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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: E/NC17 
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 If I Had a Gun by Noel Gallagher.

All Chapters Here
Fall Right In
Chapter 22 – If I Had the Time, I’d Stop the World and Make You Mine


*~*

An uneventful morning—well, aside from the part of it that he couldn’t stop thinking about—led into another hot, humid afternoon. After the river bank, a bit of that weight he’d been carrying slipped away, and he and Beth slid right back into that easy, quiet way of theirs as they trekked on through the woods. All that lay between them, that wasn’t going away, no matter what his demons might tell him, no matter that it made no fucking sense that they were standing here at all. It didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t gonna make sense overnight, either.

The more he thought on it, the more right it felt, leaving words out of this for the time being. Was more than good enough to just feel it and know she was feeling it, too. He let it wash over him, warm with a different kind of weight to it that didn’t smother, didn’t sit heavy on his shoulders or drag at his brain, but wrapped him up like a hug from Beth, and it was possible he was treading into sappy territory with that, but whatever.

They didn’t stop to eat, just sipped from their water bottles to keep hydrated, nibbled on a strip each of smoked venison, and helped themselves to whatever edibles they found along the way. Beth was getting better at identifying what to eat and what to avoid, though she always asked him first unless it was something she knew from before. The berries she paused to examine now weren’t edible, and she didn’t even touch them before leaving them be.


“I gotta pee,” she said, gaze drifting away from the berries to look off in the direction they were heading. “And I think I hear water up ahead a bit. Did that river make another loop around this way?”

He was inclined, right about now, to think of anything she did or said as magnificent—and when had he ever even used that word before—but the shred of rationality he had left agreed that the proximity of the river was particularly well noticed. “Mmhm.”

“Kay.” Still facing away, she nodded. “We’ll make it a one-stop shop, then. I can hold it.”

They reached the river in less than ten minutes, and Beth ducked off their path to do her thing. He kept his back to her, trusting her to stay close enough to get his attention without having to shout, since she was left particularly vulnerable whenever she had to take a piss. Last thing they needed was her getting caught with her pants literally around her ankles and him too far away to help. She went farther today than she usually did, though, going by the count of her footsteps, the distant trickle of her stream of urine, which he tried not to listen to but heard anyway. Daryl shifted his balance from foot to foot, awaiting the sound of her return, fighting the urge to turn around the longer she was away. He couldn’t hear her at all now, though he didn’t always hear much, and he clenched his hands into fists to keep from tapping them on his legs. Don’t turn. Don’t turn. Being able to see her might make him feel better, but Beth deserved that sliver of privacy, the best they could manage given the circumstances.

“You done pissin’?” he called, not turning around in case she wasn’t finished or—or whatever.

A flurry of rustling followed, and then a quiet sigh from Beth. “Yeah, all clear. Just lost supper, though.”

Letting out a breath of relief, he turned in time to watch her shoulder her crossbow and stride back through the underbrush. As she came up beside him, Beth explained about the rabbit she spotted, which she had hoped to catch for supper before he sent it running when he called out to her. She shrugged it off with a small smile of understanding.

“It’s too bad there wasn’t a way we could let each other know what’s up without usin’ words,” she said, shoulders falling back into place.

Daryl hummed at her as she stepped past him to the river and knelt down to rinse her hands. There was a way, but the moment he thought of it he wondered whether it was wise to suggest it. She had a point, though, a damn good one, and despite the trouble she’d had—still had, most nights—after everything that went down with Gorman, Beth weren’t no delicate statue. She could handle it.

He tore his thumb from his mouth as he crouched down beside her and hummed again, just loud enough to catch her attention. She turned her eyes toward him, eyebrows up in silent question. “You remember, at the funeral home, them bird calls?”

A visible shiver rolled across her shoulders, but she nodded, looking back down at her hands, trembling as she held them above the river, little droplets shaking off them and making little ripples in the water’s surface. “Yeah.” She paused and took a couple of deep breaths, curled her fingers in toward her palms so the tremor stopped. “You think we can make something like that for us?”

