This is a oneshot I wrote for one of my best friends who ships Bethyl just as hard as I do.
It hasn't been edited, so any mistakes are mine, and I'm sorry for making you cringe.
Enjoy, MoMo, and everyone else, too!
Daryl was used to silence. In fact, he'd grown to prefer it to anything else. It probably had something to do with being told to shut the fuck up so much as a kid.
Quiet meant calm in his world.
Still, the kind of silence weighing over them now was suffocating and heavy, and he was getting to the point where he was wondering what he could do to make her smile again.
If he were good with words, he'd have fixed things quick, but he wasn't, and he never had been. He knew she was scared. Hell, he wasn't exactly feeling optimistic either, but to see the light dim in her eyes? Damn, it hit him deep.
She followed noiselessly behind him, taking care to follow each step just as he walked before her. Never out of line, never looking up, never making a fucking sound.
Daryl gripped the strap of his bow and took a deep breath. She'd been like this for the last two days, and he wasn't too sure what to do to make her snap out of it or even if he should. Before, she'd been more vocal, hopeful about finding the others, but after that night in the car trunk, she'd just shut down.
"Ya hungry?" He asked quietly, reaching into the side pocket of his pack.
"Naw," she whispered back. If he hadn't stopped walking, he'd have never heard her.
He turned then and let his eyes scan her face. She was pale, sickly looking, and when she met his eyes, he had to look away. He hadn't ever seen pain like that before. Not even in the mirror.
"Ya gotta eat somethin'. Ya gonna lose your strength. Cain't fight no walkers like that."
Beth seemed to snap out of it for a moment and glared at him. "That's the funny thang, Daryl. I ain't ever really been scared of walkers. After the farm, I learned a bit to take care of myself, so I wasn't too worried. I'm scared of people. I'm terrified of the evil that's grown in 'em since this world went to hell. My daddy was a good man. He deserved better!"
He watched her, standing quietly off to the side. He didn't know what to tell her. She was right, but what was the use in knowing that anymore? All he could do was nod and start walking again.
"I'll getcha somethin' good to eat," he mumbled.
She trailed along behind him for the rest of the afternoon, keeping quiet after her outburst.
It was late when they stopped and set up a camp for the night. While he rigged up a line with some cans and a hubcap on it to serve as their security system, Beth laid out their blankets and gathered up sticks and kindling for the fire. It would probably be cold again, and he hated that he couldn't let her keep the fire going to stay warm, but they couldn't risk it, especially since there were so many walkers still in the area.
"Ya gonna be okay here for a bit?" He asked as Beth sat in front of the fire, staring straight ahead.
"Yeah," she said with a sigh. "I'm not gonna try and kill myself again, Daryl. Ya don't have to worry over me." She never met his eyes when she spoke, but he still shifted uncomfortably and looked away.
"Gonna find some dinner," he said and walked off into the woods. There wasn't a chance he was coming back empty-handed either.
When he got back a little while later with a snake, Beth barely raised her eyes to meet him, and when he passed her a portion of dinner, she made a disgusted noise in the back of her throat that made him feel about two inches tall.
He couldn't put his finger on it. Why he cared so much about what she thought, or how to snap her out of her daze. They hadn't really been close at the prison, but over the last few weeks, they'd developed a bit of a bond. Daryl took care of her with what he knew about surviving in the woods, and she took care of him like she knew how to do, but they barely spoke, and she never sang no more.
"I need a drink," she said out of the blue.
Daryl tossed her the water bottle beside him and went back to eating his dinner, trying to think of someplace near that the rest of the group might have holed up if they got out.
"No," she said with a huff. "Like a real drink. Like alcohol."
Daryl turned away from her, chewing on the blackened meat of the snake. It tasted like shit, but his body needed the fuel and so did hers. Instead of eating though, she stood up and dusted off her pants before walking across the circle and pulling his hunting knife out of the log beside him.
"Almost dark," he said when she passed. "Ain't got time for that shit right now, woman."
"I'm not stayin' in this suck ass camp for another second. Either I'm goin' on my own or you can chaperone, Mr. Dixon."
