a/n: yep, so it's been...ten months since I wrote something? WOOPS. thanks to those for the friendly prompting, it was just what I needed to finish this one. title taken from The Weakerthans song of the same name. enjoy xx
Her break is almost over. In three minutes, to be exact.
The mid-morning lull will make way for the lunch rush and as she washes her hands and smiles into the mirror, she prepares herself mentally. Her game face, the other women would call it, the face that calms and soothes and rakes in the tips.
A more important reason to smile, however, will walk through that door at 12.45 on the dot. He will sit at the counter, always the counter. He will order a coke and a burger. He will tip his 15%.
If she serves him, he will tip 25%. He might even grace her with a smile.
She's convinced Daryl Dixon likes her. He won't make a move, but he definitely likes her. Maybe he thinks she's pretty, maybe he just wants to fuck her. It doesn't matter either way, as long as he doesn't feel sorry for her.
She can't handle another person in this town feeling sorry for her.
"Hey," Beth tosses her keys on the kitchen bench, along with a sack of groceries, her handbag, and tote, "how was work?"
"Spent the afternoon at the Peterson farm," Shawn glances up from where he sits at the kitchen table, laptop open "one of their horses was breeched."
Beth heaves a sigh.
"What do you want me to do, Beth?" he rubs his hands over his face, "not help out our neighbours? Do you think Dad-"
"Daddy didn't have mortgage repayments coming out of his ears and no other income than a veterinarian practice and minimum wage at the diner."
"Come on, Bethy," her brother frowns, "we're on top of our bills. We're getting by. And you know Mrs Peterson will probably cook us, like, a month's worth of food as a thank-you. Just think of it – a month's worth of her blue ribbon cherry pie."
"I hate it when you're right," she grumbles, stomach growling at the very mention of the dessert, "speaking of free food…"
"You know I thought I could smell something delicious," Shawn immediately perks up, tone becoming teasing.
"Fried chicken, green beans, and mac'n'cheese," she reaches into her tote, placing two take away containers on the table, "someone called in an order, but never showed."
"What a waste," her brother practically drools, "Carol let you have it?"
"She's worried you're not eating well," Beth teases, "and that her boyfriend is eating too well."
"Ha," Shawn makes his way to the kitchen grabbing some cutlery, "you home tonight?"
"Baby-sitting," Beth replies, "I've actually got to run. Don't wait up, I'll be home late."
"Alright," her brother's response is muffled by a mouthful of food, "have fun."
She grabs her handbag and keys and she's back out the door.
So here's the thing:
She's not babysitting. Which isn't to say she doesn't babysit. The Grimes' request her services regularly. Carol too. But it's a market dominated by the teenage girls in this town and she's not about to encroach on their territory.
Dixon's is a bar located on the outskirts of town. It looks like every other dive bar, with its dim lighting and tacky promotional decorations and outdated décor. She's half convinced that Merle Dixon probably bought it in it's current state and just decided to let it be.
He did, however, change the name.
And the uniforms.
When Carol told her about the job, she was hesitant.
It's not for everyone, Beth.
Meaning, it might not be for her.
Ever since she was a little girl, the Dixon name always carried certain connotations. Merle Dixon was the kind of unsavoury character you crossed the street to avoid. And Daryl, purely by association.
Merle Dixon went to jail when she was in high school and when he got out he stayed clean, bought a business, and started dating Carol.
And like that, Merle Dixon was practically respectable.
Dixon's has the advantage of being the only bar in a town with already limited entertainment options. It boasts the attraction of cold beer and pool tables and the occasional live band.
And hot waitresses.
Enter Beth: standing in the dingy bathroom, shorts too short, tank top too tight – purposely so.
Maybe this was a mistake.
A bang on the door interrupts her thoughts and hastily scraping her hair into a high ponytail, she opens the door, one of the other waitresses giving her the once over.
"First day, huh?"
Beth smiles shyly.
"Kind of obvious, right?"
"Yeah," the other woman smirks, "but you'll get used to it. I'm Rosita."
It's a Thursday night. Meaning it's quiet and the patrons are regulars who don't mind if it takes her a few extra minutes to get them their drink. Rosita is patient and helpful and happy to provide her some insider tips.
"Merle's pretty good to work for," she tells her, wiping down the bar, "he's not a creep or lecher or anything. The uniforms, I mean, it's how we get tips. We complained about it and Merle let us wear whatever we wanted for a while, but sex sells, you know? It's fucked, but a girl's got bills to pay and shoes to buy."
"Always about the shoes, isn't it?"
"Merle," Rosita greets their boss, "Daryl."
Beth swallows nervously. She wasn't prepared to see him twice in one day. She wasn't prepared to see him like this.
"This is Beth," Rosita introduces her and she tries to smile normally.
"Carol's girl, right?"
"Yes sir," she replies, "I'd really like to thank you for this opportunity."
"Oh boy!" Merle laughter booms across the bar, "Sir? Sweetheart, I don't think anyone's ever called me sir in my life!"
Thankfully, Rosita steps in.
"Be nice," she scolds, "nothing wrong with someone having some customer service skills around here."
"Says the girl that tells said customers to fuck off when they annoy her," Merle smirks, "welcome to Dixon's, sweetheart."
And with Daryl slowly looking her up and down, what a welcome indeed.
The thing about Maggie is that she got out.
Went to the city. Went to college. Washed her hands of everything and told the world she was done.
Could it really be that easy?
She knows what Shawn would say. He'd say that being wayward is only endearing for so long. He'd say that you need honour and loyalty and honest to god determination. That the right choice isn't the easy choice. That family is everything.
That legacy is everything.
Shawn's not a Greene by birth, but he's not willing to turn his back on their namesake. Not willing to sell it, to let a century's worth of memories turn to dust.
He's sacrificed so much. And it's true. Shawn sacrificed his dreams and his relationship and returned home to save the farm. The town doesn't forget this. The town doesn't let his valiant attempts go unnoticed.
Beth sacrificed everything.
As a rule, Carol doesn't put the waitresses on the closing shift, preferring them to go home after the dinner rush and have Axel, one of the cooks, stay back and serve the stragglers.
She's asked why and Carol will brush her off with various excuses. Insurance liabilities, not enough tips. Carol has her reasons, Beth's sure, and at the end of the day, she's always accepted the status quo.
However, Carol makes exceptions.
Like when Axel goes on holidays and Sophia has a stomach bug so she can't close herself. And she asks Beth, with something akin to regret if she can close.
And who is Beth to say no?
The kitchen stops serving half an hour before close. There aren't any customers save for a group of teenage boys, of which includes Carl Grimes, who has harboured a not-so-secret crush on her for years, despite her being his baby-sitter. They're loud and only order a plate of fries, but they're harmless. So she starts to clean up for the night.
She zones out to a degree, focusing on a sauce stain that's hardened throughout the day, putting a bit of muscle into scrubbing away the spot. She's so intent on her task that she doesn't notice someone enter and walk up behind her until they clear their throat.
And she falls sideways into the booth in shock.
Of course it's Daryl Dixon, with his hand wrapped around her arm, righting her. Of course, he's looking her, like she's some kind of train wreck waiting to happen.
"I'm sorry," she breathes, "I didn't hear the bell."
"It's nothin'," he mutters, not meeting her eyes, "you might want to, uh, watch how you stand though."
