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Daryl's come to dread the sound of her heels clicking on the sidewalk.

They'd been working the site for two weeks when she first showed up; Daryl knows, cause he would have noticed if she'd passed before. Legs like a pair of mile-high stilts, hair tied in a bun that revealed the swan of her neck, pencil skirt that hugged her ass like a goddamned hero returned from war—she was a sight to remember, even if only to be forgotten. And she would have been, if Daryl had anything to say about it—would have clicked in and out of his life just like the rest of those office girls, moving through the city like a runway and not the goddamned trap it was.

She would have, if not for two things: One, the thing that happened the first day she passed; the way Daryl's eyes landed on her as he paused to stretch his sore back, wipe his sweaty hair from his forehead; landed not on her legs, or her ass, or her thighs, but her eyes, sky blue and luminous as they turned to him, paused in their casual sweep of the street; the way she looked at him, lingering, sparkling; the way her lips began a slow climb up her cheeks.

The second, unfortunately, was Merle; Merle and his big fucking mouth.

“Hey sweet-cheeks, bring those buns on back here! Ol' Merle can warm them up for you real good!”

And then her gaze was gone, averted eyes turned to beacons above her reddening cheeks as she hunched her back and quickened her stride, vanishing into one of the shiny office buildings.

Daryl muttered Merle's name under his breath, too soft to hear above his brother's cackling. Merle elbowed Daryl painfully in the ribs, said something about uptight pussy being the best every time, before turning back to his work.

Daryl didn't even pretend to smile; Merle wouldn't notice anyway.

And so their routine began. Every weekday at 8:56 sharp, Daryl hears those heels that sound exactly like every other pair and yet somehow remain unique; looks up from whatever he's doing to find her with the same bun, a similar blouse, a ladybug thermos in one hand and her purse in the other as she clickity-clacks down the sidewalk. Daryl doesn't plan to be there every day at 8:56, but somehow it always seems to happen; maybe cause Merle knows, too, when the professional ladies are like to wander past, dabbing the damp from their foreheads, sweating in their hose and over-thick blazers. Merle has his favorites—usually blonde with styled hair, walking past with their noses in the air or covered in handkerchiefs, shunning the dust that by the end of the day coats Daryl's sweat-soaked body head to toe.

Merle has names for all of them: sugar-tits, honey-lips, just crude enough to get their goat up but not enough to encourage reprisal. Daryl doesn't understand how so many of them walk by with little more response than rolled eyes or a sideways glare. Sugar-tits flips him off, at least, finger raised before Merle even opens his mouth.

He gets a hoot out of it, Merle does, and although Daryl never joins in, he somewhat understands. The days grow long, the sun stays hot, and anything less to do would leave their brains to boil inside their hard yellow hats.

The girl, though—with her tucked-in bun and ladybug thermos—she doesn't flip Merle off, or ignore him, or even look at them again. Every morning at 8:56 sharp, Daryl hears her coming; hears the way her steps go into double-time when she reaches their block, sees her cheeks flash crimson, flushes himself at the way her shoulders climb towards her ears, as if to block the sound of Merle's yells.

Daryl would say something, but what is there to say? Merle'd just call him Darylina and stuff his drawers with women's lib pamphlets, and Merle'd still be here every morning, harassing this girl, making her speed up just to escape a dirty redneck's words.


It's hotter than sin beneath the Georgia sun, and it ain't doing nothing for Merle's mood.

“Fuckin' wetback making us work in this shit,” he says to Daryl, louder than he strictly needs to. Daryl glances back towards the office. Martinez is leaning on the railing of the stairs, watching them work; when he sees Daryl looking, he raises his eyebrows. Daryl grimaces, jerking his head towards Merle. Martinez rolls his eyes, muttering something under his breath before heading up the stairs and into the air conditioning.

“I'd like to see that little bitch do some'a this work for five minutes, get his ass outta that damn office—“

“He's our fucking boss, Merle,” Daryl growls. The heat makes him bold too. “One'a these days you're gonna be out on your ass for good. Need to clean up your own damn messes for once.”

“That's what I have you for, Darylina,” Merle says, clapping Daryl on the shoulder. Daryl flinches under his touch, like he always does. They both notice, but they don't mention it, just like they don't mention the way Merle still jumps at slamming doors.

Merle's good mood is short lived, however, and soon he's back to scowling. He squints up at the sky.

“Only gonna get hotter from here,” he mutters, again not quite under his breath. With a growl, he hawks up a huge globule of spit, splashing some on Daryl's boot. “Don't we got a union for this?”

Daryl shakes off his boot, scowling. “Was your idea to stay in Georgia. Quit whining and do your damn job.”

“One'a these days...” Merle trails off, looking towards the street. A smile grows on his face, downright mean. “Aww, look at that thing, right on time.”

Daryl looks, and it's the girl. She's walking slower than normal, which is why he hadn't heard her. Even from this distance he can see she's practically wilting in the heat. Her usual immaculate bun is already escaping into wisps and her face is covered in a sheen of sweat; the hollow of her throat sparkles like it's full of diamonds. She's still in her usual suit, though, carrying that damn ladybug thermos.

“Hey girl, what you sweating for? Ain't your pussy cold enough for you, ya frigid bitch?”

The clacking stops.

Daryl knows by the set of her jaw that Merle's gone too far this time, and the world goes still as it waits to see what she will do. Well, at least Daryl's world does; Merle has turned back to his work without a second thought, whistling away in a tuneless whine.

He doesn't see, then, what Daryl sees; doesn't see her slowly lift a hand to unscrew the lid of her thermos; doesn't see her turn around and with clicking feet advance on the construction lot.

What he must see, though, are her eyes—shivery blue and cutting like glass as she flings her still-steaming tea in his face.

