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This is Part 2 of 2. Read PART ONE first.

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 Black Heart Inertia by Incubus. Once again I wrote too much and had to split the chapter in two pieces.  Special thanks to Amy for her support and advice with this chapter.

Warning: Mentions/suggestions of past physical/verbal/emotional abuse. Nothing graphic, but some ugly language.


All Chapters Here

Fall Right In
Chapter 23 - You're a Bonfire and I'm Gathered Round You
Part 2/2
(Part 1/2)

*~*

Daryl tried to hold onto that feeling, that warmth in his belly that was all Beth’s doing, as they left the little bathroom behind to search the house. He filled a cloth shopping bag with whatever he could get his hands on, working one end of the house while Beth worked the other, and focused on that feeling. On the woman who inspired it and so many other things in this body, his blackened old heart so completely unused to feeling anything like this at all. What Beth was becoming to him—hell, what she already was—had to be protected. Held tight within the very depths of him because he knew there’d never be another soul in the world like her, for him.

That warmth stayed, all right, a blazing furnace burning there in his belly. The pleasant ache of wanting her that never went away from the moment he first understood it for what it was. But even Beth couldn’t keep out the other things, the darker things, weighty, sitting heavy in the back of his brain. Slinking down to press at his shoulders, compress his spine. Try as he might to shake it, to hold it back from where he knew this was going, it only sunk deeper, grew heavier, as they looted the house.

It clung to him while they made their first deposit of stuff in the barn. Lingered, dark and dirty, while they washed up in the horse tough with water from the well, and collected enough to last the night. Drove in like splinters in his fingers when he gathered firewood from the corner of the workshop that doubled as a woodshed. Throbbed, a pain between his shoulder blades, as they raided the orchard and came away with armfuls of ripe, fragrant peaches. By the time Daryl pulled shut the barn door, daylight fading rapidly around them and no time left for snaring rabbits, he had become an old man, hunched, crouching, doubled over by the weight on his back no matter that he walked as straight as ever.

Nothing special, about the barn. Rows of stalls lining the long sides. Ladder at one end to a hayloft above. It had a dirt floor, the centre of it worn smooth by years of both two and four legged traffic, mostly free of the straw covering the rest of it. He left her there, standing in the middle of the ring of candles she dragged down from the house and laid out so perfectly, grunting his no to her offer of a peach as he turned away from her.

Beth’s gaze followed him, an itch at the back of his neck, scratching little holes into the dark thing writhing there as he strode toward the corner and crouched down by the first of the horse stalls, swept away the covering of brittle old straw. The dirt below was just as hard as that in the centre, not quite as smooth but still compressed by years of use, marked here and there with the faint impression of horseshoes. To break the surface he had to use his knife, and he gouged, he stabbed, he thrust his blade into the dirt an inch at a time, let the jolt of that rattle through his arms, just to have somewhere to dig.

Beth had a garden trowel from the cabin packed with them somewhere, but he didn’t bother. Didn’t wanna bother her. Once broken, he tore into the ground with his fingers. Dirt packed under his nails like concrete as he deepened the hole, ground itself into every line, every crack, every pore. God, he was so stupid, to think he could ever do this without fucking it all up. To think he could hope to reach even a whisper of the good that Beth was. That warmth she gave him so fully, so freely, sat heavy in his belly.

He couldn’t even make it a full day without letting her down.

That day at the creek, when her ankle still hurt and she’d only just found her crossbow, he shouted at her then in a moment of panic. A moment, like today, when she proved without a shred of doubt she could take care of herself—take care of both of them—but something in him hadn’t wanted to give her the chance. The chance to show she wasn’t helpless.

“You made me feel like you thought I was,” she had said to him in the wake of his outburst, hurt and honest just like today. “I just can’t take feeling like that, not from you.”

Not from you.

But he did it again. The same fucking thing. All these thoughts about her strength, her confidence, her ability to handle just about anything, all this admiration for the survivor she made of herself, and he couldn’t even let himself trust her enough to show it.

Ya worthless sack a shit. Fuckin’ waste of a man. Shoulda made your mama swallow you down…

After calling him out in the bathroom, Beth hadn’t said another word about it. No, she just gifted him with the warmth of her forgiveness, her gentle understanding. Even now he couldn’t cast it out, tainted as it was with the knowledge that he hadn’t earned it, not even an ounce of her grace. Maybe Beth wasn’t mad but she should be.

He let her down. Tried to lead the both of them into even deeper shit because of it, and she should be fucking pissed.

