Merle rubbed the back his head as he headed back to his place. He was pleased with his day but he was exhausted. He'd convinced Daryl to go hunting and he was pleased they had. They weren't out too long when a doe crossed their path. It was alone and not paying too much attention to its surroundings so it didn't take too long for Daryl to take it down. Although Daryl carried the brunt of it back Merle still carried some of the load. It hurt but he would never admit it to anyone especially not in his good mood.
He was closing in on the front of his house when he stopped dead. Beth was almost at the front door and she was carrying a bag in her hands. It looked full to the brim. His eyes stopped at the stairs just outside the door, beside it were two more bags. He frowned at the sight, trying to figure out what the hell she was doing. Beth dropped the bag in her hands with the others and leaned against the wall, taking a deep breath.
Merle jogged over to her, stopping right in front of her. "What ya doin'?"
"Something I should have done a long time ago," she huffed.
"You carried these out?"
"Uh-huh." She placed her hand on her side, trying to breathe through the stitch she had. "They aren't even that heavy usually."
"Yeah, but usually ya don't have a messed up back."
"It's not messed up," she argued. "The more I do the better I'll get."
"I know ya don't believe that."
She looked up with a smile. "No, I don't, but I still would have carried the bags."
"I couldn't get anyone else involved in this, I want this to be my own choice, I'm making the decisions now."
"I don't understand…"
She stood up, using what strength she could muster to stand in front of Merle. "I know why you've been coming round less and less, or at least I guess why."
"I think it's because of Daddy," Beth interrupted. "Either him trying to keep you away got to you or you're giving up because you don't want to cause hassle, but if that's the case, why didn't you just leave? I have my suspicions but I want to hear it from you."
Merle groaned, running his hand over his head. "Ya Dad has been comin' up with all these excuses. I figure he was lookin' out for ya but then I stopped to think about it. I figure if he really ain't happy he ain't gonna stay quiet for too long, I didn't want ya to be struck with a hard choice so suddenly and I didn't want to break ya heart."
"I dragged it out," Merle sighed. "Slowly I stopped comin' around as often hopin' that you'd come to the conclusion of leavin' me, that way it'd be your choice and ya Dad would be happy."
Beth hit him hard on the arm, causing Merle to rub it and stare at her. "You're so stupid," she vented. "I never want to leave you, not now. I don't want to lose my Dad, but I don't want to lose either of you!"
"So here's the deal."
Merle gulped, that was the second time she'd cut in. "What deal?"
"I'm moving in."
"You're… You're movin' in?" Merle repeated. "Here?"
"No, the invisible house next door."
He rolled his eyes. "Ain't ya supposed to be too sick to be sarcastic?"
"Perks of finally growing a pair," she shrugged. "Now, I'm moving in here. I'm not choosing between you and Daddy. You need to understand that you mean something to me and I'm not just going to walk away from you. As for Daddy, he really needs to see how serious this is and that he can survive with us being together."
"Survive? You're probably gonna give the old man a heart attack."
"You're so dramatic," she mumbled. "Stop being such a woman and help me put this stuff inside."
"Are ya sure about this?"
"I didn't risk my health brining my stuff over for nothing, now please will you help me?"
"Fine, sit out here and I'll take them in," he sighed. "Don't ya dare move."
Beth smiled sweetly at him. Once he'd lifted the bags up (two in his hand and one slung over his shoulder) Beth stepped closer to the house. He disappeared inside and she sat down on the front step. While she waited she couldn't help but grin. It killed but bringing that stuff over was worth it. Merle was starting to see how serious she was and hopefully her Dad could see it too.
Almost an entire week passed before Hershel started to understand quite how serious Beth was about staying with Merle. At first he shrugged his shoulders, knowing for sure his youngest would come running back to him, asking for help. However as the week went on he realised that might not happen. Apart from having her stitches taken out and getting some pain meds she rarely came round. She didn't come to talk to him about anything that was bothering her. In fact a few times when it was clear she needed help or advice she automatically went to Merle.
"You know you're killing Daddy, right?" Maggie asked as she and Beth settled at the table.
"Well then he needs to realise that Merle can look after me, that we can look after each other," Beth sighed. "The only reason I haven't been going to him is because I want him to see that Merle is mature enough, plus, how do I know I can even go to him if he won't let me grow up?"
