Beth follows Daryl, who moves like a cat through the dark field of Alexandria. It is like he has superhuman vision and can see every stone and branch with the dim light given off the crescent moon. Once when she stumbles, he catches her. His warm rough hands touching her shoulders is the best feeling in the world. Finally, they reach a grassy hill and both sit down on it to look at the stars.
The blonde enjoys sitting next to Daryl, she didn’t know if she would ever get the chance to even see him again, much less enjoy time together like they are now. The young woman reaches over and takes Daryl’s hand in hers, enjoying the feel of his rough calluses.
“It’s beautiful,” she says, looking up at the night sky.
Without all the bright lights lit up by the every city, there are more stars than Beth has ever seen or had time to appreciate. What amazes her is that the night sky isn’t just black, it is streaked with pinks and purples, almost like clouds at sunset, but much more subtle.
“I’m glad you brought me out here,” Beth tells Daryl.
He grunts in affirmation, but he isn’t staring at the stars. After a few minutes of his intense gaze on the side of her head, the blonde turns. When she meets his eyes, they are deeper and less shut off than she has ever seen them before. They are more intricate than even the night sky above her. Beth didn’t know that eyes were even capable of expressing so much. Suddenly, she is taken back to that kitchen table, to Daryl staring at her, the soft ‘oh’ that escaped her lips.
“Beth,” Daryl breathes in a voice she has never heard him use before.
His hand clenches around hers and he swallows, trying to continue speaking.
“Beth,” the older man starts, “without you…..so fucking wrong…..it wasn’t….and at the kitchen…..I…..”
He trailed off, his teeth grinding and his frustration with himself clearly building. He gives his head a slight shake, causing his long hair to whip the sides of his face before he growls. His hand withdraws from hers, leaving it feeling cold despite the warm night air.
“Beth,” he tries again, “you deserve better, I couldn’t get there in time…..I tried…the tracks were just gone….never felt that shitty in my whole life…damn it, if I could have just been faster I….”
“Stop,” Beth cuts in, knowing how Daryl swallows himself up with guilt, she has seen him do it before, “It isn’t your fault Daryl, I never blamed you. In fact, without you, I wouldn’t have known how to survive or had the courage to survive while I was at Grady. There were times I just wanted to give up, there were times I wanted to back down, but I didn’t because that wasn’t who you taught me to be. It was all you Daryl, including when you lead the group to the hospital to rescue me.”
He looks down at dusty boots, unable to meet her eye. However, the anger at himself that was beginning to build during his short speech had dissipated, but was replaced by something else. The archer brought his left thumb to his chapped lips, his right hand fiddled with the knife on his belt. It was all nervous anxiety, Beth had learned his little habits. Despite the confident appearance Daryl put on, he often was very unsure of himself. It meant a lot to the blonde that he would let the façade drop around her, it meant that he trusted her. He was trusting her right now, the young woman knew how hard it was for the hunter to talk about anything slightly personal, but he was clearly trying.
“Daryl,” she said gently, trying to encourage him.
He doesn’t raise his head, choosing to remain behind his long, hair, as if that will hide him from the world.
“I can’t say it right Beth,” he bursts out exasperated with himself, “and you deserve to have someone that can say it right and I can’t even get it strung together in my head it just…..fucking bullshit!”
At the end of his rant, Daryl stands up and seems ready to walk off. Quickly, Beth scrambles to her feet to stop him.
“Daryl,” she says, louder than before, putting a hand on his shoulder to prevent him from leaving.
“Don’t Beth,” he snaps, trying to pull away from her touch.
“Daryl,” She practically yells, trying to get his attention, “you don’t have to talk, it is okay if you can’t figure out what to say. I can just talk, you don’t need to leave.”
His eyes stare warily out from behind his hair, like he expects her to suddenly attack him.
“I think I know what you are trying to say,” she tells him, lowering her voice like she is trying to encourage a scared dog to come to her.
That last statement causes his eyes to snap out of whatever mood he has worked himself into and now he is completely focused on her. The intensity is a bit overwhelming. The blonde sits back down in the grass and pats the ground beside her. Slowly, Daryl saunters back over and sinks into the spot beside her, dropping his crossbow within reach.
They sit there for a few minutes without a word as Beth tries to come up with the best way to phrase what is happening, has been happening, between them. It isn’t easy, even for her, no wonder Daryl was frustrated with himself.
“You remember how you taught me to track,” Beth asked Daryl.
He inclined his head slightly, unsure of where she was going with the conversation.
“You told me that all the signs were there,” she reminded him, “I just had to know how to read them.”
The gruff man’s lips turned up slightly at the memory.
“Well, the same works with people,” Beth continued, “and not just the undead kind. I’ve been watching you Daryl.”
The hunter looked surprised and unsettled at the same time.
“The way you always made sure you brought back game for the group to eat,” Beth told him, “I knew you cared about us even though you didn’t talk much or sleep near us. When we escaped together, you didn’t just leave me even though you would have done fine on your own, that just isn’t the kind of person you are. However, while we were together, I learned how to read you much better. When you didn’t help me do things it wasn’t because you didn’t care, but because you believed in me enough to think that I could handle myself. That you would drink moonshine with me and tell me how you had been feeling and about your past showed how much you trusted me. When you taught me to shoot with your crossbow, you saw more in me than anyone else ever had. The time I got my ankle sprained in the trap, you showed that you would never leave me. Then, when you carried me down the stairs to a meal you set up, it just let me see how much you cared about my happiness.”
Even though Beth couldn’t see Daryl very well in the dark, she knew the archer enough to know his face had turned at least slightly red. She could hear his movements as he squirmed at her words, but that didn’t stop her from continuing. Beth had learned to be confident from him, she wasn’t about to leave things unsaid, not after she knew how easy it was to never get a chance again.
“Daryl,” Beth told him, taking his hand in hers, “you don’t have to tell me how much you care about me, you already show it every single day. I can see it in the way your eyes stare at me, the way your hand holds mine, the way you are always there for me. And I feel the same way about you too. I always will Daryl.”
If Beth hadn’t been holding his hand, she would have thought that she was sitting alone. Daryl didn’t make a sound, didn’t say a word, didn’t rustle a single blade of grass, he didn’t even breathe for the longest time. Finally, his hand twitched, just the slightest, tightening around hers. The twitch turned into a tug and Beth felt herself pulled towards Daryl.
Suddenly, they were staring, face to face, a few inches from each other. The blonde could feel the archer’s breath against her face. His blue eyes gleamed as they stared into hers. She wasn’t sure in the end which one of them moved first, but suddenly his lips were on hers and that was all she cared about. It wasn’t like she used to dream about, some young man sweeping her off her feet and kissing her goodnight in front of the door to her house. Daryl’s lips were chapped, they both hadn’t showered in days, once their teeth hit each other’s due to inexperience, but it was perfect. Everything was so Daryl and Beth loved every second of it. She loved how guttural he moaned when she pushed further into him, loved the way his fingers curled possessively around her arm. Finally, they pulled away to each get a deep breath.
“See,” Beth said breathily, “don’t have to say nothing”
“Hunh,” Daryl snorted as he drew her in for another kiss, “good, cuz I wasn’t planning on talking about anything anytime soon.”