abelina: made by xtanitx (fool-on-the-hill)
[personal profile] abelina
Title: Fall Right In
Author: Abelina/Abby/Abelinajt
Fandom/Pairing: The Walking Dead - Beth Greene/Daryl Dixon (Bethyl)
Setting: Season 4, Alone-divergence.
Rating: E/NC17
Summary: If Beth hadn’t interrupted him when she did, calling him back with the melody of her voice, he might’ve done something dumb like opening the door for a doomed dog and maybe dooming them both while he was at it. Beth and Daryl escape the funeral home together. An Alone-divergence Bethyl story.
Notes: Chapter title taken from lyrics to Losing My Religion by Artist.

All Chapters Here
Fall Right In
Chapter 29 – The Lengths that I Will Go To, The Distance in Your Eyes


*~*
Daryl awoke with a jolt, barely registering the kink in his neck or the numbness of his arm, bent for hours beneath him as a makeshift pillow. The forest around him was quiet, still in the throes of night, barely enough light filtering in to make out the shapes of the trees and the brush filling in the spaces between them. Only when he jumped to his feet did he truly notice the arm, now tingling with pins and needles as the blood rushed back in, but he ignored it as he whirled around. Beth. Where was Beth? Before the panic could dig its sharp fingers too deep into his gut, his gaze landed on the woman in question, the blonde of her hair standing out amongst all the dim grey-green.

Beth tipped her head back to look up at him, from where she sat with her back against the trunk of a nearby tree, her crossbow leaned up against her shins in easy reach.

“Shit.” Heart still thudding in his chest, Daryl dragged a hand—the one that wasn’t prickling like mad—across his bleary eyes, and sunk down to sit against the tree next to her. “You coulda woke me.”

Beth shrugged, a half-hearted lift of her shoulders, and let her gaze drift away from his to where her fingers pulled at that tear in the knee of her jeans, wider now after days of abuse. “You looked like you needed it.”


Her voice was at once both heavy and as insubstantial as smoke, a low, flat tone that sounded as though it weighed down her tongue just to speak, yet so small and quiet and not Beth that it almost seemed as though she never uttered a thing. Daryl flexed his tingling fingers, trying to work the blood into them faster, focusing on that for a moment to keep from snapping at her. Yeah, he’d needed it. Of course he needed it. What he didn’t need was Beth taking first watch and letting him sleep right through. What she didn’t need was an earful about it, though, and he sucked his lip in between his teeth to keep that from happening.

Wasn’t her fault she wasn’t sleeping.

Before he drew blood, Beth leaned over to pass him one of the squirrels left over from last night’s supper. He took it from her, their fingers brushing with the exchange. Beth’s thumb swept over the back of his hand and he looked up at her, meeting her eyes through the dim light. Her exhaustion, the hurt simmering there, wasn’t enough to prevent his chest from fluttering as he held her gaze, feeling that familiar pull between them that kept him anchored to her by some invisible tether.

Then she broke away, with an abruptness that was almost physical, leaving an uneasy weight between his lungs that dampened that fluttering feeling almost as quick as it built up. Daryl watched as she brought the little carcass to her mouth with trembling hands and nibbled at the meat from its ribcage, trying to ignore the ache pulsing behind his eyes that he couldn’t pass off this morning as coming from a lack of sleep.

When she continued to pretend he wasn’t watching her, Daryl gave up the surveillance and took a bite out of his own cold, fire-charred squirrel. “Quiet night?” he asked, glancing at her over the squirrel’s backbone.

Again, Beth offered that half-hearted shrug, and answered him without looking up from her meal. “Didn’t hear anything that came close.”

It wasn’t what he meant, and she knew it, but after the afternoon in that clearing, by the little rain-swollen creek, Beth had resisted his attempts at getting her to talk about it. Granted, he was sure his attempts weren’t all that convincing to begin with and under different circumstances he’d be laughing at himself. Daryl Dixon trying to get someone to talk to him when he usually preferred if everyone would just shut the hell up—but this was Beth, and all bets were off when it came to her, and what he would and wouldn’t do.

Maybe he should push her more, or something, or be more direct with what he said. His mouth had that unfortunate habit of not letting him say the things his brain let him think but he could try. Or it could be she just needed time to work it out on her own, but he didn’t fucking know, and it only made his head throb harder trying to figure it out. Not like he didn’t have all day to think on it anyway, since dawn had yet to break and they were already halfway through breakfast.

