This was written for Bethyl Week 2017 using the prompt "return"! I hope you enjoy it!
Beth pops her trunk and digs under a pile of reusable grocery bags and empty plastic water bottles. She's searching for the pair of jumper cables Rick let her borrow over a month ago. She spots the telltale red and black clamps and pulls them out.
"I can't believe I forgot to return these," she mumbles to herself. Tossing them in the back seat of her little Jetta she runs back into her apartment and slips on her white converse and blue Led Zeppelin hoodie. She told Rick she'd bring them right over. He told her twice that in the morning would be fine, but she felt bad for the fact that they had been buried in her trunk for so long. He just laughed and told her if she insisted on bringing them she could hang out and have a beer.
When she get to Rick's she parks on the street and heads towards the open garage. There's an old white Ford with the hood up in the driveway and Rick's standing next to it watching another guy who's bent over looking at the engine.
"Hey, Rick! I am so sorry! They were buried beneath a ton of stuff in my trunk!" She holds out the cables and Rick smiles as he takes them.
"It's fine Beth. I didn't need them until tonight." He glances over at the guy next to him who just stood up. "Daryl's truck has been sitting for a couple years and we're trying to figure out what's going on with his battery... Oh yeah, you don't know Daryl. Daryl this is Beth, a long time family friend."
Beth looks up at the man. He's tall, dark and definitely good looking in a rugged sort of way. But he looks like he's irritated or in a bad mood. She can't tell which so she smiles and holds out her hand to him.
"Hi Daryl, it's, um, nice to meet you." He looks at her and then at his hands and she's just about to lower hers because she's beginning to feel self-conscious when he reaches down and wipes his hand on his jeans then reaches out to her.
"Hey." That's all. Just hey, but his hand is warm and it's big and rough and making her's seem so small in comparison. "Sorry if I get any grease on ya." His voice is rugged like his looks, all gravely sounding and it makes her tummy do that little thing it does when she drives too fast over a bump in the road. He's still not really smiling, but he's looking fixedly at her and his blue eyes are kind.
"Daryl is a buddy from high school. He just got back into town and he's gonna stay with Michonne and me for a few weeks."
"Oh? That's great.." She's at a loss for words all of a sudden and Daryl is bent back over the engine fiddling with some wires. "Um, you mentioned a beer?"
"Oh yeah, go on in. I told Michonne you were coming by." She glances quickly over at Daryl just in time to catch him peeking at her and she bites her lip to keep from smiling and forces herself to turn and walk into the garage.
A couple of days later Beth finds Rick's denim jacket that she borrowed when they were all at the drive-in and she got cold (but forgot her own jacket) in her back seat, underneath stacks of newspaper meant for the recycling center months ago. So she swings by Rick's to drop it off on her way home from the library. Because friends should return the things they borrow. The white Ford isn't in the driveway and Beth feels a twinge of disappointment, but she heads up to the door anyway. She hears the garage door opening before she reaches out to knock and Rick comes out, followed by Daryl.
"Hi, Rick I'm returning your jacket. I borrowed it-"
"At the drive-in, cause you forgot yours. Thanks, Beth, I was looking for this." Rick takes it and smiles at her and she glances over at Daryl. He's leaning against the back of the truck watching her.
"Did you get your truck running Daryl?" She's being polite, asking about his truck, but really she just wants to hear his voice. Her question seems to have caught him off guard because he stands up quickly and clears his throat.
"Nah. Gotta get 'nother battery. This one's shot." He rests his arm on the edge of the truck and doesn't smile, but he isn't quite frowning either and just like the other night when he was staring at her she sees kindness in his blue eyes.
"Okay. Well, I better get out of your hair." She smiles and waves and is turning to leave when Rick calls her back.
"Hey Beth, stay for dinner. We ordered pizza. And there's beer!" Rick laughs.
