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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.
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: This chapter meets two writing milestones for me. The first is that it brings the word count officially over 50k. The second is, this beats my previous record for my longest written fic. That was Could Be You, which completed around 46k and took me years. I've done these 50k+ in three months, and the story is still unfolding.  

All Chapters Here

Fall Right In

Chapter 11 – Even the Angels Are Losing Sleep

*~*
Beth’s eyes flew open, remnants of her dream clawing at her mind, surging through her lungs as great, heaving breaths. She rolled over and planted her face into Daryl’s chest while she caught her breath, grateful he managed to wake her this time before the dream really picked up speed.

“All right?” he asked, his thumb stroking along her spine.

“Yeah.” She let herself indulge in one good sniff, filling her head with the earthy, leathery, sweaty scent of him before pulling her face out of his shirt and falling over onto her back. “If you count tormented by your own brain as all right.”

The bed jiggled as Daryl turned over onto his back beside her. “Ain’t nothin’ to be ashamed of, Beth.”

Beth stared into the darkness above her, eyes finding and following the whorls of knots in the exposed wood beams. “I just want it to stop.”

She hated how weak her voice sounded. Hated the stupid lump in her throat and the sting of moisture in her eyes. Hated how easily she could go from feeling almost normal to feeling on the verge of breaking down.

Daryl brushed his fingertips over her wrist and let them linger there. “Ain’t even been a week. Somethin’ like that don’t just go away ‘cause you want it to.”

Not even a week? It felt like so much longer, but she reached the same conclusion, counting back to that moment when she pulled the trigger and adding up just six days.

“I guess.” Beth glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, thankful that for once he was staring up at the ceiling instead of looking at her. “You shouldn’t have to get dragged into my stupid problem.”

“Hey.” His eyes found hers and the fingers on her wrist dug in a bit, squeezed and held. “I know a thing or two about nightmares, all right?”

The bitter thing in her belly rose up into her chest, and Beth scoffed and jerked out of his light grasp. “Right, and you always let someone save you from yours.”

Daryl blinked his eyes shut, squeezing until his eyelids crinkled, then opened them slowly, throat moving as he swallowed.  “No. But I ain’t ever had anyone there to try.”

“Like you’d have even let that happen,” she said, hating how it sounded even as she said it, trying and failing not to see the way he narrowed his eyes and drew his lips tight. “You would have pushed away anyone who tried because you can look after yourself.”

He didn’t answer, and a stab of regret pierced through the bitterness, but it was too late to take it back, so she covered her face with her hands and wished he would just go back to sleep and leave this conversation alone. God, what is wrong with me?

But after a minute, the bed jostled as Daryl moved again, and she felt the press of his shoulder against hers, the heat of his gaze on her even though she couldn’t see.

“Don’t mean it wouldn’t a helped, knowin’ someone wanted to.”

The bitter thing slithered away, leaving behind a shard of ice in its place, another sliver of sorrow for Daryl’s past. Beth shivered. Daryl pressed his shoulder a little more firmly into hers, and she pulled her hands away from her face, letting her arm settle between their bodies, finding his hand and holding on when he folded his fingers between hers.

“How do I stop it, Daryl?”

He was mostly looking up when Beth turned her face toward him, but his eyes caught hers side-on and held. “You don’t. Just gotta get through it.”

Beth sighed and looked back at the darkened ceiling above, aware that Daryl hadn’t looked away. “That’s… not very reassuring.”

Beside her, Daryl let out a breath which flitted warm over her cheek, and she felt the motion of his shoulders as he shrugged. “Just how it is, Beth. It’s gonna take time.”

She let his words settle in, knowing the truth of them even if it wasn’t what she wanted to hear. There was another thought, one that had lingered at the back of her mind through the day as they prepared for Daryl to go, and it pushed its way to the forefront of her mind. A problem she hadn’t wanted to think about and not just for the queasy feeling it stirred in her gut.

