The deceptive destructive force of fire had always mesmerized him. The warmth of the flames always fooled you into thinking that they were a good thing, they always hid their true intent of burning away everything that they touched.
His parents had never bothered much with deception. Their intent on burning him alive was always clear, with every taunt every hit. His mother actually did burn alive after falling asleep with a lit cigarette. Sometimes he wondered if that hadn't been the most fitting way for her to die.
Merle was different, Merle wasn't like fire at all. He possessed none of its deception and none of its warmth. Merle was like a thunderstorm when you were to far away for the lightening strikes to have any chance of hitting you. He was loud and frightening and ultimately far away.
Daryl knew that he wasn't like fire either, he had always imagined he was more like stone. He often wished he was stone: tough, unmovable, and next to impossible to break. But once the world ended and he found people actually worth caring about he found that he wasn't like stone at all, but like ice. A wall of ice, miles thick. But even the weakest flame will make ice start to melt.
When the prison was attacked and he escaped into the woods with Beth his last look over his shoulder showed him the smoke trailing up to the sky. It felt fitting, watching his first real home go up in flames in the way he'd often imagined his childhood had. He felt himself freeze over even more in the days to follow. Having lost nearly everyone he had ever cared about made all his ice that had melted freeze over once age, like an ice age in his soul. He'd sit and stare into their fires at nights in the hopes that it would melt some of the ice around his heart. Closer and closer to the flames he crept, in the desperate attempt that the frozen parts of him would begin to thaw.
What he never realized was that the fire in the girl next to him burned hotter than any flame their hands could build.
If he to describe Beth before the attack, he would have described her as soil. She was grounded and she could withstand just about anything while still nurturing others to grow. They never really spoke in the years they had been together, she tended to stick to her family or the other women and he tended to stick to Rick and Carol. He had never gotten close enough to her to feel the flames licking at his skin.
The day that she adamantly insisted on getting a drink of alcohol he began to feel the heat. At one point the heat burned him and he thawed to quickly, yelling at her for things that weren't her fault. Lashing out in an attempt to put out the fire in her. But when you add heat to flames it does not get burned, it only gets hotter.
The heat he had felt radiating off her when she yelled back at him was even hotter than the flames that that burned hot on their backs as the house burned behind them. Burning the house down had felt cleansing, as though he had burned up his past with it.
None of that heat however, compared to the furnace her skin put off when he touched it.
The first time he touched her was unintentional, at least that's what he told himself after. They were scavenging for food in an abandoned house and she saw something that made her start crying. He never asked her what it was, he was still not sure how to behave around crying women. He simply told her to keep it quiet. She stared at him as if he he had just told her that his life goal was to become a walker. She began to smolder, telling him that if she wanted to cry she would do it as loud as she pleased. Her voice was beginning to grow louder in the gradual build it always did before she combusted. He grabbed her arms and pressed his mouth to hers in a desperate attempt to get her to shut up. He didn't mean to deepen the kiss, really he hadn't, but the warmth of her lips was more intoxicating than any drink he'd ever tasted. What had started as a endeavor for quiet lasted for a few minutes before they both snapped to their senses and pulled apart. They had stared at each for a few seconds before stepping away and pretending that it had never happened.
Of course the second time was undeniably his fault. He thought that teaching her to shoot the crossbow would be an easy feat, which it was in the fact that she was a quick learner. It was not easy because it required him to be close to her, to touch her. Even through their clothes he could feel the warmth of her skin burning his fingertips. He was correcting her arms to better her aiming position when she turned to look at him over he shoulder. Even her eyes could burn him. She looked so intent on focusing on his words, his lesson, and the heat made him dizzy. He leaned forward and kissed her, his arms dropping from her shoulders to wrap around her waist, turning her around to pull her flush against his chest. The crossbow hung limply from her hand as her other hand wrapped around the back of his neck to pull him closer. The fall chill burned away at the touch of her but his hunger only grew with her taste. A rabbit jumping from the bushes startled them apart and Beth turned and shot the rabbit through the belly in one motion.
That night his hunger for food was satisfied, but not his hunger for her.
The third time, well that was all on Beth. They were making camp in the woods next to a creek when she decided she couldn't stand being covered in blood, dirt and assorted muck anymore. She told him she was going down to the creek to clean up and headed off. He tried to focus on cleaning his remaining arrows, not thinking about her naked body dripping with water. It didn't work. Finally he decided he needed to be clean too and she didn't have a monopoly on the creek. When he pushed his way past the bushes he stopped dead in his tracks as the sight before him was better than anything he could have imagined.
"Took you long enough." Beth told him with a smile as she walked forward to slide his jacket off his shoulders. Standing on her toes she kissed him and he simply let her fire consume him.