eyeus: (Rickyl)
Title: Love, Essentially
Fandom: The Walking Dead (TV)
Pairing: Rick / Daryl
Rating: NC-17
Words: 2930 (63500 total)
Summary: To me, you are perfect.

Rick’s confession, made with snow-damp cue cards and every ounce of his devotion, had been perfection itself—except his perfect love belonged to someone else.

But spring’s in full swing now, and it’s the time for new beginnings. The first blooms of new loves. It’s the season for change itself.

Little does Rick know how much his life will change.

A/N: A Love, Actually fusion fic. Inspired mainly by this gifset here, and this scene from the Love, Actually movie.



~


Despite the fact that the sign Rick’s been waiting for had hit him full in the face, he’s still of the mind that he should take some time before jumping into things. Take stock of his feelings, about Daryl. To know what he really wants. Because he doesn’t want Daryl to be his rebound, to be the person waiting to catch Rick after his fall. Daryl doesn’t deserve any of that, because Daryl is the best man he knows.

Rick has to be absolutely sure.

So it’s almost autumn, before he lets himself think they could really be something, or that there’s a possibility to at least start something between him and Daryl.

Rick’s worked himself up to the point where he’s decided he’s in love with Daryl—yes, that was a moot point now, no matter how much he’d tried to keep himself from it—and all Rick had to do now was decide whether to tell him, or to take this secret to the grave.

Except at the thought of actually telling Daryl, even signalling his intentions somehow, Rick’s courage absolutely quails, his stomach starts churning something awful, and he just starts backsliding, thinking that maybe he’s all right with Daryl not ever knowing. That maybe it’ll be a secret worth taking to the grave, if only he gets to keep Daryl forever.

“Rick,” Daryl says, nudging his shoulder.

Rick blinks, suddenly remembering where he is and what he’s doing. It’s hard when he’s decided on a course of action where he’ll never tell his now-best friend how he feels about him, and the secret is eating Rick up from the inside. It is, in all honesty, every kind of exhausting.

He’s managed to last two of the three days of their outdoors weekend trip, though, and Rick gives himself a pat on the back for that. He’d rather bottle up the feeling than let it all out and be the fool who confessed to Daryl. He won’t be the one getting an odd look in return, or a Sorry Rick, I just don’t feel the same.

No, that won’t be Rick.

Rick,” Daryl says again, louder this time. “The hell’s the matter with you?” He sounds utterly incredulous, as Rick’s line goes slack and the outline of a fish can be seen darting away. “That’s the third catch you’ve let get away today.”

And something about that hits too close to home, of Rick letting good catches go, and Rick’s brain-to-mouth filter suffers a grave malfunction, as he blurts out, “You ever thought of gettin’ married?”

Daryl stills for a moment, before asking very slowly, “To who?”

To me, Rick knows the tiny voice in his heart is straining for him to say. He gestures uselessly in the air with his hand, instead. “You know. The right person, when you meet them. The one.”

And maybe it’s the autumn cold, or the fact that he hasn’t gotten a bite yet and Rick’s gotten three that’s got Daryl riled up, because he snaps, “Ain’t no one.” There must be something hurt in Rick’s expression, because Daryl’s voice gentles in the next instant. “There’s—there’s the person you make your one, I guess.” He tugs a little too hard at his reel, eyes not meeting Rick’s. “Maybe I…if there was somethin’ there. A spark. Guess I could.”

Suddenly, the prospect that Daryl wouldn’t be averse to the idea terrifies Rick. That if he found a spark with someone, he would get married, and Rick, well—Rick would have to stand by, suffering in silence while pretending to be happy for someone he loved yet again.

It fuels his courage just a little more, and Rick decides that he’s just going to have to tell Daryl, somehow. Because he can’t bear a repeat of someone he loves becoming somebody else’s, and he doesn’t think his heart could survive losing Daryl.

Except he hasn’t the faintest clue if he’s got a chance with Daryl at all. Has no idea what Daryl’s preference in a partner is. If he likes his women tall, or short, blonde or brunette.

If he likes women that way at all.

