**Author's note; Thanks so much for the warm welcome and the reviews, guys. And for those of you who simply read each time, I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I did, even though these last two chapters were ridiculously hard to write – seriously like pulling teeth, guys!. I suppose that happens when you have new material to gain ideas from, and the feel of it is the complete opposite of this fic - I've got another fic in the pipe line, so keep your eyes out for it – dark, gritty, and it's pulling ideas from me so sharply, that it makes my brain hurt – I hope you enjoy that one as much as you've all enjoyed this. Much love.**
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 contained the women he considered 'Untouchable.' The women Daryl tucked into this box either belonged to someone else, or they meant something to him. They had clawed their way past the iron armor he had wrapped around himself, and lived within the iron shell of his chest. Carol. Maggie. Michonne. Women he would fight to keep safe. These were the women that he viewed as mother or sister. As his confidant or his as friend. These were the women who held his council; who knew him better than his own brother had. These were the women he turned to for guidance. For advice. And in Michonne's case, when he needed an ass kicking or to dish out a whaling on a Walker, she was the one who stood back and guarded him while he took life's frustrations out on the dead.
The second box was the "Little Girl" box. Judith – sweet, and unbearably pretty, would permanently live in this box in his mind. Six years old, and she would still sit on his lap during dinner and comb her fingers through the scruff on his jaw while telling him about the fairies that lived in the vegetable patch. Carl's girlfriend Lisa had told her about them, and Daryl would catch sight of them hunting together for those elusive little folk, while Beth and Carol pulled weeds. Lisa lived in this box; even after Daryl had seen the first time Carl had tossed his hat aside and yanked the pretty brunette close to steal a kiss in the shadows of the tower, she remained pure and lovely within his mind. Six months after that first kiss, Daryl had refused point blank to discuss sex with Carl – no way, no how. The slash of red riding high on Rick's cheeks was tell-tale sign enough that Carl had finally screwed up enough courage to approach his father for advice – not the actual act, mind you. Carl knew the mechanics of it – but the timing and the setting and the "Oh, gawd, what if he gets her pregnant?" had been all Rick could manage later that night. Three years later, Carl was still managing to not get Lisa pregnant.
Little Mai lived in this box – as beautiful as her Mama, with an exotic tilt to those startling blue eyes that was a trait from her Daddy. Mai was pure in a way that Judith had never been. But in the birth of Mai, Lori's ghost had finally been put to rest, and Carl had finally forgiven himself for killing her. The crack between father and son ran deep, and would never truly heal. But Mai's laughter went a long way to brightening the walls of the prison. Glenn was in awe, and Hershel doted on his granddaughter in a way that turned the wisely spoken man into a pure cream-puff. And Maggie? After the birth of her daughter, Maggie turned into a warrior in a way that no one had seen coming. She presented ideas – ideas that were carefully planned and executed, to turn their home into an actual fortress. By the time Mai turned three, the barbed wire was nearly all gone; in their place, brick walls stood tall and strong. Bricks that had been forged by hand and left to bake in the unrelenting heat; their home was safe and secure, and would stand for decades to come.
Then there was the "fuckable" box. This box had stood empty for a long time; various women had drifted in and out of that box over the years. Some were fantasy – some were reality. And as the years drifted past, that box slowly splintered, and turned to dust. In its place, was the box reserved simply for her; Beth's box. It was filled with thoughts and fantasy and hope; filled with the memories that they made each day. Each month. Each year. For six years now he had lived within the walls of the prison. And for nearly five of those years, Beth had belonged to him; she grew more and more beautiful in his eyes every day. He saw her laughter and he saw her anger. He saw her hopes and he saw her despair. He saw her courage and her determination to keep those she loved, safe.
