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We love more by fate than design

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Let me come inside your ivory tower
Let me come inside your hallowed walls
God, its heaven in here
Fix me with your hand of praise
Fix me with your touch of precious thrills

- Love me to Death - The Mission (UK)

She knows what he needs.

It's happened once or twice before, sometimes when they're just naked and playful, other times when he’s comes to her with that lost look, pain in his eyes and sobs held back behind a tight jaw. When he trembles and shakes and sometimes barks at her. Words hard, coarse. Like he’s angry. Angry with her.

She knows he’s not and that this is a disguise, a mask he sometimes wears to hide something deeper and darker, something a too frightening for him to deal with alone.

He's difficult though. He always has been. Some moonshine and a bonfire didn’t change that. It eased it, helped her to understand, smoothed his edges and let her glimpse that part of him that he never showed anyone, that part of him that let her know how much he loves her, needs her, wants her. But it didn’t change it.

He loves her. Fiercely. She knows this.

But sometimes love isn’t enough.

He’s still prickly, he still lashes out. But he’s done with pushing her away. He doesn’t grunt at her anymore, he doesn’t pretend the world would be a better place if she wasn’t in it. Difficult or not, he’s dragged her into his life and he holds her there with arms of air and hands of pure raw emotion and she stays. Because there’s nowhere else she wants to be.

The truth is though that she’s dragged him right back, nurtured him and let him grow, told him things about himself she knows no one ever has, things he still has a hard time believing. He’s getting better though. She tries to show him with the way she touches him, the way she kisses his body like it’s precious, like it’s something she treasures and loves.

Because it is.

There’s always been a kind of reverence infused in their lovemaking. Even when it’s hard and fast, when they have no time and her jeans are around her ankles and they can hear the others only a wall away. She’s always tried to show him that her touch is always good, that there’s no reason to fear. He’s safe with her. He always has been.

And he comes to her for it now. That security missing for so very long in his life, that desire to just let go and let someone else do the thinking, that safe place he’s searched for and finally found in her.

Tonight is one of those nights. She can see it in the way he moves, the way he clings to her a little too long and a little too hard when he walks in the door, wrapping her up tight and burying his face into her neck.

She already knows what happened. Bob came by earlier and told her. They lose people every day it seems but this time it hit home hard. An old couple, the O’Neills - Miriam and Roger - got it into their heads to visit their daughter’s grave. It was a short trip outside the walls and no one had seen a walker in ages and somehow they managed to slip through undetected. And well, she knows the rest. This isn’t a new story. This is how people die today. This is how they leave the world and she’s come to accept that on some horrible twisted level. You can't get reckless, you can't get sentimental. As Michonne is so fond of saying "stupid gets you killed".

So another day, another death. Another senseless loss. Nothing different really. Except it is. Daryl's taken it hard. He takes every loss hard. Blames himself for not being quicker, stronger, sharper. Blames himself because it wasn't him. Wasn't like they were close, wasn't like he knew them well. It is what it is.

“Come,” she whispers. “Sit down. Let me get you something to eat.”

But he shakes his head and she can feel his face pressing on her bare shoulder.

She nods and kisses his hair, holding him to her. These things tend to go one of two ways. Either he breaks completely and sobs into her long and hard and she holds him while he heaves against her and tries to shoulder as much of that pain for him as she can. Or lately - that once or twice she was thinking about earlier - she finds other ways of soothing him. Ways she still not entirely sure she understands.

And with the way he’s nuzzling at her throat, hands sliding down her waist, cupping her ass through the tiny pair of pale blue shorts she’s wearing, she suspects strongly it will be the latter. And when he whispers, scruff tickling her ear please Beth please, all doubt fades and she feels a swelling in her chest, a surge of something she’s not yet entirely familiar with, but wants to explore. She considers resisting, nerves flaring in the pit of her belly. But she won’t. She doesn’t want to.

She falls into it. Gives herself over. It's easier than she expected. Something in the way he needs it, needs her, makes it simple. Straightforward. She promised once she'd give him anything she could. She's never broken that promise. She's never wanted to.

She stiffens in his arms, pulling away slightly, dragging a mask onto her face she hopes conveys a calm indifference, maybe even a hint of distaste. She finds her voice over the thudding of her heart.

“Down,” she whispers and he drops to his knees. Crumples immediately as if he was waiting for it, unable to do anything but obey fully and completely.

Rush of power. Wave of control. Over confidence maybe? She’s not sure. She ... no, they are still feeling this thing out. Sometimes they play and it just happens, sometimes - like now - it feels like there's a bit more need than want. Either way, either way it's good. Either way they learn, grow even.

He’s not looking at her, his head bowed, eyes fixed on the floor and suddenly she wants to pull him back up. Hold him in her arms and whisper that it’s all right. Suddenly part of her wants the sobbing instead, thinks it would be easier to have that than this. But no. He trusts her, he trusts her with this, trusts her with him and knowing that makes her bite her lip, hold back a whimper in her throat. She won’t beg. Not now. That’s his job and she won’t take it away from him.

“You know what to do,” voice controlled, level. She adds a hint of impatience for good measure. It sounds genuine. He’ll buy it. Even if he doesn’t, he will.