He clenched his jaw at her tone and had to bite his tongue to keep from telling her to fuck off. After several seconds, he calmed down enough to stand up and grab his bow then follow her trail through the woods.
He caught up with her right as a group of walkers passed by them. Even though she'd said earlier that walkers didn't scare her, the hand holding her knife was trembling against her chest.
"C'mon," he said and tilted his head for her to follow him.
She trailed after him and rambled all the way back to camp about what she wanted to drink and if hangovers were really all that awful. The moment her shin ran into the line, and she almost tripped, she yelled, "You brought me back? What tha hell, Daryl?"
"I'll take ya someplace in tha mornin'." He sat back down and started eating again.
"I wanna go now." He looked up at her and laughed. She looked so fucking prissy with her arms crossed over her chest and her chin jutted out like she meant business. She was a damn kitten in a world of lions.
"It ain't safe. It's gonna get dark here in about thirty minutes. There ain't nowhere to get a drink that close. Don't know why you're so worried about booze all of a sudden, Greene. When'd ya turn into some dumb college bitch?"
That did it. A flash of anger made her eyes darken and her face flushed red. Daryl watched as her hands clenched at her sides. Hell, he'd get her angry if it made her stop acting how she'd been. He could be an annoying son of a bitch when need be.
"You don't talk to me like that," she hissed and stalked toward him.
"Call it like I see it," he said with a mouthful of snake meat. The look of disgust that replaced the anger on her face was so fucking funny he almost laughed, but smirked instead.
"You're an asshole."
He nodded in agreement.
"You'll take me in tha mornin'?"
Another nod, another bite of snake.
Beth sat down on her blanket and picked up her snake only to throw it back down.
"There's ants all over it," she complained loudly.
"Quiet down. Damn," he muttered then handed her the leftover of his. "Tastes like ass anyway."
Beth took it from his hand and sighed. "Ya wanna tell me how ya know what ass tastes like, Dixon?"
His own cheeks felt hot and he looked down at the ground. "Shut up," he murmured. "Just eat."
Later on, they'd settled down for the night and covered the fire up.
"I'll take watch," Daryl said as he saw her bundle up under her blanket. "Take mine, too. I'm hot natured." It was a complete lie, but he couldn't let her freeze again.
"Really?" She asked, already reaching a hand toward his pile of bedding.
"Yeah. Go on."
She grabbed his blanket and made herself a nice little cocoon while he pretended not to pay attention. He wasn't exactly sure what he was feeling when it came to her. It was sudden, but at the same time, it wasn't. It had grown from the respect he'd had when they were at the prison and turned into something more as they'd made their way through the woods, trying to survive. Even if she was acting strange the last couple of days, it hadn't changed. In fact, those feelings had made him act out in ways he normally wouldn't, like going and finding her booze when the sun rose.
Daryl sighed to himself and tried to concentrate on the noises around him instead of the steady breathing coming from his right. He thought she'd fallen asleep, but several minutes later she asked quietly, "Ya think we'll find 'em?"
In the darkness, it was easier to tell the truth, so instead of giving her some false hope, he said, "I don't really know. I want to find 'em, find your sister for ya, but cain't go back to tha prison. Too many tracks and walkers."
Beth sighed heavily then whispered, "I always thought it would be different, ya know?"
"Different how?" He turned his head to look in her direction, but couldn't really make out her face.
"That Maggie and Glenn would have a baby, and Daddy would get to be a grandpa. He'd get really old, and when it was time, he'd be surrounded by his family and all the people he loved." She paused, and he heard her sniff quietly. "It would happen, but it would quiet." Beth paused then said, "Just shows how stupid I am."
Daryl had to swallow past the lump in his throat to answer her. "That's the way it should have been, Beth." All of the emotions he'd been keeping locked up, spilled out. "Ya know, maybe if I'd have looked longer or tried just a bit harder to find the Governor, this shit wouldn't have happened. Your dad, the prison, Rick…" he trailed off. "It's on me. All this shit's on me."
"No, Daryl, it's not." Her voice was louder, and he heard the blankets rustle as she sat up. "You did everythin' for us. It's not on anyone. He was an evil man, and he deserved to die, and I hope that walkers got to him while he was still breathing, but him being the way he was, ain't your fault. The decisions he made, they're not on you."
