This one's a little...a lot different. I tried to explain Alpha/Beta/Omega (A/B/O) dynamics without getting too technical, so if you're already familiar with the concept, please forgive me. If you're interested in reading more about it, I suggest you visit kittenofdoomage on tumblr and read through "What the hell is A/B/O?"

Warnings: NSFW, knotting, claiming, unprotected sex

Will Dixon was as Alpha as they come, and yet, hardly an Alpha at all, though he would most certainly argue that point. Truth be told, he was not one of the noble Alphas people usually hear about. He didn't bother to protect those weaker than him. Quite the opposite, in fact. Where other Alphas showed their dominance through their demeanor, Will Dixon asserted his dominance with his fists. He had no aspirations of actually making something of himself; he was apparently content with being a redneck asshole, constantly searching for his next high rather than climbing any kind of social ladder. He took what he wanted with no regards to how it affected the well-being of himself or of his family.

His oldest son, Merle, was an acorn that most decidedly did not roll far from the tree. Like his father before him, Merle was always on the lookout for drugs, drink, or some woman to find release...and sometimes a combination of all three. Unlike Will, he did want more out of life than just getting high, and thought he deserved better just because he was an Alpha, but he sure as hell wasn't about to work for it. As far as he was concerned, the world owed him, and he was ready to wait it out until he got whatever was coming to him while raising a little hell along the way.

It was while Merle was off on bender after bender, winding up in one jail or another, Daryl, the youngest of the Dixon clan, presented. Every Alpha they knew went into rut when they came of age. So when Daryl started taking longer and longer in the shower, his father put it together and congratulated him with a clap on the back (which happened to land over a freshly made scar, but Daryl hid his flinch against the pain) and even offered to take his youngest to a whorehouse to celebrate.

Except that when he finished without growing a knot, Daryl knew something was wrong. He figured he just wasn't really that into it, that he'd been basically forced into doing it, and that was why nothing had happened. He absolutely would not mention any of his concerns to anyone, and prayed Tiffany...or Stephanie...whatever her name was...would keep quiet about it, too. Everyone assumed he would be just like the other men in is family, an Alpha that most certainly did not live up to his title. When he didn't show the same attitudes that Will and Merle did, his father of course assumed the worst and showed his disappointment the only way he knew how.

The one and only time he'd stood up to his father was when he'd brought some wasted little Omega back to their trailer and started smacking her around when she begged him not to knot her. Daryl burst into the bedroom and tried like hell to pull his father off the young Omega, only to catch a beating that left him half dead. Even as he lay there bleeding on the floor, he felt a glimmer of pride, of satisfaction, that he'd at least protected the girl, given her a chance to escape when he knew he had none.

As far as Will was concerned, it wasn't any Alpha sense that made Daryl try to protect her. No, there was only one reason anyone would care that much about a stranger to try and stop not only his father, but his Lead Alpha.

"You try that again, I'll beat the 'mega outta you, you no good son of a bitch!"

Ever since then, however, he wasn't able stand up to the head Alpha of the family like he'd wanted to, like he'd seen Merle do every now and again. His brother reminded him that "Alphas need to stake their claim, take what's theirs, gotta fight for it or you'll never get nothin'." Even when his own safety was at stake. And as a teenage boy living under Will Dixon's roof, his safety was in question far more often than not.

As far as he could tell, he'd failed to carry on the Alpha least, the Dixon version of the Alpha gene. He'd had the notion beaten into his back time and time again, so it started to become easier to accept, easier to cope with. He was perfectly happy just staying quiet, keeping to himself, mainly just to stay out of his father's way. When he did cross paths with Will, or rather when Will would start his drunken line of questioning (about the only time he seemed to give a shit about his son's status), Daryl did his best to convince him that he was an Alpha. When that didn't fly, he'd admit to being a Beta, knowing that was at least a step above being an Omega, at least in his dad's eyes. Even if his story changed from day to day, Daryl knew his father wouldn't remember the next time he got wasted, so it didn't really matter which version he went with.

However, despite all the threats and assumptions his father and brother made, he didn't feel like an Omega, but he didn't think he was a Beta, either. He truly thought there was something more, but he didn't dare mention that to anyone else in his family. It terrified him that he might be an Omega; any time Will Dixon even entertained the thought scared the life out of Daryl. He knew it was possible, of course, but if his father put it together that he wasn't Beta like he wanted him to, and he didn't behave like the other Alphas in his life...well, he thought he was living in hell before presenting. He couldn't imagine what fresh hell was in store for him if that were true.

