I do not own the Walking Dead.
Beth could not stop crying. They had been running for hours, her and Daryl. She was exhausted and her mind was in overdrive thinking of all that just happened at the prison. Daddy was really dead? Her mind could not wrap around that thought. And Judith? She couldn't even bear to think about what might have happened to her. She had horrible images floating through her head, baby Judith being attacked by walkers. She almost couldn't breathe. Her chest felt constricted and felt as if her very heart was breaking. She followed Daryl blindly for the first few hours. Finally her sobs dwindled down to hiccups. Her eyes burned. And her feet hurt. Daryl was just plunging ahead clearing the way for them and trying to track the others.
Suddenly Daryl stopped; all the sudden the trail had gone cold. He turned around and looked at Beth. "I can't find any more tracks". It had started raining in the past hour. The rain mixed with the Georgia dirt started to form mud. The trail was gone. They had lost everything. Daryl sat down on a fallen log; an old oak in the forest they were in, weathered by this new apocalyptic world they lived in. For once in the past two years, he had no idea what to do next. He looked at Beth. "We're going to have to find a place to camp for the night". Somewhere high, away from walkers, he was thinking. Beth just nodded at him. Good lord, the girl had cried since they left the prison in a hurry, running for their lives. He tried to pretend that her crying didn't affect him, but truth was it was breaking his heart not being able to comfort her. He was in his own pain. Watching Hershel die like that. And the Governor, stupid bastard. He hoped he rotted in hell. So much had happened, it was hard to absorb at all.
Daryl got back up and continued walking, expecting Beth to follow. He looked back at her. She had sat down next to him on the log. Now her head was in her hands. She looked as exhausted as he felt. Still it was getting dark and they needed to find shelter. "Come'on Beth, we gotta go". She looked at him blankly. Oh God, he hoped she wasn't going to go off the deep end. He just couldn't do it. Crying girls always made him uncomfortable but Beth. There was somethin' different about her. He had this overwhelming urge to protect her. Not even like a sister. Daryl could not deny to himself that she was beautiful, but he tried to keep girls like her at arm's length. When he had hugged her the night Zach had died, he wanted to hold onto her forever. But it wasn't proper. He was twice her age. He was 38, but knew he looked at least 45. Life had been hard on him and Merle. Merle. It was hard to believe he was gone too. He prodded Beth again "Come'on girl, we gotta get a move on". She stared at him blankly.
"Are they all dead Daryl? Somebody had to have made it out 'sides us. Maggie..." She trailed off, tears welling up in her eyes. Daryl could see that she was starting to lose it. He walked over to her and held out his hand. She looked at him and silently placed her delicate hand in his.
Beth thought Daryl's hands felt rough but it was nice. She felt safe holding his hand. She allowed him to pull her to her feet. Daryl tried to pull his hand away but she resisted. "Please Daryl, just hold my hand a little while?" She looked at him imploringly with her bright blue eyes, made even brighter by the recent tears she had shed.
Damnit, Daryl thought. So much for keeping her at arm's length. He felt something tug at his insides whenever he looked at this girl, but touching her? He wasn't sure he could keep her at arm's length when her skin was so soft under his. His callused fingers clasped her petite ones and he gently pulled her alongside him. They walked like this until they came to a cabin on the outskirts of the forest. It was rugged but it looked to have two stories. If they could get inside and go to the top floor, they could find a way to barricade the upstairs so walkers couldn't get up there. Walkers were scary, ugly sons-a-bitches, but they were dumb and slow. He and Beth walked up to the door, Daryl having to let go of Beth's hand to steady his arrow and she gripping her knife. They were wary. Daryl easily took out a lone walker on the porch. There didn't seem to be any others around. Walking inside, it smelled faintly of pine, but stale air had locked this cabin up. It seemed to be an old hunting cabin. Like some of the ones he and Merle used to come across back in the day.
Daryl led Beth to one of the main rooms chairs and let her sit down. He quickly cleared the only other room on this floor, the kitchen. Then he proceeded up the stairs after barricading the door with a sofa. The upstairs had a loft style bedroom and a small bathroom. This would do. He walked back down the stairs to get Beth. He looked for anything they could rig up to alert them to the presence of walkers. They needed sleep. Darkness had fallen and they were both tired. Maybe things would look better in the morning after a little sleep. He found some empty cans and a pot and pan in the kitchen. He got some twine out of his pocket; he kept it on him at all times. You never knew when you'd need it to secure the fences outside the prison. He smirked. Wouldn't have to worry about those fences anymore. After rigging up their own personal alarm system along the stairs, they trudged slowly upstairs.
Beth stopped at the top, eyeing the one bed in the room. She didn't even care. She was so tired, all she wanted to do was sleep for a week. She went over and laid down clothes, boots and all. Daryl shuffled slowly behind her and crossed to the other side of the bed. He looked at the blond and she met his eyes. A silent look passed between them. Neither one of them was comfortable sleeping with another person, but they had little choice. Daryl just hoped he could keep his thoughts pure. He was pretty sure they were both so tired, it wouldn't matter. He laid down his bow and sat on the edge of the bed. Beth scooted over and leaned her head against his back.
He could hear her breath in his ear. He turned to face her and awkwardly put an arm around her. By some tacit agreement they both laid down, Daryl with his arm around Beth and she let her head fall onto his chest. They laid there like that for some time, each lost in their own thoughts.
Beth liked the feel of Daryl's strong arms around her. Laying her head on his chest was nothing like the times she had spent with Jimmy and then Zach. They were boys. Daryl was...well, he was a man.
Daryl felt like he was breathing too shallow. All the sudden he was aware of every breath Beth took. He felt this overwhelming urge to protect her. Propriety be damned, he liked holding this delicate girl. In the space of 24 hours, she had become his whole world. Maybe not by choice, but he was making the best of the situation. He could not bear to think about losing her too. The way she looked at him. God, it was agonizing. Daryl tried to push away the thoughts that were plaguing him. He wanted to kiss her, he realized. He wondered what it might feel like to kiss her lips. He bet they were soft and she would taste sweet. He felt a familiar heat rush through him and tried to force the thoughts away. He absently stroked her head.
Beth felt Daryl stroking her hair, lightly playing with her ponytail. God, she must look a mess. After everything they had been through the past 24 hours, being held just felt good. Suddenly she was thinking of Daryl in a whole new light. She had had a crush on him before, but that was before Zach and this was different. He was her protector. There was something really...sexy about it. Beth blushed thinking about it. She was a woman after all. Even though she was still a virgin, it didn't mean that she didn't have urges.
They fell asleep like that. Beth woke up sometime in the middle of the night, Daryl talking in his sleep. One whispered word had her breath hitched in her throat. He softly whispered "Beth", then exhaled and seemed to tighten his hold on her. He was dreaming about her? Beth let herself really relax against his muscular form. She wished this night could go on forever. Beth sighed and closed her eyes, sleep overtaking her once more.