Disclaimer: I do not own The Walking Dead nor am I in any way affiliated with the show, the comics or AMC. This is strictly a work of fiction for entertainment purposes only. Thanks.
A/N: As always, everyone who reviewed, you have my heart. Thank you so much for the encouragement. It means the world to me. Please continue to do so. I am having so much fun writing this, it is good to know that you are enjoying it. Please, please, please let me know what you think about this chapter as well.
Alright, on to the story!
Nearly a month had passed. Joe had spent almost an entire month chasing after that boy and his fresh faced little whore. Not that time mattered much anymore, anyhow. Even it if did, it wouldn't make a difference to him. Not in this case. He would hunt Daryl to the ends of the earth, until one or both of them were dead.
And he was getting close.
He had done some fast talking, peppered with just the right mixture of encouragement and threats to convince his boys that they couldn't keep leaving the trail at dusk to find buildings for shelter. They were mean, dammit, and they would stop cowering in the dark. That had made up some time. Add to that the fact that the boys slept less comfortably outside; they were more inclined to get up and get moving before dawn. That made up even more time.
Daryl was a smart. It had taken Joe a while to figure out what he was doing when he had found the trail. He and his little bitch would walk along the tracks for a while and then cut into the woods for a while. Eventually, the always made their way back to the tracks though. Joe thought it might be a smart move to just stay on the tracks to intercept them, but he didn't want to pass them by. He didn't want to give them the advantage of coming upon him and the boys from an angle which Joe might not see them first.
Maybe it was a better call to just keep following in their footsteps and try to catch up.
He needed to think on it a little bit. But for now, the comfort was in the notion that the distance that separated him from Daryl, and from that little bit of sweetness he had with him, was growing shorter and shorter every day.
He was almost on them. He would have them.
This was the most fun he had had since the world ended.
Hell, maybe even before that.
It had been days since that night in the shed and the subsequent argument in the woods. Seven? Ten? It was hard to really keep track. Nothing had changed but everything had changed. They camped only for a few hours each night; only long enough to get the barest amount of sleep. Then, still under the cover of a darkened sky, they followed the train tracks. When dawn came, Daryl would steer them into the woods for better cover. He didn't tense up quite as much anymore when Beth leaned against him to sleep, or just for comfort's sake. She could still feel the tightening of his muscles at the initial contact, but not instead of staying that way, he would almost instantly relax. It was a good sign, she thought.
They had had sex twice more.
Of course, both of those times Beth had basically attacked him in his sleep.
He told her that she was too loud; she made too much noise; she would attract the walkers. He even went so far as too cover her mouth with his hand at one point, which Beth was not ashamed to admit had only turned her on even more. She would have tried to quiet herself but there had been this look in his eye when he had said it, a look that made her think that he liked that she was loud. And she wanted that. She wanted him to want to be with her as much as she wanted to be with him. So far, she had been the only one to start something. He hadn't rebuffed her, not once since their fight. But every kiss, every night she leaned against him, every physical sign of affection had been initiated by her.
At first this had bothered her. Until one morning, she had glanced over at him as they broke camp. He had been moving leaves and dirt around, hiding any disturbed ground, covering their tracks as best he could and it had dawned on her. Those stupid little symbols of affection that girls her age had always put so much stock in back in that other life; those were meaningless, useless and Daryl wasn't that guy. Those weren't the things that mattered. Daryl showed his affection every night when he made sure that she was fed before he ate anything himself, he made sure she kept warm at night, he made her drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated. He showed his affection every time he looked her in the eye, every time she touched him and he didn't pull away, every time he taught her something new to help ensure that she could survive. Every time he smiled. It was a revelation of monumental proportions and it caused Beth to feel as light as a feather for the rest of that day. Daryl Dixon was not a man who was going to pull her into his arms and whisper sweet nothings into her ear. She doubted he even knew any sweet nothings; he wasn't that guy. He was too straight forward for that. No, Daryl let her know that he cared for her by doing just that, taking care of her. Plain and simple.
So, she would do her best to take care of him as well.
It was still a few hours until dawn when they reached the train tracks. Daryl was determined to cover a lot of ground before the sun came up. Beth understood that but she was starting to feel—like that were okay. It had been so long and they always seemed to be moving; surely they had put enough distance between themselves and Joe. That was if the man had even been able to pick up their trail at all. Surely they had reached a point where they could start to breathe easier. Be safe.
Maybe start to find a way to be happy.
Daryl knew that Beth wanted for him to tell her that they were good now; that now the biggest threat they faced were the walkers. He just didn't know and he wouldn't chance it. Not with her. He knew that there was more that she wanted from him, too. So much had happened that he was still trying to process it all. He wasn't sure that he knew how to do all this. He only had a handful of examples to draw from. His mom and pops had spent their days drinking and yelling and throwing things at each other. That was no help. He sure as shit wasn't going to treat Beth the way he had seen Merle treat his women, no. There was Rick and Lori—and Shane and Lori—yeah, that hadn't turned out so well, either. Then, of course, there was Maggie and Glenn. Great people that he would have done anything for but he wasn't really that kind of guy. So, no. No, he'd just keep being who he was and Beth would be who she was. She was strong; stronger than anybody he'd ever met. She'd help him with this—whatever it was.
