AN: I really love this chapter but I have this feeling everyone else might hate it so please let me know what you all think.
Beth didn't think Daryl was being deliberately mean; more that he'd reverted into his typical surliness. But for some reason she still felt his last words like a physical punch to her stomach. She knew she shouldn't give it a second thought, that it had no real meaning coming from Daryl when ninety percent of what came out of his mouth was dripping with disdain and contempt. But she did and her brain couldn't help seizing on it and turning it over and over again, analysing for any extra symbolism. Beth had always grown up with the notion that men were simple creatures, maybe that was from living in the country where the males she knew spoke plain. Now for the first time she found herself over analysing what one man had said. Had he meant to say she was unattractive? Why did she even care?
She stood there, fiddling with her bandage to give herself something to focus on instead of staring at Daryl's back. She suspected the words had hit her harder because barely an hour ago, she had caught a glimpse of a Daryl she didn't even know existed. A Daryl that would tell a story about him getting beaten up just to distract her from some pain in her arm. She should have known it wouldn't last. That kindness was uncharacteristic for him and had probably only surfaced because of the circumstances. Beth's throat felt tight. After all his big words about expecting more, he had slipped into the same pattern everyone adopted when dealing with Beth. Pity and coddling. She found herself wishing she'd never heard that stupid story about that stupid fight.
Beth looked at the little cot bed with distaste. It was small and rickety; it was questionable whether it would even hold her weight. She kept these observations to herself. Daryl was obviously back in the mood where insults were quick to leave his mouth and Beth didn't want to hear another tirade about how she was a pampered princess.
Beth gritted her teeth and tugged back the covers. She half expected a snake or a spider to come tumbling out and was glad that there wasn't one. It wasn't that she had any phobias regarding creepy crawlies but she did have what she'd describe as a healthy and quite natural apprehension of anything being in bed with her. She peeked at Daryl, who had resettled himself with his back against the wall, an array of weapons stretched around him. Unexpectedly she thought about sharing the bed with Daryl and her anxiety level rocketed. It caused her pulse to speed up and her trademark blush to appear in full force. She still didn't understand why Daryl inspired that reaction in her. It wasn't fear exactly but it was something close, something Beth didn't recognize well enough to name.
Beth didn't want to sleep in her denim pants but she'd be damned if there was any chance she was taking them off. Not only did the idea of Daryl seeing her only in underwear petrify her, but she was struck numb at the idea of being attacked in the middle of the night and having to make a run for it without pants. She settled for kicking off her shoes and taking off the belt with the knife, though she kept that within arm's reach.
Beth tucked herself into the bed. There was a piece of wire digging into her back but it still looked more comfortable than the floor. The sheets were a little musty but they weren't dirty and that was good enough for Beth. She was quickly learning to lower her standards. If she had ever thought it was possible to romanticise the situation, that illusion was quickly shattered. There was no castle, no dragon and the closest thing she had to a white knight was a redneck with a tendency to cuss and scold when things got difficult. And the white knight would never imply that heroine of the story was anything less than beautiful. Beth let that bitterness fill her and she glared at oblivious Daryl. He was fiddling with his crossbow with the loving tenderness one might reserve for their own child. The bitterness faded abruptly as Beth realised that Daryl probably didn't have a lot of things in his life to love and even less things to love him back.
The sadness that crept over her was familiar and she rubbed an unconscious finger over her scarred wrist. It made her feel ashamed. She had so much to be thankful for, even after losing so much, and she'd taken it for granted. Beth didn't think her emotions could shift again so dramatically but they did and she was suddenly very angry at Daryl. Angry because she was starting to realise that his derision for her was entirely justified. The last thing she wanted to do was concede Daryl was right about her. She rolled on to her back. Staring at the ceiling was better.
Staring upwards but not really seeing, Beth made a vow that she would prove him wrong and show that she was a person worthy of respect. She again had the fleeting confusion as to why Daryl's opinion should matter to her so much but she was too tired to follow it up.
Someone was screaming. Daryl blinked bleary eyes in the dark and his mind rushed to catch up with the situation. What had he been dreaming about? Why was a woman screaming in his dream? His realisation that it wasn't something his sleep addled brain had conjured up was accompanied by a rush of adrenaline.
The cabin was dim but not too dark that his eyes didn't adjust quickly. He couldn't see a threat but that piercing shriek was coming from Beth. Daryl scrambled to his feet and raced to the girl, expecting to see a walker chewing on her ankle or something equally horrific. But Beth was alone in her bed. She was thrashing around, in obvious distress but her eyes were closed. Daryl realised she was screaming in her sleep.
