Disclaimer: I do not own The Walking Dead. Trust me on this.

Here's a sort of Bethyl "missing moment" from before Season 4a. Truthfully, it's pretty AU, as it definitely hits the Bethyl feels a little harder than the TV show had. Rating is for language. 5886 Words.

"Up until then it had only been himself. Up to then it had been a private wrestle between him and himself. Nobody else much entered into it. After the people came into it he was, of course, a different man. Everything had changed then and he was no longer the virgin, with the virgin's right to insist upon platonic love. Life, in time, takes every maidenhead, even if it has to dry it up; it does not matter how the owner wants to keep it." James Jones, From Here to Eternity

Books were damn heavy. Daryl shifted the pack slung across his back, grimacing. The run for medical supplies had been a bust, but he wasn't about to return totally empty handed. He had the notion that if you saw something useful in the sea of broken down shit, you'd better grab it quick, before someone else did. A lifetime of hard living had made him a piece of shit guy in a lot of ways, he reckoned. But he knew how to survive, how to make the most out of the petty moments. And slinging an armful of books he'd found in a church basement into a bag wasn't hard. After a few more moments of poking around in already pillaged rec room, he made his way out the back entrance, his motorcycle parked right outside the door. He glanced around, double-checking that the coast was clear and squinting into the late afternoon sunlight, then slung a leg over the bike. He started it up and drove off, keeping close watch on the road. No sense being outside prison gates after dark. Time to get home, get back to his perch.

He didn't read much. He liked it well enough, not that anyone'd believe that, but he'd just much rather be out doing something, especially these days. Every now and then, though, he'd pull something down from a dusty shelf in the prison library. Daryl wasn't the only one, either. Not that she ever really did what a body could call complaining, he'd even heard Beth remark that she wished there were some better books in there for her to read. "A girl can't live on Moby Dick and westerns alone," she'd sighed to Maggie one night at dinner, Judith propped up against her shoulder and tugging on a fistful of blonde hair delightedly. "And I'm not about to start reading the phonebook," she'd said, with a roll of her eyes and a wry smile on her lips before gently untangling her hair from sticky baby fingers. So when he saw the disorderly piles of books on a sagging bookshelf, a worn copy of Gone With the Wind right on the top, he was shoveling books into the pack, and definitely not thinking about why.

It was near to sunset by the time he got back, the great metal doors opening with drawn out groans that almost drowned out the moaning walkers doggedly staggering after him. He revved up, riding into the relative safety of the gates, privately relishing the definitive clang the doors made as they shut behind him. As much as he didn't like being cooped up with everybody all the time, he always felt better when he was back inside, not that he'd acknowledge that to anyone.

After parking his bike, Daryl made his way back up to C block, nodding at Carl, who was talking with a beanpole kid wearing glasses. By the time he'd made it to the dining area, the place was mostly cleared out, dinner done and the dishes cleared away, which was all fine by him. He saw Rick chatting with a small group of folks from Woodbury, so caught the man's eye and shook his head. He saw Rick's shoulders slump. The shit they needed, the medicine and tools and ammo and food, all that was getting harder and harder to find in the quantities they needed. And they were having to go further and further out. Take more risks. There was a big grocery store a ways out, probably full of walkers. Even with the Governor unaccounted for, they might have to take the risk to explore that place, and soon.

Dropping the bag for a quick minute but keeping the Horton slung over his shoulder, Daryl made up a bowl of mystery stew for himself, sniffing cautiously before shoveling a spoonful into his mouth. You never knew what you might get, but he was lucky that night. Venison, from that buck he brought down the day before. He'd have to go hunting again soon, maybe bring Carl along with him. Had to keep a kid like that busy, or else he'd get in trouble.

Heavy bag in one hand, already almost empty bowl of stew in the other and crossbow slung across his back, he wound his way through the dim, windowless corridors until he made it to the library. He shoved the door open with an elbow, trying not too jostle his stew too much but spilling a glob between his thumb and forefinger all the same. Pushing through the door, he lifted his hand to his mouth, licking up the mess.