He nods, curling one hand around the back of her knee. He shouldn’t. She didn’t say he could but she lets that slide for now. She’s still not entirely sure how to navigate this, not sure how mean she can be, or how mean she wants to be, and sometimes - like now, when he’s hurting so bad - she feels like she’s walking a knife edge and things could just tumble out of her control one way or another.

But when he lifts his other hand to undo the button of her shorts, she finds some fake annoyance, tosses some words out behind it.

“You haven’t earned that.”

He freezes, recoiling a little as if she’s punched him, hand tightening on her leg, burning against her flesh, making it burn too, even though only seconds ago she was cool in the afternoon air.

“You can take those off when you’ve shown me you can behave,” no tremble in her voice now, not even the hint of one. She finds that core of steel within herself, the one that took him on alone and unafraid while they were on the run together. The one who dared to insist over and over again that she is strong, that she is not another dead girl. She finds it, clutches at it, lets it be her strength, lets it flow into her veins and fill her.

She uses it.

“Now you know what to do,” she says again and he nods, thumb rubbing over her knee, shuffling forward until his face is millimetres from her crotch. She can smell herself already, heady and musky, that hint of earth and summer air and she has to fight back a groan in the back of her throat, pretend it doesn’t affect her as his free hand closes on her other leg, as he nuzzles his way into the thin cotton of her shorts.

He has no such qualms, breathing in deeply, half-moaning, half growling as he rubs his face against her, tonguing at the fabric between her legs, rough strokes that make her knees weak and pull goosebumps out of her flesh. And he’s eager, hungry even, throwing himself into it, using his lips and teeth to make her feel it, to rub up into her. And it’s all she can do not to pull him back up to face her, because she feels like she wants to beg now, wants to fall to her knees next to him and let him take her any way he wants. But she won’t, she knows she won’t, because this, this is better, this is what he needs. This is what she needs too, even if the pretence demands that he can’t know that. That she has to remain stoic, indifferent, despite the magma pouring through her veins, the looping spirals of pleasure he’s quite literally sucking out of her.

Her cunt, however, has no such reservations. There’s a dark blue stain spreading over her crotch, a mingling of his saliva and her wet as she floods through two layers of fabric and he slurps noisily at her, gulping and heaving, his breath hitching in the back of his throat as his hands tighten on her calves. She knows she should stop him. He doesn’t have permission to touch her there. She never said. But his fingers locked around her are the only reason she’s still standing, that she hasn’t crumpled to the ground in a quivering heap. So she leaves him. She can make him pay later. Tell him how bad he is. How he has to make amends and watch as the fire in his eyes changes to awe. Like it always does.

But not now, because now he’s throwing himself into the task at hand, nuzzling against her, nosing into her and making a small frustrated keening sound in the back of his throat. Desperate even. She thinks he might be whimpering and again she fights the urge to drop to all fours.

Not yet.



Instead she reaches forward, slides a hand into his hair. Gentle, sweet even as she cups the back of his head, strokes along his scalp, bumps and ridges, scar tissue under her fingers and the soft, clean feel of his hair. He lets out a moan that sounds more like a purr and she rocks back on her heels angling her hips towards his face.

“Come on,” she says voice dropped low and husky. “Show me what you can do Daryl.”

And he does, hands sliding up her legs to grasp her thighs, pinning her to the floor, the world even. She’s grateful because she thinks she might just float away if he doesn’t, fly to the moon, dance between the stars, turn into a ball of light and become nothing but a bundle of frayed nerves held together by the pressure of his lips on her cunt.

She clenches her teeth, squeezes her eyes shut not to go out of her head as he works her, tongue now pushing against her clit, finding ways to rub and probe so that the two layers of material separating their flesh rubs hard and rough against her and she feels her belly clench tighter with each stroke.

Wetness on her thighs, juices slicking against his cheek, probably his hands too. She hears him growl again, rough rumbles that seem to come from deep within his gut, rather than his throat and she knows he feels it too. A momentary lapse of concentration as he almost turns his head. Almost. But she tightens her grip on his hair, yanks it just hard enough not to hurt, just hard enough to warn.

You know what you have to do.

You know.

And he’s back, flat of his tongue rolling against her clit. Sparks of pleasure as she bears down against the friction he’s creating, legs spreading and she thinks she might go out of her mind from this. From him. From what he wants her to do.

And fuck but she can feel it building up inside her, that wonderful, terrible pleasure that starts at her cunt, spreads determinedly outwards, to her lips, to her thighs, her nipples, her throat and then gathers back into itself to pulse out of her in waves…


Somehow she finds her voice and it’s clear, solid. For a second she wonders if it’s really hers or if it belongs to some other woman. A woman who knows what she’s doing and really is in control. Not her, not the girl fumbling in the dark, going on nothing but instinct and id, basing every word and movement only on what feels good, only on what various kinds of pleasure can be drawn out of it.

But then again, maybe that is the trick. Maybe it’s not about rules and regulations. Maybe it is about what feels good, what feels safe. Maybe you can make it up as you go along and you don’t have to be perfect every time.

She steps back, out of his grip, leaving him off balance and he stumbles, throws his hands out in front of him to stop himself falling headfirst into the floor.

He’s confused, she can see it in the way his shoulders hunch and he looks at the wood grain under his hands as if it has the answers. He doesn’t look at her though, doesn’t raise his eyes to her. He won’t. She knows this.

You haven’t earned that yet.

