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07 April 2015 @ 10:20 pm
"Mask of the Unforgiven" (Fic, Aaron/Daryl, PG-13)  
Title: Mask of the Unforgiven
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Aaron/Daryl (The Walking Dead)
Warnings: hurt/comfort, pre-slash, mentions of character deaths
Word Count: 926
Summary: After suffering a devastating loss, Aaron seeks comfort in the arms of a friend.
A/N: My second venture into writing TWD fanfic. Reckless shipper alert ;)

It’s been nearly three weeks since his world was shattered, since the love of his life was ripped from his arms, torn apart right before his eyes. He dreams about it sometimes – wakes up screaming and clutching at the sheets, drenched in sweat and wishing futilely for reprieve from the memories that will haunt him the rest of his life. He knows exactly what Daryl meant now – knows firsthand how it feels when the walls are closing in, suffocating him, mocking him with a false sense of security against a world that’s no longer theirs.

The evening is clear and cool when Aaron steps out onto the front porch. He wanted so desperately to be out here a minute ago, but now that he is, he’s uncomfortable in his own skin, inexplicably anxious under the blanket of night surrounding him. A bit of movement catches his attention and his eyes dart over to the neighboring house a few yards away, his gaze landing on the bright orange ember at the end of Daryl’s cigarette. Aaron nods politely but can’t seem to look away once their eyes meet.

“Bad dream?” Daryl half-asks, flicking away some ashes as he heads down the steps and begins to close the space between them.

“They have to stop eventually, right?” It’s a habit Aaron has always hated about himself – answering questions with more questions – but he can’t find it in him to care at the moment.

“They will,” Daryl agrees. “Doesn’t mean you stopped caring. But they will.”

“We should head out first thing tomorrow,” Aaron says decidedly. “I’m ready.”

“You sure?”

“No.” Aaron huffs out a humorless laugh and leans forward a bit, lightly resting his hands on the smooth wooden railing – sky blue, Eric’s favorite color – the deciding factor for the house he now lives in alone. “I thought maybe there’d be some kind of sign – from God or whatever – to let me know it was all right to go on.”

Daryl finishes his cigarette, snuffing out the last few embers under the heavy heel of his boot. “Ain’t always a sign for everything. Sometimes you just know.”

Aaron hums thoughtfully and reaches out to grab the pack of Marlboros that Daryl set down between them. He quit smoking after college, but falling off the wagon nearly twenty years later doesn’t seem like a sin worth fretting over. But his hands won’t stop trembling as he picks up the lighter and tries in vain to coax out a flame – flicking the ignitor again and again to no avail. Bitter tears burn in his eyes before he can stand a chance at stopping them, blurring his vision until the world around him disappears behind them. He sinks to his knees, utterly and completely lost; wishing for the millionth time that the earth would open up and swallow him whole.

The tears won’t stop now that they’ve started – just keep right on streaming down his face in jagged tracks, hot and bitter against his lips when he opens his mouth to choke down a gulp of air. He gasps, startled at the sensation of strong arms circling around him, holding him steady where he’s still shaking. It’s nothing more than instinct for Aaron to melt into Daryl’s embrace, burying his face against the man’s chest, letting himself cry for the first time since it all happened. Sobs wrack his body, sorrow welling up inside of him like a cistern about to overflow. He can barely breathe anymore, has to focus hard on forcing air in and out of his lungs – just one breath after another – until it slowly dawns on him that Daryl’s palm is pressed firmly against his heart. It’s strong and steady and oddly soothing, comforting like nothing else the world has ever offered him. Aaron raises his own arm between them and curls his hand around Daryl’s, threading their fingers together as his ragged breaths gradually even out.

He finally pulls away after a few moments, just enough to sweep his eyes up to Daryl’s. There are unshed tears there, the pale glow of moonlight making them shine behind the too-long fringe of hair falling across his forehead.

“I lost someone, too,” Daryl admits quietly, his voice barely more than a whisper. “And I wanted to give up.”

Aaron remembers it vividly – watching from beyond the thick canopy of trees as Daryl sank to the ground next to the abandoned barn and just sobbed, let the pain overcome him and the tears wash away the heartache and sorrow. He was alone, had wandered far off from his group, and suddenly it all makes sense – makes it painfully clear how similar the two of them truly are, experts at hiding so much raw emotion behind their unwavering masks.

“But you can’t stop fighting,” Daryl continues on. “That’s not who you are.”

Aaron tugs his lip between his teeth and then nods after a few long moments, reaching up with his free hand to sweep this thumb across Daryl’s forehead, tracing lightly down the side of his face to rest high on his cheekbone.

“Who we are,” Aaron murmurs.

Daryl quirks an eyebrow but doesn’t pull away. “What?”

“It’s not who we are.”

Daryl nods and exhales slowly, leaning forward to rest his forehead against Aaron’s. It should be awkward, but unexplainably it’s not – just the two of them huddled together on the porch of a house that’s not a home anymore, nothing but the dead of night surrounding them and the barely-there hum of cicadas far in the distance.
 
 
 
mdlawmdlaw on April 9th, 2015 02:31 am (UTC)
Ohhhhhh....... m. /o\
Sakurasakura_no_mi on April 9th, 2015 05:02 am (UTC)
Hmm, was that a good or a bad "ohhh"? Either way, thanks for reading :D
mdlawmdlaw on April 9th, 2015 12:05 pm (UTC)
That was a - Oh myvheart - Ohhhh. m. ;)
My Huntermeus_venator on May 4th, 2015 03:06 am (UTC)
Lovely stuff. I've never read any TWD fic before, but I can see this happening in my head, so utterly tender. I always love when you post, you just have a beautiful way with words.