Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners
Fandoms: The Walking Dead
Pairing: Desus – Daryl Dixon x Paul “Jesus” Rovia
Characters: Paul “Jesus” Rovia, Daryl Dixon, Rick Grimes, Carol Peletier, Michonne
Warnings: Probably crack, Smut with plot
Summary: Jesus came to Alexandria to do trade and to see a certain grumpy hunter. However, he didn’t see said hunter; instead, just outside the walls of Alexandria he found a black cat – wait, was that really a cat?!
Paul didn’t miss the unified weird expression Rick, Michonne and Carol were giving him when they came to the gate to greet the Hilltop scout. If he had to put it into words, he’d say it was a crossbreed between surprise and… amusement. Now that puzzled him. Was he humoring them in some way he was unaware? He did a super-quick check in the rearview mirror and found nothing funny in his attire or his face. In fact, he looked extra-fine today: hair combed, beard trimmed, new beanie, boots and trench coat dusted off; he always took care to look neat whenever he went to Alexandria to do trade, almost as if to impress a certain someone here. He looked down his arms again, suddenly recalling the weight in them. Right. The only thing out of the ordinary was the coal-back lump with its long furry tail winding around his arm.
“What?” Paul asked, seeing Michonne leaning towards Rick and whispering into his ears. Rick’s face contorted in an epically failed attempt to contain his laughter and maintain a straight face at the same time.
“Nothing.” It was Rick who answered.
Like hell it’s nothing, Paul thought. But he kept it to himself, waiting for Rick, or Michonne or Carol, to add anything. He was a patient man after all – a much needed virtue for someone who was nicknamed Jesus.
“Where did you find… that?” asked Rick, making vague gestures at the black lump in Paul’s arms.
As though understanding human words, said black lump perked up its pointy ears and then lifted its head, narrow blue eyes zeroing into Rick. The tail that had wrapped around Paul’s forearm unwinded and raised to form a big question mark. When Paul looked down, he was both surprised and intrigued by how expressive the creature was.
“This…” he began, “… well, I spotted it not too far outside the wall and brought it back on a whim. Didn’t know what had gotten into me. Anyone has any idea what sort of animal this is?”
When he first saw this black creature prowling in the bush, Paul was thoroughly dumbfounded because of all his thirty years of living, he had never seen anything like this. Generally it looked like a cat with its round head, triangular ears and lean, graceful limbs. The way it moved resembled a feline too, quickly and soundlessly – padded paws, he guessed. Its size was the odd thing though: bigger than an ordinary cat but smaller than a Labrador. Imagine a cat trying to evolve into a young black panther but failing and you’ll get the picture. Won over by his surging curiosity, Paul slowly approached the creature against his better judgment to just leave it alone. Perhaps it was because he had always had a soft spot for strays that he couldn’t help it when seeing one even though this was technically a wild animal, not a domestic one. It utterly baffled him how this wild cat-thing was so docile – even friendly in a weird sort of way: it didn’t scratch or bite his outstretched hand and it allowed him to tickle under its chin, purring softly as he did. He almost believed it must have been someone’s exotic pet before shit had hit the fan. And its eyes! When he looked into its blue eyes, oddly human for an animal despite the slit pupils, a sense of familiarity washed over him that he couldn’t quite understand. That was what sealed the deal and the next thing he knew, Paul had the creature clasped to his passenger seat by the seatbelt, its tail winding around his forearm, on his way to Alexandria. The animal had a penchant for it, it seemed, and Paul, being the pet lover, didn’t mind it one bit.
“It’s a mangorath,” said Rick.
“I’m sorry a-what?”
“A man-go-rath,” Carol enunciated.
The mangorath, according to Carol, scratched its claws at Paul’s leather sleeves soon as the last syllable left her lips. Sharp, just like a cat’s. Fearing that his favorite trench coat might get a tear, he shushed the creature, earning a complaint from it in the form of a soft growl. With his gloved hand Paul stroked behind its ears in a placating manner. It purred, clearly enjoying the treatment, which encouraged Paul to continue. Although separated by a thick layer of leather, he could tell how soft its ears were. Too absorbed in his indulgence that he didn’t notice the funny look Rick, Michonne and Carol were throwing his way.
“It’s a type of rare half-wild, half-domestic feline,” Carol continued.
“Half-wild, half-domestic?” Paul echoed.
“Means he can live in the wild but he can make for a good pet as well. Ah, that’s a he, by the way.”
