eyeus: (Rickyl)
Title: Love, Essentially
Fandom: The Walking Dead (TV)
Pairing: Rick / Daryl
Rating: NC-17
Words: 2850 (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.



~


Rick stops by Merle’s repair shop the day after, and the day after that, to see if there’s a chance to catch Daryl and find out what’s wrong, because Daryl hasn’t returned any of his calls. But Daryl’s either not there, or Merle shoos Rick away, mostly by brandishing a tire iron in his face and grinding out a What’d you do to my baby brother, huh? Why’s he actin’ like someone just died?

And even if he hears a tired Merle, stop, Daryl doesn’t come out to meet him, just calls out a Rick, we’re busy and leaves it at that.

So when Daryl’s waiting on the front steps Thursday afternoon, with Rick’s scarf bundled around his neck like he’s some kind of ruffian outlaw, Rick’s so happy that he pulls Daryl into a hug. It’s tight and warm, an I missed you spoken with arms and hands as he buries his face in Daryl’s neck. Breathes in the smell of him that clings to Rick’s scarf, the sweet musk that Rick’s gone too long without.

“Thought Merle might need a hand in the shop today,” Daryl tries, his voice too small. He lets his arms close cautiously around Rick’s shoulders. “But, uh. We’re good for today, I guess.”

“Good.” Rick beams at him, as he leads Daryl to the Jeep. “Good.” He’s got the best day planned for them ever, and he’ll be damned if he lets Merle or his own shaky courage get in the way.

Their first stop is the toy store, because Rick figures it’ll be a nightmare come evening, especially since it’s Christmas Eve. Rachel’s asked them to pick up the gifts she’d ordered for her kids ahead of time, and Rick’s decided that the sooner it’s done, the better.

What he doesn’t expect is how much fun Daryl seems to have there. They start out only browsing, while waiting for the gift-wrap service, but before long they’re knee deep in the Lego pit, building things with the best of the kids, like gliders and small cars with blocky wheels. And even if they get a few odd looks, most of the parents find them harmless enough to just shrug and walk away.

“Never had things like this, when I was a kid,” Daryl admits, his cheeks flushed, when Rick leans over to admire the Lego maze that Daryl’s built.

“We could get some,” offers Rick, grinning, as he sends an unwitting Lego man straight into a dead end of Daryl’s design, where there’s a dragon perched, waiting. “Spread them out in the living room and go to town.” Rick knows he’s jumping ahead of himself, already imagining a Lego night with Daryl, where they’d build all kinds of things—heck, maybe even start on one of those thousand-block projects he’d seen on the Internet. But Daryl’s enthusiasm is catching, and Rick’s only too happy to let himself be swept up in the maelstrom that’s Daryl’s wonder and delight at so simple an activity.

Except something about that makes Daryl’s smile fade a little at the corners, leaving Rick wondering what he’d said wrong. Was it the we? Had he come on too strong?

Before he’s got a chance to ask Daryl just what he’s said that’s bothering him, Daryl’s turned to the action figures, fingers looped around the waist of an Iron Man, making it soar through the air. So Rick plays along, and grabs the nearest thing at hand, which happens to be a Barbie that looks like some kind of fashion designer.

They end up making up a silly story where Iron Man saves Barbie from some laser-eyebeam ponies—roping a few rainbow-coloured pony dolls into their cast of characters—but halfway through the rescue, Barbie ends up dying anyway, because her waist is so tiny her spine snaps when Iron Man tries to fly her away.

Both of them get a lot of dirty looks from nearby parents for that, which is when Rick knows it’s time to usher Daryl away from there into the book section.

The toy shop’s starting to get busier by the time they’ve browsed through the whole collection of picture and movie tie-in books, so they make their way back to the New Arrivals counter, to pick up the gifts that Rachel’s pre-ordered, Rick making sure he’s got the receipt slips that she left him. There’s a sleek, black bike with training wheels for Lucas, that’ll go with the gloves Daryl got him, and a dollhouse for Aurora, that’ll go with the dolls Rick and Daryl bought for her, both gifts wrapped in the time they took to explore the store.

It’s a fight in itself to get to Rick’s car in the parking lot, but they manage it in the end, tossing the gifts into the trunk before settling into heated car seats for a breather, a moment to collect themselves.