Daryl heard her before he saw her, softly singing some old song that felt vaguely familiar to him. She was stretched out next to the baby on a thick blanket, both of them facing away from the door on their bellies and facing the sunset-orange sunlight coming in through the windows. Beth was propped up on her elbows, one thin leg kicked up behind her. He hadn't been looking for her, but he was glad she was here. He didn't like to think about it much, because it couldn't ever mean anything, but she was a pretty sight. She'd changed a lot, somewhere along the way, became tough and stayed soft all at once, thin-limbed and yellow-haired, with strong hands from killing walkers with a crowbar and an ease and understanding with Lil' Asskicker no one else possessed. They'd all changed. But Beth was something else.

The door slammed behind him and he resisted the urge to flinch as her song abruptly dropped off. She turned lightning-quick to fix her eyes on the door and a smile crossed her face when she saw who it was. "Hey," Beth said, sitting up and tugging her t-shirt down, covering the pale sliver of skin above the waist of her jeans. She lifted up the baby and gently set her on her back, and he watched the way she gently cupped the baby's head with protective hands.

"Hey," he said, walking over to her. He set the bag down next to her and crouched across the blanket from her, the cheerfully talkative baby between them. "Found some books," he said, tilting his head towards the bag. "First pick, if ya want." Daryl didn't wait for a response, digging back into his dinner. He kept his eyes on the baby as he finished off the stew. Beth was sorting through the various paperbacks and humming softly by the time he set the bowl down at his side and settled more comfortably on his ass, crossbow finally unloaded on the ground next to him, pointedly facing the weapon away from the girls. He gently rubbed Lil' Asskicker's belly, letting the soothing sounds of soft baby chatter wash over him. After a moment, Daryl let himself look over at Beth.

She was flipping through Gone With the Wind, the book that'd caught his eye. Beth must've felt his eyes on her, because she looked over at him, meeting his eyes. "I had a copy just like this one back at the farm," she said, holding the book aloft with a small smile playing on her lips. The book looked like a print from the seventies, with a gaudy painting of Vivan Leigh and Clark Gable above a miniature Tara and little images of the other characters scattered about without any attention paid to scale. "It was my mother's." Beth held his gaze for a moment longer, still smiling that little smile, and he felt a flush crawling up his neck.

Daryl was saved from scrounging for an adequate reply by the appearance of Rick, who poked his head into the library. "Daryl. Carol said she saw you heading this way. Got a minute?" The man looked tired and Daryl felt guilty for disappearing off to the library.

"Yeah, man. Be right out." He ran his hand over Judith one last time and stood, rearming himself before gathering up his now empty bag and empty dish. "Take whatever ya want. I'll let ya find a home for the rest of 'em."

He was almost to the door before he heard Beth call his name. "Daryl." He paused, palm flat against the door. He turned, looking at both of the girls over his shoulder. "Thank you," she said. The last bit of weak light streamed through the windows, painting shadows and light over her bare arms and making her hair a halo.

"S' nothin'," he said. And then turned and slipped out of the library to talk with Rick.

The influx of people made him a little jumpy, which was the reason he spent a lot of time smoking in a quiet corner of the yard where all his meticulously collected mechanic's tools were kept. Most kept away from him here, especially as he'd taken to threatening anyone that got too close to so much as a wrench. Everybody needed their space, and he'd carved out his own little domain where he could tinker or not, depending on his mood. He'd grown up in a trailer, sure, shared a little bit of space with people he didn't much care for. All that had meant was that he'd spent a lot of time out in the woods, hunting, camping, and generally being alone. Daryl was relatively used to the original group, could spend an awful lot of time with people like Rick who understood how to be quiet, but adapting to the huge pileup of Woodbury folks was making him a little crazy. Someone was always in the showers, the cafeteria, the gardens. Somebody always wanted to talk to him, ask him something or just chat, like this was a damn barbeque. But not here, at least. Not at his makeshift outdoor garage. Legs stretched out on the cement in front of him and narrowed eyes staring down the walkers trapped outside the fences, he took a long drag of his cigarette, savoring it. Never knew when he might run out.

