The walkers had come out of nowhere, like in a magical trick, they suddenly were everywhere, surrounding them. There weren’t enough to call it a horde but there were still too many to try anything.
Daryl stabbed his way through the crowd trying to reach Paul who was fighting near the door of what appeared to be an old post office, kicking some heads in like the fricking ninja he was.
The scout then plunged his weapon into the temple of what must have been a woman once when the archer finally popped up beside him.
« There’s too many of ‘em assholes, go inside! »
Paul nodded, focused on the two walkers he was trying to keep as far as possible from himself and his teammate.
Daryl thrust his knife into what was probably the empty orbit of a geek, but the thing was so old it was hard to tell. Some were so emaciated that it’d become difficult to even recognize a human shape.
He was disgusted by the sound the movement produced. The whole world now smelled like human decay.
After a few minutes of fierce battle, Daryl eventually grabbed Paul by the shoulder and pulled him inside the building. They immediately threw themselves on the door to block it, the muscles on their arms stretched by the effort that it represented.
Everything happened then very quickly.
A dead man in an old uniform who seemed pleased to receive a visit appeared behind Paul, grabbed his arm and dipped all his teeth on his prey. Paul uttered a cry of surprise mixed with pain and quickly got rid of the thing by throwing his head on the door they had managed to keep closed.
Daryl felt his thoughts jostling in his mind. He was shaking like a leaf and it was not just due to the rather impressive resistance of the walkers. He suddenly had a huge ball of emotions stuck in his throat and it made him want to throw up everything he had been eating since last year.
Paul had been bitten on the arm. With a bit of luck – Ha! As if there was still such a thing as luck in this goddamn world- if they acted quickly, he could save him. He only had to cut above the elbow, just to be sure. Right, he just had to cut Paul’s arm. Easy peasy. He only needed to make a tourniquet with his belt, roughly clean his knife, find something solid for Paul to bite onto, and cut clean.
And he had to act right this second.
Noticing the cabinet on his right, he motioned to Paul. They knew each other for a long time now and it sure as hell wasn’t the first time they carried out this kind of mission together so they no longer needed words to understand each other. The scout shifted his weight against the door and moved into position to replace Daryl.
After some effort, the archer managed to push the piece of furniture against the wooden panel.
Panting, Paul took a step back but did not go any further: Daryl was on him before he could just blink.
"Show me your arm," the archer darted on him a hallucinated look. With both hands, he frantically sought to reach the wound of the youngest man and it took him a few seconds to realize that if he did not find anything, it was because there was actually nothing to find.
He looked up and their eyes met.
"I'm fine, Daryl, it did not bite through. Leather coat, remember? I'll only have one hell of a bruise tomorrow. I'm fine. "
As the eldest was obviously not convinced by the soothing tone he had tried to adopt, he opened his mouth to ask him to breathe deeply through his nose but he did not have the opportunity to do so because Daryl was suddenly kissing him. Full on the mouth. With a fierce passion and a nimble tongue. The kind of kiss he had not given him since he asked him to take a break last year after Negan was defeated.
Paul was lost. Confused and actually rather upset. He harshly pushed Daryl away and gave him a cold look before turning away.
"I take the first watch. Relay me in two hours. "
The archer immediately followed suit. The call had been too close and right now? He needed to have Paul in his field of vision. And obviously they had to talk. They should have had this conversation months ago and to be honest, Daryl was tired of procrastinating.
He had been a damn pussy about it, about his… feelings for Paul, and it needed to stop right the fuck now.
He reached his hand out, aiming to grab the scout’s elbow.
“Please… just let me talk to you!”
Paul brushed him off without glancing at him.
“Oh, so now you want to talk?”
Daryl huffed in frustration and in two long strides, he was in front of the scout, forcing him to stop.
Paul balled his fists, not sure if he should try and take a swing at the guy yet or not. Finally he just looked away.
“Is this a game for you? You think you can play it off and on with me whenever you feel like it?”
“What? No, come on!”
Still not over his earlier fright, he raised his hand, needing some kind of physical reassurance that Paul was really there, safe and alive. Paul slapped it away, glaring, and hissed a low “Don’t.” and Daryl got the message loud and clear. The most important person in his life was definitely alive, and damn was he pissed. That just couldn’t end well for his sorry ass.