A shiver rolled across his shoulders. The fire pit was deep enough, wide enough, finally. Sweat beaded his forehead, slid stinging over the cut which throbbed beneath the weight of everything else, and dropped into the dirt in microscopic mud puddles. He dug the air vent, and after that lighting the fire at the bottom was easy. Well seasoned wood from the shed, paper torn from some glitzy ladies’ magazine crumpled up as tinder. When the blaze roared, far larger than what they could risk outdoors, Daryl covered the opening with a toaster oven rack and set the stock pot from the kitchen, full of well water, on top.

Even watched pots boiled, eventually. Left long enough over a flame and anything would. Daryl stared into the water, at the tiny bubbles rising slowly to the top. He didn’t know how he was supposed to do this, how to be the kind of man Beth deserved to have at her side instead of just the one she got stuck with.

The first bubbles broke the surface, bringing with them the weight of the steam coiling out of the pot. Daryl dumped their bolts, rinsed of walker gore but not at all clean, into the now-boiling water and leaned back against the door of the stall behind him, arms draped over his bent knees, to watch it roil around the gathered shafts.

Beth didn’t see it that way, like they were stuck. He knew it, he did, and he felt anything but stuck with her, but it didn’t make a lick of sense. God knows what she even saw, when she took his measure and found something worthy when he’d only ever been wanting. She must’ve known something he didn’t, tapped into some otherworldly knowledge because he couldn’t find it, whatever she saw that made her think he could be good for her. Could be man enough for the woman she was.

Ain’t ever gonna make a man outta you. Why don’tcha just grow a pair a tits, boy, then ya’d at least be good for somethin’…

He couldn’t be both things, couldn’t reconcile what he knew with what she did but trying to deny her only twisted his guts tighter. Beth knew her own mind. Her own heart. If he was her choice—and he was, he was, because they could have carried on forever without any of this, closer, maybe, but not like they were now—then she must believe he could do it.

But how?

He let her down. And he almost lost her.

It would’ve been bad, and he shouldn’t do this, dwell on the what-ifs, shouldn’t even be heading down that crumbling road but like a landslide he couldn’t stop. Two seconds later and Beth would’ve had a horde of walkers raining down on top of her, tumbling into that pit. She was tough, Beth Greene, and so, so strong, but two seconds later and Beth would be dead. Eaten alive still dangling from that rope or lying here on the floor of the barn, fever pouring out of her in rivers of sweat and blood, begging him to put her down before she turned.

Not until he heard the crack, felt the sting of splinters in his fingers, did Daryl realize he’d all but shattered a piece of kindling.

Get yerself a pair a balls and man up. Fuckin’ bitch deserved what she got and so’ll you, boy, you don’t quit cryin’ about it like some pussy ass li’l girl…

No. No. A million times no. Daryl gripped the shards of wood tighter, trying to force away the voice, the flashes of smoke, and the bitter taste of ashes, but it stuck there, like the burn of a cigarette on tender flesh, like the bite of a belt into already flayed skin. That slippery, emphysemic drawl settled across his scalp, a bed of rusted nails hammered into his skull one by one until his whole head erupted in pain.

“Daryl.”

Appearing from nowhere at his side, Beth curled her hands around his, and he stopped breathing. Stopped doing anything but watch as she peeled his fingers away from the wood one at a time, until he dropped the remnants of the kindling onto the dirt floor.

He felt her stare but he couldn’t look at her. Tried to force the lump in his throat back down to his gut where it belonged, but he couldn’t do that, either. Couldn’t do anything but be the worthless redneck asshole he always was ‘cause he could never be anything else.

“Daryl, stop.

Beth’s hands tightened on his, imbedding the tiny splinters of wood even deeper. But the sting of it sharpened his focus, drew him out and up finally to meet her hard gaze. He’d been wrong before; the blaze of anger in her eyes, the clench of it in her jaw, slammed into him, like falling face first into a brick wall. The lump in his throat tightened. Constricted. He tasted bile. He tasted blood where his teeth clamped down on his tongue as he waited for whatever she had to unleash on him.

He deserved it.

“Look at me.” She released his hands and reached for his face, pressing her palms to his cheeks, holding firm to make sure he didn’t look away. Her breath tumbled out in a barely contained stutter and when she spoke again she did so through clenched teeth. “You’re gonna listen to me, Daryl Dixon, and you’re gonna listen good, understand?”

Not trusting his voice, Daryl nodded as best he could with her hands where they were, tried to hold that flaming gaze of hers no matter that it burned into him. Because it burned into him.

“I’m remindin’ you,” she said, in that hard-edged voice. “Whatever, whoever, is in your head right now—put it away. You got out, remember? Don’t go back. You gotta stay who you are.

She was—she—oh.  Oh. Christ, this woman.

