A/N: My first attempt at Bethyl. I've always wondered with all the running around they do on the show, how come no one has come across a grow op? Georgia seems to have a perfect climate for growing marijuana. Anyway, this is a little fluffy, and may induce giggles, or munchies, depending on your mood. Hinting at attraction, but these two are still playing it safe. Takes place after they burn the cabin down, but before the country club because we all need a little more Bethyl time before she gets taken.
All recognisable elements are the property of their respective owners. The remaining content is mine.
Special thanks to incog_ninja who is always patient, and wise, and assures me that my Daryl isn't grossly OOC.
"Stay here," Daryl muttered as they edged into the front hall of the house they'd come upon.
Beth wasn't sure how long they'd been running for – everything after her daddy had been hacked up by that son of a bitch that called himself the Governor had become a blur. The light was fading in the sky, turning into maybe the eight or ninth night she'd been running alongside Daryl. Of all the people in that prison, she had to get stuck with the redneck that had barely said a handful of words to her in the last two years. And most of those words had been some variation of those he'd just spoken to her – stay here, stay put, don't wander off, just wait, hold up – and Beth was sick to death of it. She could be sneaky. She could be stealthy.
She nudged Daryl aside with her hip and stepped beside him, surveying the immediate main level they could see from where they stood. "I'm comin' with." She'd already unsnapped the knife at her hip and she readied to take a step forward when Daryl caught her by the back of her jeans and hauled her back against him. Her yelp of protest died when she collided with his lanky frame.
"That so?" He huffed and cocked his ear, listening for the shuffling of feet, undead, or otherwise.
"We already did the perimeter," Beth reasoned, trying to ignore the way his words had been breathed warmly against the back of her neck. She continued. "Tapped on all the windows, checked the integrity of doors. If anything were inside, we'd know by now." She wiggled out of Daryl's grasp and tilted her chin up at him in a challenge.
"Oh, yeah, you think you're tough, don'tcha?" He chuckled lowly and flicked his hair from his eyes, glancing briefly at the knife in her hand. It had been his up until about four days ago, and he knew she could handle herself. That didn't mean he wanted her wandering off into a dark, unknown house by herself.
Beth's eyebrow arched up in askance. "Follow my lead, Dixon," she huffed, moving to the family room off the foyer.
They cleared the main floor and the cellar in ten minutes, and then took another fifteen upstairs. When they'd secured the house, they spread out again, and Daryl had to admit that Beth had done exceptionally well. Probably had something to do with her watching me all the time, he thought. He hadn't been immune to the younger woman's gaze, but it wasn't leering, or accusatory, or anything he'd encountered coming from other people. She'd watched him with genuine interest, and it seemed she'd been taking mental notes of how to move undetected.
"All right, girl," Daryl muttered as they dropped their almost-empty packs on the table. "I got the kitchen. Why don't you take your tuff self and mosey back down to the cellar." He spotted an old kerosene lamp on the wall by the back door and lifted it from its bracket, pleased with the slosh of fuel still present. He fiddled with the damper and the valve until he had a small, but bright, flame going, and he held it out to Beth. "Careful. It's awful dark down there."
"Ain't afraid of the dark, Daryl Dixon," Beth snapped, taking the lantern from him and moving to the cellar door.
"Yeah, well, worse things than the dark these days" He rubbed his chin with the tip of his finger. "Holler if you need anything."
"Same goes for you," she shrugged, grinning at him.
"You're a real pain in the ass, you know that?"
Beth chuckled, and rolled her eyes, and then began her descent down the stairs.
The shelves lining the walls at the bottom of the stairs were rough hewn, but sturdy, and Beth was reminded of the cold cellar back at the farm house. These types of rooms didn't bother her none, despite the bugs scattering away from the light, and the roots hanging down from the ground above. She'd spent plenty of time in her own cold cellar, taking stock of preserves, making room for new batches she and her mama had put together. It was rather comforting, given that it was six feet underground and about ten degrees cooler than the world above. Setting the lantern down on one shelf, Beth dug out her flashlight and clicked it on, and took stock of what was left.