Daryl missed the peace and quiet of before. He missed just being able to go out into the woods and hunt with just a six pack and a bow for company. Didn't have to spend the whole time looking over his shoulder for enemies or walkers back then. He missed his shitty little trailer and trusty pickup and the mangy fleabag dog he'd feed whenever it came around, which was pretty often. He'd lived alone for a long time and lived inside his own head for an even longer time. Back then, being with people used to be a choice. Get drunk at the bar with Merle if he felt like it. Fuck some blurry-faced woman after a night out. Shoot the shit with those guys from the auto repair joint he worked at. None of those things were options anymore. Merle was fucking nothing but a blood stain now and Daryl hadn't gotten laid since before the walkers. And what he got up to with Rick and Glen didn't much resemble smoking and drinking in someone's garage, Rebel flag nailed up on the wall and Nascar on the radio.

Now, the only choice was survive or die. He'd gotten as used to sharing space as best he could and figured no one had died from lack of sex. Even a dog knew better than to shit where it slept, and, besides, he didn't really have any options. Wasn't about to go speed dating with the women from Woodbury. Maggie was Glenn's, plain and simple. Michonne was attractive enough and more than handy with a sword, but he wasn't about to try screwing her. Liked his head just fine where it was at.

And Carol… He cared about her, more than most others in fact, but he just didn't want her like that. He knew there were broken bits inside her he'd never be able to do anything with. They weren't for each other like that, and with everybody living on top of each other, there wasn't any sense in trying to force it. Daryl knew she thought about it, had felt her appraising eyes on him. But she didn't press it, and he never mentioned it. It was better that way.

He didn't think on Beth. Tried not to think of her as anything else than Judy's caretaker. She wasn't for him, and that was for damn sure. She was too young and pretty, in every sense of those two fucking words. He'd spent a fair bit of time with her, because she often had the baby and he liked being around the little scene the two girls made. But it was no more time than he'd spent with anybody else, and he didn't want to attach any special significance to it. That was a fool thing to do, and Daryl Dixon wasn't a fool. Just a man trying to survive.

It was getting late, real late. The walkers were starting to calm in the quiet dark, as most everybody was inside the prison, no longer stirring up a ruckus and inadvertently riling the walkers up. He finished off the cigarette before stubbing it out on the asphalt, breathing out a cloud of blue smoke on a sigh. Time to get back inside. Rick would probably want to talk again. Ever since his last run near about a week ago, when he'd returned empty handed but for books, they'd been planning and discussing the inevitability that Daryl would simply have to take a large group out and try to get into the big market. Tossing one final look at the crowd of walkers, he hauled himself onto his feet and headed towards C-block.

Upon making his way inside, though, he was relieved to see the place was pretty much settled for the night. Even Carl seemed to be bunked in, although Daryl suspected he was reading comics under the covers with a flashlight again, based on the papery rustling and muffled laughter he heard. Used to be the boy was stealing guns and running off, now he was staying up nights, laughing it up over Spiderman or some shit. Daryl smirked to himself. Carl was a good kid.

He liked quiet nights like this, when everyone was tucked away and quiet. It gave him a chance to take a walk through the block, double checking that all was as it should be, everyone safe and all the doors locked up. He'd sometimes wake in the night, breathing heavy and sweating, and do a quick walk through of the place with his bow over his shoulder and his knife on his belt. Daryl wasn't one for talking, but it didn't mean he didn't keep an eye and an ear on things. Rick's cell was quiet except for the occasional snore; the man was probably sleeping off all the hours spent building that ramshackle pigpen and weeding. Carol's cell was quiet and dark as well, her breathing low and slow. Hershel was reading, judging by the light spilling under the curtain in front of his door. The man always read his bible before bed. Said he was getting old and didn't need as much sleep as he used to, but needed his gospel more than ever. Daryl figured he could understand that, even though he'd never found anything in the damn book. Maggie and Glenn's cell was as it usually was: dark, with muffled laughter and sighs and all that bullshit going on. No surprise there.

