Author's Note: Yet another Rick/Daryl fic, this one inspired by Adele's new single "Set Fire To The Rain". Takes place after 2.07 "Pretty Much Dead Already". Again, this contains SLASH, nothing explicit, but there's m/m kissing. Don't like, please don't read, and don't leave a review about how I should never write and I'm a terrible person and I'm going to hell for writing TEH GAY. I will defend to the death your right to say what you want, but that doesn't mean I'll sit there and take your insults without verbally ripping you apart after. ^_^
Disclaimer: Don't own The Walking Dead.
Rick stood at the edge of their camp, hands cupped around his eyes to block out the pouring rain. The sky had opened up shortly after they'd finished burying Sophia, drenching the makeshift funeral. They'd slowly moved away from the small grave, reluctant to leave but knowing the risks of staying out in the poor weather. After Andrea had led Carol away, Rick and Daryl had been the only ones left. He'd seen the younger man shivering in the cold, but when Rick reached out to touch his shoulder, trying to urge him away and back to the warmth of their camp, Daryl had violently shrugged off his touch.
"Just go!" He'd barked, but Rick had seen the tears welling in his eyes. With a nod Rick had turned away and started back towards their cluster of tents and the RV, set amongst the trees in front of Hershel's dark house. He'd only turned back when an anguished cry split through the gloom, and he'd seen Daryl drop to his knees beside Sophia's grave, pounding his fists against the soaked dirt. Rick had swallowed around the sudden lump in his throat and turned around, continuing toward the camp with his head down.
It was a few hours later. The rain was still falling heavily, and everyone had gone to bed, but Rick had been unable to fall asleep knowing that Daryl was still outside in the storm. Finally, he'd quietly left, making sure not to wake Lori and Carl. His son had cried himself to sleep in Lori's arms, grieving over the loss of his friend. Rick hadn't felt right intruding on them, choosing instead to curl up on the other side of the tent. After all, he was the one that had put his gun to the head of a young girl, Carl's best friend in this hellish world, and pulled the trigger.
As Rick slowly crossed the distance to where Sophia's grave was, his eyes adjusted to the dark, and he was able to make out the shape of Daryl, still kneeling on the ground with his head bowed.
"Daryl?" Rick called when he got close, not wanting to startle the man. Daryl didn't move, and for a moment Rick's heart skipped a beat. "Daryl?" Rick knelt beside him, reaching out to rest his hand on the younger man's shoulder. Daryl's skin was clammy against his palm. "Daryl, you should come in. You're gonna get sick."
"Go away, Rick." Daryl murmured, so quietly Rick nearly missed it. His voice held no fire, however. It was sad and resigned. So unlike the hunter that it terrified Rick.
"No, Daryl. I'm not going away." The former sheriff stood, reaching down to guide Daryl to his feet as well.
"I said leave me be!" Daryl shouted, lashing out at Rick with his fists. Rick easily caught Daryl's wrists and held fast.
"Just leave me alone, dammit! Leave me here! This isn't your business!"
Rick dropped to his knees in front of Daryl and grasped the other man's face in both hands, forcing him to still. "This is my business. You're my business, Daryl."
"I didn't ask for your concern," Daryl growled, blinking in the rain.
"Too bad. You're part of this group. You're my responsibility."
"I'm nobody's responsibility!" Daryl lashed out again, throwing Rick's hands off his face and swinging out a leg. The move put both of them off balance, sending them to the wet Earth. Rick managed to catch himself on his arms over Daryl, avoiding landing on him and aggravating his injuries. Their noses brushed, faces inches apart. Rick could feel Daryl's breath against his lips.
"You listen to me." Rick said quietly, voice leaving no room for argument. Daryl's blue eyes narrowed, but he said nothing. "You asked for nothing. I'm not doing this out of a sense of duty or because I have to. I'm doing this because I care about you, Daryl. Somebody needs to look after you. You clearly don't give a damn about your own well-being but I do, do you understand me?"
"I'm not your fucking charity, Grimes." Daryl growled, eyes flashing dangerously.
