Once Upon a Time
A/N: This story is a first for me in more ways than one. It's my first story that will be told entirely from Daryl's POV - trying to flex my writing muscles. And it's my first story that's non-zombie AU - if you are trying something new, you might as well go for the fence! I'm going to be honest, most aren't going to like Daryl for the first couple of chapters. He's a pretty big jerk but please hang in there - I promise the fluff and smut will come if you have patience. The wait will be worth it. Please let me know what you think and if I'm on the right track.
The little girl climbed into bed, her golden brown locks bouncing as she scrabbled into position. Her father smiled and went to select a book from the bookcase. The bookcase was new, handmade with love and care by the father, the newest edition to their new home. It was almost overflowing already with books of all shapes and sizes.
"No, Daddy, ya tell me a story tonight. Please," implored the small child, looking up at her father with her blue eyes.
The father nodded, rubbing at the scruff on his chin as he eased into his normal spot by his daughter on the bed. "Alright, what kinda story tonight, then?" he asked with a quirk of his eyebrow. "Space adventure? Cowboys?"
The girl smiled at her father's silliness. As if there was a choice beyond their normal selection. "Daddy, tell me a fairytale. Tell me about how you met mommy."
The man stilled for the breadth of a moment. "Honey, stories like ours never start out with once upon a time…"
His daughter tilted her chin up to his, her blue eyes looking confidently up at him. "Not all fairytales start that way, Daddy. Some start different…"
The father took in a deep breath. "Ya mean like it was a dark an' stormy night?"
"Yes, Daddy, that's it," she said, nodding encouragingly before she settled back against her father and the pillow.
He pulled her purple and yellow patched quilt up over her, snuggling her in as he started. "Okay, kid, it was a dark an' stormy night…"
Daryl was sitting on the porch, fiddling with a head on one of his older bolts. He wanted to go hunting but the May air was strangely and oppressively humid and hot. The building clouds to the west threatened a thunderstorm, a big one by the electricity in the still air. The odds of him getting stuck out in the wilderness in a down pour trumped his need to get the hell outta the trailer park. Rows of shitty single wide trailers stretched out on either side of where he sat; peeling painting and curled shingles as far as the eye could see, or at least that's what it felt like some days.
He wiped at the sweat on his brow before it dripped into his eyes, not bothering to look up the sound of an engine approaching. Daryl let nothing obscure his attention, not even when a pick up stopped suddenly in front of their place, his and Merle's. There was no reason to look up; it wasn't for him, it was never for him.
A woman exited the vehicle, one that was too good-looking to be in this part of town. Her sudden presence was adequate enough to peak Daryl's interest slightly, enough for him to raise his cobalt blue eyes and look her over. The young woman shut the truck door but never moved further than the front of the truck, not venturing up the steps of the makeshift porch. She had short brown hair, a curvy figure, and stern look on her young, fresh face. The woman stared back at him, her hard hazel eyes burrowing in to him and strangely making him uncomfortable. Daryl shifted his gaze back to the task at hand, deciding he didn't know what the bitch had against him and didn't really give a shit either. She wasn't here for him anyway.
The woman cleared her throat with a little cough. "Hey," she called in an even and clear voice.
Daryl ignored her, leaning over his chair to pick up another bolt.
He heard her shift, her cowboy boots crunching on the dirt path under her foot, but she didn't come any closer. "Are you Dixon?" she asked, this time with a little more bite in her tone.
He didn't bother looking up at her when he straightened up. "Merle ain't here," Daryl lied. His brother was in the trailer behind him, passed out in the back room. From time to time, people showed up looking for his brother, either for product or for money owed. Either way, Daryl was going to deal with that shit today.
The woman cocked her hip as if it were a gun. "I wasn't askin' about no Merle. I'm lookin' for Daryl Dixon. You him?"
He raised his eyes but not his head to look at her again, this woman that was looking for him. He eyed her carefully; she had a nice rack and a good body, but she was no one that he could recall. There had been a few women over the years, mostly at the forceful insistence of his older brother. Daryl had never kept them around for more than a few hours and never went back for a second round so Daryl could easily remember them all, unlike his hound of a brother. This woman was completely unfamiliar to him.
"Who the hell are you?" he shot back.
Her eyes narrowed as she stared back into his hard eyes. "I'm the one looking for Daryl Dixon. You him or not? I was told he lived here."
Daryl finally shifted completely upright in his chair, setting his bolts to the side. His interest was fully involved now. "Told by who? Why the fuck you wanna know?" he grilled with snarl.
