Once again, I am trying something very different for this pairing. I hope it works out and that you like it!


Chapter One. June. 1945.

It's Wednesday. Even if he didn't have a calendar hanging on the wall of his small cabin, he would still know it is Wednesday because when Hershel comes into the barn to tell him it's time for lunch, he comes towards the house and sees her in the backyard, hanging wet sheets on the clotheslines, humming as she does. She always washes the sheets every Wednesday.

He doesn't watch her though. His eyes float towards her as always before he quickly averts them to the ground. He ignores the way the warm breeze blowing that day flutters the hem of the blue dress she's wearing around her knees. The way it teases at her hair. She's not like the other girls who wear their hair always pinned up off their neck and face. She wears her hair down almost every single day. Long and the prettiest blonde he's ever seen on a woman. Veronica Lake's got nothing on Hershel Greene's daughter's hair.

He doesn't look at any of that though. He's only been on the farm for three weeks now but he's learned that he can't look at her. Not because Hershel has threatened him with a shotgun to the ass if he does but because he knows that if he starts looking at her, he won't stop.

Hershel Greene has two men working on his farm.

Otis Pruitt, who has been the farmhand for so long now, most don't remember the time before when he wasn't there. He lives in town with his wife, Patricia, though he's at the farm everyday by sunrise and doesn't leave until sunset and it's not known when he's ever home.

And now there's him. Daryl Dixon, Sergeant First Class, fresh from serving three years overseas. Just a couple of months ago, he was somewhere in Germany, shooting at someone as they shot at him, and now he's here, on some farm in Georgia, taking care of cattle and horses and mending fences.

Sometimes, Daryl wakes up in the middle of the night and has no idea where he is.

..

After VE Day and the war was declared to be over and victorious, the soldiers came back home to the States, all eager to meet up with their girls or wives and start the life that had been put on hold for the past three years. Daryl listened to the men in his company talk about their plans and all of the things they were going to do and when they asked Daryl, he just shrugged and didn't say anything because he didn't have anything to say.

He didn't have family to get home to. Both of his parents had been long dead and his older brother, the only family he had, Merle, had been a POW in Germany for the past couple of years and Daryl knew then – as he knows now – that he would never see Merle again.

When he got back to New York, he got on a bus and started heading south. There was nothing for him in Georgia anymore but that was where he had lived before the war and he figured that that was where he would live now.

It was only by coincidence that he met Hershel Greene. The bus had stopped for gas in some small town and Daryl had stepped down to go by himself a Coke inside and there Hershel Greene was, talking to a man behind the counter with glasses and white hair and when Daryl tried to pass over a dime for the Coke, the man shook his head, smiling at Daryl in his uniform, pushing the dime back to him.

"Your money's no good here, son," the man said and Daryl opened his mouth to protest. Dixons didn't take charity – no matter how big or small – but before he could say anything, the man spoke to him again. "Where you headed?"

Daryl shrugged. "Not too sure. Don't have anywhere I need to be."

The man smiled at that and then looked to Hershel. "Looks like your prayers have been answered, Hershel."

Daryl had no idea what the hell they were talking about but he looked to the man named Hershel and Hershel looked at him and when he smiled at him, Daryl swore he saw his eyes twinkling. Within five minutes, he was the newest farmhand down at the Greene farm.

Hershel needs as much help as he can get. He lost his leg below the knee in the first world war and then he lost his only son on the beaches at Normandy. His oldest daughter had married and had moved to Michigan with her husband and now, there is only him, his wife, Annette, and their eighteen-year-old daughter, Beth.

Beth. She's the one Daryl can't look at.

Too young. Too pretty. The boss's daughter. Daryl has no business even thinking about her. But sometimes, at night, lying in bed in the small cabin on the property that Hershel has given him to live in, Daryl's mind wanders to thoughts of her. Beth. Sometimes, he mouths her name. Doesn't speak it. Just mouths it to feel the way the word forms on his lips. He thinks of her hanging the wash on the clotheslines outside or the way she comes to the barn to see her horse, Nellie, to feed her a carrot and to sing to her songs that makes Daryl pause in his work to listen or the way she laughs when her daddy brings her the last blossom from one of the apple trees and she wears the flower tucked behind her ear for the rest of the day.

He suspects she has a beau though it's been three weeks and Daryl hasn't seen anyone calling for her. He wonders what the hell is the matter with the boys around here that they wouldn't be calling on Beth Greene. There was a news story on the radio the other day about how now the men are home, the marriage rate is booming and Daryl heard that and his mind immediately imagined Beth before he snapped at himself to knock it the hell off.