“Son of a whore muncher!” Merle screams, his feet sliding out from under him as he tumbles backwards and lands on his ass with a squeal. He swipes at his eyes and blinks up at the girl, gobsmacked.

“That warm enough for you, you jerk?”

She glares at Merle for a few more moments, sparing Daryl a glance before spinning on her heels and stomping back towards the sidewalk. Merle is silent for perhaps the first time since he crawled out of the womb, watching with Daryl as she raises her chin against the pedestrians who have stopped to stare at her, not faltering even when she missteps and twists in her pumps.

It takes a few beats after she vanishes into her building for the hubbub of the street to return to normal; another few for Daryl and Merle's eyes to meet. Merle's greying hair is stained a vague brown, his already sweat-soaked shirt a similar hue. His face is red from the hot drink and possibly the embarrassment. His hands tap feebly at the dirt, like his body is attempting to reboot.

Daryl can't see anything definite through the dark glass of her building, but when he starts laughing—great, heaving belly laughs that make him feel every night spent in front of the TV, shudders and shakes that cut him in two and send tears down his cheeks; a kind of laughter if feels like he hasn't known for centuries—he could swear he sees a skinny silhouette pause to look back.


Daryl rubs his eyes as the print in front of him fades in and out, vision hazy with the strain of the day and lack of sleep.

It's pushing on 10 pm and he's still at work. 10 pm on a Friday, no less. He tries to imagine where Merle is; doesn't have to try too hard, to be honest. It's always the same with Merle, Friday or not—clock out, grab a hot dog, jog a mile to a bar he can actually afford, spend the night harassing waitresses and getting hammered. He usually goes with a few buddies from work; Daryl too, most nights, simply because he doesn't have anywhere else to be and his nightmares are a little tamer if he has a bit of drink in him.

But today, when everyone was clocking out, Martinez called him over and said his wife was sick and couldn't get the kid from her abuela's so could Daryl stick around for a few hours to handle the filing?

Daryl doesn't know why Martinez came to him of all people. He does have a GED, if only just—maybe the personnel file lists that kind of thing. He knows he could find out. He knows what Merle would do, in his position; reach into the cabinet and draw out their performance reports, up the marks till they get a bonus. For a few moments Daryl is tempted.

But then he remembers the easy way Martinez tossed the keys to him, asking him to lock up when he's done like a reminder instead of an order—like he expected Daryl to do it anyway, like he trusts a hick redneck can't even do his multiplication—well, Daryl ain't a person worth shit, but he's still good enough to respect those who put their faith in him. However misguided.

He finished the daily paperwork within an hour or so, but something prevented him from leaving. Maybe it was the thought of all the nothing he had waiting for him at home; maybe it was the stillness of the office, lit by a single bulb and the muted glow of the city from outside. Whatever it was, he took his time—re-alphabetized the filing, dusted the shelves, swept the floor; noticed the dirt his boots were tracking around, and swept again. And now the digital clock on the desk blinks 10 pm as he squints at unfilled requisition orders, and he wonders how much worse his life will have to get before he puts a gun to his temple.

Even so, he's left with a sense of peace as he exits the neatened office, locking the door carefully, checking his pocket for holes and stuffing the key as deep as it can go. He takes a moment to let out a breath; lean his head on the shut door and close his eyes, head tilted towards the hidden stars. The city is as quiet as it ever gets, the only sounds the occasional honk of a distant car, the low hum of life that soaks from the ground into Daryl's bones. Despite the dust in his nose and the raucous voices rising from the street, it could almost be the woods.

After several minutes the shouts grow near enough that he huffs and opens his eyes, annoyed at them for breaking his peace, however spotty it was. Jogging down the steps, he sticks his hands in his pockets and walks in the opposite direction of the commotion, mind on little more than the long walk ahead.

On little more, that is, until a familiar, feminine voice rises from the ruckus behind him.

“Could you just get out of my way, please?”

Daryl stops in his tracks and turns slowly, squinting through the dark. A little down the street from the construction site a pair of men are standing with their backs to him. They're both clearly drunk; nearly tipping over with it, and Daryl feels a stab of annoyance at how early it is for them to get lit. His annoyance quickly turns to something muddier, darker, when he sees the small blonde body between them.

Her hands clutch her purse like a lifeline. Her spine is straight and her feet still, but even from this distance Daryl can see the way her eyes roll.

“'S only 10, darlin'; sure you ain't got no plans out here?” says one of the men.

“I'm sure,” she says, her voice as firm as it can be; but Daryl can still detect a tremble of fear in it.

“Aww, don't be like that,” says the other, bending forward at the waist and almost making her take a step back. “You ain't gonna spend some time with us? Entertain us, like?

“Come on, gal, nothin' to worry about,” the first says. This one does take a step forward, until he's leaning into the girl's space. She backs up, but the second darts behind her so she bumps into his chest. His friend laughs. Daryl sees her pale.

“My boyfriend is waiting for me in the car,” she says, voice a hoarse whisper.

“I sincerely doubt that,” says the first.

His hand has just come to rest on her shoulder when Daryl's feet decide to move.

“Hey!” he shouts, pulling his hands from his pockets and striding forward. His legs are long, and by the time the three have turned their attention on him he's within spitting distance. “The fuck's going on here?”

“Nothin' to do with you, man,” says the first.

Daryl forces himself to hold the man's gaze as he sizes Daryl up. He's taller than Daryl, but Daryl's bigger, and he knows the impression his arms make when he crosses them.

“Yeah, man. Just havin' a little fun,” the second man say, grinning and laying his hand on the girl's shoulder like they're old friends. She shakes him off violently, gripping her purse and stepping to the side.

