It had been a long road for them to get where they were.
First there was antagonism, Merle left behind in Atlanta.
Respect, for copping to leaving a man behind, for being willing to go and get the man back.
Loyalty, as the man did his damnedest to keep them alive, keep them safe, in food and shelter.
Then there were these other feelings, protective like a mother bear as Rick spiraled, lost and without an anchor in a pitiless world, compassion as the man finally broke, silent sobs falling from dry chapped lips as he huddled in the guard tower, Daryl's arm wrapped around his shoulders. Lust came as Rick pulled himself up by his bootstraps to deal with the Governor. A single word, a pervasive thought of mine.
Despair followed as he lost his family, the devastation only buoyed by Beth's presence, her loss pulled his heart as much as losing Ass Kicker, Carl, and Rick. Finding Rick and his family while he was with the Claimers was a pain he didn't know how to name.
Watching Rick tear out Job's throat was magnificent.
"You're my Brother," was a validation of everything he'd felt towards the man but at the same time it still wasn't enough, not quite close to what he really felt for the man. The betrayal he felt learning that Rick kissed Jessie after killing her husband, well, now he knew what he really felt for their leader, how much it could hurt.
The soft snow covering Alexandria painted their world a winter wonder land, a place untouched by the horrors outside of their walls and Daryl wasn't sure whether the setting was beautiful or misleading, having lived through all they have. Dawn was just breaking, the twilight lost somewhere between indigo and lavender, pinks and oranges slowly growing like vines through the snow heavy clouds. It was beautiful and horrid and everything in between.
It felt kind of like his feelings for Rick, beautiful yet dangerous, idyllic yet damning. He wasn't sure how to feel really, rueful and resigned or reluctantly betrayed and angry. It wasn't as if they were together, nothing like that but he had to go and have feelings for the man. A man with 2 children and a wife at one point, who was macking on the Blonde woman next door and really, he didn't have a hope in hell did he? He'd been falling for the bastard for months, probably for years the way it was gutting him now.
He didn't know what to do but damn did he wish for a smoke right now.
"She's a fickle bitch, ain't she?"
The words were quiet, the voice a low timber he'd been listening too for several years now and had only recently realized he wanted to hear it for the rest of his life. He turned slightly, cocking his head in question. Only their family understood his silent talking, body language and eyes movements from beneath lank oily hair.
“Mother Nature. She’s as beautiful as she is deadly, just like any other woman I suppose,” Rick walked to stand even with him, leaning against the guard to their porch, stance hipshot and loose, it made Daryl swallow, keeping his silence as he nodded.
“You know, Carol yelled at me earlier,” the non-sequitur threw Daryl for a moment. “She seems to think that you and I are together, which is interesting ‘cause as far as I know you’re straight. She seemed to think I was cheating on you with Jessie and while I will admit a passing attraction to the woman, she just isn’t who I’m interested in, the kiss was just to see if there was a way we could force ourselves to move on. Seems for as much an abusive asshole as he was she still loves him and I can’t for the life of me shake the feelings I’ve had for too long either.”
The quiet was almost deafening after that admission, almost like Rick was trying to suss out exactly where he’d gone wrong somewhere in the past few weeks, unsure as to how accurate Carol was or if it was wishful thinking on his part. The silenced stretched out between them in a way that was neither as comfortable as they were used to with each other nor was it uncomfortable. Really, it was like someone had put the air around them on pause, both of them looking out at the snow covering the home they were making within these walls.
Rick cleared his throat and shifted up right again, stance straight, more ridged than it had been around Daryl for a long while, “Right, well. I guess that’s that, just figured I’d explain myself before you and Michonne decided to tear me up one side and then down the other too.”
The curls bounced as Rick stopped stiff for a moment before he reached into his pocket, a deep breath being pulled in through his nose before he turned and set the small pack on the railing not a foot away from Daryl’s own hands, “Found these, they’re not Reds but I figured Camels would do ya well enough. No even that ‘Menthol shit’ you hate either.”
And Rick was just walking away, something defeated about him and his gait.
There was a crumpling sound as the pack was grabbed quickly and Daryl caught up with the older man and grabbed him by the shoulder, not turning him, just arresting his movement forward, grip as tight and harsh as his voice, “Ya figure out what ya needed with the blonde?”
Dusk blue eyes peaked out passed rampant curls and met Daryl’s own dawn blue, “I knew before hand, just wanted to know if I had a chance in case they don’t want me in return,” his eyes flicked towards Daryl’s knuckles, almost as white as the snow around him.
“You gotta good idea if they do now?”
Rick turned, Daryl’s hand falling to his side, trembling in the cold dawn air, “I may have an idea, but,” Rick stepped into Daryl’s personal space, crowding the man against the railing, Daryl’s elbows pushing the slowly falling snow to the ground as Rick nudged his way between the hunter’s thighs, “you’ll have to tell me if I’m right.”
One scarred hand wound its fingers through messy curls and pulled, lips connecting as another set of hands settled on the other’s hips. The kiss was soft, reassuring to both, as they finally fell into something that was as hard as it was easy for the both of them, and equal give and take like it had been from the beginning.
And as dawn passed into day the snow continued to fall.