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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 Count on Me by Default.

All Chapters Here
Fall Right In
Chapter 28 – ‘Cause I Will Carry You ‘Til You Carry On


*~*

In hindsight, he should’ve taken point. The two days Beth spent fighting with her own head should have clued him into the fact that she maybe wasn’t focused enough, wasn’t herself enough to be making the calls. She was so naturally good at this but—but he should have seen it. Should have seen it and talked to her and told her why he was concerned and Beth would’ve agreed. Wasn’t about not trusting her, was about keeping the both of them safe and that was something Beth would understand. Beth and Daryl against the world and all that and sometimes one of them needed to give the other one a shove in the right direction—just like she did with the walkers after he pulled her out of that pit.

The signs were there, but he wasn’t reading them. Not in time to stop her, to ask her to hang back amongst the trees while he checked out the yard instead, spotted the danger before she leapt headfirst into it. Shown her the tire tracks across the wet lawn, the boot-trampled grass amidst the mud, the splatters of it on the bumper of that goddamned truck that drew her in like a magpie to a shiny thing. Then they’d have been long gone from here before anyone knew they were ever there.

In hindsight—which didn’t do them a speck of good now.


There was no time to run. The first four men were almost on them by the time he got Beth’s attention and the fifth had the rifle. No choice but to try and talk their way out of this without nobody getting hurt. Beth froze when she finally saw them, her hand still resting on the hood of that old truck. Daryl tightened his grip on her wrist, hoping to pull her away from the truck entirely, but then she gasped and tore her arm free.

Beth swung her crossbow off her shoulder and into her arms so fast he had no time to stop her.

He should have fucking taken point.

The men skidded to a halt in a loose arc around him and Beth, the closest one lifting his empty hands in deference to the crossbow pointed at his head. He was armed; they all were, with handguns in holsters and an array of blades strapped to belts. Fighters, all of them, or at least, these were men used to doing what they needed to in order to stay alive.  The three younger men—two brothers, maybe, with the same reddish hair and lanky build, and a heavier-set guy a bit older than them, skin as dark as theirs was pale—stood ready to draw, but the leader kept his hands raised and away from the Glock at his hip. Leader in more than one sense, as he made a little noise in the back of his throat which had the others curling their reaching fingers into fists held to their sides.

Their lack of action didn’t do a thing to calm the swell of terror rising in Daryl’s chest, pounding on the inside of his ribs like a caged dog trying to break free. He had to defuse this now, while he had a chance. Before—just, before.

Beth.

The word burst out harsher than he meant it to, but Beth didn’t hear him. Her breath came in shallow little puffs, chest barely moving with it, and she held her crossbow so tight her arms shook—the tiniest of tremors betraying her panic, but Daryl couldn’t be certain the others would see it. Or if they did, that they’d understand. Wherever Beth was right now, she wasn’t here. He had a good idea where she’d gone and why, and that meant she wasn’t seeing what was really in front of her. Wasn’t seeing any of this for what it was—danger, and restraint that wouldn’t mean nothing if she didn’t lower her damn crossbow.

The leader, a man somewhat older than Rick, with close-cropped, once-dark hair now over halfway toward grey, kept his sharp brown eyes locked on Beth. “Stand down, miss, and let’s talk about this like civilized people.”

Beth didn’t move, and Daryl swallowed hard. This was bad. So fucking bad. “Beth. C’mon.”

The guy with the rifle, a some years-younger version of the guy in charge, stopped a ways back from the rest of them, and when Beth didn’t follow the order she was given, he lifted his weapon. From where the rifleman stood, he had Beth in his sights and a clean line to a headshot.

Daryl slid his gaze back to the leader, heart thundering in his chest. “Beth. Beth.”

One of the others in the back snorted. “Bet she don’t even know how to use that.”

Daryl was too terrified to be outraged on Beth’s behalf, ‘cause of course she fuckin’ knew how to use her crossbow. Through the stab of panic lancing through his head, though, came the thought that maybe if they thought that, it could buy him a bit of time to get her out of this.

The leader made another sound in his throat, and whichever man spoke mumbled something under his breath. “She knows,” he said, eyes sweeping over Beth’s hold on her weapon. “You best get this under control.”

Daryl knew an order when he heard one, no matter that the guy hadn’t taken his eyes off Beth. Keeping his hands where the men could see them, Daryl closed the gap between him and Beth, slowly coming to stand beside her where she’d be able to see him before he tried touching her. Her finger rested on the trigger of her crossbow and the wrong nudge, the right touch at the wrong moment might well set her off and then—no. No. He wasn’t gonna think about what would happen if she took out this group’s leader with a crossbow bolt to the head at point blank range.