The man looks about to follow her when Daryl growls and steps forward. “You best back the fuck up.”

“What, she claimed or something?” he asks.

“Nah,” Daryl says, purposefully thickening his accent, letting it drawl. “Just seems pretty pathetic, y'all can't find willing pussy in a city this size.”

The first man's eyes darken. “You fixin' to fight both of us?”

Daryl snorts. “Don't think it would be much of a fight,” he says pointedly, looking the man up and down. The man reddens further, crossing his own miniscule arms.

“Len, come on,” the second man says, glancing at the girl and then back to Daryl. “Dude's right, there's plenty of pussy out there.”

Len continues to glare at Daryl, then scoffs and spits on Daryl's boot. “Fine. Too skinny for me anyway. Com'mon, Tony.”

Without another word, Len and Tony amble off. Daryl stays tense until they turn the corner; then he lets out a breath and relaxes, slumping and slipping his hands back into his pockets. He glances at the girl, though, and feels nervous all over again.

“So,” he says, but she speaks over him.

“What the hell was that?”

Daryl blinks, furrowing his brows. “Excuse me?”

“I didn’t need your help. I was handling it.”

Daryl looks at her incredulously. “Girl, they were 'bout to knock you over the head and drag you into an alley. 'Less you got a piece in that purse, I don't think you were handling it.”

She stares at him, face flushed. “I can take care of myself,” she says, low.

“I know,” Daryl says, in the same tone.

They stare at each other for a few more moments, and then the girl seems to deflate, her brave face slipping. She looks about five years younger like this, and she didn't look all that old to begin with. It makes Daryl shift uncomfortably, thinking of what she might have looked like on the cover of the newspaper, he hadn't been there.

Or maybe she would have handled it. He doesn't know. All he does know is that now she's looking at him like she too is taking his measure. He doesn't think he's put himself in a position to be judged so openly in a long time. He looks at his feet and shuffles, not sure if she expects him to leave or not.

He's about to grunt out a goodbye when she says quietly, “Walk me to my car?”

He looks at her through his fringe of hair, a little surprised she'd trust him like this. Despite what he'd just done for her, he knows what he looks like: still streaked with dirt and sweat from the day, hands callused and hard, eyes thin, mouth mean. No woman like her's ever asked him for something like this. No woman at all, really.

She's still peering at him, a little smile building on her face. No woman's smiled at him like that either.

“A'right,” he grunts. He waits a moment, then jerks his head, indicating she should lead the way. Her smile grows a bit, and she nods in the direction she comes from every morning. They start walking.

Daryl's surprised by how easily they fall into step, his heavy boots and her clicking shoes. It makes him nervous, how loud her shoes are; like they're sirens for whatever other lowlifes might be wandering the streets. But the world is quiet. An old man passes them on the opposite sidewalk, and jazz drifts from an open first floor window. It's the most peaceful Daryl has ever found Atlanta.

“I'm Beth Greene, by the way,” she says, and Daryl isn't surprised at all.

“Daryl. Dixon.” Daryl's worried for a moment that she might want to shake his hand or something, but she doesn't; just keeps one hand on her purse, the other swinging at her side. He could almost call it peaceful, the way she's walking; aside from the perpetual tension in his shoulders, he would almost call himself peaceful too.

He expects they'll walk the rest of the way in silence; it isn't like there's much they could talk about. He doesn't mind it though. He likes the silence.

He likes the silence with her, he realizes; the quiet, unassuming way she walks beside him, heels clicking softly on the street.

He's so lulled by her presence and the darkness he jumps a little when she speaks.

“What are you doing here so late?”

Daryl glances at her, finds her looking at him, and looks at his feet.

“Boss needed someone to work overtime,” he says.

“For five hours?” Beth asks.

“Took a while,” Daryl mutters. “Don't got nowhere better to be.”

“Hmm.”

He chances another glance, and is surprised to feel a little disappointed when he finds she isn't looking at him too.

“What about you?” he asks despite himself. He looks away when she turns, but he realizes he wanted her eyes on him again. “Why're you still here?”

“I always stay till 10,” Beth says. “Turn here.”

They turn, and Daryl looks at her incredulously. “That's over 12 hours, girl. You ought'a sue 'em or something.”

Beth giggles, and Daryl feels his ears pink.

“Nah, I wanted to. Well, I don't want to, no one wants to work that much. But it's only for the summer. And I need the money. It keeps me away from home, too.” She says the last part quietly, glancing at him like she didn't mean to and she's worried he'll comment on it.

He's curious what a nice thing like her would need to get out of the house for; hopes it isn't for the same reason he would. But he knows what it's like to not want people prying.

“You savin' for something?” he asks.

She looks at him gratefully before saying. “Yeah. I'm starting college in the fall. I wanna be a music teacher.” She smiles softly as she says it, and Daryl feels his own lips twitch in response. “Ya know, the silly old lady who teaches kids how to sing and write songs and play stuff like the glockenspiel.”

“The fuck's a glockenspiel?”

Beth giggles. “See, you could'a used me. It's like a keyboard, but the keys are metal and you hit 'em with little mallets. I always loved that in elementary school. Makin' music outta weird things.”

“Couldn'a just hit some trash can lids together or something.”

“I did that too.” Beth's smile slowly fades and she looks at her feet. “Daddy didn't want me to work. Said I should enjoy my last summer as a kid, that after Mama… well, we'd get the money somehow. But he already mortgaged the farm for my sister's schooling. I didn't want it to be harder on him than it has to be, you know?”

Daryl doesn't know; can't imagine a world where he’s want things easier for his daddy, unless it kept him in a better mood and off the bottle. But he still nods, cause she expects him to, and it wouldn't surprise him to know a girl like her has a daddy worth making happy.

