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You Changed My Mind

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Beth flops down on her couch. Her phone is next to her but she stopped checking it every 5 minutes at least three days ago. It’s pointless.

 

Daryl Dixon isn't going to call, he isn’t going to text. He isn’t interested in her.

 

That’s what she tells herself. But she doesn’t believe it. Not completely. They shared something in that coffee shop of that she’s 100 percent sure.

Maybe.

 

He’d asked her what changed her mind about there still being good guys even though she knew he knew she meant him and what he’d done for her. And while she’d been getting up the courage to say so her phone rang and it was Maggie and she’d been upset and crying. Beth couldn’t understand her, something about being too fat to get off the couch and being pregnant forever and could Beth please come over.

 

Of course, she had to go. This was Maggie and without a mama, the girls relied on each other for everything. Maggie was always there for her when Beth needed her.

 

But she hadn’t wanted to leave the coffee shop or Daryl because for the first time in a long time she wasn’t looking for a way out, an excuse to end a date, not that that’s what it was. But it was something.

 

They’d said their goodbyes and she’d mentioned that he had her number and he’d nodded like he knew it and planned on using it. But he never did.

 

When her phone rings she doesn’t let her heart skip a beat, she doesn’t let herself hope that maybe this time…

 

“God you’re pathetic Beth,” she mutters to herself as answers the call.

 

“Hey, Glenn.” Standing up and walking over to the counter in her kitchen she listens to her brother-in-law. A piece of paper catches her eye. A phone number and his name. Daryl left it there when he brought her home drunk and oblivious.

 

He could’ve taken advantage of that, a lot of guys would have. But Daryl didn’t. He brought her home and he put her to bed and he left his number.

 

He’s good and he’s kind and he’s got those beautiful blue eyes and hands and arms. Yes, Beth, he has all the required body parts, she thinks cringing and then she realizes Glenn’s still talking, something about an open mic night and how he could use her help to get it off the ground.

 

“If you could just play a few songs, warm the crowd up you know?” He sounds like he’s on the verge of begging.

 

“Sing? At the bar? Glenn you know I don’t like-”

 

“I know you don’t. But Beth you’re really good. And this is Maggie’s idea and-”

 

“Like the pickled eggs?”

 

“Really? You’re bringing that up? You and Daryl-”

 

“There’s no me and Daryl,” Beth says forcefully.

 

“What? Wait did something happen-” Nothing happened. That’s the problem.

 

“I’ll do it. One song. I'll warm up the crowd or whatever.” She’s trying to change the subject because her and Daryl in the same sentence is too much right now and her reaction was a little over the top and of course Glenn is going to press because he’s Glenn. “What did the doctor say?”

 

“You will? Thank you, Beth! The doctor said she’ll induce labor if Maggie doesn’t deliver by the weekend so maybe we’ll have a baby before church on Sunday!” He sounds a bit frantic and she can understand. Maggie is intense in general, but pregnant with all those extra hormones, she’s a psycho, crazy, pregnant lady and Glenn is a saint and he truly loves her sister because he hasn’t run off or threatened divorce. He’s patient and kind and treats Maggie like a princess. And Beth loves him for that.

 

They talk for a few minutes more about Friday night and then Beth makes an excuse to go but before she can hang up Glenn brings it up again. Daryl.

 

“Daryl didn’t do anything, I mean he was-”

 

“He was a perfect gentleman Glenn. He’s a good guy.” But he obviously isn’t interested in her. She was wrong, she must have been.

 

X X X

 

It’s Tuesday night the one night of the week that Daryl usually steers clear of the bar. Karaoke. Drunk people trying to sing are worse than drunk people trying to dance.

 

Glenn is home with Maggie, the same Maggie who ended his and Beth’s kinda sort of date and Sasha is on her own tonight and Daryl promised Glenn he’d check in with her. So that’s what he’s doing. He doesn't plan on staying. Not that he has any plans. But it beats sitting at home glaring at his phone and continuing an ongoing argument with himself about whether or not to call Beth. Because he should have called.

 

Having coffee with her had made him feel good. They talked and joked and it wasn’t forced or uncomfortable like some of his interactions with the opposite sex tend to be if he’s sober. He wanted to be there. He wanted to be there with her.

 

Until he left and convinced himself that it was all wishful thinking. She got that phone call and then she had to leave and he doesn’t want to think that it was an escape but he can’t help it. Girls like her don’t ever like guys like him.

