Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners
Fandoms: The Walking Dead
Pairing: Desus – Daryl Dixon x Paul “Jesus” Rovia
Characters: Rick Grimes, Carol Peletier, Paul “Jesus” Rovia, Daryl Dixon
Summary: Rick and Jesus had a bet concerning Daryl.
“Here, drink it,” Carol said, placing one of the uglier brown mugs in front of Rick’s face. “Hair of the dog, homemade and blended with love.”
Despite her light mocking tone, Rick cast her a look of appreciation, or something as close to it as possible with his bleary eyes, nodded and reached for the mug. Its contents – some viscous concoction of indistinguishable color with shapeless chunks of unidentified materials – already chased away half of his inebriation. He stared at the sight, his lips quivering ever slightly. While Rick did not for a second doubt Carol’s nurturing nature, he found himself a little (much) hesitant in putting his faith into her knowledge of mixology. He chanced a brief glance at her face, glowing as it was basked in the early morning beam – sort of like an angel’s visage were he in a more literary and less hungover mood, and didn’t find it in his heart to venture into asshole territory by declining her kindness. So Rick braced himself for whatever nightmare would assault his tastebud and downed half the mug in one gulp.
It wasn’t so bad, he thought once the liquid had run down his gullet and settled in his stomach, leaving a funny aftertaste in his mouth. It wasn’t so bad, he unnecessarily repeated in his head, if you squeezed your eyes shut, held your breath and tried to swallow it as fast as you could without choking yourself. With that tactic in mind, he consumed the remaining of the concoction till the last drop in one go. Apart from feeling his eyes bulging out of his skull, Rick was fine and thankfully more sober than he had been a couple minutes past. Guess it did work. Fighting a grimace from showing on his face and losing, he quickly grasped the jug of water and poured himself a generous amount, never minding it was the very same mug from which he had just drunk. He let out a breath through his mouth after the taste had been relatively washed away.
“You sure it’s hair of the dog and not its shit?”
“You sure you’re thanking me and not insulting my family remedy?” Carol asked, hands on her hip.
Rick held up his hands in defeat. “Sorry,” he muttered.
“Who were you drinking with? Bet it wasn’t Michonne, as I just saw her hop on a truck and go out hunting while you were here, slumping on the table like a sad potato sack, emphasis on ‘sad’.”
Rick rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. “Jesus, believe it or not, and I mean our long-haired flower-power dude, not an exclamation.”
Carol raised an incredulous eyebrow. “Since when you two got so close?”
“Not so long ago, I guess. Last night the guy knocked on my door, bringing with him some moonshine he had ‘dug out of a bar’s cellar’. We had a chat, just casual, nothing too serious. About scavenging, supplies, food stock, winter coming, Alexandria, Hilltop… many different things really. Never realized that guy was a smooth talker till last night. At some point I think our conversation turned to Daryl.”
Carol’s left eyebrow raised a little higher as her tone took on a more genuinely surprised note.
“Daryl? What about Daryl?”
“He said something about the guy’s hair getting a bit shaggy and why none of us suggested a haircut.”
“As if we haven’t tried,” Carol chuckled, shaking her head. “We fail to get him to shower sometimes. But his hair? Please.”
Then, as something came into her notice, Carol’s eyes lit up and her head stilled. “Speaking of which, he’s been looking rather clean lately. Changes his clothes often too, which is positive but… weird.”
“And showers at least once every other day,” said Rick with a hint of amusement.
With an intrigued look Carol grabbed a chair and sat down, loosely hugging its back. “Why the sudden change?”
Rick shrugged. “Jesus once made a passing comment about Daryl giving off smell like dead squirrels. Daryl seemed pretty fuming but stayed quiet as usual… and rebuffed any attempts of conversation from Jesus for a week straight. Yeah, around that time he started the change.”
“Are you somehow suggesting Jesus was the reason?”
“I’m suggesting nothing.” Another shrug and Rick extended his arm toward the cookie box close to Carol’s side. The tin box skidded across the smooth wooden surface. Ignoring the dubious look Carol shot him, he popped open the lid and picked an oatmeal cookie. Just as Rick was about to munch on the treat, they both heard footsteps approaching them. They were light and even, so they weren’t Daryl’s; besides, Daryl had probably gone out early to catch some games for lunch. As Carol had said, Michonne had also left. Carl’s were neither light nor even and Judith couldn’t walk yet, and that left the last resident in this compound.
