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Trinity ~ Rixonne

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Michonne

 

The afternoon sun is on the wane, hanging low in the sky like a malignant orange blot on an otherwise perfect sky, its glare causing Michonne to squint as she comes into view of the prison’s familiar fences. Her mount shifts under her, tossing his head once he has home in his sights and chomping at his bit.

“Easy boy,” she soothes, stretching out a gloved hand to pat his neck. “We still have to get past the uglies at the gate first. Let’s not screw up this close to home, whadya say?”

The horse quietens at the calming tone of her voice, steadying his pace as she rises up in the saddle to signal whoever is on duty in the tower that she’s coming in. she thinks it might be Glenn but it’s hard to tell with the way the fiery sunlight is glinting off the windows up there. What she can make out is his acknowledging wave back at her and she spurs the horse forward into a fast canter as she hears him shout down for the gate to be opened. Michonne holds her breath as they head for the narrow entryway, easily bypassing the two walkers which start shuffling in her direction, and doesn’t exhale until she hears the metal clang shut behind her. Only then does she let herself relax, if only a fraction, her body no longer knowing what it feels like to be on complete shutdown from the wariness that keeps her every muscle tense and alert 24-7. As she dismounts, she realizes she doesn’t even know the name of the woman who opened the gate to let her in although she recognized her as another one of Daryl and Glenn’s new recruits.

She rolls her neck as she leads her horse back to the stable in the middle of the prison’s once open plot of land – now a mish-mash of hastily built livestock pens and neatly tilled rows of every type of vegetable she can name. As she takes care of her mount she smiles to herself, thinking of Rick in his new role as farmer extraordinaire and how he's thrown himself into it with the same intensity that he applies to everything else. Her smile fades a little as she catches sight of the blasted guard tower from the corner of her eye, its top completely irreparable, and she knows that everything they have right now – the roof over their head, the thriving farm in their backyard – is all built on fragile foundations that could be ripped away from them at any second. There are always going to be people out there looking to take it from them, people like the Governor who won’t hesitate to kill them all if he thinks they’re standing between him and what he wants. And that’s why she's still making these trips – she knows in her heart that he isn’t gone, not for good anyway and she’d rather die out there on the road trying to find him than to let him hurt one hair on her family’s head again. He'd already taken the most precious friend she’d ever had away from her, driving a wedge between them that they never had a chance to put right until it was too late for either of them. She’d be damned if she ever let him or anyone like him take somebody she loved away from her again.

Feeling like a dark cloud has descended over her head, she grabs the meager amount of supplies she picked up while she was outside from her saddlebags and heads up to the prison itself. She wonders how come Carl hasn’t come to meet her like he usually does, a sudden tightening around her heart making her chest ache as she hopes that he’s okay. It loosens a little as she glances at the sky and realizes that everyone is probably inside already preparing dinner – the nights starting to be a little too cool to eat outside anymore. Not everyone is inside though, she thinks as she nears the imposing brick buildings and hears the familiar thump of a basketball hitting concrete off to her left, around to the side of ‘C’ block. Quietly she moves in the direction of the sound, peering cautiously around the corner and then stepping out when she sees who’s there. Rick and Daryl are engaged in a rambunctious game of one-on-one, the battered hoop attached to the wall at one end of the exercise yard vibrating as Rick slams the basketball through it and turns to crow in Daryl’s face.

In the rapidly fading light, Michonne makes her way silently to the benches along the wall, dropping her pack to the ground by her feet and stretching out her long legs in front of her. Neither of the men have spotted her yet, as engrossed as they are in their game and she takes her time to drink in their appearance. She’s never labelled herself as a voyeur but if someone was to ask her then she guesses she would have to admit that’s what she is. She likes to think of herself as a connoisseur of the human form, be it male or female, in all its shapes and sizes – her love of art before the apocalypse giving her an appreciation for the intricacies of the way a body works. But even before that, as a teenager, she was always content to be the one sitting on the bleachers in high school watching the boys play basketball or the cheerleaders practicing their routines – a soft ache at her core as she watched the youthful bodies of her peers in all their athletic glory. And now she likes to watch Rick and Daryl, whether they’re out on a run – hunting in tandem as a well-oiled machine – or while Rick is farming and Daryl is tinkering with his bike. Getting to watch them play like this though is a special treat for her and she parts her lips in a small smile as her eyes adjust to the dying light and she gets to appreciate the show before her.

Rick’s shirt is off, his black jeans slung low on his narrow hips despite the thick belt that’s cinched around his waist. His dark curls are plastered to his head and Michonne can see the sheen of sweat painting his torso as he dodges under Daryl’s outstretched arm. Her eyes linger on his face for a moment, re-familiarizing herself with his features and her lips quirk up the tiniest bit more as she wonders how long he’s planning on keeping the beard he’s been cultivating as carefully as one of his plants. She still hasn’t decided if she likes it yet – she kind of misses the strong lines of his face – but she has to admit there is something about it that makes her think twice every time she chides him for not having shaved. Daryl, however, loves it and has made it quite clear from the start, not vocally of course but in his own less than subtle way – tugging gently on it whenever Rick comes near or scratching at his own face as though he’s constantly contemplating growing his own.

An incredibly loud grunt to rival that of any walker comes from the man in question, Michonne’s eyes pulling reluctantly away from Rick’s face to land squarely on Daryl’s arms. Naturally his shirt is still on, even with only him and Rick out here she knows he's too self-conscious to take it off – the roadmap of his scars standing out starkly in her mind’s-eye for a moment. But, as is his own inimitable style, there’s not many things that will persuade him to leave the sleeves on any of his shirts, not even when Michonne brings him back new ones from her solo trips and he knows that she’s carefully chosen the color or the weight of the material with him in mind. She’ll still find him with his knife in hand, methodically cutting along the shoulder seams before he’ll even consent to try it on. It’s not a vanity thing by any means, the thought that Daryl Dixon might have an ounce of vanity anywhere in his body almost causes her to laugh out loud. He tells her that it’s to improve his range of movement, that he needs to be fluid in his actions when he’s in a fight situation. Michonne always bites her tongue and resists pointing out the flaw in his logic whenever she sees him wearing the battered leather jacket that he loves so much, knowing it will only earn her one of his trademark scowls. Besides, it’s not like she’s complaining about his fashion choice in any way – she may not be as shallow as she once was a long time ago but she’s still a red-blooded woman and she’ll be the first to admit that Daryl’s arms are a finely-sculpted work of art. She thinks the rest of him is pretty easy on the eyes too although, the one time she told him that, he’d scoffed at her and told her she better quit teasing him if she knew what was good for her. Tonight his hair is scraped back into a messy ponytail, something he’d only recently taken to doing and, as far as Michonne knew, not one person had dared to make a comment on it. Personally, she found it as sexy as hell, loving the way it accentuated his features and yet still left him with that dangerous edge she knew was always just below the surface.