Daryl didn't know what was happening. He had heard about night terrors but had scoffed and called them nightmares for pussies. Now it was the first thing he thought of. Was he not supposed to wake someone up out of a night terror or was that just a rule for sleepwalkers? One thing was for certain, she was too loud.
"Beth," he called quietly, hoping the sound of her name would snap the girl out of it. It did nothing. If anything she was becoming more violent. She was clawing at her own arms as if trying to get something Daryl couldn't see away from her. Rules be damned, Daryl thought, seizing her wrists in his hands. He pinned them to her side.
His eyes widened as he had to exert some pressure to keep them against the bed. She wasn't a fragile as he thought.
"Beth!" Daryl snapped. He was half on the bed, using his own body to restrain hers. He was just considering tipping the bottle of water over her head or even slapping her when Beth's eyes snapped open with a gasp.
She looked frantically around the room, struggling against him all the while.
"Beth, you're fine," Daryl said in a low voice, trying to keep his tone even though his heart was racing in his own chest. What the hell was that?
Beth sucked in a shuddering breath and went limp underneath him. She was tiny and frail once more. A single tear trailed from the corner of her eye.
"Jesus girl, what was that?" Daryl asked, still pressing her into the bed, half afraid she would fly off the handle again.
"I was on the farm and Patricia was attacking me." Beth's voice was tight. She didn't elaborate and Daryl got the sense she was keeping a lot of the details to herself.
"She can't hurt you," Daryl pointed out gruffly. He couldn't attend to the emotional trauma of seeing her friend killed but he could be practical.
"You don't know that," Beth shot back, meeting his eyes squarely. He could see all her fear and hurt contained in those blue depths.
Daryl opened his mouth to say something. He was going to say, "I won't let her." Something stupid like that. He didn't get the chance because Beth spoke first.
"Can you get off me!" The words sounded harsh for Beth, less of a request and more a command. Daryl froze, realising just how much of his body was now covering hers. He was encroaching on her personal space and it was putting her off.
Daryl pushed away from her quickly, fleeing to the other side of the room. He had to put as much space between them as possible. He'd just been trying to help her and now the situation had been turned on its head once more, through no fault of his own.
"Aren't you a little old for nightmares?" Daryl asked, crossing his arms. He was channelling his discomfort into anger and Beth was the perfect target. "Thought most fifteen year olds would have grown out if it by now?"
Beth's face was still flushed and she glared at him. "That's how old you think I am?"
Daryl shrugged. "Just based on the evidence available, I figured you were young."
He noticed Beth's hands were trembling and if she would just show an ounce of vulnerability maybe that would have defused the situation but for once she didn't seem interested in backing down.
"What evidence?" Beth spat out. She was equally mad now.
Daryl knew he should sit down and shut up. He knew from experience that he didn't know the line until he had crossed it and caused irrevocable damaged. But an image of Beth's body underneath his flashed in his mind and he went there anyway.
"Well that time with Jimmy," he began, his voice dripping with scorn. "You didn't look like you knew what the hell you were doing. Got me thinkin' you were pretty young. Was that your first kiss or something?"
He saw the impact of his words. He knew of all their interactions, him catching her with Jimmy was the one that inspired the most mortification. And now he'd gone and exploited it like the asshole he was.
There was long pause and Daryl thought maybe she'd been stunned into silence by his vicious and unwarranted personal attack.
"You were pretty awkward when you found me. Have you never been kissed? It wouldn't surprise me! I know I wouldn't kiss you if you were the last man alive." Beth's voice matched his.
Daryl's shoulders stiffened. He knew he was to blame for that cutting insult; that he'd started it, but that barb struck deep. She couldn't have known how many years of belittlement he'd endured at the hands of Merle about his awkwardness with women. But she was staring at him with such knowing that it seemed like little excuse.
Daryl strode across the room. He flung open the door and left without a backward glance. He slammed the door behind him.
Beth dropped her head into her hands at Daryl's exit. She shouldn't have said what she did. She had obliterated any progress they had made with a few sentences. Already guilt was unfurling in her stomach. She would have had to be blind not to see the way her words had made Daryl flinch. Even in the darkness of the cabin she had seen it.
He was always able to hurt her with little to no effort and for once she wanted to strike back. He had no problem aiming below the belt so why should she?
