**A/N: This is partially inspired by a little video/photoshoot of Norman Reedus ( burningupasun on tumblr, /post/106640980879), but also just inspired by Bethyl, of course. The smut isn't explicit, but it's definitely there. Enjoy!

WARNINGS: for mentions of past suicide attempts and child abuse, etc.

Fifty percent whim and fifty percent need for money. That was what had encouraged Beth to skim the board of notices in the center of campus, but also what had encouraged her to focus on, of all things, a sign for a figure model wanted for painting and sketching work. She wasn't completelynaive. She knew what 'figure modeling' meant. It meant someone who not only posed for an artist, but did so nude. Or at least, partially nude.

As she stared at the sign, Beth could hear Maggie's voice in her mind: Beth Greene, what are you thinking? Daddy would just die if he even saw you looking at this sign! Besides, this is so not you.

She was right, of course. Of the two Greene sisters, Maggie was the one most likely to do something like this. She was the one who sneaked out of the farmhouse late at night to go grab drinks with her friends, the one who hid her sexy clothes underneath cardigans and jeans so their Daddy wouldn't see, the one who casually picked up birth control and just went on it, like it was nothing.

Beth was so far from Maggie sometimes that it was laughable. Beth was the one baking cookies and going to bed at nine p.m. Beth was the girl drinking soda while her friends sneaked bottles of alcohol, because she was afraid that if she even had a single sip, her Daddy would somehow just know and show up. Beth was the girl who hadn't even been able to go further away for college than the closest state school to her childhood home.

But Beth was more than that, too. Beth was the scars that lined her wrist from where she'd tried to take her life once, after her mother and her half-brother Shawn had died in a car accident. Beth was the girl who had chosen to live. The girl who, more and more these days, was thinking that if she'd chosen to live than that was what she needed to do. Live.

So Beth was also the girl who reached out to decisively pluck that number from the sign, clutching it firmly in her fingers as she turned and walked through campus. Beth was the girl dialing the number into her phone as she strode confidently towards her music theory class, sending out a text: Saw your sign, interested in doing some figure modeling for you. Can we meet?


Four meetings done, and Daryl had yet to find someone he really felt like painting. He knew he shouldn't have been so choosy, but his muse had been a fucking bitch lately. When he'd first started painting, all fired up with rage and sorrow over the loss of his brother, those emotions had just seemed to pour from within him onto the canvas like they would never be used up.

Only eventually they had been, and now he felt scraped dry. Sad and angry still, but in a hollow and distant sort of way. Like there was some kinda damn emptiness inside of him waiting to be filled, and he just didn't know how. It had been his new friend Carol, an older chick who had brought him home from a bar one night not to screw him, but to show him her studio. It was she who had suggested he try painting people, instead of just the angry works of abstract color he'd been pouring his emotions into. Try something new, she'd said, with a sympathetic smile at his frustration, Sometimes you just need something new. Maybe put up some fliers on the campus, downtown. College kids are always willing to put up with a few hours of posing to make a couple bucks. And you might surprise yourself.

So far, there'd just been an unsurprising lack of interest in all the people who had shown up. One guy and three women, all attractive, but none of them sparking any interest in that empty space in his chest, the one that had once been filled with the urge to paint so intense that it had kept him up all hours of the night until he released it onto the canvas.

Then the door opened with the crisp jingle of a bell, and she stepped in. At first all he saw was the epitome of a sweet, angelic farm girl; blond hair like sunshine, big blue eyes, pale skin like smooth cream and faintly flushed cheeks. She looked at ease in a student-filled coffee shop like this, far more at ease than he did, a grungy mess of a man with paint marking his skin here and there and dark hair falling into deep blue eyes as his long, jean-clad legs stretched out under the table.

She turned to him slowly and when he got his full look at her, Daryl instantly realized there was far more to this girl than just the sweet innocent country peach. There was strength in the set of her shoulders and jaw, and something like fire hidden in the depths of her eyes. He sat up straight without even realizing it, and raised an eyebrow in invitation as she came closer.

"Daryl?" The girl stretched her hand out in offering. "I'm Beth. Beth Greene? You told me to meet you here at two. About the figure modeling? I'm a little early, I hope that's okay..."

The more he kept silent, the more she kept babbling. He didn't know why it was so oddly endearing, but it was, and it distracted him enough that it took even longer before he finally reached his hand out to shake hers. If there was a hint of heat sparking between them at the touch, he either didn't feel it, or ignored it. Looking up at her, he wasn't even sure she was old enough to be posing for him, let alone that she really wanted to; though granted, if she were on campus she was probably at least eighteen. Right?

"Be honest," he said in his usual rough, worn voice as she sat down in front of him. "You ain't never done nothin' like this before, right?" When she shrugged, he sighed. "Look, I'm serious. I need a model. I ain't just puttin' up the sign so sweet girls can get their kicks pretendin' they might do somethin' they think is naughty, only to chicken out and run off."

There it was again, that spark of fire in her eyes, a flush stealing across her cheeks that was far from embarrassment. "What makes you think I'd chicken out? Or that I'm just some sweet girl?"

He snorted. "Only gotta look at you, to see your a sweet girl. As for the chicken bit..." From the corner of his eyes, he caught sight of her fingers slipping under the bracelets at her wrist, brushing over some shape that marred the soft skin there. It only took him a glance to know what that was. Daryl Dixon was far from unfamiliar with scars. His dark gaze flicked back up to hold hers steady for a long moment, before he acquiesced, "Maybe you ain't a chicken. But are you even legal, girl?"

She breathed out a slow breath and kept those big cornflower eyes firmly on his. "I'm nineteen, and I'm not a chicken. And I'll show you, too." That fierceness faltered for just a moment, and he was fascinated to see a softer sort of blush stain her cheeks and neck, painting her the shy innocent once more as she went on, "I mean, if you want to paint me, that is."

The girl- Beth, he repeated in his mind- said it like she doubted that he would. Like she'd find it easy to believe that he wouldn't want to paint her, like she might not even think anyone would want to paint her. That was the final thing to seal the deal, really. Frankly, he thought anyone would have to be crazy to not want to paint her. Already the combination of porcelain skin and the fire in her eyes was making his fingers itch to pick up a brush.

"You free tomorrow?" His easy question, drawled casually from his lips, caught her by surprise; at least if the way her eyes widened was any indication. When she nodded though, he gave her a faint quirk of his lips. "Alright then. Here's the address to my place. Ain't much, just a studio loft, but it's where I do all my work." He scribbled down the address on a napkin, and pushed it over to her.

When she shifted to take it, Daryl hesitated for a moment, keeping his fingers pressed down on the thin paper. "If y' want, you can bring someone with you. A friend, or whatever. Make you more comfortable?"

