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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.
Warnings: Some people saying not nice things to each other. Crude/offensive language. 
Rating: M
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 Hercyles by Sara Bareilles.

All Chapters Here
Fall Right In
Chapter 12 – I’m on the Hunt for Who I’ve Not yet Become


*~*

Beth spared only a minute to lean against the back door before she sprung into action. The voices had come from downstream, which meant they would approach the cabin from the front. With the stairs and porch torn down, the front door was more or less inaccessible. An escape route, but not an entrance, an added bonus to using that wood to build the fence. She checked that the bar was set—it was—before moving to the window, peeking carefully past the blanket and seeing nobody yet.

If she was lucky, they would see the lack of porch and move on—but she didn’t want to trust luck on that one. She wouldn’t have stopped looking. She’d have followed the path beneath the birches, between the cabin and the ledge, and explored around back. There was no reason to expect these people wouldn’t do the same. Beyond that, though, Beth couldn’t predict their actions. Would they give up when they found the door barred? She and Daryl were careful about not leaving too many overt signs of their existence outside, but still, an observant eye would know someone lived here. Would figure out pretty quick that someone had barred herself inside.

How persistent would they be about wanting her to let them in?

Beth took a couple of steadying breaths and tried to think. What did she need? Get used to keepin’ it cocked and loaded. She checked her crossbow and gathered up all the bolts she had, filling her quiver, placing a few others on the counter by the back door, just in case. This was her cabin, hers and Daryl’s, and the need to protect it flared hot in her chest.

She wasn’t going to run, if she could help it. But she should make sure she had what she needed if it came to that, shouldn’t she? Which meant supplies. Beth stuffed the rest of her bolts and as much of what she had sorted to take as she could carry in her little pack, including some food. It was heavier that she liked, but manageable, even with her rabbit carcass tied on. Ready, just in case. She set the bag down and checked her gun, though she knew it was loaded, and as she looked up her eyes caught the box of buckshot shells sitting on the shelf near the front door. Good—more options. Beth grabbed the shells and loaded both shotguns hanging on the front wall, leaned one up behind the front door and carried one over to prop near the stove by the back.

She paused to breathe and look around the cabin. Okay, Beth. What next?

Her eyes landed on the back door, secured for now with the bar across it, but unlike the front, the set of stairs led right up to it. The bar wouldn’t break, but if for some reason she had to open the door, even a little, having something besides her own small arms to keep out unwanted intruders would be a good idea. Of all the wooden chests lined up beneath the counter, the one loaded with tools was by far the heaviest. Using the pry bar, Beth lifted one edge high enough to stuff a square of canvas beneath it, which gave her just enough glide to push it over to the back door. Wedged in against the stove and angled in toward the door, it actually made a pretty adequate door stop. She could move it back by hand, but the inward swing of the door would only force it into the unyielding stove.

Beth went over to check out the window again, and there, standing on the opposite bank, stood two people. A short, roundish man and a tall, narrow-bodied woman, both of them draped in layers of clothing with random things tied on, hands making visors on their foreheads as they surveyed the structure.

They couldn’t see her, but Beth kept her motions fluid as she ducked out from the blanket and set it back in place. She had a few minutes while they figured out how to cross the creek. The strange sort of calm that settled over her while she set up the cabin and gathered supplies slipped away, and the thundering beat of her heart kicked up, the itchy rush of adrenaline surged through her arms and legs.

There weren’t supposed to be people.

But there were, and like it or not she had to deal with them, even though her body couldn’t decide whether to run away or dive into the nearest wooden chest to hide. Except neither was an option, and Beth closed her eyes and forced herself to take slow, deep breaths, shoved the grains of panic back down, willed her body to calm her trembling knees and shaking fingers.

You have to handle this, Beth. So handle it.