“Mmhm.” He glided his fingers down the back of her neck, the only part of her spine he could reach with her pack in the way. He wasn’t sure it would help her, but she liked that when she woke from her nightmares so maybe she’d like it now. Her eyes fluttered shut and she breathed out deep and steady as he made a couple of passes over her sweat-slicked skin.

When she shivered again, he was pretty sure it had little to do with thoughts of Gorman, and he felt a burst of heat rising in his cheeks to match the color rising in hers. Beth groaned softly, so quiet he barely heard it, and half turned to smile at him, her pupils wide as she opened her eyes. “Okay.”

Sunlight glinting off the water caught in the blue of her irises, brightening them up from their usual blue, changing them into something almost sparkly. Caught, for a moment, by the way she looked, all Daryl could do was stare, hand falling away from her neck to land on his knee.

Beth reached out and covered it with hers, blinking slowly. “What do we do?”

Drawn back out of his head by the contact, Daryl turned his hand to twine their fingers together. “Gotta decide what we wanna say an’ what bird voice we wanna say it in.”

“Maybe just two things?” Beth squeezed his hand, nodding as she spoke. “Somethin’ that means ‘all clear’ and another for ‘come-now-help’?”

“And ‘keep away’,” he said, tightening his grip even further as an imaginary fist tightened in his gut. “In case one of us runs into trouble.”

Beth didn’t need him to add any more to that, surely filling in the blanks herself on why that might be necessary. She nodded once more and held his gaze, eyes wide and serious. “Three things, then. All-clear, come-now-help, and keep-away.”

“Mmm.” Daryl brushed the back of her thumb with his and waited for the little grin to tug at her lips before he continued. “Figure it out when we stop tonight.”

“All right,” she said, the grin pulling a little more. “But you gotta find us some supper first. And I’ve got a craving for rabbit now, so…”

Her teasing rippled warmly through his chest and he chuckled, watching as her grin widened even more until all her teeth were showing. “Oh, I’ll get you your rabbit, woman, and it’ll be better than some skittish piss-break cottontail, too. Just you wait.”

This was one of those times when his own ridiculousness astounded him, but it made her laugh, so he didn’t much care. He’d stand on his head and sing the opening number for Cabaret or some musical shit if it kept her smiling like that. The last of the haunted look faded from her eyes and she leaned her head over onto his shoulder, letting out a soft sigh when he pressed his face into the top of her head. Not quite a kiss. Not quite not, either.

Fuckin’ coward.

She stayed there for a minute before straightening up and letting go of his hand to help herself to a drink of river water. They both had their fill, then topped up their bottles before standing. Daryl figured they must be getting close to the first of those fields, if he judged the distance correctly. Maybe within the hour if they kept moving. Beth didn’t say, and he wouldn’t volunteer anything unless she asked, but she didn’t linger long at the stream. As soon as they were on their feet she was already leading them on.

Daryl followed, admiring the set of her shoulders, the confident way she walked. Made her look tall for all she wasn’t truly tall at all. He could barely remember how it was before, that blip in time when instead of confidence she wore a cloak of doubt across those shoulders, weighing her down. Before even that, though, there’d been glimmers of this woman, eager to learn, to show that she wasn’t just some dead girl. Well, she never was and she weren’t gonna be, neither, and he’d never get enough of watching her this way.

Branches snapped from somewhere to the left of them. Far enough away that the threat wasn’t immediate and Daryl flicked his eyes toward Beth, to see if she had noticed. Not yet, but—another distant snap and Beth stopped walking, her focus now drawn toward the disturbance.

Walkers? she mouthed, as he stepped up bedside her.

He nodded, and waited. It took her a second to understand his lack of action, but once she did she gave a quick nod and turned an ear toward the approaching clatter. Still listening, she held up her hand, alternating between showing him two and three fingers. He nodded again when she flicked her gaze up to him. Beth listened another couple of seconds before drawing her crossbow, decision made. Daryl drew his and they each ducked behind a large enough tree to wait.

Two walkers lumbered into view half a minute later, and Beth, from behind her tree, pointed to herself and then indicated the right-sided walker. Was a good assumption that she would take the right and he the left, considering that’s the way they were standing, but he liked that she had the forethought to designate targets. No point, after all, in both of them shooting the same one.

