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under pressure (mmm-num-bah-dey)

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Jimmy’s not stupid, okay.


Maybe a little bit — nobody’s ever gonna clap eyes on his SAT scores if he can help it, but like standardized testing’s an actual indicator of anything, but… anyway. Anyway. His train of thought tends to get off its tracks when he starts thinking about this. Not like he wants to be thinking about it, mind, hell no, it just.

It haunts him.

Which is why he keeps it to his damn self, ‘cause anybody he could tell would laugh their asses off if they heard him talking like some old-school horror movie. Who could he tell, anyway? Amy’d be the one to laugh him right outta town, and he can’t even look at Beth as it is, never mind talking to her — forget about talking to her at all, if it’s about this.

“This” being whatever the hell’s goin’ on with her and Mr. Dixon.

And it’s something, no doubt about that. Jimmy had wondered before, but it’s a sure thing now, which… fine. Beth’s happy, it’s all good. She’s always been able to look out for herself, always known what she wanted and how to get it. Always real sure of herself, Beth. Never scared to tell folks to stick it up their ass, only she’d do it so polite that you don’t even realize she’d told you to fuck off, more or less, ‘til you’ve already fucked off.

It’s kinda amazing, actually.

As for Daryl, well, Jimmy wasn’t joking when he said it wasn’t Maggie he’d be worried about if he got caught lookin’ at Beth a little too eagerly, whether it was her in her swimsuit or anything else. Hell, she could put on a potato sack and Jimmy’d still make sure to be looking six inches to her left, just so he was sure to avoid gettin’ skinned alive by Daryl’s sharp, annoyed glare alone.

Thing is, Jimmy knows that Daryl’s got a thing for Beth. Doesn’t know how nobody else seems to get it, except — well. Alright. So Maggie sees what she wants to see, and she’s always gonna think of Beth as the baby of the family, which she is, yeah, but she’s also a grown-ass woman, and Jimmy really doesn’t envy the rude awakening Maggie’s in for when this thing blows wide open. Glenn’s kinda clueless about stuff like this, Amy’s havin’ too much fun teasing Beth regardless of how right she really is, and maybe Mr. Grimes knows something about it, but it ain’t like he’s one to gossip, so who the hell can tell?


Jimmy knows, and maybe it’s because a guy can just always tell, or maybe it’s because Daryl’s not as subtle as he thinks he is, or maybe it’s because Jimmy’s just that afraid of gettin’ his ass kicked, so it’s pure survival instinct tellin’ him to keep his eyes front, son, ‘less he wants to lose his dick for looking at someone who ain’t his to look at.

Not that Beth belongs to anybody. That’s a stupid, Neanderthal thing to think, and Jimmy wouldn’t ever say it out loud, but he doesn’t know how else to say it. It’s just this very primal, real visceral sorta thing, how he knows that Daryl wants to be all up on Beth like peanut butter on jelly.

Or. Something like that.

But Daryl likes her, is the point. He even sorta smiles sometimes, when she walks into the room
and says some smartass thing. Which might not mean horseshit for anybody else, but where Daryl Dixon’s concerned? Shoot, Jimmy’d bet his football scholarship it means the guy’s already picked out the engagement ring. Thing’s probably gonna sit halfway up Beth’s knuckle when he finally gets it on her — and he will, no bones about it — ‘cause maybe neither she nor Daryl are the kinda folks who think much about diamonds and carats, but Daryl’s absolutely the kinda man who wants everybody to know that his girl’s goddamn taken.

So. Yeah. It’s fine. Jimmy just didn’t have to know how fine it was. Could’ve died happy never knowing a damn thing about it; kinda wishes he was dead now, matter of fact.

It was bad enough just watching them flirt at the beach. Jimmy doesn’t wanna watch anybody flirt, it’s physically painful, though it seems like Daryl had a worse time of it, seein’ as how red he got soon as he got his hands on Beth. It was innocent enough at first blush, sure, but, like Jimmy said, a guy just knows and Daryl was pretty obviously having some sorta panic attack when Beth giggled in his face like she did.

