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Title: Fall Right In
Author: Abelina/Abby/Abelinajt
Fandom/Pairing: The Walking Dead - Beth Greene/Daryl Dixon (Bethyl)
Setting: Season 4, Alone-divergence.
Warnings: None this chapter.
Rating: M
Summary: If Beth hadn’t interrupted him when she did, calling him back with the melody of her voice, he might’ve done something dumb like opening the door for a doomed dog and maybe dooming them both while he was at it. Beth and Daryl escape the funeral home together. An Alone-divergence Bethyl story.
Notes: Chapter title taken from lyrics to In Her Eyes by Josh Groban.

I am not a crossbow expert. I’ve never even seen one in real life. However in doing some research for this I’ve realized that the bolts (arrows) that Daryl uses on the show appear to have field points on them (meant for practice and not hunting), which just doesn’t seem like something an actual Daryl would use. Anyway, so for the purposes of this story, Daryl’s bolts have fixed blade broadheads on them, which would actually let him both hunt food and kill walkers. (Between writing this note and posting this chapter, I have now held several crossbows, including one like Daryl’s. Still doesn’t make me an expert, alas.)
All Chapters Here

Fall Right In
Chapter 7 – She Stares through My Shadow

*~*
Though the sky was clear of clouds, the morning air held a chill of autumn, more than the previous days had, and Daryl felt the metallic tang of it in his lungs when he stepped out of the cabin. He paused a minute, halfway down the steps, to just breathe it in, and behind him heard Beth doing the same thing. She smiled at him when he looked over his shoulder at her, standing in the doorway, loose ends of her hair fluttering in the breeze.

He nodded back at her and she gave him a little wave before securing the door shut behind him, heavy iron scraping over solid wood, and after another deep, refreshing breath, Daryl finished his descent into the grass. As he passed over the threshold into the woods, using the same vague trailhead as yesterday, the deep greens and browns of the forest welcomed him. Again he paused to breathe, feeling the pulse of the trees in his bones, the scent of them deep in his lungs. Nothing had changed, aside from the sleep he hadn’t known how badly he needed, but it seemed like years had passed since yesterday, since the storm raging inside him had driven him out here with skin too thick, lungs too shallow to feel the sanctity of woods in the way he craved. Well, he felt it now, right down to the depths of him. Right down to the marrow.
The whole point of coming out here, though, was to properly explore the area around the cabin, something he hadn’t managed yesterday, aside from finding that rabbit warren, and he pushed away from the tree he was leaning on to continue his journey. Just a few minutes into the woods he came across the remnants of a trapline, the kind used for catching furbearers in the winter. Not all of them were good to eat, but the signs along the line were active and varied so Daryl set a few traps as he went in case something edible wandered by. He followed the line’s oblong loop, sticking to the still-packed earth of the barely there path the two in the cabin would’ve walked each day checking their traps. The rabbit warren was close to the line, about two-thirds of the way around the loop, and he set his snares there as planned, hoping to conserve his few remaining bolts until he could figure out how to replace them.

He saw no other structures, no other signs of people as he completed the loop back to their cabin, and only a single walker stumbled by which he dispatched easily. Didn’t mean there couldn’t be more of them, and in that way it was a risk with the fur traps and rabbit snares. He’d check them later, take away whatever got caught, and he didn’t set any of them too close to the cabin.

Aside from a bit of morning birdsong, the cabin was quiet, too, when he slipped past Beth’s alarms into the little grassy yard and headed for the back door. Daryl barely had his hand raised before the door swung inward and Beth appeared in the opening, wide-eyed and grinning like a madwoman and near vibrating on the spot.

“What—”

Beth grabbed his hand, the one he had raised to knock, and tugged him forward. “Daryl! Come see what I found!”

He let her drag him inside, stopping only to bar the door. “I coulda been anyone, you know.”

Beth scoffed and tugged at his hand again. “I know what you sound like when you’re tryin’ to make noise. Come on!”

“All right, all right,” he said, fighting a smirk while trying to sound annoyed, but it was half-assed and she saw right through him anyway, crinkling her nose at him and squeezing his fingers until he followed her.

She led him over to an open chest in the centre of the room, one of two she’d dragged from beneath the counter. Piles of things littered the floor around them, but his eyes passed over all of it as Beth pulled away the folded canvas lining the top of the open chest.

