Something human

A/N: The other kinkmeme fill I'm working on, inspired by the prompt: "Daryl/Rick - Mutal bamfness = epic hawtness; because we all know the sex would be explosive". Apparently I am unable to write a short fill, so this is the result. Pairing is Rick/Daryl and past Rick/Lori, so if slash is not your thing, don't read. Also, this is an AU, where (in my head at least) the characters turn around when they hit that traffic jam in 2.1 and try to find an alternative route. First chapter is heavily edited to comply with ffnet's TOS. For those of you 18 or over, you can visit my livejournal (username Kalishu) for the original (and very much NC-17) version of this chapter. Still a WIP, so expect updates every week to two weeks. Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: I don't own The Walking Dead and am just borrowing the characters for fun, not profit.

Now:

They don't talk, not really. No pet names, no declarations of love. But they learn to ride the crash of adrenaline down through its natural course, learn what to do when the fear of death turns into lust, learn how to ride that lust and remember that they're still alive and how to do it together when there's no one else around. It's only human.

The silence after a fight is deafening, in comparison. The house still creaks around them, its open shutters flapping in the wind that comes with the afternoon thunderstorms. The dead lay piled at their feet, a mass of rotting limbs and mottled skin and black, dead blood. Now that their moans have silenced, the only noise comes from the wind. It's like the whole world is dead around them, the only things left a reminder of what once was. Rick looks over towards Daryl, splattered in blood and other things that once would have been unmentionable but now just aren't worth mentioning. His face and bare arms are caked with dirt, and he stands clutching the machete he picked up when the combat shifted to close quarters in front of him as his eyes scan what was once the yard of this old house, still looking for danger. His breathing is as ragged as Rick's own, eyes still a little wild and everything about him so full of life that Rick can't stop staring.

"You hurt?" Rick asks, moving closer, almost touching. He can feel the heat of Daryl's skin, smell the sweat and the stronger, underlying scent of someone who's gone too long without a shower. Rich reaches up to trace the almost-hidden path of a scar that's fresher than the rest on Daryl's chest. Daryl recoils with a jerk, trying to hide the motion with a hard kick to the head of the nearest Walker.

"Son's a bitches didn't know who they was messin' with," he spits, sheathing the machete and picking up his crossbow from where he had discarded it in the chaos. It's only when he finally gets his breathing under control that he looks Rick in the eye. The wildness is gone, replaced with something else. He gestures with his chin towards the door of the old brick manor house they'd used to make their stand. "Upstairs?"

Rick takes this as his cue and moves close again, and Daryl's flinch is muted this time, tempered by something else. "It's safer," Rick murmurs, one hand moving bringing Daryl's head closer to his even as the other moves south. Daryl is half hard already under his jeans, and as Rick rubs him he makes a sound that could be agreement or could just be need.

Getting into the house and upstairs is harder than it should be. Daryl grabs Rick by the ass and pulls them together with one hand, all the while keeping a hold of that damn crossbow with the other. They bump awkwardly into the doorframe as they both wrestle to be in control, and barely pause to make sure the door is secure behind them before they're on the floor and Rick finds himself thanking whatever god there might be for making so many plaid shirts with snap buttons as he lays on his back on the hard floor beneath Daryl.

"We should get upstairs," he manages, as Daryl fumbles at the real buttons on Rick's police uniform, cursing.

"Cleared the house earlier," Daryl mumbles into Rick's neck, apparently giving up on the buttons and running his hands up underneath Rick's shirt, strong hands on Rick's stomach making Rick shudder.

Rick flips them over with a move he learned at the academy, a move he knows Daryl could stop but doesn't. Daryl uses their new position to sit up and pull Rick's shirts off over his head, then leans forward to bite at a newly exposed nipple. His hands find their way to the front of Rick's belt, undoing the buckle before slipping into the back of Rick's pants. Rick groans and thrusts down against Daryl, feeling the other man just as hard as he is beneath him and suddenly wishing for a lot less clothing between them.

"Upstairs," Rick insists, standing and pulling Daryl up with him. "We can see and hear better up there." He leans forward and gives Daryl a deep kiss, and it tastes like blood and ash and dirt and sweat, and Rick knows he tastes the same.

"Fuck you," Daryl drawls, but there's no heat in it and he complies, and they carefully pick their way up the rotting staircase as quickly as they can.

The second story is mostly gone. The floor near the interior walls is stable enough, but something blew out most of the outer wall on two sides, and the remains of the roof are a crumbling mess in the yard below. It's raining steadily now, and Daryl pulls them out into it. It washes off the dirt and gore, and when Daryl kisses him, Rick only tastes Daryl this time.


In the aftermath, they lie together on their sleeping pads, laid out on the floor under the overhang of what used to be the roof.

Rick thinks he could just fall asleep now, and feels himself start to drift. Daryl has pulled away a bit, but is still lying next to him, his body warm at Rick's side. A loud noise in the forest has Rick sitting up, searching for shoes and the gun he left lying by stairs, his exhaustion forgotten.

Daryl joins him, slipping into his own boots and picking up his crossbow. The rain has lessened now, only a few drops splashing off their naked bodies. Rick moves over to look out over the canopy of trees, barely highlighted by the rays of the emerging moonlight, Daryl a silent shadow by his side. All is silent. Rick sits at the edge of the drop off, legs dangling over what was once a solid wall, and Daryl sinks down beside him. They both clutch their weapons tightly, eyes scanning the space between the shadows cast by the trees, looking for anything that might be moving, anything that might come threaten them in their downtime.

They don't talk, not really, but sometimes in the aftermath of blood and sweat and sex, words slip out.

"I loved her," Rick admits. "Our marriage went to shit, and then the world went to shit, and I thought if I could just hold onto her, everything would be alright, because we only needed each other. And when she was gone, I thought… I thought, this is when the world ends. Not when I was sleeping in a hospital, not when the dead rose. It was then."

Rick stares out at the night sky, the dark canopy of trees rustling in the wind. It's a warm night, and sweat trickles down his face but no tears. He has no tears left to cry for this world.

Daryl shifts beside him, puts a hesitant hand on Rick's shoulder. His grip is loose at first, but tightens as they sit in silence under the dispersing storm clouds. The night comes alive again, cicadas calling, and somewhere far away the high pitched yipping of a coyote. Rick looks over to see Daryl staring at him.

"Ain't a fag," Daryl states, scowling and looking away. "I ain't ever gonna say it."

Rick nods. "Me either."

But Daryl lets Rick hold him without flinching and they stay close to each other that night, the stars glittering above them and the woods empty around them. It might not be love, but it's something human.