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PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS

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Where do I begin? Paul sat staring at his computer screen. He needed to write, felt it in his bones. The heartache that consumed him screaming for a release. “This is shit.” He whispered to nothing. Nothing because the apartment was empty. As it has been for the past two weeks. No matter how many times he has told himself that Daryl wasn’t coming back, he still expected him to walk through the door. Dirty as all hell, carrying a string of squirrels and cursing to himself over thei-- his neighbors. Dammit! It had all went down terribly. Not even his quick wit and soothing tone could calm that storm. Those raging blues were set.

Paul rose to his feet and went to take a shower. When he got out he heard loud, hurried banging on his door. He ran to his room and put his white shirt and black pants on. “Hang on a second!” Looking through the peephole, he saw his buddy Rick. He unlocked the door and swung it open. “What’s wrong? Are you okay? Is Daryl okay?”

“Uh..Wow..You shaved. I haven’t seen you shaven since.. Well, never really.”

“Rick what’s going on?” Rick looked at him with a sadness in his eyes. “He told me..” Paul hung his head.. He knew it was bound to happen. Rick is Daryl’s best friend. He also figured that since Daryl left, he had probably gone hunting and then went to Ricks. “I came to talk to you about it..”

Paul pulled the door open further to let the other man through. Rick sat on the couch and began to speak. “We had quite a few beers the other night. Started talking about life and that's when he said you..." Rick moved his hands in a 'continue' kind of motion. "Paul.. I know it’s none of my business but I care about Daryl and I care about you. He--He’s falling apart in a manner of speaking.” At that Paul’s eyes shot up and sought out Ricks. “What?”

Ignoring his question, Rick continued “Why did you wait so long to tell him? How did you keep it hidden for so long?” Paul took a moment to gather what little thoughts he had that didn’t involve Daryl still caring about him.. Of course he’d still care. Why would he think that he wouldn’t? Daryl loves him. And a love that comes from that man is not easily thrown away.. My thought process is ridiculous.

Paul’s eyes were downcast. His fingers lazily playing with the fabric of the beat up old couch. “I didn’t want things to change. I knew how he’d get if he knew. Knew that he’d be angry. Mother hen me a little. I wanted things to stay the same..and..I just didn't know how to tell him. With the way my family was, it ran through their bodies too and a lot of them didn’t survive.. Honestly, I was scared. Thought that he’d just leave because he couldn’t handle it. And he did. He left.”

Rick’s brows furrowed, “He only left to cope, Paul. You basically told him you were dying, in so many words. What kind of a reaction did you expect?” Rick laid a hand on Paul's knee as an act of sympathy. “He loves you. More than I’ve ever seen him love or care about anyone. He just needed some time to process things. I think he’s planning on coming over today..” Paul perked up a little. Rick raised his hands “Now I don’t know when or for sure but he’s getting to be the way he normally is if he stays in one place too long, especially if it’s not his home.” Rick pointedly looked into Paul's eyes on the last word.

 

Later that afternoon Paul began cooking dinner. Figured if Daryl was coming over, the least he could do was make him some food. He was anxious. He had an idea of what Daryl would say. What he would ask. He just wasn’t ready for it. He tried to distract himself by focusing on the meal in front of him.

Just as he set the table he heard a hesitant knock on his door, followed by a more brave knock. Paul smiled to himself and began to walk over. His nerves were going haywire. This will be the first time he’s seen Daryl since the day he left. Wonder what he looks like now. Jesus, Paul. It’s only been 2 weeks at most! Paul took in a deep breath and opened the door.

Chapter Text

“Hey..” Said Daryl.
“Hi.” Paul smiled and gestured for Daryl to come inside further.

“You made food. Smells good.” Daryl didn’t know what else to say. He’s never done...this before. Never dealt with anything close to this. They both stood there awkwardly for a moment before Paul spoke.
“You hungry? I hope you are. I slaved over this for hours. It’d be terrible if you didn’t want it.” Paul laughed lightly. This is awful. We’re both standing here like an awkward first date. Not like people who have been together for five years. How did it come to this? Oh, right.. Daryl didn’t look amused. He was purposefully avoiding Paul's eyes. Those eyes..The eyes he’d gotten lost in for hours after making love for even longer.

“Look, I know you’ve got questions, Daryl..and I’m trying to be ready to answer them but can we please eat first? And then do the dirty later?” Daryl nodded, “A’right.” They walked over to the dining room table and sat down across from each other. “You look nice..” Daryl gruffly whispered. “Never seen you without a beard. The hair too. It's..nice.”

Paul stared at him for a moment and then replied, “Thank you. I just figured it was time for a change. How have you been?” What a stupid, stupid question. Rick already told him how he’d been. That he was basically falling apart. But Paul wanted to hear it from him. No more secrets. No more lies. Just the truth. “Please don't lie to me.”

