles are white. All you can hope is that Rick doesn’t notice the blush creeping up your cheeks.

 

‘Good,’ he says with a heavy sigh that draws your gaze back to him. His eyes are squeezed shut as he pinches the bridge of his nose.

 

‘Are you okay?’ Your hand reaches the back of his before your brain has a chance to catch up this time. Horror and shame fills your stomach as Rick opens his eyes to meet yours. But he’s not angry. Instead he looks at you with an unmistakable desire that sends your heart into a frenzy.

 

‘I’m s-so sorry,’ you whisper, dropping your hand to your lap and standing up quickly. You grab your bag and head for the door only to find it locked. Soft footsteps tell you Rick has followed you and the sudden waft of his cologne says that he’s standing right behind you.

 

‘Don’t be,’ he murmurs in a low voice that sends a shiver down your spine.

 

You freeze as you feel a hand lightly graze up your arm to your shoulder before gently moving your hair away to expose the side of your neck. Still unable to move, your breathing quick and your heart pounding in your chest, you let out a long sigh as Rick’s fingers trace ever so lightly up your neck and then back down to your collarbone. You can feel his hot breath playing on your flesh, goosebumps tingling in its wake. Squeezing your eyes shut, you gasp as Rick’s lips gently brush across your skin from your neck down across your collarbone before slowly tracing up to your ear. He takes the sensitive flesh of your earlobe between his lips with a gentle suck that sends a ripple of excitement rushing through your body.

 

Rick’s hand travels slowly down your arm and finds your waist while the other pulls your hair back to reveal the back of your neck. His lips wander teasingly down and you can’t suppress the shudder that runs through you in response to his touch.

 

‘Sir…’ you breathe, your chest heaving and your legs beginning to tremble as the hand at your waist gradually dips beneath your shirt. His fingers trail lightly across your bare skin, moving around to your abdomen just above the line of your pants. Your skin seems to react as though you’ve been burned, but the sensation is so indescribably tantalising that you can’t help craving more.

 

You turn slowly around as Rick’s mouth finds your jawline, the tip of his tongue tracing along it until his lips come to hover over yours, his breath teasing them. You glance up at his eyes to see that they’re closed, a slight crease in his brow, his face so close to yours that you can feel his beard almost tickling your skin. Then he closes the gap between you and locks you in a deep, lingering kiss. He grabs your waist with both hands, pulling you into his body as you drop your bag and throw your arms around his neck, fingers entwining in his hair. Your mind blanks and a wave of adrenaline and fire courses through your veins as you fall deeper into the kiss.

 

‘Wait…’ he mutters, breathing heavily as he pulls suddenly away from you. Resting his forehead on yours, his hands still on your waist, he sighs. ‘We can’t do this.’

 

‘But I want to,’ you whisper, gripping your fingers tighter in his hair and leaning in to kiss him again. But his strong hands push you firmly away before releasing you. You feel an emptiness steal over you as he walks over to his desk, running his hands through his hair. ‘Don’t you?’

 

He turns to look back at you, his struggle painted all over his face. ‘You have no idea how much I want to,’ he breathes in a low voice. You step slowly towards him and he watches you with desire burning in his eyes as they travel unashamedly over your body. Standing inches away from him, you place a hand gently on his chest and lean around to put your lips against his ear.

 

‘Then why did you stop?’ You whisper. Rick breathes in sharply, his hands balling into fists at his side as he tries to resist the temptation to grab you again.

 

‘Not now… we can’t do this now,’ he says in a low, shaky voice, backing away from you before striding quickly towards the door. Unlocking it, he looks back at you, lust still blazing in his eyes. ‘Tomorrow after school meet me here. Don’t tell anyone you’re comin’.’

 

You nod, your heart quickening again as you grab your bag and head out of the door into the now empty corridor.

Chapter Text

Seeing that his garage is closed, you bang your fist loudly on Daryl’s front door.

 

‘Daryl where are you, you asshole, I have to be somewhere!’ You shout pointlessly at the clearly Daryl-free house. ‘You said to come round and you’re not fucking here!’

