Disclaimer: A nod to the genius Robert Kirkman for creating this wonderfully dark, post-apocalyptic world. I do not own or have rights to any of the characters/plot of this series. I'm simply a fan indulging in my post-apocalyptic fantasies.
A/N: Happy birthday to my wonderful BETA Nicole137137! This is my gift to you!
This story is a standalone one-shot. It is set slightly in the future, vaguely following the storyline I created in my trilogy series and the actual Walking Dead storyline, but it is not related to the For the Ones series in any fashion.
Also a big thank you to Nicole for editing this one-shot!!
Hope you enjoy Nicole! Thanks for being my awesome-Norman-Reedus-loving-bestie! I feel like I've known you forever! XOXO
She wasn’t sure when it had happened. She had suddenly woken up one day with thoughts filled of him. He had always been important, both in the sense of her survival and as a person, but that had somehow changed. Her eyes would be drawn to him, whether subconsciously or of her own volition, and once her sight was filled with him, her gaze would linger. The wings on the back of his vest had become her favorite sight in a world that had demised.
She had noticed things about him before, how handsome he was despite the dirt and grim that clung to his skin, how his eyes could pierce her very soul, and how much he had changed both physically and socially. He had been so closed off when she first encountered him on the farm and even though he wasn’t forthcoming with everything he thought or felt; he had let some of his guard down. He had let her in. He trusted her.
She wasn’t sure what she found most attractive about him. He was dependable, he had survived despite all the odds that were always stacked against them, he thrived in the world they were living in, and he was loyal. No matter what happened, she knew she could always count on Daryl to be on her side.
Then her attraction had morphed into noticing his physique. His hands were calloused and strong. His arms were built from his extensive weapon use and manual labor. She had never seen him with his shirt off, but her imagination had little trouble running wild. She didn’t envision him with abs like she had seen in magazines, for she would have felt them on the several occasions she had wrapped her arms around him, but she knew his chest and stomach were toned; the solidity when she hugged him had confirmed that much.
She thought maybe she had been drawn to him because he was damaged. She had always been the type of person to try and ‘fix’ things for people, listening to their troubles and offering the best advice she could, or would even metaphorically hold their hand while she helped them through their troubles. She later realized that she had been drawn to Daryl’s heart. That she accepted him, with all his quirks, and that he didn’t need ‘fixing.’ He just needed someone who wouldn’t judge him. Her personality balanced his and she drew strength from him.
She found the entire unexpected notion of being attracted to Daryl nerve wracking. She had thought she was doing a good job of hiding her interest, until she began catching him watching her as she tried to sneak a glance at him.
“We’ll stop up here. Looks like an old RV park,” his voice was rougher than normal, exhaustion finally getting the best of him.
“’Kay,” she replied out of breath.
They were out on a run, leaving everyone else back in the ‘new’ Terminus, having to venture farther out to look for supplies. It had become assumed that if Daryl went out, Beth would go with him. Maggie no longer argued and Rick had taken a more pivotal role in Judith’s upbringing since their reunion so many moons ago.
“Take yer’ pick,” Daryl huffed, heaving his crossbow higher over his shoulder.
Beth took a moment to scrutinize the abandoned motorhomes still parked on the lot. There were a few pop outs, Winnebago’s, and one or two that looked like they cost more than a house. Beth tried to rationalize which would have the most space, possibly still have water in the tank for a cold shower, and most likely hold up if a herd of walkers caught up to them.
“That one,” Beth motioned to one of the larger, more expensive looking RV’s.
Daryl gave her a pointed look and Beth blinked innocently, “What?”
“I’da’ never been able to afford you,” his tone teasing.
“I decided on that one purely on its practicality,” Beth raised her eyebrow defiantly, “I’ve never been camping in anything other than a tent.”
“That so?” Daryl didn’t sound like her completely believed her.
“You can ask my da-…Maggie,” Beth caught herself.
