"So that's what's been goin' on with ya, huh." Sarah said as she sat down on the couch, handing Daryl a glass of water before taking a sip of her coffee. He took a small sip of the ice water and wrinkling his nose at the taste of city water, "That girl, she meant somethin' to ya, didn't she."
"What're you talkin' 'bout?" Daryl muttered and leaned back in the old recliner as he swirled the water around in his glass.
"Don't play stupid, Dixon. I saw ya after she left. Ya drank yourself into a damn mess, got your ass into a fight, and suffered from a hangover for what seemed like days. Ya best be feelin' pretty damn lucky that Carol is such a good friend t'ya, she couldya called the cops after you got into a fight with that guy."
"I wish it had been Jimmy I knocked the fuck out." Daryl said and saw Sarah smile and roll her eyes, "I'm over her."
"No. No you ain't, and you're jus' lyin' to yourself, Daryl. If you're so hung up on her why don't ya go back to her?"
"There's nothin' to go back to, Sarah."
"You had a home there, Daryl!"
"Temporarily." he growled and set the glass back down on the coffee table. He huffed and looked up at the ceiling, his eyes tracing the cracks in the paint.
"Were ya happy there?" She asked and he shifted his gaze over to her. His eyes narrowed slightly and his mouth pressed into a thin line. Sarah's expression never changed, her gaze held his and she refused to take back her question.
"That ain't a fair question."
"And why not?"
"It just ain't, okay!" he shouted as he stood, the recliner rocking violently from his sudden outburst, walking to the window and crossing his arms over his chest.
"Why, Daryl? Why are you so afraid to tell me?"
"Because I was happy there, Sarah! Because that was one of the few places I could rest easy at night knowin' I didn't have to keep my guard up in case Merle skipped out on payin' a dealer! I didn't have to worry about where I'd be sleepin' each night! I didn't have to worry 'bout wakin' up with a gun pointed in my face cuz Merle did somethin' stupid again!"
"So go back, Daryl! Home is where you're happiest, and dammit, I know you were happy."
"How do you know?"
"Because I ain't ever seen you so torn up over somethin' before. I know you care about Tinkerbell a lot."
"Beth." he corrected, his voice a soft growl.
"Whatever, Dixon. I know what's wrong. You're afraid if you're with her, if things get really serious between you two, she's gonna end up like me." Daryl's eyes flicked up at her quickly and they narrowed, but he kept quiet, "I was like Beth once. A young girl with a pretty face, fresh in college, had a good head on my shoulders. I let myself get ruined because of your brother, and Daryl I regret that everyday. I lost a lot in my life because I got so wrapped up with Merle. Look at what I've done with myself. And I know, I know, that you're afraid that you'll do the same with her. But guess what."
"What." he asked after a few seconds of silence.
"You are not your father, your mother, you are not Merle. You are Daryl fucking Dixon, you are your own goddamn person and you are better than what those three were." Daryl sank down in the chair again and placed his head in his hands, massaging his forehead to try and prevent the oncoming headache he could feel quickly approaching.
"I hurt her, Sarah. She ain't gonna wanna talk to me." he muttered and Sarah moved to sit on the arm of the recliner.
"You'll never know unless you try. I know Merle's your family, be he ain't any good for ya. Why don't ya go back to Merle's, sober up a bit more, get some sleep, and really think about it. I think you should talk to her."
"You're one of the lucky ones. You're startin' to turn your life around. Most the girls Merle's been around never make it."
"I had to hit rock bottom first."
Daryl tightened his jacket around himself and looked up at the clear night sky as he mentally thanked Sarah more times than he could remember for pushing him to make the call. He didn't think she'd answer, or even agree to meet him but she did and for the first time in a while, he felt a little thankful. As he watched her pull in to the parking lot and drive slowly towards him, he realized this could head south. He adjusted the leather gloves on his hands again and watched as she stepped out of the car and started to walk towards him with her hands shoved in her coat pockets. She wore a white padded coat, a light purple scarf peeking out at the top around her neck. He watched her walk towards him in a pair of faded, tight blue jeans and a pair of black, heeled boots. He reached for the back of his bike and grabbed the spare helmet, holding it out to her as she approached him.
"What's this for?" she asked him softly and he sighed, pulling her white knitted cap off and shoving it in his pocket.
"It's to keep your head safe on the motorcycle." he answered and saw a look of annoyance on her face before he slid the helmet on her head.
"I know what a helmet's for, Daryl." she answered, "So we're not stayin' here?"
"No, I just figured with how busy the bar is, no one would mess with your car. What time you gotta be home? I know your family doesn't want you wakin' them up comin' home late."
"I told my family I was stayin' with Sam tonight, so no time limit. Is this why you texted me and told me to dress extra warm?"