"Let me tell him that, then maybe he'll really come around."
"I was hoping you would," Beth grinned. "He's so stubborn that he hasn't even come to talk to me."
"Because you're both stubborn," Maggie laughed. "I am glad that this is what you want Beth. As long as Daddy knows he can still have a part in your life, he'll accept this too."
Beth only smiled. She and Maggie got up at the same time. Beth moved to the end of the table where Carl was sat on the ground playing with Judith and Maggie headed off to get some work done.
Although she was spending more time outside Beth was still on bed rest. She would keep an eye on Judith with whoever was with her but she could never actually do much to help. She was doing some stretches now and then as well as taking walks with people. Each time she went she could feel her self feeling a little better about it. She knew it would take a long time before she felt completely okay but feeling that little bit of improvement every day made it seem less of a battle.
Beth spent most of her day helping Carl as much as she could. She managed to play with Judith a little while Carl got her bottle ready. Although she couldn't do much she was able to push a ball towards Judith and if it returned. Beth made sure to spread her legs so that the ball wouldn't stray out of her reach. All in all she had fun, especially when she was able to get Judith to sleep. Despite the fact she couldn't move much Judith sat quietly in her lap and leaned back against Beth's chest. All Beth had to do was rub the back of Judith's hand with her thumb and every so often shake her leg softly.
When Carl moved Judith to her crib it gave Beth a chance to stretch out a little. When Andrea came over she helped Beth a little to stretch her body slightly further than before. Together they worked on that. It left Beth a little sore again but she felt much better for doing it, it stopped her body from feeling so locked up.
For the rest of her day Beth just had to wait for dinner. She spoke with Andrea, Michonne and Carl who all had nothing else to do. Merle had been slowly using his arm a lot more and was opting for earlier watches so he could be there at night for Beth. Daryl was busying himself now that he had watch late at night with Carol, and Rick was currently helping Merle with his watch. Beth knew that her father would be close by but she refused to go to him first, she didn't want him to think that she was giving in because she wanted to come home. That's why when he approached her after dinner she was surprised.
"Bethy, can I have a minute?"
She nodded, not getting her hopes up too much, for all she knew this could be about her wounds, nothing more. She just followed her father, keeping quiet. He led her away from the table and the rest of the group.
"What is it, Daddy?"
"Your sister came to talk to me."
"I know, she said she would."
"She told me that this isn't you acting out or just being stubborn," Hershel explained. "She told me that this is something you really want."
"It is," Beth agreed. "I don't want to lose either of you. Merle was willing to give me the power of ending our relationship so I wouldn't be heartbroken and I could keep you guys. How can I give him up when he was willing to let you keep me for a bit longer?"
"That man keeps surprising me," Hershel admitted. "I'm proud of you, Beth, I really am. Just Merle isn't the man I would have chosen."
"So if it were Rick or Daryl, it would have been better?" she questioned. "Or even Carl?"
"Well Carl would have been the best choice, but even then there's things to worry about."
"Oh, like how I'd be considered the one taking advantage?"
Hershel laughed. "I don't see anyone taking advantage of Carl Grimes."
Beth smiled too. "No, I don't see that happening either."
"I've been a little stubborn and I'm willing to really give this a shot, no judgements whatsoever," Hershel promised. "So long as you promise me a few things."
"What are they?" Beth asked, praying they were things she could agree to.
"Don't cut any of us out, Merle should be the one to take care of you now but we're a group still, we all want to help each other."
"I promise I won't cut you guys out, I never wanted to."
"Secondly, just because of how the world is now I don't want you rushing into anything Merle. For all I know you maybe have in some ways but from now on take it slow, think about it."
"I promise not to do anything I'm unsure about."
Hershel nodded, accepting that. "And lastly, I need you to promise me that if anything goes wrong, if you're unhappy or he lays a finger on you against your will you will come straight to one of us and tell us, you won't try and deal with it on your own."
"He'd never hurt me, Daddy."
"I'm sure he won't," Hershel agreed. "But I'm covering all grounds here."
"I promise that if he hurts me in anyway shape or form I will come to one of you, however I want to have the right to deal with things my way. I don't want anyone to jump to conclusions or act rashly."
"I guess those are terms we can both agree to."