Daryl stared at her for a long while, his eyes filled with emotions that he would never voice to her, regardless of how many times she asked.
Not wanting to feel his gaze any longer, Beth pulled up her crossbow and made the trek towards the motorhome she had picked for them to stay in overnight.
He watched her go. It had become his habit. As soon as she entered the room or he caught sight of her across the courtyard; his eyes would automatically observe her. He couldn’t remember when he had formed the habit, but it was one that no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t break. He’d been caught staring several times. In the beginning he’d panicked. Tried to cover his actions as surveying everyone, and not her specifically, but when she had stopped looking at him incredulously and started smiling, giving him a subtle wave, he quit the charade.
She was his opposite in more ways than not. They had an understanding, a bond; she was the sun and he the moon. His light was an illusion. He was dark, damaged and without light of his own. It was because of Beth that he was able to reflect the light she provided. He had come to depend on her when he had never relied on anyone before. Merle had never been the dependable sort of man, always looking out for himself even before Daryl, but Beth always cared for others before herself.
The world had changed her; she was stronger both physically and mentally, but she hadn’t become numb to the necessities of survival. She did everything she could to avoid taking a person’s life, but he never doubted that she would do whatever was necessary when it came down to protecting the group. She’d proven that. She was proficient with her crossbow, rarely missing a target, and he no longer saw the ‘dead girl’ she had once referred to herself as, but instead as someone he could trust to watch his back. So while they were opposites, he also considered her his equal.
At first he had viewed her as an enigma. He couldn’t possibly understand why someone, having gone through everything she had, still held on to hope. She was like a puzzle piece that he couldn’t fit. Then he began registering how blue her eyes were, a shade very similar to his, and expressive to everything she felt. Her petite frame only reached his chin, her golden hair now reached the middle of her back on the rare occasion it wasn’t tied up, and her hands were no longer soft. He generally associated women with having soft hands, but he took pride in the fact that Beth deviated from the norm. Her calloused hands were a testament to her strength, as well as were other attributes that had hardened with the physical demands of going on runs and wielding a crossbow.
“I’ll take point,” she whispered with her weapon poised and ready.
Daryl pulled his crossbow off his shoulder and flicked his hand toward the campgrounds, signally her to move.
They moved quietly, being more cautious as they began passing the abandoned RV’s. There hadn’t been any signs to indicate walkers were in the vicinity, but they both knew better than to focus on just what was visible. There were no tracks, sluggish or otherwise, that disturbed the dirt trails between campers. The campgrounds were eerily quiet, no birds chirping or suggestion that varmints had been looting the motorhomes in search of food. The hunter within Daryl knew that only a predator in the area would account for the lack of activity.
“It’s too quiet,” Beth whispered.
He was relieved that she had a naturally adept sixth sense. It was a trait that, sadly, not everyone acquired, “Keep your eyes open and yer’ trigger finger ready.”
They continued in silence until they reached the motorhome that Beth had indicated. Daryl moved to stand with his back against the camper’s side. He nodded to Beth and she adjusted her crossbow, aiming at the entryway hidden behind the metal door.
Popping open the handle, Daryl threw the door open and swiftly relocated behind Beth. The camper appeared vacant, but the tension he had felt since entering the area remained. His eyes stayed trained on the entrance while Beth pulled open the screen door. He followed closely behind her as she entered the RV, she turning to her left while Daryl turned to the right. It was the same every time they cleared a room and they had it down to near perfection.
A gurgling came from behind him, followed by the sound of a bolt whizzing through the air, and Daryl turned to face a walker pinned to the wall with the fletching protruding from its forehead. It had been sitting at the small booth, across from the kitchen area, for who knows how long. Beth glanced into the back room, knife in hand, and then peeked in the bathroom. When all was clear, she turned her attention back to the twice dead walker. Daryl watched in morbid fascination as Beth strode forward and tried to pry the arrow free from the wall.
“Damnit,” she cursed trying to grip the end of her bolt, “it’s too far in the wall.”
