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Breathless

The hair on the back of my neck stood up when he walked by on his way out the door, his heavy stride confident. Deliberate. He knew I was watching him. He passed so near I could feel the current of warm air his movement created. I had to stop myself from reaching out as he strolled by. From dragging my fingers over the muscles in his arms, now heavy from countless thousands of draws on the Horton. I wanted desperately to trace the curve of his chest down the flat belly and beyond. I swallowed hard, willing myself not to reach out and run my hands down his glorious rounded backside under the threadbare gray work pants. He was like some kind of drug.

The way he turned his head slightly as he passed by, I could tell exactly what he was thinking. It made my heart beat faster in my chest and sent a wave of heat through me. I bit my lip and quickly glanced down at the floor, trying not to blush, not to give away any tell-tale indicator to anyone else in the room who may have seen the flicker of need in my eyes or the want in his. The exchange of pure unadulterated lust. Dear God, that man. That man. Never have I felt this way about someone. Ever.

It had been a slow process getting to this point. Our groups had met up several months ago. Bonds were formed, loyalties were tested, blood was shed. In the end, six people were added, me included. There was no love at first sight, no bells. No cannon fire to signal that this man would rock my world. No indication that the relationship would be anything other than mutual tolerance and a healthy dose of stay-the-hell-away-from-me-and-we'll-get-along-just-fine. That's how I wanted it too. Last thing I needed was a fucking boyfriend. One more thing to worry about. One more distraction. But Daryl Dixon was no boyfriend.

Within thirty minutes I was finished loading .22s into the pile of empty clips that Rick had given me. I turned to Ronnie and nonchalantly. "We'll, I'm done here. My fingers are sore. I'm going to try to go catch some z's before watch." The tall man with the greasy mullet nodded. We said our goodnights and I headed out the garage door into the chilly night air. I moved towards the house, walking briskly. I hated the trip from the garage to the house at night. It creeped me out no matter how many times I reminded myself how secure the fence was or how many people were on watch. The path was winding, the gravel crunched underfoot and you had to go out and around to get to the back door, with trees and bushes creating blind spots everywhere. Just hated it.

I could smell it before I rounded the final corner of the back of the house. An acrid little cloud hanging over the path. Smoke from a very stale, very generic unfiltered cigarette. I saw the cherry end and stopped short. It glowed brighter and then I watched it sail skyward and then arc down, towards the dew-y grass. When I heard the hiss of a long, slow breath being exhaled, I realized it was accompanied by the growing thump-thump of my own nearly deafening heartbeat.

"Shouldn't be out here 'lone." The slow voice drawled.

"I'm not alone." I teased. "You're here."

"All kinds 'a things might happen." Daryl continued, ignoring my attempt to bait him.

"What kinds of things?" I said slowly, matching his cadence.

"Bad things."

"Yeah?"

" Nasty things." The way he said "nasty" made my head spin. Oozing, full of intent. Deliciously dirty.

"Really?"

"Uh-huh." He drew out the last syllable like a butterknife through warm caramel.

"Hmmm…" I inhaled loudly, able to make out only the outline of his shadow in the pitch-black darkness, and took a step closer. "Sounds like something I might like."

There was a distinct chuckle from the shadow, as it moved closer. I could make out more now, the dark making his strong features more striking, his jaw more and chin more pronounced, his brown hair almost black in the absent moon. A hand reached out and grabbed my wrist, pulling me towards him, almost moving me off my feet. The bow clinked against the brick on the side of the step as his other arm moved around my waist and pulled hard, making me exhale swiftly as the breath was squeezed from me.

"You like it a lot." he said hoarsely as he covered my mouth with his, pulling out what little air left in my lungs with his smoky kiss. He moved his hands to my waist and wedged a thigh between mine, pressing against me. Letting me know what was on his mind. As if I needed a clue.

I finally broke away long enough to take a gasping breath. "Seems like…I'm not the only…one…who likes…" Before I could get my last word out, his mouth was on mine again, his tongue diving, wrecking havoc. I whined unconsciously, a small helpless sound trapped in the back of my throat as my hands went to his biceps and I clutched the sinewy muscles, hard and tight. "Jesus Christ." I moaned, pushing away slightly, "Where. When." I closed my eyes as he moved his hand to my throat, his fingers rough as they squeezed and he turned my head away and ran his tongue up my neck starting at my collarbone.