"You didn't like Glenn at first," Beth reminded. "Now look at how well he treats you and Maggie, and even me. I know Merle isn't Glenn's favourite person and I know deep down he isn't Maggie's still but they're trying Daddy. I promise you'll be able to accept with ease soon. I'm just glad you're really willing to try."
"Trying goes both ways."
"I'll make sure Merle's on his best behaviour," Beth promised. "I'll have words with him if he's not."
Hershel put an arm around his daughter's shoulders and pulled her to him, kissing her temple. "You're just like your mother."
Beth just smiled. Together they headed back to the table. Both Maggie and Merle looked to her. She gave Maggie a tiny thumbs up before kissing her father's cheek goodbye. She made her way over to Merle. She sat down in the seat beside him and he pulled it closer to his, wrapping an arm around her.
"What'd ya Dad want?"
"For me to promise a few things."
"Small things," Beth said as she cuddled closer to him. "But because I promised them he's really going to try."
"I'm glad he came around," Merle said, kissing the top of her head. "But ya need to tell me what he made ya promise. I'm curious."
"To not cut them out."
"Wouldn't expect ya to."
"To come to any of them if things go wrong, to not try and deal with it by myself."
"I'd never hurt ya," Merle said, sensing that was the real promise.
"I know," she agreed.
"Did he make ya promise anything else?"
From her tone Merle knew she was lying. "Come on little miss, spill the beans."
"He made me promise not to rush into anything."
Merle laughed loudly at that. "Ain't much to rush into now."
She hit him hard on the leg. "Shh! Plus you ain't one to talk. You act like I'm gonna break at any minute, mr soft and sensitive."
"Soft and sensitive?" he questioned, a slight growl in her ear. "Oh I'll show you."
"I'll hold you to that."
Merle rained kisses on her face and neck then, making Beth squeal with laughter. Normally he'd avoid all this public display of affection stuff but he knew today was something Beth had been waiting for for a long time now. He was willing to embarrass himself at least a little if it meant she was happy.
Six months later…
Beth curled up on one of the chairs, feet tucked under her and a blanket round her shoulders. For about two months now she had been back to an acceptable state. Now she couldn't imagine ever being bed ridden. Thanks to her ordeal she wasn't in too much of a hurry to leave the site but it did strike some changes in the group. Once a weak there was a training update where everyone's abilities would be tested to make sure they were up to par in about half of them. It was a way to ensure everyone was capable to take care of themselves in any situation. To help with keeping herself up to par Beth would go hunting with Daryl and Merle once a week. It was always the day they brought back less but none of them minded. She also agreed to go on any run that she was suggested for, but never volunteered for any she wasn't initially put up for.
Despite them not saying anything it became apparent to the group that things were changing with Carol and Daryl. They spent even more time together and both were happier than ever. It didn't take a genius to figure out that something was starting up between but the entire group acted like they had no clue whatsoever. Merle often teased his brother but he didn't outright say that he knew and Daryl grudgingly took it, knowing that with Merle anything was possible.
Rick and Carl were spending more time with Judith as the days went by. She was now walking on her own, even though she did stumble and fall back quite a bit. She was doing a lot of things herself even if they were a little messy and unorganised. The biggest mile step (more so in Rick's eyes) when Judith said her first word. In his wildest dreams Rick never expected "Daddy" to be her first word especially with how little he was around her but months of paying extra attention to her really seemed to make the difference. A few words followed here and there, the names of people, the names of things she saw every day and a bunch of words that in time would slowly connect everything together to form proper sentences.
Michonne and Andrea were taking lead a lot more now that Rick was trying to focus a little more family. They were always willing to plan runs, put their input in when it came to issues at the site and to just generally help. Both were willing to venture out for days at a time to check surrounding areas out properly and to get the most out of runs. Throughout Beth found herself getting closer to the two of them. Finding back up from them when she needed it and simply just having more people to talk to on a daily basis.
Beth's relationship was growing with everyone. Hershel, Maggie and Glenn really were trying with Merle. Maggie had been accepting of it longer so she rarely had issues with the whole thing. At times it was clear that it was testing Glenn. Beth really started to feel like he was her brother and in some ways it frustrated her but in others it made her smile to think that he cared about her enough to worry. Hershel was in the middle. Like Glenn he clearly had moments where he wasn't so sure but like Maggie he was more willing to accept it than ever.
