Ok people, I took the plunge and wrote some smut. Do not read any further if you do not like Bethyl and you do not like smut. I struggle with writing about the horizontal Tango but I am going to need to do this at some point for Burn, so I consider this a practice round. This is a standalone one-shot. I'mma go run and hide now. And you will NEVER find me.

I don't own anything.

They don't fit in. He doesn't think they'll ever fit in here. Not them, with their haunted eyes and bloodied hands. They're too wild, too feral. Like a pack of wolves, rabidly defending their territory, their way of life. Maybe they are more animal than human, maybe it's become easier for all of them to accept their rawness, their instincts, their evolution from human to beast.

The people of Alexandria are afraid of them. Afraid that they won't give up their weapons (who would have thought gun control would be a thing now? Who would have thought?), afraid of their heightened senses, their obsession with safety and watches and walking the fences. They're accepted, but warily. Watched behind closed doors and mesh curtains. Even after six months some people still cross to the other side of the street when they pass the row of houses set aside for them. Some people.

It's not all bad though. Alexandria has seen its fair share of shell-shocked survivors, its fair share of newcomers haunted by the old world and the new. But maybe not on this level, maybe their savagery is still something that seeps from their pores, that lives forever in their bones acting like a "Danger" sign to all who come near.

It's no surprise then that out of all of them, killers, savages, thieves and criminals that they are, the one that's the most easily embraced is Beth. Her lightness, her sweetness, her humanity still shines like a beacon. For them, and for everyone else.

He's said it before, he'll say it again: there ain't no one in the whole world sweeter than Beth. And even the fearful refugees of Alexandria can see that. She fits in better than all the rest of them. The kids like her, like listening to her sing, the old people like her goodness and the people her own age like her authenticity, the fact that she has stories of survival, that she has lived a little and still made it. That she hasn't spent the last three and a half years squirrelled away behind high fences and barbed wire. That's she can shoot a gun and kill a walker and forage for food. That's she resourceful and tough. And sweeter than all of them put together.

What none of them understand though, none of them outside their little pack of wolves, is him. Her and him. The bond they share. Not that they don't get how tight-knit the group is, that they are family, that their bonds are deep and can never be broken. But they don't get them, don't get Beth and him together. The depth of feeling and understanding that exists between them. The fact that she adores him and he would do anything and everything to protect her. The fact that despite their apparent differences, their relationship is as old and as solid as the Earth, steady as stone, forged in blood and need and love and fear. Unbreakable and untouchable.

Boys ask Beth out all the time and she turns them down. They call him her "old man". He guesses it's true in more ways than one.

But he doesn't care. He thought he would. The first time he heard it, he waited for that sting, that rush of heat that made him feel like his skin was too small for him, but it didn't come. It still doesn't. Not when she looks at him, not when she kisses him, not when her breathless voice says his name over and over, thighs clamping down around his head, handfuls of his hair grasped tightly between her fingers. She's an addiction. And in another life, if he was another man, he'd probably get poetic about it. He'd go full Shakespeare on her. But it's not and he's not, so he's content to let his actions speak where his words fail. Content to take her whispered sighs as reason enough to trust in her, in them.

It becomes easier over time too. Because he realises that as much as he doesn't care about these new people and their worries, she doesn't either and they are the only two people who count. No one else has a say and even those that might have, the few whose advice or concerns he might have listened to - Rick, Maggie, Carol - don't comment, don't opine. Maggie told him to look after her sister and Rick had simply nodded and made some remark about how they all needed a safe place. Carol asked if he was happy. He said he was. She asked if Beth was happy and he said he thought so. She told him to make sure because that's all that counts. So he did.

And Beth was happy.

And that was all that mattered.

Well that, and making sure they were still alive. Making sure they didn't get complacent, making sure they kept themselves honed and tough. Everyone else here thinks they're mad. Thinks there's no call to keep your skills sharp. There ain't walkers in Alexandria. They do sweeps every day, the sick are closely monitored, the old too. It's all very Big Brother, but they're safe. A little bit of governmental intrusion for a lot of security. A small price to pay.

