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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: 
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 I've Got a Feeling by The Beatles (Lennon/McCartney).


Also for any interested parties (which as far as I can tell is just you, Patti), here's some meta I wrote about my thoughts on Daryl's sexuality in this fic.

All Chapters Here
Fall Right In
Chapter 17 – Somebody Who Looked Like You

(part 1/2 - it's too big to post in one piece)
*~*
Daryl kept waiting for the day when he would finally declare the summer had come to an end. They’d both thought it happened during the weeks leading up to the funeral home and all that went down there, days of chilled fog and drizzling rain driving them to search for more clothes. But Georgia summers were tenacious, and since finding the cabin the weather grew steadily warmer. A two-day storm followed the one which accompanied the herd, but the week since saw a resurgence of that oppressive summer heat and fierce humidity. Despite the hints of reds and yellows amongst the green of the trees, summer hadn’t given up just yet.

Mornings dawned cool, though, damp and chill until the heat of the sun beat it away by midday. Only a hint of sunlight reached into the backyard this early in the morning, beams shining in through gaps in the trees and along the creek where the sun rose up from the front side of the cabin. Drops of dew still coated the grass and it should’ve been cold, he shouldn’t’ve needed to strip down to just his shirt with the sleeves ripped off. But he did, and he had the little blonde spitfire standing across the yard to thank for it.

Beth’s yellow polo clung to her, wet with sweat and dew and streaked with grass stains. She propped her hands up on her hips, breathing hard, cheeks and neck all glowing pink, grinning not just with her mouth but with her whole face lit up bright even in the shade of the cabin.


“That was good, right?” She didn’t wait for him to respond before nodding her head. “Can we try it again?”

She barely had the words out before he lunged at her, but she was quick. All long legs and adrenaline and she bounded away across the grass, picking a trajectory that forced him to make a hard, skidding turn in order to follow. The game was simple enough—don’t let him catch her. First few times he took her by surprise and had her within seconds, but after that she figured out how far away to stand, knew to expect him to start the next round without warning and put that knowledge to use. He still caught her sometimes before she made it to the birch with the tree bunny carved in it, but she got there more than half the time.

She was gonna get there this time, too. Her instincts served her well, dashing off in the direction she had, giving her enough of a head start that he’d be hard pressed to catch up or cut her off before she got to the tree. Sure enough, she was well out of range of his reaching fingers when she slammed into it, arms going around the trunk so she sort of spun half way around it before finding her feet and stopping her momentum.

“I win,” she said, voice cheerful even though she was breathing hard. “Again.”

Like he hadn’t caught her last time. “Yeah, yeah. Gettin’ cocky, girl.”

Beth just laughed and tossed her ponytail back over her shoulder as they moved toward the centre of the yard, him taking the direct route while Beth circled wide. Despite her gloating, Daryl didn’t doubt how seriously she was taking this, after reminding him last night about his promise to help her practice fighting against people. Even if the game itself was just a silly thing, not a real representation of any kind of true life situation, it was still a place to start, with her ankle all healed up and her recent run-in with Pam and Jake still fresh on both their minds.

Beth reached the centre of the yard, not taking her eyes off him, her stance offset, knees bent, balance shifting side to side instead of standing completely still. Keeping loose. Keeping moving. Daryl hadn’t told her to do that, wasn’t certain it was even a conscious decision on Beth’s part. Woman had instincts, more than she knew, more than anyone probably ever gave her credit for and that was gonna work well in her favour once she honed the skills to go along with them.

He let her watch him for a while, feeling her eyes on him as he looked down, ostensibly at his feet except he was watching Beth’s instead.  Those black combat-style boots he lifted from the cop car didn’t suit her as well as her old cowboy boots, but they were arguably better for all of this. More support, good grip, meant to work in. He wondered, as he watched her shifting back onto her leading foot, if she regretted leaving the other ones behind or not.

Daryl kicked at a little rock in the grass, sent it tumbling toward her. It was just a moment, as the pebble rolled between her boots, a brief settling of her stance, but it was the opportunity he needed. Daryl charged and Beth leapt back with a shriek, almost tripping over her feet in her attempt to flee. She recovered though, getting in two, maybe three of those long-legged strides before Daryl caught her from behind.

