The jingle of tin cans saved Daryl from making a further fool of himself. He got up to check on it, thinking it might be that same one-eyed dog from earlier. There was a single Walker ambling towards the house, easily dispatched. He knew he should go out and reclaim the bolt from the body, but he figured he could do it in the morning. Maybe he could spend the day teaching Beth how to make ‘em.
When he got back to the kitchen, she was sittin’ there with a little smile on her face. “Wasn’t the dog.”
She nodded and gestured to the chair next to her. “I think we should try playing that game again.”
“’I Never’.” His body stiffened, remembering the last time they’d played. She chewed on her bottom lip, seeing his hesitation. “It’ll be fun this time, I promise.”
“Ain’t no alcohol here.”
“We could use soda. Or we could use our hands.” She raised hers, spreading out her fingers. “If you’ve done something, you just put down a finger.”
He stared back at her, wondering what the hell she was thinking. The last time they’d played, he’d screamed at her, dragged her outside, shoved his crossbow at her, and then screamed at her some more. Now that they’d finally gotten past all that, now that they’d finally found some balance between them, she wanted to fuck it all up again. Fine, he’d give her what she wanted. He sat down and raised his hand, waiting for her to go first.
“Okay, I never graduated high school,” she said, grinning at him. He raised an eyebrow. “Well, I didn’t. Shoulda graduated last year, but I haven’t had much schoolin’ since the dead started walkin’.”
He wiggled his five fingers, showing the he hadn’t finished high school either.
He could tell that she was playing a different game. It might have the same rules as before, but she had a different purpose in mind. He just didn’t know what that purpose was. He decided to throw out one of the things he’d said before, something he knew was safe. “I never went to college.”
She pursed her lips as she held up her five fingers. “I’ve never been properly kissed by someone I loved before.”
“Not even Jimmy?” he asked, remembering the boy who’d been living with her family on the farm. “Or Zach?”
“I thought before, maybe Jimmy might be, but now… it wasn’t love.”
He lowered his first finger. It didn’t have the same shame as the first time they played. Feeling a little more comfortable, he smiled and said, “I never kept a diary.”
She glared at him as she lowered a finger. He’d seen her tearing pages out of that book to help feed the fire, the same book he’d catch her writing in back at the prison. And the way she was blushing now made him want to sneak a peek at that thing.
“I never… got a tattoo,” she said. It was his turn to glare as he curled another finger down. “Can I see it?”
“No,” he said, instinctively. Sure, he had other tattoos besides the ones on his back that he could show her, but they each had a story that he wasn’t willing to tell. “I never had a family that loves me the way yours does.”
She bit down on her bottom lip as she lowered her finger. “I never had anyone trust me the way Rick trusts you. Never had anyone respect me the way they respect you. The way my father respected you.”
He looked away, the pain of Hershel’s death still so fresh. She’d given him absolution the other day, wrapping her arms around him and refusing to let him take the blame for her father’s death, for the destruction of their home. Deep down, he knew. He knew that she was right, that they’d needed him there at the prison instead of hunting down The Governor. But he didn’t know how else to feel. The guilt had always kept him moving forward.
“Are we done with this stupid game?” He wasn’t mad at her the way he’d been last time, but he was tired of playin’, tired of hurtin’.
“No.” She raised her chin defiantly. “You gotta put another finger down. And it’s your turn.”
He blew out a breath and did what she asked. Only two fingers left. “I never had a silly braid in my hair.”
“Well, it’s gettin’ long enough,” she said with a bright smile. “We could probably do somethin’ about that.”
He grunted and shook his head. “Your turn.”
She looked down at the table where their hands rested a few inches apart. They were evenly matched. Only the pinky and the thumb fingers were left. “I never,” she said, still looking down, “I never slept with anyone before.”
He drew in a breath. So that’s what this was about. “We slept beside each other plenty of times these past few weeks.”
