After the prison fell, Daryl led their little group north and kept them all fed and safe while they licked their wounds.
He stuck close to backroads and little towns out in the middle of nowhere. They would find a place to stay and hunker down for a night or two until Daryl shoved them onward. To where exactly he was never sure. He just wanted more distance between them and the knife-sharp agony of the prison massacre.
Beth did an admirable job of staying strong and caring for Little Asskicker but Daryl could still hear her muffled sobs over her father and lost sister those first nights. Fuck knows she deserved a chance to mourn, but she was a fierce little thing and come morning she was always ready to take on the day and do whatever needed to be done. Like help him and Carl care for Rick.
Daryl had been certain that they were going to lose Rick.
The late (thank Christ) Governor had damn near killed him with his vicious beating and the fever hot gunshot wound in his thigh was well on its way to finishing the job.
He would never forget the agonized sounds Rick made as the three of them tried to hold him down while Daryl dug a bullet out of the meat of his thigh.
Carl stepped up in his mature, no nonsense way and had gone with Daryl to ransack abandoned houses for painkillers and antibiotics that might possibly help. Even after they finally found some it had taken days for the fever from the infection to break. And once it did, and Rick woke with eyes no longer glazed and words that again made sense, Beth and Carl weren't the only ones with tears of relief in their eyes.
They were alive, together, and on the mend. But with the days growing shorter and the nights colder they needed to find a place to stay for a while.
And then Daryl found it.
He had been out hunting when he spotted a high wooden fence near the top of a bluff deep in the woods. Thick scrub and undergrowth concealed most of the fence itself and anything behind it but Daryl finally found a gate with Private Property and No Trespassing signs nailed to it. He shoved it open, crossbow loaded and ready to fire.
What greeted him was enough to make his jaw drop.
Inside the fenced wooded lot was, of all things, a damn tree house.
But not just some kid's first attempt at construction or anything. No this was an absolutely massive modern structure, tucked perfectly into two huge old oak trees about twenty-five feet off the ground. The house was easily two thousand square feet with two bedrooms, a kitchen, pantry with a few dried and canned goods left, washroom, and a sprawling living room. Solar panels were scattered across the roof of the tree house and as Daryl would later discover that some of them attached to a large water heater that was also mounted on the roof. So they could have actual not-fucking-freezing showers.
The only way up was by a large wooden ladder which connected to a rather extravagant covered deck that was a few feet lower than the rest of the dwelling.
On that deck a single walker sat motionless in a lawn chair. Once it noticed Daryl it stumbled to its feet and leaned far out over the railing, jaws snapping and arms flailing wildly, before tipping right off and crashing to the ground in a rotten heap.
Daryl had put an arrow through its skull and after finding the rest of the treehouse clear he raced back to collect the others.
That had been nearly two months ago. In that time they had seen just a handful of walkers around the fence and in the thick forest beyond it. And not another single living person.
Daryl had looked high and low for any other survivors from their group but their trails had long grown cold. And as the weather too began to grow colder (fucking weather had gone to shit since the world ended) he started sticking closer to their new arboreal residence.
He knew he would never really be able to let his guard down, no matter where they ended up. But this place had a sense of peace to it that he hadn't felt anywhere else since the dead started walking. And long before that too.
Even so, he always had an ear out for any trouble that might be coming for them from around the next corner.
Daryl woke with a start. He laid still, listening intently for several seconds before he once again heard the sound that had woken him.
Judith squealed happily while Beth and Carl tried to quiet her as they walked down the narrow hallway outside Daryl and Rick's bedroom that led out onto the deck. Little Asskicker attempted to mimic their hushing sounds with her own gurgling trill which surprised a laugh out of both of the teenagers, who hurried outside with the chatty baby.
Daryl smirked and closed his eyes, pressing back against Rick's heat. The other man was curled up behind him and their combined body heat under the blankets and quilts piled on top of them made Daryl's blood feel like molasses running slow and sweet through his veins.
He hummed in contentment when the arm Rick had draped over his waist tightened and pulled Daryl closer. Rick buried his face in Daryl's neck and tangled their legs together under the covers. He mumbled a quiet good morning against the bed warm fabric of Daryl's t-shirt and they both drifted in and out of a light doze for a while.
Had this scene played out just a few months ago Daryl would have felt smothered by these close quarters and been desperate to escape. Even from Rick. But now, in this moment, he was warm and content and his little family was safe with full bellies and a roof over their heads and they all had time to just. fucking. breathe.
Sunlight was beginning to drift in through the large bedroom window (Christ did this place ever have a view) and the need for sleep was slowly ebbing out of Daryl. But the fog of said sleep had settled heavily over his senses and he was feeling immensely relaxed.
The kids sounded happy out on the deck, they all had plenty of supplies to last them a while so there were no runs that needed to be made, so fuck it. He was going to be lazy for once.
