A/N: For the Summer of Bethyl 2018. Because I felt like it, and my muse was compliant. This was so totally written in like two hours or so. All mistakes are my own, and possibly bountiful.
The hum of the wind and the bike around them lulled her into thinking that they were the only two people left in the world. She wanted them to be. Two of them in the solitude of the world, not having to worry about the living. The dead weren't something they had to be afraid of.
The sound of the bike was steady, dull rumble, crackling at times, it seemed to take over and sync up with her heartbeat, only louder like a thunder. The roar of the straight pipes and the hum of the rubber of the wheels were in contradictious terms with each other. Bike continued to sway delicately on the curves, as it sped forward on the deserted piece of the road. Only few odd, decaying walkers swayed along the road, lost and abandoned, groaning out in their never ending hunger for human flesh.
Daryl's back was firm, solid, as Beth leaned her cheek against the wings of the leather vest, feeling the heat of his body. The scent of the worn leather, smoke and slight fumes of gasoline from the bike, with waves of heat coming up from the engine and the rush of the wind made her close her eyes, sighing contently.
She had her arms wrapped around his waist, clutching his shirt tightly. They were two pieces of a whole, they belonged together.
She wasn't afraid, she could never. She was used to this. Riding a bike, riding with him, holding onto him, as he weaved through the debris that littered the roads, past the cars forgotten and broken. She knew Daryl was in control of all the elements regardless of their severity, because the ride was all that mattered to them right now. She didn't know where they were headed, but it was not about the destination anyway. It was the drive there that mattered.
They were almost 150 miles from the Kingdom by dusk. The sun had began to set slowly dying the sky with all the hues of the hot flames and cold space.
Wanting to leave the Kingdom and everyone in it, just for a little while, had been her idea. Daryl had thought of it for a second, a fraction of a heartbeat, but then agreed.
Something in his eyes told her he'd bring the moon from the sky to her if she asked, or die trying.
Letting out a small shaky breath she wasn't all too sure that her heart wouldn't explode at that very moment from the love she felt towards this man. She swallowed the lump she felt in her throat, willing the tears away because she didn't want to upset Daryl, nor herself, or explain to him that she was blubbering over the overwhelmed feeling of love towards the hunter. He wouldn't fare well with such emotions.
There was a shift in the sound of the bike, and Daryl grunted a little, touching her hands that held onto his waist tightly. Beth lifted her head up, looking at the surroundings of their current location.
The ground around the rest stop was filled with cars, pieces of fabric and garbage here and there from broken plastic bags, and whatever items were left behind by people. A large torn and weather worn map of the area had fallen to its side years ago. There were more cars parked on the shoulder of the rest stop, blocking the passage to the woods beyond the parking lot. Some had doors hanging ajar, hoods propped open, some still entombed their previous, skeletal owners in seatbelts.
Daryl kicked the stand of his bike down, and let her get up first, before swiftly climbing off himself. Yanking his crossbow off the rack at the back of the bike and twirled it almost effortlessly right way around in his hands.
Beth looked at Daryl intently, who seemed once again to be ready to fight the dead and the living alike, or just hunt down some game, which ever might crawl out from the bushes first.
She let her gaze wander away from Daryl's back, and the familiar and soothing angel wing vest, and roam over the abandoned items here and there. She had seen places like this before. Old gas stations, grocery stores, rest stops and large malls alike. People had gathered around them, as if to seek shelter and food, or some stability. All of those places were drained dry in a matter of moments, or overrun by the infected, by the walkers, and this place was not an exception by any means. Her eyes darted back to Daryl, just to make sure he was still there, his hair tousled by the wind and the drive, and his eyes trained to the treeline. She smiled, once again being reminded how he wasn't really born until this world was thrusted upon the rest of the humanity who could function with great deal of difficulty in the ashes of the old, decaying world.
The leather of his jacket squeaked, as he spun around letting his gaze sweep over the deserted road. Beth peeked from behind him, blinking few times, lips pressed into a tight line, as she expected to see a walker hobbling towards them, or at least an opossum, or maybe a bird.
There was nothing.
She held all and any comments there were in her mind at that moment, but smiled at Daryl, when he finally relaxed enough to focus back onto her.
He nodded his head, as he started forward, carefully watching where he put his feet. She followed him, hand clutching the knife that hung on its sheath on her belt. The area seemed to be abandoned, empty, but it sometimes surprised even the best prepared people how a herd of walkers could shuffle so close to them practically silently and attack. It was better to be safe than sorry.
Turned around, feeling his eyes on her, watching her every move with his steely blue eyes as if she would disappear if he wasn't there to keep watch over her at all times. There was a contradiction in that with him and her. He didn't want to be overbearing, didn't want to make her feel suffocated and overprotected, but he didn't want to lose the line of sight to her.
She could understand that, she had, after all, disappeared into the night when they had tried to flee from the funeral home. Beth knew Daryl blamed himself for that because it had resulted into her being taken to the Grady Hospital and she had been shot there. Everyone had thought she had died.
It hadn't been easy on Daryl, she knew that.
Thinking about that, she lifted her right hand onto her forehead, and pretended to brush some of her unruly locks away from her face, but instead touched her still quite prominent wound on her forehead, unnoticed. She turned to look at Daryl over her shoulder, and of course he was watching at her, and she knew from the look on his face that he had seen her touch the wound.