“You know what I mean, Daryl.” Her eyes darted up to his, the flush on her cheeks visible even in the candlelight.
“No.” He pulled his hand away and stood up. “Game’s over.”
“Don’t you… don’t you like me?” She looked up at him, her eyes wide and trusting.
“’Course I like you.” How could he not like her? She was sunshine and hope, she was everything that was beautiful in this world. She was everything he wasn’t. “That don’t mean I’m gonna take advantage of some little girl.”
“I’m not a little girl,” she said, standing up. It didn’t help her case since she was almost half a foot shorter than he was.
“You should be with guys your own age.”
“I don’t see any of them around.”
“Well, it ain’t gonna be me.” He turned away, striding into the parlor with the casket.
“Why not you?” she said, angrily, following behind him.
“I’m no good for you.” He wheeled around quickly, putting his hands on her shoulders to stop her from crashing into him. “It ain’t proper.”
She raised her hands to his face, her palms cupping his cheeks. “You’re a good man, Daryl Dixon. Rick knew it, my father knew it, and I know it. You’re a good man. And I’ve never felt more safe in this world than I have beside you.”
“You think this is what your father would’ve wanted?” He kept her at arm’s length, afraid of what might happen if she got too close. “What’re you gonna tell Maggie when you see her again?”
“Maybe Maggie’s dead.” There was a hitch in her voice as she said the words, a little sign that told him she was starting to accept that her sister was gone. “Maybe we’re all that’s left.”
“You don’t believe that. Not you. You don’t lose your faith.” Somehow, his hands had left her shoulders and were wrapped around her back, her arms around his waist. He felt her warmth against him, stroked a hand through her hair and tucked her head under his chin. “You make me believe there’s hope in this world, okay? It’s you. You changed my mind.”
“Even if we were in a city full of people, I’d choose you, Daryl.” She raised her head to look up at him. “I’d still choose you.”
He swallowed, trying to hold onto his sanity because there was no way that this could be happening to him right now. Then again, he never thought the dead would rise. “Fuck it,” he said, lowering his lips to hers.
He thought she’d be soft, shy, waiting to follow his lead. But she surprised him. He didn’t know why, she’d already proven that she wasn’t as timid as he first believed, and she was a quick learner. Her lips were as fierce as her heart, and she opened up to him almost instantly, drawing him into the moist recesses of her mouth.
His fingers tangled through her hair, pulling it free from the tie that held her ponytail in place. His other hand dropped to her waist, digging into the curves of her hip. He yanked her closer, pressing her body against his, causing her to cry out, a small animal noise coming from the back of throat. He pulled back, capturing her face in between his hands. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” she said, dreamily. Her lips were puffy and bruised from his kisses, her eyelids heavy with lust. “I just…” Words drifted away from her as she glanced down to the place where their bodies met.
His mouth went dry as he followed her gaze, and he ran his tongue across his lips. She felt him. She felt him, and she knew what it meant. But he needed to be sure. If they stopped now, they might be able to go back to what they were. Any further and there would be too much between them. So he asked again, “Are you sure?”
“Hell yes,” she said as she captured his lips again.
He lifted her up, guiding her legs around his waist. He walked them back into the kitchen and set her down on the table, shoving aside the food that had seemed like such a godsend before. Now he knew that God existed because nothing on Earth could have created something as beautiful and pure as the woman in front of him. His hands slid up between them and started working at the buttons of her shirt. He was nearly done when he felt her tugging at his jacket. He stiffened and pulled away.
“Daryl?” Her hands reached for him, and he captured them between his, bringing her fingers to his lips.
He took a deep breath before releasing her. Then he stepped back and stripped off his jacket, eyes fixed to the ground as his shirt followed. He waited for her to say something, too afraid to look up and see the pity in her eyes. But she just took his hand and rubbed his fingers against her wrist so he could feel the raised skin of her own scars.
“It didn’t kill us,” she whispered. “Instead, it gave us the strength to survive in this world.”
