She Is The Sunlight

I am pretty proud of this one. It was a work of love from beginning to end! Thank you in advance for reading and please review! This is dedicated to all the amazing Bethyl fanfic authors! You guys are my inspiration!


Part 1 She Lives In A Daydream Where I Don't Belong

His knuckles are white where he's holding on to the trunk of the car. He's been standing there like that for what seems like forever, but he knows it's only been a couple of minutes because the horde that threatens to engulf them still haven't reached him or the others.

"Daryl! Close it, let's go!" Rick's voice is harsh and edged with anger.

"Daryl please.." Carol's is soft, begging, reminiscent of that voice she used when Ed use to berate her.

He feels a sharp sting and glances up quickly. Blood drips from his left hand. Blood. Her blood made the tile floor slippery and left a copper taste in his mouth.

"We gotta go man!" Glenn sounds hurt and scared. Daryl refuses to hear what's behind those words.

And Maggie. She's standing closest to him.

"Daryl?"

He shakes his head.

"Go. I ain't leaving her behind. I'll die with her first." He isn't sure if anyone else hears, but Maggie does and she turns away, tears in her eyes. With one foot on the bumper of the car, he hefts himself into the trunk, lowers the lid and shuts out the screams from his family and the guttural moans from the horde that has finally arrived. The space is small, but he manages to curl himself up so he fits and he pulls her into his arms and he doesn't think about what's next. He just holds her. His girl. That's what she is, has become in their time out there in the wild. He remembers another trunk and her eyes in the light from a crack in the opening. She was scared, but he was there. And he's here now. Her hair sticks to his face and she still smells like his Beth, like summer and soap and that's what finally breaks him. And he cries, shaking, until his eyes are swollen almost shut and her hair is soaked with his tears where her head is tucked beneath his chin. Her broken head. He's able to get an arm underneath her and he wraps it around her and cradles her head, holding it together and he's crying again, there really shouldn't be any fluid left in his body to make tears, but his heart hasn't quite figured this out and his soul is broken into a million tiny, jagged pieces.

Eventually his cries turn to soft whimpers and then a shuddering sigh every now and again as he drifts off to sleep and he thinks that maybe he'll find Beth there, somewhere in that place between living and dying, a pitstop before the final destination. And then they can go together, hand in hand to wherever it is they're going. Daryl is comforted by that thought, even though he's fully aware it's insane. It's doesn't matter. He's here with her.

'I'm not leaving you!'

"I ain't leaving you either."

xxxxXxxxx

He isn't sure how much time has passed. He only knows his body feels like it's permanently fixed into the position he's been in wrapped around Beth. And he aches. He's also keenly aware of the fact that it's a bright light making the backs of his eyelids burn a red glare that woke him up.

"What the hell?" A voice he doesn't recognize somewhere behind that awful glare. Daryl comes up blind and swinging.

"Hey, It's ok. I'm a doctor! Dr. Edwards, you were with Beth's group weren't you?" Daryl's vision is back and he squints at the man standing over the open trunk. He has his hands in the trunk on Beth and Daryl growls. He wants to rip the man's hands off for daring to touch his girl, but he said he's a doctor, all the good that's gonna do now.

"What the fuck ya think yer doing?" His question is met with silence and the doctor continues his examination.

"Can you carry her in?" This Dr. Edwards person is staring at him now and Daryl finally notices that the expression on the man's face is one of complete shock.

"Why? What…" Beth's face is lying against his chest. Warm. It's warm. Like she's been lying in the sunshine. But she shouldn't be.. warm.

"We need to get her inside now."

Daryl doesn't remember the details. He isn't sure how he got from that trunk to an actual fucking hospital room with a bed and tubes and wires and a beeping that is obviously meant for monitoring Beth's vitals, but Beth shouldn't have vitals. Right now there's a flatline. The doctor is fiddling with the gauges. Daryl's pacing back and forth beside her bed. Has been since the doctor had him lay her there. Now his arms feel empty and he doesn't know what to do with himself.

"What's goin' on?" Daryl is irritated. His head hurts and he's bitten his thumb nail to the quick because if this guy says what he's hoping he's gonna say Daryl thinks he might just lose it, completely.

"She isn't dead."

The room tilts and Daryl's knees hit the floor beside her bed and he manages to find her hand, small and soft, so delicate in his grip. It's his anchor. He's holding on because he's slipping, he has to be. There was a gun. He has her blood on his shirt and the taste of it still lingers in his mouth. Remember how it splattered and he was baptized in it and in the horror of it all he licked his lips because this was her, the last of her and he was taking that with him.

xxxxXxxxx

This time he wakes on his own. He's in a recliner, a sheet draped over him. His head feels like it's been stuffed with cotton. But it's the beeping that drags his brain completely back into reality and he pushes himself off the chair and onto unsteady legs. He searches the room for her, frantic, but she's here, right here in the bed he put her on. He breathes a ragged sigh of relief. It begins to dawn on him, everything that has happened in the last few hours and he sits back down on the edge of the chair, drags his fingers through his hair and rests his face in his hands.

"How are you feeling?" The doctor's voice doesn't even startle him and that's a concern because he didn't even hear the man enter the room. He turns his head and glares at the doctor from between his fingers.

"The fuck you do to me?" He feels like he just woke up after a night out with Merle. His brother's face is so vivid in his memory. Laughing at something, probably at Daryl's expense. That dull ache in his chest that he gets whenever Merle's ghost decides to pay him a visit. Dr. Edwards doesn't look at him. He's got a stethoscope and he's focused on Beth.

"A mild sedative. I'm sorry. You were, well I needed to take care of Beth and you were showing symptoms of shock so I administered a mild sedative to calm you down." He's very business-like, but it's obvious the man is a little afraid of Daryl.

"Beth… She ain't dead.. She.." He's talking more to himself than the doctor as he leans against the bed and tentatively reaches out to touch her. Maybe as reassurance that he hasn't gone crazy, that she's alive in this bed right next to him. Wires attached to a heart monitor that's beeping and not flatlining. A bag of a clear solution hanging from a pole. He feels his heart pounding and he remembers falling on his knees and searching for her hand and there was so much blood.

But that isn't right. The blood was in the hallway. Not here in the bed where he laid her because she isn't dead. Doctor said it, he heard it. Now he knows it's true. He glances over at the other man before he lays his hand on her cheek. He isn't asking for permission, just confirmation that his touch won't hurt her, won't change the fact that she's not dead. And his heart, ragged and worn as it is might dare to hope. Just a little.

Beth isn't dead.

xxxxXxxxx

The hospital is functional. Minimally. Daryl is impressed. Actually right now he's fucking grateful. The fact that this place exists is Beth's only chance of pulling through. If she does. Because there are a ton of reasons why she won't. The doctor might be a little afraid of him, but he's not lying to Daryl, not giving him any false hope. He told him, while Daryl perched on a little stool right up next to her bed, her small hand in his, the muscles in his back screaming out in protest from being in this position way too long. He explained Beth's condition in a way that Daryl could understand and he appreciates that. Even if her condition is critical and he's terrified of losing her all over again.

"Tomorrow I'll take Beth into surgery and try and determine the extent of the damage." Dr.

Edwards stands at the foot of the bed, hands in his pockets.

"How ya gonna do that? You a surgeon? How's all this shit even working, we ain't got power!" Daryl is scared and he knows that lashing out like this isn't helping. He feels so damn helpless. And Beth is lying here, like a broken doll. A beautiful broken doll. Someone cleaned her up while he was sedated. There's no blood and she's in a clean hospital gown and if it wasn't for the two stitched up wounds on her face and the gauze wrap around her head a person might just think she's sleeping. Sleeping Beauty waiting for her prince. He ain't no prince, but he'll give his life to save hers. Just save her, bring her back, let him take her away and keep her safe. Cause this time he will, he promises he will if he can just have her back.

My girl, just gimmie back my girl.

Daryl shakes his head and tries to focus on what the doctor is saying. Something about generators, diesel-powered generators that power the equipment needed to do scans and monitor patients.

"Gas? You need gas?" Here is something Daryl is capable of. And the doctor says yes that Dawn sent groups out on runs for these things, actually everything they needed to run the hospital.

"Even people? You snatch people and force them to work here." Daryl grips the railing on the bed and tries to contain his anger. It's rage, just simmering there under the surface. They took Beth. Took her to use her. It was just like Noah said. He sent her out of the funeral home thinking he was keeping her safe. Then they took her, took his girl and now. Now. He thinks he wants to kill them all. Just pick up a gun and walk through this place and shoot every single one of them in the head. Thinking rationally has never been one of Daryl's strong points. Especially where emotions are concerned. He's got to keep it together, for her. He is all she has, and she, she's everything.