“Beth,” he said again, keeping his voice low, aware of the three out of five pairs of eyes on him, hard and hot like he had a target painted on his forehead.
Beth was still taking those shallow little breaths, not hyperventilating but damn close to it, and didn’t even blink when he spoke. She stared at the man, standing there with his arms raised, eyes open wider than he had ever seen them, but vacant. Even side-on he could see it. She might be looking but she wasn’t seeing what was in front of her. What she was seeing had her pale and sweaty, and breathing so erratically Daryl wasn’t so sure she wouldn’t just pass out and solve the problem that way. But he couldn’t take the chance that she wouldn’t pull that trigger first.

Repeating her name again, as low as he could without his voice breaking, Daryl slipped his hand beneath the back of her shirts to drag his thumb up her spine, just barely brushing her skin, hoping to hell she wasn’t exaggerating when she told him what it meant to her when he did that.

Makes it so you’re more real than whatever’s in my head.

“Beth, c’mon,” he whispered, repeating the motion, turning his face to speak in her ear while sparing a glance toward the man still standing with his arms raised. “Come back, girl.”

Maybe he was imagining it, but maybe not, the flash of curiosity in the guy’s otherwise neutral stare. There, and gone, but Daryl couldn’t worry about that right now. He repeated Beth’s name and pressed his thumb a little harder into her skin, and finally. Finally, she let out a little gasp, and in its wake a shiver rippled along her spine before rolling through the rest of her body. Beth sucked in a deep breath, which shuddered out of her in spurts, and took half a step back, blinking like she’d just woken up to find the light too bright.

“Wha—”

“Lower your crossbow,” Daryl murmured, curling his other hand around her forearm now that she was aware of him. “S’all right, Beth.”

Still blinking, she lowered the bow without questioning why. Daryl pushed her behind him, but not before catching a glimpse of her too-wide eyes and deeply furrowed brow. It was a punch to the gut, how she reacted, but he pushed that down to deal with later, and focused on the more immediate threat.

The leader’s dark eyes shifted now to meet his, a hard-edged glint to them instead of the more neutral one he’d shown to Beth. Like he realized what was happening but knew Daryl had no such excuse. The hands he that had been raised in the face of the crossbow now settled carefully at his hips, ready, should reason strike, to brandish whichever weapon he chose.

“We don’t mean no trouble,” Daryl said, holding his own hands out in front of him, despite the itch in his fingers to reach for his Stryker or his knife, maybe even Beth’s gun.

Without breaking eye contact, the leader tilted his head, as though to peer around Daryl at the small, trembling woman huddled against his back. “I think that might’ve been something to consider before attempting to steal my truck, don’t you?”

“She—” Daryl stopped, cleared his throat to get rid of some of the hoarseness and used those few seconds to rethink his words. Nothing he said in Beth’s defense was gonna sound like anything less than an excuse and it was none of this man’s damn business anyway. “We made a mistake.”

The leader tilted his head back upright, facing Daryl again straight on, one eyebrow lifting high on his forehead. “That all you have to say?”

Fuck. Beth would know how to get out of this. Any other day and she’d know just the right thing, and he wasn’t good at this, talking, getting out of a situation that wanted words instead of action as the solution to the problem. What would Beth say? What would Rick say, or Hershel? Daryl dredged the recesses of his brain for the right combination of letters but the net came up empty, and he gaped at the man in front of him like a catfish on mute.

The man waited another moment before bobbing his head slowly, lips pursed as though in thought. “The way I see it, it’s like this,” he said, dropping the thoughtful look to once again meet Daryl’s eyes with that hard stare that had Daryl fighting not to look away. “I know you aren’t stupid, either one of you. I’d appreciate it if you’d show me the same courtesy.

As he spoke, the man’s voice remained even, each word spoken slowly, carefully, as though the guy was, in fact, speaking to somebody of lower intelligence. The hot shard of anger in Daryl’s gut was overshadowed, though, by the way the voice made the back of his neck prickle like mad. Beneath the calm exterior of this man speaking with a gentleman’s voice, was a guy Daryl didn’t wanna be messing with.

“So tell me,” he said, brushing the gun’s magazine with his thumb. “What part of hopping my fence, touching my property, and threatening to shoot me in my home, was the mistake?”

That was what it came down to. Wasn’t the trespass so much as the threat the guy took issue with and Daryl couldn’t blame him. No matter that it now put them on opposite sides of something Beth didn’t intend for them start. Looking at it from this other man’s side of the fence—some stranger holding a weapon to his face, in his backyard. His home. Wasn’t no tank, no army of gathered soldiers mislead into fighting someone else’s battle, but a threat was a threat. A crossbow was every bit as deadly, given the chance.

