“What’s that law, again?” She asks, following him through the forest. “About everything going wrong?”
“Murphy’s law, have you heard of it?”
He turns back at her, and through a crack of lightning, she can see he’s squinting at her like she’s talking out of her ass.
“Murphy’s law,” she repeats. “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”
Daryl turns back around, keeps weaving through the trees. “‘S just life, girl,” he tells her. Sounds about right to him, hell. It sounds like the title of his autobiography.
She rolled her eyes, just trying to keep close to him in the downpour. It seemed to be true enough for tonight, at least. Their car dying, the herd coming, the rain. All of it kind of seemed like a big ‘fuck you’ to their supply run.
“You see that?” He calls back to her and Beth lifts her gaze to see where he’s pointing. There’s a smallish building tucked away in the trees.
“Yeah,” she calls. “I’ll go right.”
She pulls her gun out from under her jacket, cocking it. They both creep a wide perimeter around the building, making sure there aren’t any walkers or people trying to bait them around.
The weird thing is… there doesn’t seem to be a door. A normal one, at least, and no windows. One side of the building has a shuttered door, the kind you’d see at a mall when a store was closed. It was pretty banged up, bullet holes and dents and all sorts of damage to it, but it didn’t seem like it’d been opened yet.
“I’m gonna try to get ’er open,” Daryl tells her. “You watch my back.”
She gives him a nod, keeping her eyes around them, scanning back and forth for any potential walkers wandering through.
Another boom of thunder, another bolt of lightning lighting up the sky and Beth notices something. She glances behind her where Daryl’s trying to slip his knife under the door to disengage the lock without much luck.
She reaches out, tapping his shoulder. “Hey,” she nods to the corner of the building, “take a look at this.” She leads him over, kneeling in the mud and pointing out where the brick is starting to fall out of place, where the grout is crumbling. “Maybe if we can pull some of the stones out, I could crawl in and open it up from the inside,” she tells him, and he gives it all a look. He gives the brick a kick and the first one falls away.
Daryl gives her a nod.
Pulling the bricks away isn’t too hard. They find some rocks and start hitting the ones they can away, forming a little hole in the side of the wall. It’s hardly big enough for a person, but Beth thinks she can fit her shoulders through it. The crumbling grout only went so far and the rest of the bricks are stuck tight, unwilling to budge.
“Make sure you clear it,” he tells her.
“I know,” she gives him a look, stripping out of her heavy jacket. It was freezing, but there was no way she was fitting through with it on. She gets back down on her knees, squinting into the darkness. She was positive that if there were any walkers inside she’d have heard them by now with all the clanging and banging and pulling bricks away, surely that would have alerted any kind of walker inside. Still, she banged her gun on the concrete floor, yelled into the hole a few times.
“Okay,” she said, “help push me in.”
Daryl gave one last look around them then set his crossbow down, propped up against the wall, and gripped her hips. She stuck her arms into the hole, using the brick to push her through while Daryl helped guide her hips through the little gap in the bricks. His hands move down her legs, helping get her deeper in until she can pull her knees up.
“Yeah,” her voice comes back, and Daryl watches as she stands up.
“Watch out for traps,” he tells her. “I’mma keep lookin’ out.”
He turns, watching the dark horizon. It’s dark and the rain isn’t helping his vision, but the least he can do is make sure he doesn’t get bitten while she’s in there.
A sound rings out that makes his blood go cold.
It all flashes before his eyes, every last moment he’s had with Beth. First seeing her at the farm, watching her with Judith at the prison, being out on the road with her. That time at the golf club and their time at the funeral home, what felt like his own piece of salvation. And then it all coming, raining down on him. How he’d watched that car hit her, how he’d chased them away, how ready to run that car down he was. How hungry he was to kill whoever was in that fucking car. How he’d held her in his arms, bleeding from her head, how he’d held her and cried until the morning light. How she’d groaned, shifting in his arms after being roused by his trembling chest. How she’d held onto him, face pressed against his neck to block out the early light. How he’d carried her for days, keeping her warm and fed and safe while she recovered from what surely was a concussion and possibly a few cracked ribs. Watching her grow and bloom into something new in Alexandria, watching her play with the kids and how excited she’d been when he told her he found an old orchard. The day he took her out there and she had the best time, filling crate after crate up with fresh fruits, sitting beneath the shade of a peach tree and making love, licking the taste of fruit from one another’s mouths.