Beth loosed her bolt a split second before his, the offset of the strings making a sound like a heartbeat as the bolts sailed toward their targets. It wasn’t the sort of thing he’d usually notice except he was so focused on Beth right now, and as dumb as the thought felt on the surface there was something so fitting about him and Beth and heartbeats and crossbows.

Beth lowered her bow after following the shot through and set about cocking it again, hooking on the rope-cocker and pulling up in a practiced, fluid motion until the string clicked into place. Daryl delayed cocking his own crossbow to watch, her arms mostly in plain view since she’d stripped down to just her polo in the heat of the afternoon. All the practice in the weeks since she found the crossbow had toned her already strong arms that little bit more and she could probably get the bow cocked without the rope now if she had to. Be a strain, drawing more than she weighed, but he was sure she could do it, so sure he almost suggested she try cocking his, just to see, but Beth had already reloaded, turned a circle to check for more walkers, and was halfway to retrieving the used bolts before he thought to even move.

The smirk she wore as she trotted back toward him, both bolts in her hand, told him she had noticed.

“Now who’s distracted?” she said, her tone matching her smirk as she wiped the blood from the bolts in a patch of moss.

When she straightened up, Daryl reached out to tug at the hem of her sleeves, then let his hands slide down over the supple curves of her biceps. The muscles flexed beneath his touch, in an automatic way at first, but when he squeezed a bit, she contracted them tighter on purpose.

“Those arms of yours get any stronger and we’re gonna have to tear the sleeves off of that shirt,” he said, arcing his thumbs across the still-flexed muscles and smiling at the hint of pink spreading over her pale cheeks. “Start callin’ you Big Guns Greene.”

Beth laughed as her blush deepened, and swept her gaze over his arms in an obvious sort of way before she met his eyes again, wearing a smirking half smile. “Well, if I’m gonna start dressin’ like you, maybe you should start wearin’ your hair like mine.”

She reached up to twirl her finger into his hair, dislodging his hand in the process. “Little braid maybe, right about here.”

He snorted, gave her arm a final squeeze before releasing her. “All right, all right.”

Beth just grinned and gave his head a quick scratch—too quick, hell, she could do that all day—then stepped away to look out at their surroundings again.  “We should be getting close to the field, right?”
                
“Think so.”

Without saying anything more, Beth nodded and resumed walking, once again showing that ability of hers to switch gears. Rather than just following behind her this time, though, Daryl stepped up to walk beside her. Beth glanced up at him as she slipped her hand into his, and they continued on that way, hand-in-hand for a little while, until the heat turned their palms slick with sweat. He stayed beside her when they let go, enjoying the little game of sneaking glances at her while trying not to let her notice. He failed miserably, every time, ‘cause it seemed whenever he wanted to look at her, she wanted to look at him, too, and they’d catch eyes and smile and she would laugh and they’d brush knuckles or tickle the other’s palm. His insides pulsed with a warmth that was as bright as the pink splashed across her cheeks, thick like honey, fluttery like her eyelashes, and they were both absolute idiots, but there weren’t anyone else he’d rather be an idiot with than Beth.

They reached the edge of the first field a little less than an hour later, by his estimate, stopping just inside the tree line to try to get a look at the area. The field was overgrown with tall grasses and weeds and the remnants of some sort of grain, limiting their view. Beth dropped her pack and crossbow at Daryl’s feet and scanned the woods’ edge, then scampered up a likely looking tree faster than he thought possible. He never seen her climb a tree before, but she sure must’ve done some climbing in her day. With those arms he’d been admiring, she climbed high enough in no time to see clear out over the field. After several minutes of silent surveillance, Beth climbed back down, jumping the last few feet to land in front of him. After reaching for her stuff, she looped her arm through his and led him back to the edge of the overgrown field.

“Four fields,” she said, lifting her arm up to draw a map in the air as she continued speaking. “This one here and two more after it all in a row, and a smaller one kind of alongside the top of the third field, looks like maybe it goes on past it a ways. There’s a barn at the end and a yard beside it with more buildings and then the house behind that. Woods to the right side all the way along, but the left is pretty close to the road where that side field lies.”