 

Beth was just being nice because he’d taken her home when she was drunk. He’d done a favor for her brother-in-law. That’s all it was. Her blue eyes didn’t sparkle because of him, she wasn’t laughing cause he was actually funny, she didn’t like him the way he wanted her to like him.

 

She’s a beautiful girl and he’s just- well he’s not good enough for her.

 

It’s still fairly early when he walks in and it’s quiet which Daryl appreciates. Sasha’s wiping down the bar as he takes a seat in his usual spot. And Karaoke guy is setting up on the tiny stage next to the dance floor. There are a few customers sitting at the small tables watching and waiting. The barstools are empty though and that’s another thing Daryl appreciates. Sasha comes towards him, a beer in her hand.

 

“I told Glenn I'd be fine. I know how you feel about Karaoke night.” Sasha says. Daryl shrugs and takes the beer she hands him.

 

“I ain’t staying long. I told him I’d check in and make sure you were good. That’s what I’m doin’.”

 

“I am good. And Eugene is here.” Sasha smiles because Eugene would probably be the first one out the door if any trouble broke out. Daryl rolls his eyes. “Karaoke night is low key. Now Open mic night this Friday might be a different story.”

 

“Open what? What the hell is that?” Glenn is always trying new and innovative things to bring in customers. They’re usually his wife's bright ideas and Glenn does everything Maggie says. Daryl wonders for a minute what that feels like, wanting to do everything for another person just to make them happy. Then he remembers how he wanted to keep on being funny just so Beth would laugh.

 

“It’s where amateur performers are free to get on stage and kind of promote themselves,” Sasha says.

 

“Ain’t that what karaoke is?”

 

“I suppose it could be, but open mic night usually means that the people getting on stage are actual performers. Like they play an instrument or sing or write poetry or whatever.”

 

“Still could suck like most these guys do,” Daryl grumbles waving his hand in the direction of the dance floor. Sasha chuckles.

 

“Hopefully they have a bit more talent. Glenn’s sister-in-law Beth, you know the one you had to take home, she’s agreed to play a little to get things started.” Beth. She’s gonna be here on Friday? He feels a sweat break out on the back of his neck.

 

“Play? Play what?” Daryl wracks his brain but he’s sure she never mentioned being a musician while they were having coffee.

 

“She plays guitar and sings. I’ve never actually heard her but Glenn says she’s really good. She just doesn’t like playing in front of a crowd. She gets nervous I guess.”

 

“Can’t say I blame her.” But all he can think of is her singing and dancing in the bar that night and it was probably 99% alcohol-fueled, but still.

 

“I never asked, how did it go dropping her off? She puke on your shoes?” Sasha grins at the glare Daryl shoots her

 

“Was fine. Just took her home an put her to bed.” And she left his jacket smelling like flowers and she thanked him.

 

“She’s lucky she had a good guy like you take her home. She’s a sweet girl, all that alcohol could’ve been a disaster.” The ‘good guy’ strikes a nerve. Beth said the same thing, sort of and he’s been refusing to let himself believe it.

 

“Mmm hmm.” Daryl rubs his chin and wishes he’d called her or texted. Anything.

 

“She know it was you? Who took her?” Sasha’s being nosy and Daryl huffs out a breath but doesn't have in it him to be rude to her. They’re friends. But talking about this…

 

“I left my number. So she knew.” He’s careful not to look over at the other woman.

 

“She call you?”

 

“Why they hell ya wanna know?” Daryl bristles. He doesn’t want to be rude but he does having a breaking point.

 

“She did! What did she say?” Sasha is grinning at him just waiting for the gossip. He’s not giving it to her though. This is where he draws the line.

 

“Uh uh… I ain’t tellin’ ya-”

 

“You like her!”

 

“What the hell?! She’s Glenn’s sister-in-law!”

 

“So?”

 

“An she’s younger than me and she’s… she’s pretty.” His shoulders sag. Defeated. She got it out of him.

 

“Can’t be that much younger, so what if she is? And Daryl have you looked in the mirror? You’ve got that smoldering bad boy look down to a ‘t’ and you don’t even try!” Sasha laughs as she moves down the bar to fill an order.

 

Smoldering? What does that even mean? And he’s bad alright, bad news. Isn’t he? But Glenn trusted him and Sasha said he’s a good guy and even Beth… what would she have said if she could have answered his question?