Pride had her tipping up her chin and he had to bite back a grin at the flash of flame in her eyes. "I'm an adult. I'll be okay on my own. Besides..." He wasn't expecting the way she looked at him just then, those blue eyes studying him as if he was like a book she could just crack open and read in seconds. Like she was seeing him, seeing right into him, and her pronouncement was a soft and simple, "I trust you."

It caught him so off guard that all he could do was blink uselessly up at her as she rose to her feet and slung her bag back over her shoulder. Still clutching the napkin in her hand, she smiled sweetly at him and asked, "How does noon sound? Tomorrow?"

Swallowing down an unexpected thick sensation in his throat, Daryl gave a nod. "Noon. See ya then."

As he watched her walk out of the coffee shop, little brown boots clicking on the tile and hips swaying just faintly beneath her fitted denim, Daryl suddenly realized just how much he was looking forward to tomorrow... and just how much that empty muse-less hole inside of him was suddenly filling up with ideas.


Despite her bravery at the coffee shop, Beth felt a rush of butterfly nerves in her stomach the next day as she stood outside the address Daryl had given her. It was a run-down brick building, in an area of town that wasn't exactly the best, but wasn't the worst either. Her friends had informed her that a lot of struggling artists and musicians had started moving into that area of town; one of those places that would, in the next decade, probably become one of those young, cultural hot-spots.

Right now, though, it was just a bit run-down, just a bit dirty, and yet somehow a little exciting. Kind of like the man she'd met in the coffee shop yesterday. Having found the sign on a college campus, Beth had expected someone closer to her own age or maybe a few years older. Daryl had to be at least ten years her senior, maybe a little more than that. He'd looked out of place in that clean little coffee shop all full of college kids, and yet he'd seemed oddly at ease, too, just stretching out his legs under the table and tugging at his leather jacket before brushing his fingers through his dark hair.

The way he'd spoken to her had gotten Beth all fired up before she'd even realized that he might be teasing her a bit. Somehow that had only made her flush more. She hadn't been able to help it, she'd thought he'd been speaking to her almost like her family did; like she was this sweet, innocent, fragile little thing. He didn't even know her, which at first made her more worked up, until she realized that just meant she had to prove herself. It was far easier to do with someone who didn't know every moment of her past, the way her family did.

Beth was determined to show him she wasn't just some naive, sweet farm girl. That she could be brave, that she could be confident and do things like this. Of course, that would involve doing more than just standing up here, looking at the door of his building while she clutched the napkin with the address on it in her hand.

She could do this. She was the new Beth. She was gonna live her life, and this was gonna be the start.

Determination put pink high in her cheeks and set her shoulders firmly back as she lifted her chin and strode confidently through the front door, right up the stairs, and to the door at the very top with his apartment number on it. Despite the faint hint of butterflies in her stomach, Beth shored herself up, lifted her hand, and knocked.

When he appeared in the doorway, eyeing her up and down with a little smirk on his lips, Beth tried to convince herself that the new flutter that had set up in her stomach was just nerves, too. That it definitely had nothing to do with the way he was looking at her, or how good he looked in nothing but a simple, fitted white t-shirt and jeans, a cigarette perched unlit between his lips as he nodded and stepped aside to let her in.

As Beth stepped into his space, she looked around in interest. It was a studio loft, just like he'd mentioned; a large open room that seemed to contain all his living space. She saw a small little section of counters in one corner, with a stove and a small fridge and a little table with two chairs. She glimpsed a small living area, mostly just a worn leather couch and a coffee table stacked with books, a small television on a rickety stand, and a bookshelf made of cinder blocks and plywood. Dimly she registered that the space in the left corner was taken up by a good-sized bed with dark, forest-green covers that looked like they'd hurriedly been made up, perhaps right before she'd come over.

What took up most of her attention was the art that covered seemingly every available surface. Some of it hung on the brick walls, some of it was just propped up against it. All of it was vivid and stark; there were several paintings that were almost visceral in their use of reds and blacks, all of them reminding her unexpectedly of the downward spiral she'd felt in the wake of the loss of her mother and brothers. Others appeared like an oasis in the sharp jolt of red; smaller paintings in greens and browns, landscapes of forests, some more abstract than others.

She knew without a doubt that both were his and that somehow, that combination of stark reds and muted greens suited him equally. Still, as she shyly stood in the middle of his loft and slowly turned to take it in, she found herself asking, "These are all yours?"

He nodded, the cigarette bobbing briefly in his mouth as he closed the door and moved slowly towards her.

"They're..." Beth trailed off for a moment, trying to find the right words, because it felt important. It felt like it mattered, that she get it right. "They're powerful. They hit me, right here." She pressed her fingers to her chest, right over her heart. "They pull at me, and make me remember..." Beth trailed off and shook her head, but her hand felt down and her fingers curled around her wrist instead, the pads of them tracing over her scars.

There was something else, too, though it took her a moment to put her finger on it. When she did, Beth raised her eyebrow at him. "They're all abstract, though, or landscapes. I thought you were looking for a figure model?"

He gave her another nod, but when he passed by her slowly to head towards what she guessed was his work area in the corner, he said over his shoulder, "I was, but I was waiting."

"For what?" Beth followed hesitantly after him.

Despite her curiosity she hadn't expected the answer she got, murmured carefully over his shoulder as he adjusted the canvas on his easel, "The right muse."


The girl had this way of somehow looking both out of place and yet right at home in his studio at the same time. Standing there with her shining blond hair in a little ponytail complete with delicate braid, all big blue eyes and soft pink lips, dressed in a yellow sundress and those same brown cowboy boots, she should have looked incredibly out of place in his rough, sparse brick loft.

Yet somehow, she seemed to fit. She seemed to brighten the place up even, though whether that was from the lightness of her clothes or just her smile, he had no idea. Though the smile she gave him when he mentioned having been looking for the right muse was definitely lighting up something.

After a moment she shrugged off her bag and set it down on his kitchen chair, before following him fully to his work area. He finished adjusting his easel, and then reached for his sketchpad, pulling it carefully into his rough hands.

"So... what happens now?" There was that hint of innocence in her voice that made him smile to himself. It was so at odds to the fire he saw in her sometimes, and yet complimentary at the same time. That combination of strength and purity had been what had fueled him all night as he stayed up into the late hours sketching away in his book, page after page of her.

"Worked on some ideas last night," he said roughly, gesturing for her to take a seat on the stool set up there near his easel. Coming around in front of her, he flipped through his book until he found the one that had most appealed to him, and settled it in her lap.

In it, she was loosely sketched clad in sheer fabric that draped over the lines of her body, revealing the gentle curve of one breast. Her hair spilled long down her shoulders and back, and in one hand she held a roughly sketched bow and arrow, in the other a sheaf of wheat. He watched as Beth drank it in, hearing the hitch of her breath as she lightly ran her fingers over the page. She was silent, and to his surprise he found himself filling that quiet with his own low words, "It's sort of a dual goddess. Both war and harvest, fire and purity at the same time."