"Hold on." she said and walked back to her car quickly, opening the trunk and digging through it. She grabbed whatever she needed, locking back up and hurrying up to him, "You're gonna freeze if you ain't got anythin' on your neck. I know it's a woman's scarf, but it's black so no one will know the difference." She said and held up her black scarf, wrapping it around his neck for him and looping it through itself. She snugged it around his neck and tucked the tails into his jacket, her eyes looking up and meeting his.
"Ready now." Beth said softly, feeling her cheeks burn softly but was happy her face was mostly covered by the shiny black helmet he had stuck on her. He reached up and snapped her chin strap and stepping back.
"No, now you're ready." he said and got on his bike, helping Beth to slide on behind him, "Hold on tight, and lean with me and the bike." Beth slid her arms around his stomach as the bike roared to life. She looked at all the people outside smoking and talking as they began to pull out of the bar's parking lot, Daryl nodding towards a few who threw their hands up at him in a wave.
Atlanta flew past them, the cold wind engulfing them as the bike tore through downtown but eventually Beth didn't feel it anymore. She had never been on a motorcycle, the closest she had ever come was one of those simulator games at an arcade she and Sam had gone to as kids. She couldn't help the smile she knew she had from ear to ear as Daryl drove. Before she knew it Atlanta was going from buildings, cars and people to trees, small houses, and an empty road.
"Where are we going!" she shouted over the rushing wind.
"Someplace we can talk!" Daryl shouted over his shoulder. After a few more moments he turned on to an old dirt road and Beth felt herself tightening her arms around him. It was quiet, the woods looked creepy at night, and the road resembled one out of the many horror movies Beth suffered through that Sam loved. He came to a stop at a chain across the road with a no trespassing sign and put the kick stand out, telling Beth to sit tight as he unhooked the chain. After driving through, replacing the chain, and jmping back on his bike they continued up the road that began a gradual incline. The gravel was becoming less and less and fading more into dirt and grass. When Daryl stopped again he killed the engine this time and helped Beth off of the back. He slid her helmet off and she turned to look at their destination, smiling when she saw they were at a large pond. The moon was shining through the tops of the trees, illuminating the water's surface.
"Where are we?" she asked as he took set her helmet on the bike and started walking towards the pond.
"I use to come here, when I was a kid to avoid my mom and dad." Daryl said and Beth followed, lighting up her phone so she could see where she was walking. Daryl didn't need the light to see where he was going. The moonlight was enough, and she knew without him having to tell her that he must have been here hundreds of times to escape his family.
"It's beautiful here." she said as he sat down on an old wooden bench and waited for her to sit next to him.
"I built this bench myself, it took me a while because I had to sneak my dad's tools without getting' caught, but I figured if I was gonna spend most my time here, might as well have a place to sit. I was just a kid when I found this place, out wanderin' my dad's property."
"So this is your dad's property?" Beth asked and Daryl nodded, pulling out a cigarette and placing it to his lips, "Is he gonna come out here if he heard your bike?"
"Nah, ain't nobody been on this land in years since the house burned to the ground."
"I'm sorry to hear that..."
"Don't. My mom did it to herself, passed out drunk with a cigarette in her mouth and burned herself up along with everythin' we owned. My dad had bought an old two bedroom trailer somewhere else with what tiny insurance money he got out of the fire. It was enough for us since Merle had left for the military, and dad was okay as long as he had his drugs and his moonshine still."
"Did you miss your mom?"
"No. I didn't at all, an' I guess that makes me a bad person."
"No it doesn't." she said and saw him turn his head to look at her. The moonlight was soft on his face and she saw his eyes searching hers, "They were mean to you. People don't usually miss other people when they are mean to them, family or not. Did your dad ever get any nicer?"
"Not in the least bit. I still got the usual beatin's, and it didn' help some of the whores he brought home to sleep with found it funny when he kicked me around like a dog." Beth felt a lump rise in her throat and she turned to gaze back to the pond as she thanked the darkness for hiding the tears that burned and threatened to flow, "When Merle came back home, I left with him and one day I got a call that dad had gotten himself so damn drunk he stumbled out in front of a train."
"He left me the land, an' I was gonna sell it and be done with it, but I can't leave this spot behind. This was the first thing I've ever had in my life that was all mine. No one else bothered to come out here so I had this place all to my own. One day, I ever get enough money, I'm gonna clean up the ruins of the old house and build me one. Every time I had any money saved up, I'd either need to bail Merle outta jail or pay off one of his dealers to keep from getting shot between the damn eyes."
"I know he's your brother, and after what you jus' told me he is probably the only livin' relative you got, but Daryl, Merle isn't good for you."
