Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners
Fandoms: The Walking Dead
Pairing: Desus – Daryl Dixon x Paul “Jesus” Rovia
Genres: fanfiction, alternate universe, vampire AU
Characters: Paul “Jesus” Rovia, Daryl Dixon, Rick Grimes
For all the short time Paul had been acquainted with Rick Grimes, he had never heard the tough police officer’s voice break like when he informed Paul, “Daryl was shot.”
Alternate universe. Established relationship.
The World Was on Fire…
As Daryl was riding down the route the rain showed no sign of stopping anytime soon and the incessant noise on his helmet became more maddening, as if it was possible. He had traveled in worse weather, so this had never been a huge issue to him. Yet back then he hadn’t had supernaturally enhanced senses, which translated into overactive reception of each and every stimulus, however small and would be easily brushed aside were he normal.
Normal. Daryl received a mental kick at that word. Thinking of himself as formerly normal brought forth an implication that Paul was different, strange, abnormal, all of which accompanied by negative connotations according to Daryl’s conservative and biased upbringing that he had fought to leave behind in the dust. Daryl had not once thought Paul was the ‘other’ despite having learned the seemingly younger man was anything but an ordinary thirty-something. Heck, for Daryl’s limited knowledge of vampires, Paul defied lots of stereotypical traits of a vampire as portrayed in pop culture. He didn’t look pale, for one. While his skin tone was decidedly fairer than Daryl, who preferred spending his time in the sun than in an office, he was nowhere near chalky. He wasn’t brooding nor would he sit for hours wallowing in his existential crisis and guilt while having his victim’s blood on his chin and their lifeless body by his legs. At least Daryl had never seen him in such state during their two years of living under the same roof. He opted to live in a modest two-story house and drive an economic car and wasn’t filthy rich. He taught teenagers self-defense martial arts at the local center Monday to Thursday, volunteered on Friday, loved tending to his little garden of flowers and herbs and sometimes had friends – a majority of which being humans – over on Friday night to trash the living room and get wasted. He went to see the latest movies, often dragging Daryl with him if the cop wasn’t working overtime, teared up at particularly emotional scenes and ranted about it later on his wall; his Facebook account had quite a number of followers. All in all, Paul posed extremely well as a human, aside from a couple quirks like his personal blood stash (supplied by the local blood bank) in his fridge or his inability to have hickeys, but hey, many humans possessed more peculiar quirks. Daryl would say he blended in with humans even better than the homicidal detective himself did in some of his more trying days.
This line of thought was going nowhere so with a soft grunt, Daryl abandoned it for another. Ironically enough, to not think was entirely the point of racing his motorcycle along this straightforward route leading into the woods. To feel the wind, the sun or the rain on his skin allowed him a temporary getaway from his jumbled thoughts while the woods with all its wild animals provided him with solace, just like it had given him shelter from his old man’s temper and leather belt. A couple hours later, he rode back the track feeling lighter, better and ready to deal with whatever shit coming his way given his line of profession.
Nevertheless, it was impossible to sweep all his thoughts under the rug and not think of anything for a while no matter how much Daryl wanted to; heck, even if he was hypothetically able to shut them all up, he knew he wouldn’t gain a fragment of peace for his mind. Literally going through death and being pulled back to life was no shit joke and anyone with a mind couldn’t spare it no thought at all. As a matter of fact, there were so many thoughts bustling about inside Daryl’s head that he had no idea which to focus on. It was similar to working on a case where there were so many clues, many suspects and many motives, all lurking behind a thick veil that Daryl had to lift so as to see for himself which was relevant and which was red herrings. Right now his helmet was the veil. Rivulet after rivulet of water blurred his visor and distorted his view. With his left hand he undid the clasp around his chin and took off his helmet.
Drops of rain felt like nails being hammered on Daryl’s face. Soon his hair was soaked, strands of his long bang clinging to his forehead and temples. He brushed them back with a sweep of his hand, recalling how Paul loved to do this when Daryl was fresh out of shower so that he could plant a kiss on Daryl’s forehead, on the lines that had formed there. His eyes saw the road better without his visor as his mind was clearer without the torturous noise and a prominent thought emerged from numerous others. Like a man lost at sea spotting a lighthouse, he swam toward it. Going back to be human was impossible, so he had but one option to go forward from there and make the decision: to die today as a human or to live forever as another sort of existence. Other questions all paled in front of this crucial one, to which he had promised Paul an answer before the sun went down the sky.