"I'm lookin' for the fucker because he's the shit head who knocked up my little sister," she countered back, mirroring the same attitude he was giving.
WHAM. A stone cold feeling slammed hard into Daryl's center, all of his nerves set afire. "The fuck you say?" He jumped to his feet with a heart pounding savagely in his chest. Daryl stomped to the edge of the porch and glared down at the accusing woman.
The woman stood her ground despite the imposing figure before her. She took her time in regarding him as she crossed her arms across her chest. "So, are you Daryl Dixon or not?"
"I am, but I don't know what the hell you're talkin' about, lady, you got some wrong information. I ain't nobody's daddy," he snapped back.
Once he admitted he was Daryl Dixon, the woman gaped at him, a small huff of breath leaving her in a rush. She just stared at him, all the anger she had just exhibited was gone and left her face blank. She just looked at him; blinking several times before another emotion over took her. Daryl wasn't sure but it looked like regret or apprehension.
Daryl didn't have all day to wait around for this nut job to hang around his place. "Hey, lady, I don't know who the hell you are but ya need to go."
The woman snapped back to reality, ire steeling back into her eyes. "I'm Maggie Greene."
"Still don't know who the hell you are," he scoffed.
The muscles in her jaw visibly tensed. "Beth Greene ring any bells, Romeo?"
Daryl sneered down at Maggie. "I don't know any fuckin' Beth…. Greene…" As soon as the words left his mouth, Daryl realized he knew the name. Beth Greene. Fuck, if that name didn't jog a recollection deep in his brain. A vision of a smiling young, blonde woman came rushing forward. Beautiful pale skin, endless blue eyes, legs that wouldn't quit, but it was the smile he remembered the most. A smile that made him feel… made him feel… warm and good and everything he wasn't supposed. Yeah, he remembered Beth Greene alright. Daryl remembered her touched on his skin, making him burn. He remembered her breathless words in his ear, saying his name, as he molded into her.
Maggie saw it in him; she saw that he remembered the name. "Don't lie. You know her."
Daryl was jerked back to reality with her statement. "Yeah, so I remember her. Skinny chick with no tits," he growled with a meanness he didn't really feel; he was too overwhelmed with the memory of Beth Greene. A person he'd done his best to forget; best for him and best for her.
The brunette flinched at his harsh words. The woman shifted her feet in the gravel and clenched her fists at her sides.
Daryl shook his head at her; there was no way he was going to let this woman drag up what he'd done his best to bury. "Sorry to tell ya, but I ain't seen her in years. I ain't the one who put a bun in your sister's oven, lady. You'll have to lay that shit on someone else's doorstep." Daryl spat in to the yard, not far from her expensive leather boots.
"One year and nine months ago," returned Maggie.
"What?" snorted Daryl. Why the hell was this woman still standing in front of him?
"That was the last time you saw Beth Greene. One year and nine months ago…give or day a few days I guess."
Daryl narrowed his eyes at the woman as his mind pulled some numbers. The summer music festival down by the river, the one where his brother made a killing selling drugs to the yuppy college kids. That was where the petite blonde with sad blue eyes and a killer smile had run into him. Daryl contemplated it had to be two years ago that coming August, so it was a year and about nine months ago when he had last seen Beth Greene. His body went still again, frozen in place as the accusation took on more merit.
His breath quickened. It didn't matter what the damn woman before him said. He knew he wasn't nobody's daddy and he wasn't ever going to be.
"I don't know what kinda lies she told you, but I ain't playin' daddy to her brat. She can go try an' get some money from some other dumb shit."
"My niece isn't a brat and Beth doesn't even know I'm here. She doesn't want anything from you." The anger was gone from Maggie suddenly. Her shoulders slumped; the woman looked almost defeated.
"Then why the hell you here then?"
"I – I don't know." Maggie shook her head sadly. "I thought… I thought you deserved to know. I thought that you'd want to know." She let those final words hang there as she gazed up at him intently again.
Daryl could sense her eyes judging him instantly; he knew the feeling and what she was thinking. Dirty. Redneck. Trash. He felt his skin prickle, and his anger skyrocketed. People were always taking one look at him and judging him outright. It didn't matter they were right most of the time; it still pissed him off. Daryl just hated that they could read him so truly and quickly. He hated they knew what he was and he hated what he was. He hated it all. Lazy. Stupid. Worthless.
Maggie took a stilling breath before she continued, dropping her gaze to the dirt below. "Beth said… she said you didn't need to know. That she could do it all on her own but that's not right."