"That was Dawn. But she's gone. No one left here ever wanted to do things the way she did. We want to help, we want to do what we signed up to do before the world fell apart." Dr. Edwards hasn't stopped his ministrations with Beth the entire time he's been talking to Daryl. He's trying, he's taking care of her. He glances at Daryl, and Daryl sees it on the other man's face, he means everything he says.

"Then help her doc. I'll go out and find gas, I'll find whatever you need." Daryl looks down at Beth and leans over and presses his lips to her forehead just below the gauze and whispers more to himself than anyone else.

"Save her, save my girl."

xxxxXxxxx

His girl. He doesn't remember exactly when she went from being just Beth to his girl. It was somewhere out there in the midst of the chaos. Running for days and sleeping in shifts at night, and both of them scared and angry and wary of the partner fate had forced on them. Then there was the moonshine cabin. He got her, her first drink and she was trying so hard to find a way to connect with him, to reach him. And maybe he was scared of that, well hell yeah he was scared because she was all goodness and light and he was just Daryl. Nothing. Nobody. She was relentless. She kept pushing until finally out of fear he lashed out. It wasn't pretty. It was cruel and it twisted him up inside and made him even angrier.

"I sure as hell never cut my wrists looking for attention."

He saw it flit across her face. The hurt. For just a second, it darkened her big blue eyes and that only helped to fuel the fire building inside of him. He put his hands on her, and it might not have been like his old man had done to him, but it wasn't soft and kind like Beth deserved and the little boy inside him cringed for her. The thing was girl didn't back down, she didn't look at him horrified by what he was doing, saying...

"Everyone we know is dead!"

'You ain't never gonna see Maggie again!'

A little sob shook her shoulders, but she stood there waiting, let him ride out the storm of his anger. Until all that was left were his tears. After all the horrible things he said, how he had grabbed her and probably left marks on her soft skin, that girl came up behind him and wrapped her arms around him. She comforted him when she shoulda just slapped him in the face. She held him, her warm body pressed against his, cheek resting between his shoulder blades, and she whispered softly to him, words he can't even remember, but they soothed him, brought him back from whatever guilt-ridden pit he was wallowing in. When he finally turned around he couldn't look her in the face. Mumbled a pathetic, 'sorry'. She nodded her head and gave him a small smile. From that moment on things were different because Beth Greene was relentless and she forgave him and she smiled and she talked and he found himself talking back, wanting to, finding the words and in his head she was no longer that girl, she was his girl. He was gonna do right by her and they were gonna make it.

But he lost her. Twice.

He couldn't lose her again. There wouldn't be a third time. Cause he found her, found his girl and she's alive and there's a doctor and they're still gonna make it.

xxxxXxxxx

He barely sleeps that night, keeps waking up and looking at her and brushing her hair back from her forehead and whispering to her. Just little things, how she's so strong and she's gonna beat this because she's still here and he's not leaving, never leaving her side again. He wipes his face on the arm of his flannel because apparently he has a heart, at least where Beth is concerned and it's big and it's breaking, every time he looks at her it breaks a little more.

Dr. Edwards told him to talk to her, says she can probably hear him and it's a proven fact that patients in a coma do much better if they hear the voices of their loved ones. Love. Well it's been part of the equation for awhile now, but Daryl hasn't dared to go there. Not yet. But he can. He can tell her that too. Whisper it into the soft pink shell of her ear so she knows that she's loved. There's somebody here who loves her and wants her to wake up and smile like she's the sun and he's been starving for it, living in this dark, cold world.

Dr. Edwards also told him it won't hurt Beth if he sits on the bed with her. He must have sensed Daryl's discomfort so he nonchalantly threw it out there that it's fine to sit with her, or lay with her, physical contact is important.

"Just tell her you want to hold her hand or hug her and do it."

The candlelight flickers and Daryl looks down at her so small lying there on the bed and he just does it, he gently eases himself down beside her awkwardly lying on his side, his mouth close to her ear and he swallows, softly clears his throat, and whispers in a shaky voice,

"I love ya Beth."

There it is.

xxxxXxxxx

The next morning Dr. Edwards comes and Daryl stands by her bed wringing his hands watching the man prep for an exploratory surgery he's going to do in the middle of a fucking zombie apocalypse. He's nervous and he chews at his thumb nail again. It's just a ragged, bloody mess now that stings whenever he puts it in his mouth. A woman Daryl has never seen comes into the room and he glares at her without meaning to. It's too much and he has no control over anything and he's scared. He's fucking scared.

"Daryl this is my nurse. She's helped me with other procedures and she's going to help today. She cleaned up Beth while you were.. sleeping the other night."

"Hi Daryl." The woman smiles at him and holds out her hand. Daryl goes to reach for it and quickly pulls his hand back and wipes it on his pants. He grunts a response then moves back to Beth's bedside. He doesn't pay attention to whatever it is they're saying to each other, just focuses on Beth, tries so hard to memorize this moment. Everything seems to happen in moments now. How her hair is curling over one shoulder and her lips are pink, even her cheeks seem to have a little color and that's a good thing isn't it? He watches as his hand takes on a life of it's own and his rough, dark finger brushes the delicate bones in her wrist.

"We're going to take her down the hall to surgery Daryl. You can come so you'll know where she is. It shouldn't take long, I just want to get a better look at everything."

Daryl just nods, that's all he's capable of without falling apart and he walks beside the bed as they wheel it out. The wheels squeak softly and his eyes never leave her face. Not once. The grey double doors wait expectantly and Daryl feels the hallway tilt just a little bit, but he shakes it off. He knows this is where he has to let her go and without even thinking too hard about it he slips his hand into her hand, leans down and brushes his lips against her forehead.

"Gonna be waiting for you girl, gonna be right here." He lays her hand down gently and backs up a couple of steps before looking at the doctor. Whatever the man sees on his face softens his expression. Daryl doesn't like it, doesn't like the way he's looking at him. It makes him uncomfortable and he's already a fucking wreck.

"She'll be out soon." And then they disappear behind those doors. Sign says 'No Admittance. Staff Only'. Daryl slides down the wall and wraps his arms around his knees and lets himself cry.

xxxxXxxxx

It feels like forever and only a few minutes before Dr. Edwards comes walking out. Daryl pushes himself up off the floor and his stomach knots up because the doctor is shaking his head. But he's also smiling. A small smile, but a smile just the same. Daryl can't do anything, but stand there and let the doctor approach him.

"Damndest thing.."

"What the fuck ya mean? She okay? Can I see her?" He feels the sudden urge to run, just charge those damn grey doors and find her and make sure her lips are still pink and that there's still the soft tick of a pulse under the smooth skin of her wrist, beneath the scar that proves she wanted to live then and he knows if she could tell them she'd say she wants to live now too.

The doctor reaches out to rest a hand on Daryl's shoulder but seems to think twice about that when he looks at the expression on the man's tired face.

"The bullet entered and exited her head like I was thinking it had. But the path it took wasn't anywhere near as destructive as I assumed it would be." Daryl is staring at him not quite comprehending his train of thought.

"Whada ya mean?" Daryl struggles to keep from grabbing the man by the neck and demanding he explain it so Daryl can understand.

He shows Daryl on his own head what he found with Beth, what he believes happened.

"It should have ripped right through her brain, but it didn't, it followed a path along the inside of her skull and I've never seen anything like it. Of course, there's bound to be damage, we won't know just how much until she wakes up.."

Daryl's mouth is suddenly dry and he's found that his legs can move now and they back him up against the wall, where he's trapped with this new information that he's trying to process in his own fucked up brain.

Until? Not if? Until? When she wakes up he's gonna tell her everything. When she wakes up he's gonna tell her she changed his mind, it was her.

'Oh'

When she wakes up he's gonna tell her good people exist because Beth Greene isn't dead.

xxxxXxxxx

"S' now what?" Daryl is back on the stool, next to her bed, looking at the doctor.

He doesn't answer Daryl for a few seconds, seems to be thinking.

"We wait. There's nothing... I can't wake her up. It doesn't work like that." He says all this quietly and slowly as if he's afraid of Daryl's reaction. At least that's what Daryl makes of it all. He grits his teeth and searches her face, peaceful there on the pillow. She's in there, he knows she's in there and he has to bring her back. He has too.

xxxxXxxxx

Daryl isn't good at waiting, he never has been. But there is nothing he can do to speed this up. He's taken to pacing the small room, their room. He feels safe here. It's their space. They conserve by using candles and he doesn't mind because Beth's face is softened in the candlelight and she looks like an angel and he remembers, how could he forget, the candlelight that night and 'what made you change your mind?'

