Part III of When There Were Me & You
*Roommate AU: Detective Daryl & art student Paul
*Sequel to MOTORCYCLE
“So, tell me again,” Tara drawled, putting the cap on her marker once she had finished the Pride flag on her best friend’s cast, “how in the world did our little ninja fall off the stairs and break his leg?”
Paul let out a groan, rubbing a hand over his face. Tara seemed to take immense pleasure in making him recite the reason he had had his leg broken; he was one hundred percent certain by tomorrow all of his class and probably half the campus would have known of his embarrassing accident. Talk about the power of gossip. He wouldn’t live it down for months to come.
“It was bad luck, Tara, sheer bad luck,” Paul bleated. “Remember when we went to a Tarot parlor and the–”
“Tarot reader warned me of an imminent accident?”
“Yeah, you kind of laughed about it ‘cuz you didn’t believe it. You only came because I dragged you with me and you were pretty tipsy.”
“Guess I’m a believer now,” Paul said, clapping his hands in a mock prayer. “I got up late and was rushing down the stairs when I stepped on something I’d left there and forgotten to clean up – and tripped. Next thing I knew, my leg pained so much that I couldn’t move an inch. From what I’d gained from the first-aid sessions, I figured I might have broken my leg.”
“You were binge-watching that zombie show the night before, weren’t you? What’s so good about that series that everyone’s crazy about it anyway?”
“It’s good and I’ve tried to engage you in watching it with me a few times. Besides, I put half the blame on my alarm clock. Damned thing was broken and didn’t go off.”
Tara reached for the apple and the knife on the table and began peeling its skin with deftness. She got rid of the seeds and quartered the apple before handling Paul a piece, which he took with a “thanks”.
“I’m still pissed off, y’know,” Tara said with a mouthful of apple, making funny crunchy noises, “that you didn’t phone your best friend first when you got the accident. I’d have rushed to your apartment.”
“Sorry, Tara, I was in panic. I was really lucky I got my phone in my pocket and didn’t crush it when I fell. I dialed the top number of my emergency list and–”
“Your roommate called the ambulance and raced home,” Tara finished for him. “I’m shocked you put your roommate’s number first in your list and not mine.”
“He insisted. Said roommates should look out for each other.”
Tara raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow. “Wow! My ex roomie couldn’t have cared less if I’d died and started decomposing in my room so long as I didn’t get in her way.”
Paul wrinkled his nose. “Good thing you moved out.”
“Yeah,” Tara agreed. “Did the doctor say when you will be released?”
“He said I could go home now that I was checked and no other injuries were found. As a matter of fact my roommate is checking me out as we speak.”
“Can’t say I’m not jealous that you have such a nice roommate. Any indication on his sexuality?”
Tara finished the question with a wink.
“Well…” Paul hesitated, lowering his head to hide a hint of a smile threatening to spread across his lips. “Probably not straight, from what I’ve gathered.”
A sudden clap on his shoulder would have made him jump if his leg wasn’t broken already. Tara sounded as though she had just come across an epic epiphany. “I say you go for this heaven-sent dude. Your ‘hot cop’ is definitely hot but last time you said he was straight as a flagpole. Believe me, my friend, pursuing a straight person only ensues heartbreak. Been there, done that.”
Paul was just about to open his mouth when Tara continued, “Tell me, what does he look like? I know looks ain’t important in a relationship but it’s a plus if he happens to be hot right?”
Paul was cut short by the door to his room being opened. Daryl stepped in, pushing a wheelchair in front of him. His black leather jacket slung over his shoulder, he was only wearing his navy blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up his elbows.
“Yer good to go,” he informed, moving toward Paul’s bed. His narrow eyes landed on Tara. “Sorry, ya must be…”
“This is my best friend, Tara Chambler. Tara, this is Daryl Dixon, my roommate…”
He deliberately stressed “roommate” as a reminder. “He’s a detective.”
