She's staring at him. Again.
Daryl sighs, shakes his head, and tries very hard to ignore her. Beside him, Rick and Andrea are talking about something, and he tries to focus in and pay attention to them, but damned if that younger Greene girl isn't there, across the campground, burning a hole in his skin with her eyes.
He'd noticed Beth watching him the last few days, ever since they'd settled into a new, semi-permanent base camp and he'd offered to teach her how to set up her tent rather than watch her struggle with it pathetically.
He'd showed her how to lay it out, how to put the stakes in the ground and pop the rods together, and she'd watched, nodding enthusiastically when he explained what he was doing. He'd made the additional mistake of praising her when she finally got the hang of it, and she'd blushed and smiled and waved when he nodded his head and walked away.
After that, it was as if the relative safety of the abandoned campgrounds they'd taken over had allowed her to relax and turn back into a sixteen-year-old girl, all flirty smiles and waggling fingers and young, blonde innocence directed his way.
Of course, he'd tried to ignore her, but it wasn't an easy task, not with that feeling of being perpetually watched making him feel all kinds of antsy and confused as hell.
Daryl Dixon was used to being the hunter, not the prey.
Risking a glance in her direction, he swears under his breath when he accidentally catches her eye. With a little wave, she rises from her seat on the grass and starts walking over to him. Quickly, he turns his head and nods at whatever the hell Andrea's saying.
"Hi, Daryl," Beth coos as she approaches the group.
He turns, as do Andrea and Rick. He wonders if they're the only ones watching.
"Hey," he says, nodding, and turns back to face his companions.
"So, I was just wondering…" She plays with her fingers, knotting them, and smiles sheepishly. "Maybe you could teach me how to shoot one of these days?"
"Andrea's a better shot than me," he says, jerking a thumb in the sharpshooter's direction. "Ask her."
Andrea beams at him, then looks to Beth. "I'd be happy to teach you, if your dad says it's okay."
The younger girl's smile falters. "Yeah, but… I mean, no offense, Andrea, but Daryl, you spend all that time out in the woods." She shrugs. "I thought maybe you could take me out there and… you know, you could teach me how to hunt and track, too?"
Daryl just shrugs. "Ask your daddy. Maybe y'all and Rick and Carl could use a lesson one of these days. The kid's been asking, too."
"Oh," she says, trying to keep her face from falling. "Okay."
"I'd like to get in on that, too, if you don't mind," Andrea says, and he nods in response. She turns to Beth and smiles. "And maybe after, we can go shooting. Okay?"
Beth presses her lips together and nods. "Yeah. Maybe. If my dad and sister want me hanging out with you after… well, you know."
She turns on her heel and walks away, leaving Andrea, Daryl and Rick to stare after her.
Andrea clears her throat. "Well, okay, then."
Daryl blows out a breath. "Yeah."
She comes bearing a gift one day, wandering away from the main living area to the modicum of privacy he'd found to sit and work on his crossbow.
"My sister and Glenn found some drink mix packets on the last supply run," she tells him. "Lemonade?"
Daryl nods, accepting the plastic cup, and takes a long sip. "Thanks."
She beams. "No problem." She makes a show of looking over his gathered supplies. "Cleaning your crossbow?"
"Cool," she says. "I mean, the crossbow is just… I really like it. It's a lot better than using a gun."
"It's not bad," he agrees, turning back to the task at hand.
She frowns, clearly wanting him to be more engaged in the conversation. "Well, I'll let you get back to it."
"See you later!"
She gets no more than ten feet away before she appears to trip over a small rock, falling to the ground with a shout. Daryl glances up and sighs, setting down the crossbow.
He walks over to her and squints at the ground. "You all right?"
"I don't know," she whimpers, twisting herself into a sitting position. She touches her ankle gingerly. "It really hurts!"
He offers her a hand, and she takes it, letting him pull her upright. "You could've twisted it, I guess. Try walking on it."
She attempts to take a few steps and yelps in pain, grabbing at her leg. "Ow!" She looks up at him through her eyelashes. "Can you take me over to my dad so he can look at it?"
Daryl nods and wraps an arm tightly around her waist, supporting her weight. "All right, you good?"
"Yep," she says, her smile wider than it should be. "I'm good."
One night, she decides to up her game and lets herself into his tent.
At the sound of the fabric unzipping, Daryl's eyes pop open and he reaches for his gun. "Who the fuck's that?"
"It's Beth," she says quietly. "Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you."
She comes closer, and Daryl can barely make out her smile in the dark.