“That was,” Daryl says, grinning, even as he huffs out an exhausted breath. “That was…”

“Good?” Rick suggests after a moment, hopeful. Their stay at the toyshop had been unexpected, but it’s breathtaking to see Daryl like this, his eyes gleaming with some long-forgotten spark, and his smile a mile wide.

“Yeah,” says Daryl finally. “That was good. All of it.” It hasn’t escaped Rick’s notice that they’d sidestepped the word fun, but as long as Daryl equates it to good, that’ll do in Rick’s books.

There’s still enough time left over before their cake’s ready—he’d gotten a call from someone named Sophia with an Estimated Time to Completion—so Rick decides to move onto the next thing on his agenda. And that’s taking Daryl for a leisurely winter walk around the valley where the lights had been strung the other night, because their day display is nearly as pretty as their night’s.

It bothers him that Daryl’s smile today doesn’t seem to last, and Rick can’t figure out why that is, but he makes every effort to try and make Daryl laugh. To do all the things he knows Daryl likes, and bring Daryl back from whatever distant place he’s wandered off to in his mind.

So when they’ve made it to the light display, Rick makes sure he picks up a hot apple cider for Daryl, to keep him warm. Comes up with an excuse to readjust his scarf around Daryl’s neck again—yes, that end has indeed come loose, let me get that for you—all the while thinking of how it might be if Rick could find one of those two-person scarves. The kind that’d be long enough to wrap around them both, cozy and warm. Maybe Rachel could knit one for them, like she’d knit those god-awful Christmas sweaters for Rick, year after year, her way of carrying on their mother’s legacy.

He even makes the effort to reach out and take Daryl’s hand when he wants to show him something. Points at whatever’s caught his interest with his free hand, even if the thought of it makes his stomach do an anxious flop, because Rick can’t forget the look on Daryl’s face when he’d pulled away the other night, of hurt and unhappiness that made Rick’s heart ache. When Rick had thoughtlessly said we’re not, and nothing of the words he’d wanted to say.

Is this all right? Rick asks with raised eyebrows, when they’ve reached the hilltop, where metal wiring’s been wrung into the shape of a rabbit, ready for the white twinkle lights twined around it to be lit for the night. Waits for the other shoe to drop, for Daryl to tear Rick’s scarf from his neck and say enough’s enough and yank his hand out of Rick’s grip. So that things can come to a head, somehow.

But all Daryl does is give him a watery half-smile. Lets Rick guide him this way and that, oddly quiet, even for Daryl.

He’s even strangely listless when Rick takes him to the theatre for the Retro Feature, and the movie turns out to be On Golden Pond, which Rick had thanked his lucky stars for, because it’s a movie he knows Daryl loves.

If Rick didn’t know any better, he’d say it was almost as if Daryl was trying not to enjoy himself.

It’s dark out by the time they wander over to the bakery to pick up their Christmas cake, and even though Daryl’s dragging his feet, Rick’s sure the sight of their cake will put the spring back into his step. And if that doesn’t work, Rick knows he’s got to nip this in the bud, and talk to Daryl about what exactly is going on.

They’ve just left the shop, leaving behind the aroma of cinnamon spice loaves and cream cheese tarts and stepped into the cool night air, when Rick opens the bag and glances into the clear top of the box. Just to take a quick peek at their cake.

“Look, Daryl!” he says. It’s in the shape of a heart, just like Rick had wanted but was too embarrassed to request, and there’s a miniature sign propped in the center, saying Merry Christmas. Just beneath it, scrawled in tiny, looping letters, is I wish you happiness, in what’s probably Carol’s hand, the lady who’d taken their order for the cake.

“Rick,” Daryl says, quiet.

“You’ll never believe what they added to our cake!” Rick continues, and he’s just about to point out that they’d gotten a light dusting of peppermint crunch after all, a surprise to bring the pleasure back into Daryl’s eyes, when Daryl closes those eyes and lets out a shaky breath.

Rick,” he says again. Like he’s steeling himself to say difficult. Something Rick won’t like.

“Yeah,” Rick says, wondering what it is Daryl wants to say. The thing that Rick’s been trying to tell him all month—maybe all year—can wait. “What is it?”

