Author's note: Thank you all for your support after I removed my story. I'm glad you all enjoy it so much & I definitely felt guilty about leaving you in the lurch. While, yes, my story did get some pretty negative reviews, what bothered me the most were the people who were being rude to me personally. Mostly it was happening on my Tumblr account, which I have since deleted. So far I've gotten nothing but positivity on FF since reposting. I'm going to be continuing on with it, but I think solely sticking to this site. Again, thank you all so much.

Daryl couldn't tell how long he had been out; how long fever dreams had replaced waking life, and what, if any of it, had been real. Running a hand over his face, sticky from dried sweat, he remembered Beth vaguely; how she had crouched in front of him, blond hair closer to a halo, promising to make him soup. How long ago had that been?

His mouth felt wicked dry. Daryl ran his tongue over his cracked lips as he sat up slowly. He looked around the room, trying to gather the time. He figured it to be six or seven at night. The sun was simmering down into gold shades that cast long shadows, and there was nothing to be heard in the house. He picked up the water bottle on the table beside him and drank longer than he knew was smart - especially if he had been out a while, and Beth had went through their meager supply.

"Beth?" he called, voice raspy.

No response. His heart clenched in a way that was too familiar whenever she didn't answer him immediately. Don't go panicking, he told himself, maybe the girl went into town; she's sure as hell stubborn enough to take off lookin' for medicine when you go and get the sniffles. He walked slowly from the living room into the kitchen, hoping to find her staring out the big window into the yard, or at least a note - she did know he could read, right?

Daryl felt light headed still - could tell from the thick fog in his head that he was still far from well. He blinked heavily at the can of soup he saw sitting on the counter. Hadn't she been just about to make him soup? He clenched his fist, nails digging angrily into his palm. It ain't what it looks like. She's probably made more than a couple cans of soup.

He leaned heavily on the counter. There was an urge to scream, loud and long, until she appeared out of the nothingness. Her bright eyes and blond hair lighting up every dank corner of his soul. You said you'd keep her safe, and now you can't even find her, Dixon. Some protector you are. Fuck up, just like your ol' man. He tried to wish the thoughts away, but they remained as he pushed his body up the stairs so quickly it made his head swim.

Nothing looked familiar, as though the heat of his fever had burned the hallways and the bedroom into nothing. But he recognized her pack. Her sweater - it was getting dark out, wouldn't she be cold? The journal, left on the bed, closed with the pen next to it. He sat down heavily on the comforter, knees giving out as much as he insisted for them to hold, to move, to run.

Daryl squeezed his eyes shut against the images of before. Her pack, once again, left. And Beth gone, so quickly and suddenly, as if she had never existed. As if she had never looked at him and held him as like he was worth a damn. Well, what was he worth now?

"Damn it, Beth," Daryl hissed to himself. "You can't be gone."

He grabbed the journal and opened it, expecting to find it empty except for the words he had written there for her. She had never had a chance to mention it. Had it made her smile? Cry? Had she even looked inside of it? But when he flipped to the first page, he saw Beth's handwriting, tinier and more feminine than he could've ever imagined:

Day two: I never dream about M. It's as if what happened with him is so horrific I can't even recreate it without focus or will - neither of which I'll lend my memories. Let that cabin burn. Let T. & J. burn. Let M. burn and turn to ash.

Daryl threw the journal across the room. It smashed into the mirror, cracking the glass and sending shards of it falling like rain. If Beth had wanted Mark gone, Daryl would've searched 'til the day he died; fill him with holes and watch the red spill out - funny how monsters bled the same as people. Daryl had certainly seen enough of it to know.

Had she left him? The doubt ate away at Daryl. She had done nothing but try to leave since the moment he had found her - was afraid that he wouldn't want her around, not when he knew - and he just kept screwing it up with his temper. After their time together, as wrong as it may have seemed, he thought of her as his - his to teach, his to look out for, his to return to her sister. He had fucked it up then and he had fucked it up now.

Part of Daryl knew if Beth was going to leave, she would have taken her pack... but maybe she had wanted to leave him with the supplies - especially since she had known he was sick. Or maybe she had left it so he would think she hadn't gone and would wait around to give her more of a headstart - but his gut ached the same way it had when she had been taken, and every day since until he had found her.

With his body too weak to run as he first had, he walked out into the yard, and then into the forest. The crickets echoed emptiness. He felt many, many miles away from Beth. He walked carefully into the foliage, eyes trained on the ground, trying to focus; they watered at the effort - at least that's what Daryl told himself. He was alone again - the man who many said was an island to himself, left deserted on the sandy shores of his darkness.

"What do I do, Beth?" he asked the wind. "God damn it, what am I supposed to do now?"