He meant to snort, meant to make some sort of sound of derision to cover up everything else that wanted to burst out of him, but with the understanding of what fuelled Beth’s anger, all that fell from his lips was a wobbling sigh. His voice, when he pulled the words up past that goddamn lump in his throat, the burn in his chest, rasped out in hardly more than a whisper. “Yeah? And who’s that?”

Her anger crumbled. Shattered. Fell away from her body like shards of a broken mirror. It left behind shining eyes holding back tears and a tremble in her jaw she couldn’t keep in. “You’re a good man, Daryl Dixon. Maybe you don’t believe it, but don’t you dare tell me I’m wrong.”

That stricture in his throat tightened further and something shattered in him, too. An explosion, a blunderbuss of emotional wreckage like shattered mirror glass tearing through the walls of his chest. He felt deflated. Small, his face still caught there in her hands, though her hold had softened and her palms now cradled his cheeks instead of penning him in. Wasn’t the first time he wondered if she didn’t know him better than he knew himself, in some ways. A lotta ways. The two sides of this warred in his head, the part of him that knew he was no good and the part of him that believed in her.

You’re good to me, Daryl.

Christ, just this morning he thought he could be, if only she showed him how. Why—why couldn’t he get there again? He wanted to. Wanted to give Beth everything he had and everything he didn’t, but she had to show him. He couldn’t—couldn’t do it without her.

And whatcha think she’s doin’ now, asshole?

His head was too much a mess to sort this out. He couldn’t shake that voice, those memories. A small crack in the surface where so much lay buried, hidden. Locked away and just waiting to escape, to fuck him up when he let down his guard. He wished—God, he wished he could let it all fall outta his head and tumble down into the fire blazing beneath the pot of boiling water.

But then there was Beth, a little sliver of sunshine, a little bolt of lightning tearing through the shadows. Beth, who believed he was better than the shadows, better than the past which haunted him. Beth, who proved to him a thousand times over that good still existed in this world, this amazing woman who wanted him like he wanted her, not just with this physical need but a deeper ache, a deeper longing, something he didn’t know himself capable of until he felt it with her. No matter that they hadn’t talked, hadn’t put the words out into the universe. He knew it was true.

And so does she, you jackass. Fuckin’ believe her.

Light from the fire flickered against one side of Beth’s face, throwing the other half into shadow but he could still see, still feel, the tiniest of smiles as it tugged at her lips. “Just because you did something I don’t like, doesn’t mean I don’t like you.” Beth glided her thumbs slowly over his cheeks. “Stop beating yourself up about it, okay?”

“I just—” He shuddered so hard his teeth rattled and his joints ached. “Beth. Dunno if I know how.”

The little whimper she made sliced into his chest, squeezed his bruised heart until he thought it was gonna burst. He should be past this bullshit, thought he was for a long, long time, but no, no he wasn’t, and Beth— oh, God, Beth—Beth was hurting because of it. Because of some wretched old ghost trying to drag him back down to places he’d left behind a long time ago. He had to remember how to stop listening, how to put it away, before it destroyed them both.

“Yeah, you do.” Beth pulled one of her hands from his face, wiped at her tears with the back of it.

She was on her knees beside him, body half leaned over the rise of his leg and the arm slung over it so she could reach his face. Now she pushed his arm away, pressed down until the angle of his bent knees flattened out a bit and slipped right on into his lap. Daryl’s chest rose quick with a heavy breath as she settled, her legs pressing in on either side of his hips, pulling her body even closer to his than she had this morning at the ledge.

God, was that only this morning? Felt like forever ago.

Didn’t notice ‘til he was doing it, his palms sliding along the length of her legs, from the bend of her knees to the subtle flare of her hips. He looked up at her and Beth’s eyes flickered to catch his, all the anger gone from them. What shone there now burned him in a different way.

“You do know how,” she whispered, draping one arm over his shoulder and bringing the other hand up to slowly trace her fingers across his brow. “You burnt it down, remember? We burned it down, you and me.”

He remembered. He’d never forget, no matter how much moonshine had roared in his veins. Him and Beth standing there, rebellious, stupid, more alive than they’d been since the prison fell, facing the blazing wreckage of so much more than just their shelter for the night. Beth, herself lit like a flame from the inside out, moonshine and that fiery spirit, middle finger raised high in the night.

Shit like he had buried never went away, not by burning down no moonshine shack like a couple of drunken fools. But it helped. Letting down the walls, letting Beth in. Setting fire to that place and watching it burn to ashes. That night he found solace, for the first time in his life, in another’s awareness of where he came from.

He hummed, a little rumble he knew she heard. Christ, she was close enough she probably felt it. “I remember.”

