Oh my goodness, guys! It's done!
Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading this story! And who's supported this fic with reviews, favourites, follows and recommendations! It's been quite a ride and the response to the last chapter was just amazing! Thank you! And I just have to say special thank yous to my buddy Dize, who has been my unknowing advisor on this fic ;), and to Firewing, who has been pimping this story avidly since it first started! Love you guys :D
Now, I don't usually reply to guest reviews in the story body but I am so grateful to all of you who review (I always reply to registered accounts though, if you want to sign up!), but there was one I have to address for future story purposes – when Daryl and Beth say they are one another's firsts and that he hasn't been in a relationship, he didn't mean he's a virgin. I'm willing to bet he has had plenty of sex in the past ;). They're talking about first loves :).
Anyway, on to the last chapter! I hope you all enjoy!
The change in their relationship still hadn't quite sunk in for Beth some days later; everything still strange, thrilling and new.
For the past few days, the two of them had spent their time stealing private moments in quiet areas; stolen kisses, touches and looks.
It wasn't that they didn't want the group to know; Beth was certain they already did, as she had been more than willing to spill the beans to Maggie that same night and tell her everything that had happened.
The following day, everyone was casting them curious looks and teasing smiles; suddenly not-so-coy about what they suspected and Beth wasn't sure if it was because Maggie had told someone else and the news had quickly spread or if it was just that she and Daryl were just being so obvious about the whole thing.
She was inclined to think it was the later; she, herself, could tell the drastic change in demeanour that they both had had since returning from the woods that day. But she wasn't entirely sure, as Daryl hadn't been all that forthcoming with the new development when they were in the presence of the group. He was still, very much, hands off when they were in company and his behaviour wasn't all that different towards her than it was when they had been on good terms before their kiss.
Beth was only grateful that this restraint seemed to leave him, at least a little, when they were alone.
A fact she was glad of, at the moment, when she stood holding the crossbow, carefully aiming it towards the target they had set up on the tree, with Daryl standing pressed up behind her, arms wrapped around her, his hands over hers as he helped her aim the shot.
"Strange that y' suddenly can't hit the target," he remarked, and Beth quickly picked up on the wryness of his tone.
Beth fought back a grin and shrugged; "Guess I'm a little rusty. It's been a while since I did this."
"Hmm. Must be it."
Beth bit down on her lip, unsuccessfully preventing her grin from spreading as she turned her head to look at him; their faces close together when she did. He leaned back slightly, eyes scanning her face and quickly picking up on her amusement, before he fought a smile of his own.
He quirked an eyebrow; "This ain't the first time y' done this."
"Pretended y' didn't know how t' shoot."
Beth felt her lips twitch slightly, a little blush spreading over her cheeks, as she remembered back to that lesson he had given her; it seemed so long ago now, though it was probably only a few weeks. Back when all this was still new and confusing, and she still didn't realise what it was she felt for him. Back when she'd repeatedly shot past the target, the reward being exactly this; his arms wrapped around her and his breath against her cheek.
Back then, she had accused him of thinking of her as a child. From the way he held her now, she was certain that was never the case.
Beth pursed her lips together to conceal her smile; "What you trying to say?"
"Think y' know."
"You think I know a lot of stuff," she came back with; "Maybe if you'd just explain once in a while it might save us some time."
She felt Daryl's silent chuckle in response, the slight vibration of his chest against her back, but when she looked at him he shook his head; "Don't get sassy, Greene. We're supposed to be trainin' here."
Beth gave him a wide smile, her response teasing; "You love it."
She could have sworn she saw him blush; "Just shoot."
Beth rolled her eyes, still grinning as she turned her attention back to the target, raising the crossbow from the drooping position it had lowered to during their exchange. She carefully lined it up, certain the target was within range, beginning the shot just as Daryl had taught her in the past; pull it, don't jerk it.
And then, just at that final moment, when she started to pull, she felt Daryl's teeth nip gently at her earlobe, making her jump and jerk the trigger, sending the bolt flying past the intended tree and to the left, into the trunk of another, further away one.
Beth turned to look at him sharply, surprised at his sudden boldness. Since their kiss following his apology, every kiss had been initiated by her and his sudden playfulness was both unexpected and delightful.
His expression, however, gave nothing away, a look of utter seriousness as he raised an unimpressed eyebrow; "Y' missed."
Beth gave him a wry smile, raising an eyebrow of her own; "That was dangerous. You should know better than to distract a girl who's holding a loaded weapon."
"Part of the lesson."
Beth frowned, allowing the crossbow to lower, noting the way Daryl's arms followed and stayed around her when she did; "How?"