They’d make the most of the light today, at least, though a good amount of distance now stretched between him and Beth and his best guess at the margins of the men’s territory. Each day blended into the next, trudging through the woods, past other farms and overgrown fields, across bridges and streams, small rural roads of dirt, gravel, or cracked pavement, but he counted this as the fifth morning since the incident, or whatever he was supposed to call it. Should be about right to start heading northward again. North-northwest, ideally, at the first likely road they found today. Would be good to get his bearings, too, which he couldn’t do until they ventured close enough to a town with a name attached to it.

He ran out of squirrel before he ran out of thoughts, left with a handful of tiny bones and a head full of more than just plans for their day. Beth was still picking away at hers, and though she glanced at him when he got up to start packing up camp, she didn’t comment. A minute or so later she joined him, and a few more after that they were gone, one more camp left behind.

Somehow, Beth kept up as they walked, despite barely sleeping for the past few nights—not at all last night—those strong legs of hers carrying her on with some sort of dogged determination she pulled from some hidden reserve. That didn’t surprise him about Beth, that she’d push herself like this, but she couldn’t keep it up indefinitely. She wasn’t making it easy for him to try and change that, either, pulling stunts like taking first watch and not waking him, not even giving her body the chance to rest—even if she couldn’t get further than dozing in his arms. Doing that was better than not trying at all, than not giving her brain a chance to rest, either, to come down from the stress of being on and not have to worry about analyzing every little noise in the dark. But no, she’d gone and played the role of the sleep deprived martyr and wasn’t keen on letting go of it, neither.

A twig snapped underfoot, and Daryl cursed his inattention, tearing his eyes way from Beth and her hunched shoulders to focus on what the hell he was doing. To force away the burst of prickling heat flaring in his chest, anger that wasn’t gonna get him anywhere except to the starting gate of an argument he didn’t wanna have. It wasn’t even Beth he was mad at to begin with, and too fucking bad her bullet hadn’t gotten that bastard somewhere other than his arrogant fucking head. Then he could go back to that damned funeral home and hunt down Gorman’s walker and kill him all over again. Or better yet, Beth could do it, and maybe then she’d finally get him out of her brain.

He was still imagining Beth going to town on a walker version of Gorman when he picked up the faint groans and rustling brush of actual walkers, somewhere ahead of them. The first of what would likely be many today, just like the days before, a reminder that they had left the deeper woods behind to encroach on areas of denser population. They were manageable, so far, mostly appearing in small groups of no more than four or five at a time, but more frequently than they were used to. Daryl did what he could to leave a wide berth around the little pockets of former population scattered throughout the countryside, but they couldn’t avoid them all.

Daryl drew his crossbow and Beth drew hers and they walked on, ears turned to listen to the walkers’ approach. The smell reached them before the walkers did, the usual rot which he barely noticed anymore unless there were a lot of them, only laced with something worse, something that clogged up in his throat and threatened to choke him with its foulness. Out of the corner of his eye, Daryl saw Beth wrinkle up her nose at the stench, and then her eyes widened as the three walkers shuffled into view.

The one in the centre, the closest one, couldn’t have been dead more than a few weeks at most but the other two were burnt black. Two man-shaped pieces of charcoal and rotten meat that were, impossibly, still walking, dropping little crispy chunks off their lurching bodies as they went. All three were quickly put down with two bolts from Daryl and one from Beth, hers lodging precisely between the cloudy eyes of the fresh one, while the burnt ones almost disintegrated the moment his bolts hit home.

Daryl picked his two bolts up off the ground, and got his boot against the head of the fresh one to wrench Beth’s free of its still solid cranium. “Good shot, Greene.”

Beth smiled in response, a barely-there tug at the corners of her mouth, but the smile faded when she reached for the bolt and both their gazes drifted to her shaking hand. The tremor stopped when she tightened her fingers around the shaft, but Daryl didn’t miss the flash of a scowl on her face as she turned away from him and fought to stuff the bolt into the dirty bolt slot in her quiver. She cocked the bow again with a little grunt, a little more effort than she normally needed to exert these days, all with her back to him like that would prevent him from seeing. Yeah, maybe she still had enough energy to focus when she had to shoot, to keep her hand steady, but she wasn’t gonna be able to maintain that either and she fucking knew it, considering the way she eyed him quickly as she shouldered her crossbow and charged on ahead before he could call her on it.

He tried to stamp down on that feeling again, that spike of heat stabbing him in the chest, rising up over his scalp like a stampede of sharp little feet. No point now in making it worse and he scraped his teeth over the raw inside of his lip hard enough to draw blood. Beth wouldn’t get mad if it were him being a dumbass instead of her and he wasn’t gonna either, but something cold and solid lurched in his stomach, watching her wear herself thin like this.

