A/N: This was partly written and meant to be one thing, and then I saw the season 6 trailer and it became another.
Give it some time (till the end of the world)
The others, they begin to forget her, and Daryl tries to be okay with that. Tries to accept it while he still can't convince his fingers to loosen the death grip they have upon her memory (upon her knife). There are days when it makes him angry, and there are days when it makes him sad, and then there's days when he knows that's just how it is, that's how it goes.
He can't blame them. They've all lost so many people (T-Dog, Lori, Andrea, Hershel, Bob, Tyreese, and Merle, always Merle), and after awhile, that grief, you have to put it away or it kills you, drives you mad while you continue to live.
There should be someone who remembers though. There should be someone and it'll be him.
It won't be Maggie. She's done her grieving and done it twice over (never once properly), what she wants now is to live, and to do that she thinks she needs to leave behind the dead (as they did, as they did). There are times when Daryl thinks she's remembering - a quietness about her, a certain sadness, but then she puts it behind her, shrugging it off like an old coat. He can't find it in himself to blame her though - hurt like that, you've got to put it away or it breaks you. Maggie's done what she had to do to stay whole, she's put it away a little too well.
She's busy being Deanna's right hand, and Daryl sometimes wonders if Deanna even knows she used to have a sister, whether Maggie's ever spoken about all those she lost. He doubts it.
Alexandria has never heard of Beth Greene, never knows what it missed, and won't ever either.
Sasha gets it. Sasha does her share of remembering as well - too much when it's doubled. Daryl catches her eye sometimes and there's something between them, an understanding that the others don't share. Sasha ain't just remembering though, she's breaking from the inside out, too much to contain within her, and Daryl wishes he knew what to say to make it better.
Beth would've known. Would've done something to make the pain a little less, without suggesting it should go away.
"Give it some time," Carol tells him, when she sees him struggle, and Daryl wonders how much. Till the end of the year? End of the decade? (He knows the answer, knows it'll be till the end of world). Carol could do her share of grieving too if she chose, but she doesn't, she won't. Carol doesn't grieve because she don't let herself feel much of anything these days, and that - that ain't right either, is it? That ain't healthy.
He could laugh. Daryl Dixon - expert on what's healthy grieving. Least he is. Least he hasn't forgotten - like she was never there, like she wasn't nothing to them.
Just another dead girl, and ain't that a bitch, because that's exactly what she is to everyone except him.
It becomes easier, to be away.
He doesn't know his group suddenly, his family. He'd die for them all the same, but he doesn't recognise them anymore. This place has changed them, makes most of them want to try to be what they were before, but Daryl, he doesn't want that, can't go back like them, doesn't have anything to go back to (be who you are, who you are, who you are).
Carol's playing a game of some kind, and Rick, Daryl's not sure that Rick really knows what he's doing or why he's doing it (he'll follow him anyway, God help him, but he will). Michonne wants it to be real so badly that she's putting a part of herself away. The others, there's varying degrees of change there. Sometimes Glenn's the only one he really recognises anymore, the only one who's stayed true. Glenn's got his own problems though, enough that he doesn't see Daryl foundering, that he doesn't reach out where once he would.
They none of them speak of her, and so he doesn't either, feels the silence inside him grow in the places where her name should've been spoken.
He might not ever wear a ring on his finger, but he's got her knife on his hip, always there, and to him it ain't any different. He's marked as hers, for the rest of his life, couldn't put it off him if he tried. He's heard eagles are like that - mate for life, and should they lose that mate, well, that's it, that's the end of the road for them. Daryl's reached the end of his road, the time when he could have turned back is far behind.
It's easier with Aaron and Eric. They don't know the man he was before, never saw the becoming, don't know anything but who he is now. He doesn't have to try so hard, doesn't have to hide, isn't expected to be working past it, moving on from his grief.
Daryl's moving alright, but the memory of her is moving right along with him.
Aaron doesn't pry, not really, but he says enough to let Daryl know he understands. Back in that car, as they'd waited to die, he'd known it was understood, that his loss had been acknowledged. It might never be brought up again and he was okay with that, okay with it from someone who never knew her.
Aaron likes to talk though, about himself if not Daryl, and so he does.
"That day I saw you by the old barn, that was when I knew," Aaron begins, "I'd been thinking it for awhile, but I knew then that I had to convince Eric to give this up. I knew what would happen to me if I ever lost him."
Daryl sees it, knows neither of them would be able to put the other away, there'd be no forgetting for the pair of them.
He's silent, and he knows nothing else is really required of him, this was Aaron sharing, not him, there's nothing he has to say.
Still, sometimes he wishes he could speak of her, that he could get out all the words that are crowded up inside him, biding their time and smothered in so much silence.
And so he does.
"She..." His voice cracks then, and he wonders if he can do it at all, if he can bring her memory back into the light. "She would've wanted me to keep goin', all of us to... She was like that, always... Always keepin' hope alive."
Aaron nods, places a hand on his shoulder. It's enough.
He talks about her sometimes. Not often, not every day. There's days though, when he wants to.
Aaron listens, listens and doesn't say much in reply except the type of encouraging words he needs to keep him going.