Still she waits quietly, stretches the moment, plays the tension like an instrument, waits to see if it’ll snap. If he’ll snap. But he’s silent, silent and shaking and even from this angle she can she the bulge of his cock pressing obscenely at the thin fabric of his pants.

He’s good. He’s so very good.

And she can be good too. She can. She’s doing all right so far she thinks, feeling her way, their way. Taking everything that feels right, throwing out the rest.

You don’t do anything that don’t feel right.

She remembers what he said to her that first time they ever lay together on the same bed. Remembers how he put his finger to her lips, how he was shaking more than she was, how his voice caught in the back of his throat.

You don’t do anything that don’t feel right.

It’s a mantra that’s served them well and not only when it came to sex. She doesn’t see why she can’t use it now. It’s simple, easy to find and fall back on. So she does.

Deep breath, hands flexing at her sides. Cunt wet and tingling, still soaking her shorts. She bites her lip, closes her eyes for a moment. A sudden loss of confidence. Another deep breath. And another. Calmer now. She opens her eyes. He’s still there, head bowed, staring at the floor, shoulders trembling and she knows what she wants.

She takes a step towards him, then another. Moves in close so that her toes are millimetres from his hand, painted nails glimmering a sparkly pale blue in the afternoon light.

“You wanna look at me?” she asks. “You wanna see?”

He nods, almost imperceptible if not for the ragged breath he releases at the same time, the way his jaw works, shoulders shaking.

“Think you’ve earned it?” she asks.

He shakes his head and there’s something in it that breaks her heart, because she knows that somewhere deep down, maybe even hidden from himself he believes it. And the desire to apologise wells up inside her, to explain that she didn’t mean it that way, that she loves him - oh god - she loves him so much and it’s okay and they don’t need to do this and…

And then she sees hidden behind his hair, the slightest quirk of his lips, a ghost of a smile that no one but her has ever seen or been able to read.

Okay, then.

So this is how it is.

There’s a little voice inside that’s telling her she’s terrible at this. Absolutely terrible. That he should be laughing at her lame attempt at taking charge, that the very thought that she could bring this man to his knees, this man made of sinew and strength, corded with hard muscle and a harder tongue, is nothing short of absurd. This wonderful man. This wonderful, ridiculous, perfect, fucked up man.  And yet … and yet, here she is. And here he is. And they both want this.

Take it slow. You only need to do what feels right.

Another breath. Chest looser, heart no longer racing.

She can do this. She can. If she can come back from the dead, she can do pretty much anything. So she reaches inside, finds that steel, puts it into her voice, throws that stern mask back on her face.

“Something funny Daryl? You wanna share the joke?”

Smile gone, he shakes his head, hunches closer to the floor, fingers turning white as they twitch against the wood. And suddenly she knows what she wants to do with him.

“Down,” she says again. “Down.”

He doesn’t comply immediately and she can sense the confusion in him, the desire to please locked behind a lack of understanding. He bites his lip, looks to the side and she knows he’s waiting for her to guide him, to show him what she wants.

“Here,” she says. “let me show you.”

She leans forward, hand on his shoulder, applies pressure and he moves under her palm, closer to the floor, closer to her feet.

She sees the moment he gets it, that sudden clarity and then the enthusiasm he puts behind it, that realisation that he can do this, he can do it well, he can be good and he can please her. Please her more than she’s ever been pleased.

And then his mouth is on her, starting at her ankle and planting a chain of kisses across the bridge of her foot, dancing along her toes and then swiping back up in thick, hard strokes that settle into her blood and bones and curl around the base of her spine.

He’s good, he’s very good, handling her feet the same way he did her cunt, drawing it out, moving from one to the other and back again, throwing kisses at her skin, tracing the path of her veins, scraping his teeth along her heels and making her tremble. He won’t stop, not until she tells him to, she knows this. Once she would have worried, once it would have concerned her that this was a hardship for him, that he was doing it only to please her and taking no pleasure from it himself.

She knows now this is not the case. That he does the things he does because he loves her but also because he loves doing them, that he doesn’t care if it takes all night or less than a minute. It’s not about a climax, it’s not about that final destination. It’s the journey he wants, he craves and then relishes.

It’s her.

It’s her he wants.

She let's him have it. Let's him lap at her, let's him feel it, maybe leaves it a little too long, just enough to make him wonder. His enthusiasm doesn’t wane though, not in the slightest. He’d probably kiss her toes all night if that’s what she asked, what she wanted.

“Enough,” she says, voice still low. No edge now.

He stops, doesn’t move, stays crouched over her feet, palms flat on the floor, air stuttering in and out of his lungs.

Another long moment. Another indeterminate period of time she draws out and hangs in the air to come back to. And then she lifts a foot, brings it down on his shoulder, applies the slightest hint of pressure and he doesn’t resist, sinking further into the floor.

More deep breathing, dust motes dancing in front of her eyes. Small things she shouldn’t notice, the cuckoo clock on the wall, a bottle of juice left open on the counter - she was thirsty before he came in - her sandals lying in the corner. Little things, unimportant, but theirs. Like this is theirs.

This and all the baggage that goes with it.

She reaches for her edge of her shirt, pulls it over her head and drops it to the floor next to him, where she knows he’ll see. Her bra is next, a scrap of pink lace. It’s one he likes, it pushes her breasts together, creates the illusion of cleavage they both know she doesn’t have. Not that that’s an issue, not that there’s ever been a second she’s felt inadequate, a second she’s felt he’d change her in any way. Still, she thinks he would have liked to see it on her, watch her take it off, tease him a little.