Daryl gave a quick nod, picturing the layout in his head as she described it. “The plan?”

Beth spent a few minutes staring out across the field, and let out an audible breath. “I think we should stick to the woods to the right until we get up close to that barn. Then we can check for signs of people, and maybe check out the buildings if it looks okay?”

When she finished, he looked at her where she stood beside him, gazing out over the field with her lips drawn tight and her fingers in a tangle in front of her. “Whatcha worryin’ about?”

She let her breath out between pursed lips, still looking out toward the distance. “I don’t know if it’s a good idea to go messin’ about the buildings now, this late in the day, or if we should just camp in the woods tonight and go in tomorrow. But then if we do that, and there’s, like, a bunch of walkers lingerin’ around, it would be worth knowin’ about that before they hear or smell us in dark. But how do we know unless we go in now, and then we’re back to plan A and I’m still not sure that’s the wisest move, either.”

That was good, her considering the possibilities like that, and he was nodding even as she sighed and turned to face him.

“What do you think?” she asked, voice dropping down to a whisper. “I-I know you want me to lead, but—”

“Hey.” Daryl tapped the toe of her boot with the toe of his. “Askin’ my opinion ain’t wrong.”

A little grin flitted onto her face. “Ain’t got Beth and Daryl against the world without the Daryl part, right?”

His words, but somehow her saying them made his already warm insides get warmer. He matched her grin with one of his own, and she leaned over against him until their shoulders met. They’d been saying that, them against the world, for a long while now, and he liked the way it sounded. Beth and Daryl. Against the world or otherwise.

Before he could think too hard on that, ‘cause he promised her he wouldn’t, and they had a job to do, Daryl cast a quick glance across the field, even though he couldn’t see much. Beth was waiting to meet his eyes when he glanced down at her there at his shoulder. “My vote’s for plan A. Scout out what we can first from the woods, ‘fore we go in.”

She nodded once, her expression shifting back into one of focus. “All right. Then we can decide whether to go in or get the hell outta there.”

Neither he nor Beth saw any overt signs of human activity in the woods alongside the fields, aside a few pre-turn remnants. Except for the usual forest sounds, everything was quiet as they approached the barn, the faded old red of it showing in bits and pieces through the trees, more of it visible the closer they came to the woods’ edge. Bordering the yard was a simple barbed wire and post fence running right up to the edge of the woods. Beth crouched down behind the screen of tall, weedy grass growing along the fence line and Daryl dropped down behind her beneath the overhanging branches.

He could see well enough over her shoulder. A barn, quite a bit smaller than the one from the Greene farm and a good few decades newer, stood about twenty feet from the tree line, separated by a swath of patchy, weedy grass that didn’t look like it ever grew well. Neither the barn, nor any of the three smaller buildings visible beyond it, showed any signs of damage, at least from this side-on view. The yard, between the structures and pens plopped at random in it, was as overgrown as he’d expect after a couple years’ neglect. Nothing much suggested, from back here at least, that anyone was still hanging around.

Beth moved back from the fence to join him in his little pocket beneath the trees. “Looks like they’d’ve had chickens and pigs. Maybe goats. That thing that looks like a miniature barn could be a goat house. Horses, probably. Maybe a couple cows but I don’t think they raised beef, just milk cows.”

This was the sort of thing he couldn’t’ve known, but of course she would. And he was certain she was well aware that none of that mattered to the task at hand, but it was so like her to see the story behind something, like she had with the walker couple back at the cabin. It maybe didn’t matter in a practical sense, what came before, but it mattered to her and that—that mattered to him.

He hummed, to let her know he was listening, turned his head to watch her instead of the farmyard, as she pointed out the corner of the house in the distance, behind the back of the barn to the right, and what looked like maybe an orchard beyond that. Their hiding place stood within the late afternoon shade thrown by the barn, but in the brighter light outside the cover of the woods Beth’s eyes shone a particularly brilliant blue as they swept across the scenery. Little wisps of hair stood out, those bits always determined to escape her ponytail no matter how many times a day she tried to contain them. Unable to stop himself, Daryl trailed a finger through the worst of them, curling golden just above her ear, and Beth turned her head toward him, the softest hint of a smile playing at her lips.