Inside the chest was divided in half, one side an empty bin lined with felt, while the other looked a little like a fishing tackle box, with layers of shelves that all swung up and out on metal arms to reveal the next layer beneath. Only instead of tackle, he found tools and screws, sting wax, lubricant, stock oil and rags, and enough components—shafts, nocks, vanes, inserts, and broadheads—to replenish his dwindling supply of crossbow bolts, and then some. The deeper he dug into the chest, the more he found, including replacement strings, assorted fasteners, even a bundle of completed bolts, tied neatly with twine.

“Shit...” He almost breathed the word as he looked up from the chest and toward Beth.

Beth, who was at that very moment carefully reaching down to pull a crossbow out of an unzipped bag at her feet. A crossbow which was cocked and loaded with one of the homemade bolts from its quiver. Daryl let his gaze slide along the broadhead tip, over the curves of the bow to the lines of Beth’s arms as she settled the weapon into them, holding as it as he had shown her with his.

Her eyes sparkled as their gazes met again and she fought a smile, lip caught between her teeth. Daryl rose to his feet and came to stand beside her, eyes sweeping across the bow again up close. He’d seen ones like it before, lightweight and more compact, meant for a smaller-framed person, easier for her to carry and handle than his Stryker, but with at least as much draw weight and only a little less speed. And yet—

His eyes flicked back to hers. “You cock that yourself?”

Beth breathed out and grinned up at him, leaning over ‘til her shoulder brushed against his arm. “It has one of those rope-cocking things you told me about,” she said, her voice kinda shaky and breathless. “Daryl! I have a crossbow!

He felt the smile even before it opened up on his face, saw Beth’s eyes flick toward his mouth before her own grin widened.

“I remembered what you told me,” she said, her thumb stroking the only lightly scuffed finish of the stock. “Pull the string evenly and make sure it locks before loading the bolt.”

“Good, Beth,” he said, watching the path of her thumb, trying to ignore the way her stroking the crossbow made his pulse race a little bit more than it already was. “Real good.”

This was good. She was eager to learn, had the knack for it, both the bow and the tracking that went with it, and now she had a weapon she could use. A weapon she could carry on her shoulders and cock herself, a weapon she was obviously thrilled to have and it would only make teaching her that much better. He pictured the two of them, following the signs, tracking a deer through the woods, twin bolts hitting home...

Yeah, definitely a good thing.

Beside him, Beth breathed out audibly, and it fluttered up warm against his chin. “It already feels like mine.”

“Looks like yours.” And it did, it looked damn good there in her arms. “Get that ankle healed up, Greene. Show me what you can do with it.”

“Daryl.” Beth lowered the bow, gripping it one handed to wrap her fingers around his wrist. "I wanna do it now."

Her fingers tightened and she shivered against him, a slight little shudder he only felt because he saw it roll over her shoulders, and it mighta been dark in the cabin, but not dark enough for her pupils to widen halfway toward obscuring the blue as she gazed up at him. Eyes blazing in a we-should-burn-it-down kinda way, cheeks flushed pink, and not smiling, no, but her lips parted with something infinitely more intense than that. If anyone understood the allure of a new crossbow, it was Daryl, but Beth? Christ, he couldn’t even wrap his head around it, but the ever-present flutter in his chest pulsed warm and eager and all in favour.

Jesus, girl,” he breathed, before he could stop himself.

Beth’s cheeks flushed darker, and she bit her lip and pressed her thumb a little more firmly into the softer skin on the inside of his wrist. “Please, Daryl?”

It was gonna take a better man than him to say no to that, and with a groan he couldn’t quite suppress, he tossed his head in the direction of the back door. Beth grinned and made little squealing noise as she shouldered her bow like he did his and followed him outside, fingers finding his wrist again as she navigated the narrow steps. She let go when they reached the grassy back yard, limped her way into the centre and turned a slow circle, blinking in the bright light. She came to a stop facing out toward the woods.

“I was tryin’ to find somethin’ to shoot,” she said, voice low as he stepped up behind her. “So I could show you.”

“Ain’t gotta be something,” he said, as lowly as she did even though there weren’t so much as a squirrel around to scare away. “Here.”

He pulled out his knife and strode toward the smooth trunk of the birch tree ahead of her, and carved a quick circle into the bark with a little X in the centre. Then, kind of an afterthought really, he added what he meant to look like a pair of rabbit ears. As he stepped back, Beth let out a little giggle.

“Aww, tree bunny,” she said, catching his eye with that intense, madwoman look still blazing in hers.

“Yeah, well, just don’t aim for the ears.” His own felt a little warm under her look, and he was grateful when she raised the bow because it meant he could take his place behind her again and hide it.

She was trembling, just a little. He could see it in her fingertips, in her shoulders, in her not-quite-steady aim of the bow. Too excited for her own damn good—for his own good, too, considering the state he woke up in—but then again, maybe that was better than how she coulda been.