"Have your ass in tha' shed 'n fifteen fuckin' minutes." He said in a menacing voice. "Don't even think 'bout being late." For emphasis he ran his tongue up the side of my neck to my ear and bit down on my earlobe, making me twitch and move against his leg. "I ain't playin' t'night."

As quick as the wispy smoke from his cigarette had vanished into the night air, so had he. Silent and otherworldly. My heart was in my throat now. What kind of Pandora's box had I opened up with this man? At first, things were slow. Daryl was shy and hesitant, almost awkward. I could tell, though, that the only thing he was lacking was experience. It just took a bit for him to come into his own, to get comfortable not only with me, but himself. The desire and drive were there. Now the opportunity was too and he was taking full advantage of it. Full advantage of me. He was right, too, when he said I liked it. I liked it a lot.

I walked up the back stairs into the ancient brick house-turned-fortress and made my way to my room on the second floor. I cleaned up as best I could with some cold water from a pitcher on the dresser. Whore bath, I laughed to myself at half-accurate description. Whore. Yup. Where he was concerned lately, it fit. I didn't care. If he'd asked I would have done Daryl Dixon in the middle of the Sweet Corn Festival Parade at high noon on the Queen's Float with the high school marching band behind us playing "Louie Louie" as we passed the review stand. While twirling a flaming baton. Yeah. I liked it that much.

The butterflies in my stomach were now amassing to migrate south and my hands trembled as I shimmied into a clean pair of jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt. As if what I was wearing mattered at all. I'd be out of them inside a minute once he looked at me with those hungry blue eyes of his. Wolf's eyes. Devouring me, devouring my soul in one long, half-lidded, sideways look.

I made my way quietly down the back steps, out the door and down the gravel drive again, keeping an eye and ear out. I arrived at the shed inside of the allotted fifteen minutes and found the padlock open but still hanging in the hasp. I pulled a small flashlight from my back pocket and let myself in, shining the small quarter-size beam of light around the room to make sure I was alone. Tools, part of an old engine, empty gas cans, a lopsided nudie calendar, years old, hanging by a thumbtack next to a faded NASCAR sticker. Nothing but me and the remnants of a time when a guy could go out to his space and be a guy. A man's man-cave. The scent of ten-w-forty and stale beer hanging heaving in the air. No big screen, pool table, leather recliner or fancy surround sound. Just guy-shit, plain and simple. I sat down on the torn plastic seat of the rusty, half-assembled riding mower and waited anxiously. Not exactly my idea of a romantic get-away spot, but hey, nowadays, privacy is precious. Dangerously precious.

The door swung open suddenly and Daryl entered, followed by a solid thud as he closed it and threw the inside bolt, locking us securely in. He turned around slowly as I aimed the flashlight at the floor in front of him. "Turn off that damn light." He barked. "Yer' late."

I left the flashlight on just for spite and aimed it squarely in the center of his chest. "Get bent." I squinted. "You're the one who's late." I could see his eyes narrow in the dim light.

Daryl took two giant strides towards me and grabbed the flashlight, tossing it aside, it's light flickering and then disappearing as it skittered on the concrete floor and came to rest under a cabinet. "You sassin' me, Missy?" he said, taking another step, towering over me.

"Yeah. I am. Whatta' ya' gonna do about it?" I looked up and saw his chest rise and fall rapidly.

"Guess I'm gonna' have ta' teach ya' a lesson. Teach ya' what ta' do wi' that smart lil' mouth a' yers." He still hadn't laid a hand on me and the fact that he hadn't yet grabbed me made me both excited and nervous.

"I already know what to do with my smart little mouth and you know it." I mocked as I looked upwards in the darkness. "That's why you're here."

