Hello Dear Readers,

On the prompt from a few reviews of The Best of Me, I figured I would take our favorite couple and put them in a real situation without zombies, strife and murder like we are used to seeing them in. I read a piece called "Rough" on here by NormanReedusLover that was completely AU with Beth and Daryl thrown into the real world. I totally enjoyed reading something with them in it that wasn't zombies, and thought I would throw them into a world I am intimately familiar with-deployed military member with loved ones at home. So with that said, it should be clear as day that this is a COMPLETELY AU fanfic. Please be kind with your reviews, I'm still licking my wounds from the flaming of The Best of Me.

I hope you all enjoy this!


Beth Greene reached up to pluck one of the colorful cards off the beautiful Christmas tree that stood in the foyer of the church she attended. The tree stood six feet tall; the lights twinkled like stars around the metallic baubles and garland that adorned the boughs. An angel topped the tree, giving it an ethereal appearance in the stone darkness of the foyer. A few cards still sparsely hung on the branches, as if people just forgot they were there. Beth felt terrible for the last two cards that hung on the tree, making a mental note to take them next Sunday if they were still there. June Betzner always had the Holidays for Heroes cards up every year, but this year was the first year Beth felt compelled to take one of the cards.

Beth had meant to take one every year prior, but she usually ducked out early from the end of the service to beat the crowd out of the parking lot to get home to study. She tucked the card into her purse, looking for an open spot in the pews for the morning services at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In the quiet of the congregation offering up their personal prayers to God, Beth felt herself relaxing. Her thoughts shifted to the card in her purse as she knelt down to pray; Beth grew up in the all American farm family, she had always respected the service members who spent months away from their families to protect the American people. That was how her family was: the kind that said grace before meals, went to church on Sunday and had strong family ties. That was the Greene family in a nutshell, American as apple pie.

Beth heard the first few bars of the processional begin; she came up slowly from her knees to watch the altar boys light the candles and the priest bow before the altar. The service passed quickly for Beth, Sunday Mass was autopilot for her after so many years of going with her family, her faith was really becoming habitual but she couldn't just stop it. Beth scooted out to the parking lot; clicking the button on her key fob, hearing the engine turn over and the lights flash on her Ford Explorer. She hated the cold of New York, but was slowly adjusting to it since this was her sixth year at New York Medical College. Another full year and Beth would graduate with her Doctorate in Medicine and would be able to license and practice anywhere she wanted to in the nation.


Pulling into the drive through lane of the local Starbucks, Beth ordered her usual venti chai latte and waited for her turn at the receiving window. Digging through her purse to get her wallet, Beth's fingers grazed over the card from the tree at church. Pulling it out with her wallet, Beth flipped the card over and read the neatly typed sticker attached to the card:

CMC Dixon, Daryl W.

NMCB 17 / Alfa Company

Camp Fallujah, Iraq

FPO-AE 09532-7415

Beth's breath caught in her throat, Iraq was where the heavy fighting was from what the news portrayed lately. Between the IED's and the terrorist attacks, Americans were in a precarious situation in the desert that seemed to have no reprieve. A car honking startled Beth out of her concerned state, the card with the name slipping through her fingers falling to the floorboard. "Damn it." she muttered, pulling up to the window to exchange her money for the chai that was hanging out in the cold air. Beth drank deep from the cup in her hand, the rich flavor of the milk and tea distracting her thoughts of CMC Daryl Dixon in Iraq. Unlocking the front door of her apartment; Beth tossed her purse onto the couch as she shucked out of her winter coat and heels. She hummed to herself as she changed into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, washing the makeup off her face. Beth sighed at the feeling of her clean face, pulling her hair up into a high ponytail.

"Damn it, I forgot that card out in the truck." Beth huffed as she grabbed her keys off the kitchen bar, running out the door in her bare feet. Her toes crunched over the powder soft snow, Beth's hand jerked the truck door open, seeing the bent corner of the card underneath the driver's seat. She smoothed the card out before shutting the truck door; the snowflakes falling into her hair as she hightailed it to the door of her apartment, the card held tight to her chest.

Beth set the card down at her computer desk, pouring herself a glass of ice water before she started in on her cardiology homework that was due for tomorrow's class. Staring at the knowledge module of a heart pumping blood, Beth's eyes darted to the card again. She was supposed to be doing tests with different drugs on the online heart and logging her findings. But that wasn't happening with her curiosity getting the best of her; Beth saved her answers, logging out of the school's online learning site. Beth brought up the Google search engine, typing in NMCB 17 Alfa Company, getting a few good hits. The first was a Navy website, that clued her into that Daryl was part of the Navy, but what would he be doing in the desert of Iraq? Wasn't everyone in the Navy stationed on ships at sea? She took a long drink of her glass of water before pulling up the next site on the list, which happened to be the battalion's public website.

Beth read through the history of how the battalion was created and that it was home based in Fort Carson, CO. There were pictures of the Commanding Officer, a Lieutenant Sean Kelly, who looked about fifty and knew the meaning of a hard day's work, but no pictures of what they were doing in Iraq and definitely no pictures of Daryl. Not that she cared what he looked like really, she just liked to have a face that went with the name on the card. Looking through the website she learned that NMCB 17 was a Naval Mobile Construction Battalion, and were affectionately known as "Seabees". The Seabee motto explained a lot, "We Build, We Fight." So Daryl was part of a group who was moving around building and fighting in Iraq, which made Beth feel better that he was doing more than just fighting. Beth couldn't find much else on the website, she figured she could send a letter and ask Daryl questions about what he did. That would be the most direct way of getting information about what he did and what he was involved in.