"Something wrong?" he sits up further in his sleeping bag and rubs at his eyes. "Walkers?"
"Then what the hell are you doing in my tent?" he grumbles.
"I couldn't sleep," she shrugs. "Thought I heard you awake in here."
"Well, you were mistaken, because I ain't," he spits. "So you best be getting back to your own tent now."
She drops to sit beside him. "Are you sure?" she asks, and reaches a hand out to touch his leg through the sleeping bag
He shifts away from her and points to the entrance of the tent. "Hell yes I am," he says. "Now get the hell out of here, and make sure no one sees you."
She smirks. "Too late for that," she says, rising to her feet.
She ducks out of the tent, and Daryl swears and shoves his sleeping bag away to follow her out. Sure enough, Rick and Lori are sitting by the fire, watching with wide eyes as Beth saunters away.
"You come in here again, you better be dragging a walker behind you!" he calls, making sure everyone can hear him.
Beth waves over her shoulder. "Night, Daryl!"
When she goes all out and kisses him behind the pickup truck, Daryl decides it's time to confront the matter head-on.
He pushes her away with both hands and backs a few feet away from her. "What the hell?"
"Come on, Daryl." She tries to sidle up to him again, and he keeps his distance. "What's the problem?"
"Look, how old are you, girl? Fourteen? Fifteen?"
"Sixteen," she answers, her voice curt and her chin high.
He rolls his eyes. "All right, well I'm not."
"So that means you're jailbait, kid, and I ain't my brother," he says. "You can't go ahead and do that shit with me, you hear?"
"Lori and Carol said that, too," she says, shrugging her shoulders.
"Maybe it's about time you listened, then."
She laughs at him. "Things have changed, Daryl. The world's different now," she explains. "Besides, it's not like I'm some damn virgin."
"Jesus, fuck." He scrubs a hand across his face.
"Me and Jimmy, we went out to the barn a few times, and –"
He waves his hands at her, cutting her off. "I don't need to know."
"We don't even have to have sex right away, you know," she says. She sidles up closer to him. "If you're uncomfortable, we can always do other stuff."
Beth reaches for his belt, and his hands immediately fly down to cover hers. "Hey!"
Her fingers are quick, loosening his buckle, and while he attempts to pry her hands off and stop what she's doing, the sound of someone clearing their throat makes them both stop, heads snapping up.
"What's going on here?" Andrea asks, her eyebrows up in her hairline.
"Geez," Beth says, retracting her hands. "You try to get a little privacy around here."
"I think your dad's looking for you," Andrea says, her voice flat.
The younger girl sighs and nods. "Fine. Later, Daryl," she says, patting his arm as she moves off.
Andrea moves to stand next to him, both of their backs to the metal of the truck. "So…"
"Don't," he warns.
"Beth seems pretty taken with you lately."
He glares at her, and it only takes a few seconds before she breaks and a snort of laughter gets away from her. "It's not funny," he grumbles.
"It is a little," she says, chuckling. "Oh my God, you should've seen your face."
"I don't know what to do," he complains. "She won't leave me alone."
"Come on, you're a good looking guy. You're telling me you never had a teenage girl chasing after you before?"
Daryl just glares at her, his face flushing a bit.
She sighs. "Do you want me to help you, Daryl?"
He eyes her warily. "How?"
"Well… maybe we can convince her that you're no longer…"
"Available." She bumps his shoulder with hers. "Know what I mean?"
"I don't know," he says, trying to size her up.
Andrea moves to stand in front of him, reaching a hand out to play with a button on his leather vest. "You can't be with her if you're already with someone else."
He narrows his eyes. "You want to pretend you’re my girl so she backs off?"
"Won't she know we're lying?" He waves his hand at the camp. "Ain't like we don't all know each other's business around here."
Andrea shrugs, a cheeky grin on her face. "We'll make it convincing."
He chews on his lip for a moment. "She's just a kid."
"So you can handle her, then?" She gestures to his belt. "Is that what I walked in on?"
He sighs and shakes his head. "All right. Let's do this shit."
The group usually gathers in a central location for dinner, and it's then that Andrea decides to make her move.
"There you are!" she says, nice and loud, walking in his direction.
Daryl tries to put a smile on his face. "Yeah. Right here."
She bends down when she reaches him and plants a kiss at the side of his mouth. "Did you eat yet?"
"Waiting for you," he says.
She squeezes his shoulder. "Stay. I'll get it," she says, and moves off toward Lori and Carol's food station, as it were.
