Title: Shifting Boxes.
Fandom: The Walking Dead.
Rating: Mature over all.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm just using them for my own perverted sense of fun.
Feedback: Sure thing! Feedback is always helpful.
Summary: Ten times that Daryl realizes that Beth is no longer safely tucked into the little girl category that he keeps her in.
Women, as a general rule of thumb, fell into three categories in Daryl's mind; three separate categories that had their own rules. Rules that were to be followed - adhered too – no matter what the pain induced image of his brother had said. It never took him long to categorize the women in his life, and once tucked into those boxes in his mind, it was rare that he ever moved them. It kept things simple, and in a world gone to hell in a hand basket, these simplicities were what kept him sane.
The first box was the women he considered 'Untouchable.' . Not fuckable – that was a different category. No, these women were untouchable in every sense of the word. These women that Daryl tucked into this box either belonged to someone else, or they meant something to him.
Carol was the first woman he tucked into that box. And as the days went on, Daryl grew to love her in every sense of the word. He respected her quiet strength, and her unwavering support toward him. The way in which she transferred her love when she lost Sophia to him, both scared and humbled him. It angered him at first, but as the days went on, Daryl finally grew to accept it. He knew he loved her in return when he thought he'd lost her in the prison. That aching thump in his chest told him that what he felt was the breaking of his heart, and he mourned her as silently as he had loved her until the day he found her in the cell. His relationship with Carol was the one purity in his life, and under her nurturing hand, he slowly insinuated himself into the group until he became one of the leaders. Because of her guidance, because she had told him to be more that what his brother had deemed him, people looked to him with respect in their eyes. No longer was he the loose cannon – the one they didn't know or trust. No – now they sought him out for guidance and leadership and survival. No longer was he the redneck hillbilly they had all thought he was – now he was someone they looked up too. And in return, Daryl let Carol into his heart. In his mind, she replaced the woman who had birthed him, and became the Mother he had silently wished for as a boy.
Lori had also belonged in this box while she was alive, but in a different way. She was Rick's – it started and ended there. He had liked her well enough, but she had belonged to Rick, and was there for, untouchable. Andrea had also belonged in this box – she had started out in the Fuckable box, but Amy's death shifted her quick enough to the 'Untouchable' box. He didn't do crazy, and Andrea was ten different types of. Even after finding out she had survived, knowing that she had fucked the Governor was enough to shift her to 'Untouchable.' With Maggie being with Glenn, she too, lived in this box. She sure was pretty to look at, but she was untouchable. She and Glenn suited each other, but watching them gave him a toothache at times. He didn't know what being in love felt like, but he did understand the need to fuck for life affirmation; his pickings, however, were slim at best.
Michonne hovered between the Fuckable box and the Untouchable box – there was something powerfully arousing knowing that the woman would probably break your neck with her thighs if you didn't go down on her the way she wanted. Daryl liked her well enough – she reminded him of himself in a way. She remained watchful and silent, yet when she did speak, you paid attention. He liked watching her swing that shiny blade on the battle field; enjoyed the way she delivered death with grace and style. That was when he desired her the most – when his blood was singing with the power of the hunt. Yet there was a line between them that he would never cross. Maybe it was the vibe she gave off, that told him she preferred women to men nowadays. She certainly seemed to glow when Beth was walking with her; what they spoke about he didn't know, but it certainly seemed to drag the misery from her shoulders and put a spring back in her step. He enjoyed her dry sense of humor, and the knowledge that she could probably kill him in her sleep.
Then there was the 'Little Girl box'. Little girls, who no matter the cost were to be looked after and protected; Sophia had lived in this box. Not what she had become – no, when he thought of Sophia, he thought of her before she had died. Judith, his sweet little asskicker lived in this box. Beth Greene also lived in this box. She reminded him of a pretty little palomino pony that had run in the field beside his family's trailer when he was growing up – all golden and skittish, with a lithe frame and legs that seemed far to long for her body. She was Judith's main care giver, and it became second nature to hear her pacing the catwalk at night, and singing softly as she tried to settle the baby. After the Governor had attacked and they had taken in the people of Woodbury, Daryl had little time to ponder the children of the group, as his role of hunter had grown much larger.