Daryl opened his mouth, hoping maybe the right words would just sort of fall out. He couldn’t counter the guy’s point because he did have one. Him and Beth were in the wrong here, no arguing that, no changing what happened no matter how sorry he was that it went down like this.

Huh. Maybe it wasn’t so complicated after all.

“We fucked up,” Daryl said, trying, for now, to put aside how hard Beth was shaking as she clung to his back. “We’re sorry. Me and her, we don’t want no trouble.”

The leader of the group took this all in with that same hard expression which never wavered. Once Daryl finished speaking, he cocked his head slightly, again as though he were looking at Beth except his gaze never strayed from Daryl’s face.

“So you say.”

“You let us leave and we’re gone,” Daryl said, spreading his hands even wider apart, like that was gonna show that he meant it. “Ain’t gonna bother y’all again.”

“You expect me to believe that?”

Daryl tried to hold in the grunt of frustration, of fear, for what was going, in front of him and in Beth’s head. He had no reason to expect this guy to believe anything he said. Hell, Daryl wouldn’t believe himself, were their positions reversed. From behind him, Beth let out a little noise. Muffled into his leather but loud enough to carry to the men’s ears, and this time the leader’s gaze did stray.

A flash, again, of something other than the tough defender in the other man’s dark eyes. Daryl was running out of options and he hated doing this. Hated throwing his and Beth’s business out there for anyone else to see—but he had no choice.

“Just let me get her out of here,” he said, swallowing hard as Beth whimpered again, clearly fighting just to stay upright in the aftermath of the waking nightmare which landed them here. “She—you ain’t stupid, man. You saw.

Seconds passed, the beating of his heart like the ticking of a clock as he stared back at this leader of men who was only trying to protect his home. His family. That’s all Daryl wanted, too. If this guy could see that, maybe. Maybe they’d make it out of this alive.

Felt like hours before the leader hummed, long and low from deep in his throat. Daryl’s pulse whooshed in his ears and he watched as the other man lifted his hand in signal. Beth shuddered against his back and Daryl’s gut lurched. They were gonna die and he couldn’t even turn around to hold her.

But the rifleman lowered his weapon, and the three men in the back slid their hands down to cross at the wrists over their belt buckles. The leader leveled Daryl with that same hard stare and tipped his chin toward the fence.

“Go,” he said, with an abrupt nod. “And remember that I’m not in the business of giving second chances.”

One chance was enough, though, and Daryl returned the nod before turning around, every instinct screaming at him not to put his back to them but he had no choice here, either. Go. Go now, or else they weren’t gonna go at all. He didn’t even look at Beth as he threw his arm around her waist and rushed her to the fence, but despite the almost convulsive shaking she moved on her own, those long legs of hers keeping up with his strides.

Over the fence. Into the woods. Running, heedless of the brush and the branches snapping him in the face. Go.

The crack of the rifle shooting off a round in the air rang out behind them.

Go, it said, and don’t come back.

*~*

We gotta go, Beth.

They hadn’t run like this since the prison. Since the walkers that wouldn’t stop coming in the chaotic aftermath of the destruction of their home. The scattering of their family. Time sped by in a blur of green, the sting of branches, the crunching of the ground beneath their feet. Couldn’t run and keep quiet, couldn’t have both. Daryl didn’t notice the burn anymore. Barely felt his legs beyond knowing they were there beneath him, two automated limbs propelling him on. The fire in his lungs smoldered away in the background but all Daryl cared about was Beth, and getting her far, far away from that farm and those men—both the ones in the barnyard and the one in her head.

Beth stumbled, the toe of her boot catching on a leaf-covered root. She fell forward, landing hard and sliding in the muck. Daryl skidded to a stop and reached for her, getting his hands under her arms to pull her up—but she slumped down, not unconscious but dead weight just the same.

“Beth,” he said, pulling more. “Beth. Come on. We gotta go.”

He’d have carried her. A serious piggyback. Over his shoulder. To a goddamn white trash brunch. Whatever he fucking needed to do, if it came to that—but it didn’t. Her eyes locked on his and he swore he could see them clearing. The clouds shattered and something surged there in the blue beneath, and Beth grit her teeth and got to her feet and she ran. The little blonde blur at his side, strength and hope and light despite the dark cloud swirling just above her head.
They ran. Ran until the tiny shard of daylight faded into a deep blue twilight. Ran until they couldn’t run no more and fell down, exhausted, not in a sunlit field this time but in the mud and shadows beneath a cluster of tall trees. There was water—half a bottle each, stale and warm and barely enough to soothe his dry throat. After that, nothing for a few stolen minutes but ragged breathing and the growing awareness, like the tide washing in, of every single ache in his body. Which meant it was time to go, before they couldn’t go at all.