The situation had escalated so quickly that Beth still wasn't thinking clearly.
When she had woken up she had been so scared and disorientated. Then she had discovered Daryl practically on top of her. She had tried to calm herself down but Daryl's proximity had made that impossible. All she could think about was Daryl's weight on her body and how he wasn't really heavy at all. The closeness wasn't reassuring. In fact it made her heart race along, made it difficult to breath.
So she had told him to get off. Maybe she could have phrased it better but she was frantic to reclaim her thoughts. Beth sighed into her palms. All this had happened because she couldn't handle Daryl touching her in that way. And it wasn't because she had hated it. Far from it in fact.
Now he was never going to speak to her again and it was all her fault. Beth slumped back against the bed. She was shivering now. The nightmare had covered her body in a sheen of sweat and now that it was cooling on her skin, she felt quite chilly. Beth waited for Daryl to burst back into the room and shout at her some more but there was only silence outside. She hoped he didn't do anything stupid. If he wandered off and got himself killed, Beth would never forgive herself.
She dismissed that concern as absurd. Daryl was more than capable of defending himself and his rage at her was probably going to make him twice as deadly. Beth closed her eyes and tried to banish all thoughts of the redneck, most especially his wounded eyes.
"Jimmy!" Maggie hissed. She was trying to keep her voice low. The teenager had gone on without her to scout. Now she could see shapes moving through the trees. Distant shadows heading in their direct. What she wanted to do was shout his name and demand his attention but she didn't want to attract the dead any closer. Sometime after meeting Glenn, she had stopped thinking of them of people and she started calling them walkers in her head.
Luckily Jimmy heard and doubled back. He looked older, like he had aged years overnight. The skin around his eyes was tight and Maggie knew he hadn't slept much recently. She hadn't either. Even if worry for her family and friends didn't weigh heavily on her, the constant moving wasn't helping. They had to stay mobile or they ran the risk of being swallowed up by the herd.
She and Jimmy had tried to avoid the mass of walking dead but somehow had ended up being shepherded by them instead. No matter which direction they went, or how fast they travelled, it seemed like the herd was only a few hours away, clinging to their scent.
Jimmy pointed at a tree and Maggie nodded her agreement. The pair of them climbed the tree easily. Maggie had always been a bit of a tom boy and knew her way around these woods, having grown up here. Jimmy was familiar with the area too and that was a big help.
They climbed high and not a moment too soon. The first groans of the walkers reached her ears and Maggie felt sick. Every time she saw or heard a walker, she experienced a deep seeded nausea that she couldn't shake.
Jimmy closed his eyes, looking, for all intents and purposes, relaxed but Maggie knew better. Until she had come home from college this summer to find him dating Beth, Maggie didn't really have much knowledge of Jimmy. He was a local boy from a good family and that was about the extent of it. But he'd come to grow on her. His doting affection for her little sister was endearing if a little corny sometimes. Maggie got the sense that Beth wasn't really that interested in Jimmy romantically, more dating him because that's what you did in the country when a handsome, kind young man expressed interest. Maggie never shared her concerns with either of the couple. Beth wasn't deliberately leading him on and Jimmy would just be heartbroken if he discovered Beth's lukewarm involvement. Maggie suspected that something had happened between them recently because Beth had become secretive and Jimmy had assumed a masculine swagger that Maggie recognised from college. Maggie just hoped Beth was alive and then she'd listen to all the teenage drama that Beth could ever want to share.
Neither her or Jimmy knew whether she had survived. They had tried to loop back around to the farm but it seemed that the walkers were always there to cut them off. So at the moment they only had each other and some speculation.
The walkers sniffed around the base of the tree but they didn't think to look up. They were stupid like that. Maggie was glad they had some failings because they were too dangerous otherwise.
Maggie kept very quiet even though the walkers couldn't reach them up there. She wanted them to pass on by and be done with it. Between them, they only had one gun with two bullets. It wasn't enough to engage the walkers and Maggie longed for a knife or two.
Maggie found herself praying that Glenn was alive and well. He had made her feel things she had never expected. At first he had been a way to pass the time while the world ended around them but then he'd quickly become so much more to her. She felt like she had known him forever. It was the strangest thing, falling in love. She had no choice in the matter. It was just a reality for her now.
AN: annnnd Jimmy is alive. Too much fun this way and I felt bad for the kid. Like I said, I would love to hear people's take on this one.