Or so they say.

Daryl doesn't like it. Neither does anyone else actually. But they shut up. Kept quiet. Didn't need any reason to scare these people any more than they already do. And fuck, he knows he scares people already. What few social graces he'd had before are all but gone, his small reserve used only on his family, only on Beth. It isn't that he wants to be more beast than man, isn't that everything hadn't changed for him that day Beth held him in her arms accepting and embracing every fault he'd ever had. It's just that when you've been through what they have, when you add all the losses and gains and throw in the formula you used to get there, your net profit is questionable. He tries though. They all do. And sometimes he feels he's getting better. He'll never be like her though, never able to slip between the two worlds so easily and fit so well in both. She's his centre, their centre and so, for her and for all of them, he tries.

But one thing he does do, his small act of defiance is take Beth out every day to practice with the crossbow. The house they share with Maggie and Glenn, Sasha and Bob is sizeable, the kind of home some rich family would have lived in before the turn with a yard made for a bunch of rugrats. The kind of place he would have resented in the old world and still would have in the new if it hadn't been for her. Her and the way she made him feel that he belonged here, that he was deserving, that he was loved.

He sets up targets in the garden and they shoot them down. She'd been a bit rusty at first, a bit out of practice but she fell back into it soon enough. Muscle memory and all that. Soon he didn't even need to correct her stance, adjust her grip on the crossbow, but he did anyway. Liked holding his hands on her hips, squaring them, the wisps of her hair getting caught on his lips, the smell of her filling him up.

It's times like those that he'd just want to pick her up, carry her inside the house, up to the bedroom and lose himself in her.

It happened once or twice, when the others were out, when his public displays of affection would go unnoticed and he could have her against the walls, once on the dining room table. But he tries to keep a lid on it, tries hard because he wants to keep them sharp. There's always time for fucking, there's not always time to learn how to use a crossbow.

They're all paranoid like that. Their family at least. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for it all to fall apart. And they wanted to be prepared. Rick makes sure they all have guns, all the time. Knives too. One time he even brought home some nunchucks, showed them off while they were all having dinner at the place he shared with Michonne, Carol and Tyreese. (Yeah, they have dinner parties and it's fucking weird.) They'd thought it was just for shits and giggles until they realised how lethal Michonne was with them. A fucking whirlwind of chain and wood and it scared the shit out of him. And he was glad.

They smuggle. They stockpile. They don't even question it.

So it's no surprise when she walks through the front door on a hot Friday afternoon, a black carrier disguised as a gym bag slung over her shoulder. He knows the bag well. It's big, capacious and sturdy. Rick has one exactly the same and it's how he gets weapons and ammo to them during the day. He doesn't know if they need to go to these lengths to keep everything quiet but figures there's no harm done if they do. They have a system, they use it. Necessary or not, they stick to it. Ain't no good reason to change it.

The others - Maggie, Glenn, Sasha and Bob - are out, trying their hand at some couple bonding with people they know from work, and he's alone sitting on the couch, waiting for her, a trashy paperback about genetically mutated killer beasts lying upside down on his knee. It was a gift from Carl. It sucked. He hasn't the heart to tell him.

"Hey," she says dropping the bag onto the table and stepping out of her shoes. They're strappy sandals with wedge heels that are sexy as hell but piss him off because he knows she can't run anywhere in them and when the shit hits the fan…

"Hey," he says standing up and walking over to her.

"Still reading about your flying sharks?" she asks, glancing at his book as she pulls at the cord of the bag.

"Don't go knocking flying sharks," he says, sliding his arms around her, pulling her backwards and kissing her neck, smelling her hair. "We could use them on runs."

"Should be mandatory for all runs."

He chuckles and kisses her ear.

She feels good, really good under his hands and her little blue sundress is cute and short. And he loves it and hates it at the same time. Loves the way it shows off her legs, dips low at the neck. Hates the way she can't run in it, especially not with those heels. He can't decide which makes him crazier.

