That day, Daryl was sitting by himself like always. He was in his usual spot beneath a crooked cypress tree away from where some of the group was circled around a fire, talking, some even laughing. The rest of the group was back inside the safe house. They’d been there a while now, but couldn’t really tell exactly how long. Being able to tell time these days was hard enough, but he had completely lost track of pretty much everything after what happened. He was completely lost.
Settling in, starting their new lives after having found a new haven… it was hell.
Hearing sighs of relief from his comrades, laughter, people moving on… it made him cringe and it made him angry at them and angry at himself. He constantly felt like he was about to throw up and sometimes he would only realize he was crying after feeling his cheeks itch from the constant wetness. He wanted to yell at them, all of them for not understanding, for not being more devastaded, but he didn’t feel strong enough to yell, or talk, or even move that much.
Carol had tried approaching him several times, reach out, but he could barely look her in the eye. Rick had tried talking to him as well, just once, looking him in the eye and saying he knew exactly what he was going through, and that he knew at the moment he just needed his own space and was going to respect that. Which he did, Rick had barely spoken to him since.
A couple of days after that he decided to leave. He couldn’t be part of this group anymore. It was too painful and it didn’t make sense. What was the point of staying with them?
Beth had been right about absolutely everything. Everything. Everyone was alive, everyone got out, found their way back to eachother, everyone was now finally together, except her. The best one. The only one who should have made it. And it didn’t make sense how she didn’t even got to see it. It didn’t make sense how such a strong, clever fighter had been put down in the most senseless, ridiculous, unfair way. And he had let it happen. He had been right there watching, not doing anything about it, and he never hated himself more than right then. The moment when he realized Beth had been wrong in trusting him. He wanted to die.
He couldn’t understand what could possibly be the point in going on in a world like this, where things are ugly and then they only progressively get worse. Where only the weak and the hopeless make it out, and the strongest, brightest, most beautiful beings pay the concequences for everyone else’s greed in the most brutal ways.
But he kept living. Chances are he only made it because he was in some sort of automatic pilot set to continue surviving, but he did. He kept surviving and eventually they found the safe house and it was only a couple of days after that. 3 days after the safe house, they found her. They found Beth.
At the begining it was like a dream. Like it wasn’t real. The joy everyone seemed to be feeling, even those who hadn’t known her before. The complete sense of confusion, all the questions still unanswered, the concerns about her health, the high everyone seemed to be on. But most of all her. Seeing her face again, having her back, safe and resting in one of the beds just inside. She got her own bedroom all to herself - everyone had automatically, wordlessly decided on that.
That night, her first night back, while everyone else slept in the early hours of the morning, with the sun not even out yet, Daryl shed tears of happiness for the first time in his life. He stood in her door frame for hours, just staring at her sleeping figure, and that’s when he felt it.
It crushed him, came over him in a hot, hard rush, devastatingly alive inside of him. Complete, unaltered love.
And with that a new found strength, faith, and a combination of things he’d never experienced before, all at the same time, making him physically dizzy. He stepped outside the house, as if there wasn’t any oxygen left inside. And there he stood a changed man, again at a porch, again because of her.
But now, today, sitting beneath that crooked cypress tree, all he feels is worried. The last couple of weeks haven’t been easy. Beth is not the same, to say the least. She’s been acting out. She’s being volatile, and sometimes too still, too quiet. While Michonne and Sasha have both expressed their concerns, Maggie and most of the others are considering it a ‘normal’ reaction, saying she’s most likely in shock, that she just needs more time resting, letting her own body heal itself. And maybe that’s part of it, but he knows that’s not all of it. Something is the matter with her and he doesn’t know what it is, how to fix it, how to help, or how to ask.
He debates himself every day if he should be giving her more space or holding her tighter in his arms when she asks him to sleep next to her at night. Whenever he overhears the others talking about being worried about her progress, he feels the urge to punch them in the face, but he’s also glad they’re paying attention. He wonders if it’s too soon to ask her to sing something for him again, or if she ever will.
Most days are difficult, not knowing how she will respond to anything, worried about the rest of the group’s reactions, or lack thereof, when she’s being reckless, or hasty, or unresponsive.
So he sits there while the others have their little gathering around the fire, and he tries to figure it out. He needs to step up this time. He won’t let her go down by herself again. Even if she does go down, he’s going with her this time. Going down fighting.