She kept breathing, standing there in the centre of the cabin, eyes closed, ears open, unable to quell the urge to do something even though she managed to stay mostly still. The walls were thick but Beth could hear the rush of the creek, the clatter of crows cawing back and forth in the distance. Nothing much else for a long time except the sound of her own breathing, and Beth wondered if maybe she hadn’t gotten lucky after all—maybe they decided the cabin wasn’t worth attempting the crossing.

But no. The moment she finished thinking it, her ears picked up the clink of shifting rocks along the bank, then the din of voices not quite loud enough to hear properly. They probably only doubled back to cross where she and Daryl had, where the bank widened out and the water got shallow. The voices grew louder, no attempt at all made to hide their approach. Beth wasn’t sure what to think about that, since it went against every instinct she had. Choosing the noisy beach instead of sneaking in through the woods, continuing to talk without bothering to lower their voices—without bothering to listen. Being noisy and not paying attention got people killed, so were these two just lucky it hadn’t happened yet, or certain they could handle whatever might be waiting for them?

Beth moved to the front door, keeping her footsteps silent, and pressed her ear to the wood to listen. Grunts and curses floated back to her as the two presumably climbed the ledge from up the bank below into the copse of trees at the edge of the front yard, the male voice groaning as though he disapproved of the effort it took.

A branch snapped, a deliberate sound like they broke it right off one of the trees. “Huh. Someone ripped the stairs down.”

“No shit, Pam.” The man sounded unimpressed with the observation, and also a little out of breath.

Footsteps on grass weren’t inherently noisy, but these two shuffled and rattled and made more noise than Beth thought possible for live humans, the racket moving closer as the bickering continued.

“I just said—”

“I heard you. You don’t always have to say the obvious. I fucking have eyes.”

“Yeah.” There was a snort of laughter from the woman. “That’s why you saw this place.”

A forced-sounding sigh followed from the man. “Didn’t say you didn’t have eyes. Jesus fucking Christ, woman. Get off my back.”

“Don’t be such an ass, Jake.”

They were right outside the door now. Beth imagined them, at eye level with the lower third of the sturdy wooden barrier, looking up, wondering if it would open if they could somehow reach the handle. A dull patting noise thudded through the wood, like tentative prodding to see if it would budge.

The patting got a little louder. “Think anyone’s inside?”

“Well they’re not gonna let us in this door if they are,” said the woman—Pam, he had called her.

And the man called Jake grumbled and something—his fist, probably—thumped against the door. “Again with the obvious! God!”

The voices, still bickering, moved away as the pair walked along the front wall, heading toward the ledge above the creek. Beth followed, keeping time with their steps as best she could without seeing them. They were sure noisy enough though, good Lord.  When they rounded the corner of the house, whichever of them had the branch in their hands let it bounce along the cabin’s skirting, and Pam offered a running commentary on the prettiness of the row of river birches lining the ledge and overhanging their path while Jake muttered about stupid fucking trees.

“Hey, a window,” said Jake.

The rumble along the cabin stopped, followed by the tap tap tap of branches on glass, and Beth was glad for the window's height an for the un-climbable birches. They already couldn't see in, with the angle and the blanket hanging over, but they couldn't get in, either.

“Now who’s being obvious? Hypocritical asshole,” said Pam, with a snort.

“Gimme that.” A grunt of annoyance sounded from Jake, and the tapping at the window stopped. “You want them to know we’re coming, or what?”

Too late, Beth thought, with a shake of her head as she followed them on toward the back of the cabin. She could hardly believe the ridiculous behaviour of these two, but at the same time she knew things weren’t always what they seemed. The funeral home hadn’t been, nor the men waiting there in police uniforms who once swore an oath to protect people like her. Maybe this was all just an act, too, no matter how unlikely.