“C’mon,” she said, tipping her head to the right, her ponytail sliding off her shoulder as she did. “Let’s look at the house.”

The farmhouse stood in the middle of what would have been some quality lawn, once upon a time, deep green and lush, the kind a man was tempted to run through barefoot. Farther away from the fence, roughly at the centre point between it and the road, the house, like the barn, remained in good repair. Less than twenty years old if he were to guess, though the orchard beside it, tidy rows on rows of mature peach trees, the scent of their fruit heavy in the air, was old enough to suggest there’d been an older house sometime before. Of that, he couldn’t see no remnants, at least not from this vantage point.

The house faced the road, which was visible now straight ahead at the end of a long gravel driveway.  Wasn’t a big house, about twice the size of his and Beth’s cabin on the main floor with an attic-like second floor above it. A covered porch wrapped around the whole of it and a big old oak tree grew right out front. Probably had a tire swing and branches just waiting for the farmer’s teenage daughter to climb out an upstairs window, off to whatever mischief rebellious farm girls got up to. Wood siding was stained a bright yellow, probably had matching flowers in them white window boxes once upon a time. Looked like it coulda been something out of a postcard when it was new, but now it was just another empty house at the end of the world.

None of the windows were boarded up, and aside a broken railing at the near corner of the porch, the place looked pristine, just neglected. Abandoned as it stood. Grass growing tall and undisturbed at least to the back steps which faced them, flower beds overgrown with weeds, white paint peeling from open shutters, and a couple years’ worth of oak leaves scattered about everywhere, gathered in the corners where the wind tossed them in but couldn’t reach to blow them away.

Beside him, Beth smiled fondly as she eyed the house, but if the place tugged at any memories, she didn’t let on. Daryl let his eyes linger on her in profile, all of her splashed gold with the sun out here away from the barn’s shadow. Her gaze roamed over the yard in front of them and for a long time she just looked, unmoving except for her fingers slowly stroking the little braid in her hair. When she did turn, she wore that same soft smile he couldn’t help but return.

“What do you think?”

Don’t you think that’s beautiful?

Daryl shook the thought away, but didn’t turn from her. “Looks all right from here.”

“Should we go in?” she asked, but by the sharp edges to her gaze, he knew she was already anticipating his reply.

“Your call, Beth.”

She studied his face, those sharp eyes flicking over his features as though she were searching for answers, for an insight into what he was thinking. Truth of it was, there was no right answer, just a choice. If he were calling the shots he’d have gone for it, but this was Beth’s journey, and he might be standing at her side through it but he wasn’t gonna take it from her.

Beth took in a breath and held it a beat before letting it out, and with it the tension across her shoulders. Only the slight downturn of her mouth betrayed her uncertainty, but when she spoke, none of it showed in her voice. “We go in.  Approach the house from the orchard side, out of view of those big windows...”

She detailed her plan, which she must have been working on even as she examined the yard. He had done the same, and noted with a beat of pride that she picked the same angle of approach as he. Times past he mighta strode right up to the door, front or back, knocked for walkers without really considering finding people. Like Beth, though, he couldn’t let what happened at the funeral home count for nothing. He wasn’t gonna waltz into another trap, not if he could help it.

The abandoned feel of the place didn’t change up close, and a peek around the front showed the same long, undisturbed grass as out back. Doors were unlocked and when Beth knocked, nothing knocked back. They cleared the house quick, both the main floor and the two small bedrooms upstairs.

“Looks like they left before it got bad,” Beth said, waving her arm toward the mantle above the fireplace, full of picture frames but all of them empty. “I wonder if they made it.”

He rolled his shoulders, not having an answer but sensing she wasn’t really after one. With the house clear, and possibly useful items filed away in their heads to examine later, Beth shut the door behind them and led him on to phase two.

The barn and the other three buildings in the fenced off yard—a chicken coup, pig sty, and that goat house—were similarly empty of bodies, living or dead, and just as abandoned. Same went for the workshop which sat halfway between the house and the barn, but right up against the edge of that side field, which up close looked more like an overgrown garden. Beth wondered whether the family had taken their animals or just let them go before they fled. Except for a single pile of what might’ve been chicken bones, and horse shit so ancient it didn’t even stink, no physical signs of the animals remained.