There were a few glass jars of apricots, her absolute favorite, several tins of molasses, condensed milk, and tomatoes. On the next shelf down, she found a few packages of dried pasta, and some more glass jars, these ones filled with homemade pickles, asparagus, and pickled hard boiled eggs. She decided on a few of everything she'd found. Daryl could always round out the haul with a rabbit or a squirrel; he was strangely keen on always finding protein, but making sure to balance it out with any sort of carbohydrate they could find. "Rabbit sickness," he'd told her, "is brutal. You eat too many lean animals without anything else, and the body goes into shock. You think you're surviving, but really, you're just adding to the problem." This, of course, was one of his rare verbose spells. Beth made it a point to always find things to complete a meal, whether it was stale rice, or a few nugget potatoes dug from an abandoned garden. She added an extra tin each of tomatoes and asparagus, and one more of apricots.
The next shelf didn't offer much food-wise, but still upheld a bounty of socks and sweaters, most of them handmade from thick wool, and Beth grabbed a sweater for each of them, and several pairs of socks. Not much else was going to fit into her backpack, but she'd spotted a chest of drawers pushed against one wall and was determined to fish through it and see what else she could find. She paused, turning her ear towards the stairs, and heard Daryl's boots treading over the linoleum, as cupboard doors squeaked open and then clattered shut.
She moved to the dresser.
The top drawer was stacked full of photo albums, and stacks of pictures that had yet to be sorted. There were also a pair of baby books, still wrapped in their cellophane, and Beth contemplated rifling through the pictures before thinking better of it and slamming the drawer shut. If she'd been here a year ago, it might have mattered who these people were – or had been. Now, it didn't make much difference to her. She'd learned to be unsentimental, and she hadn't been lying when she told Daryl she didn't cry anymore. It wasn't difficult to do; the key was not to linger too long on anything.
The second and third drawers held little more than old paint spattered sheets, and she recognized the lavender color that was on the walls of the master bedroom upstairs, and then sage green that was the bathroom off the kitchen. She let out a breath, ruffling her bangs, and pushed the drawers shut.
Crouching down, she yanked open the bottom drawer. For a second, she merely stared at what she found. Packed inside, end to end, were cellophane wrapped bricks of something. Her fingers glided over the dusty packaging, pressing into the substance. It had a little give, and felt hollow, and light, like straw or some other plant material.
She had a pretty good idea what it was, just based on the number of cop shows Maggie had watched when she was home from college. Jimmy had smoked marijuana a few times, too, but Beth had never seen it in such a great capacity, except for on the TV. She turned the brick of weed over in her hands, before raising it to her nose and inhaling.
There wasn't much of a scent, but the little that permeated the plastic was potent enough. Slightly sweet, it had a skunky undertone, and she remembered a handful times Jimmy had sparked up in the cab of his truck. He'd called it hotboxing, and while Beth had never partook, just sitting there beside him as he blazed gave her what she came to know as a residual high.
"Hey, Beth! What are you doin' down here?" Daryl's footsteps on the stairs accompanied his sudden bark, and Beth panicked, shoving the brick of marijuana into her bag and zipping it shut before shoving the drawer back into place.
She stood and whirled on the dirt floor just as Daryl landed at the foot of the stairs, his flashlight flooding the cellar. "Been callin' ya for three minutes, girl. What goes on in that head o'yers?" He didn't wait for her to answer, and instead held up a handful of packages of beef jerky. "Jackpot," he grinned.
Beth nodded tightly and moved to the shelves, picking up a jar of asparagus and two more tins of condensed milk. "I got the vegetables covered. And dessert."
"Yeah?" Daryl plucked the condensed milk from her hand and turned it over, his grin widening. "Shit, yes, you do." He tossed the can up and caught it smartly. "C'mon. You'll never believe what else I found."
Daryl watched as Beth reclined back against the couch and delicately nibbled on another potato chip. He didn't know how she could be so dainty; they both hadn't eaten for a few days, and Daryl was shoveling the crispy morsels in by the handful, licking all the seasoning from his finger tips before jamming his fist into the bag and grabbing more. "You want me to leave you two alone?" he snickered.
Beth looked over at Daryl and felt her cheeks heat. "Oh, shut up," she sighed, turning back to her own stash of chips. She was glad he'd found two bags, though the way he was eyeing her, she was certain hers wouldn't last if she let him get near. "And don't even think about it, Dixon. I haven't had a potato chip in about eight months. These are mine," she hissed, clutching her bag close.
"You keep stallin' like that an' I'll finish em' for ya," he grunted, wiping absently at the crumbs that were dusting the front of his shirt. They fell to the crotch of his jeans and he clicked his tongue in annoyance before setting aside the remainder of his bag and arching his hips up, brushing the crumbs out of his lap. He looked up to see Beth staring, and he felt his own cheeks turn red. "Whut," he growled, snatching his bag up and folding a tight corner into one side of the bag. He then proceeded to funnel the remaining crumbs into his mouth, and munched happily.