“Lie to you? I've never lied to ya! You were the one that kept something really Fucking important from me!”

“Please calm down.. I didn't mean to upset you. I just.. I just wanted to know how you are handling everything.” Daryl didn't answer he couldn't answer. Five years. Five fucking years and he kept something like that from him and then asked how he was doing. What. The. Fuck.

They sat quietly and ate, both minds racing with unspoken words yet neither one was willing to let them known yet. Once finished, Daryl quietly stood up and started cleaning the table. Paul let out a sigh and begin to help. This is a disaster.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why didn't you tell me?”

“I was scared, Daryl. I know how you react when things get hard and I didn't want you to run away. I had some ridiculous fantasy that I could get it taken care of without you even knowing.” Daryl didn't look at him. He patiently waited for Paul to continue but he didn't. So he walked out into the hallway towards the living room and sat down on the couch. Paul quietly following behind.

“When did you find out?”

“Six months ago.” Daryl inhaled deeply.

“Were ya ever gonna tell me?”

Paul looked down and sighed. “Eventually, yes. But only after. After I got it removed. But obviously that didn't go according to plan.”

“Got it removed? Wait, so it's removable? Its not that bad? It can be..”

“Baby..” Paul interjected softly. “The weekend I was going to go to my parents..Remember that?” He nodded. “I was going to the hospital instead. I had an appointment with a surgeon who wanted to do an MRI. See how big it was and whether or not they could operate. The MRI showed that it wasn't as small as it originally was. That it had spread. It's not..” Paul whispered, “It's not operable anymore.” Paul looked at him expecting a reply but Daryl sat quietly biting his nails. “They told me that it's aggressive. One of the most aggressive they've ever seen. They suggested chemotherapy but I don't want that.”

“Why the hell not? If ya got a chance then you needa take it! You need it!” Daryl was getting frustrated. Why did he say no? Doesn't he realize that he'll die? That he's going to die?

“I declined because I've seen what it does to people. What it did to my family. It affected all of us not just them. My aunt had a similar strain of..” he hesitated, “cancer. She was worse off on it than she was when she wasn't. I don't want to go through that. I don't want to put you through that.”

“Ya’d rather put me through ya dying instead?” Daryl huffed.

“I'd rather be lucid and here with you and living than going through that.” Now it was Paul's turn to get angry. He didn't want to end up weak and sick more than he already was.

“I'm sorry Daryl but I refuse to be put on poison that's supposed to kick the other poison out.”

“We gotta find a way. We gotta get you better you gotta try. Try something! I need you to try. For me, for you, for us. I need you. I ain't ready to let you go.”

Paul smiled sadly. Wishing he could make everything better. That there was a cure. That this was all a dream and he and Daryl were lying in bed being lazy and watching Breaking Bad.. But no. This is real. He's really going through this. He is really putting Daryl through this. He doesn't know of anything else to try. Anything else to do! “I will try to find an alternative. Okay? I will do as much research as I can. Ask around. Get more opinions. Okay? But you've got to promise me something. I need you too. I need for you to be here. Help me. When you left, I was ready to give up. Didn't expect you back and that sounds crazy because I know you but you left and I can't have you doing that again. I need you too.”

Daryl leaned over and wrapped his arm around him, pulled him closer and held him. With Paul's head on Daryl's chest, he began to rub his back soothingly. “I'm sorry. I freaked out. I ain't ever done this before. I didn't know what to do. I was scared too. Still am. But I'm here. I'm here now. I ain't leaving again. I'm so sorry.” He could feel his eyes well up but he refused to let the water fall. “Tomorrow.. Tomorrow we'll both start lookin’. Let's just go to bed for now.”

Paul knew for sure that there was nothing else they could do. He's already spent hours trying to find something. Its worth one more shot though, for himself, his family, his friends and for him. He's just not looking forward to the hope dying in Daryl's eyes. He's getting weaker by the week.. Already hurting so much. I'm gonna fight. I'm gonna fight till I die.
They both got up off the couch and went into the bedroom. From here on out, is going to be the hardest thing Paul has ever done.

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The next morning Paul awoke to Daryl's snoring. Weird. He was usually the one that slept in. Daryl would be up and in the living room by now watching the weather. Although there were plenty of times he would just lay there as Paul slept and then wake him up with kisses. He guessed the last two weeks have been rough for his hunter. It was tough for both of them. Having spent the last five years of their lives together only to have been separated for so long. Because yes, two weeks is a long time.

Paul wasn't looking forward to today. He got up slowly to make sure he wouldn't wake the other man and crept into the kitchen. He began his normal morning routine, turning on his laptop, making a pot of coffee and pouring himself a cup. As he sat down in front of the computer, he put his glasses on and waited for it to finish booting up.