He’d never thought of sex like that. Didn’t think there was such a thing as making love, just that it was for movies and dumb teenaged girls.
But out there, like that, her bare as the day she was born in his lap. The sun beginning to set behind her, lighting her up like — like an angel. That’s what she was.
They’d survived so long, gone through so much together, and in that moment he thought he was hearing her last words.
And then it got worse.
Not a second later, he heard something that did make it worse. A crash, like something metal falling on the concrete, like things careening off of shelves.
“Beth!” He screams, falling to the ground, trying to jam his head through that impossibly small hole. “Beth!” His muddy hands scramble for his crossbow, aiming it in the little hole. It’s useless. There’s no light, and the hole isn’t big enough for him to even see where he’s aiming.
“Shit!” he yells, dropping it once more to his side.
All he can hear is the blood rushing in his ears, the pounding of his heart. He needs to get in there, more than he needs to breathe or think or live. He needs to get inside.
He picks up the rock he’d been using before, driving it down against one of the bricks that might have the chance of breaking off. He tries again and again, driving it against the edge of the hole until the rock splits in two in his hands.
He screams again, hurling half of it into the dark, wet forest. He goes back to that shuttered door and kicks at it, shoves the blade of his machete under it and lifts until the blade breaks clean off the handle.
“Beth!” He screams, kicking at the door. He hears something move inside, more clinking of cans and he runs back to the hole, gets his crossbow aimed back at it.
“Come out here, you coward!” He screams. “You touch her and I’ll kill you, I’ll —”
His words die, gruff in his throat when Beth’s head edges out of it. Her eyes are wide, looking up to him in a sense of excitement. She’s got a smile as wide as can be on her lips, and it’s that damn smile that makes him relax. That makes him breathe, lower his crossbow, hang his head. “Dammit, girl,” he mutters, willing himself not to fucking cry in relief right now.
She’s still on the ground looking up at him and something edges out of the hole alongside her head, taking up the rest of the space available. “They’ve got mac and cheese in here!”
It all just… Daryl can’t help but laugh at it. That he’d thought for a minute that she was dead, all over a box of fucking mac and cheese.
“I’m gonna open the door for you,” she says. “There’s tons in here.”
She and her blue paper box disappear back into the darkness and Daryl stands right where he is. He looks up to the sky. He’s wet, cold, muddy, damn tired and fucking happy. She’s alright.
He walks around to the side of the building to see where she’s pulled the door up about two feet. “It’s stuck,” she says. “You gotta crawl under.”
Daryl slides his crossbow under, then gets on his stomach and crawls under himself. She shuts the door behind him, sliding the latch into place. “Look at all this!” She says happily. And, yeah. It’s a nice little hut. He can’t see much without light, but there are three rows of shelves, one of them braced up against the wall — he assumes that’s what he heard crashing down a few moments ago.
“The hell you do in here, girl?” He asks her, looking around at what they had stocked. Plenty of cans and jars, bags of dry goods.
“I got excited when I saw the Velveeta,” she admits, and he knows if he could see her she’d have that gorgeous little rose flush across her cheeks. “Tripped over my own feet and brought the shelf down on me.” She’s standing over there now, getting the shelf to stand up straight again. He watches her kneel down, starting to stack cans and bags back into it.
“There’s a cot over here,” she says, “‘s covered in cans now, but there’s something beneath it, too.”
He walks back over, getting down on his knees right beside her to start clearing it off. Once they do, he reaches under and slides the crate out. He pops the thing open with Beth beside him.
It turns out that they may just be the luckiest sons of bitches there was that day.
The first thing Beth pulls out is a sleeping bag, squealing in joy while she places it on the cot. There’s more inside. A lantern, a little gas stove, cutlery, a few pans, two sets of plain wool shirts and pants.
“Ain’t that somethin’?” She asks, flicking the lantern on.
“Hold on,” he says, blinking at the sudden light. “Let’s move this in front of the hole so we don’t attract nothin’,” he says. She gives him a nod, helping him lift the chest and bring it over to the carved out little hole and sliding it in place.