But then again, Beth has always been a good yard ahead of him.
— — —
She takes him by surprise, awkwardly sitting next to him on the grass, beneath the tree. Their hands automatically link together.
"Saw everyone else come in" she says,
"Hm?…" He looks behind him and realizes the small gathering from earlier has apparently come to an end, the fire’s almost out.
He looks at her then, and she’s the most beautiful that he’s ever seen her. It’s strange, but somehow all her scars have made her more beautiful. The moon is shining bright above her, her eyes shining even brighter. He places his other hand to the side of her face and she instinctively closes her eyes, breathing in. He softly caresses her lips with his thumb, then her chin, and he continues this motion until she opens her eyes and she’s almost crying.
"Daryl…" A single tear escapes her and he catches it with his thumb.
"Daryl… I’m… scared."
He nods his head even though he doesn’t know what she means.
"Hm, just… just about everything? Or…"
“I’m not sure. Sometimes I can’t breathe here anymore… I just… I’m so confused. Everything’s different now. And I don’t feel good. I’ve… I don’t know what to do. I feel so tired, of everything, and I don’t feel like this is my place anymore. I finally found you guys again, but, it’s like I never really got back."
"I just feel so… frustrated. What would’ve happened if I hadn’t kept fighting to find you guys after the hospital? I just keep thinking about it, about Dawn and about getting shot… I still remember it. And then waking up all alone. My mouth felt so dry, I couldn’t breathe… my hands were trembling. I still have nightmares about it, and about the sound… you know that unceasing sound the walkers make when they’re right behind you? In my dream, everything’s pitch black and all I hear is that sound, and I can’t make it go away. I can always hear it, even when i’m awake. Except… you know, except when you’re nearby, that helps."
She smiled so brightly then. “You’re the only one who really gets me you know.”
He couldn’t help but smile at that comment. “Beth, do you wanna leave?”
"If you’re not comfortable here, we can leave, get our things right now, we can go in the morning.”
"We can find us a place, somewhere good like, remember that funeral home?"
"We can make it. Beth… I love you."
Her eyes were filled with tears again, but he continued,
"Or we can stay here, maybe I could build us a separate place near the fern yards, so you can still be close to Judith and Maggie. I haven’t wanted to go away on any runs lately but, I can go out try to find us some good things, a piano maybe, you could play it, maybe we’ll get some pet animals."
He held both her hands with his own right then.
"You deserve a life Beth… And I’m gonna do right by you. I swear."
“I know. I just… I’ve been mean to you lately."
"Yes. I know it. I’ve said horrible things to you…"
"It’s not okay. I know you thought I was dead… If you’d known… you wouldn’t have left me there, right?"
"Of course not. Shouldn’t have left either way."
"I still don’t understand things… how things work, it’s been getting harder for me to see what is right. I used to think there was a clear line between what’s right and wrong, but it just keeps getting blurrier and blurrier. I’ve done things… In that hospital I did things that I’m stil not sure about.”
"You’re a good person Beth. No matter what you do, it’s who you are."
She rested her head on his shoulder, and they stayed in silence for a few minutes.
"So, you want to stay with me?" She asked,
"You know I could totally kick your ass, right?"
"Yeah, I’ve known that one for a while, actually."
"So, you know I can make it out there, on my own. You don’t owe me anything. And I don’t owe you either."
“Yes. I know.”
"Okay, then, I think you’re right. I think we need to go. I don’t wanna be anxious anymore. I wanna leave things behind."
He moved a little to face her, and she had to lift her head from his shoulder, and look at him. She continued all confident,
"You wanna start over with me, Daryl Dixon?"
"I wanna start all kinds of things with you, girl.”
And there it was. That beautiful, knowing smile of hers. And it hit him then. Everything finally made sense. Why things had to go down like this to begin with, the dead waking up, the frickin end of the world, finding Hershel’s farm and then the prison, the hospital, all of it.
This was going to be his life now, with Beth by his side, both of them stronger than ever. Because now they really do get it. They know their lives already started, and this is it. This is the world they have to live in and instead of losing themselves trying to change it, they’re gonna fight for the life they deserve, in this world, right now. Seeking the good parts, reveling in them, and living through the difficult times, together.