He pinned her arms to her body and held her tight but she struggled, wiggled and pulled and made it damn hard to hold on. She freed one arm and jabbed him in the gut with her elbow, just a glancing blow but enough that he felt it, enough of a distraction that she managed to throw her body weight, slight as it was, violently to the left and loosen the wrap of his arm. Before he could haul her back in, her heel came down hard on the toe of his boot and in the throbbing aftermath she wrenched her body around, pulling free and falling down on her ass in the lawn.

He pretended to glare down at her but she started laughing, giggling in a breathless way between taking in big gulps of air. And he couldn’t stop his smile, or the ripple of laughter hers drew up out of him. Trying to get away wasn’t part of the game originally, that was Beth’s addition and he just ran with it. Still wasn’t real, wasn’t exactly what she needed to practice, but he admired her persistence, throbbing toes and all.

Beth’s breathless grin slipped into that little proud-of-herself smirk as she stood up, brushing off the loose bits of grass from her ass. “I got away quicker that—time!”

She was ready when he charged forward, expecting that he would make his move while she was gloating. Beth ducked beneath the swing of his arm to make a straight-on run for her tree, the notes of her laughter trailing behind her as she ran. Though he had to spin around to follow, Daryl wasn’t far behind, and he caught her just as she put on a final burst of speed, slamming hard into her back and launching her forward. She got her hands up, stopping her face from smacking into the tree, but she hit hard and a second later he hit harder, driving her body into the trunk, pinning her there between it and his chest.

Beth let out an oof when he hit, but the easy draw of air into her lungs meant he hadn’t knocked the wind out of her. Still, she rested her cheek against the smooth bark and didn’t attempt to move right away.

“All right, there?” he asked, not moving away either.

Beth peeled her eye open and grinned up at him, all flushed and sweaty. “You’re wearin’ me out, Mr. Dixon.”

That right there was his cue to retreat, with those damn breathless words tugging at his belly, deep inside where those nice little frissons lived these days. Never mind about Mr. Dixon and how that did things to him he didn’t quite understand—warm, pulsing things sliding in right alongside all the rest, and he shouldn’t like it, he shouldn’t like it at all, but his body had other ideas. Daryl pushed off the trunk and stepped back, while Beth turned around to lean against it, one knee bent to brace her foot on the wood, a bit of a smirk lingering on her lips.

“Ain’t worth learnin’ if it don’t wear you out.” Daryl made a show of rubbing at the place where she got him with her elbow. “You fight dirty, Greene. I’m impressed.”

He meant it, even if he’d said it mostly to tease her. This silly game, he could afford to do that, toss out a compliment that way, tease her a bit and let her tease him. Once they got right down to working on this for real there’d be no room for joking—though with Beth, especially lately, he kinda existed in a state of perpetual rule-suspension.

Beth’s smile brightened as he spoke, but slipped away soon after, her face taking on a more serious expression as she canted her head a bit to one side. “I’d have to like, hurt you hurt you, wouldn’t I, if I wanted to get away for real?”

Perceptive—but then, he didn’t expect otherwise. Daryl bobbed his head once. “Would. But this’s a start.”

The little furrow in Beth’s brow smoothed out and she nodded back. “Okay. Let’s go again.”

She beat him to the tree the next few attempts, the first two owed to quick reflexes and that natural speedy run. The third when she changed the rules on him and took off before he was ready, and that wasn’t just smart, that was a whole ‘nother lesson entirely and she jumped to it on her own.

“Still playin’ dirty, Greene,” he said, when he skidded to a stop in front of her.

She shrugged and tried to look neutral, but he knew her well enough to know that the little quiver at the corner of her mouth, and the way her eyes got wide and seemed to almost glow, meant she knew she done good and was trying to be modest about it.

“Well,” she said, the quivering in her lip slipping into a bit of a smile, “it’s not like I’m goin’ to just stand there and let somebody come at me, right?”

He didn’t answer, but her grin got bigger as she trotted back toward the middle of the yard to go again.

They kept at it longer than he thought they might when they got started, and sunlight brightened half the yard by the time they set out to begin what would be their last round. It was more or less even between him catching her and Beth making it to the tree, and when he did get her she got away at least a third of the time. He wasn’t trying to hold her like an attacker would, but she wasn’t trying to really wound him, either, avoiding his face and other more susceptible parts, so he figured that balanced out somewhere.

Now she tried to trip him as she scooted by, but he locked his knees and she stumbled, pitching forward to catch herself on her hands in the grass. She got upright quickly but he’d already closed the gap, and before she could get her speed back he had her, one arm across her shoulders while the other pulled tight across her middle to hold her there against him. Except she didn’t fight this time, just kind of sagged into him, her head dropping back to rest on his shoulder.