Only she could find something positive out of something so awful. He closed his eyes and smiled as he felt something loosen inside of him, making him lighter somehow.
And, suddenly, he was painfully aware that there were too many layers of clothing between them. Her shirt soon joined the pile of clothes on the floor, the last few buttons lost in his desperate need to feel her skin against his. She helped him with her bra, and he was on his knees in front of her, worshipping the creamy flesh of her breasts.
Her hand flew up to stifle her cry when his teeth latched on to a taut nipple. Quickly, he unbuckled his belt, yanking it from his jeans. He looped it a few time, then thrust it at her. “Bite down on this. Don’t want any Walkers interruptin’ us.”
She nodded, taking the belt from his hand with her teeth. It was, hands down, the sexiest thing he’d ever seen.
He tugged off her boots, mindful of her injured ankle. His hands traveled up her legs, getting warmer as he moved closer to her center. She moaned through her teeth, and he swore he could have come right there. Instead, he licked his lips as he unbuttoned her jeans and slid them down.
She was absolute perfection in the candlelight. He leaned back on his heels, wanting to savor the joy of looking at her as she leaned back on the table, only a small strip of cloth keeping her from total indecency. He hooked his thumbs underneath the fabric, imagining that this was what it felt like to open a present on Christmas Day.
Definitely a natural blond.
He stood up, then, looking into her eyes as he licked his fingers and cupped her sex. Not that he needed the extra moisture. He held her gaze as he spread her lips, stroking the wet folds and rubbing the bit of raised flesh. She shuddered beneath him, one hand grasping at his bicep while the other tried to support her weight. His free hand moved to her back, bringing her body closer until her breasts were crushed against his chest.
Slowly, he worked a finger inside of her, using his limited experience to bring her pleasure. It’s not that he hadn’t had sex before. It’s just that he’d had never had sex like this. He’d never had sex that mattered. He’d never cared about a woman the way he cared about Beth.
Her body tightened, her eyes frantic as she bit down harder on the leather in her mouth. “Relax,” he whispered. “I got you, baby. You’re safe.”
He felt her muscles clench around him and saw her eyes roll back as screamed out her release. When her body loosened again, he eased his pace.
She pulled the belt from her lips. “What was that?”
He smile down at her, chest puffed with pride. “I guess now you can’t say you’ve never had an orgasm.”
“We should’ve done this a long time ago,” she said, breasts heaving and glistening with sweat. “But what about… I mean, aren’t you supposed to… Why are you still dressed?”
“Don’t worry, darlin’,” he said, chuckling. “I’m about to get mine.”
He kicked off his boots and quickly shucked off his pants. She let out a little gasp as he sprang free, and her hand tentatively reached for him before pulling away.
“It ain’t gonna bite you.” His laughter died as her fingers wrapped around him. He swallowed down the thick lump in his throat. “But I might.”
She looked up at him, tongue darting out to lick her lips. He grabbed a handful of hair and crushed her lips to his. She moaned into the kiss, and he knew that he had to do this now before he embarrassed himself all over her. He took her hand from his dick and rested it on his hip as he nudged her legs wider so he could fit between them. He guided himself to her opening, pushing inside with excruciatingly slowness.
There was no barrier to break, only the wet heat between her thighs as he filled her completely. “Thought you said you was a virgin.”
“I am.” She shook her head at his incredulous look. “Really. Maggie says it can break through physical exercise. Sometimes, riding a horse is all it takes. She told me that the first time isn’t always painful. That if it’s good, you don’t even feel it disappearin’.”
The corner of his lip raised. “So you’re tellin’ me this is good?”
“It’s the best sex I ever had,” she teased. She kissed him lightly. “But I want it to be good for you, too. You don’t have to hold back on my account.”
“I ain’t fragile, Daryl.” She pressed herself against him. “I ain’t gonna break.”
