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Just This Once

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It's been going on for a year now. He drops by the little joint every two weeks like clockwork, it happens to be on his route.

Sort of on his route.

Actually, Baton Rouge is on his route but only to drive through. Not to stop. That all changed one night when the rig broke down. He went in the joint to kill a little time while it was getting repairs. Since then the place has become a regular stop. Why? That's where she is.

It just happens to be a convenient coincidence that a mere two blocks from the joint there's off-street parking where he can leave his rig.

He's not kidding himself completely though, he knows if it was a five-mile hike he'd still stop just for the chance to sit, have a beer and look at her. He'd do damn near anything to see her.

Right this minute he's pretty damn glad it's just a two-block stroll because he feels like he can't wait, like it's been longer than two weeks since he got to spend a little time with her.

As he walks he mutters under his breath, "She owns your sorry ass Dixon."

Not that she knows it, and he decided long ago he'll never tell her. He'll never make a move on her. Oh yeah, he spends plenty of time fantasizing about all that. He has hours alone in his truck to think about nothing but her, and how much he'd like to spend a little time alone with a woman like her.

He corrects himself, no, not a woman like her. Only her.

He's been the joint enough that they've become friends. Kind of friends. He knows her name is Beth. She knows his name is Daryl. He knows she moved down to Baton Rouge from a small farming town in Georgia. She'd heard about some supposed big singing opportunity. Yeah, some asshole made some worthless promise.

He knows it's been a year now and he knows she's discouraged.

That's not all he knows about her and she knows plenty about him, thanks to that night two months ago. There was a helluva storm that night, bad enough it kept the regular clientele away. Not him, he wasn't just regular clientele and he wasn't inclined to let some storm keep him from seeing her.

That night they sat alone at a table in the back of the bar. They did what a couple of people do in a situation like that, they drank and they talked. He doesn't really care for talking to anyone about anything, especially not anything of a personal nature.

That night was different. Him and Beth got real with each other. He told her about what it was like for him growing up. Right there at the table in that little bar he told her about his abusive Daddy, his drunken Mama and his angry and often violent brother.

She told him about the dreams she had and the trouble she'd had at home. After the fifth drink she told him about the asshole in high school. He'd taken what she wasn't willing to give while they were parked behind the football stadium.

He remembered how his fists clinched, the muscles in his neck tightened, and all he could think was how much he'd like to kill that mutherfucker. He still felt the same.

Now here she finds herself, stuck in Baton Rouge. All she's got is this gig in this little joint where she splits her evenings between waiting tables and sitting on a wooden stool singing to the crowd.

It's not exactly what she had in mind.

He's honest enough and selfish enough that he admits to himself, for him, it's damn good. He'd listen to her sing all day, every day. Hers is the only voice that makes him feel what for him has always been an elusive feeling, calm.

It's like a drug for him to watch her and listen to her. A drug that for the first time in his life settles his soul.

He knows she knows about him too. Hell, looking at him is a giveaway in itself. He thinks he looks a lot like a hundred year old saddle that's been left out in the weather. He's rough, work worn and life worn.

She's heard his voice plenty of times too and unlike hers, he knows it's far from soft or soothing. Even to him it sounds coarse and hard-edged. He realizes he can sound mean even when he isn't mad.

Still, as mismatched and different as they are there have been those few evenings. Evenings when the joint was quiet, and they passed the time together sitting and talking. He never thought he would, but he's found it to his liking. Very much so. Just with Beth though. He can't imagine ever sitting and talking with anyone else like he does with Beth.

That's the crux of his whole problem right there, he likes her too much to ruin her life. Which is what he's sure he'd end up doing.

First of all she's way too young for him. No more than 24. Maybe. At the most. Shit, he's 37. She's a young beauty is what he knows. Blonde and blue-eyed with a small body and delicate looking white skin. Fuck he thinks, a big oaf like him would break such a fragile little sweetheart.