She shook her wrist, slinging decomposed skin and black blood onto the floor, and wiped the remainder on her pant leg. A lesser woman would have been squeamish to even attempt to pull the bolt free. He couldn’t help but feel a sense of admiration at her gallantry.
“Lemme’ try,” Daryl set his crossbow down and stepped behind her.
She turned to face him and Daryl could hear the hitch in her breath. She obviously hadn’t expected him to be so close, nor had he expected her to turn around so quickly. He stared down at her wide, trusting, blue eyes. How easy it was for him to get lost in the windows to her soul.
Beth smiled, “I’ll just get out of yer’ way then.”
“Yeah,” Daryl cleared his throat.
Beth stepped to the side and Daryl did the same. However, instead of moving away from each other, they still stood chest to chest in the tight walkway. He lost his balance due to their proximity and placed one hand on the counter and one on the tabletop, effectively blocking the walkway, to catch himself.
Beth giggled, “I’ll go this way, you go that way,” she gestured in the direction behind him with her hands in an attempt to get back to the doorway and allow him room to remove the bolt from the wall behind her.
Daryl nodded, moving as instructed, but there wasn’t enough room for them to get by each other. Attempting to turn and let each other by ended with Beth braced against the kitchenette and Daryl pressed against her; the kitchen table jabbing into the back of his thighs.
Daryl’s world froze. His hands held his upper body up, but inadvertently trapped Beth. Beth’s hands landed on his hips and her fingers dug into his skin while she tried to keep herself balanced. The look of surprise on her face mirrored that of which he felt. Any movement now was just pure torture.
“Daryl,” she breathed.
His brain wasn’t functioning; failing to process anything except the way she felt against him and her strong hands digging into his flesh. She was tiny, and yet she fit against him in a way that he hadn’t imagined possible. His mind reeled at the possibilities and it was only when her fingers became painful did he manage to clear his mind of the fog.
Dropping his head, breathing in through his nose, he pressed off of the counter and arched his back over the table behind him in order to allow Beth room to get around. Once she was behind him, he turned and yanked the bolt free of the wall, using the fresh surge of adrenaline to aide him. He set the bolt on the table, grabbed his crossbow, and left the motorhome without another word.
He needed to get some fresh air and he needed to get away from Beth.
It had to of been over an hour since Daryl had left. Beth had tried to occupy herself by scavenging through the camper they had cleared. She’d removed the walker's body and dragged it to the end of the RV. She had even went as far as to clear the motorhomes next to them, but her mind never left the moment Daryl had her between his tanned, muscular arms.
“What a way to spend a birthday,” Beth grumbled to herself. If she had counted correctly, and there was a good chance she hadn’t, she was or had already turned nineteen.
She hadn’t bothered to tell anyone. She wasn’t even sure if she had the right month and day. Then taking into account how busy everyone had been organizing and rationing food for winter, she just didn’t deem announcing that it might possibly be her birthday as a big ‘to do.’
Getting to go on a run was excitement enough for a birthday present, though she wasn’t enjoying the freedom like she normally did. She felt bad. She hadn’t meant to scare Daryl off, but she had been so caught up in the moment that she was barely even able to piece together what had happened. One moment she had been trying not to get grossed out by the walker remains all over her hand and the next she was pinned against the one man who had been occupying her thoughts relentlessly the past several weeks. No, if she was being honest with herself, he had been on her mind far longer than that.
“This sucks,” she sighed.
She stood from where she had been sitting on the dusty couch and meandered to the back of the RV. She tore the stale sheets off of the bed, and having nothing better to do, she collapsed on the mattress. She blinked her eyes, staring into the empty hallway, and let herself sink into the soft embrace of sleep.