They didn’t approach the door right away when they reached the back yard. Beth listened, ear to the wood again, at the bark of their voices while they explored, shouting back and forth at each other across the yard to comment on the path down to the creek—the steepness of it, but not the footprints found there—the stack of firewood lined up in the woodshed, but not the fresh woodchips scattered around, and the overgrown garden, but not the turned dirt where she and Daryl had pulled up the rest of the potatoes. They even discussed the fence without making note of the walker blood staining parts of it. The only decent observation they made at all was taking note of the five corpses lying down the bank, but—

“They were washed down the creek,” said Jake, with a note of authority to his voice, as though the boltholes in their foreheads weren’t completely visible. As though walkers could drown.

“Doesn’t look like anyone’s around, does it?” said Pam.

Were they playing games? Or just that blind? Beth tried to think back, to remember the sorts of things she might have noticed before noticing things became the best way to stay alive. She was sure she would have seen at least some of it, even before Daryl started helping her learn how to really look. But these two?

Uncertainty tugged at her mind. On the one hand, maybe they were just a pair of bumbling idiots who meant no harm and somehow managed to survive this long without being eaten, and wouldn’t it be unkind of her not to at least offer them some of the supplies she and Daryl weren’t using?

On the other hand, though—and this is where the uncertainty vanished beneath a dark, prickly cloak—it was two against one. These weren’t people she knew, and she couldn’t trust them, no matter how hapless they appeared. Beth sucked in a deep breath and glanced down at her boots. No, this wasn’t the place for kindness or blind faith. This wasn’t the place for sharing. Beth had promised no unnecessary risks and that was a promise she wasn’t going to break just because she thought she ought to have a kind heart. They would have to break down the door before she would let them inside, and even then, they’d have a crossbow, a handgun, her knife, and some buckshot to get through.

Her hands were shaking again, her breathing fast and shallow. Beth pulled her crossbow off her shoulder just to have something to hold onto, and the already familiar weight of it steadied her hands, reminded her to breathe.

The voices approached the door, still nitpicking each other with a vehemence that made Beth wonder why the two of them travelled together at all. They may not have had a choice, though. Thrown together by circumstance, maybe, as she and Daryl were, and just not able to make it work.

Outside, Pam’s tone held a note of warning. “You’re just gonna go in?”

“Said it yourself, doesn’t look like anyone’s around.” Where Pam sounded cautious, Jake’s tone held a note of nonchalance, as if walking blind and noisy into random cabins was something he did every day.  The door handle gave a gentle creak. “Why shouldn’t we?”

Jake turned the handle, releasing the catch, and the soft thud of something—Beth envisioned his shoulder—landing against the door followed. The bar held and the door didn’t budge.

Goddamnit.” A louder thud this time, followed by Pam’s laughter which wasn’t the least bit kind.

“Foiled by a locked door. Idiot.”

Jake grunted and rattled the handle. “Door’s not locked, you dumb bitch.  Look.”

“Fucking prick.” Pam climbed the steps with clunking footsteps. The handle rattled again and another thud vibrated through the wood. “Locked from inside, then.”

The silence which followed made Beth’s stomach clench. She heard nothing from outside, other than the rush of the creek and the distant rasp of a walker down at the bank. Even the crows had gone silent. Beth tightened her grip on her crossbow and raised it toward the door, though she knew they couldn’t get through.

Finally, a firm knock. Three quick raps of knuckles on the wood. “Hello? Anyone in there?”

Beth didn’t answer Pam’s question. Wasn’t going to answer. Let them think what they wanted, but she wouldn’t give herself away that easily.

A more pounding sort of knock came this time. “Hey! We know you’re there! Come on, open up!”

“I don’t think that’s gonna work,” said Pam, in a low voice clearly not meant for Beth to overhear.

“We don’t want any trouble, honest,” Jake said, ignoring Pam. He banged the door again. “Just looking for a place to stay the night.”

Well you can’t stay here.

“Jake.” Pam’s harsh whisper travelled easily through the door. “Leave it. They’ll have to come out eventually.”