He pushes a spaghetti strap off her shoulder and nuzzles her neck gently watching as she unties the knots, fingers nimble and strong.

"Rifles?" he asks as she pulls the bag open.

"Nope," she says, reaching inside as his hands tighten on her hips, fingers flexing and all he wants to do is pick her up and carry her up the stairs. Bury himself in her. Forget about the weird day he had doing sweeps of the city with a tall Australian girl called Skye who kept trying to invite him round for a barbecue. He'd said no. They're all still trying to come round to the idea of grilling meat again but he didn't tell her that.

"We're only a few roads away from you," she said. "Not in woop woop."

He didn't know what that meant so he said nothing. He knew they should go, should start trying to form community but he sucked at that before the turn and he's pretty sure it's the same now. Skye had frowned and told him he needed to start building bridges and he'd told her to mind her own goddamned business. She'd taken it well though. Shrugged. Told him she'd win him over yet and pushed a pink paper with her address scrawled on it into his pocket. He ignored it. He'd been won over once. He knew it would only happen once.

With Beth.

He presses against her, his interest in the bag waning, hand gliding over her belly, her hip, down to the hem of her dress, brushing the silky smoothness of her leg, running his fingertip up the back of her thigh until he can feel the silk of her underwear, the curve of her ass. She barely seems to notice.

Yes, she's excited. But it's not for that.

"Look," she says turning around, a crossbow in her hands. It's a Horton, like his old one but less beat up, newer, shinier, smoother. "Rick thought you'd like it, but I told him you had your own and I claimed it."

Claimed it, claimed him, claimed everything.

Everything of his.

He's ok with it though. It's a new feeling having somewhere safe to keep his stuff. All his stuff.

He reaches for her but she moves away towards the back door.

"Come on, Mr Dixon," she says. "We need to practice."

"Yeah ok," he sighs. Priorities Dixon, priorities.


She's good. Really fucking good. Even he hadn't realised how much she'd improved. The bow is also smaller than his so it's easier for her to load. And she's fast, knocking the bolts in, hitting the marks he's set up. He stands behind her shouting out the locations of the targets in the order he wants her to hit them.

Four o' clock. Nine o' clock. Six o' clock. Front left. Back middle.

He times her. Watches her. She gets every last one. He starts to wonder if he's taught her too well. And it's like she can read his thoughts.

"Told you I'm not gonna need you. Can take care of myself." She's panting hard and he finds that arousing. Yeah he found it arousing the last time she said it too but he didn't actually know why at the time.

"Yeah," he keeps his voice flat as she turns to look at him. "Keep at it. Too much sass for your own good."

She smiles and kisses the corner of his lips and he fights hard not to smile back. Fights hard not to grab her hips and pull her to him. He fails on both counts.

Sometimes he still can't believe it. Her, here with him. The way she loves him. He never thought anyone would love him like this. Thought if it ever did happen that he shacked up with someone, he'd either have to find someone as damaged as him, someone he would fuck with, someone who'd just share his space but not his life, or he'd have to hide. Hide his flaws, hide his past, hide his pain. Put on a face for the world. But it ain't like that with Beth. Somehow he hit the jackpot because she fucking adores him. Warts and all. Sees through him completely. He's shown her everything, told her everything.

Even told her about his scars, how he got them. Told her one night, seemed almost unnatural not to. It's the most he's ever shared with anyone. No one knows him like she does. That's the problem with Beth. Once you let her in she doesn't leave and every step you take away from her is just a step closer. She digs her way in, plants herself inside and nothing can pry her out. He's got the scars to prove it but he's ok with those at least.

The crossbow is lying on the grass before either of them know it and his hands have closed on her waist. Handfuls of blue sundress bunching in his fingers. She's already jumping, scissoring her pretty legs around his hips, small hands fisting in his hair as he kisses her hard and deep and long.

