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Title: Not That it Matters

Author: veiledndarkness

Pairing: None

Rating: PG-13

Summary: He can’t stop the reaction, it’s his oldest reflex.

Disclaimer: The characters within are not mine. No profit has been made and no harm is intended.

*Written for the [livejournal.com profile] twd_kinkmeme *



X

He’s flinching before the can of dog food hits the dirty floorboards and it’s so instinctive that he can’t stop the motion. There’s a pinprick of shame heating up the back of his neck, a feeling of fear that he can’t shake and even though he’s a man long grown, the sound of that can being hurled across the room throws him right back into his childhood.

It doesn’t matter that he knows (he hopes) that Rick wouldn’t turn to him next with his face pinched tightly in anger, fists clenched and seeking a target to release the rage upon.

It doesn’t matter that no one in the group has ever put their hands on him in anger, aside from that day in the quarry, that day that he tries not to think about, the day that he was told of Merle’s possible fate on the roof of some building in the middle of Atlanta. He knows why Shane had wrestled him down to the ground, even if he hated him for it. He understands, but the feeling of being roughly forced down to the dirt in muscular arms is one he’s well familiar with.

It doesn’t matter that he trusts Rick, that he knows that Rick’s a good man, a good man in the way that he had admired of him from a distance, a man of honour.

And it doesn’t matter at all right now when he can see the looks on the faces of everyone else and he can see that none of them will make a move or utter a word, not when Rick’s shown a second of uncontrolled anger.

His palms are slick on the owl, the soft feathers rubbing against his roughened hands. He can feel the pressure sliding up his chest and into his throat and he looks down at the dead owl, blinking rapidly. He tries not to let the fear slow, (please God, don’t let it show) because nothing good has ever followed when the look on his face gives him away.

There’s too many memories for that moment, every slap, every punch, every hateful word flung his way, every scream forced from him, and they all crash into him, the memories that he can’t let go of no matter how badly he wants to. He can’t look at Rick directly, (not that anyone else will right then anyway) and he hates with every fibre of his being that even now, years upon years later, that all it takes is for someone to turn abruptly in a sudden movement to throw him back to being a small, defenceless child.

There’s a cringe building under his skin and he tries his best not to hunch his shoulders, (to make himself be small, too small to be worth the time or effort) to not show how afraid he is for just this moment.

It doesn’t matter that Rick’s looking at him and his gaze is remorseful and weary, with apologies written over every inch of his tired face. It doesn’t matter that Daryl can feel the tension ebbing slowly, so slowly, from his body or that Rick’s got this look in his eyes, this flicker of understanding and knowledge, and God, how that makes Daryl’s neck burn all the more.

He’s letting his air out by the time the anger has drained from Rick’s expression and he can feel his shoulders slumping (with relief) and he knows that the moment is over and that Rick won’t say a word, won’t indicate what he saw in Daryl to anyone else, and he feels the sick misery of fear slip away from him once more.

He knows that Rick won’t hurt him, that he’s not the kind of man who would, that he’s not his father or his brother; that Rick’s a good man, a man he can trust, but he knows that even the best of men have a dark anger simmering under their skin.

Not that it matters.

X

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