He looks nervous, tips of his ears turning red. She's confused, and she spares a glance to the group of teenage boys, now silent, all staring anywhere but at her, especially Carl, who is blushing into his glass of ice water.
"Oh!" she exclaims, the pieces falling into place, her bent over the table, the uncharacteristic quietness of the teenagers. Her hands fall to the hem of her dress, "Oh my gosh!"
"One of you kid's got a SUV?" Daryl calls across the diner, "Think someone's mama is here to collect them."
The kids scramble out of the booth, throwing down a few notes, making a hasty exit. Still mortified, she quickly locks the diner door, flipping the sign to 'CLOSED'.
Quickly counting the money, she finds that they've tipped her five dollars in their rush to leave.
"Should probably accidentally flash the customers more often," she jokes weakly, processing their payment through the cash register and pocketing her tip. Daryl doesn't respond, instead walks around the counter and towards the kitchen. She should call out, but this isn't unusual; not at Carol's and not at the bar. He knows what he wants and she's not about to get in his way.
Especially when he returns with two beers.
"You want one?"
She nods shyly, accepting the proffered drink.
"Did you, um, want something?" she asks, blushing at her own awkwardness, "I mean, the kitchen is closed but I can make, like, a grilled cheese or-"
"I'm good, girl," Daryl takes a long swig of his beer, "Carol asked me to swing by."
Of course. Of course. Because it's late and the waitresses aren't supposed to work the close shift so of course Carol sends her boyfriend's brother to chaperone her while she mops the floor.
"I'm sorry," she apologises stiffly, feeling a little bit humiliated, "I know this is a waste of your time."
Daryl offers her a shrug.
"Worse ways to spend a Friday night," he tells her, peeling at the label on the bottle, "worse people to spend it with too."
"Well, thanks," she smiles, jutting out her hip, tilting her head. Resisting the urge to twirl her hair because she's twenty-two, not twelve.
He offers her something resembling a smile and she feels her crush intensifying by, like, a thousand.
She's in trouble now.
Shawn's not great at finances. Doesn't charge enough, in her opinion, but neither did her father.
Which is why she's spending her Saturday night surrounded by receipts and stock balances and bills. And she's about to lose her mind.
"Did you do anything?" she glances up, with a frown.
"Did you enter anything in here? Try and be helpful?"
"I'm wounded," Shawn pouts, "that you think that I would mess things up so bad-"
"You've entered a payment of $10,036."
"Crap, that was supposed to be $100.36."
"Of course," Beth sighs, determined not to lose her patience, "you know I'm not good at this either."
"Still better than me."
"You know who was good at this sort of thing?"
Shawn sighs, rubbing a hand across his face. When he pulls it away, he's frowning.
"Beth, come on, not this again."
"If we asked-"
"We're not gonna ask."
"She'd do it."
"Beth!" Shawn snaps, making her jump. He breathes deeply, pacing the length of the kitchen, before sitting beside her, "Maggie left us. She's the one who said we were crazy for thinking we could do this. We're not going to beg her for help with the farm that she couldn't be bothered trying to save!"
Beth misses her sister. Misses her easy confidence and determination. Misses her stubbornness and even misses being bossed around. Misses her so much that it breaks her heart when she speaks to her; knows how she must sound so sad and tired and quiet, and how it contrasts so starkly with the hustle and bustle of the background noise on the other line.
You have choices too, Bethy.
So make one.
"Daryl Dixon keeps staring at your ass."
Whirling around, almost dropping her tray, she comes face to face with Rosita, a smirk gracing her features.
"Shut up," she hisses, "he is not."
"He is," Rosita chuckles, "and the funny thing is that you keep staring at him too."
"Rosita!" she exclaims, causing a few patrons to glance her way, "Can you please stop."
"Okay, okay," her friend surrenders, "can I say one thing, please?"
"If you must," Beth sighs, giving Rosita her full attention.
"Fuck him. Like, literally. Like, get it out of your system. You are young and hot and life is for living," Rosita grins, grabbing a bottle from behind the counter, pouring liquid into two shot glasses, "Take. A. Shot."
Literally. Metaphorically. All of the above.
The liquid burns and her eyes water. And as the haze clears, the first thing that comes into focus is him.
Her toe is throbbing. She doesn't know how she ended up here.
Well she does.
Oh how she does.
Here is Carol's house. Here is a loft space above the garage. Here is her hobbling around in the dark, his alarm clock reading 4.14am, and her shift at the diner starting in exactly 46 minutes. And she needs to get back to the bar, pick up her car so she can drive back to the farm, quickly shower, and then head to work.
In 46 minutes.
Well, 45 now.
Daryl doesn't stir, which is some kind of miracle because he's so alert, like, all the time.
You really wore him out, girl, Rosita's voice rings in her ear, just like it did last night when she had one too many shots and practically threw herself on him.
Yeah, she remembers that. Remembers pretty much all of it, which is the problem here.
Because if she didn't remember it, well, she probably wouldn't want it to happen again.
She finds her shoes. Finds her shirt. Can't find her underwear, but she's on a tight timeframe here. Doesn't have time to leave a note and even if she did, what would she even write?
Thanks for last night, it was great…
I'm not really that kind of girl…
Sorry about the scratch marks…
So she sneaks out instead. And she nearly makes it.
She would have made it.
If Merle Dixon wasn't sitting on the porch, cigarette dangling from his lips, knowing smile plastered across his face.
"Morning sweetheart," he grins, "fancy seeing you here."
Her cheeks are flaming red, she imagines. Her throat is dry and there's a sinking guilty feeling in her stomach that she can't shake.
"I have work, so I better…"
"So it's gonna be like that, huh?"
Merle Dixon isn't smiling anymore.
"Slinking away when the sun rises. Scratching an itch."
Beth blushes, glancing at the ground.
"I've never done this before."
Merle chokes on his cigarette.
"I've done that," this may be the most embarrassing morning of her life, "I mean, not a lot, okay. What I'm trying to say is I've never…slept with someone I barely know, alright!"
Merle composes himself, stops coughing and hacking and lets out a measured sigh.
"What you're gonna do, Greene," he murmurs, "is you're gonna go inside. Carol's already cooking breakfast and she sure as shit knows what went down last night, so there ain't no use pretendin'. She'll lend you some clothes and make you some eggs. And then when my baby brother walks into that kitchen, lookin' like someone kicked his dog, you're gonna pretend everythin' is peachy fuckin' keen and you were never gonna sneak out of here like he was some kind of drunken mistake. Okay?"
Okay. Okay. One step at a time. She can do this. Definitely can do this. Nervously, she showers. Brushes her teeth with the toothbrush that Carol gave her (there was no judgment in the other woman's eyes). Smoothes down her borrowed uniform and walks to the kitchen, the entire Dixon clan eating eggs and drinking coffee.
"Morning," she says shyly.
Daryl's head shoots up and his expression is pure relief.
Because Merle's right. He woke up to an empty bed. He woke up to an imprint, a memory. He woke up and she was gone.
But she stayed.
And she's glad she did.
She takes the seat beside him, thanking Carol quietly when she places a plate in front of her. Can feel Daryl's eyes on her before she even looks up to see him still staring at her.
Smiling, she takes his hand in her, presses a kiss to his knuckles.
Her shift finishes at three and the thing about not being home for thirty-six hours is that her phone is dead.
Died last night, she'd guess.
She's never been more grateful to pull into the drive. She dreams of her pyjamas and her bed. Maybe a grilled cheese sandwich and a bit of Netflix.