This wasn’t Beth, this small little thing, walking along with her shoulders hunched, her arms wrapped around her middle like she was trying to curl right into herself. This woman who, somewhere along the way, filled up his world with her smiles and her songs, her questions and stories, and that ability to see the beauty of things in ways he never could. He only noticed how thoroughly she did so once she stopped doing it and now instead she just looked so small. Insubstantial in a way Beth Greene was never meant to be.

And the quiet, that was louder than Beth ever was but in all the wrong ways. This wasn’t the type of quiet he was used to with her, the type that settled around the two of them like a big old quilt, warm and familiar, where either one might speak, but didn’t necessarily need to.  Where it was enough just to be, the two of them together in the same shared space. Wasn’t that other sort of quiet, either, the one he’d talked his way into through the gloom just to keep her from drowning in it. This was a quiet he didn’t know, and whatever words he thought to say dried up and turned to dust before he could say them.

This quiet didn’t welcome the intrusion.
Just as the sky lightened with the arrival of the sun—though he couldn’t see it through the trees—Daryl and Beth broke out of the woods at the side of a road. It was a gravel one, fairly wide and riddled with both potholes and patches of random greenery. A well-used road, once upon a time, given the wear on it, but there were no fresh tracks, no scatter of road dust, or tell-tale flattening of weeds to indicate anyone was still using it now.

Beth came up to stand beside him, brushing her knuckles over the back of his before securing her arms around her middle again. It wasn’t much, considering, but—maybe, maybe that meant she was trying. That her unusual quietness wasn’t only another symptom of the exhaustion flashing on her like a neon sign, that maybe something productive was happening behind those dull grey eyes after all instead of just more mental destruction.

“Whatcha think?” he asked. He might have reverted to leading them again in the aftermath of the incident, but nothing had changed. They were still in this together.

Beth shrugged and leaned over to rest her cheek against his upper arm without saying a word, body hunched so far over he was staring down at the top of her head when he looked at her. She turned her face to press her nose into his denim sleeve, and he couldn’t see the expression there, but he had a vision of her squeezing her eyes shut, clenching her jaw and drawing her lips into a tight line to keep the emotions inside. His gut lurched all over again, and he couldn’t just let it go. Not this time.

Beth didn’t resist when he pulled her around, slung one arm across her shoulder, and tugged her close with his other hand, fingers hooked through the loop of her knife sheath. With a deep sigh, and the tiniest of sounds barely leaking past her throat, Beth buried her face in his chest, slid her arms around his waist, and held on. She wasn’t crying—nothing so tangible as that—but Daryl could somehow feel the ache in her heart as it beat against his chest.

“You gotta tell me,” he murmured into her hair, curling his fingers into the knit of her sweater. “Gotta tell me if it’s gettin’ bad, Beth.”

Beth leaned back to peer up at him, dark circles ringing her wilted-looking eyes. “I will,” she said, in that same oddly flat tone, but at least this time she answered him. “It’s not that, Daryl. I’m just—just thinking.”

Some of the weight in his gut eased off in the wake of her words. Maybe that’s all it was. Maybe she really was working shit out in her head and needed the space in which to do it.

“All right.” He slid his fingers up the back of her neck, watching her close but her gaze didn’t falter this time. “Promise, though.”

That drew the tiniest of smiles and a little nod, and Beth leaned up on her tiptoes to press a kiss into his cheek. “I promise,” she said, lips rasping against the scruff on his face.

Daryl wanted to hold onto her until he warmed the sad right out of her, so when she didn’t pull out of his arms right away, he slid the hand at her neck around to cradle her cheek and tugged her hips a little closer.

Her eyes drifted shut, pale lashes fluttering a little as he stroked her cheek. “Please kiss me, Daryl. If you still want to?”

An invisible fist squeezed his heart so hard Daryl swore it stopped beating altogether before stuttering back to life with one aching beat after another. He leaned down and kissed her, pressed his chapped lips to her trembling ones, until with an almost inaudible sigh Beth parted her lips and he deepened the kiss. He tried to tell her with every glide of his lips against hers what he couldn’t hope to say with words.

There was wetness under his thumb when he pulled back, just far enough to rest his forehead against hers. They hadn’t done this for days, not since the incident, and he’d assumed she was too upset to want to, but no, she’d thought—oh, Beth. Beth. A whisper of her name was only thing he could say as he stroked her cheek and she turned into his touch.