Daryl was not surprised to find out Paul hadn’t slept a wink that night. He himself had had only brief patches of sleep interlacing with extended moments of lying with his eyes shut but his mind open, conscious and drifting between the dark limbo realm and the real world. And when he had indeed slept, his dreams were fragments of his dying instant rewinded over and over. He had thought not of his own death but of his untimely parting with Paul, and regret penetrated deeper than the iron in his chest.
Daryl opened his eyes to the sight of Paul propped up by his side, his hand caressing Daryl’s cheek gentle and cool as a ghost’s touch. His eyes were sunken, and the usual light in them dimmed. His lips were set in a straight line. Daryl hated that he saw every sign of exhaustion etched on Paul’s handsome countenance with such clarity.
Dawn had already broken, the sun was up and their bedroom was enveloped in a glowing silken veil.
“Morning,” said Paul, softly. There was a hint of hoarseness in his voice Daryl only scarcely heard. “Did you sleep well?”
“No,” Paul admitted. “I closed my eyes and tried to find sleep but to no avail. Technically I don’t really need sleep to function so I figured I could afford a sleepless night. And you?”
“I got some sleep an’ a couple of dreams.”
“Past dreams. Didn’t matter no more.”
The answer he gave didn’t soothe the worry in Paul’s eyes but he didn’t push Daryl for more detail. He pecked Daryl on the lips before sliding out of the duvet and sitting at the edge. “What do you fancy for breakfast? Bacon and sunny-side eggs? Cereal? Or pancakes and maple syrup?”
Before Paul finished listing the choices, Daryl too had slid out from under the duvet. The air instantly raised goosebumps on his bare skin as he padded to their wardrobe.
“I… I need some time,” said Daryl, picking a simple button-down navy blue shirt and a pair of washed blue jeans from the clothes rack. “To process it, to think abou’ it. On my own. I hope ya understand.” He threw his black leather jacket over the shirt and put on his leather fingerless gloves.
Paul’s gaze dropped to the dip in the mattress where they had laid. “Of course,” he replied softly, head nodding.
He looked as though he was enduring a silent pain that Daryl couldn’t help but crossing the room and pulling him into his embrace. He felt Paul’s breath ghosting on the skin of his forearm and shivered. It still mesmerized him how a vampire’s breath could be this warm.
“Give yourself as much time to think as you’d like,” Paul murmured against his skin, “but please come to me before sundown.” He sniffed. “No matter what your decision is, I need to know… and I will respect it.”
The last words seemed real struggle for him.
Daryl kissed the top of his head. “I will.”
And then he let go, feeling Paul’s eyes on him even when he was descending the stairs.
The first thing Daryl did once he was standing on the threshold of the door was stretch his arm out to the early morning sun. He had half expected the heat and his skin being set aflame despite Paul’s previous explanation that he wasn’t yet a vampire. Instead he only felt a light warmth, and his skin remained perfectly normal, no blistering, no bursting into flame. Stupid. Daryl chastised himself before stepping out to his motorcycle. He put on his helmet and ignited the engine.
Daryl hadn’t had a definite destination in mind but before he was able to come up with something, his body had autopiloted and taken him down the path he traveled every morning to work. On that path there was a diner where he often had a decent breakfast of eggs and bacon and a hefty dose of caffeine to brace himself against another crazy day at the office. Sometimes Rick joined him, sometimes he ate alone, savoring the comfortable silence in his usual booth by the window and away from the rest of the patrons.
Daryl felt a familiar tug once he was close enough to the diner and could see it. Since he had nowhere else he wanted to go first, he decided he could stop by, ordered his usual food and figured out what to do with his last day as human. His heart was weighed down a little with the word ‘last’; after today, there would either be a vampire or a cadaver buried six feet under.
That remained to be seen.
His footsteps halted just before his hand pushed the glass door open. What if Rick was also here? After all, this diner was a part of his best friend’s morning routine as much as it was his, although recently both of them had not frequented it as much as they used to, favoring homemade meals instead.
The last thing Daryl wanted right now was to run into his best friend, who had witnessed his death and was likely to flood him with questions should he see him walking around all fine and alive, so he turned on his heels. Just when he was about to stride back to his bike, the door opened.
“Daryl!” called a voice. “Been a while since you came here. Come in, come in.”