Daryl just sucks in another breath, slow, deep, before letting it all out at once. “Maybe we shouldn’t,” he says. “Spend so much time together.”

The breezy grin drops off Rick’s face in an instant. “Wait, what?” Rick asks, in disbelief. “Where’s this comin’ from?” He’s thinking some useless litany of but we made plans together and tonight we’re makin’ dinner together, but Daryl’s already one step ahead of him.

“You can keep the stuff we got,” Daryl says. “I ain’t hurtin’ for food. And you make sure—” His voice wavers just the slightest bit, but he swallows hard and carries on. “You make sure Lucas and Aury get their presents. ‘Cause I ain’t takin’ those back. But this?” Daryl gestures between them with a wave of his hand.

“This…?” Rick echoes, uselessly.

“This thing,” Daryl starts, before swallowing again, the sound audible even over the voices of distant carollers. “I can’t do this no more.”

“Can’t do what?” Rick says. He reaches out to take Daryl by the shoulders, to make contact somehow, because Daryl’s feeling too distant all of a sudden. Too far for Rick’s liking. But Daryl takes a half-step back, just enough to keep him out of Rick’s reach, like he doesn’t want to be touched.

Like he doesn’t want to be touched by Rick.

“Daryl,” Rick tries again, slowly this time. Careful. “What is it that’s been botherin’ you? All day, you’ve been—”

Daryl lets out a shaky laugh, incredulous and hurt, like he can’t believe Rick hasn’t guessed what it is yet. Purses his lips together in a thin, hard line, before the rest of his expression follows suit, becoming carefully neutral.

“Ain’t nothin’ botherin’ me,” says Daryl, the slightest edge to his voice. He shrugs, trying too hard to make the motion look casual. “Just ain’t got time to run ‘round with you no more.”

“That’s never been a problem before,” Rick says, brow furrowing, because Daryl’s put aside weekends for them now, and more than once, ditched half a day’s work on Merle—or at least, Rick suspects he has—when Rick tells him he’s got a rare day off. So Daryl suddenly becoming this unavailable doesn’t make sense.

“It’s startin’ to get busy at the shop,” Daryl says, toeing at something on the ground, but Rick’s already shaking his head.

“We’ll work around that,” Rick says firmly. “We’ve done it before.” Shoots down every one of Daryl’s poor excuses, because he can’t fathom not seeing Daryl for any stretch of time, can’t imagine not seeing him ever again. “God, I’ll come in, give you guys a hand with—”

No,” Daryl snaps finally. Rick can tell his temper’s fraying at the edges, by the way he rakes fingers through his hair, sprigs of it sticking out straw-straight. The way he’s pacing, on a four-step patch of ground, a thing Daryl only does when he’s particularly agitated. “That ain’t what I—no. You know what? Your buddy, Shane? Maybe he had the right idea about us after all.”

Rick just throws his hands up, because when has Shane ever been right about anything involving Daryl? He can’t remember a time when Shane’s actively said anything about him, besides his puzzled Is that a Dixon, so Daryl’s not making any sense.

“What are you even talkin’ about?” Rick says, and Daryl mumbles something that sounds like your name rhymes with brick, ‘cause you’re fuckin’ dumb as one, before reaching out to cup Rick’s cheeks in his palms, the motion oddly gentle, and kisses him.

No fireworks explode and no choir belts out a hymn of praise; it’s just a light press of lips, soft and sweet and chaste, but the way Daryl moves into it, with every ounce of feeling he has, leaves Rick with the idea that there’s potential for more.

It’s over too soon, and Rick thinks to chase after the touch, to get Daryl’s mouth on him again right bloody now, but his body doesn’t move and he just stands there, stunned, blinking like a deer in headlights. Because everything he’s wanted has just occurred in the space of the last ten seconds, and Rick needs a moment to process, to compute, to—

Shit,” Daryl says, stumbling backward. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Rick.” And before Rick can catch his arm, can remember to call out Daryl, wait, Daryl turns and bolts in the opposite direction.

Rick touches fingers to his lips, feeling oddly bereft now that Daryl’s gone. He knows the desperation behind Daryl’s kiss, knows the feeling so well it hurts.

The misery of I’m in love with you, but you don’t feel the same.

