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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 (canon-compliant until ‘oh’)
Warnings: None (this chapter)
Rating: Eventual 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 story.
Notes: Chapter title taken from lyrics to Dig by Incubus.
All chapters here.


Fall Right In
Chapter 2 - What Is Covering the Better Part of Me


*~*
After a while, Daryl didn’t even see the road anymore, just held tight to the wheel while the car sped along through the darkness.   He kept looking at the woman beside him instead, curled up asleep on bench, her head in the centre, knees bent, feet against the door.  She slept fitfully, sometimes lying there all still and quiet, peaceful like she ought to be, but other times breathing hard, tossing her head and mumbling words he could barely make out, except it weren’t no happy song she was singing in her dreams.

He couldn’t get that vision of her out of his mind, Beth in the moonlight, taking out those walkers all by herself.  They’d worked on that, those weeks since the moonshine and the fire, along with tracking and shooting the crossbow, and she learned how to do it quick and efficient, especially with walkers bigger than her.  But she hadn’t done it alone, ‘til now, and not with men lying in wait to do worse things than trying to eat her.

As if on cue, Beth whimpered in her sleep and half rolled onto her back, her right arm reaching out for something while her other hand curled into a fist.  Didn’t take a rocket scientist to know what she dreamt about.  That image he tried his damnedest to keep away, no matter how amazing she’d been.  How brave and strong, saving herself like she had. Part of him wanted to wake her, but she needed the sleep, even a bad one, and he didn’t know when she’d be able to rest again.

He let her sleep and kept driving, wishing he knew what was better—reliving the moment in her dreams, or thinking about it while awake.

Sometime later, when the three-quarter tank of gas had run down to less than a quarter, when the horizon started changing from black to indigo, a pair of walkers stumbled onto the road ahead.  Their grotesque faces caught in the headlights, and Daryl snapped himself out of his tape-looped memory replay to swerve the car around them.  The motion caused Beth’s legs to slide off the seat and she jolted her body upright, staring frantically ahead without seeing anything.

“Beth.” Daryl reached out to touch her wrist, but she pulled away, shrinking into the corner of the car, panting for breath with her eyes shut tightly.

“Beth!” he said, louder this time, resisting the urge to reach out for her again.  “Beth!  Wake up, girl.”

Her breathing changed from the frantic panting to a deeper, shakier kind.  After two or three of those, Beth opened her eyes and as their gazes met, he knew this time she could see.  Her lips twitched in something that almost, but not quite, looked like a smile, and she pulled herself out of the corner to sit squarely in the seat, staring out the windshield with too-wide eyes, arms wrapped tightly around her middle.

She stayed silent and staring for the time it took the fuel gauge to hit empty and a swath of blood red to join the indigo on the horizon.  In the passing hours, Daryl considered keeping the car, but decided against the risk.  It was too clean inside, like the cops themselves, which meant they weren’t living in it, probably had an established base in a building somewhere.  That kind of setup took people and resources, and he didn’t want to be caught anywhere near this car when the cops’ people came looking.  He pulled the off the road and into the woods in the gap between a couple of widely spaced trees.  The engine sputtered and died and the car rolled to a stop against a large tree trunk.  Beth swayed with the motion but stayed put, still looking straight ahead.

Daryl watched her for a moment, waiting, but she didn’t turn.  Her breathing quickened, just a little, and she dug her fingers into her thighs, so he knew she was there and not somewhere else.   But she wouldn’t look at him, and something cold and heavy settled in his gut at the thought of why.

A search of the car yielded a few things they could use—a spare handgun and ammo, an old canvas bag with a stash of pre-packaged snacks, water, and cans of baked beans, a black jacket with an Atlanta PD logo on it, and a sturdy pair of women’s work boots.  Through all the rummaging, Beth kept silent, not saying a word when he handed her the boots he thought might fit, as she laced them up, or even as she followed him across the road and into the woods on the other side, away from the car and the reminder of what they’d run from.  What they’d left behind.

The morning lightened, the cool autumn sun filtering through the trees barely warm on their backs as they trekked through the woods.  Beth followed like a ghost, a little blonde spirit without spirit at all.  Quiet, limping footsteps in the underbrush, always there but somewhere else entirely.  Every time he looked back, even when he could tell she’d been watching him, her gaze slipped away.
It was like after the prison all over again, but in reverse.  She the sullen, quiet one, walking and breathing and doing everything like a memory, an automatic replay.  He remembered the feeling all too well, the numbness of those days before the moonshine, before the fire, before Beth and her words reaching inside him to pull him out like nothing else ever had.  It still crept up on him sometimes, the thought that if he’d just been faster, just kept searching, just let Carl pull that trigger—

He shook his head to clear his thoughts away, ‘cause he sure as hell didn’t need to be heading back there again, slipping into that despair until the two of them were left wandering the woods like a pair of walkers.  Put it away.  Stay who you are.  Wise words from a woman old beyond her years.  Wisdom he knew he wouldn’t ever have.  He weren’t good at this kinda shit, never was.   How could he help her?
How could he know what the hell to do when she wouldn’t even look at him?