He reaches out subconsciously, tugging her in against him and wrapping his arm around her shoulders. He presses a kiss to her temple.
“Scared me there for a second,” he tells her, nice and quiet.
She turns against him, wrapping her arms around his middle. “Sorry,” she says. She lifts her head, her chin on his chest. “I just got excited.”
Daryl doesn’t say anything, just takes a moment.
Beth does that a lot these days. Apparently, it’s something she’s been talking about with Gabriel and the other Bible freaks. Taking moments to appreciate what they have. She’ll ask him to pull the bike over and watch the sunset with her, or to take a bath with her, go sit by the pond with her. She doesn’t talk, but when Daryl looks over at her he can see the gears turning in her head. That she’s thinking an awful lot in those little moments.
So he takes this one. He doesn’t think about the bad things, not that they’ve been living in hell for years by now. Just that he’s got this little piece of heaven right here with him.
He kisses her forehead this time, then pats her flank. “C’mon. Let's get out of the wet stuff, see if we can’t dry it at all before morning.”
“I wanna make that mac and cheese, Daryl, I mean it,” she tells him, stepping back over to the cot. She starts stripping out of wet clothes, then slips on the plain ones they’d found in the chest, pulls on clean wool socks. She doesn’t wait for him, just picks up one of the pots and goes over to the gallon water jugs and fills up.
He’s slower to change, distracted by watching her. How she goes to the little camping stove and sets it up, then reads over the instructions on the box. She turns, unrolls the sleeping bag and unzips it, then wraps it around her shoulders. She folds her legs beneath her, then looks up at him. “Why ain’t you changin’?”
It’s then that he realizes that all he’s done is unbutton his shirt.
“Distractin’,” he tells her with a shake of his head, then puts his head down and pulls his wet clothes off. He’s sure the two sets of clothes are the same size and it makes his chest feel warm seeing the way she’s swimming in hers, how she’d had to twist the waistband of the pants to fit her narrow little hips. The shirt is tight against his own chest, stretched across his shoulders and his thighs.
“This was a good find,” Beth says, sticking her toes up near the fire to warm them up.
“We got lucky,” he nods, settling down next to her. She extends the unzipped bag to him, wrapping it around his shoulder as she cuddles up against him, as she tucks her feet into his lap, her head on his chest.
“Nah,” she shakes her head. “This is exactly where we were meant to end up. I was wrong about Murphy’s law.”
Daryl turns his head, placing his mouth against her wet, dirty hair. “Who’s Murphy, anyway?”
Beth giggles at that, shrugging her shoulders. “Dunno. I just remember learning it in school.”
Daryl keeps her there, tucked into his chest. Beth hums a little melody as they watch the water boil and she tips the noodles in, idly stirring them with a fork. She picks up the foil packet and starts squishing it in her hands.
“How should I strain these out?” She asks, squinting. She fishes a noodle out and blows on it before tasting, shaking her head. “Almost done.”
“We can save the water,” he said. “Put it in another pot, maybe… rinse somethin’ or summat.”
“Help me?” She asks, picking up the pot by the handle and her fork. He sets the other pot down and grabs a spoon then turns off the fire. She slowly tips the water out, the two of them straining what they could with their utensils before she sets the pot back on the ground and grabs the foil pack.
He takes another moment. He sits there and watches the look of excitement on her face, watches as her grin grows wider while she’s mixing the cheesy goo into the noodles. It’s innocent. In a world so full of pain and suffering, he’s got this girl who thinks she’s won the lottery over an expired box of Velveeta.
“Here,” she says, reaching to grab her old shirt and wrapping the bottom of the pot in it so it doesn’t burn them. She scoots back against his chest, offering it to him. “Bon appetite,” she grins, then sticks her fork in and takes a big bite.
Beth throws her head back, eyes shut before she pulls her fork out and waves it in celebration. “Oh my Gosh,” she tells him. “It’s so good. Daryl,” she squeals, going in for another bite. “It’s just like I remember!” Her attention is all on this dumb pot of orange noodles, and his is all on her.
She seems to notice that his spoon is still, that he hasn’t had the eye-opening experience of eating post-apocalyptic fake cheese. “Come on!” She says, diving in for another forkful. This time, she raises it to his lips.