 

What changed yer mind?

 

She’s gonna be here Friday night and he’s usually always here and he knows for a fact he will be here this Friday night. And maybe he can make up some lame excuse for not calling if she seems like she was expecting him too or he can just be cool if she doesn’t.

 

He’s fucked. Because he does like her and he doesn’t know what to do with that and if she doesn't like him back… he’s in completely foreign territory.

 

X X X

 

Friday afternoon. The little kernel of anxiety that planted itself in her gut when Glenn first asked her about singing has turned into a nervous energy that has Beth bouncing back and forth between her closet and the guitar she’s been strumming in the living room.

 

Choosing something to wear wouldn’t normally be a big deal but she found out that Daryl would most likely be at the bar, sitting on the barstool eyeing the crowd. Or her. Hopefully her. Maybe.

 

Not that it matters because if he was interested he would’ve called. If he was interested it wouldn’t be going on almost two weeks since they met for coffee.

 

She’s been ignoring the familiar voice in her head that keeps saying, ‘the phone rings both ways same for texts…’

 

Last night at dinner Glenn had mentioned that he would be at the bar on Friday if the baby didn’t miraculously show up before then.

 

“This baby is as stubborn as its mom is,” he’d joked. Maggie hadn’t appreciated the joke and glared at Glenn.

 

“Very funny. I’m only letting you go because I want you to see how successful my idea is going to be. Otherwise, you’d be here suffering with me. Daryl will be there. Nothing’s gonna go wrong.”

 

“Daryl's going to be there?” Beth asked and her voice may have been a tad bit too high pitched and anxious to pass as nonchalant because Maggie immediately wanted to know about Daryl driving her home and why she’d been drunk and what was she thinking?

 

As annoying as Maggie’s mothering was Beth was able to dodge the Daryl part of the question and get some sympathy for the fact that she’d gone out with a married man. Glenn had sat there listening probably glad his wife was nagging someone else besides him. Beth had left in a hurry when he’d mentioned that Daryl was single and Maggie had jumped on it saying they should have Daryl and Beth over for dinner.

The entire contents of her closet are in a tangle on her bed when she finally decides she’s not dressing to impress Daryl Dixon. She dressing so that she’s comfortable standing up on that albeit tiny stage, but a stage nonetheless.

 

Besides she’d decided men were no longer part of the equation of her life. Right before she went out and got so drunk that Daryl Dixon had to drive her home and prove to her that there were still good men in the world.

 

He had his nerve.

 

Opting for jeans, a t-shirt, and white converse she dresses and heads into her little kitchen to find something to eat before anxiety or stage fright or nerves make it impossible.

 

X X X

 

The dirt lot’s already crowded when Daryl steers his bike into a parking spot. Dropping the kickstand he looks around at the parked cars. If Beth’s here he wouldn’t know it. He never did find out what kind of car she drives. Leaning over and reaching into the leather saddle bag on the side of his bike, he pulls out a pint bottle of whiskey. It what it is, he’s not an alcoholic in any sense but he won’t lie even to himself that he doesn’t sometimes use it as a way to ease his nerves.

 

And tonight he’s nervous. Hell, he’s been nervous for the last couple of days but not enough to actually make a call or send a text. No use worrying about that now. It’s over and done and he supposes he’ll find out if it even mattered to her. Looking down at the bottle in his hands that only a moment ago was at least half full he tosses it, empty, back in the saddle bag.

 

Walking in the bar he avoids glancing over at the dance floor and the tiny stage just in case she’s over there tuning her guitar or setting up a mic or something. He heads to his spot and in his rush to get there almost collides with Glenn.

 

“Whoa, damn sorry Daryl!” Raising his eyes he sees the familiar smile on his friend's face and feels the corner of his own mouth raise just a smidge. He’s feeling the whiskey he just downed on an empty stomach, but it’s just a buzz. Nodding at Glenn he’s just about to ask how Maggie’s feeling when he smells flowers and a mess of a blonde ponytail blurs his vision.

 

“You owe me big time Glenn, you don’t even know-” His eyes meet hers, blue on blue and he thinks he sees a flash of hurt but that could just be him. “Hey, Daryl.” It’s soft but amiable. He doesn’t want amicable though. Amiable isn’t answering any of the questions that have been running through his head on repeat, all his own fault of course.

