Daryl still couldn’t believe Beth was back. After chasing that car for hours, he didn’t have the energy to keep going. He wanted to keep going, to keep trying for her, but he couldn’t. He ran for hours that night until his face was red and his lungs felt like they would collapse. He felt like he was going to die but he still hated himself. Stupid fucking redneck; he should have tried harder, he thought. All he wanted was to get her that ugly damn dog and she was gone.
He told her to run as he fought the walkers off and she told him she wouldn’t leave him. He told her to go, no matter what, she had to go. He wouldn’t let her die because she wouldn’t leave him. He loved her too much. And when he ran out he same door she did and saw that car driving down the road, it felt like the world had crashed around him.
He tried. He tried so hard but it wasn’t enough. In this world, it would never been enough to just try. You had to give it your all. The way that his body felt, he wasn’t going to make it any further, but he knew he would hate himself for it every day. He wanted to run until his lungs collapsed on him, but he couldn’t. His feet would no longer move.
So when he saw her walk up to the gates of Alexandria eight months later, he thought he was going to shit himself. There she was, in all of her blonde haired blue eyed glory, wearing the same clothes he last saw her in, a smile etched on her face, her eyes widening when she saw him.
He hated himself. He hated himself so much. He never found her and he gave up thinking he ever would. He moved on to Alexandria with the rest of the group and just gave up, and here she was, happy to see him. He didn’t deserve that from her. He really didn’t deserve shit from her.
He never forgot the night she disappeared. They were eating what she loved to refer to as a “white trash picnic” and she asked him, plain and simple, what had changed his mind. Changed his mindset that there was only good for nothing shit faces in the world to thinking that maybe, there were some people left. People with humanity still within them.
He knew it was Beth that changed his mind. But when she asked him, he couldn’t get it out. He wanted to tell her that he loved her. He had loved her for a long time, but he was too much of a prick to say it.
He grew up getting his fathers belt lashed across his back for saying a stupid remark or his brother calling him a pussy for not talking to a girl at the bar, so he was closed off. Daryl didn’t believe in love or a happy ever after. That bullshit didn’t entice him one bit and he was damn well happy that he would die alone. He didn’t want someone he had to look after, he only had himself and he was fine with that.
But Beth saw through his bullshit façade and broke his walls down. It wasn’t easy, and Daryl didn’t want to let her in, but she wiggled her way in to his heart, and before he realized his love for her, it was too late. She was gone, and he thought he was never going to see her again. Half of him thought that it was better that way. It was karma for letting his guard down, letting himself fall in love with her. But, the other half of him cried himself to sleep every night, knowing he lost the love of his life.
That’s why, when he saw that girl standing in front of the iron gates, he all but ran to her, picking her up in his strong arms and spinning her around, his tears hitting the torn grey fabric of her cardigan. Beth squealed as she was spun, and she wrapped her legs around his waist as she giggled, happy tears hitting her eyes. She couldn’t believe it was him. She thought she would never see him again.
Beth was on the road for 7 months. A month after she was taken, she managed to sneak out from her tent and kill her intruder. He sat on the ground in front of the fire drunk off his ass, and only laughed as she approached him, saying she wouldn’t do shit- but he was wrong.
She stabbed him more times than necessary, but enough to slightly ease her pain she felt in her heart for losing the man she loved. She cried as she rammed the blade into their chest, hoping it would help her. She was broken. Alone. Daryl Dixon was the only man she ever loved, and he wasn’t hers anymore. He never was, but he never would be.
So when she heard from a group she was with for two months after she escaped that there was this place, Alexandria, she had to go for it. Her group insisted the trek was too long and dangerous because winter was coming up, but Beth didn’t care. She left them and went on her own, using the tools and tricks he taught her along the way, and what she learned as she became the new woman she was.
She spent the next almost 5 months from house to house, scavenge to kill, and she nearly had a stroke when she made it to the front of those gates. Not because she was finally there, but because of the set of eyes watching her from atop them. The love of her life.
Daryl and Beth were inseparable for the next two months. They never spoke of what happened that night she was taken, or of the unmistakable chemistry between the two of them. They knew they loved each other, but had no idea that it was mutual. Until one night, when Beth and Daryl were invited to a small party at Ricks house to celebrate her return, and they both had way too much to drink.