“They’re just ghosts,” she said, pushing his hair away from his face. “I’m not gonna let them haunt you.”

He couldn’t answer her, the lump in his throat and the fluttering in his chest taking over his ability to do anything but stare up at her and wonder how in the world he ended up here, with her. With her. Didn’t matter that she couldn’t make the past go away, couldn’t just reach inside and turn the voices off, because she wanted to. Saw through his bullshit like he knew she could all along, saw him, and instead of turning away she just pulled him in closer.

Moved closer, too, using her arm around his shoulders to shrink the space between them to almost nothing, until the warmth of her body seeped into his, driving away the chill he hadn’t known he was wearing until that moment.

Her little smile widened as she watched his thoughts flicker across his face. “Do we gotta have another fire? ‘Cause we should probably wait ‘til morning this time before we torch the barn.”

It still hurt. That swirling dark still tried to push back against the lightness that was Beth, but the little bark of laughter burst out anyway and he felt the genuineness of it. “Beth.”

“You can’t let it get bad like this, okay?” she said, smiling still despite the seriousness of her words. “And you aren’t gonna drive me away by bein’ moody, so you best stop tryin’ to.”

“I—” Fuck. Woman really did see through his own bullshit better than he did. He sighed and let his head drop back until it made a soft thunk against the wood of the stall door. “I’m a fuckin’ idiot.”

“Daryl, you’re not.” She combed her fingers through his hair, scratching her nails across his scalp in that way she did that always left his whole head tingling and warm. He rumbled at her and her smile shifted from sweet to smirking, and she bit her lip as though she were trying to contain it. “Well, maybe a little...”

This time the laugh came easy, and the smile lingered even after it stopped. A little grin which only made hers get wider. “Quit makin’ me laugh, girl.”

Beth giggled and dragged her fingers across his scalp again. “Ooh, I guess that ain’t good for your reputation as an asshole, laughin’. I won’t tell. It’ll be our little secret.”

He didn’t answer her, just let the little smile stay where it wanted as he looked up at her face. Her big, kind eyes, and the timeless wisdom she carried in them. He was an idiot, thinking he didn’t deserve her. Didn’t matter what he thought or what some long-dead worthless piece of shit thought. All that mattered was what Beth thought.

After a long few minutes of running her fingers through his hair, Beth drew her hand back to trace the margins of the wound on his forehead. “Still hurt?”

It did, some. More a dull ache than anything, nothing he couldn’t handle. “Naw.”

“Other things hurtin’ worse?” she said, speaking like she was only guessing when they both knew she wasn’t.

“Mm.”

Her fingers trailed down his nose, then across his cheek. “You know, after my nightmares, what you do with your thumb?”

It was an easy move, to slide his hand up from her hip and under the edge of her shirt, to drag his thumb along her spine in the way she meant.

Beth’s eyes drifted shut and a shiver rolled across her shoulders and down through her back. “Mmm, yeah, just like that,” she said, in a breathy little voice. “It helps when you do that. Makes it so you’re more real than whatever’s in my head.”

“Yeah?” He knew it helped, without her saying so, but something about her reasons why settled warm in his chest, and he didn’t stop, just kept drawing his thumb up and down, feeling the bumps of her vertebrae, the amazing smoothness of her warm skin.

She shivered again and let out a little groan, and when her eyes popped back open they didn’t open all the way, instead hanging there at a dreamy sort of half-mast that propelled the warmth in his chest much further south.

“There somethin’ like that I can do for you?” she asked, still whispering, moving her own thumb across his brow again. “When what’s in your head’s more real than it should be?”

However she touched him, didn’t matter if it were fingers in his hair, her knuckles across his or her fingers twining theirs together. Her fingers on his face, her nose tucked up into his neck, her arms around his back and her hands on his wings. Or just like this, here in his lap on the floor of the barn. He never knew a touch like hers and never knew he’d want to, but oh, did he want it.

Touch me, he thought, as she shivered beneath the stroke of his thumb and moaned softly. God, just touch me.

“Maybe you can find something,” he said to her, voice gone raspy like he hadn’t spoken in years.

Beth’s thumb brushed through the hair above his lip, then passed over the scruff along his jaw. “It’s okay, me touchin’ you?”

Jesus, Beth. “Y-yeah,” he said, voice breaking with the force of the shiver that shot through him. “It’s okay, Beth.”

She nodded a little, and her breath flitted warm over his face. “I like it when you touch me, too.”