He's pushed the recliner right up next to the bed so he can reach through the bars on the railing and hold her hand. It's been four nights since Dr. Edwards took her into surgery. And every night he holds her hand, every night whispers into her ear that she's got this and he's waiting and when she wakes up he'll be here and finally a small, choked, 'I love ya Beth', cause it's still so hard and so easy to say and maybe once she is awake and he knows she can hear him and he knows it's ok, the words will come easier. Cause he's never loved anyone like this. And no one has ever loved him. And he wants to be loved, he wants Beth to love him back.

The sun is setting again, and the nurse, that's what he thinks of her as, the woman who helped Dr. Edwards with Beth, comes into the room. She's been coming occasionally to let him shower and go get food and she checks up on Beth. She brushes Beth's hair until it shines in the candlelight and wipes her face. And Daryl wants to weep.

"This may sound crazy Daryl, but she seems more here. I don't know. Just a feeling I got. You been talking to her?"

Daryl glances at her nervously and gives a half nod.

"Well then, she's listening, isn't she? Knows you're here. I think that you are the best medicine she's getting right now." She leaves and Daryl shudders. It's one thing to talk to Beth, but it's a whole different story to think that she's listening, that she might actually hear him.

It's late and he's finally drifting off when he feels it, his hand bridges the space between where they both lay and in his is hers small and soft. He thinks he has to be dreaming because her fingers grip and squeeze, fleeting, but real because when he sits up suddenly and breathes her name it happens again and he lowers his face to her hand, brushes his lips across the soft skin and the tears he held back earlier trace shiny tracks down his cheeks.

xxxxXxxxx

The next day he refuses to leave the room. The nurse comes and he tells her what happened and she smiles knowingly and rests a hand on his arm.

"I'll bring you your meals, Daryl." No sooner has she left than the doctor comes in and Daryl tells him the same thing. How she held his hand and squeezed it twice. The doctor tries to dampen his reaction, but Daryl sees it, that little flicker of hope in his eyes. Saw it all the time in Beth's, once he stopped being angry and really started looking at her.

"' 'S a good thing right?" Daryl asks. The doctor smiles then and nods.

"I think so, Daryl. I think it's a very good thing." It's like the sun is rising right here in this little room. Daryl feels it in his chest and even though it isn't a familiar feeling, he knows it and he perches on the edge of the recliner and takes her hand and starts to talk.

"Did I ever tell you about the time Merle tried to teach me to drive? Well, I was a good driver, Merle was a shitty teacher…" He talks all afternoon. He tells her stories from his childhood, he talks about the farm and how he was so glad they found it and that her family saved their lives. He talks about the birds and trees and how when the world turned he started to pay attention to the fact that there were so many different kinds of birds. So many. And he'd never even realized that before.

"I like them little ones, that go after the big guys an' just pester the shit outta 'em. Funniest thing I ever saw." He chuckles at the memory because it's really wild how these little birds have no fear. "Crazy ass little fuckers!" He laughs this time, not just a chuckle, but a real honest to god laugh and he doesn't pay attention to it until he hears Beth sigh and sees her legs shift under the blankets.

"Beth?" He can't do much more than whisper and watch her, waiting. But she's still and he's wound up so tight he's off the bed in a flash with his head out the door yelling for the doctor.

"What was she reacting to?" The doctor has his stethoscope out and he's checking her vitals.

"I was, I was tellin' her a story, was dumb really just talkin' bout my brother and the farm, some birds…" he blushes furiously at having to share this intimate moment. Because it is intimate for Daryl, all his guards are down and he's himself completely for her.

"Keep doing it." He's still being the "doctor", but Daryl can see that the man is excited, likes what is happening to his patient. To Beth. Before he leaves the room he hesitates.

"Daryl it won't hurt her if you sleep on the bed beside her. I bet, I mean it's possible that talking to her and holding her hand are making a difference." And then he's gone and Daryl doesn't know if he can breathe. He's not sure his legs are gonna hold him and the room seems a little too bright. He doesn't know if he can survive being so close to the sun, cause that's what Beth is, she is the sunlight.

xxxxXxxxx

Part 2 She is The Healing and I am The Pain

That first night he counts his footsteps as he paces next to her bed. The one the doctor suggested he sleep in. With Beth. He's nervous, really unsure of this. He stops and chews on his bottom lip and watches as the candlelight flickers off her hair and her skin and he comes to the realization that he's being ridiculous. He can do this. Hell, he wants to do this! So he toes off his boots and tosses his flannel on the recliner by his vest and lowers the railing on the bed. There's room. Plenty. The bed seems big and she's so small. It's easy, just like the trunk except this time he doesn't need to cradle her head, cause she's healing, she's doing it. He wraps himself around her again and rests his face against her temple. He can feel her pulse, tiny, but sure and this makes his heart hurt, in a good way, and he breathes her name out softly, an exaltation.

"Oh, Beth, oh my girl."

xxxxXxxxx

The third night comes and he's not nervous or unsure anymore. Something about the rain today makes him feel slightly off. Maybe it was the cloud cover and lack of sun. The sun has been a constant, shining in their window every day and he's watched the path it travels across the walls and the floor and across Beth lying in the bed. Their bed.

Today she was the sun in his eyes and he basked in her warmth and read poems from a book Ann brought in. Ann, that's her name, the nurse, short for Annette. Daryl has to sit down when she reveals that about herself. Annette. Maybe angels do exist. Cause there are things here at work that Daryl doesn't understand one bit. But he's going along with it all, he'll do whatever it fucking takes, believe in miracles, unicorns, angels and he'll fall down on his knees and pray to a God he doesn't believe in. For Beth. There's nothing he won't do for this girl.

He pulls the window closed. He opened it earlier to let in the smell of the rain. He knows that if Beth was awake she'd like that. Added another blanket on the bed too, it cooled off today and he doesn't want her to be cold. There's no hesitation about climbing into bed with her tonight, it's where he wants to be. And once he's there, and he has her hand in his, he feels like everything is right with the world. As right as it can be.

For now.

Cause Beth is alive and she's listening to him.

xxxxXxxxx

The night it finally happens he's reading from a children's fairytale book. He gave up on the poetry. He can't pronounce some of the words and he feels silly reading things like 'doth thou" and 'nevermore'. He wonders what Beth thinks listening to him butcher what is supposed to be classic poetry. He isn't sure what constitutes classic, it sounds like a bunch of nonsense to him.

So he's reading fairy tales to her instead. Cause he imagines that she probably sat in her mama's lap when she was little and listened to them. He picked Sleeping Beauty because, well it fits. And he's learning there's a lot more to the story than a sleeping princess and a kiss. Nobody ever read him fairy tales. Hell, nobody ever read much to him at all. He vaguely remembers a book about a frog and toad, but the memory is foggy and he isn't sure it's a true memory.

The candlelight flickers and he looks at his hands holding this old book with pictures of fairies flitting around a cradle and everything seems so surreal. He glances over at Beth and the book slips from his big clumsy hands and falls onto the floor. If it makes a noise he doesn't hear. Eight days ago he came to rescue the princess and ended up climbing in the trunk of a car with her lifeless body.

Because Beth was dead.

Then she wasn't.

It's been eight days since the world turned upside down. Eight days and Beth's looking at him, her blue eyes a little confused, her head wrapped in gauze. He isn't sure this is real.

"Beth?" His voice breaks a little, but she must've heard him and she knows, she knows him.

A tiny smile.

"Daryl?" Just a whisper, but he feels her breath on his cheek and he has her hand in his and she's holding on tight.

He ain't a prince and his kiss didn't break the spell (or did it?)

But Beth is looking at him and she said his name and the doctor said she wasn't dead.

If this is a dream he doesn't ever want to wake up.

xxxxXxxxx

She raises her hand to the gauze on her head and touches it lightly and he watches her face closely and he tries not to break down, but she's here. She's really here.

"I.. What happened?" It's her voice and it might be kinda weak, but she's talking to him and he isn't dreaming. He pinched himself twice and right now he's digging his nails into the palm of his hand as he watches her small fingers ghost lightly over the bandage on her head.

"You were hurt.." Well yeah dumbass, she's probably figured that much out on her own. "There's a doctor, lemme get…" But before he falls all over himself getting off the bed he reaches out and lays his hand on her cheek. And he just looks at her. Maybe it's the expression his face, but her brow furrows and she lays her hand on his.

"You okay?" she asks softly.

Girl just woke up from a coma, brought on by a gunshot to the head and she's worried about him? Asking him if he's okay? If he wasn't sure before that his Beth was back, he is now. She's so good and kind and he doesn't deserve this, this gift. He nods his head vigorously and rubs at his damp eyes and finally makes it off the bed and to the door.

"Hey! Yo! Edwards.. Doc come're!" He's yelling from the doorway, cause there is no way he's leaving this room. As it is he glances back over his shoulder at least five times in a span of a few seconds. He sees movement and shadows down at the end of the hallway. Satisfied he turns back to her. Her. She's sitting up and she's looking around the room. Her eyes find his and he sees the confusion she's feeling and there's even a little fear there. He doesn't want her to be scared. He tries to regain some semblance of calmness as he walks back over to the bed and sits beside her.

