This story has been in my head for the past couple of weeks and I finally was able to sit down and get the first chapter out of me. I'm attempting at writing different versions of Beth and Daryl and this chapter will be Beth's POV and the next will be Daryl's. I promise not to add any southern pride into this story. Thank you in advance!
She loved her sister and had always considered Maggie to be one of her best friends.
But Beth Greene also hated her sister. So much. Especially when Maggie got into these moods and pulled Beth from the office – even if Beth was right in the middle of research – and would declare that Beth needed to have some fun while dragging her off to the bar.
Beth hated when Maggie got into these moods because there was just no stopping her. It didn't matter to Maggie if Beth had never – ever – had fun at the bar when Maggie dragged her. It didn't matter to Maggie that Beth just wound up sitting at the bar, drinking Shirley Temples and continuing her research on her laptop while Maggie flirted with all of the men, who seemed to flock to her. Men had always liked Maggie more of the two sisters anyway.
Even when Beth pointed these things out to her though, Maggie either didn't seem to hear her or she didn't seem to care. Knowing Maggie, it was the latter.
Tonight, it was no different. Most in the office had gone home for the day and only a few still remained, staring at their laptop screens or hunched over files on their desks, making notes and preparing themselves for whatever cases had been dropped in front of them for the week. There were file folders all over as well as stacks of file boxes. Beth's cramped little cubicle had four boxes in it alone and stacks of folders on every available inch of desk space and Andrea, her boss, always wondered how Beth was able to find anything, but Beth insisted that there was a system; one that only she knew the key to.
It was practically silent in the offices of Harris & Monroe Law Offices except for the occasional sneeze or cough or turning of a book page or whirring of the printer, so when the elevator doors dinged open, announcing the arrival of someone, Beth could hear it. And there was something on the back of her neck that let her know that it was for her.
And sure enough, a few moments later, Maggie poked her head around the corner of Beth's cubicle, grinning the instant Beth lifted her eyes and met hers.
"Hey," Maggie stepped into the cramped space and picking up one of the boxes, she set it down on the floor so she could sit down in the one chair across from Beth's desk. "What are you still doing here?"
"Research," Beth answered and that was all she said because she had learned that if she talked too much "law talk" around her sister, Maggie's eyes tended to glaze over. "What are you doing here?" She asked though she already knew what Maggie was going to say.
Maggie hadn't dragged her to the bar in a couple of weeks and Beth supposed it was time. Maggie always liked to remind Beth that Beth was, in fact, younger than her and should want to leave work and go act like a drunken idiot in public. Beth wished she was able to remind her sister that she had always acted like the older sister, but Beth knew it would just be one of those things that Maggie waved her hand off, choosing to not admit it.
Maggie had a terrible habit of seeing only what she wanted to see.
At Beth's question now, Maggie simply smiled at her and Beth did her best to not sigh.
She loved her sister. She loved her sister. She loved her sister.
She repeated this to herself over and over again and said nothing out loud as she slowly sat back and closed her laptop, reaching for the computer bag beneath her desk.
The Pine Cone wasn't the nicest bar in town, but it wasn't the dirtiest either. It was comfortably in the middle and Beth supposed that she and her sister could be considered regulars. Maggie more than Beth, but the town was so used to clumping the Greene sisters into the same pile with everything else so this was no different. If Maggie was a regular at The Pine Cone, then so was Beth.
It was a Wednesday night, but the bar was still crowded – mainly for the bar's special it ran every Wednesday night of two dollar drafts.
As soon as she entered, Beth didn't care about following after Maggie. With her computer bag slung onto her shoulder, Beth made her way through the bodies to get to the bar. She usually always sat on the very end, next to the wall, and despite the noise, she was always able to get some amount of work done; until Maggie found her again and declared that she was ready to go home and Beth had spent enough time out; like she was some hunchback from the attic that was granted freedom every few days for a set amount of hours.
Tonight though, as she neared the bar, Beth frowned. Someone was sitting in her seat. A couple, the man leaning so close into the woman, he was practically sitting on the same stool as her, and the woman was laughing as if the man was telling her the greatest joke.