Beth turned back to her chips. There was nothing more she wanted to do than shovel them into her mouth in the same fashion Daryl had, but the way she'd wolfed down dinner, she figured she'd at least try to savor these. She wasn't sure when she'd come across another bag, and, with that thought in her mind, she popped one final chip into her mouth and then folded the top of the bag over, before tucking it into the top of her backpack. She took a long sip from her bottled water, and nestled into the couch.
They'd decided to stay in the house for the night, as they'd spent a good amount of time ransacking the place. When they'd finished dinner, the sun had almost set completely. Wandering around in the dark woods of Georgia didn't really sound like a grand time to either of them. They'd head out in the morning and try to cover more ground. Along with the beef jerky and chips Daryl had scored, he also found a good sized tarp and some rope for lashing. He'd be able to build a lean-to, he explained, as he set the supplies next to his pack near the front door.
With a full stomach, their eyelids grew heavy, and Daryl paced the room a bit, like a dog looking for a place to sleep. Beth sighed and threw the quilt she'd dragged down from the main bedroom off of her prone form, and patted the couch cushion. "C'mon, Dixon," she sang, trying to lure him in.
"Nah," he said, waving her off. "Floor's good."
Beth snickered. "The door's locked, Daryl. An' all of our stuff is within arm's reach. You don't need to keep watch tonight, you know. Come lay down. Plenty-a room here for both of us."
Daryl shifted in his boots, contemplating the offer. It wouldn't be the first time he'd slept nestled up next to Beth, and truth be told, he was kind of used to it. But he was anxious for morning, too. The haul they'd secured was almost too good to be true, and Daryl was worried that the little slice of comfort they'd found would be gone too soon, and they'd be making a run for it.
"It's chilly in here," Beth continued, her blue eyes pleading.
Daryl scoffed, but he unbuttoned his vest and slung it over the back of the chair he'd been sitting in. Beth's face brightened when he approached the couch and Daryl rolled his eyes in good nature. "Don't be hoggin' all the blankets," he muttered, clambering over Beth and wedging himself between her and the back of the couch. He grasped her hip, frowning at the bone there, and then tugged the blanket over both of them.
"Don't be snorin' in mah ear," she drawled sleepily.
"Quit it," he grunted, nudging the back of her thigh with his knee.
"G'night, Daryl," she murmured.
Daryl waited until her breathing steadied, signaling her succumbing to sleep at last. He reached two fingers and dared to tuck her hair behind her ear before closing his eyes with a soft smile. "G'night, princess."
"This fucking sucks," Beth bemoaned as she squinted up to the rain dumping down on them. "Why didn't we stay back at the house?"
"Didn't feel safe," Daryl growled over his shoulder, pushing through the thick mud that had become the forest floor.
When they'd woken the next morning, despite having a good night's rest, Daryl was still on high alert, and hustled Beth into action. They ate pickled eggs and apricots straight from their respective jars as they crossed the front yard of the house, despite Beth's protesting that they stay another day. Daryl had seen the clouds brewing, and guessed that they could easily move away from them. Mother Nature, however, had other plans, and the rainclouds had come about from the west and opened just after noon. Now, three hours gone, Beth and Daryl were cold, soaked, and tired. Walking through mud was brutal on the legs, and it was easier to get tangled in roots and underbrush. More than once Daryl had to stop and help Beth cut herself free.
"Well, this rain ain't gonna let up anytime soon," Beth replied haughtily.
Daryl whirled, the thin veneer of patience he'd started with that morning finally worn through, and advanced on Beth. "You been whinin' all day, girl. You on the rag, or whut?"
Swiping her soaking hair back from her face with one hand, she delivered a stiff middle finger with other. "Screw you, Dixon." She huffed and then stomped past him. "You can be such an asshole."
"Yeah, tell me something I don't know," he barked back, before trudging after her.
In her attempt to put distance between her and Daryl she tripped, and came crashing down on her hands and knees in the mud. Sinking down to her wrists, and feeling the cold oozing into her pant legs, Beth gave a frustrated cry as she yanked her hands free. Sitting back on her feet, kneeling there in the mud, she turned her face upwards and growled once more. She really wanted to scream at the very top of her lungs, but she wasn't about to draw walkers just because she threw a hissy fit.
"Hey," Daryl barked, nudging her with the toe of his boot. "C'mon, get up. Wanna put more miles in before dinner."
