Let's just call this a much needed therapy after watching Sunday's horrific episode. Don't get me wrong though, Negan was flipping cool.
As usual, a massive thank you to arrowsandangels for betareading this mess.
The song that I kept listening to while I was writing this is Sia's Alive and I most certainly recommend it because it could literally be an ode to Daryl's existense.
Also, I keep forgetting to say it, but you guys do know that I don't own TWD, right?
Beth doesn't even need to ask the others – she knows where to find him. If there is anything she is sure about when it comes to Daryl, it's that he is going to be blaming himself. He always does, even if the circumstances don't depend on his actions in the slightest. Sure, he was the one who left Dwight alive, showed kindness and let him live. But he couldn't have known. No one could.
As she asks Maggie to look after Judith for a while and leaves the house, she suddenly finds it's harder to breathe. The worry doesn't hit her, it settles down in her chest in slow, painful waves, and soon there is that distinct sinking feeling in her stomach. She tells herself to stay strong. Daryl needs her right now. He might be great at surviving, but he is a complete amateur when it comes to dealing with his emotions.
Trying to look as calm as possible – even though her heart is tap-dancing inside her chest right now – she slowly walks up to Daryl. He is sitting on the ground, leaning against the wall behind him. He is smoking, and inhaling deeply and then slowly letting out the smoke.
He seems to notice her because he freezes for a second, his cigarette mere inches from his lips. He, however, doesn't turn his head to look at Beth, nor does he acknowledge her presence in any other way.
She walks up to him quietly and slowly lowers herself down, taking a seat next to him. They sit there silently for a few minutes, and Beth has no clue what to do or what to say. She's known Daryl for what feels like an eternity, but when it comes to his self-loathing, she has no idea what to do. Does he want her to say something? That first time she tried, it didn't go too well. It's Daryl, he is never straight forward.
They've been living in Alexandria for a while now, and although Daryl stays distant from pretty much everyone, he's made some connections. First, Aaron and Eric. Then Denise. Beth knows Denise was important to him, and Daryl is never good at dealing with his grief. But then, who is? They all have their ways. But loved ones can make each other feel better, that's something that always helps. And Beth is not about to let Daryl be alone in a moment like this.
"Want to talk about it?" She asks softly, trying not to put any pressure onto him. Daryl doesn't like pressure.
He doesn't say anything, just keeps smoking. Beth stays silent for some time after that.
Daryl's cigarette burns out, and he pats his pockets, searching for another one. When he attempts to extract one cigarette from the pack, Beth notices his fingers are trembling, and she almost winces at the sudden pang that pierces her heart.
"Daryl," she says quietly, but he doesn't react, just lights up the cigarette and inhales the smoke deeply. "Daryl," she repeats, just as soft this time, and reaches out to touch his arm. He doesn't flinch, and she finds herself relieved. He might not want to talk, but he wants her there. So Beth just hopes that her presence can somehow help. "You need to rest." She tries to make it sound like a mere suggestion, not in any way an order. Daryl doesn't look at her once. And she knows why – he feels guilty or stupid or unworthy. That's what he always does to himself – complete self-destruction. She takes his hand. "Come with me?" She asks, looking directly at him, perfectly willing to accept no for an answer. But Daryl nods, and she gets up, pulling onto his hand lightly, just so that he would follow.
He keeps smoking as they leave the graveyard, and all the way to the house. He lets go of her hand when he notices Michonne walk past, and Beth frowns a little, but doesn't say anything. He is obviously still uncomfortable with other people knowing about them. But, again, Beth doesn't want to pressure him.
"Gonna take a shower," he grunts when they enter the house, and before she can say anything, he walks up the stairs and shuts the bathroom door behind him. Beth sighs heavily. Daryl never cares about dirt, he's doing this just to push her away. So, she does the only thing she can think of – she sits down next to the bathroom door and waits for him, listening to the sound of running water.
The water keeps running for a long time, but then it turns off, and a minute later, Daryl comes out. He's only wearing a white towel, wrapped around his hips. He doesn't seem surprised to find her there, waiting for him; simply walks past and goes straight to the bedroom.
Beth follows him.
"Daryl," Beth says with a quiet sigh, watching him jerk a pair of sweatpants on. When he ignores her again, she comes up to him and palms his cheeks. "Look at me," she asks softly, and he lifts his eyes, meeting hers for the first time. "You think it's your fault, don't you?"
"I know it is, Beth," he grunts, and she can't remember the last time she was so glad to hear his voice.
"Well, I'm telling you it's not. I know it, everyone does. Denise would've known it too," she whispers, brushing his damp hair away from his eyes.
"Shoulda killed 'im," he states, never diverting his gaze. Beth knows he means it.
"No," she says and shakes her head slightly, cupping his cheek again. "You're a good person, Daryl. And everything that happened there," he tenses when she says those words, and she strokes his cheek slightly, hoping it will help soothe him, "it's all on them. On those Saviors. You saved them, and they killed one of us. It's on them. You should let it go and just keep breathing. All we can do nowadays is keep living."
He starts to withdraw, and Beth lets her hands fall to her sides. He turns away, leaving Beth looking at his back and his scars. He doesn't seem to be bothered by her seeing or touching them anymore, and Beth could never express how much it means to her that he trusts her like that. Him standing with his back turned to her feels so familiar. And she does what she did last time. She comes up and hugs him from behind.
Later, when lying in bed, Beth is resting her head on his chest, and Daryl is playing with the ends of her hair – something he does often. He kisses the crown of her head and inhales deeply. Beth tries to ignore the shivers that it sends down her spine and just keeps drawing random patterns on his chest with her finger.
"I love you," she says and feels his body relax even more – if it's physically possible. She thinks that her limbs feel like jelly – all due to Daryl's hard work before. She smiles at that thought.
Daryl doesn't say anything in response, but Beth doesn't expect him to. He is still not comfortable enough with saying it to her often, and after all, he isn't the kind of person who would do that. Beth doesn't care about words; his actions, his eyes even, tell her way more.
Beth lifts herself up on one elbow to look at him. This time he meets her eyes easily, and although there is some sadness there, it seems like he feels better. Maybe a little bit. At least she hopes so.
"Promise me you'll stop trying to shut me out every time you're hurt," she whispers, and he averts his gaze. Only for a second though, because she leans in to leave a light kiss on the corner of his mouth. "I want to be there for you. Always."
Daryl cups her cheek and captures her lips with his, kissing her slowly and tenderly, with such sweetness and affection present that it makes her heart clench. She lets out a soft sigh. Daryl.
He draws away, but leaves his hand on her face.
"Promise me, Daryl," Beth insists softly, frowning a little. "You won't push me away."
Daryl gives her a look that tells her he's afraid. And she realizes that she really is asking a lot of him. So, she's about to drop the subject, but then he gives her a small, hesitant smile, stroking her cheek with his thumb.
"Girl. How could I?" He breathes out, and Beth breaks into a smile.
Thank you so much for reading.