He knows who he is. He's nothing more than a redneck trucker with no future other than driving until he can't drive anymore. Shit, he doesn't even have his own place, he rents a one room bachelor pad up near Smithton, Georgia.

He rents storage space too. That's where he keeps his pickup, a motorcycle, and a small fishing boat and tent. That's pretty much everything he owns, it's all he's ever cared to own. He's in his truck most of the time, working, sleeping, and if you call it living, then yeah, living.

A special woman like Beth deserves so much more.

Yet he can't seem to quit torturing himself. Every other Wednesday he's in the joint where she works. He's smiling, chatting her up and acting like he doesn't have a worry in this world. Torturing himself.

He wants so much more with her than to simply talk, it's painful. His head hurts, his chest hurts and he tells himself he should stay away. That's the only way to make this better.

Maybe he'd do that but there's something else going on. He feels it. He may be a rough son of a bitch who doesn't know one fucking thing about life, or women, or any of that shit, but he senses things. He feels it. She likes him too.

He tells himself it must just be that she's having a hard time. For her a guy like him would be nothing more than a port in the storm.

He knows something else too, something else he feels. Whatever this thing is between them it's about to come to a head. Shit, it has to, the tension is almost unbearable. What he doesn't know as he walks in the door this night, is that this night is THE night when it will.

So he walks in, it's more of a confident glide really, and he wills himself to look like it's all good, everything's cool. He nods his head toward her, then sits at the table closest to the stool where she sits when she sings.

She walks to where he is and gives him that million-dollar smile when she asks, "Hey there Daryl, good to see you. The usual?"

He's sure he's grinning like an idiot when he answers, "Hey girl, yeah please."

She's back in no time at all with a frosty bottle of Bud. The joint's not too busy and she hangs around and chats with him a little.

It's nothing big. They haven't talked about anything too serious since that one night two months ago. They know what they know and now they just b.s.

She's telling him what she's been up to since she saw him last, and he's telling her the same about himself. But this night things are different and her news lands on him like a bomb dropping when she bites that pretty upper lip and says, "I've decided to move back to Georgia, Daryl."

He feels like his heart just stopped. He knows why. If she moves back there to Ridley, well shit, it's not anywhere near his route and nowhere near where he lives. He'll never see her again. He's determined not to let his panic show. He sounds way too causal when he asks, "Why's that girl?"

She shrugs, purses her lips a little and says, "I'm sick of this life Daryl. I'm sick of trying to make a living singing. I really don't even think I want that anymore."

She looks down, breaths in deeply and looks back in his eyes when she tells him, "I'm ready to go back to Georgia and get a real job. I think my sister will help me out, you know, let me stay with her and her husband while I get my life together. Maybe I can get a loan and go to beauty college or something. I don't know for sure. I just know I'm leavin' next week."

He's feeling devastated and desperate, but boy does Daryl know how to play it down. He just says, "It's probably for the best then Beth, but I sure will miss seein' ya around."

She keeps her emotions in check too, but her smile seems so sad when she says, "I'll miss you too Daryl."

He stays until he's the last dying dog in the place. He knows exactly why that is, he can't bear to leave her. Eventually though it's closing time and he has to go. He stands, walks to where she's wiping down a table and for the first time since he met her he touches her. He lays his hand softly on her arm and says, "It sure has been good ta know ya girl. I wish ya all the luck in the world."

She's reached that point, the one where she doesn't care if she makes a fool of herself. She has to try. She sets the bar rag down, grabs his hand with both of hers and shocks the shit out of him when she nearly begs, "Take me with you Daryl. Please."

He's practically speechless and trying to be careful because he knows this wouldn't be right. Then she's shocking him again. She swallows hard and adds, "I've waited for you so long. Please don't make me wait any longer."

He wants nothing more than to do exactly what she asks, but he can't. He'd ruin her life in no time flat. He puts on an act like he isn't interested. He gently cradles her pretty face in big rough hands and he lies his ass off, "I'm sorry girl, you're real sweet an all but ya just ain't my type. Besides, I ain't the kind ta couple up."