“What am I gonna do if you aren’t back tonight?”

He breathed out audibly and squeezed her hand. “You’re tough, remember? Just ‘cause you ain’t had to, don’t mean you can’t bring yourself out of it.”

His vote of confidence brought a smile to her face, just a little one, but it felt like she meant it, even if the fear still chewed away at her belly. “What if—like yesterday?”

“Ain’t no one ever died from hyperventilating.” Daryl turned onto his side toward her, palm coming to rest on her belly, warm and heavy through her shirt. “Get up so your lungs got room to fill. Press here—” he pressed his hand into her as he spoke “—make yourself breathe slow.”

Beth nodded, just the thought of his voice chanting slow, slow, slow, causing her to take those same measured breaths. Daryl lingered there for a minute, watching her, letting the motion of her breathing lift his palm up and down.

When he rolled away and sat up, stretching his arms out over his head, Beth pushed the quilt off and sat, too, watching the broad line of his shoulders, the play of his muscles as he stretched. “It’s time for you to go, isn’t it?”

“Mmhm.” He looked back over his shoulder at her, reached for and squeezed her wrist before standing.

Beth tied her boots on as Daryl moved about the cabin, getting ready. By the time he had all his layers on, pack and crossbow gathered she was up and waiting by the door. The weight was back across her shoulders, growing heavier by the minute, the closer he got to leaving. Last night’s confidence had vanished in the wake of yet another nightmare and she couldn’t stand the thought of him going. He needed to go hunting, she knew that. They needed that deer and wouldn’t get another chance to preserve one like they had here. Daryl could look after himself, and so could she, but she didn’t have to like this, that surviving later meant them both going it alone right now.

Despite her worries, Beth’s insides responded as they always did to the way Daryl looked at her as he approached the door; tingling warmth and fluttery butterflies, which only escalated when he passed his leather vest into her hands. She looked down at it, at the bit of the wing visible in the fold, and back up at Daryl. Daryl and his heavy breaths and emotive eyes that dug down inside her and tugged at something she couldn’t put a name to.

Trembling all over, Beth leaned up and pressed a kiss to his cheek, warm and scruffy against her lips, and when she stepped back to look at him she didn’t even try to hide the tears in her eyes. “You come back, okay? You get that deer and you come back.”

You come back to me, Daryl.

“An’ you keep tough,” Daryl said, voice low and thick as he brought his hand up to brush his thumb across her cheek. “Take care of the place while I’m gone.”

Beth nodded, blinking back her tears, and Daryl shouldered his crossbow. He stepped through the door into the cool, pre-dawn morning and Beth shut and bolted it behind him, resisting the urge to watch him disappear into the woods. Wondering, as she leaned back against the solid wood of the door, if he would turn around to look back at her before he did. Beth unfolded his vest and slipped her arms through to settle it over her shoulders. She pulled it tight across her body, wrapping herself in the soft leather, pressing her nose into it to breathe in the scent of him left behind. Whatever possessed him to leave it with her, she was grateful for it in a way she didn’t fully understand but wasn’t going to question.

Boots and vest still on, Beth went back over to the bed and lay down on it, curling up onto her side facing the door, though she knew she wouldn’t sleep. Instead she buried her nose in Daryl’s leather and prayed to the God she wasn’t sure she still believed in to bring him back to her in one piece.
*~*

Beth did sleep, after all, waking a few hours later to a brighter cabin, the scent of Daryl’s leather heavy in her nose. An ache pulsed behind her eyes, which throbbed with greater intensity when she rose from the bed. She crossed the floor to drink a couple of cups of water from the pail and, recalling Daryl’s actions from the wee hours of yesterday morning, soaked one of the clean rags and held it to her forehead. The coolness of it helped ease away a bit of the tightness in her brow, smoothed the sharp edges from the ache.