But first, she had to deal with Shawn.
"Beth!" he yells, running out of the house, "where have you been?"
He's positively frantic. Hair a mess, eyes bloodshot. Like he didn't sleep a wink.
"I was at work," Beth explains, "why didn't you call?"
"I did call!" he exclaims, "at 5am! You weren't there, and you didn't come home after work yesterday!"
"I was working! Oh my god, Shawn!" she sighs, exasperated, "Why didn't you call Carol? Or drive by the diner? You are so dramatic, I swear…"
She trails off, suddenly too exhausted to fight with her brother.
"I work some nights at Dixon's," she explains, "I thought you were out of town, so I didn't bother calling you. I stayed the night at a friend's place."
"Which friend?" Shawn asks, suspiciously.
"No one you know," Beth rolls her eyes, "dad."
"Ouch," Shawn winces, "that's harsh, Bethy."
"Well don't be nosy," she retorts.
Shawn sighs, rubs his forehead, and she feels bad all the same.
"Why are you working at Dixon's?" he murmurs, "It ain't a money thing, is it?"
She gives him a look. A look that says of course it is! You think I took a second job for kicks? You think I'm following my secret bartending dream or something?
It's a look because anything she could say would come out as if she's blaming him.
"Fuck," Shawn swears and she finches because her brother doesn't use those words without cause, "how the fuck did we end up here?"
She doesn't say anything because she knows, deep down, he blames himself.
Daryl Dixon is all kinds of cute.
Seriously. Never in a million years would she think she would one day associate that word with him, but here he is, sitting in her section, blushing as he gives her his order.
With Merle beside him, smirking.
"I'm just gonna go see Carol," he grins, "considering that Darylina here might take all day."
Daryl glares at his brother as he slides out of the booth and makes his way behind the counter to greet Carol with a kiss. Beth watches on, sighing softly, because despite everything, the duo are all kinds of relationship goals and Beth wants that. Wants it so much.
"Just a cheeseburger," Daryl interrupts, "thanks."
"You want a drink?" she asks, hand on her hip, smiling softly.
Beth raises an eyebrow in amusement.
"A coke," he mutters, clearing his throat, "thanks."
She gives him a nod and flashes him a smile, walking off, with maybe a little added swing to her hips.
(They've already had sex. And there's a fairly large part of her that wants to do it again.)
Beth distracts herself by serving a few more tables, darting between the counter and the floor, taking orders, ringing up bills. When Daryl's order is up, she scoops up the plate in one hand, the coke in the other and makes her way to his booth.
"Cheeseburger and a coke," she flashes him a grin. Across from him, Merle frowns.
"Where's my order?" he whines and she offers him a shrug.
"You'll have to take that up with your waitress."
"Yeah, yeah," Merle grumbles, "like I'm gonna do that."
"Enjoy your food, Daryl," Beth smiles sweetly, turning away.
Almost turning away. She freezes in place when a hand grabs her wrist.
It's Daryl. Of course it is, who else would it be. But his hand spans the circumference of her wrist, his palms and fingertips calloused and rough. Thumb resting on her pulse point and she's struggling to remain calm.
Struggling and failing.
"Do you, uh," Daryl swallows, pausing, "do you want to go out sometime?"
She doesn't even hesitate.
He graces her with a smile.
The bar is quiet during the day.
She doesn't do a lot of dayshifts; the tips aren't great and the day always drags, but she wasn't rostered on at the diner. And Merle had to run errands. Or something. She didn't question it, even though she feels like the man has never run an errand in his whole life.
Beth takes her laptop and a stack of unopened bills. She may as well use the next eight hours to try and sort through everything.
The regulars are quiet, usually watching the highlights from the previous night's game. She only knows one by name, a guy called Joe, who is rough and creepy, but less creepy than the others because when he speaks to her, he actually looks at her face rather than her chest.
She sighs, already a few bills in, the latest for x-ray machine maintenance, and hell, she's starting to wonder how her dad managed to put two children through college.
And if he would have been able to pay for her.
She's so lost in thought that she doesn't notice the door open. And in turn, she doesn't notice when he walks in.
"You have a delivery."
She jumps. She can't help it, she startles easy. Hand to her chest she breathes deep, trying to calm herself down.
"You have to stop sneaking up on me, Daryl Dixon," she half scolds, half flirts, because this is fun, one date in, and he's still being all nervous and cute around her, following her lead, letting her take control.
(Except after dinner, when he pressed her into the side of her car, hands in her hair, the hard planes of his stomach holding her in place as he kissed her like a sailor going off to war.)
"Force of habit," he smirks, and she giggles, leaning against the counter.
"I'm thinking you need a bell or something," she sasses and he leans across from her, thumb brushing hers.
"Nah," he murmurs, "think I might like surprising you."
Oh lord, this man has no idea what he is doing to her. With his looks and subtle touches and quiet gestures.
He has no idea.
"You said I had a delivery?" she asks, reminding herself she's here to work, not balance her finances and flirt with Daryl Dixon.
"Yeah," Daryl nods, "Merle called, his delivery guy is a fucking asshole and dropped off his order on the one day he told him not to. And he leaves it at the door, doesn't carry it in or nothing."
"What did Merle do to piss off his delivery guy?" Beth jokes.
"Started dating his ex-wife."
Beth knows about Ed and Carol. The whole town knows about Ed and Carol. Knows how he used to hit her, for years. The Carol back then is nothing like the Carol now; the Carol now is strong and fearless and would never let a man raise a hand to her, let alone stay by his side.
"Merle'll kill me for tellin' ya," Daryl murmurs, "but he went to Atlanta today. To buy a ring."
Beth gasps. And then squeals. A couple of patrons look up, but she ignores them, running around to the other side of the bar, eager to know more.
"When is he proposing? How is he going to do it? What sort of ring is he going to get?"
"Calm down, girl," Daryl grunts, "I ain't got a clue and I don't think Merle does either. Sophia is helping him pick it out."
At that, she sighs happily. Again, getting lost in how Merle and Carol are just so perfect together and how it's kind of like fate. And Sophia…
"Merle is going to be the best daddy!" She exclaims, "Sophia just adores him."
"Because he lets her drink too much soda and stay up past her bedtime," Daryl grumbles, but there's a hint of a smirk playing on his lips. She sighs once more.
"Merle found his person," she sighs, "don't you think that's beautiful?"
He gives her that look; that look that's become more frequent, that she only got glimpses of back when her crush was just a crush. Back when his eyes would linger and he'd sit in her section and over tip, and she would spend her days (and nights) trying to work out what it meant.
She gets it now.
It's not all smooth sailing.
As great as her personal life is going (so great, so so so great), she can't let herself forget that they're still drowning in debt.
So Shawn decides to list their place on Airbnb.
"You did not!" Beth exclaims, slumping down on the couch.
"Listen, listen," Shawn holds up his hands, "it'll be great! We just put out some fresh linen and towels and those little decorative soaps. They can wander around the farm, look at the animals, take the truck into town. Maybe we can buy some of those vintage looking bikes and they can ride them around-"
"This sounds expensive," Beth sighs, "and who is even going to want to stay at a farm?"
"Look, I was talking to Zach-" Beth interrupts him with a groan, "- and he said that a country weekend getaway is, like, super romantic…maybe we should buy a hot tub!"
"Zach is an idiot," she shakes her head, "I don't know why you still talk to him."
