A multi-chapter continuation of the one-shot "You Found Me". Some expressed interest in me continuing that story. I hope you like it!
She walked near the back of the group, a bit of space between her and the rest of them, and though he usually walked up front with Rick, he found himself now lingering towards the back, too. He didn't want to make it obvious but he wasn't comfortable with the idea of her all the way back here, essentially by herself.
The rest of the group, they were quiet but they still talked and laughed with one another – just in soft, hushed tones – but she was quiet. No one else could probably even hear her but Daryl's ears were sharper than most and he had been the one to teach her how to be so quiet during their hunting lessons. A part of him was proud of her for being so silent but it was unsettling, too. He didn't like her being so quiet. That's not who she was.
He slowed his steps even more until he was walking beside her. She didn't even look at him.
She had been back with them for two days now and she had only said a handful of words to the others in that time. They had sat on the porch of the church the night before and she had said some things to him and only him but this morning, and hours later, she was silent.
Daryl wondered if he should say something, to start a conversation between them, but he never quite knew what to say, especially when the silence was crushing against his ears. He glanced at her from time to time but she stared straight ahead and her eyes never moved.
"Your ankle better?" He finally thought of something to say, his voice gruff.
She turned her head and finally looked at him. He almost wished she hadn't though. It wasn't the bruises or cuts on her face he couldn't stand to look at. The sight of those just pissed him off and if they hadn't killed the people at the hospital already, he would have wanted to go and torture them much slower this time.
It was her eyes that made him nearly flinch. They were big and blue as always. But these eyes looking back at him, they were empty. Void of anything. The warmth and the passion Beth had looked at everything in this shit-stained world with was now completely gone.
"It's fine," she answered with a slight nod. "They took care of it for me."
Daryl felt his fingers tighten around the strap of his bow across his shoulder. They.
"It was starting to feel better when we were at the funeral home but then, I hurt it again when I had to run out," she further said.
He didn't know what to say. In the weeks he had spent searching for her, he had tried his hardest not to think of that night. Of the walkers swarming and her shouting at him that she wouldn't leave him, at him yelling at her to run to the road and he would meet her there. For the weeks they were together, he hardly let her out of his sight. She being taken was all of his fault and no one would be able to tell him otherwise – not that anyone was rushing to assure him. He had made a blunder; a stupid mistake that anyone else would have avoided.
"You don't have to babysit me, Daryl," Beth said then quite abruptly.
His head jerked to look at her, his lips sinking down into a deep frown.
"I ain't," he said.
"You always walk with Rick," she pointed out to him. "You can go back up front."
"I don't mind walkin' with you," he said, his brow furrowed now, wondering why she seemed to be trying to get rid of him. Did she not want to be around him? Did she not feel safe with him around?
Safe. He almost snorted. What had he done to prove to her that he could keep her safe?
"I like walkin' with you. Got used to it. Missed it," he added.
And after that, he wouldn't look at her even as he felt her eyes on him. He wasn't sure why he had said that except for it was the truth. He wouldn't have said it if it wasn't. Daryl was never the sort to bullshit. He said what he thought and saw no point in holding any of it back. Especially now. Life was just too short. All of them had ticking clocks counting down over their heads and he wasn't going to feel like shit for liking to walk beside her.
Beth didn't say anything in response to his comment and he was grateful for that.
They walked in silence, a few feet between them and the rest of the group but they made no hurried movement to catch up. He wondered if any of the others noticed that Beth was keeping her distance from them. And if they had noticed, did they even care?
Daryl felt his fingers tighten once more around the bow strap.
It was a relief to him to have Beth back but it also felt strange in a way. Even with the group together – mostly together minus Maggie and Glenn – he and Beth seemed to fall right back into things they had adapted to while together. Just the two of them. He adjusted and shortened his long strides to meet hers. She lightened her steps so she was walking as quietly as him. He had taught her how to track and hunt. How to survive. And she had done just that and she was back now. Would she need anything else from him?
"Daryl," she said his name suddenly, quietly, and immediately, his crossbow was aimed and ready. He looked to her for a signal as to what she saw but she shook her head slightly and pointed off towards the trees.
Daryl slowly lowered the bow and let out a sharp and short whistle.
Rick stopped and turned, causing the others to stop as well. He and Daryl looked at one another and Daryl jerked his head to the side and then pointed between him and Beth. If she was surprised to see that he was signaling that the two of them would scout ahead, she didn't show it and Daryl didn't feel like explaining himself. Besides Rick and Michonne, he trusted none of the others like he had grown to trust Beth. She would always have his back.