"Can I just have a minute, here?" She flicked the thick mud from her hands and then, finding not alternative, wiped them on her thighs. Then, she sighed, and sank down on her haunches. "God," she huffed. "Ain't like we're runnin' from somebody; haven't seen another person in weeks. And we know the rain slows the walkers down. So can we just hold up a minute, Daryl?"
He gnawed on his thumbnail before shrugging, and settling himself back against a nearby tree. "Fine," he sighed. "Ain't like we're gettin' any wetter."
"Ain't you a peach," Beth drawled back in her best rendition of Daryl's growl.
Daryl merely growled back. "I'ma push ahead just a little bit, see if there's anywhere to set the tarp." He slugged through the mud and deadfall for a few paces and then turned back to Beth. "I'll get ya dry before dinner, alright?" When she didn't say anything, he came to stand in front of her once more, and crouched down to look her in the eyes. It was probably just his anxious nature that made him suddenly decide to leave the house, despite the looming storm, and now they were both soaked, and Beth seemed to be faring worse than he was. She'd done remarkably well the last several days. Maybe things had finally caught up to her. She may not cry anymore, but that didn't mean she wasn't affected by things
When she didn't answer his question, Daryl bristled. "You gonna stop talking t'me now?" Not that I care, he insisted silently. Because it don't matter. But, as he looked at her face, flushed with frustration, and the mud streaking her jeans, he felt a tiny pang of remorse.
Beth remained silent and unmoving, staring back at Daryl with a hard blue gaze to rival his own. The rain ran rivulets down her face and neck, disappearing below the scooping neckline of her tank top. Realizing exactly where he was staring, Daryl coughed and snapped his eyes back to hers. She still didn't say anything, but one eyebrow slowly crept up in playfully.
"At least help a girl up outta the mud?"
He gave his head a shake and sighed before standing, and extending his hand. "Up ya go," he urged.
Beth stuck her still-muddy hand into Daryl's and clambered to her feet, letting him take some of her weight as he hauled her up. When she was steady on her feet, she looked up into his face, watching as he flicked his soaking hair from his eyes and press his face against his shoulder in an attempt to dry it off.
"You're so kind," she murmured, sarcasm as heavy as the rain. Then, she reached with her free hand – but not before noticing Daryl still hadn't let go of the hand he'd pulled her up by – and cupped his cheek, slapping a handful of thick, cold mud onto his face.
It was a shock, and the sound of mud squelching against his skin was raw in his ears. His eyes narrowed sharply as he stared down at the slip of the girl he was still holding on to, who was trying her hardest not to burst into a fit of laughter.
Daryl slowly wiped his cheek on his sleeve, shooting Beth a sidelong glance as he did. "Nice to see you still have your sense of humor."
"You make it real easy."
He huffed, and was prepared to bark at her again, but he stopped. Something in the way she was looking at him told him that she wasn't about to be cowed by his prickly demeanor. "All right, sweetheart." He stood to one side and made an obtuse sweeping gesture in the direction he'd been about to take. "Why don't you take point?"
Beth squared her shoulders, and flicked the wet coil of her ponytail behind her shoulder. "Fine," she answered breezily. Her fingers plucked the knife from her belt as she brushed past Daryl and moved into the trees, keeping her eyes and ears open. She didn't miss the soft sound of Daryl moving behind her, and the creak of the bowstring as he loaded the crossbow, and covered her.
Daryl trailed behind Beth, watching as she moved on quick, light feet through the dead fall. The rain still fell steadily, and he found himself staring longer and longer every time she vaulted over a felled tree, struggling to straddle them in the tight confines of soaked denim. He was careful to tear his eyes away before Beth caught him – she seemed to always know when he was looking, and even though she smiled sweetly, and her cheeks turned pink before she looked away, Daryl always felt more awkward than usual. He figured it was a combination of the fact that she was Hershel's daughter, and his youngest, at that, but if his life had taught him anything it was that age didn't make a lick of difference when it really came down to brass tacks.
The forest was thickening, and Daryl figured they were nearing water. Sarsaparilla and creeper vines began clumping up around oak and ash, and the footing was becoming difficult to traverse, with more to trip on, and the ever present rain making things slick and muddy. Soon enough, they moved through a copse of trees that seemed to close them off from anything else, and Daryl swept in a circle, his bow pointed outwards as he turned. Unconsciously, he pushed Beth behind him, and she went without argument, putting her back to his to keep an eye on him in return.