“What about you?” she asks. “You been doing this long?”

Daryl shrugs, looking at his feet. “A bit. Only been in Atlanta a few months. Me'n Merle sorta drift around. Job was here so we took it.”

Beth wrinkles her nose. “Merle is that guy you work with, then?”

Daryl snorts. “My brother, yeah. That's Merle.”

“Oh.” Daryl looks at Beth and is shocked to find she looks guilty. “I am sorry for throwing that tea on him, by the way. He wasn't hurt too bad, was he?”

“Pfft, not at all. Whined about it for a few hours, but he deserved it.”

“Still. I shouldn't have lost my temper like that.” Daryl wonders what world she lives in, that can be called losing your temper. “He was being a jerk though.”

“You can call him an asshole, you know; he is.”

“Daddy raised me to speak like a lady,” she says, eyes sparkling.

“Bet you'd sound good doing it.”

Daryl nearly stops walking once those words leave his mouth, cause shit Dixon, did you just flirt with her?

But he finds he can't keep his pace from matching hers, just like he can't help glancing at her out of the corner of his eye. He nearly stops again when he sees the mischievous glint in her eye.

“Alright. Your brother's a real cock, then.”

Jesus.

“How was that?”

“Uh. Good. It was good.”

And it was. No matter how hot his cheeks feel or how tight his pants suddenly are, he finds he liked the sound of that word rolling past her tongue, settling in her mouth.

Bet she'd sound even better with the real thing in there.

Daryl turns his head to look at the other side of the street so she doesn't see his expression, a mixture of embarrassment, lust, and anger. Anger at himself. Here he is, walking her to her car, fantasizing about her mere minutes after she could have gotten raped.

He's no better than Merle.

But he can't get that image out of his head; him seated in his dad's ratty old arm chair, her knelt down between his legs, blue eyes coy as she teases him, slips him in and out of her mouth. She's got the perfect lips for it, too; a little plump, red as sin, even with her lipstick smudged; he can barely imagine all that porcelain skin against his own roughness.

He swallows heavily and squeezes his eyes, trying to calm down, chase the image from his mind.

When he feels under control enough to look back at her, he finds her looking at him, a little concerned. He rolls his shoulders under her gaze, trying to look normal, whatever that would look like for him.

“How far away's this car anyway?” he grumbles.

“It's, uh, right ahead,” Beth says. She quickens her pace, and in a few moments comes to a stop beside a red Ford. She turns to him. “Look, I'm sorry if I offended you—“

“Weren't we here already?”

Daryl looks up and down the street, recognizing his own walk home. They've stopped only a block or two up from the construction site, but they'd been walking for a lot longer than that.

Beth is looking at him a little guiltily and, he's shocked to see, a little afraid. She pulls her keys out of her bag and fiddles with them, looking at her feet. “Uh, yeah. I just, when we first got here, I didn't want to stop. I wanted to keep talking to you.” She glances up at him, forces a smile. “Dumb, huh?”

He doesn't think it's dumb at all. He thinks it's amazing. He thinks it's astounding. He thinks he can barely believe a girl like this—the grimy light of the city turned to a halo in her hair, her eyes twin blue lanterns shimmering with fairy dust—would want to say two words to him, let alone walk five extra blocks just to keep talking to him.

It takes him a while to realize he's staring at her, and even longer to realize she's staring right back. The air is still muggy, uncomfortably so, but his skin prickles.

He remembers the true crime shows his mama used to like when she was on her way to a buzz. She spent most of her days in that state, so it was always a pretty good chance he'd find her parked in front of some courtroom or psycho-drama. He doesn't remember much from those shows—he'd usually only watch for a few minutes after bringing his mama her lunch—but one thing he does recall is the concept of temporary insanity. How you can get into a situation where your brain just snaps. When you black out and do something weird, out of character, insane. Something you'll probably regret.

Daryl doesn't black out. He's very aware of himself as he steps up to her, backing her against the car. He sees her clutching her keys; he sees her eyes darting across his face; he sees the way her chin tilts up, the way her eyes slide closed as he presses his lips to hers.

It only lasts a few seconds, and he barely has a chance to understand the way she fits so perfectly in the curl of his chest, the warmth of her cheek and waist under his hands, the sound of her sigh as she parts her lips and arches onto her toes, just a little, to get closer to him. To get closer.

It is only a few seconds, because then, Daryl's insanity ends. He pulls back to see her eyes so close, so blue, so young, so sweet—and he feels the panic flutter up in his chest, the fight or flight that sends him tripping back, nearly falling over his laces as he strides away, her voice calling his name mere buzzing in his ears.


Daryl doesn't think it's fair, to wake up with a hangover without drinking anything the night before. That's what happens, though: a full on headache pounding in his skull like he'd just spent an hour on the jackhammer. But he still has a job to do, so he drags himself out of bed at his usual 4:30, kicks Merle in the shoulder, and downs a pair of ibuprofen with half a gallon of milk.

Merle punches him for finishing the carton, but Daryl barely feels it. He feels her lips on his. He feels her little hand curling into the fabric over his stomach. He feels the way she wanted it.

She couldn't have wanted it, he thinks as he and Merle trudge the miles to work. They walk silently, which Daryl is thankful for; it lets him try to parse through the night before, pretend it had been a dream so he feels ok with relishing how soft and sweet she was beneath him, the hint of curry he caught on her breath and the sweated-down scent of perfume. Christ, how old was she, even? She'd said it was her summer before college—17? 18? No matter what, it's way too young for the likes of him, too clean. She couldn't even say cock without blushing, for fuck's sake.

God, but when she did...