She awoke with a jerk, immediately sensing something was wrong. She pulled her knife, her crossbow still on the table, and stealthily removed herself from the bed. There was a scream and Beth’s blood ran cold. She tore through the camper, grabbing her crossbow along the way, and thrust open the door. No walkers were in her immediate surroundings, but she could hear their distinctive moans in the distance. There was another scream. Beth could identify it as a feminine cry, but whether they were alone or not was left to be revealed.
The second scream had sounded much closer than the first. Whoever it was, they were running. Running was good. Running meant that they hadn’t been caught and there was still a chance for Beth to help them. The biggest problem was that she wasn’t sure how many walkers were in pursuit.
“Please! Someone help me,” the woman cried, sounding only a few feet away from Beth.
She sheathed her knife, nocked her crossbow, and crouched down. She wouldn’t be able to help anyone if she got caught herself and while she wanted to help the stranger, she couldn’t be sure if she hadn’t already been bit. If she was a lost cause, Beth would put her out of her misery. She would show her the mercy her father had not been blessed with, assuming the woman wanted it.
Beth looked under the motorhome and identified pale legs running toward her. They only had on one shoe, but seemed unhindered by this. Behind her were several pairs of decaying limbs stumbling after her. Beth counted six, possibly more if the girl kept screaming like she was and calling the dead out of hiding.
She leapt to her feet, striding to the end of the RV and throwing herself out in the open. She paid no attention to the woman’s look of surprise, instead aiming at the walker closest to them. She steadied her arm, aimed slightly ahead of the walker’s current position, and fired. The walker crumpled to the ground. She immediately nocked another bolt, aiming for the next walker, and took it out. By the third walker, she knew she would have to finish off the last three with her knife, as they were too close to safely nock her crossbow.
Swinging her weapon upward with as much force as she could muster, Beth knocked the fourth walker to the ground. It wasn’t a fatal blow, but it would give her enough time to drop her crossbow and pull out her knife. The fifth walker shambled toward her and she ducked out of its reach, maneuvering herself to its side and thrusting her knife in its temple.
She didn’t have time to remove the blade before the sixth walker was on her. It had grabbed her by the shoulders and she tried jerking herself free. The walkers grasp was stronger than most, obviously more freshly turned than the others, and her stomach dropped to her feet. She couldn’t see what it was doing and knew at any moment it was going to sink its teeth into her flesh. She was going to die helping someone she didn’t even know, they were going to let her die to save themselves, and Daryl was never going to forgive her.
As if on cue, just as she could hear the walker’s groans in her ear, a bolt sunk into the top of its head. The weight on Beth’s shoulders fell away and her eyes traced the path of the projectile to find a very angry looking Dixon. Beth knew she was in trouble, but she wasn’t going to sit by and let someone die when she could have prevented it.
Daryl brushed past her, unsheathing his hunting knife and taking care of the fourth walker that Beth had struck with the stock of her crossbow. A whimper beside them caught her attention and Beth looked over to the stranger she had saved. She was young, probably not much other than Beth herself, and Beth couldn’t see any blood stains that would imply she had been bit.
“Are you alright?” Beth questioned softly.
“I’m...I think so?” The young woman replied.
“Good. That’s good,” Beth smiled softly.
“What tha’ hell you doin’ by yourself?” Daryl sneered, yanking Beth’s blade out of the fifth walker she had killed.
“I had to go to the bathroom,” the girl muttered, “I’m with a group. I just stepped out of the boundary for a second…I just wanted a little privacy.”
Beth stepped forward and took the stranger’s hands in her own, “What’s your name?”
“Chloe,” she answered.
“Chloe,” Beth smiled, “My name’s Beth. That’s Daryl.”
Beth smiled as Chloe glanced over her shoulder to the hostile man behind them.
“We’ll take you back to your group. Okay?” Beth offered gently.
“Ain’t no we,” Daryl refuted, “I’ll take her back while you get back in the camper.”
“Where do you get off tellin’ me what to do?” Beth challenged.
Beth couldn’t remember the last time Daryl had tried to order her around. He had always been very respectful of her choices, voicing his opinion, but ultimately letting her make her own decisions. She knew he was angry with her, but for him to treat her like a child was a low blow.