“Breathe, Beth,” he said, pressing his fingertips into the centre of her back, ignoring, for now, the growing warmth in his belly. “You got this.”

She breathed, slow and deep, once, twice, three times before the trembling abated and he withdrew his fingers. Beth adjusted her hold and raised the bow again with steady arms, checking she had her thumb out of the path of the string before resting her finger on the trigger. “How’s this?”

“Good, just—” He lifted her elbow higher with two fingers, pressed his other palm to her hip until she made the slight turn he was after. “There. Got your target?”

Beth took a very slow, very deep breath. “Yes.”

Daryl’s own breath mimicked hers as he sighted with her, eyeing down the line where the scope would be if she had one, his fingers curling against his jeans, trigger finger extended. “You gotta feel the shot.

Another deep breath. “I remember.”

“Gentle on the trigger.” He drew his own trigger finger in, just a hair, saw the minute contraction in her wrist as Beth did the same.

“Gentle,” she whispered. “Feel the shot.”

A pause, then another deep breath, and when he exhaled and pulled his imaginary trigger, Beth breathed out and sent the bolt flying toward the tree. She didn’t hit dead centre, but the bolt lodged on the inside edge of the circle just beneath one of the ears, and that was a damn fine first shot with a new weapon if he ever saw one.

Beth lowered her crossbow and turned around, that damned lip caught up in her teeth again, gaze turned expectantly to his. But she knew how this worked, knew it was a decent shot, but also knew she could do better and wasn’t gonna get a word out of him until she did.

She waited until he returned from pulling the bolt out of the tree before resting the stirrup on the ground and setting her foot into it. The rope-cocker was built right into the stock, and she tugged on the handles to unroll the rope, hooked it to the bowstring, and pulled up to cock the bow. The ropes retracted right back into the little casing once she finished, and after a bit of practice, Daryl was pretty sure it wouldn’t take her much more time than it would for him to do it manually. Even with the draw weight cut in half, though, it took a lot of strength and effort to cock that crossbow. Her shirt prevented a good visual, but he could picture the flexing muscles in her arms as she pulled, almost wished she’d found something without sleeves to wear so he could actually see.

That stray thought distracted him enough not to notice her taking the second shot until the bolt hit, an inch and a half closer toward the centre than her first. Daryl retrieved the bolt and so it continued, Beth shooting, Daryl yanking the bolt out of the tree so she could use it to shoot again.

Beth cocked her crossbow, with only the slightest tremor in her arms and shoulders giving away how much effort it took. This time when she lifted the bow, he didn’t have to correct her stance, or the angle of her arms, and before he could speak, she relaxed the tension across her shoulders and took her deep breaths. Good. She was remembering what he taught her before and taking everything else he threw at her now, absorbing it in, not making the same mistake twice.

And she looked fucking good doing it, too, in the same way she had that night after taking down four walkers by herself. Wild, somehow, or dangerous maybe, but the kinda dangerous that was thrilling, made even more so by how totally into it she was. She was gonna be amazing with that crossbow, and she was already damn good.

Each successive shot saw her bolt land closer to the centre and though he didn’t say, the look in her eyes when she met his, without fail after every attempt, told him she knew he was watching. Knew he saw. When her bolt landed just to the left of the X he’d drawn in the centre, he gave her a grunt and a nod which left her fighting a grin as she cocked her crossbow and reloaded her bolt.

“This time, I’m gonna hit it,” Beth said, breathing deeply as she raised the bow and adjusted her aim ever so slightly more toward the right than the last attempt.

Beth Greene was a lotta things, a great many more than Daryl thought any one person could be, but a liar she weren’t and her bolt hit dead centre just like she said it would. When she spun around this time, he expected the bit-lip grin, or maybe the crazy-eyed excited one. Instead, she faced him with a smirk, all smugness and arched eyebrows, the face of a woman well aware she was more than a little bit of a badass with that crossbow. He was already feeling a little warm, watching her, but hell if that look on her face didn’t send a little extra spike of heat through his belly, right up into his fluttery chest as he jogged back to get her bolt.

She was still smirking when he came up in front of her, bolt in hand, boldness thumping in his chest. “Think you’re good, Greene?”

His voice came out like gravel, and Beth’s smirk deepened. She leaned toward him, a ripple in the air as she slipped into his space, one hand on her hip and the other on the butt of her crossbow. Beads of sweat speckled her brow, trickled down her neck. “I know I’m good, Dixon.”

