Beth could feel her stomach churning as the morning's light coaxed her out of her disjointed dreams. In her haze, her first instinct was to call for her mother and tell her she was too sick for school, but the feeling of damp earth reminded her that wasn't an option. It hadn't been in a very long time.
Though her eyes remained shut, Beth could feel him watching her, his presence quiet but reassuring. She wasn't quite ready to face Daryl, so she only shifted her body slightly, hoping to sooth the storm brewing in her stomach without catching his attention. Unfortunately, the movement did nothing but make her aware of the slow throbbing in her head. Daryl had been right; moonshine was one hell of a choice for her first drink. Maybe she should have stuck with the schnapps.
Don't puke, don't puke, don't puke. He'll think you're just a kid. Just don't puke. Beth silently chanted to herself.
"Ya up?" Daryl's voice was barely a whisper as it broke through her internal monologue. "I got ya some water…"
"Yeah… I'm up…" Beth muttered, her eyes remaining closed. She dreaded facing the pain of the sunlight.
Though she thought she had put on her bravest voice, Daryl's chuckle told her otherwise, "How ya feelin?"
"Like I'm jealous of the walkers."
Beth couldn't see him, but she knew Daryl was smirking. "At least it didn't make you blind," he reminded her, his voice taking on a teasing tone.
"I'd prefer to be. Plus, we won't know till I actually open my eyes." Beth retorted, draping an arm dramatically across her brow.
"Drink some water, you'll feel better."
Beth moved her arm to her forehead to block the light before opening her eyes and glancing around their temporary camp.
She and Daryl had settled in this clearing shortly after deciding to burn down their last source of shelter. Though it wasn't very secure, and Daryl hadn't had the materials to create an alarm system like they had in previous camps, them running tipsily through the woods at night hadn't exactly been a safe option either. So, as her only source of protection, he was sitting next to her, his knife in one hand and his crossbow across his legs. Daryl had taken up the defensive position when he volunteered to take the first watch and clearly hadn't even tried to wake up Beth for her turn. The only evidence that he had moved at all during the night was that their only blanket, a tattered thing smelling faintly of dog, was, at some point, tucked snuggly around her.
"Come'on, Let's get you sittin' up." Beth felt Daryl's hand against her back as he slowly pushed her into a sitting position, simultaneously causing her stomach to lurch and a sharp pain to shoot through her head. "We gotta get you on the mend before we move on."
Beth groaned at the idea of walking anywhere, causing Daryl to release another quiet laugh.
"Didn't know I was such a lightweight…"
"Nah. You're just small. And that shit is basically poison. I should'a stopped us earlier. Or at least made you drink some water."
"Not your fault… Not like I would'a listened." Beth mumbled, still avoiding looking directly at Daryl's face.
Daryl didn't bother to argue with her claim and Beth felt embarrassment mix with the nausea in her stomach. Just a day ago she was screaming that she'd be okay without him and that she didn't care what he did. Now his opinion meant more than she ever could have expected.
"Come'on. Drink up." Daryl picked up his canteen and held it out to her.
Beth shook her head, fully aware that anything that went into her would just cause more to come out.
"It's okay if ya puke. We all been there." Daryl assured her, holding the canteen closer. "You need it to feel better."
Beth felt a sudden surge of anger as she stared down at her hands in her lap. This wasn't just embarrassing, this was dangerous. Not only had they both drank, impairing their ability to protect themselves, but they also decided to burn down their only shelter and unnecessarily venture into the woods at night. And as much as she used they, both actions had been her idea. Daryl wouldn't be sitting out in the open right now if it wasn't for her. He wouldn't be risking his life if it weren't for her.
"Come'on, Greene. Drink the water. I ain't makin airplane noises."
Despite her frustration, Beth started to laugh at Daryl's plea before the effort caused the throbbing in her head to intensify and force her back to reality. "Sorry for bein' dumb…" She mumbled, bringing the water to her lips and taking a light sip. It was barely enough to reach her stomach, but she quickly put the canteen back down next to her.
Daryl held out his hand, revealing a palm-full of red berries. "Eat some."
Beth finally met his eyes, unsure if he heard her before. "Daryl, I'm sorry… I-"
Daryl quickly cut Beth off. "Don't apologize. Maybe not our best idea, but we're both fine. Now, eat some berries. Not as good as some Aspirin, but it'll help."
Beth took a few berries in her hand, suddenly very aware as her hand brushed against his. "You're not hung over?" Beth asked quietly, hoping to move the attention away from herself.
"Not much now. But I have been; plenty of times. You know 'bout my brother. First time he got me really hammered I was 'bout 14; he woke me up by bangin' pots and pans over my head before shovin' me off the couch."
"That sounds… miserable…" Beth chose her words carefully, as she always tried to when Daryl mentioned Merle.
Daryl shrugged, "The bastard was still drunk himself. Believed that if he kept drinkin, the hangover would never catch up to him. Kinda how he lived his life actually." Daryl paused, examining Beth's face quietly before adding, "Now eat your berries. Then more water."
Beth was tempted to reply 'Yes, Mr. Dixon,' but something about that didn't feel right. Not anymore. She didn't want Daryl to ever feel like a guardian. She wanted him to be her equal, her partner. Something had changed between them last night, but she was in no shape to figure it out right now.
Beth felt like they sat in the small clearing for an eternity. Daryl would occasionally bring up options for new places to go or coax her to drink more water, but not once did he make her feel like she needed to hurry up and feel better. Eventually she moved next to him, their backs against a tree trunk and arms barely touching. Maybe it was just how miserable she felt, but all she wanted was to lean against him and let him wrap his arms around her reassuringly.
"Sorry you gotta wait for me." Beth sighed as she coaxed her hair out of its ponytail and attempted to smooth it down before pulling it back once again. As Daryl watched her she was suddenly aware that she must have looked like hell. "We can move whenever you're ready."
"I told ya to stop apologizin', it's fine." Daryl paused, watching as Beth shrugged in response, clearly not believing his words. He took a deep breath before continuing, "As everything was happenin at the prison, I thought I was going to end up on my own again. Instead, I ended up with you. I ain't always so great at showin it, but I'm glad I did."
Beth smiled, looking over to Daryl beside her. At that moment, she was once again thankful the moonshine hadn't made her go blind. There were still good things to see in this world. "Me too," she replied.