“I just had to save your ass from gettin’ bit. I’m tellin’ ya’ for your own good,” Daryl’s body was rigid in anger.
Beth glanced between Chloe, Daryl, and the group of walker’s she had killed…save two. She glared at Daryl and turned to give Chloe a forced smile, “He’ll get you back safely. Try not to go anywhere without a weapon to protect yourself.”
With that, Beth grabbed her crossbow off of the ground, pulled the three bolts still lodged in the walker’s heads and headed back into the camper without giving Daryl a second glance. She would let it go for now, but he had another thing coming if he thought they weren’t going to have words about his behavior when he got back.
Daryl took significantly longer walking back to the camper than he had taking Chloe back to her group. He didn’t get close, not trusting that the group wouldn’t try to strip him of everything he had, and chose to wait several yards away. Once the girl had disappeared from his sight, Daryl began to trek back to the campground. They would stay the night, but leave as soon as it was first light. He didn’t trust that Chloe wouldn’t lead them back to their motorhome and ambush them.
Sighing as he reached for the door to the RV, he cursed himself for letting his emotions get the best of him. He had initially felt an earthshattering panic at seeing Beth within the walker’s hold and as soon as she was out of harm’s way, his anger took hold. He had lashed out at her, not for the first time, but he had hit below the belt with treating her the way he had. She wasn’t a child. She had proven that she could take care of herself time and time again, but he had disrespected her.
Pulling the door open, he cautiously made his way inside, not doubting that Beth wouldn’t put a bolt right through him. He found her sitting at the booth, her back facing him, and he quietly shut and locked the door behind him. Pulling his crossbow off of his shoulder and setting it on the couch beside the door, he stepped over to lean against the back of the booth Beth sat in.
“You can take your time apologizin’,” Beth stated quietly.
“Ain’t happenin’,” Daryl immediately replied.
“So you think talkin’ to me like you did was okay?” Beth turned in the chair to glare at him.
“Never said that,” Daryl clarified, “but you were bein’ stupid.”
Beth blinked several times, “Pardon?”
“That girl coulda’ been a lost cause. She coulda’ been bit already and you nearly got yourself bit helpin’ her. It was stupid!” Daryl emphasized.
“But she wasn’t bit! She would have died if I hadn’t helped her. I had things under control!” Beth argued despite the fact that she was uncertain how things would have ended had Daryl not shown up when he did.
“Oh really?” He scoffed, “You call almost gettin’ your neck chewed off ‘under control?’ I beg t’differ.”
“You’re not gonna’ make me feel bad about helping her,” Beth rose from her seat to stand her ground.
Daryl furrowed his brows. She wasn’t seeing his point and he didn’t know how to make her understand what he was trying to say. He chewed on the inside of his lip, trying to form the right response to her statement. Words had never been his forte.
“How d’you think Maggie’d of felt if you had died tonight?” Daryl asked her.
The expression in Beth’s eyes changed.
“That walker was so close…” Daryl lifted his hand to cover the spot where her shoulder met her neck. The very location that had almost been devoured not long ago.
Beth’s hand rose to cover his, “Maggie once told me somethin’ Daddy said to her when the epidemic happened in the prison. She told me he said that in everything we do now, we risk our lives. That we don't have a choice anymore. The only thing we can choose is what we're risking it for. I’d rather risk my life trying to make this world a better place, than just surviving it.”
He didn’t have words to express what he felt. His emotions were all over the place. He was amazed by her heart, angered by her willingness to put others in front of herself, and unsure of what he’d ever done to deserve meeting a person as good as Beth.
Daryl’s hand slide from under her grasp to cup her neck. He wasn’t sure whether he had pulled her forward or if she had leaned into him, but her face was now only inches away from his. He glanced between her eyes and lips, silently asking for permission. A timid smile was all the approval he needed.