She thinks she knows better than what he's saying, and she's not ready to give up just yet. She looks him right in the eye when she calls him out, "You're a liar Daryl Dixon. I know better. But if you won't take me with you, then at least be honest enough to do what we both want." Looking him dead in the eye she says it, "Stay with me tonight. Just this once."

He's blown away. He knows exactly what she's talking about and he wants it too. But no, he'd only end up hurting her.

He feels like his tongue is tied and his shoes are nailed to the floor. He can't speak and he can't move. He just watches her as she walks to the big barroom door, turns the lock and throws the bolt. He's still watching as she walks to him and he hears her say, "My room's in the back."

He tells himself, "NO! Don't do this to her." He promised himself every day for a year that he never would. He knows though, fuck him, he knows. Every man has a weakness and his weakness is her.

He starts to make a move on her but he catches himself, tells himself, "Wait man, this is different, Beth's different." Dammit, she's not just some tempting little one-night deal. She's the woman that if he was the kind for that sort of thing, he'd be looking for something permanent with her. Not just one night.

Yet he's worthless. He's the asshole of all creation, the scum of the earth, because when she takes his hand and starts walking that way, he walks right along with her.

Her room is plain. Just a bed, a night table, a small dresser that holds an ancient TV and an equally ancient radio. Shit, he hates to think of her living in this shithole.

Then he forgets what he was thinking about altogether because her hands are laying on his chest and she's telling him, "Kiss me Daryl. Please."

Shit, why was he making her ask? No, no, why was he even there? He's not supposed to be. This is all wrong. But he's a dick and he can't stop himself, and his mouth is on hers and dammit, she tastes so sweet. It's done, he's already lost all control.

He justifies what he's doing and at least for now he buys his own bullshit. Like she said, it's what they both want. It's just this once.

The kissing gets feverish in a hurry, and the touching is hotter yet. It seems to almost happen on its own, suddenly they're both shirtless. He smiles when he gets a look at the white lace bra with her little pink nipples showing through.

Yeah, he'll look at that bra more later. For now he pops the clasp, slips it off her and tosses it across the room where it lands on the dresser.

Her arms wrap around his middle and he likes the feel of her bare breasts rubbing against him, then her hands reach around and start rubbing his back. She's not surprised, they talked about this stuff. She only stops what she's doing for a moment while she asks, "Your Dad?"

He shrugs it off, "Yeah, rough childhood."

She nods and says, "I'm sorry, that sucks."

He shrugs again, "It was a long time ago," as his fingers begin to softly pinch her nipple.

It hurts a little, in the best of ways, and then his mouth is on her other breast. He feels her reaching for his beltbuckle and he damn near smiles, this sweet girl wants to get to it. He's fine with her idea, but he's got something else to attend to first.

He's staring right in her eyes and giving her that look, the one that tells her he's ready for what she offered him. He loosens the button on her jeans and smiles at her as he slowly slides the zipper down, then slips big open hands down the back of the pants.

He squeezes the firm flesh of her sweet little ass just before he slides her jeans far enough down her thighs so that he can slip his hand between her legs.

He feels the dampness and he's smiling wider, and he's got an almost teasing tone in his voice when he asks, "Ya ready for me girl?"

She doesn't even try to pretend any different, "I've been ready for you for months."

There's no way he's going to own up to how long he's been ready for her, he just grins at her like the idiot he knows he is, drops his pants to the floor and kicks them away. He's saying, "C'mere girl," as he grabs her and carries her to the bed.

He lays her down and as he stands above her taking a moment to soak in her beauty, he suddenly remembers. Shit, he's so worked up he almost made the ultimate mistake. He hurries over to his pants and retrieves a packet.

He's back to the bed, bending over and kissing her belly, kissing her breasts, and kissing that soft mound of blonde curls as he slides her pants off.

They both feel so out of control, all these feelings, all the desire and need, it's all been bottled up so long. They don't waste time thinking, they just get after it.