When she looked up at him, the blue of her eyes pinned him for a long moment and he was lost in the swirl of emotions within them, until she murmured, "This is how you see me?"

His brow furrowed, but she didn't seem upset. No, there was something like awe in her voice, or maybe simple surprise, and Daryl just shrugged as he said. "Yeah. Why?"

"I dunno." She ducked her head and her cheeks went all pink again for him. "I figured you'd paint me as something... innocent, I dunno. Like an angel or something."

"Girl..." He reached down to gently tug the book from her hand, his fingers grazing hers in the process and filling him with unexpected heat that lent a rough edge to his voice as he added, "You ain't no angel. Even I can tell that."


You ain't no angel.

The words echoed in her mind, pulling an almost playful smile to her lips. Beth certainly didn't feel like an angel, looking down at that sketch in his book, knowing he was going to pose her just like that in thin draped fabrics with her breast exposed, all for him. She didn't feel embarrassed though. To her surprise she felt... eager and excited, as if she were actually sort of looking forward to it. The idea gave her a thrill and some part of that was without a doubt from imagining this man's eyes on her, watching her like that.

It was thrilling not just for the nakedness, but because of knowing that he already saw her like that in his mind. Not some sweet fragile angel, all pure and breakable, but like this. Like a fierce, powerful goddess. No one had ever seen her like that before, but Beth knew he did. She could see it in her eyes.

She felt unexpectedly like the strong woman he had sketched her as, when she rose to her feet and slid off her little cardigan. Thankfully it was warm in his loft or she'd likely feel very chilly in a few moments, knowing what was to come. The moment the fabric slid from her shoulders, she felt his eyes on her, lingering on the white cardigan as she slipped it slowly off.

"There's a bathroom," he said roughly, the thickness in his voice tugging at something inside of her. "If you wanna get undressed in there. There's a robe, too..."

"No." She spoke softly, though she still surprised herself. "You're going to see some of me anyway, right?" Her smile was shy, but Beth knew some of the warmth she felt was in her eyes right now. "I might as well get used to it."

She didn't see the way his breath shuddered briefly in his chest as she turned around, undoing the back of her dress as she moved. She wondered if he could see the faint tremor in her hands as she struggled with the zipper, which had gotten caught on a stray thread. Her chest was rising and falling a bit sharply, but it hitched even more as she suddenly sensed his warm weight at her back.

"Here." His voice was low and it resonated within her, making something inside of Beth thrum as his fingers gently nudged hers out of the way. He worked the zipper free and drew it down, and when his hands pulled away, Beth actually sighed before she could stop herself. "You get undressed," That thickness was in his voice again, tempting her to turn and see the look on his face. "I'll go get the drapery I got, for you to wear."


Daryl had no idea what had come over him. One minute he'd been doing his best not to watch her unzip that dress and the next he'd been right there, fingers grazing her warm skin, his nose thick with the scent of honey and strawberries as he drew down the zipper for her. It had been all he could do to pull away, and his heart was still beating a little fast as he drew away from her and went into his bedroom area. In a bag by his closet, he'd stashed the sheer fabric he'd picked up from Carol earlier this morning. She had far more props in her studio than he did, and she had been more than willing to lend them to him when he told her he thought he might have found someone to paint.

He was slow to turn back to her with the fabric, but really there was no moment that he could have chosen that wouldn't have affected him at this stage. As it was, he turned back just in time to see her yellow dress pooled at her feet as she reached behind herself to unhook her bra and slide it off. From here he could see the delicate curve of her back, her slender waist and the flare of her hips, her little ass just barely contained in pale pink panties, and legs that stretched for seemingly days, far longer than he would have expected on someone as tiny as her.

His fingers twitched not just to paint her (although he definitely itched to do that) but to touch her, too. Unexpectedly he was hit with the desire to run his rough fingers over her skin, to find out if it was as soft as it looked from here. Biting back that very inappropriate urge, Daryl crossed the room slowly to let her hear his footsteps. "Here," he said again as she shook out the thin, sheer white fabric. "Put this around you, and then we can adjust it."

He gently draped it over her back, in the process grazing his fingers against her shoulder. This time, he wasn't oblivious to the way she shivered faintly as well, or the way her breathing hitched as she reached up to tug the fabric around her. And he knew, even if only for a second, that her skin was just as soft as it looked.


Beth felt so very aware of his presence no matter where he was in the room. She didn't think it was just because she was almost naked now, almost vulnerable in a way. No, she had been aware of his presence even fully clothed but now she could truly feel it with the warmth of him so close to her bare skin.

Her breathing hitched as she drew the fabric around her, trying to wrap it like she'd seen it around the sketch in his photo. Looking down, Beth blushed faintly again. "This fabric is very see through."

When he spoke, his voice was low and close to her ear. "That's the point." His hands briefly touched her hips, coaxing a sigh from her lips before he pulled them away and added, "You should take your underwear off, too."

Her mouth got all dry as she struggled to swallow. When she'd come here today, Beth had expected to be flustered, but not like this. What was it about this man, this relative stranger really, who had her all on edge? She felt like she was constantly waiting for him to touch her, like her skin suddenly ached with the need, and that even the simplest graze of his fingers might send heat skittering across her skin like water rippling on the surface of a pond.

It took her a moment to catch her breath and compose herself enough to shift the fabric aside and find the waistband of her panties. Drawing the thin fabric down over her hips and letting them slide down her legs, she only felt more aware of him standing behind her, knowing what he could see through the sheer fabric. She took just a moment to steel herself, and then turned to see what she might find in his eyes, this man who had pictured her as a goddess before ever seeing her like this.


He had seen the goddess in her when she was hidden beneath jeans and a pretty blouse. He'd glimpsed both fire and innocence in those big blue eyes, and it had inspired him almost instantly. Seeing her like this, now, was almost overwhelming.

Daryl did his best to stay professional as he drank in the sight of her. First it was just the gentle, round curve of her ass glimpsed beneath the sheer white fabric, or the stretch of long legs, or the delicate curve of her bare back. When she turned to face him, it was all he could do not to just sit down and drink her all in for hours.

The fabric draped delicately across her youthful body. Though the sheer fabric hid some of her, it also revealed plenty. His eyes traced down over her bare shoulders to the soft swells of her breasts where they thrust impudently against the fabric. He didn't let his eyes linger on the hint of rosy nipples, though he wanted to, instead continuing to let his gaze trail down to her slender waist and the flare of her hips down to that perfect little 'v' between her legs. He could just barely glimpse a thatch of blond curls and suddenly he was struck by an image so vivid, he had to take a step back.