Tara stared at the cop with rounded eyes for several seconds as shocking realization began to dawn on her. Daryl looked a little confused under her direct stare. “Oh right,” she spoke at last, sounding timid by her rather rude behavior, “Nice to meet you, Detective Dixon.”
She held out her right hand.
“Just Daryl’s fine,” replied Daryl, shaking her hand. “Nice to meet ya.” He turned to Paul and started gathering a few things in the cabinet by his roommate’s bed, which weren’t many, and put them into a small satchel. “Ready to go?”
“Yeah. Can’t wait to get out of the hospital.”
Daryl nodded in silence. Once again Tara watched in awe as he bent down and scooped Paul in his arms as if the young man was a little boy. His muscles flexed under the dark fabric of his shirt and darn, Tara had to admit, she was being momentarily straight.
Carefully, he put Paul on the wheelchair and wheeled him out of the door. Tara followed the two of them to the parking lot.
Once Daryl was done settling Paul on the passenger’s seat, Tara turned to Daryl and said, “Well, I guess I must go now. Thank you so much for taking care of my best friend, Daryl. It’s a pleasure meeting you.”
“It’s no problem,” Daryl said, a bit awkward. Tara took that he was the strong, silent type who could be occasionally socially inept. She also knew that her best friend was a sucker for this type.
Suppressing a chuckle, she gave Paul a meaningful look as she waved her hand. “Get better soon, Jesus. Our class surely misses your ninja tricks.”
Not five minutes after they left the hospital in Daryl’s car, Paul’s phone buzzed. He giggled, knowing without glancing at the screen that it could only be Tara.
“THE HELL JESUS? U NEVER TOLD ME UR HOT COP N UR ROOMIE WERE ONE N THE SAME?” Her text, written all in capitals, read.
“Pretty sure ‘hell’ and ‘Jesus’ shouldnt be in the same sentence,” Paul texted back. His giggles got Daryl’s attention, who gave him a questioning look. “Just Tara’s text,” Paul explained.
He got Tara’s reply five seconds later.
“IM RECONSIDERING OUR FRIENDSHIP”
“Dont be. Never said they werent one person either. Wanna give u a surprise”
“U BETTER EXPLAIN NEXT TIME WE MEET!!!”
“Rite rite. But until then plz tell none of our friends”
“Thk u. luv u”
He put a smiley emoticon at the end of the text before sending. Then he put his phone in his pocket.
“Yer friend Tara seemed surprised to see me,” said Daryl once he saw Paul putting away his phone.
“Because you’re hot?”
“Didn’t look like that.”
Paul chuckled. “She just texted me. She didn’t know my crush and my roommate were the same person.”
“Ya didn’t tell her?”
The question came out more like a statement.
Paul shook his head, smiling. “I love Tara, she’s my BFF but she’s tightly weaved into the gossip web at our college. Guess that’s part of being in the department of journalism.”
“Ya don’t want yer friends to know about… us?”
His voice lowered at the last word. Knowing his boyfriend, Paul immediately picked up the sign. “No, it’s not that I’m embarrassed or anything,” he assured. “Quite the opposite actually.” He didn’t realized his own voice went lower as well. “It just… I want to be certain this… thing between us is real, you know, before I tell my friends.”
Daryl frowned. “It’s real.”
Then Paul’s hand was gently squeezed by a larger, callous hand. Daryl’s sharp eyes spoke of earnest when they were fixed on his face. Paul’s chest swelled with emotions and he would definitely kiss him senseless if Daryl wasn’t driving right now. He longed for the moment they got back to their shared apartment just so that he could be affirmed that this thing between them was very much real and happening.
Looking down at his cast, Paul groaned internally. His leg would get in the way and they would have to find a way to get around it.
“What will we have for dinner?” asked Paul, changing the subject.
“We can get pizzas an’ drinks at Glenn’s an’ we can eat while watching that zombie show yer so crazy about in the evening.”
Paul’s eyes lit up at his words like the sky in the fourth of July. He beamed brightly at Daryl, who responded with a tiny smile.
“I can ask for nothing more.”