As the full moon rises to illuminate the scene more clearly before her, she watches them intently as they fight for dominance over the orange ball between them. It’s become one of their rituals to blow off steam – she’s not even sure how it started and she certainly would have never pegged either one of them as basketball players and yet somehow it had happened and it had brought out a competitive streak in the pair of them a mile wide. She grins as she observes them now, the fluid lines of their bodies working against each other as they use every dirty trick in the book to get the upper hand. It’s Daryl that spots her first, his body stiffening for an instant as his brain processes her shadowy form as a friend not a foe and then relaxing again.

“Well look who decided to join us,” he throws out with just enough of a hint of genuine accusation in his tone that Michonne flinches a little mentally.

She knows that he’s not happy about her little excursions and she has yet to find a suitable way to make him understand why it is that she needs to go. Rick’s head has whipped round at Daryl’s greeting and Michonne watches as his eyes narrow, knowing that he’s assessing her, checking for any visible signs of trauma or distress. She gives him a half smile and the worry lines disappear from his brow as he returns it with one of his own.

“Well, well, well,” he says and she can hear the warmth underneath his words that let her know he’s happy she’s home and in one piece. “We thought you’d forgotten where you lived. Daryl and I were just speculating that maybe you’d found a sugar daddy to take care of you and you didn’t need us anymore.”

“Oh, I’m still lookin’, just didn’t find him yet,” she replies and she sees him incline his head slightly at the duality of her words.

“Carl’s gonna be pleased to see you anyway. He’s been busting my chops all the time you’ve been gone about when you’ll be back.”

“He okay?” Michonne asks, already knowing that it would have been the first thing Rick told her if he wasn’t but she still wanted to hear it out loud.

“He’s fine,” Rick tells her softly and she feels her insides unclench just a fraction more. “Everyone’s fine. Well except for Dixon here who’s getting his ass handed to him.”

“Pfft… in your dreams, pretty boy,” Daryl snorts, shooting the ball in his hands hard at Rick’s midriff but Rick just catches it with a small smirk on his face.

“You playin’?” Daryl asks gruffly and she can hear the real question behind his words – “Are you staying this time?”

“Maybe for a little while,” she answers him honestly. “Who’s winning?”

“I am,” they say in unison and Michonne doesn’t manage to hide her smile this time.

“Okay, well while you two figure it out, I’ll just be over here enjoying the view.”

Rick bounces the ball a couple of times against the hard concrete and grins dangerously at Daryl before launching himself forward, throwing an elbow at Daryl's’ face as he tries to block him, and pounding for the net. Daryl curses loudly and throws himself after him but it’s too late and, with a triumphant yell, Rick jumps to slam the ball home.

“Ha! In your face, Dixon,” he crows, puffing up his chest and crowding into Daryl’s personal space.

Michonne can count the number of people Daryl will allow to get that close to him on one hand and she watches as he good-naturedly shoves Rick away from him with a muttered “Fuck you”.

“I guess it’s just me and you then,” Rick tells Michonne, pushing his hand back through his damp hair and giving her a look that promises more than just a friendly game of basketball.

“Looks that way,” she replies, standing to slip her katana from her back and lay it reverently on the bench behind her.

She stretches her arms, one over the other, to warm her muscles, feeling a little stiff from the three days she’s just spent in the saddle.

“Kick his ass,” Daryl instructs as he slouches past her to sprawl out on the bench in her vacant spot.

Michonne catches his scent as she steps forward – a combination of sweat, dirt and leather even when he’s not wearing it – a scent so innately Daryl that she feels her mouth moisten at even the merest hint of it, remembering how it smells to have that scent covering her skin. Blowing out a steadying breath, she squares off in front of Rick, wiping any emotion from her face as she looks him in the eye.

“Ready?” he asks, his blue eyes twinkling with mirth, “or do you need a little more time to warm up, princess?”

Michonne doesn’t let him bait her, not even dignifying his question with an answer, just snatching the ball deftly from his hands and pivoting away from him to cover the space between her and the net in a heartbeat and pitch the ball through the hoop.

“Nah, I think I’m good,” she tosses back at him as she grabs the ball on its downward trajectory and bounces it single-handedly against the concrete.

Before Rick has a chance to recover his pride, with Daryl’s low chuckle emanating around the walled enclosure, they’re interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps and all three turn as one to see who’s coming. Maggie steps around the corner of the building into sight, her pretty face lighting up as she catches sight of Michonne who returns her welcoming smile.

“When did you get back?” Maggie asks, her eyes shining in the moonlight.

“Just a little while ago. I was coming in but then these two jackasses decided they needed a lesson in getting their butts kicked so I got a little held up.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re home,” Maggie laughs and then turns to fix Rick with a stern look. “Daddy sent me to tell you that dinner’s almost ready and if you boys aren’t there by the time he dishes it up, he’s feeding your share to Violet.”

Rick chuckles softly and a shiver ripples across Michonne’s flesh at the sound, the hair on the back of her neck standing to attention.

“Tell Hershel we’ll be right in but we should take a shower first or he won’t be able to tell us from Violet anyway.”

Maggie nods, giving Michonne’s arm a quick squeeze before she leaves and Michonne wonders how it was possible for these people to have become her family so damn fast.

“C’mon,” Daryl says, stowing the basketball back in its usual spot under the bench, “let’s go wash up so we can eat. I’m starvin’.”

“Wait,” Michonne answers, pulling her bag up from the seat and hefting her sword in one hand, “do my ears deceive me? Did I hear Daryl Dixon actually volunteering to take a shower? Damn! Exactly how long was I out there for?”

She hears Rick give another of those low chuckles as Daryl glowers at her for a moment before pushing past her, the heat from his bare arm setting sparks against her own.

“Well, given the right motivation, I’m pretty sure you could get him to volunteer for just about anything,” Rick whispers, stepping up beside her, his hand coming to rest at the small of her back with an easy familiarity as he guides her forward.

As they follow Daryl into the prison, heading to the shower block, Michonne feels a thrill of anticipation tingling along her spine, knowing that as much as she likes to watch them, they like to watch her too. She suddenly feels as if she’s been away from them for far too long even though she was only gone for a few days and, although their time is short right now, she allows herself a small smile at the thought of the reunion she knows they’ll share later that night when the rest of the world is sleeping and it’s just the three of them once more – just the way she likes it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daryl

Daryl has always been the victim of their jokes from the very beginning and he’s still not really sure how that happened but he doesn’t care in the slightest that it did – not that he'd admit that to anyone of course, to everyone else he curses and complains every time it occurs. Coming from Rick and Michonne he knows there’s not an ounce of malice involved in any part of it and, in a strange way, it makes him feel closer to them. The fact that either one or both of them spent long enough thinking about him to concoct a plan to make him smile makes him feel like he’s a part of their family even if he’s the one being routinely humiliated in front of everyone else. He’s fully aware that Michonne is the mastermind behind each of their pranks although he’s quite sure Rick has some hand in it too, neither of them able to keep the sly smirks from their faces once something is in motion.

