Daryl tossed and turned in his sleep. His mind, exhausted as it may have been, was filled with screams and muffled cries, and the sound of screeching tires kept tearing at his sanity. Who'd have known – humans and zombies now inhabited the Earth, and out of both of them, the walking dead ended up being the least dangerous.
Two weeks had passed since the night of Beth's kidnapping. Daryl had been adopted by a new group, and it hadn't been long before they caught up with other prison members: Rick, Carl, Michonne and Glenn. Their groups had found each other halfway to Terminus, and the reunion had been everything but tearful. They had been on the new world long enough to know how to deal with loss; there had been no tears since none of them had wanted to feel abandoned and alone in the first place, shutting down every emotion. They all hugged Daryl, even Michonne, and he'd hugged them all back, a sigh of relief escaping his voiceless throat. Since that fateful afternoon, they had all enjoyed each other's company, never taking it for granted, focusing on the days to come and… on getting Beth back.
As Daryl informed them of what had happened, his eyes absent and his tone dead, Glenn and Carl's eyes filled with tears that never fell, and Rick swore loudly and kicked a stomp hard enough to make it move. The redneck never looked them in the eyes, not wanting to see the accusatory looks he knew they'd be sending their way, and fought to keep any emotion out of his face. He wanted to scream, punch someone, slaughter a walker… but he wanted, most of all, to breathe.
He walked around with a lump in his throat and a focused gaze, as if the leaves on the trees would give him some clue as to where Beth had been taken to. The outsiders left the prison members to themselves, save a few times when they requested Rick or Daryl to go hunt for food – rabbits or squirrels that never actually were for anyone but Joe's group - , and they honoured the simple requests: if they wanted to be relatively left alone to their own business, they had to lay low and be the least bit cooperative.
They ended up being quite a large group, all in all. They could camp wherever they wanted since they always had three or four people available to stay on watch, and the more they neared Terminus, the higher their spirits were. Daryl and Rick actually were hoping to get there sooner than later: for Beth to have been taken in such close proximity to the supposed sanctuary was a little suspicious… there was a high chance the nlonde had been taken there. Whoever took her had a car with gas, and they were organized enough to gather up some walkers to scare a bunch of nobodies, pillage their house and take one of them. It was incredibly unlikely that there were two groups that organized and demanding in terms of resources nearby… there was bound to be some conflict, and so far they hadn't seen any signs of that.
As the recent events, all scrambled up for added effect, haunted Daryl's restless sleep, Rick and Glenn kept watch. They'd been slower than they would have liked for the past few days: one of Abraham's men had been injured, and the entire group had had to adjust their pace accordingly. The Asian glanced at the frowning redneck.
"Wonder what he keeps dreamin'about." He murmured to Rick.
The other man shrugged. "Who knows what they went through. He was bound to have more than a few scars."
Glenn fell silent and glanced into the darkness that surrounded the trees in front of them. "I think he misses her."
Rick nodded. "We all do."
"You know what I meant."
"I do." He agreed and sighed. "This world is more than a little bit screwed up. Daryl keeps getting the curve ball… he deserves to get something good for a change."
They all welcomed the silence that came with the realization of how alone they really were. Gleen had seen Maggie's message, but didn't really know for sure that she had arrived to her destination. A shudder creeped up his spine at the mere thought… And Rick – well, Rick had been stuffing down his feelings, not unlike a child, afraid of the devastating pain that he knew would come with truly facing Judith's death. He wasn't ready to give up on her, and he was even less ready to deal with the aftermath of such a grasp. They stood there, almost completely motionless, for countless minutes; it could have been an hour, two, they didn't know. They only knew that the noise they heard next wasn't from the wind blowing in the trees.
"D'you hear that?" Rick whispered, getting on his feet. Gleen followed him, and they heard the traps shrieking with noise – their intensity seemed enough to wake the rest of them, but no-one else moved a muscle, and they didn't sound the alarm since they didn't think there were more than a couple of walkers. "Stay behind me."
Glenn snorted and walked beside him towards the noise, knife in hand. "Now what?"
"On my count…" Rick murmured. "One… two…"
"D- Da… ryl?"
Both men gasped in shock and glanced around them. "Beth?" Glenn asked, tentatively. "Beth, is that you?"
The sound had come from the bushes in front of them, and so they approached them, with a mix of excitement and apprehension. They heard a sob and a strangled call. "Daryl?"
"Beth, honey, it's us. Show yourself." Rick instructed gently.
"Rick?" She mumbled, and the bushes moved ever so slightly.
"Yeah, girl. Come on, we're right here."