After a few seconds, two sets of footsteps descended the stairs, and Beth lowered her crossbow, letting out the breath she was holding. This wasn’t over yet, and she cast a glance over toward the counter and her water supply. She had enough for now, as long as she rationed it. Had the rabbit and enough else to eat in here with her. She could wait, with any luck she could outwait them, and if Daryl returned in the meantime all the better.

When Daryl returned. Just because he was half a day late didn’t mean he wasn’t coming. This was Daryl, he had to be—

No. Beth swallowed hard and drove her teeth into her lip, shut her eyes and took as deep a breath in as she could. Put it away, Beth. This was not the time to let her emotions interfere with her head. The only part of Daryl’s absence that mattered right now was that she couldn’t count on his help dealing with these people. She needed to figure it out on her own.

I can take care of myself.

Time to prove it.

The voices started up again outside, a discussion of sorts interspersed with more of that tiresome bickering. Beth shouldered her crossbow and crossed the cabin to peek out the window, checking the light. How long would the two of them wait out there? It wasn’t getting dark yet, just increasingly grey as the clouds thickened overhead, but dusk wasn’t far off. Were they really going to just sit there all night if she didn’t come out? That was stupidity bordering on suicidal, but with just the sort of determination to be dangerous.

The back of her neck hadn’t stopped prickling and she couldn’t settle the squirm in her stomach, the tremor in her limbs, the feeling of cold fingers walking over her scalp. Because she might technically be safe in here, locked inside the cabin, but with the two people outside, sitting around waiting for her to let them in, Beth was also very much trapped.

Hours wore on and the two unwanted guests set up camp in the backyard, talking louder than was wise at anytime of the day but particularly at night, when sounds carried and lured the dead through the dark, unseen. Amidst the mutual exchange of verbal disrespect, a plan of sorts emerged between the woman Pam and the man Jake, a plan Beth couldn’t help overhearing—wait until whoever it was inside decided to come out, then force their way in. Which made sense, to a point. She was an unknown, an unseen inhabitant, an uncertain number, something their plans didn’t consider. Beth couldn’t quiet her suspicions that the noise and the lack of any sort of common sense were all an act meant to encourage her to lower her guard. Because, unless they truly were masters of misdirection, Pam and Jake had done nothing but show Beth their hand since the moment they arrived.

Now they had raided the woodshed and lit a fire, right there in the middle of the back yard. Beth watched the flickering glow it cast across the grass when she looked out the window, heard the crackle of flames, knew it lit up like a beacon and couldn’t do a thing about it. They would be lucky, so damn lucky not to bring down a bunch of walkers on them, considering how many had wandered by over the past few days.

Beth cooked her rabbit on the stove, refusing to let it spoil, but worried they would smell it and know for sure someone was inside. If they noticed, neither of them said anything. Or at least, nothing about the savoury scent of roasting meat. They said a lot of things, those two. Beth dug in to her supper, sitting on the chest by the door to eat, listening to the prattling and wondering what to do. What to believe. Whether to take these two at face value or assume the worst sort of trickery. When Beth closed her eyes, she could picture the woods littered with people, crouched and hiding, armed to the teeth and quietly waiting while Jake and Pam spun their irritating diversion, for Beth to open the door.

And where the hell was Daryl?

Stop.

Beth willed the thoughts out of her head, dragged her mind back to the din of voices outside, and dug her shaking fingers into her knees to keep them still.

It was late, Beth reckoned sometime past midnight, when the voices outside finally settled. They didn’t bank the fire and barely a glow could be seen from the window now. Just in time, too, as walkers now roamed along the bank, on the opposite shore by the sounds of it. Beth counted the splashes as each one reached the place where the wide, rocky bank vanished into nothing but deep water. Five, so far. Now six. In the distance, more groans, more shuffling.

By morning, Beth’s count reached thirty. Thirty walkers on the creek and none of them had seen the glow of the fire, or if they had, they’d been swept away by the water before they could reach the bank on this side. It was a wonder none wandered into the yard.

