Just a little bit o' smut, next chapter will have more. I'm trying rein it in a bit to get back to Beth and Merle's story.

Coming Down

Later they pieced together their individual stories to get a picture of those fateful days. Maggie and Glen remembered that they had entered the compound after the arsenal exploded; and it was they who found Hershel crumpled in a cell in the Governor's basement, his remaining leg broken and his face bruised. Andrea, the newly elected interim governor of Woodbury, found a two-bedroom apartment across the street from the governor's apartment to house them until Hershel could get around on his own.

Rick regained consciousness the evening after his capture, but it was days before he could comprehend the events that were relayed to him. He had no memory of his capture or the fall of the governor. Andrea found him a large space with two bedrooms where he, Carl and Judith could stay until he healed. She also found a nanny to care for Judith daily.

Michonne was found strapped to a barber's chair in an insulated room in the cellar of Milton's laboratory. Her face and arms bore multiple razor cuts and she was severely dehydrated. She told the group that Rick had been bludgeoned with a tire jack by one of the governor's men during the grenade volley on the back wall, and that she attempted to escape but was apprehended one block away. The governor had just begun torturing her when the arsenal blew. She was put up in a small one-bedroom space at the end of town to help with negotiations and planning of the truce between Woodbury and the prison. She and Andrea pledged to walk the long road of forgiveness together in the hopes of saving their friendship.

After the governor died Carol was taken to the infirmary to have her arm examined. They found that it was broken and her shoulder was dislocated. Her screams of pain during the setting drove Daryl to the brink and he flew at the doctors in an uncontrolled fury. Merle had to restrain him for the team to get a splint on her and afterwards he held Daryl as he sagged to the floor. Merle hadn't seen his brother cry like that since they were kids.

Merle and Daryl were peppered with severe bruises from the rubber bullets that had taken them down. They must have been shot from the rear left flank because the bruises started at the backs of their heads and extended to the backs of their upper thighs, both had bruising on their left sides. Several of Daryl's had produced hematomas that had to be drained. He refused anesthesia and instead sat on Carol's bed glowering at everyone in the room as they worked.

Andrea furnished he and Carol an apartment that they used until the group returned to the prison. During that time Carol rarely ventured outside.

The morning the governor died, it was Carl who pointed out to Beth that blood was running out of her sleeve and pooling on the floor. She paled, looked up at Merle and fainted on the spot. She didn't regain consciousness until 30 hours later, when she broke with screaming and crying that lasted through the night. She finally fell asleep in Hershel's room, cradled in Merle's lap and holding Maggie's hand. Hershel advised them all that she was in deep shock and that while the worst was over it would be best for her if she stayed in Woodbury for a couple of weeks to settle her nerves.

Merle's knuckles were heavily taped and he was warned that further nerve damage could cost him the use of his remaining hand. Andrea gave Merle the Governor's apartment to use as he and Beth needed. The first few nights he slept by Beth's side in Hershel's room, then he carried her up to their own place. For the rest of the week she was depressed and slept most of the time, and only left the apartment to visit her father once a day.

Merle's days were occupied with negotiation and rebuilding. Every morning he creaked out of bed, his muscles burning and his joints seizing, to keep tabs on happenings in Woodbury and to discuss the future of the prison with Rick, Daryl, Andrea and Michonne. Each day he stopped in during lunch to check on Beth, usually she was lying in bed with her eyes open, staring idly into space. If he talked to her she'd look at him listlessly and answer, but she never smiled.

He'd stroke her hair and kiss her cheek when he left, then he'd go downstairs and beat the shit out of a tire or a piece of plywood with a crowbar out of frustration and fear. He needed his little girl back, needed to know she was OK. By the time he'd return to her at night she was usually sleeping and after he showered he'd climb in bed with her and hold her until he dropped off.

The week passed and one morning he awoke to find her smiling at him, her head on his pillow and her face close. "Hey missy," he said in a gravelly first-time-in-the-morning voice. Her smile widened. "You're cute when you sleep," she said. Merle ran his hand over his face. "I'm cute alla time, aint ya noticed?" She giggled and he pulled her to him, squeezing her hard.

He could feel her smiling against his chest. He played with her ponytail, flipping it around with his hand. "How 'bout I bring ya a present today?" he asked, forcing his voice to be casual so she wouldn't detect the relief in it. "What kind of present?" she asked. He tilted his head to look down at her. "Well it wouldn't be a present if you knew what it wuz," he said. She snorted softly in his chest and said, "No, that's a surprise!"