Beth was up, though, judging by the soothing melodic whispers and intermittent fussy, high-pitched baby grunts. He'd seen her with the baby often enough, knew what it looked like. She'd be rocking and pacing, and girl moved so prettily it would look almost like ballroom dancing without the fancy dress. The baby's fat cheeks would be red and tearstained, a little crease in her tiny forehead. Beth had the patience of a saint, though, and would be dancing and humming until Lil Asskicker reluctantly slipped into sleep. He paused for a moment, just listening. Something about that little girl and her beautiful caretaker made Daryl feel good, like maybe there was a chance for something better. That eventually shit could go back to something like the way it was before. Maybe not for him, but for Jude.

The hummed lullaby, soft and low, washed over him, soothing away some of his constant tension. Same song she was singing a while ago, but he still couldn't figure out what it was. He inhaled deeply, the air of the prison heavy but fresh, and he closed his eyes for a quick moment, listening to the soft sounds of the group sleeping, resting, reading, acting like a bunch of rabbits. Everyone was where they should be for the moment.

He turned from Beth's cell, made his way up to his perch. Maybe he'd sleep the night through, this time.

He was gutting a deer in the yard, mind only half on his task. It was something he'd been doing since he was a kid, didn't have to focus too much on what his hands were doing.

Daryl wasn't much given to thinking about his past. Didn't much see the point, since most of it was nothing but shit. But his mind usually wandered when he was up to the elbows in guts, peeling back deer skin and cutting through muscle and sinews. He could see things, sometimes, like they were yesterday. His mom's face, sagging skin and red-rimmed eyes. A good day, when his dad took him and Merle to a high school football game. Going camping with just a shitty knife he'd lifted from the store, getting lost. It was like watching one of those art films, disjointed scenes moving together to make something only something like a storyline. Goddamn, but he missed watching movies. Used to have stacks of them, would hunt through the five-dollar bin at Wal-Mart some midnights when he left the bar early, too sick of Merle's shit to stick around. He'd drink a few beers and watch movies until his eyes burned and he fell into bed.

He'd been reading lately. Beth gave him a big book, one of the ones he'd grabbed at that church. From Here to Eternity. Daryl had seen the movie, some old black and white thing about Pearl Harbor just before the attack, ages ago. Couldn't much remember it, but he liked the book, even though it felt a little like pulling teeth sometimes. Gave him something to do in those quiet moments when he'd rather not be alone with his thoughts.

Daryl was quick with the deer carcass, getting rid of what they couldn't use and bringing the meat into the kitchen. He handed the venison off to a short, older woman with long grey hair and bifocals, a transplant from Woodbury who knew what to do with the fresh meat. He never remembered her name, but he remembered that she told him about her husband, who had been a hunter before he got himself bit. He had a real nice gun, used to get hunting magazines delivered to his house every month and read them out loud to her as she quilted. All that was gone now, but she always seemed happy to see Daryl. He'd have to ask Carol or Beth what her name was.

He washed up before grabbing some food. It was late, well after lunch time, and he was thankful the kitchen and cafeteria are all but cleared out. Daryl took a whole table to himself, spreading his crossbow and other gear across the table as a warning, and immediately started stuffing greens into his face, suddenly more hungry than he had realized.

Daryl was almost done when Beth walked into the cafeteria, book tucked under her arm and bowl in her hands. She caught sight of him real quick, and before he knew it, he was clearing a space for her. She smiled at him as she sat down, plunking down that battered copy of Gone With the Wind between her bowl of greens and his big buck knife.

