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Based on a prompt by lollypop2414 on tumblr: Just a little Bethyl prompt for guessing your hubby's name yesterday (you talked me into it, lol): Beth can't sleep the first night after arriving alive and mostly well at Alexandria, much to the shock of everyone. She steps outside for some fresh air and finds Daryl sitting on Rick's front porch where they finally have some alone time to talk and he returns her knife to her.

Spoilers for Season 5 of the Walking Dead.

Part One of the Ticking Clocks series.


Seconds
*~*
It doesn’t matter much, in the end, how she came to be not dead, just that she isn’t. She isn’t and she found them and she’s here. They’ll want to hear the story someday, probably long before she’s ready to tell it all, to be honest. But Beth isn’t going to let the fear of that hover too close tonight.

No, tonight is for happiness and she’s not gonna let her own problems ruin that.

At least not while everyone’s watching.

The moment she excuses herself to settle to bed, in an unfamiliar, unused room over at Rick’s—since he apparently has a spare one and Beth refuses to put anyone at Maggie’s out of theirs—Beth feels the shift in her mood. Nothing drastic, but the happiness—and she does feel it, how could she not, coming back to these people who mean so much to her—the happiness that’s been with her all evening slips beneath a sort of thin blanket. It’s somehow subdued, though she still feels it, just less.

There are things one just doesn’t bounce back from, after all, in coming back from the dead. She thinks she might sleep away that feeling, or at least sleep through it, that little-bit-offness she hopes is just her and nothing more sinister at work. It isn’t as easy to trust these days, though, and something about Alexandria seems too good to be true.

A headache lingers, but that isn’t new. Not anymore at least. It isn’t a particularly bad one, tonight, considering the big day she’s had. She’ll probably sleep through that, too, if she can just get there. The bed’s comfortable. A little softer than she’s used to these days but not unlike the one she spent a good thirteen of her first sixteen years sleeping in. She has to smile at that, how preferences change, how she would probably now fall asleep more easily on the cool, packed floor of the forest than she would in a proper bed.

Beth turns over onto her side, ears picking up the trying-to-be-quiet sounds of the last of the residents of Rick’s house settling in for the night. Rick himself, she thinks, by the pattern of the footsteps.

Everything falls quiet shortly thereafter. The night exchanges the occasional sounds from outside, of strangers—Alexandrians—making their way home to bed, for a thick sort of silence. Not like the silence of the woods at night, or the silence of other, more closed-in spaces. A weird, laden silence that’s at once foreign yet oddly familiar.

It takes her far longer than it should to recognize the buzz of electricity, the hum of the refrigerator two rooms away.
She isn’t going to sleep tonight.

Moving with care, putting all she knows about keeping silent to good use, Beth creeps out of the little bedroom and steps down the hall. Away from the stairs, away from the others in the house who she hopes are indulging in pleasant dreams about now. The front door doesn’t even creak as she pulls it open—another oddly normal thing that’s no longer normal at all—but the deck boards groan softly as she steps out onto them.

He hears her coming, probably would even without the whims of wood announcing her arrival. Beth knows, right then, that the spare bed isn’t spare at all, just that the person it belongs to never uses it.

Daryl doesn’t speak as she pads barefoot across the deck to where he sits, at the darkened end of the porch, his back to the railing. Doesn’t speak, but his gaze follows her from the moment she steps outside until she slips into place beside him, squeezing into the spot between his body and the corner of the railing.

She could sit anywhere. She knows that. But she also knows second chances aren’t something to waste and she isn’t gonna pretend. Not where Daryl’s concerned.

“Hey,” he says, simply, but Beth isn’t fooled.

There’s a lot more than just hey lying there.

He was out when she arrived. Some job he has that keeps him away days at a time. He wasn’t expected until tomorrow, and yet somehow he found his way back tonight. The very same day as she. Somebody must’ve met him, coming in, told him about her return.

Rick, she thinks. It would’ve been Rick and she’s grateful that he thought to do so.

“Hi, Daryl.”

Daryl’s trembling. She feels it rippling into her where their legs and shoulders touch. He’s trembling and he’s looking at her and she swears he’s crying.

Or maybe it’s her.

Maybe it’s both of them.

Beth lays her head on his shoulder, and a hard shudder tears through Daryl’s body. So violent she thinks the decking might crumble beneath it, but she stays put, rides through it with him, feels the weight of his head come to rest against hers and then it’s her turn to start shaking.

And it’s all there, rushing to the surface, everything she’s kept hidden inside in case she never found them. In case she never found him.

Daryl turns his face into her hair and she feels his breath on her scalp, warm and shaky. “Didn’t believe it,” he says, voice a soft murmur, more a vibration through her skin than actual sound.

Beth turns her body, curls into him, lays her head on his chest where she hears his heart beating. Strong, steady, faster than it ought to, but she gets it. Hers is pounding, too. “It’s okay.”

“You—” He starts to speak, but his words die out in a strangled sound, and he presses his face to the top of her head and breathes her name. “Beth.”

“I’m here, Daryl,” she says, because she needs to hear it as much as he does. “I’m here.”

They spend a long time after that just holding each other, the sound of their breathing breaking through the unsettling quiet of the safe zone at night. Daryl’s fingers pluck at the side of her shirt, or they lie still at her waist for a time before he needs to move them again. He draws circles. He squeezes. He doesn’t know what to do with his hands and it’s a little detail about him she almost forgot, and it hits her hard. A heavy fist to the sternum. A growing lump in her throat.