Beth felt a stab of envy at their closeness and affection for a brief moment before it was replaced with impatience. Maybe she could sneak out without Maggie seeing and finish her research in her car. At least it would be much quieter in the car than it was in here tonight.
Beth saw the gruff usual Pine Cone bartender speak to the couple and as she looked at Daryl Dixon, she felt her stomach give a quick flip as it usually always did when she went days without seeing him. She always nearly forgot about him in between the times she wasn't here. She didn't see him anywhere else except here at the bar and she was always so busy at work, every day, she had little time to think about anything except work.
So weeks would pass and then Maggie would drag her back to The Pine Cone again and Beth would get a look at Daryl Dixon all over again and all of a sudden, she would remember just how good looking that man was.
She didn't stand a chance with him, of course.
He was older, for one thing – not that age mattered that much to Beth. Her parents were perfectly happy with more than twenty years separating them. But she had a feeling that her being younger would bother Daryl more than anything. He was older and gruff with longish dark hair that covered his ears and a built body that the green tee-shirt of the bar with a pine cone printed on the front pocket hugged quite nicely. He smoked and rode a motorcycle and spoke as if he chewed on gravel. He was everything none of her ex-boyfriends – all two of them – had ever been and Beth knew she probably wasn't the only woman in this bar with a crush on the surly, handsome bartender.
The only way she even knew his full name was because Maggie had gotten drunk enough one night to ask him for it.
"Excuse me?" The man asked, looking to Daryl with a raised eyebrow.
"You're in a reserved seat and she jus' showed up so get up," Daryl said and he wasn't exactly giving the man an order, but he wasn't exactly giving the man an option either.
Beth felt the back of her neck flush as the man turned and caught sight of Beth standing there in her heels and reserved dress with her computer bag and he probably thought she was a kid playing dress-up. Despite having gone to law school just like all of her other colleagues, Beth was the youngest in the office and knew they would always see her as such. She had always looked younger than she actually was, which Maggie and her mom both said would be considered a blessing when she was older, but Beth didn't know if she actually believed that.
She expected the man to argue, but instead – and Beth figured it was probably because of Daryl's dark eyes staring him down – the man took the woman's hand and they slid off the stools without argument and walked away.
By the time Beth sat down on her usual stool with her bag on the stool next to her, Daryl was coming back and setting a Shirley Temple with five maraschino cherries in front of her.
"Thank you," she gave him a small smile, both for the drink and getting her the stool back.
Daryl just gave her a head nod. "Lemme know when you need another one," he said and then he walked away, off to help other patrons.
Beth watched him walk away for a moment before she shook her head at herself and set her laptop up, ready to get back to work.
It got quieter as the night went on, but Beth hardly noticed. She was always able to work on her research no matter how loud the bar was. It was a skill she was grateful to have; one she had honed in college while the dorm on weekends had been bursting with noise and music and Beth had stayed in her room to study.
She had another Shirley Temple sometime and she hadn't even asked for it. As soon as she finished one, Daryl was placing a fresh one down on a fresh coaster. She smiled up at him and she expected him to walk away like he always did, but this time, he lingered a moment.
"Wha' is it tonight?" He asked, tilting his head towards her laptop.
"Libel cases against newspapers in the State of Georgia in the past ten years," she answered with a smile and she felt shy all of a sudden. She and Daryl had never really spoken before except for him to learn what she preferred to drink. He didn't even know what she did for a living except that whatever it was, it was something she was able to work on while at a bar, of all places.
"Sounds fun," he said with a completely straight face and it made her laugh a little.
She shrugged a shoulder, picking up the plastic spear of cherries from the glass. "Better than when I had to study and memorize the Atlanta School District dress code manual."
Beth could have sworn that she nearly got Daryl Dixon to smile at that one.
"Lemme know when you need another one," was all he said before he walked away again.
This time, Beth forced her eyes to stay on her screen so she didn't watch him and she tried not to imagine what Maggie would do to get the attention of a man she had a crush on. Maggie had always been the more outgoing of the two sisters – yet another difference between the two in a seemingly endless list.