He had to, because there was no way in hell he could allow himself to give in to that image, no matter how vivid it was, no matter how much a part of him would like to do just what he'd seen and sink to his knees in front of her, worship her with his mouth like the goddess she was in his mind.

In the end, it was the shyness in her voice that brought his focus back. "Do I look okay?"

Okay? He was going half-nuts, and she was asking if she looked okay? "You look perfect." He growled the words without even realizing it, but she didn't seem to hear it as anger or roughness. It made her smile in a way that lit up her beautiful face as he got himself under control and closed the distance between them again. "You look beautiful," he went on in a softer voice now, his words as gentle as his touch as he reached up to tug at the fabric, "Just let me adjust this a bit..."


When he looked at her like that, Beth felt like the goddess he'd sketched on those pages. The look in his eyes was practically worshipful and it made Beth feel almost sinful, basking in it as she was. The kind of sinful that would linger in her mind if she went to church this week, and make her worry if everyone could read the thoughts that clung to her mind.

But she liked it. She really liked it. Just as much as she liked the way his fingers felt, the pads of them rough but his touch gentle as he adjusted the cloth that had been draped over her bare skin. He tugged it here and smoothed it there, the graze of his hand across her hip sending a flush of heat through her that made her body tighten with need.

The most intimate was when he gently reached up and began to adjust the fabric so it dropped over one shoulder. "Like this," he murmured, slipping it under her arm so it exposed her side right down to her hip. "And then..." Her breathing hitched as she watched him, focus and something like heat mingling in his eyes as he gently tugged and pulled at the thin fabric to reveal one pert, soft breast. Air brushed her exposed skin, making her nipple tighten. She saw his own pulse leap in his throat before he swallowed hard, and it was all Beth could do to bite back a sigh at the brush of his fingers across the valley between her breasts.

It was a brief, lingering touch as he adjusted the fabric, but when he drew away, Beth found herself wishing for just a second that he wouldn't. That he'd stay there and just keep touching her and let her figure out what that heat was and how she felt it so strongly. "There," he said softly, stepping back to look her over. His eyes devoured her and something about the heat in them called to something within her. She stood up straighter, prouder, arching her back and tipping up her chin until a grin crossed his lips. "Perfect," he breathed out with a little chuckle. "Even better than I'd imagined."

Something in his eyes told her he'd definitely been imagining it a lot. She didn't even need to ask.


The truth was, he'd been imagining it since yesterday when he'd seen her in the coffee shop. Since he'd come home and the images had just poured out of his mind and onto the paper. But none of what had been in his head could hold a candle to how she looked right now standing in front of him. She was everything he'd imagined and more; soft and innocent and yet with that flash of fire and pride, that hint of strength and steel inside of her. He had a feeling she had faced things that people might not have expected, and that it had made her stronger, braver.

There was a look in her eyes sometimes that reminded him of himself, of the things he'd survived and become stronger because of. Every once in awhile, he'd see this haunted look in her eyes, too, that made him think she had lost in the same way that he had. It only added to the draw he felt to her, and there was definitely a draw there. A pull. It had risen up when he'd been standing so close to her, breathing in that enticing sweet scent, feeling the softness of her skin beneath the rough pads of his fingers.

It was all he could do to pull back, and when he got the space just to look her over, he only wanted to close the gap between them again. He had to fight himself not to close the distance, not to drop to his knees and bask in her glory the way she deserved.

Instead he backed up, moving to his easel and setting it up so he could get the best view of her, thinking as he did that every view of her right now was the best.

"Do you need me to hold, you know... The things in your drawing? The bow, and the wheat?" Her voice cut into his heated thoughts and pulled his focus back to her again.

He gave an 'mm' of reply and shook his head, but then after a few moments he explained, "Not yet. You're arms'll get too tired. Gonna sketch you first, alright? Later, we'll add the props."

Frankly he wondered if he'll even make it to that point with her standing so close, looking like a goddess and an innocent all at once. As he began to lightly sketch out her shape on the canvas, it occurred to him that he barely even knew her. She was, to all effects, a relative stranger to him; and yet he felt more drawn to her than he had to anyone in a very long time. It wasn't just that she filled up that empty spot inside of him that had been itching for inspiration, though there was no doubt that looking at her filled him with the ideas for hundreds of paintings. It wasn't even just that he wanted to cross the room and cup her porcelain face and kiss her till she was breathless, though he certainly wanted to do that, too.

It was that he also wanted to get to know her. Daryl Dixon was a man had never been one for saying a word when he could get it across with a grunt or a shrug; a man who had never really cared to hear any one else's story in his life, especially not with the risk that they'd want to hear his own. But he wanted to hear hers.

So as he sketched out the graceful curve of her neck on the canvas, Daryl found himself saying, "Tell me about yourself."


Beth, unlike Daryl, was the sort of person who could almost always find something to say. So it was a bit surprising to her, how she felt like being close to him stole away her breath and her words. It was like his nearness made her brain go all fuzzy and she couldn't think of a damn thing to say that didn't involve her sounding like an idiot.

She was almost grateful, when he asked her to tell him about herself, because standing there with the weight of his gaze on her bared body, Beth had been sure she'd been about to say something completely idiotic, something like: Why are you over there when you could have yours hands on my skin?

Instead, she told him about herself. She talked about the farm, and her Daddy, and her older sister Maggie. She told him about their horses, and how her Daddy sometimes joked she'd learn to ride before she could walk; which wasn't true really, but a funny story. She told him about how her favorite memories involved cooking in the warm sunny kitchen with her Mama, or sitting down at the piano and watching her Mama's graceful fingers dancing across the keys, showing her the patterns to follow. She told him how her Mama used to sing, all the time, how her sweet voice always filled the farmhouse.

She used words like 'was' and 'used to', and she was grateful when he didn't ask any questions, when he didn't probe her use of the past tense when it came to her mother.

As he switched from his pencil to his palette of paints, she told him about coming to school here, how it was her second year, how she was a music major. She told him how she wanted to teach elementary school kids, because she'd been young herself when she'd fallen in love with music. She told him about her classes, about how she played the piano and guitar now, and she was unaware of how her face lit up when she talked about the thing she loved the most, beside her family.

Beth wasn't entirely oblivious to the way he was looking at her, though, like he was more and more riveted to her as she spoke, instead of the version of her that he was painting.


Daryl couldn't help that his gaze kept getting pulled to her. She was mesmerizing. He didn't think she realized just how much that was true. He was pretty sure she had no idea how her face softened when she spoke about her family and her home, or how there was this mix of sorrow and longing in her eyes when she spoke about her mother. He was sure couldn't know how she lit up like the sun when she talked about music.