So Daryl continued to keep to himself, spending most of his time out in the woods, perfecting his hunting and tracking skills. It was there he truly felt like an Alpha, completely in control of his domain.

When Will eventually drank and drugged himself to death, Merle insisted that his baby brother get out of the woods and join society. Again, Daryl tried, but found he didn't have it in him to really stand up to his older brother and went along for the ride. The only way he really showed any kind of resistance was when he'd only go through the motions of shooting up or drinking and smoking himself into oblivion, hoping Merle was too high to notice.

And then the world ended. The dead started walking, while the living ran in fear. Society as he knew it was in shambles. Alpha, Beta, and Omega alike were all endangered. Alphas became all the more important, providing what protection they could from the reanimated corpses. Daryl stayed with Merle, and the two were accepted into a group from nearby who had found a safe place near a quarry to wait and hope that everything would just blow over.

Daryl had a feeling they'd be waiting a long time.

Merle had it all planned out. They'd take what they wanted from the group, which was made up of mostly Betas anyway. It wasn't like they would really put up a fight. The only problem was Shane, the former sheriff. He was the only Alpha Daryl had seen that could have any control over Merle. Regardless of what Merle wanted, Shane had the last say, and surprisingly, Merle actually followed it.

When Merle got left behind in Atlanta but a new guy, Rick, had come back to join the group, Daryl was damn impressed to find an Alpha stronger than even Shane. Everyone at this campsite seemed to respond to Rick right away, even though Shane had been keeping things together for the past week or so. He'd never seen such a dominant Alpha, one who made it all look effortless. He didn't make any big shows of dominance, didn't raise his fists or his voice. He just...lead them. If that was what real Alphas were supposed to be like, maybe Daryl was a Beta after all. He certainly couldn't picture himself behaving that way, and he certainly couldn't bring himself to act like his father and brother. He just couldn't compare.

It still didn't feel right, though. He still felt that something more, something deep inside him that was just lying dormant waiting to be triggered. He took a page out of the lessons he'd learned from his childhood and ignored his feelings. Being numb was better than being wrong and getting hurt.

Daryl, along with the other survivors, followed Rick down the highway, to Hershel's farm, wandering around all winter after a herd overtook the farm, all the way to the prison. They followed when Rick declared war on the Governor. Daryl was always willing to help, and had become a soldier, a provider, a protector, all with Rick as his leader. Finally, Daryl felt like he belonged, that he was contributing. It was probably the happiest and most fulfilling time in his life.

But when they'd ultimately lost the war, there was no one to follow. Literally. He couldn't make out one set of footprints from another in all the chaos that surrounded the prison. Instead, he had Beth following him, trusting him to lead her to safety. She had so much faith in him, depended on him for basically everything. Daryl wanted to just give up, but Beth wouldn't let him. The girl was positively adamant that they keep moving, keep looking for the rest of their family. More of that faith that Daryl just couldn't understand.

If he didn't know any better, he'd think she was an Alpha.

Except that girl was as Omega as they came. He didn't know if she'd actually presented yet or not, but from what he'd seen, she was the most caring and nurturing person he'd ever met, so if she hadn't, she was bound to be one. Maybe her pushing him so hard, so relentlessly, was her way of taking care of him. He knew without her, he'd likely have checked out, whether figuratively or literally Either way, it had to be exhausting being that hopeful all the damn time, but despite his best efforts, it worked. He found himself trying to work out a plan to scout through the area and track down the rest of their family.

It was over warm bottles of water and mud snake that Beth gave her final push to get Daryl off his ass. He'd still been mulling it over, still moping over having lost everything but the clothes on his back, his bow, and the blonde girl next to him, when that same girl declared she was going to find herself a drink. Eventually, she ended up leaving their camp with him grudgingly following along, convincing himself it was just to make sure she didn't wander into some kind of danger that she couldn't get herself out of.