Stiffened from sitting through the night, Beth rose from the crate, pulling Daryl’s vest tight around her, and walked a slow circuit through the cabin, stretching her legs, testing her ankle. She should’ve been tired, probably was if she thought about it, but the spiky pulse of unease in her chest, the prickle dancing over her scalp and down her neck energized her, kept her mind awake, her body ready to move. She hadn’t slept and didn’t think she could’ve if she had tried, listening to the walkers and to the oblivious pair snoring on the grass outside.

Something was gonna happen today, of that she was certain.

What that something looked like remained a mystery.

Beth paced circles around the cabin, appeasing the surge of adrenaline by moving, while the overcast sky grew lighter. She hardly felt the pain in her ankle, faded now to a dull ache she put away as easily as she devoured the rest of last night’s rabbit. Walkers number thirty-one and thirty-two plunged into the creek outside, and very shortly thereafter, Beth’s houseguests decided to wake up.

A whack of fabric, followed by a muffled groan, then—

“Get your goddamn knee outta my back, dickhead.”

Good morning to you, too, Pam.

Beth moved toward the door to wait, bracing herself for the verbal onslaught which followed. Barbs tossed back and forth amidst complaints about the cold, hard ground and the selfishness of that guy in the cabin  for not sharing. Were they trying to annoy her into opening the door? That would actually make a lot of sense and depending on how long they kept this up, Beth thought it might just work.

If this was just gonna be an entire day of listening to them bicker—

Down at the creek, close enough to be on the near bank, the agitated groans of at least two walkers rose up above the chatter outside. Beth darted to the window to look, could just make out the tops of their heads below the ledge, the reach of their grasping fingers clawing at the wall of stone and dirt and exposed tree roots. What lay beyond that, though, held all of Beth’s breath hostage in her chest.

Walkers filled the creek, flailing and floating downstream, the noise of them drowned out by the rush of the water over the rocks. The few wandering the bank on the far side, and the two below, were the minority. How many had floated by uncounted through the night, and what the hell did that mean?

What was she gonna—

Pam screamed. Loud, hysterical shouting interspersed with the exact sort of high-pitched wail certain to draw every walker within a five mile radius. Jake shouted at her to stop, raising his voice to overtake hers until it was all just a wall of noise.

“God, just shut up, both of you,” Beth said aloud, swinging her crossbow off her shoulder.

Didn’t they see that the creek walkers couldn’t make it up the bank? But no, of course they didn’t. Either that or they were setting the final snare of this elaborate trap, and the minute she opened that door to shut them up, the troops rushed in and took the cabin, or her, or whatever the desired outcome was of all this.

Beth tucked her nose into Daryl’s vest, breathed him in, prayed she was doing the right thing. She pulled the tool chest back, pivoting it enough to allow an opening for her body to slip through. Her fingers shook as she gripped the iron bar and her pulse thundered in her ears, and she had to stop, stay still, just breathe.

Standing there, on the cusp of opening the door, Beth barely heard the clatter of the fence alarms over the cacophony, but she heard them. Heard them, heard the groans, heard the moment the arrival of the latest threat penetrated the bubble of Pam’s panic.

“Jake! Oh my god, they’re coming, Jake, do something! DO SOMETHING!”

The terror in Pam’s voice landed like a lead weight in Beth’s stomach. That wasn’t faked, Lord, that was real, continued to be real as the hungry growls grew nearer.

Beth unbarred the door and pulled it open, squeezing through onto the top step. Three walkers had made into the yard and two more were caught up in the fence planks trying their hardest to walk through them. Jake had something in his hands and was frantically beating on the closest two walkers, only half the blows landing even close to their heads, slowing their progress by shoving them back but only by a little. Pam cowered on the grass at the foot of the steps, gripping a broken tree branch with white knuckles, eyes screwed shut, screams pouring out of her open mouth as freely as the water below flowed over the rocks.