He said nothing but continued to glare down at her, fuming and curling his hands into tight fists at his sides.
"I thought… I thought you deserved a chance at least. That you should know you had flesh and blood alive and out there. I thought you'd want to know your daughter." Maggie reached into her back pocket and pulled out a photograph, looking at it and then back up at him. "She's got your eyes, ya know. I was hopin' it wasn't you. The second I saw you I hoped it wasn't but I can't say she doesn't have your eyes."
She frowned and walked the picture to him, holding it out to him. "Her name's Hope. Hope Abigail Greene and she's your daughter. If you wanna know her, come see her. If you don't, then pretend I was never here."
Daryl stared at the woman who had just thrown his world upside down along with inside out with as little as a few words. Hope Abigail Green and she's your daughter. Daryl barely recognized when he took the photograph from Maggie, the picture giving him a tingle all the way up his arm. He looked down at it, swallowing hard. There was a baby on it wearing a yellow dress. The little girl had fine, light brown hair, blue eyes and a two-tooth grin contained between a pair of chubby cheeks. He could see it instantly too. His own eyes and her – Beth's - nose and smile. Everything came collapsing down upon him at once. His heart was pumping hard and fast in his chest, making the world seems so suddenly big and so intensely small in the same instant. Beth Greene's smile.
Maggie walked away, leaving him dumfounded as he watched her go. She opened the truck door, throwing a look back at him. "There's an address on the back if you do want to know her. Like I said, Beth didn't want nothin' from you. She didn't even want me to tell you but I thought everyone deserves to know if they got a kid in this world or not. The choice is yours." Maggie climbed into the truck and slammed the door shut.
Daryl had to work at the lump in his throat as he turned his attention back to the picture in his hand. Maggie started the truck and slammed it into gear. She pulled out and drove away, leaving a trail of dust and flicking gravel behind her. A dog barked absently from a few houses away. The darkening clouds from a few miles away rumbled ominously. Daryl ignored it all, just standing there and staring at the picture of the baby girl.
There was no fucking way. His mind was screaming no even as it pulled a stream of memories forward that contradicted itself. Recalled events came flooding back to him of a blonde running smack into him, shy and scared. He had pulled her aside and away from his brother's dealings, knowing she didn't belong there. A thunderstorm came upon the pair quickly, the pouring rain over them until they made their escape into a small pup tent with wet clothes. He'd uncharacteristically stayed the night, not that the product of the picture had come from that, that was later. The night had been different, it had been restful and peaceful and different.
In the morning, a fine fog and dew had covered the area. They had walked and talked and just walked without talking, getting away from the crowded festival. He remembered noting it was strange how that she was so comfortable with his silence. Most everyone he knew got unnerved by it and tried to fill it up by making him talk or providing their own garbage commentaries. Not her, not Beth Greene, she was quiet, thoughtful, and observant. At one point, they'd heard the music playing from the woods they were exploring, and he'd offered to take her back. Beth had refused, saying it was too loud and too much. She had just come along with friends to get away from her family as she had toyed with the bangled bracelets at her wrist.
Daryl couldn't help the way his body started to respond when the final memories came forward. They had stumbled upon a swimming hole as the day turned hotter. She'd quickly stripped down to underwear and dove right in. Daryl couldn't help himself as he stared, trying to look away but drawn by her alluring smile and tempting body. When she emerged she had found him. She had kissed him, her wet body pressed up against him. He'd only been human; he hadn't been able to deny what both their bodies had so clearly wanted. Daryl remembered starting out fast and hard before easing back and talking it slowly. That lazy afternoon of sex and exploration in the summer grass was damn close to a perfect memory if he had one.
He wished he could stop the memories there as he ran a hand over his haggard face. The rest that he could recall started a sour taste in the back of his throat. He remembered returning her to her campsite at dusk, her friend already there. Beth had invited him to stay again, but he had declined. They had made plans for the next day; so unlike him to plan anything. It was probably one of the reasons he had been so harsh when she had showed up the next day. Vile words had driven her away amidst the barking laughter of Merle and his cronies. The feeling from the memory was the same he was having now, Daryl felt like shit. He knew he should have just talked to her, but what the hell would he have said anyway. After some time, Daryl had strangely mustered some nerve to see her, maybe apologize, and had returned to her tent. Her friend had let him know she was gone. And that was it. She was just gone.
Now Beth Greene was back.
And then there was Hope… Hope Abigail Greene.