There's a lot of things that have made Beth Greene's heart stop in her lifetime and it's happened more in the last few years than ever before, for several reasons. Near death experiences being the main one, such as walker teeth inches from her flesh, but there has been one other reason, wheedled down to one man in particular: Daryl Dixon. The very first time was when she saw him riding up to her house on the farm, hair short and blonde, face less lined and weathered. The very last time was when she said that word, that word weighted in everything that could happen between them, soaked in memories to come and a love yet to be shared.
After that, she was taken and she wasn't sure her heart was going to be beating for that much longer anyway. There wasn't another chance for him to stop it with surprise, with excitement, with terror. Until now, as she faces him for the first time in a long time, so different from the very first time, everything different now. His hair and his clothes, the fight gone from his shoulders, the sky dark and cold, unfamiliar in a way the farm could never be. Most different of all is how she feels inside, like a scooped-out shell, waiting to be filled, dirty and bedraggled, hungry and exhausted and aching.
On a lonely road on a lonely night they meet eyes and even though before it had been racing with adrenaline, her heart stops. For a moment, there's nothing but Daryl's yawning pupil until a bush rustles close, too close, close enough for her to panic; then the voices of several men fill the space, push out the silence, loud enough to make her flinch; her hand to tremble at her side. Daryl's eyes flicker to the bush and then to her and the panic she sees in them, in the eyes of a man not easily scared, makes her throat close in terror.
The word rings through the air like a gunshot and Beth flinches again, even rocks back on her feet like she's been hit. The group of men come to a stop, take her in stood not a few feet before them, covered in blood. Then they look at Daryl, who said the word, who is vibrating so hard Beth's eyes hurt to watch him.
A much older man in a rose shirt and with grey hair steps forward, takes the centre, directly between Daryl and Beth, and she watches Daryl tense up as the man speaks. "What'd we got here then? You lost, little girl? Looks like you got yourself in a right mess, huh?"
"I claimed her, Joe. Rules are rules," Daryl spits, taking a step forward.
The man -Joe- holds up his hand and Daryl stops. Beth's stomach clenches at his submission. Who is this man, to make Daryl Dixon do as he's told?
She takes a step forward and falters when Joe's eyes turn sharply to her, pinning her with a look that freezes her whole body. "Let the lady talk, Daryl. Go on, doll."
Beth's hand falls to her knife at her hip, the skin of her fingers crinkling with dry blood. "Ain't none of your damn business who I am."
"Ho-ho, she's got fire boys!" Joe crows and there's raucous laughter from the group of men further behind Daryl. He turns back to face her with a smile that makes her skin crawl. "How 'bout you tell us how a pretty little thang like you got covered in all that blood, hmm?"
The world swims a little in her vision like a filter has been lifted for her and Beth clenches her knife, still sheathed. All those screams ringing in her head until her eyes water and she glances at Daryl, at his tight eyes, his hands on the crossbow. He nods at her, just a tiny bit, only an incline of his head but she knows what she has to do, knows without conferring the plan they must put in place.
Beth swallows, releases her knife, sets a quiver to her voice that isn't quite fake and takes a step forward. "I k-killed people," she stutters and Joe's eyes tighten. "I didn't mean to!" She shouts on the tail end of a sob, two more steps closer. "They were tryin'a hurt me."
"Aw, doll, s'alright, we'll look after ya, won't we boys?" Joe turns to the crowd again, like he can't resist it and gets a holler before he turns back to Beth, startles a little when he sees how close she is. The look slides away as he reaches out a thick hand and curves his fingers over her cheek.
She whimpers; falls against his chest despite nausea rolling around in her stomach, the acid pooling in the back of her throat. "You promise?" She simpers.
"I promise, honey. Now, what's your name, huh?" His fingers stroke her skin and her whole spine goes rigid, despite her best efforts, as he swipes through dry blood.
"Beth," she breathes against his mouth, stretching on her tiptoes. Her stomach tightens at his breath but a smirk curves her mouth as his hand falls to her ass cheek; squeezes it. "I gotta tell you somethin' important."
She can see Daryl out the corner of her eye, so tense, his fingers tight on the crossbow, feet planted.
Beth tilts her neck back a little, resists the urge to grit her teeth as the man uses her ass to roll their hips together, feels his cock growing hard. "What's that, honey?"