"Whaddya think?" Daryl murmured as they finished their scan.
They still stood back to back, and even through the leather of his vest, and the cold rain that soaked them, Beth could feel the solid warmth of his body. She was suddenly exhausted, and she admitted as much.
Daryl chuckled, his head bobbing in agreement. He was about to suggest they push through to the other side of the copse, so that they couldn't be surprised from all sides, but Beth was already moving around, and past him.
"I don't feel safe in here," she murmured, moving to one wall of thick, woody vine. She peered closely through the leaves that had become sparse in the last few weeks. "I think I see something," she continued, just as hushed as before. "Looks like someone's camp."
Daryl nodded, and pressed the stock of the crossbow to his shoulder once more. "I'll go first."
Beth shook her head, and looked back to Daryl. "I don't see anything moving." She turned the knife in her hand and began hacking at the woody vines before her.
"Beth!" Daryl grunted, making her pause. "Whoever is over there could be doing the same thing. Watching us. Waiting for us to make a move."
Beth turned back to the vines, her knife steady in her hands. "You got my back." She began cutting again, moving step by cautious step into the hedge.
Daryl was on her heels, his senses on high alert. He didn't feel anxious like he normally did if someone, or something, was waiting. But that didn't mean there weren't walkers in that camp. Beth was ever silent, however, and efficient, and as she made her last cuts, her feet shuffled. "I don't see anybody," she called over her shoulder. She took another step. "Whoever was here, looks like they checked out a long time – ah!" She yelped, surprised, as her foot caught, and she crashed forward into a crude lean-to, tearing in to one side and coming face-to-face with a half-rotted corpse.
"Holy shit!" She screeched, pushing up on her hands and trying to distance herself. It wasn't like she hadn't seen her share of dead bodies in the last few years, but that didn't mean she liked getting up close and personal with them. Her feet twisted, and she scrambled backwards into Daryl's legs. Her erratic breathing regulated as Daryl's hand came down on her shoulder.
"S'all right," he drawled, moving for a closer look. "This one had the right idea." He crouched down, confirming the small, precise hole in the skull. "Bullet to the brain." Hearing Beth whimper, he looked back to her. "You okay?"
Beth nodded, but Daryl knew she was lying – she was pale, all traces of lively pink washed away, and her shoulders trembled, with cold and shock. Water slid down her features to drop form her nose to her quivering lips. Looking back to the lean-to, Daryl made a decision. "Get inside – looks like it's still keeping things relatively dry. I'll move this poor bastard," and he waved at the body, "an' find something t'make a fire with. You okay if I leave you here?" When she didn't answer right away, Daryl snapped his fingers under her nose. "Beth."
"Yeah," she breathed, looking at Daryl. "Yeah. Okay." She shook her head and moved to her feet, carefully untangling them and stepping around to the front of the lean-to. Daryl was right, it was fairly dry inside. She slipped her pack off and sank to her bottom on an old cooler lid, thankful she didn't have to sit directly on the ground. She pulled her pack to her lap and tore the zipper open, suddenly remembering the sweater and socks she'd stuffed inside. With a nod in Daryl's direction, she watched him turn and move off into the trees, his promise of being back before night helping to keep her spirits up.
Daryl had come upon her curled on her side on a tattered piece of plastic sheeting, shivering in her sleep. He dropped the rabbit he'd bagged when he'd noticed the pale, blue tinge in her lips, ignoring the fact he'd been staring at her mouth, and crouched down beside her.
"Beth," he called softly, gently shaking her shoulder with his hand. She'd managed to throw on a sweater, something he didn't recognize from her regular rotation of garments, and figured she'd found it at the house the night before. But the sweater had grown damp, and Daryl growled when he noticed the dirty, once-green strap of her tank top where the neckline of the sweater hung.
She was still wearing her wet clothes, and now he was certain she was shaking with the onset of hypothermia. Frowning, he shook Beth harder, calling her name again.
Groggily, she came to, and her eyes slipped shut again after she smiled sleepily up at Daryl. Biting back a curse, Daryl hefted Beth up into his arms so that she was sitting, and stripped off the sweater, her layered tank tops following. She protested weakly, pulling her arms over her chest as she sat half naked, and three-quarters delirious. He didn't scoff at her arms over her chest, even though her flimsy bra wasn't anything he hadn't seen before. He merely shrugged out of his vest and quickly pulled the buttons of his flannel open before pulling that off as well, leaving him in his undershirt. Then, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, briskly rubbing his hands over her bare arms, grimacing at the cold, damp, hard feeling of her skin.