She shook her head a little, smiling, trying to reassure the already guilt ridden man that this was nothing; that it was just an impulse. What had happened was just the sum of all things that had gone wrong, beginning from the moment first of the dead had risen back again.
All things aside, she knew he didn't look at her because he needed to see her face; she knew the hunter could remember her features even in pitch black and could probably describe in great detail how every single hair on her head twisted and curled as they fell down to her shoulders or bounced in a high ponytail. But still, she had to wonder if they should talk about the scars that she bore on her face now.
She knew, without an explanation, that Daryl didn't care if she had any or not. God knew he had his own to bear, and kept them hidden from prying eyes. But she couldn't help but wonder if he saw them on her, or if he managed to saw past them, overlooking the imperfections that in the beginning had devastated her to a point of hiding herself from view.
She chewed her bottom lip. Thinking of the first months afterwards, she had kept to herself. First at the hospital, and later, when she had left, staying in the shadows or keeping herself cloaked and masked when dealing with people.
She shuddered, turning around nervously, and let her eyes sweep over the place absentmindedly. The things she had done in order to survive had left scars worse than what were on her face.
Back in the Kingdom people had tried to make her talk, tried to make her bare herself to the bone and telling her it would be good for her, but she knew better. She couldn't do that, and witness the shock and fear in their eyes. Daryl was still the only person she had dared to tell those little snippets from her first year alone in the wild, trying to find a place for herself, find someone she might have known, or decide if she should venture back to the farm.
Done worse than ya.
I don't doubt that.
The Archer did not judge. With Daryl, she could always trust where she stood.
She swept her hair behind her ear walking over to the only table still standing, walking away from the moment, a fraction of an eternity, that hurt Daryl for what it reminded and hurt her for what it meant to him.
Her hand brushed over the weather worn surface of the wooden desk top. Keeping her eyes on the desk, she pulled her knife from the sheath and let the tip of the knife scrape against the greying wood.
"By the road stop, for the memory of the future, with a knife I carve on the walls of the bygone world, initials of you and me, two unwanted souls. Hold onto me, draw stars in my eyes."
Concentration in her eyes, and song on her lips, she sat on the table, leaning over the countertop and worked the tip of the knife into the wood for few moments. She focused on the cuts she was forming, on the curves of the piece she was making. Daryl stood still, looking at Beth, listening to her hum an unknown tune. After the last cut, she brushed the table vigorously, sending the little shards of wood and sawdust flying about. Her eyes glided over her handiwork before deeming it suitable, good enough, and sheathed her blade swiftly.
It's a memory of a past world, these rest stops, the table, and the abandoned cars even. It's something that was lost from them now.
They both know it; Daryl maybe more than she does. She never got to take a long road trip, she never got to see the Pacific Ocean, sitting in a car by a beach. She never got to make a fire on a beach and sing and dance all night through. Not like it was before. She had sung with Maggie at the prison, in front of a fireplace, but it was different.
Daryl walked closer, eyes raking over the underbrush and trying to listen to the familiar, yet unwanted, growls of the walkers, as she kept her eyes on him, and waited.
She lifted her head up, smiling at him, and nodding an informal invitation to come see what she had done. He would have seen it anyway sooner or later, but she knew he didn't want to impose. Still sometimes being that shy and reserved man he had been with Merle.
He reached the table, and quickly saw what she had made; both of their initials on it.
There they are, DD and BG, pierced by an arrow and he frowned just a little, unsure of what was expected of him. She touched his arm, and smiled. She could see it, on the surface, his demeanor changing and that certain tingling sensation in his stomach twisting into knots; hesitation.
She'd seen that look on his eyes before. She'd seen him go around in circles with his thoughts of how she would eventually figure out he wasn't good enough for her and other silly thoughts that reared their ugly head from time to time. She bit her tongue and refrained from saying anything out loud. She would definitely prove that every day of her life if that's what it took for him to finally realize that there was nothing that would make her choose differently.
Her hand brushed over his, and she let her own fingers intertwine with his, before hopping down from the table, and standing next to the Archer.
"A reminder that we were happy," she murmured, resting her head against his shoulder.
He hummed a noncommittally and looked at her scribbling on the table. He squinted his eyes, probably not quite understanding why it was a declaration of happiness, but he didn't argue with her. Instead, he let her rest her head on his shoulder, until she sighed deep, and stepped aside from him.
"Ya came back, left ya sister for this," he mumbled then, chewing his bottom lip absentmindedly.
No, not really. They hadn't left completely. She had needed time. And she knew he would have abandoned everyone if she had so much as asked for that. But all she wanted was time to figure out who she was now that she was back with her family.
Daryl was still her last memory, happy memory before she had been yanked away from him.
"I think Maggie needs to finally realize I'm not that frightened girl I once was back at the farm, Daryl," she smiled at the Archer.
The look in his eyes revealed that he didn't think she's a frightened girl anymore. She'd survived on her own, she'd killed in order to survive, and she had the marks, the scars, to bear the memory of that.
"We'll go back. Soon. Tonight is just for us."
Daryl smiled, and nodded.
It was just for them.