I need more information, Rick decides. I need to test the waters.

The fact that they’re sitting in a small rowboat, fishing in the middle of a lake, isn’t lost on him, and that’s probably why everything’s turned into a fishing metaphor for Rick. But it’s true that he needs to test the waters. To make absolutely sure that the innuendos and implications that Daryl tosses out from time to time mean something, and that they’re not just a little teasing between friends, to get a rise out of Rick.

Innuendos and easy banter were one thing—hell, Rick can’t stop thinking back to Daryl’s maybe better when Rick had said he’d hoped he was as handsome as Clint Eastwood in his prime, with a sweeping head-to-toe glance that couldn’t be anything but appreciative—but acting on them was another.

“A spark, huh,” says Rick. He notices a faint tug on Daryl’s reel, but to his surprise, Daryl’s not doing anything to bring it in.

Daryl doesn’t bother to answer him this time, just focuses on the reel like he’s going to get a bite at any moment. There’s a faint red hue spreading across his cheeks, but Rick attributes it to the chill of the lake, or the subject matter they’re discussing.

“I…” Rick ventures slowly. Hoping for a subtle way to phrase this that won’t leave Daryl asking him awkward questions after. Maybe instead of suggesting that Daryl could have a spark with him, he could put a different spin on it. He casts this line of reasoning, careful, in Daryl’s direction. “I have a sister—”

“I ain’t goin’ out with your sister,” Daryl says, a little too sharply, before he tugs his poncho tighter around his shoulders. Curls into himself, like an armadillo, armor-plated. Protected. Safe. Like Rick’s just prodded his soft underbelly with a stick and he needs to keep his secrets close again, afraid of revealing too much.

Rick’s quick to hide his pleased grin, in case Daryl thinks Rick’s making fun of him, but he hadn’t expected to get a bite on his line so quickly. His sister Rachel’s already married, of course, but the fact’s never really come up in conversation, so Daryl doesn’t know it yet. And just from this small exchange, Rick knows something else, too.

That maybe he’s got a tiny wisp of a hope, after all.

I could do it, Rick thinks. I could say, ‘If not my sister…what about me?

And if Daryl just stared at him like he’d grown a third eye, instead of simply setting forth the possibility of a them, of a more, then Rick could simply laugh it off, like it never was.

“Why’re we talkin’ about this, anyway?” Daryl says, derailing that train of thought, as he peers at Rick now, eyes narrowed into those suspicious slits again.

“No reason,” Rick says, too quickly. He doesn’t have a poncho to pull tight around his shoulders, but he does pull his knees tighter to his core. Daryl’s not the only one who doesn’t want to expose his soft underbelly yet.

But Daryl’s never been one to let go of something so easily either. “You got somethin’ you wanna tell me, Rick?” he says, voice pitched lower, quieter. It seems he’s finally noticed the bite on his line, and he’s keeping a careful tension on the line, keeping it taut, tugging on the rod where he needs to, just like he’s taught Rick.

Rick’s heart stutters in his chest, the hummingbird beat of wings suddenly halted, and his heart chants now, now, now, while his mind advises, no, no, no.

“Was just curious, is all,” says Rick, as he leans back against a solid support in their rowboat. It sounds silly even as he says it, because even the best of friends talk about cars and sports and what they do in their leisure time, but hardly anyone talks about You thinkin’ of gettin’ married? and What’ll you do when you meet the one?

Except there’s really no better reply at this time, since Rick’s only just decided on his course of action, and it’s still early moments yet.

“Sure,” says Daryl, voice devoid of any real emotion. His line’s gone slack, which means there has to be a fish, but when he reels it in, there’s nothing at the end of it. “Curious. Makes sense.”

It must be his imagination, Rick tells himself, that even as Daryl nods, his shoulders slump the slightest bit. And that, Rick decides, after all that’s been said between them today, is curious enough in itself.

~


Another two weeks slip by, after Rick’s decided he’ll go for it. That he’ll tell Daryl how he feels.