It struck him as odd that Carol knew so much about this mangorath creature. Did she use to have one or had she been a zoologist before all this shit?
“How can you tell?”
Carol just shrugged as a means of saying she knew stuff that he didn’t know and he just had to take her words for it, which he did because Paul’s knowledge of this rare species was a big fat zero. In fact, he’d never heard of it until today.
To be fair, his knowledge of the animal world wasn’t extensive either.
“Won’t your arms get tired holding him like that?” Michonne asked.
“Oh no,” Paul replied, “he’s actually a lot lighter than he looks. You wanna try?”
That wasn’t the real reason though. Truth was, he held the mangorath because he was afraid that if he let him down, the feline would run off at once, to wherever he had come from. And Paul, being selfish and hyper-aware of it, did not want that. It wasn’t every day that he happened to come across a rare animal which didn’t try to bite his hand off when he tried to pet it.
The female samurai shook her head. “I’ll pass. Allergic to furs.”
“Right. Anyone in Alexandria interested in keeping a pet?”
Paul’s thought was directed to the Grimes household, specifically to the adolescent Carl Grimes, who was carrying lots of emotional baggage. The troubled youth had been through a lot and perhaps keeping a pet would do him some good.
“Why don’t you keep him? He seems awfully agreeable with you. May even like you.”
For some reason only they knew, Michonne sniggered at her boyfriend’s suggestion. Carol brought a hand to her mouth, obviously trying to cover a grin. OK, this was seriously bugging Paul. There had to be something here that he didn’t know and they had no intention to tell him either, preferring to keep it for themselves. Some private Alexandrian joke?
The mangorath stirred and scratched his arm.
“Oh no,” Paul said, shaking his head ruefully, “I don’t think I can keep a pet. As you know, I live in a tiny trailer, which I’m absent from most of the day.”
It wasn’t the first time Paul had run into a stray on his supply run. His first instinct had always been keeping them, feeding them, giving them a shelter from the sun and the rain and the horde of flesh-gnawing monsters. Yet when he thought about his living condition and routine, about how little time he had for himself, the best he could do was heave a sign and find a household who was interested in, and more importantly, capable of caring for an extra member in their family. And that was what he was trying to do here, in Alexandria, finding a home for this strange creature which he had grown oddly increasingly fond of.
“He’s mostly self-sufficient,” Carol quickly assured. “You don’t even have to feed him or wash him. He doesn’t like washing anyway. He’ll keep the rodents off your trailer…”
“And probably brings you some for dinner,” Michonne added, chuckling. “If you don’t mind dining on squirrels, that is.”
Paul heard the mangorath let out a throaty growl and couldn’t tell whether he agreed or disagreed with the badass samurai. On the other hand, he felt indistinctly like a wavering customer being pressured to purchase a pet he was unsure if he should have by three cunning shop owners. Alone, each was fearsome in their way. Together, they were a force to be reckoned with. He felt himself losing already.
“Finders, keepers,” said the Alexandrian leader. And just like that, the argument ended: the responsibility to care for the mangorath fell into the Hilltop scout’s laps.
After all the unloading and uploading of goods was done, which was in the late afternoon, Paul set to return to Hilltop, finding no reason to dally as a certain hunter had left Alexandria and wasn’t likely to come home for days. Feeling a stone sink in his guts, Paul placed the mangorath in the passenger’s seat, clasped the seatbelt around his body just so the feline wouldn’t jump around in the truck and got them both killed in an accident before settling into the driver’s seat.
Watching the truck leaving the gate with her arms crossing on her chest, Carol turned to Rick. “You sure it’s a good idea because I’m sure I’m not ready to deal with Daryl’s tantrum once he gets back.”
Rick merely shrugged. “You saw it yourself. I’m sure he’ll thank us when he’s back.”
“After he throws a tantrum,” Michonne deadpanned.
“After he throws a tantrum,” Rick echoed, grinning.
“So… How about… Wolverine?”
Water splashing right into his face was what Paul got as a reply from the ill-mannered mangorath.
“Bad cat! Very bad cat!” Paul chided, wiping his face with the back of his sudsed hand. The soap that accidentally got into his nose made him sneeze loudly.
Sitting in a basin in Paul’s tiny bathroom, said bad cat was wagging his long, soaked tail in a lazy manner, no sign of contrite visible on his sharp feline features.