Sitting up in the tower Daryl idly rubbed his hand across his heart. Beth's name was permanently etched upon his skin now, the way she was permanently etched upon his heart. The initial D was etched upon her ring finger too – they may not have exchanged vows, nor had a wedding day, but she was his in every way that counted. He had told her that several years earlier, when fear had nearly torn them apart. Fear and the ingrained belief that he just wasn't good enough. It had been Hershel who had set him straight on that matter. Had helped him see the proverbial light and how to swallow his fear and pride and ask for the one thing he didn't think he deserved. Three days later, Daryl would head out on a run with Beth being his lover, and Hershel's blessing in his ears. He would return a week later, with her being his wife. She'd only winced once as he'd etched the D upon her finger in place of a ring. It wasn't done within the sanitary setting of a tattoo parlour, with the traditional gun. No, Beth endured the pain of etching of his name on her finger – done by the very tip of his knife and rubbed over with ink; it was surprisingly neat when it eventually healed. As was his; Daryl did the knife work, yet it was Beth's fingers who smeared blood and ink together. In those early days, Daryl didn't know if a baby was on the cards for him and Beth. Even now he didn't know. He did know he couldn't live without her. He did know, he wouldn't be able to – she was the air he breathed.
If Daryl was to open the Beth shaped box in his mind, he was sure there would be memories in there that could still make her blush. He had touched and kissed and tasted every single inch of her body over the years. Had experienced many of her firsts – had shared the wonderment of those firsts with her, while the sounds she couldn't – wouldn't – contain spilt from between swollen lips.
In his youth, he had scoffed at the thought of being tied down to one woman. He'd learned about sex through the drunken antics of his brother; had learned from the bored girl who had lived in the trailer next to his. Madeline was jaded, and thought of as the town bike – everyone had had a ride at some point. Daryl had fifteen when she took it upon herself to teach him all she knew. It was second nature for him to drop off drugs or alcohol when she asked for them; Merle had tried getting into her pants many a times, only to be told to fuck off quite bluntly. Over shadowed by his older brother, Daryl had simply done as she had asked; never muttering more than simple sentences when she tried engaging him in conversation. But once he turned fifteen, Madeline had asked him quite bluntly one hot afternoon if he wanted to fuck – for the next year, she taught Daryl everything she knew. It was between her thighs that he poured his misery and hatred of life. It was there, that he equated fucking as just that – there was no room for feelings in his life, and as the years went by, Daryl took those lessons he learned with him. Even Karen had been seen as an outlet – a quick fuck in the shower rooms.
And while he was Beth's first and only lover and he taught her all that he knew, it was her that taught him about feelings. It was with her, that he learned to equate sex with love. He didn't pussy up and call it making love, but with Beth, Daryl was able to separate when they got down and dirty and fucked for life affirmation, and when he would lose himself in her for hours during the night. He couldn't call it fucking then – he refused to call it making love, but it wasn't fucking. He learned that the glide of her palm over his bare stomach in the middle of the night could turn him on more than a head job from a woman he barely knew. While he had let the women of the prison inside the armor of his chest, it was only Beth that he let within the concrete walls of his heart. She knew what scars he carried, and as time drifted past them, Daryl would no longer flinch is her hand brushed across the raised skin of his back.
During the time they spent trying to exercise his ghosts, Daryl had stared at the wall while explaining the abuse he had endured at his father's hand; Beth hadn't said a word as he stumbled over the misery of his past, nor had she shed any tears. She hadn't gotten angry, nor had she called his father any names. When the words ran out, when Daryl sat there panting slightly with fear and self-loathing twisting in his stomach, Beth had risen to her feet and crossed the room to kneel between his thighs. The hand she had laid upon his cheek had been cool and Daryl had leaned into her touch with his eyes closed. Her lips however, when she brushed them across his brow, were warm. Daryl's breath had stuttered out when she brushed those satiny pillows across his brow, over the sharp slash of his cheekbone, and finally, whisper soft across his mouth. With her lips resting against his, she had finally told him that she loved him; so many times she had smiled when looking at him, and told him that she knew. They both did. But the actual words had never been uttered – until then.