So maybe she’s not that good at this yet. But she can learn. They can learn together.

“Daryl?” she says softly, no pretence in her voice now. “You can look at me now. You’ve done so well. It’s okay”

She moves her foot off his shoulder, takes a step back and wait for him to push himself up onto his knees. She doesn’t miss how his legs shake, how his fists clench and the slow way he raises his head as if he’s scared. As if he’s about to see not intended for the eyes of man. Something holy.

He breathes in sharply when he sees her, air whistling through his teeth and part of her thinks this is ridiculous, this game they’re playing. He’s seen her naked before, Sees her almost every day as she emerges wet from the shower, as she runs to find her clothes in the laundry pile or towels herself off in the bedroom. But the truth is she doesn’t think this is part of the game. This awe he feels for her, this lust she inspires in him by showing parts of herself.

Another rush of power, stronger this time as his eyes eat her up, devour her, pupils blown and wide, tongue emerging from his mouth and running over his lips.

She wonders how she looks to him. Small breasts, nipples standing out hard, pale dusky pink against the milky whiteness of her skin. Tiny pair of shorts mostly soaked with her and him, juices on her legs, kissed feet bare except for silly blue polish. He loves her body, he tells her this over and over again and she believes him.

Like this, it’s not really something he could fake.

He makes a small sound, not quite keening, but not a groan either. She let's him look. First she thought she'd make this quick, give him small glimpses, largely unsatisfying, but enough to leave him wanting more. but now she thinks this is better. Let him worship her with his eyes, let him take her in as if this is as close as he'll get, which maybe it is. She hasn't decided yet.

Except she has.

So she watches him watching her, feigns cool disinterest, maybe even a little sympathy. Poor creature, brought to his knees by her flesh, drowning in his own want, suffocating in her power. She tells herself these things to keep the haughty look on her face, to fix the mask despite how her cheeks burn under his gaze, how her skin is flushed all the way down to her toes. The truth is she only half believes it. And the half that doesn't isn't born out of any real disdain but rather because she still can't believe that she has any power at all over this man. This man who spent years protecting them, throwing himself head first into the undead hordes, the lowest levels of human scum this world created. This man who gave himself up over and over again for them, for her, for everything. The fact that she can give this to him is enough to make her weep, enough to throw her onto her knees right there beside him.

Daryl, I love you Daryl. Always you.

Eventually his gaze settles on her shorts, the wet patch showing no signs of receding. If anything it's done quite the opposite and spread down to the hem. She can see her inner thighs glistening against the afternoon sun, turning her skin silver and gold.

"You wanna take them off?" She asks. Forthright, no wavering now. She's not afraid. Not of this.

He nods.

"Say it."

He swallows, jaw working hard.

"I ... I wanna take them off, Beth. I ... I wanna, please Beth. Please."

She smiles. It's genuine, a wild and intense soaring of emotion at how much he loves her, but she tries hard not to show that part.

"Tell me why."

More steel, a hint of curiosity, hopefully not enough so that she sounds like she really cares. Like before, he buys it, even if he doesn't.

He seems to be searching for words. He's not eloquent. Never has been. But she doesn't want eloquent. She wants raw, she wants real. She wants him to tell her how much he wants to fuck her in his own way. She's not looking for poetry, she's looking for truth.

She thinks they both are.

He seems to find words or decide on them at least.

"I wanna see you Beth. I wanna see your cunt. It's so pretty Beth, god it's so fucking gorgeous. I just wanna see it. I... I just wanna see how wet you are. Just see how much. Please Beth. Please girl."

She frowns, pretends to consider, works her teeth over her lip like she's giving this a lot of thought, like she's not burning from the inside out, like her legs aren't jelly and her thighs aren't slick with wet.

She takes a step back, grapples behind her for the edge of the counter. Hopes it looks like this isn't a necessity, that she doesn't need something to hold onto to keep standing. She doesn't think he cares at this point, is starting to wonder if he's even fully there, if he's thinking at all or of he, like her, is just going on instinct.

She finds the counter, angles her hips towards him, cocks her head and purses her lips.

This is easier now. So much easier since she came back with scars on her face and a hole in her head.

"Okay," she says. "Take them off."

And he all but scurries across the floor to her on his hands and knees, breath rasping in and out of him. When he gets to her he stops, slows to a crawl as he unwinds himself and kneels. For a second his eyes lock with hers, blue and glassy, hooded. And it takes everything she has not to smile, not to take him by the hand and lead him to their bed. She doesn't think he truly knows how much she loves him. Even though she died. She fucking died and came back to him. And if she can do that she'll follow him anywhere.

So she reaches out, slides a hand along his jaw, gentle, kind, meets his eyes again and he nods. Short and sharp, a moment out of time, not a part of this. A moment to check in, reconnect.

And then it's back in full force and she whips her hand away, watches him through slitted eyes as he undoes the button and the zip of her shorts, as he tucks his fingers through the empty belt loops and tugs them down her legs and off.

She glances down. Her panties are embarrassing. Not just damp, but soaked, pale pink lace turned transparent, blond curls and swollen clit on display. There's literally nothing he can't see, but he let's out a ragged moan and reaches for the straps at her hips, coarse skin ghosting over her belly and thighs as he drags them down.