The first time it happens he doesn’t know what to do when he arrives at his bunk to find all his earthly possessions neatly packaged in yards and yards of cling wrap. Everything from his clothes to his crossbow are tightly wound with the clear plastic and placed back in their original positions. It’s stupid, petty and it’s going to take him an age to undo so his first emotion is that of seething anger as it brings up associations in his mind that he’d rather forget. Merle had used to prank him all the time when they were younger but with spiteful tricks like tying his laces together while he slept so that he would trip the second Merle yelled for him to be on his feet or pulling out his chair as he was about to sit down causing him to crack his tailbone on more than one occasion. They were gags that were designed to hurt and humiliate him as much as possible and, if there had been an audience present to witness his downfall, then even better in Merle’s eyes. He'd always claimed he was toughening up his little brother for the world outside and woe betide if he ever saw tears in Daryl’s eyes or if he ever went telling on Merle to their mama.

Cursing under his breath, convinced that this must have been Carl or one of the other kids, Daryl bursts from his cell fully intending to find the culprit and tear them a new one before dragging them back here to make it right. Only he comes face to face with Michonne instead, standing casually outside his door and one look at her face tells him all he needs to know, his anger transitioning into a kind of confused hurt instead.

“What the fuck?” he barks at her, watching as the smile dies on her face.

“It was just a jo-,” she starts to say, her brow creasing a little between her eyes.

“Yeah, well I ain’t laughin’,” he mutters, moving to push past her.

“Daryl, wait,” she says softly, raising a hand to lay on his chest. “I’m sorry. I thought it would make you smile.”

She's one of the few people he allows to touch him – wants to touch him – and the warmth of her skin through his threadbare shirt coupled with the look of regret in her eyes makes him hesitate.

“Why?” he asks simply.

“Because that’s what friends do, Daryl, they play pranks and they tell jokes and they try to make the people they love smile even if it’s just for a minute. And I don’t think there’s anybody who needs to smile more than we do. I didn’t mean for it to make you mad or upset you, that was never my intention.”

He stares silently into her guileless eyes for a moment, her words and her tone having taken the anger out of his heart and turned it into something else.

“I guess it is kinda funny,” he tells her after a minute, giving a little snort and seeing the smile break on her face again as she pats her hand against his chest. “Did you do all that by yourself?”

“Had a little help,” she smirks and he makes a mental note to deal with Rick later. “C’mon, I’ll help you unwrap it and then maybe we can find a little something else for you to unwrap.”

She throws a wink at him over her shoulder as she turns back to his cell and Daryl feels his face flush as his eyes come to rest on her shapely rear. He’s still not used to her flirting with him – any more than he is with Rick doing it either but he’s sure as hell starting to like it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next time it happens is when the three of them are out on a run together, bedded down for the night in a barn that is throwing up too many reminders of Hershel’s farm for Daryl’s liking. It’s making him edgy and he blames that distraction for him not paying attention to the shit-eating grin that’s plastered on Rick’s face as he hands him a bowl of beans for his dinner. He’s already swallowed his first mouthful and is working on shoveling in his second when the taste of fire explodes in his mouth and he suddenly feels like his head is ablaze. He shoots a glance across the fire at his companions but both of them are studiously concentrating on their own meals. Swallowing the mouthful of liquid napalm that feels like it’s dissolving his tongue, Daryl knows he has two choices – he can either play along and give the reaction they’re looking for or he can act like nothing is wrong and force himself to eat Satan’s beans. Giving a mental sigh he shoots to his feet, tossing his bowl to the floor and cursing wildly before grabbing his water bottle and chugging back half its contents in one go. Lowering his bottle and swiping at his lips with the back of his hand, he glowers down at Rick and Michonne who have abandoned their own meals in favor of laughing hysterically at him. He lets them get it all out, keeping up his grumpy façade as he sits back down and helps himself to another serving of beans ignoring the bottle of hot sauce that Rick is waving in his face. As he eats, eyeing them both over the edge of his bowl, he realizes that Michonne is right – that this is what friends do, they share the good times along with the bad and he’s more than willing to let them have their fun at his expense if it means he gets to hear them laugh like they are now.

And so it becomes part of their routine as much as sharing themselves with each other has become and Daryl finds himself out on runs with nothing in his saddlebags but Judith’s dirty diapers or wakes up in the morning to brush his teeth only to find his toothbrush has been liberally dosed with cayenne pepper. He takes each thing in his stride, doling out angry curses and threats but secretly wondering what crazy idea the pair of them are going to come up with next. His breaking point finally comes one afternoon when Rick asks him to meet him out at the pigpen, telling him he needs help with some repairs to their homemade shelter. When Daryl arrives there’s nobody in sight so he opens the gate to the small, muddy yard thinking that Rick might already be inside the low-roofed building. Securing the gate behind him, he turns around and that’s when he spots Violet waddling out to greet him in the hopes that he’s brought her a treat, looking resplendent in Daryl’s beloved poncho and he hears Rick and Michonne’s unbridled peals of laughter shattering the afternoon’s stillness behind him. This time he doesn’t even dignify them with a response, he just calmly exits the pen without a word and heads back to the prison. Even though Rick sheepishly hands him back the freshly laundered poncho the next day and he and Michonne more than adequately make it up to him that night, for the first time, Daryl is plotting his revenge.

Although he’s known Rick longer and it would probably be a hell of a lot easier to come up with a prank to play on him, Daryl has his sights set on Michonne – he knows she’s the instigator of their little two-man game of ‘let’s torment Daryl’ and he wants his payback to come at her expense. The only problem with that is there’s nothing that really fazes Michonne and, if it does, she keeps it well hidden behind that stoic ninja-like façade of hers. But Daryl learned patience at a very early age, how to observe his prey and expose their weaknesses so that he could use them to his advantage and that’s how, two weeks later, he finally learns something about Michonne that sparks an idea for revenge in his brain.

They’re out together alone, not far from the prison, gathering more wood that’s been cut to shore up the fence. Michonne is standing up on the roof of the pick-up’s cab, keeping watch while he tosses the poles into the flat bed at the back. He’s just heaving the last one in when he sees her jump, swaying on the roof as she frantically bats her hands across her torso and gives a series of small shrieks. He rushes around to the front of the truck just in time to grab her as she slides down to the ground.

“What’s wrong?” he asks urgently, feeling her tremble under his hands as he searches to see if she’s hurt.

“Nothing,” she tells him sharply, pushing his hands away and straightening the sword at her back.