He loosened his grip, just a little, but she didn’t move except to pull her arms free and cross them over his. “Nap time?”

“Mmmhmm. You really have worn me out,” she said, voice half breathless, half giggly. She tucked her sweaty forehead up to his jaw, breath puffing warm on his neck. “Mr. Dixon.

Sometimes he wondered if Beth even knew what she was doing when she said things like this. She didn’t pull Mr. Dixon out often; it was other things she said, innocent remarks here and there that felt anything but innocent. Things he woulda ignored in the past, words like that, but not anymore. Not with her. Not with the way they quickened his pulse and throbbed hot and eager in his belly. Like now, compounded by the fact that he was still holding her and Beth wasn’t making any sorta move to change that. She liked to tease him, though, and oblivious she was not, but her exact intentions were a mystery. At the very least, she had to know he didn’t hate it, not remotely.

Just wasn’t sure how he ought to feel about that, was all.

Still. There were less pleasant things she could be doing—like actually stepping out of his arms, as she did a few minutes later. But her fingers tugged at his elbow, brushing his heated skin in a soft little swirl of fingertips, and they walked side-by-side back to the cabin for a drink of water and a damp rag to wipe the sweat off their foreheads.

“We still gonna go?” she asked, as she set down her water jar. “It got kinda late.”

Daryl shrugged and eyed the position of the sun. Not quite directly overhead, but close to it. “If we don’t get nothin’, we’ll go out again before dark.”

“All right.” Beth took his jar from him and gathered up their rags, disappearing a moment into the cabin to put the stuff away.

Her crossbow was waiting for her, propped up at the foot of the stairs next to his, when she descended into the yard, his vest thrown on over her sweaty polo. She swung her weapon up over her back, settling it there between the wings—her wings—and not for the first time Daryl couldn’t quite look away before she caught him staring. But Beth only smiled, not a teasing smile or a gloating smirk, a gentle little thing that did a better job of warming him up inside than any pointed comment she could ever make.

“Lead the way,” Daryl said, sweeping his hand out toward the woods after shouldering his crossbow.

Every day for the past week, since the passing of that second storm, they’d gone out together to hunt for their daily meat. She looked surprised, that first trip, when Daryl insisted she take the lead, but then shrugged and agreed to try, and had led the hunt every day since. Not without making mistakes, not without looking to him for guidance or reassurance, but she was eager, confident in what she did know and not afraid to ask about what she didn’t. Only twice had they returned to the cabin afterward without something Beth caught to fill their bellies.

He followed after her now and let his mind wander, leaving Beth to remember how to find the place they discussed this morning over breakfast. He would notice if she led them astray, but until then he’d follow. The cooler air in the woods, under the shade of the trees where the heat of the sun had yet to penetrate, settled cold on his shoulders, chilly with drying sweat, but that wouldn’t last. With midday approaching even the shade couldn’t keep out the heat for long. Daryl breathed deep, as he always did, inviting the life of the forest into his lungs, tasting the rich earthiness of it with every pull. That second storm wiped away all traces of the herd and also brought on an almost spring-like freshness that the summer heat had yet to drive away.

It amazed him, sometimes. Even after his ordeal with the hunt gone wrong, even at the end of the world where every day was a survival lesson, he still felt that thrum of life deep in his bones, that blanket of peaceful solitude settled around him, inside him, with those initial deep breaths. The world had changed. Changed in ways he could never have imagined before, but not this, even if his reasons for being out here had.

Beth’s presence did nothing to disturb that connection, either.  She told him something a few nights ago now, during that suspended sliver of time after they got into bed but before they fell asleep, and it tugged at him deep down, touching some hidden place he hadn’t known existed until Beth started reaching for it. He remembered how she said it, in a whispered, dreamy sort of voice, and he’d had her words repeating on a loop in his head ever since.

I can hear it, Daryl. The woods, like they’re whisperin’ to me. The way the leaves rustle in the breeze, even how they move when there isn’t a breeze at all—it’s like little voices, callin’ me, urging me to follow them. And the trees groan and sway, creakin’ like wizened old beings sharin’ their secrets with you, but only if you stop and learn to understand their language. Even the ground makes a sound if you listen. I can feel it like energy or somethin’, like electricity beneath my fingers and it gets right inside me. It’s like I go out there and the forest becomes part of me. Do you ever feel like that, too?