 

Because…

 

She brushes past both of them with an acoustic guitar in her hands.

 

“She’s nervous... She really doesn’t enjoy playing in front of a crowd which is insane because she’s really good. I mean really, really good. Well, you’ll see…” Daryl nods and slides onto his stool. Sasha is there with a beer and a huge smile.

 

“Just in case you were wondering, she asked where you were. Asked me cause she doesn’t know that I already figured it out!” Sasha at least keeps her voice down and stifles her giggles when Glenn walks behind her.

 

“Who?” Daryl snaps taking a long pull of the beer. Sasha just cackles and walks away leaving him sitting on the edge of the stool contemplating turning around and leaving.

 

Then she starts in. Beth. He’s not a connoisseur of music. In fact, his taste runs along the lines of classic rock with some death metal thrown in for good measure. She said it was an old song, a cover. Whatever it was she’s making it something more right in front of him.

 

The words all kind of blend together but it’s her voice that carries him, makes him want to listen. She’s saying something about holding on and the only line he really gets is, you don’t meet nice in girl in coffee shops and it makes him smile a little because she’s looking right at him and she is a nice girl and he met her, kinda in a coffee shop. She smiles back at him and for a minute he feels like maybe it’s okay. All of it.

 

When she finishes with a little bow the small crowd that’s gathered there cheers, one guy, in particular, is very vocal, he even gets on the little stage with her and hugs her and she’s smiling up at him like she knows him.

 

He looks her age, looks like a farmer or a farmer's son. Blue jeans, flannel shirt, and boots. There’s a cowboy hat on one of the tables and Daryl figures it’s probably his. Before he can turn away because that’s what he wants to do now, Beth catches his eye and the smile she’s wearing softens a little before her eyes flick back to farmer boy.

 

Daryl does turn away then. Sasha’s on the other side of the bar washing glasses.

 

“Hey Sasha, lemme get a shot of whiskey.” Sasha shakes her head as she dries her hands and pours him a shot.

 

“Need a little liquid courage Dixon?” she asks as she sets the glass in front of him. Daryl takes the shot and slams the glass on the bar.

 

“Nope! Lemme have another.” Glancing over his shoulder, her eyebrows raised, Sasha pours another shot and follows it with a small tumbler of ice water. She doesn't say anything else just sets it down next to the small glass of amber liquid.

 

X X X

 

She got through the agreed upon song and now she’s helping Glenn organize the rest of the line up which wasn’t something he asked her to do but she wants to help. It has nothing to do with the fact that as long as Daryl is here she wants to be here.

 

The rest of the line up consists of five people. The bar is busy but not because people are lining up to showcase their talents.  

 

“How am I going to tell Maggie her idea sucked?” Glenn mutters as he moves over for a guy with a big shiny black guitar.

 

“You aren’t. Once she has my niece she’ll be so busy doing the mommy thing she’ll leave the bar alone.”

 

“Niece? What makes you think it’s a girl? Could be a boy.” Glenn asks.

 

“It could but I want a niece so I’m thinking positive. I think he’s ready,” Beth says gesturing to the stage. Jimmy’s cousin Alex sings in a country band that has yet to make it out of the barn and onto a stage. Tonight is his first time performing in front of a crowd and he looks even worse than Beth felt.

 

“He looks like he’s gonna puke! God, I hope he doesn’t!” Glenn moans.

 

Beth peeks over at the bar where Daryl is sitting. He watched her the entire time she sang and his smile got a little bigger when she sang about the coffee shop. But he turned away when she started talking to Jimmy and as far as she can see he hasn’t turned back around since. Sighing she folds her arms and focuses her attention on the guy strumming his guitar.

 

Jimmy’s cheering him on from a little table in front of the stage. Next, to him, his girlfriend and very pregnant fiance Amy is holding her stomach with one hand and waving at Alex with the other. Alex doesn’t puke but he barely gets started when he falls right off the stool he was sitting on and he’s out cold on the floor.

 

“Oh no!” Beth hurries over and kneels beside him just as Jimmy does the same.

 

“He gets a little nervous,” Jimmy says shaking Alex's shoulder. “Hey Amy, bring me your water!”

 

Jimmy manages to wake Alex up and he and Amy take him out of the bar for a little air while Beth and Glenn make room for a skinny guy with a black mohawk and keyboards who’s been waiting impatiently next to the stage watching them handle Alex. He gives Beth a once over that makes her inwardly cringe.