When the country club Beth had found ended up only offering some damn peach schnapps, Daryl had to step in and make things right. Something about this girl who had lost so much all at once but still remained so have to watch her break down and cry shook something loose in him. A feeling similar to the one he'd felt all those years ago, a need to protect someone who needed it, ran through him and pushed him into action. He smashed the one remaining bottle she had found on the floor and stormed out of the bar, holding the door open for her to follow him.

He lead her to the old shack he and Michonne had found weeks ago while they were still looking for where the Governor was hiding out. Before heading inside, he took her around to the back where there was a thrown together lean-to that housed a still and several mason jars of moonshine. Daryl picked up a crate and handed it to Beth before opening the door for her to head into the shack. Once inside, he found a decently clean cup and poured her her first real drink.

Everything was fine until she insisted he drink, too. Hell, even that wasn't so bad, considering. It was when she started playing that damn game, trying to find out all about him, that things all went down the shitter.

He'd yelled at her. Mocked her. Called her out on things that weren't even all that bad. Any time he'd heard her sing, it was for the benefit of others, never selfish, but he insulted her for it. She'd tried to check out back on her daddy's farm because she didn't know how to cope with all the shit happening in the world; she damn sure wasn't looking for attention and deep down, he'd already known that, but threw it in her face, anyway. He of course left out the fact that he'd thought of ending things himself until she lit a fire under his ass.

Maybe he was more like Will Dixon than he thought.

And then they'd had it out in the overgrown yard, screaming at each other regardless of any walkers that would certainly overhear them. They lucked out that only one happened to find them.

It seemed there was no stopping his Dixon DNA from making him act like a complete asshole toward Beth, lashing out at her, releasing all the pent up frustration and anger and guilt onto this tiny blonde Omega and not giving a shit about any least not in the moment.

When his tirade had finally run its course, when his shouting turned to quiet sobs, he felt her gentle presence wrap around him. Her arms slid around his waist, her head resting between his shoulder blades, and she just...held him. Let him get everything that had been building and festering inside him for the past several days...weeks...months. Since this whole end-of-the-world thing began.

And when it was all over, he'd felt the best he had in years. In fact, he couldn't remember feeling so...unburdened. Even as a little kid, he'd had all kinds of pressure and fears and sadness piling up on his little shoulders. But here, with Beth's arms wrapped around him, he felt free.

It was then and there that he felt himself imprinting on Beth. No matter what happened next, he would be there for her, with her, protecting her, needing her.

Once they'd calmed down, they returned to the crappy excuse for a living room to watch the sun and moon trade places in the sky. They had a much calmer conversation now, and even though they were digging deep, hitting some topics he hadn't ever dared touch with another person, he was okay. Beth had a strong yet calming presence that kept all his demons at bay.

They burned down the shack, dousing the floor and walls with the very moonshine that had burned through their veins just hours ago. Watching the flames consume the building, licking their way towards the roof and then into the sky, he felt his own past vanish into the smoke as well. Beth was right: he had to put his past behind him before it killed him.

He could have watched the fire burn all night, despite the added heat to the already sweltering Georgia night air. It was only when a handful of walkers showed up, attracted to the light, that he begrudgingly nudged Beth's arm to get her to follow him. Neither of them were in any condition to fight off that many, especially not knowing how many more were on their way, but he figured he could pull it together enough to get them both moving to safety (as much safety as he could find at the end of the world), even in the middle of a moonlit night.

Daryl heard Beth's footsteps growing slower and more clumsy, a sure sign that she was past exhausted but, for whatever reason, felt that she couldn't say anything, couldn't ask for a rest. He kept his eyes peeled for someplace, anywhere, to spend the rest of the night. Luckily they found a rough country road running through the woods. An old Chevy sat, long abandoned, the remnants of its former owner draped against the steering wheel. Daryl pulled the body out onto the crumbling asphalt, then reached around to unlock the rear door. Whoever he was, the driver had done them a small favor by leaving the windows open; at least the smell of death had dissipated enough that they'd be able to spend the next few hours inside without gagging with every breath.

Beth wasted no time in leaning against Daryl's side, curling herself beneath his arm before passing out with exhaustion. He froze at first, never having cuddled anything or anyone in his life, save for Lil Asskicker. Eventually he let his arm wrap around her small frame, his hand landing on her hip. It felt...almost natural and had an immediate calming effect on him. Before long, he lost his battle and succumbed to sleep, hoping like hell they were the only ones on this particular stretch of road that night, living or dead.

