A/N: This is my first slash story…ever. Never even dabble with it 'til now. So, I'm a tad nervous to share. I am actually really proud of it, but I just hope you all like it as much as I do.

Also, I don't own either of the characters, although I wish I owned them both. 3

Be There

Until recently, Daryl had never been the hero type. He didn't care much for saving people. If they wanted to act like an ass and get themselves stuck in a bad situation, they could get themselves out. It wasn't his job to run to anyone's rescue.

However, as he watched Rick slowly fall apart, he was starting to second guess himself. The guy was a mess and everyone just kept saying, "Leave him be. Let him get his head straight."

But what if that wasn't what he needed? What if he just needed a good kick in the ass to get him back in gear? Hell, what if the poor guy just needed someone to talk to?

Either way, Daryl had this nagging urge to be the savior he didn't normally want to be. When he saw the darkness looming in Rick's eyes, the eyes that had once been brighter than any Daryl had ever seen, he felt bad for him. He hadn't chosen any of the horrible things he'd gone through. They'd all just been thrust upon him and until now he'd done an exceptional job not falling to pieces under the weight of it all.

Daryl followed the man in question out of the cell block, not sure where the former sheriff was going, and called, "Rick!"

Rick came to a stop, but didn't turn around. Daryl could tell he was in the middle of one of his episodes, on the verge of breaking down. It was in the rigid way he stood and the way his voice shook as he muttered, "Yea, Daryl?"

The hunter could tell he was pinching the bridge of his nose. He could see the look on his face as he did it without even looking. His eyes would be closed, his jaw tight, and he'd look like he was in some kind of pain.

"Man…I just…thought maybe ya could use somebody to talk to," he said slowly, keeping his distance. "Ya don' have to go through this shit alone."

"It's not your burden to bear. It's no one's but mine."

"Well, for it not being my burden, it's sure as hell stressin' me and everyone else out. Everyone thinks yer losin' yer mind." He probably was, but Daryl wasn't going to let that happen. He would help him somehow.

"Maybe I am," Rick sighed. He finally turned to look at his friend, his eyes tired and worn. "Daryl…I appreciate what you're doin', but…I don't think you can fix this. I think I gotta do this myself."

Daryl frowned at him, wanting to tell him what an ass he was being. That was how he usual dealt with shit like this. He didn't have a filter most days, but today…today was different for some reason.

What the fuck was Rick doing to him?

"Don't be like that. Don't brush me off, man. At least talk to me…get some o' that shit off yer mind." His tone was a little more stern this time, a bit more demanding. He wasn't going to let the group's leader push him away that easy. Dixons were too stubborn for that.

"What the hell do you want me to say?!" Rick suddenly snapped, his eyes bright again, but with rage. "That I pushed her away, because she was fucking my best friend? That I kept tellin' myself we'd work it out later and now I'm never gonna get that chance? That my whole marriage went to shit, and I don't even get to try to fix it? Fuck, Daryl…what good is talking about it gonna do?"

There tears in his eyes as he finished and his hands were trembling.

"I dunno…," Daryl sighed, shaking his head. "I just wanna be there for ya."

They stared at each other for a long moment, neither of them moving and the only sound Rick's ragged breath. Daryl wasn't going to be the one to break the silence. He was going to let Rick choose whether he shoved him away or let him in. At least the Dixon could say he tried—that was better than nothing.

Rick took a deep, steadying breath and met Daryl's eyes for the first time since they'd started talking. His tongue swept across his lips in a thoughtful gesture and he said quietly, "I've just felt…so…so alone for so long now. I mean…I found her, Daryl…I actually found her. And then…"

He shook his head and the tears finally rolled down his cheeks.

Daryl wasn't sure what to do. He wasn't used to dealing with crying men—or crying people of any sort—and for a moment he just stood awkwardly across from his friend. But then he reminded himself that he had asked for this. He'd pestered Rick to open up to him and that's what he was doing.

So, like he figured a good friend would, he crossed the gap between them and pulled Rick into a tentative hug. It was an awkward, uncertain gesture, but it was apparently all that was needed. The sheriff's arms eagerly wrapped around Daryl, yanking him closer, and he cried on the hunter's shoulder.

Daryl couldn't help thinking of what Merle would say if he could see this. He'd probably call him a fag and a bitch and tell him to stop consoling Rick. He'd say Rick was a pussy who couldn't handle his own shit.

But it didn't matter what Merle thought, because he wasn't there. All that mattered was that Rick was opening about shit for the first time and that Daryl was there to get him through it. That was his job as a friend.