In an instant I was lifted upwards, arms wrapping around me like a vise, being moved across the room. An arm released and next to me of heard the sound of things being swept from the workbench as all sizes and shapes of things hit the hard floor with metallic clatters and thunks. My butt has barely hit the top of the bench when my t-shirt was pulled up and over my head. A wave of sheer giddiness washed through me as hands, lips, fingers were suddenly everywhere at once. The next few seconds were a blur. Sensory overload. The smell of him, smoke and dirt and leather. The taste of cigarettes and the last swallow of cheap whiskey from the flask he keeps hidden in his vest pocket. The sound of zippers and heavy breathing and belt buckles hitting the floor. The feel of his rough fingers and ever-present stubble against my skin here…there. It was hard to see much in the darkness, but I didn't need to. Neither of us did at this point. Slow and gentle had taught us each exactly where and how much. We were way past that now. We fucked like it was the end of the world, like it was our last time together because without having to say it, we both knew it could very well be true.

Daryl's hands held me by the back of my head as he moved, his fingers buried in my hair, wrapped around strands, pulling with an ever-increasing tempo and intensity. His head was lowered, his face just inches from mine, his breath coming in gasps. He raised his head and I caught the glimmer in his near-black eyes. "Do it." I growled. "Now."

"No…" he panted.

"DO it." I hissed. He pulled back sharply on a handful of hair and kissed me hungrily. He moved his rough hands to my neck, pressing firmly, his thumbs overlapping as he continued to rock us back and forth. I moaned slightly and he loosened his grip unconsciously. "More." I opened my eyes and met his gaze. The corner of his mouth twitched slightly, making his mole dance and he tightened his fingers around my throat. I closed my eyes again and smiled slightly. He continued to squeeze slowly and I locked my ankles tighter behind his back. I loved this feeling. Absolutely adored it. Such a contradiction. Abject pleasure mixed with a total lack of control. A feeling of dizzying euphoria that heightened the moment and added a heady dose of danger. Half-drunk, standing on the edge of the roof, toes hanging over, looking down. A tilt-a-whirl on roller coaster tracks. Common sense and self-preservation careening down a mountain road with the brakes cut.

Daryl continued to increase our pace and tighten his grip even more, holding me by my neck and pounding with a cadence driven only by his own internal drumbeat. I'm sure it would have been shocking to see. A seemingly-violent assault, soundless except for animal-raw, gutteral noises and the wild creaking of ancient wood.

I opened my eyes again knowing that the starbursts and rays of multi-colored light I was seeing would be just as visible in the darkness. The tell-tale fireworks that were framed by black, surrounding them, enveloping them, swelling from outside in, foretelling that the end was near and I was close. It wasn't just the creeping black edges around my peripheral vision that was signaling just how close I was. My own body was on fire. Every nerve, every inch of skin, hot as the air between us. Hot as the beads of sweat that trickled off the end of Daryl's nose and forehead, landing on my breast, sliding slowly down my ribs, ending up as a little pool of lust on the gritty top of the worn wooden workbench.

I leaned my head back and bit my lip, letting out a long, low whine from deep within my empty lungs. Neither of us took long tonight. Daryl jerked so violently that he hit a knee and let go of my throat, slapping his hands and grasping feverishly on the bench's edge on either side of me to steady himself and keep us from falling. I arched my back and pulled Daryl in, scratching deep gouges down the sides of his back as we both finished. My throat felt like it was caved in and my breath, when it finally returned, came in deep long draws. We remained motionless, except for panting and the occasional after-shock which caused Daryl to wrap his arms tightly around my waist as he shuddered and bucked within.

"Jesus Christ." He said, slowly settling me back on the bench with a gentleness that was diametrically opposite of what had just transpired. I extracted my arms from his waist and sat my hands in my lap. He took them in his, surprising me a bit, and kissed them, one at time. Tender. "Nice." He said.

"Yeah, that was…exceptionally…nice." I nodded. He kept hold of my hands and I realized that I was more nervous at this point than when he had his hands wrapped around my throat.

"Whassamatter?" he said, sensing my anxiety. "You got somewhere ta' be?"

"No." I looked down and looked up quickly, realizing that his pants were still around his ankles and even in the darkness, I could see all of him, still glistening.

"You got somethin' ya' wanna' say?" he said, moving closer, dropping my hands in my lap gently and planting his hands squarely on both sides of my legs. I was amazingly, embarrassingly aware of how naked we both were at this point.