The next time he opened his eyes, the sun was just barely starting to peek through the trees lining the road. Sometime over the course of the night, Beth had basically crawled into his lap, his arms holding her to his chest. Her scent filled the car, despite the windows being partially open all night and any lingering stench from the car's former occupant. Daryl felt something in him awaken, something that had been lying dormant be honest, he couldn't remember when. It was similar to what he felt when he'd fought his dad the one and only time, but this wasn't any kind of call to violence. Just that need to protect, to provide for, suddenly so strong it almost scared him. Almost. Really it was the most natural thing in the world to him to want to take care of her.

They set out, following the road from beyond the tree line, both of them figuring they'd run into a town, a neighborhood, a gas station...something before too long. The further they went, the more ragged Beth's breathing became, and she was stumbling more and more, which was unusual even for her. When Daryl asked if she was okay, he was expecting to hear her brush it off and chalk it up to just being hungry.

Instead, Beth pushed herself to lean against a nearby tree and damn near doubled over in pain. Daryl rushed back to her side, concern pulsing through him. He tried placing a hand on her back, but Beth shied away from it, as if his very touch was burning her.

"I...I need to…" she tried to speak between shallow breaths. "Daryl, I have to stop. I can't…" Anything further was cut off by her pained moan through gritted teeth, mindful of their safety in these surroundings even in her current state, whatever it was.

Daryl slung his crossbow across his back before carefully scooping Beth into his arms. She groaned again at the contact, though it wasn't exactly pained this time. Her head rested against his chest as he moved as quickly as he dared.

They (almost literally) stumbled upon a small country cabin, left relatively untouched save from the weather. There were no walkers to be found inside or out, which he was sure Beth would have declared as a blessing if she were feeling better. As it was, she stayed on the front porch while he had searched through the house, her knife held loosely in her hand while her other arm wrapped around her abdomen as she sat hunched over on herself. Once he deemed it safe enough for the two of them, he carried her in and gently deposited her on the bed in the master bedroom.

The windows surprisingly gave little resistance when Daryl opened them, trying to create a cross-breeze in the stuffy room. The heat that had been surrounding them was typical of Georgia in the thick of summer, but just because it was normal didn't make it any more bearable. Daryl glanced back at Beth and noted her sweat literally dripping off her forehead.

Feeling next to helpless, Daryl decided to try to find something, anything, for them to eat, realizing they hadn't eaten since the mudsnake the day before. There was a package of stale crackers in the pantry and a half dozen or so cans of random veggies. He remembered there was a tiny creek nearby; he took all the water bottles they had to fill and rushed back to the cabin, not wanting to leave her any longer than he really had to. Cranking open some green beans and dumping them into a bowl, he brought the meager meal back to the bedroom, thinking that maybe her blood sugar was just getting low and that was what was causing her so much discomfort.

What he walked in on nearly made him drop everything there in the doorway: Beth was lying on the bed, all blankets thrown to the floor, her body covered only by her bra and panties, and even those were soaked through with sweat. While he couldn't tear his eyes away from the sight of her, that wasn't what had absolutely rocked him to his core.

Her scent. So strong he could taste it. His head was swimming, nearly drowning, in the sweetness that was surrounding him. Despite the larger space and shorter amount of time, her scent was stronger and more pungent than it had been in the car just a few hours ago.

And he thought it had affected him then.

Curled on her side in what appeared to be a restless sleep, Beth slowly opened her eyes. Something about his presence must have awakened her. She went to stretch out her limbs, but immediately curled in on herself, her face scrunched in pain. A tiny whimper escaped her lips and Daryl rushed to the opposite side of the bed to face her. Any closer, he knew he may not be able to control...whatever was rushing through him since he walked into the bedroom.

"Daryl," she whispered. "It hurts."

"Wha…" he swallowed hard before continuing, "what hurts?" He didn't really need to ask, however. He had a hunch. An inkling. A god damned intuition.

"My heat." She cringed, another wave of pain clear on her normally soft features. When it had passed, at least lessened for the moment, she explained, "My suppressants are wearing off. I've been feeling it for a couple days."

"An' ya didn't say nothin'?" Daryl grumbled at her. "I coulda gotten ya-" He was sure there were medicines to help Omegas out at times like this. The thought of Beth in this amount of pain was unbearable. He'd scour the earth, go as far as he'd need to in order to find them for her.