To Beth it was great. Everyone was getting on as well as you could expect in such a small space. They finally got round to growing some crops and there was definitely more of a schedule with things. Beth had plenty to do each day with enough time to herself so she didn't go mad. She liked her little routine. She still got to spend a little time with Judith but generally she got to feel normal. During the day she helped the group and at night she spent all her time with Merle. From dinner onwards she would be with Merle. They would talk but more often than not they'd be locked away in their bedroom for a couple of hours.
"Thinkin' about me?"
Beth almost jumped at the sound of Merle's voice. She looked up at him as he dragged a chair closer to sit in front of her. He grinned at her with a suggestive wink."When am I not?" she asked sweetly.
"As long as I'm the only man ya think about."
"So if I thought about, let's say Andrea like that you'd be okay with that?"
"Angel, I ain't gonna complain if that's what ya into."
She kicked his leg. "Hey, if you're not willing to share me then I'm not willing to share you."
He smiled, reaching his hand out to squeeze her knee. "I'm all yours, Angel."
"Say it again," she prompted.
He rolled his eyes. She did this often. Getting him to say it over and over again. He opened his mouth, ready to speak, but then Maggie showed up.
"Can I ask you guys something?" Both Beth and Merle nodded. "You both need to stand up."
They both did as they were told. Once they were stood they looked at each other. Merle was the one to talk. "What is it?"
"Daddy says you're really okay Beth," Maggie started.
"More than okay, wouldn't be able to tell I was even hurt."
"Good," Maggie nodded. "And your arm Merle?"
"Perfectly fine," Merle shrugged. "Ain't no issue with it."
"So both of you are in good health? No issues?"
"Maggie you know this," Beth frowned. "I know we're both stubborn but really we're fine. I get a little pain where my scars are and Merle's still bitter about only having one hand but really we're fine."
Maggie smile. Looking between the two. Both Merle and Beth were confused. He went to look at her but suddenly he was thrown back, pain radiating from his nose. When he came to his senses he was on the ground. He looked up to see Maggie standing there, hand clenched into a fist as she shook it.
"Maggie!" Beth yelped.
Merle gingerly touched his nose. There was a bit of blood but it didn't feel broken. He went to get up and was surprised to see Maggie's hand extended to help him. He tentatively took hold of it. She didn't do anything except help him to stand up.
"I told you, I wasn't gonna let you kill yourself and hurt her even more, and I certainly wasn't going to hurt her by killing you," Maggie explained. "But it's been a while and you both look much better. I figured I'd use that punch I owe you now."
"Is that the proper welcome to the family?" Merle questioned as Beth took a look at his nose.
"My own special way," Maggie grinned as she walked away.
Beth gently fingered Merle's nose, trying to decide how bad it was. "I'm going to kill her," she muttered under her breath.
"I'm not," Merle laughed, sounding relieved.
Beth stepped away a little, eyebrow raised. "What do ya mean? She just punched you."
"Glenn confronted me, Rick warned me, Andrea and Michonne threatened to castrate me, your father put me through emotional hell, Carol gave me advice with a side of warning, Carl threatened me but Maggie… Zip, nothing. I've been waiting months for her to do somethin'."
Beth bit her lip, trying not to smile. "You do realise that was her punishment, not the punch?"
Merle frowned. "What?"
"Everyone had their way of warning you about being with me and what would happen if you hurt me, Maggie's way was to put you on edge for the past six months," Beth laughed. "The punch was an added bonus."
Merle rolled his eyes. He pulled Beth to him and hugged her tightly, kissing the top of her head. "I guess you Greene girls can be more alike that I thought. Is life gonna be like this all the time?"
"Say it and we'll negotiate."
He pulled away enough to see her. He kept his arms round her as he kissed her nose. "I…" He kissed both cheeks. "Love." He kissed her lips. "You."
"I trade you an infinite amount of those for your protection."
He chuckled, kissing her hard and lifting her high into air.
A/N: Maybe a little cheesy for Meth? Aha. But seen as Merle hasn't really said or shown he loved her properly I figured the end of the story was the best bet. Meth have the ability to make me smile so you'll be seeing them again in different stories. :) I really hope you guys enjoyed this story and I know it wasn't hard core Meth that you sometimes get on here but I have some plans for the future ^-^ Either way, thank you guys so much for every reader, review, favourite and follow. Every single one means the world to me, so really, thank you so much.