Walking home from the party, Beth with her heels in hand and Daryl with his hands in his pockets, they spoke the words they had been avoiding for so long. It was inevitable that the conversation would happen, just a matter of time. The alcohol was the key, and they both had opened that door.
Beth started the toxic conversation, not reminding herself to just keep it down inside of her; the alcohol was making her too brave.
“Daryl, I, I want you to know I ain’t mad at you. I know you probably looked for me, I know you did everythin’ you could and I could never thank you enough for that. What happened wasn’t your fault,” She stuttered out quickly, slurring her words a bit.
Daryl started to get angry. Not with her but with himself. Even more so now that he was drunk. He couldn’t handle his alcohol and certainly not his feelings, so it was not good when the two were mixed.
“No, I didn’t do everything I could. Beth, I ran after ya for hours that night. I could’a ran so much further, I… I could have found you. I should have found you! I don’t know how yer standin’ here next to me with a look on yer face like I did nothin’ wrong cause I did! I didn’t do my part and I thought I lost ya for good! That’s on me, not you..”
Beth climbed up the steps of her house as Daryl followed behind, and she turned to him with a sad look in her eyes. She put her hand on the rough skin of his cheek, and he flinched, but did not move.
“It wasn’t your fault, Daryl. You did everythin’ you could’ve. You’re only human, you got tired and couldn’t go any further. You don’t get to hate yourself because you got tired, you don’t do that,” Sighing, she turned to her door and opened it, moving aside as Daryl walked past her to the small white couch in the living room, stumbling over his feet slightly.
Closing the door behind her, she walked into the kitchen and downed a glass of water, bringing one to Daryl, who gulped it down with in seconds, his eyebrows furrowed.
Sitting on the couch next to him, she placed her small hand on his knee, and he looked up at her. She could see that it was eating away at him. She could see the emotion in his face. She knew he tried his hardest. The problem with Daryl was he never thought of himself what others did. He tried harder than Beth’s own sister did. He tried harder than anybody would have, but he didn’t find her, and he hated himself for it every single day.
He began to cry then, all the emotions from those 8 months before hitting him hard. He didn’t think it was the alcohol, as the conversation had started to sober him up a bit, but just that he had been holding in how he felt for so long.
Beth furrowed her eyebrows in concern and put her arms around his shoulders, awkwardly trying to hug him as he now sobbed, and she put her forehead on the side of his head. He grunted as he cried, and he sniffled, pushing her off of him. He didn’t deserve the concern. Didn’t deserve her. He was angry. He didn’t deserve for her to be here trying to comfort him for what he did to himself.
Beth sighed and pulled him into her, digging her nails into the fabric of his flannel when he tried to pull away, and he eventually gave up, letting his salty tears fall onto the skin of her chest. Beth sniffled herself, the emotions of the time they were away from each other hitting her just as hard as it hit him. They were both crying for the same reason. Because they didn’t know if they would ever see the person they loved again. Daryl cried for his guilt, and Beth cried for him- wanting him to know that she forgave him for giving up. That it was okay.
She lifted his head up to her face and kissed him on the cheek, tasting the saltiness of his tears. In a moment of adrenaline and feeling her skin on his, Daryl placed his hand on the couch behind her butt to steady himself, and leaned in to her face, feeling her hot breath on his lips, he gently placed his lips upon hers, both of their tears mixing together.
Beth gasped into the kiss, and Daryl grabbed her waist and hoisted her onto his lap, deepening the kiss. They were both almost sober at that point, and the kiss was filled with need. Tears still falling down both of their cheeks, Daryl placed his hands on the small of her back and pulled her into him to deepen the kiss, and Beth placed her hands on the side of his face, running her thumbs over his cheeks to rid of the tears.
They separated after a moment, both of them panting, and Beth smiled shyly. Leaning her forehead against his shoulder, she ran her fingers down his arm, and felt him relax. She pecked the fabric, and whispered softly, “I love you,” and she could feel Daryl sigh heavily.
Lifting her head to meet his gaze, he stared into her eyes, and she could see only one emotion in his. Love. Placing his hand on the back of her neck, whispering the same three words, he brought her lips back onto his.