"You dumped him, not me," Shawn argues, "and look, we charge $300 a night, that's an easy $600 a weekend. That's more than what you make in a week."
Sad fact, but true.
"Fine," Beth concedes, "but I don't have time to play concierge, okay?"
(She knows she will.)
Daryl thinks it's ridiculous. Of course it's ridiculous. She's not denying that it's ridiculous.
But Shawn has guests lined up and has advertised bicycles that they don't have. So here she is, at the garage Daryl works at, wearing a safety mask and glasses while Daryl spray paints two bikes, which he also kindly fixed up, a charming shade of blue.
"It's ridiculous," he mutters gruffly.
"Not disagreeing with you there," she smirks, legs swinging as she perches on a workbench.
"They're strangers," he frowns, "who knows what kind of folk they are. It's one thing if your brother ain't got no regard for his personal safety, but you, girl…"
Daryl trails off and her heart skips a beat.
Yeah, she definitely feels like her heart has stopped.
"What about me?" she whispers, ignoring the tightness in her throat and in her stomach. Ignoring the fact that he's stepped away from the bikes, moving to stand before her, pushing down her mask, hands boxing her in. Ignoring the way their foreheads touch and his breath is warm against her face.
"You're stay with me," he murmurs roughly, "if your brother is gonna have god knows who stayin' in your house, you're gonna stay with me."
It's over the top, she realises this. Over protective and borderline possessive and, god, she's a strong, independent woman who isn't afraid to sleep in her own house.
She's got her daddy's shotgun and she knows how to use it.
But sweet Jesus does this side of him turn her on.
"I don't want to be an inconvenience," she sighs, "especially to Merle and Carol, who employ me."
"Nah girl," he shakes his head, "we'll stay at my place."
"You have your own place?"
"Course I do," he scoffs, "what, you think I live with my brother and his girlfriend?"
She throws him a sheepish smile, to which he replies by shaking his head.
"Just stay with me this weekend, alright, Greene?"
So she agrees. And pointedly ignores him when he goes on a rant under his breath about being a grown ass man with his own goddamn place.
He's cute when he's indignant, anyway.
In keeping with this current theme of 'men she knows who have ~great ideas', Merle decides to trial a trivia night.
Mutters something about trying to drum up business and appeal to a wider crowd. She hears Sophia and college thrown about as well and she can't help but smile.
"Don't give me that look, sweetheart," Merle groans.
"What look?" Beth asks innocently.
"Like I'm a puppy you want to cuddle or some shit," Merle grumbles, "let's pretend I said I wanted that money for a hot tub, okay?"
Okay. She'll play along.
But honestly, she thinks it's a got potential. Merle hires some kid from the local community college to MC, offers free drinks for the winning team. Even has Rosita go to some other bar with a trivia night and rip off the questions.
"People these days," Merle scoffs, arranging tables, "gotta give them a reason to drink. Gotta give them an activity as well."
Rosita rolls her eyes.
"Drinking is an activity."
"Atta girl," Merle chuckles, "maybe there's hope yet."
Thing is, it might actually be successful. He gets eight teams and hell, she's never worked a Wednesday night this busy. Rosita and her are run off their feet, Rosita especially because a table of soccer moms have decided to order cocktails and Beth didn't even know they served them.
"Not great tippers either," Rosita groans, as she loads them onto a tray, passing her as she makes her way to their table, "think you can man the bar for a while?"
It's not a problem. She's an old pro at this by now and it's been a while since she broke a glass or over poured a beer.
"Be right with you, sweetie," she throws towards the bar. It's only when she turns to face the customer that all the blood rushes from her head.
And he's frowning.
"What the hell, Beth?" he hisses, "I thought you were working here, not working here."
Self-consciously she tugs at her shirt, frowning.
"What are you doing here, Shawn?" Beth sighs, "You hate all the bars in town."
"Yeah, but I love a good trivia night," he scowls, "didn't know it was trivia and a show."
She flinches at his comment, but chooses to ignore it.
"I ain't doing this here, Shawn," she snaps, slamming a beer down in front of him, "so have a good night."
She turns to the next customer, determined not to let Shawn ruin her shift.
He's not that much better.
The college kid MC?
Well it's her ex, Zach.
"Hi, Zach," she pastes on a smile, "how have you been?"
"I've been great," he says to her breasts, "school is good, got this sweet gig-"
"Listen, that's great," she interrupts him, handing him a beer, "it's on the house, I'll be right back."
She scans the room for Rosita, who is rushing back towards the bar, her features set in a scowl.
"We have a problem," Beth grabs her by the arm, steering her towards the broken jukebox.
"You're right we fucking do," Rosita curses, "Ed's here."
"Are you kidding me?" Beth exclaims, because this night cannot get any worse.
"Grabbed my ass and called me sugar tits and everything," she spits out angrily, "trivia night, B. Brings out the worse kind of folks."
"Okay," Beth takes a deep breath, grabs a piece of paper from her back pocket, "Grimes and Walsh are here tonight. Ed's not going to start anything with cops here, is he?"
"Ed, probably not," Rosita muses, "but Merle…"
It's going to be a long night.
The thing about keeping tabs on one's brother and employer's ex husband? She doesn't have any energy left to worry about Zach.
Every time he tries to talk to her, she brushes him off with a beer and a quick so sorry, can't stop.
Rosita is on Merle patrol, her main job being to ply him with alcohol and make sure he doesn't move from his place at the bar. Doesn't stop the man from glaring daggers at Ed across the room though.
"That shithead shouldn't even be here," the older Dixon mutters, "he knows damn well he ain't welcome."
"Ignore him," Rosita pours him another drink, "he's a waste of space."
"And a dumbass," Merle snaps, "don't know why that dumb asshole would even come to a trivia night."
Rosita sighs, but immediately perks up when the door opens.
"Oh, thank god."
Daryl walks in, a worried expression on his face. Waving his phone, he frowns.
"What's the big emergency?"
"Well Ed's here, for a start," Rosita launches into a rant, "and Beth's brother, who is being a right dick to her. Oh, and Beth's ex is the MC."
"Your ex is here?" Daryl frown becomes a scowl.
"This is what he takes away," Rosita throws up her hands in exasperation, "I give up."
"I'm gonna knock his fuckin' block off," Merle slurs, draining his drink, slamming it down on the bar, gesturing for Rosita to pour him another.
"He needs to sober up," Daryl moves behind the bar, grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge, "idiot is more likely to start something if he's drunk."
Daryl picks up the telephone, starts dialling by memory.
"Who are you calling?" Beth asks.
"Carol," Daryl sighs, "gotta get someone to pick his drunk ass up. And the cab company has blackballed him for life."
"Wonder why," Rosita rolls her eyes, watching as a drunken Merle starts to carve his own name into his own bar top with a pocketknife.
From the corner of her eye she spies Shawn making his way towards the bar. Daryl rounds the bar, grabbing Merle by the arm, letting his older brother rest his weight on him.
"I'll help," Beth says quickly, eager to avoid her brother as much as possible.
"Beth!" Shawn snaps, "We gotta talk about this."
"I'm a bit busy," she sighs, "just enjoy the trivia, we'll talk about this at home."
"I want you to quit, Bethy," her brother demands, "I don't want you working here any more."
"Do you want us to pay the bills?" Beth frowns, "It ain't just easy like that, okay?"