Beth is too young; too pretty and too sweet to just marry some farmhand who has no other plans in his life to become something more. She deserves a man who's going somewhere.

So, he doesn't look at her. Hardly even acknowledges her when she's nearby even when she smiles at him and says hello. He just grunts and gets the hell away from her.

Hopefully, sometime soon, she'll take the hint and leave him alone.

Otis and Daryl eat their lunch every day in the kitchen with the rest of the Greene family. It still makes Daryl a little uncomfortable – to be included in such a familial scene – but he knows that Hershel won't let him eat his meals outside. He eats breakfast with them, too, and dinner every night is in the dining room and if Daryl wants to eat, he knows he has to eat it inside with the family. Some days, he's tempted to just go into town and eat there.

It's tuna salad sandwiches that day and once each man has eaten two sandwiches, Annette stands up to start taking the plates to the sink and Beth stands up, returning a moment later with a pie dish in her hands.

"Is that blueberry?" Otis asks, his eyes gleaming.

"You bet. Just picked them yesterday," Beth smiles, setting the dish down on the table.

"Beth makes the best blueberry pie in the county," Otis then informs Daryl.

"Otis, stop. I do not," Beth says, laughing a little, and Daryl notices her cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

"She does," Otis says to Daryl. "Big piece for me, Beth."

Beth cuts him a hefty slice and places the plate down in front of him and then without asking Daryl if he would like any, she cuts him a slice in equal size and sets it down in front of him.

Daryl feels her eyes watching him as he picks up his fork and takes a bite. She's probably waiting to see what he thinks and he lifts his head to look at her. Her face is relaxed but he sees an anxiousness in her eyes as if his opinion is truly that damn important to her.

"'s good," he says in his grunt and she bursts into a small smile.

It's better than good but he doesn't know how to tell her that. Otis is right though. It's the best blueberry pie – best pie of them all – that he's ever had.

"Oh, Beth, if I was just twenty years younger," Otis is saying and Daryl dares a peek at Beth.

She is laughing as she cuts a slice of pie and sets it down in front of her daddy, Hershel smiling over the whole conversation.

"I wonder what Patricia would say about that," Beth teases back.

"Whoever you marry, Beth, he is going to be a very lucky man," Otis continues.

Hershel smiles and pats Beth's arm as she blushes again and Daryl looks down at his pie, pretending it's the most interesting thing he's ever seen.

He's in the hayloft, pitching hay over through the large door at the end of the barn, dropping it to the ground below, when he hears a murmur of a voice below. And then singing and he knows it's Beth, probably paying a visit to Nellie again. Hershel told him the first day on the farm that when he takes a horse out to ride, he can take any horse to ride except Nellie. Not only is that Beth's horse but Beth is very much Nellie's person. She'll throw anyone off of her who isn't Beth and he's noticed that the horse is pretty damn nervous unless around Beth.

Daryl stabs the pitchfork into a bale of hay before moving towards the ladder, not admitting to himself that he wants to hear the song she's singing. It's Judy Garland. He knows it is because he's already learned that Beth loves Judy Garland and just last week, he went into town to look at some records and just so happened to pick a Judy Garland one to listen to, instantly recognizing some of the songs as the ones he's heard Beth sing around the farm.

"Clang, clang, clang went the trolley/Ding, ding, ding went the bell/Zing, zing, zing went my heart strings/For the moment I saw her I fell./Chug, chug, chug went the motor/Thump, thump, thump went the brake/Thump, thump, thump went my heart strings/When she smiled, I could feel the car shake."

Beth laughs then, the song broken, and Daryl peaks over the edge to see that Nellie has taken it upon herself to chew on a lock of Beth's hair.

"Nellie, stop that," she says, trying to scold but still laughing as she pulls her head back.

He then hears her footsteps nearing the ladder and he quickly pulls himself back so she doesn't see him eavesdropping.

"Daryl!" She calls up to him. "I've brought you some lemonade!"

Daryl takes a moment to exhale a deep breath and he then appears, seeing her looking up at him, the smile on her face instant. He grunts, not saying anything, and he begins coming down the ladder. He's in his undershirt and when he's on the floor again, he doesn't look at her as he picks up his button down shirt from where he had tossed it over one of the horse pen doors. He still doesn't look at her as he puts it back on, concentrating on the buttons.

"I like your dog tags," she says.

He pauses and looks down at the silver tags hanging around his neck, clanging against his chest. He's tried taking them off since he's gotten back but it's never felt right. He's used to their weight around his neck and the noise they make when they hit together. He's worn them for three years and he figures he'll wear them for the rest of his life.