 

“You wanna sing back up for me? You’re kinda cute!” The kid wiggles his eyebrows suggestively at Beth and she’s at a loss for words. Backing up a little she runs into Glenn.

 

“Dude, lemme see your ID,” Glenn demands holding out his hand.

 

The kid gets kicked out for being underage and as he leaves he’s followed by the girl who was supposed to go on after him. Now that Beth gets a good look it’s obvious the girl doesn’t look old enough to be there either. Glenn is grumbling about Daryl not paying attention, he’s supposed to weed these people out. Beth glances over at the bar and what she sees is a little concerning. Maybe. But she doesn’t have time to say anything to Glenn.



The last person on the list comes is smiling at them and she’s definitely old enough to be there. She might actually be one of the oldest people in the bar tonight. She brought her own speaker, a block rocker with a mic and after introducing herself to them both she sashays onto the and sets her equipment down. She presses a few buttons and gets a song started. It’s an old Patsy Cline song Beth remembers her daddy listening to it. The minute she starts singing a group in one of the back booths starts cheering. She’s good, extremely good and she’s brought her fan club. The other customers seem to like her too and Glenn breathes a sigh of relief until he looks towards the back of the bar.

 

“Oh no… this can’t be good.” He’s seen Daryl with his head resting on the bar.

 

“Is he okay?” Beth asks her concern bordering on worry.

 

“Yeah, no, I don’t know.” Glenn glances over at the singer on stage and then back at Daryl.

 

“Is he drunk?” Daryl seems like a man who can handle his alcohol but then she doesn’t really know him.

 

“I’ve never seen him drunk so I have no idea.”

 

The Patsy Cline cover girl finishes up and Glenn smiles at her. “You’re awesome! Feel free to keep singing if you’d like! You can even have drinks on the house!”

 

“Just keep the coca-colas coming and I’ll entertain the crowd!” She’s adorable and Beth would love to sit and listen to her. But right now all she can think about is Daryl and making sure he’s okay.

 

X X X

 

The bar top is cool against his cheek and the glasses of ice water were so cold he thinks maybe they sobered him up some. He’s an idiot. He’s well aware of the fact. But it’s too late now. There was no going back about two shots in. And he drank that half a pint in the parking lot too with next to nothing in his stomach.

 

When Beth walks up with Glenn. He knows he’s fucked. Lifting his head off the bar which might have been a bad idea because the room starts spinning a little he glances over at her. She’s blurry.

 

Beautiful, but blurry.

 

“Man, what’s going on? You okay?” Glenn does look worried. He’s close enough that Daryl can make out all the features on his face. He’s not pissed, just concerned.

 

“ ‘M good, Gotta take a piss though,” Standing he sort of lurches toward the bathrooms nodding at Beth as he passes. She’s wearing the same expression of concern as Glenn and he feels like an even bigger idiot. His shoulder slams into the wall as he rounds the corner and he hears Beth call his name but he keeps going until he’s safely behind the bathroom door.

 

Then he makes a beeline for the toilet and throws up the entire contents of his stomach. It’s not just the alcohol, it’s also the embarrassment that’s got him all messed up. When he’s sure nothing else is coming up he flushes the toilet and tentatively makes his way to the urinal. He’s dizzy but not as much as he was and he manages to pee and not get any on his shoes or the floor.

 

Zipping up his jeans he leans over the sink and washes his hands. He splashes water on his face and it feels really good and helps clear his mind. Cupping his hands under the faucet he splashes it again. He eyes his shaggy head in the mirror. His vision’s still a little out of focus and his hair’s dripping around his face wetting his shirt collar.

 

“She ain’t never gonna love yer ugly mug,” he mutters to himself and the voice is an eerily familiar ghost from the past. Brushing it off he makes his way out of the bathroom. Beth is standing in the same place she was when he left and he tries to smile but it’s more of a grimace. Sitting back down on the stool he sees another glass of ice water.

 

“Think I had enough a that,” he says eyeing the water. Sasha is standing across the bar with her arms folded watching him.

 

“I think you’ve had enough of a few things Dixon.”

 

“ ‘M going home anyway,” he says standing and the room spins again so that he has to lean over and grab the edge of the bar.

 

“You aren’t driving. No way man.” Glenn says.