He held her tighter, and shuffled back into the shelter they'd taken over, and dared to reach a free arm out to snare the sleeping bag that was folded and sat in one corner, unused since the owner had checked out some time ago. At least the guy had the decency to not off himself in it, rendering it useless. Wrapping the bag around Beth, he rested his head on her chin, and used his hands to press her firmly into his chest, still rubbing her arms and her back, bringing her back to life. He stared out into the blackness of night, as the rain continued to fall around them.
She noticed three things right away.
First of all, she was starving. Beth was certain her stomach growling was what had woken her up. She hadn't eaten since the few strips of jerky she'd gnawed on while stomping through the woods, and she vaguely remembered Daryl saying he'd find something for dinner, and that he'd be back before nightfall.
The second thing that came to mind was the fact that it was dark, and Daryl had returned. He was currently wrapped around her, his arms tight where they were slung about her middle, pulling her back against him. The absent stroking of his thumb over her hipbone wasn't lost on her, either, and that was when she became keenly aware of the third, and final thing:
She was naked from the waist up. Okay, not completely naked, the scratchy pinch of her bra was still present, but a foggy memory came upon her, one of Daryl pulling her up from where she'd curled down on the ground, of him yanking her sweater and shirts off, and holding her tightly. She was warm, and she felt safe, safer than she had in a long time.
The steady puff of Daryl's breath against her neck made her turn, and crane her neck so that she could see him. His eyes were closed, but she doubted he was sleeping. She shifted in his arms again, only to have him tighten his hold, and finally open his eyes and look at her.
"Hey," she tried, allowing herself a tiny smile.
"Y'stopped shakin'," Daryl pointed out.
He leaned back just a little, much to Beth's disappointment, but she hid it well and turned her eyes back to the sheets of rain that continued to fall. Her stomach growled again, and Daryl's answered, followed by his chuckle.
"Guess we better cook this rabbit up," he suggested, though he was reluctant to move. In all honesty, he was warm, too, warmer than he had been all day. He also knew, however, that Beth would benefit from something in her stomach, and a fire to go along with it. He grimaced at the rain, then. Sure, he could light a fire in a downpour with damp wood, but it took some time, and he didn't want Beth to wait that long. Shifting back, he tucked the ends of the sleeping bag around her, and shuffled to his feet. He snatched up his flannel where he'd draped it over a static line of lashing and pulled it on, leaving the buttons for the time being.
He managed to break off some kindling from the inside branches that made up the back wall of the lean-to, but he'd need something for fuel to keep the fire burning. Snatching Beth's pack up, he unzipped it, and began rifling through it, hoping to find one of those fashion magazines she coveted back at the prison.
"What are you looking for?" Beth asked, her attention caught by Daryl's digging, and the subsequent crinkle of the bag of chips still stashed safely. "You keep your hands off my chips, Dixon."
Her answer was more rustling, and she shrugged her shoulders under the sleeping bag before rubbing her hands together.
"The hell is this?"
Daryl's voice was a combination of wonder and disbelief, and at first Beth wondered what would have grabbed his attention among the jars of preserves, the socks, and various other belongings she'd accumulated since they fled the prison. Then, it dawned on her.
"Daryl!" She lurched forward, the sleeping bag forgotten, and clawed for her bag. She could just make out the narrowed slits of Daryl's eyes, and the plastic covering the brick of marijuana flashed in the low light coming from the heavy cloud coverage as Daryl turned the package over in his hands. Any other protest died on Beth's tongue as Daryl slowly turned his gaze to Beth.
He raised a curious eyebrow. "Pretty interesting haul for a farmer's daughter," he quipped, thumping the package. "You jonesing somethin' fierce, or what?"
"What?" Beth shrieked. She made to grab the package, but Daryl dodged her and stood, pacing the rather short perimeter of shelter the lean-to provided. "No," she huffed, sitting back, defeated. "It's not like that."
"So, you ain't been haulin' two grand worth of grass on your back all day?" He shook his head and looked closer at the package. "Where'd you find this, anyway?"
Beth shrugged, motioning back the way they'd come. "The house. In the cellar." She blew out another breath, and snapped up her pack, digging out the sweater she'd meant to give to Daryl. With her other clothes still damp, however, she didn't have much of a choice. She wiggled into it, and then yanked her boots off, switching out her damp socks for dry ones. "I dunno why I took it," she explained softly as she worked. "I just did."
Daryl snorted, which then turned into a chuckle, until he was laughing lightly.