They waited, and all of a sudden Beth crawled from under the dense leaves, her head so low it barely didn't touch the muddy grass. Wincing, she lifted her head so she'd face them, and her eyes shone with unshed tears. "I… I lost D- Daryl. I'm… sorry." And her trembling voice transformed into full-scale crying.
Beth had fainted from exhaustion not long after starting to cry, and Rick had carried her to camp with Glenn watching out for walkers and resetting the traps she'd damaged. He laid her carefully in a dirty blanket near where the fire had been, and sat on a stomp watching her with sad eyes.
The sun appeared, shy as it had been for the last couple of days, and with it Rick and Glenn's shift ended and Daryl's begun. He began to stir as soon as he felt warm rays touching his hands, but a firm shake did the job a lot quicker.
"What'a…?" He grumbled with only one eye open.
Those simple words were as efficient as a bolt through his heart. He opened both eyes with such force and speed that he felt lightheaded. Eyeing Rick as if he were crazy, he shook his head. "That can't be. Those damned fuckers took'er."
"You taught her well. She found us last night." The other man spoke calmly, watching out for any reaction on his behalf. Daryl stared at him, confused, and then disbelieving, settling with hopeful eyes.
"She ain't dead?"
Rick smiled, and then frowned. "She's very much alive, but in bad shape. They really did a number on'er."
Daryl got up and glanced around, his gaze falling on her tiny body. "Beth…" He sighed, the reality of the situation dawning on him. He slowly turned to face Rick, an angry glare on his face. "You had'er all night and just thought to tell me now?"
"You needed the sleep…"
"I can sleep whenever. She fucking needed me. I ain't good for much, but I can at least…" He lost breath as he saw her move weakly and try to stand up. Sprinting carelessly across camp, mindless of who he woke in the process, he fell to his knees in front of her. "Beth."
The young girl had trouble keeping her eyes open, and her feverish cheeks were wrinkled at the sound of his voice. A confused frown graced her features, and the blonde, as if she didn't dare hope, pursed her trembling lips.
"Damn it. I'm sorry, sweet'art." He touched her hair. "I'm sorry I let'em take you."
"I'm… dead…" He heard her mumble, and he barked a relieved laugh.
"No, you ain't. You escaped. You're one tough little bird."
"Ain't… little." She tried to scowl, and he just fondled her cheek, chuckling.
"That you ain't." He shook his head.
Beth moved closer to his hands. Her whole body lifted so she could be comfortable and place her head on his lap. She then whispered, as if it were a shameful secret. "Was so scared. And… 'm not good." Tears started falling, and she hid her face in Daryl's leg.
"Non'o'that matters now." He stroked her hair. "You're here now."
He let her cry. He was sure his pants were now flooded with her tears and quiet sobs, but he just let her get it out of her system, while he himself put some of his broken pieces back together. She wasn't dead. He hadn't killed her. They had another chance at living. And he had another chance at keeping her safe.
Daryl closed his eyes. Some people were starting to wake up, and he felt his newly found control slowly creeping away from him again. Soon everyone would be asking for Beth, and checking up on her, and she'd be taken away from him in a second. As if on cue, Beth's sobs halted and she sat up slowly, wincing as she had to stretch her back.
"Hey, hey, lay back down, missy." Daryl told her with gentle firmness.
"Don't want you to disappear on me again." She told him, attempting a defying look, but coming up empty: all he saw was a scared girl who didn't trust anymore. She didn't trust her surroundings, the people she saw around her, and she didn't trust him to stay with her without vanishing into thin air. He looked away from her, the guilt suddenly unbearable.
She smiled a sad, nervous smile. "I don't blame you, Daryl. You're my person. I just don't want the bad people to keep you away from me again."
"They're all good people, darlin'." He mumbled, still staring at the sky. Though he couldn't vouch for every single one of the new guys, he'd had enough proof to consider them friendly, at the very least.
"I don't believe it."
And with that, Daryl wondered how they had broken her. Her brow was constantly furrowed, and her eyes had lost the glimmer he always enjoyed waking up to. He lifted one hand to her cheek. "Sweet'art, I got your back."
She gulped and fought back the tears. "You promise?"
The redneck rested his back against a tree and pulled her close. She sat between his legs and he hugged her from behind, allowing her to rest her head on his shoulder. As the new guys came to see her, and as Carl and Michonne realized she was there, he could feel her flinch every time one of them approached her. Then, he would whisper in her ear, "It's okay.", and all the while wonder what the hell she had gone through the past couple of weeks.
"I got you."
A/N: So? What did you think? I'd love it so much if the show did something even just remotely similar to this… I mean, I want romance, people, and they keep on giving us these cliffhangers and expecting us to be quite content with just them xD
Well, I want some serious Bethyl action!