 

Then from around the corner you hear a roar you recognise immediately as Daryl’s motorbike. Within moments he comes into view and you run to the road to meet him, before stopping in your tracks as you find he’s not alone. Sitting behind him leaning back lazily with his hands resting on the back of the seat, in his usual white vest and jeans, his face painted with an arrogant expression so unlike his brother’s, is Merle. As soon as the engine cuts out you confront Daryl.

 

‘What the fuck is he doing here?’ You growl through gritted teeth.

 

‘I see she ain’t changed much, brother,’ comes Merle’s salacious drool as the two of them slide off the motorbike. ‘Still got a mouth dirtier than a Mexican whorehouse.’

 

Your hands ball up into fists at your sides and it takes everything in you not to run at him and land a punch right in his smug face.

 

‘That’s ’nuff,’ Daryl snarls at his brother before approaching you with his arms raised.

 

‘He’s in some trouble, Y/N, I couldn’t say no,’ he explains, placing his rough hands on your shoulders and giving them a gentle squeeze to calm you down.

 

‘When is he not in fucking trouble? When you said to come round later I didn’t think I’d be rolling out the fucking welcome wagon for this jerk,’ you hiss, staring daggers at Merle now leaning casually against Daryl’s bike, watching you with a cocky grin. As you meet his eyes he tilts his head back and slowly licks his lips while his gaze roams pointedly up and down your body.

 

Pure hatred surges through you and you push roughly past Daryl, making a beeline for Merle and raising your fist to aim straight for his nose. But he’s too quick for you. He blocks your punch effortlessly and grabs your wrist, twisting your arm painfully behind your back and pushing you over the seat of the motorcycle as he leans over you from behind, his breath on your neck.

 

‘Aw I jus’ make you all hot under the collar, don’t I sweethear’?’ He coos. The smell of alcohol on his breath makes your stomach churn.

 

Then his grip is suddenly gone. You look around confusedly to find him trapped in a headlock, Daryl’s muscular arms wrapped tightly around his brother’s throat as he throws him to the ground and plants a boot in his gut. Merle gets quickly to his feet, spluttering and massaging his neck, but he doesn’t retaliate. He looks between your shocked expression and Daryl’s defensive stance in front of you, tensed like a predator preparing to go in for the kill, and a nasty grin spreads across his face.

 

‘Ahhh, I see what’s goin’ on here. Now she’s old enough…’ he chuckles, pointing from Daryl to you. Confusion momentarily overtakes your anger as you look from Merle’s mischievous smirk to Daryl’s enraged expression. You step quickly in front of him, blocking Merle from his view and trying to focus his attention back onto you to calm him down. As much as you’d love to see Merle get the seven shades of shit knocked out of him, you know Daryl would hate himself for hurting his own brother.

 

‘It’s okay, don’t listen to him,’ you say as soothingly as you can, placing a consoling hand gently on Daryl’s cheek and giving him a small smile. ‘He’s just trying to wind you up ’cos you knocked his pathetic ass to the ground.’

 

He meets your gaze and behind the anger is… there’s no mistaking it this time. Pain. Your smile falters as the implication behind Merle’s words sinks in and the look in Daryl’s eyes tells you there might be more truth to them than you would ever dare to think.

 

‘I-I’ve got to go,’ you mutter suddenly, quickly dropping your hand to your side and taking a step back. Daryl reaches for you, opening his mouth to say something, but you walk straight past him. Without so much as a glance at either of them, you retrieve your bag from where you’d left it in front of the garage door and start making your way back to your dorm, where you have to go and get yourself ready to meet Jack. But your mind couldn’t be further from him right now as a hundred questions race through your mind. What on earth just happened?

Chapter Text

‘There you are!’ Cries Jack, sitting on the wall outside the restaurant waiting for you.

 

You arrive windswept and panting just like this morning outside the lecture hall. Strands of hair are flailing about your face in the breeze, the bun you’d spent ages working on is now loose and messy, and you were having to hold down the end of your pale blue summer dress to stop it riding up as you ran barefoot down the streets, clutching your heels in your free hand with your purse tucked down the front of your dress in your bra. Top that off with your flushed face and lack of make-up (you’d had no time by the time you’d finished your hair), you couldn’t look in a worse state for a date, if that’s even what this is meant to be. Not to mention that your head is full of Daryl and Rick when the person you should be focusing on is the cute guy that’s your age standing before you in a suit, his brown eyes wide as they trail over your dishevelled form.

