Extended Author's Note at the end. This final chapter brought to you by extreme feels and serious gratitude.
As Beth cracked her sleep-heavy eyelids open, she realized that she had slept late enough for sunlight to be filling the room. The sudden realization that there was nothing against her skin but sheets brough every detail of the night before flooding back to her. She smiled and stretched, but stopped short when her hand came in contact with nothing but empty bed beside her.
She opened her eyes fully and rolled over, a tiny bit of fear clenching her heart as she sat up in the bed that now felt entirely too large for just her. A quick glance told her that the bathroom was also empty. No. He couldn't possibly have left again. After everything that had happened, if he had suddenly had another attack of that twisted chivalry that had kept them apart for so many weeks, she was going to lose her mind.
Just as she was preparing to wrap the sheet around herself and check the remainder of the cottage, she heard the distinct sound of the front door opening and shutting. Her feet hadn't yet hit the ground when Daryl came into the bedroom in a sheepish attempt to be quiet. His posture relaxed immediately when he saw her sitting up, and she felt relief wash over her like rain when he toed his boots off and lowered himself onto the bed awkwardly, as if he was trying to keep her from seeing what he carried in his left hand.
"You're up," he observed simply, his eyes raking over her bare skin tangled in the sheets.
"I was just wondering where you went?" she asked, allowing her face to settle into a relaxed smile. If Daryl was feeling any sort of regret about the night before, it certainly wasn't showing in the obvious heat of his gaze.
A slow blush crept up from his collar as he raised his hand from the side of the bed and deposited a small but vibrant handful of wildflowers on the pillow next to her. Her smile brightened as the confusion of waking wore off and she realized that he had gone out specifically to get these for her.
"They're beautiful!" she exclaimed, lifting them to her face so she could smell them.
He shrugged and wouldn't meet her eyes.
"Wanted you to have somethin' pretty to wake up to," he said almost into the pillow.
Knowing that a display of gushing thanks wasn't going to do anything to help Daryl's shyness, Beth simply closed the distance between them and dragged her lips slowly against his. She shifted, careful not to crush her bouquet , until he was flat on his back and she was hovering over him, never losing contact with his lips. She let out a sigh when his big hands came up to tangle in her hair and hold her in place. After a moment, she felt him stir and she pulled back to rest her forehead against his.
With hands that were gentle but firm, Daryl shifted them enough to allow him to sit up.
"Can't be startin' that up, now," he said, trying to hide a smile, " You're gonna have me damn near useless the rest of the day."
Beth couldn't suppress a giggle.
"Maybe useless for runs and huntin'," she flirted, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively "but certainly not for other things."
Daryl's blush deepened and he lost the battle with the smile he'd been trying to hold in.
"They're be plenty of time for that once it gets dark," he intoned, kissing her quickly, "Gotta get to that pharmacy 'fore the light goes."
"Can't the pharmacy wait a day," she asked, pretending to pout.
He sighed deeply, playing along with her silliness.
"How 'bout you come with me?" he offered.
"Really?" she almost squealed. Much as she loved their little cottage, she had to admit that it wouldn't hurt her feelings to see something else for a little while. Daryl had told her a few days before that he had driven past a pharmacy that didn't appear to have much activity around it. He was hoping to stock up on some prescription medicine in case one of them got sick or hurt.
"Why not?" he said, extricating himself from her grasp, "O'course you gotta put some clothes on first."
"I suppose," she retorted, even though she'd rather he just climb back in bed with her.
Several hours later, fed, unfortunately clothed, and thoroughly excited to be seeing something new, Beth hopped from the cab of the truck and stuck close to Daryl as he swept the surrounding area. Two walkers stumbled from around the corner of the store, but Daryl made quick work of dispatching them.
Beth followed him inside what the sign indicated to be the Downs Family Pharmacy. They could easily tell that the store was empty once the door banged shut behind them. It was small - one of those mom and pop type of places on the outskirts of a little town. She couldn't fight the small twist of pain in her gut at the memory of coming into places like this in another life. Quickly and decisively, she put that thought aside; without the world being like it was, she wouldn't have Daryl, and that was an idea that she didn't even want to entertain. God, how she loved that man.