“A’right then, prove it,” he said, holding her gaze as he tipped his head toward the target tree, leaning in toward her, too, fully aware but not quite able to stop. “Hit it again.”

Without looking away from his face, Beth snatched the bolt from his hand, and up this close her eyes shone so intense, so fucking blue in the sunlight. “Just you watch me.”

As if he had any other choice. Dangerous.

Beth took a step back, and the buzzing in his ears faded to a hum as he watched her cock the crossbow, load the bolt, and take aim. If she were a fairy tale, if she were goddamned Robin Hood she’d have split the arrow, her bolt sinking into the tree in the middle of the hollow left by the last. Something swelled up in his chest, warm and weighty on his ribs, and fuck was he proud of her.

This time when she turned to face him, it wasn’t smug Beth, hesitant Beth, or even crazy-eyed Beth. It was just Beth, smiling sweetly, hair wild, sticking to her face where she was flushed and sweaty from exertion despite the morning chill, and kinda happy in a way she hadn’t been in a long time. Even though he knew it was borrowed happiness, he wanted to keep that going for as long as he could.

“Yeah,” he said, slowly nodding, feeling the start of a smile he wasn’t even gonna try to hide, the smile she more than earned. “You are good.”

Her smile brightened and the flush darkened on her cheeks, and for once she seemed at a loss for words, opening her mouth to speak and shutting it again in silence a couple of times before she took a deep breath and resumed smiling at him. “Thank you, Daryl.”

Ain’t nothin’, he wanted to say, or you’re the best kinda good I know. He couldn’t though, could neither brush it off nor explain how deeply he meant that. He thought maybe she knew anyway, with how quiet she’d gone, just looking over at him with those searching eyes of hers.
“C’mon,” he said instead. “Let’s get inside.”

Beth took a pained step toward the cabin, whimpering a little when she took the weight on her injured foot. Before he could stop to think, Daryl scooped her up like he had that morning on their way into the kitchen for pig’s feet and peanut butter.

Beth breathed a sound somewhere between a gasp and a giggle. “Daryl!”

“Ah, you earned the ride,” he said, as her arms settled around his neck. “‘Sides, I ain’t gonna be waitin’ on your slow ass all day.”

Beth tipped her sweaty head just a little, her hair just brushing against the line of his jaw. “Nah. You’d wait for me and you know it.”

He only grunted in response—the fact that he would went without question, but she didn’t need to be so goddamn cocky about it—and Beth hummed something that sounded vaguely victorious. “Still could drop you, you know.”

“Then I’d have a broken ass and a bad ankle,” she said, with a little amused-sounding huff. “You’d have to carry me everywhere.”

They reached the steps to the cabin, and Beth let out a little sigh as he started to climb. “I hate this. Not this—” she tightened her hold a little bit around his neck “just my stupid ankle. I hate feelin’ so helpless.”

Daryl hummed and set her down on the bare floor of the cabin, his hands still hovering at her waist and shoulder while she steadied her footing. “Think you just proved you ain’t.”

That drew a slow smile back onto her face, and she leaned into him, just a little, her shoulder to his chest, forehead to his cheek. She stepped away almost before he felt her there, before he had to decide whether to pull away or lean right back, before he was sure which option he would’ve picked. He watched her limp over to the bed, set her crossbow on the quilt before sitting down, hands in her lap.

There were thoughts stewing in that messy blonde head of hers, and Daryl could practically see them written on her face in the little furrow between her brows, in the thin line of her lips.

“I want you to teach me how not to be,” she said, after a minute.

That wasn’t something he expected her to say, and he wasn’t really sure he understood what she meant. She weren’t helpless, not even close, and maybe she weren’t Maggie or Michonne, but Beth had shown him how strength could shine in all kinds of ways he never considered, long before she ever asked him to help her get strong in the ways he knew.

Daryl shut and barred the door, then joined her on the bed, her crossbow between them. “Crossbow don’t shoot itself.”

It wasn’t enough, and he knew it, but he wasn’t sure he could articulate the rest without tripping over his tongue.

“I know.” Beth ran her fingers over the curved arms of her bow, smiling fondly down at it. “I feel really good about that, I do. But...”

She didn’t continue, and before the moonshine and the fire, no question, he woulda let it lie. But he knew how to read people, always had, and she weren’t done thinking, weren’t done trying to get whatever was on her mind out in the open. If he never cared enough before to press the issue, well, that had changed, at least as far as Beth was concerned, and whatever was bothering her had already stolen away enough of her good mood for one morning.

“But what, Beth?”

