Takes place during Still and Alone (season 4, episodes 12 and 13).
For Megan. Do enjoy, dear.
There was truth
There was consequence
Against you, a weak defense
Then there's me, I'm seventeen
Looking for a fight
All my life I was never there
Just a ghost running scared
Here our dreams aren't made
"Cigarette. Please." Her hair is wisps against her pale forehead, streaks of sweat and dirt running down her neck, like cracks in a vase.
He raises an eyebrow.
"Please." She says again, and he shrugs, setting his crossbow down and pulling out the sadly depleted pack of smokes from his front pocket. He lights it in his mouth, takes a deep puff, then passes it to her. He tries not to think that her lips will be where his just were.
"Thanks." She says, that stupid farmer's daughter smile all over her face. How can she be so completely pure even now, even still?
She opens her mouth, her lips curve, and she blows out a semi-perfect smoke ring.
He raises the other eyebrow.
She laughs, a quiet one, of course, but a laugh all the same. "Ssshhh. Don't tell Maggie." Her eyes are sad for a moment, but she fights against the loss of her sister. She's fought against so much, Daryl thinks, and yet here she is. Maybe she was the real ass kicker.
"Where'd you learn?" He asks, as she takes the cigarette from her mouth and hands it back to him to finish.
She hooks her thumbs in her belt loops, and though all that would be needed to complete the picture- a really ridiculous one, if he thought about it- is a piece of straw between her front teeth (Merle would be hurling so many farm animal insults at her that Beth wouldn't even know how to react), he still thinks she looks more picturesque than ridiculous. Picturesque? The insults Merle would throw at him!
"Mama used to sneak them...she had a stash she always hid. When daddy," Her throat catches, and her eyes flutter shut, but she swallows and forces the baby blues back open, "would go off to the other farms, or into town, she'd go out back where she thought we couldn't see her. She always worried, right. Always about daddy." Her eyes become far away, and her shoulders droop. "In the end she was the one we needed to worry about."
He takes a deep pull from the cigarette then offers it back to her. She fingers it in her hands, the tip hot, burning, against her middle finger, before dropping it to the forest floor, crushing it with the toe of her boot.
"Do you think...do you think it matters?" She looks up, reeling back a bit to find that he'd been staring intently at her.
"Does anything anymore?" He counters, slinging his crossbow over his back.
What had she expected from him, anyhow? He was callous and rude, emotionally shut off from not just her, but the entire world. Wanting somebody to change, to suddenly be different than what they'd always been...she knew better than anyone how stupid that was.
"It does." She says, crosses her arms in front of her chest, choosing the path to a small clearing up ahead.
"Then why'd you ask me?"
She turns back, her eyes trying to penetrate his. "Because I care what you think. I care, Daryl."
He assumed as much. He noticed the way she looked at him, listened to him lately, even before they'd been cut off from the rest of the group, forced to flee together, to survive together.
As her blonde ponytail swings away from him, his stomach clenches at her too-easily given concern.
"Merle was a piece of shit. Typical red neck, always lookin' for a fight."
"But...not you?" She'd love, he knows, to think that they were so different. That his older brother was the only one who got stoned, who drank from sun up til sun down, that Daryl was really the good one- he only followed after Merle to look out for him.
He shrugs vaguely. So maybe he likes it, a little- just a little. That somebody thinks he's worth something. That somebody like Beth, who still has so much innocence, who still thinks all this shit means something, could ever look at him like he was more than a pointless jackass. He's not, and how long could he keep the truth from her anyway? She's put him in this jacked up position of being the hero- the one who protected her, who ran with her, who threw his own jacket over her shivering form at night. But he was still Daryl Dixon, and no amount of covert looks or bursts of angry insights from her could change that.
"All that matters is I'm here and he's not. But I'll never be like you, Beth. Or Maggie or your daddy. Not...good."
She gulps her moonshine at the mention of her daddy and wipes her mouth on her sleeve. She rubs a ding in the small table they're sitting at for a minute. "I'm not a good person, Daryl."
He snorts into his jar, but she's looking at him with those soulful eyes, open and deep and and he shrugs, taking another hit of the moonshine.
"I'm not. When they came to the prison...from Woodbury, you know, even when they were so screwed over by the Governor, I didn't want them there. It was our land. Our food. Our blood that fought the walkers out of the blocks, and they just took it! Took it all, without the slightest idea," She's breathing roughly, in and out, her chest heaving, "what we went through!" She swipes her hand, her jar falling to the floor with a crash, booze and glass everywhere.
She crushes her heel into the shards, tears snaking down her cheeks, her shoulders shaking with sobs.
"Hey, hey," He stands, tries to soothe her, but he doesn't know the first thing about comfort. The closest he's come is with Carol, and he isn't sure that his Cherokee Rose did any good, is pretty sure, in fact, that it hurt her in immeasurable ways.
Beth is crying, and his first response is to hold her, to keep her together because he needs her. He needs that light in her eyes, needs her fire, her faith. Her hope.
"Let's go." He says gruffly.
"Where?" She gulps air, trying to steady herself in his arms.
"You wanna learn, yeah? Only one way to." Daryl eases away from her and back to his crossbow, holding it up. "It'll be tough. You need a lot of muscle for these."
Beth's eyes linger on his biceps before nodding slowly, wiping her tears away.
He never thought he'd feel at ease in a funeral home, but the place is, seemingly, safe enough, the cabinets stocked. Whoever tended to it hadn't been gone long, and there was every possibility they'd be back, maybe as soon as sun up. But they had their warning traps, they had curtains pulled at every window. For now, in this little corner of this little room, he felt content.