Shaking her head to clear it and focus, Beth silently began looking for things they might need. She stashed what was left of the first aid stuff, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, and several packs of chewing gum into her pack. Daryl had hopped the counter and was loading up on the prescription things that were still lingering in the back room.
After a quick lap, it was obvious that the majority of the store had already been ransacked. It was curious, however, that front windows and the door remained intact. In all the stores that they'd looted up until this point, there had been signs of some sort of struggle to get in. Aside from the obviously bare shelves, this one seemed relatively peaceful.
She made her way to the counter to wait for Daryl to be done and was suddenly struck with the answer to her questioned. Taped to the counter, the edges now starting to crack and peel, was a large poster board sign with a marker-drawn message.
The Downs family has decided to evacuate the area. Please take whatever you need. We've been trying to help folks for thirty four year, and we hope that something in here helps you. God bless.
Beth felt tears prick her eyes, not only at the message, but also at the countless other ones that had been hastily added to if over the last few years of chaos.
We were able to get our daughter's inhalers. Thank you.
Thanks for the Snickers Bars!
Found a bottle of penicillin that will make this winter easier than the last. Bless you.
There were countless others - scratched around the margins with a pen that was still sitting on the counter. She knew that Daryl would only be another minute, but Beth couldn't stop herself from picking up the pen and adding her own message.
Daryl glanced around for anything that he might have missed. The words that were printed on the bottles were all way too complicated for him to know what they did, but he figured that maybe Beth would know. It sure as hell couldn't hurt to take it all.
He exited the back room, sure that Beth was done by now and found her bent over the counter scribbling on a piece of paper.
"Whatcha doin'," he asked, snapping the top of the bag he carried shut.
When she straightened to answer him, he was surprise and a little worried to see her crying.
"Look," she said, pointing to the paper on the counter, that smile that he loved so much breaking through her tears.
He read the words, and had to admit that it was pretty amazing to see all the people that had taken the time to add their messages. Maybe it was like Beth had told him - there were some decent people left.
"Nice," he admitted, "You add somethin'?"
She nodded, pointing to a corner covered in neat, feminine loops. He felt his heart leap inside his chest in a way it hadn't in years as he read it.
Thank you so much for the medicine and the hope. We pray that you and your loved ones are someplace safe.
Love Daryl and Beth Dixon
It made it real - seeing it written out like that. While he knew that last night had actually happened,the part of him that was so prone to skepticism wasn't convinced until this moment. She had done that for him. She had put it in writing and proved that she wanted him, his name, and everything that came along with it.
She crossed the room to stand in front of him and met his eyes deliberately.
"That ok with you?" she asked.
She made it sound like she was asking about the note itself, but her tone and her beautiful blue eyes were asking for more. He knew her well enough now to sense the tiny bit of urgency in her question and the thing that she was really asking. The last time she'd done this to him, they'd been slow dancing at the prison a lifetime ago. It seemed appropriate to give her the same honest answer he'd given her that night.
"Suits me just fine."
Oh you beautiful people! How do I ever find the words to say thank you for all the love and support you've given me over this story! After the Mid Season Finale this was probably the most bittersweet thing I've ever written. A tiny, hopeful part of me wants to believe that she'll be back - that the clocks, and the "new sheriff", and all the other signs mean that something miraculous will happen. I'm trying not get my hopes up though. I hope that Daryl remembers her lessons and that he finds a way to be happy someday. The good news is that we can all live in the fanfiction world. There's something achingly beautiful about a love story that never gets finished - it means that we can all interpret it any way we want.
Right now, I don't have any plans for a sequel for this or another multi-chap story. I have some original fiction that I'm trying really hard to work on, but I'm sure that Bethyl will pull me back for one-shots and maybe an AU/Non-Zombie series. I'd be happy to take suggestions if anyone has them.
For now all I can do is say thank you a million times over.
I'm officially dedicating this story to "The Walking Dead - Bethyl" community on Facebook - especially Hearts1989 and EngineerGirl86. You ladies have made this a beautiful experience, and I feel like we all know each other in person. Let's keep the Bethyl love alive in our hearts and our fanfiction.
I love you all!