"The Airbnb thing is really taking off," Shawn argues, "We could do it full time. Hell, if it works out, you could even quit the job at the diner-"
"No, Shawn!" Beth say firmly, "Just stop it! I ain't quitting! I like working at the diner and I like working here!"
"Oh, come on, Beth!" Shawn yells, "you telling me you like flirting with old men and dressing like a slut?"
She knows he regrets it, the second the word leaves his mouth. It's too late. Because the moment Daryl let go of his brother she knew how this will play out.
Shawn, on the other hand, didn't know what hit him.
Literally, though. Her brother, sprawled on the ground, confused, looking up and seeing Daryl Dixon towering over him.
"Shit, Darylina," Merle hoots, "guess I'll follow your lead."
It's almost comical, watching the elder Dixon grab Ed from out of his chair and throw him into the table of soccer moms.
Almost, but not.
It's takes both Deputies to restrain Merle and Ed, who would probably end up destroying the bar if they were left to their own devices. Shawn's not a fighter, but he wants blood, and that leaves Beth to deal with her brother and her boyfriend.
"Shawn," she warns, getting between the two, "don't do anything you'll regret later. You got a business, remember?"
"Stay out of this, Beth," her brother snaps, "this guy started it. Why the hell should he get a free pass while I get a busted lip?"
She sighs, rubbing her temples.
"Because he's my boyfriend!"
Shawn looks like he wants to say more, but the police have arrived and are dragging all involved parties outside.
"I'll fuck you up, Ed!" Merle continues to yell, even has he gets his hands zip-tied behind his back, "What you did to your wife? To your little girl? I'm gonna kill you!"
"That's why he punched me?" Shawn asks, sitting in the gutter, "Because I called you…"
"Yeah," Beth sighs, "he was defending my honour. In his own way."
"Fuck," Shawn curses under his breath, "hey Rick?"
Rick makes his way over to the siblings, a frown on his face.
"We're gonna take Daryl down to the station," he tells them, "do you need to be checked out or anything?"
"Nah," Shawn shakes his head, "don't want any charges pressed either," he glances at Beth, "the punch was nothing that I didn't deserve."
Rick looks to Shane, who is hovering nearby, and shrugs. Grabbing his knife he cuts the zip ties around his wrist and gives him a nod.
"Thanks," Daryl mutters and Rick sighs.
"Don't thank us yet," Shane shakes his head, "we still have to deal with your brother."
As if on cue, Carol pulls up in Merle's truck, boots crunching against the gravel.
"You're an idiot, Merle Dixon," she shakes her head, taking in his restrains, barely sparing a glance at her ex-husband, "how many times I gotta tell you, it ain't worth it."
"Like hell it ain't," Merle growls, "can't marry ya if this cockroach is still hanging around our lives."
He's drunk, Merle. And, it suddenly dawns on him exactly what he said.
Dawns on Carol, too.
"You asking what I think you're asking?"
Holding her breath, Beth's eyes dart between the two of them. Even Ed's quiet, watching the scene unfold with a glare.
"Yeah, Carol, yeah I am."
It would have been perfect if the officers hadn't then shoved him into a police car.
(Still kind of is.)
She wakes to the smell of coffee and bacon. Smiling, she stretches her arms above her head, flexing her fingers, squinting as the morning light streams through the open window. There's a chill in the air and she reaches across the bed, blindly feeling around the floor until she finds what she's searching for.
Slipping it on, she does up a few buttons and curls back into the duvet. She should get up, face the day, but his bed is too comfortable and she's exhausted from working at Carol's and then at the bar.
It's been two months since the incident at the bar. Where her boyfriend punched her brother and Merle proposed to Carol. Two months, and it's funny how things can completely change, but remain the same.
"You gonna lie in bed all day, girl?"
Grinning sleepily, she looks up at him, standing in the doorway, arms crossed, tea towel draped across his shoulder.
"Why? You wanna join me?"
Daryl smirks, shaking his head.
"What about breakfast? I've been slavin' away all morning."
She pouts, biting her lip. Still doesn't move though.
"Alright, alright," he mutters, disappearing back in the direction of the kitchen. She giggles, rolling over so she's positioned in the centre of the bed.
"It's my first day off in nine days," she calls out, "I'm not going to move at all. Not even going to look at any bills. I'm just gonna watch Netflix in my pyjamas."
"Funny lookin' pyjamas," Daryl reappears with a tray of food and two coffees. She holds her hands out eagerly, and he presses a mug into her palm. He grabs a piece of bacon, chews on it thoughtfully, while propping himself up against the headboard, "You know, I have a few days in lieu. Could probably use one, we could do something-"
"Bed related?" she interrupts with a grin, and he snorts in return.
"You're insatiable, girl."
"Or maybe I just my priorities in order," Beth's quick to retort. Daryl shakes his head, gesturing towards the plate of food.
"Eat up," he tells her, "you'll need your strength."
"Cocky are we?" she giggles, grabbing a fork, using the sides to cut off a small piece of pancake.
"Fine," he smirks around a mouthful of food, "I need my strength."
Her phone chimes from the small nightstand and she reaches over to unplug it. Daryl presses a kiss to her shoulder and she reads the message quickly before passing the phone to him.
"What am I looking at?"
"Colour swatches," Beth smiles, "I don't think Carol realises the extent to which Sophia is planning her wedding. She called my brother the other day asking if he offered 'wedding packages'."
Daryl chuckles, placing the phone out of her reach.
"No work," he mutters, moving the tray away as well, "no weddings. No leaving this bed."
"Wasn't planning on it."
"Good," Daryl slowly unbuttons her shirt, "that's real good."
Life goes on. Funny, how she expected something else. But time does not stand still, not even in small towns, not even for humble farm girls.
It doesn't fast forward, either.
There's work and there's the farm and there's Daryl. There's Shawn and Carol and Merle and Sophia. There are Maggie's semi-regular calls, her never-ending stream of questions starting and ending with are you happy?
Beth answers these days without hesitation. Yes.
(There used to be pauses. Used to be vague non-answers, swift changes of topics, conversations cut short. Used to be. Not any more.)
Still, Maggie questions. Still, Maggie pries. Offers up a spare bedroom in Atlanta. Mentions a friend in real estate. Talks about how daddy never wanted the farm to be a burden.
It's no trouble, Maggie.
Don't lie to me, Bethy.
A sigh. A long pause.
I gotta go.
Sophia's wedding plans are very quickly shut down, much to the younger girl's dismay.
(She'd written a letter to Taylor Swift asking her to perform at the wedding. According to Merle that was the final straw.)
Carol's done this before and in no way wants anything that reminds her of the first time. There's no churches, no reception venue. Instead, Carol tells her daughter that they'll be married at town hall.
And there will be a party at the bar.
It's no surprise to Beth when she cries through the short, but sweet ceremony. Daryl and her are the only witnesses (plus Sophia), and she is so happy for them and her heart is so full.
It's just a few official words, a ring, a kiss, and a document to sign, but it's as romantic as any wedding she's ever been to.
Daryl's present to his brother is tending bar at the party. Which gave Beth a rare night where she could drink and socialise and do things that should come naturally to women her age.
Sugary cocktails. Selfies in bathrooms. Dancing on tabletops.
Okay, the last one is Rosita. Beth knows her dancing abilities leave much to be desired.
Still, she can't remember a night in her life where she ever been able to let loose. Never went to parties in high school. Never went to college. Went from living in her daddy's home to running her daddy's home and she didn't look back.