Daryl doesn't tell long stories, doesn't rhapsodise about her, but he speaks at least, brings her out of himself and back into the world, shares her with someone.
"Her name was Beth," he tells Aaron, a couple of weeks after he's begun.
It's important that her name is known. It's important because one day Daryl will be gone too, and who'll do the remembering then?
It all had to go to hell eventually, and so eventually it does.
There he is, bound and with a gun pointed at his face, his back to a tree.
Aaron's gotten away at least. Daryl's sure of it, if they'd caught him they'd have brought him back, killed him in front of Daryl in the worst ways possible in order to try and make him scream.
No, Aaron's gotten away, and he'll be warning the others.
"Think we got ourselves one of their leaders here," one of the men crows, "What do you think you're worth to those people of yours?"
Daryl knows just what it is he's worth to them, knows they'd do anything to get him back, but should he die here, should he never make it back, he wonders just how long he'd be remembered for.
He runs through the woods, and he has nothing, nothing except the knife that usually hangs from his hip, clutched tight in his fist now. They'd taken it from him, along with all the rest - his crossbow and vest, the bike.
The knife was the only thing he'd been able to snatch back before he had to run, but it's fitting that it's his last companion. He runs, and remembers her running alongside him, mad dashes through the forest, weaving and turning to avoid the walkers, desperately trying to outrun a herd.
There's no crossbow at his back now, no wings behind him, he's been stripped of everything he once held dear, everything that made him the man he was. There's just him now, the man she made anew, a knife at his hip and a memory in his veins.
Above the pounding of his heart, the heaviness of his breath, he can almost hear her urging him on.
So he runs, and he runs fast, evades them as best he can, because he carries her along with him, and he needs to keep her safe.
He can't make his way back by normal routes, those will all be watched now. He circles around, heads south for awhile, wonders which way to go next.
Wonders if he should just go, go while he can. Go while there's something of him still left.
The others are there though, and he could never leave them, not willingly anyway, and so he tries to find a way.
Daryl imagines worst case scenarios, imagines arriving back to find the community already devastated, wiped out, his family dead and gone, no miraculous reunion now possible.
Aaron had gotten away though, Aaron would warn them, and he has to believe they'll get through it, as they have everything before.
He needs a weapon if he's going to get back to them though, a proper weapon, and so he detours through towns as his circles grow ever wider, finding evidence of the Wolves' devastation wherever he goes.
He finds a handgun, and that's something, wonders if it's enough and if he can risk heading back now, when he finds something so much better, a long forgotten cache.
Explosives with timers attached, batteries still working.
He thinks he knows just what to do with them.
It takes him time to make it back to their base, to all those trucks promising to get the harvest home, luring hungry travellers in with the promise of an easy meal. He doesn't know if it'll make a difference in the end, how many of them it might wipe out. What he does know, is that if he destroys it, it'll be one less trap they have, one less way in which good people might die.
So he surveils the place all day, sneaks in under cover of darkness and plants his charges, sets a short timer of 3 minutes on each to ensure there'll be no time to dismantle them, and he gets himself out.
It's then that he sees the other group, three people huddled by the side of the road, checking out the site and maybe looking to make their own move. Not Wolves by the look of them, but fellow travellers, weary from the road.
He opens his mouth to warn them, as he sees one dart forward towards the fences, just as the first explosion rings out.
His eyes meet hers, through the flames.
He should've collapsed, should've had a breakdown right there by the side of the road, but there's no time for that, no time as the flames burn and angry shouts are heard, growing closer.
So he runs to her, runs to her and grabs her hand, and pulls her along with him, feeling it as her feet find their own rhythm, as she keeps pace with him. Her companions follow them, but he focuses only on the feel of her hand in his, grasped tight despite the slick of sweat, of the sound of her laboured breathing alongside his own. He runs and remembers another night with fire at their backs, headed together into the darkness.
It feels unreal, it can't be possible, but he's been running all this time, carrying her along with him, and now here she is, once more by his side.
They run for what seems like miles, until she tugs him towards a hidden side road, up to an old cabin where others await them.
Good people, he's sure. She wouldn't have brought any other type along with her.
It's there that he finally allows himself to break, pulling her to him, hands grasping her face, smoothing over scars, running over her hair.
"Beth," he breathes, "Beth, Beth."
He can't say anything else, nothing else would possibly fit within his mouth at this moment. All the times he hasn't spoken her name, and he's kept them for this moment, that she might hear it with her own ears.
It takes her time to find her own words, grasping on to him tightly, her hands clutching his shirt, reaching up to touch his face.
"I couldn't remember everything, not at first, but I always remembered you, Daryl Dixon."
Seems he's not been as alone in it as he'd thought.
They need to move out. The Wolves are too close for comfort, and whatever else the night's work has wrought, Daryl knows they'll be looking for revenge.
So he takes her hand, and together they lead, the rest of her group following behind them.
He doesn't question how she came back, how this miracle happened. She's here with him, that's all he really needs to know. The rest can come later.
He's carried her in him all this time, done his remembering, as he kept her safe inside. He doesn't need to worry no more, he can put that time behind him at last now that he's not her memory's last sole keeper.
Ain't nobody ever gonna forget Beth Greene now.