Rick nodded and held up his hand, signaling he would give them five minutes.
Daryl nodded as well and looked to Beth. She had already taken her hunting knife from the sheath on her hip. He held the bow to his shoulder, ready to aim and fire, and he slipped silently into the trees. Beth was just as silent but he knew that she was right there with him.
Through the trees, they came upon an old farmhouse – long abandoned.
Daryl climbed the steps first and pressed himself to one side of the door while Beth pressed herself to the other. They locked eyes and he nodded slightly. He knocked heavily on the door with his fist and her hand went to the doorknob. He watched her as she mouthed one, two, three. She pushed opened the door and Daryl entered swiftly, taking a quick look around the room. Empty. They moved together, checking the entire first floor.
She climbed the stairs first with Daryl behind her and as the wood creaked beneath their feet, they both held their breath as they continued their ascent. There was only one walker, shuffling and growling as it came out of the bedroom at the top of the stairs. Daryl readied himself to release the bolt but before his finger could release the trigger, Beth didn't hesitate. She raised the knife and sank it right into the walker's head. It slid to the floor with a thud and Beth yanked her knife out.
They finished checking the rest of the second floor and once they saw it was all clear, Daryl finally lowered the crossbow.
"Just like ol' times," he joked a little and for the first time all day, Beth smiled.
It was a sight for sore eyes and Daryl reacted with his own smile.
Beth looked around what had once been a bedroom. There was a dresser beside the window and Daryl watched as she went to it, opening a small jewelry box on the surface, covered in dust. It looked as if she was looking for something and Daryl couldn't help but watch with open curiosity though he didn't ask what she was doing. He finally realized when she pulled out several bracelets, the cheap beaded sort, and slipped them onto her wrist, covering that scar.
When she turned back around, she found him looking at her but she didn't seem embarrassed. "The hospital took mine away. Liked to use my scar against me. Told me I was weak," she told him and he didn't say anything, waiting if she would say more.
She only talked of the hospital and what had happened to her there in snippets. And the snippets were more than enough to always get his blood boiling. He didn't know if he would be able to handle it if she ever told him something longer than that.
"Told me I wasn't made for this world," Beth finished.
"They didn' know shit, girl," he said, his voice gruff again, thinly veiling his anger, and he knew she could hear it.
She nodded and looked down to the bracelets. For a passing minute, the only sounds either of them heard were a few birds chirping in the trees outside and the breeze blowing against the house and rustling the leaves. He looked at her closely and knew she wasn't believing his words. He tried to think of something else he could say to her.
Before he could though, Beth lifted her head to look at him.
"We should get the others. This will be a good place for the night," she said and he nodded in agreement, following her as she was already moving out of the room.
Leaving the house, they began to walk through the trees again, heading back towards the road, but Beth stopped before they could.
"I have to…" she looked past him towards some of the bushes behind him and he nodded.
"I'll keep watch," he said and once again, they fell into their routine.
Beth went into the bushes to go to the bathroom and Daryl stood at attention, his eyes on the lookout for any walkers, and he almost smiled as he heard Beth hum softly so he couldn't hear the sound of her relieving herself.
When she stepped out to him again, she gave him a small smile. "Thank you. You better be careful though. I saw some poison oak over there. Don't want you wiping with the wrong leaf if you go to the bathroom during the night."
Her smile grew a bit and Daryl smirked, shaking his head and nudging her with his elbow, as they began walking once more.
"Knew I shouldn' have told you that story," he grumbled and this time, Beth laughed.
When they got back to the road, Rick met them.
"Farmhouse," Daryl told him. "All clear and might not be a bad place to rest for the night."
Rick nodded in agreement. "We've been walkin' a long time today. Everyone could use the rest." He looked to Beth. "How are you doin'?"
Beth nodded automatically. "I'm fine," she replied and gave the smile that didn't reach her eyes. Daryl knew he was probably the only one who noticed.
Rick nodded again, his eyes going back to Daryl, and silently, he told him that he needed to talk to him later. Daryl nodded ever so slightly in agreement. "Think you could hunt us up somethin' for dinner?" Rick asked out loud.
"I'll see what I can find," Daryl agreed but then hesitated when he looked to Beth.
Beth looked at him but didn't say anything and Rick looked between the both of them.