"You been in a coma for eight days, I been waitin' for ya ta wake up, ta come back." He knows he sounds like an idiot but she's listening intently and he's not sure what to say next, doesn't want to overwhelm her with everything when Dr. Edwards walks in.

"Beth! You're awake.. I'm Dr. Edwards. Do you remember me?" Daryl can sense the man's excitement and his relief and moves over and out of the way so he can examine Beth. Not too far though. He won't go too far.

He watches as the doctor goes through the motions. He watches very carefully. Beth can move all her extremities, she can sit up and lie down on her own. She squeezes his hand and follows his finger with her eyes and they catch Daryl's when she looks that way and she smiles, a small smile but a smile just the same.

"You remember Daryl?" Dr. Edwards asks her and she nods.

"We were together, before, well before all this." She waves her hand in the air and this makes Daryl smile.

"Do you remember what happened? Why you're here?" Good, the doctor can ask the hard questions and he can sit here and try not to break down while they find out just what's going on in her damaged head. She's quiet for a moment and she stares across the room, blinking long blinks that make Daryl's anxiety skyrocket.

"I, I remember I was taken. From the funeral home." She's rubbing her hands together, smoothing the sheet that lays across her lap. "And they lied, said no one was with me, that I was alone. But you were with me Daryl weren't you?" She's looking at him for answers and he nods his head digging his nails into his palms again because he sent her out of the funeral home, alone cause he thought she was safe. She wasn't safe.

"I don't.. Everything is hazy after that. I remember a woman. She was hurt, I held her hand and I know I felt sad. She had short grey hair.. And.."

"Carol. That was Carol." Daryl stands up straighter and reaches for the metal railing on the bed.

"Is she still here? Is she okay?" Questions for him, because she knows him. She remembers him. He might be all she remembers and knows.

"She ain't here. She's ok, got out." She left, Daryl wants to say. They all left. He understands why, he really does. She rubs her forehead and sighs. He notices a small grimace.

"There was a baby and a farm. I was taking care of her, a baby girl." Her eyes are wide and so goddamn blue. "Did I have a baby?" She's almost breathless. It hurts his heart because she remembers Judith, but the baby was never at the farm. That's okay though. They figured she's gonna have some confusion and memory loss.

"Nah. She wasn't yers. Belonged to a guy in our group. Her mama died in childbirth and ya, ya helped take care of her." Daryl watches as her hair slips down over her shoulder and he longs to reach over and brush it back.

"Oh. Is she okay too?"

Daryl nods. "Mmmhmm got a lot bigger." That grimace is back and she holds her hand to the back of her head. "You hurtin' Beth?" She nods and he can see tears welling up in her eyes.

"It's a headache… I, I don't know why it hurts so bad." She lets her hands fall into her lap.

Dr. Edwards puts his hand on her shoulder. "Enough for tonight. I'll get some pain meds and you rest. You're doing amazing Beth." He smiles at her. Beth returns the smile, but it doesn't reach her eyes. Daryl knows this. He knows Beth and what a smile, a real smile does to her face. Sunlight.

"Ok. Thank you." Beth relaxes back onto the pillows and Daryl reaches out then and lets his hand linger on her arm and pulls the sheet up around her.

"Daryl, can you come here?" Dr. Edwards is in the hall and Daryl looks down at Beth, her eyes are closed, but there's a small smile on her lips and this makes his heart soar. She's awake, she's smiling and she remembers him. He gets halfway to the door when he hears her voice.

"You're not leaving me are you Daryl?" He can hear the fear, even if its minute, in her question. And he stops and looks back.

"I ain't leavin' ya... Comin' right back."

I ain't ever leaving ya again girl.

"Okay.." Just a whisper, "good…"

xxxxXxxxx

He wants to drop to his knees and sob, it's all too much to take in. It's so good and good things don't happen to Daryl Dixon. But this did. This happened and he isn't sure how to act anymore. The doctor says Beth is responding absolutely amazingly, his words not Daryl's, for a patient who has been in a coma for over a week. Something about motor skills and her vision and how they will take it day by day. Daryl tries his best to concentrate and make sense of it all, but he just wants to go back in there and see her, watch her, hold her hand, and when she feels like it, hear her voice.

His girl. Yep, that's what she is. His girl.

xxxxXxxxx

That first night with Beth back is almost like the others because she sleeps, but it's fitful. She sleeps in little intervals and it's never very long. Daryl pulls the recliner back over by the bed and sits on it, adjusting the sheets. He doubts he'll sleep all that much either.

"Daryl, aren't you gonna come up here with me?" Beth is awake again, watching him. He shrugs his shoulders.

"Just thought maybe it'd be more comfortable for ya if I…"

"But you've been here next to me every night right?" She questions him and even though it's not uncomfortable, it's something.

"Almost." He wants to look away from her, it almost hurts to watch her face as she works through whatever it is she's thinking about.

"Can you just come back up here?" She's looking at him in earnest now and of course, he can. He will do anything she asks. This is easy because the one place he wants to be right now is next to her. So he goes. Because he can. And she wants him there. He lays back and rests his head on the pillow and she sighs.

"That's better. Maybe I can sleep now." The last part is whispered and he feels her cheek resting against his bicep and her breathing evens out and he breathes out his own heavy sigh, of relief. Cause he doesn't want her to see the tears that he can't keep in check any longer. He can't remember a time when he ever felt this grateful.

He finds her hand.

Laces their fingers together and his face is wet.

xxxxXxxxx

Time seems to speed up now that she's awake. She talks a little more each day and sometimes Daryl gets so lost in her voice and watching her face and her eyes that he forgets she's talking to him and that he needs to respond at least every once in awhile.

"Daryl?" She's looking at him intently now and he's pretty sure she said his name.

"Daryyylll, hello?" This time she says his name in a sing-song voice and he feels his face redden all the way to the tips of his ears cause he's just sitting here next to her bed, chin in his hand staring at her. He's surprised he isn't drooling.

Dumbass.

She's beautiful, he must've known that before, but it's different now and he can't quite put his finger on it.

"Mmm hmmm." He sits up and clears his throat, "Sorry.. I was just.." But he thinks she knows. He thinks she gets it because she has a little smile on her face and she's clearly amused by the fact that he can't keep his eyes off her.

"You said I was hurt before.. Can you tell me how? Are we alone? What about the baby? Where is she.. and.." The smile is gone and she looks smaller somehow sitting there worrying the hem of the sheet between her fingers.

"Hey.. slow down. One thing at a time girl.." He wants to hold her, he doesn't want to have this conversation, but he is the only one that can answer these questions and give her back her life.

So he does. The best way he knows how.

"Ya remembered you were taken.."

She remembers being taken and has started to remember little moments of her time at the hospital before the shooting, but they're vague. She does remember their time together after the prison fell, and he doesn't understand why those are her clearest memories. Not her Daddy or Maggie, him. She remembers him. And them, together.

He can't for the life of him figure out why he stayed in her broken brain while everything and everyone else disappeared. He goes slow, watching her face.

"After that car took ya, I ran.. I tried to catch it n' follow…" He doesn't like to remember this. Doesn't like how he felt. He understands how things can happen and people can give up.

"You ran after me? All night?"

He ducks his head and nods, just a little and when he looks over at her he sees tears glistening in her eyes.

"Daryl.." She whispers his name and it sounds so much better when she says it. It sounds like it's important like it matters.

Maybe it does. Maybe he does.

'It does matter.'

xxxxXxxxx

He tries to get through the rest of it, finding the others and seeing that car with the cross again, going after it again, finding Noah and finally finding her. And maybe he goes too fast because she seems a little overwhelmed and confused.

"I guess I figured there were others, but I don't remember them." She has her hand on her head again. She's been having headaches and Dr. Edwards says that isn't surprising and they will keep an eye on it. But Daryl hates it, hates seeing her in pain.

"That's enough for now... Ya hurtin' again?" Daryl stands up ready to call the doctor.

"No, no it's fine. Keep going. I wanna know the rest. I was shot, shot in the head, right? That's why it hurts.." And she swallows and her eyes look haunted for a minute as if she is remembering something unpleasant. "Why? Who did it?" Of course, she wants to know. But this.. this is the part of the story he doesn't want to give back to her. Not because she shouldn't know, but because it hurts so fucking much to remember, not to mention where it's gonna lead. But he has too.

Even if he has to bleed doing it.

xxxxXxxxx

Their family came, came to find her. He brought them here. Made a deal and agreed to a trade. Carol, he tells her, the woman she remembered, she was part of that trade. The trade didn't go as planned, fell apart pretty fast and then it was over and she was bleeding on the floor, and he would have killed them all if Rick hadn't stopped him. But he dropped his gun and then she was bleeding in his arms. He didn't tell it to her quite like this. Because his memories are vividly violent and he can't, won't give them to her like that.