She wasn’t hungry. The headache was the sort that always made her feel a bit queasy, but she took some more water and nibbled at a bit of boiled carrot from last night just to have something in her stomach before she went outside. Hanging with the other myriad of items on the wall by the front door was a wide-brimmed straw hat, and Beth pulled it down, sliding her ponytail lower to fit the thing over her head. As expected, the bright light outside hurt and the hat’s wide brim helped shade her eyes while she made her circuit of the yard.

Daryl walked the trapline each morning, using it as a sort of perimeter of what they’d come to think of as the cabin’s territory. They had both agreed that Beth doing the same was one of those risks to be avoided, since she couldn’t run yet. To be honest, Beth wasn’t sure she could walk that far without setting the healing back a bit, and she was content to go along with Daryl’s insistence that she not. Instead they had discussed and agreed upon a different routine, which Beth planned to stick to no matter how much her head throbbed.

First she walked the narrow path along the window wall of the cabin, under the birch trees growing alongside it acting as a screen. The path was narrow, barely wide enough for her and her crossbow; as she walked, her elbows brushed against the trunks on one side, and on the other, the rough skirting which enclosed the space beneath the cabin. Nothing stirred in the front yard, just the lazy buzz of flies on the two corpses moved to block the path leading into the woods, and Beth let her gaze linger on them for a moment.

Who were they, she wondered, these two who had lived so well all alone in the woods? Well, until they hadn’t. Beth wished she knew their story, beyond what she could figure out on her own. What were their names? How old were they—it was impossible to tell now—and how long had they been alone out here? They both had bandaged arms, so it was easy to figure out how they died. At least they had gone together. Aside from that she knew a frustratingly little amount about the souls whose bed she was now sleeping in.

The questions bounced around inside her head, throbbing with her headache, and Beth wondered if maybe she and Daryl could bury their bodies before they left. A way of thanking them for the use of their cabin and all the things in it. That idea lingered as she returned to the back yard, and the more she thought on it the more she knew they had to do it.

Things were similarly quiet out back. Beth checked that the cabin door was undisturbed and walked the length of the back wall to the opposite corner to start her inspection of their new fence. As she went she listened, her ear turned toward the woods to catch any far-off noises that didn’t belong, but she heard nothing aside from the resident crows in the distance. A couple of the boards had loosened from their tree posts and would need to be shimmed to keep the fence strong, but she had more than enough pieces of wood to accomplish that.

When she reached the ledge, Beth stood just in front of the pathway leading down to the creek but didn’t descend. A pair of walkers stumbled over the rocks upstream on the opposite bank, but she let them be. They couldn’t get up the slope anyway even if they managed to cross the creek, and eventually the water would sweep them downstream when the bank disappeared and the creek deepened. She wasn’t going to let them see her, since she didn’t need to go down there. She and Daryl filled the water pail, washtub, and the biggest pot full last night, agreeing on the steep path as another avoidable risk while Beth was on her own.

Satisfied that the yard was reasonably secure, Beth took the path behind the garden to the outhouse hidden about twenty feet into the bush. She remembered Daryl’s comment when he found it—now I ain’t gotta listen to you complainin’ about pine needles stickin’ you in the ass whenever you gotta take a piss—and laughed all over again, not even caring about the way that made her head throb harder. That was one of the weirdest things about living rough just the two of them, him knowing about her pine needle problem and her not being the least embarrassed about it, when a random compliment about the strength of her arms made her blush like a bashful teenager.

Which she was, technically, she supposed. She was pretty sure she was eighteen, though that didn’t hold the same meaning it used to. Some days—most days—Beth felt so much older than that, felt like she had lived decades in just the few years since the world changed. Beth remembered what it felt like, being sixteen back when sixteen meant something. What she felt like now was so very different from that.

By the time Beth finished at the outhouse the throbbing in her head had worsened. This was the last thing she needed, but she wasn't surprised it happened. Before shutting the back door, Beth stood in the opening a moment, gazing out into the thick forest, eyes aching with the brightness of the sun, wondering if Daryl had found any fresh signs of deer and hoping he was all right.