It got worse from there, maybe not in an obvious way, but it was just this… feeling, like how Jimmy knew Daryl wanted Beth, but then all a sudden it was almost like he’d gotten her and he wanted more. That sorta palpable sexual tension, the kind that’s in all those paperback romances Beth devours like the best flavors of saltwater taffy.

Dinner on the back patio was good, all smokey burgers and brats and crackin’ open cans of beer, but it was weird, too, when Beth flounced outta the screen door and onto the porch with Daryl on her heels. Both’a their hair was wet, Daryl’s cheeks were pink, and Beth looked mighty pleased with herself — sorta boneless, actually, like she’d taken a dip in a jacuzzi instead of a shower. The rental house doesn’t even have a jacuzzi, and Daryl kept lookin’ at her like she’d let him… do… something… and he’s hopin’ she’ll let him do it again.

Honestly, Jimmy doesn’t know where he’s coming up with this shit. He could blame it on the few chapters he read of one’a Beth’s books (hey, it was raining the other day and there wasn’t shit on TV, okay, and she brought like six of them), but…

Well, he’s not one to believe in intuition or things like that, but he can’t dismiss the feeling that something’s goin’ on. The Lord works in mysterious ways, right?

It’s not much for sensibility, but Jimmy’s just tryna find the silver lining somewhere, alright, so sue him.

He’d put it out of his head over the next day or so, pretty much forgot about it. It’s not like he spends all his free time obsessing over his friends’ love lives or anything, and Beth’d probably put her boot up his ass if he tried to get in her business about it, anyhow. He noticed it when it was smack in front of his face, or when he was treading carefully so as not to get his ass beat by a guy twice his size with half his patience, easy, but he’s got a life, okay?

Or he did, before he heard what he did and now he’s gotta seriously consider some intensive therapy to get over it and quit wishing he’d just get mowed down by a bus or something.

Maybe he’s being dramatic, but — you know what? Nah. Fuck that, he wants to get hit by a car.

He thinks about what he could’ve done different, fantasizes about it all wistful-like, though there’s not much. Basically it comes down to being a restless sleeper as it is, let alone when he’s got nothing but an air mattress to work with, and none of that could be helped. Rick snores and Carl talks in his sleep and Judith mumbles incoherently — God knows how any of them ever get any proper shut-eye — but it doesn’t make a difference, really. Jimmy could be locked up in a bomb shelter and there’d still be something keeping him from his REM cycle.

So it’s not his fault, okay, when he shuffles downstairs for a bottle of water about one in the morning.

A couple of the stairs creak underfoot, but otherwise the house is quiet, ‘cept for the hum of the air conditioner and then the fridge when he pops it open. He squints in the bright light, rubs his eyes, releases a world-weary sigh ‘cause, fuck, he’s wiped. He eyes the half-gone bottle of whiskey before figuring why not, maybe a shot’ll help to knock him out.

He’s chugging his bottle of water as he walks back down the dark hallway, when he just about does a spit-take because —

Those are definitely sex sounds coming from the den.

His first thought’s that Daryl’s watching porn, but there’s no light spilling from the open archway, and anyway Daryl watching porn might be the dumbest thing Jimmy’s ever guessed. Not like he’s ever talked to the guy about that sorta thing — frankly Jimmy’s too nerve-wracked to talk to him about much’a anything — but he ain’t the type. Can barely look at Beth straight-on and he’s sweet on her, so no way’s he spending his night getting off to porn.

Maybe he’s just. Getting off on his own. Jimmy doesn’t wanna think about that, either, so he’s about to high-tail it outta there and try to forget about it, when —

No. Nope. There’s definitely a girl in there with him, and it’s definitely Beth.

Duh. Obviously. Jesus.

The mattress of that droopy pull-out couch is squeaking something fierce, almost precisely in tune with those high breathy moans and those lower, guttural sounds. And Jimmy doesn’t want to know about it, okay, he doesn’t wanna hear it and be able to piece it together, but fuck him if he can’t goddamn move, it’s like he’s gone catatonic from shock and horror and just… ugh.