"Really? Well, how can I say no to beer!" Honestly, she isn't a big fan of beer, but she noticed that Daryl seemed to like it the other night and he'll probably have some tonight. So. She hurries past them into the garage feeling silly for thinking like she is.
"Still got a drive-in in town?" Daryl is really uncomfortable with the way Rick keeps smiling at him so he starts up a conversation to wipe the grin off his friend's face.
"Yeah, they do." Rick is still smiling. And it's kinda creepy. Daryl turns to examine the truck bed for things, anything.
"Cool," he says, picking up a couple of cans. Rick has a recycling bin. Daryl saw it by the garage door and he heads over to it with his cans.
"Why? You wanna borrow my car and take Beth to a movie?" Rick asks all nonchalant. Daryl freezes but doesn't look at the other man.
"Stop," Daryl growls.
"Okay, okay! But I think she likes ya." Rick says and now Daryl does turn and look at him.
"What the hell ya talkin' about? She don't like me." He feels the heat in his face and just the thought of that sexy little blonde paying him any mind at all is enough to give him a heart attack.
"Daryl seems like a nice guy," Beth says casually as she and Michonne put together a salad to go with the pizzas.
"Sure once you get past the grunts and growls he's a cupcake!" Michonne giggles and Beth isn't sure what to say. Michonne takes one look at her face and laughs out loud. "You were serious? Honestly, though, Daryl might be a man of few words, but he really is a good guy."
"Why is he staying with you guys?" Beth carefully slices an avocado in half and pops out the seed.
"He's doing some renovations on his place. He was gonna stay at a hotel, but Rick refused to let him do that. Funny thing is he actually seems to like being in the middle of our crazy household." Beth smiles at the thought of Daryl on diaper duty.
The door to the garage opens and Rick comes in followed by a cloud of pepperoni steam and Daryl with pizza boxes piled in his arms.
"Pizzas here! Carl! Get down here!" Rick yells and Beth knows that the house is loud and filled with life, she's used to it. Daryl, on the other hand, looks a little nervous and he gives her a small one-sided smile as she takes the boxes from his arms.
A stampede, or at least what sounds like a stampede rumbles across the ceiling and down the stairs and Beth notices how Daryl's face lights up when Carl and baby Judith enter the room. The boy goes right over to him and hands off Judith.
"Don't worry Uncle Daryl, I changed her for you and everything!" Carl ducks as Daryl ruffles his hair and gives the baby the biggest smile Beth has seen on his face yet.
"Hey lil' ass-kicker ya gonna share some pizza with me? Huh?" All the nervousness is gone and now Daryl looks like he's right at home. Beth takes the seat next to him and giggles when Judith holds out a tomato sauce covered hand towards Beth.
"Thank you, Judith! I love pepperoni!" Beth takes the gift the baby gave her and puts it in her mouth.
"You gonna share with Beth too? Tha's good. She seems like a sweetheart don' she?" Daryl is talking so quiet, it's just the three of them that can hear what he's saying, well Judith really has no clue, but she's smiling too. And drooling over a pizza crust while she looks back and forth between Beth and Daryl.
Beth is really glad she found that denim jacket and returned it because that's what friends do.
Another couple of days go by and early one Saturday morning Beth is back at Rick's. This time with a rake she borrowed last fall to get all the leaves out of her tiny backyard. Rick isn't sure it's even his, but he thanks, Beth and asks her to join them at Carl's baseball game. Carl is oiling his glove in the garage and comes running out.
"Please Beth, with you and Daryl there it'll be like I have a fanbase!" Beth giggles and how can she say no.
"She can shake them damn pom poms. I ain't doing that again." There's that gravelly voice and when Beth looks over at Daryl she sees the smirk on his face and the way his blue eyes are smiling as he watches Carl smack his glove.
Next, it's a blender that's broken, which Beth apologizes profusely for, also which Michonne knows for a fact is not hers, but she takes it and thanks Beth for returning it. She then demands that Beth hang out and watch a movie with them. Beth hasn't ever seen Boondock Saints, but when she hears it's one of Daryl's favorites she is willing to give it a try.
