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let’s give ‘em pumpkin to talk about

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She’s been slickin’ on that lip gloss all god damn day. Daryl’d think she was tryna kill him, but since when’s he been the sort to go all moon-eyed and tongue-tied and damn near braindead?

Since Beth, that’s when, and there ain’t no way she could know that so he can’t rightly blame her. Still, though —

“Christ,” he mutters as she smears more of the stuff across her lips while he sticks a cigarette between his own, “you eatin’ the damn stuff or what?”

Beth ignores him. Or she ignores him as far as her lipstick’s concerned, anyway, ‘cause she snatches his cigarette before he can so much as flick his lighter open.

“You can’t smoke here,” she chides him, as she stuffs the crumpled Marlboro into her jacket pocket along with her goddamn pumpkin spice Lip Smackers. “There’s kids.”

Daryl huffs, looks around even though he doesn’t need to, ‘cause he already knows there’s kids here. Shoot, he only came along ‘cause Rick was takin’ his kids and he said he could use an extra pair’a hands. Between a sometimes surly adolescent and a temperamental two-year-old, an outing to the pumpkin patch apparently isn’t the feel-good family time it sounds like.

Frankly, Daryl didn’t think it sounded like a feel-good time at all, but what the hell else was he doin’ today? And he owes Rick a couple dozen favors, besides.

Might owe the guy somethin’ more like a swift kick in the ass now, though, Daryl considers as he side-eyes Beth. ‘Cause she came along, too, for the same reason Rick had given him, and they’ve been left alone all day. Seems like Sheriff Grimes can take care’a his kids just fine on his own.

Daryl’s long since started to suspect this whole thing was some kinda set-up, and Rick’s fuckin’ annoying little smirk when he took Judith to pet the barn cats, leaving Beth and Daryl alone together — “Try to have some fun, huh?,” that’s what the asshole said — pretty much sealed that deal.

So now it’s just him and Beth beneath an overcast sky at the edge of a pumpkin patch, watching people pick through creeping vines and gourds, and hay bales that ain’t got no business bein’ out in the middle of a field except for ambiance or some shit. The place smells like dirt and hot apple cider and the candy corn Beth’s been munching on. Daryl’s not convinced his cigarette could smell any worse than the stench of manure comin’ from one of the barns but, hey, fuck him, right?

He shoves the pack back into his pocket before Beth can think to confiscate the whole thing.

“You’re a real pain in my ass, girl, y’know that?”

Beth hums. “Yeah, lung cancer ain’t got nothin’ on me.”

Daryl sticks the edge of his thumb in his mouth and chews at the nail. “Smartass.”

“Oh, pffft.” She nudges him with her elbow. He hadn’t realized they were standing so close, and now that he knows it makes his ears heat up. “C’mon, I think you sorta like me.”

Sorta? Daryl snorts. If that ain’t the understatement of his entire goddamn life, he don’t know what is.

Not like he’s gonna tell her that. Girl’s enough trouble as it is, and anyway he’s never been much for talkin’ about the way he feels. Doesn’t even know what he’d wind up telling her if he tried, but chances are good he’d fuck it up, so what’s the point, right?

That thought makes something unpleasant stir in his gut. He’s never thought much about himself, but since Beth came along she keeps sayin’ how she’s gonna knock him upside the head with a milk pail if he don’t quit it. It’s easy enough to dismiss her out of hand, easy to roll his eyes and grumble at her, but the thing is she’s really started to get in his head and he almost, almost, thinks he could be good enough for her.

Y’know. If she wanted.

What she wants now, though, is to know, “What’s so funny?”

He hadn’t laughed, not really, but Beth’s caught on to just about every one of his tics, so she’d taken his snort as a laugh and, yeah, she’s right, but — “Nothin’.”

“Hmm.” She pops a couple more candy corns into her mouth. “Well, you didn’t say you don’t like me, so I guess that means you do, otherwise you woulda told me to fuck off by now.”

Daryl coughs, nudges her with his elbow this time. “Watch your mouth, girl, god damn.”

“Yeah, you’re one to talk,” she retorts, without any bite to the words.

“You got an attitude problem.”

“You’re jus’ mad ‘cause I won’t let you smoke.”

“Let me?” Daryl echoes. He thinks maybe he really could laugh now. “Woman, you don’t ‘let me’ do anythin’. You ain’t in charge’a me.”