Walking along the tracks, he noticed that she was lagging about two steps behind him. He didn't like that. He reached back for her hand and pulled her up to his side as she threaded her fingers through his. He had never really had that with anyone before; that closeness.
Unbidden, Carol came to mind.
He wondered where she was, if she was okay, if she was even alive. Rick had thrown her out before the Governor's attack, so maybe she had made it somewhere safe. Somehow, he felt as though she had. Carol was a tough lady, she was a survivor. He wasn't fool enough to believe that he'd ever seen his friend again, but Beth had helped to give him the strength to have hope. And he hoped good things for Carol. He hoped that she was alive and that she could find someone out there and not be alone.
No one should have to be alone.
Without meaning to, he tightened his hold on Beth's hand.
Beth returned the squeeze and drew Daryl's attention back to present.
"Daryl," she said, her tone soft, almost timid, "do you think Maggie's alive?"
"Your sister's pretty touch, Beth."
"You don't, do you?"
Daryl hesitated only slightly before he responded, "I just dunno."
Beth licked her lips and took a fortifying breath. He was not going to be happy with the subject that she was about to bring up, but she had to say it. She had to. "If she is alive, I bet she'd head for Terminus."
"Think about it. We're on our own. Everyone, if they made it out at all, they got scattered. Doesn't it seem logical that, after everything, they might try for a place offerin' safety? Especially considerin' how many of those signs we've seen."
"I don't trust it."
"I know. But what if it's for real? Don't we at least have to try?"
"Lemme think about it."
"You've been thinking about it!"
"Well, lemme think about it some more."
Beth wanted to shake him. She wanted to slap at him until he realized that what she was saying made perfect sense. What was worse was that he gave her a look as though she was the one being unreasonable. Daryl refused to trust anything. He had good reasons, she grant him that. But what kind of life could they build for themselves if they ran away from anything that even resembled community? And that's what she wanted to have with him—a life. Not just surviving but living. It was that desperate kind of hope in her heart that gave her the courage and confidence to say her next words.
"I think we should go to Terminus," she said.
"It might not be the smart move," Daryl replied.
"Daryl, I want to go to Terminus."
"I know that, Beth. I just haven't made up my mind, yet."
"And who said that you get to make all of the decisions?"
The question, her tone of voice, her no bullshit delivery, the whole package brought Daryl to a halt. Still holding her hand, he turned to face her. Her eyes were wide and had the hard glint of determination in them. She was ready to dig her heels in on this and Daryl had a sinking feeling in his gut that there wasn't a damn thing that he could do about it. In a move that was involuntary, he gave her hand a tug, bringing her body just a step closer to his.
"No," Beth said, her voice soft and deadly earnest, "you've been callin' all the shots, which I admit is for the best. You're smarter and better at it than I am. But, Daryl, if there's a chance, if there's the slightest chance for us to find out people, our family, don't we have to at least try? We can't give up. We can't."
She was amazing. He didn't think there would ever come a time that she didn't absolutely captivate him. She had such optimism, such hope, such faith that things could and would be alright. He wanted to reach out to her, touch her hair, touch her face, stroke her. He wanted to kiss her lips. Instead, he took a breath. He filled his lungs with air and emptied them. He didn't want to be the one to take away that hope, that unshaking belief in good. But something about Terminus felt—off. It felt wrong. He didn't want to cut down her hopes but neither would he put her into a situation where he might not be able to protect her.
Beth watched Daryl's eyes. She wondered if he knew how much they conveyed his feelings. He was a master at hiding his emotions, but not when you looked into those blue eyes. She watched them harden. He was going to say no, and she couldn't let him. A tactical retreat was in order for the moment.
"Beth," he started.
"We should keep movin'."
Daryl didn't say anything; just let out another long breath. Beth let go of his hand and turned away to continue down the tracks. She heard him fall into step behind her, though he didn't attempt to close the distance between them. She was grateful for the small bit of space. She needed to think; needed to figure out how to convince him that Terminus was a viable option. They continued on the path before them in silence.
The silence didn't bother Beth as it once had. She remembered those first days that they had been alone together; she had never known a man to be so quiet. And Daryl Dixon had presence; he had a presence that seemed to vibrate the air around him. The strength of that presence combined with the completeness of the silence had intimidated her; made her uncomfortable. Now, that same presence and quiet; that overwhelming strength of will, was as comfortable and welcoming to her as a warm blanket.
She almost felt guilty about wanting to go against the decision that he had clearly already made in regards to Terminus.
The inky blackness of night had quickly faded to the hazy mist blue of early dawn. Beth knew from routine that Daryl would want to get off of the tracks. She veered to the right, moved to step off into the woods. Daryl caught her by the elbow and yanked her back.