Beth drank a bit more water. Opened up a can of beans and forced down a few mouthfuls, and just sat in the dimness of the cabin for a bit with the cool cloth pressed to her forehead. She knew she needed to lie down and let the headache pass—what she wouldn’t give right now for some Excedrin—but she had to fix the fence, first. That at least, because she had promised to be safe, and if this was Daryl facing a headache and making decisions, he would fix the fence first, too.

It took longer than she liked, and each hammer strike rattled into her cranium and jiggled her throbbing brain around just that much more. But she did it, and not a single board moved afterward no matter how hard she tugged. When she barred the door behind her and sank down into the bed, pressing her tight, aching forehead into the cool pillow, Beth almost felt as though she had earned her nap.
*~*

Sweat slicked her neck and dampened her hair when Beth awoke later, the cabin warm and muggy as it always was during the afternoons even with the fire out. She lay still a minute and let herself wake, head fuzzy but settled for the moment. It throbbed a little when she got her knees under her to sit up, but not as badly, and her stomach rumbled with hunger. Taking care not to move quickly, Beth rose from the bed and downed a cup of water, and mopped the back of her neck with her forehead rag. She pulled the blanket away from the window and peeked out, surprised to see a group of three walkers staggering along the creek bed.

“At least they’re stickin’ to the creek,” Beth said aloud, before letting the blanket fall back in place.

She checked the yard again, retested the fence. Visited the outhouse and came back inside. The headache lingered but it was definitely better, the throb not quite as deep, the light not quite as bothersome. Beth covered her head with her rag, dampened and tied like a kerchief, and settled in to work after eating the rest of the beans and carrots.

Daryl wouldn’t want her to worry about him, out there doing what he’d done his whole life, and she tried to honour that. How many times had he gone off hunting at the prison, at the farm? It was silly to worry and she knew that, but knowing a thing wasn’t the same as feeling it. It was different now that it was just the two of them, and worry pulsed behind her eyes no matter how many times she told herself Daryl would be fine.

Throwing herself into work helped and inspecting every last item in the cabin took just enough concentration to make for a good distraction. She had the thought, sometime yesterday, that it might be a good idea to pack a bagful of supplies to bury out in the woods before they left, in case they had to come back, only to find the cabin occupied, overrun, or otherwise destroyed. She planned on surprising Daryl with the load of stuff, a lot if it useful things they couldn’t take with them. Daryl would think that was a good idea, Beth was sure of it, and she could picture the look on his face, the barely there smile, the little nod of approval.

He would joke and say she really didn’t need him anymore, and Beth would tease him back, tell him at least he was entertaining and therefore not entirely expendable. And he would chuckle at that but also see right through it, because she did need him—not just for his lessons or his muscles or his instincts, or because she didn’t want to be alone. He would know that, had to know it, because she didn’t have the words to tell him. Circumstances might have landed them together after the prison fell, but circumstances didn’t change the fact that the man Daryl was, the one she had come to know in their time together, was someone she was proud to have at her side. Not because she was stuck with him. Not nearly that at all.

By late afternoon she nearly had the bury-in-the-woods bag organized, all tucked neatly into one of the large hiking packs she found beneath the counter. What to take with them was a little trickier, since they had to carry it all in a way that left their hands free and didn’t interfere with being able to draw their crossbows in a hurry. The hiking packs were just too large to carry while maintaining that ease of movement, and while Daryl’s canvas pack could hold a decent amount of stuff, her little leather one hardly sufficed. But it was what they had, until they could find a better backpack, and Beth did her best to consider that as she added things to that pile. When Daryl got back, they could decide together what to take and what to leave.