"Shit, man…I wish I could say it would be okay, but…I ain't gonna lie like that," he said quietly. "But you ain't alone. You got a family here."

Without warning Rick released him, taking a quick step back and shaking his head as he explained, "Not like that…I know I've got people who love me, but…I'm still lonely. Been married for years—I don't know how to be alone anymore, ya know?"

Realization struck Daryl and his eyes widened with the epiphany. "Oh…well, I wouldn't know much 'bout that…never been married. Shit, never really been in a relationship."

"You just get used to havin' someone there all the time. To sleeping next to 'em and waking up to 'em. When I go to bed at night now…I don't sleep. I just…I just lay there and miss having someone there. And Lori…hell, even when she was there this past year it still felt cold…"

The redneck really had no idea what to say. He knew there was a reason he didn't do the hero thing—he was no good at it.

"Uh…so do we need to get ya laid or somethin'?" he joked, trying to resort to humor. Sometimes that made people feel better. Of course, it just pissed people off at times, too.

A strange flame sparked in Rick's eyes at the joke and he actually did laugh, but it was more of a cynical sound than a humorous one.

"I've thought about that," he mused darkly, the disturbed look that Daryl was becoming uncomfortably accustomed to forming on his face once again.

"Oh?" It was all Daryl could manage. Rick was making him a bit nervous now and he started to wonder what he had gotten himself into. Maybe his friend was a little farther gone than he'd originally thought.

"Mhmm…thought about it quite a bit actually. Not exactly happy with what I've been thinkin' either."

"And…whatcha been thinkin'?" He wasn't sure if he wanted to know. Rick was looking at him with dark amusement now, the person Daryl was used to calling his friend gone from sight.

"I can't tell you…" The leader's eyes shifted to the ground and his expression grew solemn once more.

"What? Is it…like Maggie or somethin'? 'Cause I ain't gonna judge ya for that man. Shit, I wouldn't even judge ya if it was Beth. I mean, I'd probably knock some sense into ya, but I'd get it."

When he didn't receive an answer and Rick just started in his direction at a slow, steady pace, the truth hit Daryl like a ton of bricks. He watched as his friend advanced on him, a determined and almost numb look on his face—like he was trying to shut down his emotions and just act.

"Rick—" Daryl didn't have a chance to finish his protest before Rick's chapped, warm lips were crashing down on his in a forceful kiss. His hand snaked around to the back of the redneck's head, his fingers twining into his hair and his breath hot against his face.

For a moment Daryl was too shocked to push him away. He stood there, still as stone, as Rick attacked his mouth eagerly, trying to force a response out of him. After a moment though he brought himself to give the man enough of a shove to send him stumbling back a couple feet.

"What the fuck, Rick?" he gasped, wiping the saliva from his lips and staring in shock. "I mean…I know yer head ain't right these days, but…"

The sheriff stared back, his face almost as shocked as the man he had just kissed, and shook his head slowly. "I…I shouldn't have…I'm sorry, Daryl…"

"Whatever, man…just don't do that again."

Daryl was still in a state of shock and his words were ragged from the shallow breaths he took. He'd never even thought about kissing a man before and that had been taken him so completely off guard…

He looked down to find his hands trembling at his sides. He was more shaken up than he had realized and as the numbness of the surprise started to wear off he slowly was becoming more and more frantic.

"Daryl…you all right?" Rick asked, taking a small step closer to him.

The hunter took a step back, flinching away, and tried to make sense of what he was feeling. He was experiencing a mental and emotional overload, his senses going suddenly wild, but somewhere in that tangle of confusion was something all too familiar. There was a slight tightening at the crotch of his jeans as it began to take over that he was instantly and horribly ashamed of. His face and neck flushed red and he tried to tell himself it was just all the time he'd gone without getting any.

He wasn't gay. Hell, he wasn't even a little bicurious. This was just months on end of celibacy getting to his head.

"Daryl…Daryl, I'm sorry…I didn't…," Rick muttered, shame and fear coating his voice. "I wasn't gonna say anything. I was gonna see if it went away…if it was just me bein' crazy."

"Damn right it's just you bein' crazy!" Daryl snapped, feeling a little guilty as he saw the way Rick flinched at his words. "I ain't into that shit…I ain't…what the fuck…?"

The last bit was said more to himself than to Rick as he tried to make sense of what his body was doing. Of course, he knew what was happening—he knew what it was to be horny—but he couldn't figure out why the hell he was feeling that way. Why was there a burning urge nagging at him every time he replayed that kiss in his mind?