Her head was a mystery and her silence let him imagine the sorts of terrible things swirling inside it, tormenting her and tormenting him with the not knowing.  He knew how a person’s thoughts could build up and tear away at their insides.  He knew how the voices living there could taunt, make a man doubt everything he ever knew until he was better off giving up.

Daryl tried.  He tried hard to keep remembering how Beth looked just before it went down, wild and strong and so alive, but the longer her silence persisted, so did the other memory, the  sight of her wide-eyed and trembling under that bastard’s hands.  And if he couldn’t stop remembering, sure as hell neither could she.  And maybe, maybe if he’d just been quicker, if he’d gotten to her first instead of reaching for their pack—if he’d given in to the urge to swing her through the air like a scene out of  some goddamn movie—or if he’d just gotten out the window in time.  Maybe then that Gorman wouldn’t’ve got his filthy fucking hands on her and she wouldn’t have to listen to his slippery voice in her head. 

He weren’t no therapist.   He might be good at listening, watching, paying attention when the rest of the world liked to talk just to hear the sound of its own voice, but Daryl wasn’t good with words.   Even when he thought he maybe had the right idea in his head, somewhere between thinking it and speaking things got confused, dirtied, twisted around until he couldn’t say a thing, or said everything all wrong and angry and messed up. 

What changed your mind?

The kitchen seemed so long ago now, less than a day later, and he didn’t know the way back.  He couldn’t even see the signs.

So instead he borrowed her silence, wore it across his shoulders like the too-big jacket he’d draped over hers, hours ago now when he caught her shivering.  The day never warmed and the sun hung weak in the sky for a while before becoming shrouded in clouds and a ceaseless drizzle that stuck to their clothes and their skin and made everything gray and dreary.  Sucked the colours right out of the world, Daryl thought, and wondered at the same time if that had less to do with the weather and more to do with the absence of the light usually shining out of Beth Greene’s eyes.

They didn’t stop to eat, just picked away at the stale chips and trail mix from the canvas bag as they walked, Daryl in front with Beth following silently behind.  Not a single walker so much as wheezed near them and the day slowly darkened toward evening without anything more challenging than crossing a fast-moving stream and not getting their feet wet.   Without so much as a squirrel to catch, neither, but they had the beans and enough wood for a fire to warm them on.

The clearing sat on a ledge overlooking a swift creek below, the bank steep and high enough that walkers couldn’t get up to them, but not so high that they couldn’t escape that way if they had to.  Three large conifers made a loose semi-circle, filled in by smaller river birches, and a good amount of brush.  The large trees would cover his back when he sat watch and the brush would rustle long before anything found its way in.  He didn’t have anything else but dried sticks and dead leaves to ring the clearing with, a makeshift alarm that wasn’t at all ideal, but would have to do for tonight.

Beth leaned back against one of the big trunks and chewed her beans as silently as she’d done everything else today.  She sat there after she finished, first picking dirt out from her fingernails with her knife, then fiddling with the laces on her new scavenged boots.  And she stayed, staring out toward the edge of the bank past the birches growing there, as the fire burnt itself to ashes, as gloomy day faded into clammy twilight, then a night so black he couldn’t hardly see his own fingers.

Hours passed in that thick blackness before Daryl heard the shifting of fabric and the rustle of leaves that meant Beth had curled up at the base of her tree.  He could just barely make out the shape of her lying there in the dirt, but he heard when her breathing changed and sleep caught up to her at last.  She was quiet for a time, just breathing slow and deep, long enough to make him think maybe she was tired enough, exhausted enough, that the dreams wouldn’t find her tonight.

Just about the time the clouds started to break, shooting knifelike beams of moonlight through the trees above them, Beth sucked in a deep breath and her boots scraped against the packed earth beneath her.

“No. No,” she said, in a small, pained voice between shuddery breaths and what he could only describe as a whimper.  “No.  No—don’t…”

He’d heard enough.  Daryl set down his crossbow and got to his knees, leaning over until he could reach her.  A little shake on the shoulder and Beth woke easily.

“Your turn.  For watch,” he said when she pushed herself up to sit.

Beth looked up at him when he spoke, a glint of moonlight, reflecting off the water below, shining in her eyes.  And for a moment he was back in the kitchen, with the candlelight and her little ‘oh’, except there were no candles, no ‘oh’, no illusion of safety, no walls, no words at all.  But she met his eyes in the dark, holding her gaze to his for a long moment before she nodded and drew her knife.

Daryl didn’t intend to sleep—didn’t think he could—but he lay down anyway.  She knew why he woke her, of course she did, but he’d pretend for as long as she let him.  He could do that much, at least.

*~*

Something splashed in the distance, and Daryl turned a slow circle, trying to reconcile the sound of water with the field of grass stretching out to the horizon on all sides.  He couldn’t see anything, so he kept walking, but the splashing grew louder, louder, louder, until he was up to his waist in the water and the field was gone, but he kept walking, because he had to go, had to get there, had to—

Daryl blinked his eyes open to see a pair of little brown sparrows hopping around the clearing, picking at the remnants of trail mix and beans.   He groaned and rolled his aching shoulders, turning over onto his back as the sparrows fluttered away.  It wasn’t very bright out yet, but the drizzle and fog were gone, and—

Wait.