Beth drank some more water, knowing she was going through it faster than she ought to, but the hydration helped keep the headache at bay and that was important. It lingered there, throbbing a bit if she moved too quickly, but tolerable for the moment. Still, she pulled on the straw hat over her damp rag kerchief to head outside for another circuit around the yard. If Daryl was going to be back today, it would be soon. The closer it got toward evening, the more likely the chances that he had to make camp for the night. He didn’t materialize as she stood there in the overgrown grass of the yard, or in the minutes that followed where Beth sat on the steps, crossbow at her feet, enjoying the fresh air for a little bit longer before going back inside.

Beth couldn’t shake the jittery feeling for the rest of the afternoon, fingers shaking whenever she reached for something, pulse racing at odd times no matter what she was doing. Every little noise made her stop and listen, sometimes going so far as to press her ear to the door. When the alarm jangled she swore her heart stopped beating altogether, and then sank through the floor into the dirt below when the unmistakable groan of a walker joined the rattling cans.

There was just one, tangled in the alarm and stopped from entering the yard by the fence, and it was an easy shot from the foot of the steps. Though the sun was hiding now below the tree line, there was enough light out to cross the yard to reclaim her bolt and untangle the corpse from the twine, freeing the alarm to ring again should anything else happen by. Beth dragged the fallen walker to the ledge and rolled it down to the rocky creek bed below. They would get rid of it later, when Daryl got back. She checked the perimeter again, peed one last time since she was out, and bolted herself back inside, resuming her jittery vigil all over again.

But she already knew, long before the sun set, that Daryl wouldn’t be back tonight. Her headache throbbed as darkness fell, and Beth settled in for a long night.
*~*

The sun was just starting to rise up over the trees, spilling down into the yard, when the alarm clattered. Beth threw open the door and there was Daryl, limping his way through the gap in the fence, dragging a bloody deer carcass behind him. She clambered down the stairs and ran to him, worried about the limp—was he hurt? Why wasn’t he speaking?—but that didn’t matter, because he was here, he came back, and when she threw her arms around his neck, he dropped the deer and hugged her back, arms winding around her waist so tightly she almost couldn’t breathe.

“Daryl,” Beth whispered. “I was so scared.”

But the response in her ear wasn’t her name. Wasn’t his voice. Just the chilling, rasping, wheezy breath of a walker.

Beth struggled to get free but he held on tight, and she wrenched and pulled and fought but went down, landing hard, her breath gone from the weight of him, from the pale face and dead eyes bearing down on her between the hanging curtain of greasy hair. His teeth, straight and white, ripped into her neck, tore at her flesh until her blood spilled out, hot and red and dripping from Daryl’s face as he reared up to snarl down at her, soaking into the grass.

She screamed. Screamed as her blood poured hot and thick down her neck. Screamed until she tore herself free from the nightmare and back to the familiar dark cabin, to the weight of her terror pressing on her chest. Already her vision blurred and her head swam, but somewhere, somehow, Daryl’s voice in her head pierced through the panic. Get up! Beth struggled onto her hands and knees, and slow slow slow forced herself to breathe.

Afterward, she couldn’t stop the tears, the full-body tremor and the cold sweat, but she buried her face in Daryl’s vest, breathing him in, wrapped her arms around the pillow he used which still smelled faintly of him, too. She lay awake for hours, her mind whirling at full speed, her thoughts a jumbled mess of weak reassurances and panicked worries. What if he wasn’t okay? What if he did get bit? What if next time she looked out to find a walker at the fence, it really was Daryl? The thought of having to shoot a bolt through his forehead—or worse, shove her knife into his skull—threatened to steal her breath all over again and no matter how hard she tried to push those thoughts away, to cling to the knowledge that Daryl knew what he was doing, she couldn’t shake the image. Any of them—a Daryl walker at the fence or the Daryl walker from her dream, those teeth she longed to see when he smiled tearing into her flesh until her life bled away.