She smiles, sweet as can be, rolling her hips back and watching Joe's eyes alight with lust. "You should never have let me this close to your face."
"Whoa-ho!" Everything slams to a halt before she can do what she intends because suddenly Joe is gripping her face in his hand, squeezing so tight her teeth cut into her cheeks. "Doll, tell me you wasn't…" he laughs like it's completely absurd. "Tell me you wasn't gonna try tear my throat out with your damn teeth?"
"Don't fuckin' touch her!" Daryl shouts and then grunts like he was hit.
"Guess you two know each other then?" Joe laughs and his band of merry men laugh too like it's just so fucking funny. "Now see, Daryl, I wasn't plannin' on hurtin' her, but y'know, this little bitch just tried to rip my fuckin’ throat out, so I'm thinkin' I get to slap her ‘bout a bit, right?"
"You do that, an' I rip your dick off, let the walkers finish ya."
Joe stares at her with a devilish smile, curling her insides and then releases her face. She gasps for breath as he turns to Daryl who, when she looks over, is being held back by two of Joe's men, another having taken his crossbow. They both stare at each other: Joe and Daryl and then Joe, without looking away from Daryl, without even aiming, swings his arm down. The flat of his palm strikes her across her face hard and she drops to the side under the brutality of it, barely catching herself on her hand to save a bash to the head.
She can already tell her lip has split open because there's hot blood pouring down her chin and the palms of her hands are ruined from the gravel, the bones of her right wrist screaming and fuck, she's pretty sure it's broken. Daryl howls in the background and she looks up through her hair, finds him fighting with the two men who hold him captive, a matching split lip for his troubles. They connect eyes and she pins him under the look she gives him until he goes limp. We can do this, she conveys with her eyes.
Together, like we always do.
Beth tries to get to her feet because that's nothing, not even a score on the beatings she's taken in the most recent events of her life, but he put some real force behind the smack and she's dizzy, which is why it's easy for him to shove her to her knees. She moans, despite all her effort not to, her frayed jeans tearing at the knees and destroying her skin. Seemingly not happy with his decision, Joe then grabs her by her hair and yanks her to her feet, a network of hot, sharp pain driving into her skull until her eyes water. She tries to fight against him, reaching her hands up to his fingers in her hair but he lands a jab to her ribs and her breath bursts out of her, hunching over her own belly.
"Stop! Leave 'er 'lone! What'd you want? I'll do it, just don't touch her no more! Stop fuckin' hurtin' her!" Daryl shouts, once more struggling in his captives hold.
"Well for one, you can stop fuckin' ‘round before I hit her hard enough to break a rib," Joe says over her head, his hand yanking at her head again so that she's upright.
Daryl immediately goes pliant. "Stop hurtin' her, she ain't done nothin'."
Joe scoffs incredulously. "If I hadn't been quick 'nough this little whore would'a killed me! That what you wanted though, huh? So you could run off an’ play happy families? Lemme guess, you been lookin' for this little slut, right?"
Daryl clenches his jaw but she stares hard enough to communicate one command: shut the fuck up.
When Joe gets no answer, he smiles, wide and lecherous. "Alrite, so you want your woman, right? Your prize? I mean, you did claim her, huh? So, here's what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna let you have her."
With shockingly cold precision, she understands exactly what he means even as Daryl frowns in confusion and before he can ask what's going on, she says, "he wants us to fuck."
Daryl baulks. "She's a fuckin' kid you sick fuck."
Joe over dramatically frowns and looks her over, his hand still gripping her hair tight as he surveys her whole body with dark, hungry eyes and looks around her to her ass, which he grips tight in his hand, despite Beth's clenched teeth. "All I see is woman. I mean, I can do it myself-"
"No," Beth cuts in, staring at Daryl. "He'll do it. We'll do what you want, you get your rocks off an' then you let us go."
Joe leans close to her ear, speaking low but loud enough for at least Daryl to hear. "You make sure I get my rocks off an' then we'll see 'bout lettin' you go. Got it?"
When she doesn't answer he shakes her and she grunts, fireworks exploding behind her eyes. "Yeah, I got it."
"Good," Joe replies, looking at his men and Daryl. "Let's get movin' then."