Beth clicked through a few more websites about what was acceptable to send to troops in Iraq, finding that pork products and anything pornographic was prohibited. Like she was going to send anything pornographic to a complete stranger- that was just disturbing. Most of the sites said travel size bathroom items, baby wipes, books, cd's and homemade baked goods were always appreciated and welcome to deployed troops. She decided then that she would bake two dozen of her mother's famous chocolate chip cookies and send them off to Daryl with a letter explaining who she was and how she came across his address. If it was her in his shoes, she would love to get a box of homemade cookies and a note of appreciation from someone in the States when she was so far from home.


Beth closed the laptop; grabbing her notebook out of her backpack and a pen, laying down on her bed with a blank page in front of her. Her mother always said if you were going to write a letter to someone that you should always handwrite it, that it carried more of yourself with it and it was more personal. Beth quickly scribbled down what she needed to make the cookies, thinking she would go over to the C-Town and pick up the ingredients to make cookies today. She knew she could get the box out in the morning mail before her 10am class, that way she wouldn't forget about it being in her truck during class.

Beth caught herself writing the letter without much thought put to it, words filling up the new blank page in front of her.

Dear CMC Dixon,

Hello, how are you? My name is Beth Greene and I came across your address on the Holidays for Heroes tree at my local church. I thought I would write to you and thank you for your selfless sacrifice to serve our country. I have the upmost respect for you doing what you do, it takes a special kind of person to give up so much for strangers. I can't imagine what it is like over there in Iraq, your family must be worried about you and miss you terribly. What is it that you do over there? What is your day like? Do you like what you're doing over there? I watch the news nightly, but I'm sure what I see on it is nothing like what you experience. I hope you enjoy the cookies that are in this box, I baked them using my mother's blue ribbon winning recipe. I would love to correspond with you if that's okay? I know it sounds cheesy, like being pen pals when you're kids, but I'd really appreciate it if I could know that you got this package and you're okay. I wish you all the best, and hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

Beth

Beth sighed at the words on the page in her flowing handwriting. She really had no idea what to say to someone she didn't know, but felt she should say something to. Beth was sure the man had a family here in the States, but she didn't see any harm in sending him a box of goodies every once in a while with a friendly letter. The websites said that deployed service members loved getting mail from "back home" since many didn't have families to go home to. She really couldn't imagine not having a family to come home from war to; her family was such an integral part of her life that Maggie called or texted almost daily and her mama and daddy called once a week to check in with her. Family was the cornerstone in her life, and at some point Beth hoped to have a family of her own after she graduated and got settled in her career as a doctor.

Getting up from the bed, Beth grabbed a pair of socks out of her drawer, slipping into her boots and pulling a heavy hoodie over her t-shirt. The C-Town was just a few miles away, there wasn't any point in putting on her heavy jacket and purse. Roaming up and down the aisles of the grocery store proved to be detrimental to Beth's bank account, she ended up with more in her cart than was on her list. That was how it always was when Beth went to the store hungry, forgetting to get lunch after church. She cringed swiping her debit card at the checkout, knowing that she would have to make what was in the cart last the next three weeks until her work study money came in for the month. Beth carried the groceries into her one bedroom apartment, putting everything away but the things she needed to make the cookies. She set the oven to 325 and set about making the dough. The dough came together just like Beth remembered it when she made it with her mother, doling it out in clumps onto the parchment lined cookie sheets.

Beth's cellphone rang in her purse, distracting her from the cookies baking in the oven. Beth smiled when she saw it was her mother calling, clicking the button and crooking the phone in between her shoulder and neck.

"Hi Mama, how are you and Daddy?" Beth greeted her mother with a happy chipper to her voice.

"We're good baby, how are you? You sound happy." Beth instantly relaxed at her mother's thick southern accent, it wasn't something she heard often up in New York.

"I'm good, I'm making your cookies for a Holidays for Heroes project I picked up at church today. It's an address of a deployed service member that I can send care packages to, so I thought he would appreciate some cookies." Beth felt her smile at telling her mother what she was working on.

"That's wonderful honey, where is this young man deployed to?" Annette was pleased yet concerned for the destination of the cookies her youngest was making to send through the mail.

"He's in the Navy and he's in Iraq Mama. I'm sort of worried for him being over there with everything I've seen on the news lately." Annette knew that Beth had a good heart; it would be out of character if she wasn't worried for this complete stranger, that was just how she was.

"Well I'm sure he is okay sweetheart, and I'm sure he will enjoy your cookies. I'll leave you to it then before you burn them. We love you and miss you, looking forward to you coming home for Christmas in a few weeks." Annette's words brought Beth to the present, making her realize that her cookies were indeed burning.

"Gotta go Mama, love you and Daddy." Beth hung up quickly, sprinting for the small kitchen to pull out the pan of cookies. Sliding them onto cooling racks; Beth realized that she had saved them just in the nick of time, a minute or two more and the cookies would have been trash can fodder. Sighing with relief Beth put the rest of the dough onto a cool cookie sheet and set a timer. She wasn't about to be embarrassed by sending somewhat burnt cookies to Iraq, and she wasn't going to start a fresh batch just to end up eating the dough herself.

With the cookies cooled, boxed up with an address written on the top of the box and her homework done, Beth curled up with a book that her friend Leah had loaned her weeks ago. Beth had been promising to read it, but hadn't found time until now. Lost in the world of dwarves and elves, Beth tucked the card with Daryl's address in as a bookmark before finding something for dinner.