I blame you, guys, for the inspiration that had up until late last night, writing this story. But I enjoyed every minute of it, so please, keep doing what you are doing. :)
The story is a direct sequel to Cakes and Bubble Gums, and it takes place just a few months after Jimmy dumped Beth.
Hope you enjoy, and I would love to know what you think.
Afterwards, she would always wonder how she had let herself fall head over heels in love with him. So many years of desperate attempts to figure him out, catching his every facial expression, hoping that the next one might make sense. It never did. He had always been one of those people to never let his real emotions slip through.
At first, he was just her brother's best friend, and Shawn and Daryl were in many ways very similar. Both annoyingly over-protective and getting exquisite joy out of every moment Beth wished she could forget. Daryl had always spent more time at their house than at his own, which did not change after he graduated from high school since he just started working at the farm. Growing up around him, Beth had slowly gotten herself accustomed to his constant and not a single time failed attempts to make laughing-stock out of her. She should have hated him really, but there had always been something about him that made her feel that desperate tug on her heart from time to time.
Maybe, it was because of the smile he gave her sometimes – that special smile she somehow knew was meant just for her. Like when she got her driving license and burst into the dining room, interrupting everyone's dinner, to show it off. Her parents said they were proud of her, Maggie hugged her with a happy squeal, and Shawn said, 'I knew you could do it', or something along those lines. Beth already anticipated some sort of caustic comment from Daryl, but he remained quiet and just smiled up at her from the other end of the table. That smile gave her shivers. The other time was when she won in her middle school talent show, and when the whole family returned to the farmhouse to celebrate with a cup of tea and Annette's peach cobbler, everyone kept talking while Daryl just looked at her with that smile on his lips. Or the night of her junior prom, when she paraded down the stairs in her beautiful light yellow dress, he just kept watching her with that same smile that made her heart beat faster.
Maybe, it was because Daryl was always the one to beat up boys who would pick on her at school, calling her names and saying she looked more like a boy due to the lack of shape in her figure. He would remain silent as Annette – while cleaning up his wounds – interrogated him as to why he had suddenly gotten so aggressive. Even if he never denied himself the pleasure of pissing her off, he wasn't fine with others doing it.
And maybe – just maybe – it was because of his unique ability to always be there when no one else had been. He was there when she ran up the escalator in the shopping mall and ended up stumbling and slicing her knee open. He had been the one to scoop her up in his arms and, after settling her down onto the bench, getting plasters and stitching up her wound, while she kept crying with blood all over her. He was there when her so-called friends had gotten her drunk on her sweet sixteenth. Daryl found her outside the bar and had been there, holding her hair, while she threw up more than once. He had not said a word to her parents, Maggie, or even Shawn about it. He was there when Beth, as a six-year-old, tried to jump over a huge log on the ground, but tripped and smashed her chin on it, cutting the skin open. As she kept sobbing hysterically, ten-year-old Daryl was the one bring her home to momma. He was the one who found her depressed sixteen-year-old self in front of the shattered mirror with blood covering her left wrist. Oddly enough, as Beth lay in the hospital bed, her parents and siblings standing next to it, Daryl was the only one who didn't show a hint of disappointment in her. Somehow, he always seemed to know when she needed him and miraculously showed up at appropriate time to save her ass.
He never accepted her gratitude, always dismissing her nonchalantly, and Beth came to think that he most probably saw her as a little sister he had no choice but to protect. There was nothing in the world that annoyed her more, and she often found herself torn between hating him and wanting him to like her. To avoid embarrassment, Beth had decided to hide her feelings from everyone. And what better way (as it would seem to any teenager) to do that than telling everyone how much she hates him, right?
Annette always liked to joke that Daryl was her knight in shining armour, and Beth would have to marry him one day. As everyone laughed at that, Daryl would roll his eyes, and Beth would pretend that her cheeks had not suddenly gone pink.