Another beat. Another moment stretched long as he studies her. He won't touch her. Not yet, not until she says. But his eyes are everywhere and the heat of his gaze is enough to send that heat pulsing back to her fingers and toes, her lips, her nipples. Her clit.

He could always do this, even before. Even when they barely spoke and he just seemed like one of those frightening people invading her farm and giving her daddy extra things to worry about. Even then his gaze went right through her, like he could see everything, her blood, her bones and now her heart.

Both of them so broken. Both of them trying so hard to reclaim some of what they've lost.

She watches as a bead of wetness swells between her lips, grows heavy, pregnant. He's seen it too, eyes locked on it as it sparkles like a tiny kaleidoscope. He's clenching his fists, trying hard to sit still and she knows that one word from her and he'll be lapping at her, sucking it onto his tongue and swallowing her.

But she's not feeling kind all of a sudden, not to him, not to herself, preferring the burn, eschewing the soothing.

The bead falls, he watches its path to the floor, how it spatters on the wood, a tiny raindrop made of her.

She can make it rain if she wants, she knows she can.

But not yet.

She moves slightly, pulls his head to pillow it against her thigh, tugs on his hair just the wrong side of sharp.

He won't touch her, not until she says. If she says. But she holds him there, face millimetres from her cunt, letting him breathe her in, letting him smell what he can't taste.

She drops her voice low again, almost cooing now, hand soft in his hair.

"That what you wanted?"

He nods and she combs her fingers along his scalp, scratching lightly.

"You wanna touch me?"

Another nod, hair whispering against her thigh, the smell of him filling her up

"Taste me?"

Small hitch in his throat, leaning into her now, face so close to her that if he stuck his tongue out it would touch her clit.

And she wants that. Oh god she wants that. Knows how it feels when he settles himself between her legs, holds her open and yes, she'll call it what it is, worships her with his tongue. The thought makes her rock her hips slightly, another momentary slipping of her mask and she bites down on her lip to stop herself dropping the act completely.

It would be so easy. So very easy.

But then again this is easy too.

Flash of daring again and she pulls his head away from her thigh, fingers closed tight around the dark strands, angles him up to look at her.

She can do this. She can be as strong as him. Stronger even. He didn't die. She did. And she came back. She's strong, she knows she is.

Her fingers pressing into her, delving between slick lips, gathering her wet on her hands, taking a moment for herself, to feel the pressure of her thumb on her clit, rolling her hips, sparks of pleasure colliding in her belly, coiling into a tight spiral. Let him see.

And then withdrawing, shining sticky strands between her fingers, beaded and glinting like diamonds. Close to his lips, he's already opening his mouth.

Not part of the plan. Not part of it at all.

She raises her fingers to her tongue, makes a show out of sucking them off. He shifts under her grip and she knows she's goading him now.


Still, this is for her and she takes her time, eyes locked with his, mask in place, superior disdain, shade of arrogance. Nonchalant.

It comes out of nowhere.

"You don't get to eat until I say,"

He reels at that. Like she's burned him. And she can't blame him because she didn't know she was going to say it before the words were already out of her mouth.

There's a moment she thinks she'll break, that there's just no way she can carry on doing this, this game where she talks like this, where she has a man twice her age and fiercer than anyone she knows on his knees. But she doesn't.

Deep breath.

Better now.

Still stinging, but better.

"Up," she says turning away, partly to be dismissive moreso to hide how her cheeks are burning. "Go to the bedroom, take off your clothes. Wait for me there."

He takes a moment. Maybe gathering himself, maybe just to parse her words, but she hears him stand, the scuff of his boots on the floor, the way his knees crack. She can feel his gaze on her, her hips, thighs, ass.

"Don't make me tell you again." She hisses. It's the best she can do because she's breathless and she can barely speak, let alone toss anything else into her voice.

She hears him go, boots heavy on the floor, creak of the bedroom door, sigh of the mattress.

She waits. Stands naked in the kitchen and watches the fading sunlight outside. She was thirsty, she remembers that, and she makes for the open juice. No glass, she drinks straight from the bottle.

She's aware that she's trembling, but it's good. So good. No worry, no fear. Maybe a little concern at not knowing what comes next, maybe some uncertainty. But she's strong. He told her that before she believed it herself. She can die. She can come back.

She can make him feel good too.

She stands there a little longer. Just a little. She doesn’t want him to be alone more than necessary but she does want him to burn a bit more, to need and to smoulder, throw him off guard, do things in her own time. And she needs a moment for herself too. To stand in the kitchen, feel that relentless ache between her legs, hold it there.

She glances outside, the light is fading and the day is cooling. She can hear a dog bark down the street and she wonders briefly if Daryl would like one. If they could do that, if they could build something. She smiles at the thought. It’s pleasant in how incredibly normal it is.

She glances at her shorts crumpled on the floor, the damp stain.

Another small surge of wetness between her thighs, those tendrils of fire tightening around the base of her spine.

She pushes herself away from the counter, walks quietly to the bedroom. She knows he’ll hear her coming. The man hears everything, sees everything, feels everything, everything except himself and how wonderful he is. How he’s her whole world and she’ll never want anything else.