 

“I can take him home.” Her voice is soft and sweet and he wants to refuse but his stomach is rolling which is impossible because there's nothing left in it. Taking a seat again he grabs the water and gulps it down because if he pukes right her in front of her or has to run to the bathroom he might as well die of embarrassment.

 

“Don’t gotta-”

 

“I owe you.” He feels her hand on his arm and he’s helpless and as shitty as he feels one more shot would seriously help settle his nerves.

 

“My bikes in the lot-”

 

“I’ll move it up to the front,” Glenn says. Then with nothing left to say he lets Beth lead him to her car.

 

X X X

 

Beth has no idea what's going on with Daryl. He seems to her, in the very short time she’s spent with him, to be the type of guy who rarely loses control. He holds on to it for whatever reason and without it, he’d be vulnerable.

 

That’s just an observation though because she barely knows him.

 

She doesn’t outwardly lead him to where she’s parked- once again she gets a feeling that she shouldn’t. That might only make whatever it is he’s feeling worse. So she guides him just using her body. He’s a little wobbly but manages to stay with her brushing up against her a couple of times as they make their way to her car.

 

“I’m just- here.” Reaching for the handle she opens it for him but he doesn't get in right away he looks over at her and he’s standing close, so close.

 

“Kia,” he says quietly and he’s drunk, she can smell the whiskey on his breath but his eyes are so blue and beneath the sparse fringe of hair his lips are pink and soft. She’s so focused on him what he says doesn't make any sense at first.

 

“Um…”

 

“Yer car, it’s a Kia.” That day they met at the coffee shop, he’d gotten there first and tried to guess which car was hers. She’d walked though and never had told him what kind of car she drove.

 

But he remembers that now.

 

“Oh, yeah. It’s a Kia.” She feels a warmth on her cheeks and hopes he is drunk enough that he doesn’t notice her blushing. He hesitates for a second more and then climbs into the car. He leans back against the seat and closes his eyes.

 

She doesn’t bother with his seatbelt because that would mean leaning across him and his place isn’t that far anyway. It’s one of the only other apartment complexes in town. He told her where it was and the apartment number and now he’s snoring. It’s just a soft rumble but it makes her smile and she stifles a giggle.

 

When she pulls into the small parking lot and turns off the car he jerks awake sitting up quickly as if he’s forgotten where he is. Groaning he leans over and rests his forehead on the dash.

 

“You okay?” He nods his head and then shakes it.

 

“Feel like shit,” he mumbles.

 

“I can relate,” she says softly and she opens her door but before she makes it around to the passenger side he’s already out of the car patting his pockets most likely in search of his keys.

 

“Shit…”

 

“I have them. Glenn took your bike key and he gave them-” Jingling the key ring in her hand he’s squinting when he looks over at her even though it’s dark and the light in the lot is dim.

 

“My bike?”

 

“You rode it to the bar,” He turns away from her, stumbles over to a flower bed and starts unbuttoning his jeans. “Daryl? Daryl, no, what are you doing?” She knows what he’s about to do but does he? This could get really embarrassing for both of them. He might be lucky enough to forget but she won’t and this is not the way she wants to see his- see him, any of him.

 

“Gotta take a piss.”

 

“Maybe we should go inside, into your apartment…” Beth says slipping an arm through his.

 

“Shit,” he rasps coming to his senses, “ ‘m sorry Beth.” Tugging gently on his arm she gets him moving towards the brick building navigating them both up onto the curb and around a bench. Glancing at the number on the closest door she hazards a guess at which direction to go and luckily they come up on his apartment door.

 

She doesn’t ask him just takes the keys and unlocks the door. There aren’t many on the key ring and she gets it on the first try.

 

“How you know where I live?” he gives her a half smile as he walks into the dark apartment fumbling around just inside for a second before the room is bathed in warm light. He leaves her standing there as he heads for a dark hallway.

 

“I gotta…” When he disappears around a corner she looks at the room she’s standing in. She hadn’t given any thought to what his place would look like but now that she’s seeing it, it fits him. It’s sparsely furnished, just the basics. A big blue denim couch, a tv stand that has a couple of stacks of books on it behind which a flat screen is mounted on the wall. Two framed photos are hanging behind the couch. Both are black and white. A motorcycle and a Joshua tree. There’s a dark green blanket draped over the back of the couch and she reaches for it when she hears the toilet flush and Daryl comes back into the room. He’s in his socks and his jeans, thankfully, are buttoned.