Daryl stays in his daze through the first few hours, going through the motions of work and ignoring Merle's faintly concerned looks. He won't allow himself to think of Merle as concerned; if he did, it'd mean he's way worse off than he already knows he is. It would mean he really is counting the hours in his head; the hours till her.

When 8:56 approaches, he considers for a minute sneaking off to the office, or the john, just until she passes. The office he knows will be empty; Martinez is off today, taking his wife to the doctor, and the guy he left in charge is ex-army; not Merle's type of ex-army, but the type who think amenities like air conditioning and indoor plumbing make a man soft. Every so often he strides past Daryl and Merle, barking what he thinks are inspirational phrases, complete with cussing inventive enough that it impresses even Merle. He's still chuckling to Daryl about the “squirrel's nut-sack” when Daryl hears those heels.

He feels a fierce blush building on his cheeks. He wishes he'd run when he had the chance. But there's nothing for it now. All he can do is duck his head and focus on his work, holding his breath until those heels clip-clop past.

And they do. Without a change in pace, without a pause, they pass him. And he can't help the little stab of disappointment.

Ty begins with the jackhammer and the sound of her footsteps get drowned out just as he knows she's about to enter her building. Daryl lets out a long breath and closes his eyes, trying to work down the heat on his cheeks before Merle notices. Merle's leaning towards him, now, probably to keep going on about his cockstand for Abe's dirty tongue.

When he reaches Daryl's ear, though, that isn't what he says.

“Fuck, what'd I do this time?”

Daryl looks up, and there she is—striding towards them with the same amount of purpose she had when she flung the tea in Merle's face.

Except now, she's looking at Daryl. Looking at Daryl with purpose, with intensity, her clear blue gaze pinning him to the spot as she slips her thermos into her bag and approaches. She doesn't stop when she gets in front of him, but keeps coming until her chest grazes his bare arm.

Daryl looks down at her, and she looks up, gaze inscrutable. He sees something of last night's moonlight in her eyes; or maybe it's just something in the air between them, brighter than the glint of sun off the crane, brighter than the city's shine on her skin.

Daryl blinks, and she takes hold of his bicep.

Daryl can feel Merle's eyes on his back as she leads him towards the trailer, up its steps, and into the office.

Daryl stands by the desk as she closes and locks the door; he gulps at the sound of the turning latch. And then she's looking at him. Hands folded behind her back, hair in its immaculate bun, skirt perfectly pressed. He can't help the thrum of arousal he feels as he looks at her; all she needs are the glasses and she'd be the dirty librarian of everyone's fantasy.

But she doesn't need glasses. She doesn't need anything, not for him. She's his fantasy just standing there, drops of sweat standing out on her chin, hips squared and stolid.

Slowly, she lets her bag fall to the floor.

“Beth—“

She takes off her blazer.

Daryl can only blink at her as she approaches him, coming to a stop a foot in front of him, close enough for him to see the grains of her makeup. His hands twitch at his sides as she gazes at him. Her expression doesn't change, but he knows something serious is happening behind her eyes.

“Listen, I didn't—“

She takes another step.

She sinks to her knees.

Daryl's pretty sure he's having an aneurism.

He's moving his mouth but his throat won't speak as her small hands rise and settle on his hipbones, fingertips inching under his shirt to skate against his skin. She hasn't done anything yet but he can't control his breathing and the room is tilting dangerously on its axis.

But she's still there. Stroking his hips with her fingertips, worrying her lower lip between her teeth as she gazes at the growing bulge in his pants, holding him in place even as he aches to shift, to thrust, anything. He sees a stapler out of the corner of his eye and wonders if he should smash himself in the head with it; wonders if a concussion is more dangerous than a delusion.

But she's still there.

And she's speaking.

“I know you weren't expecting this. And I hope it's ok.” She's looking at him now, gazing up through her eyelashes like she doesn't know what she looks like in her pressed clothing, on the floor before him. She's wearing a dark bra—he can see the shadow of it through her white pin-striped blouse, and in this state can easily imagine the rest.

“What's going on?” he asks. He doesn't mean for his voice to sound so hoarse, but he can barely force the breath past his lips as it is.

She blinks solemnly. “I want you. I think you want me too. I can't think of a reason not to.”

She smiles up at him then like it's just that simple; like the two of them are nothing more than a man with a woman on her knees before him, looking through her eyelashes, cheeks round and peaked and reddened. And for a moment he pretends that's all they are. Pretends he isn't some dumb hick lucky enough to look at her without getting spat on; pretends she isn't a delicate farmer's daughter with a sweet smile and dancing eyes; pretends it's ok for him to grip the edge of the desk, to lean back and watch, just watch, as her hands go to the buckle on his tool-belt, and with slow movements let it fall; pretends that it's his cock being drawn from his pants by cool dry hands, gazed at like it's an enigma, a puzzle; pretends it's her breath, warm and sultry, drifting across his half-hard flesh.

“Beth,” he finally grinds out, knuckles white and throat strangled. “We can't do this.”

“Why not?” she asks, and God, one movement from him and his rising cock would be against her lips.

“I fucking work here.”

“I locked the door.”

“You just met me last night.”

“I'm not proposing to you, Daryl,” she says, rolling her eyes. She looks at him, and her eyes turn less playful, a little darker. The flush builds on her cheeks. “'Sides,” she says, low, in a voice too old for that young mouth, “I've wanted to- to suck your cock since I first saw you.”

“Christ,” he whispers, and she giggles, blushing furiously, and God if that little stutter in the middle didn't turn him on even more.

“It's true.” She trails a hand up and down his leg, looking at him as if his cock weren't bobbing in the air inches from her face. “Dunno why. I just saw you and thought... yeah. I'd do that with him. Never thought that about anyone else before.” She ducks her head as if she's trying to hide her reddened cheeks, then looks up at him again. She lands in a position that skates her breath across his dick as she talks and he nearly keels over from the want.