Beth raised her crossbow and shot the walker steadily making its way toward Jake and his friends. Cocked and reloaded and took out the first of the two tied up at the fence and then the other. They dropped and she shouldered her bow, pulled out her knife, and rushed down the stairs. The walkers had backed Jake up halfway across the yard. Beth pushed him out of the way, grabbed the first walker by the hair and thrust her knife through its skull before shoving its body into the one behind it. The second walker stumbled and Beth’s blade slid home with ease.

Jake stared wide-eyed as Beth pulled her knife free and let the walker fall, jumping back when it crumpled to the ground at his feet. “You—”

Before he could finish speaking, Beth sheathed her knife and drew her crossbow, aiming at Jake’s face. Whatever he was going to say caught in his throat and trickled out as a startled sort of gasp as he stood there gaping at her. Beth backed up, keeping Jake in her sights, until she reached the foot of the stairs and the still-screaming Pam, then climbed the steps backward while Jake watched and Pam screamed.

“Shut up, Pam.” Beth said, through gritted teeth, from the top of the steps. Her finger held steady on the trigger and she turned her eyes to Jake, still staring at her from the middle of the yard. “And stay right there, Jake, unless you want one of my bolts through your brain, too.”

She didn’t think she would, even if he had moved, but even Beth couldn’t tell from the tone of her voice, low and steady and completely foreign to her own ears. Something about it pierced through Pam’s hysteria, because the screams stopped, the abrupt silence of it almost ringing around the yard, and Jake just stood there, clutching the blunt-ended metal pipe half covered in walker filth. In her peripheral vision, Beth could see Pam, still crouched on the grass, craning her neck up to look at her.

The walkers at the creek still growled, and another stumbled toward the fence but got caught up in the boards. Beth left it, for now.

“They’re attracted by noise.” Again, the voice sliding out of her mouth wasn’t quite hers, but wasn’t quite not. “Screamin’. Shouting. The worst thing you can do is everythin’ you two have been doin’ and it needs to stop now. What the hell are you tryin’ to do, get yourselves killed?”

From below, Pam whimpered. Across the yard, Jake let the pipe drop and it dangled, still tied to his belt. “We just wanted to come inside...”

“This is my cabin,” Beth said, the force of the words startling both the two on the grass, and herself. “You don’t just get to have things because you want them.”

“We–we just thought—”

“Thought you would wait until I came outside, and force yourselves in?” Jake went pale and Pam, now standing and inching back toward her companion, looked up at Beth with very wide eyes. “I heard you. I heard everythin’, Jake. You two are lucky the walkers didn’t find you last night.”

“Walkers?” That was Pam, finally, voice wobbly as she glanced over her shoulder at their undead visitor at the fence before turning that wide-eyed gaze back on Beth. “We didn’t have a name for them.”

“It doesn’t matter what you call them, if you don’t know how to handle them.” Beth sighed, and slowly lowered her crossbow, though keeping it in her arms. “How? How are you two not already dead?”

The two exchanged a look before turning their faces back to Beth. Jake scuffed his boot into the grass, twisted his hands. “We had a group, a good place. Walls and everything, and people who took care of those–those walkers. People who went out to get what we needed.”

“We were attacked by some men. Jake and I are the only ones left.” Pam looked again over her shoulder at the walker still growling by the fence. “And our place was ruined, so...”

So you went wandering through the wilds of Georgia? Beth wasn’t sure what to believe, though if they were telling the truth it wouldn’t be all that out of character for what she had seen. That dark little prickle of doubt kept her from fully buying what they said, though, no matter how foolishly sincere they appeared.

“Wait here,” Beth said, stepping back over the threshold, “and be quiet.”

She almost had the door shut when she heard the thunder of footsteps, and she shoved the chest back into place just in time to catch Jake’s boot in the door. The chest held, and Beth levelled the pointy end of her crossbow at the lone brown eye staring in at her through the gap.

Foolish, but opportunistic. “Move your foot, or I’ll move it for you.”

