A/N: I finally finished something! I feel like this is kind of gratuitous in a way, fluff with not much of a plot, but with bonus fireman Daryl. But I finished it! I wrote a thing! Title taken from Hilary Duff's All About You. Hope you enjoy. xx
Maggie has a party the day before Valentine's Day.
Well, less a party, more a soiree. Well, less a soiree and more a sleepover, minus the sleeping and plus the wine, but with exactly the same amount of Magic Mike.
Which is the moment Maggie brings out her calendar, the one she organised and oversaw the construction of, along with Tara, in order to raise money for the children's wing of their local hospital. Sure, Beth bought one, but that was in the midst of moving, so she likely threw it in a box and forgot about it.
Maybe it was for the best.
It's a small town, and everyone knows each other. Or knows of one another, admittedly, her social circle is rather tight knit, and even when she ventures out for drinks at their one bar, she's not one for meeting strangers.
That's Shawn. That's Maggie. That's not her.
"Do I know anyone in here?" Beth asks, sceptically, holding the offending item carefully.
"Oh, sure," Maggie nods, enthusiastically, "there's Sheriff Grimes and Deputy Walsh, Shawn-"
"Nope," Beth tries to pass it back, "no thank you."
"Tyreese is in it too," Sasha rolls her eyes, "at least Maggie gave you some warning."
"Shawn's June," Maggie sighs, "just avoid it, okay."
Okay. Okay. And she feels ridiculous, flipping through the glossy pages, seeing people she knows looking ridiculous. Ridiculous hot, Maggie interjects and she can't help but roll her eyes. She gives Sasha a sympathetic look when she gets to May and avoids June all together.
But then there's July.
And then there's Daryl Dixon. Standing beside a ladder, leaning up against a tree. Holding her cat.
"Is that why you borrowed my cat?" Beth exclaims, tearing her eyes away from the extremely handsome man holding her beloved pet, "You told me that you wanted to practice having a pet."
"I lied," Maggie shrugged, "besides, you got your cat back. Totally fine."
"Why my cat though?" Beth whined, "Why couldn't he just hold a hose or something?"
"Because children might see it," Maggie deadpans, "this is a tasteful work of art, Beth, not smut for smut's sake."
Still, she looks at July for slightly longer than she should.
And when she goes home she finds her calendar, and looks at it some more.
Some back story, if you will.
The first time Beth Greene met Daryl Dixon it was the night after she had broken up with her first and long-time boyfriend, Jimmy. Somehow, Maggie had deemed it appropriate that she get back out there, that she not wallow in her sadness. It was a long time coming, a slow fizzle out. It was months of them slowly drifting apart until they didn't know each other anymore.
Two, twelve, twenty-two, in the end it was a relationship based on the familiar, based on expectations. They loved each other, but they weren't in love.
And didn't everyone deserve that much?
So Maggie, in her infinite wisdom, Maggie, the mastermind behind bad decisions, takes her to the one bar in town. Maggie, who plies her with fifteen dollar jugs of sangria and pushes her into a group of men and yells for all to hear that the Greene girls have arrived like some kind of call to arms.
Beth flirts awkwardly and dances stiffly and ends up in the alley beside the bar making out with a fire fighter whose name she can't remember. And throws up on his shoes.
"I'm sorry," she slurs, as he helps her into Tara's car, "I'm not good at this."
"Drinking?" he replies, with a smirk.
And maybe he chuckles. And maybe he presses a napkin into her hands, covered in his hasty scrawl and instructions not to throw up on it. And maybe she finds it the next morning, shoved in her clutch, his number and his name.
And maybe she throws it away.
Everyone knows one another. It's a small town. There's no other way around it.
It's put up or shut up.
So she's used to her brother being a permanent part of her friendship group. Just as she's used to the fact that he'll always be trying to sleep with her friends. Just as she's used to the fact that she'll never be able to date anyone without him knowing.
It's like some kind of old fashioned courtship, but her brother's isn't walking ten paces behind her, but right beside her. Talking to the guy she maybe, kind of, wants to have sex with.
So she tends to lose interest pretty quickly.
She doesn't talk to Daryl Dixon after that night. Doesn't see him and if she does, she walks the other way. She sticks to the farm and the dance studio; he sticks to the firehouse and his cabin in the woods. They have no reason to cross paths.
In February, the week after Valentine's Day, three things happen.
One, she hires a new dance instructor.
Two, Sophia Dixon starts taking classes at her studio.
Three, Jimmy gets engaged.
She ends up drinking wine in the practice room, leaning against the mirror in her leg warmers and leotard. Taking swigs from the bottle, blasting some kind of badass bitch mix Tara had made her, which doesn't make her feel like a badass bitch in the slightest.
She just feels like a sad cliché.
Eric has a tap and musical theatre background and is surprisingly proficient at hip-hop. He is friendly and positive and the mother's love him just as much as the kids.
She has been running this place for a year and it's nice to have another person to bounce choreography off, to brainstorm costumes, to help choose music. It's nice to have a friend.
He doesn't know Jimmy. Doesn't know their story save the version Beth gives him.
"So you date for, like, eight years, then six months after the break up, he's engaged?" Eric shakes his head, "That's messed up."
"I know, right!" Beth exclaims, glue-gunning rhinestones onto headbands, "Like, did he already know her? How long did he wait before he started dating her?"
"Look, B," Eric looks her in the eye, "you can't dwell on this. You can't worry about what he's doing or who he's doing. You have to find your own happiness. Happiness that isn't drinking wine in the studio after hours."