Days drifted into weeks. And those weeks dragged out into months. Daryl hunted, killed and squirmed uncomfortably in his seat when he was voted to help lead the council. This task took some getting used to; Carol bore the brunt of that frustration, and during a long winded rant he finally admitted to his closest confidant that he was scared. Carol never brushed these fears away – instead she reminded him of how far he had truly come. How important he was to not only the group, but to her. In the quietness of the night, Carol gently told him that the only thing that kept her going some days was the knowledge that he was there with her. He was her friend – her family – the one consistent in her life that she treasured above all others. The Daryl that walked out of the early morning fog that day was different to the one who had walked into the early evening mist. He took up the mantle of leader, and led without ever looking back. But in leading, he began to see things that threatened to shift the foundation of his boxes.
He was used to seeing Maggie and Glenn together; he'd walked in on them a half a dozen times in the past. They just laughed it off now, and he'd shake his head as he walked away from the heady scent of sex and the low moans that were torn from Maggie's throat. He was used to hearing the strangled grunts echo almost silently during the night, when a nameless person bought themselves personal relief. Hell, he'd done the same in the past, right up until he'd fucked Karen within weeks of her arriving at the prison – a hurried experience in the showers one night when the need within him had threatened to rise up and strangle him if he didn't get off and soon. The almost violent slap of skin against skin, and the bite of her nails in his neck and he'd buried her face in her throat as his orgasm had been torn from him with a force beyond his control. She'd appreciated the fact that he hadn't left her hanging – using both his fingers and his mouth, her greedy cry of relief had been muffled by her own hand. For several weeks they had used each other; but then Tyreese had looked her way, and by mutual agreement, they'd parted company. Who was he to stand in the way of the chance of loving someone?
What he wasn't used to, however, was hearing that same sound slip from the swollen lips of Beth Greene. He'd sought the silence of the library one night – the heat was making him restless. The sound of quiet footsteps told him that his hour of solitude was over, and he put the book back on the shelf with a sigh before rising to his feet and quietly making his way towards the exit. A male grunt echoed in the dim light as he neared the door, and a breathy sound of need echoed; the sound drew his eyes, and Daryl glanced towards the couch. It took him a moment to recognize who it was; in that moment, he let his eyes linger on the smooth length of leg he could see. The toned calf and the shape of the woman's thigh as it tensed under the hand currently running up the back of it. But then the man moved, and Daryl froze. He knew that head of blonde hair anywhere. It wasn't the fact that he was seeing Beth in the library – he'd shared this space with her numerous times during the night. She'd kept to her corner, and he'd kept to his.
What he wasn't used to seeing, however, was Beth being stretched out under a man on the couch. Her legs were currently locked around the rocking hips of the man who was lying between her thighs and kissing her almost brutally. Daryl's jaw dropped, as sheer shock rooted him to the spot and in that moment, the man shifted his weight, and began to tug Beth's thin tank top up her ribs. The move revealed pale creamy skin; Daryl blinked, and then blinked again. But the picture he was seeing didn't change. It wasn't until he felt the brush of cotton in his fist that Daryl realized he'd moved at all, and he yanked Zach away from Beth with a snarl and tossed him half way across the room before he could quite figure out what he was doing. Beth squeaked in shock – it was the only name for it – before she scrambled to her feet. But Daryl was already moving, and Zach was backing away from the loaded gun that was pointed at his head while the scent of his fear wafted up to tease Daryl's already scrambled senses. Beth herself had fallen silent when Daryl had pulled the gun, and she sank back onto the couch silently as Daryl slowly stalked Zach across the room.
Zach choked it out, and then stuttered when the cold barrel of the gun pressed between his eyes. Without breaking eye contact, Daryl spoke calmly.
"You like fuckin' little girls, Zach?"
Zach stuttered slightly, and then fell silent when the pressure of the gun increased.
"We were just kissing, Daryl!" Beth cried, and Daryl snorted.