All he could do was nod at her, reverting to that grunting asshole, completely stripped of his ability to speak. That was something about her he shoulda known before, but hadn’t ever considered until then, until she put into words what he had always carried in his heart. The farm girl in her thrived out here in the trees and in the breath of life whispering through them. The woods called to her like they called to him and something about that resonated deep in his bones, right alongside the pulse of the forest itself. She belonged out here, she fit, whether flying on horseback across open fields, how he imagined her spending so much of her childhood, or moving silently through the trees at his side. He pictured her sliding gracefully down off her horse to spin through that field of tall grass where he tracked that buck. Hair loose and swirling all around her, the wings on his vest peeking out between the silken strands as the waving stalks swallowed her up when she fell back into them, smiling and breathless—

Beth stepped in a pile of crumpled leaves which crackled beneath her boot, dragging his mind up from where it had wandered and back to the present. All right, so she wasn’t perfect, wasn’t always the silent little forest sprite he imagined her to be. But she was still here beside him ‘cause she wanted to be, because the woods called to her. Not only because it was just him and her.
Beth stopped and crouched down, peering at something in front of her. Daryl dropped down beside her to see what she found, saw her parting the slightly trampled underbrush to reveal several prints in the dirt.

“Whatcha got?” he asked, even though at a glance he knew. He wanted to hear what she thought.

“They’re from today,” Beth said, and before he could prompt her, she drew a circle in the air above one of the marks and kept talking. “Probably early this morning. The edges are only a bit crumbly, and the brush here is still sort of trampled-looking but it’s also had time to start bouncin’ back up.”

Daryl hummed lowly, the sound he made when he liked her answer. “Go on.”

“There’s more than one.” She moved her finger to hover over a mark that was identical to the first except for its size. “One big, one little. No. Wait.” Beth leaned in a little closer to the ground to push aside a bit more of the underbrush. “Two little. I think?”

Daryl breathed out a deep breath as those sweeping wings inside his chest launched into a deep rhythm alongside the beat of his heart. He had seen that, the prints of two little animals, same-sized, to the untrained eye easy to mistake for the same small creature. But not to Beth—she looked at the placement of the little prints and read them as he had.

Beth looked up at him, and whatever she saw on his face brought an instant deep flush to her cheeks. “I’m right?” she said, in a breathy whisper. “Two little ones?”

“Mmhm. And what’re we lookin’ at?”

Beth giggled, just a little, and leaned over until their shoulders touched. “That’s the easy part. I’d know hog prints anywhere.”

She was right, and she knew it, but still, nobody learned nothing by being right all the time. “How d’you know they ain’t deer?”

“The hooves are round. Deer have pointier feet,” Beth said, no question to her tone this time, just confidence in her knowledge. “And they’re good and wide, especially the big one’s. Deer’s are narrower. And those—” she touched her finger down between two dot-like impressions behind one of the clearer prints “—are their little piggy toes. Deer don’t have those.”

Little piggy toes, for fuck’s sake. Sometimes Daryl didn’t understand how Beth could be so silly—and adorable as hell—one moment, but serious and tough as iron the next. Weren’t a bad thing, though, not as far as he could see, it just was.

It was just her.

He hummed again and she glanced up at him, eyes wide and pleased. “Not sure about goin’ after a hog, though. Especially a sow with little ones. Maybe if she was makin’ trouble at the cabin, but…”

“Nah,” he said, bumping her shoulder with his. “We’ll leave her. Unless you feel like eatin’ Piglet.”

She crinkled her nose up, looking adorably displeased with the idea. “We’re not that desperate.”

Adorable, maybe, but also right, since they weren’t at all desperate, and feral hogs weren’t known for their docility. If she wanted to go for it he’d have followed, but it was just as well to avoid the hassle. “Get goin’ then. Find us somethin’ else for supper.”

Beth kept a careful eye on the hog trail as she led them on, and he made a mental note to comment on that later. Eventually their path deviated from that of the pigs and he watched Beth’s shoulders loosen a little as she veered right while the hogs veered left. They were getting close to the place he had in mind and sure enough, Beth slowed her pace, gaze sweeping carefully across the landscape. He’d been here, she hadn’t, but he told her what to look for and she had spotted the first sign—the stunted, twisted tree with knots patterned like some sorta demented clown face.

She swung her crossbow down off her shoulder now, slowing her pace even further as she searched for the next sign. Her eyes passed over it though and she kept walking, but he just followed for now to see if she would notice. After about ten minutes, Beth stopped and turned around, looking behind him first before meeting his gaze.