He groaned as she wriggled her hips. There was no doubt in his mind that she was strong, more so than he thought when they’d left the prison. She didn’t stop trying, didn’t back down, even when he pushed her to her limit. She just pushed him right back. Still, this was her first time. “I don’t wanna hurt you, Beth.”
“Just because you’re a good man, doesn’t mean you gotta be nice.” She picked up the leather belt she’d discarded earlier. “I trust you.”
His eyes narrowed as he looked down at her, wondering if she was just testing him. All she did was smile as she put the leather between her teeth. He thrust into her a few more times, each time harder than before. She met each thrust, tossing her head back in reckless abandonment.
He pulled out, spun her around and pushed her forward so that she was bent over the table. He took a moment to admire her from this new angle, the smooth skin of her back, the round curve of her ass. Then, he entered her from behind, a quick, hard thrust without any build-up or pretense. She didn’t flinch or shy away. He did it again, this time with a hand at her waist, pulling her up to meet him. She braced her forearms on the table, arching her back and raising herself up. He slid his free hand around to her front until he could feel the weight of her breast against his palm, and then he squeezed, massaging her flesh as he pounded into her, hard and fast. Despite the belt, he could hear her moans, he could feel them vibrating through her body.
And he knew he wasn’t faring any better. He grunted as he rutted into her, primal, animal sounds that wouldn’t have been out of place in a mob full of Walkers about to feed. His breathing had gone ragged, and he knew that he was on the edge, but he tried to hang on. He wasn’t ready to let go.
Her body tensed beneath his, fingers clawing at the table. The hand at her breast slid upwards, his long fingers splayed across her neck. She threw her head forward, hair swaying wildly in the air, as the first spasms coursed through her. He knew that he should pull out, that the danger was too great, that they were taking a big enough risk already. But he was too far gone.
He sunk his teeth into her shoulder as he came. Not biting down hard enough to draw blood, but enough to leave his mark. Just as he’d left a piece of himself inside of her.
Exhausted and spent, he collapsed onto a chair, pulling her into his lap. She curled up in his arms, resting her head on his shoulder. “Beth, you okay?”
“MmmHmm” was her response.
“Gotta get our clothes back on ‘fore the people who live here get back.” He hated to do this. If he had a choice, he’d spend the rest of his life lying naked beside her. But they weren’t safe here. And he’d promised to keep her safe.
He lifted her up, like he’d done earlier that day, and set her down on the table. Hurriedly, he dressed himself, then helped her get her clothes on. He took his time with her, reveling in the feel of her skin beneath his fingers.
“I never loved anyone the way that I love you.”
He smiled and held up his pinky finger. “Me, neither.”
The sound of jingling cans kept him from saying anything more. He turned his head as the alarm was followed by a dog’s bark, and then a high-pitched whine.
“You stay here,” he said, scooping up his crossbow. “I’ll go check it out.”
She nodded, fully awake now, and raised her knife.
He turned and strode to the front door. He’d only meant to open it a crack so he could peer out, but there were too many Walkers pressed up against it. And, suddenly, there were hands and arms reaching for him. He shoved his shoulder against the door. “Beth!”
“Daryl?” She appeared in the doorway, her eyes widening as she took in the situation.
His only thought was to protect her, so when she moved to help him, he tossed his crossbow to her. “You need to get out. Get somewhere safe, and I will come find you.”
“No.” She shook her head. “No, Daryl. I won’t leave you.”
“Please, Beth. You have to.” A body slammed against the door, and he lurched forward. “You’re my girl. I gotta know that you’re safe.”
She nodded, sobbing as she turned from the room.
He felt the air leave the room with her, and he closed his eyes. If he wanted to survive, he’d have to trust her, the way she trusted him. She was strong. He’d taught her well. The more Walkers he drew towards him, the safer she’d be.Taking a deep breath, he freed his mind from worry.
He opened his eyes, adjusted the grip on his knife, and stepped away from the door.