Two weeks of agonizing over his game plan, and running through every possible combination of outcomes through his head. It had sounded so easy when he first thought of it: tell Daryl the truth, simple as that. And if Daryl didn’t feel the same, Rick would rebuild the casing of frost and ice around his heart that Daryl had somehow bullied his way through, to guard against future pain.

Then, of course, Rick’s mind had veered off the straight and narrow, and taken a turn into places unknown, worrying over how he could act after, if things didn’t go his way. If they could stay friends, at least, because he’d miss Daryl’s soft and easy laughter. The way he’d squeeze Rick’s elbow when he wanted Rick’s attention on a hunt, or the way he’d curl into Rick’s side on the tent floor while asleep, when they headed out into deer country for the weekend.

There was also the possibility that Daryl would turn tail and run, something that’d worried Rick for countless nights.

Christ, he was in deep.

Rick’s almost tempted to call his sister for advice on the matter, but he could do without the Spanish Inquisition that’ll inevitably follow, so it’s pretty clear he’s on his own for this one.

Just tell him already, Rick decides one morning, after the nth night of tossing and turning through piss-poor sleep. He’s just about reached his breaking point. Tell him the damn truth and be done with it.

Except, as in all things, it’s easier said than done.

They’re at the park again today, this time to catch the sight of leaves on the trees at the zenith of color, with their fading sunlit golds and flame oranges, their fallen number speckling the pavement until it looks like the paths are paved with tiny stars. Rick’s favourite area of the park is where a row of trees, bent with age and wind, have formed a gentle canopy with the trees on the other side, a lush hallway of reds and golds that, lit from above, makes the passage as bright and brilliant as the dawn.

And while they’re here mainly because Merle had kicked them out of the house, saying ‘a man’s got needs, and they gotta be met’, Rick can’t help but be thankful that this is what they’ve come out to: the air chilled but clean, sweet with the smell of fallen leaves, the wind rustling through the trees like the whispers of playful sprites, and the pond nearby, gleaming crystal-bright with the light of the sun and the wonder of the trees’ reflections.

Rick’s led them to his favourite place in the park, with the trees forming their natural arbour, and thankfully, it’s free of other people; most of the kids have decided to play near the half-heartedly raked leaf piles, and the few couples there have chosen to wander along other leaf-lined paths. So this is as quiet a place as any, and Rick needs quiet, especially for what he’s hoping to do.

He’s not sure what he’s going to say, or even how to say it, but he’s just opened his mouth to speak when Daryl rubs his hands together, like he’s chafing a little warmth back into skin. “Season’s changin’,” he remarks casually, looking up at the sky. Watches the slow, graceful flutter of leaves that a light wind sends drifting to the ground.

“Yeah,” says Rick, swallowing back his words. The season has been changing, among other things.

Daryl’s gaze meets Rick’s, and he holds it for a moment, silent, thoughtful. Maybe he sees something in Rick’s eyes, because he nods, once, and twitches a little smile at him. “Oughta be other things changin’ too,” he says, a little less casually. Less sure, somehow.

Rick’s breath catches in his throat, because yes, he’s been noticing a few things changing himself. Daryl’s hair is getting longer, for one; it isn’t that soft, baby-fine down he had before, just enough to cover his ears, but longer, darker. Enough volume and length for Rick to run his fingers through, if he wants to.

And god, does he want to.

He’s noticed the way Daryl’s half smiles twitch into fuller actual smiles now, the expression brightening his face and softening the hard lines that have built up around his brow, his mouth, the kind that’s been bred from a lifetime of frowning and aching and hurting.

And Rick would be lying if he said he hadn’t noticed the way Daryl—

Rick sucks in a hard breath, because he can’t keep going down that road. He’s got to know what Daryl’s referring to, because surely he can’t mean…surely this isn’t what Rick’s hoping it is.

“You said there oughta be other things changin’,” Rick ventures, hoping the waver in his voice doesn’t give him away. “Like what?”

Daryl blinks at him for the briefest moment, surprised, like he doesn’t have an answer at the ready, or more likely, can’t say what he’d meant to. Ducks away to blow a warm breath into his hands. “More geese’ll be movin’ through here soon,” he says finally. “On their way south.”