He smiled. She was back. "That so?" he said. "How bout it's for me to know and you ta find out?" She thought about it for a few seconds. "OK", she agreed. He brushed the hair out of her eyes and she caught his wrist. She inspected the bandages on his knuckles and softly kissed each one, then placed his hand gently on his chest and laid her cheek over it.

They both closed their eyes and savored each other. She missed his smell and his touch and she knew what he had done for her while she was down. She wanted to take care of him now that she was done being sick. "Will I see you for lunch?" she asked. "Yep, that's when yer gettin yer present," he replied.

As he left he realized he had spent most of the morning with her and hadn't copped a feel, hell hadn't even kissed her. Just being with her had been enough. Pussywhipped, he thought to himself.

When he returned two hours later she was still in the same sweats and T-shirt that she had slept in all week, but her hair was brushed and she was sitting on the bed looking through a small pile of books. When she looked up she smiled at him. They ate a lunch of canned tuna and green beans and finished it off with crackers and canned fruit. It was the most she'd eaten all week and he was happy to see some color return to her face.

She had snuck curious looks at him throughout lunch and now looked at him in expectation of the promised gift. "You waitin on sumthin'?" he asked, pretending to forget. She gave a little smile and said "My present."

He reached into his shirt pocket and crinkled something mysteriously. It sounded like...cellophane! She moved forward in her seat like a dog anticipating a treat. He regarded her with a smirk on his face. "Mebbe you wont like it. Mebbe I should just keep it," he teased. She looked at him innocently and his heart melted into his shoes.

He relented. "You take it angel," he said, and placed it into her hand. It was a whoopie pie. A real whoopie pie. She held it like it was a crown jewel, and her mouth formed a little 'Oh'. "Where did you get it?" she asked. He leaned in close to her and held her eyes with his. "I've got my sources," he said in a raspy whisper. The scratchiness of his voice sent a hot wave from her toes all the way to her face, and she blushed. He could make anything sound dirty.

"You feelin' OK?" he asked. "You got a fever?" She gave a small laugh, "No, I feel fine. Good even." She opened the package and took a moment just to smell it. Her mouth flooded with saliva. Her mind reeled - did they smell this chocolaty before the world ended?

She opened her eyes dreamily and broke off a piece. When she tried to hand it to him he declined. "Nope, that's for you," he said. She tilted her head at him and kept her hand out. "Go on", he said. She could almost swear there was a smile hiding in his eyes. She screwed her face up in concentration and put the piece in her mouth. She was overwhelmed. It was the most heavenly thing she'd ever eaten. She leaned back on the couch and closed her eyes while she chewed it as long as she possibly could.

Merle watching her closely. Her hair hung limply, her skin was sallow and her sweatpants were stained - but with that smile on her face she was the most gorgeous thing he could imagine. She opened her eyes and broke off another piece, eating it the same way. She kept going until the whoopie pie was halfway gone. She licked her fingers and with the zeal of a teenager picked every crumb from the inside of the package.

Beth wrapped the remainder up carefully and put it on the coffee table then leaned back and sighed in deep satisfaction. "Thank you," she said in a sweet voice. A corner of his mouth turned up. "Wasn't nuthin'," he said gruffly. She smiled, and this time her eyes gleamed at him.

He rested his elbows on his knees. "Whatchou gonna do today lttle girl?" he asked. She took a cleansing breath. "I," she said resolutely, "am going to take a shower".

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After Merle extracted a lazy chocolate-flavored kiss from her he left and Beth took some free time to explore the governor's apartment. There were bookshelves with lots of books and various trinkets as well an old TV and a stocked liquor cabinet. What caught her attention were the CD collection and CD player in the living room and the running hot water and the shampoo in the bathroom.

She shed her clothes and entered the bathroom, turning on the shower and marveling at the steam that rose to cloud the mirror. She found some plastic to wrap around her stitches and stepped into the shower. She thoroughly scrubbed herself with a lathered washcloth, then rinsed in hot water.

She opened all the shampoos and smelled each. When she found one she liked she shampooed twice then massaged conditioner in her hair. She rinsed until the hot water ran out, then stepped out of the shower and sighed audibly. Her whole body tingled and she felt so clean. She dried off with a large soft towel and put on an oversized terry cloth robe. She leisurely combed her hair and rubbed it to a shine with a soft towel. Finally she loaded her toothbrush with a heaping pile of toothpaste and scrubbed until her teeth shone.