At least for another hour or so.
That had been the plan anyway, until Rick shifted and pressed his morning wood snug against Daryl's ass.
Daryl decided then that a nice slow fuck was also a perfectly acceptable way to be lazy.
Heat coiled low in his belly as he gently rolled his hips back against Rick and a fond smirk spread across his lips when Rick moaned and tightened his grip on Daryl's waist.
"S'nice." Rick rumbled and mouthed along Daryl's nape.
Daryl turned in Rick's grasp so he could lay on his side and face the other man. He pulled Rick in for a kiss—stale morning breath and all—that was uncoordinated and just this side of sloppy but it was also sweet and soft and Daryl felt like his molasses blood was congealing in his brain. Everything was slow and fuzzy around the edges and he was just so fucking comfortable.
Warm calloused fingers slipped under Daryl's shirt and rubbed across his ribs and back as they kissed. He occupied his own hands by reaching out to tangle them in Rick's unruly hair and to stroke down his bare chest to tease pebbled nipples. His skin was hot—not from fever, not anymore—but from this lazy lust that seemed to have settled over both of them.
Rick's hand slid down the curve of Daryl's hip to the waistband of the ratty flannel pajama pants he'd taken to wearing to bed as the weather grew colder. Daryl arched his hips forward and Rick eased the fabric down his thighs.
After Rick stripped him bare, Daryl was quick to do the same to him, shoving his boxers down off his legs.
Long minutes were passed in shared kisses and daring fingers before Daryl pulled away just enough to lean over Rick and dig through the drawer of the nightstand. Rick grinned mischievously and buried his face up under Daryl's outstretched arm to lick and suck biting kisses into heated skin. The ticklish sensation surprised a bark of laughter out of Daryl who jerked back and swatted at Rick's head as he caught Daryl's lips in another kiss.
Daryl broke the kiss with a bite to Rick's lower lip and smirked as he resumed hunting for the tube of slick in the drawer. "Armpit breath."
"Hmm, I bet you'll still kiss me again though."
"Smart ass with armpit breath."
Finally locating the lube, Daryl settled himself between Rick's spread legs, carefully easing some of his weight down onto the other man. The gunshot wound in Rick's thigh, as well as all of his other injuries, were healed now but Daryl still fretted over him.
Rick pulled the blankets back up over them to conserve their pocket of warmth in the chilly bedroom. He moaned softly as Daryl's fingers curled around his heavy cock and they drifted back into more indulgent kissing and petting.
Tongues teased and tasted until Daryl felt his eyelids grow heavy once again. If the moony look Rick gave him as he started kissing down his chest was any indication then he was pretty fucking relaxed too. He smirked and slowly pumped Rick's cock a few times.
"Wanna sleep more or do ya wanna fuck?" He purred against Rick's belly, watching him closely as he kissed his way down to his dick.
Rick's mouth went slack and he closed his eyes with a sigh as Daryl pulled his cock into his mouth with a hard suck.
"How about fuck now and then more sleep? Ah, and then maybe more fucking." He groaned as Daryl turned his attention away from his cock to mouth along the inside of his thighs, nose brushing against the delicate skin there while his fingers tugged gently at Rick's balls.
"Suites me fine. Christ you smell good." Under the blankets he was immersed in Rick's scent which for once wasn't overpowered by the tang of stale sweat and old walker filth.
They had all been making very good use of the solar panels and water heater tank on the roof that connected to the shower in the washroom.
Rick chuckled and rubbed his calf against Daryl's side. "Nice to not smell like death."
Daryl hummed in agreement and urged Rick's legs up over his shoulders so he could better get at him. He grinned into Rick's skin when the other man gasped as Daryl tongued at his perineum.
"Fuckin' feast is what ya smell like."
Time passed as slow and as sweet as the syrup in his veins and Daryl lost himself in fucking Rick open with his tongue and fingers. It was claustrophobic under the blankets—hot and humid and so wet—and Daryl's jaw ached but he kept bringing Rick right up to the edge before easing off only to wind him up all over again.
Rick praised and cursed him in a hoarse voice all the while.
He writhed and shuddered as his orgasm began to build yet again. His thighs trembled as he fought the urge to just clamp his legs around Daryl's head and ride out his release. "Daryl, please."
Daryl finally pulled his tongue and slick fingers out of Rick and eased his legs down from his shoulders. He moved up so he was level with Rick again, who smirked breathlessly up at Daryl's red face and wrecked hair.
"You said I had armpit breath, huh? See what a gentleman I am? I ain't even gonna mention what your breath smells like." He teased and tried to pull Daryl in for a kiss but the other man was too busy burying his face in Rick's neck to smother his snickering laughter.
