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Part 2/2 - continued from part 1/2<-- Read this first!

Fall Right In
Chapter 17 - Somebody Who Looked Like You

(part 2/2)

*~*
The rest of the trip back to the cabin passed him by in a blur, his thoughts a whirlwind, turned inward, and he thought Beth was speaking, thought maybe he was answering, but it was like watching and listening to the whole thing through frosted glass, just muffled sound and flashes of colour.  Something about laundry and washing and he didn’t really notice until he was alone in the cabin, completely naked, shutting the door after passing out his clothes into Beth’s waiting hands and oh God let him have had enough awareness to keep covered.

Daryl stood behind the door and couldn’t make his feet move, instead lifting his shaking arms up to press against the wood and letting his head hang down between them. The air pressed in thick and hot and it hurt to breathe, but he dragged deep breath after deep breath into his lungs, past the shards of glass imbedded inside. It sent shooting pains right up through his skull, to his stupid thick head that couldn’t get out a coherent thought if he tried.

How?—what?—Beth—Beth—Beth—Oh God, Beth.

He didn’t know. How could he? This wasn’t—this was—his knees wobbled, and only his weight leaning on the solid door kept them from buckling right out from under him. With arms only barely functional, Daryl bolted the door and retreated to the bed, falling down onto his back into its springy softness and shut his eyes tight against the spinning of the room.

He felt drunk.  Thoughts like molasses. Body uncoordinated and heavy. And there was something he was meant to be doing right now and that wasn’t fighting the worst case of sober bed-spins he’d ever had. Washing. That’s right, he was supposed to be bathing, scrubbing away the sweat and the grime while Beth—Oh, God, Beth—cleaned his clothes down at the creek. One last time, he remembered now, her once-muffled words clear in hindsight. Lurching like some black and white movie monster, Daryl closed the distance between the bed and the counter to where the bucket sat, full of this morning’s fresh creek water now gone tepid in the stifling cabin heat.

The coolness of it on his too-hot skin pulled him back into his body with a jolt so solid it knocked the breath out of him, but the room stopped spinning and his legs stopped wobbling. It couldn’t stop the tremble in his fingers as he washed his hair and scrubbed hard at his prickling skin. Didn’t take away the burning ache in his gut or the freight train rumbling though his chest, and didn’t stop him from wrapping a slick, sudsy hand around his cock and stroking himself from base to tip. He groaned and dropped his head forward, bracing against the counter with his free arm, eyes shutting tight. All he saw amidst the speckled blackness was Beth, her messy blond hair, that little braid, big blue eyes intense as they bored into his, and it was her hand on him, her slender fingers curled around him, squeezing just right. A hard shudder rolled through him with the feel of it, his hand—her hand—still moving, strokes firm and slow, and oh fuck, it blazed icy-hot right down to his toes. And it was wrong, so fucking wrong but it felt so good.

Fuck, Beth—

No. He shuddered hard again and let himself go, rinsed away the soap and found some sort of clothing to drag on over his goddamn rebellious body. He gulped down some water to wet his throat, dry as a fucking desert in this oppressive heat. Too much, it was too much, and he threw open the door, all but stumbling outside into the still hot but wide open air.

Breathe, Dixon.

He dropped onto the steps, halfway down, hanging his head between his knees and struggling to do just that. Everything ached, not just where he was hot and hard but everywhere, his head, his chest, the back of his throat. Legs weak, fingers shaking and he wished he had a cigarette, something, anything to do but sit here—rooted to the spot while his insides jumped, jittery, skittish like a stray cat and wound about as tight. He couldn’t breathe or he was breathing too fast or his head spun and all his blood rushed there, pounding and pulsing before rushing away again to pool in his belly, in his agitated cock still buzzing with the ghost of his gliding hand. And fuck, he was freaking the fuck out and this wasn’t good, it wasn’t—

“Daryl?”

He shuddered hard and dragged his head up from between his knees, his gaze like a magnet locking onto Beth. Beth in borrowed clothes—when had she changed?—with her big eyes narrowed, brow drawn inward until that furrow dug deep, standing in the lawn with the washtub at her hip. Daryl couldn’t speak, but he thought he might have opened his mouth to try except no sound came out. He had no words in his head to offer her.

Beth set the tub down and rushed over in a few quick strides, making the air ripple around her and it sliced right through him with another hard jolt. He must have moved, jerked or shook or jumped, something, because she stopped before she reached him, tilting her head, sinking down slowly onto the step beside him. The magnet kept his head moving, following her eyes, but his face was numb. He didn’t even know what it was doing.