"Good hunting today, I saw," she says, still smiling.

He nodded, poking this fork into the soggy remnants of lunch. "Yeah," he said, ducking his head. He pulled his handkerchief out, a stained red mechanics rag he pilfered from some auto shop a while back, and wiped his mouth. "Y'ain't got your shadow. Who's got Lil' Asskicker?"

"Carol. She wanted a break from laundry duty. I got a whole half-hour of freedom before I gotta fold a giant stack of shirts. Might even finish up a chapter," she answered, tapping a clean nail on the book cover.

"Saw the movie," he volunteered after a moment of silence. "She's a piece'a work, that woman."

"Didn't figure you for the Gone With the Wind type," Beth said with a teasing smile.

He felt a self-conscious blush starting on his neck. He scraped the last of his meal into his mouth and chewed before answering. "Seen a lot of movies."

"Maggie cried when she read the book, and she cried at the movie. I still make fun of her for it. She likes to act all tough, but she's a big baby when it comes to Scarlett and Rhett."

Daryl figured most women cried at that movie. His ma had, he remembered. He studied Beth for a moment, the blonde mop pulled up out of her face, the neat and careful way she ate her greens. She moved so purposefully, an entrancing economy of motion she'd grown into when Jude had been dropped into her lap. She moved like he figured a mother ought to, efficient and confident. Wearing an overlarge sweater and jeans, Beth looked like something he just had to see. One moment, her ponytail would fall over her face and she'd look just like a kid, a high school girl at the homecoming game. Other moments, the light would catch the side of her face, light up her eyes, and he could see something else: the curve of her neck, the sky blue eyes that watched over him and everybody else, seeing all sorts of stuff no one else did. "You didn't cry? Thought girls turned into mop buckets over that damn book."

Beth laughed. "Nothin' to cry about, Daryl. She'll get him back. We just never see it happen." Her blue eyes locked onto his, and he didn't let himself look away. "Remember when she said she'd never go hungry again? I think she's finally figured out what it's like to feel real hunger for something that isn't money or Ashley or Tara. She'll be real pissed that he's gone, madder than a cat. But he'll come back when he's ready. And then she'll get her way, an' she knows it."

He made a noncommittal noise in his throat, watching her finish up her meager lunch. When she was done, they stood together, the silence comfortable. Beth waited patiently as he gathered up his bow and knife, holding onto her book with both hands. Daryl walked alongside her as they wandered out to the yard. He saw a smile cross her face as the spring light hit her face, and she brought a hand up to her forehead to shield her eyes. "It's gettin' nice out," she said. "Summer'll be here soon."

"Gonna be a hot one." She dropped her arm, and her hand briefly brushed his. It was a light touch, just a slight warm pressure before the cool air hit his skin again. He saw her slim profile out of the corner of his eye, but he didn't turn his head. They lapsed into silence again as they made their way to where Carol and Rick had erected a long series of cords hung from wooden poles to serve as a laundry line. It was a slight detour for him, as he'd planned on spending the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out why one of the cars was making a clicking noise and generally being a pain in the ass. Detour or not, though, Daryl wanted to spend a few more minutes with Beth.

The laundry flapped in the wind, snapping and billowing gently. Smelled nice on this side of the yard. It was close to the prison, not so close to where the walkers pressed up against the fence and growled and moaned. Maybe it was the girl next to him. Maybe it was the normal sight of clean laundry hanging out in the bright Georgia sun. Could've been a lot of things. But Daryl felt good for a moment, like he did those nights walking around the cell block, checking up on everybody and listening to Lil' Asskicker's lullabies, or Hershel's prayers, or Carl's muffled laughter.

Beth sighed next to him. "Always something to be done." She ginned up at him, though, and he felt himself give a tiny smile in return. He was just about to nod a good bye before stalking off to his mechanic-corner when she reached out a hand, her small white hand just a few inches from his forearm.

