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Moonshine, Mistakes, and the Morning After

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Daryl peered over his cup through the thick fringe of dark brown hair that almost covered his eyes at the blonde across the room, laughing with her friends. Her voice was sweet, but never carried farther than it needed to, at least not with the music in the room drowning her out, but her laugh…her laugh floated through the air and always hit his ear like it was meant for him. He loved the sound of her laugh. Her name was Beth, and Daryl felt like the world’s biggest creep for how much he noticed her in their brief and scattered interactions.

He’d first met her when his brother Merle had gotten wasted and hit on her friend; her very taken friend. Her boyfriend had made a nice mess of Merle’s face and Daryl had been impressed Merle had been able to walk away. When he’d slung Merle’s arm over his shoulder, that was the first time he truly noticed the petite blonde. She’d hobbled around, trying to press a towel with some ice against a nice lump forming on Merle’s forehead. Her hobbling had him wondering if she’d got caught in the cross fire, but when he’d apologized to her for his brother’s antics she’d laughed that perfect tinkling little laugh and informed him she’d busted the heel off her shoe earlier in the evening and hadn’t wanted to cut the outing with her friends short. Merle had been no trouble to her. It was that moment Merle decided to open his big fat mouth and call her something obscene (something referencing her ass maybe?) and ask if she wanted to come home with him and play doctor. Daryl felt his ears redden at the lewd way Merle had eyed her up and down but Beth had set him down gently; more gently than most girls would have given that he’d just gotten into a fight because he’d been hitting on her friend. Daryl had made a quick exit, realizing as he struggled to get Merle into his tiny apartment that he’d never asked for her name. He’d shrugged not thinking much about it, that is, until he was laying awake in his bed that night being haunted by silken waves of sunshine, crystal blue eyes and the most addictive tinkling laugh that floated through his head.

Two weeks later he’d been sitting in a booth at the only diner in town, minding his own business, when someone had slid into the booth across from him. He’d been about to tell that person to go kick rocks, but the words froze in his throat as he caught sight of sunshine colored hair, pulled up into a ponytail, and a troubled face staring back at him. Before he could even make himself seem concerned she’d whispered quickly across the table. “Please…just play along…” He’d been helpless to do anything but give her a tight quick nod. A boy, maybe a few years older than her walked up to the table, eyes only on her.

“Hey Beth.” The boy had drawled and flashed a big grin at her. She looked unimpressed. “You left so quickly, I got worried.”

“Yeah well, I told you I had somewhere to go. I was late.” She’d ground out and Daryl instantly felt on the defensive, ready to jump up and make this punk leave. Why, he couldn’t have explained, but he didn’t like the edge in her voice that spoke to the fact that she was unbelievable pissed and uncomfortable with this guy around.

“Oh c’mon Bethy.”

“Zach. I’m with a friend…you need to leave. When I’m done being pissed maybe I’ll let you apologize.” Zach’s face had morphed to an irritated scowl.

“I have nothing to apologize for.”

“Then you have no reason to be talking to me. You need to go.” Before Zach could say anything else, Daryl rumbled from his seat (the first words he’d spoken since the confrontation began.)
“That’s time number two man. If she has to tell you a third time, you’ll find yourself face first on the sidewalk outside.” For the first time Zach studied Daryl and Daryl could see that the kid was trying to figure out if he could take him in a fight. Deciding against it, Zach turned an left with one last hard look at Beth. Beth had sighed and checked her watch. She looked up at Daryl.

“Thanks. Sorry to bug. You were the only face I recognized and I needed a quick escape.” Daryl gave a snort.

“Yeah, well I guess I’m good for a quick escape.” She’d given him a funny look before a soft tinkling giggle. He loved her giggle, and her laugh, and her voice. He liked listening to her talk. He watched as she scooted out of the booth and stood next to his table.

“Thanks again…” She paused, trying to remember his name.

“Daryl. Daryl Dixon.” She smiled and extended her hand out to him.

“Beth. Beth Greene.” They shook hands. “I’ll see you around Daryl Dixon.” And with that she left. She left him sitting in his booth wondering how she’d said his name so differently than everyone else, and wondering why he liked it so much. He wanted to hear her say it again.

They’d seen each other in passing, across rooms, in grocery stores, walking down streets. Never really enough to talk to each other but enough for Daryl to zero in on her and notice she had a great smile, and she seemed to constantly be smiling. He also noticed she knew people that he knew, which is how they came to be at the same get together, sipping drinks with him listening to her laugh across the room. He took another drink of the flat warm beer, grimacing at the flavor. It was shit beer, but he wasn’t going to complain. He very rarely went out, unless it was to pick up Merle after a night of partying and drag his ass back home to sleep it off on Daryl’s couch. Tonight, he was blessedly Merle free, and was currently working up the nerve to go talk to her as she let out another peel of laughter.