"Yeah," she murmurs, "yeah I do."
"Aaron has this friend," Eric tells her, holding up his hand as she opens her mouth to protest, "I'm not setting you up, okay. I promise. But Aaron has this friend and they have this cutesy spaghetti Tuesday tradition that stems from childhood or something. Anyway, he's quiet, but he's nice. Well, he's gruff. Not nice, but not unpleasant…I'm not selling this to you, am I?"
"Not at all."
"Come to my place for dinner," Eric flashes her a grin, "I'm not expecting you to marry Aaron's friend, but I'd like to you to meet my significant other. And eat some bread."
"I could eat some bread," Beth giggles.
"Good," Eric grins, "you're a tiny thing, you could definitely use some."
And it's settled.
This week, Maggie is not talking to Shawn.
It's a common occurrence, these petty fights between grown up children. More often than not, Beth ends up playing mediator, mostly trying to convince Shawn to apologise and convince Maggie to let it go.
It lasts until Sunday night dinner, when Hershel steps in and tells them to grow up. Neither takes kindly to that request, but, grudgingly, they make amends.
And they bond over making Beth's life difficult.
"I know someone who likes you," Maggie singsongs and Shawn's eyes glint dangerously.
"Is it who I think it is?"
"Yup," Maggie replies and Shawn breaks into a grin.
"Leave your sister alone," their father says sternly, but with humour in his eyes, "I don't want her making terrible choices like you two."
"We don't make terrible choices!" Maggie exclaims.
"We make the best choices!" Shawn retorts, "It's not our fault they go horribly awry."
"Look," Beth sighs, "I know what you're trying to do. You're trying to set me up with Zach. And I'm not interested."
"You were though," Maggie points out, "New Years Eve? Remember."
"I'm not sure I should be hearing this," Hershel shakes his head.
"There's nothing to hear," Beth says sternly, glaring at her siblings, "because I don't like Zach. And I don't want to date him."
It should be final. It's not.
When Beth was a young girl imaging what it would be like being in love, she always imagined something similar to what Eric and Aaron have. Trust, respect, partnership.
Playful bickering over the pasta sauce
She's early, and she sits, perched on a bar stool at their breakfast bar, watching the couple debate seasoning.
"Beth, come judge," Eric instructs her, "Aaron thinks it needs more salt, but I think it's perfect."
She slips off her stool, wedge sandals clacking against the tiles. Takes the proffered wooden spoon and takes a delicate bite.
"Maybe just a touch more salt," Beth grins sheepishly and Aaron grins where Eric pouts.
"Palates of heathens, both of you," Eric mutters, and Aaron swats him with a tea towel.
"Mind yourself, she's your boss," Aaron teases, "Please don't fire my partner for his lack of manners."
"First and final warning," she mock glares, and Eric humphs, checking her with his hip.
And then the doorbell rings.
"Right on time," Eric announces, glancing to the clock on the microwave, "I swear, it's spooky how punctual Daryl is."
"Leave him alone…"
Her heart almost stops. She's been trying so hard, for so long, to avoid Daryl Dixon, and here he is, the fourth of what is definitely not a double date.
"Daryl, this is Beth. Beth this is Daryl."
He's as handsome as she remembers. Doesn't look a think like the clean cut farm boys she went to school with, or the hipster wannabes that Maggie keeps trying to set her up with. He is rugged and sexy, his hair too long and eyes too blue and she blushes, because she remembers July and remembers how long she spent looking at it.
She clears her throat.
Eric glances between them, eyes narrowed in confusion. A direct contrast to Aaron, who smiles knowingly.
"Come on. Dinner's ready."
Eric insists that he doesn't need their help with the crème brulee. Simply orders Aaron into the kitchen to help him.
"I'm sorry I didn't call," she blurts out, face hot with embarrassment.
"All good," he chuckles, "ain't like I was waiting by the phone for ya."
"I know," she tries to backtrack, failing miserably, "I just mean, I'm not that type of girl, so I didn't want to lead you on."
"What type of girl is that?"
She knows how she's coming across, her words, all jumbled and misconstrued.
"You know," Beth shrugs, "the type that has one-night stands with men she meets in bars. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I mean, some women do and power to them, but I don't think I could do that because I get too attached and you probably aren't looking for anything serious-"
"Shouldn't knock it til' you try it."
He's smirking at her now, something that's becoming somewhat of a trademark. And she's stumbling, stuttering, trying to find a comeback and coming up short. And she's thinking about what if she hadn't thrown up, what if they had continued to make out behind the bar, where it might have gone from there. Would she have woken up to him in her apartment, curled up around her? Would she have woken up to him cooking her breakfast in his?
"Dessert is ready!" Eric announces from the doorway, a mischievous grin on his face. "Or are we interrupting something?"
"No!" Beth exclaims, face red, "I mean no. I mean, nothing's going on. I mean…whaaaat?"
"You're boss is weird," Aaron chuckles, "I like her."
Just kill me now.
So, a small titbit about Sasha, for those playing at home.
She's a fire fighter.
Meaning, she works with Daryl Dixon. And sees him basically every day.
So, they'd probably be friends, in some capacity, right?
The thing about having a best friend who works with the guy she likes is that sooner or later, her strategy of avoidance will go out the window.
Like when her best friend has a birthday. And her birthday celebration just happens to take place at a bar. The bar.
"Why are you hiding?" Sasha asks her, leaning against the bar where she's currently, well, hiding.