She smiled and made her way to the recliner in the living room, marveling at the CD player on the table. She popped a CD in and hopefully hit PLAY. Music filled the room and Beth cried with joy. She never thought she'd hear music again. She grabbed a pile of CDs with shaking hands and set them in her lap. She was determined to memorize every note in this collection. She sang with the music, her voice strengthening as she felt the healing move through her body. It felt so good to be alive again.

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When Merle entered hours later, he found her curled up in the chair with her legs tucked under her, fast asleep. Her hair was loose around her face and the CDs in her lap had dropped to the floor. He quickly ducked into the shower to wash the grime off then took a quick look in the mirror. His eyes looked like road maps and they burned with exhaustion. Worrying about Beth had taken its toll and he was ready get a solid night of peaceful sleep. He toweled off and went to the chair, clumsily lifting Beth with both arms and walking her to the bed.

He laid her on the bed as gently as he could with his battered back and stretched out beside her. She sighed softly and snuggled into his neck, and he could feel the warmth rising up from inside her robe. He smelled her hair and wrapped his arms around her, then he was swimming in the blackness of sleep.

When Beth awoke the next morning the room was filled with soft sunshine that was filtered by the window sheers. She looked around to get her bearings and remembered how happy she was yesterday. She smiled to herself then looked at Merle, who was sprawled out diagonally to occupy the maximum area of the queen sized bed. He was face down and his leg was thrown over her hips, his arm across her chest. His breathing was deep and even. Thank you God, she thought as she looked at his weathered face and powerful shoulders.

She slipped out from under him and he didn't move. Softly she padded to the bathroom to use the toilet. When she finished she noted a faint trace of blood on the toilet paper. She was starting her period. She rifled the drawers but found no pads or tampons. She sighed, not sure how to handle this one. She'd have to talk to Andrea.

She looked at Merle as she approached the bed. In the soft light she could see the horrific black-centered blue and green splotches on his back and legs. Now it's time for ME to take care of HIM, she thought.

She softly padded to the bed and took off the robe, hanging it on a chair back. Merle had awakened but not moved. He regarded her through heavy lidded eyes. She turned towards the bed, the sunlight shining through her hair and illuminating her pale skin. She had a soft smile on her face and her violet eyes shined down on him, pausing on his muscular ass as she slid back into bed.

When she settled he pulled her towards him. "Hey there missy", he said, his voice scratchy. She scooted in as tight as she could. "I love you," she breathed. Merle picked his head up partly off the pillow. "Well aint that a nice sentiment first thang in the mornin?'" he said with mock pleasantness, and she laughed.

She regarded him then leaned in to rub her face on his bristly neck. "I wasn't sure I was going to ever laugh with you again," she said, swallowing. He tilted his chin down and said sternly, "We aint gonna talk about that. From here on out it's just you and me, got it? Nobody's dyin and nobodys goin nowheres." He patted her ass twice for finality. She nodded her head and her arms went around his waist. He held her for a long time while she breathed him in and trailed her fingers on his back.

Soon she was kissing his neck and she moved up to his face, softly chewing on his chin through the bristle. His hand wound in her hair and pulled her head back so he could lick and suck her neck. His handless arm went underneath her waist, lifting it up off the bed and his mouth was on hers, tongue darting in and out in a maddening rhythm.

Beth was gasping, losing herself. She pulled herself together and whispered, "Merle". His voice was muffled in her neck, "Yeah angel". She frowned and said, "I'm starting to bleed, you may not want to...", and trailed off.

Merle looked at her like a wolf eyeing a rabbit. His lips turned up into a smile. "Yer on the rag? You know what that means sugar?" Beth shook her head no. He moved his lips down to her ear and nuzzled. "We don't need no rubbers", he whispered. She turned her head to look at him and saw his eyes were gleaming eagerly.

She smiled widely and surrendered, dropping her head back on the pillow so he could continue working his way down. He went straight for the tits. These were his and there was no living person in Woodbury that had seen them, he'd made sure of that with his own hands. He mouthed them gently first then roughly and she begged him to fuck her.

He took her possessively and hammered her until she squealed in pleasure, her young body writhing underneath his. His only thought as he came was 'Mine'.

MMMMMMM, just a little bit of smuttay. We'll go for more in the next chappie :)