Around the Sun
Beth caught him staring at her again. Daryl had been doing that more lately, when he thought she wasn't looking. She caught him again now and her heart ached as that "look" crossed his face, his jaw set in a hard line. Normally he would be grabbing up his bow and stalking off into the woods. Into the woods even though they were safely ensconced within the walls of Alexandria. He'd come back hours later and she'd see him later that night slinking back in well after midnight, crossbow slung over his back and a weight in his step. He'd always glance over to her house she stayed in with Maggie and Glenn and she could never be sure he saw her. She was safely entrenched in the shadows of the front porch of the two bedroom row house down the main street of the district they had been assigned to. She couldn't make out his eyes either although she could guess what she would find there. Anger.
She'd been mesmerized by those eyes ever since their last night together before she had stupidly thought that he might be looking at her in a different way. In the way that Glenn looked at Maggie. In the way that her dearly departed Daddy had looked at her mama, departed as well but Beth wasn't so sure about the dearly part. The way her mama had left this world, twice, was not fit for any memorial service Beth could bring to mind. If she really thought about it, the look Daryl got in his eyes sometimes now, haunted her. Crept right into her brain at night and seeped into her consciousness to the point that she could see his eyes behind her own closed lids as though he could see into her soul.
He'd been giving her the silent treatment since they'd arrived a few nights ago. Beth had already been there although she hadn't been there long. She'd come in a mere day prior to their group. She had scarcely believed it when she arrived, Jamie, Barry, and Pixie in tow. Pixie was one of the girls from the hospital. She was a tiny sprite of a girl, small, blond, twelve and fiery as a barn cat, she reminded Beth a lot of herself at the same age. Jamie and Barry were the other two girls that had made it out of there with her, both of them quiet but stealthy warriors who'd fought their way here just as hard as she had.
She guessed she deserved the way he was shutting her out. She couldn't really blame him. He had told her plenty of times to stay close to him when the walkers crawled out of the woodwork of the broken landscape that was their world now.
The one time she had actually listened to him had been the night to nearly get her killed. She had been hit by the car that she later learned took her away from Daryl that night. Away from the one constant in her life, the only one she had left.
Daryl couldn't figure why she kept looking at him that way. If she was trying to make him feel like shit, it sure as hell was working. He didn't say anything though. He knew he had more than earned himself a place on her shit list. He'd lost her after all. He'd told her that he'd protect her and when the chips were down he had failed her miserably. Had failed them all.
He wanted to ask her. Wanted to ask her who hurt her. How had she gotten the scar on her cheek? It had enraged him when he'd seen it. He had gone by her, hugged her like everyone else but he didn't say anything. He didn't trust his traitorous mouth to speak in her presence, not when his emotions were running so high and he was subject to her outright rejecting him if he told her how much he'd missed her. How she'd been right the whole time. They were all alive. Well most of them anyway but Daryl pushed that thought away.
They were at an impasse he figured. She was sitting on her front step and he was heading out the door when this current stare-down started. He got so pissed off all the sudden that when she got up to go in the house, he opened his mouth and the words spilled out of him. "Greene, come over here." He spoke up only a little because while he had no neighbors on this side of the street, he had no way of knowing if Maggie and Glenn were inside the house or not.
His eyes met hers and he was guessing her surprised expression mirrored his own. She turned to face him slowly.
Beth couldn't believe her ears when she heard his voice call out her name. It was only her last name but she'd take it. She knew there was a lot of push and pull, give and take where Daryl was concerned. At least when it came to him being vocal or initiating a conversation.
Before she could even think it through she walked over to his porch and met him on the top step and followed his example as he sunk himself down to sit, his palms resting on his thighs.
They sat there for a long time. Long enough for Beth to wonder if she imagined that he had asked her to come over.
"I'm sorry." It was none of the things he thought he'd say but he guessed it was the most accurate.
Beth looked at Daryl in surprise as his eyes met hers. "You're sorry?"
Daryl looked puzzled but he continued. "For telling you to go outside by yourself. That was always against our rules. We never talked about what to do if one of us was injured. I panicked. I should have never told you to leave me there. I know you're pissed at me and I don't blame ya."
Beth looked at him in shock. "Wait you're not mad at me?" She could hardly believe it. She began to rethink some of the looks he had been giving her. Now that she had perspective maybe she'd see something different.
"Why would I be mad?" Daryl couldn't figure this girl out sometimes. He reached up and ran a hand through his hair.
"For going out to the road. I know that's what you told me to do but you also told me a million times to stay off the main roads if we were ever separated." Beth looked at him her face awash in anguish and his heart broke.
He had to know then who had done what they had done to her. How she had gotten the scar on her face. He had to know if anyone had laid a hand on her so he could pray they were ushered into hell properly, by the jaws of a walker ripping them apart while they bled out into the ground. He needed to touch her and somehow, in that moment, he knew that she'd not shy away from his touch. Her eyes were too focused on him. He reached his hand up and grasped her chin to gently turn her head into an angle that would let him look at the mark on her face. He let his thumb brush lightly over the smooth column of her throat.