"Maggie had pretty much ransacked every place she could find to get them for me. I doubt you'd find any nearby."

While Omegas had always been relatively rare, he didn't realize Beth was the only one at the prison. He shook his head, "Shit, girl. I...I don'-"

"I need you, Daryl. Please," she begged through clenched teeth.

"What, girl. Name it."

Beth opened her eyes, strained with agony. "I need you."

Daryl shook his head, "Beth, I...I can't." He knew what she needed. Any Omega in heat craved an Alpha's knot, and while he might be Alpha, at the same time, he might not be, and he couldn't do that to her. Couldn't give her that hope of relief and then take it away because of his inadequacy.

At the same time, he was sure he'd imprinted on her. He couldn't imagine being without her. Call it whatever label that might fit, he wanted to take care of her. To help her through this.

Another wave of her scent hit him, stronger than ever. So strong he actually closed his eyes and savored it for a moment. When he opened his eyes again, Beth had curled herself into a smaller ball than before, her knees up to her chest. Tears had started rolling down her face to leave splotches on the pillow beneath her head.

Swallowing down the doubt that threatened to push him away from her, he silently conceded to what Beth wanted. No. She needed this. Whether he could give her what she really needed or not, he knew if he didn't do something soon, she would only get worse. More pain, more sickness, He couldn't, wouldn't let that happen to her.

Daryl released a short breath, "I don't even know where to start, girl."

"Just hold me," she whispered. When he looked up, her eyes were already locked on hers, pleading with him. He nodded and climbed onto the bed with her, wrapped her tiny frame into his arms. Beth immediately wriggled herself close to him, practically burying her nose into his chest and inhaled deeply. Within seconds, the tension in her body started to melt away and he instinctively pulled his arms even tighter around her.

After a brief moment, she pulled back slightly, just enough to look up at him, her nose nudging along his collarbone, his throat, his jawline, scenting him. He felt her soft breath on his neck, then her lips brush against his skin.

Daryl jerked his head back in surprise and looked down at her, his hold on her slipping just enough for her to work her hand up to thread her fingers through his hair...then pause. Their eyes met, each of them searching for some sign to continue. They moved closer together, cautiously, Beth applying just the slightest pressure to the back of his head to bring him to her, until their lips finally met.

Before he knew it, Daryl was kissing her. Really kissing her. Drawing out the sweetest little moans from her perfect mouth. She opened to him, teasing her tongue along his. He'd never experienced anything like it. He felt something inside him, deep inside him, continue to stir, as it had earlier that morning. If this is what kissing was like with Beth…

Suddenly he felt the overwhelming need to have her closer, to be flush up against her tight little body. Daryl wrapped his arm around her, pulling her close, breathing her in. Her scent was driving him absolutely wild. He gave more of himself over to instinct, trailing kisses along her jawline, her neck, down her chest. She began bucking against him when he shifted further down her body, his hands drifting behind her to unclasp her bra before quickly tearing it away. Before going any further (and Christ did he want to go further), he glanced up at her, only to see her head tilted into the pillow beneath her, her back arched into him, offering herself to him.

Daryl tentatively took a nipple into his mouth, dragging his tongue against the stiff bud there, and grinned at the sound she made. "Like that, girl?" he murmured against her skin before returning to what he was doing, drawing out a soft whimper as her fingers reached into his hair to hold him to her. Not that he had any mind to go anywhere else.

Beth pulled him by his hair up to kiss her again, aligning their bodies so his was right on top of hers. He felt her legs come up to wrap around his waist, curling her lower half to rub against the bulge in his pants, already hard to the point of pain for her. "Daryl," she panted in between kisses, "please…" Her hands let go and trailed down his arms, his body, until her slim fingers found his belt buckle and started fumbling to release it. A cry of frustration echoed around the room and he knelt back, watching her squirm beneath him, seeking release, he loosened his belt and shoved his pants down his thighs, allowing his cock to spring free.