“Don’t look like nothin’,” he replies, noticing the fresh beads of sweat standing out on the smooth skin of her chest just above the torn neckline of her tank top.

“I’m okay, it was just a …” she begins then falters and he can see her debating as to whether she should continue so he waits patiently. “It was a spider, alright? A huge bitch-ass spider that dropped from the damn tree and landed on me. It just took me by surprise is all.”

“A spider?” Daryl asks, trying to suppress the laughter that’s bubbling in his chest.

“Yes, a spider,” Michonne snaps, giving another involuntary shudder. “I hate them, okay, with their unnecessary amount of legs and the way they cling to you. Ugh”

She gives herself a little shake, the revulsion on her face clear for Daryl to see and, while he outwardly sympathizes with her, internally his mind is gleefully turning over this newfound knowledge.

As sheer luck would have it and Daryl has to believe that even fate smiles kindly on a lowly redneck such as himself sometimes, he’s out on a supply run with Glenn and Maggie the following day when they pass a small strip mall housing a toy store and Daryl waves them in. He tells them he wants to pick up something for Judith and sees them exchanging curious glances, Maggie throwing a knowing smile at Glenn, but they agree to go check out the other stores on the strip while he forces his way inside the darkened toy store. It’s pretty much untouched, a slight smell of damp lingering on the musty air and Daryl has to push away the swell of sadness that rises in him as he looks at the displays of brightly-colored toys and games that will never have children to play with them. At least there’s a handful of children at the prison that he knows will enjoy them, he thinks, as he fills a box with an array of toys for them. With that taken care of, he takes a few minutes to wander the aisles, shining his flashlight along the neat shelves until he comes across what he’s looking for.

“Jackpot,” he whispers into the silence, grinning as he lifts the box from the shelf and pushes it way down into his pack.

Dawn is just a glimmer on the horizon the next morning as Daryl carefully creeps his way along to Michonne’s cell, listening intently outside until he’s sure that she’s still asleep before he pushes aside the curtain covering the doorway and slips inside. He lets his eyes adjust to the dim light for a second even though he knows her space as intimately as his own and then, holding his breath as he moves, he steps closer to her sleeping form and gingerly places the life-size rubber tarantula he got from the toy store on the pillow in front of her face. He almost ruins the whole thing by letting loose the laugh that’s building in his throat and quickly has to exit the cell with his hand clamped over his mouth, feeling his eyes water with his contained mirth. Stepping away from the cell, he backs up against the opposite wall, staking his spot for the show he knows is coming.

It’s not long before the sun’s rays light the high windows of the cell block and he hears the first stirrings of his family coming to life to start a new day. Rick appears in the doorway to his cell, rubbing a hand roughly over the grizzled beard on his chin as he yawns widely. Catching sight of Daryl standing against the wall, he shuffles over, his fingers still absent-mindedly scratching at the growth on his face and Daryl fleetingly wonders if he’d be able to get away with taking a razor to half of Rick’s beard without waking him.

“What’s going on?” Rick asks, his voice still thick with sleep and Daryl inhales the morning scent of him as he moves into Daryl’s personal space.

Before he can respond the sound of a blood-curdling scream echoes off of the stone walls and he sees Rick reach instinctively for the gun he stopped wearing a long time ago. The scream is followed by the familiar clang of a metal sword clattering onto concrete and Daryl stretches out a hand to stop Rick from running to Michonne’s cell, silencing his unspoken question with a shake of his head. The curtain covering her doorway is yanked open and she barrels out, dressed in nothing except the boyshorts and tank top she likes to sleep in. Her eyes lock on Daryl’s and she shoves her way past the small knot of people who have suddenly appeared, weapons at the ready, obviously drawn by her screams. Rick sidesteps as she approaches which Daryl thinks is a wise move given the look of murderous intent that’s etched on her face and he plants his feet ready for her onslaught. She pushes into his personal space, heat radiating from her skin and a dangerous glint in her eyes as she stares him down for a full minute before stepping back. Holding up the rubber spider in front of his face, she systematically tears off each of its legs with her bare hands and then tosses the remnants against his chest before turning and stalking back to her cell, closing the curtain behind her. Rick gives a low whistle and shakes his head.

“You’re lucky she didn’t kill you, brother,” he chuckles softly.

“She still might,” Daryl responds, pitching his voice low. “There’s a whole box of ‘em under my bunk.”

He walks out of the cellblock with Rick’s muffled laughter following him and a satisfied smile on his face even though he knows their little game is far from over.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rick

If anyone was to ask Rick how his relationship with Daryl and Michonne began he would tell them it all began with a pig, he thinks, well four pigs if you want to be precise but only one of them showed him something he thought he was never going to have again in his life.

They were on a mission, the three of them – Rick, Daryl and Michonne – following up after a scouting party had discovered a group of domesticated pigs foraging in the woods near a farm not too far from the prison. Miraculously they had somehow managed to survive becoming a meal for any flesh-hungry walkers in the area along with a half-dozen or so chickens the group had found still wandering among the abandoned farm buildings. The birds had been relatively easy to catch and were now securely housed in the prison’s coop but the transport of the pigs had proven a little more problematic. While the distance from the farm to the prison wasn’t that great as the crow flies, the last thing Rick wanted to try was driving them through the woods on foot as this would be a sure-fire way to draw every walker in the area to them. So he had decided to take a car back out to the farm to check what vehicles, if any, were still there and if they were still in working order. Carl had naturally volunteered to come with him but Rick had declined – he wasn’t ready for that yet, hell, this was his own first time outside the safety of their walls since the Governor’s attack. Daryl, of course, wasn’t letting Rick go anywhere without him so the two of them had loaded up one of the cars with extra cans of gasoline and had been just about to leave when Michonne had come riding up to the gates, back from one of the solo trips she seemed to be taking more and more frequently since the Governor’s disappearance. Rick had taken one look at the frustration and weariness that was evident on her face and insisted that she come along with him and Daryl, thinking that having a hand in a problem she could actually solve might lift her spirits a little. 

There’s a light rain coming down as they arrive at the abandoned farmstead and they make sure that the location is secure first, quickly dispatching the few walkers they find roaming behind the rundown animal pens. While Daryl heads out to scout for the pigs, Rick and Michonne check out the vehicles lined up at the back of the farmhouse. There’s a battered flatbed with a cage welded to it that’s obviously been used to transport livestock but the tank has been bled dry along with the other vehicles parked alongside it. Michonne empties the gas they brought with them into the tank while Rick pops the hood to take a look at the engine. Although this is really Daryl’s area of expertise, Rick knows enough of the basics to look over the engine and make sure everything is in working order. Satisfied that the engine is in pretty good shape despite the age of the truck, he lowers the hood to find Michonne has slipped into the driver’s seat where she smiles at him and jangles a set of keys that he’s guessing she found inside the cab.