“Are you okay?” she asked, voice soft, careful. She reached out her hand, moving it toward him in slow motion. “Daryl?”

At the touch of her fingers on his wrist, Daryl let out the breath he was holding and he dragged his eyes from her face to where her hand lay pale and deceptively delicate against his big tanned wrist. His belly lurched at the visual and she had to feel the tremble rolling there beneath his skin, but he didn’t move and she held on, thumb moving back and forth as her gentle voice prompted him a second time.

“I—” Daryl breathed in again, slow and deep, and when he let it out some of the fog went out with it. “Just—”

“Shh,” Beth said. “You don’t have to say. Just tell me if you’re gonna be okay or not.”

A pang of something unpleasant pulsed in his chest, and he wasn’t sure what exactly but it wriggled vaguely like shame. Not for Beth. He mighta been wrecked by this revelation but shame could never touch her. Couldn’t even exist in the space she occupied. It was just his own stupid head, his own useless fucked up self freaking out about the best good thing he’d ever even come close to in all his thirty-whatever years.

His lungs didn’t ache quite as much, at least not in the same way, when he breathed in again. He looked over and met Beth’s eyes, tried to work his mouth into some sort of not-quite-smile. “Yeah. Ain’t nothin’.”

The smile she gave him in return—soft, knowing, but kind—told him she didn’t believe it, but wasn’t going to call him on that moment of bullshit. Instead she slid closer and leaned her head on his shoulder, thumb still gliding over his skin, those points of contact blazing hot and tingly. “I’ll stay for a bit, if you want.”

He wanted. God, he wanted a lot of things in a lot more ways than he’d let himself understand. And that twist of panic still lingered there, lurking in the background, in the dark corners of his head, because this, feeling this way about her wasn’t just something he could ignore, brush off, tuck away, not now that he knew. Daryl wanted to tell her she could go, if she had things to do, if staying there with him wasn’t what she wanted, but he couldn’t conjure up the words. In the end he tipped his head over to rest it against hers, shut his eyes and breathed and just let himself be there beside her without thinking too hard on never wanting her to leave.

By the time she did get up, his insides had settled back down to their usual Beth-induced buzz, that pleasant warmth and the flutter of wings, and a deeper, lingering ache he didn’t think he would quite get rid of tonight even though the erection had gone.

“I won’t be long,” she said, her fingers drifting through his hair as she stood.

Daryl stared out into the yard while Beth ducked inside the cabin, eyes roaming across the familiar scene, the overgrown garden and trampled grass, the now-repaired fence made out of recycled decking, the birch tree with a bunny carved in it, and the resident crows, yelling at one another from high up in the trees. A bit more than two weeks since he and Beth ended up here, but it felt like months when he thought about all that happened in that time. This though, with Beth, now that he understood what it meant he knew it had been brewing for a lot longer.

You know.

Somehow, he was trying to tell her even then, even before he knew what it was himself.

But knowing his feelings for what they were didn’t mean anything had to change. Him and Beth had done just fine this far without it, and finally getting through to his own thick head didn’t mean he had to tell her anything. She didn’t have to know and it wasn’t gonna hurt her if she never found out. Woman was perceptive, though, so damn good at reading him—if she had figured him out, well, wasn’t like he had to confess then, was it? She was still there, still with him in this Beth-and-Daryl-against-the-world, whether she knew how he felt or not, and that’s what was important.

Nothing else mattered as long as they stuck together.

Maybe it was okay, then, feeling like this, allowing it in, letting be what it was without trying to shove it down. Wasn’t unpleasant. Far from that, just new and frightening but also warm and shivery and good in a way he couldn’t really define, and he wondered, with a snort at his own ridiculousness, if this how he was supposed to feel as a teenager, longing after the pretty girl. He’d never longed, rarely even looked. And there was Merle again, in his head, questioning his manhood as only Merle could. Just ain’t him, though, never was, not the feelings part or the other parts, either, no matter how many times Merle shoved him at some willing woman.

Until now. Until Beth.

Yeah, he figured maybe he could sort of understand the freak-out when he looked at it that way. On the other side, though, the side that was Beth, this made more sense than anything else these days. If anyone could get inside like that, could wake up a part of him he didn’t even know he had, it would be her. Even if he saw it coming he’d’a been powerless to stop it.
Sometime later, the cabin door opened and Beth stepped out, barefoot, hair loose and damp, the darkened curls wetting the borrowed shirt she had on under his vest. Daryl’s pulse kicked up in his chest but a sense of ease settled across his shoulders. It was okay. They were okay.