He wanted to badly to just rip her panties off, but practicality stepped in and instead he pulled them down her slender legs, revealing her most private of parts. His mouth watered at the sight, wondering just what she tasted like, but that would have to wait for another day. Right now, this woman was silently begging for him, and he wasn't about to deny her for much longer. Still…

He pulled her panties down past her ankles and tossed them somewhere on the floor, then let his fingers drag slowly up her calf, over her knee, to tease her inner thigh before… "Jesus, Beth, you're fucking soaked." Her slick had already made a small puddle beneath her. Daryl teased at her entrance with his fingertips, loving the sight before him as Beth arched and curled her back, her body seeking more contact, more friction, more of him. Inch by inch he pushed his finger into her until he was knuckle deep and searching for that special place hidden on her inner walls. A second finger added even more pressure, stretched her further, gave her more pleasure as she bucked her hips against his hand. "Come on, girl...cum for me," he encouraged her, wanting to see her fall apart at his hands.

He was sure as hell glad there wasn't anyone around to hear her cry out as she reached her peak. No one but him. A sense of pride filled him as her body squeezed around his fingers before eventually relaxing. He slowly pulled his hand away from her and brought it right to his mouth, finally getting to taste her sweet nectar.

Next time, if she wanted a next time, he swore he'd eat her fill of her. Her slick was better than any drug, any drink and ten times as addictive.

"Daryl," she whispered, "Alpha. Please."

A jolt of electricity seemed to shoot down his spine all the way into his cock. Without any more waiting, he pulled her thigh and hitched it over his hip before guiding his head, slick with precum, to her entrance and slid in as slowly as he could. As he did, her jaw dropped with every inch inside her; her mouth stretched to match her cunt as he filled her. A guttural moan escaped from each of them when he bottomed out, his pubic bone nestled against the cradle of her hips.

There was no holding back. He wanted to take things slow, give her time to adjust, but instinct had taken over completely. His hips snapped against hers, fucking into her delicious heat. Her slender arms reached around his neck, pulling him to her, and he breathed in her scent all along her neck and jawline, leaving little bite marks everywhere he could. They moved together in a rhythm unknown to them until now, in a dance that came naturally to both of them.

No words were exchanged between them. There was no need for any. It was as if he could feel what she wanted without her having to voice a single syllable. He could feel a connection to her, something he'd never felt with anyone ever before. Daryl was completely lost in her, in this moment they were sharing, and he wasn't in a hurry to find his way back to reality.

It didn't take long, in fact it took much less time than he would have liked (although she felt so good around him, the whole world along with any concept of time seemed to have faded away), before something changed between them. Her breathing came in short gasps and even though his pace hadn't slowed at all, he began to feel more sensitive, could feel her walls fluttering around him, as if she were trying to pull him even deeper inside him. Daryl felt a pressure starting to grow at the base of his spine, felt the base of his cock get even harder and begin to catch differently at her entrance.

Beth felt it the same time he did. "Please, Alpha...need your knot," she begged. Her fingers clawed at his back, probably giving him scars of her own, but Daryl couldn't find it in him to care. His thrusts came faster now, pushed harder. He couldn't get enough of her scent, couldn't stop nipping and sucking on the column of her throat and down her shoulders. It was like something had taken over, some wild, animalistic force that was driving him, controlling him. All he knew was Beth and his overwhelming need to be with her. "Need you, Daryl. Need you. Alpha, please!"

It all happened at once. Beth screamed out her release, her inner walls clamping down on his dick. Except that wasn't all - his knot forced its way into her, stretching her to the point of pain, but it didn't stop her from grinding against him, seeking even more of him as he emptied himself into her. As he climaxed, he gave himself completely over to instinct and bit into her shoulder, hard enough to draw blood, claiming her as his as his thrusts finally began to slow to a stop. That same bolt of electricity he'd felt earlier was running up and down his spine, frying his brain until all thoughts were simply of them, together, now and always.

As the waves of euphoria began to settle, Daryl felt himself sink into her, barely able to hold his weight off her...not that he really wanted to, or that she seemed to mind. His jaws relaxed next, releasing her, and he immediately ran his tongue over her fresh mark in an attempt to soothe whatever pain he had caused her. "Mmmm, 'mega," he growled against her skin, pressing light kisses over his mark. There was nothing to be done for his knot still locked inside her but to roll to a more comfortable position until it deflated. They fell to their side, facing each other, her leg lazily draped over his hip, her pussy still stretched around him. They exchanged soft kisses, gently running their fingertips over each others skin with absolute tenderness.