The heat that had been steadily moving downward now coiled in his belly, shooting him through with those delightful little frissons he’d only ever felt with her. He could feel himself getting hard, the warmth and the weight of the blood gradually thickening his cock, and knew it was only a matter of time before Beth felt him, too, sitting like she was. The newness of all this, that complete lack of control over his body in responding to someone the way he responded to Beth, wasn’t quite enough anymore to win out over the desire to keep her there, let her feel it. Let her feel him.

As though she was reading his mind, Beth shifted her hips a touch, just enough to press his growing erection between them. He saw the way her breath hitched, felt it against his belly, but she didn’t say or do anything else, just kept on tracing the contours of his face.

“You can tell me,” she whispered, and it took him a good couple of seconds to drag his thoughts back to what they were talking about before. “You know you can, right? If you ever want to or need to, you can tell me anything.”

Even through two layers of denim, the heat of her was immense. Not fair of her to have such a serious conversation at a moment like this but maybe he needed it, that bodily distraction, to keep the demons at bay long enough to hear her words for what they were. She did mean it, as only Beth could, and if he ever found the strength to let go he’d find it with her.

In the end, it always came back to Beth.

He couldn’t speak. Could only shut his eyes and nod and know she understood.

Beth brushed her fingers down his neck, over the ends of his collarbones, dipped down along his sternum as far as she could reach. When she spoke, Daryl felt the breath of her words more than he heard them, warm on his face and smelling of peaches. “Only thing that made it out of those ashes was you,” she whispered. “You and me.”

He didn’t even try to stop the shudder that rolled through him, almost violent in its intensity. Beth’s fingers moved back up, over his Adam’s apple to his chin, to the loose seam of his mouth. He opened his eyes and found hers waiting for him, pupils wider than the dark of the barn could account for, and when he nipped at her fingers with his lips she giggled so softly, a sound which trickled down through his belly and pulled that coiled heat even tighter.

She leaned down to touch her forehead gently to his. “Daryl.

Beth.” He flattened his hands at the small of her back, not so daring yet as to pull her to him, but it was enough to keep her there, where she was. As if he thought she would go anywhere else.

Beth tucked both hands into his hair and rocked her hips against him, a little tease of friction, and he shuddered hard just as she stilled, though he felt the tremble in her back, in her legs, and wondered at her restraint. But then she dipped her head down and caught his lips with hers, swallowing his thoughts, swallowing his groan and sending out one of her own for him to swallow in return.

Their first kiss started slow and this one did too, but there was nothing hesitant in it this time. They fell right in to hot, wet, slides of her lips on his, his on hers. To Beth tilting her head, deepening the kiss, her fingers curling into his hair as he curled his against her back. The stroke of her tongue seeking entrance, granted, welcomed, his own joining in.

Two kisses in and he was already an addict. Would never have enough. What remained of the shroud across his shoulders tore away, ripped to shreds, burnt up to nothing. Couldn’t stand a chance against Beth fucking Greene. Against the heat of her breath, the huffing sounds as she breathed raggedly through her nose, the little noise she made in the depths of her throat when he tickled the underside of her tongue with the point of his.

The tremble of her body beneath his hands intensified, and as though she couldn’t stand it any longer, Beth whimpered into his mouth and rolled her hips, rocking down against him so hard he sunk his teeth into her bottom lip as the shock of it jolted through him. He scrambled to grab hold of her to keep her from doing it again, even though—oh, fuck—it felt good, but it was too much. Too much, and Beth pulled back just enough at the desperate tug of his hands, angling her hips away as she tore her lip free of his teeth and caught his mouth again.

She trembled and whimpered and the kiss deepened even further than he ever thought a kiss could go, and Daryl held on, himself a shaking, whimpering mess, lost in her like he’d never been lost in another person before. When they broke away to breathe, sometime later, Beth again dropped her forehead onto his, fingers still tangled in his hair as she whispered his name.

“You taste like peaches,” he whispered up at her, surprising both of them with what rasped out of his mouth.

Beth giggled, that same soft little one from before, and he laughed along with her. “Got plenty more over there,” she said, pulling back to look at him, breathing hard, all flushed and smiling and fucking beautiful. “If you think you’d wanna taste like peaches, too.”

“Yeah,” he said, drawing his tongue across his bottom lip, smiling when Beth’s eyes followed its path. “Yeah, okay.”

He wasn’t ready for her to move, wasn’t ready for the heat of her to go away, wasn’t near ready to stop kissing her. But maybe it was time. For now, it was time.

Beth wasn’t going anywhere, not if she had anything to say about it, and neither was he.
*~*

You’re a mountain that I’d like to climb
Not to conquer, but to share in the view
You’re a bonfire and I'm gathered ‘round you
Set this old black heart inertia aflame
         - Incubus




to be continued in chapter 24 >>

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