"Can I tell you something?" she asks.

Daryl looks at her curiously, keeping his face blank. Her blue eyes are less calm than usual, pink lips slightly parted. She wasn't young Beth in this moment, but the woman and mother he saw earlier, all clean movement and grace, a tough woman wrapped in silky soft skin with baby blue eyes that looked harder than they did when looking after the baby. It was the way her eyes looked when she was on fence duty, hard and determined, impossible to tell how bothered she really was. He nods at her.

"I was so mad at you when you left with your brother. Couldn't figure out why you thought you had to leave." Her voice is soft.

He opened his mouth, not knowing what's about to come out of himself, but Beth kept talking. "I think I know a little better now. But I think a part of me knew, even then, that you'd back."

Daryl closed his mouth, looked at her through narrowed eyes.

"I'm real sorry about your brother. But I'm glad you're back here, with us. It's where you belong, I think."

After a long moment, Beth dropped her eyes from his and turned her gaze to the laundry flapping in the wind, the walkers just beyond that fence. He couldn't think of a single thing to say. He took a deep breath, listened to the laundry moving in the wind, almost drowning out the miserable walkers. And underneath all that, he could hear his own heartbeat.

Daryl thought for a second about reaching out his hand, considered letting himself touch her wild hair or the smooth skin on the back of her clean, white hand. He didn't. Instead, he curled his fingers over the strap of his crossbow and watched her fidget, just a tiny bit, under his unblinking gaze.


She looked over, eyes mostly calm now, steadily meeting his gaze. Her face was neutral, as though they were talking about what color the grass was. But her eyes were stormy, and he couldn't even begin to try what she was thinking. He couldn't think of a single thing to say, so he just nodded over her shoulder at the distant chain-link fence. "Be careful over here. Keep an eye on that fence."

Daryl turned, already walking away. But not before he caught the half-smile on her lips, not before he memorized the tiny hand tucking a loose blond curl behind her ear.

Beth's words stuck to him something fierce. Never usually had too much trouble falling asleep, but that night, Daryl felt like the morning would come before he'd ever get to closing his eyes. He read for hours, until his eyes ached and he had to shut the damn thing. He liked story, liked Robert E. Lee Prewitt, the fucked-up thirty year army man, but his eyes were killing him and he couldn't keep his eyes open for another page.

Only trouble was, when he shut his eyes, instead of falling fast asleep, he just heard her voice. Sometimes she was singing, sometimes she was telling how mad she was. Or maybe she was talking about her book again, maybe she was talking to Lil' Asskicker or Maggie. He couldn't tell anymore, because his mind had been running all night and everything she'd said in the past few weeks was starting to turn into one big blur in his mind.

Daryl scrubbed his hands over his face, pressing the heels of his hands into his screwed-shut eyes for a moment, trying to force himself to sleep. But he knew it wasn't gonna happen, so he sat back up, letting his eyes look around the darkened cell. Bow where it always was, right next to the bed. Knife next to it. Haphazard junk, strings and rags and other bullshit he'd collected, was all piled up in one corner and his meager toiletries and assortment of holey clothes stacked up in another, his freshly cleaned guns and some ammo lined up right by the entrance of his cell. A little light filtered under the raggedy blanket he had strung up as a makeshift door. Might as well go for a walk, he figured. Daryl had checked all the locks hours ago, before heading up to his cell, but he wasn't about to trust that someone had double checked it or that some idiot hadn't gone off and left something open, yawning and scratching their ass.

His mind quieted a bit after he'd pulled his jeans back on and gathered up his knife and bow. Ducking out of his cell with a huff, he made his way around down the cool, empty halls. His boots on the cement made only the barest echo, and he kept his breathing light and easy. Wasn't the first time he'd snuck around the cell block, and it wouldn't be the last. Wasn't like he didn't trust everyone, but he wasn't about to leave any of this up to chance. They all had a part to play. Rick was the leader, Daryl was the muscle, plain and simple, and he had to keep them all safe. Otherwise, he was just nothing.

