Her eyes snapped open as something nudged her back. Beth sat up and looked behind her, half expecting to see a corpse gnawing on her small body. She was mildly surprised when Daryl Dixon stood over her, his face set in a permanent scowl.
"'Bout time you got up. We're burnin' daylight, so get movin'," he said impatiently. Beth looked to the front of the store, noticing he'd packed a large backpack for himself. She scanned the shelves for anything to put into her bag, settling on a long hunting knife with a leather pouch and some protein bars. Her fingers brushed against the Moonshine at the bottom of her leather pouch.
"Should we take sleeping bags?" Beth questioned, holding up two compact bags.
"If ya wanna carry them. I gotta hold my bow," Daryl replied, swinging the supplies over his shoulder. He picked up his crossbow, which was loaded with a shiny new arrow, and made his way to the door. Beth saw him glance at her to make sure she was following, feeling relieved that he had no intentions to leave her behind. He slowly eased the door open, allowing early morning sunlight to pour into the hunting store.
Daryl stepped onto the sidewalk to check in both directions, then abruptly backed up. Beth blushed and nearly fell over as his back met her chest. He spared her a glance as she stumbled backwards, probably wanting to roll his eyes. Then, he moved forward again and quickly shot the walker that was wandering the sidewalk. He gestured for her to follow him.
She jogged after him, only stopping as he retrieved the bloody arrow and wiped it on the walker's shirt. They traveled alongside the buildings for a while until he came to a corner. He peered around it then backed into Beth for the second time.
"Move quietly," he said in a low voice, ignoring her grunt of surprise. "There's a group of them over there. More than I can handle alone." She had known she wouldn't be much help, but she suddenly felt completely useless, and sorry that Daryl was stuck with her. All those years of living a sheltered life were coming back to haunt her. She bit her lip to prevent herself from crying.
If Daryl noticed her struggle, he didn't acknowledge it, instead crossing the street onto a deserted country road. Beth ran after him, trying to move as silently as he did. She frowned in frustration as her sneakers clicked on the pavement in comparison to his skillful tread. At first she believed his stealth was the result of his hunting experience, but she soon realized that everything about Daryl was quiet. She could count on her fingers the number of sentences he'd said to her today.
Once they were deep within the cover of the trees, they settled into a more leisurely pace. Beth breathed heavily in response to all of the jogging. She was one of the few that hadn't left the prison for months. Consequently, she was ill-prepared for traveling on the road. If only she hadn't spent the majority of her time holding Judith and doing laundry. She could have easily asked someone to give her training of some sort. She sighed in regret and a heavy silence fell over the two of them.
Hours passed and still they walked further. By late afternoon, her legs and feet were burning from exertion. Beth could feel blisters on her ankles and bruises forming on her toes. For the past hour, she'd wanted to ask Daryl to take a break, but feared his response. She was nearly certain he would yell at her for her weakness and force her to continue on. She decided to try anyways.
"Daryl?" she asked, her voice weak from lack of water. He grunted to show he was listening. "Could we please stop for a few minutes?" Her big blue eyes begged him to agree. He considered for a moment, avoiding eye contact.
"Wondered when you were gonna ask," he said, casting her a sideways glance. He gestured to a farm house a ways down the road. "Might as well stop there for the night." She nodded gratefully as they walked a while further, becoming more alert as they approached the small house. Daryl set down his bags on the steps and looked into the window. He grabbed her arm and pulled her next to him, pointing into the living room. Through the pollen-covered window, she saw an elderly male walker standing still. He was solemnly facing the wall, and it appeared he hadn't noticed them yet.
"I want you to get rid of him," Daryl told her as her eyes widened. Her heart pounded as he reached into the leather pouch on her belt and removed the hunting knife. She tried to focus on the task at hand, but his close proximity was getting to her, for reasons unbeknownst.
Daryl placed the knife in Beth's hand and quietly opened the front door. Her tired body carried her into the house as she made her way to the next room over. She saw the walker sniff the air, the turn towards her with a growl. It hobbled in her direction, snarling and grabbing at her. Once it came within her reach, she extended her arm and pierced its skull with the blade. Blood spilled onto her fingers and she quickly wiped it off to avoid infecting the cut on her palm.
Beth let out a small cry as the lifeless corpse fell on top of her, pinning her to the ground. Her nose wrinkled in disgust at the putrid smell of the rotting flesh. She looked to Daryl for help and he hurried over to push the body off of her. Beth stood up and saw her loose shirt was covered in blood. She cringed and turned to face Daryl, who clearly wasn't impressed.
"Hope ya can do better than that," he said scowling at her. Daryl aimed an accusatory glare at her, shaking his head. "Even Hershel ain't that sloppy."
Beth's chest abruptly tightened. She was so deep in thought that she didn't even notice how her fingers dug into her palms, creating small crescent-shaped marks. Daryl blinked with realization as he watched the girl break down.
Beth couldn't believe he'd said that. She was certain he could handle anything but that. His snide remarks were nothing compared to reminding her of her father's horrific death.
Her fingers wove into the prison fence, watching her father kneeling beside the Governor. Rick tried to negotiate, calling out ways to compromise, but his pleading came up short. She began to scream as the sword came down on her daddy's neck.
She slumped to the floor as she cried, refusing to meet Daryl's gaze for fear of what it would hold. Concern? Pity? Irritation?
Beth heard him exit the room, leaving her to fight her own demons.
Sorry I left you hanging for so long! Unfortunately, this is more of a transitional chapter before more interesting stuff happens. Not sure if I'm doing Daryl's character justice? I swear he won't always be such a jerk.
Anyways, let me know what you think, your comments mean the world to me! Thanks again for reading.