 

‘What the hell happened?!’ Jack chuckles, trying in vain to keep a straight face as you fish your purse out of your bra and step into your heels.

 

‘I… got held up…’ you pant, resting against the wall he’d just been sitting on. ‘Didn’t have… much time to… get ready…’

 

‘Well it’s only just gone 8:30,’ he teases, glancing at his watch and shaking his head dramatically. ‘So I’ll just have to remember for next time that you’re one of those “fashionably late” kinda girls,’ he finishes with a wink.

 

‘No!’ You cry. ‘I’m really not, I’m always on time I swear!’

 

‘So far the evidence isn’t in your favour, Y/N,’ he says, flashing you a row of white teeth.

 

‘Oh shut up, you don’t know me at all,’ you bite back, unable to stop yourself from grinning back at him. His smile is infectious. ‘Wait… are you suggesting there’ll be a next time?’

 

Jack raises his eyebrows as he considers you for a moment. ‘Only if you promise not to spit food on me again,’ he winks, holding out his arm for you.

 

‘You’re not taking me to a fucking ball or something are you?’ You laugh, eyeing up his suit as you take his arm.

 

‘This is what people wear on dates, isn’t it?’ He grins down at you. ‘Besides, you’re one to talk.’

 

‘This is nothing, you look like you’re attending an audition for the next James Bond movie!’ You giggle, nudging him playfully in the ribs with your elbow.

 

‘How do you know they didn’t model James Bond on me?’ He jokes, nodding to the waiter in the doorway who directs you to a candle-lit table in the corner.

 

‘Yeah you wish,’ you snort, taking your seat opposite Jack and reaching for the menu.

 

‘To be completely honest with you, I wouldn’t know what to wear on a date,’ he says suddenly seriously, picking up the menu in front of him.

 

‘What do you mean?’

 

Jack shoots you a furtive glance and you’re surprised to see a small blush growing on his cheeks as he looks down, flicking absentmindedly through the menu.

 

‘Well… I’ve never actually been on a date before,’ he mutters quietly, the humour gone from his voice as he looks up at you from beneath his eyelashes, watching your reaction.

 

‘Oh… that’s nothing to be ashamed of,’ you say nonchalantly. ‘I’ve never been on a date either.’

 

‘Really?’ He perks up, lowering the menu to stare at you. ‘How come?’

 

‘I don’t know… I’ve just never met anyone I fancied,’ you admit uncomfortably, your words reminding you of Daryl’s revelation last night. ‘What about you?’

 

‘Same here I guess,’ he shrugs, his smile returning to his face. ‘Have you ever kissed a guy?’

 

Your face suddenly burns as the memory of Rick’s lips on yours only hours ago suddenly swims to the front of your mind. Jack’s eyes narrow as he senses your embarrassment, but fortunately you’re saved by the waiter coming to take your order.

 

The rest of the evening passes in laughter and easy conversation, and you find yourself feeling inexplicably comfortable around Jack; his easy wit compliments your tendency to sway towards to sarcasm in social situations you usually find uncomfortable, which usually puts people off but in this case seems to do the opposite. You can sense that he might be into you, but there’s nothing like the electricity you’d felt with Rick. You feel horrible for thinking it but you just can’t seem to picture yourself kissing Jack the way you’d kissed Rick.

 

As though he’d read your mind, Jack brings the conversation back to dating just as you finish your pizzas, so you have no way to stall your responses. Pushing his plate away from him, he surveys you across the table. The humour is still in his voice but his eyes are serious.

 

‘You never answered my question…’ he starts, watching you carefully. ‘Have you ever been kissed?’

 

You take a long sip of your drink and place it slowly on the table, taking as much time as you could before answering with an awkward chuckle. ‘Well if you’d asked me that yesterday I would have to say no, I’ve never been kissed before.’

 

‘So you mean you kissed someone… today?’ Jack asks incredulously, his composure breaking.

 

‘I was going to tell you but, you know… this being a date, I didn’t know how to bring it up…’ you mutter, the blush creeping further up your cheeks in shame.