"I'm not," she lies, and Sasha gifts her with a dramatic eye roll.
"I know when you're lying," Sasha retorts, "just as well as I know when you're hiding. Different question, who are you hiding from?"
Beth heaves a sigh.
"Daryl Dixon?" Sasha's face screws up in confusion, "My colleague, Daryl Dixon?"
"Yup," Beth drawls, avoiding her eye contact.
"Why on earth…oh!"
"Please don't," Beth pleads.
"You hooked up with him, didn't you?" Sasha grins, "Oh my god, girl, you so did!"
"I'm an idiot," Beth moans.
"No way, he's hot," Sasha teases, "and I'm kind of impressed, Greene. I honestly didn't think you went for guys like Daryl Dixon."
Beth throws her a confused glance.
Yeah. Daryl Dixon is definitely all man. There's nothing smooth or soft or boyish about him. Nothing predictable. Nothing safe.
Whatever she was going to say is instantly forgotten, when Daryl Dixon himself enters, followed by his brother and sister-in-law. She swallows nervously, looking for an escape, but there isn't one, not when she's standing at the bar with the birthday girl and the subject of her latest romantic fantasies is heading towards them.
"Happy birthday," he mutters gruffly, letting Sasha pull him into a slightly tipsy hug.
"Glad you could make it," Sasha smirks, "you gonna buy me a drink?"
"Pushy," Daryl rolls his eyes, turning towards the bartender, "two beers and…" he glances at Beth, eyes locking with hers, "a sangria."
Yeah. There's no escaping here.
She wakes up disorientated.
It's not her couch. But it's familiar.
She's at Maggie's.
Beth tries to sit up, but her head protests, her stomach turning. She moans, curling into herself, letting out a soft whimper.
"Oh god," Beth moans, "how did I get here?"
"Glenn picked us up," Maggie places a glass of water and two aspirin on the coffee table in front of her, "after you begged me to leave before you, and I quote, 'do something Maggie-like'. Which I take offense to, by the way."
Grabbing a throw pillow, she places it over her face, her voice muffled, "Did I make a fool of myself?"
"Well," Maggie pauses, "you were bold."
"That doesn't answer my question."
"You asked Daryl Dixon if you could have a turn with his hose."
"WHAT!" Beth shrieks, sitting up suddenly. The sudden motion doesn't agree with her, and she stands, shakily, making her way as quickly as she can to the bathroom.
When she's finished throwing up everything she had to drink last night (spoiler alert, she drank a lot), Maggie is standing in the doorway, a damp face washer in her hand.
"Joking," Maggie smiles weakly, "but you feel better, right?"
"I hate you," Beth grumbles, "I'm calling Shawn to come take care of me."
"Hey," Maggie pouts, taking her hand and leading her back to the couch, "don't be a hater. Especially since Glenn is making you you're favourite hangover cure."
"Breakfast pizza?" Beth asks hopefully.
"Yep," Maggie places the damp cloth on her forehead, stroking her hair gently, "but, seriously, Beth, you and Daryl Dixon? I'm impressed."
"Why is everyone impressed?" Beth whimpers, head still pounding, "Do you all think I can't get a guy like him or something?"
"We didn't know you wanted a guy like him, is all," Maggie replies gently, handing her the water and painkillers, "but he's, like, enamoured, you know?"
"Really," Maggie assures her, "couldn't take his eyes off you when you were dancing, bought all your drinks. Tried to teach you pool and was suitably impressed when you kicked his ass."
"So I didn't look like an idiot?" Beth asks hopefully.
"The opposite," Maggie grins, "you were very Maggie-like. And he gave me this."
She hands her a crumpled receipt, from the night before, judging by all the fruity drink purchases. On the blank side, there's a phone number.
"He told me not to let you throw it out this time," her sister smirks, "so, it's your move, Bethy. What are you going to do?"
The thought makes her want to throw up again.
"Please call him."
"Don't make me beg."
He basically is, though. Has been pleading with her for the better part of the day, since she gave him a recount of Saturday night's events.
"I need couple friends," Eric whines, placing a CD back in the rack "I need people to play charades with, or Pictionary, or at the very least, Cards Against Humanity. It's my right, as a middle class American gay man."
"You're really getting ahead of yourself here," Beth chastises him, "I don't think Daryl would even want to do any of that."
"Like he gets a choice," Eric rolls his eyes, "I want to go on a couples retreat to Hawaii! I want to sip mimosas by the pool and gossip about the size of their co-"
"Excuse me, Beth?"
Saved by the dance moms.
"Hi Carol," Beth leaves Eric with the pile of CDs, silently praying her face isn't beet red, "how are you, how's Sophia?"
"Injured," Carol sighs, "her father convinced her it was a good idea to climb a giant oak tree and she fell and sprained her wrist."
"Oh no," Beth shakes her head, "I'm glad that she wasn't seriously hurt."
"Believe me, Merle was the one in worse shape after I was done with him," the woman chuckles.
"So, I guess she's out for a while," Beth clicks her tongue, glancing at the computer in front of her, "unless…"
"She can take tap class, if she wants?"
"Tap," Carol nods, considering it, "when is the class?"
"Thursday night's, 5pm – 8pm," Beth smiles, "it's fun, she'll love it."
"Merle and I work late Thursdays," Carol frowns, "but her Uncle can pick her up."
"Her Uncle?" Beth stutters.
"Daryl," Carol confirms, but she's not paying any attention to Beth, instead, she's got her planner out, jotting down the date and time, "she'll be thrilled, Sophia was so disappointed when the doctor told her she couldn't use her wrist. Thank you!"