"Ain't ever done nothin' right." he whispered.
"I don't know what ya were before all this, but I know what ya are now, and that's what ya gotta stay, ya know? I'm not strong. Not meant to be here, for long at least, but you are. You're gonna be the last man standin'. And it don't matter a bit how ya were before the walkers. You've proven yaself here and now, and you're a good man, Daryl."
The pure conviction in her voice made him feel like he couldn't breath, so he brushed her words aside to deal with them later. "Get to sleep, woman. Gotta take you for a drink tomorrow. Who knows, maybe you'll be a happy drunk."
Beth let out a snort then settled back on the ground. "You wake me up when it's my turn."
She always said that, and he never did it.
When he got her up the next morning, she bitched at him about not waking her up for watch, but he just shrugged and said, "Pack your shit. Gonna take ya somewhere me and Michonne found a while ago."
They'd been walking for a couple of hours when she asked, "So, were you and Michonne a thang?"
He looked at her over his shoulder and wrinkled his forehead. "Naw. Why would ya think that?"
"Y'all went on a lot of runs together." She shrugged and continued to follow him.
"Yeah, runs. I ain't your sister and Glenn, fuckin' every time I got away from the group."
She cocked an eyebrow at that then said, "You and Carol then?"
Daryl felt his cheeks heating up and shook his head. "Don't know why you're askin' about this shit."
"Just curious is all," she said, acting like it was nothing.
They walked a bit further before he said, "Naw. Me and Carol were good friends. I hope she's okay, and if I find her, I might wring her fuckin' neck, so keep that in mind if we ever cross her path, all right?"
"Why?" She asked, walking quickly to catch up to him.
He looked at her from the corner of his eye then shook his head. He wasn't sure if he should tell of or if it even mattered anymore. She and Carol were close, so she was just as much affected as anyone when Rick didn't let her come back to the prison, but he didn't want to change the way she thought of Carol.
After going back and forth for a little while, he decided that she could make her own decision on what Carol had done.
"Carol killed Karen and David."
Beth gasped and stopped walking. "Oh my god."
"Thought she was doin' the right thang. Tryin' to protect us," Daryl said, instantly defending his friend.
"Wow." Beth started walking again, and Daryl kept in step beside her. "I can see where she was comin' from," she whispered. "But I can also see where she overstepped—a whole lot. That's why Rick didn't bring her back."
The walked in silence until Daryl pushed aside some branches and revealed an old shack in the middle of the woods. It looked like something straight out of a horror movie, and Beth looked at him like he was insane.
He walked to the side of the house and opened up a concealed door then pulled out a crate, handing it over to her.
"What's this?" Beth asked, clearly not impressed with the shack he'd brought her to or the case of mason jars full of clear liquid in them.
"Moonshine." He smirked and shouldered his bow again. "Ain't gonna have your first drink be no damn peach schnapps."
"My daddy said bad shine can make ya go blind," she said as she looked over the jars again.
"Ain't nothin' out there worth seein' anyway."
"Yeah, but seein' also keeps ya alive from all that bad shit."
Daryl walked up the steps of the porch and snorted. It was a good point, but one he wasn't going to let her know about.
When they got in the house, he made sure the door was shut good then found her a glass.
"You're not gonna have any?" Beth asked as he stepped away after he filled her glass a little.
"Naw." He shook his hand toward the shine. "Someone's gotta keep watch."
"So, you're gonna chaperone." She sounded disappointed but still took a sip. He grinned at the face she made as it went down, and he imagined the burn of good shine sliding down his own throat. It'd been a long time since he'd drank any.
"That's disgusting," Beth said then took another sip. "Better tha second time though."
"Slow down. That shit's strong."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Dixon," she muttered and picked up the mason jar, pouring a bit more into her glass.
Daryl walked away and started securing the shack. The door was as good as it was going to get, but he covered up the window as best he could with a piece of left over paneling. He figured she'd be way too shitfaced to go anywhere for a while, and tonight they'd be sleeping here. That didn't sit well with him at all, though. His eyes scanned the room, and he scowled at the camo recliner.
