The day was humid; the air thick and muggy, and the temperature high. The sun shone sharply onto Beth's legs as she repeatedly ground the jeans in her hands onto the washboard in front of her. Warm water splashed onto her face and she paused to wipe off the sweat and water with the back of her hand. She winced as the washboard grated fresh blisters onto her knuckles and fingers. Dropping the jeans into the bin of water with a loud splash, she sat back in her chair and closed her eyes with a sigh.
"I know," Maggie said quietly from next to her. She too put the clothes she was washing into her own tub of water and relaxed in her seat. "I have them too," she said quietly, assessing her fingers.
Beth picked silently at a blister until a tiny drop of blood appeared. She wiped it on her shorts and massaged her fingers gently. Sweat pooled on the back of her neck and she quietly tied her hair back into a loose ponytail. Her eyes drifted to Maggie, who was staring silently at the washboard in front of her. Since the end began, life had been tense. Both she and Maggie struggled to cope with the death of their loved ones, but somehow Maggie managed better. At this moment, though, Beth felt as though she should give her sister reassuring advice, but she fell short and instead remained quiet.
"Get Daddy and Jimmy," Maggie said suddenly, rising to her feet in alarm.
"What is it?" Beth asked nervously, her eyes following Maggie's out across the field in front of their house. She could barely make out figures in the distance. She stood from her chair quickly and leaned forward, resting her weight on the rail and trying to decipher what she was seeing.
Maggie plucked binoculars from the porch rail in front of her and scanned out over the distance. "Dad!" she shouted loudly, ignoring Beth's question and spinning around to wrench the front door open.
Beth's pulse thundered in her ears as her fingers closed around the deposited binoculars and she looked out into the field. Three men ran towards them; one of them pulling Otis behind him and one of them carrying a small boy. Beth lowered the binoculars just as Maggie bounded back out onto the front porch followed immediately by Hershel, Jimmy, and Patricia.
"Otis is with them," Beth said quietly, crossing her arms nervously over her chest as they awaited the arrival of the men.
They were all quiet, Beth shuffling her feet unsteadily, until the man carrying the child reached the fence and they heard his frantic voice ring out and break the silence.
As the man drew closer, they all noticed his hands, arms, and the front of his shirt was stained crimson from blood – the boy in his arms unmoving.
"Oh, my God," Beth whispered, her hand rising to cover her mouth quickly.
Hershel made his way down the steps and met the man in the yard. He was drenched in sweat and drowning in panic. His breath was ragged and sharp from running, and he looked ready to collapse at any second. Patricia ran down the steps after Hershel, coming up to a stop just behind him.
"Help," the man cried with a shaky voice. "He's been shot – my son. You have to help me! Otis– "
"Get him inside," Hershel said quickly in a stern voice. "Maggie, Beth, get me fresh water, clean towels, and painkillers."
Beth and Maggie rushed through the front door behind Hershel, the man and his unconcious son, and Patricia. Maggie headed quickly for the kitchen to retrieve the water and painkillers, and Beth to the bathroom for towels. Her hands shook nervously and she had to force herself to steady her breathing. She ran down the hallway into the guest bedroom where the boy had been placed on the bed and sat the towels in a chair next to him.
"What's your name?" Hershel asked the man as he threaded an iv into the small boy's arm.
He was quiet, trembling and eyes never wavering from the boy, before he finally whispered, "Rick. My name's– It– I'm Rick. . . Rick."
"And the boy?"
"Carl," Rick whispered in a desperate, defeated voice.
Rick's face fell into his open palms and he released a loud sob, his shoulders heaving with each breath. "My wife doesn't know. She should be here. She doesn't kno–"
"What is his blood type?" Hershel asked, focused only on the boy in front of him.
"A positive; same as mine."
"You're lucky. He's going to need blood soon."
Hershel settled himself into the chair next to the bed. He checked Carl's pulse and blood pressure, nodding to himself. He inspected the wound on the boy's abdomen and pressed his lips together in a tight line.
"The bullet hasn't punctured any organs, but it's not clean. It broke up. I'm going to have to remove the shards, but it's going to be extremely painful."
Beth stood at the far end of the room, her back pressed to the wall, unable to move. Jimmy moved to stand next to her. She could feel his eyes on her, but found her gaze too frozen on the dying boy in front of her to look at Jimmy. She felt his warm fingers twine together with her own, but did not acknowledge him. When Hershel began working to remove the bullet fragments, Carl regained consciousness and suddenly his agonizing screams echoed off the walls around them.
Beth closed her eyes shut tightly, pressing her back roughly into the wall behind her as if she could push through it and disappear. The sound of Carl's anguished cries sliced to her bone and flared goosebumps on her arms, chilling her entire body.
"I can't," she began, shaking her head. "I can't sit in here while he screams like this."
She pulled her hand quickly from Jimmy's and strode from the room hurriedly. She didn't stop, didn't pause to catch her stolen breath, until she was outside the house and seated on the front porch steps. She pulled her knees to her chest and rested her chin on the top of them, Carl's terrorized screaming still reverberating in her head. After what seemed like ages, the screaming stopped. Beth was finally able to relax her tense body ever so slightly.
The screen door creaked as Maggie opened it and walked outside, off the porch past Beth, and headed for the corral. Beth, eager to give herself distance from the house, wasted no time in pushing off from the porch steps and following her sister.
"Maggie," she said softly, pulling up stride next to her. "Is he going to be okay?"
Her eyes remained focused ahead; determined. "I don't know. Otis is taking the other man, Shane, into town to get supplies. I've got to go find Rick's wife, Lori."
They reached the barn and Maggie began saddling her horse with quick, deft fingers. Hundreds of times she had done this – Beth too.