"It's my pleasure," Beth smiles nervously. She hadn't even decided if she was going to call Daryl. Seems the universe decided for her.
Some things are inevitable.
She looks cute. She knows she looks cute.
She tried on five different outfits in the presence of Eric and via Skype with Maggie and they both agreed on the final outcome.
Also, it has dragonflies on it.
When she finally called him, not counting the times she hung up on him, she stumbled through her words, apologising for her awkwardness, before he took pity on her, and asked her for a drink.
She balks, slightly. Based on previous encounters, maybe they should start with dinner.
He chuckles over the phone and agrees.
When he picks her up, he walks to her front door. Opens the car door for her. Lets her change the radio station. Is pretty much the perfect gentleman and she feels so terrible that she thought he might, well, not be.
He takes her to Glenn's restaurant and something within her is secretly relieved.
"Figured you'd be comfortable here," he shrugs, "plus, the food's good."
Beer and pizza. Can't go wrong with beer and pizza.
"So," she glances at him over the menu, "how long have you known Aaron?"
He looks almost surprised, blinking quickly. Clearing his throat, he scans the menu.
"Grew up in the same shitty trailer park," he shrugs, "think we were like, eleven, twelve? Met him just after Merle joined up."
"Your brother was in the military?" Beth asks, surprised.
"Briefly," Daryl replies, "got kicked out shortly after. Ain't great with authority."
"Who is?" Beth jokes and Daryl smirks.
"You, I bet," his eyes darken, "good girl and all. You got this whole town wrapped around your little finger."
"I'm not that good," Beth retorts and Daryl leans back in his chair.
"That a fact?"
"Alright then," Daryl grins, "I need your help with something later."
This is a bad idea.
This is bad, and irresponsible, and completely juvenile idea.
She's never had this much fun in her life.
"Oh my god," she giggles, and he shushes her, lobbing another roll of toilet paper over the tree, "you know who lives here, right?"
"I do," Daryl murmurs, rummaging in his truck, pulling out another pack.
"I don't want to get arrested," she hisses, "and Judith Grimes is one of my minis."
"Ain't gonna get arrested, Greene," Daryl reassures her, "no one's gonna know you're an accomplice, I promise."
"Why are we doing this anyway?" Beth weakly throws a roll, hooking it over one of the lower branches.
"The kid gnomed my yard," Daryl whispers, "and payback is a mother."
"Carl's fifteen!" Beth rolls her eyes, "Aren't you like, double that?"
"Plus five," Daryl grumbles, "anyway, age is just a number."
Thirty-five minus twenty-two equals thirteen. He is thirteen years older than her.
And he's TP-ing the Sheriff's house.
Well, so is she.
"You're crazy," she shakes his head. He glances down at her, eyes bright.
She would have kissed him, had the porch light not come on.
They make a quick getaway instead.
Shawn is suitably impressed.
"I like what he brings out in you, Bethy," he nods, "Badass Beth."
"Shut up," Beth rolls her eyes, stabbing her fork into her pancakes.
"Are you guys going to ding-dong-ditch on your next date?" Shawn teases, reaching for the maple syrup.
"Ha ha," Beth frowns, "you're so hilarious, no wonder you have all the girls chasing after you…oh, wait."
"Maggie did mention you were mean now," Shawn pouts, "didn't think it was true."
"I like him, Shawn," she says quietly, blushing lightly, "I've never really 'liked' anyone before."
"Not like this."
No, definitely not like this. It's more than a crush, more than adolescent lust. It is electric, from her head to toes. He brings out something daring, something bold. Something reckless.
Beth Greene has never been reckless in her life.
"When do I get to meet him?" Shawn asks, with a grin.
"Not anytime soon," Beth retorts quickly.
Zach is the kind of guy that Taylor Swift writes songs about. And not the good kind.
Let the record show that it was New Years Eve. And she (Maggie) had gotten it in her head that she needed to be bolder, to be braver, and that involved making out with some guy in a distressed designer leather jacket.
What a way to bring in the New Year.
She had been dodging his calls and ignoring him on Facebook ever since. Fortunately, he attended college in the city, so he wasn't around a lot. When he was, she had an excuse at the ready, dance competitions and the like. This week, he had caught her off guard.
Well, he asked her out through her brother, who, not understanding that she had chosen avoidance over flat out rejection, had agreed she would be there.
In a few weeks, it would be a non-issue. She would know where she stands with Daryl, and not have to awkwardly call him and ask if their second date can be in the presence of all her friends, both of her nosy, over-protective siblings, and one guy who just can't take a hint.
There's a bar a town over, a bit on the hipster side, with pallet furniture and drinks in jars, but it goes off on a Saturday night. Shawn likes it, likes the girls in pastels that fall head over heals for his golden boy veterinarian thing. He does well there, despite the fact that his relationships rarely last that long. They're either on the crazy side of the spectrum, or seem to wise up pretty quickly to Shawn's man-child tendencies and lack of desire to commit.
"Daryl, this is my brother Shawn," Beth does the introductions politely and quickly, "Shawn, this is Daryl."
"So this is the guy that's fucking my baby sister?"
Daryl coughs in surprise, rubbing his face nervously. Beth rolls her eyes.
"Oh my god, Shawn."
"I'm kidding, man," he smirks, chuckling, before frowning, "or am I?"
"Go find a school teacher to harass," Beth grabs Daryl's hand, pulling him towards the bar.