"Wait," he said.
He towed her forward about another ten yards before stopping. "What do you see?" he asked.
Beth stared back at him, her brows drawn together in obvious confusion. He pointed to the brush and repeated his question, "What do you see?"
Beth followed his gesture, her gaze raking over the trees, the branches, the ground. The first thing that drew her attention was a broken twig. It wasn't a huge sign, just a small twig dangling from its stem by a bit of bark still attached. Her eyes dropped to the ground directly beneath the twig. Crushed leaves, flattened down grass and trampled dirt. Her chest tightened.
"Somethin' came through here already," she said.
She studied the direction of the pattern, searching for the clues that Daryl had taught her to determine size and movement. When understanding came, her stomach jumped up in her throat and she took a step back, bumping into Daryl's solid body. "People."
Beth shook her head, "People. More than one."
"How long ago?"
"I don't—I don't know. I can't tell."
Normally, Daryl would tell her to focus, to think it through and figure out a time line. But she was panicking and he wanted to get her moving again. So he moved closer to get a better look at the trail, "An hour. Maybe two."
Beth curled her fingers into the material of Daryl's shirt at his forearm, "Is it Joe?"
Daryl didn't look away from the evidence in the brush, "There's at least four of them. Maybe five. Numbers are right." He nudged her at the small of her back to get her walking again, "We'll keep to the tracks for now."
"In the open?"
"Yeah, I know. But I'll hear them before they see us. C'mon."
They hadn't been walking for more than twenty minutes when they came across an old train car—and another sign for Terminus. This one had a map. The settlement was nestled into an intersection, several train lines met all at this one place. Beth stopped in front of the map and Daryl stopped at her side. He watched as she ran her fingertips along the dark lines that led to Terminus on the paper. Then she cast a glance at him; her big blue eyes pleading, begging. How could her deny her? Who could?
"Alright," he growled, his heartbeat speeding up at the expression of pure delight that washed over her upturned face. He lifted a hand to keep her from getting too excited, "We'll check it out. I don't like it, we leave. Understood?"
"Understood," she said quickly and without hesitation before throwing her arms around his neck. He raised one hand to her ribcage, squeezed and then eased her away from him. She was smiling that damned loopy smile that got him every time. Unable to resist the urge to touch her, he reached up and tugged her chin between his thumb and forefinger. He thought about kissing her, but instead cleared his throat and stepped back.
"I'ma take a piss," he said, "Keep your back to the train. See anything, give a whistle."
Beth gave him a mock salute, to which Daryl made a rude noise and strolled to the other side of the train car. She watched him until he had rounded the car and then turned back to the map showing the way to Terminus. She traced the letters with her fingertip. Everything was going to be okay. She had Daryl and not they had a destination. Everything was going to be okay.
She leaned a shoulder against the train car to wait for Daryl to get back, smiling to herself. It was then that she heard a rustle in the bushes to her left. She pushed away from the train and stepped toward the direction of the noise.
"Daryl?" she called.
That was when a hand with bruising strength wrapped around her arm.
A/N: Yeah, that's where I'm gonna leave off for now. I feel kinda like I should laugh manically. Well, I hope that you have enjoyed this chapter, please review and let me know your thoughts.
Okay, instead of a poll question this time, I need to vent a little. I recently saw a summary for a story that made me so mad. I won't say what story it is because I don't begrudge anyone their opinion, but in the summary they said that (this was a Caryl shipper, again to each their own) in the back eight of S4, they thought that Daryl was extremely OOC. I was so annoyed because A) how can a character be OOC when that is how they are written by the people who actually write the show!? And B) Norman Reedus, brilliant actor that he is, is very protective of Daryl and has argued his point with writers before and he said that he felt the back eight were some of the most beautifully written episodes that they had done. I read the story, it was not badly written, though I feel like they were trying to make Carol a more sympathetic character than she is. ( Love Carol. No Carol hate here.) Then I read the reviews and a reviewer referred to Beth as an idiot child. Again, I was so furious about this that I had to share or I would never stop thinking about it. This was in reference to her wanting to go and find a drink after she had just lost her entire family! Again, I will reference something that Norman Reedus said about the Beth character when he said that she was one of the most physically weak characters, but possibly one of the emotionally strongest. I agree whole heartedly. It wasn't about the drink for Beth. It was about living. She needed something the help her grieve so she came up with this "mission." She knew, and I think Daryl came to realize, that she, and by extension he, had to keep moving forward or they would completely fall apart. I think it was beautiful so seeing that summary and review just got to me. If you don't support a particular relationship, that is your opinion which you are entitled to and more power to you, but that is not an excuse to degrade another character. There is no call for that in my way of thinking. Anyway, sorry, I will get off my soap box now as this has nothing to do with my story or anything happening within it. It just irked me. Please forgive.
But feel free to express your own opinion on this when you review (hint, hint, wink, wink.)