She's looking at him much more seriously now, though, and he fights to keep his expression neutral. “You want me to go, I'll go.” She pauses, and her face turns into something else: Her lips twist; her eyes light like a blowtorch sparking to life; she strokes his thighs again, ending with her palms framing his hips, her thumbs brushing his pubic hair. She looks at him, lashes light. “But I don't think you want me to.”

Daryl closes his eyes, leans back on the desk, thinks of all the reasons they shouldn't do this; of Merle, just outside and waiting; of her youth and her daddy and all her good clean friends, wouldn't welcome a man like him; but then she breathes across his dick, a steady stream like a phantom tongue, and all his reasons vanish.

“Yeah,” he grunts.

He imagines her smile. He feels her hair brush his hip. She leans in.

He keeps his eyes closed, sure that the sight of her bright eyes concentrated on his dick will be the end of him; and so he doesn't see her first exploratory touch; the way she wraps her lips around his tip, slides them off; does it again, but slower, and with a flick of the tongue across his slit.

Daryl breathes heavily. His knees shake. She does it again.

“Beth,” he grinds out, fighting to keep his hands on the desk and not in her hair.

“Yeah?” He opens his eyes, and she's blinking at him, the picture of innocence with his dick in her face and he thinks, Fuck it.

She jumps when his hand shoots out to cup the crown of her head, his pinky twitching against the top of her bun. Her mouth drops open as her chest heaves, and he decides he wants those tits before they're through.

“This ok?” he asks, low, deep, trying to keep his hand and hips still. He can't help the way his fingers spasm though, burying themselves in her hair as she closes her eyes, collects herself. Rubs her thighs together, like she thinks he wouldn't notice.

He notices.

“Very ok,” she says.

“Open up,” he says quietly.

And she does; opens her eyes and her mouth, reveals her slick smooth tongue, the lines of straight white teeth; kneels with her jaw hanging limp, head tipped back, a vision in blonde and blue.

He guides her head forward.

He allows himself to hiss when her lips wrap around the head; groans when she doesn't pause, keeps going, sinks down his dick until she's stretched out like a balloon, her nostrils flaring as she struggles to breathe. Something Daryl himself is having trouble with; he doesn’t think he'll ever breathe properly again with this memory in his head, of this girl on her knees, hands resting on his trembling thighs. His hand rests heavy in her hair, and he knows she feels it; sees it in the bow of her spine, the way her eyelids flutter, the almost fearful glances she casts his way when she feels his wrist tighten. He tries to smile encouragingly but he's lost control of his mouth; can only bare his teeth and give her her moment, watch the ripple of her throat muscles without a whimper.

“Y'ready?” he whispers.

And she smiles. He doesn't know how she does it, stuffed full of him like she is; but she smiles, and squeezes his thighs, and when he puts pressure on the back of her head she goes forward without a pause.

It's like nothing he's ever felt. Daryl's had plenty of blowjobs, sure: In the back rooms of clubs and against the wall of Merle's basement, pussy bought and paid for in ways he doesn't want to know. He knows the feeling of plush lips around his dick, knows the sweet agony of the sweeping tongue, the back of the throat; but nothing compares to this: this pretty girl, this Beth Greene, hair in a bun and feet in pumps, her mouth deep and welcoming and rippling with a moan.

She moaned.

She moaned for him.

His hips jerk, and she chokes; and she looks up with watery eyes; and she drops forward, and chokes again.

Christ.

So Daryl starts thrusting. Gently, as gently as he can, which is to say not at all, if the flush on her cheeks is any indication, but just as he holds the back of her head he holds her eyes, wide and blue and drawing him in until he can't tell her moans from the groans of the city as he throws his head back and fucks into her mouth.

“Fuck, Beth,” he gasps, biting his lip as she withdraws almost completely to suck on his head, swirling her tongue into and around the slit and almost making his knees buckle before he pushes her back down. They fall into the motion; he pushes, she pulls, his hips jerk and dance and her throat keeps pace until he feels her hand come up to cup his balls and he nearly flies out of his skin.

“No,” he groans, gripping her hair hard and dragging her off. She drops him off her tongue with a choking gasp, and for a moment her mouth hangs open like she’s forgotten how to close it. He allows her to collect herself, lick her lips and drop to her haunches, looking at his face, his dick, the stretched purple skin.

“Now what?” she asks. Her voice is hoarse. Daryl grabs his dick desperately.

“The wall,” he says through gritted teeth. He could swear he sees her smirk as she stands; she stumbles a little, but rights herself before he can help.

After a few more moments of heavy breathing, Daryl snaps himself back to life; drags his jeans just high enough that he can move, leaving his dick bobbing out like some sort of dancing cobra. He goes behind the desk, remembers what Merle’s said about bringing girls here at night...

He looks up and sees Beth toeing out of her heels. That won't do at all.

“No,” he growls. “Leave 'em.” She freezes, looks at him like a deer in the lion's den. And slowly slides the shoe back on.

Daryl finds what he's looking for and comes out from behind the desk, pausing to take her in. She looks close to his wildest fantasy: strands of blonde escaped from her bun and falling into her face, neck of her blouse stained with her own spit from where it dribbled down her chin, mascara running at the corners where her eyes watered. She's looking at him with heavy eyes and he suddenly fights the urge to laugh.

Daryl Dixon is going to fuck Beth Greene. Daryl Dixon is going to fuck this girl.

She smiles like a sin. “Get the heck over here.”