Beth was only half listening to her friends talk. She was too busy watching out of the corner of her eye as Daryl leaned quietly against the wall across the room. She’d hoped he’d come up and talk to her, but had, up to this point, been completely disappointed. He seemed to be the strong and silent type, at least that was the impression she had gotten the first time they’d met.

She’s been out for a girl’s night with Rosita and Tara, Rosita had brought her boyfriend which had thoroughly ruined the concept of ‘girls’ night but they’d decided to make the most of it, that was, until Merle Dixon had walked up to their little group and started hitting on Rosita. Clearly drunker than anyone could have imagined. Rosita had tried to shut him down, first nicely, then not so nicely, and it had spiraled out of control when Abraham, Rosita’s boyfriend, had taken a swing and knocked Merle on his ass. All hell had broken loose, resulting in Rosita dragging Abraham away while Beth cleaned up Merle and Tara stole his phone to call the first (and really only) contact in his phone. Beth had had to ward off Merle’s frisky hands until someone came to pick him up. That someone had been Daryl, and when Beth had clapped eyes on him, she’d felt her heart hammer into double time in her chest and her breathing had gone shallow. The man was gorgeous, unfortunately he didn’t seem to notice her until she’d stumbled, due to her broken shoe (which she’d broken in the scuffle between Merle and Abraham) but she’d laughed it off and lied, hoping to make it seem like it was no big deal. Daryl had seemed to relax, but hadn’t bothered to get her name as he all but dragged Merle to his car.

Beth had sighed and tried to put the man from her mind, and had almost succeeded until the day she’d gotten into it with the guy she’d been casually dating. Zach had been an ass, and Beth had been livid. She’d been talking about going back to school and studying music but Zach had just laughed at her and called the idea silly, since ‘she was just going to wind up like her mama, a house wife raising kids.’ Without thinking she’d stood up and walked away from the coffee shop they’d been sitting at. She heard Zach following her and had ducked into the diner, having recognized Daryl through the window as she passed. She’d sat down in a huff and before he could talk begged Daryl to just ‘play along.’ And he had. He hadn’t had to say much but it had been enough to make Zach leave her alone. She’d been eternally grateful. As she left she’d smiled, having finally learned his full name and given him hers. Daryl Dixon.

“Daryl Dixon…” Beth snapped back to her friends. They were all staring at her, knowing looks on their faces and she blushed having been caught day dreaming. “You back with us Beth?” Rosita asked. Beth’s cheeks continued to burn red. Abraham glanced over his shoulder, arm slung around Rosita’s shoulders, at Daryl who was leaning against the wall.

“You should just go talk to him.” Abraham drawled and Beth shook her head.

“We don’t really even know each other. The last time I spoke to him I crashed his lunch and he got rid of Zach for me.” Rosita and Abe both frowned at the mention of the boy. He’d been bad news from the start and needless to say they were both glad to see him go. “It was really embarrassing.” Rosita rolled her eyes and Abe dropped his arm from around her.

“Look, I work with the guy. I’ll drag him over.” Abe said before parting from the group and heading over to Daryl. Daryl watched, trying to act as disinterested as he could, as Abraham, a guy he knew from work, walked over to him. “Hey Daryl. Don’t see you around much.” Daryl grunted, looking down to his almost empty cup. He needed another drink. “Come on over. I wanna introduce you to my girl and her friends.”

“I already know ‘em.” Daryl said quietly. When Abraham looked at him curiously. “You knocked my brother on his ass for hitting on your girlfriend a couple weeks back.” When Abraham looked confused and then startled Daryl had to keep from laughing. “Nah. I’d have done the same damn thing honestly.” Daryl shrugged a shoulder as Abe gave him a nod.

“Still. You can’t be all mystery man over here in the darkness. Live a little…make some damn friends.” Abe was teasing him, and Daryl knew it, but it was such a weird experience that they both kind of stared awkwardly down at their drinks until Daryl gave a little grunt and motioned for Abe to lead the way. When he joined the group Abe made with the introductions going around the circle and telling Daryl their names. There was Sasha, her brother (and fellow coworker) Tyreese, Tara, Rosita and finally…

“Beth…” Daryl said quietly before Abraham could introduce her. “I know Beth.” The corner of Daryl’s mouth threatened to turn up in the smallest hint of a smile when he noticed her cheeks tinting a bit red. “Did you ever stop being pissed and get that apology?”