The blue deepened to black, but stars lit up the cloudless sky and the moon rose, full or nearly so, arcing high until its light cut through the trees, shining down like bright silver blades and scattering a field of glitter on the forest floor around them. Just like another night, in another forest. Another moon, full or nearly so, the clearest mark of the passage of time they had these days. Another month, gone. A month which carried the weight of years and he felt every one of them with each step he took.

With barely a sound, and without any words at all, they picked their way through the trees, each careful footstep connecting the dots from one patch of moonlight to the next. They walked until the black faded back to blue, until the sun rose again, and kept on going.

His head ached. Eyes burned. Legs moved like two gnarled tree trunks, thick and heavy, beyond his control. A fist twisted in his gut whenever he looked at Beth, at her wide eyes rimmed inside with red, dark circles below on her pale, blank face as she trudged along beside him.  Beneath the fist, hunger gnawed at his stomach but he ignored its bite. They had the venison. Some shit in cans. They’d probably gone far enough by now to stop and rest but that twisting fist urged him on. Just a little further, put a little more distance between them and the farm. They pushed on. Heading east, for now, avoiding the town, the territory run by those men. Cutting down on the chances of a second confrontation that’d probably see the both of them dead.

Time moved strangely. He saw its passage in the journey of the sun but he didn’t feel the hours. Just kept walking until he took one last step and could not take another. Was as good a place to stop, as any, on the bank of a small stream still swollen from the recent rain. Not much more than a shallow ditch, winding haphazardly amongst the trees, raging faster than he imagined it normally might. A bit of a clearing stretched out on both sides of it, the trees set back a ways from the soft edges of the bank. The sun beat down from directly above them, and he felt the heat of it now on his face and neck. In the sweat beading on his forehead and slicking his skin beneath the layers of clothing. As warm as the previous days were cold, enough that the leaves were nearly dry when his knees gave out and he collapsed down on them.

Sometime later, Daryl blinked his eyes open, lying on his back now on the cool ground, staring up at a bright, blurred field of blue edged with colourful, gently swaying leaves. A soft, echoing sort of hum filled his ears, and he focused on that, on the almost distant sound of it even though he was pretty sure it was coming from inside his head. Sunk into it, for a while, until the snapping of twigs jolted him awake in time to turn his head and watch as Beth buried her knife into the skull of the lone walker that had stumbled upon them.

Daryl’s first attempt to get up had every joint and muscle in his body groaning in protest, and he let out one of his own into the air, while across the clearing Beth shoved the corpse off her blade and let it fall to the ground. Without looking at him, though she had to have heard him, Beth dropped down to sit at the edge of the creek facing away from him, the bloody knife still clutched in her hand. With another groan of protest, Daryl pushed himself up on his hands and cast a look around the little clearing, noting the string of alarms rigged up around the space, and the little fire pit standing ready to light over by the largest of the trees, beneath which their canvas lay out, waiting.

A few pebbles of guilt settled in his stomach, for checking out before seeing to their safety, but after all that happened yesterday, the fact that Beth had taken care of it felt like it mattered a whole lot more.

Even still, she wasn’t at all her usual self yet, despite doing what needed doing and watching over his pathetic ass while she was at it. She sat there by the edge of the creek, staring out ahead like he wasn’t even there—or maybe, like she wasn’t here with him. When he slid into place beside her all she did was dig the toes of her boots deeper into the soft, dark earth and kept staring blankly out ahead of her. Even her eyes looked dull. Cloudy grey instead of their normal blue, despite the brightness of the afternoon.

Daryl drew his knees up and draped his arms across them, and just sat with her for a minute, only vaguely aware of the scrape of his teeth on the inside of his lip, the little bite of pain from that old scar he’d opened up yesterday. He needed to say something, get her talking or at least looking at him, something, but he didn’t know the right words.

It hadn’t worked, back at the barnyard, just opening his mouth and hoping something might fall out, so of course he tried it again. Clearing his throat a bit, cause it was dry as fuck in there, he parted his lips and the words did come, lackluster maybe and probably not what he should’ve said, but words all the same.

“Should clean that.”

Beth dug the tip of her still-bloody blade into the dirt between them, twisting it back and forth, rising up little ridges of dark, damp earth around the deepening hole. But she didn’t answer him, didn’t even look at what she was doing.