His mouth is on her breast and his hand is between her legs, and his finger slips inside her. She flinches just a little at the sensation, but then she shocks him as her hand wraps around him and she's softly stroking his hardness.

He wants to take it slower with her but they're both too frenetic, too needy, too desperate to share this moment neither thought would happen.

He's not thinking, he's sliding the condom on and then he's sliding inside her. It's true and he smiles at her when he hears himself saying, "The perfect fit." She smiles back and they're into it and into each other, and he finds himself fighting the urge to let her know how much he cares about her, and how damn happy he is to be here with her now.

He's trying to keep his strokes even, not go too fast and ruin this for both of them. Not too slow and torturous, they don't have time for that bullshit.

He can't seem to stop kissing her and that's not like him at all. He knows it's all her. She's different, she means something to him. That's why he can't keep his lips off her lips, or her neck, or keep from sucking on her throat and nibbling at her breasts.

He's doing his best not to let himself go too soon but he's having trouble holding himself back. Then he feels it and he sees it in her face, she's close to losing it too. He wants to watch her come undone; he wants the whole experience with her. He manages to hang on long enough to get the thrill of seeing her cum, and then he's gone too.

Later he'll be cussing himself because, damn if he doesn't call out her name, and worse, "Beth, damn baby ya make me feel so good." Shit, he's never done anything like that before.

He knows why. He's never been with her before. Never cared for a woman before Beth.

He's reluctant to leave her soft warm body but he's got to get up and get rid of the condom. He hurries in the bathroom and does what has to be done. He's such an idiot that as he washes his hands he's already planning how he'll just walk back in the room, put his clothes on and tell her goodbye.

Not a chance. He walks in, takes one look at her laying in the bed and reaches for another packet. He sets it on the night table and smiles when he asks, "Can I lay back down with ya?"

She smiles and nods and he's already there next to her and holding her close to him. He's surprised when he wakes an hour or so later. Never ever has he stayed with a woman long enough to actually sleep, but yeah, she's different.

Her body is curled up next to his, her leg laying across his thighs, and her slim arm hugging his midsection. Her head is resting in the hollow between his chest and shoulder, and he can tell by her breathing she's asleep.

If he didn't already know he'd be able to tell by his growing hardness, he wants her again. He shouldn't be doing this, dammit, she shouldn't be doing this, but he smiles as he gently pushes the blonde curls back off her face, and then his fingers slowly glide along her throat and upper chest, until they're on her breast.

She stirs and he hears an mmm sound coming from deep inside her. That's all the encouragement he needs.

This time he takes it all so much more slowly. He does what he's spent so many miles on the road fantasizing about doing. He explores every inch of her body, and to his pleasure, she does the same with his body.

He's doing what he's wanted to do for a year. Not have sex with her, he's had sex with her. Now he wants to make love to her.

She's warm and willing and responsive. It's so much more than he could have ever hoped for.

Then it's over, they lay there in each other's arms blissfully satisfied and completely spent. But by the time he catches his breath he comes to his senses. Shit, what was he thinking? What the hell was he thinking?

He wasn't thinking, that's what happened. He let his need and desire take charge of his better sense, and now here he is laying with her in his arms. Why does it have to feel so good and so right? Dammit!

It isn't that he wants to leave her, it's that he knows he has to. It's the right thing. He tells himself he's being a good guy. He's doing this for her. She's got a chance at a good life if he's not in it.

Besides, he's got to get to New Orleans, drop his load and pick up the return load. Oh fuck him, what he's got to do is get out of her room and out of her life. A life that won't include the likes of him.

He kisses her forehead as he slides his arm out from under her. As soon as he's out of the bed he's grabbing his clothes. He hurries to the bathroom and hurries even more when he's in there. He's needs to get out of there and fast.

Dammit, when he gets out of the bathroom she's standing there with a little bathrobe wrapped around her and she's looking like she knows he's never coming back. She whispers, "Daryl?"