"Who did this?" Daryl's voice was low and ominous and Beth smiled at him.
"Ain't funny Beth. I need to know who did this." His eyes had flashed dark so Beth let him off the hook.
"It's just hard for me to imagine you beating up a car. You love 'em too much." Beth couldn't quite squelch the snort that erupted from her throat.
Daryl looked at her blankly for a moment and felt the corners of his mouth turn up in an honest to god smile, something he had not had in a while. "You always were a smartass, Beth. Good to see you ain't changed." Daryl regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth. Because he could see the subtle changes in her. Her smile once bright took a fraction longer to grace her face. The light in her eyes had dimmed somewhat and god help him, she looked nothing like the girl that left the farm. Her features were still soft as they ever were but they no longer held any qualities that made her seem like a teenager. The girl sitting beside him was not a girl but a woman. Any man would have to be blind not to notice. Hell, even Eugene had noticed. The old Daryl had almost emerged when Eugene had thoughtlessly whispered to Tara that Beth was hot. Tara had shot him a warning glance while Daryl had pretended not to hear.
Beth's eyes drew down to the ground then. She had changed. She regretted all the change in her sometimes. "I did change. Some anyway. Guess I got what I wished for." She gave him a wan smile. She knew he'd remember an earlier night on another porch. It seemed like lifetimes ago but the circumstances weren't all that different. They were here now, righting wrongs and forgetting the past. At least Beth hoped so, the bad parts at least. Those weeks away from them all, locked in the hospital, had not been easy on her. The people of the hospital had believed in the "greater good" and their messed up belief system had almost destroyed Beth's own. Almost.
But right now, on the cusp of spilling all of it to Daryl, the only person she felt she could tell any of these things to, she felt like he'd been the one who had been right. That there wasn't anything good out there to see anymore.
Daryl realized that his hand was still on her chin and he let it drop, just barely grazing her shoulder with his fingertips before letting it hang in the air for a moment before letting it rest in his lap, fingers still twitching to clutch her to him.
Beth brought her hand up to her cheek and then up to her forehead, lifting the hair there to show the other scar, a little deeper but more narrow. "You won't need to beat up anyone for this one either. I killed them. Killed him." Beth corrected herself, saying it quietly as if maybe if it was spoken in a softer voice the truth wouldn't be as harsh.
Daryl's eyes snapped to hers even as his fists clenched in his lap and he had to chant in his mind in an effort to keep from grabbing up his bow and going hunting. For what he didn't know. Most of the squirrels around this part of the district had migrated back to the woods that edged the safe zone. "Him?" The thought of someone putting their hands on Beth nearly burned him alive like lava coursing through this veins. "He hurt you?"
Beth knew what he was asking and she was glad that at least, for this, she could tell him what he wanted to hear and it was the truth. She shook her head. Bastard Officer Reynolds had taken the cake for assholes of this new world. Word had gotten around that he liked to "initiate" all the girls into the community. JoAnn had refused and it had gotten her killed. It was just poetic justice that his end had been precipitated by the woman tearing his throat out with her teeth, eyes glazed and opaque from death and decay.
He would have died anyway with the knife wound Beth had inflicted into his femoral artery. Daryl had shown her that vulnerable spot long ago and she hadn't forgotten. She knew it was the only thing that kept her from getting raped that night. Her heart still shivered in fear with the thoughts of it and she could still remember how his hands had felt on her. She forced away that feeling of dread and disgust if nothing else than to reassure Daryl that it hadn't been that bad.
"It wasn't anything I couldn't handle." Daryl's hands were smoothing over an imaginary crease in his jeans and at this point, he would have a hole in them soon. Beth moved her hand over to his leg and daringly put her hand over his. He immediately turned his palm over as if his skin was hungry for her touch and he had been waiting on this all along. Then it feels like he is pulling away and her heart nearly breaks but then she realizes he is pulling her to her feet and into his house.
She follows him, curious more than anything else. He has never been this forward with her before. When she thinks about it though she realizes that isn't true. Back at that lovely funeral parlor he had been more and more forward with her, touching her arm or her back or her hand. The looks too. As he pulled her down beside him on the sofa she took in his gaze and realized that she had been wrong about his looks lately too. They mirrored the ones of the funeral home. They mirrored her own.
"Daryl why would you think that I'd blame you? It wasn't your fault." She waited patiently while he gnawed on his thumb.
It was getting dark already and it was dim inside his house but she could make out every emotion plain on his face when he looked at her. "It wasn't your fault either, Beth."
Something broke inside her then, like the wretched dam broke, the one that she wouldn't let breach the whole time she'd been away from him. She had had to be strong. But now all the fight to maintain that composure seemed pointless.