He cleared his throat. "Beth, can you help with Judith? She's been a little fussy today."
Both Rick and Daryl were surprised when Beth shook her head.
"Tyreese seems to be…" she trailed off and Daryl and Rick were both looking at her. She shrugged her shoulders and looked down to the ground. "He's the one taking care of her now. I would just get in the way."
"It ain't like that, Beth," Daryl couldn't help but frown at her.
"It's okay, Daryl," she said and gave him that same fake-ass smile that made him pissed at the sight. What did she think she was doing, giving him that smile?
"What are we doing?" Michonne appeared at the trio. "I don't like just standing here."
"Daryl found a house," Rick answered.
Now, Daryl turned his frown on him. Daryl and Beth, he wanted to bite out, but before he could, Rick and Michonne had stepped away, talking about something in lowered voices. He turned his head back to Beth but she had also moved away. There were bushes along the side of the road and saw her plucking the berries from the branches.
It was another of their routines. He would go hunting while Beth got their camp together.
And yet, he felt reluctant to go. Even though she had the others now, Daryl didn't like the thought of leaving her where he couldn't see.
"What's the matter?" Michonne appeared at his side again and followed his eyes to Beth, an almost teasing smile on her face. "Don't trust us that we'll watch after her for you?"
Damn woman had read his mind because that was exactly what he had been thinking.
He had been able to kill a couple of raccoons and it wasn't enough to make the group feel full but food was food and they were all grateful for it. They also had a few cans of corn and with a roof over their heads and food on their plates, they were all happy that night.
Daryl sat on the floor, his back against the front door, and Rick sat next to him. As he scooped corn up with his fingers, he couldn't help but watch Beth sitting across the room. She had done it subtly. She had placed herself near the rest of the group but there was still distance between them. She had put herself noticeably apart. Noticeable to him at least.
"How she doin'?" Rick asked his friend. Daryl shrugged and grunted in response. "I'm getting' worried," Rick then confessed and it made Daryl look at him. "She's not actin' like Beth normally acts."
Daryl shrugged at that. "She's been through somethin'. This is how she's dealin' with it."
Rick nodded with understanding and was quiet after that. Daryl went back to watching Beth as she nibbled on her piece of raccoon meat. He remembered when they had been together and he had caught a snake. She had been so sure that she would hate it but after Daryl tossed her a piece and she tried it, they both discovered that she actually loved it.
He suddenly had the urge to go back outside and try and track a snake down for her. Maybe if he skinned it and brought it back for her to see, she would smile again. A real Beth smile.
"She's hurt," Daryl then grunted.
"Bruises will heal," he said.
Daryl shook his head. "Not that kind of hurt. Hurt over Maggie and everyone else… not really caring that she was gone."
"We cared, Daryl," Rick said but Daryl looked at him sharply. "We cared," he said again. "We had other things, too, we were dealin' with."
Daryl shrugged but didn't say anything. He agreed with Rick – to an extent. For as terrible as that hospital had been, there was a small amount of relief that Daryl felt that Beth hadn't been locked in that boxcar with them at Terminus. And maybe Rick had cared but the rest of their group had sure as shit proved that they hadn't.
"What happened to you two out there?" Rick asked and it was the first time he had approached the subject.
He knew Daryl well – better than everyone except maybe Beth – and it was obvious to him that something had happened between the two of them when they had fled the prison together. But Daryl hadn't provided details then and he wasn't going to provide them now.
He didn't even really know what to say if he did feel like answering Rick's question. What had happened? Something. That was for sure. It was hard to spend weeks with just one other person and not get close to them. But it was more than that. It felt like it was.
He remembered the night in the funeral home – before the walkers came – and they had been sitting at the table, eating their dinner and Beth writing her thank-you note. Something had shifted between them in those moments but Daryl had no clue what it was and he hadn't been able to talk with Beth about it either. How would he even talk with her about it? He had never been the sort to ever talk with a female about anything.
"Beth," Carol turned and smiled at the younger woman. "Will you sing us something?"
Beth gave her own small smile and shook her head. "I'm sorry. I'm too tired and I probably shouldn't. Don't want to make too much noise."
Rick glanced over to Daryl before looking to Beth. "You sure, Beth? Just one song."
Beth looked to Daryl and Daryl stared at her, keeping his face blank, wondering what she would do. He expected her to refuse again and he was already feeling disappointment.