"I think you mean seduce, Bethy!"
"You're brother is-"
"A child," Beth interrupts, "and the most annoying person in the world."
"He'd probably get on well with my brother," Daryl's mouth curves up in a smile, "you look cute tonight."
"Cute?" Beth grins, cocking her head to the side.
"That's what I said," Daryl's fingers graze the hem of her crop top, and she feels herself heat up, "buy you a drink?"
She nods, smiling shyly.
"Something with an umbrella, please."
He screws up his nose, but leans over the bar, grabbing the attention of the bartender. She doesn't hear his drink order, but notices the bartender laugh before walking away to get their drinks. A few minutes later, he places two jars in front of them; a small umbrella perched on the rim of one.
"What is this?" she picks up the jar, sniffing cautiously.
Her eyes widen, and she takes a tentative sip. It makes her eyes water and she coughs and splutters, while he steadies her.
"This stuff is terrible!" she exclaims, but takes another small swig.
"Here," he signals for the bartender, who grabs her jar, cutting it with some apple juice. Another sip and while still potent, the apple flavour is smooth, and if anything, makes the drink more dangerous.
"Here's to making good bad decisions," Beth grins, holding out her glass.
"I'll drink to that."
Daryl Dixon. He makes her heart flutter, that's pretty much a fact. Surprises her to the point that she's surprised if she's not surprised. Gruff and sweet and she wishes she had kept his number the first time round.
And, for the record, Zach doesn't approach her once.
"So you and Daryl, huh?"
She spins around so fast she almost loses her balance. Not the best move for a dance teacher.
Carol Dixon leans casually against her reception desk, throwing her a knowing smirk. Beth blushes, tucking non-existent loose strands of hair behind her ear.
"I, uh, it's really early, I don't know what exactly…"
"He likes you," Carol chuckles, "would kill me for saying so, but I think he's liked you for a long time."
"Miss Beth! Miss Beth!"
A couple of her students run up to the front desk, excitement on their young faces.
"There's water everywhere!"
"What?" Beth exclaims, just imagining the bathroom flooding the hours she'll have to spend cleaning it up, "Where?"
"Outside," Eric walks through the doors, gym bag slung over one arm, phone clasped in his palm, "already made the call, B, your boyfriend is on his way."
Beth rolls her eyes, ignoring the way that Carol and Eric share a smirk.
"You know, it's probably more a city issue than a fire department-"
Whatever she's about to say is cut off by the sound of the blaring sirens, and cheering dancers.
She follows Eric and Carol outside, takes in the crowd of kids, the fire engine, and the hydrant, spraying water into the air. In the chaos, she spots Daryl, but only briefly, before they disappear into the spray.
It's not long until hydrant is shut off and the water is just a trickle. The two fire fighters are met with cheers and applause, but Beth barely hears it. Barely can comprehend anything, other than a drenched Daryl Dixon, flicking his hair out of his face, his wet shirt sculpted to the hard planes and defined muscles of his body.
"The street's flooded," Carol notes with a frown, "it's going to be a nightmare to get home."
"I bet the street's not the only thing that's flooded, huh, B?" Eric jabs her in the side, and she feels her face turn a brilliant shade of fire engine red.
Daryl's eyes meet hers and god, his knowing smirk tells her that she's not fooling anyone.
And neither is he.
She fumbles for the light switch. Beside her, he nearly trips over the shoe rack. To Daryl's credit, his grip on her thighs never waver.
"Don't step on my cat," she moans, hand slapping blindly at the wall.
"Jesus, girl," he groans, as she grinds against him, "do you even live here?"
She finds the switch, illuminating the small living room. The doors swings closed behind them, and she drops her keys, purse, and phone in a pile by the doorway. Kicks off her heels, too.
"You should know," she pants, his lips trailing down her neck, "that it took my last boyfriend three years to get this far."
"Yeah?" Daryl smirks against her skin, "only took me three dates."
"Lucky you," Beth pulls his face to hers, lips meeting in a searing, dizzying, kiss.
Or, lucky her. So lucky, because his hands are everywhere, ministrations so on point, and he has her pushed up against the door, tongues battling for dominance like some goddamn romance novel cliché. Like, everything about him is straight out of fiction because there is no way that this is real life, finding a hot, sweet, fire fighter, who's smouldering stare can make her weak at the knees.
Absolutely no way.
But it is.
"Bedroom," he demands and, breathlessly, she directs him through her tiny apartment, once again warning him not to stand on her cat.
There's no preamble when he drops her on the bed, rips the dress from her body. None on her end either, as she pulls open his shirt, buttons flying. He unclasps her bra with ease, taking one pebbled nipple in his mouth, while his hand massages the other.
"Oh god, Daryl," she moans, eyes rolling up to the ceiling, His other hand travels down her stomach, reaching the hem of her panties.
"You want this?" he murmurs, and she bucks her hips in response.
Dipping beneath the fabric, his fingers tease her opening. She's on edge by his proximity alone, his big, rough, calloused fingers leaving her panting and moaning in anticipation. He slips one finger inside of her, then two, curling up, finding her clit.
She nearly comes then and there. It's been too long for her. She's like livewire, ready to spark and burn the place down. His soft, slow strokes are almost tentative, but she knows the truth. He's teasing her, he's drawing this out. He wants to make her lose control, to make her scream.
It's then he slithers down her body, pulls her underwear down her legs and replaces his fingers with his tongue.
"Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod," she whimpers, thighs clenching around his head. He smirks against her, tongue tracing patterns until she can't take it anymore.