More sparrows took flight when Daryl jumped to his feet and turned around the clearing like he’d turned in the field in his dream, still hearing that damn splashing, and he’d gone and fallen asleep like he wasn’t gonna do, and Beth was gone and—oh.

There, down at the creek, Beth knelt with her back to the camp, wearing just her yellow golf shirt and jeans.  She was scrubbing furiously at something, splashing water everywhere.  The cop’s black jacket sat in a heap next to her tree, and when Daryl got to the edge of the bank he could see the thing in her hand, what she was so intent on washing in the half freezing water, was her tattered sweater.

Understanding women wasn’t Daryl’s best skill, but he liked to think he knew a bit about Beth, these weeks on the road with just the two of them.  Beth liked to be clean, as much as it were possible living rough.  This though, whatever she was doing, didn’t look right.   He chewed his lip and watched a minute longer, then climbed down the bank, making noise on purpose but she didn’t hear.  Just kept scrubbing.

“Beth,” he said, hunkering down beside her and keeping his voice as low as he could.

Beth dropped the sweater into the water, then reached for it with suddenly shaking fingers.  She didn’t look at him, just knelt there with wet knees, staring down at the dripping ball in her hands.  The shiver that began in her fingers soon spread to the rest of her, and when he tried to pull her away from the edge of the water, her skin burned like ice beneath his palms.

How long had she been at this?  She came away from the stream without resisting, and by the time he got her up the bank her teeth were chattering like mad.  Daryl pulled the wet wool out of her red, raw fingers and tossed it to the side, then reached for the police jacket and helped her into it when she was too shaky to do it herself.

“What the hell, Beth?” he asked, but though she looked up at him with those big blue eyes, wide and bloodshot, Beth didn’t say a word.

Heat flared in his chest and burned behind his eyes, but he bit his tongue and kicked the sweater across the clearing instead of spouting off.  The sweater hit a tree with a wet splat and he tore his way through the brush to gather up all the scattered sticks, ‘cause he had to build her a goddamn fire, didn’t he, since she couldn’t manage not to go and get fucking hypothermic.  What the hell was that about?   ‘Cause it sure as hell wasn’t Beth and she was gonna get herself killed, pulling this shit, oblivious to his crashing down the bank behind her.  Could’ve been a walker—or worse.  If she had a death wish there were quicker ways than freezing her fingers off in the creek.  What the hell was she thinking?

But she weren’t thinking, was she?  Not straight at least.   And as Daryl passed back through the brush, he felt deflated, hollow inside where his anger had burned hot.  Beneath that, the fluttering warmth that never quite went away bubbled up to fill that empty place, take it over like it never existed.  And damn it if he knew what to do with that, especially when Beth just stared off into the distance while he piled the tinder and sticks on top of the ashes of last night’s fire.  He flicked his lighter and held the flame until it caught, watched as the little flame came to life. 

No, she weren’t right and here he was, being an ass when it weren’t even about him.  Beth wouldn’t knowingly put either one of them at risk like that and she didn’t have a death wish.  Not her.  Not anymore.  Damn it, Beth was tough.  She made it.  And maybe more of their people made it, too, but maybe not.  And Daryl wasn’t gonna pretend anymore that he wanted to do this alone.  That he wanted to do this without her.

‘Cause Daryl had learnt the word weren’t worth shit without Beth Greene, and he needed to find a way to make her see that, too.
*~*
If I turn into another, dig me up from under what is covering the better part of me. Sing this song, remind me that we'll always have each other, when everything else is gone.
>>to be continued in chapter 3

Comments

( 2 have spoken — take the speaking stick )
xtanitx
Feb. 9th, 2015 06:36 pm (UTC)
Lack of sleep plus being utterly heartbroken from last night's episode equals complete brain drain here. I want to say more than just YAY UPDATE, which is how I feel, yes, but also seems like not quite enough. Anyway, apologies if this makes little sense.

So, this was sad (poor Beth!), which is understandable for so many reasons. BUT, it ends on about as hopeful a note as can be. Seems like Daryl's wrestled some with those messy, pesky feelings and decided he's gonna fight for Beth, and help Beth fight for herself, and there's really not anyone else you could ask to be in your corner than a determined Daryl Dixon. So. Slight bit of light there at the end, and that is awesome.
abelina
Feb. 9th, 2015 07:03 pm (UTC)
Trust me when I say I have the same feelings as you after the premiere, and I was tossing and turning all night having "Beth is alive" dreams which always woke me up. So "yay update" would be good, LOL.

I felt sad writing this chapter, but I felt that to have Beth just be all fine with having directly killed a man, no matter the circumstances, would not be true to her character. But you've gotten to the point of it though, that being that Daryl isn't going to let her just fade away even if he doesn't know how to do that. Because, yes, a determined Daryl Dixon is definitely someone you want fighting for you.

Thanks for replying even if you weren't feeling up to it. It's greatly appreciated, especially since I think fluff or something a bit happier might have been better received by the masses at this particular point in time.

*hugs*
( 2 have spoken — take the speaking stick )

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