This is an AU story that branches off of Sympathy for the Devil by Silksteel who rocks. Please read Chaps 1-6 of SFTD before starting this one! Her story was so compelling that I begged her to branch off and she graciously complied.

Shock

Karen. Beth's head spun. She'd only heard Merle use a given name when he referred to his brother, someone who he loved deeply. The only person he loved in fact. She had always liked it when he called her nicknames but now that she thought about it he called everyone who wasn't close to him by some kind of nickname. And I'm just another one of them.

Her thoughts flew back to late last night when she had gone to the bathroom to find him waiting outside when she got out. He startled her and she drew her knife. "Gonna stab me little girl?" he rumbled. She sighed, "No but now I may have to go to the bathroom again." He had sidled closer with his right arm propped against the wall. She stood up straighter and willed herself not to shrink under his gaze. "Problems sleepin'?" he drawled, reaching up to play with the small bow on the front of her tank top. She felt her nipples harden and wished she would have worn something over her shirt.

"A little," she answered. She thought to herself that he was like a cobra. You could look at his eyes or his whole face or even his body and be hypnotized, leaving him free to strike. And that's the way he wanted it. He looked slowly up and down her body. "Shame nobody around ta help ya get ridda that extra energy," he drawled. She felt her whole body flush and she dropped her gaze to his neck. She didn't answer.

"If circumstances were different I'd say'd be a good job for ole Merle," he said, tilting his head slightly as he moved his finger in a line from the bow down between her breasts to her navel. She was frozen and on fire at the same time. One side of his mouth curled up and he leaned in closer to brush his lips against hers. "Get ta bed darlin'," he rasped.

At that moment she had thought she was special.

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"Rick, I've looked into the eyes of that boy and I'm tellin' ya he ain't right," insisted Hershel. Hershel had had a long talk with Beth's young stalker about peeping into Beth's cell while she was changing. The kid was a tall gawky teenager with a wispy mustache and weird eyes. He didn't socialize with people and often lurked in doorways. "He don't know right from wrong and he's going to hurt somebody," Hershel concluded. Rick looked from Hershel to Daryl to Glen. He said, "If he hasn't committed a serious crime I can't do anything Hershel. We can restrict him to his cell block and forbid him from talking to Beth."

"Fine," said Hershel, exasperated. "But no good will come of this", he warned. Beth was tired of drama so she went outside to soak up some sun before she had to watch Judith. It was early spring but when the sun was shining it was warm. She leaned against the warm bricks of the cellblock wall and soaked it in with her eyes closed until her skin was warm.

"Looks like we're on watch together every Tuesday," came a deep caramel voice. She opened her eyes to see Tyreese standing to the side so he didn't block her sun. She smiled. "Yes, I saw that. Tuesday afternoons. So tomorrow we start." Tyreese smiled and said, "I'll be there with bells on." She giggled picturing him wearing bells all over him.

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That night Merle sat off to the side conversing with Karen throughout dinner. Why can't he just go to her cellblock to talk, Beth thought irritably. She couldn't help but notice Karen was much closer to Merle's age and she had long brown hair and womanly curves. Beth thought of her boyish malnourished body. I don't have a chance, she thought.

The next day she proceeded to the tower for watch. Merle and Rick were on the Tuesday morning shift. She was a bit early and Tyreese wasn't in the courtyard so she proceeded to the tower singing an old Hank Williams song in the bright sunshine. She climbed the stairs and was surprised to see Merle in the tower alone. She smiled politely at him yet stayed aloof. "Good morning," she said. "Where's Rick?" Merle turned to look at her with the hint of a smirk. "Officer Friendly had some urgent business to attend and trusted me enough to leave me with thirty minutes of solo watch."

Beth didn't reply and instead walked to the window to survey the fence. She didn't intend to talk to him anymore. He can talk to KAREN. She walked out of the perch door to stand on the catwalk. She restarted her Hank Williams song for herself tapping her booted foot to the beat. She could feel his eyes on her back and refused to look anywhere but ahead.

She jumped when a wasp dropped down the front of her button down shirt. She bent over carefully and flapped her shirt to get it out and it went deeper towards her bra. She pulled the bottom of her shirt out and flapped it trying to get it to drop out of the bottom. In her panic she slapped it flat against her chest and screamed involuntarily when it stung her repeatedly between her breasts. She shook it out and stepped on it. The stings burned and made her eyes water.

She went back into the tower to escape further threat. Merle met her in the doorway. "The hell is wrong with you?" he asked. She was spitting mad. "Stung," she spat. He pulled her shirt out and looked down the front of it to see the angry red weals between her pert breasts. He moaned, "Mmmmmmmmmm little girl. Need me to suck the poison out?"

Beth jerked back clutching the front of her shirt. She looked in his eyes and what she saw horrified her. Greed. Callousness. She gasped and backed away from him towards the inside of the room. I'm a number. A thing to him. Instantly she realized that her saving him was just a debt he'd repay in kind. Beth was young and hurt but she wasn't weak. She pulled on her inner reserves and looked him in the eye. "You think that me liking you is funny. I don't think it funny. It hurts." She heard him laugh as she descended the stairs to wait for Tyreese.

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She and Tyreese got along well and in the course of their conversations she found that he had been in the NFL. "Do you think you could teach me to fight?" she asked. He appraised her and asked "Fight what, girl?" She looked at him levelly. "Men," she answered.

When going with Carol to the Woodbury cellblock that night Beth found that one of the residents had in their possession a guitar. She looked at it like a starving person would look at a hot dog. She introduced herself to the elderly man and asked if she could borrow it sometime. He made her strum a few chords to show that she knew how to play it then warily said that she may be able to borrow it tomorrow night but would have to return it the next morning. She readily agreed, beaming. There was some hope for happiness.

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She busied herself the next morning with distributing food to both cellblocks with Carol. When they were done they walked through both cellblocks to make sure there were no health problems. The elderly man saw her and motioned it over. "Give it back to me tomorrow morning," he said as if he would regret it. Beth thanked him repeatedly and kissed him. She looked at Carol expectantly and Carol laughed. "Go," she said.

Beth walked quickly to the prison yard and sat down with her back against the wall in the sun. She tuned the guitar by ear and strummed a few chords. Soon it was flooding back to her and she closed her eyes while she played. Soon she was singing snatches of songs that she remembered. She looked up to see Carol motioning to her because it was already time to get lunch ready. She was on Judith duty.

She gently laid the guitar on her cot and tended her duties. When Judith went down for her afternoon nap she retrieved the guitar and went back to the kitchen area. She and Carol had already cleaned after lunch and it was nearly empty. There would be some stragglers to get a cold lunch but they could help themselves. She set herself up to sit on the top of a table with her feet on the bench. She was using a paper and pencil to jot down notes and lyrics that she remembered, trying to jog her memory.

She closed her eyes and played a song she knew well from church. Her voice rang off of the high ceiling as she felt out the familiar tune. When she opened her eyes Merle and Karen were standing off to the side watching her. They had come in for a late lunch. Karen had her arm tucked around Merle's. She gushed, "Oh, you play so beautifully. I could listen to you all day!" Beth met her eyes briefly then dropped them. "Thank you," she said automatically.

"Can you play something upbeat?" asked Karen. "Something happy?" Beth swallowed. "Um, probably," said Beth. "What's the occasion?" Karen squeezed Merle's arm. "Hasn't Merle told y'all? We're having a baby!"

As a Mether this was really hard to write. Opinions so far?