She didn't know if it ever bothered Maggie, but Hershel had always called Beth his "good" daughter. She was polite and proper and she always came home long before curfew and she never snuck out her bedroom window. She never got caught up in the hayloft in the barn with a boy and she had never been brought home with a Sheriff's hand on her shoulder for playing mailbox baseball.
Maggie was wild. She always had been. But she always said that she only had one life and she was going to live it, damn it. Beth had always been perfectly happy with the way her life was – quiet and calm and each day, she woke up and went to work, doing a job she truly loved, before going home for a quiet evening and then doing it all again the next day. She knew Maggie thought her life was as dull as grass growing, but Beth didn't care because it was her life and she had worked hard for it and she loved it.
But sometimes, on the nights she was dragged into The Pine Cone, Beth would watch Daryl without making it too obvious at all that that was what she was doing, and she found herself wishing she was just a tiny bit more like Maggie.
The clock in the top right corner of the screen told Beth that it was ten-thirty and she was absolutely exhausted. She saw Maggie coming back towards her and she could not help but sigh with relief before a yawn escaped her and she began shutting down her computer.
"Ready to go?" Maggie asked.
Beth was ready to go before they even got out of the car in the parking lot hours earlier.
She didn't answer. She just nodded and carefully slipped down from the stool, slipping her laptop back into her bag and leaving a ten dollar bill on the bar for her two Shirley Temples and a generous tip. Daryl was at the other end of the bar, filling shot glasses for a group of what looked to be college-aged kids. For a moment, Beth wished that he would look over so he could see that she was leaving, but then she practically shook her head at herself. What did it matter if he saw her leaving or not? He was working and all she had were two kiddie cocktails the entire time she was there.
Hardly the most important customer he had that night.
Shouldering her bag, she followed Maggie from the bar without looking back, grateful to be leaving and pleased with the thought that she was only twenty minutes away from slipping into her bed and going to sleep.
Even though she graduated from law school with loans to pay back – as most students – Beth had a small inheritance she had received from her grandmother upon her passing and she had kept it in the bank, letting it collect interest over the years and with help from her parents, she was able to purchase a house. Nothing fancy. Just a small white house with a dark blue door and a brick porch built away from anything, down a dirt road. It was her dream house before Beth even realized that she had ever had a dream house.
After dropping Maggie off at her house – her sister too tipsy to drive herself – Beth went home, sighing with relief as she drove down the dirt road, the headlights sweeping across the front of her house as she parked beside it. Beth collected her things and stepped from the car into the pitch black of the night. She locked her car and then stood there for a moment, basking in the silence. Absolute silence and the only lights were from the stars in the black-ink sky that night.
It was one of the reasons why she moved out here. Maggie had been slightly disgusted and slightly confused when Beth brought her parents and Maggie over as Beth proudly pulled the "SOLD" sign from the front yard.
"What's around here?" Maggie asked with a frown, looking around at the woods and fields and the blue sky that stretched overhead with no interruption for miles.
And Beth had answered with a smile. "Nothing."
It wasn't as if Beth didn't like being around people. She had always been something of a social butterfly. In high school, she had been a member of the choir and drama club and had been voted "Biggest Sweetheart" by her senior class. She had always had friends and liked spending all of her time with them.
But then something had happened in college. She didn't know what. She lost herself in studying and learning and nothing else mattered to her except earning her degree and graduating. She knew it bothered Maggie. She had called Beth anti-social more than once, but Beth didn't let it bother her. She had studied hard to get where she was now and now, she worked hard to stay there. She had friends – and maybe she was wrong about it – but friends were no longer the most important thing in her life. Or romantic relationships, for that matter. Maggie just loved pointed that out to her.
She had a small flashlight on her key chain – she kept meaning to get solar path lights so she would have at least a little light when she got home – and she lit it now as she walked up the porch and unlocked her front door. She turned the light on the table next to the door and then closed and locked the door behind her. The house was small – downright tiny – but Beth admitted that she loved it for that reason. She was just one person, starting out on her own in the world. Why did she need a lot of space?
