Important Author Note: To start off, this is admittedly quite experimental. I've never written this pairing before so I'm not too sure how I am with writing them but I really want to so here we go :) This story will have the same setting as my story Time to Develop so some of you if you're reading that may recognise it. However, this story will have completely different events and possibly different character developments too. If there are any spoilers these will be from the episodes 1x01 to 3x10 so if you've not got that far then there's a chance something could be spoiled for you.
Beth kicked the dirt up with her boot as she walked around the table. Her eyes darted to Judith's Moses basket every so often to make sure she was still OK but for most of it her mind was elsewhere. She was eighteen, well, she was probably eighteen. Not that it really mattered. She could drink, gamble, do drugs, have sex, anything and there was no law around anymore that said she couldn't. She could do all the things she was legal for and all the things she wasn't legal for because it didn't matter anymore. Problem was half the things she wanted to do before all of this were perfectly acceptable for her age. Since the day she turned sixteen Beth had been slowly adding to a bucket list. She had everything from meeting the love of her life to travelling the world to going to furthest away college that she liked. But she couldn't exactly do majority of things that were on her list. But she may or may not be eighteen, a milestone in her eyes nonetheless and she wanted to do something for it seen as she couldn't have the big party (or anything similar). So Beth came up with the idea of making herself a new bucket list and trying to accomplish as many of them as possible. It felt more vital now that tomorrow really could be her last day alive.
So far she'd come up with getting stronger, become better skilled with at least two weapons, go on at least one run, learn more first aid from her father, doing something solo for the group, and her latest addition to the list had originally been to fall in love. When she had "falling in love" on her original bucket list she defined it as starting a relationship with someone, but she wouldn't mark it off the list until she got that feeling where she knew that even if the relationship ended she would never regret it, in fact she still look back on it fondly. Now she didn't exactly have the time to wait for that feeling to arise so she could mark it off of her list. So instead she, for the purpose of the apocalypse, she changed "falling in love" to "losing ones virginity to the right guy." In this new world she knew that falling in love would most likely not happen. There wasn't exactly a healthy choice of guys around and it wasn't like she could just pop to the shops and hope she ran into some guy who would sweep her off her feet. Plus, the last time she had fallen in love was with Jimmy and even then she was slowly questioning if that really was love or not.
She was brought out of her thoughts as Judith started to cry. Beth hurried over and lifted her out, rocking the little girl gently in her arms. As she was walking slowly back and forward Carl came over. She smiled at him as he took up one of the seats and watched Beth with his sister. He stayed quiet until Beth managed to get Judith back to sleep and put her into her Moses basket again.
"You look after her a lot," Carl commented.
"Oh, yeah, I suppose I do," she replied softly, taking a seat next to him. "It's not a problem, is it?"
"Dad's busy and can't afford to get distracted until he knows we're safe here," he shrugged. "Plus Dad sees her when we turn in for the night. You're good for her, so's Carol when she helps to look after her."
"You can help too," Beth told him. "I wouldn't mind the extra pair of hands, plus it would give me someone to talk to."
"Yeah, I really should."
"Why do you say that?"
He let out a low sigh as his eyes traveled to Judith in her basket. "I know I wasn't exactly easy to be around but I feel better now. Maybe it's the change of scenery or the fact that everyone seems to be doing so well. But while I wasn't really myself I wasn't the brother I should've been. Sure I looked after her and stuff but it wasn't the same, I guess I treated it like it was a job and I shouldn't have done that."
"Well the best part is she's young enough that she won't remember this," Beth said, trying to be reassuring. "So you can start fresh. Make sure she remembers the good things."
"Looks like I'm taking the next feed then."
Beth had stayed with Carl for a long time. She spoke with him until Judith woke up again, this time hungry. Carl fed Judith while Beth watched but as soon as the bottle was finished Judith wanted to do nothing but play. Beth stayed for a bit to watch them together but when it became apparent they were in their own little world Beth left them to it so that she could stretch her legs some more.