“Give her a go,” he tells her, wiping his hands on his thighs before leaning through the open window beside her. “No reason I can see that she shouldn’t start.”

Michonne turns the key and, after a moment’s silence, the engine roars to life as if it had only been used the day before and hadn’t been sitting idle for months.

“Yes!” Rick exclaims, grinning at Michonne and getting one of her full smiles in return.

“Let’s go see if Daryl has found those pigs,” she tells him, cutting the engine and stepping down out of the truck. “Try to figure out how we’re going to load them up.”

They set off together, falling into step side by side as they round the corner of one of the buildings and see something that stops them both in their tracks. Coming across the overgrown field of grass in front of them is Daryl, crossbow cocked in one hand and a length of rope coiled around the other, its end tied around the neck of a large pig which is trotting contentedly after him. As if that image wasn’t bizarre enough, trailing behind them are three more fully grown pigs, one obviously heavily pregnant which is bringing up the rear. Looking to Michonne, Rick can see the delight on her face, her smile shining like a beacon as she glances back at him and he shakes his head, unable to stop his own grin as he watches Daryl leading his little band towards them. He tenses briefly as he spots a lone walker shambling out of the trees behind the small group, making a beeline for the pigs ahead of it, but Daryl obviously hears it and turns to casually take care of it with a well-aimed bolt, never breaking his stride.

Rick and Michonne watch as he leads the pigs over to what was once their home, stepping through the broken fence into the slick mud to tie up the one he’s leading to the inside of the fence. He waits until the other three are inside, instinctively heading to their empty feed trough, then he unties the leader and circles around them to exit, Rick coming over to help him barricade the hole in the fence.

“How in the hell did you..?” Rick asks, leaning his arms on the top of the wooden railing to look in at the pigs.

“S’easy when you know how,” Daryl answers smugly, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a ripe apple which he quickly cuts into quarters with his knife before tossing it over the fence to the waiting pigs. “Once I had the ringleader, I knew his family would follow him anywhere and he was goin’ where the food was. They ain’t so wild they’ve forgotten where they came from or they would’ve been miles from here by now.”

“So how do we get them from here into the truck, oh great pig whisperer?” Michonne asks, coming up on Rick’s other side.

“Easy,” Daryl answers, a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth.

Two hours later and Rick is starting to question his friend’s definition of the word ‘easy’. Michonne has brought the truck around and backed it up to the gate where they had lowered the extended tailgate to provide a secure ramp for the pigs to enter the back by. Another handful of apple slices had quickly enticed pigs one through three into the cage but pig number four, the pregnant sow, had planted herself firmly as far from the truck as she could. They had tried everything to move her, from bribing her with food to tying the rope around her and trying to haul her up the ramp with brute force. At some point the heavens had opened and the three of them were now soaked to the skin, standing ankle deep in the foul-smelling mud, their patience worn perilously thin. Rick knew that they needed to be relatively gentle with the mother-to-be but he also knew that they needed to get moving – he was surprised the commotion they were causing hadn’t attracted the attention of more walkers already but he knew their luck wasn’t going to hold out much longer.

Taking the length of rope between them, he and Daryl loop it around the pig’s rear, steering her in the direction of the ramp while Michonne gets behind her and pushes as hard as she can. The pig complies with their urgings for a few steps, going so far as to place her front feet on the ramp and then she seemingly changes her mind again and comes to a complete halt. To Rick’s surprise, Michonne lets loose with a string of expletives, her normally calm voice laced with frustration as she turns the air blue around them. He watches as she throws her shoulder against the obstinate pig’s rear end, her rain-soaked dreads whipping heavily around her determined face and he quickly adds his own weight to the task, feeling Daryl follow suit just behind him. With his feet slipping in the disgusting ooze beneath his boots, Rick grunts with exertion as the three of them work in tandem to slowly force the pig up into the trailer. They’re applying such pressure that, when the pig abruptly decides to surge forward into the truck, the three of them flail in the empty space for a moment before crashing forward. Rick grabs for the back of Michonne’s shirt, saving her from pitching face forward into the mud, as all three clutch at each other to stay upright on the uneven ground, panting hard from the effort. Lurching forward, Rick quickly lifts the tailgate from the sucking mud with Daryl’s help and they secure it before the mama pig can change her mind again.

With that done, he turns to look at his bedraggled companions – Michonne has mud caking most of her torso and her brow is furrowed into one of her intense scowls while Daryl is pretty much her twin, his hair looking almost jet-black where the rain has plastered it to his head. Bending over to rest his hands on his knees while he catches his breath for a moment, Rick looks at each of their sullen faces in turn and something stirs within him. Before he can stop himself, a hearty laugh bursts forth from his chest with tears springing to his eyes as he sees the disgusted look Daryl’s throwing back at him. The laugh consumes him, rolling through every part of his body until he’s doubled over wheezing for breath and he couldn’t stop it even if he wanted to. It’s a genuine laugh, something so real and pure that he hasn’t felt in so long that he can feel it reviving him, lifting some of the weight of the past few months from his spirit. It doesn’t take long for the others to join in and the three of them stand there, the pounding rain still cascading over them, heads tilted back to the sky as they laugh until Rick thinks his sides might burst.

As their merriment subsides into a series of breathless giggles and snorts, he looks from one of them to the other and it’s almost as if he can pinpoint to the second when something shifts between them. They stand, looking at each other in the sudden silence and Rick can feel a sense of anticipation in the air like each of them is poised just waiting for someone to make a move. Daryl is the one to break their circle, Rick noticing a sudden flush creeping over his cheeks despite the cooling rain before he turns to boost himself over the low fence beside the truck.

“C’mon, day’s wastin’ while we’re standin’ round like a bunch of dumbasses. Let’s get these pork chops home before they drown.”  

Michonne glances briefly at Rick, the merest hint of a smile still teasing at her lips and he sees a look in her eyes that has him breathless for a totally different reason. She climbs the fence after Daryl and Rick brings up the rear, jumping down to the other side and then looking from the truck to the car they arrived in.

“I’m thinking we should just take the truck, come back for the car later. I’d rather we were together just in case there’s any trouble on the way home.”

“Makes sense,” Daryl replies, climbing into the driver’s seat and Rick opens the passenger door for Michonne then climbs in after her.

They’re halfway back to the prison, the rain mercifully having let up just after they left the farm and Rick is half dozing against the passenger door, Michonne’s comforting weight pressed against his side when he’s jerked out of his pseudo-slumber by Daryl unexpectedly slamming on the brakes and dragging the protesting pick-up to a halt. Scanning outside the window for any immediate danger, Rick is puzzled to find there’s no apparent reason for their dramatic stop and turns his head to ask Daryl what’s going on, only to find the answer staring him in the face. Michonne has her left hand thrust firmly into the waistband of Daryl’s pants and Rick can see the movement of her fingers pushing against the inside of the worn fabric as she slowly strokes Daryl’s cock. Rick is stunned, not only by what she’s doing but because Daryl is letting her and he licks his lips at the sight, feeling his own cock pushing uncomfortably against the damp material of his jeans. When she turns her head and sees him watching, her lips peel back from her teeth in a wicked grin and she withdraws her hand.

