Thunder storms always used to scare Beth.
Thunders storms this loud and lasting this lost, raging on from yesterday morning to this afternoon, relentless torrents of wind and cold sheets of icy rain, howling in the cracks of the doors and rattling the glass in the window panes. It’s so cold and damp, leaching warmth and comfort with its beast like roars of thunder; forcing her into shivers through the night. It all would have scared her before: the noise, the cold, the relentless rain, the forks of lightening. It would have terrified her. Now nothing scares her at all. Well. Nothing that used to scare her. Not clowns or spiders or storms. Now she’s scared of losing people. Of losing herself. Not of death, not so much.
It’s a resignation to the fact that she may well be dead very soon. She doesn’t know if she has anyone left to lose now. Her whole family is gone and her new, rougher family split. The only living person she has left: Maggie, somewhere unknown and possibly not living at all anymore. It’s not true though – having no one left to lose. That’s not true. She does have someone. Someone important. Her eyes glance up at Daryl sat across from her. Both of their knees wedged together as their backs prop against the door frame. He’s watching the storm and the lightening bolts flash in his eyes like a camera. She wishes she had a camera now. To take a picture of him like this: relaxed and at ease, body and face slack.
Even his muscles are lax and his breath gentle. The only tension in him is his legs and knees, in order to keep them propped up with hers. His hand is loose and open, fingers spread wide on his knee. Beth reaches out for it with her own hand, her fingers threading in his. Daryl jerks when she grips him, tension filling him up like water in a bathtub before he realises what she’s doing and relaxes again. Beth smiles at him and he smiles back, the storm raging on around them. The noise rings through her ears and head but her eyes focus on him.
She wonders if he knows how beautiful he is. How stunning she thinks he is. She tells him as often as he’ll let her but some days he just doesn’t want to hear it. There’s reasons for that she knows, reasons that lead to explanations about the scars decorating his body. The tattoos needled into his skin, screaming pain and agony. She’s felt that kind of aching hallow before. That precipice of sanity of which she was so close to tumbling from. Knowing Daryl has been there too burns sorrow deep in her belly. All she wants to do is cradle him, love him, show him kindness and patience, respect because he deserves it. She wants to love him with her whole heart but he just won’t let her.
He’s not doing it on purpose, not being malicious, he just doesn’t know how to let her in. Beth’s not in a hurry to force him either. It’s a decision he has to make in his own time. Right now, she’s content to sit and watch the storm holding his hand. She turns her face back to the rain and tilts her head back, her fingers tangled with his.
“You cold?” Daryl rumbles.
She shivers at the coarse husk in his voice from hours of quiet. “I’m okay, you?”
“Freezin’ my balls off,” he grunts.
Beth laughs softly and looks to him with a smile. “You wanna head inside to the fire?”
He looks at her for a moment and then shakes his head. “Naw. Just wanna stay with you an’ lis’en to the quiet.”
“Then that’s what we’ll do,” she whispers as she strokes her thumb over his hand.
In the silence, there is the storm and the storm answers questions long since asked and dismissed, attempted with what made you change your mind and I’unno. Answers they need now, in this point of their lives where there’s possibly no one else ever again. No one else but each other and who knows how long that will last? Death is around every corner, is in every morning and evening, every run and hunt. Death is everywhere and she refuses to go to her death bed without letting Daryl Dixon know how she feels about him.
He turns away from the storm but it rages on all around him, his eyes the blue of the sky that will break through soon. “Yeah?”
He doesn’t have to let her love him right now. He just has to know what she feels, what she wants to give him.
“I love you.”
Daryl smiles softly, a smile of which she so rarely gets to see and it fills her heart with more warmth and love than a million words could have. This is Daryl’s language; his communication. Smiles and touches and gestures. He touches her now: free hand on her knee, fingers squeezing. Beth intends to turn her face back out to the storm and watch, content in his grip on her hand and her knee, but the sweep of his lashes on his next slow blink mesmerises her and she almost misses what he says.
Almost because it’s faint, it’s quiet, like he don’t know if he’s brave enough to let her hear his reply but it is there, between them. “You said I was gonna be the last man standin’? Y’member that?”
Beth nods, chest tight as she waits for whatever he has to say. He struggles with it a moment because words don’t come easy and when he second guesses himself he stutters or his voice grows thick and he gets mad, so she waits him out.
Finally, when he seems to have a grasp on what he wants to say, very quietly he murmurs, “I don’t wanna be the last man standin’.”
Her lips part as she tries to work out how to reply. Should she say sorry? Did she upset him when she said that? But she’s not sorry, is the thing. She’s sorry if she’s offended him, upset him but she’s not sorry for speaking truth. He’s so strong. The strongest man she’s ever met and it’s not just his arms or his fierce eyes or his shouting voice. It’s his spirit. It’s him. Beaten and broken and dismantled, put back together with scars and patches but he’s here. Daryl made it and he will keep making it, long after she’s gone. She doesn’t have a chance to say all this though.
Doesn’t have a chance to stutter an apology or work out what’s wrong because Daryl speaks again. “I don’t wanna be the last man standin’… ‘less you’re the last woman standin’, right there with me.”
Tears prick her eyes but she forces them back. “Where you go, I go.” She promises.
“Where you go, I go,” he repeats softly, squeezing her fingers.
When Beth’s cheeks split with a grin, his do too and the storm rages on, the only witness to their love.