Once the buildings were clear, they explored the yard a bit more freely. Whatever vehicles might have once parked here were gone, taken by the farmers when they left or long since nabbed by someone else. Much of the contents of the workshop seemed undisturbed, though the whole inside was a clusterfuck of tools and scraps and junky shit they didn’t have time to sort through.

No gasoline, though, especially disappointing when Beth discovered the ATV with the key still in it and its tank completely empty. Their only other option was the ancient tractor, and even he couldn’t keep a straight face long enough to suggest using it.

“Well,” she said, patting the rusted side of the old John Deere. “At least we got shelter tonight, and there’s probably somethin’ we can use in the house. I think I wanna stay in the barn, though.”

Sounded good to him. Closer to the woods if they needed to make a quick getaway, a ladder they could pull up after them into the loft above, no way for anyone to see them once they secured themselves inside.

Beth led them back over to the house, skirting alongside the shed and angling over toward the centre of the yard through the knee-high grass. Even if they couldn’t take them along, she thought there might at least be some blankets they could use for the night. She just finished suggesting that when she spun around with a little gasp, face lit up like she just remembered something good.

“Peaches, Daryl! Remember the can—”

A loud crack rang out, cutting off Beth’s words, echoing around so loud he started to duck out of instinct. Gunshot, his brain shouted, as he frantically searched the yard for the source of the shot, but a second crack followed, and Beth screamed.

A blur of yellow and she was gone, before he could move, before he could even think about catching her. Down, falling, landing with a distant thud and what the hell—?

Daryl dropped to the ground at the edge of the gaping hole, dark and deep where moments ago there’d been nothing but tall, dead grass. Beth lay at the bottom, curled in a ball in a pile of rotten wood and brown grass and big clots of dirt.

No, no. Don’t let her be—

“Beth! Fuck, Beth! Tell me you ain’t hurt.”

A pained little groan floated up from below, and his heart gave a giant thump and started beating again, abusing the insides of his ribs with the force of its pounding. Slowly, she uncurled, dug herself out of the debris and pushed herself up. She shook her head but didn’t look up, gasping like she’d had the wind knocked out of her. But she was up, conscious and moving and shit, his heart was pounding so hard he was bordering on lightheaded.

Stop.

Work on getting Beth out, then worry about his own hide. They had the rope they’d used to hang the doe in her pack, enough length for him to haul her out. Looking down now, while she worked at breathing, he saw the cracked old concrete block walls around the pit she’d fallen into. Part of the original house, probably some forgotten cellar with the way it was covered over without having been filled in. She could brace her feet on the wall and climb while he pulled, soon as she caught her breath.

“Talk to me, girl.”

“I-I’m okay. Just—winded,” she said, words a bit clipped. “Lemme get—the rope.”

While she rearranged her gear to search for the rope, Daryl looked up from the hole, checking the light, breathing slow to get his heart to stop racing. Beth was fine, just had to get her outta there. They had more than enough time to search the house before the sun went down, and plenty of time after that before it got dark. Provided she wasn’t telling stories about not being hurt, they could pick some peaches and then set some snares up in the woods beside the barn, catch her that rabbit she wanted.

A flash of motion drew his eyes from the sun’s position in the sky over toward the house, ahead and to their right. The house, its yellow paint turned golden in the evening light. The big old oak tree, waving lazy in the breeze, tire swing swaying back and forth. And the walkers, a dozen of them staggering through the yard, a dozen more still weaving through the orchard trees, heading right for them.

“Beth,” he said, voice grave and calm despite the panic rising in his belly. “Need that rope now. We got company.”


*~*

If I had a gun, I'd shoot a hole into the sun
And love would burn this city down for you
If I had the time, I'd stop the world and make you mine
And every day would stay the same with you

      - Noel Gallagher


To be continued in chapter 23 >>

Comments

( 1 has spoken — take the speaking stick )
slaymesoftly
Sep. 12th, 2015 10:48 pm (UTC)
Gah!
( 1 has spoken — take the speaking stick )

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