Disclaimer: I don't own AMC's The Walking Dead or any of its characters, wishful thinking aside.
Authors Note #1: This story is meant to fit in during season three. It is set at the prison after Axel's death but before "It's a Sorrowful Life" and the season finale.
Warnings: Contains season three spoilers, references to Daryl's past, possible child abuse, adult language, mature content, and well, shower smut.
The metal handle was slick to the touch when she eased the door open. All dented iron and corroded stainless steel as she tip-toed into the bathroom – her bare feet curling at the chill as she slipped off her shoes and wiggled her toes across the ugly, pea-green tiles.
She closed the door behind her with a soft click, skipping over a clump of long abandoned towels and a few questionable looking stains as she entered the communal portion of the showers. She took care not to be noticed as she continued her hunt for that little bar of soap she'd been saving since the winter. Determined to find it before one of the others came across it and figured it was fair game.
Or at least that's what she'd been planning on doing anyway.
Because without really meaning too, her eyes were drawn to the curtained-off section of the shower - something Maggie and Beth had rigged out of old bed sheets and a few roles of clear plastic to create a modicum of privacy. And before she could wrench her eyes away, she was taken aback by the pure surrealism of the moment.
She took in the scene in less time than it took for her to blink. Eyes roving from the trail of clothes that dotted across the tiles like breadcrumbs to the knife that had been carefully set in the cradle of the empty soap dish just beside the curtain. From there on in, it seemed only natural for her to notice the rest.
Things like the playful curls of steam that floated through the air like a band of low-lying of fog. Melding together with the shadows until it was impossible to distinguish one from the other. Sending uneven rainbows arcing across the tiles as the man brushed against the curtain and groaned in pleasure. The entire scene back-lit by a thin beam of bright Georgian sunlight as the younger Dixon made liberal use of the hot water.
And honestly, she couldn't blame him. Because after nearly a year of making do with sponge baths and lukewarm rubdowns, they didn't just have running water, they had hot water.
No one was exactly sure how he'd done it, but in addition to the generators, Axel had also worked wonders with the plumbing. Perhaps he'd just been tinkering around or maybe he'd been meaning to surprise them, but sometime before he'd died, he'd managed to hook the hot water tank up to the main generator. Honestly, she didn't have a clue as to how it all worked, but the point was that for the first time since the CDC, she felt almost human again.
In fact, having hot water felt a whole lot like some sort of miracle as far as she was concerned. And regardless of how long it lasted, she knew she'd always remember the man fondly. He'd been sweet, in an understated sort of way.
But enough about that…
The tiles were slick under her feet as she made her way deeper into the room. She tried to justify it by reminding herself about the bar of ivory soap she'd had her heart set on finding, but the truth was she'd gotten distracted by the angle of his silhouette as he leaned into the curtain. Watching first hand as he arched his hips into the spray and grunted in pleasure – slicking his hair back from his face as he picked up the bottle of shampoo and squeezed out a generous dollop.
She'd be lying if she said her mouth didn't go dry.
And really, who could blame her? The entire scene was framed to perfection by the billowing steam and the secluded locale. Hell, even the mood was set with the suggestive trail of clothes and the tantalizing shadows that were playing out just behind the curtain, so close that all she'd have to do was reach out and-
She caught her breath as his fingers dipped low.
And through a gap in the curtain she caught a glimpse of him, unable to stop herself as her eyes followed the muscled line of his flank. Her tongue ran across her lower lip as her eyes trickled up his torso, catching on the small peppering of hair that crowned his chest – dipping down from nipples to groin in a thin line of soft, honey-brown hair. Something that only highlighted the odd mole and half-faded bruise as the muscles in his chest rippled – subtle, and Jesus…dripping with moisture as she watched him reach up and fiddle with the shower head.
He ran his hands through his hair, working the shampoo into the filthy strands as he leaned back into the spray. Seemingly oblivious to everything else as the soaked tendrils fanned out across his neck, almost kissing his shoulders as he tipped his head back and closed his eyes. Looking young and surprisingly vulnerable as he let the water stream down his face, breathing through his nose until the fog of his breath melded together with the spirals of vapor that had already shrouded the room like a blanket. The air warm and moisture-laden as the barest whisper of a satisfied sigh echoed out above the sound of running water and rattling pipes.
And honestly, she was nearly staggered by the weight of it when she realized that she'd never seen him looking so relaxed.
It was against her better judgement when she took a step forward - taking a second and finally a third until she was just meters away and breathing hard. The air almost caustic with the moldy tang of ancient soap scum and old well water as she kept her eyes on that little sliver of skin that was just visible between the gap in the curtains.
Because despite the risk, she wasn't about to miss this…
Hell, after all they'd been through, a sight like this wasn't just rare, it was damn near non-existent. Not just in the physical sense but in the metaphorical as well. In that way they were here, now, finally living again. It felt remarkably as though they'd beaten the odds, at least for a little while.