 

“Why don’t you just-” She was going to tell him to lie down but he seems to have the same idea and he stretches out with one arm over his eyes. Draping the blanket over his legs she heads into the little galley kitchen. She finds a glass and fills it with water before carrying it over to the coffee table and putting in within Daryl’s reach.

 

Unsure of what to do now she figures she’s done all she can and she’ll just leave his keys and-

 

He has her number. Maybe he’ll call.

 

“Beth,” the husky cadence of his voice as he says her name makes her shiver and she turns to look at him. He’s moved his arm from his face so he can look at her too. “Maybe you can stay, I mean not fer...  nothing… just- I can make ya breakfast or something when I’m feelin’ better,” he mumbles, “I mean if ya want, don’t gotta, don’t…” he covers his face again but she can see the faint blush on his cheeks as she toes off her converse and slips off her jean jacket.

 

She didn’t even have to think about it. He asked her to stay and the couch is one of those sectionals, an L-shape. She can curl up on the other side and he can cook her breakfast and maybe then she can ask him why he never called.

 

“Okay.”

 

“Alright.”

 

X X X

 

There’s something warm pressed up against him, something warm that smells like flowers and soap. He opens one eye and sees her blonde head. She’s curled up on the small space that’s left on the couch her back to his chest the blanket pulled up to her chin.

 

He’s gotta be dreaming. This can’t be real. But then she sighs in her sleep and maybe she senses him watching her or maybe he made a noise or something because she scoots over a little and turns on her back. Her eyes flutter open and lock on him.

 

“I- it got cold and I couldn’t find another blanket. I’m sorry.” Her voice is thick with sleep and it’s doing things to his body that he finds horrifying all things considering. Not to mention his mouth tastes like something died in it and if he says anything to her- He moves so he can sit up, put some distance between them.

 

“ ‘S fine, it’s… wait here okay, just wait, I’m gonna-” Standing he looks down at her. Her ponytail is crooked from sleeping in it and her eyes are puffy but she stayed and she even slept right next to him and she’s the prettiest thing he’s ever woken up too.

 

He makes a beeline for the bathroom and relieves himself before grabbing his toothbrush and toothpaste. He brushes and rinses and wipes his mouth on a towel and takes a deep breath before walking back out to where she’s waiting.

 

On his couch with his blanket because she stayed.

 

Sitting back down beside her and feeling as self-conscious as a thirteen-year-old boy sitting beside a pretty girl for the first time ever he clears his throat.

 

“Had ta brush, didn’t want ta kill ya with my morning breath.” She smiles and covers her mouth.

 

“What about me?”

 

“Nah yer good, smell like flowers.” She laughs softly and bats at his knee.

 

“Flowers? Really?”

 

“Really. Thanks, fer bringing me home. I, uh I don’ normally do that so-”

 

“Now you sound like me.” Pushing the blanket aside she scoots next to him.

 

“Guess so. Ya want some breakfast? I make a pretty good cheese omelet.” He’ll actually make her anything she wants as long as she’ll stay.

 

“I love cheese omelets! I need to use the bathroom though…” He points in the direction of the bathroom then lets his arm drop because she probably already figured it out. He just came from there. She’s wearing little pink socks and she stretches as she stands. He watches her walk out and wonders how comfortable she was sleeping in those jeans that hug her small body just right but he doesn’t ask that. He thinks about it though as he gets what he needs out for omelets.

 

She comes into the kitchen a few minutes later, her ponytail neat again and he finds himself thinking about how he’d like to take the band out, let her curls do whatever it is they do when they’re not being held back. Some of the curls framing her face are damp and he gets a whiff of toothpaste.

 

“It smells really good Daryl. Can I help with anything?” He’d like to do it all, take care of her but she doesn’t seem like the kind of girl who likes to sit back and be waited on so he points to a package of grated cheese on the counter.

 

“Could add some cheese.” He’s at the stove keeping an eye on the eggs so they don’t burn because he did boast about his omelet skills. She comes up beside him and sprinkles cheese on top of the bubbling omelet.

 

“Can I ask you something?” Her blue eyes are wide and there’s a little crease between her eyebrows like she’s worried about something. He nods and the looks down at the pan. There are numerous things she could ask him and the overall vastness is nerve-wracking. “How come you never called or texted after the coffee shop?”

 

He expected this question or something like it anyway. He should’ve made some attempt to get a hold of her. He knows that. And he’s well aware that the reasons for not doing that are stupid.