"Does your Daddy know where you're at, Beth?" he asked coldly, and then smirked slightly when her silence told him what he needed to know.
"I'm sure he's lookin' for you right now… get goin'."
Her footsteps had faded before Daryl lowered the gun slightly, yet the look in his eyes kept Zach pinned in place. They stared at each other for a long moment, before Zach swallowed.
"She's a kid," Daryl said when Zach opened his mouth, and a look of confusion crossed Zach's face.
"She's eighteen…" he croaked out, and Daryl's hand clenched on the butt of the gun.
At the look on his face, Zach gestured weakly.
"Beth…she turned eighteen a couple of weeks ago."
Daryl shook his head slightly, even as his lips tightened into a scowl.
"We woulda done somethin' for her…" he began, and Zach shook his head.
"Nah, man… she told me that everyone forgot her birthday, what with Woodbury coming here and all. She didn't care none, coz that's the kinda gal she is."
"She's still younger than you," Daryl interrupted, and Zach swallowed hard.
"Not by much…" he began, and then swallowed again when Daryl snorted. "Alright, yeah, I'm a couple of years older than her, but it ain't like I've got women linin' up that I can fuck, is it?" Zach asked, and then grunted when Daryl smashed him across the jaw with a clenched fist. The blow sent him sprawling, and he cried out when Daryl hit him again. Fisting his hand in Zach's shirt, Daryl jerked the dazed man half up off the ground.
"She ain't like that… she ain't the type you fuck and run on, and you ain't gonna treat her like it, you hear me?" Daryl snarled. "A couple of years… You've got nearly ten years on her, Zach! You stay away from Beth, or I'll cut your feet off and throw you outside the gates for the Walkers to feed on. Clear?"
He let Zach go, and left him lying on the floor nodding as he stalked out of the library; his temper almost under control, Daryl turned the corner and bumped into a warm body. His fingers dug into slim arms, and Beth muffled a cry of pain as he jerked her forward to stop her falling to the ground. In the seconds that followed, Daryl stared down at her up turned face; he carefully let her arms go and then pointed over her shoulder.
"I said get back to your cell. It ain't open for discussion, Beth."
Beth scowled up at him, and then stomped her foot.
"You ain't my Daddy, Daryl, you don't get to tell me what to do," she said, and then yelped when Daryl grabbed her arm and began to drag her after him anyway.
"We were just kissing," she said angrily, and then gasped when Daryl stopped still and looked back at her with icy green eyes.
"If you believe that, kid, you're even more naive than I thought," he muttered, and Beth jerked away from him as colour burned high on her cheeks.
"So it's ok for you to… to have sex with Karen in the bathrooms, but I can't kiss a man?" she asked, and Daryl's jaw dropped. "I'm not that naïve, Daryl. You have needs, you took care of them. At least afford me the same privilege," she hissed.
"He's using you," was all Daryl could manage as his throat tightened at the thought of what she might have seen, and Beth snorted.
"You think I don't know how to stop a man from getting too handsy?" she asked, and then shook her head scornfully. "Please, you're forgetting that Maggie's my sister. I'da nailed him one if he tried."
A red haze covered Daryl's vision, and when Beth glared up at him, he grabbed her again and backed her into the wall with a thud. His mouth twisted wryly when she tried unsuccessfully to pull away from him, and he raised an eyebrow when she blew a strand of pale hair away from her mouth.
"Yeah… you woulda nailed him…"
Daryl broke off his speech; his lips parted slightly and he sucked a slightly pained mouthful of air into his lungs when Beth increased the pressure of her knee against his balls. She hadn't kneed him so much as pressed against him to prove her point.
"Yeah," she said dryly. "I woulda nailed him one."
When her knee fell away, Daryl finally let go of the breath he'd been holding and resisted the urge to cup himself. But Beth was lowering her eyes and sighing as she tucked her hair behind her ear.
"I know you're only looking out for me, Daryl," she said quietly. "But… I'm lonely. Surely you of all people know how that feels. I like Zach… he's nice."
"Lonely?" he sputtered. "You're stuck in a prison full of people, Beth, how the hell can you be lonely?"