(Well, she did. Does. The 'What Ifs' used to plague her mind in the quiet times, when the diner was slow or when she was trying to fall asleep. Less now, to a degree, but sometimes, sometimes, she falls back into that familiar pattern of thinking.)
"You're drunk," Daryl states, watching her as she stumbles around the bar.
"Dizzy," she corrects, "your brother was spinning me."
"Plying you with tequila, too," his mouth quirks upwards, amused, "you gonna be throwing up on my boots later?"
"Who's to say I'm not immune to tequila?" she retorts, leaning heavily against his arm, "Maybe tequila will make me stronger, who knows?"
"Tequila ain't never made anyone stronger, girl," he chuckles, "only good for making bad decisions."
She's definitely drunk. She feels emboldened, like she could say anything, do anything, and what results will be flirty and sexy and the kind of behaviour Maggie trademarked a long time ago.
"It makes me want you," she murmurs, biting her lip, looking up at him from beneath her eyelashes, "makes me want you a lot."
"Fuck," he curses, rubbing his hand over his face, "what are you doing to me, Beth?"
It's funny, how often she asks herself the very same thing.
But Daryl's the only one here that's remotely sober. He has to see this party through to the end and she has to respect that. Doesn't mean she can't tease him. Doesn't mean she can't whisper in his ear all the things he wants him to do to her later. Doesn't mean he can't press her up against the bar and kiss her senseless, spectators be damned.
She's got him so worked up that he's doing things he would never do. It's amazing, the power she has over this man. This push and pull, this magnetic energy she can't even begin to measure.
It makes her feel like anything is possible.
Shawn greets her in the morning with a Gatorade and a couple of aspirin. But not much sympathy.
"You're young," he states, nonchalantly, "you'll be fine by lunch time."
She better. Considering she has a shift at one.
"Tequila," she moans, "was the worst idea ever."
"General knowledge, really," Shawn tuts, "stick to shots that taste like sugar. Actually, just avoid shots altogether. Be smarter than your siblings."
"I think I'm still drunk," she lowers herself to kitchen floor, lying back slowly, "the room won't stop spinning."
"I'll give you a lift later," Shawn promises, placing a plate in front of her, "but drink your drink, and eat your toast. And then have a nap. Trust me, you'll feel better."
She stumbles up the stairs to the bathroom, deciding to have a shower, wash away the smell of cigarette smoke and the remnants of last night's make up. Gripping the wall, the steam does clear her head, and she feels slightly less nauseous. It's heaven, clean skin and fresh pyjamas, crisp sheets and warm blankets.
Sleep comes easily.
Waking up is harder.
Her alarm blares, and she blindly reaches for her phone to silent it. Instead of her bedside table she feels something more solid.
Something muscular and familiar.
"Daryl?" she murmurs, squinting in his general direction. It's still too bright. Her head isn't aching, but she feels exhausted and nauseous.
"Ya brother called me," he explains, "he had an emergency appointment. Said you needed a ride to the diner?"
"I think I'm dying," she whimpers.
Daryl doesn't reply, but the ruffling of a paper bag catches her attention. The smell too.
"Brought you a burger," he places the bag on the bed, "fries and a coke. It'll help, trust me."
She's feeling very fragile, so instead of sitting up, she drags the bag closer, and reaches in, grabbing a few fries and shoving them in her mouth awkwardly. Grabbing the burger, she eyes him hopelessly, pleading silently.
"Alright, Princess," he chuckles, "sit up."
With a moan and a great deal of effort, she drags herself up and against the headboard. Daryl passes her the burger, and another couple of aspirin.
"I don't know if I can work today," she mutters in between mouthfuls of burger. Daryl hands her the drink and she takes a long gulp, before taking another bite of her burger.
"You can," he replies, "you'll be hung over as fuck, but whatever. Who hasn't gone to work hung over?"
Beth gives him a look.
"Sorry," he smirks, "I forget you're a good girl."
"Shut up," Beth murmurs half-heartedly, "I'm not that good."
"Yeah," Daryl presses a kiss to her hand, "you are."
She knows there's no convincing him otherwise.
Beth stomps into the clinic, noting her brother's absence, and stomping back out.
She all but collides with him in the kitchen, but he catches her, dropping his sandwich in the process.
"Watch it, Bethy," he scolds, "I spent a long time making that!"
"Did you also spend $1200 on a new mattress?"
"Yeah…" Shawn replies casually, "Is this what you're upset about?"
"We don't have $1200!"
Shawn sighs. They're having this argument again. It's not even one she wants to have, but here she is, being the bad guy. Like she's been cast in a role she's never wanted to play in the first place.
"We haven't made a profit from that, Shawn!" she exclaims, "every dollar we make, and even some we haven't, goes into improvements. Fixing the porch. A flat screen television in the guest room. Making sure this house is safe so we don't get sued if a guest trips over an uneven paver. It's expensive and exhausting!"
"It was an idea, Beth!" Shawn exclaims, "I'm sorry I try to think of exciting and novel ways to make money. I'm sorry I have a real career and can't work two minimum wage jobs on the side!"
She physically recoils, as if she's been slapped in the face. It stings, not just his comment, but also the tears pooling in her eyes. She will not cry. He will not make her cry. She is stronger than his words; words that she can tell he instantly regrets.
Still, he doesn't make any move to take them back.
"I'm gonna go," she swallows thickly, "I'm…I'm just gonna…"
She makes her way upstairs, doesn't quite run up to her room, but takes the stairs two at a time. Throws some clothes into a duffle bag, not paying attention to what exactly. Tosses in some make up, a hair dryer. Wipes her eyes, because she's not upset; she's furious. At him. At herself.
Furious, because it's not like it's not true.
"Beth!" Shawn calls up the stairs, "Look, I shouldn't have said that-"
"Yeah, well, you did!" Beth yells, storming down the stairs, brushing past him and through the open screen door, grabbing her boots on her way past.
"It's just, you're capable of so much more!"
"You think I don't know that?" Beth throws her bags into the backseat of her car, "You think it's my dream to work in a diner? In a bar? You think I didn't go to college by choice? We were broke, Shawn! We would've lost the farm!"
She flings the car door open, sliding into the seat, starting the engine. Shawn taps on the window and she rolls it down.
"Where are you going, Beth?"
"Daryl's," she sighs, "I just need to get away from here."
"Will you be back?" Shawn asks, worry etched across his features.
"Yeah, I'll be back," she fastens her seatbelt, "you know I always come back."
She feels like she's dying.
In the best way possible, that is.
Beth struggles to regain her breath. Feels her own sweat soaking the sheets. Other things too, but she doesn't think about that. Concentrates on her breathing. On her heartbeat. On the little aftershocks rippling through her body.
"Oh my God," she pants, "Oh my God."
"What do I keep tellin' ya, darlin'," Daryl smirks, sounding equally out of breath, "not a God, just a man."
"My man," she grins, snuggling into his side.
"Yeah, girl, yours."
His fingers trace up her back, finding purchase in her hair, combing through the strands, gently untangling any knots in his path. She sighs again, pressing kisses to his chest.
"Thanks for letting me stay here," she murmurs, "It's been nice being away from the farm."
"Don't gotta thank me," Daryl says roughly, "I like havin' you here."
She sighs happily. It's so easy with him. Easier than she thought. Sure, he's hard to read at times. He's got his scars, both literally and figuratively, scars he will and won't talk about. She's patient though. They've got time.