Beth gives him a look like he’s being ridiculous, which don’t make no damn sense because Daryl’s never been ridiculous a day in his life.

“What?” he says when she just keeps staring at him, like her big ol’ Bambi eyes could convince him of anything she wanted. (Which. Okay, they probably could.) “You really think you can jus’ boss me around, that it?”

“Yup.” Beth tosses another piece of candy into her mouth, crunches it between her front teeth and grins. “I sure do.”

He huffs again — doesn’t snort, otherwise she’ll think she’s funny and, like he already told her, she’s bein’ enough of a pain in the ass without his express encouragement. “Sure, Greene.”

She sticks her tongue out at him.

They fall back into silence, but it’s not an uncomfortable one. Daryl’d even go so far as to say he’s content, just standing around with her like this, and it’s nice, even though it also kinda feels like he’s being punched repeatedly in the chest.

He’s never had an honest-to-god crush on nobody before but, Christ, is this how it feels every time? ‘Cause fuck this, honestly.

But then he chances another look at Beth and he thinks that maybe, nah, it’s not so bad.

The breeze kicks up then, stirs the ends of Beth’s hair and whips ‘em into her face, where they catch on her sticky lips and Daryl wonders what it’d feel like if his mouth caught on hers. Sticky, probably, that lip gloss left a mighty fine sheen on her, but he doesn’t think he’d mind it.

When the wind licks up her slight body again, a little harder this time, Beth shivers. She’s dressed for the weather, in a wool cap and a big chunky sweater and everything, but she’s a little thing, so —

“You cold?”

Oh, fuck. Did he really just ask her that? Like there’s somethin’ he could do to fix it if she is? God damn it.

“Um.” She wraps her arms around herself the way he’d like to do — shit — and gives him a self-deprecating sorta smile. “Yeah. I’ll be fine, though, ain’t a big deal.”

“Uh.” Daryl clears his throat, presses his lips together, gnaws some on the bottom one as he tries to make up his mind, but — you know what? Fuck it.

He huffs another deep breath through his nose, lifts his arm up a little and says, “C’mere.”

Beth’s impossibly big eyes widen even further. He doesn’t like to be touched and she knows that, and here he is, offering to — to fuckin’ cuddle with her, more or less, ‘cause she’s cold. “You serious?”

“Damn it, yeah, jus’ — get over here ‘fore I kick your skinny ass.”

She tries to swallow her laughter, he can tell, but a giggle escapes from between her over-glossed lips and he can feel it, too, when she tucks herself into his side and his arm falls heavy around her slim shoulders.

This is nice, too. Even better than just standing next to her. Which, reasonably speaking, should feel like a disaster, like the goddamn world is ending, because that’s what it usually feels like when Daryl lets his heart off its tight leash, even just a little, but… Well, but this is Beth, and if anybody’s gonna look after his heart, it’s sure as hell gonna be her.

Ah, fuck. When’d he start thinkin’ like some cheesy fuckin’ Hallmark movie, huh? That probably started around the same time Beth showed up, too, but he’s keepin’ that shit to himself, yessir.

He sighs, deep enough for Beth to notice, and he feels the nudge of her chin when she turns to look at him. He keeps his own eyes faced determinedly outwards, like a bunch’a dirt and pumpkins are somehow better-lookin’ than the girl next to him.

But that’s the problem, is that the girl next to him’s the best-lookin’ thing he’s ever seen, the best thing he’s ever felt, and he don’t know what he’s supposed to do with that. Not a clue.

“Hey,” Beth says to get his attention. It ain’t much, but it does the trick. Not like he’s gonna ignore her, so…

Daryl turns his head to meet her eye, see what she wants — probably gonna tease him, piss him off some more — but before he can get a good look at her, she pushes up on her toes and, and —

Oh, Jesus, she’s kissing him.

His eyebrows fly up in surprise, his hand flexes, curls around her elbow, but his mouth don’t miss a beat. No, it presses against hers right back, clings to her lips and follows their lead.

It’s soft and sweet, and, yeah, a little sticky where her lip balm rubs off on him. But it’s not just that he doesn’t mind it — he likes it. Almost gets why she kept reapplying it, but only almost ‘cause he thinks she’d taste this good no matter what she put on. Thinks he’d like to find out for sure.