She's always surprised him with her passion. He remembers those first few times, treating her like glass, using his ragged skills on her until she came and then telling her that was enough, going to sleep with a raging hard on because he couldn't bear to do anything to her that wasn't delicate or gentle and he was sure his meagre capabilities combined with the overbearing passion he felt wouldn't allow for kindness or sweetness when it got down to it.

She stopped that too. Told him if he didn't like it, it was one thing but this idea that he had that he wasn't good enough for it, not good enough for her mouth and lips and tongue, her hands, well that thinking needed to stop. He'd been embarrassed, told her of course he liked it but she was just so small and skinny and fragile and perfect and decent and and and…

She'd put a finger to his lips. Ain't gonna break me Daryl, she told him. I promise you ain't gonna break me. And he hadn't. In fact it was her breathless voice urging him on, begging him to move faster, harder, deeper that had him climaxing. Her mouth, sweet and wet, wrapped around him that pushed him over the edge. Her hands strong and sure, teasing and brazen that had him grabbing her, turning her over and fucking her hard and awkwardly into the bed.

All her.

All her.

Her dress is off before they're even inside, he's not sure it was his hands or hers that did it but he just hopes there was no one in the garden next door.

She's not wearing bra and he thinks again about what would happen if they had to leave. If they had to leave fast. But she's rocking against him and her lips are searing on his and there isn't enough room in his head to worry about wedge heels or bras and concentrate on not coming in his pants like a fumbling 16-year-old boy.

And also, she not wearing a bra.

And that's far more interesting than worrying about walkers.

He's kicks the door to the outside closed even as he's pushing her up against it, his lips leaving hers and moving to across her jaw to suckle the delicate skin of her neck, her collarbones, one hand snaking between them to palm her breast and the hard nipple at its centre. She lets out a small moan as his thumb swipes over the warm bud, but he barely hears as he concentrates on the smooth skin under his mouth, concentrates on not marking it, on not getting carried away, on not giving himself over to that ancient, desperate need he has for her that makes him more animal than man.

Her hands, seemingly desperate as his, move from his hair to the front of his navy shirt, running over his shoulders down to his chest. Quick, nimble fingers making short work of the buttons and he feels her pushing at the fabric. He waits for the twinge he always feels before his shirt comes off, that sudden irrational fear of exposing his scars to her, that she'll find him repulsive and disgusting and reject him like others have so many times before. But it doesn't come. He's not sure if it's because all he can concentrate on is how good she tastes or if he really just doesn't care any more. If he finally is getting used to being accepted. But it doesn't matter. Doesn't matter because he can already feel the dampness of her through his clothes, the softness of her breast, the flushed heat of her skin.

And then unexpectedly she stills. And his worries start clawing up their way back into his mind, making him wonder what she's seen, what flaw he's exposed that he'd forgotten to confess, what mark she's found that makes him undeserving.

"What's this?" she asks and he pulls himself away from her to look. His shirt is still bunched in her hands, not off his shoulders yet, but she's tugging at a small piece of paper in his breast pocket.

He frowns for a second. He isn't one to take notes or keep shit in his shirt pockets anyway and for a moment he's at a loss. And then he remembers.

Not in woop woop.

"Oh that," he says, his voice low, gravelly. "Girl at work invited us round for a barbecue. I said no, but she gave me her address anyway."

He turns his attention back to her neck, lips closing down on the sweet smelling skin just below her ear where he can feel her pulse.

"Us?" she asks.

"Yeah," he says between kisses, concentrating on the thrum of her pulse beneath the skin as he nips it, the gooseflesh that erupts under his mouth.

She chuckles and the sound just about drives him over the edge as he squeezes her breast.

But then he realises she's still chuckling and he stops and looks up at her again.

"Something funny?" he asks.

But he doesn't want to know the answer because all he wants to know now is her messy hair, her flushed face and her lips that are red and swollen from kisses.

"Didn't know you were such a ladies man, Mr Dixon," she whispers a small coy smile playing on her lips.

