Well hello everyone, and I'm back, it's been a while.
This is a fifth installment of the Of Cakes and Bubble Gums series, and I hope you guys enjoy it.
I'd like to thank SpicyPepper_SweetSugar for contributing to my inspiration with the suggestions she left in her review on AO3, and also massive thanks to my beta for being the sweetest and making my fics readable so quickly.
P.S. New chapter to the Little White Dress is on its way.
Maggie entered without knocking – nothing unusual on her account – and Beth jumped a little in her stretched out position on her bed. It was summer, and all the windows in the house were open so that as much air as possible could come in, which created horrible drafts, making all the doors shut with a loud bump. Considering the fact that Beth had always been jumpy, it was understandable that Maggie made her appearance so resonant deliberately. And probably for a reason.
Beth didn't look at Maggie for too long: she simply adjusted her pillow and returned her stare to the page in the book.
"What's up?" Maggie asked, plopping down on the foot of the bed. The question sounded like they were about to share some secrets, and Maggie couldn't be any more excited. She took a quick look around, spinning her head, as if she hadn't been to this room every single day for the past eighteen years.
"Nothing," Beth said. "Just reading."
She could almost feel Maggie raise her eyebrows. Maggie always did that. Something that used to annoy Beth a lot when they were little. Maggie tended to have a superior attitude towards others, even her family. But it didn't bother Beth as much anymore, after all, she wasn't perfect either.
"You don't need to lie to me. I know you're worried, probably even stressed," Maggie stretched herself out, leaning on her elbow. In response to Beth's questionably look, she shrugged a little. "You always read sonnets when you're worried."
Beth put her book on her knees.
"This is Decameron, actually."
"Doesn't change my point. You want to talk about it?" She gave Beth a reassuring smile, and Beth set the book on the nightstand next to her bed.
Beth sat straighter, crossing her legs in front of her, and hugged a fluffy yellow cushion. "It's Daryl's birthday next Wednesday," she simply said.
Maggie seemed unimpressed. "So?"
"And I'm worried," Beth said in a voice of a spoiled brat and rolled her eyes. "What if he wants me to do something special for him? What if he expects something grand?"
"If you ask me," Maggie frowned, "Daryl doesn't seem like the kind of person who'd expect anything at all. He'll be surprised you even remember it's his birthday. He doesn't tend to have ridiculously high expectations."
Beth couldn't agree with her more on that. Daryl had the simplest view on life. He didn't tend to take life seriously, often just going with the flow. He'd probably be fine with just having a pizza and TV night for his birthday. His twentieth birthday.
"But I'm his girlfriend," Beth whined.
"So what? Doesn't mean you have to throw him a ball with a hundred people and 18th century china. Just spend the evening together. Watch a Disney movie or something," Maggie suggested, and for a second Beth thought she was out of her mind, but then Maggie let out a loud laugh. "I'm joking, relax. Why don't you surprise him with something… sexy?"
"Maggie!" Beth exclaimed, her cheeks turning pink.
"What?" her sister seemed totally calm, like she hasn't asked anything weird. She looked at Beth for a second, and then some understanding appeared in her eyes. "Haven't you done anything with him yet? Didn't you guys go skinny dipping together?" Maggie frowned.
"We weren't naked. We had underwear on. And we never went any further than that," Beth said, feeling as if her cheeks are about to explode.
Maggie's frown deepened: "Why? Don't you trust him?"
"Of course I do," Beth said, her eyes wide. "I'm just not ready yet. Doesn't feel like the time. Don't know how to explain." She spoke those words so quickly that it didn't take a genius to realize she didn't want to discuss it with Maggie. Or with anyone, for that matter. Not that she was ashamed or felt particularly squeamish about the topic of sex. She just felt like it was something personal, that only concerned Daryl and her, and she didn't want to explore the subject with anyone else.
"Hmm," Maggie mumbled. "I'm starting to like that asshole."
Beth smiled. Maggie and Daryl were never friends, more like rivals. Mostly competing for Shawn and Beth's attention. Sort of.
"Alright, so if that's off the table…" Maggie pushed herself against the wall and knitted her brows in deep thought. "I feel like it's the term girlfriend that sets all the pressure. Imagine he was your best friend. What would you have done for his birthday?"
Beth looked at the ceiling, fiddling with the cushion. ""Probably bake him a cake, surprise him with some gift… What do you think?" she asked, smiling expectantly.
Maggie smirked. "A little trivial, not going to lie, but Daryl will love it."
"How are you so sure?" Beth frowned.
"Because you'll be the one doing it. And Daryl virtually adores you."
Beth had always been a light sleeper, so when she woke up from a kiss to her forehead, Daryl didn't seem surprised in the slightest. But Beth was. She sat up, her head spinning from a sudden change of position, and fumbled for her phone.