Twisting on the seat so that she’s kneeling between them, she looks from one to the other as if trying to make a decision, her bottom lip pulled in between her teeth for a moment. Leaning over slightly to Rick’s side, she wordlessly tugs on his belt, loosening it enough to pop his button and slide down his zipper, her eyes never leaving his. His cock twitches hard as she reaches into his jeans to release it, her fingers wrapping lightly around his shaft while she reaches out her right hand to free Daryl in the same manner. With her grip tightening around him, she smiles at both of them before she starts an agonizingly slow stroke up and down his length. Rick’s breath shortens and he suddenly feels like he’s struggling for air as she increases her pace. He rolls his head in Daryl’s direction just as his friend’s hand whips out, his fingers tangling in the front of Rick’s shirt and gripping it tight as his head tilts back and his mouth opens in a deep groan. Rick’s never seen Daryl look so open – so vulnerable – before and he's surprised to find how much it turns him on. His eyes slide back to Michonne’s face again only to find her watching his observation of Daryl, a softer smile on her lips, and she twists her palm up over the head of his cock making him give a guttural moan of his own. There’s sweat on his palms and he can feel it trickling down the small of his back as his hips push up from the seat into the rough skin of her palm.

The heat from Daryl’s fist where it’s wrapped in his shirt is like a hot coal against his skin and he knows he's not going to last – it’s been too long since he was touched by anyone else in this way and his body is drowning in the pure pleasure of it.

“Shiiit…” he moans, feeling his balls contract as he shoots his load, seeing the hot strings of pearlescent cum splatter against Michonne’s dark skin. 

“Rick,” Daryl grunts forcefully and the hand in Rick’s shirt is suddenly gone as Daryl throws it up to clutch at the headrest behind him.

Rick watches as Daryl comes, his thick cock jerking wildly in Michonne’s firm grip, his cum spattering over his stomach and dripping from her hand.

“My boys,” Michonne whispers, her voice raw as she gives them both a final few strokes, Rick’s cock twitching feebly under her caress as he tries to catch his breath and make sense of what just happened.

She releases them both, using the bottom of Rick’s shirt to wipe the residue from her hands as he tucks himself back into his jeans and re-buckles his belt. She turns back in her seat, wriggling her way back between them with a broad grin and leaning her body into Daryl’s so that she can stretch her legs over to Rick’s side with a sigh.

“That was…” Rick starts, finding his mouth is bone dry. “What was that exactly?”

“Heat of the moment,” Michonne chuckles, throwing him a wink.

“Heat of the moment?” he muses, turning over the phrase in his mind. “What about… I mean… you… would you like us to..?”

“Hell no,” she laughs and Rick feels an embarrassed heat crawling up his neck to his face. “I mean, yes, I’d love you too – you have no idea how much – but I’ve seen where your hands have been for most of the day and, no offence, but you’re not coming anywhere near my hoohah with those nasty-ass fingers.”

Rick hears a snort from Daryl’s direction and he gives a small laugh of his own, squeezing his hand around Michonne’s calf and keeping it there as Daryl restarts the truck and gets them moving again.

The smug grin stays firmly on Michonne’s face for the rest of the afternoon as they arrive back at the prison and work on getting the new additions to their growing population safely into their new home. Rick’s pretty sure he's not imagining the amount of times he feels Michonne’s skin sliding over his or her body bumping into him as they get the pigs from the truck into their pen so that Hershel can take a good look at them. And he's certainly not missing all the times he sees her doing the same things to Daryl or the long look Daryl gives him before excusing himself and disappearing into the prison as the afternoon wears on.

With Hershel checking over the pigs, satisfied that they’re in the best hands, Rick and Michonne head inside to get cleaned up before dinner. They sit together to eat, Rick looking on as Michonne feeds Judith but Daryl only puts in a brief appearance, giving them nothing more than a cursory glance before grabbing a plate and leaving the room again.

“Do you think we went too far… I went too far?” she asks Rick quietly, her eyes fixed on Judith.

“No,” he answers, maybe a little too emphatically as her head swings in his direction momentarily before she concentrates her gaze on the baby once more. “No, it’s just… Daryl. It was probably just a little bit of a sensory overload for him – the three of us… like that, coming out of nowhere.”

“But it didn’t come out of nowhere, did it? Is that what you think? Because, to me, it’s been a long time coming. It’s like the three of us inhaled a long time ago and something today suddenly gave us the power to exhale. And I don’t know about you, Rick, but it felt damn good to finally let that breath go. It felt -”

“Right,” Rick interjects and when Michonne turns her head to him this time he can see the smile dancing in her eyes again.

“Yes,” she agrees, “it felt right. Daryl felt it too, I know he did, I just don’t understand why he's not here.”

“How about I go find him?” he asks, leaning over to plant a kiss on Judith’s upturned face before he stands, giving Michonne’s shoulder a quick squeeze.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Finding Daryl proves to be harder than he anticipated, everyone he asks claims not to have seen him since that afternoon or his brief appearance at dinner. His bike is still in the yard and his crossbow is on his bunk when Rick checks his cell so he knows he's still nearby. There’s only so many places for Rick to check and, as soon as he’s exhausted the obvious ones, he heads back to Michonne, not wanting to miss Judith’s bathtime or putting her to bed. He tells Michonne that Daryl is probably holed up someplace to think things through and he’ll come around soon enough. With Judith safely in her crib they spend a little more time together, talking quietly away from the others until it’s time to turn in for the night.

He feels like he's barely been asleep for a minute when an insistent hand on his shoulder startles him awake and he opens his eyes only to narrow them against the harsh glow of a flashlight aimed in his face. He bats it aside, sitting up fast as he realizes Daryl is the one holding it.

“What’s wrong?” he hisses, his eyes flicking automatically to Judith’s crib.

“Nothin’,” Daryl replies, pitching his voice so low that Rick has to strain to hear him. “Got somethin’ to show ya.”

“Now?” Rick asks, puzzled as to what needs his attention in the middle of the night that isn’t an emergency.

“Yeah. C’mon.”

“Judith?”

“She’ll be fine. Carol’s right next door, you know she’ll hear her if she fusses.”

His curiosity has the better of him now so Rick gets up, quickly slipping on his discarded boots and following Daryl out into the darkened common area. As they turn into the corridor beyond, he's surprised to find Michonne waiting for them, leaning casually against the wall like this is a perfectly natural occurrence for her.

“You too, huh?” he whispers, taking a second to admire the curves of her body in the shorts and tank top she likes to sleep in.