He looks at her, all eager excitement, and opens his mouth dutifully. Closes it around her fork, chews, swallows.
“Isn’t it good?” She asks, eyes bright.
He nods, wipes the corner of his mouth with his hand.
“Yeah, baby,” he says. “It’s good.”
He’s always doing this. Always getting distracted by her, the way she talks and sings and swings her hips when she loves a song and the way she talks to people and holds Judith and reaches for his hand when she’s nearby.
Everything he loves, he knows, is in this girl right here.
“Almost feels normal,” she tells him. “Just feels like we’re out campin’.”
“This is normal. Now,” he tells her.
Beth makes a little sound in her throat, neither agreeing or disagreeing and snuggles in closer.
They finish up dinner and keep looking around the shelves, trying to get a sense of what they stored here.
“What do you think this was supposed to be?” She asks, checking the dates on packets of powdered mashed potatoes.
“Dunno,” he tells her. “Kinda seems like a shelter to someone who only half knew what to store. Probably died before he could get out here.”
“Oh my gosh,” she stands straight up, holding up a bag. “Look at this!”
“Marshmallows?” He asks.
“Yes!” She squeals. She turns around to the next shelf, “I swear I saw some graham crackers around, we could make s’mores if we found some chocolate.”
“They even good still?” Daryl asks, and Beth pulls the plastic apart and stuffs one in her mouth. She chews it, then nods.
“Seems good to me!” She sets the bag down on the cot and gets on her knees, looking for the box of graham crackers.
He finds a little smirk on his lips, looking at her down there while she racks the shelves for those crackers. He continues his stroll around the room, looking over the shelves until he spots a little corner of silver.
“Hey,” he said while she powered the little gas stove back up. “Here.”
The little silver packet landed square in her lap. It’d been hiding away on a top shelf, something she never had a chance to see.
“Daryl Dixon,” she gasps. “Get over here and let me kiss you.”
She slides the marshmallows and chocolate bar off her lap and stands up, lifting up her arms and he grabs her around the thigh, lifting her right up and over the stove to get her sitting on his hips.
“You’re so good to me,” she whispers happily, giving him a short kiss on the lips.
Goddamn, he thinks. I am so in love with you.
She pulls away and mirrors him, smiling fondly at his expression before stretching her legs. He lets her slip out of his grasp, gently setting her back on the ground. “Come on,” she says, returning to her previous spot on the floor. “Do you like s’mores? I’ll make you one.”
He does as he’s told, joining her on the ground. “Never had one,” he admits.
“What?!” She sticks a marshmallow on her fork, then sticks her hand in her sleeve and uses it to keep her hand from burning on the metal as she carefully roasts the marshmallow. “I thought you went camping all the time.”
Daryl shrugs, “Yeah, to hunt. Not to… do this.”
Beth pouts, “Well, ya know. At least I can be your first time. You’re gonna love it. Grab a graham cracker,” she instructs, “and then put a piece of chocolate on it and get another graham cracker ready. We used to do this all the time on the farm, every time we’d do a big family cookout.”
“So you’re an expert?” He asks, stacking the chunk of chocolate as he’s told. There’s a square that doesn’t fit and he holds it up to her mouth, letting her have a taste of it.
Instead, she bites half of it off and nods. “Finally something I can teach you about, huh?” She teases.
He puts the other half of the square in his own mouth and chews. She’s taught him so much. Taught him how to love, how to laugh, how to appreciate the little things. Taught him there were things worth living for, that there were still good people here.
“Yeah,” he agrees. “Finally.”
She giggles, looking up at him and nudging him with her elbow. “He’s ready,” she says, pulling the now golden marshmallow from the flame and setting it onto the chocolate. “Now put the other graham cracker on top,” he follows her instructions, making a little sandwich from it all. “There,” she grins proudly. “Enjoy.”
“You sure you don’t want the first one?”
She nods. “I wanna see your reaction.”
He gives her a little smile, takes a bite. It tastes… like a whole lotta sugar, in all honesty. Might give him a damn cavity. He grins anyway. “It’s good,” he nods.
She beams at him, reaching over to pick at his facial hair. “You’ve got marshmallow in your goatee,” she laughs, and he leans in to kiss her.
Yeah, he thinks. Maybe Murphy was wrong.