Chapter 1

Beth looked at Daryl sitting there eating the jelly with a spoon. At least he wasn't using his fingers this time, she thought to herself. "What changed your mind?" she asked him, smiling. She had been trying to convince him for two days that there were still good people in the world. But when he told her that he wanted to stay there, her heart nearly stopped beating inside her chest. She wasn't sure what he was asking but her heart knew what she wanted him to say. That he wanted to stay there. With her. Just the two of them. But then she thought she imagined it. A silly school girl crush; that's all this was.

He looked at her for a moment, his eyes just boring into her. He almost seemed like he wanted to say something and then stopped himself and then shrugged his shoulders, humming noncommittally "I dunno".

Beth mimicked him then saying "Don't" . She tilted her head to look at him. He sure was really concentrating all his efforts on eating that jelly. Until he wasn't. And he was looking right at her. His eyes that spoke a thousand words that his lips never uttered. They told her everything that she needed to know. She changed his mind and the realization hit her so starkly that she just said "Oh" and nothing else. She wasn't sure what he was trying to tell her but it sure seemed to her that there was some double meaning behind his stare. Before she even had a chance to respond, the cans rattled on the front porch and Daryl put the jar of jelly down.

"I'ma give that mutt one more chance" he muttered, getting up. Daryl walked out of the kitchen the door shutting behind him. Damn he had really gone and done it now. He wondered what she thought of him. When she had asked "what changed your mind?", a million thoughts had raced through his mind all at once. Because she had changed his mind. Beth, sitting there smiling at him, her happiness infectious and her smiles contagious. Beth smiling at him made him want to smile. And Daryl did not smile. At least not lately. But this girl with her angelic face, soft blonde hair that perpetually smelled like strawberries and a fresh summer rain, she had changed his mind on his outlook on life. Because she was good. She represented everything good in the world; his world at least. And in the months since they had left the prison that is what she had become. His whole world. Sometimes at night, when she lay across from him on her own pallet, wherever they made camp for the night, he thought about what it would have been like if they hadn't escaped together but no matter how hard he tried, he just pictured the two of them running together for all those hours. Sometimes during their run from the prison that fateful day the Governor and his men had attacked, it had felt like years they had run.

The first few days had been rough. Beth had cried nearly all the time and he hadn't known what to do. But gradually over the past few weeks, they had settled into a comfortable pattern. If she cried, he held her, just letting her get it all out. He never said anything. Just opened his arms and she came into them willingly. Sometimes she fell asleep that way and he pull her away and tuck her in and then go lie down in his own space, his arms feeling strangely empty. It had begun to work on him in a way that he tried not to think on too much. She was beautiful to be sure but Daryl didn't even know if that was something he was allowed to think. How pretty she was and how his heart nearly broke every time she got that look on her face when she was remembering her dad. It had been an awful thing the way her dad died. He had thought a lot of Hershel. He was a good man, just like his daughter was a good woman. Wasn't any other way she could have turned out being raised by Hershel Greene. He had deserved a much better way to pass from this world than at the hands of a madman. But they didn't get to choose in this life, the way they left it.

Beth sighed in frustration. Literally saved by the bell. Well by a bunch of cans anyway. When he had been looking at her, it was almost as if he was trying to tell her something. He had been acting so sweet the past day or so. It had started with the piggyback ride, which was fun and spontaneous, even though it was necessary with her bum ankle. It still ached something awful where the trap had caught it but it was getting better each day.

She rubbed at it absently under the table, looking up in surprise as Daryl opened the door to the kitchen and peeked around the corner, beckoning her to join him in the entryway with a crook of his finger. She got up and hobbled in to where he stood with the most pitiful looking excuse for a dog she had ever seen. It looked like it used to be white at one time but now it was dirty grey and white mixed with the fur snarled into heavy mats. It only had one eye and the fur covered most of the other one. She wondered how the poor thing had made it this far in their apocalyptic world and her heart broke a little thinking about all the horrors it had probably seen, its owner most likely dead.

She moved closer to the dog where Daryl was feeding it the pigs feet and she wrinkled her nose in disgust. "So gross" She whispered.