Rick finally caught his swollen lips in another kiss and stroked his hands down Daryl's scar riddled back to grope as his ass. He rolled their hips together and broke the kiss to tip his head back and moan.
Daryl leaned back to pour some more slick over his fingers and then reached down to stroke both of their cocks until Rick started panting for breath.
He crooned softly against Rick's overheated skin. "C'mon, sweetheart. On your side."
Rick was loose-limbed and pliant and Daryl easily positioned him just how he wanted him. He spooned up behind him and slid an arm under Rick's head to pillow it.
His chest tightened when Rick reached up to tangle their fingers together.
Daryl rumbled sweet nonsense against Rick's skin as he pushed more slick into him with his fingers before lifting Rick's thigh and pressing his cock against his hole.
Rick buried his face into the pillow and groaned as Daryl eased into him, moving so so slowly. This fuck was all about tenderness and comfortable warmth, no speed and roughness like so many of their couplings in the past.
And Christ, if he was really feeling sappy he'd call it making love.
Daryl's cheeks flushed in embarrassment at his own thoughts and he tucked his chin over Rick's shoulder to press an ill-aimed kiss against his open mouth.
He began moving his hips in slow, experimental thrusts and trying to aim for Rick's prostate. Rick exhaled with a curse and dug his nails hard in the the back of Daryl's hand as he found just the right angle.
With his free hand Daryl brushed his thumb against the crater in Rick's thigh where a bullet had nearly ended his life. He cupped his hand over the angry red scar in reverence for a moment before pulling it away.
He'd been so close to losing this.
Hips rocking in a sinful, toe-curling pace, Daryl lapped at the sweat forming between Rick's shoulder blades and sucked red marks into his skin.
When Rick began babbling for more and harder Daryl obliged and stroked his hand down Rick's belly, following the trail of dark hair down until he could wrap his fingers around Rick's cock once more. It was flushed deep red and wet with precome and he could feel Rick's pounding pulse in the heat of it.
Squeezing his eyes shut and breathing fast, Rick thrust forward into Daryl's tight fist and then back to impale himself on his thick heat. There was no way he could last, having been on the edge time and time again for too long already, and when Daryl pressed his thumb hard against his slit and scraped his teeth against his neck he was a goner.
Rick squeezed Daryl's hand like it was his only lifeline.
Daryl groaned as Rick tightened around him but he worked him through it, grinding forward to keep stimulation on Rick's prostate. Once his cock was spent Rick sucked in a lungful of air and smirked over his shoulder at Daryl.
In a disorientating flash of movement he suddenly shoved Daryl flat onto his back and climbed on top of him, straddling him and sinking back down onto his cock. He leaned down to kiss Daryl, swallowing his moans as Rick started to move.
The roll of Rick's hips was fucking hedonistic and everything was too hot and felt too goddamn good and far sooner than he would have liked Daryl's orgasm hit him like damn brick wall. He clung to Rick and smothered a choked-off whimper against his sweaty neck.
Utterly spent, Rick tipped forward onto Daryl's chest and for long moments they lay joined while they caught their breath. Daryl couldn't keep his mouth off of Rick and he covered his neck and jaw in indulgent sucking and biting kisses.
Rick was a wreck and after Daryl carefully eased out of him he sprawled back against the pillows and grinned, basking shamelessly in the afterglow.
"We should make that part of the morning routine."
Daryl tried to bite back his own grin but he failed and set to work cleaning both of them up with his discarded t-shirt.
Citing it as Daryl's fault that he was currently incapable of operating his limbs, Rick requested that he bring him a bottle of water that had been left on the dresser the previous night.
Daryl cursed colorfully at the cold air that hit him as soon as he untangled himself from the blankets. He yanked his flannel pants back on and as he crossed the room to retrieve the water he snuck a peak out the window that looked over the deck. Beth and Carl sat close to each other, talking softly and smiling while Judith practiced pulling herself up by grabbing onto their knees. They were all bundled up tight against the chilly morning air and it did his overprotective heart good to see that both teenagers had their pistols with them, holstered at their sides just in case they needed them.
Rick was equal parts smiling affectionately and unabashedly leering at Daryl as he turned back to face him and Daryl felt a flush spread down his neck again.
After taking a sip of the water Rick lifted the covers and patted the mattress next to him.
"C'mon, I bet we've got at least another hour before they come looking for us."
Rick reached out and snagged the drawstrings of Daryl's pants, pulling him back towards the bed by them. Daryl snorted but followed and climbed back in under the blankets.
"And besides, you're gonna need your strength. We ain't christened that shower yet and tonight I'm gonna fuck you until you can't walk straight for a week. Use up all that nice lukewarm water while we're at it."
Daryl smirked and pressed a fast kiss to Rick's temple as he pulled the other man close to soak up some of his body heat.
"I could get used to days like this."