She was so open. He'd never met anyone like her in his life. It was like she had no problems cracking open her heart for him, a man she'd never met. A man who would normally have considered himself too rough, too vulgar, too broken to have that sort of honesty given to him. Yet there she was, revealing herself so easily, showing him not just her happiness, but her sorrow, too.

He wasn't even sure what came over him when he asked her softly, "Will you sing somethin'?" He blinked, and cleared his throat as he looked back to the painting, where the graceful lines of her body were taking shape. "I mean, it ain't like I've got any music playin', so..."

His roughness didn't seem to dissuade her at all, if anything her smile only widened. She was quiet though, and for a few minutes he thought she was just going to keep standing there, watching at him. But then, in the silence, he heard a soft, sweet voice ring out.

"Come in close now it's time to tell the story, long ago, and so many years before we, ever were, ever dreamed we even could be, there was her and her very first heartbeat."

Her voice filled the small open space of his loft, and the moment that first note rang out, he was mesmerized.

"All alone in a corner of the night sky, spiral bones of a supernova starlight, fell in love with another burning bright, she dreamed of a way to ignite she said-"

His movements were slow and measured, yet he barely even realized he was moving as he settled his brush on the easel and put his palette down on his stool.

"Tonight, come on, come on collide, break me to pieces I, I think you're just like heaven. Why, come on, come on collide, let's see what a fire feels like, I bet it's just like heaven..."

By the time her words trailed off he was standing in front of her, paint-smeared hands coming up to cup her face, marveling at how she could look as pale as porcelain and sing like an angel yet still have that fierce strength in her bones and that fire in her eyes.

"Is that what you want?" His thumb brushed over her lips, smearing a hint of paint across her cheek as it continued to graze up. "To see what fire feels like?"

He saw her pulse flutter in the hollow of her neck, saw her pink lips part in a little intake of breath, but all he really needed was to hear what she whispered next, "Lord, yes."

And then his lips were on hers.


The song had popped into her mind all on it's own, and before Beth had even thought about it the words were spilling from her lips. She hadn't realized how much she'd ached to collide with him, ached to feel that fire, until his lips were pressed to hers.

It was like every inch of her was singing. Like he was pouring heat from his lips, firing her blood, sending it to pool low in her belly and warming her very core. This close, she was surrounded by the scent of him; leather and cigarettes and musk, and the lingering scent of the paints that marked his fingers and skin. She suddenly felt the urge to have his scent all over her, marking her, mingling with her own.

He was groaning against her lips and she felt his tongue slide across the seam of them, as if he were begging entrance. Beth was more than willing to give it to him. She parted her lips in invitation and her reward was the slide of his tongue into her mouth, tasting her, teasing across her own tongue and playfully flicking against it until he drew up a moan from her in return.

When he pulled back, she was panting for breath, and she only felt more breathless at the look in his eyes. She hadn't failed to notice what a brilliant sort of blue they were, but during the kiss they'd darkened with need and desire until the sight of him now sent a shiver of heat right through her again.

"That fire enough for you?" His voice had been rough before but now it was husky, almost a bit ragged, and she wanted to moan just at the sound of it.

Maybe that was what possessed her to murmur back low and teasingly, "It's a start."

She hadn't expected him to growl like he did in response, low and rumbling in his chest, and she definitely hadn't thought that instead of kissing her lips, he'd drop his head down to press his mouth to the curve of her neck and trail slowly down.


His lips found her pulse-point, and Daryl thought he could almost taste her heartbeat. He could certainly feel the way it was fluttering for him, like a little bird, or the wings of an angel... or a goddess.

She was a goddess. Pure and strong, sweet and bold, honey and spice all in one and he wanted to grovel on his knees and worship every inch of her like she deserved, and this time, he wasn't going to stop himself from giving in to that desire unless she told him to.

Daryl brushed his lips down over her exposed skin, licking up her sweetness, savoring every inch of her as his mouth grazed hotly across her flesh and down to the sweet curve of her breast. There he paused, looking up at her, knowing his desire was written across his face but refusing to do anything she didn't want him to. He knew he would stop in a heartbeat if she asked, even if it meant believing the whispered voices in his head that told him a goddess like her would want nothing to do with hands as worn and paint-smeared as his on her perfect smooth skin.

But all she did was smile at him. She smiled and every inch of her lit up, and when she curled her fingers into his short hair and arched her back gently in offering, he almost groaned at how gorgeous she was.

Given permission his lips blazed a path over the swell of her breast until he could catch her nipple between his lips and gently suck it. The moan he drew from her almost sent a shiver through him as he teased it into a pert little bud, waiting until she was shivering before he finally released it. His hands slid up her hips and inward, finding the folds of the sheer drapery and parting them to reveal more of her sweet soft skin.

Daryl's lips mapped across her taut stomach, and he couldn't help but smile when the teasing swirl of his tongue into her navel pulled a little breathy laugh from her. When he dropped to his knees in front of her though, her laughter turned to a little gasp, one that he carefully coaxed into a moan with the press of his lips down over her abdomen and across the soft skin of her inner thigh.

Again he paused, looking up at her, asking permission for what felt rather like worshiping at her alter, in some ways. All it took was another smile, another gentle curl of her fingers in his hair, and he leaned in to press his lips between her thighs and breathe deeply in.


Beth wasn't even sure how she was still standing. The very sight of him on his knees in front of her was enough to make her own knees go weak, and that was before he'd leaned in to press his lips to her slick blonde curls. But his hands cupped her hips as if he could sense the weakness in her knees, holding her upright as she felt his tongue gently part her folds to taste her, teasing across her hot flesh until she couldn't stop the soft moans spilling from her lips.

As much as her body felt limp in ways, there was something about this that made her feel so strong. Like there was a power in having this man on his knees before her, tasting her, devouring her in a way that was almost worshipful.

Again it made her feel like the goddess he'd dressed her as, especially since she had no doubt that he saw her just like that. That Daryl Dixon was down there on his knees, worshiping her like she really was a goddess to him.

She had never felt so strong, never felt so alive. There was fire in her veins and as his tongue teased her slick flesh and then darted up to tease the throbbing bud of her clit, Beth felt like she was soaring.

And in a few minutes, after he had teased her clit till it was pulsing and then began to suck it gently between his firm, warm lips, she really did fly, crying out for him, her body going so weak that the only thing holding her up as she came undone were his paint-smeared hands gripping tightly to her hips.


Now that he had the taste of her on his tongue, he would never forget it. He had a feeling he'd never stop wanting it, either, especially not after seeing her come unraveled like that for him until she was shivering in his arms and moaning so damn sweetly. He let her come down slowly, holding her hips until he could ease her down into his lap so she straddled him on the floor.

His lips brushed back up over her skin, over the curve of her breast and up her neck until he could kiss her flushed cheeks and brush his lips over hers once again. He would have held back, but her tongue dipped into his mouth of her own free will and the way she moaned at the taste of herself on his tongue only made him want her even more.

