Their hands loosely touched, laying on their backs in the grass under the open sky. It was filled with stars. How many days had it been since they lost the group? Days seemed to drift one into the other—so long as there weren’t any walkers coming, that didn’t seem to matter so much. Beth felt his eyes on her, and hers flicked to him, a smile playing at her lips. His free hand had reached over, pushing stray strands of blonde away from her eyes.
“What’re you thinking about?” she murmured. Daryl wasn’t smiling. He had the look he held in contemplation, one that she had learned over time. Not just over this time, the time separated from their groups, but over small stolen glances first at the farm, and then the prison. A lot had changed. She had changed. And her feelings for Daryl, first only a simple curiosity towards what was unknown, had become interest. Infatuation. One neither of them was sure of, but this seemed a good time to try out. And so their hands loosely touched and there was a certain fondness when they touched. Not kissed… They both seemed too scared to do that. Beth because, well… She didn’t know where to start. She’d had boyfriends before, but she’d been one of the girls that was considered a prude by those who wanted more than she preferred to give. Beth preferred chaste. Out here, she didn’t think chaste mattered much, waiting for marriage didn’t matter much. She wouldn’t mind it, dying inexperienced. There was more to life than that. But if it happened, at this point, she figured it would and she wouldn’t hold herself back from it with some notion of morality. But in the same breath, she didn’t want to embarrass herself.
Daryl’s reason for holding back was a little simpler. He still didn’t feel good enough.
“You, actually,” he said gruffly, “But probably not somethin’ you’d guess.”
That got Beth’s curiosity, and in the grass she rolled to her side, her hand sliding over his in a more absolute way. Not something they could pretend was coincidence in the morning.
“Should I try to guess?” Beth wondered.
“I could just tell you,” Daryl said.
“That isn’t much of a game.”
“It’s not exactly the happiest topic.” A pause from both of them, though they looked at each other. Daryl broke the silence, looking away. “Probably not the best time, though. It’s nice out here.”
“It is,” Beth agreed and rolled to her back again. Their hands remained there, but fingers now laced together. A small security because even though it was nice neither would be capable of dropping the subject. Beth was too curious, and Daryl… well he was curious, too. “Is it about my dad?”
“Huh...? No. Not about him.”
“Maggie? Or Judith…?”
“How about I tell ya before you get yourself upset?” Daryl offered. Maggie and Judith were two often discussed. Beth wanted to know if her sister was okay, Daryl knew what that was like. He knew what losing people was like, what not knowing was like. Judith was different, though, and maybe worse since Beth held herself personally responsible. Daryl thought it was probably better. He knew she loved the kid, but a baby in the middle of the wilderness like this? The prison had been a blessing with Judith. How anyone would survive in the open with her, as young as she was…
“Okay, fine, fine,” Beth said with a small smile on her lips, “What? Tell me.”
“Just…” Daryl was hesitant, squinting up at the stars. “When we were still at your dad’s farm. You tried to kill yourself, right?”
Beth blinked. He was right. That wasn’t something she would have guessed, set in a time that seemed murky around the edges. A time when she felt dying was better than trying to survive after seeing what might happen. It’d been uncertainty that held her back. Everyone had said it was because she wanted to live, but that seemed a little too much. Beth hadn’t known what she wanted and nearly jumped to a decision… It had been a bit later she found herself happy in life, or at least content in what it could be. When she felt the security of a family again, not just the shielded image of safety her father had tried for… Though it had been a nice effort on his part. Some days she’d happily go back to that naivety.
“You know I did,” Beth said softly.
“Do you… wish you had?”
Beth wanted to ask why he was thinking of this now of all times. But instead, she found herself thinking about it, too. Her shoulders shrugged slightly.
“If I did, I wouldn’t be here, would I? And I like here.”
“Middle of nowhere, surrounded by walkers?”
“I like being here with you, Daryl,” Beth said. It was near a scoff, near amused. “And the middle of nowhere isn’t necessarily bad. The walkers…. That’s just what it is, isn’t it?”
“What if you had the choice now?” Daryl asked, still looking up at the stars but there was less hesitation in his voice. Beth preferred that. Even if it wasn’t really a question she wanted to think out.
“Would I kill myself?”
“Not necessarily, just… if you could die right here. Now. Would you?”
“Would I come back like the rest of them?”
“No. You’d just be gone. To wherever you think you go,” Daryl told her.
“You know what I think,” Beth replied, but took pause. If it was that simple, that straightforward… “What about you?”
“What about me?” Daryl asked, and now his head turned to look at her with one brow raising.
“Would you die right here?”
“If I thought you’d be safe without me. Yeah.”
They looked at each other, quiet. There wasn’t a reason to ask ‘you don’t think I could survive on my own?’ Because he obviously didn’t. Beth didn’t really think she could survive on her own, either. Even if she was getting better at tracking, at shooting the bow.
“But then again,” Daryl sighed out, the shadow of a grin apparent at his lips, “You’d miss me. Don’t think I could live with that, even in those fluffy clouds.”
“What if we were together up there?” Beth gave him a little smile. “Then you wouldn’t have to worry.”
“Then I would.” Simple as that. Things always seemed simple for Daryl, once you got him talking. Once he got comfortable. And he had grown comfortable around Beth. She was probably one of the last purely good-hearted people out there—her kindness wasn’t any kind of selfish. It was refreshing.
“Think anyone would find us?”
“You mean our bodies?” Daryl asked, then shook his head. “No. Probably not. They’re all gone. Dead or not, they’re gone. We’re gone. You keep going forward, and we’re all going forward in different directions.” It wasn’t what she wanted to hear, and Daryl must know that, but he wasn’t going to tell her pretty things to make her happy. He’d tell her the truth. “Bugs would find us first. Scavengers.”
“Yeah. Don’t know how soon—we haven’t seen any for a while.” But they had heard shots when they crept through the forest. Any walkers in the area had been drawn there, more than likely, and they’d changed direction just slightly to move away from the noise. “Maybe a day. Maybe a week.”
“Maybe not at all,” Beth hummed, “Maybe everything else would have left just bones.”
Daryl chuckled softly. “Wishful thinkin’.” In the distance, there was a sound. Not walkers, something else. A gun, maybe, or a car’s exhaust, someone trying to escape. “Wouldn’t matter much, though.”
“Not really. Eventually we’d just be part of the ground. We’d become flowers”
“Course that’s what you’d think of,” Daryl said. And he was smiling. Good hearted, positive, Beth. “C’mere.” His hand pulled from hers, used instead to snake around her waist and pull her to him. Beth moved easily, curling up to him. There was comfort in this, and Beth’s head rested against his chest so she could listen to the steady beat of his heart. Then her chin tipped up to look at him.
“You know… I think I want to be alive, while I can.” Her voice was near a whisper. “Even in the middle of all of this. I like here.”
“You’ve said that already,” Daryl smirked, one of his arms draped loosely around her. His other hand had gone to her cheek, the calloused pad of his thumb running against her cheek bone. “But yeah. Right here and now, it’s not too bad… And there’s a lot of things to do.”
“Besides drinking?” Now Beth was smirking, and she’d shifted slightly, her head closer to his. There was something that wanted to be said, but it wasn’t. Daryl’s thumb traced the edge of her lower lip. The talking wasn’t necessary, not when he was leaning up and catching her lips. It was quiet and soft, something far different than life usually was these days.
“Yeah,” Daryl said when they pulled away after that moment, “Besides drinkin’.”