"They left, the others?" She's curious. Not judging. He nods.

"They thought I was dead?" A tilt of her head. He had carried her in his arms, her small lifeless body, arms dangling, ponytail swinging catching the sun.

Oh my girl, they did, we did, m' sorry..

"You did too?" He can't even look at her. Just hangs his head and stares at the floor, at the ugly tile all hospitals seem to have in common.

"Daryl.. you thought I was dead, why didn't you leave with them?" Such an innocent question and if she only knew how hard it is to answer, but maybe it isn't. Maybe it's really quite simple.

"Couldn't," he still isn't looking at her, worries his lip between his teeth nervously, "..couldn't leave you layin' there alone."

He glances up at her from beneath his hair where he's hiding and she doesn't say anything for a few seconds. Then she rips him apart with one little word...

"Oh."

xxxxXxxxx

They don't talk anymore about it. And Daryl is grateful for that. Enough has been said for now. She doesn't seem to feel the same about the others leaving as he does. She seems to accept it for what it is. But she also seems to be in awe of the fact that he chose to stay. She's looking at him differently. Not in a bad way, but it makes him uncomfortable all the same. She sees him as so much more that he really feels like he is.

You wanna know what I was before this? I was nobody, nothin'

xxxxXxxxx

That night the headache she has terrifies him. The worst one yet, if anything can get worse than this. He holds her and she holds her head and her breath comes out in little gasps. He thinks she tries to tell him something in the midst of it all, but the only words that he understands are whispered into his chest as she struggles in his arms.

"...hurts, hurts so bad Daryl."

The pain is so bad she's sweating and it makes her sick. Even with all the pain, she's in girl's still apologizing for throwing up on him in the bed where he's holding her.

"Dammit Beth, it don' matter!"

Dr. Edwards comes in with a morphine injection and within minutes the effects it's having are apparent. She's no longer tense in his arms, her breathing is normal, and she sighs softly and looks up at him.

"S' better, not hurtin' as much." The drugs slur her speech and he brushes back the hair stuck to her face with sweat. He's barely maintaining his composure. It's takin' all he's got to keep it under control. He can do it for her. He will do it, for her.

"Let me get her cleaned up Daryl. She won't feel a thing." He finally notices that Anette, the nurse is there beside him, smiling gently.

"I'll help ya." He eases Beth on to the bed and then he notices the front of his shirt, his jeans, he's covered in her sick.

"Go take a shower. I got this. She's going to sleep for awhile." Anette is already pulling out a new gown and there's a tub with water and soap and a pile of bedding. He backs away slowly. The candles flicker and it seems like candles and Beth are meant to be together. Something about her in that light.

"But she's gonna wake up, in awhile.. She ain't gonna keep sleeping.." Sometimes that fear grips him. That he'll lose her to sleep again. That he won't be able to see her blue eyes or hear her voice. It's dumb, but he can't help it. She's here in this world, he doesn't want to lose her to that other one again.

"She'll wake up Daryl. Go shower." He feels like a child being told what to do, but he listens and he goes because he can't stay in that room and look at her. Not like that. The shower is a refuge and here his tears just disappear into the water and his sobs are muffled by the spray. The tile is cool against his cheek, but it's unforgiving when he slams his fist into it. He lets it go, all of the anger and frustration. At least the blood will disappear too, down the drain. And it's not her blood.

He's gonna have to find the doc, he's pretty sure he needs stitches.

For some reason, he finds that funny and he laughs. It sounds hollow and echoes off the tile walls. Maybe he's losing his mind. She's finding her's and he's losing his.

xxxxXxxxx

The headaches come again and although each time it happens Daryl is terrified and ready to break things, he knows he can't. Three stitches in his knuckles and a deep sigh from Beth everytime she touches the bandage are a constant reminder of why.

"Please don't hurt yourself, Daryl. My brain is healing, it's just takin' time. Dr. Edwards isn't worried." She's still tryin' to ease his fears, his girl tucked up in that hospital bed and he's definitely more afraid of disappointing her because for some reason he matters. He matters an awful lot to her. And that matters to him.

Dr. Edwards wants her to try and walk. Daryl doesn't like it and Edwards picks up on this fact right away. Beth seems excited, but a little nervous and she's looking at Daryl.

"I gotta do this. I'm not dead, a couple steps.." It's almost like she's asking his permission, but she cuts it short and just holds out her hand. He watches her face closely and takes her hand.

"We'll just help you stand Beth and let you take it from there." The doctor's eyes are on Daryl when he says this as if he is looking for his approval. He's the damn doctor! But he always finds a way to let Daryl know that his input, his feelings, they are all important too. And Beth is already sitting up scooting to the edge of the bed and he knows she just wants to be better, to be herself again even if it's not quite the same.

With one of them on each side of her, Beth gets out of bed and stands. Two feet on the ground. Daryl's ready to scoop her up in his arms if she even sways. She's weak and a little bit dizzy, but that seems to lessen the longer she's up. It's at her insistence that she take a few steps. And she does. With Daryl hovering like a mother hen. Almost halfway across the room and back. The smile on her face makes it all worthwhile. She lights up. Like the sun. That's all it takes.

"Ya did it!" Daryl holds her close in an awkward side hug and she laughs. Beth is laughing and standing up and she even goes on to sit back on the bed without either of their help. She promises to keep doing it if Daryl keeps smiling. She's teasing him, she caught him smiling and she knows he rarely smiles so...

Go on, tease me all ya want girl, I'll do anythin' ta make ya happy.

xxxxXxxx

That evening the second headache hits. They've been laying on the bed not really talking, just being, but she's agitated and her breaths are short. This time Beth seems to be aware of the fact that it's coming and she looks at him and he sees it in her eyes, storm clouds, Daryl grabs the trash can and holds her hair back. It doesn't hurt his heart any less though. He ain't ever gonna get used to this and it's never not going to make him angry to see her in pain.

"Is it always gonna hurt like this.. I can't," She's frustrated and hurtin' and when she curls up on the pillow, sobbing softly he wants to scream. He wants to take it all from her and make it his. He's used to hurtin', he's no stranger to pain.

He needs the doctor, she needs a shot, relief floods him when the nurse happens to come in right then with their dinner. She doesn't say a word, she knows the routine. Once Beth gets the shot Daryl eases her back on the bed and stretches out next to her.

"Why thank you, Mr. Dixon." She giggles softly. Sometimes the morphine makes her loopy, but he'll take that over the pain any day.

"Girl.." He growls back at her. Her eyelids flutter and he brushes his lips against her cheek.

"Go to sleep Beth…"

Dr. Edwards wasn't worried before, but he is concerned now. Beth's headaches are troubling. He shares these concerns with Daryl after the morphine begins to work and Beth falls asleep. Daryl paces the dark hallway, his thumb in his mouth. The skin will be shredded and bleeding before he even gets back in their room.

"Bone fragments? What the fuck does that mean?" His body is a bundle of nerves and he thinks of his crossbow for the first time in awhile and how he'd like to just grab it and run. But he can't. He won't. Not until she is able to be by his side. For now, he's forced to lean against the wall and listen.

"A possible cause of these headaches is bone fragments that may have embedded in the brain.." Once again the doctor is saying things that scare Daryl and he's having a hard time focusing cause all he's thinking about is Beth, what does this mean for her? It's the word surgery that brings him back into this dim hallway with Dr. Edwards.

"Surgery again? What are ya gonna do?" Daryl isn't aware he's moved into the doctor's personal space until he backs him up against a wall.

"Surgeon Daryl. I said, surgeon. A man and his family showed up this afternoon. They were looking for a place to stay and he heard that the hospital is always looking for help, doctors and nurses and anyone with skills we can use…" Edwards is explaining this slowly as he edges out from between the wall and Daryl.

"This surgeon, he here now? Can he help Beth? Make these headaches stop?" He can't stop himself from hoping, just a little. Because everything that's happened already, it's been good. And she's healing and he's here.

'Wouldn't kill ya to have a little faith.'

"He'd like to come over tomorrow and meet you and examine Beth. He thinks he can help."

Good people.

Daryl nods and he turns to go back to the room so the doctor can't see his face.

xxxxXxxxx

Daryl sits on the bed next to Beth and listens to the surgeon. He came in, introduced himself and got right down to business. Daryl appreciates that. He also appreciates that the man takes his time explaining things to them in words Daryl can understand. He isn't confused or lost, he's scared, but that's pretty much a given. Beth has so many questions and Dr. Marks, that's his name, although he tells them to call him Brian, answers them all patiently, even the ones she repeats. And she is doing that a lot, Daryl notices this and also the fact that she sometimes has to stop and think, like she's forgotten what she wants to say. Beth notices too and he can sense her frustration and when she breaks down Daryl just holds her in his arms and looks to Brian for some kind of reassurance.

