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Anticipation

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“You check that damn phone one more time, Imma throw it out the goddamn winda!”

Merle Dixon’s voice was not what one would call melodious. It was harsh, raspy and grating if you weren’t used to it. But his “baby brotha” was used to it, so he paid it no mind. No instead he glanced at his phone one more time. He swore he saw something flash on it, but nope. Nothing there. He heaved a sigh and turned back to his now slightly warm beer. It wasn’t like he had checked every 30 seconds for the last 20 minutes. Oh wait…

“What the hell’s got you so twitchy anyways? Got summin’ ya wanna tell me? Sum…lady issues?”

And that was the sum of it! Daryl did have “lady issues”. Well maybe that was inaccurate. It was more that he wanted lady issues and said lady was not responding to him. Of course he had only sent one text, but had expected a response. He knew it had been sent properly and was pretty certain it had been read. But no answer. No smiley face thing, no “Hi”, not even a gently worded “Fuck off”.

Three days ago, Daryl had finally given in to the modern age and got a smart phone. Not an iPhone, no he wasn’t some kinda hipster wanna be. He got a Samsung something or other. His boss at the shop had told him he needed a more reliable way to get ahold of his best worker, so Daryl had carried his ass down to the AT&T store and got himself the toughest one he could find.

The salesman had been nice enough and showed him how to set up his contacts and take pictures. He even showed him how to text message and email if he wanted to. Daryl didn’t. He was a simple man with simple needs and just wanted to be able to contact his boss and maybe his brother. Merle had given him shit about it of course, but Daryl didn’t care. Well, at least til he met her.

That night they had gone to bar clear across King County. Merle had a hankering for something different and Daryl being the dutiful brother he was, followed him over to make sure Merle didn’t make too much of an ass of himself. Daryl had sat at the bar while Merle played some pool, flirted and danced with some of the ladies. When the stool next to him was suddenly occupied, it startled Daryl out of his musings on motorcycle parts. And boy was he glad for the distraction.

She looked young, no more than 19 though he knew she had to be at least 21. They were real strict about that at this bar. Long legs were topped off with a slim body and graceful arms. Her hair was shiny and golden blonde, a natural color that other women tried to achieve but failed miserably and only wound up with a stringy mess on their heads. Her lips were pale pink and plump, a tiny nose perched pertly above them. But it was the eyes that sold him. Big, innocent looking and the brightest blue he had ever seen. Definitely much bluer than his own. And right at that moment they were filled with mirth as she attempted to hold in some laughter.

“Oh my word, I swear that woman has absolutely no shame! And I have no problem laughin’ at her!”

If Daryl hadn’t been looking at her, he wouldn’t have known she was talking to him. But he was (no, not staring…well maybe a little) so he just smirked and raised an eyebrow. She smiled widely at him and nodded her head back towards the dance floor. Daryl cast his eyes that direction and nearly burst in to Merle worthy laughter. There was his brother, beer in one hand while his other was grasping on to the waist of a woman as they “danced” (if you can call grinding so hard you’re practically fucking dancing). The woman’s arms were wrapped around his brother’s neck as they appeared to be trying to eat each other’s faces. Daryl snorted and shook his head. Only Merle.

The woman next to him laughed as she plucked the bowl of peanuts off the bar and ate a few. She eyeballed the bowl a moment in thought and Daryl caught the moment where it connected for her. She lifted her eyes to his, a devious smile dancing in her eyes and on her lips. Daryl returned it and grabbed a couple of peanuts from the bowl just as she did. They turned back to the couple on the floor and began hurling the salted nuts at them. Merle was the first to realize what was going on and pulled himself away from the woman before he turned his head around the bar, eyes narrowed and searching for the idiot that dare interrupt his super happy fun time.

Daryl and the woman turned back to the bar, her hand covering her lips in an effort to cover her giggles. Daryl just shook his head at her as he heard the door to bar open and shut loudly. He glanced back at the dance floor and sure enough, Merle and the woman were gone. He sighed deeply. Well, at least neither of them had drank that much. They’d both get home ok.

Except Daryl had ridden with Merle. And now Merle was gone.

Fuck his life.

Daryl finished off his beer and waved the bartender over. Well, if he was gonna have to get a cab home, he was gonna make it worth it. He ordered two shots of whiskey and another beer. When the bartender returned, Daryl passed one of the shots to the blonde and she turned to him, eyes still twinkling with mirth. She raised an eyebrow in question. “To pissin’ my brotha off and gettin’ away with it. Not many people can do that” he told her. She stared for a moment, a little scared he could tell. Maybe she thought he would be pissed. But he just smirked at her again and raised his shot glass. She grabbed hers and they tapped them together before throwing them back. She shook her head and shouted “WHEW!” and slammed the glass.