“Hey.” Daryl leaned in just enough for his shoulder to touch hers. “Beth.”

Beth’s throat bobbed as she swallowed hard, and she pulled her body away from him, but not before he felt the way she shivered.

“Beth—”

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” she said, in a quiet voice every bit as flat as her expression, which nonetheless cut into him like her blade burrowing down into the dirt.

“You don’t—”

Beth lifted the blade from the ground and stabbed it back down into the dirt with a soft shtick. “Then stop askin’ me to.”

Daryl flexed his thumbs, stretched them back out, fighting the urge to bring one of them to his mouth to chew on it. Worked instead at that same spot inside his lip until a hint of copper bloomed on his tongue. She wasn’t making this easy, but he didn’t blame her. Couldn’t blame her, knowing the reasons—but he couldn’t give up on her, either.

“Beth,” he said again, trying to stay calm. Trying to be what she needed even if he had no idea what that was.

What, Daryl?” She turned to him, finally, a spark flaring in her bloodshot eyes.

That was something. Something more than the nothing she’d shown so far. While he tried to think of what to say to her, Beth wrenched her knife from the ground and threw it down into the leaves on the other side of her.

“Just say it,” she said, her jaw clenched tight around the words, eyes shining now where they’d been dry before. “Stop bein’ nice and tell me how bad I screwed up.”

Oh, sweetheart. No. No.

“Beth—”

She lunged at him, in a way, launching her body forward until she was pushed right up against his knees, her face inches from his. “Say it.”

Her voice was all hard edges between deep, rapid breaths. She wanted him to get mad at her. Yell in her face, tear her down, confirm what she thought she knew. The bullshit her brain was telling her was true.

“Yeah, all right, you fucked up,” he said, taking the bait. Letting her have what she wanted even if it was only for a moment.

She had, there weren’t no denying that—but that wasn’t all on her. They both fucked up; Beth by charging into that barnyard without reading the signs, and him for not seeing the potential for it until it was too late. But the rest of it, no. He couldn’t—wouldn’t—lay blame for that on Beth’s shoulders.

Daryl lifted his hand to brush a strand of hair off her forehead. “Ain’t that simple and you know it.”

Beth wrenched her body away, but not before Daryl caught a glimpse of her shaking lip and the tears welling up in her already bloodshot eyes. She wrapped her arms around her knees and drew them to her chest, pushed her face down into them while her fingers pulled violently at the frayed edges of a new tear in her jeans.

Daryl didn’t need to take no damn psychology class to understand what happened to her in the barnyard, or why. He’d fucking lived it. Her demons weren’t his, but the recipe was the same. Many years stretched between now and the last time something jarred the lid right off that box in his head and voices grew loud enough to drag him back. But it wasn’t something a man just forgot, even though he tried his best to. A prickle of cold swept down his neck, just thinking about it now, settling heavy in his gut, and he clenched his hands into fists to keep them from shaking, fought to ignore how loud his pulse thudded in his ears with what he was about to say.

“I know a flashback when I see one, Beth.”

She stopped pulling at the tear, and drew her arms tighter around her legs. He was taking a chance, touching her when she was upset, when she was hurting in a way she never had before, but this was still Beth. Still him and Beth, and he didn’t think that had changed. Didn’t think it could, not like this. She went rigid for a split second when he set his hand down at her lower back, but the stiffness melted out of her faster than it set in, and she sucked in a big, shuddering breath and leaned into his touch.

What Beth was dealing with wasn’t—it was different, from what he knew—but that didn’t mean it wasn’t just as real. No happy childhood could cancel out what she was going through right now. Hershel Greene’s love for his youngest daughter couldn’t lessen the blow of having to do what she did, of the life—no matter how vile—she had to take, just to keep her own.

Daryl didn’t know if getting her talking was a good thing, if there was a way to do this or a way to not. But talking about it couldn’t be any worse than burying it. Than stuffing it own into her own box in her head, not gone, just lying in wait for the right moment to slither out and grab her by the ankles when she wasn’t looking.

He had to try. He couldn’t just sit back and let this mess her up for good.

By the time his thumb grazed along the skin of her spine, Beth was shaking and sobbing softly into her knees. Daryl let out a deep breath and tried to keep his voice low and calm when he spoke to her. “You weren’t in that barnyard at all, were you?”

A little whimper floated out of her, and Beth shook her head, face still buried in the peaks of her knees. “It was so real.” Even muffled in denim, her voice was small and tremulous. “H-he was right there.

Daryl kept up the motions of his thumb, a slow up and down along her spine while Beth kept speaking.