It wasn't long before it was all he could focus on and as logic sank to the back of his mind he lunged forward. An animalistic need drove him towards Rick, made him mash their mouths back together hungrily, and it only grew stronger as the sheriff's mouth opened eagerly to him.

Fuck. He didn't know what he was doing, but it felt good. The frantic lips beneath his, kissing him like he was the only source of fresh air in the room, had him as hard as a rock now and he groaned softly as Rick's tongue slipped into his mouth. He tasted like dirt and blood, not exactly the best taste in the world, but Daryl still swirled his tongue around the other man's desperately.

Once he was able to move past the overwhelming sensation of the kiss, he became aware of the large, calloused hands that were trailing down his arms to grasp his hips and pull them forward. His erection rubbed against Rick's thigh and he felt a pang of embarrassment at the gruff moan that escaped him. What was worse was the wave of electric pleasure that jolted up his spine at having someone touch him like that. He hadn't even bothered to touch himself in a long while and he knew this wasn't going to last long.

He panted, gasping for breath as Rick's mouth moved down his jaw to his neck, the roughness of his facial hair having a peculiar effect on the redneck. It was a foreign sensation, one he never thought he'd like, but he shivered as it brushed against the tender skin of his neck and collarbone.

"Fuck…Rick…," he gasped, bucking his hips against his friend. He could feel the man's hard length against his now and even though it made him scoff at himself internally, he liked how it felt. He gripped Rick's hips and drove the two of them together as he found the sheriff's mouth again, reclaiming it.

"Stop," Rick muttered, pulling back just enough to speak. "Wait a minute…"

"Dammit, what?" Daryl groaned, frustration taking over as that wonderful friction was ended.

"Just slow down, that's all."

"Maybe I don' wanna." He kissed Rick again and his hand roamed down to fuss with the man's belt, but once again he was stopped. Rick's hands landed over his and he glared at the sheriff.

"Daryl…" Rick's cerulean eyes were dark with lust and his mouth was parted just slightly as he panted. He placed a couple of soft, chaste kisses to Daryl's lips, and then lowered hesitantly to his knees.

"Oh…," Daryl muttered, his face flushing as he realized why he'd been stopped. "You…you wanna do that?"

He wasn't sure how he felt about that. With his eyes closed and the distraction of Rick's mouth on his it was easy to get lost in what they were doing and not think about it. But if Rick was kneeled in front of him like that…if he was doing something that intimate…it might make it too real for Daryl to handle.

"Well, I don't have to…I mean…if you don't want me to…" Rick went to stand back up, but Daryl found himself pushing the man back down.

Even if he was ashamed by it, he couldn't deny that he wanted it. The thought of it sent chills through him, and so he gave a nod of approval. "Go 'head."

He chewed on the inside of his lip anxiously as he watched the man who had become his best friend unbuckle his belt. If he let his mind go blank it was almost like it was a dream…like he wasn't actually letting this happen. It was like he didn't truly love the way Rick's face was overcome with desire as he unsnapped his jeans and yanked them down a ways.

Daryl's hands roamed to his friend's slick, wavy dark hair and as his boxers were pulled down to reveal his thick, painfully hard cock he heard Rick sigh with anticipation. That little sound was enough to drive Daryl crazy and his fingers laced into the hair beneath them.

He sucked in a sharp breath as his length was taken into Rick's mouth and he closed his eyes. He couldn't watch this happen. He could feel it—he could even enjoy it—but if he watched…if he liked what he saw…that would be too much.

He was surprised by how deep his friend took him. He was oddly good at this, swirling his tongue around the head just the right way and using the vibration of his quiet moans to drive Daryl mad.

"God damn…yer really fuckin' good at that," he breathed, his knees growing weak as Rick cupped his balls and caressed them. "Fuck…you done this before?"

Rick stopped just long enough to smirk and say, "I've had plenty of head in my life. I know what feels good."

Daryl's eyes opened and he glanced down at him out of instinct. He was used to giving people his attention when they spoke, but as his eyes met Rick's he wished he would have ignored that impulse. He wasn't going to be able to look away now. He was transfixed by the sight of the other man holding his cock and staring up at him, the burning desire in his eyes making them even more blue than usual.

And when Rick started back up, sucking him into his mouth again, Daryl thought his legs were going to give out. He put out a hand, thankful when it found the wall, and gazed in awe at the sight before him.

Their eyes remained locked, even as Rick undid his own belt and jeans, and Daryl rolled his hips just slightly in motion with his companion's mouth.

