Winters Warmth

By Jenna Black

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. Or the midseason finale would not have happened the way it did!

A/N: This story takes point at the midpoint of a story I have had floating around in my head for a couple weeks now. In fact, this was the first part I thought of, and intended for it to be a one shot –now though, I cannot get these characters out of my head, and have a pretty extensive outline of all that led them to this point and beyond it. I uploaded this and then planned out the rest of the story, so now I have gone back and changed some things to continue to fit in my universe. Along with fixing some typo's that I missed. Thank you for your time!

Winters Warmth...

"I ain't 17 anymore Daryl." She whispered to him. It was late at night, and Beth was currently snuggled as close to Daryl as he would let her. It was snowing outside, and while the shack they were in was well built, the cold snap of winter would never let them feel truly warm. Even under the thick wool blankets. It had taken him five frigid nights of sleeping on the floor before he had finally given in and shared the bed with her.

"I seen you naked plenty o' times Beth." He paused and sighed deeply. "You don't need to tell me nothing 'bout your age" He brought his hand up to his head, rubbing his hair down. "Don't change the fact I'm near two decades older than ya." He tried to not notice the parts of her that were touching the parts of him. But the colder the nights, the closer she got, and the closer she got, the harder it was for him to not notice. They had been on their own for nearly half a year now; the danger, close quarters and fast escapes had meant they had both seen more of each other than would have ever been appropriate before. Now, appropriateness was somewhat of a relic from the past, giving way to things like necessity and survival.

And survive they had, for weeks scouring around the outskirts of the prison for signs of anyone else that had survived. They had found signs, enough to know that a few had made it out; but the trails had all died before they could reconnect. After a few too many close calls it was Beth that had made the decision to go. "I have hope Daryl. We will find our way to each other again someday, but it's not going to be here." She gestured around at the abandoned town they were hiding out in. There were just too many walkers in Georgia. Where they were was too unsafe; too many highways leading the herds out of the city, and too many small towns that could still hold thousands.

That was what had made the decision to head up north so much easier for them. It wasn't a clear path, but it was what would give them their best bet. Plus the winters had always been harder on the biters, and being so close to the Appalachian Trail meant he could be pretty confident of bringing home food. It had taken them a week to prepare to leave, gathering all the camping, hunting, fishing, and cold weather gear they could reasonably carry. By October they had made their way into Tennessee; a hike that had taken almost all their strength. It was pure luck they stumbled across the cabin they were in; you couldn't see it until you were on top of it. Made rustic, out of felled trees of the forest around them, it was perfect camouflage. Daryl had routinely lead them off the trail, and their little refuge was a good 5 miles away from the nearest trail, and based on Daryl's map reading skills, at least another twenty from the closest town. Add in the steep hills they had had to climb just to get here, and they were as safe as they would ever be in this world.

The last two months had been spent preparing to ride out the winter. As much meat had been caught and dried as possible, the cabin had been cleared of low overhead branches, and as much firewood as possible was cut and stored, taking up about half the space of the interior of the cabin and a good bit more outside. Tarps were hung to collect the rainwater, and all the windows and walls had been reinforced and insulated as much as possible. By God's good grace whoever owned the cabin had left it fully outfitted… they had arrived to find it loaded with cured firewood and provisions for a couple months - to the tune of several five-gallon jugs of water and enough tins of tuna and the like that Daryl really wondered if he had to go hunting this winter. A stream ran along not too far from the back of the cabin for cleaning and fresh water. If Daryl had to guess that was why someone would go through all the work to build a cabin way out here. "God bless the survivalists" He had said upon discovering their bounty. Beth readily agreed.

For all the luck of the provisions it was still a hunting cabin though, with only the one main living area and a small bathroom cut out of the southern corner. The only place to rest was one double wide camp mattress on the floor. His stubborn streak hadn't lasted long, after playing the gentlemen the first few nights he had quickly given in to her offer of sharing it. As an added bonus, it meant as the nights got colder they both had double the blankets, and the shared body heat. "Survival and all that" she had laughed that first night.

It was only January, and it had already been a long winter. The fortune of a mild season last year had doomed them in some ways when it came to this year. Beth wasn't sure if it was the memory of a mild winter that made this one seem so much worse, or if between the higher elevation and the move farther north it truly was so. All she knew was that she was cold, all the time.