"We all have jobs to do. We don't get to be upset." She sobbed at the last word and dshook her head at him furiously, willing away the tears, willing away the pain that was coming to claim its place. She had shoved it away for so long and now it was demanding its presence to be recognized.
Daryl felt the tug on his heartstrings in that moment, looking at her crying and repeating the words she had often said before. The only thing now was she didn't believe them. Sometimes they had to cry. He knew he had. He had cried like a little bitch the night they had gotten here and he had seen she was indeed safe and sound. Just like they had all tried to tell him she was in one way or another. They never came out and said it. They knew better than to call him out on his feelings. But Beth wouldn't shy away from that. He knew it. Right now though, she was crying her heart out and he reached for her and pulled her against him. She buried her face in his chest and he felt the wet of her tears immediately as she sobbed against him. He brought his hands up to her back and he finally felt like he was home.
He wept with her even as he hated the tears that fell onto her perfect blonde head. After several long minutes she pulled away. "No one will want me now." He had thought his heart had done all the breaking that it could do but he was wrong. That Beth Greene could think that someone wouldn't want her was absurd. He reached down for the second time that night and tilted her chin up. "Look at me. It don't matter."
"It does matter." Her eyes flickered with determination. "I used to be vain. Maybe I still am if I care about something as stupid as scars. None of it should matter. But they're ugly." Beth had always thought herself to be the pretty one.
"You're fuckin' beautiful. Don't you ever say otherwise." The fierceness surprised even him.
Even as her heart thrilled a little at his words, she knew he was just saying that to make her feel better. She shrugged.
He reached up and began unbuttoning his flannel shirt. Beth's eyes went wide. "Daryl?"
As he eased the shirt from his shoulders and turned around she realized what he was trying to do. His shirt fell to the couch and she resisted the urge to reach out and trace her fingers along the lines she had seen so often but only in a glancing manner because she knew how sensitive he was about them. But after everything they had shared between that moonshine shack and this little row house, this was the final layer of the onion peel.
"It's just skin Beth. Just something else that makes us who we are." He turned back around and faced her. "Didn't you say it? That I gotta stay who I am and not who I was. I did it. You taught me that Beth. That I could change. So you've got a couple scars. It just makes you a badass like me." He dared to lean towards her in his shirtless state, and nudge her arm with his shoulder.
She looked at him and smiled sheepishly and then the most unexpected thing happened. She laughed.
He laughed with her. Her face splitting into that grin he had fallen in love with in the first place was everything to him. "I hate what you went through. Wish I could change it. But you're here now. That's everything." He looked at her taking in his words and he faltered. "Right?"
Beth moved her hand from his lap and mimicked his earlier movements, cupping her hand around his jaw. "You are an amazing man Daryl Dixon." She said.
He snorted derisively. He shrugged. "Somebody changed me." He met her eyes then, her baby blues boring into his and he didn't care that his soul was hanging out, bleeding into her palm.
Beth shook her head gently. "This Daryl was there all along. I just let you know it was okay for him to exist." She loved the feel of his scruff under her fingers, loved the way it prickled into soft flesh there.
His eyes burned in that moment, that validation that she always gave him even though he didn't feel like he deserved it. He knew he probably didn't deserve any of it, not by a mile, but he didn't care because it was her. Beth. His Beth. She accepted him even when he wasn't the man who was sitting with her here now.
She dropped her hand to her lap and he missed the warmth of her touch immediately. He didn't realize his lips parted in that moment and he had never intended it to happen but he dipped his head and his lips claimed hers. He gave no thought in that moment if this was the right time for him to be doing something like this. His hands found their way to each side of her head as he thread his fingers through her hair. Her lips were warm and soft and molded to his like they were meant for that purpose. Her lips parted under his and he was so fuckin' out of practice so he slowly slid his tongue barely inside her mouth and she sighed as he licked along her lower lip and sucked it between his own lips gently, before slowly pulling away.
Beth had been kissed before. Plenty of times. But no one had ever kissed her with the tenderness and reverence with which Daryl just had. She smiled at him her face hurting with the wideness of it. "Daryl Dixon, I never thought I'd see the day you'd lay one on me like that. I liked it."
He shrugged. "Figure time ain't been on our side so far. Better make the most of it." He was rewarded with a smile from her. She pressed her lips to his this time. This kiss was softer and somehow sweeter, Daryl thought. He should have guessed that she would be good at this too.
"Make the most of it huh?" She grinned. She knew he was referring to their drunken night in that shack.
He nodded. And they did make the most of it. Just kissing and whispering fingers intertwined well into the night. They fell asleep in each other's arms and for the first time in a very long time, neither woke up screaming in the night.
Beth woke up briefly once, thinking about how lucky they were to be alive and to be with each other. Against all odds they had found their way back to one another. One world had ended but theirs had just barely started to spin its way around the sun.
Had to write this. This prompt was a combined request of bbjorgman and carpediem-365. I hope I did this justice ladies! So let me know how you liked this. Until next time, xoxoxo