For a second, all the blood in Daryl’s veins seemed to stop flowing and he stood frozen in his spot. That was unmistakably Carol’s voice. Carol was good friend to Rick and Daryl and the reason why they had become regulars here was because Carol owned and ran this little cozy diner.
“Yeah…” Daryl managed a hoarse respond. “Been a while.”
“I almost thought I’d lost my two loyal customers. But what can I say? Nothing beats homemade food made by gorgeous partners.”
Carol winked playfully at him and Daryl forced a small smile despite the uneasiness twisting his guts. From her tone and demeanor, it appeared she might not have heard about his incident. Something didn’t click right. Had Rick not told her anything?
“You’re looking a little pale. Is everything alright?”
“Nah. Just been lackin’ some sleep’s all. Work’s been hectic.”
Carol held his hand gently, jerking her head toward the door. “Come on in. I’ll have them prepare your usual.”
A refusal was formed in the back of his throat but never found its way out of his mouth, so he allowed her to lead him inside. The air was stiff since there weren’t a lot of customers yet, and Daryl was surprised to be able to sense it so acutely, almost as if he could ‘read’ the currents. His preferred booth was fortunately unoccupied. After telling her employees to prepare his order, she lingered by his table to catch up with his life since the last time they had had a chat. He tried his best to carry the conversation as casually as he normally did, but he knew for sure he must have slipped a note of reluctance in his tone or his body language, which Carol was likely to pick up on, keen woman that she was. Still, if she noticed something off about her friend, she didn’t point it out at once or even gave away her suspicion with a frown and for which he was grateful. Carol was sharp but she also respected privacy – she wouldn’t prod the subject unless her friends decided to tell her, eventually. This was one of the many reasons they had been close friends for years.
Nevertheless, Daryl was mentally relieved when the young waitress brought out his order and a rush of customers came through the door and Carol had no choice but to leave him. Sitting by himself, Daryl stared at the food laid out before him for several seconds as though hypnotized by the tendrils of steam rising from the sizzling eggs and the coffee. The smell was the same as he remembered, and so did the taste when he slowly chewed a mouthful of egg. The only difference was his sore absence of appetite. His empty stomach was still grumbling at the sight of food, but when he actually swallowed it down he felt… unfulfilled, like having swallowed nothing. He put down his forks and reached for the coffee mug. Again, same warm smell, same bitter-sweet taste, just the lack of savory on his side. He guessed he shouldn’t be surprised. After all he was dead, and whereas his senses were overloaded with sensations, they were at the same time desensitized to the normal delights of a human. Food did not arouse his appetite, unlike blood, whose sight and scent had caused his throat to constrict and his mouth to parch.
The noises and chatters that were typical to this place had become too much for him to bear. Not wanting to upset Carol by leaving food on the plate, Daryl finished the meal with haste and made to the door, giving a quick goodbye to his friend on the way out.
The fresh air somewhat soothed his nerves. Inside his pocket, his phone buzzed and Daryl pulled it out, half-expecting it was Paul sending him a text. Instead it was Rick, asking Daryl to take a day off to recover from his… flu and not to worry about the case because he had it covered. Daryl peered at his screen, trying to register what was going on. Rick had been at the scene and there was no way he would have confused a fatal shot with the common flu, unless Paul had altered his memory – one of the vampire tricks Paul had up his sleeves. Daryl had always thought compulsion, or the tempering with the human mind and free will, to be absolutely repulsive and Paul had sworn to never use it on Daryl or his friends. Perhaps this was the first and only time Daryl actually didn’t feel a spark of anger and betrayal when finding out that Paul had broken his vow.
Daryl typed a short reply to Rick. As he hit the button ‘send’, a question raised in his head of how his friends, Rick and Carol, and everyone he knew would react if he were to die today. He wondered if Paul would undo his compulsion and give them the truth or he would make up something else, something that was less sudden and more expected like a terminal disease. That wasn’t the real reason for the sudden chill creeping up his spine though; he shuddered at what he would do if he was the one to possess compulsion. He’d rather no one remember him than anyone be grief-stricken by his death. Especially Paul, with his heightened emotions that always made things take a turn for the worse.
That thought refused to be shaken off his mind long after Daryl revved up the engine and rode off.
To be continued
Sorry about the slow update. Here’s a little confession: this was supposed to be the last chapter but as I wrote, the number of words kept increasing to the point I decided that I should split it up into more chapters. If nothing changes, there’s two chapters left.
Carol wasn’t in my original idea at all.