"You know," Daryl clears his throat awkwardly, "I got a bit of money tucked away, I could-"
"Daryl, no," Beth interrupts, sitting up, pulling the sheet tight around her, "I could never ask you to do that."
"Don't gotta ask," he says gruffly, "ain't a big deal."
"It is, Daryl," Beth whispers, a tear slipping down her cheek, "it is to me."
This isn't his problem. And she certainly isn't looking to make it his problem. She's got two siblings. Her boyfriend shouldn't have to be the one to bail her family out.
Twenty-three feels no different to twenty-two, except no one writes pop anthems about it. She complains about this to Daryl, who isn't the least bit sympathetic.
'Bout time you started to catch up with me, girl.
The fight with Shawn feels like a lifetime ago. She came home, he apologised. They move forward. They stick together.
(Nothing really changes.)
Maggie's gift came in the mail a week ago. A card and a gift, but she hasn't opened them yet. A tradition from years ago, when she was a young girl, her mother still alive, gentle hands stilling her tiny ones; wait, Beth, wait.
Some days she feels she's maybe taken that too literally.
She has breakfast at Carol and Merle's; Carol makes pancakes and Sofia talks about school and her friends and how her parent's are sending her to a summer camp with horses and canoeing, and Beth can't help but flash Merle a grin, all while the older Dixon scowls in her direction.
"Ya girl keeps looking at me like I'm a marshmallow," he complains as they leave, "gonna start spreadin' shit like that over town, ruin my reputation."
"I won't breathe a word," she promises, just as Sophia yells out Dad from inside the house.
In Daryl's truck, he takes her back to the farm, where she'll spend the day doing absolutely nothing, much to her excitement.
"So dinner with Shawn," she twists in her seat, watching him as he concentrates on the road, "and then…"
"A surprise," he grunts, "ya just gonna have to wait."
"I hope it's a pony," she teases, and he smirks.
"Like you ain't never had a pony before," he shakes his head, "probably the first thing your daddy got you."
She smiles wistfully.
"First thing I can remember my daddy giving me was a toy piano," she reveals, "like the one in the peanuts cartoon. Maggie threw it in the pond after we had a fight one day."
"Seriously," Beth giggles, "Mama was so mad and daddy made her do all my chores for a month. Shawn was the one to fish it out of the pond though. The high C was always out of tune, but it worked for the most part. It was always like that, Maggie destroying things and Shawn trying to put them back together."
"Still is," Daryl notes and Beth sighs in agreement.
"Let's not dwell," Beth murmurs, and he grasps her hand, squeezing lightly.
He turns into the driveway, travelling up the path until he reaches the house. Parking beside her car and Shawn's truck, she frowns when she spots and unfamiliar Prius.
"Guests?" Daryl murmurs and Beth frowns.
"Shawn promised not on my birthday," she sighs, exasperated, "I guess he forgot."
"Could always turn around," he says roughly, in that way that always sends shivers down her spine, "go back to mine – start our celebration early."
She glances back at the house, at the Prius. Hell, maybe Shawn can drive out to the cabin for dinner…
Shawn storms out of the house, screen door slamming behind him. She sighs, watching as he jogs towards the truck. Daryl's got one hand on the key, eyebrows raised, questioning.
What do ya want me to do, girl?
She opens her door instead.
"Shawn, what's going on?" she asks, as she rounds the car to meet her brother.
"Did you know about this?" he asks, gesturing wildly at the Prius, "Was this your fucked up version of The Parent Trap? I honestly can't believe you, Beth, I told you how I felt and you fucking did what you wanted anyway?"
With a frown, Daryl steps in.
Another voice, louder, firmer.
A voice that she'd recognise anywhere.
And standing on the porch, flesh and blood and bone, real and not a figment of her imagination, is her sister. The same sister she hasn't seen since the day they buried their daddy.
It's a standoff. The three Greene siblings - once against the world, now against each other. The space between them is measurable, but it feels like a distance the three will never cross.
In the end, they go inside. Daryl included.
It's awkward. Awkward and quiet and tense and no one wants to speak first, especially Maggie and Shawn. There are no introductions; Maggie brought a man and Daryl stands in the shadows, presence barely noticeable. But it's Maggie's man that suggests they go get some food and Daryl is quick to push himself off the wall he's leaning on and mutter an offer to drive.
It isn't until the porch door slams and the car starts up that any of them speaks. And of course that person is Beth.
"What are you doing here, Maggie?"
Her sister flinches. Beth cringes. She didn't mean for her tone to sound so harsh, didn't mean for it to sound like an accusation.
But it does. And maybe it is.
Why now? What's changed?
Silence. Beth slides into a kitchen chair. Shawn mutters a soft fuck.
"A congratulations would be nice."
"It's been years, Maggie," he snaps, "fucking years, and we've been working our asses off while you just up and left. You don't get to walk back into our lives and expect open arms and 'congratulations'."
"I'm pregnant with your nephew." she glares at Shawn, and then Beth, "Regardless of what's happened we're still family. Dad wouldn't-"
"Dad wouldn't what?" Shawn interrupts, "Please, Maggie, tell me exactly what Dad would not want?
"Stop it, Shawn," Beth says quietly, voice strained, "this isn't about Daddy. It never was."
Because it's not. It's about a house. It's about land. It's about three adult siblings trying to carve a new life from a legacy that haunts them like ghosts.
Ties that bind, constrict, choke.
"I heard about the Airbnb," Maggie sighs, "well, read about it. There was a blog someone sent me and one of my friends said something that really got me thinking…we aren't farmers."
"No shit." Shawn rolls his eyes.
"We aren't farmers," Maggie repeats, throwing him a pointed glare, "but this land? It's in our blood. It's impossible to turn our backs on it. No matter how much we try. No matter how much I try."
"What are you saying, Maggie?" Beth asks carefully, refusing to let that bubble of hope take over.
"I want my child to have the same childhood I had," Maggie says passionately, "Glenn and I want that. And the Airbnb idea is just the tip of the farm's potential. We could hold weddings; build some cabins in the fields. Shawn, you could finally get your clinic in town. And Beth, Beth, you could do whatever you want."
Whatever she wants.
"Glamping is popular right now," Shawn mutters, "wouldn't even need to build that much, just a platform. Buy some second hand furniture."
"The barn would look beautiful with fairy lights strung through the rafters," Beth offers softly.
Maggie smiles, reaching for her hand. Beth offers her a small smile, but doesn't pull away. They're not going to be able to repair their relationship in a day, the three of them. It's baby steps, but it's steps. They're moving forward, together.
That's what matters the most.
"I'll grab the laptop," Shawn stands, smirking, "you were always the best at numbers, Mags."
Daryl and Glenn return with some food from the diner, which Maggie and Shawn dive into as they brainstorm. Glenn gets pulled into the conversation pretty quickly, offering suggestions about catering and modifications they can make to the kitchen.
She's happy to sit on the sidelines. She's happy to let them take the reins so she can concentrate on other things.
Whatever she wants.
"Come on," she murmurs, grabbing his hand and dragging him upstairs. Not that he would protest in the slightest.
A part of her knows that he would follow her anywhere.
When she gets to her room, she pushes the door open, letting him enter first before closing it behind them. She sees him taking it in; the yellow walls and gossamer curtains and photographs lining the bookshelf. There's one on the bedside table of the two of them, taken at Carol and Merle's wedding. She's got one hand resting on his shoulder and the other linked through his belt loop and he's looking at her like she's the most beautiful girl in the world. Like she's the only girl in the world.