He’s kneeling on the floor with his back to her, shadows making silver patterns out of his scars, his marks and there’s something in that that makes her want to sob. This vulnerable side of him that shows her everything, that doesn’t want to hide from her. She steps closer. His head turns slightly to the door as she does but he doesn’t look at her. He won’t. He won’t do anything until she tells him to.

She takes a moment to admire him. The long hair that everyone tells him he needs to cut but she secretly loves and spends hours combing her fingers through it, so soft and gentle, the broad shoulders, demons on his back. Maybe angels. Maybe hellish dark angels to protect him. But no.


That’s her job.

Even when he’s like this, which truth be told isn’t all that often, even when it seems he wants to hurt and he wants her to be the one doing the hurting, it’s her job to look after him. Like he looks after her.

And she could never wound him, not really. Not actually cause real physical pain. Not without getting complicated and she doesn't think that's really them. Not now anyway. And the truth is she can't imagine it beyond the odd scratch from claw like nails. He's been hurt too much and too often. And she knows that isn’t what he wants anyway.

But she can do this for him. She can do it in a way that makes sense to them, that feels good.

You only have to do what feels good.

She can make him burn, she can make him wait. She can make him beg. She can make him worship her and curse her and do both of these things at the same time. Once she didn’t think she had it in her, now she wonders how she could ever sell herself so short.

She crosses the floor to stand behind him, close enough to feel the heat coming off him, off his flesh and his hair, seeping into her skin. He’s always like a furnace, burns hot and quick and she can’t wait to feel his hands on her.

More wet, seeping onto her thighs, running down her legs. She smells of musk and earth, she smells of roses and sunshine. She reaches out, lays her hands on his shoulders, feels how he leans back into her, catches sight of his cock, hard and thick between his legs.

“You’ve been good,” she says. A statement of fact nothing more. She doesn’t try to make it sound like anything else.

“You touch yourself?” she asks, another thing she didn’t know was there. More words hidden from her until they’re out in the world and there’s no taking them back.

He shakes his head and she combs her fingers into his hair, lays a kiss against his temple. “Okay.”

“You’ve been so good Daryl,” she says, as she walks around him to the bed. “So very good.”

She makes a pretence at bending over, knows his eyes are on her ass, on the shadows beneath.

Her confidence is back, has been for a while. He lets her be confident, lets her know what she does to him and how it makes him feel. She trusts him so completely that sometimes it wrenches at her, twists at her gut. And she knows he feels the same. He wouldn’t be here on the floor if he didn’t.

She sits down on the bed, legs crossed facing him. He looks at her now, she’s given him permission, she won’t take it back. She doesn't think that's how it works and she wants his eyes on her. There’s a lot of trust here. She knows almost nothing about this but she knows that. that and not doing anything that doesn’t feel good. The two rules, she thinks, maybe there’ll be more in time, if they explore this any further, but for now those two have served her well.

She regards him, the way his muscles stand out against his ink. The way he seems huge and how he could snap her in half if he wanted to, which right now he just might. She thinks she's more than earning it.

She tilts her head, wants to bite her lip but doesn't. That she can be here with him like this. Little farm girl too scared to say boo to a fly and now this. Whatever this is.

She snaps her fingers and he shuffles closer.

She spreads her legs, leans back on one hand. His gaze between her thighs again, heavy breathing, bared teeth.

"You want that?" She asks, voice light as if it's something she has only just thought of but finds amusing.

His voice is dry, rasping when he answers. "Yes."

She slides her fingers down. Waist, hip, belly and eventually settling on her clit. She rubs a small circle. Slow. Wet.

"This?" She asks again, another circle, slight roll of her hips.

He nods. She thinks he's given up on talking now and that makes her feel a little heady, drunk on this. He'll beg if she asks though. He already is.

"Could touch myself," she says. "Make you watch me."

Two fingers now, pressing into her, gathering heat.

"But you don't want that do you? Not really."

He's quiet, a little mouse, trembling and tense, waiting for her. And she can't be this cruel. Not anymore. Not to him.

Enough now.


"Come," she says, holding out her hand, slick and shiny. "Come."

He practically leaps at her, hands closing around her wrist, pulling her fingers into his mouth, tongue swirling between the strands of wetness, teeth grazing her knuckles and the sounds - oh god - the sounds he's making are like nothing she's ever heard from him before. He may well devour her. He just might and she just might let him. She already thinks she's going to go out of her head. She's  already said and done things that she didn't even know she had in her to do. She's not sure he did either. But then, he's always been good at reading her.

Hand licked clean, he's nuzzling at her palm, tongue swirling across flesh, sending chills down her arm, to her belly, to her clit, which is really where she's feeling pretty much everything right now.

She watches him for a moment, his hooded eyes, shaggy hair, tight muscles of his stomach and his hard cock, glistening with precome, ready, waiting.

She pulls her hand from his grip, gets up in his face, so close she can feel his breath on her skin. Kisses his lips. Kisses him soft and slow and deep for the first time since they started this. Let's him frame her face with his hands, let's him explore her mouth, lick her teeth, taste her tongue. And she's weakening. She knows she can't keep up this pretence much longer. Maybe only a little while.

Eventually she pulls away, not far, but just so she can see him. She keeps her eyes hard but doubt she fools him and fights the urge to turn her head and kiss his palm.

She leans back again on her hands, regards him and then glances between her legs more for his benefit than her own. Meets his eyes.

"You know what to do."

After that things are a blur.