She answers him with nothing more than a shrug of her shoulders and he realizes that she has no more idea about what’s going on than he does. They fall into step behind Daryl as he leads them through the prison’s pitch black corridors into the administrative wing and up the stairs to the small cluster of offices on the second floor. They’ve pretty much left this area alone after their initial recon for anything they could use and Rick wonders why Daryl’s brought them up here. Stopping outside the door to the warden’s office at the far end of the hall, Daryl holds the flashlight in his mouth for a second while he locates the correct key on the ring hanging from his belt and Rick has a vivid flash of his lips wrapped around something else entirely. He shifts position self-consciously as a prickle of heat coils itself in the pit of his stomach and he chides himself for thinking like a horny teenager.

“Wait here,” Daryl instructs them gruffly before handing Rick the flashlight and disappearing through the door, closing it behind him.

Rick and Michonne exchange looks, her eyebrow quirked in a question he has no answer to. They watch as two separate light sources begin to glow through the frosted glass of the door in front of them and then it’s yanked open once more and Daryl steps aside to let them in, closing it firmly behind them. Rick didn’t know what he was expecting to find – with Daryl at the reins it could have been anything – but what he sees is probably the last thing his mind would have conjured up. The office equipment has been removed, something that must have been quite a feat if Rick is remembering clearly the huge desk that had sat in the middle of the room. In its place a pile of at least a dozen of the thin prison mattresses have been arranged to create a pretty decent sized bed dressed in an assortment of sheets, blankets and pillows that Rick thinks must have practically wiped out the prison laundry.

“Daryl,” Michonne says softly and Rick can see her eyes shining in the golden glow of the hurricane lamps that are lighting the room. “You did all this? Why?”

Rick can practically feel the tension radiating from Daryl’s body as he looks down at his boots in embarrassment.

“’Cos, I figured if we were gonna romance a queen, it shouldn’t be in the back of a filthy pick-up or rolling in the dirt in the woods. She should be treated the way she deserves.”

The silence that follows his rush of muttered words is palpable and Rick can see the deep crimson coloring the tips of Daryl’s ears even in the dim light. Michonne exhales the breath they’re all holding once more, stepping forward into Daryl’s personal space and forcing him to look at her. She maintains eye contact with him until Rick sees the tense lines of his body relax and the corner of his mouth pulls up into the lop-sided smile that Rick rarely gets to see and loves all the more when he does. Daryl dips his head shyly as Michonne steps back away from him, standing in front of them with one hand resting on her cocked hip and that’s when it hits Rick like a freight train – he loves them, is in love with them, and he’s as certain of the fact as if it had been carved in stone in front of him. The knowledge doesn’t scare him as he thought it might and it occurs to him that it had always been there, in the back of his mind, first with Daryl and then with Michonne not long after her arrival in the group. He's not sure he could pinpoint the exact moment it had tipped over from platonic into something deeper but he knows with absolute clarity that he needs them – he wants them – and he's not sure he can even contemplate the possibility of either of them not being in his life anymore.

He also realizes now, as he looks from the woman in front of him to the man beside him, that he'd seen the signs between the pair of them as well but he guesses that it had just seemed so inherently natural to him the two people he loved would also love each other that he hadn’t given it a second thought before tonight. His train of thought is interrupted by Michonne giving him the look that usually means he's in some kind of trouble.

“So, are we just gonna stand here until the lights burn out, letting all of Daryl’s hard work go to waste or are you two going to make good on the offer you made me this afternoon?” she asks with a sly smile.

Before either he or Daryl can respond, she grabs the bottom of her tank top and pulls it up over her head, the rounded flesh of her breasts bouncing free. Rick swallows thickly, all the saliva in his mouth suddenly gone as she follows her top with the deft removal of her shorts until she’s standing naked before them, the light gleaming off the contours of her skin. As they so often do, Daryl and Rick move as one towards her, Rick moving behind her, his hands skimming her rich flesh as she reaches out and pulls Daryl to her. Rick watches over her shoulder as she initiates a kiss against Daryl’s lips, her full mouth working on his until Rick can see the fluttering pulse in Daryl’s throat subside to a steady beat. With Daryl’s mouth occupied, Michonne slips her hands down from his face to start freeing him from his clothes, bumping her ass back against Rick in a not too subtle hint for him to do the same. Smiling to himself, he follows her unspoken command, quickly shucking his clothes and finding his cock, which is already at half-mast, stiffening even more as he presses himself back against her soft flesh. She shifts against him as he pushes aside her hair to lay a line of kisses from her shoulder to her neck and he finds his cock nestled snugly between her cheeks. Rocking slightly on his toes, he rubs against her, the friction on his shaft eliciting a groan from him against her skin. He runs his tongue up the side of her neck, slipping his hands around her torso to cup her full breasts, his fingers teasing at her nipples until she’s the one who’s moaning.

Raising his head, his eyes meet Daryl’s over the slope of her shoulder and Rick gives the slightest of nods. Daryl parts his lips from Michonne’s slowly, teasing her with a series of nips and sucks before he leans back to let her go completely, leaving her in Rick’s hands.

“May I taste you, my Queen?” Rick asks, letting his lips brush lightly against her ear and he feels her skin shudder under his touch as she nods her assent.

He climbs onto the welcoming comfort of Daryl’s bed, taking a central position and laying on his back, his eyes feasting on the others as they follow him down. His hands reach for Michonne as she kneels beside him, sliding his palm up the firmness of her thigh to guide her into a sitting position straddling his shoulders. His mouth moistens as the scent of her sex hits him and he looks up at her, holding eye contact as he flicks his tongue out against her already damp flesh. She gasps loudly and jerks a little above him but Rick brings up his hands behind her to steady her thighs, his fingers digging firmly into her flesh. He teases her with his tongue, the soft hair on her mound tickling his nose as he rubs at her clit. She breathes out his name with a small shiver and his hips buck up at the sound, desperate for some kind of friction against his throbbing cock. He's rewarded by the touch of strong hands on his thighs, roughly pushing them apart as he feels Daryl positioning himself between them. There’s an agonizing second of anticipation and then he feels Daryl’s cock slide up the length of his and one of Daryl’s rough hands wrap around the pair of them.

It’s something Rick has never experienced before and never knew he wanted until this moment but now he craves it – craves Daryl as much as he does Michonne – and he bucks his hips up again into Daryl’s fist with a loud gasp. Michonne turns above him to look back over her shoulder and Rick sees the delight on her face as she watches Daryl stroking the length of their cocks together. She leans back towards Daryl, one hand reaching up and back to tangle in his hair as he dips his head to suck at the skin of her shoulder. Rick renews his efforts with his tongue, rolling it across her clit before working it down to push into her, feeling her slick walls open to him, her juices coating his lips. His body feels like a molten ball of arousal – Michonne’s taste flooding his mouth and Daryl’s ragged grunts sounding in his ears – everything is fueling his desire. He feels something that’s been clenched tight inside of him since he awoke to find the entire world had turned to shit suddenly let go and he lets himself get lost in his pure, unadulterated need to love and be loved by the people in this room.