“I missed it, right?” She gestured vaguely behind her and to the left—her right—without looking back. “Because you said it was before where the game trail turned back toward the creek and I can hear the water now.”

Shit, he hadn’t even noticed that. Now that she mentioned it, though, his ears picked up the distant ripple of water over rocks, and he nodded at her, not quite able to keep the smile off his face. “You did, but good thinkin’, Beth, listenin’ for the water like that.”

Beth nodded once, tucked her lip into her teeth in that determined way she had, likely filing that comment away to enjoy later. She had a job to do now—back to that thing about her, where she could change her hat from silly to serious in the span of a heartbeat—and slipped past him to backtrack their path. He watched Beth as she searched for it, noted when her eyes passed over it once and thought she might miss it again, but on the second sweep she paused, gaze landing on the tiny knife mark at the base of the tree, then tracking on to the barely-there path and the odd little whorl in the dense, green brush were the rabbits tunnelled through.

Taking a careful step back toward him, glancing over her shoulder, she tipped her head in the direction of the tunnel and said, “Rabbits?”

“How d’you know?” His standard answer, but he never let her guess without making her think about it first.

“That tunnel’s about the right size for rabbits,” Beth said, turning again to study the scene. “I-I can’t see any prints though, not from here and I don’t want to spook them.”

Daryl stepped up behind her and she leaned back into him, just enough that he felt the brush of her shoulders on his chest, the rasp of her ponytail on his neck as he set his hands on her arms and bent over her shoulder to whisper in her ear. “Can’t really tell, without gettin’ close, you’re right. But see the way the ground mounds up back behind the brush?”

Beth let out a long, quiet breath and nodded. “Is that a warren?”

“Yeah,” he said, lowering his voice a little more as the rabbits’ brushy front yard rustled faintly. “Could be dozens of them down in there.”

“So it is rabbits.” A shiver rolled through her and she pressed back into him just a little bit further. “You already knew that, though. From before.”

He hummed, and Beth turned her head just enough to see him with one eye, holding the contact a moment before she spoke.

“So you couldn’t tell for sure from where we are.” Also not a question but a statement, and when he hummed again so did she. “Okay. C’mon. Let’s find a place to watch.”

The place in question took the shape of a depression behind a pair of trees, the gap between which left them a clear line of sight to the tunnel entrance to the rabbit warren. They crouched down there together, Daryl leaning back against the wall made by dirt and tree roots, Beth up on her knees beside him, elbows balanced on the large root serving as the ledge to steady her hold on her crossbow. He couldn’t see, sitting down here like this, but this wasn’t his hunt. She led them here, the kill was hers to take.

Beth kept still and quiet, her only movement the slight shifting of her weight from knee to knee after a good five minutes of waiting. Daryl slid down to lie on his back in a cradle of curving roots, able to see her better from this vantage point without getting in her way. She had a solid grip on her crossbow, but not a rigid one, her finger just kissing the trigger without pressing in, without looking itchy. With her arms braced like that, the weapon stayed steady, and she gazed down the scope mount, eyes squinted in concentration but both of them open. They’d found the scope for her bow eventually, a decent looking piece of glass, but she chose not to use it—if he could manage, she had told him, then so could she, without relying on something that could break and leave her vulnerable. Now she breathed in deep through her nose, the wings on her back rising each time she inhaled, sinking back down as she let the air out her mouth, lips parted just enough for the breath to escape without sound.

The word beautiful hovered somewhere in his thoughts, but it wasn’t enough. Fierce, that was closer but still not quite right. Strong couldn’t cover it either, though she was that, but she was so much more. There just wasn’t a word he could find to explain how she looked there, so into it, so focused, so intent on something as relatively simple as shooting a rabbit. Something she’d done before and would do again, but it wasn’t a game to her. Not at all.

Daryl couldn’t explain it, what he felt as he watched her taking such obvious pride in something he taught her, something that was as much a part of who he was as his hands or his heart. Most of it had become painfully familiar to him; the flutter in his chest, the shiver in his belly, the pulse of hot blood and the swelling of his cock. He couldn’t explain it, the physical effect she had on him without even knowing, and he didn’t try. She just did. It just was.