So call her greedy, call her opportunistic, maybe even a bit voyeuristic if you saw it that way. But when push came to shove, she wasn't about to miss the chance to see him in his element - when he wasn't Daryl the hunter, the protector or survivor, but Daryl the man.
She wanted to memorize everything and store it away to dissect it later. She wanted to unravel all the intricacies and half-truths until he was laid bare. She wanted to see every imperfection, every scar, and insecurity and cherish each and every one.
She wanted to see more of the man that didn't have to work to maintain that surly attitude and closed-off expression. She wanted to see more of the man that didn't have to pretend that his past didn't haunt him every time he looked in the mirror. She wanted to see him caught up and distracted, lost in a string of moments where he could just…be.
He deserved that much at least.
But her glee was short lived. Because when Daryl shifted, angling his left flank into the spray as he arched his back and grunted, she swallowed hard - the air mineral rich and heady as she took in the wrecked canvas of his back. And somehow, despite the lingering thrill, guilt rose up the back of her throat like bile.
She'd known they were there of course, having caught a glimpse of them once or twice since that night at Hershel's, but catching a glimpse here and there was far different than actually seeing. Different from being forced to face them head on, taking responsibility for that knowledge and all the baggage that came along with it in a single glance or less.
Some were jagged and fresh, while others were muted and blurred with age. The shadows and steam made a mockery of reality as the hollows between them deepened, the angry pinks and reds only highlighted by the occasional sunbeam as he tucked his chin into his chest and leaned against the tiles. In essence, his back was a landscape of thick, ropy scars that snaked down the length of his spine and beyond. Criss-crossing across his ribs and trickling down to flirt with the curve of his ass as the pipes gurgled and the man himself let go of a remarkably satisfied sounding sigh.
She breathed in the same thick, humid air as he carried on with his shower, oblivious to her scrutiny as he lifted his cock and took a cloth to the crease - brushing over the head before pulling back the foreskin and rubbing briskly. The intent behind the action just short of obscene as his wide palms made short work of the task before he tossed the cloth to the side and ducked his head into the stream - spitting out a fountain of water with a distinctly childish air before turning his attention to the temperature dial.
And for a long, unsteady moment, she forced herself to look elsewhere. It wasn't something she could control, the misdeeds of others. But sometimes when she looked at him, she scared herself when she realized how far she was willing to go to try.
She froze as the water pressure fizzled and spat. Causing Daryl to cuss liquidity, swearing out a blue streak as he fiddled with the dials and thumped on the wall just below the shower head until the pressure returned to normal. Coaxing the ancient plumbing back to life with a very Dixon-like approach as the pipes fussed and groaned just behind the crumbling tiles.
Something fell in the tub with a wet splat. The sound made her jump as his silhouette suddenly loomed. Dangerously close to the uncovered portion of the shower as she hugged the wall. She felt ridiculous and just a little bit shaky as she peered around the corner and watched his shadow ripple behind the curtain.
She allowed her hands to slide across the slick tiles, nerve endings tingling with the sensation as she peered through the haze and caught a glimpse of his outline through the gap in the curtain. He was busy chasing the wash cloth around the basin, bent double and pitched forward at an angle that only highlighted curve of his rear and the long length of his back. Doing little to hide the sight of his growing erection as he snagged the washcloth between his thumb and forefinger and wrung it out - muscles tensing to near criminal affect as he raised his arms over his head and plastered the steaming cloth across the back of his neck.
Jesus, he painted quite the picture.
She knew it wasn't right to stare. Hell, she knew she was probably going to get caught doing it, but she'd be damned if she could stop herself. It was akin to getting tunnel vision. With everything else fading away in favor of watching him and the play of his muscles through gap in the thin plastic curtain.
Oddly enough, the whole thing was giving her flashbacks to her junior year. When she and her friends would watch the high school football team practice every Wednesday night, just on the off-chance that the quarterback would slip out of his jersey and hit the dirt in nothing but his sweet, baby-soft skin. Pumped up and privileged as his war whoops and half-assed lunges only made them giggle behind the bleachers.
The angle of his profile changed when the distant sound of someone laughing echoed from across the hall. He tensed a split second before she did. Affording her a front row seat to the way he paused, one hand hovering over the facet, like he was two seconds away from turning off the water and going to investigate. But after a long moment, he finally relaxed, the muscles in his thighs gradually going lax as a thousand different streams of water beaded across his skin in a sleeve of temporary crystal.
She caught her breath as she took him in. To the casual observer, he was all hard angles and thinly chiseled lines. With scar-studded skin that stretched over the arcs of his hipbones in a way that spoke of little instead of plenty, highlighting the hollows that had formed where hard muscle met bone.