Beth's hands drop from the piano, and she turns, watching him.
"Cold, is all." She pulls her knees up to her chest and a part of her is (not for the first time) selfishly pleased that it is only her and Daryl. Anybody else from their group would've ruined these rare moments when he let her see who he really was.
"Well, get in then." He pushes himself to the back of the coffin, just enough room beside him for her to slide into.
"Thanks." She says as she stands. He reaches over to help her in, and she awkwardly tries to position herself so they aren't touching. She'd love nothing more than to sink into him, to fit against him, maybe feel the scruff on his chin against the back of her neck. But he would reject her advances, she is sure.
"You were right, Daryl. I'm useless. Cuttin myself up like that, when I shoulda been learning to use a rifle. Or helping daddy to see...see what the walkers really were. What they are." What better place for a confession than a house of the dead?
"I didn't mean that. I'm...sorry. It was..." He trails off, his voice thick with, she thinks, emotion.
"It was true. Maybe I was a coward. I wouldn't have really gone through with it, even if Maggie and Lori hadn't been bangin' on the door the whole time. But I felt so ruined. I didn't think I'd ever be okay. I still wonder if any of us will ever be whole again."
Her hair is soft tendrils against her cheek, tossed back over her shoulder, less than half a centimeter from his chest. If he wanted, he could run his fingers through it- God knows he's thought about it enough. He wouldn't trust himself to stop.
"I saw this place once, at a junk yard. Merle and his buddy were cooking up meth in the back shed, but I was bored. I'd seen what drugs did to Merle...how fucked up he got, not just stoned, but who he was. So I hung back and was just looking around, and it wasn't cold or nothing, so when the sun started to set, I thought hell, Merle won't miss me. And I kept walking around this place- Merle's friend, his dad owned it- and it was so big. I didn't know some busted down corner lot by the tracks could hold so much garbage."
Beth shifts, bending her knees, and he closes his eyes and searches for physical resolve as he feels her against his hips. "Anyway, I found this, like clearing, all the trash swept away, a kinda path on this old blacktop, and there were all these mirrors. Cracked and some of 'em shattered, but they were propped up against things- trashed chairs and whatever. And they just...reflected the sunset. In a lot of different angles, you know? There were so many colors. Probably the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." Daryl's breath hitches; it was warm, against her bare neck. She can feel his eyes, roving over her- from the top of her blonde hair, down around her ear, past her collar bone. "well, one of em, anyway." He says in a low voice.
Beth can smell him; slightly sweet breath, from the half jar of apricot jelly he'd crammed down with dinner. Campfire seeped into his shirt, along with a bit of sharpness from where the moonshine soaked his clothes when she smashed her glass. She swallows hard, his warmth and the solidity of his body so close to hers that it makes her stomach flip.
Daryl laughs. "Pretty shitty childhood, right? That a junk yard is one of my best memories."
Beth shakes her head, as much as she can, laying on her side. She thinks it's pretty amazing, actually, that out of what others would simply throw away, Daryl saw, abstractly maybe, something exquisite.
"Anyway. Ruined things, broken things...can be the most alive."
The mirrors were delicate once, treated so carefully, until they were dropped, or had an angry fist thrust into them, or some mundane household item hurled at them during a fight. Then they were tossed out, declared useless- but what they still could do, what they still could show, was breathtaking. Oh shit, if Merle could hear him now...
Daryl tentatively wraps an arm around Beth, pulling her tight against him. She's grown, in the past year, gotten a bit taller, somewhat softer in her curves. Not that he'd been paying attention to her. Or anything. Right.
"Thank you." Beth whispers, tucking her hand under his.
"For making me feel better. For making all of this okay."
"Don't..." He mumbles, unsure of how to respond. He's never been told that before, never really been thanked beyond an arrow to a walker's brain. Simple words, maybe, but coming from Beth they carry a weight and sincerity that he never knew anybody was capable of.
Beth yawns, her body relaxing, almost melting into him. He bites his lip and does his best to keep still as the small of her back pushes against his pelvis, pushes him closer to the edge. She stretches, arching her torso. He bites down harder; his lip almost bleeds.
Then she's still, her breathing starts to even out, and he can tell she's drifting off. He wishes he could fall asleep that fast. Even before it all hit the fan and the world went to shit, he'd stare at the ceiling, or the walls, or the stars, for hours before finally falling asleep.
He isn't sure about God, but it was as fitting a place to think about it as any other. He went back and forth on his belief. The end of the world was clearly proof that there was no God, no sacred Divine force of the cosmos. Then again, there was still so much good- Judith and their time at the farm, finding the prison, the Governor finally removed from the world. Humanity still squeezing by, even if it was by the skin of its ass. Surely these were proof that God was real, that there was some kind of Providence.
So he doesn't know and isn't asking for confirmation, he's just asking for once, just once, let this be okay. Let her live. Let her be strong, let her fight, survive. Let Beth be wrong, that he won't be the last man standing. He knows that he couldn't go back to that, to anger and wrath and being alone. Not now that Beth is here, not now that he knows what she feels like in his arms, small and warm and kinder than he could ever deserve, not if he lived a thousand lifetimes.
"I might love you, Daryl Dixon." Beth says sleepily, quietly, almost to herself.
He holds her against him, and though everything in his gut is telling him that it'll be over too soon, for once, he has hope, because he has Beth.
ugh, I'm so unsure of this one. I hope it's not too horrific. Lyrics used from City of Angels by 30 Seconds To Mars.
As ever, feedback is greatly appreciated.