His jeans were ridiculously uncomfortable and had been for awhile now though he'd put up with it for her, wanting to put her desire ahead of his own. It was worth it for how she looked right now, her hair all mussed, a flush tinging her cheeks and spread down her neck where the sheer drapes were all rumpled but still revealed that beautiful little breast. Daryl had a feeling it would be a perfect handful and he proved it by cupping her breast and letting it fill the palm of his hand, teasing her soft and sensitive flesh with his rough skin.

The way she moaned was enough reward, but even better was the way Beth began to shift in his lap, gently rocking her hips forward and grinding against him where he was straining against his jeans. His hands slid around her hips again to curl under her thighs and hold her close as he rose to his feet with a grunt. She weighed practically nothing to him, though it would have been easier to carry her across the room if she hadn't been keeping herself busy kissing up his neck and teasing the lobe of his ear with her teeth and tongue.

"Fuck," he groaned, stuttering to a stop for a moment before his fingers curled in tight. "You want to make me drop you, girl?"

To his surprise she laughed, full and throaty and warming him in an entirely different sort of way than the heat that curled through him when she went on in a husky murmur, "Not unless you're dropping me onto your bed, Daryl..."

Well. That he could manage and he did, with a low growl deep in his chest, spilling her onto his gray comforter where she only seemed to look more bright, more innocent, and yet somehow more sensual and tempting than ever thanks to that sheer fabric still clinging to her soft curves.

"Do you have any idea-" He kissed up over her taut stomach, lips trailing up the valley between her breasts until he could press a kiss to the firm line of her jaw and finish lowly, "How much I want you?"

"Oh yes." She spoke so simply that he had to look up, had to meet her eyes, and the desire that darkened that cornflower blue made him throb against the tight fabric of his jeans.


Beth licked her lips, surprised to find they weren't dry given that the heat that was consuming her body right now. Seeing the surprise and desire mingling in her eyes, Beth felt compelled to add (even though she knew he could read it in her own eyes), "Because I want you just as badly."

This time she was the one that cupped his face and drew his lips to hers in a slow kiss that gradually deepened, until her lungs were burning from lack of air. She almost thought she'd be willing to suffocate if it meant she could keep kissing him, but then again that would mean never getting to feel more of his deliciously rough warm hands cupping and caressing her smooth skin.

As she gasped for breath against his mouth, Beth's hands brushed down his shoulders and over his back, feeling muscles tensing and rippling beneath his touch. "You've got too much on," she murmured, low but playful as she nipped at his lower lip.

"Oh yeah?" The raise of his eyebrow was like a challenge to her, and she hummed her acceptance of it as she reached down and began to tug his shirt slowly up his back to strip it off over his head.

His lips kissed across her jaw as soon as the shirt was off, and Beth tilted her head to offer up the curve of her neck as well; offering up anythingjust to feel his lips on her skin, tracing over it like it was the sweetest thing he'd ever tasted.

When her hands brushed down over his back though, she felt him shudder to a stop. At first, Beth didn't even understand why. It was only when her hands grazed up a second time that she felt it, felt the sharp ridges of scar tissue beneath the pads of her fingers, nudging into the palm of her hands, burning hot with the untold story that he couldn't keep hidden away inside the way she hid most of hers.

Though he faltered at her touch, Beth didn't. She splayed one hand at his back for reassurance and tilted her head to graze her lips across his, but she didn't say a word. With a practiced gesture, she eased off the delicate braces that had covered her wrist. The gold bangles had suited her as the goddess he was painting, and maybe that was why he hadn't made her remove them before. Or maybe he'd seen what lay beneath him already, because it was obvious now that he looked at her and saw far more than she realized.

Certainly when she gently turned up her wrist to show him her own scar, he didn't look surprised, though there was definitely a shift in his eyes. Daryl held her gaze for a long moment, and Beth felt something more than heat flash between them. Understanding. The whisper of a kindred spirit to another, the flash of a connection born through shared pain.

When he moved it was to press his lips slowly to the long jagged scar, and Beth splayed her fingers down against one of his at the same time. They were different types of scars, but still, they understood each other. It was still a connection. They both had their own jagged pasts, their own sorrows, their own losses. It didn't have to push them apart, in fact, it could simply bring them together.


When he had felt her fingers press to the lines of his scars Daryl had thought it would end right there, and yet somehow it hadn't. Somehow without saying a word, she had wiped away his self consciousness, his loathing; she'd even banished away the defensive anger that had threatened to bubble up inside of him, ready to spill out harsh words the moment she'd said a single thing wrong.

Now that was gone and in it's place was an even stronger connection between them, fueled by understanding in a way he'd never felt before. He had no idea how to handle what he was feeling right now, flooding his body, but there was one thing he knew without a doubt. He wanted her. He needed her, somehow more and more with each moment, and there was nothing holding him back anymore. Daryl drew back, but only enough so that he could undo his jeans and tug them off his hips along with his boxers to kick them to the floor. He felt her gaze linger on him as he stood there, her eyes tracing the tattoos across his chest and down his arm, following the muscled lines of his abdomen down to where he stood so damn hard for her.

The only thing he stopped for was to pull a square of foil from the pocket of his jeans, one that took him far longer to tear open than it should have because he was too busy staring down at her and drinking her in. Somehow he managed to get the condom out and roll it on over his length, despite how mesmerizing she was. She just looked so damn good stretched out on the bed, her lips swollen with kisses and the darkness in her eyes not only begging for more, but begging for him. Daryl felt another growl of need rumble through him as he knelt on the bed and finally unwrapped the sheer fabric completely, tugging it out from under her and tossing it aside to fully reveal her to his gaze.

His paint-spattered hands brushed up her ankle, her calf, tickling beneath her knee and then grazing up her inner thighs. When they spread to follow the curve of her hips, she arched up for him with a whimper and a sigh as he breathed out, "God, you're fucking gorgeous."

She flushed, and somehow that only made it more true. For just a second he wondered if she didn't believe him; it seemed ridiculous to even consider but he couldn't stand the thought of her not knowing. He moved up to lay over her, bracing his palms on either side of her body so his weight was off her, but he could just feel the warmth of her skin so close as her thighs brushed his hips. "You are. You're the most gorgeous woman I've ever seen. I could paint you as every goddess in the world and still not capture all of how damn beautiful you are."


His words made her heart stutter and then race, made her breath hitch in her throat until a smile curved up her lips. Beth's hands slid up his chest, making her own map of his warm skin as she asked softly and playfully, "So does that mean you found a muse, Daryl?"

"No." For a second her smile faltered, but only for a second, because that was as long as it took for him to breath out, "I found my muse."