He braced himself, thinking “Yeah, here we go, we’re gonna be at each other’s throat in about 3, 2, 1…”
“I still love you, you know.”
Daryl froze. That wasn’t at all what he had expected to hear –in fact he never had expected anything really, kissing Paul back then had been a surprise even for him- but he liked it very much. Trying not to overthink it, he gulped down, at a loss about how to answer because damn, he was still Daryl fucking Dixon and he didn’t know shit about… well, feelings.
His heart was doing weird things in his ribcage, like it was trying to escape or something. And Paul was looking at him now, with so much green in his unfairly huge eyes he thought he wouldn’t be able to make out any other color from now on. It was ridiculous. He was a grown ass man for fuck sake!
He knew Paul was still waiting for him to find his voice and in his hurry to answer something – anything! - He blurted out:
“I thought you forgot about me.”
Okay, that wasn’t so bad actually. He did thought that the ninja had moved on from… Whatever it was they once had. In all fairness, he had put a lot of effort into trying not to think too much about how Paul had probably found what he deserved with someone that wasn’t him. Because back in the day, he had been a fucking broken mess and he hadn’t wanted to let the smaller man go down with him. He’d never known after that, if Paul had been seeing someone else or not. He hadn’t been sure about his ability to handle the answer.
So yeah, it was kind of a surprise to him, hearing that maybe, after all this time – a fucking year for Christ’s sake! - He still had a place somewhere in Paul’s heart.
Fuck. He was such a sap. A sap, and an absolute ass.
Paul looked… sad. Like he had no fight left in him anymore and that was another unsuspected mindfuck for Daryl. Paul, with his Jesus persona, was always fighting against something, someone or himself when he ran out of external stimulation.
The scout sighed and crossed his arms on his chest in an unconscious attempt to protect himself from that whole conversation.
“But you’re not that easy to forget, I guess.”
Again, Daryl had no idea what to say. He wanted to make things better for Paul, hell even for himself, but he had no idea where to begin. So he just kept staring at the scout from under his long bangs, silently pleading the ninja to keep talking, to guide him in the right direction.
But of course for once in his life, Paul stayed silent. He sat down of the floor, back against the wall, and closed his eyes. He felt exhausted, like talking about love – because it really was what this was all about, right? - To Daryl had drained him of his strength.
After a minute, Daryl sat down beside him, their shoulders touching. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he noticed that this time Paul wasn’t escaping his touch and he almost sagged in relief. He really, really liked touching Paul.
Curiously, the silence wasn’t heavy or uncomfortable. Paul had said what he’d needed to say, and Daryl had heard him.
Outside, the sun was starting to set, casting a warm orange glow in the room. Daryl noticed that from this angle and with this light, Paul’s hair looked like sweet honey.
He craved it suddenly. The easy familiarity he had with him. The habit he had of noticing little things about Paul to store it in his mind for later use. He realized then that it was exactly what he had just done with his hair: He noticed a cute detail and kept it away to use it latter as a nice thing to look at, saving it for rainy days. Good Lord, he was so screwed.
“I do, too.”
The scout opened his tired eyes and arched an eyebrow at him, silently questioning. Daryl felt his heart melt. He really wanted to kiss his eyelids and let him sleep until shit were settled. Instead, he cleared his throat and played with his shoe.
“You know… Love you?”
Paul’s hand found his on his ankle and Daryl honestly couldn’t tell which one of them entwined their fingers together. It felt nice. Warm.
Then Paul’s head was against his and he was afraid to breath and scare him away. When he expired and nothing happened, he felt free to nudge his cheek into Paul’s hair, enjoying the softness and the smell of it for the first time since way too long. He definitely was in love with the guy.
“What do we do now?”
He finally – finally! – Kissed the top of Paul’s head and carded all five fingers through the golden bangs, putting it clumsily back behind his ears. Paul replied by taking his hand and kissing his palm with a tender smile. They had no idea what the future could be made of, but they made their choice: they were gonna find out together.
They settled back down, side by side, holding hands, and waited for the night to fall and the walkers to wander off.