"You ever tried 'em?" Remarked Daryl as he reached up with one hand to pet the dog on the head and for now the mutt was letting him. Had on a collar and Daryl reached for it even as he felt the dog withdraw from him. He fished another pig's foot out of the jar and held his hand out for the dog. It was surprisingly gentle as it picked the treat from Daryl's hand. Daryl took that opportunity to read the collar. "Lucky" Daryl read the attached tag aloud and had to laugh.

"No, don't have to." She said, finally answering him, rather enjoying watching him with the dog. It reminded her somewhat of how he had been so careful of baby Judith. Brought out another side to him. "They look and sound disgusting enough that I know I would hate 'em". She whispered again. She wasn't sure why they were whispering except that the dog was kind of skittish, although he seemed to be enjoying the pig's feet. Beth knelt where Daryl was crouched down petting the dog and she extended her hand to him. "Lucky, huh?" Beth crooned and the dog actually looked up and licked her hand.

"He likes you" Daryl commented sitting down in the entryway and Beth sat down too. It struck Beth as odd all the sudden. Here they were sitting in a funeral home, petting a dog that wasn't theirs. It all seemed a little domestic.

"Can we keep him?" Beth looked up him. Daryl looked down at her hopeful expression, her face lit up with that smile. That damn smile that was his undoing every time.

"I dunno". He said as he wiped his fingers clean of the pig's feet on the pants leg of his jeans. His noncommittal answer reminded Beth of the conversation in the kitchen. One that she was dying to finish but she didn't know how to go about bringing it up again or if she was even supposed to. It kind of felt like the moment had passed now.

"I guess we can keep him for tonight. Poor mutt probably hasn't slept inside somewhere warm since the turn". He remarked. Daryl had been sleeping in the chair in the only bedroom in the place. He gave Beth the bed; had insisted upon it as it was only proper. He may not have been raised to be a southern gentleman but he had manners and aimed to use them.

Beth pulled out some of the jerky out of her pocket she had found lurking in behind the cabinet in the kitchen. Maybe they could lure the dog upstairs. She stifled a yawn. She was hoping to coax him to follow them. She tore off a little piece and gave it to him. He eagerly swallowed it, never stopping to chew it and Beth smiled.

"We better go get some shut-eye. We have to get some supplies tomorrow". Daryl got up from the floor and helped Beth to stand up. Her ankle was still a little tender but she could walk on it some now. Still he put an arm around her so they could get up the steps. She probably could have managed on her own but God help him, Daryl just wanted to touch her. He found that he kept looking for reasons to touch her and it puzzled him. He wasn't a touchy feely kind of guy, never had been. The piggyback ride had been out of necessity and that one had nearly backfired on him. With her pressed up so tightly against his back side, he had been unable to get the thought out of his head of what it might feel like if she had those same parts pressed up the front side of him. He had gotten painfully hard like a damn teenager and hoped like hell Beth couldn't see the effect she had on him. He had felt like the worst pervert after that and had vowed to keep his distance but every time she smiled his way, he was lost again and he found himself reaching out to touch her shoulder or her arm, just wanting to duplicate the way he felt when he touched her.

He had been so excited when they found all the food, he had fixed up their "redneck brunch" and laid it out on the table. She had still be hobbling a little and rather than wait for her to find his surprise waiting for her, he had scooped her up and carried her into the kitchen. He still couldn't believe he had done that. His words to Beth and Zach that day at the prison were coming back to haunt him. "Like a damn romance novel."

They finally reached the bedroom, Lucky trotting along on their heels. Beth went over to lie on the bed and he went to sit in his chair, his body tired and aching. He hadn't slept much the night before. Every time he woke up, he would glance over in the candlelight to make sure Beth was safe and sound and he got mesmerized by her sleeping form. It was maddening.

Lucky trotted over to Beth and she laughed. She did have the beef jerky, she mused. She held out the last bit to him and he chomped it down happily and looked up at her expectantly. "That's all I got, boy". She affectionately rubbed his head and looked to Daryl. "He liked the jerky, I guess".

Daryl frowned. "Damn dog, that was my jerky". But he wasn't mad. And Beth knew it. He just liked to pretend he was all gruff. But she knew different now. She had seen more sides to Daryl than she had ever thought was possible. Like the time at the cabin before they had burned it down. The sight of this big strong hulk of a man crying in her arms had been disarming. A soft spot in her heart had opened up for him then and there and she hadn't looked at him the same way since. Not in a "oh you cried so you must be weak" kind of way, but in a way that Beth knew that there was so much more beneath the surface of Daryl Dixon. You just had to chip away at it to find out.