"I'm coming with yo–"
"No, you're not," Maggie interrupted immediately. She turned and gave Beth a stern look.
"You're not going out there alone!" Beth cried, shaking her head.
"And you're not going out there at all. It's too dangerous. You need to stay here in case dad needs your help."
"When has he ever needed my help?" Beth asked in a whisper. "What am I supposed to do? Sit on the porch and listen to that little boy scream in pain? What if something goes wrong and you're alone? No, I'm coming."
"Beth, I said–"
"You're my sister, not my mother," Beth said sharply. "You can't stop me."
She turned her back to Maggie and had her own horse saddled just as Maggie slung herself into the saddle. Dust flew as the two of them departed the corral and property, and into the cover of the woods. It was the first time Beth had been allowed access to anything further out than their barn, and she knew if her father had known she would've been forced to stay at the house.
She followed Maggie, the wind cooling her sun kissed skin as they rode through the trees. She eagerly accepted the small taste of freedom she had, every miniscule thought of the plague devouring everyone parting her mind with ease.
"There they are!" Maggie said loudly, veering sharply to the left.
Beth tightened her grip on the reins, pulling her left hand sharply back and following Maggie. The two of them came to an abrupt halt in front of a group of five; two men and three women.
"Lori Grimes?" Maggie asked anxiously, her horse shifting nervously sensing her nerves.
Beth scanned the group in front of them, drinking in the sight of unfamiliar new faces. There was an Asian boy with dark, almond shaped eyes glued to Maggie – shock and confusion shining on his face. To his left, a blonde woman with messy hair and wild, blue eyes shifting anxiously from Beth to Maggie. Behind her, an older woman with short, gray hair and red rimmed eyes like she'd been crying. A slender, dark haired woman stepped forward with nervous eyes trained on Maggie.
"How do you kno–" the woman began, but Maggie quickly interjected
"You have to come now. Rick sent me, your son's been shot. We have to go!"
Lori's face immediately shifted from astonishment to despair, and she stumbled forward toward Maggie. A man shoved between the Asian boy and the blonde, parting them roughly. His eyes were dark, hair messy, and expression hard. He pulled a crossbow from his shoulder and gripped it tightly. As his gaze drifted from Maggie to Beth. Her pulse began to race and she dropped her eyes quickly.
"Hell no. You can't get on the back of that horse!" he shouted angrily. "We don't know shit about them!"
But Lori ignored him as if he hadn't spoken and took Maggie's hand, climbing on the back of her horse. Beth gained enough courage to look up again, but the man wasn't looking at her this time. His face shone rough anger, and it made her uncomfortably nervous. Maggie began giving directions to the farm, but her voice sounded distant in Beth's ears. She was still watching the man with the crossbow as he paced unsteadily. His eyes flitted back to hers for a fleeting moment, but Maggie sharply turned her horse and Beth was forced to follow. She barely heard the man spewing a slew of curse words to their backs as they rode away.
It was dusk when the others finally reached the farm. Beth had already made dinner and everyone had eaten. She was sitting on the porch watching the sun set and the moon slowly rise when headlights appeared in the distance. From the car came the Asian boy, the older woman, and a dark skinned man Beth hadn't yet seen. She rose from her chair as the three of them stood awkwardly at the edge of the steps. The screen door alerted them as Maggie walked out into the muggy night air. She came to a stop next to Beth.
"I'm Maggie, and this is my sister, Beth," she greeted quietly.
The other three were quiet for a moment when finally the Asian boy spoke. "I'm Glenn. This is Carol and T-Dog."
"Y'all come inside," Maggie said gently, motioning for the door. "We'll fix you some supper."
Inside the kitchen, Beth began cutting vegetables for salad next to Maggie when Glenn entered the kitchen. He was quiet, his face fallen. He leaned his back against the counter, and Beth caught him stealing glances at Maggie.
"How's he doing?" he asked quietly.
"Not well," replied Maggie solemnly. "He has internal bleeding. He needs surgery."
"He'll be okay," Beth said, her gaze meeting Glenn's. "Dad only needs the respirator before he can operate. He's going to pull through."
Beth offered him a smile, but Glenn only nodded and dropped his gaze. She put the contents of the salad in a small bowl and passed it to Glenn. Maggie filled two more bowls, handing one to Beth, and they left the room to give the food to Carol and T-Dog. The five of them sat in silence as T-Dog and Glenn ate hungrily while Carol only prodded at her food with her fork. Beth tucked her legs underneath her and relaxed on the couch.
"Is the rest of your group coming?" Maggie asked curiously.
Glenn met her eyes with a sad look. "Tomorrow. We're missing a girl; Sophia. They're still looking for her. Walkers got after her in the woods and. . ."
His voice trailed off and he shook his head, looking down at his salad. Beth's thoughts drifted to Sophia – the poor girl was probably terrified and hungry, and all alone. She hugged her arms to herself and chewed on her bottom lip as she wondered where the girl could have ended up.
Patricia entered the room, drying her hands on a small towel and motioned for T-Dog.
"Lets get you stitched up, come on," she said softly.
As the two of them left the room, Beth rose to her feet.
"I'll have breakfast made in the morning for everyone," she said to no one in particular before looking down at her sister. "Wake me if anything happens, okay?"
"Okay," Maggie promised softly.
Welcome, fellow Bethyl shippers, to my life of tears and anxiety. I've been dying to write a Bethyl fic since I caught up on TWD. This is absolutely my favorite ship, and I eagerly anticipate the rekindling of their affection in the next season. ;)
This story clearly starts in S2. Some things, you will notice, are canon but most will veer into my own creation. This is a shorter chapter than what most will probably be, so stick with it and you will be rewarded. Comment, review, let me know what you think! :)