And he does; takes the room in three strides and shoves her against the wall by her biceps before sinking his tongue into her mouth. No preamble, no gentling; she had his dick in here, after all, and he can taste it, musty and bitter and so, so hot the way it blends with her own sweetness. Daryl groans loudly as her tongue twists around his tongue, her arms around his neck, and then he's reaching down to come up under her skirt, grab her panties and pantyhose and yank them down.

“Off,” he growls.

Her face is flushed red as she complies. He doesn't step back to give her space; stays pressed up against her as she kicks off a shoe and wiggles one leg out of her hose and panties. She comes down heavy on her one bare foot before Daryl grabs her behind the knee, hefting her leg to wrap around his hips and shoving her skirt up to leave her pussy quivering in the open air.

“Fuck,” he breathes. He can't see much from this angle: can't see the slick folds, how her lips glisten with moisture—but he can smell her, heavy and wet and possibly the best thing he's smelled in his whole fucking existence. He looks up and she's still panting open-mouthed, lips glistening and swollen and what can he do but kiss her again.

She jerks against his mouth when his hand finds her pussy; holds her leg with one hand and her body with his torso as he strokes across her, drawing a deep, guttural moan that he feels down to his toes. He hefts her leg higher, lifting her to her toes and tilting her cunt till it's open and hungry, hot and sticky on his palm as he rubs circles into her flesh.

“Daryl, Daryl, frick,” she squeals when the heel of his palm catches her clit; in a moment he's pressing a callused thumb to the same spot until she wrenches her mouth from his to bury her face in his shoulder. Taking advantage of her arching neck, Daryl leans down to suck on it, working his lips on her skin as his fingers dance on her other lips, circling her clit and rubbing hard as she pants higher and higher.

By the time she comes, she's nearly screaming, and it's only his mouth on hers that keeps her from alerting the whole neighborhood. She shakes and shudders, hands like claws where they dig into his arms.

It flows out of her, and she thumps her head back against the wall. Her eyes slide open, heavy and blissed, and dance across his face.

“Fuck,” she whispers.

“Sounds good to me,” he growls back. He tightens his hand on her leg, indicating it should stay put; then he brings his hands, including the one redolent with her juices, to the neck of her blouse, undoes it to her diaphragm with shaking fingers. He doesn't bother with the clasp of her black bra; just yanks the straps off her shoulders and the cups down her torso till she's hanging out, small breasts pert and sweet. He brings a hand back to her thigh and the other to frame a breast, stretching the skin this way and that; Beth's chest heaves and he imagines her nipples twinkle at him like diamonds in the twisting light.

He looks at her long, hard, burning, before closing a mouth around her breast.

“Oh Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” Beth breathes. He feels her clavicle stretch as she arches above him. Her hand tangles in his hair, jerks when he swipes his tongue across her, squeezes as he begins to suck; when he bites gently at the nipple, twists it side to side, he could swear she rips a few strands from his head.

He continues the torture for several more minutes, kissing across her breastbone and repeating the actions on her other tit, his hand working the neglected one. By the time he raises his head she's breathing so hard it sounds like dry heaving.

“Where's the condom?” she gasps.

Daryl doesn't wait another moment. Breathing almost as hard as she is, he reaches into his pocket where he stashed it and rips the packet with his teeth before her heated gaze. He holds her eyes as he slides it onto himself, hips bowing in as he fights to tamper down the allure of his own touch.

“Last chance,” he grinds out.

“Not on your life,” she breathes.

And then he's inside her.

He has to take a few moments just to tremble, another few to shake, and yet another to re-teach himself how to breathe as he acclimates to her sticky wet heat. Her cunt above all is hot, heating him like a furnace after the air-conditioned room, and she fits him like a second condom, caressing his ridges as she flexes around him. He looks at her and her eyes are closed again, mouth open like she wants something in it; he brings up the hand that had positioned his dick and grabs her chin, making her mouth snap closed. He leans in close, close enough to see the flecks of gold in her eyes.

“Don't fucking look away.”

All she can do, it seems, is nod.

Daryl swallows, watching her face, her tits as he plants his feet and tries an experimental roll of his hips. It's almost too much for both of them; Beth lets out a moan almost like a sob, and Daryl has to bite his lip to keep from coming. He doesn't know how he's going to last—

And then it's her grabbing his chin; his eyes being wrenched to hers, his heart dropping to his feet at the fire in her gaze, like a thousand machine guns all pointed at his face.

“You don't come till I do, Daryl Dixon.”

Daryl groans, flexes his hips. She bites her lip.

“I mean it,” she breathes as he flexes again, rolling his hips against her and drawing a whimper. “You better not—“

“Shut up and fuck me, girl.”

“God yes.”

Her hips jump up to meet his next roll, and he could swear his fingers leave bruises on her hip as he shoves her back against the wall. He meets her eyes, grinning like he can't remember ever doing before—wide and feral and free. Daring her to fight. Daring her to push back.

Eyes narrowed, she does.

Daryl groans as she clenches around him, and he pins her more harshly. He drags himself out so slowly it's nearly painful, even with her soaking wetness. She whimpers as she loses him, closing finally on just the head, begging with her eyes—

He slams back into her, and she screams.

“Christ woman, shut up—“

“Fuck it out of me,” she breathes, and he knows just how far gone she is.

So he does. Withdraws again, slow, aching, before slamming her against the wall; and soon his withdrawal isn't so slow; and soon his slams turn to thrusts and his thrusts turn to pounding and then he's fucking her into the wall like he’s the jackhammer outside. Her hair is a disaster, hanging in her face and sticking to his neck and he thinks she’s the sexiest thing he’s seen in his life.

“Daryl, your arms, arms—“

The way she clenches her legs, he thinks he knows what she's asking for; barely pausing in his rhythm, he hooks his elbows under her knees, yanking her up with a grunt until she's spread so completely he can see her clit standing out from between her lips, watches it dance along with her tits as he pounds into her open cunt, legs over his arms, arms around his neck, shoe barely hanging on to the tips of her toes as he pounds her into the wall, feral gasps tearing from his throat.