It was then that the gravity of what they had just done hit him like a truck. He tried to pull away, "Shit, Beth. I didn't...I shouldn't-a...fuck, I'm sorry-"

She just smiled softly and cradled his cheek in the palm of her hand before planting another kiss on his lips to stop his unnecessary apology. "Daryl, it's okay. It''s so good."

Daryl was still unsure...about a lot of things. "I just...I didn't even know I could, and are you alright with all this?"

"You didn't know you could...what?" Beth asked softly, ignoring his question.

He could only blink back at her, "All of it! The whole thing. did called me Alpha." She nodded slowly in response. "How did you know?"

Beth frowned in confusion, "How did I know you were Alpha?" Now it was his turn to nod, words completely failing him. "'re one of the strongest Alphas I've ever seen." Daryl scoffed, not believing her for a second. "It's true," she insisted. "Who protected us, provided for us, completely selflessly for all this time? But you never once felt that you had to prove your strength or power over anyone. You didn't need to. We felt it all the same. We knew we could trust you to take care of us. Even when Rick...needed to take a break, it was you that made sure we were all fed and safe, well taken care of." She gave him a guilty grin. "Plus," she added in a whisper, "your presence, your scent. God, Daryl, it's very Alpha. I'm surprised my suppressants lasted as long as they did." She closed her eyes, her smile still curling her lips upward, and took a deep breath in through her nose, as if just to prove her point.

Daryl let it all sink in for a moment. He'd be a fool to argue with her. Still, there were other matters to worry about. "But we...I didn't use anything. Shit, I fucking claimed you! I'm not even sure how it happened."

Beth waited until Dary had calmed down a little, wiggling a little as his knot started to come loose. "Growing up, I loved stories of true mates. Two people who meet and just...just know, somehow. Know they're supposed to be together. I've always wondered if that really happened, if it would ever happen to me." She waited until his eyes met hers, "Did you feel it, Daryl? Feel that...that...I don't know what it was, how to explain it, but it was there. All I could think about, all I could feel was just you. So, no we didn't plan happen, but I'm kinda glad you did. I'm glad it was you."

He wanted to tell her he could still feel it, that buzzing that ran all through him now. The ever-strengthening sense of wanting, needing to be with her. He'd never heard of anything like what she was talking about, but as soon as she said it, Daryl realized she was right.

"And as far as not using protection," she continued, "We'll have to cross that bridge if we come to it," she said with a shrug, then that same grin from a moment ago returned, "though we might want to look through the house for something before next time. Just in case."

Daryl looked down at her, his eyes shifting from his mark on her neck to her eyes and back again. He couldn't believe how much his whole world had changed in such a very short time, and how lucky he was to have Beth with him, taking care of him as much as he did her. He had no words, though he knew he should probably say something. He wasn't the type to spout off some romantic bullshit, and Beth deserved more than just lip service from him. Instead, he'd do his best to show her how he felt until he could come up with something better. Daryl grabbed the sheet to cover her body before pulling his pants back up and fastening the belt. He felt her eyes on him as he crossed the room, bending to pick up the food and water he'd all but dropped on the floor when he'd first walked in, and offered her his meager findings.

Beth smiled widely, sitting up in bed and tucking the sheet under her arms before taking the bottle of water and drinking half its contents in one go.

"How long does...does it last?" Daryl stammered out.

Beth answered with a tiny smile, knowing what he was asking without him saying it. "A couple days at least. It's been a while since I've had a full blown heat, though, so it might be longer."

He nodded, "You gonna be okay for a while?"

Beth looked up at him, her forehead beginning to crease with worry. "Um, I guess so. Why?"

Daryl gave her his own little grin, "Gonna see if I can find anything, go hunting, get you an actual meal 'stead-a just crackers and cold beans."

"Oh," she perked up at the prospect of fresh food. "Yeah, I'll be okay." Daryl had taken a few steps down the hall when he heard her call out for him. He turned back and poked his head into the room. "Thank you," she said shyly, "for everything." Another small smile, "We'll be okay, we'll figure this out. Together."

"Yeah," he nodded, finding it easier to believe her the longer he had to process everything. He could feel their connection strengthening between them already. "Yeah. We'll be good."

Thank you for reading - please take a moment to leave a review!