"Are they…" Daryl trails off, gesturing towards the door.
"Nah," Beth smirks, "they're too preoccupied with their plans. And besides, I'm twenty-three. Are they going to ground me if they catch me with a boy in my room?"
"A boy, huh?" he chuckles, sitting down at her desk, "you sneak a lot of boys up to your room."
"Nope," she bites her lip, moving to straddle his lap, "first time for everything, though."
He surges forward catching her lips with his, hands encircling her waist. Giggling as he pulls her closer, fingers trailing up her spine. She feels lightheaded, dizzy and she has to break the kiss first.
"You okay?" he murmurs, resting his forehead against hers.
"Just trying to catch my breath," she whispers, "Twenty-three has been a whirlwind."
"It's been a day," he places a kiss to her shoulder, "what's going on, Beth?"
"Maggie's moving back," she tells him, looping her hands around his neck, "they have all these plans for the farm and…and I don't know what I'm supposed to do now."
Daryl glances towards the door.
"Well, what do ya want to do?"
"Anything," she says, shyly, "everything."
"Those are a lot of things," he whispers.
"As long as you're with me, well, maybe you can help me work it out."
"Ain't going anywhere, girl," Daryl murmurs.
"Neither am I."
Downstairs, Maggie calls her name. She jumps up and locks her door instead.
Eight months later
"I can't look," she squeals, passing the envelop to Daryl, "just tell me, did I get in?"
"Congratulations, Miss Greene," Daryl reads, "you are accepted-"
"Are you serious!" Beth exclaims, grabbing the letter, having to see the good news for herself. She reads the letter a few times, always pausing on the word accepted, grinning each and every time.
"My girlfriend's in college," Daryl smirks, "Merle's gonna be so proud."
"Of me going to college or the fact you're dating a girl in college?" she teases, wrapping an arm around him, eyes still focused on the letter.
"Next question," he plucks the letter from her hand, "which job ya gonna quit first?"
"Do I have to?" she pouts, "I was thinking, I could just cut down on my hours, do a few shifts a week at the bar and the diner?"
"Gotta study, girl," Daryl shakes his head, "ain't havin' ya fail because you're workin' your ass off."
"A couple of shifts at the bar?" she offers, sighing when he gives her a pointed look, "Daryl, I can do a couple of shifts and study. Besides, I gotta contribute."
"Contribute to what?" Daryl frowns, "Maggie and Shawn are payin' for your tuition. I already told you not to worry about payin' me rent. I'm doing good, Beth. I can look after ya."
She sighs once more, fingers playing with the ends of his hair as she shifts closer to rest against his shoulder.
"I don't want you to think I moved in with you so I could get a free ride," Beth argues, "it's all well and good, you saying you can cover the bills, but a girl's got other expenses. Clothes and make up and shampoo-"
"Not an issue."
"My shampoo costs $30, Daryl."
He curses and she can't help but giggle at the shocked expression on his face.
"Okay," he sighs, "if you want to keep workin' at the bar, I ain't gonna fight you on it. But you are only gonna use your pay cheque on shit for you."
Peppering kisses on his jaw, it's not long before he turns the tables, flipping her so she's on her back and he's hovering close; fingers trailing down her sides, slipping under the hem of her shirt.
Well, his shirt.
"We got a deal, girl?"
"Yeah," her breath catches, his fingers working their magic, "we've got a deal."
Maggie decides to have an open day three months after the baby is born. It's madness, but Maggie argues that if she's not going to be sleeping, she may as well do something productive.
The lead up is organised chaos. Stringing fairy lights, planting flowers, brushing the horses. At the eleventh hour, the pump for the well that services the campsite breaks down, and she's on the phone, demanding that Daryl leave work and come fix it straight away.
"Your sister is nuts," Daryl shakes his head, putting away his tools once the pump is operational again, "she's got that husband of hers practically chained to the kitchen."
"Fiancé," Beth corrects with a giggle, "she's anxious. She just wants it to go well. If she can get a few booking out of the day, then they can work on expanding the kitchen."
"She's chargin' an arm and a leg," he grumbles, "who the hell is gonna pay what she's askin'?"
"Believe it or not, her prices are cheap," Beth pokes him, "some folks spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a wedding."
"Your sister better give us a discount," he mutters and Beth smiles quietly, not saying a word. It's a future they haven't discussed, but a future that's there. He wants her to go to school first. He wants her to find a job she loves. Everything else can wait.
"Come on," Beth grins, dragging him towards the house, "we're getting out of here."
"We are?" Daryl cocks an eyebrow.
"Uh huh," she giggles, "the pumps fixed, I've made up all the beds. I think we've done enough here."
"We makin' a break for it, Greene?" Daryl glances at her, smirking.
"Hell yeah," Beth nudges him, "did you ride your bike here?"
He pulls his keys out of his pocket in response.
"Good," she follows him around the corner of the house, walking quickly and quietly past the windows, trying to be stealthy.
It comes easier to him than her. Funny that.
He swings his leg over, motioning for her to do the same. Turning the key, the bike roars to life and he peers over his shoulder at her.
"Anywhere," she laughs as he revs the engine, drowning out the sound of Shawn and Maggie yelling in the distance, "everywhere."
"Alright," he chuckles, "let's go."
Arms tight around him, she can't help but shriek with delight the moment he takes off down the driveway.
It's her last shift at the diner.
Well, for now. She told Carol she'd come back for the summer. Carol replied with a smirk and a we'll see.
It's funny how much she's going to miss this place. For a long time it was a pay cheque, and not a great one at that. But it was a job when she needed one, and Carol was always generous with her hours. She'll miss the regulars and the routine. She'll miss the smell of coffee that lingers on her clothes. She'll miss the comfort of it all.
She glances at the clock above the counter. It's 12:45, and right on cue, the bell above the door chimes.
Tucking her pencil and pad in her apron, she moves gracefully across the diner floor, stopping at the counter. Instead of rounding it, she slides into the open stool besides him.
"Hi," she breathes, wanting to kiss him, but remembering this is still her place of employment so she has to maintain some decorum. As if sensing her dilemma, Daryl leans over and plants a soft kiss to her cheek, hand resting on her knee.
Beth plucks her notepad from her apron, but it's unnecessary. She knows what he wants.
She smiles at that.
"What?" he asks, eyebrows drawn together in confusion.
"Nothing," she giggles, "just thinking about beforewe started dating, and how I'd reapply my lip gloss and redo my hair when I knew you'd be come in. Silly girl stuff, you know?"
He chuckles, hand drifting up, lingering on her waist. She shuffles as close as the stool will allow.
"I don't," he smirks and she nudges him with a grin.
"You used to over tip," she points out, "I know I wasn't the only one with a crush."
"Pretty girl like you, bringing me burgers?" Daryl shakes his head, "I'd be a fool not to."
Giggling, she leans over, pressing her lips to his, decorum be damned.
"I have three hours left," she slides off the stool, "ya gonna leave work early and pick me up?"
"Course I am," he promises and she feels her face light up once more.
"Good," she skips round the counter, grabbing some plates, but not before placing a coke in front of Daryl.
"Your burger won't be long," she calls out, already making her way to check her other tables.
Yes, she'll miss the diner. Miss the bar too, but there's something else out there for her. What it is, where it is, she's not sure.
But she's excited to find out.