That was all he said, but it was more than enough to send her soaring again, to have a grin lighting up her whole face as she reached for him, hands splaying against his back and pulling him down against her. The feeling of his warm firm body had her arching up, letting her feel the way her soft curves molded to his hard muscled frame until she was breathing out a low pleased moan.

"If I'm your muse," she murmured, husky again as her lips brushed across his. "Does that mean it's my job to show you how to ignite?"

He shook his head, and the chuckle he gave vibrated through his chest. "No," he murmured again, breaking off in a groan as he shifted his hips so his hard length pressed against her where she was all slick and hot for him. "That part, we do together."

All it took was a shift of her hips and he was sliding into her, thick and so hard, inch by perfect inch until she was arching up with a keening little whimper, and the words of the song spilled from his lips in a whisper against her cheek, "Just like heaven..."


And it was. God, it was. She felt like heaven around him, so tight and hot and slick. He slid into her slowly, taking care not to hurt her, especially given how damn tight she was. But it didn't seem like he needed to be too careful, because her body accepted him so readily. She was snug around him in a way that felt like home, in a way that had him turning to bury his face in the crook of her neck so he could groan as he pressed his hips slowly down until finally they fit against hers.

Fuck, was he grateful that he wasn't some young kid anymore, who might spill inside of her right now just from the tightness of her heat. Even with the condom between them, she felt incredible. Better than anything he'd ever felt in his life, and he just couldn't get enough. Especially not with the way she was moving beneath him, arching her body up so it pressed and brushed against his, breathing out those soft, sweet, sensual little sounds that he just wanted to swallow up in kisses. Daryl couldn't seem to keep his hands or his lips off her, and he didn't want to. He kissed over the crook of her neck even as his hands slid down over her hip to grip her thigh, fingers curling into her flesh for a moment before he guided her leg up to wrap around him.

The movement only opened her up more, let him sink even deeper inside of her until Daryl couldn't hold back his own low, rough moans of pleasure. Beth was far from passive, too. She kept moving beneath him, arching her hips up, creating a rhythm between them until they were moving in near-perfect unison. Everything was heat and need, the slickness of her around his length, the slide of skin against, the scent of sex heady in the air and the softness of her beneath his roughened touch.

Her hair was like a halo, spread around around her head on the pillow, but as always she was a goddess to him. A goddess of love and sensuality, heat and fire and need and desire, one he would willingly drop to his knees in front of over and over again. She welcomed him though, moving to meet him, breathing out his name in just as much worshipful awe and pleasure as he did hers. Their voices spilled into the air- "Daryl!" "Beth..."- mingling with their gasps and moans as his lips seared kissed up over the arch of her neck until he could finally just rest his forehead against hers and look down into the deep, endless perfect blue of her eyes.

All it took was one more gasped word from her against his lips: "Please!"

And like the breathless supplicant than he was, he gave her everything he could, thrusting his hips and grinding just right against her, hitting that spot that made her sing out his name and shiver like he'd created an earthquake beneath her skin.

He wasn't far behind, clutching her hips and breathing out a worshipful groan against her lips as he sank deep within her and came hard enough to see her stars behind his eyes.


After, Beth lay curled against his side with one arm splayed over his chest and her leg curled over his. She couldn't remember the last time she felt this safe, curled in the warmth of his body, nuzzling into the crook of his neck. It was that safety that had her breathing out her secrets to him as they lay there together.

"My mother and brother Shawn, they died in a car accident, two years ago. It was like something broke inside me, after. It didn't matter that I still had my Daddy, or Maggie. I felt so lost, and empty and hopeless." She let the tip of her nose trail against his skin, breathing in that scent of leather and paint and cigarettes and musk and letting it wash over her. "I thought I wanted to end it all. I didn't think there was any reason to stay, not until the moment I sliced the glass across my wrist..."

His fingers gently curled around her wrist and Beth sighed as she felt his thumb graze over the jagged scar that marked her there. At his touch, she went on, "Afterward, I found out a lot of people change their mind in that moment. I was lucky that I hadn't really cut near deep enough, because it made me realize that I really did want to live. Or I wanted to try, at least. My family..." She shook her head faintly. "Ever since then, they've treated me like I'm glass. Like if they even look at me the wrong way, I might break. I guess I didn't really fight them to change that, though. It was like... like I was alive, but I wasn't really living. Even going to school so close to home; I was trying, but just barely."

A smile crossed her lips as she pressed a kiss to his warm skin and breathed out, "Then I saw your sign hanging up on campus, and I don't even know what came over me. I just knew I had to do it. I had to do something. And I'm glad I did because I've never felt as alive as I have since the moment I walked into that coffee shop." She tilted her head just enough to look up at him, waiting for him to angle his head so she could see the deep blue of his eyes as she added softly, "You never once looked at me like I was glass, not even from the start. You looked at me like I was strong. Like I was a real goddess. No one has ever looked at me like that before."

Daryl gave a low grunt, but she saw the faint tug at the corner of his lips. "Well they should have. You are one. Or as close to one as a man like me is ever gonna get." She felt him shift beneath her, and his voice was lower as he looked down added, "Though I still ain't sure why you even let a man like me get so close to you."

"Daryl..." Her fingers came up to graze his cheek, thumb shifting under his jaw to nudge his eyes back up to hers. "Why wouldn't I want to let you close to me?"


With anyone else, he would have just rolled over after sex and grabbed a cigarette to light it before climbing out of bed and putting his pants back on, and that would have been that. He never would have even taken his shirt off in the first place, let alone be like this with a woman, all tangled limbs and the soft slide of her hair resting over his shoulder and chest as her lips brushed his neck and she opened herself up again and poured herself out for him.

Anyone else he would have pushed them away right now, just from seeing that sort of question in their eyes and knowing what they were asking him. But Beth, apparently, wasn't just anyone else. He couldn't even say she was a stranger anymore, because even after half a day in her company, he felt like he knew her better than most people in his life.

"Didn't have no happy childhood," he grunted out after a moment. It was too much to say while looking into her eyes, but this time when he looked up at the ceiling she didn't try and nudge him back. She just rested her cheek against his chest, and the warmth of it along with the scent of strawberries that wafted up from her hair coaxed him into continuing, "My ma and dad were both drunks, 'cept Dad used to go out to do it, with his friends or whoever his new old lady was that week, an' Ma used to stick to home. Ma liked to smoke, too. One day she got drunk, and passed out with the cigarette in her fingers, and just burned the whole house down with herself in it."

He swallowed hard, but when she didn't move except to trace her fingers across his chest, he went on, "My Dad was home more after, but that weren't no good thing. He was a mad drunk, and he was always drinking. Liked to yell 'bout as much as he liked to hit me, so it was a toss up each night whether I'd get one or the other, or both. Was him, left the marks on my back and elsewhere, too."