He hears the little sound she makes, even though she tries to hide it. Cradles her cheek with his other hand, thumb swiping over it, over the long-healed scar where fresh tears gather. “How?”

She wasn’t ready to tell the others and doesn’t know when she’ll ever be. But for Daryl the words come. Slow. Hesitant. Sometimes she needs to stop and breathe, or to bury her face in the warmth of his chest a moment until she’s able to speak again. But she gets them out, every last one, and through it all he just holds on. A rock. An anchor, keeping her from drifting away through the worst of it. Wiping her tears while his own drip down unchecked into her hair.

He doesn’t say much, when she finishes, just glides his thumb so, so lightly across the scar on her forehead, presses his lips to her hair. It’s not a kiss, not really, but from Daryl it means as much as one. As much and more. Beth isn’t sure how her heart became so certain about Daryl, even though they never had the chance to finish that conversation he started a lifetime ago at that funeral home. But she was sure, through those endless days at Grady. Through the time after, even when she wasn’t even sure of herself. And she knows it now, that it’s her and Daryl. That she’s back and he’s holding onto her as tightly as she’s holding onto him and neither one of them are going to let go.

“Still think—” He pauses, clears his throat of the gravel gathered there. “Still think I’m dreamin’. Gonna wake up any second and you’re still—still gone.”

She looks up at him, for the first time since she curled into his side hours ago. The light’s dim, but it’s enough, the ambient glow off the streetlights, to see him. To lock her eyes on his. He takes in a sharp breath and his fingers curl into her side and into her hair.

“You feel awake to me,” she says.

Another soft shudder rolls through him. “Beth.”

“Missed you.”

She doesn’t mean to say it, though it’s the truth, and when she does something changes in Daryl’s face. It softens, somehow, and something tugs at his lips. It’s not quite a smile, but it feels like one, and he takes a shaky breath and says, “Oh, girl. Every fucking second.”

He slips his fingers from her hair to reach for something lying beside him, and when he brings it into view, it’s Beth’s turn to take a shaky breath. “Is that—”

“Yours,” he says, holding her knife out to her, pressing it into her palm when she hesitates to take it. “Yours.”

Somehow, she doesn’t think he means just the knife.

She holds it. Feels the weight of it in her hand, the weight of Daryl having carried it with him all this time and everything surges up inside her again. Before she can try to stop it, she’s crying, shaking, losing it there on the porch and all she can do is curl into the solid wall of Daryl’s body and silently beg him to hold on.

He doesn’t let go, even when she runs out of tears, when the sobs become whimpers that turn into deep, steady breaths. As he stands he lifts her into his arms, carrying her the way he did, that day when her ankle hurt and she was moving too slow. The way he did—and she’s sure, she doesn’t know, nobody’s told her, but she’s so sure—after the hallway and Dawn. Beth loops her arms around his neck, rests her head on his chest, closes her eyes as he carries her to bed.

She doesn’t have to ask. He sets her down on the cool sheet, tosses off his boots, and climbs in with her, settling in behind her like it’s something they’ve always done. Beth melts back into his body as he curls around her, buries his face in her neck. She hasn’t showered, she knows she must stink of the dirt and sweat and filth that comes from being on the road. But he breathes deep anyway, murmurs words into her skin she long imagined, but never hoped to hear, and she knows she was wrong.

She will sleep tonight. She’ll sleep better than she has in years.

Daryl, she thinks, might just manage that, too.
*~*

Comments

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slaymesoftly
Aug. 4th, 2015 12:45 am (UTC)
*sigh* Someday I may have to watch the first season (?) to see what it was about these two that made all these amazing stories about them and what they are to each other possible. :)
abelina
Aug. 4th, 2015 01:02 am (UTC)
Most of this pairing’s fandom is based on two episodes from season 4, believe it or not. Obviously this one takes place much later than the other stuff you've read from me, and follows canon far later than I normally prefer. I think you said you read what happens, though I left the details vague because it's the reunion that matters here.

I'll make you that list of episodes to watch one of these days. I promise. That or you could just watch it.
slaymesoftly
Aug. 4th, 2015 01:20 am (UTC)
Oh, okay. Apparently I didn't read very carefully - I thought she got killed off early on. It makes more sense that she was around longer. I did look at a clip - can't remember if you sent it to me, or if I just saw it somewhere, but it was easy to see that there could be something there.
abelina
Aug. 4th, 2015 01:25 am (UTC)
No, it was the midseason finale of season 5. And there is a whole section of fandom, known as "Team Delusional" who've come up with many theories (some of them thorough and plausible that even work with what the actress is and is not doing) that she's not really dead and will be coming back. I can't explain, too much of it depends on knowing the show. I'm not exactly actively "on" Team D, because I don't want to be let down, but there are a lot of these "reunion" fics out there.

That scene you saw on TV, randomly, was from season 3 and is probably the first time we *see* them talking, but they'd spent over 8 months in a small group together at that point.
slaymesoftly
Aug. 4th, 2015 01:38 am (UTC)
Ah, so reunion or Beth and Darryl are off on their own fics are not totally beyond the realm of possibility? Good to know. :)
abelina
Aug. 4th, 2015 01:41 am (UTC)
In Fall Right In, I change the way the event that led to her death happened, so basically stopped that from happening. But they were on their own for an undetermined length of time in canon. This reunion-type fic could be possible, depending on what happens on the show. Not holding my breath but...oh it would be nice.
( 6 have spoken — take the speaking stick )

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