He knows what she's asking and like the big dumb mutherfucker he is, he answers, "It's for the best girl."

She surprises him. He expects her to ask him why, he expects her to ask him to stay. She only asks him, "Are you sure?"

He only answers, "It's best for you girl."

She asks, "I don't get to decide what's best for me?"

He's angry but not at her. Not at all, "I'm sorry girl, this here, it shouldn'ta happened. It's my fault, I'm an asshole." He leans in and kisses her cheek and when he pulls away he sees the tears glistening in her eyes, but she doesn't cry and she doesn't beg him to stay.

When they get to the barroom door she unlocks it and as he turns to go she quietly says, "You're making the biggest mistake of your life and mine too, Daryl Dixon. You're walking out on our happiness."

He doesn't have an answer for her, all he can do is bite his lip, nod his head in agreement and get the fuck out of there as fast as his feet will carry him.

She goes to her room and gets in the shower. She has the water as hot as she can take it, trying hard to wash him away. She's crying and screaming and calling him an asshole and worse, and all the while she's wishing she didn't love him.

He gets in the truck and cranks it on, and while the big diesel engine comes to life he relentlessly cusses himself. He calls himself more ugly names than Beth even knows exist as he bangs his head on the steering wheel, yelling at himself, "Ya dumb sumbitch. Ya dumb sumbitch. Look what ya done. Ya hurt her. Ya dumb piece a shit."

When the engine's warm he slams the truck into gear and he's going way too fast, screaming down that highway to New Orleans like he's trying to outrun his feelings and his thoughts of her. He doesn't make it far. When he gets to Gonzales, Louisiana he pulls over, draws a deep breath and says to himself, "What the fuck man, she wants you. You want her. Maybe it can work."

As soon as he can he's turning the big rig around, heading back up I-10 to Baton Rouge and to her.

She's out of the shower, dressed and packing. She needs to get out and now. She can't spend another night in that bed. Not after he's been there. Not after he left her.

She's packing up her things while she's making her plan. She'll write the boss a note and apologize. She'll say it's an emergency and to just keep her last three days pay for the inconvenience. It won't be a lie, that's what this feels like. A big damn emergency. She'll call a cab to the bus station. She'll lock the barroom door and put the key down the mail chute. She'll be out of there and on her way home, and she already knows she'll be crying all the way.

She's packed and the note is written and her hand is on the door when someone bangs on it. It scares the life out of her and she's sure her heart has stopped. She stays quiet, she wonders if she should call the cops. Then she hears his voice.

He's calling, "Beth, Beth please. Beth can we talk? Beth please." And the banging starts again.

She wants to throw up, she wants to punch him right in the eye, she wants him to hold her. She sets down her case and she's sliding the bolt to the right, turning the lock to the left. He must hear it because the second the locks are disengaged; he's pushing the door open.

They stand there for a moment just staring at each other, and then she's in his arms and he doesn't know what the fuck's come over him because he's talking fast. It's true he's never been much of a talker, but he's got a lot to say to try and convince her. He knows if he doesn't succeed, if she won't come with him, the break in his heart will never mend.

The words spill out, "Please. Come with me. I gotta get ta New Orleans n I want ya ta come. Not just that far. I want ya with me from now on. I got a place in Smithton. It ain't much but I got money put back, enough for a down payment. I'll get us a house. If beauty school is what ya want, I'll pay for that. Work or don't work, I don't care. Just stay with me. I'll get a short haul job. I'll be home most nights. Please girl. Please say ya will."

She's just standing there staring into his eyes. She's not saying yes but at least she's not saying no. Then it hits him like a ton of bricks. He hasn't said the most important part, and then he does, "I love ya girl. Please."

"Oh," is all she can say as she tries to catch her breathe and organize her thoughts. Should she drop every other plan she has and go with someone who just an hour and a half earlier left her? It makes no sense at all.

Then she knows. He loves her and she loves him and that's all she cares about.

She picks up her suitcase, hands it to him and says, "I'm already packed."

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