As she walked around she thought more about her list. She decided to sort out the things that were already on the list before she added more to it. For the strengthening up part she figured she would go to Andrea or Rick, for the training in weapons she would go to Michonne and probably Daryl, the medical stuff was already with her father and as for going on a run and doing more for the group she'd have to conquer the other things. The problem she had now was approaching everyone. Her father would likely have no issue with teaching her so that was sorted. Rick may be busy so Andrea would be her best bet. Michonne and Daryl on the other hand were completely different and Beth had never really had a proper one-on-one conversation with either of them.
She kept walking around their new home as she thought about it. A few weeks back they had left the prison after defeating the Governor. The group and Woodbury had made a deal to stay out of each other's way. To be sure (and with the growing presence of walkers around the prison) the group had moved further away so that there really was a lot of space between the two groups. Luckily for them they came across an abandoned building site. It only had two houses, one went to the Grimes family and Andrea and Michonne while the second house went to Hershel, Beth, Maggie and Glenn. There was a small garage between the houses with an apartment above it that Carol and Daryl shared. The final building was a showroom which Merle claimed as his residence. The entire sight was out of the way, in fact they were lucky to come across it.
Everyone was moved in instantly and everyone who could went to work. The site was checked again just to be sure. There was what looked like two large shipping containers on top of each other. The top one had some windows and a door with stairs leading down to the ground. It looked like it was a makeshift office for the leader of the construction team. The group were able to clear the top container out and use it as their new watch tower. They added a second longer ladder from the construction equipment to the side of the containers so they could get on top of both for a better vantage point. While part of the group focused on that some focused on sorting the chain-link fence that was already up. They set up another one a little further in so that was a walkway between the two. Every so often along both fences they made entrance and exit points so people could get in and out with a bigger entrance for cars to get in and out. Once they were secure they cleaned the area up and sorted out a somewhat routine. It had never stuck entirely but Beth found it much better organised than the prison. Her jobs were looking after Judith, cooking, cleaning, sorting through supplies and such. It was pretty boring for the long run but Beth knew what she was doing every day and she felt a lot brighter being able to walk outside without the shadow of the prison looming over her.
"You look lost."
She turned, startled. "What?" Her eyes found Rick, he was sat on his front steps.
"You look lost," he repeated.
She wandered over to the fence that surrounded the small garden and leaned on it. "I was thinking about some things I wanted to achieve."
"Oh." It was something he clearly wasn't expecting. "Stuff like what?"
"Well one thing is that I want to be stronger," she said as a light blush covered her cheeks. "I was actually wondering if you could work with me."
He set the map he'd been looking at aside and stood. "Me?"
"Or Andrea if you're busy."
"We could both work with you?" he offered. "One could do hands on, one could do weapons."
"Well, I was going to ask Michonne to help me with my knife and get Daryl to help me with a gun," she explained.
Rick paced back and forward as he thought about it. "Well of course everyone is busy so splitting it would be best. With Daryl and Michonne would technicall already be split. What else do you want to do?"
"Learn some medical stuff," she said, deliberately leaving out the other things.
"Well Hershel will have that covered," he said knowingly. "OK, tell you what. I have the first watch of the day. I take over from Merle when the sun first starts to come up and I stay there for a few hours. If you're willing to get up that early I could help you while on watch."
"Help me how?" she questioned.
"I'm on the vantage point," he explained. "I can see the whole site. I'll give you some warm exercises then you can run laps. I'll be able to watch your progress while keeping an eye on things. I know it's not much but you'll be warmed up for the day and it'll get you used to moving. Andrea can teach you properly during the day if she's up for it. Once you get better and start to feel stronger I'll do my best to work in more hours. So are you willing to get up that early?"
"Judith has a feed that early, I'm still not used to her not being there so I end up waking, so yeah, I'll be fine."
"We'll do it every other day so you get a chance to have some rest on the other days," he decided. "Go talk to Andrea, if she agrees then we'll start tomorrow."