Beth shouldn't be in a place like this.
As he walked back over to the table where she was still drinking, he was taken back to his childhood. His old man lived in a place just like this after his momma had burned up their other house. He remembered running through the woods to hide from a beating when his daddy drank too much or hunting for food because he didn't know when his dad would come back.
Just rewind thirty years, and this could have been Daryl's home. The plain wood paneling and the shitty decorations made him feel like he was six anyway.
"Think we need to head out," he said. "This place ain't all that safe."
Beth looked up at him, and he sighed when he saw the way her cheeks were flushed and her eyes were already a bit glassy.
"Oh, c'mon, Daryl. We'll be so quiet. No one will ever find us." She reached out and took his wrist in her hand. "Sit with me and have a drink."
His skin burned a little from her touch, and he found himself nodding before he knew he was he was doing. Something about those big blue eyes made him stupid for a minute.
She handed him a jar and he walked behind her to the recliner and took a seat. Pushing aside the feeling that he'd taken his old man's place.
By the time he'd drank enough to feel a little buzz, Beth was giggling on the floor beside him.
"What is this? Who would even go into a store and buy this?" She snorted and slapped a hand over her nose.
He laughed at her before he could stop himself. The wide smile feeling unfamiliar on his lips, but the first genuine one he'd given in a long time.
"My old man, that's who," he said.
"Oh gosh, no!" Beth said, shocked.
"Yeah. Just junk's all it is. He'd sit 'em up on the t.v. and shoot 'em off."
"What?" Her jaw dropped and her eyes were wide.
"It was just junk," he mumbled, hating her eyes for a second and how they made him feel exposed.
"Daryl Dixon, if you think for one minute I'm worried about shitty plaster ashtrays, you're ridiculous. You're daddy shot stuff while you were in the house?"
Daryl took a big sip from the jar and didn't answer her.
"He's tha reason for your back." She said it matter-of-factly and took another drink. "What an asshole."
"He was a dick," he agreed quietly.
"How did he die?" She asked, tilting her head at him.
"Walker. We were on a hunt, and he got attacked."
"Oh." She paused then asked, "Do ya miss him?"
"Sometimes," Daryl said. "He taught me about trackin' and huntin', and when he wasn't drunk, he could be funny. That don't mean I forgive him."
Beth nodded. "Ya miss Merle."
It wasn't a question so he just hummed in agreement.
"I miss Shawn. He was my big brother and super protective."
"He'd have hated this then," Daryl said with a smirk.
"Definitely." She traced the rim of her glass and sighed. "He's gone now, though."
"Ya ain't a happy drunk at all," he whispered as his chest ached at her words.
Beth's brow furrowed. "Am I bringin' ya down?"
He thought about it for a second then shook his head.
With that seemed to be put away, she switched gears again, throwing him for a loop. "We should play a game! I'll say somethin' I've never done, and if you've done it you take a drink, and if you haven't, I take a drink."
"Ain't really needed a reason to get lit before," he said quietly.
She rolled her eyes and said, "I'll go first. I've never shot a crossbow. Now, you drink."
He did as she said. "This ain't much of a game. How do ya know it?" He pointed his pinkie at her as he held his jar.
"I watched my friends play," she said and brushed him off again. "You go!"
"I dunno. Uhhhh, I ain't ever been out of Georgia."
"That's a good one!" She took a big gulp of shine. "I've never been drunk and did somethin' I regret."
Daryl laughed humorlessly at that then took a drink. "I done a lot of things. Give ya some time and before the night's over, ya might with tha way you're drinkin'."
"Oh please," she shushed him off. "I've never been in jail. Like as a prisoner."
He ignored that she'd skipped his turn and instead clammed up. He stared at her for a moment. Took in her smiling, happy face, and wide innocent eyes.
"That what ya think of me?" He asked lowly.
"That's it! Were you a prison guard?"
"Gotta take a piss." Daryl stood up and started for the other side of the room. The jar of shine slip from his fingers as he was walking, and he let it shatter against the wood floor.
He could imagine just how stunned she was at the way he was acting, but he couldn't control himself. After all he thought and felt and was confused about her, she looked at him like that?