Daryl woke blearily. Yesterday's events were hazy and for a moment he forgot where he was. He then remember because of the smell. There was no smell of breakfast being made or the feeling of a child lying next to him who would crawl into his bed in the middle of the night claiming there were walkers coming after her. No, instead there was the smell of old spice and gain. No laughter of children or barking of dogs. Just peaceful quietness. Except for someone rummaging around in the kitchen.

He sat up and rubbed his eyes. Taking a breath, he thought about what happened yesterday. Six months. That's how long this thing had, had to grow. The thing that is killing the man he loves. They're supposed to look for other doctors and other treatments today. He hopes they'll find something and turn this shit around. It's not fair. There are plenty of people out there that do deserve this. Child molesters, rapists, drug lords, abusers but not him. Definitely not him. He's the best thing Daryl's ever held onto. Not a mean bone in that man's body. It ain't fair.

He got up and headed toward the sound of Paul clicking away on a keyboard. As he entered the kitchen area Paul's form came into view. He was slouched over the keyboard, hair a complete mess and furiously typing away. Daryl had to take a moment to breathe. He was incredible. Probably trying to finish one of his many unfinished novels. My God.. I've missed him.

“Mornin’ “ He leaned over and kissed the other man's head. Paul jumped, almost busting his nose. He didn't hear him coming.

“Good morning. Sorry. I kinda got lost.” He said gesturing to his computer. Daryl hummed in reply and began to make his own cup of coffee.

“Checked anything out yet?” Daryl turned around and leaned against the counter.

Paul looked up from across the island, “I was waiting for you to wake up. I've already done some research before you went to Ricks.” Lie. ‘Some’ didn't even cover the amount of searching he's already done. For Daryl's sake though, it wasn't a bad lie per se. “Didn't find much of anything then. So I figured I'd just wait for you. Maybe you know something I don't.” He smiled.

Daryl walked over and leaned on the other side of the counter. “Somethin’s been buggin’ me.. ‘M sorry for tellin’ Rick.” He said as he hung his head in shame. “It wasn’t my place to tell but I just got so shit faced and it..You know.. Jus’ came out. And.. ”

“Stop.” Paul held up his hand that wasn’t currently holding the cup of coffee. “You do not need to apologize for that. You needed someone that wasn’t me, to talk to and that is not your fault. It’s human nature that if something goes wrong we want to go to our closest people and talk to them about it. There’s nothing wrong with that.” Paul could tell that Daryl still didn’t believe him but was willing to accept his statement anyway.

“Ya ready to get started?”

No. ”Of course. Let’s do it.” Paul closed the current tab and began to bring up the search engine. Daryl sat down next him and peered over his shoulder. Paul began to type.

They’ve been at it for hours. Only leaving a few times for food or trips to the bathroom. They haven’t been able to find anything so far. A few clinical trials here and there that have already been over and done with. Clinical trials that hadn’t had good outcomes. Just as Paul was going to offer to make dinner, they stumbled upon an article.

Dr. Marshall, a Medical oncologist, at Grady Memorial is seeking candidates for her new clinical trial. The subjects accepted will be undergoing a trial treatment for pancreatic cancer. If interested, please call the number below. The clinical trial will be starting October 15th. Deadline for applicants will be on Friday, October 8th at 1pm.

"DARYL!"

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

The day was going by slowly. Paul and Daryl sat at the kitchen table letting the moments tick by until it was time to leave. Daryl is nervously bouncing his leg while biting his fingernails. Paul was currently trying to distract himself by writing in his journal. His appointment is today.
He had already went through the elimination process. It took two days to weed out unfit candidates. Surprisingly enough, he made the cut.

Dr. Marshall wasn’t there throughout the entire examination. He guesses today will be the day that they meet the mastermind behind the trial. To say he was nervous would be an understatement. He's fucking terrified. Paul wishes he could say something to comfort Daryl's nerves but how, when he can't even comfort himself? He knows not all questions will be answered but most will. Doesn't help things much though since there's a huge chance this trial won't even work. He tries not to think about it. He should feel lucky. Being given the chance to even try was miraculous.

He looked up from his journal to peek at Daryl through his lashes. He looks more nervous than Paul. He smirks and taps his phone to check the time. “Shit.” Paul stands up to put his coat on. His appointment is at 3:00 and it’s already 2:30. “We gotta go or we’re going to be late. Are you sure you want to come?”

“Course I’m comin’.” Daryl gives him a look and stands as well.
“Okay, I just wanted to make sure.”

As they make their way out into the parking lot of their apartment complex a sudden wave of nausea hits Paul like a truck, forcing him to stop and clutch his stomach. Taking a few unsteady breaths he reaches out his hand and calls to Daryl. Daryl glances back at Paul and immediately stops. Worry blossoming over his face as he sees his lovers body try to expel the contents of his already empty stomach.