"What you on about girl?" he asks, stepping back, taking his hands off her as she unwinds her legs from his waist and her feet touch the floor. It's an almost comical picture. Beth standing there mostly naked except for a pair of silky blue check panties, nipples hard, skin flushed, while she concentrates on the little slip of pink paper in her hands, brow furrowed.

"Don't think your friend was inviting us."

She holds the note out to him and frustrated, he squints to read it, hand closing on her wrist to hold the paper still.

At first all he sees is Skye's writing. Big and loopy, a bit like her. It's her address, just like she said. It doesn't say "woop woop". Nothing weird, nothing untoward or unexpected. But then he sees a smaller note scrawled under the address. An afterthought maybe? He's not sure.

Please come, I'd love to get to know you better Daryl, followed by a line of kisses and hearts.

And suddenly he feels guilty, wildly, irrationally and stupidly guilty. Because he thinks of how his Ma would find smoky notes covered in lipstick and stained with booze and semen in his old man's pants. Notes with phone numbers and addresses and lewd messages like "thanks for the fuck, next time it's your turn to go down" or "you're good, just wish you'd eat pussy."

He remembered the pain written on her face, the beaten slope of her shoulders. The way the light in her eyes died a little more each time and how she'd take her wine and her cigarettes and go and sob into a pillow at night. Alone and afraid. Still kills him how much his Ma had loved his old man, piece of shit that he was. Still kills him that she could only see herself through his eyes and not through the eyes of the people who'd actually loved her. People like him, people like his Grandma, people like Merle even.

And suddenly he has a vision of his Ma. His Ma and her suffering and her angst and her self-loathing but she's replaced with Beth. Beth with eyes flat and soulless, the bounce gone from her step, the fire gone from her soul.

He wants to explain, wants to reassure, wants to tell her that he didn't know and at the same time ask her how she could ever - ever - think he'd run around on her. On some level he gets that this kind of reaction is unwarranted. That this guilt for something he didn't do is stupid and irrational. But even so, he doesn't ever want anything that he's a part of to hurt her. Even inadvertently, even vicariously. He won't bring pain into their home, their world.

His eyes flicker from the note to her face. He's not sure what he expected. Rage, sorrow, hurt, bewilderment. But all of those are wrong. Because she's smiling coyly, lips quirking slightly.

"Good thing, I can take care of myself," she teases. "Looks like someone else wants to play with your crossbow."

He can feel his cheeks redden.

"Beth, it ain't…"

And it's like she sees everything, sees it and accepts it and understands it.

"I know," she says quickly, suddenly serious, suddenly earnest, moving in to wrap her arms around his neck, pressing her semi-naked body to him. "I know."

He cups her cheek and kisses her gently, chastely, arm curving around her waist to hold her tightly. And even though he knows it's fine, because he knows her and he knows him and he knows them, he still wants to tell her. He still wants her to know. Even if it's for the millionth time.

"It's you," he whispers, looking down at her, voice choked. "Always been you."

"I know," she says again and kisses him deeply. Slowly.

His hands tighten on her naked back, kneading the delicate muscles of her shoulder blades, her spine, before sliding to her arms, gripping them as he rests his forehead to hers, giving himself a moment to just be, to just exist with her like this.

Her eyes are wide and blue, locked on his as she pushes his shirt to the ground. He stares back, doesn't think it's possible to look away, doesn't want to because he likes how dilated her pupils are, how she bites down on the redness of her lips, how she sees right through him.

She sucks in a breath and he waits for her to say something. It's one of those moments he's used to, one of those moments when she says something so profound, so heartfelt, so real that it sends him spiralling sideways. He waits for it, because he can't do anything else, can't prepare for it more than knowing it'll be another revelation for him, for them. It'll be all the "Ohs" and all "You dids" and all the "I love yous" rolled into one and it's guaranteed to knock him off his feet.

It's ok though. She'll pick him up. She always does,

"Next run," she says seriously, brow furrowed, eyes steely. "I'mma set flying sharks on her."