"Gotta learn t' deal with distractions when your shooting," Daryl elaborated, before he went on further with a dull explanation of the reality of battle and the necessity of keeping focused.
Beth felt her lips tug at the side, starting as a small smile that gradually grew larger until Daryl stopped and looked at her strangely; "What?"
"That's so romantic."
Daryl frowned at her and then rolled his eyes, scoffing, and Beth saw another tinge of redness on his cheeks as he finally stepped away from her, releasing her from his embrace, and made to walk by her.
"Where are you going?"
"To get the bolt."
But he got no further than a few steps before Beth grabbed his hand, tugging him back to her with a smile. He still got that startled look sometimes when she did this, when she pulled him to her, no-nonsense like and with only one thing in mind. She pushed herself up onto her tiptoes, as she always had to do when he didn't lean down to her, and wrapped her arms loosely around his neck, before leaning in and pressing her lips to his. She smiled against him when they responded to hers, the kiss deep but unhurried. Taking their time.
She didn't think she would ever get enough of this; of him.
She didn't think she had ever been this happy.
Daryl drew back first but didn't pull away, instead leaning his forehead against hers and giving her that tiny smile that she loved.
She could do this. She could do this for the rest of her life.
Daryl's relationship with Maggie had always been relatively amicable, even if they weren't all that close.
Still, he knew all about the fire that she had within her, similar to the one Beth had demonstrated to him time and time again. The same as their father before them. He guessed it was a Greene thing.
And an unwavering loyalty and protectiveness towards one another was always something that the family had going for them as well. Daryl was pretty certain that his behaviour towards Beth before they had managed to figure everything out was not something that her sister had looked upon kindly; that it was something that would have bothered her and he was sure she had more than her fair share of things to say to him about it.
Though respect seemed to be something the Greene's had going for them as well; and Daryl figured it was out of respect for her sister that Maggie had held back confronting him with any of her thoughts and feelings about it, as well as any reservations she made have had about their relationship.
His hopes that this would continue wavered somewhat that evening, when none other than Maggie Greene had managed to corner him in the kitchen after dinner.
"Been meaning to talk to you."
Daryl met her eyes, hesitantly. It wasn't that he was afraid of her or of anything she had to say; only that he would rather he and Beth have her blessing if the two of them were going to carry on with what they had going. He didn't want to create any unnecessary drama between the two sisters, not now that the two of them had lost their father.
"Mhm," she nodded, eyeing him for a second, her expression guarded, giving nothing away. She rolled her eyes slightly; "At first I thought I'd leave it to Glenn. But you know how that turned out."
That was ages ago. Was he really going to have to defend his behaviour from back then? Though the question dwindled away to guilt, as he realised he'd caused Beth a fair amount of grief the past few weeks and he supposed he did deserve this, as her sister was probably the one who had been there listening to all that had went on; the one who had been there for her.
He lowered his eyes, shrugging, carrying on with unloading the supplies that Michonne and Tyreese had brought back from their run earlier that day.
"Guess he doesn't have my dad's knack for it; he never sent anyone running for the hills before."
Daryl glanced at her, noticed the hint of humour in her tone, the way she was regarding him both carefully and amusedly at the same time. He shrugged; "Ain't exactly somethin' I was expectin', 's all."
Maggie nodded, still looking at him carefully, before she went on; "Figured you deserved the same treatment the other's did." At his confused frown, she elaborated; "Glenn, Jimmy, Zack; they all got it." A small smile, reminiscent and almost sad; "My dad made real sure of that."
Daryl lowered his eyes from hers, slightly, remembering too. Remembering that that wise old man who'd never lost faith; who'd always believed and who'd always fought for everything he believed they could be. Tough son of a bitch; "He was a good man."
Maggie met his eyes sharply, looking surprised at his words. He held her eyes though he wanted to look away; felt uneasy under the scrutiny and the gradual softness that came to her eyes, before she gave him a small smile. She raised her eyebrows, speaking confidently; "So are you."
Daryl felt his discomfort increase at the unexpected compliment, the sudden warmth in her gaze and looked down, shuffling awkwardly. When the silence stretched, he glanced back up at her, cautious and guardedly, not all that comfortable with letting her see how the statement affected him.
Maggie's smile widened slightly and she nodded, going on, speaking with conviction; the same conviction he often heard from Beth whenever she was sure of something; "I've seen it, how she's changed 'causa you."
Daryl frowned, not sure if that was a compliment because, as far as he was concerned, Beth was just fine as she was. And he didn't want her changing for nothing.