Sometime in the early hours of the morning she fell asleep again, so exhausted she did not dream.
*~*

Beth awoke with the sun, a habit learned from Daryl—the man was like a rooster, that way, awake at dawn whether he could see the light or not, and thank goodness he didn’t actually crow. She almost smiled at her own joke, imagining Daryl throwing open the door and cock-a-doodle-doing into the back yard. Almost, because her other imaginings weren’t far behind, no matter how hard she tried to shut them out. The few short hours of rest did little to quell the squirm of worry wriggling cold in her belly, either, the lingering sense of dread hovering over her like a shroud after her nightmare, nor did her reminding herself that Daryl being gone overnight was not unexpected.

A pair of rabbits nibbled away at the overgrown garden when Beth pulled the door open, so engrossed in whatever snack they found they spared her only an ear twitch and kept eating. The little one bounded away when her bolt sunk into its larger companion, but even the thrill of her first edible kill with her crossbow fell flat in Daryl’s absence. She maybe didn’t need him around to know she had made a good shot, but she wished he’d been there to see it. He would have liked that.

She skinned and gutted it quickly out it the yard and tossed refuse into the water from the top of the ledge, not wanting to chance attracting another walker with the scent of blood, and hung her kill up over the stove inside to resume her morning circuit. As she went through the motions, Beth waffled between feeling ridiculous—this was Daryl Dixon, of course he was fine—and so tied up inside she almost couldn’t breathe. What if he ran into trouble? How would she know? What if she could’ve helped? She had an idea of where he planned to go, but how long should she wait, if he didn’t come back? He had to be fine, he just had to, yet she couldn’t shake the feeling, a nagging prickle at the back of her skull, that something wasn’t right.

“Stop it, Beth,” she said, speaking out loud to show herself that she meant it. She pulled Daryl’s vest tight across her body and carried on.

Morning became noon. Noon became after. After stretched on and Beth watched the sun’s path across the sky through the little window, until it disappeared behind the thickening clouds rolling in from the west. It was almost evening again when another walker wandered into the yard, the forth one that day not counting the dozen that wandered by along the creek. Like the clouds, all of them coming in from the west, the direction Daryl had gone. Beth ventured out to dispatch it, pausing to check its face before repeating the steps she had taken with each of the previous ones. She rolled the corpse down the bank, in a different place from each of the others so they wouldn’t pile up into something their still-animated brothers could use to get into the yard from below.

She looked down on them, wondering at the increasing amounts of walkers in the yard, worried that these few stumbling in could be the leaders of a herd. The cabin was sturdy, but could it withstand a herd? Even if they didn’t know she was there? While she pondered this, a sound drifted over, carried by the breeze blowing in from downstream.

Voices. Two of them, and amongst the mostly mumbled conversation, a single word which rose all the hairs on the back of Beth’s neck and threw her pulse into overdrive.

“...cabin!”

It wasn’t Daryl. It wasn’t anyone she recognized. Beth shouldered her crossbow and ran as fast as she could back across the yard, uncaring of the discomfort in her ankle. She shut and barred the door behind her and landed back against it with a thud.

They had discussed how to handle walkers.

They hadn’t spoken about what to do with people.
*~*
End notes: Chapter title taken from lyrics to Angels/Losing/Sleep by Our Lady Peace

For your ease of visualization, I’ve drawn a little picture of the cabin and the terrain surrounding it. It is crude and follows no discernable scale whatsoever (like at all. It’s a creek, but my picture THAT I MADE IN PAINT, makes it look like a giant river).

Since I kept flipping the position of the creek in my head when I’m the one writing the thing, I thought the visual might be beneficial.  The cabin sits above the creek, elevated over the water by about 10 feet with a drop-off ledge. Right below the cabin on both sides, the bank is kind of non-existent and the water is deep and fast. Elsewhere the bank is rocky, and there’s a path down to the creek from the back yard, where Beth goes to wash their clothes and where she and Daryl have been filling the water pail. The path between the ledge and the cabin is lined with river birch trees, a picture of which is also found in that link above.


to be continued in chapter 12 >>

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