“It was happenin’ all over again.” She sniffled hard, and turned her head, peeking one teary eye out at him from beneath a tumble of blonde hair. “It was, and then you—you woke me up, a-and...”

Without finishing—probably without being able to, Beth pushed her face back into her knees, shoulders shaking. She let out one high pitched little whine but fell silent, sobbing so hard she wasn’t even making a sound.

Oh, girl. Woman was fucking terrified. Of course she was, with how her mind had tricked her and what she almost did because of it—something she’d never have done on her own. That was the part she always stressed, whenever she brought up what happened that night. How Gorman left her with no other choice, and she was right. He’d taken that from her. He did that to her, just as tangibly as if he’d done something physically. Trauma was trauma, that’s what that documentary thing said. What caused it didn’t matter, just that it had and it was tearing Beth apart. That needed to stop—needed to stop fucking yesterday.
Daryl pressed his thumb a little harder against her spine, already reaching for her with his other hand when she twisted around.

“Daryl...”

“C’mere.”

She fell against him when he gathered her up, pulled her into his arms like she was made of straw. Boneless, curling into the smallest little ball of Beth he’d ever seen, trembling so hard he felt it in his marrow. Heard it, in the chatter of her teeth, in the shaky whimpers she couldn’t hold back even though she tried to bury them by pushing her face into his chest. He whispered to her, her name, the things he always said after she had a nightmare. Drew those little circles on her back right over her skin, cradled her head to his chest and slid his thumb through the tears coating her cheek. Probably wasn’t what she needed but Daryl didn’t know what else to do except this. Except hold her and touch her for as long as she wanted and speak enough words to maybe drive away whatever other voices might be lurking in her head.

It took a long while for her shaking to settle and her tears to dry. Enough time that the sun dipped low behind the trees, leaving the clearing cool and shaded in the late autumn afternoon. He moved them back beneath the trees, to light a fire, gather their shit together and make sure he and Beth had water and some smoked venison to take the edge off their thirst and the hunger gnawing at their bellies. She watched him, knees drawn up to her chest, chin resting on top, chewing the hard-smoked meat slowly while tracking him with her eyes around the clearing as he got everything done. When he finally joined her beneath the tree, Beth leaned back into his chest before he even got fully settled behind her, turning her head so her face tucked up under his chin, her breath tickling his neck with every exhale.

Daryl pulled her close, one arm around her middle and the other cradling her head to his shoulder. Beth sighed deeply and set her hand on top of his where it rested at her waist, her delicate fingers only partially covering his thick ones. For a long time, she stayed quiet, but she stayed there with him instead of falling back inside her head, and she nosed at his neck whenever he brushed his fingers across her cheek. Her thumb glided back and forth over his, and just like they had that night at the ledge, Daryl moved his thumb over hers, too. Made his skin tingle, all the way up to his shoulders, and the way Beth sighed into his neck, he thought maybe it was the same for her, too.

“Daryl?”

“Mmm?” he said, still touching her face, light passes tracing along the lines of her jaw, her nose, her cheekbone.

“Those—those men,” she said, voice quiet and wavering. “They weren’t bad people, were they.”

It wasn’t a question, not with the way she said it, and the statement sat uneasy in Daryl’s chest. He wasn’t sure what she wanted to hear. If she wanted him to lie to her and tell her that they were, that it wasn’t her drawing her crossbow on them that escalated the rest of the encounter, but rather their own violent intentions. Because they weren’t bad men, least not as far as Daryl could see. Tough, ‘cause they had to be. Survivors, trying to make it just like everyone else. But they weren’t cruel. Weren’t the sort of people to jump straight into violence without due cause. Simply getting the chance to talk Beth down proved that well enough, and being allowed to leave without a pair of bullets in their backs.

“No.” No matter what she wished the answer was, she deserved to hear the truth. “Don’t think they were.”

He felt the slide of her head against his shoulder, nodding that she heard him. That she understood. “Why did—” She took in a deep breath, and held it in a moment before going on. “What happened—to me—was that because of the nightmares? Or because of Gorman?”

Daryl hummed at her, lowly. He weren’t no expert in this. For a long time he hadn’t known there were words for this, didn’t even know it was a thing that happened to other people, until he saw it on some shitty cable documentary. Daryl swallowed down the queasiness rising in his belly, remembering the night he watched it, sitting in the dark in some filthy motel room. Remembered, too, other times, other dark rooms, waking up suffocating in piles of piss-covered blankets or cowering in corners he never remembered hiding in. Merle’s eyes and that weird glimmer in them, silent, watching. Less of a dick for a while but he never said. Nobody ever said. Nobody spoke. Nobody gave him the words until he gave them to himself and he still didn’t trust it no matter that he should.
Grow a fuckin’ pair, Darylina. The sweet baby brother, barely man enough as it was, after some fucking heart-to-heart chat like the weak-ass pussy they always knew him for. Not even man enough to stand up to his own soft head, and—no. No.