But regardless of first appearances, there was also just the right amount of thickness to him that you couldn't call him lean. Lithe maybe, chiseled, perhaps, but definitely not lean. Not with those muscles. But even so, there was a certain smoothness to the way his limbs were put together - something that struck her as undeniably natural and real. It appealed to something inside her that she was hesitant to examine any further. Something feral, perhaps even instinctual that pulled her in the longer she stared.
And despite the humid air, she shivered. There was just something about the way that trail of hair wound down from his chest. Thinning out to trickle down his navel like errant freckles that made her want to-
She flushed at her own increasingly dirty thoughts. Shaking her head and redirecting her gaze as she watched him brace himself up against the side of the shower, his face pillowed in his arm as he let the water beat across his back. Crooked toes strangely restless as he drummed them aimlessly across the rusty metal drain, the rhythm jarring and lazy as a rather worrisome train of thought suddenly occurred to her.
What would he say if he saw her watching? Would he be upset? Would he clam up? Should she cut her losses before he noticed? Before he turned around and caught one of the few people he trusted in this world gawping at him like he was the main act at some soft-core bar smack dab in the middle of downtown Los Angeles.
She gnawed on the inside of her cheek. Limbs indecisive as her nails dug into the scummy grout. It should have been an easy decision. She should have just turned around and made her presence known. But she didn't.
After all, it wasn't like she was blind. End of the world or not, she was still a red-blooded woman. And despite everything that had happened, everything they'd gone through, in this moment, he was all hers. She finally had him all to herself. In a moment where he was unaware of her scrutiny, his movements were unconscious and easy as he hummed into the spray - mouthing the edge of the cloth as he curled his feet and balanced on the heels. Hell, now there was even an undeniable sway to his hips when he moved, angling himself into the shower with a move that had her all but throbbing.
She ran her fingers through her short hair, feeling the strands glide past, slick and lightly spiked with moisture as she shifted in place. Caught between the urge to take those last few meters by storm or flee entirely.
Through the gap she watched a trail of suds stream down between his shoulder blades. Just missing the edge of his twin devil tattoos before roving past his collection of old scars and fresh bruises. His wide palms reaching back to knead the water deep into his pores as he gargled a mouthful. Not even seeming to notice when the water ran grey around his feet, splattering the tiles with flakes of dirt and half-healed scabs as he inspected a particularly nasty looking bruise that stood out just below his knee with a critical eye.
If the girls back in high school could see her now…
She bit her lip. Her fingers strayed across the length of her thigh, inching sensually towards her center as she watched the muscles in his shoulders glisten, flexing as he lifted his arms above his head and braced himself against the wall. She watched with bated breath as the water streamed down the length of his spine, getting caught everywhere from the juts of his shoulder blades to the dimples that framed his ass as it trailed down his ankles and swirled down towards the drain.
Christ almighty, she was going to-
"Oy! Woman! How long does it take to grab a bar of soap?" He hollered, nearly giving her a god damned heart attack as he turned around in the tub as gestured towards her through the thin plastic curtain. Almost as if he'd known she'd been standing there the whole time.
"This water won't keep," he yelled, spitting out a mouthful on cue as he yanked the curtain open and fixed her with a look that had her soaking through her panties in less than five seconds flat.
And for a few long seconds, she was unable to do anything else but stare. He was naked and dripping as he leaned out of the tub and fixed his eyes on her. Leveling her with that awkward, come hither stare as she grabbed the bar of soap she'd been pretending to look for from on top of the cupboard and skimmed out of her clothes. Ducking under his arm, she stepped daintily into the tub behind him, laughing as he hooked her with the crook of his arm and brought her in close, making her squirm and lean into him as his stubble rasped across her skin. Crowding in close until she was overstimulated and wanting. Making her suddenly uncertain of where she wanted that surprisingly nimble tongue next.
Or should she say, first?
She got a soggy kiss for her efforts as she turned herself towards the spray, water beading off her breasts and pebbling around her nipples as he hummed into the curve of her neck - worrying the skin just below her collarbone like a man on a mission as she smiled into the spluttering stream.
But it wasn't until his hands came up to cup her breasts, tonguing a stripe down the arc of her neck as his stubble scraped clear across her tender skin, that she captured his hands in hers. She held up the bar of soap with a mischievous smile and an eager little wriggle that she made damn sure shivered down the length of him. All too willing to help him clean all those hard to reach places as the sound of his amused laughter bounced off the slippery tiles with a feeling that was just shy of providence.
A/N #1: Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think! Reviews and constructive critiquing are love! – This is the first real semi-smutty story I have written for the pairing, and I plan to write more ahead, so feedback would be appreciated! Hope you enjoyed!
"End-of-the-world stories tend to ring true. I've always been drawn to them, but as I wrote my own, I found surprising pleasure in creating a world that is so radically changed, yet where there's so much meaning and value in every small and ordinary thing we have, and take for granted: hot showers, enough food, friends, routines." - Karen Thompson Walker