Daryl felt her fingers shift, brushing across a scar on his stomach only to graze up instead and trace the shape of this tattoo; a name written in script across his heart. "S'my brother's name. Merle. He was gone most of my life, in juvi or doin' somethin' that would get him put in juvi again. Ran off with him when I was eighteen, and never looked back. Did lots of stuff I ain't so proud about. Never went to jail, but I that don't mean I'm clean. That I ain't got shit to feel guilty about."

For a moment he felt like he was gonna swerve off on a rant, something about how she was just so damn clean and pure and he was, well, him; a Dixon to the core, rough and dirty and broken inside. But then her hand shifted and he caught a glimpse of the scars across her smooth skin and something inside of him just shuddered and released, and when he spoke again his voice was softer. "He died a year ago. Got himself caught up in somethin' he couldn't get out of, got in over his head. I wasn't there. I'd pulled back, 'bout six months before when it got too much for me. I left him behind. He needed me, and I wasn't there for him, and he got shot and..."

He shook his head, struggling to find the words, but before he could she whispered, "And you felt hopeless and lost, and angry too, right?"

"Yeah. I was angry. God was I angry. Angry and guilty and hatin' myself, with no outlet that I could find." He lifted his hand and began to brush his fingers over her hair, twining the silken strands around them as he went on lowly, "I don't even remember half of how it happened. I met this woman at a bar one night, she brought me back to her place. Not like that, it was never like that. Her name was Carol, she had this studio in her apartment, and she just... Let me go at it. Just spread out this big sheet of canvas on the wall and the floor, gave me some paints, and just let me go to town and somehow... That's how it started."


Beth had stayed quiet as best she could at he spoke, giving him the silence he needed in order to pour out the things burdening him. Her fingers lightly followed the shapes of his tattoo, tracing out Merle as he breathed out the story of the loss of his brother, shifting to the winged creature that marked the other side as he told her how he'd found art.

"Was that what made you feel alive again? Discovering art, and painting?" Beth looked up at him, curiosity brightening her eyes.

"No." He shifted his hand to keep combing his fingers through her hair, cupping the side of her head and brushing his thumb over her cheek until she instinctively sighed. "It gave me an outlet to pour all that pain out of me, to take all that anger and guilt and sadness and regret and just... just let it out, you know? But then after, I felt empty. Like there was something missin', in place of all that." He smiled unexpectedly, a genuine smile that Beth was fascinated to see lit up his face in a whole new way.

"It was Carol who suggested I try something new, like painting people instead of just abstract emotion or landscapes. She was the one who told me to put up a sign on campus looking for a moment."

Beth just smiled and murmured, "I should thank her."

"No, I should." Daryl's hand moved and his thumb brushed over her lips until they parted for him just faintly. "Because it was today that made me feel alive again. Like a spark that started when I met you yesterday, a spark that kept me awake half the night, fillin' my mind with ideas of all the ways I'd want to paint you, and then today... today it just ignited."

Her lips pressed to his thumb in a soft kiss as she felt that new warmth unfurling inside of her, flushing her cheeks, sending heat through every inch of her. "Show me," she murmured, speaking without even thinking.

Daryl's eyebrow raised and his chuckled rumbled against her chest. "Thought I already did, gorgeous, but if you wanna feel that fire again..."

She laughed, bright and happy and easy, and another knot came undone inside of her chest. "No, not that. I mean yeah, I wanna do that again, too. But I meant... show me, how you used to paint. Show me how you learned to let it all out of you, like that."


When she laughed like that, filling the room with that bright happy sound and tossing her head back so her blonde hair spilled across her back, he was pretty sure he'd do just about anything she asked. First though, he took a few moments just to let his gaze trail over the curve of her jaw and the delicate arch of her tipped-back neck, and the fall of her hair across her pale skin.

Only then did he grunt, "C'mere," and climb from the bed with a little smirk on his lips. By the time he'd pulled up his jeans she was on her feet beside him, tempting him with all her long limbs and soft smooth skin. He couldn't resist letting his hands slide over the dip of her waist, or grazing his lips across the warm plane of her shoulder, but eventually he made himself pull back enough to lean down and grab his white shirt off the ground to hand it to her.

From his side-table he grabbed a cigarette, this time lighting it and drawing a slow pull that he released in a cloud of smoke. "Y' want one?" She had put his shirt on, and his gaze lingered again, drinking in the way it hung low to her thighs and yet somehow still clung to her curves.

He shrugged at the shake of her head, but reached for her hand with ease and tugged her over to his workspace. Together it was easy to move the easel out of the way and take one of the sheets he had stored in his cabinets, hanging it up across the wall and part of the floor. Granted it took a bit longer to pull out his paints when she was standing there, tempting him with her long legs and the way they stretched out from under his shirt, but eventually he managed it.

The first pleasant surprise came when she nudged his hand away from the red and black paint that he always had used for work like this, and guided him towards other colors instead; yellows that suddenly reminded him of her hair, a pink that brought to mind her lips, a blue that he now saw was more like her eyes.

The second surprise was the realization he felt drawn to those colors far more than the reds and blacks now; even dipping the big brush into the can of yellow paint made him grin.

The sweetest surprise was the way she laughed the first time she flung paint at the sheet, or the way she squealed when he did the same and got flecks of it all across her shirt. Suddenly the studio was filled with the sounds of her laughter and delighted cries, the way she squealed his name as she danced around him, both of them getting as much paint on each other as they got on the canvas.

But the best surprise was the way she looked at him after, covered in paint where she sat on the floor surrounded by the mess they'd made. He was sitting in front of her, paint coating his chest and his jeans and thick in his hair as he drew his cigarette from his mouth and blew out one last stream of smoke. She had this look to her that was far more than a flush of exertion, or even the heat of need in her eyes. Beth looked at him like she wanted him, but also like she needed him. She looked at him like she wanted to worship him just as much as he wanted to worship her.

There was no longer any emptiness within him as he put out his cigarette on the lid of a can of paint and pushed onto his knees. There was only warmth and light and fire as he crawled slowly over her, pushing her back onto the paint-covered sheet and pinning her body beneath his. The scent of honey and paint and strawberries and sex filled him as he brushed his lips over hers and felt her hands reach between them and undo his jeans to push them out of their way.

When he thrust into her and her legs wrapped around him, his hand smearing paint up over her smooth thighs as hers spread it across his back to cover his scars, he felt them both ignite again and all he could do was breathe out her name in a worshipful sigh: "Beth..."

**A/N: The song Beth sings to Daryl is Cassiopeia by Sara Bareilles. It, along with Hozier's "Take Me to Church" fueled this one-shot along with the gif-set I linked above. I hope you enjoyed it! I swear it was originally going to be more pure smut, but these two just always wanna start falling in love.