Soon as they arrived at Hilltop, Paul had immediately thought of giving his brand-new animal companion a thorough wash because hell, he was not going to have fleas in his bed. Unfortunately for him, the mangorath was a keen animal with a fierce dislike for washing – as Carol had kindly informed him – and before Paul extended his grip on him, the cat had sprung to his paws and dashed out of the truck. Hence a tag, you’re it game between Jesus and the satanic black cat commenced, bringing laughter and mirthful tears to many a Hilltoper, including Maggie and Enid. In fact, Maggie had laughed so hard that Dr. Carson had to remind her to restrain herself a little so as not to cause any unpleasant effect on her recovery process. By the time he had had his hand on the cuff of the mangorath’s neck (much help from a couple of children), he was bathed in sticky sweats and very much in need of a wash himself.
After he finished washing the stubborn feline first.
This chasing game had Paul become all reminiscent of his first meeting with a certain grumpy hunter. Not the best impression but undoubtedly memorable. Now he could fully sympathize with Daryl’s desire to give him a punch in the face after the scout had pretty much saved his ass from a walker’s bite. Not that he would punch the cat though; Paul was many things but never an abuser.
“But you need a name, right,” Paul tried to reason with his four-legged new buddy. “I can’t just call you ‘mangorath’ all day. How about ‘Magneto’?”
A mighty wave of the black tail once again had Paul wipe his face with his sleeve.
“Right, no comic superheroes then. How about The Lord of the Ring? Legolas maybe?”
“Harry Potter? Severus Snape? Voldemort?!”
Splash. Splash. SPLASH.
At this point, Paul had come to an understanding that this was the mangorath’s response to his questions. Sweeping his wet hair back crudely, he said, “OK, I got your point. No fictional characters. How about Michael Jackson?”
“Right… Norman Reedus?”
There was no water attack but the mangorath had also turned his head away, finding the pastel wall of the bathroom more interesting than his human’s visage. If it wasn’t an “I don’t care” than Paul didn’t know what it was.
“Come on,” Paul pled, rubbing the soft sponge along his spine, “one last try, OK. After that I’ll just call you ‘Mango’ for short.”
The cat turned his head back, looking at Paul with his impossibly blue, round eyes. Good. He seemed to catch his attention.
“How about…” A moment of hesitation. “… Daryl?”
Paul anticipated another strike, but it didn’t come. The mangorath lowered his head and rested it on the edge of the basin’s edge. He purred.
Feeling triumphant, Paul grinned widely. “Daryl it is.”
Living with the mangorath turned out to be simpler than Paul had thought. True to Carol’s words – he had to thank her the next time they met, the feline was mostly self-sufficient and actually required little care. When Paul was on his supply run or scouting mission, ‘Daryl’ went with him, trailing behind him like a faithful shadow if he was on foot or sitting quietly with the seat belt tight around his body if Paul took the truck. While Paul was at Hilltop helping around, ‘Daryl’ explored on his own. The first time he had done it, Paul had nearly freaked out, thinking his animal companion had deserted him and gone off to be a walker’s dinner, but before Paul had officially lost it, he showed up at the trailer’s door, a freshly dead squirrel in his jaw. From then on, whenever ‘Daryl’ disappeared for a few hours, Paul expected to find some dead games presented on the floor of his trailer like some sort of proud trophy.
Not that Paul was going to skin and eat those poor creatures though. He was mostly shit at skinning, as Daryl – the human one, of course – had not-so-kindly pointed out during a night they had had to camp outside Alexandria. So he was content to let his feline buddy savor his catches and cleared the remains – not that there were many – afterwards. On the days that ‘Daryl’ didn’t feel like hunting or was just plain unlucky, Paul shared his portion of food with him, and was fascinatingly surprised to see the predator stoically chow down pasta and salads. Definitely omnivorous, he thought. Another interesting point to note.
Two weeks had passed since he took the mangorath to Hilltop, during which he had done trade with Alexandria thrice. To his utter disappointment, not once had he been able to see the grumpy hunter, who had been “away for hunting” – Rick’s words. Bad timing, perhaps?
“I do miss him you know,” Paul said while drawing little circles behind the cat’s ear. He was sitting on his worn couch in his trailer, enjoy a humid, quiet evening. “The other ‘Daryl’. Maybe we weren’t meant to be and that’s how fate’s telling me. Hah, not that we have much of a chance anyway. The guy’s probably straight. I mean, he fits the type, right?”
Curling on Paul’s laps, ‘Daryl’ purred, his long tail winding around Paul’s forearm as he looked his human in the eyes.
“Sappy, I know.” said Paul, shaking his head ruefully.
To be continued