He's between her legs, forcing her thighs further apart, fingers digging into her hard enough to bruise. And his tongue - oh god his tongue - is moving over her in long, rough strokes, swallowing and slurping and gulping at her. She's not even sure he's actually trying to make her come, although that will no doubt happen. But this is something else. Something dark and primal, something a little twisted. It doesn't feel like a game anymore, she's willing to bet he doesn't think so either.

Dimly she's aware that she's saying something. It sounds like she's cursing as he burrows into her, fucking her with his tongue, sucking on her lips and clit and drinking from her.

And then that heat gathers in on itself again, pulling in from her fingers and toes, turning into a spiral, collapsing into a tiny, focused ball of sensation and then pulsing out through her cunt, her clit, his tongue.

She collapses backwards, wails turning to whimpers and back to wails as she arches into him, knee connecting with his head as she does.

It feels like a wave washing over her dragging her off in the undertow, tightening around her, suffocating and then shooting her to space where she does indeed dance between the stars. And for a second everything is in laser focus, sounds, smells, the prickle of his stubble on leg. Vivid colours and sharp edges.

And then finally, finally, she remembers to breathe.

Easy. Slow. In and out.

Concentrate on it. Hold it.

Lungs fill, empty, fill again.

Normally this is the point he gathers her up, holds her still while she trembles, presses his mouth to hers and strokes her hair. Tells her how much he loves her, that she's his girl.

But he doesn't. He stays between her legs, rests his head on her thigh, a hand on her knee.

For a second she doesn't understand, wants to pull him up to her, get his arms around her and rest in them. But then she gets it, realises what he's doing, on his knees, head bowed.

He's still playing, waiting for her to get back in the game, disinclined to forego the pretence yet, waiting waiting waiting until she's ready to go on.

Finish this.

Finish what you've started.

So she lies there in the darkening room, sunlight giving way to shadow. Catches her breath. That dog is still barking and she thinks again that maybe Daryl wants one, thinks she'd love to see him playing ball with it in the park. But otherwise it's quiet. His breath hot against her thigh. Tendrils of mild pleasure twirling along her flesh.

He starts when she combs her fingers into his hair but recovers quickly when she pulls him back to where she's slick and wet, tongue already out, laving her.

You only get to eat when I say.


Later, she can't say how much - it's not much darker, but most definitely the other side of twilight - she sits up. She feels loose, boneless, filled up and emptied and still a little high from it all. And that’s good. That’s good because she can use it.

He's where she left him, kneeling, head against her, cock still hard, fingers still twitching.

"You're so good Daryl," she whispers. And she means every word. This isn't a game.

He looks up at her and even in the shadows she can see the awe in his eyes.


It’s just a word, but he says it like it’s everything. Like it’s the whole world and everything in it. She reaches out, touches his jaw and he turns his face, kisses her palm.

She lets him have the moment, lets him take it and then she pats the bed next to her.

“Up,” she says. The slightest lilt, barely there. She’s proud she can still do it after all this. Proud that to her ears she still sounds like someone who has no doubt her instructions will be followed.

And they are. He’s on the bed next to her, drawing his knees up.

“Lie down,” she says.

She stands up, heads to the dresser, doesn’t bother to see if he listens. He will. He wants to. She rummages through a draw, hand closing around a thin summer scarf, a gift from Maggie. It’s pink and purple shot through with silver thread and she twists it a little in her hands. He’s shown her how to make snares, how to tie knots. She doesn’t think he had this in mind.

Back at the bed. Deep breath. Another. Checks in with herself. She’s calm for now. Languid almost. This will change. She knows it will.

She straddles his knees, rubs against him so that he feels her wet. More pleasure, a smaller wave this time.

“Give me your hands.”

A beat. It’s not hesitation, she knows that, but he’s taking longer to decipher her words now. She reaches forward, curls a hand around his cock. Squeezes, just a little too long, a little too tight and he groans into the shadows, rolls his hips.

“Don’t make me ask you again.”

Knots. She remembers what he showed her. Scarf tight around his crossed wrists, maybe a little uncomfortable, maybe just enough to leave a mark, a reminder. Happy, she tugs at his arms, works her way up his body, pretending indifference, focused on her task, but she leans low over him, lets her breasts trail over his chest, against his jaw until her knees are flush with his sides and she’s tying the scarf around the bed frame.

Another moment to check in, thumb across his lips. She wants to say she loves him, but she doesn’t want to break the script so she files it away. Later. They have time.

And then she’s running her fingertips down his arms, featherlight touches on the insides of his elbows, the soft skin of his bicep, that inked dragon she traced with her tongue countless times. His skin erupts into goosebumps but he’s silent, watching her through slitted eyes, breath hard in his throat and she leans forward to plant a kiss on his jaw, another on his neck.

Fingers on his nipples now, rubbing them between her fingers, pinching hard enough to hurt. He bites his lip, seems to swallow back a moan. She slides further down his body, leaving a wet trail as she goes. The desire to grind herself against him flares in her belly.

So she does, lifting herself up and bringing her cunt down on his cock, pressing into it, rolling her hips.

He makes a strangled sound, half ecstasy, half warning and she stills. She knows he’s close, knows he’s waiting for her to let him come and she needs to tread carefully now. So she licks at his nipples, rolls them between her teeth and then plants a chain of kisses down his ribs, over his belly, over the scar at his side where an arrow went through him and he fucking pulled it out and used it to stab a walker.