He had used to hate her singing all of the time. Causing too much noise and acting as if there was anything around them that deserved singing. But then, with just the two of them, he had gotten used to it and then sometime, he had begun almost looking forward to the next song she would decide to sing for him.
It had been too long since he had heard Beth Greene sing.
"I learned that this is one of Daryl's favorites," Beth then said softly and even before she began singing, he knew what song it was. Some of the others glanced to his direction but he kept looking at Beth.
"I was dancin' with my darlin' to the Tennessee Waltz/when an old friend I happened to see/I introduced her to my loved one and while they were dancin'/my friend stole my sweetheart from me."
Daryl rested his head against the door behind him and he watched her and listened to her sing. Her voice was soft yet strong and he almost felt like closing his eyes as if it would help him concentrate on it better.
When he was little, his mom had had this Patti Page record and would listen to this song over and over again. Daryl had always found it to be as sad as hell and his mom would almost always tear up as she sang along with it – bottle in one hand and cigarette in another – but when the first time he heard Beth sing it after they had set up camp one night, he hadn't felt the same sadness he had when he had been a boy hearing it. He watched her from the other side of the fire and listened to her sing and when she was finished, he felt himself giving her a small smile when she smiled at him.
When she finished, there were smiles from the others and compliments of how beautifully she sang and Beth smiled at them – that same smile that wasn't true or bright – and Daryl closed his eyes. She had survived the hospital and whatever they had done to her, he had gotten her back and she was where she should be, and he could listen to her sing again every night, and yet, none of it was right.
It still felt as if she wasn't there at all.
It was nearing dawn – the sky turning to a light grey hue – but Daryl was already awake, collecting his crossbow and gathering his other weapons. They had all slept on the floor in what used to be the house's living room and everyone else was still sleeping. They were beyond exhausted, walking miles before rest, and Rick had mentioned that maybe they would stick around here for a couple of days. Everyone had looked a little relieved at that.
Movement from the corner of his eye caught his attention and he turned his head to see Beth was also awake, sitting up and stretching her arms. She turned her head to the door and their eyes locked. They didn't speak so they wouldn't wake the others. They both stood up and Daryl opened the door and stepped out onto the porch as Beth carefully stepped over the sleeping forms until she joined him outside.
"Mornin'," he greeted, his voice still scratchy from sleep.
"Morning," she said softly. "Off hunting?" She asked.
He nodded. "Yeah. You?"
"There was a stream just a little bit that way," she pointed to a direction further into the woods and he noticed for the first time she was holding a large rag folded in her arms. "I wanted to rinse myself off," she said.
He nodded again. "I'll walk with you."
She didn't offer protest as they began walking side by side. Just another routine. He hadn't realized how many of those they had developed together. They would go days – weeks for Daryl – without bathing but sometimes, they came across a river or stream and Beth would want to dive in. Daryl would turn his back as she stripped and immersed herself into the water and he stood watch.
This morning, it was the same. She placed the rag down on the bank where she could grab it easily and Daryl turned his back so he couldn't see as she began taking her clothes off. He could hear every movement she made and he tried not to imagine what her naked body looked like. He had thought of it a few times before but he had always felt like a dirty old man as soon as he did and was quick to rid himself of naked Beth Greene mental images.
He heard slight splashing and he dared a peek over his shoulder to see her in the water now, disappearing for just a moment as she dunked herself beneath the surface. When she popped up again, she kept the water to her shoulders. Figuring it was safe enough, he turned to face the stream. There was a rock nearby and he went to settle himself on it.
Beth smiled a true smile at him and he smiled a little in return. "You should do this, too."
"Tellin' me I smell?" He asked.
"Yes," she said bluntly and he smiled a little.
His crossbow was across his lap and it would look to anyone else that he was relaxed but both he and Beth knew better. He was always at attention; always ready for whatever might happen. Maybe even more so with Beth being there.
"How'd you sleep?" She asked, rubbing her hands over her arms and shoulders to get rid of the dirt and grime as best as she could.
He shrugged as his answer. "You?" He asked in return and it was her turn to shrug.
"I prefer sleeping outside now," she said.
Daryl nodded, understanding all too well. "Maybe, if we go on a run, we can find ourselves a couple a tents and leave everyone else to their four walls and roof."
The suggestion gave him the second true Beth Greene smile of the day. It was shaping up to be a pretty good day already. Now, he just had to hunt down a snake.
Thank you for reading and please review!