"Don't laugh at me," Beth protested.
"Ain't laughin' at ya, princess," Daryl reassured. "Just the situation. Ain't got nuthin' else t'burn." He pulled his knife from his belt and began slicing through the plastic.
"You're not serious, are you?" Beth gestured to the forest beyond their shelter. "I've seen you start fires in the pouring rain before, Dixon. Never stopped you before."
"Don't have the luxury of time that it'll take," he explained. "You're damp, to the core, and still shivering – don't act like you're not, I can see it from here, even in the middle of the night. Sides, we're both hungry. Need to get something burning in order for us to eat."
"There's still the canned stuff," Beth argued, pulling out a jar of pickles and the half-eaten one of eggs.
"Save it for when we need it," Daryl ordered with a shake of his head. "You need something warm in ya. Get yer fire burning so you don't freeze t'death." He said the last part as he finally cut through the last layer of plastic, and peeled it back.
At once, the smell of unburned marijuana filled the space they sat in, and Beth wrinkled her nose at the sweetly pungent odor. Across from her, Daryl chuckled, and raised the open brick to his nose, inhaling deeply. "Mmmm. That's some good stuff."
"You've smoked it?"
Daryl cocked his head at Beth's rather scandalized tone, and then chuckled again, breaking off a chunk. "Yeah, I've smoked it. A few times, anyway. What, you haven't?"
She doubted that it had just been 'a few times', but she shook her head vigorously in answer to Daryl's question. "No way. God, I can't even imagine the trouble I would have been in if I had. It's a gateway drug."
The peal of Daryl's laughter reached her ears, and Beth bristled again. "Shit, if that were true, I would have been stuffing my veins and my nose with every thing Merle ever brought home with him." He shook his head once more. "You've seen too many 'educational' videos." He even made air quotes. He set the chunk he'd broken off to one side and then quickly cleared out the pit left by the previous occupant, and arranged the kindling with precision.
"We can't burn it, Daryl – won't the smell give us away? I mean…it could bring down walkers…or other people. And what if we…we get high?"
"Yer freezin', ain't ya?" Daryl reasoned, still going about starting a fire. "An' I doubt the smell will make that much of a difference – the rain will dampen most of the smoke, and there ain't no wind blowin', either." He watched Beth for a moment. "Look, what else are we gonna do with it? I mean, besides smoke it, which clearly you're not about to do. What did you think we were gonna do with it when you took it? Sell it? Trade it for Heath Bars?" He snickered and pulled his lighter out of his pocket. "Good Lord," he muttered. After a moment's thought, he tossed the lighter to Beth, and moved around to where the rabbit lay, ready to be butchered.
"Get that goin'," he instructed, taking up his knife again.
Beth turned the lighter, a Zippo, over in her hands, tilting it up towards the ambient light and squinting. Her thumb traced over the engraved words, and she tried to make them out. "Daryl T Dixon," she mumbled. She lifted her head to watch Daryl work for a spell. "Hey, what does the 'T' stand for?"
Daryl, busy skinning their dinner, looked up from his work, just as the knife tip glanced off a bone. The tip of his blade pierced his thumb, and he swore, jamming the offended digit in his mouth. "Will you get that fire lit? Christ, I can't see for shit out here, an' it's gettin' colder."
Beth scowled at his reprimand, and his avoidance of her question. Instead, she set about lighting the small chunk of marijuana and holding it to the kindling, sighing with relief as the smoke rose around her, and the fire burst to life.
The way Beth devoured her cut of the rabbit was the complete opposite to the way she'd slowly savored her potato chips the night before. As Daryl licked his fingertips clean, he smiled at her appetite, guessing that it was partly due to her small bout of hypothermia, but mostly because of the thick, floral smoke that rose around them. Beth was staring into the flames, her body on autopilot as she tore off mouthful after mouthful of roasted meat, chewed, swallowed, and then repeated.
"Got the munchies." Daryl's voice rumbled through the quiet and Beth tore her eyes from the dancing fire.
She blinked slowly at him. "Huh?"
Finished with his portion of dinner, Daryl tossed the bones into the fire and then reached and turned the heavier logs he'd located behind the lean-to towards the fire so that they'd dry out. They had already burned a third of the brick, and Beth's eyes were glassy, and her body relaxed. Daryl wasn't faring much differently, his limbs loosened in a way that alcohol just couldn't compete with. But he was relaxed, which was different. In the past, when he'd smoked the stuff, he'd gotten high, but he'd also been six shades of paranoid, what with keeping one eye on Merle and the other on his wallet. Beth posed no threat, physically, or emotionally, and Daryl hummed to himself as he stole another glance of the softly smiling blonde, before he settled back against the wall of the lean to.