Her breath fluttered out of her as she pulled the trigger, the release of the bowstring loud in the otherwise silent forest. Daryl didn’t have to look to know she made her shot. The smile stretching wide across her face as she lowered the bow told him that well enough, and the little skip to her step as she strode over to collect her kill. She returned holding the big cottontail by its hind legs, her bolt already pulled out of its head.

“Should I try to get another one?” she asked, jumping back down into their hiding place.

“Up to you.” Daryl returned her wide smile with a smaller one of his own, shifting his legs to better conceal the fact that he was hard—a skill he was far too old to be having to learn, but his body had other ideas. “It’s your hunt.”

Beth glanced back over her shoulder, then down at the rabbit in her hand, then back to Daryl. “I think I should try for one more.”

“All right.”

Beth reloaded her crossbow and set both it and the rabbit down next to the tree. “And we know these rabbits are here. No telling what we’ll find tomorrow.”

That was good thinking, and Daryl hummed in agreement as Beth stretched out beside him amongst the roots, turning her face toward him. The way the roots grew had her lying with her head very close to his, just skirting the edge of being too close to properly see her when he turned to look. “Have to wait awhile, ‘til they forget you spooked ‘em.”

Beth shrugged her shoulders. “That’s okay. It’s nice and cool down here.”

It was, beneath the thick canopy of trees in this little hollow, the ground below them able to hold on to its moisture this deep in the shade. “Gonna be hot again.”

“Just hope this means we’re goin’ to have a nice long autumn.” Beth tipped her face back up toward the sky, wiggling a little to get settled. “Since we’re gonna be out there in it.”

He hoped so, too. They had a long way to go just to get back even close to where they could start searching, without benefit of the car that had brought them this far south. He didn’t want to spend too much time near highways or towns, preferring to stick to the woods as much as possible, especially with just the two of them, but if they could find a vehicle that still worked, even for a little while, it would eat up a good chunk of their travel time. They would need to be careful about it, if they decided to try. He’d have to ask Beth what she thought.

“I miss swimming.”

Beth’s words, so completely not an answer to his mental question, jarred him back to the present, and he looked over at her again. “Hmm?”

“It’s not something people do anymore, you know?” she said, blinking up at the wall of green above their heads, hands clasped together over the flat of her stomach. “Not just swimming—I’m thinkin’ about that ‘cause of the weather. The things you did just because of the thing itself, not ‘cause it was essential to keepin’ alive.”

She paused a minute before speaking again, turning a onto her side within the cradle of the roots, propping her head up with one hand while the fingers of the other made little piles out of shed tree needles. “Is there anythin’ like that that you miss, Daryl?”

Some version of this game or another kept cropping up amongst the people he’d met since this thing started, and he never much cared for it. Couldn’t relate to it, most of the time. People missed the frivolous things the most, the kinda shit Daryl never had to begin with. But this was Beth, and she knew enough about who he’d been before to understand that. She wouldn’t judge him for what he didn’t miss, and more than that, she wasn’t asking just to ask. She wanted to know, because it mattered to her.

“Don’t know about no swimmin’,” he said, easing over on his side to mirror her pose. “But riding down the highway, not goin’ nowhere, just riding. I miss that.”

“On a motorcycle, you mean?” Beth asked. He nodded, and she kept speaking while he poked at her little piles of needles. “I’ve never been on one, but I guess it would feel a little like how it was sometimes when I’d ride my horse. We’d go bareback and she would just run and run until I could barely hang on, she’d go so fast. It felt like flying.”

That fit just so well with his earlier thoughts that he had to smile, and the one she flashed him in return settled warm inside him. “Too bad we ain’t got horses now. Might speed up the trip.”

“Or motorcycles,” Beth said. “Well. Maybe just one. I don’t know how to ride one of those. With or without a saddle.”

He had just enough time for a flash of a vision, him on a bike, flying down the road with Beth on the back, holding on and laughing as her hair whipped out behind her, before the Beth in front of him laughed for real and pulled him back out of his head.

“Just thinking that maybe I’d have better luck with a motorcycle than you did with a horse,” she said, fighting not to smile at her own cleverness.

She might’ve been right, but she didn’t have to know that, and he grumbled at her even though he wasn’t really annoyed. Beth just giggled, covering her mouth with her hand to keep the noise down, eyes bright and wide and locked onto his. He tried to narrow them at her, tried to look anything but completely stupidly enthralled by the look on her face, but whatever he did only made her laugh harder and roll over on her back, giggling.

“Gonna name your bike Nervous Nellie,” he said, reaching over to poke her in the side. “See how well you do.”