Maggie seemed to sense his thoughts; "Making her stronger; making her wanna fight."
Daryl lowered his eyes, shrugging, not taking credit for that; Beth was a fighter. She did that all on her own.
"My Daddy, he'd be proud, y'know. To know a man like you cares so much about his little girl."
Daryl met her eyes sharply and Maggie held them, her statement delivered with the same conviction as everything else she had said, and he felt a strange tightening in his stomach at her words; at understanding exactly what it was that she was saying. That she was happy for them; that they had her blessing. And that she believed Hershel would be too.
Daryl swallowed, looking down, unsure of how to receive to the compliment, moved by the sentiment but uncertain of the appropriate way to respond.
She seemed to sense his discomfort and went on; "Just so we're clear." He raised his eyes back to hers at the tone, an unusual mixture of humour and seriousness; "You break my baby sister's heart, I'll be sending you right on up there to explain yourself to him."
The not-quite a threat was something he was more accustomed to dealing with, the slight humour in her eyes lightening the weight of the previous exchange, and he felt a smile tug at his lips and he nodded; "Got it."
And then she smiled, big and bright, and nodded; "Good." And then she stepped closer to him, making for the door behind him, and he fought the urge to step away, when she raised an amused eyebrow and got him on the arm, not quite a hit but not quite a pat, and grinned, almost playfully; "Welcome to the family."
And, saving him the awkwardness of having to actually respond, she walked on by, giggling to herself at his obvious discomfort, and left him there.
Left him with a strange mix of embarrassment and satisfaction, humbleness and pride over everything that had just been said and understood.
Daryl had watch later that night, mostly everyone still up and about with the exception of Little Ass Kicker. He hadn't been able to spot Beth amongst the people in the sanctuary where most everyone was gathered, chatting away amongst themselves, which had been surprising as she had been pretty much within sight ever since they had reconciled days before and, more often than not, within touching distance, even if they had made a point of not touching.
Except for the occasional, not-quite accidental brushing of their hands against one another as they passed one another or the gentle touches on her arm to guide her if they happened to be heading somewhere together.
He gave up his discreet search for her, figuring she was with Judith and knowing that Michonne would be expecting him to take over on watch, and headed on out to the porch, only to find the object of his thoughts sitting in the space he expected to find Michonne, her back against the wall, her knees up, a blanket draped over them and a book in her lap. His book. The one she'd given him more than a week before.
He felt a slight smile tug on his lips as he approached her, his footsteps drawing her attention from what she was reading. She lifted her head, glancing up at him, and giving him a warm smile when she noticed that it was him.
He nodded at her.
She grasped the fabric of the blanket that covered her, lifting it slightly; "Brought a blanket this time."
"Can see that."
She grinned and then reached down, pushing herself to her feet, holding the blanket and book tightly in one hand; she nodded down at the ground. Daryl frowned, though he understood what she was asking, and walked in closer, before lowering himself into a sitting position, mirroring hers; back against the wall, his knees bent.
Beth walked around him and gently kicked at his feet, nudging them apart further, and then turned and made to sit down, bracing one hand on his knee as she lowered herself to sit between his legs. Daryl swallowed, surprised and slightly uncomfortable at the intimacy of her seating choice, as she settled herself back against him and shook the blanket out, before draping it over the two of them.
Daryl cleared his throat, awkwardly allowing his hands to rest on each of her knees, as he sat there tensely, uncertain of what to do next.
Beth glanced over her shoulder at him, leaning away slightly, so that their faces weren't so close, the nature of their position meaning she was pressed completely against him. She gave him a smile; "Okay?"
Daryl felt himself melt under those eyes and drew in a breath before he nodded, tightening his hands on her knees in a squeeze; "Mhm."
Beth's smile widened and she turned away, leaning back more fully so that the back of her head rested against his shoulder, as she lifted up the book.
"Thought that was mine?"
He could see her smile, though she kept her focus on the item in her hand, opening it; "It is. Have you read it?"
"Really? Why not?"
"s' for kids."
Beth turned her head to give him a playful glare; "Santa brought it for you to read, y' know. He's gonna be disappointed. No more presents for you next year."
He fought a smile at her nonsense; "Figured it was just…I dunno. One of those things y' do."
Beth's playfulness melted away and she smiled at him, warmly, turning her attention back to it, fingering the spine; "It's pretty tatty."
"Can try to find a better one; I think this one has pages missing," she flicked through it, carefully.
"'s fine, Beth."