“You wouldn’t,” Jake said, with the same sort of put-on confidence he used when talking about the drowning walkers. “Nice girl like you?”

“I ain’t no nice girl,” Beth said, lowering her voice, trying to sound confident, trying to sound like Daryl, menacing and strong even though her insides tied themselves into knots, pulling tighter the longer she stood there, holding her ground. “You know I know how to use this. Move.”

She didn’t want to shoot him. Lord, please don’t let that happen. Please move. Please.

Not heeding her mental pleading, Jake tried to wedge his foot further into the doorway. “Just let us in—”

“Move.” Beth swallowed and inched her crossbow forward. “Now.”

“Please,” said Pam, her voice floating in from below. “You said it yourself, we would’ve been dead if not for you. Please, help us.”

The knots inside pulled tighter, tight enough to pinch, to pull at her conscience, to tug that place inside her that wanted to help, needed to help anyone who asked. But something else tugged, too, tugged harder, and that was Daryl, the Daryl in her head reminding her she knew how to use hers, and the real Daryl, somewhere out there, counting on her to keep herself safe.

She couldn’t let them in. That was not an option. But maybe, maybe she could still help.

“You move your foot, and you move it now, and I promise I’ll help you—”

Jake let out a chuckle, cutting her off. “I knew you were a nice—”

“If,” Beth continued, as though Jake had not started speaking, “you move your foot, and do what I say.”

“Jake. Don’t be an ass, listen to her.”

The eye peeking in moved away as Jake turned his attention back to Pam. Fucking shut up, bitch—”

Outside, the walker at the fence snarled, and those down at the creek echoed its hungry cry.

Beth tipped her eyes up toward the ceiling and signed, loud enough to be heard. “Both of you, be quiet.”

To Beth’s surprise, they listened. Pam stopped her frantic pleas and Jake’s eyeball returned to the gap in the door, half his face, really, as he looked in at her above the sight mount of her crossbow. “You promise?”

Beth nodded once, a slow bob of her head. “As long as you agree to do as I say. Startin’ with movin’ your foot out of my damn door.”

She stared at Jake and he stared back, for what seemed like hours. Jake’s lips tugged themselves down, a thin frown and his eye blinked shut, just a fraction of a second. “All right.”

He retracted his foot and Beth shoved the door closed, sliding the heavy bar across a moment later. Only then did she let herself breathe, let the tremor rolling through her insides tumble out until there wasn’t a bit of her not shaking. She set her crossbow on the floor as she sank down onto the chest and dropped her face into her hands.

Please, please let this be the right choice.

Just for a minute, though, because this wasn’t done. Beth breathed slow and deep, easing the tremor back inside where it needed to stay. When she was confident she had herself back under control, Beth got to her feet and dug out one of the large hiking packs from its place beneath the counter, filled it with things she didn’t need, things she thought the two of them could use. Food. Blankets. Clothing. One of two small canvas tents. A couple of small knives that would do against walkers, even if the thought of arming them didn’t sit all that well. Once everything was packed, Beth brought the bag to the door and set it atop the chest, then reached for her crossbow.

“Jake.”

“Uh, yeah. Here. I’m here,” he said, from just outside the door.

“Both of you, go down into yard. All the way to the back, by the ledge, and sit down.”

“Okay.”

Beth watched through the window until they had both moved into place. They might still try to storm the door, but she would have time to retreat if they did. Once the pair seated themselves on the grass, Beth went back to the door.

Jake attempted to stand when she emerged, but Beth pointed her crossbow at him and he stopped, sinking back into the grass beneath him. She had to lower it briefly to toss the bag down into the yard, but neither one of them made another move, other than to nervously glance over their shoulders at the fence walker, gradually stumbling its way toward them.

“You can have these supplies, but you can’t stay here,” Beth said, gesturing to the bag. “And the way these walkers have been movin’ in, you need to go soon, and keep going east.” At their confused looks, Beth pointed back over her shoulder. “That way. The direction they aren’t comin’ from.”