Beth snorted and caught his hand when he tried to poke her again, and he didn’t fight too hard when she twined their fingers together. “You—oh—stop makin’ me laugh, Daryl,” she said, shoulders still shaking with laugh-spasms.

“Ain’t my fault you’re all giggly,” he said, putting on his best gruff voice, but the truth was he enjoyed this. Enjoyed it more than he thought was possible, making her laugh, watching the way her face lit up when she did, feeling that lightness bubbling inside him with every giggle.

Beth rolled back on her side to face him, two fingers held to her lips. “Shhh, Dawyl.”

Dawyl? His put-on grumpy face fell and he felt his brow furrowing. “Girl, what—”

She pressed those same two fingers over his lips and he stopped what he was going to say, gaze snapping up to meet hers. With very wide eyes and the most obviously fake innocent expression he’d ever seen her make, Beth shhhed again and nodded slowly.

“Be vewy, vewy quiet,” she said. “I’m hunting wabbits.”

Fucking wabbits.

The snort that shot outta him knocked her fingers away with its explosiveness, but Beth only laughed and flopped over onto her back again, still looking at him, shaking a bit with giggling at her own silliness. And this was gonna be one of those times when he couldn’t look away from her, he could already feel it winding in his chest. But something else pulled at him, too, a sensation almost like hovering just over his own shoulder, looking down on the two of them there, lying together beneath the trees, holding hands and laughing over ridiculous things like Elmer fucking Fudd and his goddamn wabbits.

Wasn’t maybe a stretch for her. Beth came from a place where touch was healthy. Healing. That hug in her cell, after Zach, she’d done it because she knew he was upset, because to her hugs healed, and he remembered how he reacted then. Too shocked at first to push her away, not stopping her after only ‘cause he knew she never meant to wound, but he couldn’t quite get to the place she was trying to take him, no matter what her intentions. It was just too much, too close, too—too intimate—for a man who’d grown up as he had.

Now he couldn’t even find that part of him, the part that didn’t ease into the brush of her shoulders or crave the slide of her fingers through his. The part that didn’t reach out for the warmth of her body in the bed they shared even if that wasn’t something they were talking about. No magical leap happened from that day in her cell to them here in the woods, rather this all crept up on him, little by little while he wasn’t looking, since he was sure he woulda tried to stop it if he’d seen. But he hadn’t, so here they were.

Wasn’t all that certain he minded, though.

When she sighed, that sense of being in two places at once vanished, and he was there again, lying with Beth beneath the trees, gazes locked together as tightly as their hands held between them. They lay there awhile just staring and listening for movement at the warren. His belly throbbed deep and pleasant and he let it wash over him.

Another rabbit eventually dared venture out, and Beth made her shot again despite the tremble in her fingers when she pulled away from him to take her place between the trees. She didn’t always shoot as well as she had today, and when he could talk again he’d tell her she did well, but his voice left him somewhere back a ways and had yet to catch up.

They walked side by side on the way back to the cabin, their shoulders brushing every other step. The pair of rabbits hung over Beth’s shoulders on a cord and as they walked she sang. Daryl didn’t know the song but it sounded like another one of them old folk tunes she used to pull out sometimes at the prison. He didn’t really listen to the words anyway, because it wasn’t the words that mattered but how she sang them, voice somehow sweet and bold and clear and ethereal all at once. He soaked in it, the way it swirled up around them both, a little cocoon of sound meant only for their ears. And it seeped down inside him, too, mixing with the flutter, the heat, the lingering arousal, and the deep pulse of something he thought might be longing, though for what wasn’t clear.

Wasn’t just them who heard, though, and Beth stopped singing mid-verse at the sound of rustling brush and not-so-distant groaning coming from somewhere to their left.

“I got it,” she said, lifting the brace of rabbits from around her neck, pushing them into his hands when he hesitated. “My singing. My walker.”

The urge he had, the one that always lingered there to protect her even though he knew she could handle it was easy enough to suppress out here, when he had already spent hours watching her show him what she knew, what she could do. It was thrilling, in a way, even though it was just one walker, and she put it down with a third perfect shot long before it got close. Something about her confidence, her knowledge in her own strength, her ability to handle the threat was just so damn attractive. And he wasn’t used to thinking that way about people, or about things people did, but there was a special spark in his belly for badass Beth and it only blazed hotter the harder she tried.