"Daryl?" She asked from behind him. "I didn't mean it—"
"Cain't hear ya. I'm takin' a piss."
He heard her stumbling around the room and came face to face with her with he turned, buckling up his belt. He was about to lay into her, to make her feel as small as he did in that moment, but she spoke first.
"Cain't believe ya peed in the floor like that. That's gross," she said and then wrapped her arms around his waist. "I'm sorry if I made ya upset."
He froze when she laid her head on his chest and thought back to the first time she'd hugged him like that, after Zach had died, and he felt his anger lessen a little. It was just a game they were playing, and she was lit. So was he. It wasn't the best combination.
"I've never been to prom," Beth sighed and cuddled closer to him.
He hesitated for a second before he wrapped his arms loosely around her back. "Me neither," he answered back.
Beth hummed a little then leaned back to look up at his face. "Will ya dance with me?"
He shook his head. "Ain't no music."
"We don't need music. Just sway with me," she said with a smile and tried to pull him from side-to-side.
It wasn't worth fighting it, so he put his hands to her hips when her hands went around his neck. After a couple of minutes of mindlessly swaying like some walker, she started playing with the hair on the nape of his neck, causing him to shiver a little.
It had been long time since he'd been touched with any sort of affection, and never with the innocent sweetness that Beth had.
He could have stood there and thought he didn't deserve the soft touches and the calm she seemed to blanket over him, but he was tired of fighting. He'd spent all his life doing it, and for just a few minutes, he was going to enjoy the quiet with her.
"My head really hurts, Daryl," she whined the next morning.
"It damn well should," he answered from his spot in the recliner.
Beth groaned and rolled over, covering herself with her blanket.
After their dance, she'd passed out pretty quick, and he'd gone outside to take care of the two walkers that had stumbled up. He wasn't proud to admit it, but he'd watched her sleep for a little while, wondering what was happening between them.
He'd passed out before he figured it out.
"We gotta move on today?" She asked from beneath her covers.
"Yeah. Ain't no use in stayin'."
It took a few hours before they'd pack up and were ready to leave. Mostly due to Beth's new dislike of the sun and noise and general movement. They'd been walking about thirty minutes before she ran over to a tree and started vomiting. He just leaned back against the closest tree and waited until she was done.
"Feel better," he asked and held out his red rag.
"Not really," she said with her eyes closed and a look of total concentration on her face.
"Drinkin's bad for ya."
"So I'm learnin'."
They didn't make it much farther before she said, "Can we just take a rest for a minute?" Daryl looked around. They were at the edge of a cemetery with a funeral home in the distance. That would have to do for the night, and hopefully Beth would recover well enough to put some ground behind them the next day.
With a heavy sigh, he swung his bow to the front and crouched down. "Jump up."
"Seriously?" She didn't sound amused at all.
He turned his head to the side and said, "It's a serious piggyback."
The little grin that crossed her face made him look away. He was afraid of what she'd see when she looked too close, especially after last night.
"Damn, woman, you're heavier than ya look," he said as she hopped up on his back.
Beth pinched his arm. "Ya don't say that sorta thang to a lady, Daryl."
He grunted and lifted her up higher on his back with a little jump. He'd made it halfway across the cemetery when Beth patted his shoulder and tried to slid off his back. He let her down and stood beside her as she looked over the tombstones around them. Wasn't no real way of knowing what she was thinking, so he stayed quiet, more watching her than reading the names on the stones.
They were lucky, he thought. They'd found peace.
He almost jumped when he felt her fingers twine with his. Her skin, marred by small callouses scrapping against his own worn palm. It made him feel like the night before when she'd hugged him to her and tried to sway in the silence.
Then she turned and led him back toward the woods and away from the mortuary, the whole way, never dropping his hand.
He wasn't sure where they were headed, both in real life and this closeness they'd developed over the last few weeks and more importantly, the last couple of days. He still couldn't put it all into words, but all he knew was that she was the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel for him. She made him hope, and for the first time in a long time, believe that maybe something good could happen. That he was good enough.
And he'd try as hard as he could to deserve that from her for as long as they were living in this world together.