And that was it. No more was said about Merle and she just started talking to him. Asking his name, his brother’s name, what he did for a living, what he was doing in this little dive bar. He learned her name was Beth, a 25 year old teacher. She had one sister and one brother and lived about five miles from the bar with her mama and daddy on the farm (“I’ve almost got enough for a down payment on the house I want!”). She liked kids, good beer, and singing any chance she got. They talked a good while, so long in fact they both startled when the bartender hollered for last call. They cleared their tabs (she wouldn’t let him pay for the one beer she had of course) and made their way out the bar. Daryl pulled out his new phone and was trying to figure out how to look up the phone number for the only cab company in King County.

“New phone?” Beth’s voice startled him, which it shouldn’t have as she had moved outside with him. He nodded his head and answered. “Yeah and I can’ figure out shit on it.” She laughed and showed him the Google bar and how to look up what he needed. He called them and they sat on the bench to wait the twenty minutes for a cab to ride. She had only had the one beer and a shot hours ago and was completely sober at that point, so she was gonna drive herself home. They talked a bit more about their jobs (“I don’t mind the kids. They make me laugh a lot”) and just general conversation. He hadn’t even realized she had his phone until the cab pulled up to the curb in front of them. She handed it over and smiled that bright smile at him.

“It was nice to meet you Daryl. If ya ever wanna throw peanuts at your brother again, give me a holler.” She was bright and confident when she spoke and Daryl was just a little more than shocked when she stood on her tiptoes, laid her hand on his arm, and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. He didn’t even have a chance to respond before she spun around and made her way to her car. She entered it, cranked it, and pulled away with a jaunty little wave. Daryl stared for a moment before the cab driver cleared his throat. Daryl shook himself out of it and got in the car, dazed at the young woman who had kept his attention with ease all night long.

It wasn’t until the next day he noticed the number in his phone. It was under Beth with a little heart and a music note next to it. He was nervous, not exactly sure what “proper protocol” was when it came to texting a woman. So he sat on it that day and then the next. That didn’t mean the little blonde wasn’t one his mind of course. He thought about her smile and laugh, they was she got enthusiastic about her students and family, and of course the way she teased Merle and got away with it.

But today he gave in. It was Saturday and he had spent half the day building up the courage. Merle wanted to hit that bar again and Daryl was inclined to agree, especially if there was the chance of running in to Beth. So around 6 p.m. he sucked it up and sent Beth a text message. Nothing fancy of course. Hey, it’s Daryl. From the bar? Anyways, Merle and I are heading back. Want to throw some more peanuts? He thanked the good Lord for autocorrect because he was sure he had misspelled half the words with his large fingers on the tiny keyboard.

That was three hours ago and now he was sure he had blown it. He was sure he should’ve texted her that next day damnit. He wasn’t aware of the goings on around him anymore. If he had been, he would’ve noticed the little stage area next to the dance floor had been cleared and now only housed a microphone on a stand, a stool, and guitar. He would’ve have also noticed a little blonde walk in through a side door and stand next to the stool. He didn’t even pay attention when the people started applauding and whistling. But he did pay attention when he heard Merle again. “Well, well, what we got here? Little thing gonna sing us song!”

Daryl finally turned his gaze away from the beer bottle and turned to the stage. And there she was, looking sweet and perfect in tight blue jeans and snug dark blue tee shirt. Her hair was loose around her shoulders and she was smiling that big ol’ smile that drew him in. She was looking around the room as if she wanted to spot someone. When her eyes landed on his, her smile grew even bigger (how was that even possible?!) and she leaned over to pick up the guitar. She sat on the stool and adjusted the microphone before tuning up her guitar. Finally, she cleared her throat and strummed a note.

“Hey y’all! So I’m Beth. I wanna thank Dale for lettin’ me sing a few songs tonight. No throwin’ nothin’ at me, he’ll kick ya out!”

The crowd chuckled (he did too of course) and she began. It was an old Judd’s song, “Young Love” and Daryl was entranced. She hit every note perfectly and her fingers strummed the guitar like it was a part of her. He stared as she sang of two people falling in love, making it through a simple life, and the beauty that was their dedication to each other. He continued to stared as she went through a couple more songs, some older country (she did particularly well on an old Reba McEntire song), some newer country (he wasn’t sure what a “Girl Crush” was, but he loved her singing about it) and even one or two originals (now he really wanted a beer to shotgun). His eyes never left the woman on stage and hers seemed drawn to him frequently. After her last song, she stood to take a bow to raucous applause and loud whistles, especially from his brother. Daryl could see the wheels turning in his brother’s head and moved to intercept quickly.

Daryl startled his brother as he stood from his stool and made his way across the crowded room to the stage. Beth had just stepped down and was receiving high fives and hugs from what Daryl assumed was her family and friends. She finally spotted him through the crowd and weaved her way to meet him.

“Hey, I’m sorry I didn’t answer you earlier. Daddy needed some help with a sow and I just barely made it here in time.”

So she hadn’t been ignoring him, she had been busy. Internally, Daryl was breathing a huge sigh of relief. Outwardly, he shrugged his shoulders and smirked. “It’s a’right. Com’on, let’s get a beer.” She smiled again at him and that’s when he knew. It was gonna take some work on his part, but he was gonna make her his girl. And something told him, she wouldn’t mind at all.