Beth was not a depressed little girl who decided to end it anymore. Two years had passed and she had changed, but sometimes, she still needed a few minutes to herself. Even though the farm was situated in isolation, it could get quite loud with door banging open and shut, Shawn shouting, Maggie watching her favourite talk-shows, her momma mixing something in the blender, her daddy driving a nail into the wall, Patricia laughing at a joke Otis made, and Daryl sawing wood just outside. The farm was full of life, and Beth liked it. But not always.
When she needed some peace and quiet, she would usually ride Nellie to the forest and lean against the trunk of a tree, with a book in her hands. When that morning she had gotten a pounding headache that seemed to get worse with every new sound her family produced, she knew she needed some solitude again. Beth spent a good hour just reading and breathing in the fresh air, when she decided to head back. Getting Nellie back into the barn, she left as soon as possible because she knew Daryl would come here soon – working or feeding the cattle or doing whatever else he was doing.
Shawn and Maggie were arguing in the living room, and when she heard Shawn say, 'Well, it's not Daryl's fault Sarah Moore keeps throwing herself at him', she suddenly felt like she was being suffocated. It's a good thing they didn't suspect her overhearing their "quiet" conversation, since Beth needed to stay away from it. No one noticed when she disappeared through the back door.
There was an old swing, tied to a tree, and as Beth occupied it, she noticed she kept thinking about Daryl. He never dated anyone, but he had a few flings with some slutty girls from their school. He couldn't have anything with Sarah, though. He simply couldn't. Daryl knew Jimmy had left her for Sarah, and he would never do something like that to her. Right?
Beth kept swinging back and forth, and the longer she thought about it, the more she questioned the way Daryl saw her. She was just like a little sister to him, so why would he worry about her feelings as to who he puts his hands on. Beth wrinkled her nose at the thought. Imagining Daryl hugging the slutty Sarah, or kissing her, or (God forbid) doing anything more than that, made her want to throw up. She didn't blame Sarah though. Any girl would be lucky to have him.
By the time Beth heard the back door bang open and shut, she was convinced Daryl didn't care how she felt. And she was fine with it. Of course she was. He could screw anyone he wanted, who was she to stop him?
She didn't even need to turn around to see who came out of the house. Whenever she was feeling shit about herself, Daryl was there to spice it all up.
'Hey, honeybuns!' she heard Daryl exclaim, and that made her sigh heavily. 'Hershel wants ya to help him with something.'
Beth could hear him approaching and she didn't say anything, hoping that maybe if she ignored him, he would take the hint for once.
'Beth?' Daryl's slightly concerned voice sounded just a few feet away from her, and then he walked around the tree to stand right in front her.
'Leave me alone, please,' she said and, to her embarrassment, she heard her voice break a little.
'What happened?' he frowned and folded his arms. 'What did I do now?' he raised his eyebrows skeptically.
'Nothing but being a jerk,' Beth said and got up, determined to walk away from him. She didn't want to face anyone at the moment, so she went past him, heading towards the forest, but just moments after her shoulder brushed his impressively pumped arm, he caught her wrist, spinning her to face him.
'What's that supposed to mean?' he asked with a deep frown, and Beth randomly thought that either he was genuinely worried or he was just a good actor.
She yanked her hand away from him.
'Why don't you go and ask Sarah Moore!' Beth all but shouted.
A hint of realisation washed over his face, and then his frown was gone.
'Are ya jealous?' Daryl smirked.
Beth made a dramatic snort.
'Are you kidding me?' she exclaimed, feeling her cheeks warm up. Gosh, she hated being like an open book. 'Why on Earth would I be jealous? You have the shittiest taste in women, is all.'
Beth started backing away, still watching his face, wanting to see his reaction. Hoping he would tell her something – anything – that would make her heart hurt just a little less.
'Well, and you are a shitty liar,' he proclaimed, taking a few steps towards her, but that only made Beth increase her pace. Daryl sighed then. 'Look, I didn't-'
He didn't get to finish because when Beth felt her foot fall into a hole in the ground and her ankle twist awkwardly, she couldn't help but squeal at the feeling of sharp and sudden pain as she collapsed onto the grass.