He took a quick walk around, checking all the doors and windows, eyeing the bolts that held the doors shut. After making sure everything was good, he walked past each cell, checking that all were where should be. Daryl heard the same masculine snores as always from Rick, Hershel and even Carl, who must've finally given them damn comics a rest for the night. He heard a sleepy sigh from Maggie and an answering grumble from Glenn; those two couldn't knock it off, even when they were sleeping. Carol slumbered on, her snores barely audible over the creak of her rusty prison bunk. Restless sleeper, always tossing and turning. Michonne's cell was silent as usual; woman hadn't been back for nearly three weeks. Hoped the fool woman would be back soon, but he knew the why of it, at least. Could understand why she felt she had to go out there.

Beth's cell was the same as always: faint cooing and murmured singing, a few gasping yawns from Lil' Asskicker, the faint sounds of Beth's light feet pacing gracefully. And those sounds, familiar in the grey and gloomy cell block, felt just as nice to him as always. From the muffled sounds, it seemed like Jude was just about to fall asleep, lulled enough by the quiet song to slip off to sleep. So Daryl waited those last few moments, arms crossed and shoulder pressed into the wall. Still couldn't figure out what damn song she was signing, and her voice was just quiet enough to keep him from really hearing the words. He'd never ask her what song it was, but he reckoned if he gave it enough time, he might finally figure it out.

Beth's voice trailed off, the song disappearing into the shadows of the night and the faint hum of it hanging around Daryl's ears. Listening to all the sounds in the dark made them feel like something happening, not just sounds in his ears. A lot of dark nights in the woods, a lifetime of them, made him think that maybe sound meant more when you couldn't see.

He heard the rusty groan of her prison bunk and an answering human sigh from Beth. Daryl could almost see her, tired and aching from spending day and night pacing around with that little girl, climbing into bed and pulling her covers up over herself and finally getting the chance to close those blue eyes and trying to sleep away those circles they all had under their eyes. She never complained, that girl. Just carried the baby around on her tiny hip, kept her fed and safe and happy, doing all that for Lil' Asskicker and still smiling for everyone and making people feel good.

Daryl knew he was lingering. One last look around, and he slipped back off to his grey cell. He felt well and truly tired as he looked around at the shadowy outline of his earthly belongings before rolling into bed. Crossbow was back in place, knife in reach, boots where he could slip them right back on. As he tugged the threadbare quilt over his fully clothed body, he felt like he might finally fall asleep. He still heard Beth signing in his mind, but it wasn't troubling him like it was before. Actually felt nice, now. Damn girl's keeping me up nights, Daryl thought, but the words didn't really have any bite to them. He pulled his thin pillow over his head and fell asleep.

And if he dreamed of tangled blonde hair and wild blue eyes, a pretty face and tiny little body that fit just right in his hands, he didn't think too hard about it when he woke up. Couldn't hurt to want, couldn't hurt to keep an eye out for her. Nothing to be done for it but protect her from the walkers, the Governor, and anybody or anything else that might come along. He might want her, but more than that, he wanted her safe, and that was all there was to it.

He might never say it, but Daryl knew Beth was right. He was where he belonged. He came back when he was ready, and that was all there was to it. She had got her way. And that was enough.



Thank you for reading my first published fanfiction! I'm considering continuing this story (probably as a total AU), but I'd love to hear thoughts about where you might like to see this go, as well as any criticisms you might have about this story as it is. Reviews would be much appreciated- I like to know what I've done well, and what could be done better! I'm particularly interested to see what y'all think of my characterization of Daryl and Beth. Daryl's a total badass mystery (in some ways, in other ways, he's a little obvious, haha) and I don't feel like Beth is shown enough in the TV to really get a strong sense of who she really is. Anyways, enough blethering from me!

Thank you!