And maybe she doesn't scream. But her moans are loud and wanton and she's certain her neighbours can probably hear her.
She doesn't care though. Let them, she thinks, her mind a lust-drunk haze. And when she uses her momentum to flip them, she pushes his jeans down his legs. Feels her eyes go wide and a small gasp escape her lips at the size of his…collection.
And when she comes, a second time, a mess of sweaty, tangled limbs, the volume of her ecstasy is the least of her concerns.
Eric calls them 'disgusting'.
Aaron rolls his eyes.
"You wanted a straight couple to hang out with," he informs his partner, "what did you expect?"
"Not to be good so good at Pictionary, that's for sure," her grumbles, "straight people are only allowed to be good at Pictionary, like, five years into the relationship. Not after five weeks."
"We're just great at everything we do as a couple," Beth replies nonchalantly, and Daryl almost chokes on his beer.
"I bet you are," Eric grins, "Hawaii and mimosas, B. I'm going to look up holiday packages."
"Let them make it Facebook official first, okay Eric?" Aaron chuckles, "Oh, wait, I forgot, Daryl doesn't have a Facebook."
"We'll just tell our brothers," Daryl smirks, "Merle and Shawn gossip like a bunch of middle school girls."
"If it's official, you'll have to meet my daddy," Beth teases, "he'll start nagging as soon as Shawn tells him."
She can't help but laugh when Daryl goes white as a sheet at the prospect.
"Meeting the parents, oh my," Aaron makes his way to the kitchen, getting another round of drinks, "maybe you should start looking at prices, babe. Things are getting serious in here."
"I'll get my laptop."
"Don't be nervous," she instructs him, as they pull up to the house, "Glenn will be there, so daddy's focus will be split. And Shawn said he'd be on his best behaviour. He won't mention the bar incident at all."
"Goody," Daryl deadpans, tugging at his collar, "how long does this go for?"
"About two hours, three hours, tops," Maggie interrupts, making her way down the porch steps, "without alcohol too, FYI."
"Oh god," Daryl groans and Beth shushes him, rolling her eyes.
"It will be fine, I promise."
And it will be. Because Hershel Greene is a reasonable man, who believes in giving people a fair chance before he casts judgment. The Dixon name is one that's changed throughout the years, Will Dixon representing the worst of it and his sons slowly, but surely, altering the connotations, casting themselves anew.
Hell, in some circles, Merle Dixon is downright respectable.
Which is why she had no qualms bringing Daryl Dixon to Sunday dinner. They were never a secret, not that it's easy to keep a secret in this town. Like the one time Shawn's (now ex) girlfriend was cursing him out at the coffee shop and by dinnertime, Hershel had found out everything that was said, word for word.
Oh, and Maggie had filled him in on all the drama. Showed him the video as well.
So introductions are made and dinner goes smoothly and Beth's kind of grateful for Glenn, who's been in Daryl's shoes before and has promised to try and steer the conversation in a…Daryl-friendly direction, in exchange for present advice. And Shawn is Shawn, monopolising the conversation, pulling focus, and for once, she appreciates that.
But Shawn just has to put his foot in it, doesn't he?
"…so then Bethy got us kicked out and we decided to call it a night and went to Tara's for pancakes-"
"Beth got you kicked out of the bar?" Hershel interrupts, eyes narrowed in concern.
"Did I say Bethy?" Shawn coughs, "I mean Betty, this new girl I'm sort of seeing…"
Oh, he's a terrible liar.
"What did you do Beth?" her father asks sternly and, god, it's probably genetic because in that moment she can't come up with anything believable. And she's not about to tell her father that they got kicked out of the bar because she was fooling around with her boyfriend in the bathrooms. No, not at all.
"I got into a fight," Daryl answers gruffly, "some guy was harrassin' Beth, and, well, yeah…"
"Don't see how that's Beth's fault," Hershel frowns, "and while I don't approve of violence, Daryl, I do appreciate you defending my daughter's honour. It's a comfort to a father to know that his daughter has a good, dependable man looking out for her."
Glancing over at Daryl, she sees his face growing red. And maybe she's blushing a bit too, alternating between glancing at the ground and glaring at Shawn. Because if he doesn't reveal the truth, she's certain she will.
Yeah, she should have put her money on Glenn.
So Beth doesn't talk to her sister for a week. Surprisingly, her father took the lie well, laughing awkwardly and commenting how dating a Greene girl has made many men do many foolish things. And promises not to hold the lie against him, because it was for a noble cause.
He's great, her father. One of a kind, best that ever was.
But Glenn needs to be punished for his actions
"She didn't do anything though," Tara tries to reason and Beth shakes her head.
"I'm not angry at Maggie," she explains, "but Glenn needs to suffer. And who holds the key to Glenn's suffering?"
"Your sister," Tara sighs.
"Exactly," Beth confirms, "like, that night could have gone in a completely different direction, you know?"
"Screaming, crying, shotguns?"
"Yup," she nods, "so I won't speak to Maggie, Shawn will rub it in her face, and Glenn will spend the week on the couch and learn to never cross me again."
"You're downright frightening, you know that, Greene?"
"It's all part of my charm."
"Speaking of charm," Tara segues, "your prince charming was spotted in the jewellery store today."
Beth rolls her eyes.
"Daryl, in a jewellers?"
"With that Aaron guy," Tara confirms, "looking at rings, so my sources tell me."
"What?" Beth's eyes widen, confusion etched across her features, "Why, I mean, that's impossible…"
"Just telling you what I heard," Tara shrugs apologetically, "thought you should know."