"I just had that talk with Sarah today. She's the one who finally convinced me to call you."
"So you wouldn't have called?"
"I would've, but it might have been too late."
"You could have moved on by then, Beth an' not wanted anythin' to do with me." he said and stomped out the cigarette, "Someone better could have come along, or you could have gotten together with Jimmy." He heard her snort and looked over at her, seeing her covering her mouth with her hand and looking up at him.
"I'm sorry, I don' mean to laugh, but Jimmy? Really?"
"I know you guys dated before."
"An' it was the biggest mistake of my life. Trust me, I've never wanted Jimmy and I turned him down the other day. I haven't heard from him since and that's okay. I still got Sam, and now I'm here talkin' to you, so I couldn't be happier."
"I didn't think you'd agree to meet me."
"I wasn't goin' to at first. I was still hurtin' pretty bad."
"I know I hurt you, I knew I was gonna hurt you by leavin', but it was either that or hurt you in other ways. Sarah got mixed up with Merle and nearly ruined her life. My mom had been a decent human until she met my dad. Dixon's have a curse and I wasn't gonna do that to you." Daryl felt her hand move over his that he had kept in a fist and looked back at her, seeing her still watching the glassy surface of the moonlit pond. He opened up his hand and let hers slide into his, their fingers interlocking.
"Daryl, I'm capable of takin' care of myself, and I've always made good decisions, minus goin' to the bar and getting' drunk underage. I don't care how much I may love someone, I ain't gonna go getting' mixed up in stuff I shouldn't be doin'." she answered and looked up at him, "You're different, Daryl. I know we never really got to know each other that well, we just sort of, jumped into a really active relationship after we got comfortable around each other. Maybe we moved too fast, maybe we didn't know enough about each other and didn't talk about how we felt about each other and maybe that's what burned us in the end."
"I...didn't want it to be the end." Daryl said and felt his own grip tighten on her hand a little, "That's why I wanted to talk to you. I wanted...I miss you, Beth. All I've done is drink and do things I ain't proud of but I want to pick up where we left off."
"I don't wanna pick up where we left off, Daryl." she said and he felt his stomach knot up, "You forget how much we fought before you left?"
"Yeah." He muttered in response and felt her head rest against his shoulder.
"I wanna start over, and I wanna get to know you. I think this was a good start to that."
"I think I can agree to that."
"And Daryl, anythin' you're feelin', can you promise to tell me? Because I don't want you feelin' like you aren't good enough."
"I promise to do my best." he answered and let his head rest against hers, "Beth?"
"I...like you." He heard her giggle softly and felt a smile pull at the corners of his mouth.
"I like you, too Daryl." she said softly and closed her eyes.
"Beth looked in her rear view mirror and smiled as she saw Daryl's headlight behind her. After checking her car one more time in the parking lot at The Cherokee Rose, he decided he would follow Beth until she made it to Sam's driveway in case anything crapped out on her car.
"I'll be fine, Daryl I promise. After you fixed my car this mornin' it's been doin' good."
"All I did was put oil in it. Ain't no tellin' what else is wrong with that old beaten down car. If you leave and get stranded on the side of the road there's no way I'd know and somethin' could happen."
"Fine, fine you can follow me if you really want to." Beth said and watched the slow burn move across Daryl's cheeks. She smiled and unlocked her car, sliding in to the seat and watching him get back on his motorcycle.
She turned on her blinker when she made it and couldn't help a small laugh as he flashed his light at her before she turned. He kept driving and she cracked her window, listening to his motorcycle fade into the distance. When she pulled up to Sam's house she saw the front porch light flick on and pulled out her phone to send her a message to let her know she had arrived. She then pulled up Daryl's number and bit her bottom lip.
Get home safe. Tonight was nice
"How was it? Oh my god you have to fill me in." Sam said from the porch steps, wrapped tightly in her pink and black zebra striped robe, her hair piled high on her head in a messy bun.
"It was fine, but let's go in I'm freezin'." Beth said as she grabbed her overnight bag and hurried up the steps.
"Yeah come on I put some water on for hot chocolate. Jesus Beth, you look like you're half frozen!"
"I'm fine, just ready for that hot chocolate." she said as they walked into the kitchen and Beth sat down in one of the barstools. The tea kettle started whistling and Sam jumped up to shut it off before her parents woke up. Beth felt her phone vibrate as she watched Sam hurry into the pantry to find the hot chocolate and smiled when she saw Daryl's name.
At Merles. Wanna see you again soon. Night Beth.
"Goodnight, Daryl." she whispered softly with a smile and slid her phone back in to her pocket.
A/N: Thank you all so much for your wonderful reviews and comments, and thank you all for the support! You guys are the best, and I love you all!