"Oh, shit...," he hissed with pleasure as Rick began to stroke himself. "Fuck, Rick, I'm gonna fuckin' cum!"

He could feel it building at the base of his spine, tightening his core and making his body shudder. He cried out as he climaxed, Rick popping him out of his mouth just in time so that his cum leaked onto the prison floor.

He fell back against the wall, his heart racing and his chest heaving with heavy breaths, but he didn't rest long. Rick was still hard and watching him with those dark, eager eyes. He never would have thought he'd find his best friend attractive, but in that moment he looked downright fuckable.

He moved to his knees, getting down to the leader's level, and gently pushed the man back onto the cool concrete. He eyed his length uncertainly, torn between the raging desire to taste him and the voice in his head that told him he didn't do shit like that.

"You don't have to," Rick assured him, gazing up at him. "You could just use your hand."

Daryl contemplated that for a moment. As much as he wanted to repay him for the incredible experience he'd just received, it wasn't going to happen that night. He wasn't ready for that. Didn't think he ever would be.

"Thanks, man," he said with an impish smile as he lowered himself over Rick. Their faces were mere inches apart now and Daryl's hand found Rick's cock, which he slowly began to pump. Even that was…strange. It was a familiar enough feeling—he'd had his own dick in his hand plenty of times—but this was different. This was Rick.

He huffed and leaned into the man, kissing him deeply as he decided not to think about it. He wanted this. It felt good and hell, if it made his friend feel better…why the hell not?

He sped up his strokes slightly as he made out with Rick, their lips and tongues moving swiftly and eagerly together. It was obvious that they'd both missed that kind of physical contact and they ravaged each other trying to get more and more of it.

Rick's hips gyrated beneath Daryl as the hunter pumped him and his hands made their way up his strong back, groping at his skin desperately.

"Oh, Daryl…," he moaned, laying his head back against the ground and biting his lip for a moment. "I'm so close…shit…"

Daryl growled in response to Rick's words, working his dick harder and faster, and he nipped at his neck. He wanted to make him cum—wanted to hear him cry out his name as he did.

"Fuck, yea. C'mon, Rick…cum for me," he hissed. He was subconsciously grinding his hips into the man, already hard again, and his free hand rested at the base of Rick's neck. It choked him just slightly, only enough to make his face a little red, but he didn't protest.

"Oh, yea…fuck, Daryl!" He did just as the redneck wanted, calling out his name as he suddenly rolled to the side and came onto the floor as well. Just as he did, Daryl stopped grinding against him to indulge in his own climax before collapsing in exhaustion onto the dirty stone beneath him.

He lay across the hall horizontally, his legs wrapped up with Rick's. The other man lay vertically, gazing down at Daryl's sweat slicked face. They didn't speak; they just stared each other down as they caught their breath and processed what had just taken place.

Daryl at least took the time to yank up his pants and fasten them, although he knew it wouldn't make a difference if someone found them. Even as Rick did the same he knew it was obvious what had happened. There were pools of semen on the floor that they'd have to clean up and the intimate way their legs were entwined was almost as much of a giveaway as their sweaty, breathless bodies.

"The fuck does this mean?" Daryl finally muttered, his eyes wild with confusion. He'd never dreamed he would do something like this, not even with someone as close to him as Rick. And he'd liked it. It's not like it was just a pity fuck or because he was desperate.

"Do we have to figure that out right now?" Rick countered. "I mean…neither of us ever thought we were…"

"Gay?"

"Well…yea. And I don't think we are, to be honest."

"Then how the hell else d'you explain this?" Maybe Rick was just too out of it to care or maybe he was just ahead in the processing department since he'd been thinking about this for a little while. Either way, Daryl was nowhere near as calm about it as he was.

"I dunno…I've never wanted this before. It's not men I want…it's you."

"Fuck…" He'd said that word more times that night than he had all week. "Rick, I don't…"

"Stop. It's okay," Rick insisted. "I just lost my wife. I'm not asking you to be my boyfriend or anything."

Daryl nodded and rolled onto his back, staring at the ceiling. "Right…so what are you askin' me?"

"Just…be there."

Be there…isn't that what he'd been trying to do all along?

"Yea…all right. Ya know I will be."

They fell into silence again, a mutual understanding settling between the two of them, and Daryl decided that he didn't have to make any choices right then. If he was being honest, he needed this almost as badly as Rick, and whatever it was…he didn't want to complicate it yet. He just wanted what everyone else wanted.

He wanted to survive.