Daryl glances around, wanting a location on Beth, only to find her stalking toward him. She pastes a smile on her face when they make eye contact. "Hey, Daryl."
"Listen, I'm just going to get something to eat. Do you want me to bring you back something?"
He shakes his head. "Nah, that's all right." He points to the food table. "Andrea's got it."
Beth frowns and turns to watch Andrea as she makes her way back, balancing two plates and one cup.
"This looks delicious," she says, taking a seat beside him. She hands him his plate and smiles up at Beth. "What's up, honey?"
"Don't call me that," she snaps.
Andrea nods. She takes a sip from the plastic cup before handing it to Daryl. "Sorry. Beth, you need something?"
"Just wanted to talk to Daryl, is all."
"About what happened earlier?" Andrea takes the cup back from Daryl and drinks. "Because don't worry about it, he told me there was just a little misunderstanding between you guys, and it's fine."
She watches as Andrea presses herself closer to his side, and her jaw tightens. "You know, forget it. I'll just catch you later, Daryl."
Beth walks away, and Andrea grins at him. "Okay! So? That wasn't so hard."
"She'll be back," he grumbles. "She's all fired up now. That girl's going to try sneaking into my tent again."
She grabs his hand and pulls it into her lap, patting it gently. "Not if you're otherwise occupied, she won't."
Night falls, and Andrea loops her arm through Daryl's as they settle on logs near the campfire, drawing side-eyed glances from most of the group. Beth just pouts, staring at them, her arms crossed over her chest.
Tugging lightly on his arm, Andrea leans up slightly to catch his earlobe between her teeth. He shudders as she whispers in his ear. "Put your arm around me!" she hisses. "And laugh like I just said something funny."
He looks down at her with a chuckle and wraps an arm around her waist, pulling her closer. She sighs, contented, and leans her head on his shoulder.
Across the circle of fire, Lori catches her eye and opens her mouth to say something. Andrea shakes her head, her eyes wide, grateful when the other women seems to understand and stays quiet.
They linger at the fire until eventually it's just the two of them and Beth left. Andrea stretches against him and yawns loudly.
"Tired?" he asks.
She smirks at him. "Not too tired. Come on." She rises to her feet, holding her hand out, and he takes it to pull himself up.
Glancing at Beth, Andrea smiles. "Hey. Have a good night!"
Beth glares. "Yeah. You, too."
Andrea lays an extra sleeping bag out beside his and flops down with a contented sigh.
"So you're staying here?"
"Well, yeah," she says. She rolls her head to look at him. "How's it going to look if I don't sleep in my boyfriend's tent?"
"How's it going to look tomorrow and the next day when we're not really together?"
She shrugs awkwardly. "I think Beth's pretty much got the picture by now. It probably won't matter if she sees us… together, or not."
"Might be awkward."
"Yeah." She tries to get comfortable and asks, "Pillow?"
He leans over to a pile of his clothes and tosses her a shirt. "Here."
She looks at the flannel and quirks an eyebrow, but balls it up and stuffs it under her head anyway. "Thanks."
Daryl watches her a moment, unsure of what to do with himself. "You ain't worried about what everyone else thinks?"
He gestures back and forth between them. "If they think you're with me."
"Why would I?" He shrugs, and she sits up to scoot a little closer to him. "Daryl, I know you're probably not used to hearing it, but everyone here likes you. Everyone respects you."
"I don't know about that," he says, picking at a stray thread on his sleeping bag.
She laughs humorlessly. "If anything, you should be worried about what they'll think of you being with me."
"I'm not worried about that," he says. "You do a lot for this group." He chuckles under his breath. "Hell, maybe it's not us," he muses.
She laughs. "I think you hit the nail on the head," she says. She reaches out to squeeze his knee.
He looks at her hand on his leg and clears his throat. "So, uh…"
"Yeah." She pulls her hand away and smiles. "We should probably just…"
He nods. "Yeah."
He turns away from her to fix his bed, straightening his sleeping bag and fluffing his own shirt-pillow, and she puts her hand on his leg again. He raises an eyebrow at her.
She searches his face while her thumb makes circles on his knee. "What if…"
Daryl looks down at her hand again, then back to her face. "What?"
She's about to speak again when there's a noise from outside, approaching the tent. She freezes, putting a finger against her lips. Daryl holds his breath and listens carefully.
"Footsteps?" she mouths.
She raises an eyebrow. "Beth?"
He listens, and nods again.
