At this point, she had hugged him twice in comfort, they had traveled together for months and lived in each other’s personal spaces and he had given her a piggyback ride.
And yet, holding her hand, staring at this grave marker, somehow became more intimate than anything else he had ever done.
He had never held hands with a girl before, his mother being the only possible candidate he could think of. Even then, it would have been a distant memory of her helping him cross the street or helping him up off the floor.
He always ridiculed the couples who walked around, hand in hand, both before and after the world turned. He thought it was juvenile and whimpy for a man to willingly hold onto his partner in public like that.
Merle would sling an arm over whatever woman he was trying to pick up and be all over her in a drunken stupor. Daryl never even went that far. Hell, he kept most of his clothes on for the limited amount of sex he had over the years. He wasn’t willing to explain the marks on his body and he wasn’t looking for pity.
But at this moment, here with Beth, something changed in him. Something so simple as holding her hand, remembering the father and man they both lost, allowed him to come to peace with what happened.
He was someone who always held in his emotions, never wanting to let people in and see the man he truly was. After Merle’s death, he locked himself away from others, not allowing them to help him grieve.
Beth helped back at the moonshine shack to open up those wounds and remind him that he was one of the good ones and nothing was his fault. She had started to break down the walls of his fortress that he had built up for the past decade of his life.
Now, with this simple touch, she was able to touch his heart.
Hershel was not only her father but a man that Daryl had looked up to. He was never afraid of Daryl, he spoke to him like any other member of his family. And while Daryl still harbored some guilt in the older man’s death, he knew, right now, that Beth would never blame him.
She was one of the good ones.
When it was time to move on, he hesitated to let go. He looked down at their joined hands, their fingers webbed between one another and he admitted to himself, that this was a good feeling. His rough, calloused fingers against her smooth skin were such a contrast but a great metaphor of who they were as people. Him all rough around the edges and her, bright and sunny.
And yet, her hand fitted into his like it was always meant to be there.
The next time he had held her hand, she had just been shot in the head. It all happened so fast and he stared down at her body, the blood seeping into her golden blonde hair. He held her hand in his and cupped her head to bring her closer to his body as the tears fell down his face and his body shuddered from the shock of what had occurred.
Her skin still felt just as smooth as it was the first time. Maybe even more since she had been staying in this hospital for a little while now and could wash them more frequently. He paid attention to how small her hands were compared to his. How he could wrap his hand around her entire fist.
He thought about how this should have never happened.
He should have held her hand to keep her back from Dawn. To let her know that they would handle this and get Noah back.
He should have left with her through the window, and grabbed her hand and ran away from the herd of walkers. Dragged her away from the danger.
He wished he could have squeezed her hand as a way to show her, how much she meant to him. That she was the one who changed his mind.
When they had to leave her body behind in the car, not able to bury it because of the oncoming herd of walkers, he held her hand one last time, squeezing her fingers between his, wanting to hold onto that good feeling she had provided before.
But he no longer felt it.
It would be some time before Daryl ever felt that feeling again. During that time, he had lost more people, those close and those he knew. It just became apart of everyday life, that death was always knocking on their door. He did his best to protect the people around him but he couldn’t save them all.
Their group became slimmer, their new home in Alexandria never truly feeling like home. Although to him, home wasn’t a place, it was a person.
They had defeated the Saviours and captured Negan. They had come to a time of peace amongst the communities and Rick had asked Daryl to look after the sanctuary and its people.
He was hesitant at first but remembered the looks of pity his family still bestowed upon him to this day. From what he had lost so many months ago. Her memory still etched into his brain and on his heart. He made the decision to lead The Sanctuary but went back with the group to Alexandria to help them rebuild the community that was almost lost.
It came as a shock to see Heath back after Tara had lost him back when she first met Oceanside. He had been through the wringer but thanked his travel companion for getting him back safe. When he saw the pile of golden hair out of his periphery, he didn’t dare look, as to not get his hopes up.
But when Maggie cried out for her lost sister, he turned to see that she was, in fact, real, and only a few feet away from him. As she hugged her sister, she stared at him, not saying a word.
But her eyes spoke volumes.
There was no anger, just relief.
She held out her hand, wanting to get closer to him but Maggie not willing to let her only family go. He grabbed it, feeling the warmth spread from her into him. Her fingers wrapped around him, pulling him to join her in this reunion. He took her hand and placed it over his cheek, keeping his hand over top, letting the tears from his eyes wash over her skin.
When Maggie finally let go of her sister, Daryl didn’t. He held onto her like this was just a dream and he would lose her when he woke up. Their hands stayed joined together as the group shared their stories, as they relived the losses that had occurred over time.
Beth took Daryl’s strength when she needed it, grasping his hand in sadness, when she learned about Glenn, Tyrese, Sasha, and Carl. She cried on his shoulder, recalling their memories.
That night, they slept side by side on the floor but kept their fingers interlocked between them. Beth was able to nod off quite quickly but Daryl stayed up and watched her sleep. He rubbed his thumb over her skin, relishing in that warm feeling he could feel once again. As long as he could touch her like this, he would feel the love and comfort he had always needed in his life.
Their relationship had changed slowly afterward with her always the first to initiate in their relationship but he managed to follow along quite quickly. He wasn’t one to ever show displays of affection but with Beth, there was no embarrassment. He wanted to show her, in his own way, his feelings for her. So by holding her hand as they walked around Alexandria, or at night when they cuddled in bed, he was able to show her how much he cared for her.
He was holding her hand the first time she kissed him. They were sitting on the porch, side by side, recounting tales from before the turn. He spoke about the time he saved his brother from getting arrested and she smiled. Their hands were clasped on top of his lap, and she turned towards him, just staring at him. What he was about to ask, what was wrong, she leaned in and kissed him softly on the lips.
When she almost got bit by a walker, he saw his life flash before his eyes. He had lost her once, he would never lose her again. When they ran to safety, after killing the last of the dead, he grabbed her hand and with labored breathing, told her he loved her. That she couldn’t leave him again because he couldn’t live without her. She wrapped her arms around him and whispered in his ear, that she loved him too.
He held her hand as she brought him into her room for the first time and pushed him towards the bed. She locked the door and pulled her shirt over her head. She straddled his lap and began kissing him. He held her hands above their heads as he slowly made love to her for the first time.
His palm was sweaty as he held her left hand and almost dropped the ring he was holding out to her. She cried as he asked her to marry him. Their hands were glued together as she showed off her ring to her family and friends, telling them how surprised she was at his proposal.
Their hands were locked tight to one another, as Father Gabriel married them in a small ceremony at Hilltop. Beth wanted Maggie to be there but she had just given birth to their nephew, Hershel. So they moved their plans to Hilltop and had the best party that Daryl had ever been to. The look of love she held for him in her eyes, reflected the love he had in his.
She held his hand as they had a memorial for Rick, who had been lost to them for over a year now. She held his hand when he came home every time after searching for days for him. She let him cry and stroked his hair from his face. She cried the tears that he couldn’t at the memorial.
He held her hand as another contraction overcame her, wishing he could take away the pain.
She squeezed so hard, he thought he would lose his fingers from the loss of circulation. It had been hours of pain and they were slowly getting to the end, where they could hold their first child in their arms. When their baby boy came out, he no longer had just Beth’s hand to hold, he had his son’s as well.
Things were good for many years and they were blessed with a daughter to join their son. They felt safe and their family was complete. But after the Whisperers attacked, he held his family closer. The boy in his arms, the girl in hers, and the two of them with their hands joined together.
They knew that each day could be their last, and he made sure, that she and their children knew how much he loved and cared for them. He said it without words, just a simple touch of his hand.