And then it's a video game that mysteriously showed up in Beth's living room and she's sure she borrowed it from Carl (even though she doesn't have any game consoles). When Carl starts to deny that it's his Rick chimes in loudly,
"It's been so long, boy forgot what he has. Thanks for returning it, Beth. Hey we got some peach pie we were just gonna cut into, you wanna come in and have a piece? Daryl's got some pictures of the renovations on his place he was gonna show us too."
"Oh, I don't wanna intrude," Beth says glancing at Daryl. He gives her a look that she can't quite decipher.
"Ya ain't intrudin'. I don't know 'bout you but I won' pass up the chance for a piece a Michonne's peach pie!" Beth notices that the tips of Daryl's ears are pink and she realizes that look he gave her might have been because he's nervous. Probably about showing the pictures of his renovations to everyone. That has to be it.
So she stays and eats pie and is blown away by the photos of the work that Daryl has done on a tiny cabin just outside of town. It's absolutely beautiful and everyone is gushing and Daryl looks like he'd just like to sink into the floor so Beth keeps quiet until she's headed out the door where Daryl is smoking on the porch. She stops on the step in front of him.
"Your cabin is beautiful Daryl. You should be very proud of yourself." She smiles at him and is pleased to see that crooked little one-sided smile on his face. And even though it's only half a smile his eyes tell the rest of the story. "Night." She's breathless and forces herself not to skip to her car.
She 's gone and he's still sitting there with a little smile on his face when he hears Rick chuckle somewhere behind him.
"Ain't nothing ta laugh about." He growls back at his friend.
"Told you she liked you." Rick joins Daryl on the porch.
"Think that's funny? So what if she does. I might like her too." It's not only the tips of his ears that are pink now. He can feel it all the way down his neck and beneath his collar. But he's shut Rick up for once and it's him that chuckles as he stubs out his cigarette and heads inside.
A few days later Rick and Daryl are sitting at the table going over some plans Daryl drew up for the cabin. Michonne is at the counter making lemonade when Carl comes in the garage door followed by Beth. Daryl feels his mouth go dry. She looks so damn pretty. Beth's all dressed up in a little sundress and her hair is all wild curls he'd like touch. He clears his throat and looks back down at the table trying to listen to the conversation going on between her and Michonne without being obvious.
"Hi, Michonne. I came to return your book." Beth pulls the book from the bag she has over her shoulder and holds it out to Michonne.
'Girls got something else she's returning? She sure does borrow a lot of stuff. Kinda cute really.' Then he coughs because cute isn't a word in his vocabulary.
"Book?" Michonne takes the book from Beth and glances at the cover and then back at Beth, her eyebrow raised and a little mischievous smirk on her face. "This isn't my book Beth."
Daryl knows right then that something is up because Rick is fidgeting next to him.
"Oh? I thought it was yours, hmmm. Maybe it's Maggie's…" Her cheeks are flushed and she looks so pretty and she keeps peeking at him.
Oh damn. He finally gets it. Beth must really like him. Rick wasn't messing with him. She keeps finding excuses to return random things to Rick's house. She likes him? Him? But why in the hell... He can't for the life of him figure it out.
Suddenly Michonne laughs out loud and it startles him and he sees that it startled Beth too. "You wanna borrow Daryl? You don't even gotta return him." She means well, is just poking fun at Beth because friends do that sometimes. Even he knows that. But Beth is mortified. Her cheeks aren't just flushed, they are burning up a bright red.
"Oh." Her eyes fill with tears. Why is she crying? "Um… yeah, I.." Then she turns and fast as a jackrabbit she runs out the garage door. Daryl stands up and glares at Michonne.
"Why'd ya go 'n make her cry?" he growls. Beth with her sweet smile and all these things she needed to return. It's all silly, but no reason to make her cry.