Andrea shakes her head and blows out a breath. "I can't believe this girl!" she says, her voice barely a whisper. "Okay. New plan."
Daryl barely has time to furrow his brow at her before she moans loudly and pushes him back against his sleeping bag, climbing on top of him. She pulls the extra sleeping bag up so that it covers them both, hiding the fact that they're fully clothed.
"Oh, Daryl!" She pulls her shirt up and off and tosses it, listening as it hits the wall of the tent with a satisfying smack. He stares up at her, eyes wide, until she settles her weight against him fully, her knees on either side of his waist.
"You're sitting right on my belt," he groans, squirming as he tries to make himself less uncomfortable. "Shit."
She looks him over for a moment. "Maybe I shouldn't be too enthusiastic," she says. "Maybe she won't like you as much if you can't get me off."
"Oh, fuck you," he grumbles, and she giggles.
She raises herself up, thighs brushing against his hips, before dipping down again, ghosting over him, her hands flat on his abdomen. She does it again, and again.
"Oh! Daryl!" she fake cries. She gasps. "Yes! Oh, right there, baby! Yes!"
"Jesus, Meg Ryan. That sounds so fake," he mutters. His hands dance around her legs, unsure where to land.
Andrea rolls her eyes and flattens herself against his chest, still moving her hips. "She's sixteen! She did it with Jimmy the farmer in a barn! What does she know?" she hisses in his ear. She pokes him. "Come on, I'm doing all the work here."
"Fine." Daryl clears his throat and raises his voice. "Oh, yeah! You like that?"
She rolls her eyes a little. "Yes!"
"Oh, yeah! Come on!"
"Shut up!" someone that isn't Beth yells.
"Fuck you!" Daryl yells back.
Andrea slaps a hand over his mouth and decides to finish it. "Oh! Daryl! Oh, God, yes! Yes! Yes!" She finishes it off with a short, screechy scream, and grins at him.
Daryl risks a glance at the entrance to the tent and sees a little gap being zipped up quickly. He puts a hand up, signaling her to be quiet, and they listen as footsteps wander away from the tent.
"I think we're good," he says against her palm.
She removes her hand from his face and relaxes against him, her cheek to his chest. She starts laughing silently, her entire body shaking against his. To her surprise, she feels him laughing with her, little snorts of laughter escaping him.
"That was so fucking stupid," he says, and she's off again, giggling uncontrollably.
"Oh, God," she sighs, pushing herself up, her hands on his chest. "I know it. I think your problems are solved, though."
Daryl nods, and his gaze wanders, taking in her tan-colored bra and the bit of bare, flat stomach hovering above his own. His hands have found a spot on her hips, thumbs rubbing and working their way to the inside of her thighs, and she makes a point of settling herself a little lower on his body.
"You still staying?" he asks, his voice low and rough.
She grins. "Absolutely," she says, and leans down to press her mouth against his.
The next morning, they emerge from the tent together and part ways so Andrea can change her clothes. Daryl heads to grab them both breakfast, hoping to move quickly and avoid everyone's eyes.
He's just filling two plates with powdered eggs when he finds himself all but cornered by Rick.
"Daryl," the sheriff says by way of greeting.
He nods. "Morning."
"I, uh... I'm surprised you're up this early," Rick continues. "Seeing as how I know you didn't get a lot of sleep last night."
Daryl's face gets pink. "Look, we were just –"
"Yeah, I know." Rick shakes his head. "I know. I get it, and, uh… good for you guys. It's just the tents don't offer much in the way of soundproofing."
"Yeah," Daryl says, nodding, looking down at his feet. "We'll keep it down next time. Sorry if we bothered anyone."
Rick nods, and there's the hint of a smile on his face. He claps Daryl brotherly on the back. "The Greene girl's not happy, but she'll get over it," he says. "Truth is, I think everyone else is a little… jealous."
If possible, Daryl's face gets a little redder. "Oh."
Glenn wanders over, then, arms crossed in front of his chest. "Thanks for making the rest of us look bad, man. Really appreciate it."
Daryl gives them a tight smile and nods. "Uh, I'm just going to…" He gestures with the plates toward the tents. "I'll see you."
When he turns around, Andrea's there, coming toward him with a confused look on her face. "Daryl?"
"Let's eat somewhere else today," he suggests, corralling her into walking the other way.
She takes a plate from him, and he guides her with a hand at the small of her back. "Why?"
He sighs, but he can't stop the corners of his lips from twitching upward. "I'll tell you later."