She wishes she didn't.
Her fingers trace over the marks on his back, feather light touches, and in the dim, she takes in the red, puckered skin, the crisscross patterns they create.
He flinched the first time. Nowadays, he doesn't react, but she hasn't actually ever asked.
"Fell through glass," he mutters gruffly, "on the job. Hurt like a bitch."
She knows he's lying. They are old, the scars on his back. Maybe older than she is.
But she knows Daryl well enough to know that the only way for him to reveal a piece of himself is for her to do so first.
"I only have the one scar," she whispers in the dark, her arm stretched above her head. He grabs her wrist, pulls it to his lips. His kiss is feather light, and she feels her pulse beating beneath the thin, clean, line.
"I was stupid," she says softly, "stupid and sad. My mom died and the grief was so bad that I felt like dying too."
"Ain't stupid, girl," he murmurs, entwining his fingers with hers, "not at all."
"Not brave like you."
He sighs, curling into her, nuzzling his face into her hair. Breathes her in, slowly, and she strokes his hair back gently.
"My old man," he says lowly, "well, he wasn't anything like yours. Was drunk more often than not. Mean too. My scars…"
"We don't have to talk about it," Beth says gently, "if you're not ready."
"One day," he promises quietly.
Yeah. One day.
So spaghetti Tuesdays is a thing. A great thing because it means a day a week where Beth doesn't have to cook dinner.
There's a weird sort of excited tension in the air and Eric can't stop beaming. Expensive wine too, which she's more mindful of than Daryl, who honestly could not care less.
"You're being weird," Beth's eyes narrow at the pair, "why are you being weird?"
Eric and Aaron share and glance, and burst into laughter.
"He asked and I said yes!"
Eric thrusts out his left hand, the black band with a diamond inlay proudly on display. She squeals excitedly, grabbing his hand to get a closer look. Almost knocking over her chair, she jumps from her seat and embraces Eric in a tight hug.
"Congratulations!" she exclaims, hugging Aaron as well, "I'm so happy for you guys!"
"He asked Sunday," Eric confesses, "it has been positively torturous keeping this from you, B."
"I can't believe you managed to keep it a secret," she laughs, sitting back down. Turning her attention to Daryl, her eyes narrow suspiciously, "You knew, didn't you?"
"I made him promise," Aaron reassures her, "his first official duty as my best man."
She squeals again, throwing her arms around Daryl, who pats her arm awkwardly.
Later, while Daryl's having a smoke with Aaron on the porch, Beth helps Eric with the dishes.
"I knew they were looking at rings," she confesses, "a part of me thought…"
"Oh, B," Eric grins at her, "really?"
"It was kind of silly," she giggles, "I mean, after a couple of months? And you and Aaron have been together for years. I don't know why my mind automatically went there."
"Maybe you want to marry him?" Eric throws out there, cutting her off before she can protest, "And I don't mean today, or next month, or even next year. But sometimes you meet someone and you just know. I knew with Aaron."
"Knew what?" Beth asks quietly, glancing towards to front door.
"That he was my forever person," Eric smiles, "as sappy and cliché as that sounds. Maybe Daryl's that for you too."
And maybe he is. Maybe that's what her heart's trying to tell her, every time it skips a beat. Or her body, every time she shivers from his touch. Maybe that's the indescribable feeling she gets, deep within her bones.
Forever is a long time. But it doesn't feel that long when she thinks of Daryl Dixon.
Judith Grimes is three years old and the cutest thing in the universe.
All her minis are adorable, but Judith's been in her class for six months and she is so tiny and precious and has the cutest dancewear and sure, Beth is only twenty-two, but she'll be the first to admit that she is clucky as anything.
And Judith is her unofficial favourite. Just a shame that the girl has two left feet.
"She's not a dancer, is she?" Lori chuckles, watching the small girl trip over herself, but with a big grin on her face.
"As much as it pains me to say so," Beth replies gently, "you never know, though."
"She likes the costumes and seeing her friends," Lori smiles, "in a couple of years time, she'll probably want to quit. Rick wants her to play soccer, he has his heart set on being a coach."
"Trading in his gun for a whistle," Beth giggles, and Lori smirks.
"Watch out, he'll make Daryl assistant coach."
"Ha," Beth laughs, "scowling at the kids to pass the ball to each other. Grunting instructions from the sideline. I can see it now."
"Nah," Lori shakes her head, "it'll be different when it's your own. He'll be different."
"Daryl wants kids?" Beth's jaw practically drops.
"Didn't used to," Lori tells her, "but then Merle got himself a wife and a daughter and proved that a Dixon could be a good husband and father."
"He didn't think he could be all that before?" Beth asks quietly, staring at her hands.
"I think he thought something in him was broken," Lori replies gently, "because of where he came from."
He's never told her all that much. She knows he had a terrible childhood, knows his father was abusive. Knows Merle got out as soon as he could, his brother battling his own demons for a long time. Knows that he carried with him anger and resentment and rage that almost destroyed him. Knows that it took the two brothers walking away from one another for them to start to repair their broken relationship.
But she also knows that he's so gentle, so careful with Judith and Sophia, that he's a great godfather and a great Uncle. She knows that he's worked hard to get his anger in check, just as he's worked hard to try and put his past behind him.
She knows that every day he tries to be the best person he can possibly be.
And she knows that she loves him for it.
Her alarm blares out into the dark at some ungodly hour, and sleepily, she reaches out to silence it
"Time?" he groans and she curls into him, his arm warm and heavy around her waist.