“Speaking of the Devil,” Rick chuckled but quickly corrected himself, “or Son of God.”
Though Paul wasn’t a permanent Alexandrian, for the last year he had been spending two third of his time at Alexandria, helping around with various big and small tasks and blending in far better than Rick had thought he could. Thus the leader of Alexandria had felt justified to grant him a room in this compound that Paul could call his own, accidentally in the same hall and only a few short steps away from a certain redneck’s. Things had been fine so far and Rick had yet to receive any complaints about his arrangement.
But, having just returned recently, Carol hadn’t known it. “He stays here?” she asked.
“Yeah, while he’s in Alexandria.”
At the hoarse greeting accompanied by a long yawn, both Rick and Carol looked to the entrance. Their eyes widened almost simultaneously.
Standing before them was a man in a state of half-dressed. His jeans were zipped but unbuttoned and hanging a bit lower than considered appropriate, his narrow waist and protruding hipbone on shameless display. His long brown hair was messy and as he was leaning against the wall, his left hand was alternating between rubbing his eyes and messaging his temple.
Despite the new comer’s seemingly harmless stance, Rick and Carol instantly reached for their respective weapon, Rick to his gun strapped to his belt and Carol to the fruit knife on the table. Rick pointed his gun at the stranger’s pale chest and Carol was one step from plunging at him and decorating his skin with fifty shades of red.
“Whoa…” exclaimed the young man, holding his hands up. The morning drowsiness had drained from his face, replaced with alert, his big eyes made huge as he stared dumbfoundedly at the lethal weapons.
“Who the heck are you?” Rick growled, his forefinger curling around the trigger.
Carol’s eyes, cold and calculating, raked the man’s lithe form. It was clear her quiet gaze wasn’t appreciating the sight but rather scanning for stabby spots. The firm lines of her lips indicated that she had found a few.
“The fuck is ‘me’?”
“OK, it’s Paul, Jesus, from Hilltop!” The young man’s voice went up a notch. “Same old Jesus with the ninja tricks you love to laugh. I’ve been here for a year and one morning you guys suddenly treat me like an intruder!”
To the young man’s claim Rick and Carol had opposite reactions, him to widen his eyes and her to narrow hers. They exchanged a quick look to confirm they were on the same page – confusion, doubt and a growing belief as the resemblance between this baby-faced stranger and the man they knew started to sink in. The hair’s length and color, the bridge of the nose and the expressive blue eyes that always spoke more than Paul’s quick tongue ever could. Yes, this could be their ally and friend from Hilltop.
“Don’t tell me you don’t recognize me, Rick, we got hammered on moonshine together last night,” Paul said, bringing his hand to cover his nose and mouth. “Surely you should recognize these eyes. First time we met I was like this.”
Rick shifted his gaze from Paul to Carol and then back to Paul. A few seconds later, he lowered the gun, cocked the safety lock and strap it to his belt. Carol wordlessly put away the knife, her eyes softening.
“Thanks,” muttered Paul, scratching the crow nest that was his hair.
“What happened to your beard?” Rick asked. “You look a totally different man without it.”
And if Rick was honest to himself, beardless Paul looked ten times more feminine, but of course he wouldn’t say it out loud. Still, it wouldn’t stop Rick from thinking, albeit briefly, that Paul could masquerade as a (very fine) lady with little effort. But what use was for masquerading as a lady in this apocalyptic world Rick hadn’t figure out because his train of thought braked right when he began applying makeup on Paul’s face. That was so wrong on so many levels. Rick felt entirely justified to blame his hangover.
Paul padded to the kitchen counter and poured himself a glass of water. “Shaving foam and razor happened,” he answered at last.
“Because you were drunk?” Carol inquired, trying to stifle a laugh.