“Fuck, Beth, you better come soon—

“Let me, let me—“

And then her hand is snaking down between them, between the wings of her half open shirt and her tits bouncing like yo-yo's to find her clit. At the contact her head falls back and she groans, groans that turn into gasps as he snaps his hips harder, faster, dragging her and her climbing shrieks towards orgasm.

“I can't, I can't stop, Daryl—“

“Bite me,” he growls.

“What?” she gasps.

“Bite me!”

She sinks her teeth into his shoulder just as her cunt clamps down around him and she sobs so hard he thinks she'll retch, convulsing around him and dragging trenches in his back. She tries to withdraw her hand from her clit but he doesn't let her, trapping it between their bodies and thrusting faster and when she goes over a second time he soars along with her.

Spent, they sink to the floor in a panting heap. Daryl curls around her small body, his forehead on her shoulder. Beth's nails and teeth withdraw from his skin; he sees her lick her lips from the corner of his eye as he fights to catch his breath. He glances at her, then away, ties off the condom and fling it in the direction of the trash can.

“Wow,” she breathes, and he thinks he concurs. But he still can't look at her; closes his eyes and hangs his head, fighting back the overwhelmed tears that have absurdly sprung to his eyes. It's during this fight that he feels her hands on his face; he opens his eyes as she tips his head up to look at him. “Hey,” she says quietly. “You ok?”

He stares at her; licks his own lips; then leans in to press his mouth to hers.

It's a kiss more like the first they shared; hesitant and fumbling but somehow the sweetest thing he's ever known, sweet because of the fingers that curl at the nape of his neck, sweet like the flutter of her eyelashes on his cheek as she leans against him before pulling away. He looks at her, all wrapped up in him; raises a thumb to wipe at her lipstick, smudged beyond recognition, the mascara running from the corners of her eyes.

“I must look like an ax murderer,” she says, raising a hand to her decimated bun and giggling.

“You're gorgeous,” he murmurs.

She stills, at that; brings her arm down to rest her hand on his hip, rub the skin there. She reaches around and gently tucks him into his pants, pulls his jeans up his ass until she can get the zipper and button shut. Daryl in turn presses her tits back into her bra; he kisses each nipple before it vanishes, making her giggle.

Slowly they rise to their feet. Daryl instantly misses the heat of her against his front, but doesn't show it; picks up her shoe while she adjusts her skirt, shimmies her pantyhose the rest of the way off, pulls up her panties. He hands her the shoe and she smiles.

He watches her as she puts it on, head tilted. It takes her a few moments to notice his attention.

“What?” she asks.

He steps forward. The way her breath hitches gives him a small thrill as he raises a hand to thumb at her lapel. She looks down at her blouse, and her eyes widen.

The pinstriped fabric, once a pressed white and blue, is wrinkled like it went a round in the dryer; the fabric itself is stained almost brown.

Daryl can’t quite identify what he’s feeling, but he thinks it’s mischievous.

“‘Less you got an extra shirt, I don't think you can go in like this.”

“Guess not.” She looks up at him. She bites her lip. She brings her hand up and he flinches. She pauses, then slowly continues to his forehead.

She presses the back of her hand to his skin, pretends to frown. “Hmm. You don't feel so good to me.”

“I don't, huh.”

“Nah. I don't think you can work today either, Daryl.”

“Shame,” he murmurs. He thumbs at her shirt again, this time the hem; delights at the shiver that runs through her when he hits her skin. “I know a diner. Few blocks away. Ain't much, but they got a bathroom—”

“Sounds perfect,” she interrupts. She turns towards the door, then pauses; looks back to inspect his face, run her eyes across him like a floodlight. “I'm glad I threw that tea on your brother, Daryl Dixon.”

Daryl smirks. “Don't thank me now. Ain't got you to a bed yet.”

She flushes deeply at that, but continues to smile. She reaches towards him, hand spread. With steady fingers, he takes it.

When they emerge from the trailer, he cringes a moment at the crowd of people gathered there; at Merle's wolf whistles and Abe's smirk, at a newly-arrived Martinez's incredulous look. He almost stalls them, turns around to drag Beth back inside. But she keeps going; her head stays high, her hand firm.

“Looks like baby brother inherited the good ol’e Dixon ice picker. How’s that melt feel up in your pussy, baby?”

Daryl’s eyes go wide and he spins towards his brother, ready to go pound him into the dirt—but Beth stops too. Daryl bites his tongue. The site holds its breath, waiting for Beth to speak.

“Nobody asked you Merle!” she sing-songs.

And then she’s pulling on his hand and they’re leaving the site with its guffawing men behind them.

They fall into stride easy as anything, his sweaty hand clasped in hers. She hums quietly as she walks, and it takes her a few moments to realize he’s staring at her. “What?” she asks, smiling self-consciously.

To his own shock, he smiles back. “I’m glad you threw tea on my brother too.”

They don’t talk on the way to the diner; don’t notice the strange looks they get, rumpled as they are. Daryl thinks he should be uncomfortable with all this; here he’s gone from fucking a complete stranger to going on a date with her in the space of an hour; a teenager to boot, a farmgirl to boot, a girl named Beth who sucked his cock and bounced on his dick and couldn’t say ‘fuck’ until after she’d come.

Daryl thinks he should be terrified, but he isn’t. The sun is bright. His hand is in hers. When she catches his glance, she smiles, and its like an engine that burnt itself out long ago has slowly started to churn again. And for the first time in his life, he knows how to keep the engine going.

All he needs is to follow her heels, clicking down the street.