Looking around, Beth realized she was in the living room, and it seemed like it was late afternoon. Well, it must have been, because Daryl was already back from the prison where he visited Merle.
The day of Daryl's birthday hadn't gone as planned. A strong wind the night before knocked down a tree, and a particularly heavy branch broke through one of the walls of the small shed in their backyard. As a result, Beth and Maggie spent the whole morning restoring some sort of order in their yard. By lunch, Beth was already exhausted. And Daryl was absent most of the day as well. He always visited Merle in prison on Wednesdays and he told Beth that he wasn't going to change anything just because it was his birthday. "Ain't that important," he had grunted to her, and Beth had decided not to argue. Merle was his brother, after all.
"What time is it?" Beth asked, having not found her phone, stretching and yawning, realizing that she probably looked ridiculous right now. Naps never made anyone look good.
Beth nodded, but then, as the words registered in her mind, she practically sprinted out of the living room with a single word, "Shoot!"
Daryl followed her to the kitchen and leaned against the kitchen counter as he witnessed Beth getting what was supposed to be her surprise cake for Daryl out of the oven. Now it looked all black, smoke pouring out of the open oven door. Beth set the "cake" on the table and rushed towards the back door to let more air in, so that the fire alarm didn't go off.
Daryl chuckled, and Beth heard it. When she turned around, she looked so depressed that Daryl almost regretted finding it amusing. Almost.
"Well?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Happy birthday," Beth mumbled, looking down to the floor.
"This for me? Are you sure it's safe to eat?" he smirked.
Beth nervously threw the kitchen towel she was holding on the table. "Your sarcasm only makes me feel worse."
"I ain't the one who burnt the cake," he stated reasonably.
Suddenly, Beth felt so tired, exhausted even, both physically and mentally, that she just wanted to cry. She couldn't do anything right.
"It's been a really hard day, and I just wanted to lie down for a minute. If I had known I'd fall asleep, I would've set the alarm and wouldn't have burned the cake, even though I've never baked one before, and, obviously, mom isn't here to help me because everyone is out in town to let us have our romantic evening together, which is not going to happen now, since I've burned the cake and slept in instead of preparing something great…" Beth kept mumbling with tears running down her cheeks until Daryl suddenly took her hand and kissed her knuckles. That interrupted her, and Beth froze, sniffing loudly. When Daryl didn't say anything, she couldn't stop crying. He was trying to make her feel better. He probably felt sorry for her.
Just as she was about to almost sob in desperation, Daryl looked into her eyes. "Beth."
"What?" she moaned with a cry.
"You caring about me so much is the best gift ever. You are the best gift ever," and he kissed her hand again.
As always, Daryl didn't say a lot, but he meant so much. That calmed Beth down completely, tears still brimming in her eyes, but refusing to fall down anymore.
"So you don't care? That I haven't done anything special?" she asked desperately.
"You have. You tried to bake me a cake. That's more than anyone has ever done for me before," he shrugged.
"But what are we going to do tonight? I didn't have time…"
"Beth," Daryl stopped her worries again, his voice like a sedative to her nerves. Beth never knew how he did that. "As long as I spend time with you, I don't care."
Beth let out a nervous laugh and threw her arms around his neck. She felt him hug her in response, and suddenly everything felt okay. Like it would be fine, no matter what happened. Maybe Beth had worried too much about this whole birthday thing.
"We should order sushi," she said, wiping her eyes and smiling happily at Daryl, once they broke apart.
Daryl frowned, his lips still in a soft smile. "No way. I was hoping for pizza."
"That's too trivial, as Maggie says," Beth shrugged, touching his cheek gently with the tips of her fingers, a dreamy look on her face.
"I don't even know how to eat that damn food," Daryl grumbled, and Beth clearly heard a smile in his voice.
"I'll teach you. I promise." She stood on her toes, their faces so close that the temptation became too strong. Beth sniffled quietly, and their lips fell together.
"…I'm telling you, the ending was just weird. They should've made that blond guy…" Maggie stopped in the middle of her sentence as she walked past the living room. She raised a finger to her lips, letting her family know to be quiet.
Maggie, Shawn, Hershel and Annette stood in the doors of the living room, looking at Beth and Daryl, were sleeping peacefully on the sofa, cuddled together.
"Aren't they cute?" Maggie asked in a whisper.
"Yeah, sickeningly cute," Shawn replied with a grin.
"Let them sleep," Annette said, turning the lights down as the rest of the family went to their bedrooms.
Thank you so much for reading.
P.S. In case if you want to guilt trip me into writing more often, my tumblr is lovewhomyouwill. Ask me a question and I'll reply.