Leaning against the counter, Paul didn’t answered right away since he was quenching his thirst by drinking the whole glass. Once he was finished, he gingerly set the empty glass on the wooden surface but didn’t release it from his grip, nursing it in his hands as he spoke, “No, I’m not a bad drunk, at least not so bad that I’d do crazy stuff like shaving my beard for kicks and cry over it later. This…” he trailed off, fingering his smooth chin as if reminiscing the gone beard. “This is… a compromise of sort.”
“Huh?” Rick shot him a confused look.
“Anyway, I believe our bet still holds? I trust Sheriff Grimes wouldn’t stoop so low as to deny it as a drunken foolery.”
Something in Rick’s brain clicked due to the mischievous glint in Paul’s eyes. He couldn’t decide if he was lucky or unlucky that said bet was the most vivid memory of last night in his head. “Yeah, I remember that. So?”
“What bet?” asked Carol.
Paul was beaming with the brightest smile he could manage with the hangover headache pounding inside his skull. “Fantastic. I suppose we’ll see the result soon enough, that is when Daryl returns from his hunting escapade.”
“Color me curious,” said Carol.
“Now please excuse me as I’m gonna make some hair of the dog to fight back my hangover.”
“Think I can help with that.”
She pushed herself up from her seat and eagerly made to the fridge, where they were storing about a month’s worth of food supply.
Paul’s smile was small but warm and genuine. “You’re most kind, Carol.”
A crappy (no pun intended) feeling had nestled into Rick’s stomach after Paul’s “fantastic” left his lips. When he felt this way ninety-five percent of the time it should be translated as something pretty crappy was about to occur. Years of wearing a badge had taught him to trust his guts and as he watched Carol and Paul bond over creating funny concoctions, the feeling was only growing stronger and stronger.
Around noon, Rick’s intuition was once again proven right when the sound of Daryl’s chopper revving penetrated the whole compound. His slanted, sharp eyes swept over the ‘welcoming party’ in the front yard as he switched off the engine and parked his chopper. “Rabbit stew,” Daryl said curtly to none of them in particular, holding his games in one hand and brandishing his knife from his belt with the other. Then he proceeded to head to the backyard to skin the poor creatures, sparing a glance at Paul on the way.
“Need a hand?”
Paul’s offer stopped him momentarily. “Nah, ya shit at skinnin’,” he grunted, unmaliciously.
Paul smiled endearingly because that was Daryl’s version of “don’t wanna get your hands dirty with blood and guts and probably shit”. He turned his head and gave Rick, who was looking extremely uncomfortable and sweating despite the cooler autumn weather, a meaningful wink before following the hunter.
“Wow, can’t say I’m not surprised seeing Daryl with neat short hair,” Carol commented, inching closer to Rick, her arms crossing. “To be honest, that look is kind of reminiscent. Reminds me of the time when we first met and were significantly less screwed up than we are now. Hey, you alright, Rick?”
Seeing his expression, she expressed some concern.
“I just lost a bet to Jesus,” he admitted.
“I figure it has a lot to do with Daryl’s haircut, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah, we were betting on whether Jesus could convince Daryl to get a haircut. Apparently Daryl did have an ‘emergency’ haircut overnight, so apparently Jesus won.”
Carol’s eyebrows knitted. “Since when Daryl was convincible? He’s the most adamant man I’ve had the fortunate to meet.”
Rick huffed. “Jesus definitely put his pretty mouth to good use.”
A comical look was plastered on Carol’s face. Craning her neck to look at the direction they had disappeared to, she asked, “Why does that sound dangerously like a double entendre?”
“Interpret it as you see fit. Aren’t you gonna ask what the loser will have to do?”
Carol chuckled. “You’ll tell me soon enough.”
Carol was wrong. Rick didn’t. Rather, he showed her.
That afternoon, when they all gathered around the table for lunch, while only a couple of Alexandrians were surprised to see a beardless Jesus, everyone but Carol and Jesus were utterly shocked to see a baby-faced Rick Grimes sitting at the top of the table. If anyone but Carol and Jesus asked, out of sheer concern for their leader who might be going through mid-life crisis, his default reply was “Moonshine, shaving foam and razor happened.”
Yup, definitely mid-life crisis.
Rick knew Daryl and Jesus were in a relationship. He approved. Period.
I imagine during the night, Daryl shaved Jesus’s beard and Jesus gave him a haircut in return.