Shaking his head to shake Merle off, to shake all of it off, Daryl curled his fingers into Beth’s ponytail, and leaned over to press his cheek to her forehead.
“Both,” he told her, thinking on what he remembered, and how he could best put that into words for her. “Think the nightmare’s a big part of it, the way that last one was gettin’ to you.”

As if remembering herself, Beth shook with a sudden tremor. “I guess was slippin’ back there all day, in little bits, ‘til you started tellin’ stories.”

The beat of warmth, knowing his stories actually helped, couldn’t quite overcome the sourness squirming inside. “And when the men came at you...”

She nodded again, a subtle rustle of hair against leather. “That’s what made me—made me flashback.”

Daryl didn’t miss the wobble in her voice, and sure enough, when he brushed his thumb over her cheek, he met a fresh trickle of tears. “Ain’t your fault, Beth.”

A low whine escaped past her lips, and Beth pushed her face right into his neck until he could feel his own pulse beating against her lips. “I just—I just hate feelin’ helpless.

Her words brought him back to that morning in the cabin, the day she found her crossbow. The day she asked him to show her how to survive in a world that was always gonna try to stop her.

I hate feelin’ so helpless.

I want you to teach me how not to be.

Can you teach me to fight back?

This world wasn’t made for people like Beth, but she never accepted that as her reality. She made it, made herself into a survivor along the way, and she did it without letting it take away who she was, deep down. A good woman, the best he knew. Someone who saw the beauty of the stars, who remembered that walkers were people and wouldn’t let him forget, who somehow looked at him and saw a man worthy of her heart. Daryl couldn’t shut off the part of himself that worried about her, but he knew Beth could fight to keep surviving. Beth would, and he would fight at her side ‘til he couldn’t fight no more.

But he didn’t know how to help her fight this.

What he wanted was to just fix it. Make it stop, make it like none of it ever happened. Take all of the hurt away from her ‘til her heart felt light again. But he couldn’t, and he knew it, and the knowledge of it only made that fist squeeze tighter. “Wish I could climb inside your head and cut that bastard outta there.”

She didn’t laugh. Daryl wasn’t sure she even could, right now. But his words made her huff a little into his neck. “I wish you could, too.”

Daryl wasn’t sure what else to say, so he said nothing, just held onto her and let his gaze roam slowly around the clearing. Beth’s breath washed hot over his neck, and he would enjoy the way it buzzed along his nerves if he wasn’t well aware of how much she was hurting.

“How do I stop it?” she asked, after a long while of just breathing. “How do I make sure it doesn’t happen again?”

He wished he had an answer for her. Some sort of wisdom he possessed that, once bestowed upon her, would give her what she needed to do just that. Make it stop. But all he had was a great big nothing. “I dunno, Beth.”

He felt her nodding into his neck, but she said nothing else. There weren’t any words, so he just held her. Tried to ward off the worst of her trembling with the warmth of his body, though it sneaked through anyway. So many thoughts whirled through his head, some of them too dangerous to focus on for long, but he was too exhausted, too brain dead to settle on any one of them and maybe that was a blessing in disguise. And Beth, shit, she hadn’t slept at all, now that he thought about it.

Daryl tilted his head until he could just barely brush her cheek with his lips. “You should sleep.”

Beth’s breath fluttered out through her nose, warm and shaky against his skin. “I don’t think I can.”

“I got you,” he said, pulling back to cup her cheek in his palm, stroking slowly with his thumb, how she liked. “Sleep.”

She didn’t answer for a while, fingertips drawing slow circles on his thigh and the back of his hand. When she did speak, she used the softest of voices to whisper his name. “Daryl?”

“Mmm?”

“Can you—your hand—”

He was used to touching her, by now. Used to the fact that she welcomed it. Wanted it. That it brought her comfort and made her feel good when he did. But this was the first time she had asked outright, and something about that made him shudder as he slipped the hand from her waist beneath her shirts to stretch out, big and warm on her too-cool skin. Beth took a deep breath in and it sighed softly on the way out, and she pushed her face even deeper into his neck. He felt the quiver rippling beneath her skin as he brushed his fingertips over her in little circles, heard the sound she made in the back of her throat that seemed reserved for this particular kind of touch.

Beth’s shaking eventually settled again, and she did fall asleep after a while, snoring quietly in his arms. The only thing that kept him from drifting off, too, was the fear that she would have another nightmare and that he wouldn’t be able to wake her in time.