In her own sweet way, she had laid a balm across the jagged tears in his soul, when she told him that if he wanted to have a baby, she would have one with him. That she would be proud to be called Mrs. Daryl Dixon. She loved him. She would always love him. Didn't he know that? She loved everything about him; from the iron shell he had wrapped around him, to the tears and scars he carried. She loved his ability to cut through the bullshit, and get to the heart of the matter. She loved his fighting spirit, and his refusal to give up. And as a flush worked its way across her cheeks, her voice dropped to a murmur and she swallowed hard before speaking again. She loved what he could do to her within the privacy of their concrete walls; the way he could reduce her to nothing more than a mass of shaking limbs and whimpers with the slow stroke of his hand along her body. That within those moments his soul was laid bare for her and she could see everything that made him the man he was. It didn't matter none to her that he was damaged – weren't they all? In that soft voice, she had told him that she wanted to spend what was left of her life with him; be it five minutes, five years or five decades. When they eventually walked out of their shared space, it was with a bond that only death would break. And as they made their way towards Daryl's bike, he was content with the knowledge that if Beth died, he would follow soon after – a single shot would help him on his way.
People came and went. Others stayed and their family expanded. The dead still walked the earth, but some days seemed quieter than others. It was on one of those nights that Daryl saw the rest of his life unfold. Beth had been quiet for several days; she had brushed aside his concern with a smile and a soft kiss. She was all right – she just had something on her mind. At twenty four, she was still sylphlike – all leg and slim lines. Those lines weren't as perfect as they had one been. No, the years had marked Beth's skin – scars from running through bramble, and fighting for her life left silvery lines upon the smooth length of her body. A body that Daryl knew every single inch of – he knew every dip and curve. Every shadow that played across shifting muscle. And as Beth lay beneath him shuddering, Daryl moved to the side and collapsed as he fought to gain his breath back.
Long minutes drifted past; he heard Beth sigh, a long, drawn out sound in the dim light, and Daryl reached out to skim his hand across her side. His fingers scraped over her hip and along the top of her thigh, before trailing back up again. It was as he lightly trailed his hand across her stomach that he felt it. A slight rounding, where there should have only been muscle. And as his hand stilled, he heard the shuddering breath that left Beth's body. That sound was tinged with fear, and Daryl swallowed hard as Beth rolled onto her side. Hauntingly beautiful; ethereal in that dim light, as she peered at him through eyes that were shadowed over with fear and longing. He could see his own demons reflected back at him on the face of his lover, and as they stared at each other, her voice whispered through his mind in the form of a memory.
"You think 'coz your Daddy didn't raise you right, that you'll be a bad parent? Jesus, Daryl, you couldn't be more wrong. It's because he was a bad parent, that you'd be a brilliant one, can't you see that? You think I don't want a baby, 'coz of that? I don't want a baby, Daryl, 'coz you don't want one…if you did…I'd have one with you tomorrow…"
Daryl swallowed once, and then straightened his fingers so that they skimmed across her stomach again. They had perfected the art of silence over the years, and as they stared at each other, asking those silent questions that only lovers can, Beth simply smiled as his fear shone back out of eyes that she loved.
"Yeah," she whispered. "I'd have one with you… be proud to, Daryl…"
What they had wasn't perfect. There were days where Beth could have quiet cheerfully beaned him on the head with a spoon. There were days where Daryl beat Walkers to a pulp with his fists alone. But they loved. And as Beth's slight frame changed, as she grew rounder and softer, that love took on a fierce determination to keep those he loved safe. No matter the cost. Fear still choked him at the best of times. Patience and love would set him straight. Daryl would eventually put those fears to rest after his child was born; eleven months later, his second would arrive. Two boys under the age of two, and both would grow up to be as bad ass as their father. A daughter would eventually give Daryl back some of his innocence and light. A wife, who looked at him and smiled as he watched over his young family; a wife he had killed for, and would die to protect. Days would turn to weeks and months and years. Decades would flash by in the blink of an eye. Death would come in the form of old age for those who lived with in the solid walls of the prison. There would be tears and laughter and hard work to stay alive in a world that wanted to wipe them out. But watching over them, Daryl wouldn't look at that. Instead he looked at his memories, at the dusty images he kept within his boxes; and in looking at them, he finally found the one emotion he'd tried finding all of his life – he was happy, and he was content. There was nothing more he could ask for, when he had everything he'd ever wanted. And that was enough.