Ugh, he does not wanna know that those two are fucking.

Like, it’s fine. It’s not even as bad as when they look at each other in plain view of other people — because that’s all raw and pining and shit, and they just let other people see them doing that — but that doesn’t mean Jimmy wants to know about anything else they get up to.

And they’re really, really “getting up to it” right now.

He’s pretty sure he passes out. Or blacks out, at least, ‘cause it’s not like he collapses or anything, he just can’t seem to move his feet and get the hell outta dodge before he hears something he can’t come back from.

But. Well. It’s in God’s hands now, and apparently He’s feeling some of that divine wrath Jimmy’s Sunday school teachers were always warning them about. He resolves then and there to start going to church more — hell, he’ll go right now if only his useless fuckin’ feet would just move.

It’s gone all quiet again, and for one hot merciful minute Jimmy thinks it’s over, but then the mattress creaks like the stairs do and Daryl’s muttering something and —

“I wanna come, Daddy, please,” Beth says, all breathy still but the words travel in the dead-silent downstairs and so does Daryl’s answering groan, almost painful but also like it’s a good thing — Jesus, is this what John Mellencamp meant when he wrote that song? — and Jimmy would just like to state for the record that he did not ask for this.

No. Nope. Hell no.

Only thing he’s got now is a fucking death wish, but at least that shit snapped him out of it, and he books it back to the kitchen, because he needs another shot of whiskey or several. Needs a damn tranquilizer right between the eyes, but the whiskey’ll do in a pinch.

He knew Beth and Daryl'd get up to something eventually, but.


Jesus, Mary, Joseph, fuck this.

He doesn’t finish the bottle of Southern Comfort, but it’s a near thing.



BETH: What’s up?

JIMMY: not much, been busy

BETH: Uh-huh. Yeah, I guess Call of Duty can get pretty time-consuming.

JIMMY: i have a job!

BETH: Your mom said you’ve just been playing Call of Duty.

JIMMY: typing…

BETH: I know you’re avoiding me. Is it ‘cause of Daryl?

JIMMY: daryl? who said anything about daryl? i’m not scared of daryl

BETH: Yes you are!

JIMMY: typing…

JIMMY: shut up

BETH: He’s not gonna hit you or somethin’ for talking to me, you know.
He just said — and this is from him, now, so don’t go thinkin’ I support violence — that he’d kick your ass if you asked me for a date.

JIMMY: it didn’t work out between us in the seventh grade so i don’t reckon it’d work now either

BETH: That’s what I told him.


BETH: Oh, relax, he doesn’t care. He just did that little snorty thing he does when he’s tryna not to laugh and told me to shut the hell up.

JIMMY: romantic

BETH: Nobody else knows we’re together yet, alright, you’re my only confidante right now.

JIMMY: how’d you even know that *i* know?

BETH: You’re being weird and Daryl said you keep looking at him funny. It ain’t hard to figure why.

JIMMY: okay well
then you can understand why i’m gonna be havin words with ma about backing me up when i lie to my friends about how busy i am

BETH: ???? Just ‘cause you know about me and Daryl?

JIMMY: ‘cause i know TOO MUCH about you and daryl

BETH: What’s that even mean?

JIMMY: typing…

JIMMY: jesus
that beach house didn’t have the thickest walls, alright? damn

BETH: typing…

BETH: typing…


JIMMY: yeah

BETH: Oh my God.


BETH: Okay.
I. Um. I gotta go.
I’ll just
See you later?

JIMMY: yeah guess we should be friends again at some point

BETH: Eventually.

JIMMY: maybe after y’all come clean
take the pressure off
maybe if maggie yells at daryl loud enough it’ll knock other… //things//… outta my memory

BETH: Well, you know Maggie.

JIMMY: the hero we need right about now

BETH: Yeah.
So anyway.

JIMMY: yup

BETH: (-_- )ノ