To say he didn’t want this for her was an understatement. Bad as it was, watching it happen, seeing it dragging on her, tearing her down bit by bit, it couldn’t compare to how she was feeling inside. The helplessness—that he understood. Knowing your own head was against you, screaming at you ‘cause it was your own damn fault. You got what you deserved. ‘Cause you were weak, ‘cause you weren’t worth the failed effort at trying to make a man out of you, and none of it was nobody’s doing but yours.

Daryl swallowed hard, riding out a wave of nausea that hit heavy and fast but faded just as quick. He tightened his hold on Beth a bit, hoping not to wake her. This wasn’t Beth’s doing, any more than—Fuck. He swallowed again, tasting bile this time, and slammed his eyes shut, breathing deep to keep the contents of his stomach where they oughtta be.

Beth. Beth. This was just about Beth and it wasn’t her fault, what was done to her. That was what he had to make sure she knew. Whatever it took.

Except knowing that, and feeling it, weren’t the same thing at all.

*~*

Because you know that life ain’t over yet
I'm here for you so don’t forget
You can count on me
‘Cause I will carry you ‘til you carry on


Also - yes, Daryl is being deliberately vague here about what he thinks is going on with Beth. Some of that is uncertainty in his own knowledge, some of that is self-preservation.


To be continued in chapter 29 >>

Comments

( 3 have spoken — take the speaking stick )
slaymesoftly
Nov. 29th, 2015 06:54 pm (UTC)
I was terrified for them because of the external threat - that turned out to be not so bad. Loved the way Darryl was able to get them out of it, in spite of being sure he couldn't. Now I'm terrified of the emotional/mental damage they are both carrying around... Does Darryl have enough sketchy knowledge of what that inner voice can do, or be caused by, to give her some information? Some explanation for the nightmares that will help her find the determination to overcome them?

My thought all along has been that Beth needs to get over worrying about having killed that guy, (I wouldn't have been worried about it at all - violent creature than I am) so I was happy to see this explanation - that Darryl was able to help her to understand it was a flashback. Now, if he can get her to understand that the guy she shot put her into that position - where she had no choice - without making her feel like a victim. She is a survivor, doing what she has to do to continue to survive.

As always, I'm loving this and hoping for the best for them. (Is it wrong that I kind of want them to be back in the cabin - all safe and happy? LOL)
abelina
Nov. 29th, 2015 07:09 pm (UTC)
I just - well really, I wanted there to be this low point/rock bottom event for Beth that acts as a catalyst for her to find a way to start overcoming the effects of this trauma, without actually putting them in real danger.

You haven't seen the show, but one of the themes is that Beth still believes in people, even though she knows there are bad people, she believes that there are still those who can be good, and it's her own goodness that convinces Daryl to believe in that, too, and where this whole fic opens is where he tries to tell her that. So what I'm showing here, with these men, is an example of people who are, essentially, good (and quite like the larger group Daryl and Beth come from). They don't want to have to kill Beth and Daryl but at the same time, they have to be wary of strangers. But they let them go, because they're ultimately good people -- and that's an important thing for Beth to see, when her belief in that has been challenged.

Yeah, Daryl knows enough about this to offer some explanations and to help her understand, though Beth is starting to get there on her own -- and this event itself will be her determination, though Daryl of course will help her, but she's going to find her determination within herself.

Yeah, she understands that she had to, and I think what's the worst for her is how she had her choice taken from her, as you said, Gorman put her into that position. That's the root of it.

OMG, so next chapter, Daryl is basically thinking exactly that -- he wishes they had never left the cabin, and you'll see, but yeah. The cabin actually ended up being more significant than I ever intended it to be, but I kind of like that. It's like another character, almost.

I'm really so thrilled that you're reading this. Still. 28 chapters in. But thank you so much for coming along for this ride.
slaymesoftly
Nov. 29th, 2015 07:20 pm (UTC)
*nods* That Beth believes in the good in people has been well-depicted right along. I'm just not as sure of that as she is.... :) But I love what she and Darryl are doing for each other - Beth teaching him about goodness, and Darryl helping her to see it's okay to fight back when you need to. Yeah, intentional or not, the cabin was a pretty important place for them. Lots of character development that took place there...

well really, I wanted there to be this low point/rock bottom event for Beth that acts as a catalyst for her to find a way to start overcoming the effects of this trauma, without actually putting them in real danger. Which it did, perfectly! I can see it going in that direction now.

Edited at 2015-11-29 07:21 pm (UTC)
( 3 have spoken — take the speaking stick )

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