He circles his hands tighter on Michonne’s hips, encouraging the rocking motion she’s making over his face, his eyes fixing on the hand that Daryl has slipped around her torso and is teasing her breast with. He can feel the coarse skin of Daryl’s palm, now slick with either his or Rick’s pre-cum, sliding against his shaft and the rigid heat of Daryl’s cock pressed against the other side creating a dual sensation that’s leaving Rick lightheaded. He tries to concentrate on pleasuring Michonne, rolling her clit between his lips and rubbing the tip of his tongue across it until her free hand comes down to dig painfully in against his scalp, her fingers tugging his hair at the roots. He pushes his tongue deeper, feeling her hips roll harder as she fucks his face, then he sucks hard against her clit until she comes in his mouth with a deep, drawn out moan and he can feel her pulsing against his lips. Daryl has ceased moving behind her, no doubt as enraptured as Rick is by watching her release, but Rick needs to come too and he jerks his hips up a little once more.

With a satisfied sigh, Michonne carefully tips herself off of his chest, coming to rest half-sitting beside him and he thinks she’s never looked more beautiful than at that moment. The nagging ache in his balls, however, pulls his eyes reluctantly from her and forward to where Daryl is still nestled between his thighs, his body slick with sweat, his hair hanging across his face and his hand now wrapped loosely around both of them. Rick raises himself up, reaching out with both hands to push Daryl’s hair back from his face so that he can kiss him. There’s a moment of resistance accompanied by a small grunt of surprise and then Daryl’s lips part and he's devouring Rick’s mouth, greedily sucking the taste of Michonne from his tongue. With an effort, Rick breaks away from him, his breath coming in ragged bursts as he wraps his hand over Daryl’s and slides them both down the length of their cocks.

“Finish it,” he demands, leaning back to watch as Daryl grunts and then starts pumping his fist around both of them.

Rick glances back over at Michonne to find her staring at them intently, her legs spread and two fingers slipping slowly in and out of her dripping pussy. Rick’s head slams back down on the bed, his hands clawing ineffectually at the blankets as Daryl increases his pace, his cock slipping furiously against Rick’s.

Daryl comes first, a sound ripping from his lips that sets Rick’s insides alight, his cum landing in hot splashes on Rick’s torso and he yells as he follows suit, his hips pumping up as he ejaculates over them both. Daryl falls forward against him, his face pressed to Rick’s chest and Rick runs his shaking fingers though the tangled mess of Daryl’s hair. He closes his eyes for a second, relishing the scratch of Daryl’s beard against his skin, letting his body breathe until a wet sucking sound beside him catches his attention. Opening his eyes he sees Michonne, her fingers still working slowly at her open pussy and he nudges the man on his chest.

“Daryl,” he says softly and Daryl’s head lifts in response.

He knows exactly what Rick wants him to do and Rick is delighted that the unspoken communication they have out there has accompanied them into this new aspect of their relationship. In tandem, they get up, Rick pulling Michonne to sit between his thighs with her back resting against his chest while Daryl gently runs his hands up her legs and pushes them apart. Rick watches as Daryl kneels in front of them, his hands running lightly over Michonne’s skin before he slips his fingers between her wet lips and starts to slowly fuck her with them. Her head rolls on Rick’s shoulder, her face turning to his and he tilts her chin to kiss her, taking his time to explore her mouth, letting his other hand caress her chest and stomach. He holds her tight, losing himself in the soft heat of her mouth, feeling her body responding to his and Daryl’s touch. She jerks her head back suddenly and he sees her eyes widen, her mouth open in a perfect ring of pleasure and he looks down to see Daryl’s tongue flicking rapidly against her clit while he fingers her deeply. Michonne whimpers as she comes again, a sound Rick never expected to hear from her and he wraps his arms tight around her, cradling her until her body relaxes against him.

“I think,” she says, a slight quaver to her voice as she reaches out to pull Daryl in to lay against her, “that you two are going to be my death… or my salvation. I haven’t decided which yet.”

Rick chuckles to himself as he kisses her temple, stretching out a hand to lay against Daryl’s shoulder and thinking he already knows the answer to that question.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rick still doesn’t sleep through the night, he's not sure he ever will again, but at least he's sleeping better these days – the nightmares that had plagued him for so long finally having loosened their grip on him. He lays still, watching the first fingers of dawn’s light steal their way into the room to illuminate the features of his sleeping companions. Rick’s still amazed by the fact that Daryl sleeps so soundly here and he knows that it’s because it’s the only place he’s ever felt truly safe either pre- or post-apocalypse. It became an unspoken thing between them, their sleeping arrangements, after a small amount of trial and error where they found that Daryl could only sleep if he was in the middle with either Rick or Michonne spooned around him. Rick didn’t even question it – if this was what it took for Daryl to actually get some quality sleep then so be it – he didn’t have a problem with it and neither did Michonne judging by the way she was wrapped around Daryl right now, one arm tight around his waist and her face pressed into the back of his neck. Daryl has one leg hooked possessively over Rick’s and his forehead is resting against Rick’s bicep, his hair covering his face as usual and Rick has to resist the urge to push it away, knowing that they’ll have to be up all too soon anyway to start their day.

This room has become their sanctuary over the past couple of months, Rick thinks staring at the institutional paint on the walls – not that they’ve used it every night but, when the need has arisen, the three of them have found their way here. He muses as to whether the others know what’s going on with them and decides that they must, their community is way too small to keep that kind of secret. It warms him to think that nobody has come forward to judge them for their somewhat unconventional relationship. He guesses that, at this point, the rules have long changed and his family is just happy that any of them can find comfort with another person. He knows that he would support any one of them in their choices, it wouldn’t be any of his business to do otherwise. Nobody can say how long they’ve got anymore, the world has become such an uncertain place, and Rick knows all too well how easy it is for everything to be ripped away from you in the space of a heartbeat. All he can do right now, he thinks, is live his life as fully as he can and draw strength from the people beside him to face what might come. This relationship, as unusual as it may seem, works for them – there’s no demands on any of them, no jealousy, no secrets, just a desire to be a part of something, to live and love as equals and to put their unequivocal trust in each other.

Reaching out with his fingertips, he lightly brushes Daryl’s hair from his face, smiling as his bright blue eyes blink sleepily awake at him, knowing Daryl won’t mind the last few moments of sleep being stolen from him.

“Good morning, sunshine,” Rick whispers, dipping his head to brush Daryl’s lips with the merest hint of a kiss. “Ready for a brand new day?”