“Nope.” She said and grinned. “He knows better than to call me when I’m mad.” Daryl gave a nod as if he understood, but truth be told he couldn’t imagine Beth being mad, or even mildly annoyed. She was too bubbly and happy all the damn time to be mad. “How’s your brother?” She asked as the conversation seemed to fall into an awkward lull.

“Eh, probably out getting knocked on his ass again. That’s a pretty regular thing for him.” Beth quirked an eyebrow but didn’t say anything else. She looked down at her cup and noticed she was empty. “I’m empty.” She held up her cup, shaking it a little as an explanation. “I’m gonna go get some more.” And Daryl felt his gut sink at the thought that she was trying to get away from him. But of course…why wouldn’t she? It wasn’t like they were friends and he had absolutely no right to her time. He was just a dirty redneck who was probably too damn old for her anyway. “Want to come with?” She asked, stepping a little closer to him, into his personal space and he was suddenly hit by the scent of strawberries and sunshine that wafted from her wavy blonde hair. He took a moment to really study her in her little yellow sundress, jean jacket and brown cowboy boots. She looked, for all she was worth, fresh out of high school and barely legal to drive rather than old enough to drink, but he knew better. He gave her a shrug of one shoulder and the smile that lit up her face had his knees going weak. She grabbed his hand and dragged him towards the kitchen to get them both drinks, chatting the whole way.

“Think he knows she’s into him?” Rosita asked as she watched her friend disappear into the kitchen.

“Not a chance.” Tara responded. “Think she knows he’s into her?”

“Like hell…” Abe said, sucking down the last of drink in his cup. “Those two have danced around this since they first met after I clocked Merle.” Rosita looked at Abe.

“You told him it was you?”

“Yeah.” He shrugged. “I knew he looked familiar when I decked him…put two and two together when Daryl told me he’d already met the group.” Rosita nodded. “Didn’t realize he’s been mooning over Beth all this time. I’d’ve said something sooner if I had.”

“No you wouldn’t.” Rosita quipped and Abe shrugged.

“You’re probably right.” They all grinned again.

~

“So Daryl…” Beth said as she pumped the keg and opened the tap into his cup. “How do you know Abe?” She handed him his cup and turned to pour something, not the beer from the keg, into her cup. She wasn’t much of a drinker, and when she did drink she preferred it to be sweeter than beer.

“We work together. How do you know him?”

“Rosita. We went to school together a while back.” He gave her a nod and she gave him a half smile. “You’re not much of a talker are you?” He shook his head. “Didn’t think so. My brother Shawn wasn’t much of a talker. I mean, he was with family, but friends and people he just met, that was a whole other story.” She took a sip of her drink and looked at him. Daryl couldn’t help but notice she spoke about him in the past tense, but didn’t know how to really bring up the subject. He didn’t want to tread on memories which could have been painful for her still. She shrugged. “Now me…Daddy calls me a blabber mouth. Can chat to just about anyone.” She said with a big grin at him, and it was in that moment that Daryl realized Beth Greene. The bubbly blonde he’d met when Merle had (luckily) decided to hit on her very spoken for friend, and the girl who he’d helped scare off a guy that wasn’t being thoughtful with her, was drunk. Or at the very least she was tipsy.

“Is that so?” He asked, his deep voice rumbling to her and making her shiver.

“Yep.”

“How much have you had girl?” And at that she promptly let out a giggle.

“Enough. I’m a big girl.” She really wasn’t as tipsy as he thought, but he gave her this swooping feeling in her tummy that spread up to her head and made her a bit dizzy and silly every time she saw him. “What are you my chaperone now, Mr. Dixon?”

“Not on your life.” He gave her a rare grin and drank some of his beer. “Come on. I bet your friends think I walked off with you, caveman style.” She giggled again and grabbed his hand, leading him back out to the room and their little group of friends.

~~~

Daryl popped his eyes open and groaned as sunlight flooded his vision. He snapped his eyes shut again and groaned, taking note that he was in bed. That was a good sign. He couldn’t remember getting home last night, couldn’t remember much after he’d joined Beth’s little group of friends and they’d started laughing and talking. Everything started to blur. With a deep breath he squinted his eyes open again, the sun only slightly making his head throb. He stared at the ceiling before it registered in his fuzzy brain that…this was not his room. This was not his crappy little apartment. Slowly he turned his head, the sleep falling away and making him more aware. Nope definitely not his apartment. He was in a studio apartment, painted in light blues with sleek, dark wood furniture, and plush light brown couches. He heard a delicate throat clear and the blood in his vein froze. His eyes met with twin pools of blue across the room and he stiffened.

“Beth?”