 

‘Hey it’s cool,’ he says with a casual wave of his hand. ‘I mean… we only just met, right? I didn’t really mean this to be like a date date, just a… getting to know you over some dinner kind of friend-date.’

 

‘Oh… right,’ you mumble, glancing up at him and trying to read him but he looks back at you with that same half-amused, half-exasperated expression as he’d given you when you’d spat food onto his face this morning. ‘I just thought because you’re in a suit and you talked about doing this again…’

 

‘Nah, you’re reading too much into it!’ He says airly, although you feel like there’s something hiding behind his eyes as he looks at you with a kind smile. ‘I just wanted to make a good impression. I’m not so good at making friends and I feel surprisingly at-ease around you.’

 

‘Aw,’ you grin, a warmth spreading through you at his words. ‘Me too, I’m shit at getting along with most people. Always been an outsider.’

 

‘Sounds like we’re made for each other, huh?’ He winks, raising his glass to you before taking a long sip. ‘So who was it then? Tell me, I’m on the edge of my seat!’

 

You take a deep breath, shut your eyes and whisper. ‘It was Rick.’

 

‘Our professor?’ Jack cries.

 

‘Shut up!’ You hiss, glancing anxiously around you.

 

‘Was that why he wanted to see you after class today?’ He whispers, leaning across the table towards you.

 

‘No actually,’ you reply indignantly. ‘He wanted to offer me extra lessons because my schoolwork was so good, he said he mentors one student a year who “shows potential”…’

 

‘Yeah but you know what that means, don’t you?’ Jack utters with a mischievous grin that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. You shake your head vigorously, the idea of it was ridiculous. ‘So how did it happen? Did you initiate it?’

 

‘No!’ You exclaim loudly and Jack shushes you with a frantic wave of his hands. ‘No, he came onto me… well, sort of,’ you mutter, your face burning. Jack’s eyes widen and you let out a sigh before telling him everything that had happened once Rick had brought you into his office.

 

‘… and he wants me to see him after school tomorrow. What the fuck am I meant to do?’ You ask anxiously. He considers you for a moment, the hint of a struggle on his face as though he’s trying to make his mind up about something. But he senses your distress and looks at you with kind concern in his eyes.

 

‘You don’t really have a choice but to go seeing as he’s your professor; he’ll only chase you down otherwise, unless you quit the class,’ you shake your head at that. ‘Good, because I need my lecture buddy,’ he says with a wink.

 

You return his smile then sigh, your face creasing with worry at the thought of what it could mean if you were to pursue this with Rick. Jack reaches across the table and takes your hand, rubbing his thumb soothingly over the back of it.

 

‘You just have to be straight up with him. I don’t reckon he’s a bad guy, but you should be careful. Just… do what your heart wants. I know that’s a ridiculously stupid, cheesy thing to say and you’re probably going to think I’m either stoned or nuts… but I’m a firm believer in following the heart over the head sometimes. Life doesn’t always have to be so calculated and you never know what might come of it.’

 

You meet his eyes and the warmth seems to build inside you. You’ve never met anyone who makes you feel so at home in your own skin. ‘I don’t really know what to say… thank you. Seriously.’

 

Jack smiles widely, his eyes crinkling at the corners. Then something behind you draws his gaze as he looks past you out of the window onto the street. Pulling his hand back quickly, he turns his head away towards the restaurant and puts his hand up to shield his face from view.

 

‘What is it?’ You whisper, turning around to look out of the window.

 

‘Don’t look now!’ Jack utters under his breath, but he’s too late. Walking up the sidewalk towards the restaurant is Rick, except he’s not alone. You just catch a glimpse of a tall, dark-haired man with salt-and-pepper stubble, wearing a tight leather jacket and a red neck-scarf. As they near your window you whip your head back round so fast that it clicks painfully. Grunting in pain, you keep facing Jack and out of the corner of your eye watch Rick and the tall man walk past the window. You’re just about to let out a sigh of relief until they come to a stop just a few feet away from the restaurant. Rick’s back is turned to you and the dark-haired man turns to face him so that he is directly in your eye-line.

 

‘Quick, make it look like we’re having a funny conversation or something!’ You whisper to Jack. He glances surreptitiously over his shoulder then turns back to you, his hand covering his mouth in mock shock as he lets out a gasp. ‘Oh stop being so dramatic,’ you hiss sarcastically.