It takes a second to realise he's still standing. And then another to actually realise what she's said and the ridiculousness of it. He blinks. And then he sees her mock serious face and he chuckles, drawing her close, enfolding her in his arms, liking how small and fragile and yet how strong and firm she feels.

"Mandatory for all runs," he says into her hair before she kisses him, fiercely now, hard, teeth nipping at his bottom lip, tongue stroking into his mouth, hard and probing.

He lifts her again, hands tightening on her ass as he carries her to the couch, liking how he can still feel the vibrations from her giggles through her skin and her mouth as he sets her down on the plump cushions, as he kneels on the floor between her legs. There's a moment before he begins, a moment when their eyes fix on each other, a moment that says everything and nothing. A moment where they exist as friends, as lovers, as soulmates. A moment where he's an angry hillbilly and she's a conservative farmgirl, when he's a raging beast wrapped in darkness and she's his salvation. They both know, they both understand. They both get it. It happens every time, every time they make love, every time they lose and find themselves in each other.

And then he drops his mouth to her legs, lips trailing up the inside of one thigh suckling and tasting, licking and kissing, biting and marking until she gasps and squirms.

He can smell her now. The wet musk of her as he inches his way up the smooth skin, beard tickling and teeth grazing her, her heady mix of sweetness and sweat. And suddenly he can't wait a moment longer. He grabs at the silky fabric of her damp panties, fingers looping through the waistband as he pulls them down her legs, over her knees and off. He doesn't even take a moment to admire her nakedness, the pale flesh of her breasts, the flatness of her belly, her pink centre. He just hoists her legs over his shoulders and drags her to his mouth, his lips, his teeth.

As his mouth touches her she lets out a whimper that's not a whimper, not a moan, not a gasp. More like a rush of air that sounds like a prayer, a wish, an offering. He smiles against her as he draws her into his mouth, as he tastes her sweetness, her bitterness, her honey and her tang. Smiles as her hands dig into the rough upholstery of the couch, as she arches towards him. He reaches out, twisting her fingers into his own and giving a gentle squeeze, which she returns. And he realises again, as his tongue strokes up and down on her heated flesh, how matched they are. How easily and fully she gets him and how much he hopes he does the same for her. How he wants to be for her exactly what she is for him and he doesn't know if he'll ever do it. If he'll ever be whole enough to do it, but he'll spend whatever time they have left trying. And it's then he realises that this, this moment, this act, is important, that this can't wait. It's not a choice between living and dying, not a choice between fucking or shooting a crossbow. It's a choice between living and being alive and he'll choose the former any day with Beth Greene.

Beth Greene.

His girl.

His girl.

His free hand drags over her thigh, callused palm causing an eruption of gooseflesh against his cheeks and temples. She's silk under his mouth, smooth and clean and soft. Heady and perfect and all he wants is to make this good for her, to speak to her through actions and movement rather than words. To let her know that nothing matters, nothing but her, nothing but her and making her feel good.

So he's slow, taking his time to lap at her, tease her, taste her, fill himself up on her and the beauty that is her and only her. He's vaguely aware that she's panting his name, that her voice has taken on that pleading quality he never hears from her unless they're like this. Unless they're all knotted up in each other.

She's like him in a way. Plays her cards close to her chest, doesn't give her vulnerabilities away. Except now, except as she grips his fingers tightly, as she uses her free hand to grab at his too-long hair, hair that he doesn't want to cut even though he should. Hair he's content to let grow because she likes it. Because she likes to smooth it away from his face, because she likes to breathe him in through it sometimes, because she says it's soft and smooth and shows who he truly is inside. Yeah, he tells her to stop talking nonsense, to stop being a sap but they both know the truth of it, the truth of them. And the truth is it's him who whispers nonsense to her at night, nonsense while their limbs are jumbled in the sheets and his breathing is heavy on her chest. Him who's the sap, him who sometimes holds her so tightly she has to ask him to let her go so she can move and breathe.

Their own language.

Their own world.

Their own love.