There was the large front room which was both the living room and kitchen combined. And then there was her bedroom and a small bathroom. There was a screened-in sun porch in the back where she liked to sit in the evenings – when she got home at a decent hour – and watch the sun set below the fields as she read and a basement where her washer and dryer were. Everything was perfect about her house and who could blame her for wanting to be here if she wasn't at the office?
Within ten minutes, Beth was right where she wanted to be. In her pajamas, tucked between the cool sheets of her bed and within another five, she was fast asleep.
Aiden Monroe liked Beth and she knew it.
Not like a man liked a woman, but how a boss liked an employee. He preferred her working on his cases with him more than any of the other paralegals; if Andrea didn't take her for herself, because his law partner, Andrea Harris, held the same opinion.
Aiden grabbed her first though for his next case and he stopped by Beth's cubicle at noon.
He smiled at her as she sat at her desk, completely lost in the print outs she was reading and highlighting. He knocked on the cubicle wall, startling her, making her visibly jump.
"Sorry," he gave her a smile. "Wanna get something to eat?" He asked.
"Yes," she breathed with relief and he kept smiling as she stood up, grabbing the papers and file folder, hugging it to her chest and giving Aiden a smile as he stepped aside so she could walk out first and they the stairs rather than the elevator.
There was a food truck always parked outside the office building where Harris & Monroe was and Aiden and Beth stood in line, waiting their turn to order.
"So? Lay it on me," Aiden said.
"Alright." Beth took a deep breath before she began. "Georgia Code 51-5-1 states a) libel is a false and malicious defamation of another, expressed in print, writing, pictures or signs, tending to injure the reputation of the person and exposing him to public hatred, contempt or ridicule. B) publication is necessary to recover damages for libel in Georgia."
"I remember that from the exam," he threw her a grin and she rolled her eyes. "What else?"
"Georgia code 51-5-4 states: slander or oral defamation consists in uttering disparaging words productive of special damages which flows naturally therefrom and making charges against another in reference to his trade, office or profession, which is calculated to injure him therin."
"What else?" Aiden asked once more.
Beth knew he knew all of this already, but one of the reasons both Aiden and Andrea liked her so much was because she was thorough in her research.
They reached the truck and the owner, T-Dog, gave them a grin, knowing them well.
"What can I get you two today?" He asked.
"Jerk chicken sliders with the pineapple slaw for me, T," Aiden ordered, reaching into his suit pocket for his wallet. "What'll you have?" He asked, looking to Beth.
"Fish tacos for me, please, T," Beth smiled up at him.
"You two got it," T-Dog smiled before turning. Aiden knew how much the total would be without him having to be told and he slipped the twenty on the counter just as T-Dog turned and handed him two glass bottles of Coke.
Beth and Aiden stepped aside so the next people in line could order.
"What else?" Aiden asked again before taking a sip of Coke.
"Because Mr. Blake is a public figure, we have to prove actual malice where if he was a private person, we would only have to prove negligence," Beth said.
Aiden nodded. "I've been thinking of how we are going to do that."
Beth knew what he was going to say before he said it because she had thought of it, too. It was actually a reason she had never actually wanted to become fully qualified as a lawyer. She loved the law and that they lived in a country ruled by law and order; where the laws were clear and known to almost all. But sometimes, the way the law had to be practiced, that was what Beth didn't necessarily like and didn't know if she could actually do it herself. Aiden and Andrea and others were immune to it – what they had to do sometimes to win – and the typical lawyers jokes told about them about lawyers not having souls.
Beth liked her research. She didn't have to do anything when it came to researching because the facts in her books never twisted or changed.
"We have to prove that the libel statement made about Mr. Blake is false," Beth said, her stomach already churning.
"There you guys go," T-Dog said, sliding a tray with their food across the counter.
"See you tomorrow, T," Aiden said, taking the tray and Beth got them napkins and plastic ware from the end of the counter before leading them to one of the little tables set up on the sidewalk. She sat down and Aiden sat down across from her, distributing their food.
"Stop looking like I just told you to drown a basket of puppies, Beth," Aiden said.