“Where are we supposed to go?” said Pam, her barely-there eyebrows turning in, furrowing deeply. “You’ve got the room—”

“Not an option.” Beth tugged with one hand on Daryl’s vest. “I’m not alone here, and you can’t stay. Be glad I’m giving you the supplies, okay? That’s more than you’ll get if you aren’t gone when my friend comes back.”

Whether they believed her about Daryl, Beth couldn’t say, but that didn’t matter. It wasn’t Daryl who needed to convince them to leave, it was Beth, and she doubted a vague threat of some absent companion who may or may not exist would make a difference.

“Get the bag, Pam.” Beth said. “Go on. Bring it back over to Jake.”

Pam listened, sort of slinking across the yard under the threat of Beth’s crossbow and back over to her appointed place.

“There are a couple of knives in there. You have to pierce the brain to kill a walker, all right? Otherwise they’re just gonna keep comin’.” Beth waited while they rooted though the supplies and found the knives. “If you work together, and be quiet, you can keep each other alive. That one behind you. Lure it to the gap in the fence. It’ll follow you. Jake, you hold it off with that pipe. Pam, you’re tall, you kick it in the knee while he’s holdin’ it and when it stumbles, put your knife in its head.”

Pam and Jake looked at each other, down at the knives, then over their shoulders at the walker hung up in the planks behind them, reaching for then with grabby fingers. They didn’t want to, Beth could see it in their pale faces and big-eyed stares. But somewhere between Jake’s last stand at the door and this moment right here, they must have decided indeed to listen to what Beth had to say. It was clumsy. Pam’s arms shook so hard it was a wonder she held onto the knife at all, but they did it and the walker crumpled to a heap on the grass alongside the other three lying there.

“Go, get out of here before any more of them decide to show up,” Beth said, when they looked back up at her. “Keep quiet, listen before you open your mouths, and be nice. You won’t last long if you don’t have each other’s back.”

With two pairs of eyes staring after her, Beth slipped back inside the cabin and barred the door, pushing the chest up tight against it. Her hands were already shaking before she set down her crossbow and lowered her body to the bed. The room spun and Beth squeezed her eyes shut against the sensation but that only made it worse, and it didn’t stop even when her head hit the pillow a moment later. The walkers at the creek snarled and Pam and Jake talked lowly amongst themselves as they prepared to go. Beth lay on the bed and listened, exhausted, dizzy, heart pounding, every inch of her body shaking so hard she couldn’t stop.

Please, please let this have been the right choice…
*~*

End notes: Chapter title taken from lyrics to Hercules by Sara Bareilles

I've lost a grip on where I started from
I wish I'd thought ahead and left a few crumbs
I'm on the hunt for who I've not yet become
But I'd settle for a little equilibrium


To be continued in chapter 13 >>

Comments

( 3 have spoken — take the speaking stick )
slaymesoftly
May. 14th, 2015 12:59 am (UTC)
Wonderful choices, Beth. She's getting so strong. :)
abelina
May. 14th, 2015 01:14 am (UTC)
We knew she could do it, even if Beth didn’t! It’s funny, on some of the other places I post, I got more than one comment hoping that Daryl would be back in time to help her. Nobody thought that maybe she could help herself.

How are the computer problems going?
slaymesoftly
May. 14th, 2015 01:32 am (UTC)
Of course she could do it! Silly people.

Got it back a week ago. Spent a lot of time trying to catch up on missing things and make sure all the passwords were sorted out (and stored someplace off-line where I can access the damn things when I need them). I'll never catch up with everything I missed, but pretty much back on track. And back to work. I'll have my nose buried in the screen/keyboard for the next few days, I'm afraid. Got too used to not having to work all week. :)

Also, thanked you on SS for the help, but completely forgot that wouldn't be seen anywhere else, so I'm fixing that as I post the new chapters on my journals and the archives. :)
( 3 have spoken — take the speaking stick )

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