Bending down, he brushed his dry, chapped lips against her moist ones. It was chaste, just a small taste, but it was enough to unravel Daryl. He had repressed all of his affections towards Beth for too long. He had refused to step over the invisible line they had created, keeping her as a teammate, a friend, rather than risk losing her completely.
He pulled back, unsure of how Beth would react and if he had just done irrevocable damage to their relationship. Then he saw the look in her eyes. It was the same undeniable expression he was sure she saw in his own gaze; yearning.
Beth recognized his self-consciousness the moment he pulled away from her. She wasn’t sure what exactly was going through his mind, but she was only thinking of one thing; she wanted him to keep kissing her.
She parted her lips, taking in a steadying breath, and wrapped both of her arms around his neck. Pulling herself closer, she hovered just above his lips, glancing up to look into his eyes. The raw vulnerability displayed on his features reinforced her resolve. Closing her eyes, she pressed her lips against his once more.
It was a soft, light kiss. Their lips danced against each other slowly, savoring the feeling of finally giving in to their desires. Beth’s hands traveled into his hair and she twirled his long strands in between her fingers. Instinctively she gently bit his lower lip and a noise vibrated through her as it escaped Daryl’s throat. His tongue ran across hers gently, as if testing how far they could go before one of them pulled back. Beth did exactly the opposite.
Wrapping her arms tighter around his neck, she felt as if she couldn’t get close enough. Her chest pressed impossibly close to his and yet she still wasn’t satisfied. Their kiss had progressed from tender to hungry. His lips slanted against hers firmly, yet his tongue remained gentle, never trying to dominate or become too invasive. Her fingers gripped his hair gently and Beth felt an ache within that she knew only Daryl could ease.
His hands found her hips, sliding down the length of her thighs, and cupped the back of her knees. Her legs instantly locked around his hips, helping to support her weight, as he moved them to the counter. His lips never left hers and their breaths mingled, but she could go without oxygen so long as he kept kissing her the way he was.
When she was set down atop the counter, she felt his hands travel back up to her hips, toying with the skin just above the waist line of her pants. His rough callouses made her skin tingle and she arched her back to further press herself against him.
Her hands left his hair and traveled to his chest, slowly unbuttoning his shirt, and pushing the material off of his shoulders. She sighed into the kiss when he hands grabbed her hips more firmly and allowed her hands to explore his skin. Her mind kept telling her that they needed to slow down, but the sensations he was making her feel were far more powerful than logical thought.
“Daryl,” she breathed as her hands drifted across his toned abdomen.
His breath hitched in response and he kissed her deeply. She felt her bottom lip between his teeth and she wrapped her hands around his biceps. She could feel the muscles bulging under her touch and when his body pressed against her in just the right way, a moan snuck past her lips and onto his.
“Beth,” he murmured her name between kisses, “If we don’t stop…”
She didn’t let him finish his sentence. She pressed her lips against his, her hands roaming from his arms to grasp both sides of his face, all the while his hands held her firmly against him. After several moments she pulled back and smiled. The ache was still there, but it had been somewhat satisfied through their interactions.
“This is the best birthday ever,” she smiled; her eyes still closed.
“Birthday?” Daryl whispered.
“I’m not sure of the exact day, but I’m either about to or I’ve already turned nineteen,” Beth blinked her eyes open and stared into his.
He was silent for a moment, gazing at her, and then he leaned in and softly kissed her swollen lips. It lasted only a moment, but the gesture was so endearing it made Beth’s heart swell.
“Happy birthday Beth,” he said quietly.
Beth could only smile. In this moment, nothing in the world mattered. She had a feeling of contentment that she hadn’t experienced since before the world had changed. Daryl had become her rock, her unwavering strength. He had become her sun. She had no idea when the unexpected notion of being attracted to Daryl had begun, but she would be forever grateful to the happenstance.
“Thank you,” she smiled a smile that reached her eyes.
Thank you for everything.