She looked at him, eyeing him for a second, before she smiled, seeming to understand that he liked the book just fine; that he didn't want another one. This one, and the sentiment behind it, he was more than happy with. She turned back, opening it up, turning her attention to the written words on the page, leaning herself forward slightly as she did so that the back of her head was only a little away from his face, her ponytail fluttering in the breeze and little tendrils of hair tickling his face.
Daryl exhaled, his discomfort easing somewhat and feeling suddenly content; Beth there with him, against him with his arms around her, feeling so perfect and right. He squeezed her knees beneath his hands again, leaning forward the slight distance to press a soft kiss to the hair at the back of her head.
Beth turned to look at him when he drew back, a bashful smile on her face. He leaned his head back against the wall, giving her a slight smile in response. She bit her lip; "This make you uncomfortable?"
She raised an eyebrow, reaching up and squeezing one of his knees with her hand; "This."
Daryl shook his head; "Nah."
She giggled, shaking her head, "Sure."
Daryl fought a smile, realising she'd picked up on the tense response his body had had when she'd first settled herself there. Before he could respond though, she leaned back against him again, head still tilted to the side, and leaned in closer, gently pressing her lips against his.
Her kisses often started like that, gentle, soft and tentative; and then, after a moment, she'd increase the pressure and move her lips and, after that, it was all just a mix of easy kisses, caressing hands and soft sighs and an unwavering sense of satisfaction and longing all rolled into one.
Daryl reached up as he returned her kiss, running his hand across her jaw, the palm of his hand rubbing gently across her throat as he did, losing himself in the sensation of just being there with her.
And then, the door to the Church burst open and Rick stepped out, making Beth and Daryl break apart quickly, but not quickly enough for the other man not to see and realise what'd he'd interrupted.
It was hard to tell who was more embarrassed; Rick or the two of them, as he reached a hand up to rub the back of his neck; "Ah…sorry, man."
Daryl shrugged, feeling mortified, suddenly tense again and very aware of the fact that Beth was still settled very firmly against him, between his legs.
Rick cleared his throat, averting his eyes, looking out over the field; "Was just comin' t' speak to you about that run. Ah…but it's not important." He waved a dismissive hand, and then turned around, turning the opposite direction from them, to go back into the Church; "I'll catch up with you tomorrow."
And before either Beth or Daryl could say a word, he had left, closing the door firmly behind him.
Daryl felt Beth shake against him, the sound of her muffled giggles reaching his ears a moment later, and he felt his embarrassment fade away in light of her amusement, as she turned to look at him again over her shoulder. She gave him a bright smile, before biting her lip; "You were saying?"
Daryl grinned, aware of the sudden tenseness of his position, and shrugged, relaxing slightly; "I'll get used t' it."
Beth's smile turned warm, affectionate and she lowered her eyes, coyly for a second, before raising them back up with an impish smile, before she leaned forward to press a quick peck to the side of his lips, before she turned herself around and settled herself back against him, shimmying down lower in his arms so that, rather than against his shoulder, the back of her head now rested against the left of his chest.
She let the book lie in her lap and reached up, putting her hands over his, entwining her fingers with his, and pulling her arms around herself, pulling his with her. Daryl dipped his head down, the side of his lips against her temple, breathing her in as he held her, tightening his arms around her for a second.
He'd get used to this.
After a second like this, Beth turned her head slightly, pressing in closer; "Daryl?"
"I'm glad you're here."
Daryl felt himself smile against her, remembering a time when he'd said the same to her; almost an eternity ago now, it seemed. Back before all of this, before he ever dreamed they could have this; back when they'd just come together again after being separated, that first night in camp.
Back then he'd meant that he was glad she was back with the group. That she'd come home.
He knew that she meant something different now; something more.
That she meant that he was with her, completely; that they were together now.
Daryl tightened his arms around her again, contentment and a happiness that he couldn't believe was his own washing over him, as he murmured against her temple;
And they stayed like that; just the two of them until the sun came up. Both ready to face, together, anything that this world decided to throw their way.
I hope you all liked the ending!
Now, for anyone interested in seeing more, I am working on tentative plans for a follow up to this story at the moment that looks more deeply into how their relationship will be now that they've established themselves :). I considered just continuing it in this fic but the tone of the story changes a lot now that they're together, so it just didn't really fit with how it's been written so far. Also, the timeline of the chapters is a bit too restrictive to look at their relationship properly.
So, if I can focus all these ideas I have for them, I shall be able to start working on it very soon and start getting it posted up! If you want to keep an eye out for it, it'll be going by the title 'R is for Real'.
Thanks again! I hope you've enjoyed the ride as much as I've enjoyed writing this! :D