'Beth!' she heard Daryl shout, and it felt like she was in some sort of bubble because of the constant ringing in her ears. As he ran up to her, she saw the look of horror wash over his face. When Beth tried to get up with Daryl holding her arm, she quickly discovered she couldn't stand on her foot, and heard Daryl say something like, 'oh shit' to that.
He scooped her up in his arms – for the hundredth time in her life – and she instinctively wrapped her arms around his neck. Breathing in his familiar scent (probably her favourite scent in the whole world – of summer heat, and grass, and smoke), oddly enough, seemed to dull the pain a little. Or maybe it was because she wasn't standing up anymore? Beth didn't know.
'Why do ya always have to be such a trouble, honeybuns?' Daryl asked in such a gentle voice that Beth felt her heart hammer against her ribcage. It was so loud she wondered if Daryl could hear it.
Of course, everyone panicked. Maggie was crying, Shawn was shouting at her, momma was trying to call an ambulance, and daddy was desperately looking through the kitchen cupboards in search of painkillers. Daryl remained calm though, and Beth suddenly felt like his arms were the safest place on earth. When everyone started shouting at each other, he simply walked out on them with Beth in his arms and brought her to the pickup truck to take her to the hospital.
He also brought her back home an hour later, with Beth having a cast on her ankle. Her parents took her upstairs and put her in bed, saying that right now she needed to rest. She was quite tired so she couldn't find it in her to argue.
When Beth woke up a few hours later, she was almost shocked to discover Daryl sitting in the armchair in the corner of her room. He was watching her with one of those intense looks he used to get sometimes, and Beth couldn't help but shiver a little bit.
She pulled herself up on one elbow.
'How long have you been here?' she asked.
'Not too long. Annette said it was time for ya to take yer painkillers, but I couldn't bring myself to wake ya,' he said, resting his elbows on his knees.
'Oh,' Beth said. Of course, he wasn't there because he was worried, silly. He was there because her momma told him so. She looked at the nightstand and saw a big glass of water and two bright blue pills. Beth swallowed them and washed them down with a few gulps of water, quickly setting the glass back on the nightstand. 'There. You don't have to stay here anymore. Can go now,' she said and for some reason felt tears sting her eyes. He hadn't moved a muscle. 'What are you waiting for? Leave!' the irritation in her voice was obviously fake.
'Beth, I-' he started to say, but Beth cut him off.
'Could you please pass me that book?' she asked quite randomly, pointing at one of the Bronte sisters' novels on her desk. She couldn't remember which novel specifically. She just had to say something to stop him. She didn't know if she had the strength to hear 'I'm sorry Beth, but you are just like a sister for me' from him.
Daryl sighed and got up, taking the book from the desk and handing it to her, as Beth sat up in bed, adjusting her pillows for a more comfortable position.
She opened the book straight away, thanking heavens there was a bookmark in it, and stared at the lines of words without actually seeing them. Daryl took a seat on the bed, facing her.
'Beth, I ain't got nothing going on with Sarah. And I won't,' he said.
Beth didn't move and kept staring at the page blankly.
'Why not? She is pretty,' she said, sarcasm obvious in her voice.
'Not as pretty as you.'
That made her put the book down and stare right at him. What did he just say?
'What do you mean?' she asked, frowning, not letting herself believe what she heard.
But then, Daryl smiled at her, and it was that same smile that was just for her, and when he leaned closer to her for a kiss, Beth felt herself smile too. When he pulled away and looked at her with such gentle eyes, she blushed hard.
'Does that mean you-'
'Yeah,' he said with a smirk. 'I'd do anything for ya, Beth. But I'd rather ya didn't give me reasons to be yer constant saviour.'
And Beth couldn't help but let out a happy laugh at that.
Thank you for reading, and please remember, that any feedback is welcome and greatly appreciated! :)