Rick tries not to think of other things moving south too, as Daryl leans in just a little closer, like the bloodflow to his—

Geese,” says Rick, too emphatically by half. “Right.” He can’t help but wonder what Daryl had meant to say, because they’ve been dancing around this all summer, and Rick remembers the way Daryl had handed him that electric-blue lemonade, and said, The color reminded me of your—before covering it up with a quickly mumbled truck.

Rick knows what he’s hiding, but he just can’t figure out what Daryl is.

If this moment was part of a fairy tale, or a scene in one of those Disney princess movies Rick’s niece loved, Daryl might’ve said, Oughta be other things changin’ too—like your heart.

And Rick could’ve taken Daryl’s hands in his, like he was going to plight his troth by the moonlight and said, It’s already changed. And it was your touch that melted the fortress of ice I’d built around it.

But it’s not, and Rick stays silent on the matter, because Daryl doesn’t elaborate much further than his point of geese moving through. Doesn’t take Rick’s hands in his to tell him You know that emotion you’re feelin’ right now? Well, I feel it too.

Rick just watches Daryl rub his hands together again, and thinks, I could do it. I could warm my own hands then take his hands in mine. See how he reacts. He doesn’t think he’ll be plighting any troths anytime soon, but he does think I could, as he watches Daryl’s hand sway next to his, easy, while they walk. I should.

He tries to sling an arm around Daryl’s shoulders, something non-committal and friendly-like, just to test the waters, but then Daryl turns to say something, and Rick’s hand shrinks back, until all he manages is a feeble back pat.

Take that step forward, Rick wills himself, when Daryl turns away and they’ve fallen into step beside each other again. He eyes Daryl’s hand once more, ungloved, vulnerable, and probably cool from the chilly autumn air. Let him know.

But by the time they’ve reached the end of the column of trees, let leaves rustle and crunch beneath their feet, Daryl’s hands are plenty warm already, especially after he’s jammed them into his pockets, and Rick’s missed his chance.

And maybe wilfully so, because he’d caught Daryl’s eyes as they spoke, blue of the ocean’s depths in winter. Watched him tilt his head back and revel in the sun overhead and the swirl of leaves around them. Memorized the lovely slant to his lips as he picked a leaf from Rick’s hair.

Rick could only think of all he stood to lose if he breathed the words he needed, and took the leap.

Because it suddenly hurt, the thought of not having Daryl by his side, a palpable ache that settled deep in Rick’s chest. He had, of course, pondered the thought of it night after night, but it was different, when he was looking Daryl in the eye. It was different when Rick could see everything he would miss about Daryl once he was gone.

There’ll be more chances, Rick tells himself, as he jogs to catch up to Daryl in the cool, autumn air. Steels his resolve, willing away thoughts of consequences and absences, and instead conjuring up thoughts of forever and together.

There’ll be more.

And if there aren’t, Rick will just have to make his own chances.


(tbc - Chapter 8)

End Notes:
Inspiration for this chapter was drawn from various photos of the autumn season, which can be found here, here, and here.

Date: 2016-09-23 02:42 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] legolastariel.livejournal.com
Those two, I swear to God, are driving me plain nuts. I feel like slapping two dudes up the side of their head just now. Is this even possible?! Can two people be any slower!? They gonna be retirement age by the time they finally find their balls and speak up. And it's not just Rick - Daryl's just as bad. Dropping hints here and there like Hansel and Grethel dropped the bread crumbs. Geese ... OMG.
But at least they enjoyed a wonderful walk on a lovely autumn day. Great pics btw. I so love the fall. By the time Rick manages to get hold of Daryl's hand to warm it up, they can probably build snowmen together. *sighs*
Lovely chapter, but honest to God - they ARE driving me nuts. LoL

Date: 2016-09-30 04:54 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] eyeus.livejournal.com
I want to just smoosh their faces together and say, "NOW KISS", as they drive me nuts too. Hopefully they'll get their act together soon, though.

Thanks for reading!
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