He finishes buttoning his shirt and finally looks at her. Her hair is down with just a few locks of it pinned back from her face and her cheeks are stained pink from the warm Georgia afternoon. Her dress is maroon with white polka dots and he can't help but look down her thin legs… to her bare feet. He lifts his eyes to her and he must be asking a question with them because Beth blushes then – girl seems to blush all of the time – and laughs a little.

"Don't tell my mama," she says. "I'll get an hour-long lecture on propriety and acting like a woman. Women don't go running around with their shoes off."

"Shouldn't be in here without shoes," he tells her. "Could step on a nail or somethin'."

"I know," she nods and she steps forward, holding out the glass of lemonade still in her hand towards him. "I just love the feel of the grass."

He takes a step forward to take the glass and his fingers make the briefest of contact against hers. He quickly takes the glass and pulls his hand back as if she has just scalded him.

Daryl doesn't say anything to that as he sips at the lemonade. He feels sweat on the back of his neck and he tells himself it's because of the temperature that day and nothing else. Beth goes back to Nellie's stall and rubs the horse on her snout as she begins humming a song.

He can't help but watch her from over the top of his glass. It's a strange thought to have but he finds himself wishing he had known her a few years earlier – before the war. He wonders if she would have written him letters. He asks the question to himself though he already knows the answer. Beth is definitely the kind of girl who would write letters to her fella if she had one overseas in the fighting. Daryl didn't get any letters while over there except the official one from the government, informing him about Merle.

They both hear a car coming up the drive, nearing the house, and both turn their heads to look. He doesn't recognize the car but can tell the person doesn't care too much about caring for it. It's dirty and the muffler sounds like a gun backfiring. He can't help but frown at it. Beth, on the other hand, gasps and Daryl looks to her. A smile has exploded across her face as her eyes stare at the car now pulling to a stop in front of the house.

"Jimmy," she says, sounding breathless, and then she's running.

Right past Daryl and out of the barn and Daryl turns around, watching Beth run across the grass, calling out the name – Jimmy! – again so her voice echoes across the sky. Daryl sees a young man get out of the car and he's grinning widely as Beth runs right into his arms. Jimmy's arms cinch around her waist and he picks her up and she starts laughing.

Daryl feels himself frowning as her laughter burns into his ears though he knows he has no right to be frowning. Three weeks, he's been wondering, and now he's got his answer. Beth Greene does have a beau. Some kid named Jimmy who drives a shitty car.

Daryl gulps the rest of his lemonade and sets the glass down on the floor right at the edge of the barn door before heading back up the ladder towards the hayloft.

He actually feels a little relieved that Beth seems to have a boy. A boy closer to her age. Now, he can go and get himself to stop thinking about her all of the damn time. Now, she can just be the boss's daughter and this time, when he continues to avoid her, it'll be because of that and for no other reason.

He's seen things that would normally give people nightmares. Men being blown to bits in front of him, grown men crying out for their mamas as they hold their insides in their hands, men screaming as they get their legs or arms cut off right there on the battlefield.

Daryl can't actually remember the last nightmare he's had. Instead, he dreams.

He dreams of being in the woods, tracking after a deer, always on high alert but relaxed in a way that he only ever is when in the woods, and he hears a soft giggle from behind him. He turns and there's Beth, smiling at him, no shoes on her feet.

"You're gonna hurt yourself, girl," he says but he's smiling as he does.

"Guess you'll just have to carry me then, Daryl Dixon," she keeps smiling.

And in his dream, he doesn't scoff or blush or high-tail it away from her. Instead, he just smiles and swings her up in his arms and carries her through the woods, feeling her warm, light body in his arms and her arms around his neck.

And when he wakes up suddenly, his heart is pounding and his pants are tight and he lays there, blinking up at the ceiling. He calls himself an idiot and he wishes Merle was here because his older brother would definitely have lots more colorful names to call him.

He doesn't know what the hell this girl has done to him. He has never thought about a girl the way he seems to always be thinking of Beth Greene lately. Ever since her daddy brought him back to the farm and introduced him as the newest farmhand and introduced his family and he laid eyes on her for the first time.

Daryl reminds himself that it doesn't matter. Beth's too young and Beth's got a beau and he remembers what Hershel first said to him when he offered him the job.

He just has to stay until the end of October. Until the end of the apple harvest and if he wants to leave then, he can leave. He will have a job for as long as he wants it but Hershel can't make him stay. Daryl hadn't thought about it too much at the time but now, lying there, his heart still racing in his chest as if he had had a nightmare rather than a dream – or maybe it had been a nightmare – Daryl thinks that that's exactly what he'll do.

He'll leave the farm at the end of October. Isn't too sure why he had ever thought about staying longer than that in the first place.


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