"Beth, the things you're experiencing are the effects of traumatic brain injury. Not to mention you're nervous and scared and hell, the world has gone to shit. Slow down and take your time. This is a lot to process, right Daryl?"

Daryl doesn't expect to be brought into the conversation, but he nods in agreement and he looks down at Beth.

"Yer doing good Beth, yer amazing. We got this." She keeps nodding and wipes her face on her gown. She's a mess, but she's beautiful.

The doctor clears his throat to get their attention.

"So here's what I'd like to do."

The sun is shining in the window and that has to be a sign. Daryl holds onto that.

xxxxXxxxx

Another surgery. In two days. Daryl keeps thinking about the others, Maggie and Rick.. It'd be nice to have someone to wait with. It'd be nice for Beth to have her family.. He pushes those thoughts out of his head. They ain't here. Ain't coming. But he's here and as far as she's concerned, he's good enough. She's been quiet next to him for quite some time. Until she's not.

"Daryl.. have we ever kissed?"

Daryl blows out a breath and looks at her, his mouth suddenly as dry as a desert.

"Wh… What?" Where in the hell did this come from?

"You said I was your girl, so I just wondered if we've ever kissed." She's all eyes and lips looking up at him and he struggles to swallow while shaking his head.

"No? Why not?" She had pulled her hair into a messy ponytail and was practicing braiding it, trying to get her hands to do what she used to remember. Now her hands are in her lap, braid forgotten and she's waiting for him to answer.

"Well cause we, we was still new when, when everything happened." He has to tell her something. She's been listenin' to him. Damn girl.

"I think you should kiss me now. In case something goes wrong in surgery... I don't wanna die never being kissed by you." Softly, so softly and she's got ahold of his shirt and his heart and when he finally manages to swallow he hears a little click in his throat.

"Ain't nothing gonna go wrong in there!" Even the thought makes him angry.

"I know.. I know, but maybe you should kiss me anyway." And she's looking at him with her big blue eyes and he sees a flash of mischief there. All he wants to do right then even though he's nervous as hell is kiss her cause it's what she wants and he can't for the life of him tell her no.

Raising his hand to her soft cheek, he leans in and brushes her lips gently with his. Her hand slides up his arm and the back of his neck, her fingers tangling in his hair. He kisses her again, deeper this time and she's kissing him back and when he hears her moan softly a shiver runs down his spine. He's kissing Beth. That's all he can think. He's finally kissing Beth Greene.

When they break for air she takes a minute before opening her eyes and he watches her until she's looking back at him.

"Y' okay?"

She nods slowly. "I love you, Daryl, I think I've loved you for a long time."

You love me… He doesn't have words and he's feelin' a little light headed so he just blinks back at her. When she hits, she hits hard.

"And you love me... You whispered it in my ear before I woke up. I think you've loved me for a long time too, haven't you?" She rests her small hand on his chest over his heart, "In here."

Daryl nods, cause that's all he can do. It's true though. He loves her. Has. Will. For the rest of his life.

xxxxXxxxx

Daryl follows the gurney down the hallway again. Hospital smells you would think should have faded away are still here and they bring back memories of other hospitals and too many visits. More visits than one kid should have had. He shakes his head and shuffles up alongside the gurney and looks down at Beth. White sheets, white bandage, and right now her face is pale too. Her blue eyes search out his and he sees the uncertainty there. She's nervous, has to be, cause he's terrified, a feeling he's come to accept as one that will be associated with Beth until she's on her feet next to him, and they go where it is they're gonna go next. This ain't a pitstop and no one is dying. She's gonna come out of this just like she did before and he'll be waiting just like he was before.

It's a little different this time though. Beth is awake and she's looking at him expectantly as they linger outside the surgery doors. Dr. Edwards and Dr. Marks will both be in there with her, as well as the nurse, who came to their room earlier with the gurney for Beth. The two men have stepped away to give him a few minutes with her. Not to say goodbye. He won't say that and neither will she. Instead, he leans over and rests his forehead against hers and she puts her small hands on his face.

"Be waitin' right outside this door. Just like last time." His voice is rough even as he whispers. She nods and he sees the way her eyes fill with unshed tears.

"Okay... Daryl what if, what if they can't fix this and I'm... What if I'm just too broken?" She can say it to him. And it's like she's let go of something that's been holding her down.

"Don't. Yer healin', member? You told me. An we got two docs and…" He bites down hard on his lip, but he doesn't look away from her. He doesn't look away and he tries his best to give her a little of that faith she gave to him. She did, she gave it and he knows she still has it, just has to find it.

"And I got this." Her smile is small, but it reaches her eyes and right into his chest. Faith.

'I'm glad I didn't say goodbye, I hate goodbyes.'

Me too.

xxxxXxxxx

He's sitting by the wall, his legs stretched out in front of him and he's wondering what's going on, what's taking so long. It's been at least three hours. No one has come out to tell him anything and he'd walk through those grey doors himself, but he's so fucking terrified he's barely moved from where he sits now, thinking and hoping. Cause he's got hope. Beth isn't dead.

'Daryl, have we ever kissed?'

Never. But I coulda.. I coulda kissed you and maybe the story woulda had a different ending.

xxxxXxxxx

The sun had been shining in the windows along the hallway when they took Beth into surgery. Now that hallway is shadows and Daryl is sitting in them waiting. Waiting for her because he said he would and it's what he does now. He waits. Watches the shadows climb the walls and it gets darker and he remembers the vines in Sleeping Beauty, remembers True Love's kiss and he's gonna kiss Beth when he sees her again. He's gonna kiss her and try to be the Prince that she deserves. That makes him smile and he even chuckles a little to himself. He ain't a fuckin' prince. But for some reason that don't matter to Beth. She loves him and wants to kiss him.

xxxxXxxxx

When the doors finally open and Brian walks out, he says something about eight hours, Daryl looks past him, tries to get a glimpse of what's behind the grey doors. Is she awake? Did they find anything? Does she need him?

"Daryl?"

Daryl turns his attention back to the doctor and tries to focus. Seems the doc gets this. He understands where Daryl's head is.

"She's good. Sleeping. Sedated. She'll probably sleep through the night and that's okay. She'll wake up tomorrow."

Daryl nods doesn't trust his voice. But he's okay now, he can listen and hear what the doctor is saying because Beth's good.

"There were bone fragments, two. And we got them. I honestly believe that's what's causing the headaches. I've seen it before. We did an MRI which is why this took so long and we went in and removed them."

"That's it? Just like that... She gonna be fine?" This seems just a little too easy.

"That's it. Simple, which is how I work. It doesn't have to be complicated. Does that mean it won't change? No, but for now I did what I needed to and she's good. I have faith in it and I think…"

"Ya got what?" His stupid heart is racing cause of one little word.

"Faith. I have faith." That's it. Daryl brings his thumb to his mouth, but doesn't start chewing the skin to bits, he just brushes it against his lips.

Faith.

Seems like that, more than anything else, is important.

"Ok. Can I see her?" Daryl let's it in, like the sun, like air, like her.

Faith.

xxxxXxxxx

He feels a weight on his chest, not heavy, but warm and there. He opens his eyes and he sees her. She's draped herself across his chest, hand tucked around his waist. A new white gauze wrap, bigger than the last one, covers the top of her head. He sees her hair tangled in it, and there's blood, not much but some. Doctor said there would be.

His hand is shaking, but he reaches out and rests it on the back of her head, below her injury. He leans over and makes good on his promise to kiss her and brushes his lips over the gauze. He hears the hitch in her breath and he knows she's awake. She tilts her head and looks up at him. The gauze is rough and catches on his the calluses on fingers, but her hair is soft and almost silver in the early morning light coming through the window. She's beautiful. The wrap doesn't take away from that beauty. It makes her look otherworldly like she doesn't belong here. Daryl pushes that thought away. Because she does belong here. Right here with him, alive in this world.

"How ya feel?" He whispers because anything else is gonna break the spell.

"You were with me when I woke up." She's right here wrapped up in it too and her breath is warm against his chest.

"Toldja' I was gonna be waitin' "

"I shouldn't be alive Daryl." This isn't what he was expecting and it takes his breath and his body freezes, the hand resting on her trembles and he pulls it away afraid that even that tiny movement will somehow hurt her.

"What the hell you talkin' bout Beth?!" His first instinct is to start pacing because what she said makes him angry, but he can't move.

"A bullet.. ripped through my skull, it ripped through my skull and left me for dead and I… I don't know what to do. Am I a survivor, am I just damn lucky? What do I do now?" Her eyes are glistening with tears and he feels a lump in his throat. He doesn't know what to say.