"I was just teasing her Daryl. I didn't mean anything. I'll go and get-" Daryl cuts her off stepping around her.
"Nah, ya let me. Already done enough." He heads out the door hoping Beth hasn't left yet. She hasn't. She's kneeling on the ground beside her car where the contents of her bag lay scattered all around her. He isn't sure what to do so he just starts talking.
"Hey Beth, ya need some help there?" He kneels down beside her and picks up some papers and a package of cherry lifesavers. "Ya like these?" he asks hoping to get her talking. She glances over at him and he sees her tear streaked face and his chest tightens in a way he's never felt before.
"Oh, yeah I do." She sniffs and looks down at her hands. "They're my favorite." More tears roll down her cheeks.
"Awe Beth, don't cry," Daryl says softly.
"I'm sorry, I'm just, I don't know- I'm embarrassed, " Beth says with a nervous little laugh.
"Don't gotta apologize fer bein' embarrassed girl." He hands her the last of the things that are laying on the ground and she tucks them in her purse. They stand up and awkwardly face each other.
"Um, thank you for, you know for helping me." There's that nervous laughter again. She's so pretty, even with her eyes all red from crying.
"Can I ask ya why ya was embarrassed?" He scratches his cheek and sticks his hands in his pockets. If he doesn't do something with them he's gonna reach out and touch her hair, to see if it's as soft as it looks. Her eyes widen and her face goes a little pale.
"Oh, I.. y'all must've figured it out. I mean I kept returning things and making excuses to come over and looking like an absolute fool." She clasps her hands in front of her and looks at him from under her lashes and if that's not the sexiest look he's ever been given. It must be what gives him the courage to say what he says next.
"Cause you like me?" He doesn't mean for it to come out in a growl like it does. Her eyes are even wider than before. Damn. "I uh, well Rick tol' me. I'm pretty clueless. Sides what would a beautiful girl like you see in me, I'm nothin' special." He's trying to make her feel better, but now she just looks pissed off. She has her hands on her hips and her blue eyes are flashing. It's downright hot. He bites his lip and waits for whatever it is she's gonna dish out.
"Don't you dare say that about yourself! You are too something. I know a baby girl who thinks you're pretty special and a kid who calls you uncle and you ain't even related.. and Michonne, she says you're a good guy and even though she likes to tease me and get me all worked up sometimes, she never lies. And you've been friends with Rick since high school, come on.." She's run outta steam now, had her say. And he does feel pretty damn special when she says all those things, but he wants to know one more thing.
"What 'bout you? Whada ya think of me, Beth?" He likes the look on her face when his voice is especially gravelly. He is a little observant. She's staring at him, a little perplexed and a whole lot nervous.
"Well, I.. you have kind eyes. Every time I looked at you, even when I wasn't sure what you were thinking, there was kindness in your eyes and, well I just figured you were shy or maybe a little nervous. But I felt like you were a good guy. And I was right." She's smiling for real now and he likes that smile even though her words made him feel funny, her smile does other things. Things he likes, a lot.
"Maybe ya better borrow me, just ta be sure. Don't gotta return a thing either. Just go out ta dinner with me and maybe one of them drive-in movies? Rick said I could borrow his car. And I'll even let ya borrow my jacket." Beth's giggling. She has been since he mentioned borrowing him and he loves the sound of her giggles. But that's a secret he will take to his grave. "Whada ya say, Beth?"
"Yes, I say yes. You're pretty funny too!" She runs a finger down his arm.
"Yeah? Oh hey, can I borrow that roll of cherry lifesavers?" She gives him another perplexed look. "I promise I'll return 'em." Now she's laughing out loud and he thinks he likes that almost as much as the giggles and he's wondering what other sounds she makes that he'd love. Maybe if he's damn lucky he'll get to find out. And he's never thought of himself as a funny guy, but maybe he is. Maybe with Beth, he is.