When she gets to his cock she stops. Looks up at him. His eyes are closed now, muscles bulging against his restraints. He could probably break them, she realises, probably taking everything he has not to. He’s strong, every inch of him beaten into shape, earned by this world and the one before.

He’s so strong. And he’s all hers.

She runs her tongue along the underside of his shaft. She’s quick but thorough and his breath hisses between his teeth. She does it again and watches as he struggles not to arch into her face. And then it’s all about kisses, short staccato kisses from base to tip and back again, longer wet ones following the same path, her tongue on him, licking and tasting, scraping her teeth over him, just hard enough so he feels it, so that he tenses up for a millisecond before going languid again and giving himself over to her.

As she thought, there’s a lot of trust here. A lot.

She nuzzles against him again, cheek pressed to his thigh, lips moving in circles around the base, up to his belly, fluttering, tense, and down again.

He’s saying her name again, voice cracked, low and she knows she can’t keep him hanging much longer. So she doesn’t. She’s in charge, he asked her to be. She gets to make the decisions.

You only have to do what feels good.

And he feels so good. So very good.

So she hoists herself up, curls a hand around him, pumps her wrist once, twice, lets his groan wash over her, through her.

“You want me?” she asks.

There’s a yes somewhere in the sound he makes.

She twists her wrist again and he bangs his head against the pillows, eyes squeezed shut.

“Please Beth.”


So he’s begging. He’s been begging all along but now it’s just out loud and she knows she can’t be mean to him anymore. Not for another second. Even though he asked. Even though he needed this. She knows it’s time. Trusts herself and him with this. It’s not that hard, like reading a room, understanding a frown.

Hand on his cheek, soothing, gentle. And she lowers herself onto him, slow, warm, his cock nudging between her lips, sliding into her.

God Beth. Oh. My. God.

She bends, leaning over him, hair in his face, on his chest. She kisses him, tongue forcing itself between his teeth, brushing into his mouth and he groans into her as she clenches tight and hot around him.

It won’t take long, she knows this. It’s already building in her, in him. Bodies rolling in waves towards each other, that pulse - barely forgotten - reaching out again to her fingers, her toes…

“You’re amazing,” she says. “You’re amazing.”

And then she lets go, leaning back, arching so that her breasts stand out brazenly, so that her belly stretches and her thighs quiver. She finds a rhythm easily, it’s not awkward. She falls into it and then she rides him, rides him harder than she ever has before, body pounding his, demanding and determined and she can see he’s trying his hardest to last for her, biting his lip and squeezing his eyes shut.

So she finds that last reserve, grabs blindly at him, hands in his hair, forcing him to look at her and she pulls that haughty mask on one last time.

“Come for me Daryl,” she says. “Don’t make me ask again. You come for me now.”

And he does.

Hips snapping, bucking up into her, cock pressing hard into that secret space that makes her tingle and shake.

And then her name. Her name over and over. And it is everything. Every last little thing. And all at once her universe contracts again into that taut spiral, holds there for a second while she breathes and heaves, and then coils outwards, surging through her, making her whine and whimper and claw at his arms, bury her head in his chest and breathe him into her lungs.

She collapses. Body slack on his, his cock softening inside her. She’s not sure she feels it even though she knows it to be true. She's lighter than air, clean and empty and she thinks if he wasn’t tied to the bed they’d just float away, rise up, bodies no longer things of substance.

Turn into those flickering dustmotes and dance wildly in the air currents, sparkle and shine like fairy dust and eventually disintegrate. Become nothing. Become free.

In her haze, She reaches up, finds the knots at his wrists, pulls them free and almost in the same movement he folds himself into her, rolling them onto their sides and resting his head against her breast.

Ohmygod,” he says into her skin over and over again until she laughs and tugs him closer, kisses his head, trails her hands over his shoulders.

Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod

“I love you,” she says.

And then Iloveyou Iloveyou Iloveyou.

God girl, what did you do? What did you do?

And she laughs again, because she didn’t do anything. She didn’t do a damn thing. And neither did he. But somehow tucked away in the circle of his arms, she still can’t believe it.

Another subtle passing of the time. It's fully dark now but still warm. He moves off her breast to rest his head on the pillows. And then his hands are on her, running over her skin, touching her soft and slow in all those places she denied to him earlier, her neck, shoulders, small swells of her breasts, trembling belly. It's not sexual, not entirely at least. But it thrills her and she wonders if one day he'll turn this thing around, if he'll tease her like she did him.

She hopes so.

But for now he's relaxed, at peace, and she traces his brow with her fingertips, slides her mouth against his.

"I love you Beth," he says so quietly she almost misses it.

And she tells him she knows. She’s always known.

Much later when they’re dressed and eating sandwiches in the kitchen, they talk about Roger and Miriam, about improving security. He moans a bit about Big Brother and how they're living in a jail, just a pretty one that doesn't have cells. And she tells him not to be such a grump, that there are still good things in the world and he runs a hand through her hair and tells her knows.

She asks him if he’d like a dog, if he thinks they could handle it and he says yes immediately, faster than he’s ever agreed to anything before. Says he wants it, for him, for them. She asks if he’s sure and he tells her he is. Says it feels like it’s time, feels right.

And she nods and presses kisses into his wrists where there’s the faintest mark from the scarf.

You should only do what feels right.