“I found some coffee,” Beth said, reaching down to hand him one of the mugs in her hand. “All sealed up good and everything. I was saving it for today.”

He took the mug from her, their fingers brushing as he did, leaving his tingling as that scent of strong coffee tickled his nose. He breathed deep and lifted the mug to his lips, sipping even though it really was too hot. Bold and black, how he liked it, and he glanced up at Beth with a smile, lips faintly burning from the heat.

“Good?” she asked.

He nodded, once, tried not to let the grin get any wider than it already was. “Yeah. Good.”

Beth moved to sit, but instead of taking a spot beside him she settled behind him, up a couple of steps. She set her coffee down beside her and he tipped his head back to ask what she was doing way back there. She got to him first, though, fingers sliding into his hair before he could speak, her nails just grazing his scalp. And it felt fucking wonderful, the gentle tug, the scratch of her nails and the tingle it left behind, and he closed his eyes and didn’t try to keep from groaning at the sensation.

“Your hair’s so soft after you wash it,” Beth said, as if she even had to explain, fingers not stopping their motions.

He leaned into her touch, the tingling now travelling down his spine, out along all his nerves until he felt it even in his toes. “Mmm.”

Beth pulled him back until he rested there against her knees and he was pretty sure he groaned again, a rumbling thing from deep down in his chest. Who knew something like this could feel so nice? Well, Beth, apparently, ‘cause it was her idea, and she giggled softly, scratched a little harder when he tipped his head to follow the path of her fingers.

“Mmmmm. What?” he asked, not bothering to open his eyes. He could picture her little grin well enough without looking.

“I just thought—no, never mind.” Her breath huffed out, a bit giggly, but her fingers had gone still.

Daryl nudged them with his head and she laughed again but resumed scratching, giggling harder when he couldn’t stop that rumbling groan from leaking out again.

“What?” he asked again, feeling an answering bubble of laughter rising up, light and airy in his chest.

“Just—promise you won’t get mad?”

He cracked an eye open at that, finding her amused gaze immediately. “As long as you keep doin’ that.”

One corner of her mouth curled up higher and she dragged her fingers just a little harder against his scalp. “You mean that?” she asked, voice dropping a pitch lower.

He shuddered in the aftermath of her voice, and could only rumble at her in response, feeling her shaking with silent laughter through the press of her knees at his back.
“It’s just,” she said, after a minute of that deeper, harder scratching. “Just that you’re kind of remindin’ me of a cat.”

True to his word, he couldn’t find the strength to be irritated when she had her fingers in his hair like that, but—a cat?

“You’re purring, Daryl,” she said, not quite able to keep the notes of laughter out of her voice, and hell, he kinda was.

Whatever. As long as she didn’t stop.

She didn’t, not for a good long while. He wondered what she would do if he crawled right up into her lap like the pussycat she turned him into with the touch of her hands, but stayed where he was, leaned back against her. Wasn’t comfortable, her knees in his back, neck bent over backward so he could get closer to those fingers. Didn’t matter.

Like all good things, though, the bliss that was Beth’s fingers in his hair had to end sometime. Her coffee now cool enough to drink, she gave him one final scratch before sliding down to sit beside him. He gathered his mug into his hands and slid over to make room for her.

“I’m gonna miss this place.” Beth leaned over and let her head fall against his shoulder, but tipped her face up so she could see his. “I’m glad it was here when we needed it.”

“Me too,” he said, looking down at her. “What else we got to do?”

“Just some last minute kind of things.” Beth took a sip of her coffee, smiling faintly around the rim of her mug. “This is good. But I think I like less sugar than I used to.”

“Next time I'll remind you to be a man and drink it black,” Daryl said, nudging her shoulder.

Beth’s chuckle washed warm over his face, where she looked up at him, eyes big and bright, a soft flush of pink across her cheeks. “I’m not a man, Daryl.”

And she was only joking, just like him, but still.

Still.

“No.” His voice rumbled out more gravelly than he meant it to. “No, you ain’t.”


All these years I’ve been wandering around
Wondering how come nobody told me
All that I’ve been looking for was somebody who looked like you
      - Lennon/McCartney


to be continued in chapter 18 >>

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