Suddenly, all of Daryl’s Can’t do this no more’s and excuses make sense, and Rick could tear his hair out in frustration, because he’s let Daryl think that he was alone in this, all this time.

I’ve got to make things right, Rick decides. To fix things somehow. To let Daryl know he’s not the only one in this equation and that they’re in this together, like they have been for everything.

He hightails it to his place in less than five minutes, and wrenches the leftover blank cue cards from where he’d stashed them last Christmas—in the corner of the closet, after his reckless and impulsive confession to Lori—because this time, he has something he needs to say. And Rick knows he’s not the best at speaking, so he writes everything he feels, puts pen to paper to let it all flow into being.

It’s hard work, making sure his writing’s legible as he scrawls words onto cue card after cue card, with a boldness he wishes he had, a boldness he doesn’t feel, but knows he’s got to muster. Because this is Daryl they’re talking about, and he deserves only the best from Rick. Not this timid, unsure approach Rick’s been using, one of constantly circling, careful, afraid to dip his toe in the water.

He’s got to make it clear to Daryl how he feels, tonight, before Rick loses him forever.

When he gets to the last cue card, Rick stops and thinks, wondering how to say what he’s felt the whole year, trying to find a way to put into words what Daryl’s come to mean to him. Cycles through perfect (too trite), remarkable (too generic) and lovely (entirely too sentimental for Daryl’s taste), before settling on the one word that holds all the affection and love Rick’s stupidly held hostage.

To me, you are…

He writes the last word in, careful, making sure it doesn’t look like chicken scratch, before flipping through his collection of CDs. Finds the perfect album, the perfect song, and jams it into his portable stereo, before rushing back out and setting it all down in the passenger seat of his car.

And as he kicks the car into gear, throws his foot onto the accelerator, Rick can only hope it’s not too late—not to win Daryl’s heart, because Daryl’s made it painfully clear it’s been Rick’s, all this time—but to offer his own heart, truthfully, faithfully, without the fear that’s plagued him every step of the way, until now.


(tbc - Chapter 13)

End Notes:
Rick is finally going places and doing things! :D

Feel free to guess what the mystery word is, and find out next chapter if you guessed right! ^3^ Thank you all for reading!

Date: 2016-12-02 05:29 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] legolastariel.livejournal.com
Oh, thank God, it IS finally going somewhere. LoL And why am I not surprised, in the end it's Daryl who actually kicked things off? Although, let's be honest here, he's been just as much a dork as Rick, WAITING for Rick to do something all year long. If this is how he felt, too, all that time, he could have moved earlier, if the Grimes doesn't get off the stick. Man, those two ... wanna bang their heads together.

But, YES, a kiss!!!! And instead of saying "I love you, you idiot", he says "Shit, I'm sorry" and runs off. LoL Yup, he is just as much a dork as Rick is. This constant taking a step back, pulling back, running off had me pulling my hair for 12 chapters now. You are one mean woman, honest to God. And now it was actually Shane and his inconderation that had Daryl thinking and not taking it anymore and doing something and Rick realizing that he's running out of time and finally acting .... We need to be thankful to Shane here! LoL

I loved the part in the toy store. Can totally picture that ... Not necessarily with Daryl, but with Norman by all means. LoL Him up to his ears in Legos and action figures. Yup.

On Golden Pond ... LOL!!! Reminds me of Dale instantly. Pity I don't even know that movie. Is it good?

THE word ... To me you are ... EVERYTHING. Right? Did I guess it?
"You being here with us now - that's everything." "My first, my last, my everything. Come on, tell me it's that. Would be perfect. LoL
Admit it - you don't have the word filled in yet. You're waiting for good suggestions and THEN write it, huh? :-))) And we'll never know ...

Looking forward to the next chap, now that they finally got an inch ahead. :-)

Date: 2016-12-13 11:20 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] eyeus.livejournal.com
Daryl might not be one to simply state his feelings like that, if he doesn’t know they’re reciprocated. So the kiss could be thought of as a feeler for Rick’s intentions—a test that Rick, blinking like a deer in headlights—flubbed. :p

As for the mystery word, it was actually one of the first things decided on for this fic, and hints of it woven throughout the story itself. As such, I’m afraid that this is not an open poll for suggestions, but rather something meant for fun and the engagement of the reader. :)
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