She guessed she had spurred on the conversation about there still being good people because she knew that somewhere in there, for all his gruffness and rough demeanor, he was an old softie. She missed her family and wanted them back desperately but she knew that if they hadn't gotten out together, she might have never seen that side of Daryl.

Lucky trotted back over to Daryl who had just gotten himself comfortable in the chair and had his eyes closed. Lucky licked his hand, looking up at him and barked lightly, just a slight "ruff" before wagging his tail. Daryl chuckled. "Whatsa matter boy? You can't be hungry. You damn near ate a whole jar of pigs feet and my jerky to boot". He said roughly and then watched as Lucky walked back over to the bed where Beth was stretched out facing the chair.

Beth extended her hand to the dog and pet his head, his tail wagging all the while. "I think he's trying to tell us somethin'" Beth remarked as she sat up in the bed.

Lucky walked back over to Daryl and nudged his hand. Daryl looked at Beth, clearly puzzled. "Yeah, I dunno. Wonder if he needs to go out." He was thinking he was going to regret the decision they made to keep the dog, if even for the night.

The dog walked back over to Beth and realization dawned on Beth. "He wants to be near both of us. That's why he is pacing back and forth". She marveled at the dog. It was almost like he had read her mind. She had been trying to get Daryl to sleep beside her in the bed for days but he wouldn't hear of it.

Daryl sat up, disbelief washing over his face. Damn dog. He tried like hell every night to keep from crawling in beside Beth and just breathing in her scent. He sighed. "Fine. But this is just for tonight." He insisted as he got up and trudged over to the bed. Beth scooted over to make room for him and Lucky.

Letting out a little "ruff", Lucky hopped up on the bed and settled himself at the very foot of it, leaving Beth and Daryl to look on in wonder. That dog was smart, Daryl would give him that.

"Looks like he wants us to both be near him. Poor guy" Beth stroked the dogs fur, feeling the mats and tangles in it. She wished they could give him a bad. He sorely needed it, but she supposed it would have to wait.

Daryl snorted derisively. "Yeah, looks like." Damn dog anyway. He had worked hard to maintain his distance from Beth. It helped to keep him from the thousands of thoughts that invaded his space when she was near. Like there wasn't enough room in his brain for everything he thought about when she was close by. He curled on his side, facing the door and away from Beth.

Beth smiled down at Daryl. He looked downright annoyed and she didn't know why but it amused her. He was hovered on the edge of the bed. One wrong turn or if he even sneezed, he'd be on the floor. Beth wasn't able to quite suppress the giggle that sprang forth from her lips.

Daryl turned his head to look at her. "What's so funny?" He demanded.

"Nothin'. Just think it's funny that we been fighting about you sleeping here too for days and it took Lucky to get you over here." Daryl hummed. She sure did look pleased with the situation; almost as if she was gloating.

"Didn't peg you for an "I told you so" kind of girl." He remarked before turning back over.

"I'm not" she said. And she wasn't. But it sure felt good to have him lying on the other side of the bed. Like the closer he was to her, the safer she would be. Silly, she knew. They weren't guaranteed another breath in this cold world turned colder, but Daryl made her feel safe. She sighed and closed her eyes, watching his back as he relaxed into sleep.

Daryl turned back over, all at once comfortable and feeling like he was going to climb out of his own skin at the same time, feeling Beth's presence behind him. He tried closing his eyes but kept imagining himself turning over in the bed and taking her in his arms..…He didn't finish the thought and plumped up the pillow under his head trying to get comfortable. Yeah, it was going to be a long fucking night.

Well this is a new story for Beth and Daryl and I hope you like the first chapter. I am excited about it. The idea took hold a few days ago and wouldn't let go so I felt it deserved a shot. We will see how far it goes. Probably not as far as Accepting Love, but we shall see. Let me know what you think, reviews mean everything in a newborn fic such as this. It's the only way I will know to continue. Until next time, xoxoxo

PS – If you are reading Vanilla Fields and patiently awaiting the next chapter, I will have one up either tonight or tomorrow morning. Thanks for reading!