Rick suddenly closed the space between them, crushing their lips together heatedly. He felt Daryl squirm beneath him, trying to get free, but didn't let up until the younger man fell still.
"Who said anything about charity?" Rick whispered against Daryl's mouth.
"What the hell was that?" Daryl replied breathlessly, eyes wide and searching Rick's face questioningly. Rick hung his head, forehead pressing against Daryl's cheek.
"You just don't get it, do you?" Rick muttered half to himself before raising his head again, locking on Daryl's bright blue eyes immediately. "I care about you, Daryl. What happens to you matters to me. If you got sick; if we lost you..." The words became thick and choking in his throat. He swallowed hard and reached out, touching Daryl's face gingerly. "If you died, it would kill me, you understand?"
Daryl narrowed his eyes again, expression careful and guarded. "Why are you saying this?"
Rick couldn't help it; he started laughing. Daryl growled and shoved at him. This time Rick pushed himself up onto his knees, allowing Daryl to sit up. Immediately Rick's hand was back, cupping Daryl's jaw and turning the younger man's face toward him.
"I'm saying this because I'm trying to make you understand that you mean something to me. I won't say I love you, because I know you won't accept that, but goddamn it's close." Daryl's eyes widened with surprise.
"Your wife-" Rick cut him off by covering the other man's mouth with his own. Guilt was already weighing heavily on Rick's shoulders, knowing that he felt this way about someone that wasn't Lori, but no matter how much he pushed it away those feelings were still there. Rick cared about this rough-around-the-edges hunter, and he knew it went past just the fact that the young man was a part of the group Rick found himself the leader of.
All thoughts of Lori and his marriage were chased away by Daryl's hand tangled in his hair and Daryl's tongue meeting his tentatively. When Rick's other hand came up to close around Daryl's upper arm he felt the other man shivering.
"Come inside," Rick said quietly against Daryl's lips. "We need to get you warm." Daryl said nothing, just nodded. Rick placed one more chaste kiss upon his lips then got to his feet before helping Daryl up. When the younger man swayed slightly on his feet Rick was at his side in an instant, sliding an arm around his waist. Daryl leaned into him, trembling from cold and exhaustion. Rick led him away from the small, lonely grave, rubbing at the hunter's bare arm with his free hand in an attempt to warm him.
Daryl came to a stop some distance from the camp, setting a hand on Rick's chest to stop him as well. The turned to each other simultaneously. "Did you mean what you said?" Daryl spoke as Rick opened his mouth to question him. The sudden outburst, and something in the young man's open expression, made Rick choke on his words.
"Daryl?" Rick finally managed to say.
"What you said before. Did you mean it?"
It took a minute for Rick to understand what he meant, and when realization dawned in his eyes Daryl looked away, bowing his head.
Rick closed the small space between them, pressing his chest against Daryl's while his arm slid along the curve of his lower back, holding the hunter close. Rick's other hand cupped the back of Daryl's head.
"I meant every word, Daryl. You mean so much to me," Rick's warm mouth met Daryl's clammy forehead. "More than I care to admit."
"Rick..." Daryl whispered, tilting his head back. The former deputy's lips traced the line of the younger man's profile, moving over his brow and down his nose until they were sharing breath once more, simple centimeters between them. Rick felt Daryl's hands, trembling and burning hot through his soaked shirt, on his back. He watched small drops of rain gather on Daryl's eyelashes, and wiped them away with his thumb. "Rick, I..."
Rick watched Daryl search for words. Or maybe he was searching for the courage to say what he wanted. When his blue eyes dropped to Rick's chest, the older man just smiled, rubbing the pad of his thumb over Daryl's lips.
"Daryl. I know." The young hunter looked up at him, expression about as suprised as one would expect from Daryl Dixon. Rick just smiled, bowing his head against Daryl's, fingers still gentle on his slick skin. "You don't have to say it. I know."
Daryl surged forward, capturing Rick's lips with his own and pressing every inch of their bodies together. Rick wrapped the smaller man in his arms, safe and warm, and they had the same thought.
'This is home.'