Her thighs are shaking and she starts to move against him, little gasped words falling from her lips. Words that sound like "need" and "please" and "you". Words that make him slow because if he carries on listening and licking and touching, it's going to be him coming, him going off before she's even got anywhere near him.

He ain't gonna leave her behind, he doesn't mind chasing her once she's gone but he ain't leaving her hanging. Never has, never will.

His hands tighten on hers and she's undulating beneath him, hips snapping and body quivering and he knows she's trying to get him to adjust to her rhythm, knows she's close and on edge, knows her release is seconds away.

But he doesn't hasten his movements. He laps at her, slowly. Surely. Stopping to plant kisses on her inner thighs before trailing his way back to her clit. Softly, lazily almost. Tasting her, drinking her in, watching how her small breasts with their faint blue veins rise, how her ribs expand and contract under her skin. He runs a hand up to her hip, holding her flat and she lets out a frustrated mewl.

"Please, Daryl, please," her voice is throaty, husky. Doesn't sound like hers. It never does when they're like this.

He smiles against her, returns to his ministrations, teasing her, running his tongue over her wetness, where she's sweet and warm and tastes like life and sunshine and happiness. When he feels her thighs start to quiver, he stops, moving again to her hips, her belly and she groans angrily and glares down at him, pupils enormous, black pools ringed with the tiniest sliver of blue.

He can't actually believe he's that good at this, would have never thought it and he doubts she would either. Maybe it's because she ain't had that much experience that she can't tell whether he's good or bad, but he hopes that's not it. He knows now what she likes, how she likes it. She's easier for him to kindle, to quicken and it makes him feel amazing to be able to get her off like this, to know the secret of getting Beth Greene to come. To know that her orgasms are his. Theirs.

He kisses her clit, swirls his tongue over her and she moans.

"Please Daryl, please. I need you, I need you," she whispers.

Told you I'm not gonna need you

He stops and looks up, her wetness coating his lips.

"Oh, now you need me?" he smirks. "Thought you could take care of yourself Beth."

She glares down at him, eyes locking across the smooth expanse of her belly, the rise of her breasts with their small pink tips, tips he wishes were wet and glistening with his saliva.

"I can take care of myself, Mr Dixon," she breathes, pulling her hand out of his and moving it into the damp space between her legs, touching the flesh previously under his lips, fingers circling.

He tries to smirk at her but he's pretty sure it comes across as nothing more than a goofy grin.

"Come on girl." he rumbles, kissing her fingers and nuzzling her hand out the way, taking it back in his own. "I got stuff to do."

"Better hurry up then," she whispers. "Don't keep a lady waiting."

He does smirk this time as he presses his tongue to her, deliberately, sure, using the flat - the rough - of it on her, lapping hard, sucking her into his mouth. She whimpers and pulls at his hair, digs her fingers into his shoulders, nails scraping along his scars. New scars, the scars he was thinking about earlier, the ones you get from allowing Beth Greene into your life, your heart, your mouth.

When she comes, she's like a force of nature under his mouth, pulsing under him, gasping and whimpering, nonsense words ripped from the back of her throat and she falls against his lips over and over, calling his name, his name, to the ceiling. It's a sound he never thought he'd hear, not in a million years did he ever believe there'd be a woman who'd call out his name in her most intimate moment, a woman who'd let him put his mouth and hands on her the way she does, a woman who'd give him her heart and trust him not to break it.

He holds her hips as the spasms subside, resting the stubble of his cheek on her, kissing the flesh of her inner thigh softly, as her hands tighten and release, tighten and release.

Tighten and release.

And then he feels her go boneless beneath him, feels her muscles relax and her limbs turn to liquid. And when he finally feels the gentle stroke of her hands through his hair, he chances a look up at her. At her and her halo of messy, golden hair, her half-closed eyes, dewy lips curved in a shattered smile.

He shifts her legs off his shoulders and they sag at his sides as he rises to kiss her, trailing his lips over her flat belly, nuzzling between her breasts, tonguing her nipples like he wanted to earlier before pressing his mouth to hers in a wet, sloppy kiss that tastes of her orgasm.

