AN: Hiatus is officially ovah! I've got so much Bethyl in my head, so get ready. For now, let's pretend Beth was never snatched.
Prompt (from awolfcomeshome): Beth decides it's Daryl's birthday and does something about it. Also, awkward Daryl is awkward. Place of event is the writers choice!
"Girl, what goes on inside that head of yours?"
"I know it's not actually your birthday, Daryl." Beth rolls her eyes. "I mean, I only had a 1 in 365 chance, which is slim at best. I just think it's important to celebrate somethin'."
"Why don't we celebrate your birthday, then?" He deftly peels the skin and fur from the fat squirrel in his hands, shooting her an irritated, sideways glance.
"My birthday's not 'til November," Beth answers, watching his every move, thankful for a squirrel dinner, never questioning when in Hell she decided squirrel was something to be thankful for. "And we don't even know when November is—not exactly."
He shrugs and looks up at the sky and the surrounding landscape. "Few weeks off, I'd guess."
She follows his gaze and figures he's probably right; the leaves are changing color and falling, and the sun is lower in the sky everyday. "Why're you so adamant about not celebratin' your birthday, anyway?" She knows he doesn't like the attention. She shouldn't even have asked him that question.
He shrugs again with that mumbling thing he does when he doesn't want to come right out and tell her what he's thinking—when he's embarrassed for feeling what he feels. Yes, she knew better than to ask. Still, she rolls her eyes in frustration before turning on her heel and beating a determined path through the back porch into the kitchen.
She searches the house and finds a tall, narrow container for gift-wrapping. The contents are beautifully preserved inside the secure, plastic bin for no other reason in this world than to give them a moment of light and joy. She won't take any of these items with her when they leave this house. Then she thinks maybe she will take some of the tissue paper to help start fires.
She begins to pull reams and rolls from the box, until she finds a bunch of crinkled, shimmering tissue paper. It's bright turquoise, and it looks even brighter and bluer in her worn, sun-darkened hands. It makes her think of pictures of clear, blue oceans surrounding islands far away. She wishes they could get a boat and go somewhere, where there aren't any walkers—somewhere they could rest and listen to the waves, like a desert island just for her and Daryl. But first, they have to find their family.
She bundles a few handfuls of white tissue before stuffing it into her bag. (She can't bear the thought of using the colorful, pretty paper as kindling.) After putting the rest of the paper back into the container and the container back in the closet, she takes her shimmery treasure to the pantry. Once she finds the only edible thing left in the cupboard, she wraps it in the wisp of dreamy paper.
His eyes are darker than the package in his hands; to call them stormy sounds like a cliché, but it's an apt description, and not just because of the color.
"Well," she pauses, bouncing on the balls of her feet, her gaze darting from his to his birthday gift and back again. "Open it." She knows what's inside; she wrapped it herself. She's excited, though, because the energy in the room has shifted to that thing that happens whenever they make a new discovery together or about one another. It feels safe and comfortable and natural, and it's impossible to put into words. She doesn't even care to put it into words, really.
"Girl." He won't look her straight in the eye, and his voice is low and gritty, like sand. What she can see of his tentative and angled gaze through the fall of dark hair and dim light of the setting sun no longer makes her think of a storm, but of the depths of the ocean abyss—bottomless, full of shadows and the unknown. She remembers learning in school that sharks don't even go that far out.
"Open it," she quietly persists, holding his gaze.
She also remembers that the abyss is below freezing cold. She doesn't feel cold right now, though.
He closes his eyes and draws a deep breath, then pops open the ends of the package she fastened with small, silver star stickers. Inside is a pack of fruit chews. He snorts a sarcastic puff of air through his nose and side-eyes her again with an arched brow.
Beth grins and bounces again. "Starburst!" she exclaims. "I call lemon." She claps her hands excitedly, and Daryl can't help it when his response is genuine laughter.
"Nah, nah, nah." He turns his back and begins to open the pack of candy, smirking at her gasp. "This's my birthday, remember?" He shoots her a look over his shoulder.
Beth smacks him on the arm then scurries around in front of him, giggling at his playful behavior. "Daryl Dixon, didn't anybody ever teach you to share?"
"Nope," he answers, popping a piece of candy in his mouth and making a show of chewing as he crumples the small wrapper up before tossing it at Beth.
She bats at the flying ball of yellow wax paper and growls in frustration. "Lemon?! Daryl!" She acts acceptably scandalized, while laughing out loud, as she attempts to wrestle the package from his hands.
"Hold on, now," he scolds her as he holds the package in the air too high for her to reach. She hops up and down in front of him as he thumbs red, pink, and orange candies to the floor. Once he reaches the next yellow, he drops the rest of the package, unwraps the coveted lemon candy and offers it to Beth.
They're both out of breath and smiling. She slowly reaches for it only to find he won't let it go. Each of them pinch at a corner of the tiny square as she closes the space between them, lifting the candy to her smiling mouth and holding his gaze. He finally let's go, when the candy touches her lips. He watches her chew and licks his own lips, his deep blue eyes glazing over for a brief moment.
"I call pink," he says, his voice low again and his eyes dark. A small smile complements his expression as he crouches to the floor to pick up the rest of the candy, keeping his gaze on Beth's smiling mouth as she swallows down the sweet and sour chew.
As always, thanks to my girl Rhanon Brodie for her pompoms and twirly hearts and Tyler Durdenness.