Beth excitedly thanked him before running off to find Andrea. Eventually she found her sitting with Michonne as they sorted through some fish they'd caught earlier that day. Beth tried not to hold her nose as she got closer. She had no issue with fish but when there was a whole basket filled with them then the smell did get a bit overwhelming. When she got closer enough to them she had to motion for Andrea to follow her.
Beth led her away, wanting this to be private thing in case Andrea said no, or worse, laughed at her. Sure she'd spoken to Andrea quite a bit but after the farm got overrun they were separated and it was only recently that they saw her properly again and she was able to even consider talking to her.
"What's wrong, Beth?" Andrea asked.
"I don't feel prepared," Beth blurted out. "I mean, I think I need some training."
"And you want me to do it?"
She nodded. "I'm getting up early to do runs while Rick is on watch. He'll keep an eye out for me while I run to see how well I'm doing and how much I can do. But he'll only do that if you agree to spend some time during the day with me."
"I think I can do that," Andrea nodded. "First, what days are you running with Rick?"
"Every other day starting tomorrow."
"OK, well starting the day after tomorrow, every other day we'll do some exercises."
"That sounds good," Beth nodded eagerly.
"After a while Rick and I will decide if you're good enough to move on, we'll then split the time to teach you how to fight and stuff."
"I was so scared you were going to say no," Beth sighed with relief.
"We all need to be able to defend ourselves," Andrea shrugged. "Was there any specific you wanted to know?"
"Well once I got better at fighting and just generally got stronger I wanted to be better with some weapons."
Andrea gave a knowing smirk. "Who and what weapon?"
"I was thinking Michonne for my knife and Daryl for one of the guns."
"I'll leave you to talk to Daryl but I could have a word with Michonne," she shrugged. "After we get you through some training of course."
"Yeah, of course," Beth nodded eagerly. "Do you want me to tell Rick?"
"No, I'll talk to him."
Beth thanked Andrea just as excitedly as she had thanked Rick before running off. So far so good. Soon she would be on the road to being stronger and more skilled, two things she could knock off of her list. Once she was used to her training she would slip in some medical lessons then after she'd gotten far enough in those she would switch it up to weapon training. By the end of it she would hopefully be good enough to do more for the group, like go on runs. Beth wasn't naive, she knew for a fact that being out there in the open was probably going to be a lot different to what she'd imagined. But being stuck doing the smaller tasks didn't make her feel like she was helping. Judith was the only thing she did well but even that wasn't completely hers now.
She was so lost in her own thoughts that she walked straight into something solid. She felt herself fall backwards but whatever it was that she banged into grabbed her and pulled her up. Startled, she looked up into the eyes of Merle. He had a firm grip on her arm while his other arm was lightly around her waist. At first she didn't know what to do or say but the smile she'd worn since speaking to Rick and Andrea just couldn't stay away. Merle didn't miss a beat either, he noticed her smile and the way her eyes twinkled when they did.
"Almost knocked yourself out, why ya so happy?"
"Oh, it's nothing," she blushed.
"Must be somethin'."
"Rick and Andrea agreed to train me."
"Train ya?" Merle asked, not really understanding why that would make her so happy.
"Yeah," she nodded, wriggling away from his hold. "Ignoring the fact that Judith is a baby and Daddy only has one leg, I'm the weak link in this group and I'm sick of it. I want to be able to help and I can't do that if I'm no good at anything. They're helping me to get stronger and learn how to fight. I'm going to learn how to handle a knife and a gun better too. It's more for myself I guess than anything but if I can help the group in the long run then what's the problem?"
She stopped talking when she realised that she had said more than she intended to. The way he watched her and continued to study her even after she'd finished talking made her blush. To cause her any less embarrassment he coughed slightly before continuing on.
"I wouldn't say weak-link, but a bit of trainin' never hurt no one." There was nothing in the world that could explain to either of them why Merle was trying to make her feel better, or why he said the next thing he did, but he did. "I'm happy for ya."
A/N: I know, not much Meth in this chapter but there'll be more soon, promise. :)