A flurry of movement erupted beside him, and Daryl looked at Beth once more as she unlaced her boots and peeled her socks off, wiggling her bare toes in front of the fire. With a look of stoned concentration, she inspected her toes, frowning at the blisters upon blisters. She sent up a sigh, and then sat back.
"I miss pedicures," she lamented.
Daryl snorted, rolling his eyes. "I think Merle dated one of those women. Y'know, the ones that paint nails."
"I only had one that one time for Maggie's grad," Beth continued, smiling at Daryl's comment. She wiggled her toes again. "Mama 'bout flipped her lid when I came home with my toes and fingers painted 'Decay' green." She snuck a peek at Daryl.
He made a face. "Decay? The fuck you want your toes painted the color of decay?"
Beth giggled, shaking her blonde hair, the strands curling wildly from being wet and then drying by the fire. "It wasn't that bad! It was like the color of green apples, with a bit of gold."
"Why the hell didn't they call it green apple then?"
Beth shrugged. "I dunno," she grinned. "It matched my dress," she added for good measure. "I loved that dress."
Daryl tilted his head and really looked at Beth then, and imagined her dressed in a bright, deep green dress, her blonde hair shining in the afternoon sun, her skin clean and rosy, maybe a smattering of freckles over her nose. The image struck him and he felt his eyes prickle with something akin to tears. He quicly looked away from her and stared back into the fire.
"So, what does the 'T' stand for?" Beth inquired, shifting a little closer to where Daryl sat. She gazed up at him expectantly, hoping he'd share something with her. That's how conversation works, she'd explained to him in those early days, when he'd been more prone to grunts and growls.
"Trouble," Daryl answered wryly. He shot Beth a sidelong glance.
Beth snorted, rolling her eyes, and she pressed her shoulder into Daryl's, nudging him. "C'mon, I'm serious!"
Daryl snorted, grinning, and peeked at Beth and how she had leaned against his arm, her head tilted on his shoulder. "What about you?"
"What about me?" she mumbled dreamily, staring into the flames.
"Got a middle name?"
"Rose," she replied. "Bethany Rose Greene. I'm named after my grandmother. My mom's mom."
Daryl grunted, but he turned her full name around in his head, liking the way it sounded. It sounded grown up, but still young-at-heart. It summed her up perfectly. He was drwn from his thoughts as she shifted against him, and sat up, turning her big, blue eyes up at him.
"Don't hold out on me, Dixon," she scolded playfully, shaking a finger at him. When he shrugged, and gave her a blank stare, Beth scooted to her knees, and pressed her fingertip into his chest. "C'mon, I told you my name. What does the T stand for?"
"Trustworthy," Daryl quipped.
Beth groaned dramatically and flopped back to sit at his side, still pressing her warm body into his. "Fine," she huffed. "I almost believe you. It's more believable than 'trouble', anyway."
"That so?" Daryl drawled, stifling a yawn.
Beth nodded, her head wiggling agianst his arm. "But I'm inclined to think that your real name is Davey Crockett, what with the way you fixed this up," she went on, gesturing to his handiwork with the tarp, "and caught us dinner."
"I ain't never owned a coonskin cap," he pointed out.
"No way I'm playin' that game with you again, Daryl," Beth giggled.
Daryl chuckled, too, his shoulders lifting. "Tucker."
"Huh?" Beth mumbled.
"The 'T' is for 'Tucker'," he elaborated. "S'my grandaddy's name. On my mama's side."
Beth gently turned her head and silently blinked up at him for a moment. Then, she began to giggle.
Daryl scoffed, gently shoving her off of his side, which only made Beth giggle harder. "M'sorry," she wheezed, the laughter becoming uncontrollable, "but Maggie had a goat named Tucker."
By now, Beth was cackling, and Daryl tried to scowl, but he just couldn't find it in himself to do so. The sound of her laughter was infectious, and soon he'd joined her, snorting alongside her as they stared into the fire. After a while, she quieted, and the small hiccups of giggling subsided. Daryl recognized the sudden shift in her breathing, and it deepened as the fire began to burn down to embers. He didn't move, however, content with the comfortable weight of Beth snuggled warmly at his side, and the way her breath tickled the arm that he'd slung around her at some point.