 

‘Seems as though your problem’s solved,’ he chuckles. ‘Looks like a proper lovers’ spat they’re having out there.’

 

‘Who d’you reckon it is?’ You murmur, taking a leaf out of Jack’s book and raising your hand to block your face from the man’s view in case Rick turns around and spots you. With a quick peek you see the tall stranger gesticulating angrily at Rick, who points aggressively at the man’s chest.

 

And You get a better glimpse of the man’s face. You can’t help yourself from thinking how ridiculously attractive he is. He looks very different to Rick; his rugged features, strong stubbled jawline and slicked back black hair coupled with the tight leather jacket and jeans resting low down his waist give him a terrifying but powerful aspect. His expression is hard and foreboding, and you get the distinct impression that this was a man whom you did not want to cross.

 

‘Oh shit, Rick’s coming this way. Pretend you said something funny!’ You say quickly as Rick turns his back on the stranger and starts to walk back towards the restaurant.

 

‘Umm, I’m wearing a thong!’ Jack cries, drawing odd looks of the people sitting at the table next to you.

 

‘What the fuck?!’ You crack up, dropping your face into your hands and shaking your head.

 

‘It was the first thing I could think of!’ Jack laughs, throwing his hands up into the air indignantly.

 

‘What is wrong with you? Oh man…’ you chuckle, pretending to wipe away a tear. You look furtively out of the window, still laughing, and your eyes fall again upon the tall, dark-haired stranger. A quick glance over your shoulder tells you Rick is nowhere to be found. The stranger looks livid as he shoves his hand into his pocket and pulls out a packet of cigarettes and a lighter. He lights one up and rests against the wall Jack had sat on while he’d waited for you earlier. He takes a long drag and exhales, scanning around him. As his gaze turns towards the window you gasp and look hurriedly away, shifting slightly in your seat so all he’d see is the back of your head.

 

‘What’s happened?’ Jack whispers excitedly, looking out of the window towards the stranger. ‘Where’s Rick gone?’

 

‘No idea, looks like the other guy just broke up with him,’ you snicker, biting your lip as you turn to face Jack. You can see the stranger in your peripheral vision and he’s looking straight at you.

 

‘Guess he moves on fast — I think you might have caught his eye,’ Jack taunts, raising his eyebrows at you suggestively.

 

‘Fuck off,’ you retort, trying desperately to stop yourself from grinning.

 

You lower your face and rest your cheek on the back of your hand to hide the blush creeping up your skin as you look up from beneath your eyelashes, your eyes meeting the stranger’s just long enough to confirm Jack’s words. He’s looking at you with heavy-lidded eyes and a slightly arrogant smirk tugging his lips into a half-smile as he runs the tip of his tongue along his lower lip, sending your heart racing. He stands with the thumb of his free hand hooked into his belt-loop, his hips thrust slightly forwards as he leans sideways against the wall with one leg crossed in front of the other.

 

‘Aw Y/N, you’ve gone all red,’ Jack sniggers. You shoot him a dirty look and try to keep your gaze away from the tall stranger, but out of the corner of your eye you can see him watching you.

 

‘Are we done here?’ You say sternly, ignoring Jack’s teasing.

 

‘Sure,’ he chuckles, waving to the waiter who comes over with your check.

 

You leave the restaurant sticking closely by Jack’s side, avoiding the man’s stare and making a point of taking Jack’s hand and entwining your fingers through his as you walk down the street away from him. You can feel his gaze burning a hole in your back.

 

‘So… mine or yours?’ Jack asks, looking at you with a mischievous grin. Your eyes widen in response and he laughs.

 

‘Oh very funny,’ you snarl, rolling your eyes. ‘You’re my cover — I don’t want that guy following me home!’

 

‘Okay okay,’ he sighs. ‘But I expect at least a goodnight kiss if I’m taking you back to your dorm, it’s a long walk back to mine afterwards and it’s almost dark!’

 

‘No way in hell.’

 

‘Fine. But next time dinner’s on you,’ he winks, that infectious grin cracking your stern composure.

 

‘Alright,’ you sigh. ‘We have a deal.’