 

But she stayed and he woke up with her practically in his arms.

 

Maybe she likes him.

 

She likes you ya big dumbass! Don’t fuck it up, be charming or smolder or somethin’! That familiar voice in his head sometimes actually has good advice.

 

“I- hell Beth I wanted to but I was, I was chicken shit. Ya left so fast after ya got that call and I figured- well maybe it was a way out. I’unno…” She takes the spatula from him and flips the omelet that he wasn’t paying attention too before it burns.

 

“It was my sister, but I can see how you might think that I guess.” He takes the pan off of the stove and slides the steaming omelet onto a plate. Beth grabs two forks from the counter where he left them and the plate with the omelet and takes it to the table. “You got juice?”

 

“Uh- I got water. And a pot a coffee. Maybe some whiskey.” This makes her smile and her smile is becoming one of his favorite things.

 

“Whiskey seems to get us both in trouble. But coffee sounds perfect.” Cause she likes coffee. He pours them both a mug and brings them and sugar and creamer to the table. It’s not coconut but he’s pretty sure it’ll do. He sits down beside her and looks at the plate.

 

“We sharing? Or are ya eatin’ it all by yerself?”

 

“Oh, I-” she’s got a fork full of omelet ready to pop in her mouth. “Wanna share?” He nods and grabs the other fork but waits for her to finish her bite.

 

“Well?”

 

“You definitely make a good omelet! Gonna tell me your secret?” Her blue eyes are sparkling. For him. Now it’s his turn.

 

“Can I ask ya somethin’ first?” She’s chewing on another bite, swallows it real quick and nods at him.

 

“When I asked ya about good guys ya never answered my question... “ She lays her fork down on the table.

 

“You really need an answer?” she asks softly.

 

“I jus’, I jus’ wanna hear ya say it.” It’s ridiculous but it also matters to him and when she reaches across the table and takes his hand he thinks maybe she gets that and maybe that matters to her.

 

“You changed my mind Daryl, it was all you.” Her fingers are soft and she slides them between his big rough digits and they fit. Like they were meant to. And it feels like maybe this is when he’s supposed to kiss her. Maybe.

 

“Half n’ half,” he blurts out.

 

“Um, what?” she looks amused and she’s still holding his hand.

 

“My secret, fer the omelet. Insteada water or milk-”

 

“Half n’ half. Daryl do you wanna kiss me? I brushed my teeth too, kind of.” She’s biting her lip and she looks nervous as if he’d say no.

 

As if.

 

“I do. Been wantin’ ta kiss you since ya left the coffee shop,” he breathes and when she leans towards him, he does the same and it’s an awkward position but her lips are soft and warm and when she lays her small hand on his cheek he slides his hand around her waist, pulls her closer. She might as well be in his lap. Maybe she fits there too.

 

Maybe he’ll get to find that out.

 

Then he does what he wanted to do, reaches up and gently works the hair band from her ponytail so her hair falls around her shoulders. And he cups her face in his hands and kisses her again until they’re both breathing heavy and she leans into him.



“You’re pretty good at kissing Daryl. Kissing, cooking omelets, taking drunk girls home and tucking them in bed- you might never get rid of me,” she teases gently.

 

Don’t wanna, wanna keep ya, he thinks as he runs his fingers through her hair.

 

“That a promise?” He’s not teasing, not one bit.

 

“You want it to be?” He can hear the disbelief in her tone and it twists up his heart thinking how maybe she’s been on the wrong side of a lot of broken promises.

 

“Mmm hmm,” he hums. She holds out her hand fingers folded into a fist except for her pinky. He stares at it for a moment- confused.

 

“It’s a pinky promise-”

 

“A what?” Taking his hand in her she makes it into a fist and raises the pinky. She does the same with hers and hooks their pinkies together.

 

“Like this,” she smiles.

 

Like this- sitting in his kitchen his pinky entwined with Beth’s making promises like little kids on a playground.

 

“That’s it?” It feels

 

“That’s it,” she whispers

 

“And I get ta keep ya?” he murmurs.

 

“I’d never break a pinky promise, Daryl.”

 

It’s ridiculous- all of it. He’s got her pinky and a promise. He took her home and she did the same for him. And perfect might not be something he’s familiar with but he figures this has got to be close to it. And he’ll take it.

 

~fin