"Thanks for the awesome, er, uhm…" I stammered. I was not thinking clearly at this point. Addled. "Really, I'm good."

"'k." he said nodding and then switching to a slow sideways shake of his head. "I'm not."

"Whadda ya' mean? You want to stop…this?" I was dumbstruck.

"Nope."he said, running a hand slowly up the side of my thigh. "Don't gotta rush so much." His voice quieter, more distant, like he was losing his train of thought.

"Ok." At this point, I was confused…and distracted by his fingers which were now tracing circles lightly on the top of my thigh. "So, you want…" I stopped, my lungs struggling to quietly take in enough air to make the dizziness in my head subside, "hmmmm...what?"

The back of Daryl's fingers slid slowly around my hipbone, like a snake settling lazily on a sun-warmed rock. When he got to the small of my back and his fingertips were on more bare skin, they continued the dance. His head was low now, near mine. I could feel his breath on my collarbone, wisps of his shaggy hair brushing my ear, the side of my face. He bent and placed his lips on my neck, just below my ear and kissed softly, sucking skin in and running his tongue lightly over, around, releasing only to move a millimeter to one side, then to the other.

His other hand was resting with his fingers curled around, partway under my ass cheek, like he was holding an apple in his palm, his fingers rhythmically applying the lightest of pressure, drawing along the still-damp skin. He seemed as though his two hand and his lips were their own entities, working independently and quite unaware of each other. The dizziness was almost overwhelming now and I leaned forward toward his chest to steady myself.

"Slow." He whispered into my ear in a voice that was unsettlingly calm. I shrugged my shoulder and turned my head to try to look at him. "Slow." he repeated in the same voice as his hands moved now to my face, holding it on either side, his thumbs resting on my cheeks. "Take my time." he said, pulling me to his lips and kissing me again. It was the longest kiss we'd ever shared. Soft, tender, not like the Daryl I had come to expect in the last few weeks. No snaking tongue, no bruising lips, just sweet and…never-ending.

By this time I was about three breaths from hyperventilating and knew I was in deep trouble. I pulled in as much air as I could through my nose and held it. It was too much. Everything was just too…much. I was light-headed and there was a ringing in my ears. Every nerve ending in my body was pulsing like a strobe light. He came up for air once...twice...on the third time he realized I was not breathing and pulled away. " 'k?" he said in a worried voice.

I looked at him, at his tousled damp hair and his still-sweaty face. His eyes were dark but I saw them only as the deep-blue that they were in the daylight, crisp and clear. Eyes that let you know at a glance what he was thinking good, bad or indifferent, no matter how hard he tried to hide it. Eyes that could make you swoon—yes, swoon. I get that word now. Daryl Dixon taught me the meaning of that word. Swoon.

I closed my eyes and willed myself to take a deep, loud breath and then exhale slowly through my dry mouth. "No" I shook my head. "I can't breathe." I willed myself to take another breath. Inhale. Exhale. I was fighting my own body to keep from breathing as fast as I could to compensate for a lack of oxygen in my now-addled and completely and contently satisfied brain. Daryl was frozen, a concerned look on his face. Another forced-slow breath. In. Out. It was difficult not to give in and drink in the air in big, gasping gulps. I smiled finally and raised a hand to his chest, tracing the tattoo over his heart as best I could in the dark as my breathing slowly started to return to normal. "You did that. You do that to me. Constantly." I said quietly, distracted by feeling of his cool skin, contrasted so much by the fire of my own.

"What?" I could tell by his grip he was beginning to worry.

"Breathless." I whispered. " I can't think. I can't move. I can't breath." I said in one swift exhaled chain of words. "You make me...breathless."

My words hung in the silence of the dark room for a second. I could hear the wind stir and a branch scratch the top of the shed's roof, waiting for a response. He gave a little sigh, more of a snort, really. He leaned in closer and kissed me, open-mouthed, on the lips, covering them as he reached to pinch my nose closed gently with a thumb and forefinger. I pulled away quickly and slapped at his bare chest with a loud smack. "What the fuck, Daryl?!" I said loudly.

"Mouth-to-mouth." he said, leaning in again with a sly smile.