Beth scowled up at him then and bracing her hands against his chest, shoved him back a step.
"I can be surrounded by people all day, Daryl, and I'm still lonely," she cried. "I'm the mother to a child who isn't mine; sure as shit brings a whole lotta new meaning to the phrase Immaculate Conception, doesn't it! Carl has a powerful sulk going on because his Daddy took his gun away. The only other person even near my age is Patrick, and he stutters every time we cross paths! Maggie's too caught up in Glenn, and if we do talk, it's me nodding as she tells me how dangerous it is for me to even consider going outside with Judith. Who else is there, Daryl? Everyone else is either ten years younger than me, or ten years older. So if Zach wants to spend time with me, don't you dare tell me that he's using me… it's more me using him so I don't go mad from the how alone I really feel!"
Beth's chest heaved with pent up emotion as Daryl stared at her wordlessly; knowing she was right, her lips twisted into a bitter smile before she spun away from him and into the shadows, leaving him with a slightly sour taste in his mouth as he listened to her fading footsteps.
The run had gone bad. And as he headed towards her cell, Daryl dragged a rough hand down over his mouth. It had been two weeks since he'd had to speak to Beth after their encounter in the library. Zach had initially avoided him at all cost, but when Daryl maintained his silence, he seemed to settle back into how things had been between them before the incident in the library. He had, however, seen Beth watching him more than once with a question in her eyes. It was a question he didn't know how to answer. Sighing heavily, he paused outside her cell, and peered into the dimly lit room. He was surprised to see the drawings that covered the rough concrete of the walls. Drawings of their rag-tag group. Drawings that he recognised as the farm. Drawings of a pond that was surrounded by the long fronds of trees and surrounded by bright bursts of colorful flowers. And when he looked towards her bed, he saw that she was lying on her stomach and writing in a little book. She looked up as he leaned against her doorway, and the automatic smile that lit her face faded slightly.
"What is it?" she asked softly, and Daryl blew out a rough breath and looked away momentarily before he answered.
"It's Zach," he said quietly.
Beth lowered her eyes slightly and shifted on the bed, before she looked back up at him.
"Is he dead?" she asked and when Daryl finally gave a tiny nod, she sighed once.
Daryl felt the skin between his brows crease slightly as she shifted on the bed and then sat up. She set aside her notebook and rubbed her hands across her thighs a few times as she stared off into the distance. The first trickle of concern ran down his back, and as Beth stood up, Daryl subtly shifted his weight. The move allowed him to see further into her cell; more drawings, and what looked like poetry covered this wall. And as Daryl watched her, Beth slowly reached out and removed something from a board. A tally board, one that now said there had been zero days without accident. Glancing down at the counter in her hand, Daryl could see the three that she held, and the trickle of concern ran a little more freely when she looked back over at him.
"What?" she asked and Daryl shook his head. Her lack of response was scaring the shit out of him.
"I don't cry any more, Daryl."
She said it softly as she took a few steps towards him, and then she shrugged. "I'm just glad I got to know him, you know?"
He didn't, but she seemed to expect an answer from him.
What was he meant to say? But before he could do or say anything else, Beth asked him a question that no one else ever had.
"Are you ok?"
The surprise of it caused him to look away and pause before answering.
"Just tired of losing people… that's all," he said finally, and Beth nodded slightly before moving under his guard and wrapping her arms around his waist.
Her head nested against his chest, and Daryl shifted uncomfortably before he lifted his hand to move her along. Cupping her elbow, he paused when she spoke.
"I'm glad I didn't say goodbye. I hate goodbyes."
Daryl sighed, and for a moment, he let himself close his eyes and rest his chin on the soft mass of blonde hair that was resting so trustingly against his chest. She smelled not of blood and gore, but of baby formula and soap. Clean and innocent in a world so stained with blood that he no longer flinched at the scent of it. It was selfish, but he stayed where he was for a few more moments; one hand cupping her elbow and the other hanging by his side, as the scent of her washed away some of the blood from his soul. And as her warmth seeped into him, he released a deep sigh and spoke softly.