"Alright" he says but it sounds like a question and she nods, taking his hand.

"Alright," she answers as he moves to sit next to her. To watch her. To drink her in while she comes down from the high he gave her. The bliss they created for her.

And she's beautiful.

So beautiful that it hurts to look at her. So beautiful that he realises this is enough, she is enough. Despite the throb from below, the tightness in his groin, this would be enough. And like before, he's good with that.

And like before, she's not.

It's barely moments and his pants and boots are off and she's straddling him, gripping him in her hand as he helps her to lower herself onto him. Not for the first time, he's surprised by how smooth the movement is, how easily he slides into her, how perfectly they fit together. How simple she makes it, not just the act but all the emotional baggage that goes with it. She's safe, uncomplicated, unthreatening and he's so grateful. So grateful that he found someone like her, not just in this world, but at all. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that he, Daryl Dixon, sweaty, angry, abrasive redneck that he was with less than nothing to offer could have ended up with someone as pure, as good, as perfect as Beth. There are times it scares him, the way she loves him, the way they create a perfect ruin of sinew and flesh that kills and saves him, the way he knows he'll do anything for her. Anything. And at the same time, in a cosmic contradiction, it soothes him. She soothes him. She's always soothed him. Soothed him with her words, her love, her body. And he knows that he's never in his whole life been safer than he is now. And that scares him all the more.

She holds him, holds him as she brings her hips down on his as she flexes and tightens around him, as the sweat - from the day, from their exertions - beads on her skin and drips onto his.

He wants to last for her, wants to tip her over the edge a second time before he follows her but he's not sure he can. Not while she's caressing him, not while her sure, deliberate thrusts make him lose all semblance of self, of reality, of who either of them are. And then amazingly, unexpectedly she's gasping his name again, her voice low and breathless, a lilt he knows is only for him, a sound only he has ever heard. He knows it's more her than him that caused it but it does him in either way and he loses himself in her.

As he falls apart - as he breaks beneath her - she keeps him together, keep him sane even as he loses his mind, even as he gives himself up to her, hands tangling in her long hair while he breathes her breath into his mouth, while her eyes are the only thing he can see, the only thing he wants to see. He thinks he says her name, he thinks he curses, he knows he tells her he loves her. Words ripped from the secret places in his heart like they are every single time.

Every. Single. Time

But it's fine. She's fine. His little ecstatic confessions are nothing new, nothing she hasn't heard before, nothing that scares either one of them any more. She just stays still except for her gentle panting, legs flush with his sides, strong muscles clamped down on his cock, hands fisted in his hair. Absolutely still for what seems like both seconds and centuries, the only sound his laboured breathing and the slide of her skin against his.

And then she collapses on top of him, head on his shoulder and he wraps his arms around her tightly, feeling her heartbeat next to his, the softness of her beautiful body wrapped around his unworthy one.

And that's when he lives, that's the moment he truly lives and knows love and death and oblivion and everything between. The moment when the world doesn't count, the walkers don't count, the death doesn't count. It's the moment where you add up your profits and your losses and the formula you used to get there and your net gain is still more than you ever dreamed, more than you could ever imagine.

He'll eventually pat her ass gently to get her move, but right now he doesn't want to, just wants to stay here with her like this forever, inside her, carve this moment onto his memory because he's never sure if there'll be another or if they'll have to run, find another world they need to live in, another place they don't fit. Another place not ready for them.

He can deal with that, can deal with not fitting in, with the stares, with the fear and resentment, the smuggling and the paranoia. He doesn't care that Beth navigates these two worlds they live in better than he ever will, no matter how many barbecues they go to, no matter how many double dates they endure or how many dinner parties they force themselves to sit through to prove to themselves more to anybody else that they're still people. Still human. Still sane.

He knows when she's with him, like this, she's fully in his world, their world. And that's where he fits, that's where she fits and where the truth is. No matter how good either of them are at being anywhere else, this little island of two they create is the only place either of them will ever truly belong.