She downgraded her singing after the walker’s intrusion to that tuneful humming, still a pleasant accompaniment to their trek back home, just a little less likely to draw unwanted attention. The bit of a skip to her step, in tune with whatever song she had in her brain, had her swinging her ponytail and giggling every time it swished into his face. He thought about tugging on the little braid, just to see what she’d do, but just when he decided he would, Beth looked at him and smiled, a silly, crinkle-nosed thing. Then she looped her arm through his and did her best to get him to skip along, too.

He didn’t skip—no way in hell—but he liked that she did, and maybe the lightness he felt in his chest just then was the same feeling that made her do it. She spun away, laughing, a new tune at her lips, same skipping steps, and God, he couldn’t quite wrap his head around this woman sometimes. So strong. So good. Still singing even though the world was shit, being silly and laughing and getting him to do it too.

She’s good for you.

The thought slithered in out of nowhere, and something inside him pushed it back, rising up like a brick wall to reject the idea that anything good would dare even look at him. But the thought pushed back, poked little holes into that brick façade until it crumbled away. Because from the outside looking in a person might think this was a one-way arrangement. That his strength, his knowledge, his protection was what kept her going. But that wasn’t it at all. He helped her in some ways, he knew he did, but she had that strength inside her all along. The sort of strength he never thought he could have until she made him want to try. He wasn’t quite sure anymore what he would do without her.

She’s good for you and you know it.

Except Beth wasn’t for anyone, least of all someone like him, and anyway it wasn’t like that—

Oh.

Oh.

He was a blind fucking idiot sometimes, wasn’t he? He must have made a noise or something because Beth looked over at him, those big doe-eyes smiling even as her lips formed a question he couldn’t quite hear past the buzzing in his ears. Fingers trembling, he stuffed his hands into his pockets and managed to mumble out some kind of answer, something that made her narrow her eyes at him but not question him further. And he stared over at her long after she turned her attention to the path ahead, his heart pounding so hard he was starting to get lightheaded, and he didn’t think he even had legs anymore, just wobbly sticks of rubber where they used to be.

Because—oh God, because.

He didn’t know. Didn’t think he could know for sure without somebody telling him so, ‘cause this was about as familiar to him as rocket science or alpaca farming. But all of this, everything, it all pointed here, didn’t it? All these things wreaking havoc on his insides, the fluttering in his chest, the way he sometimes couldn’t look away from her and that thing deep down he was pretty damn certain now was longing. Hadn’t he said it, at least to himself, that he felt things for her he hadn’t felt before? What the fuck had he thought that meant?

He once mocked Beth and Zach for acting like they were part of some damn romance novel, and now here he was—right in the fucking middle of one.


Comments

( 4 have spoken — take the speaking stick )
slaymesoftly
Jun. 29th, 2015 03:39 am (UTC)
Read the two parts in reverse order - got to stop reading from the top of my flist to the bottom. LOL But I loved it/them. I think Beth is a lot smarter than he gives her credit for....

Surely I'm not the only one reading this? I know there are tons of people who fangirl/boy over TWD.
abelina
Jun. 29th, 2015 03:45 am (UTC)
Silly you, and I even put that "read this first" link at the top.

It's not that he doesn't think she would be smart enough to know, it's just that he doesn't think he's worth it, he's never had anything like this before, and he's stuck thinking that of course she wouldn't think him having feelings for her is a good thing.

(And I do have lots of readers, but you're the only one here on LJ since I haven't bothered to find any comms on here, but I can't let go of good old LJ)
slaymesoftly
Jun. 29th, 2015 04:05 am (UTC)
Ah, good to know. Whew! Thought I was going to have to start beating the bushes and telling people to go read this story. :) But see, I didn't read the "read this first", apparently. LOL I did notice it was 2/2, but figured I'd somehow missed the first part and would have to go look for it. Then I finished 2, and right below it was 1. Doh!

So, her obvious flirting (she's not that young and naive!) isn't registering on him because he's so sure she wouldn't want him? Guess she's going to have to up her game....
abelina
Jun. 29th, 2015 04:28 am (UTC)
We are back to Beth's POV next chapter, so you will get to see where her head is in all of this.

But yes, he's putting most of it down to Beth just being Beth. She's kind and he is aware at least that she likes his company, it just doesn't occur to him yet to even consider she might reciprocate the feelings he's only just understanding he has. Never mind that she might be actually flirting with him (and not just innocently/possibly naively teasing him)

(And she's not naive. Nope.)
( 4 have spoken — take the speaking stick )

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