"Early," she murmurs, "I have private."
"Who the hell schedules a private class at this time?" Daryl grumbles, and Beth giggles.
"A mother who wants her daughter to be on a reality show," Beth rolls her eyes, good naturedly, "the glamorous life of the dance teacher."
"Ain't never seen you dance," he mutters, reluctantly letting her slip from his arms. Her hair is dishevelled, and sometime during the night she slipped on her panties and one of his flannel button ups.
"You want me to dance for you?" Beth asks coyly, running a hand through her hair.
"Hmm," Daryl hums, eyes roaming up and down her body.
"What style?" Beth teases, "I could do tap, or some ballet, or maybe musical theatre…"
"You know what I like, girl," his voice is rough, raw, and it sends a shiver down her spine, "dance for me."
There's no music, but he doesn't seem to mind, with his arms folded behind his head, propped up against the pillows, gaze hooded. She bites her lip shyly and to a silent beat, she starts moving her hips, taking slow, sensuous steps towards the bed. Her hands above her head, she lets them drag slowly down her body, sliding to the floor. She doesn't miss the way his eyes darken at her movement, especially when she raises one leg above her head, arching her back slowly.
"You teach your students this?" he murmurs quietly and she giggles, crouching, sticking her ass out as she stands.
"Nope," she says quietly, "never danced like this for anyone in my life."
He takes a moment to consider this, and she lets him, closes her eyes, sways to the music in her head.
It's not a question, but a statement, and his words are strong and definite and possessive and she trails a hand across her cloth-covered breasts, eyes boring into his.
There's a fire in his eyes that she imagines is mirrored in hers. There's a heat coursing through her body, and he hasn't even touched her yet.
Oh, how she wants him to touch her.
Her knees bump against the mattress and it doesn't take him long to haul her back up against him, so she's straddling his hips and his hands have already snaked beneath his shirt to settle on her waist.
"Say it," he growls, his hardness oh so prominent that she grinds against him, eliciting her own desperate whimper.
"Except you," she breathes, "only you."
This man, she has no idea how she got so lucky. How with every touch he sets her alight, and every kiss turns her to ash, and how from the embers he stokes a blazing inferno.
"Keep it in your pants, B," Eric teases, placing a platter of sandwiches on the picnic table, "try not to look so thirsty."
"Like you can talk," she retorts, nudging him, "almost dropping the glasses when Aaron took his shirt off."
"Think your dad would mind if I took my fiancé up to the hayloft for a bit," the other man muses, and Beth laughs.
"Maybe if you want to have your wedding here," she grins, "that being said though, you wouldn't be the first."
"You fucked Daryl in the hayloft!?" and she winces a bit, because Eric is loud and his voice carries and when she finally glances towards the fence that the are working on, she's relieved to see her father didn't seem to hear him. Can't say the same for Shawn, who looks all kinds of horrified.
"I haven't slept with anyone in the hayloft," she remarks indignantly, "though I know Maggie used to meet many a suitors there when she was in high school. And it's Shawn's go-to romantic date destination."
"Ugh, straight people," Eric rolls his eyes, "so damn cliché."
"We learnt from the best," she singsongs and he gives her a look.
"Hush now," he scolds, "or I'm taking away your best lady privileges."
"You wouldn't dare!" she exclaims dramatically, laying it on thick.
Eric grins and ducks back into the house. Her gaze naturally settles on Daryl, shovel in hand, digging holes for the fence posts.
"He's a good man, Bethy," her father interrupts her thoughts, and when she glances at him, he's staring at her with a wry smile.
"I'm glad you like him, daddy," she says, genuinely happy to have his approval.
"When the time comes," he muses, "he can have my blessing."
"I know, I know," he smiles, "it's early days. But a father knows these things."
They both turn their attention to the younger man; oblivious to the very serious conversation they're having about him. She knows what she sees when she looks at him, a man who is gentle and noble and good, but for the first time, she can see what her father sees. A man who risks his life for his community daily. A man devoted to his family. A man who would do anything for his friends.
A man in love with another man's daughter.
And when he does look her way, the smile he gives her is small, sure, but to her it is blinding.
So there's the calendar, remember?
She hasn't looked at it since February, but July rolls around and this thing between them is all sorts serious and official, so she resurrects it. Pins it to her fridge with alphabet magnets.
And he's not all that impressed.
"Seriously, Beth?" he groans, turning away from the offending object.
"As serious as you were when you posed for it," she smirks, "besides, it's a really nice photo of you and my cat. Think of it like a family photo."
"It's embarrassing," he growls, "can't believe I got wrangled into it."
"Yeah, about that," Beth chuckles, "how the heck did Maggie and Tara convince you to do the shoot?"
"Was the Captain," he grumbles, "couldn't have the police department get all the glory, could he?"
"Oh my god," Beth laughs, "So it was some sort of interdepartmental contest?"
"Helping sick kids was a bonus," Daryl hums.
"Bet you got all kinds of lady attention as well," she teases and he shrugs, turning red.
"Only wanted the attention of one lady."
"Well then," Beth giggles, walking him into the counter, standing between his legs, her arms looped around his neck, "you've got it. Now what?"
"Oh, you know," he smirks, rough hands grasping at her hips, "I can probably think of a few things."
She finds herself squealing when he lifts her off the ground, throws her over his shoulder, true fireman style. She'll take down the calendar tomorrow. Beth has no need for the glossy picture, not when she has the real thing.