He runs over to Paul and places his hand on his back. “What can I do?”

Paul doesn't know. There's nothing he can do. He doesn't let him know this has happened before. Doesn't let him know that this is something he's been dealing with for a while. He's been trying to shelter Daryl from the symptoms only because he doesn't want him to worry. Especially with the knowledge that he's helpless. “Let it run its course.” He's gasping now, trying to get oxygen back into his lungs.

Paul straightens up and avoids Daryls eyes. “Come on, baby. We gotta get going.”

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The waiting room at the office is ridiculous. Paul Snickers and glances at Daryl before walking over to sign the sign in sheet. There are posters of Doctor Who. One in particular is the Tardis with the quote ‘Trust me. I'm the doctor.’

As they sit, Daryl begins bouncing his knee again. “That happen before?”

Paul sighs and turns his head away to face the window. “Yes.”

“Rovia. Paul Rovia”

They both get up in unison. Daryl looking uncomfortable and Paul looking resigned.

“Alright fellas if you’d just follow me please.”
As they go down some hallways and turns Daryl whispers “I wish ya wouldn't have kept this from me.”

“I know.”

“Here we are! Now, if you two will just sit a moment Dr. Marshall will be in shortly.” The lady says.

Paul sits while Daryl wanders around aimlessly. There's pictures hanging on the walls. Its not a patient room, it's the doctors office. Daryl feels so out of it. Out of his element. Emotionally drained. When did he stop paying so much attention to his surroundings?

The pictures are of a young woman with blue hair. Huh. Must be the docs kid. There's a few with blue hair and a baby girl. There's one with blue hair, another woman and the same baby. All kinds with just the baby. Maybe the docs a grandpa? “Daryl.”

“What? I'm tryin’ ta figure out who this guy is that's gonna be helpin’ you.” he says to a very tired looking Paul.

“And that's fine, but could you please sit down right now. You can read him when he gets in here.”

Daryl sits heavily in the chair next to Paul's. He's nervous. Can't help but to feel this is just a big joke. Pretty shitty one at that.

Minutes tick by by the time the door opens. They both swivel their heads only to see blue hair come through the door.

She walks around them to the desk and promptly sits down before speaking. “Well, it's a pleasure to meet you two, I'm Dr. Marshall. I’m the head of this trial and will see you fairly regularly. Which of you is Mr. Rovia?”

Paul raises his hand, “I am.”

“Pleased to meet you.” She turns her eyes to Daryl. “And who's this?”

“This is Daryl. My partner.”

“Nice to meet you. Will you be joining Mr. Rovia throughout the entire process?”

Daryl stares blankly for a moment before replying “You're a woman?”

“Uhm. Of course.” she says. Dr. Marshall looks amused. “And you're a man.”

“I'm sorry.” Paul speaks up. “We thought you were a man.”

“Is there going to be a problem?” if possible, she looks even more amused.

“No of course not. We just misguided our…”

“How old are you? You don't look old enough to be doin’ trial doctor shit.” Why is He so angry? There's nothing wrong with being a woman. Jesus, she looks 25 at most though!

“I’m 33. And I can assure you I am plenty old enough to be doing what I do. Ten years of medical school can account for that.”

“I'm sorry, he's just nervous.” Paul says endearingly before gripping Daryls hand.

“Its only fair to find out who you're going to be dealing with so I completely understand.”

“‘M sorry.” Daryl mutters. He realized his mistake as soon as the words left his mouth. The tightening around his hand let up a little.

“Its okay. Now. To tell you a little about me. My name is Randi Marshall. I've been building this trial since medical school with the help of mentors and associates. We are dedicated. I am the head of this entire facility. We will be spending some time together during administrations and monitorings. This,” she pulls out a black leather bound journal, “ will be your homework. You are to write down any symptoms that get worse, any new symptoms or anything you think may be important.” Paul takes the offered journal.

“So when does everything start?”

“Your first dose will be administered today as soon as we get done here. After each dose you will be required to stay afterword for an hour just to be cautious.” Paul nods in understanding.

“Who's the kid?” Daryl asks.
“Daryl.” Paul scolds.

“No it's fine. That’s my niece.”

“So what gotcha into the doc business?”
“Jesus Daryl.” Paul sighs. “We talked about this.”
“Again, it's alright. It's only fair.” Blue hair replies. She looks down and takes a breath before steeling herself to form her answer. “My best friend was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at a very young age. She was tough and fought it for a long time before she eventually passed away two years ago. She's the reason I fight so hard to find something to keep the diagnosed here longer.”

Great. Now he feels like shit. Its a great reason. Too great. He feels stupid for asking it so harshly.

“Shit.” he says.

“Yeah. It’s shit.” Dr. Marshall replies.