Beth didn't say anything. She took a small bite of her first taco and then clicked open her pen before opening the file folder. "Tell me what to do," she said though she already knew.
"Find out everything about her for the past ten years. Jobs, friends, boyfriends, spending habits. Find out where she's been. See if she was even in Georgia when this supposedly happened," Aiden rattled off and Beth nodded as she wrote down her orders.
She loved her job. She just didn't necessarily love this part.
Beth tried her hardest not to call it victim blaming since it was a little more complicated than that, but it still, it never set right with her – researching the accuser in an effort to try and find dirt on the woman who they were filing the case against after she had gone to the newspapers and had called their town's mayor some not so nice things, accusing him of things that would forever destroy his life if true. He had hired the law offices of Harris & Monroe to prove that they were not. They had his word that they were not, but courts tended to require evidence rather than just the words of a client.
She left the office early for the first time that week but as always, she took her laptop.
She said goodnight to her coworkers, always having a smile for them, and she took the elevator down, saying goodnight to the security guard who sat at the front desk in the lobby before stepping out into the still-warm evening.
She got into her car and wondered what she would eat for dinner that night. Truth be told, she was still full from T-Dog's delicious fish tacos from lunch but she did need something. She didn't know what, but suddenly, oddly enough, going home didn't seem like enough.
When Beth pulled in the parking lot of The Pine Cone, she was surprised at how unsurprised she felt that this was where she decided to go for the second night in a row.
Shouldering her bag onto her shoulder, Beth crossed towards the front door and stepped inside. It was crowded once again – people in there, celebrating their weekend a day early. Her eyes went to the bar and she felt warmth on the back of her neck as she saw Daryl behind there as he usually was, going from person to person, getting them what they ordered.
But – and Beth had no idea how he did – it was as if he knew she was in there all of a sudden because he lifted his head and his eyes met hers despite the people between them. He looked a little surprised and she didn't blame him. She never came here, two nights in a row.
His eyes cut away, glancing towards her usual stool – empty tonight – and she smiled, heading over there now. And by the time she has sat down and gotten herself settled, Daryl was setting her usual Shirley Temple down on a coaster in front of her.
Beth gave him a smile and then looked down to her drink for a second.
"Somethin' wrong?" He asked.
Beth shook her head, but even as she did, she knew that that wasn't entirely true because she was at the bar for the second night in a row. She had obviously come here for a reason.
"Actually," she lifted her head. "Can I have a…" she thought of something for a moment and then blurted out the first alcohol that came to her. "A vodka?"
Daryl looked at her and she frowned when he smirked at her. "Jus' a vodka?" He asked.
"Please," she said, making sure she looked him dead in the eye.
He was still smirking as he went to go get her the drink and she pulled her laptop from her bag, setting it on the bar and firing it up. Time to do what she did best. Research.
"One vodka," Daryl returned and set the glass of clear liquid down in front of her.
She lifted the glass and then lifted her eyes, finding him still standing there.
"You gonna watch me?" She asked.
"Wanna watch you actually get that down," he said and he was still smirking and Beth narrowed her eyes at him, which actually only seemed to amuse him more.
Beth did her best to not wrinkle her nose as she brought the glass closer and she got her first whiff. She took a deep breath and then took a swallow; a much larger gulp than she knew she should have. It burned her throat and she instantly began coughing as the alcohol seared down her esophagus and she could only hope she wouldn't throw up right there.
The glass of vodka was gone and was swiftly replaced with a glass of water.
Beth took it and greedily chugged it, chasing the taste of vodka from her tongue. When she felt like she was no longer on fire from the inside, she looked at Daryl. He didn't look amused anymore. He was now looking at her like he usually did. His expression was blank as it usually was.
"That is vile," she frowned.
"Was never a vodka fan," Daryl said, taking the glass with the offending liquor away from her and dumping it down the drain beneath the bar. He pushed the Shirley Temple closer to her. "Lemme know when you need another one," he said as he always said.
He turned and walked away, off to help the next customer, and as Beth always did, she tried her hardest to not watch him and instead, she put her attention on her work.
Thank you very much for reading and please take a moment to review!