Her lips part a little and so do his, so he can taste all that candy corn on her breath and, fuck, he hates that shit, but turns out he can’t get enough of it when it’s dancing off Beth’s tongue onto his.

Christ, how is everything about this girl so good?

He tilts his head a little further, so he can taste more of it, kiss her deeper. His free hand cups her jaw, his thumb traces the curve of it, while hers smooths over his steadily accelerating heartbeat. Thing’s goin’ a mile a minute for her, and what’s more is that he hopes that she knows that. 

She caught him off-guard, yeah, but he got used to it real fast and now he doesn’t wanna stop.

They do, though — they’re in public, for fuck’s sake, smack in the middle of a county orchard, and if he doesn’t stop he’s gonna wind up feelin’ her up in one of the abandoned stables and they’re gonna get arrested for public indecency, maybe even by Rick so long as he’s not feelin’ too damn smug to do his job — and Daryl blinks at her while Beth falls back onto the flats of her cowboy boots.

She looks pretty pleased with herself, cheeks all pink and eyes bright, and, okay, so Daryl’s not feelin’ too bad himself, but —

“Hell you do that for?” He sounds halfway to completely wrecked, but he’s still gotta know.

Beth gives him another one of those funny looks, but she’s smiling this time so maybe she does have a little mercy to spare him, after all. “‘Cause I like you.”

What? He blinks again, and repeats himself out loud because what the fuck else is he supposed to say, except — “What?”

“Yeah.” A smile flirts with the corners of her lips, not so glossy now but still so fuckin’ pink, moreso than usual, like they’re all warmed up ‘cause he’d kissed ‘em so much. “You’re a lot bigger’n me. If I go out with you then I won’t have to climb up on the counter to reach the stuff in my cabinets. You can jus’ do it for me.”

He’s pretty sure she’s teasing him, but his face is all hot and he can’t think straight, so it’s hard to say.

So he dips his head to watch as he digs the toe of his boot into the patchy ground and mumbles, “Ain’t doin’ nothin’, you don’t quit messin’ with me.”

“Alright, so that was a joke.” Beth prods him in the chest with her curled knuckles, catches the end of his jacket in her grip and tugs him a step closer, to make him look at her again. “But I ain’t messin’ with you.”

Daryl glances up from beneath his overgrown bangs, searches her face for any sign that she’s laughing at him. She’s not, she wouldn’t, but he also never thought she’d wanna kiss him, either, so what the hell does he know?

He swipes his tongue across his lips, can taste all that pumpkin spice she left behind. 'Cause she did kiss him, is the thing. “Sure ‘bout that?”

“Yeah.” As if to prove it, Beth dips in for another kiss, just a quick peck but he can feel it all the way in the damn curl of his toes, ‘cause her lips shape up into a smile when they’re pressed to his. “Yeah, ‘m real sure.”

She leans back, just far enough to look at him properly, to grin up at him, all self-satisfied. “See, I toldja you liked me.”

There’s no stopping the snort this time around, so Daryl just lets it go and tugs at her slouchy wool cap. “Yeah, fuck, guess I do.”

Another understatement, but he can lead up to the truth — that he damn well more than just sorta likes her — and Beth’s always been patient with him, confiscated cigarettes notwithstanding, so he figures he’s got time to get his shit together.

His eyebrows lift up again when Beth giggles. “You gonna look at me like that all damn day now?”

“Sure am,” she says, like she ain’t embarrassed at all that she’s gone all moon-eyed. She’s probably not, and Daryl thinks he must’ve been lookin’ at her the same way, too, so in retrospect it’s no wonder Rick caught onto it.

“Alrigh’.” He huffs again, but he’s gotta bite back a grin when he does it. “You’re the boss.”

“Toldja that, too.”

“Shut up.”

That just pulls another giggle outta her. Daryl’s pretty sure she’s only ever gonna shut up now if he kisses her some more, but everybody’s got their crosses to bear and he thinks he can handle this one just fine, thanks.

So, okay. All things considered, maybe he’s not gonna kick Rick’s ass, after all. Might even owe him a couple dozen more favors after this, but, well…

When Beth slips her hand into his, she tangles up their fingers together, too, and Daryl feels too good about that to mind anything else.