At the sound of her name she looked back at him, sliding her gaze up his arms until she met his eyes. “The trackin’, the crossbow, killin’ walkers, all of that, I’m glad you’re teachin’ me, Daryl, and I wanna keep at it. I wanna get as good at it as you. If I’m gonna survive—If we’re gonna survive—I need to be.”

Daryl bobbed his head to acknowledge her, while that heavy warmth in his chest swelled up again. “You’re gonna be.”

“But that isn’t all I need.” Beth looked away to stare down at her hands in her lap. “I need to know what to do about people.

His belly lurched a bit, at her words, and before he answered he studied her, her refusal to look at him, the tension across her shoulders, the way she pulled at her fingers. “Beth?”

She breathed out shakily. Still without looking at him, she pulled her little bone handled knife from its sheath, studying the blade, turning it over in her hands. “I got away because I had the gun, and I only had that because he didn’t bother to check me.”

“Is this about—”

“No,” she said, the word coming out quick and forced. “I’m not okay with it, but I know I had to. I’m not dumb enough to think that’s the last time someone’s gonna try an’ hurt me and next time I might not have a gun to stop them.”

He didn’t much like the sinking feeling in his belly at her words, words that sounded more like something that should’ve come outta his mouth. “Beth...”

She abandoned her knife on the bed beside her to twist her fingers together and looked up, eyes red and wet, not quite meeting his. “The world’s full of people like Gorman now, or the Governor. Like Randall, from the farm, and the people he ran with. Like Shane, who was supposed to be Rick’s friend, o-or—”

“Beth.” Daryl reached over and cupped his palm over both her twisting hands, trapping them motionless in her lap. “You ain’t wrong. You ain’t. But you know there’s still good people left.”

She finally met his eyes, gaze heated, intense in a way he couldn’t quite read, until she spoke. “I do know, Daryl. Believe me, I do.”

Oh. Oh. “I ain’t good, Beth.”

He weren’t, never was, never could be, not with all the shit he done, all the skeletons in his past both literal and figurative.

Beth was shaking her head at him, still staring with those eyes, so big and blue and burning right into him. “But you are. You’re nothin’ like them.”

The kind of things those other men did, Gorman, the Governor, that weren’t him, she were right about that. But he’d never be the kind of good as Beth was, either, the kind of good inside where he didn’t even have to try, didn’t have to work at not seeing everything as just another fuck up waiting to happen. Never be the kind of good who—

“You’re good to me, Daryl.”

She spoke so, so quietly, he wondered at first if he only imagined it, but the way she was looking at him, looking right inside him like no one else ever could, he knew she’d said the words. Said them and meant them and if Beth thought that—’cause Beth Greene were no liar—if Beth thought that, maybe he could try. Maybe he could try for her, to be the good she needed him to be, was asking him to be, amongst all the bad.

He swallowed, hard, trying and failing to squash the rising lump in his throat. Beth turned her hands, pulled and shuffled until she pressed his one between both of hers and squeezed tight.

“Can you teach me to fight back?”

He nodded, gave a little grunt, not quite able to trust himself to speak. He would, though, he’d teach her anything she asked. Tracking, crossbows, self defence, how to take a man down with a knee to the junk, whatever it took to keep her alive. To keep her here.

She threaded the fingers of her bottom hand up through his, brushing her thumb over his knuckle when he curled his fingers right back around hers.

“Beth and Daryl against the world, right?” she said, finally smiling again.

“Yeah,” he said, grunted really, since his voice was still broken. “Like the sound’a that.”
*~*
End notes:
She stares through my shadow, she sees something more. Believes there’s a light in me, she is sure - Josh Groban
Beth + crossbow is like, the best thing ever. I think I might somehow let her have one in every story I write. (I am 3/3 so far...) If you’re interested in learning more about my thought process behind Beth’s crossbow, click here (links to a public entry on my Live Journal).


To be continued in chapter 8>>

Comments

( 2 have spoken — take the speaking stick )
slaymesoftly
Mar. 29th, 2015 09:12 pm (UTC)
Well, da-yam. My two favorite (only LOL) characters from this show. They are awesome together. At least, as you write them, they are. Don't much care how the show's writers treated them. :)
abelina
Mar. 30th, 2015 07:02 pm (UTC)

Yes, just don't even go there! Beth and Daryl (but Beth in particular) are definitely treated far better by fanfic authors than by the show writers and I still get a big kick out of you reading this without any prior knowledge of this show at all.

Thanks, my friend! I'm glad you're trusting me for your Beth and Daryl exposure :)
( 2 have spoken — take the speaking stick )

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