"I don' know Beth. But yer here." He reaches down and takes her hand in his, flips it over and runs a finger over the thin scar there. "Yer still here. You been a survivor for a long time girl, gonna quit now?"

"I'm scared." Tears are falling now, his shirt is wet beneath her face.

"Mmm hmm, me too. Be stupid if we wasn't."

That seems to throw her. And he knows why. Knows what she's remembering.

I ain't afraid of nothin'!

" 'Fraid of everything. Ain't no way around it. Just gotta live." He's moved his hand to her head again and gently strokes her hair.

"What if I can't?" This is whispered and he knows she's not quite certain it's true, cause Beth doesn't give up.

"You can girl, already have." He rests his cheek against the crown of her head.

"And you'll be here with me?"

"Ain't leaving you again."

xxxxXxxxx

Daryl is nervous, rips his cuticles to shreds watching her face trying to gauge her present state of mind. Why is she questioning living? She's here. She's beat the fuckin' odds and he won't lose her again. Won't. It's selfish and he knows it, but Beth Greene was never supposed to die. She's supposed to be right here beside him, talking too much and smiling too much and basically being a pain in his ass as he falls hopelessly in love with her over and over again.

xxxxXxxxx

She struggles with little things, they're probably big things in her mind. Memories, for one. She is determined to remember, on her own, the events leading up to her shooting. She doesn't seem at all upset about the fact that she can't remember anyone but Daryl and that bothers him more than it does her. But the fact that she can't piece together her time in the hospital infuriates her. She's often angry without even knowing why and she somehow senses that she didn't use to be this way, she remembers finding strength in a hope she no longer has. Daryl watches as she tries to find ways to compensate. Cause that's what the doctors are telling her to do. No one can tell them if these parts of her brain will ever heal and that makes her sad, him angry, but it isn't hopeless. She's finding ways to make it work. She's finding that hope.

One step forward, two steps back. It's just life though, as hard as it seems, it's life and Daryl would rather be living this one than the alternative.

"Scissors. I remember the scissors in my cast.." her eyes are wide and he nods from where he stands near the window watching storm clouds roll in and out indecisive about whether or not there's gonna be a storm or the sun's gonna shine. Nods and smiles, catches his reflection in the window. Almost scowls, but he can't cause she might be looking and that won't do.

One morning, even before the sun is up she's shaking his shoulder violently and he jumps up, his heart in his throat. His eyes searching for his crossbow. Old habits die hard.

"My daddy had a beard, a white beard! And Maggie, she was always bossy and telling me what to do... " She's breathless and her eyes are shining because she knows these are real memories. "And you, you whispered, 'I love you' in my ear when I was sleeping and couldn't wake up."

The sun decides to shine. And he's blessed.

xxxxXxxxx

The storm clouds eventually do come back, and thunder and lightning with them. Beth's eyes are the color of the storm and she's quiet, so quiet it's got him fidgeting and pacing, occasionally glancing at her where she sits on the bed her arms wrapped around her knees. She hasn't worn the hospital gown for a week now. She has clothes and can comb her hair, pull it up into a ponytail and braid it. Dr. Marks didn't have to shave her head. Flat out refused because the world has gone to shit and Beth Greene is gonna keep her hair. He has a daughter, with beautiful blonde tresses and Daryl thinks that maybe that has something to do with it.

"What if I can't be who I was before? What if I'm not the girl you fell in love with?" Her voice stops him in his tracks.

Her face that night on the porch.

'You gotta stay who you are, not who you were.'

"Ya are."

'Places like these, you gotta put 'em behind you.'

"This right now, this ain't forever. 'Membered yer daddy's beard, 'membered Maggie."

Membered those three little words I whispered in yer ear.

He stretches out beside her on the bed and tugs gently at her arm until she curls up against him. And he doesn't have to whisper anything anymore.

"I love ya Beth, member that?"

A giggle, her hand scratching the scruff on his chin.

"I won't ever forget that... I love you too Daryl."

And just like that, he's reminding her what it means to have hope.

xxxxXxxxx

The headaches are mostly gone, just little ones every once in awhile. She barely stays in the bed now. Walking around the hospital helps her memory and she asks Daryl question after question about the farm and the prison and he grunts out his answers and reminds her to take her time when she struggles with words. When she can't remember her way back to their room where it's quiet and safe and it's just the two of them, he takes her hand and shows her the way.

He makes good on his promise to go out and find gas, supplies, anything that might be useful. The first time it's hard, so hard to walk away. He's ready, has his crossbow, a knife and a loaded gun. A group he put together is waiting for him, but he gnaws at his thumb and he can't take his eyes off of her.

"It's okay Daryl," She knows he's afraid. "I'm gonna be right here waiting for you." Her hands are in his hair and her mouth finds his and it's soft and sweet and he knows that this is a gift. The hospital, the doctors, they gave him this, gave him her. They saved her life. Saved his too.

xxxxXxxxx

He goes. More than once and each time he comes back and she's waiting. Sometimes with a big smile because she remembered something or she didn't forget something else. Other times she's hunched over, arms wrapped around herself and it's only when he's got her that she lets go and through the tears, she tells him what she struggled with, how she forgot her way to the bathroom.

"The bathroom Daryl! How could I forget.."

He holds her close and tugs gently on her braid.

" 'S okay. I'll take ya to the bathroom, hell I'll jus' put a bucket in our room.." He tries to keep a straight face.

"Daryl!" She pummels him with her small fists which he doesn't doubt could be lethal if she really wanted them to be. But he's succeeded in taking her mind off what was a huge set back in her eyes and he's made her laugh. And he really will take her to the bathroom if she needs him too.

xxxxXxxxx

It's been 30 days since he climbed into that trunk and he's out scouting again. He can handle this, being out here. Taking out walkers, finding more and more places that haven't been completely looted, giving back to the people who gave him everything. What he can't handle is walking away from her. It doesn't get any easier. And he thinks about the day when she'll walk out beside him. Cause it's coming. This isn't their forever. He doesn't know what it is really. He just knows that whatever it is, it will be the two of them together.

xxxxXxxxx

Part 3 If Right Is Leaving, I'd Rather Be Wrong

"Daryl, I think you need to go out and find them.. the others." They're on the roof because Beth wanted to see the sky, birds. She remembers his story about the birds and this memory always makes her smile because he was laughing. He remembers how she sighed and moved her legs and Dr. Edwards told him he could sleep in the bed with her. He was so scared, of what he's not sure, but he did it and she was so small, but fit just right in his arms. And maybe he needed it more than she did.

"They think I'm dead, but you were alive... You need to find them." Her voice brings him back and he looks at her. She has this look on her face like she won't back down.

"Find them?" They left, left you here girl. Ain't even tried to come back and see what become of me.

"They love you, you should try. You tried for me and look what happened." Smile as bright as the damn sun. She runs a finger down his arm and grabs ahold of his hand.

"They love ya too... But I can't, I ain't..' He won't go, not unless she's by his side. How can she even suggest that? There's that damn smile again and she's laughing and reaching for him and he knows he's glaring at her.

"You think I'd ever let you go without me? We're not leaving each other- not ever again." She might be smiling, but he hears it in the way her voices drops an octave. She can't imagine it either, being without one another.

'I'll be gone one day'

Stop

'I will. You're gonna miss me so bad when I'm gone Daryl Dixon'

He cups her chin in his hand and tilts her face up towards his.

"I'll go. Me n' you."

He whispers these words into her mouth and kisses her like she's air and he's suffocating.

He wants to go. He's ready. At the same time, he's scared. Taking her away from here, out there, where anything could happen. Anything could go wrong. But so much could go right.

xxxxXxxxx

They talk to the doctors. Him first on his own because he doesn't want to get his hopes up or hers and he doesn't want her falling back down into that dark place if they say it's not a good idea. Dr. Edwards doesn't like it, but he doesn't say Beth shouldn't go. And Brian, he just smiles and claps Daryl on the shoulder.

"Go for it, man! She's doing amazing. She's got a second chance and she needs to take it."

So do I.. Got my girl back..

They say pretty much the same thing when he brings Beth to see them and her smile makes his heart flip flop all over his chest. She wraps her arms around him and laughs. And in that moment he's not thinking about how they're gonna do this, what they'll take, which way they'll head, he's just watching her, biting his lip as she tightens her arms around him and blinking hard to keep back the tears because Beth Greene was dead. He held her body in his arms, had her blood on his hands. She was gone. And then she wasn't. She isn't.

xxxxXxxxx

They give themselves a deadline of two weeks. He needs to take her out and let her work with weapons. He has a pistol and they have her knife. It was in a bag of her belongings that Dr. Edwards found on top of the trunk. No one's really sure how it got there. But it was there and now Beth has her knife back.