Daryl knew that feeling well. So when she decided to push her luck and shimmy up even closer to him, he couldn't bring himself to pull away. In fact, he moved his arms around her a little closer. "Hmmm" she murmured contentedly against him. "Ya know, two decades ain't all that much in this world" She whispered. "'Specially not when we're the only two people in our world." Her hands were moving now, grasping onto his and pulling them from their spot on her hip up her body until they were wrapped around her stomach. As they grazed her body, he could feel the pucker of the crescent shaped scar on her midsection, a souvenir from their flight from the prison. "I haven't been warm in a week, and you're the only solution to my other problem" she joked. Her problem, as she had called it, was the fact that once a month, at the midpoint between cycles her body went crazy. She would become moodier and edgier, and terrify him by disappearing off somewhere for a little while. It had taken a couple of months before he had noticed the pattern. When he asked her about it she would turn pink and mutter "Nothing" under her breath. He left it alone until there wasn't a choice anymore, and it had hit when they were trapped in the cabin during a particularly rough storm.

In a world that had led to them having many awkward moments, the hour when he had finally figured out just what was wrong with her had been one of the most memorable. Of course by then she was in tears. "Damn women," he had muttered to himself. At that point she was just sitting on the floor, looking to the door, as if seriously considering heading out in the torrential rain. Cursing under his breath, he gently, or as gently as Daryl Dixon could, told her to stop being so damn upset. "Your body's doing what it's meant to. We've been eating better now. It ain't surprising you're getting back to normal. Not like you never caught me feeling out of sorts, myself." He gestured to himself. She sniffled and giggled a little. Pretty much every morning she wakes first, it's to find him closer than he ever willingly gets when he's awake, spooning against her. Most of those mornings prove his body works as it properly should too.

Which brought him back to the present, as that same problem was readily making itself apparent. "It's so odd what you are to me Daryl" She whispered, squeezing the hands she was holding tightly, adjusting herself so she was tight up against him. "You're my brother, friend, ally and future all rolled into one." As she spoke she could feel them approaching a precipice of sorts. They had come near this conversation before, but there had always been something that had prevented it from happening. Now though, the only sound was the wind whipping around outside them, and the creaking of the branches swaying in the wind. "I know this ain't what we expected. And I know it sure ain't what I imagined my future to be." She thought of all the experiences she had missed out on, from prom and graduation, to college and starting a career. "This is the life that we've been dealt." She said matter of factly. She could feel him tense up as she talked, but decided to just plow ahead. "I thank God for you every day Daryl Dixon. Even if the world could go back to normal, I can't imagine my life without you with me. The only part of my plans that could still come true is the love part. I may have lost so much in this life, but I have been blessed with some pretty awesome things too." She thought of the time at the prison, gaining a family, growing to be strong and confident. The things she'd learned and the adventures they had had. She twisted around to look at him; it caused her hair to brush against his arm, the softness of it so comforting to him. Her blue eyes looked up at him, scared but hopeful. "And I catch you, ya know." She smiled and brushed her hair back. She saw it draw his attention down, and puffed up a little bit knowing how she could get him to react. It was right around then that he realized just how transparent the weeks together had made him to her, or how obvious he had become. "I can feel you watching me. It makes me feel safe, mostly, with a little excited mixed in." She laughed softly, "and when I turn to look at you, I can guess where you've been watching me." She smiled, and pinched him jokingly. "You can't complain about my age one minute and check out my ass the next."

He chuckled at that. "Damn," he said, raising his hand to stroke back a bit of her hair that had fallen in front of her face again. "And here I was thinking I was being covert." He closed his eyes and shook his head, trying to buy a little time to gather his thoughts. "You know I ain't one for words, Beth. I never have been and never will be. Never imagined this was what my life was gonna be. Hell, probably woulda found myself in that prison sooner or later either damn way." He shook his head again, thinking of all the events that had led him to this point in his life. "This world has brought out the worst in a buncha people, but for me? For me, I think this damn apocalypse saved my damn life." He chucked, and then grew serious. "I can say; if this world goes back to normal, that letting you go will be the hardest damn thing I've ever done." She smiled as he said that; he loved the way her eyes brightened and warmth infused in him that he hadn't felt before.

"You're missing one key thing," She said, wiggling herself against him so that her mouth was right up by his ear. "You wouldn't be able to get me to walk away from you if you tried. You're stuck with me, Daryl Dixon, as long as you'll have me." She nuzzled against him then, and damn if he wasn't at the end of his self-control. She knew his neck was sensitive from some of their mornings together, and was using it against him now. Switching gears, she brought them back to the present "I always figured on saving myself for marriage." She spoke, tracing patterns on his skin; she really was trying to torture him. "The way I see it, there isn't such a thing as marriage anymore, least not with weddings or ceremonies anymore. All I know is I want to spend the rest of my life with ya." She stopped all movement then, and grew solemn. "I know it, God knows it, and now you know it." Her hands moved again, coming up to tilt his head so they were nose to nose. "The only question is, what are you gonna do about it?"

A/N : I am so sorry to leave it there for now, but it must be done. I have the next part planned out in my head, but now that I am continuing this beyond a one-shot I don't want to lose the payoff until we (and the characters) have truly earned it. But check out my profile page, because, while this is the part that started it all, the rest of it can be found there!