"And the crossbow, I was getting pretty good, I remember." She bumps his shoulder as they head out again to find more walkers to practice on.

"Yeah, we'll see girl. Just you slow down." But he smirks and she knows he'll give in. And she's right. He can't imagine not giving her anything she wants.

Summer is starting to turn. Fall will be here sooner than they know and Daryl wants to be somewhere secure before winter. He misses the others, misses them something fierce, but if it turns out they are on their own he knows it will be okay. More than okay.

He watches her closely while they practice and it's a beautiful thing, her body remembers what her mind has forgotten and everything falls into sync. She isn't afraid and she won't back down and she looks to him for cues, giving him that tiny nod, barely even there. He has to be sure she can protect herself. Just in case. But he will go down fighting to keep her safe. This time. He'll do it right this time.

xxxxXxxxx

Being out there and seeing it for the first time again, how tough it is doesn't seem to phase her.

"We did it before, we'll do it again." He's more nervous about this than her. They are leaving in a week. She's excited like they're taking a damn trip. One week. He's a wreck.

'Never have I ever.'

Been so terrified of losing.

Daryl is well versed in the ways that a person can lose. He was pretty much a loser from the day he was born. And since he didn't know any better he was resigned to the fact that life, in general, meant losing, if you had something you didn't want to lose. Daryl didn't hang onto things or people in an attempt to avoid this inconvenience. Merle was pretty much the one constant in his life and Daryl lost him and got him back all the time. Still didn't feel good. Still hurt like hell.

The world turned and the rules changed and for the first time, Daryl didn't feel like such a loser anymore. He had a purpose, he had a family. And there was love. There were still losses. And they hurt, but he wasn't alone.

But then…

He lost Beth. Twice.

You see a girl, a blonde girl?

'Beth? She helped me get out, but she's still there.'

He ain't a loser. He ain't. Because Beth is alive, she's healed, healing, every day he sees her putting herself back together and he bears that pain.

Nothing is promised.

'You're gonna be the last man standing.'

Only if you're standing next to me girl.

xxxxXxxxx

It's their last night here. His last night in the room where everything he believed before-isn't true. And it's still so surreal.. He's lying here in this bed, and Beth is in his arms and she's alive. There's no candlelight tonight. The moon is full and it's huge and it's lighting up the room with a silver hue and Beth is kissing him like she's trying to make up for all the days they never kissed. He thought about asking, what comes after kissin', cause even though he's honestly not entirely sure he's even ready for that, he might be. And maybe she will be too. But they got time. He's gonna make sure they have plenty of time.

It's been 42 days since he climbed into that trunk.

Tomorrow when the sun comes up and she opens her eyes, they're walking outta here.

Cause Beth is alive.

Gonna do my best to get my girl home.

xxxxXxxxx

They have packs on their backs, crammed full of all they can carry. There's meds for her. Antibiotics, aspirin, morphine injections, just in case. There's ammo and food that can keep. Water bottles and blankets. A compass and maps. Things they need to help them stay alive. Daryl thinks their best bet is to head towards DC. That was the plan before, now he can't say for sure, but it feels right.

He's watching her strap on her knife and it's like nothing ever changed. Her hair is pulled back in a ponytail, little braid dangling there amidst the curls, big blue eyes looking to him for confirmation of their next move. The clothes are different and she bears the scars of the journey she took all by her lonesome, but they're here, together. Again.

They're at the door that will take them out, out of this place where they were guaranteed a measure of safety they won't see once they walk out, away from the doctors who brought her back and saw her through the beginning of her recovery... Daryl's been second-guessing himself every single day since he agreed to this. But he won't go back now. Can't. This isn't the end of their story.

It's just the beginning.

She's telling them she won't say goodbye. Doesn't and they smile and laugh and hug her and when it's his turn he doesn't speak, just shakes their hands. Gripping them firmly, trying to put all he feels into that simple gesture. He's pretty sure they understand. Pretty sure they see the moisture in his eyes too as he hastily turns away. Beth pushes open the door and Daryl steps through first, bow raised. Already falling into sync.

'The man I was with, is he here too?'

'You were alone.'

They lied to her, lied to his girl. She was never alone, even when he wasn't there. He ran all night and then there was a car with a white cross, chased that too. All the way back to her.

They got Beth!

As the door closes behind them Beth laces her fingers through his and they go. He got her back. She's alive and they're gonna find their way home.

xxxxXxxxx

It's been a week, it hasn't been easy. They're dirty and tired and Daryl's been watching her so closely she's starting to get annoyed, he can sense that, but she's Beth and she's good and kind and stops in the middle of the road and takes his hands in hers, looks up at him with those blue eyes and sets him straight.

"I'm fine. Stop watching me like I'm gonna disappear." She's gentle, rubbing circles on his palms with her thumbs.

"Weren't doing that." He ducks his head and he's mumbling, because yes he was, has been since they left. But he likes watching her, not just to make sure she's okay, but to see her. Out here. Beside him.

"Stop. I promise if I feel anything at all out of sorts I will tell you." Then she goes, not looking back, knowing he'll follow.

"M'be I was looking at yer ass." Daryl can make jokes, even bad ones. Because she's here and she's listenin'.

Beth laughing is the closest thing to perfect right now. She tosses her ponytail, face to the sun and calls out over her shoulder, "Very funny Mister Dixon."

xxxxXxxxx

The beginning of the third week brings a light rain, but it does little to kill their mood. They spent the weekend in a hunter's shack. Daryl got a rabbit and a squirrel and together they skinned them and roasted them over a small fire. Beth remembered how to do it all. Everything he taught her from before, all those memories were still there in her brain just waiting for the chance to be used.

Now they're picking their way through some brush in the woods and he's been telling her stories about the others. Giving her what the bullet took away, hoping to jog her memory some more. Because it's happening, she's getting little pieces back.

"Rick planted a garden, didn't he? An actual garden.." She's smiling and shaking her head and he's about to tell her she's right when he notices tracks in the dirt. He reaches out a hand and grabs her forearm.

"What is it?" She's lowered her voice and stepped in right beside him, hand resting on her pistol.

Good girl.

"Tracks.." He points at where he's looking and she squats down.

"Ain't walkers. Daryl.."

"'S people, come on." They move to the cover of trees and he scans the area. He feels her brush his side, staying close. The tracks are recent. Very recent. Grass that usually pops back up is still pushed to the side by feet coming through it. Up ahead there's a break in the trees.

"Road," she whispers and again he is slightly awed by her ability to know, to see like he does.

"Ya listenin'? Hear any-

"Carl, grab that water jug wouldja."

Daryl stops, not sure he can move. Her eyes are huge, and a little fearful, but she's looking at him and he can already see that little spark of hope there.

'If you don't have hope, what's the point of living.'

Girl's got enough hope to keep him going. Hell, kept him going even when he wasn't aware of it. Saw those words written in that damn journal she carried with her and he musta tucked them away for safekeepin'

"Come on.."

"Daryl do you think.." Eyes as blue as the sky. Wait till they see her. And he's sure.

"Come on girl." He's tugging on her arm now, just as excited as she is to get to that road.

And they do. Step through the trees and tentatively out onto the weathered asphalt.

Seconds pass. Recognition dawns on the faces of a small group of people hanging out beside a blue suburban.

"Daryl?" Ricks got his hand up to his forehead, shading his eyes from the sun.

He pushes her gently in front of him, hands shaking he wants so badly to run to them, hug them all. But instead he watches as one by one they see her and they know her. She's smiling, that beautiful smile that seems brighter than the sun, which he knows is impossible, but Beth is alive so her smile might just be competition for the sun itself.

Then they're surrounded and Beth's pointing them out one by one, naming them all and accepting their hugs, touching their faces. And Rick is looking at him. Just staring, his eyes full of wonder and tears.

"How'd you.. how'd you know?" Daryl, uncomfortable under the weight of his regard, just shrugs.

"Didn't. Jus' couldn' leave her." And then Rick is hugging him, clapping him on the back, telling him that they were coming to Atlanta to find him. Telling him they found a place, might be a good one.

"You'll see, we're gonna take you there and you'll see." Daryl doesn't think his heart can feel any fuller until Maggie takes his pack and everyone starts to climb into the car and Beth reaches for his hand. Her eyes are bright and she's still smiling.

"They're just how you described them, Daryl!" She's breathless and giddy. "I kinda feel like I know 'em all."

"Toldja girl. You weren't never alone. Had people out here that loved ya." He brushes an unruly blonde curl from her cheek. He notices her furrowed brow.

"I wasn't alone Daryl, I had you. Had you and you loved me enough, more than enough the whole time." She pushes herself up on her toes and kisses him softly. And he lets her.

Fin ~