Daryl...” she said, voice pitched high, something almost desperate in the way she said his name. “I thought—”

“Don’t.” Daryl let go of her belt to slide his hand around beneath her pack, under the edge of her shirt so she could feel his fingers on her skin. He felt her trembling and pressed harder. “It ain’t—you—you don’t gotta think that, Beth. Don’t think that.”

Beth’s only response was a wobbly little hum, and she tucked her head beneath his chin, tipping her face up to press her lips against the pulse in his throat. He held her there for a while, fingers drawing lines on her forehead, willing her to know, to somehow understand in that way she had, everything he was feeling inside. She needed to know it, to feel it, to hear it except the ability to tell her just didn’t exist in his head.

How was a man supposed to put into words what it meant to go his entire life without knowing what it was like to fall—to feel this way about someone, until her? How could he tell Beth that without her, he would never have had the chance? That he never would’ve even known it was something he wanted, ‘til he wanted it with her, until—God, until he had it with her.

His breath caught in his throat as that washed over him, rising up like a wave from his pounding heart, rushing in with enough force to clear away the whispers of voices at the edges of his mind that might try to tell him different. He still didn’t have the right words, not for something like this, so he gave her the only ones he could find. “You and me against the world, a’right?”

She would know that it wasn’t just some stupid thing they’d gotten into the habit of saying. It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t everything. Those six words couldn’t begin to explain that glowing, fluttery thing living in his chest and making his heart pound like a bass drum, but they were the only ones he had.

Beth huffed a breath against his neck, and it wasn’t quite a laugh, but it sounded close. A good sound, he was sure, as a bit of warmth seeped into his chest when he heard it.

Her arms pulled tighter around his waist as she leaned back to look up at him again, her eyes wide, blue and glittering with something more than the nothing he had seen in them for days.

“Thank you for takin’ care of me,” she whispered.

Even with Beth, he had to fight the urge to duck his head. Look away and brush her off. Ain’t nothin’. But it wasn’t nothing, not to her, no matter how much it made his insides squirm to think of it like that. He didn’t deserve any part of this except—Stop it, Dixon.

Didn’t matter, ‘cause Beth believed it and he wasn’t interested in doubting her even when she wasn’t at her best. And the truth of it was—even though Beth could take care of herself—he was always gonna want to take care of her anyway. Take care of her just like she took care of him.

Don’t you think that’s beautiful?

Instead of answering, Daryl hummed at her, the only sort of sound he trusted himself to make. A smile bloomed on Beth’s face just before she tucked her head back against his chest, inside of which those fluttery wings beat like mad. They stood there together at the side of the road for a long while, both of them holding on, long enough for the sky to brighten noticeably by the time they moved to stand side by side. As though she couldn’t help it, now that she was out of his arms Beth again wrapped her own tight around her middle as she stood staring up the road ahead. He wanted to pull her back against his chest, replace her tired arms with his own, but with her pack and crossbow he had to make do with holding her hand. He prised one arm away from her middle twined her fingers with his.

“Whatcha think?” he asked again, squeezing her hand after she squeezed first. He wasn’t certain they were ready to face whatever might be waiting for them if they chose to follow it, but he had to know what she thought.

Her shoulders lifted in that familiar shrug, but before they could drop back into place she was already shaking her head. “I think we should keep going.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Me too.”

This time, Beth took the first steps, crossing the road for the trees on the opposite side. Head down, again, though, and shoulders still hunched. Even if her worries about him had gone away, she still had a ton of shit weighing her down. Daryl followed behind her, watching, wishing suddenly that they’d never left the cabin.

They could’ve stayed. Spent the winter there and set out in the spring. Or maybe not set out at all. Maybe once they saw the end of winter they would just decide to stay and make a home of it, the two of them together in their own world. He would have done that with her even before he understood how he felt about her. Before he knew she felt the same about him. It’d be domestic as shit but he’d dive head first into every fucking minute of it if it meant she never had to feel like this.
He snorted, causing Beth to look over her shoulder at him with a question arcing across her brow.

“Nothin’,” he said, waving her off, but as she turned back around he knew that, no matter where they ended up, sooner or later Beth would’ve had to go through this anyway.

And who the fuck was he kidding, trying to pretend he didn’t just want that, independent of all the other shit. Him and Beth and their little cabin that was more like home than any other place he’d ever lived.

Right now he’d still be curled up with her, warm in their bed, not wandering cold through the woods at dawn. Exhausted, hurting, heartbroken in a way he didn’t know how to fix. It was tempting, so fucking tempting just to screw it, turn around, abandon the idea of ever finding the others and take her back. Light a fire in the stove, bathe the entire cozy space in woodsy warmth, and when they could no longer see their breath in the air, he would pull every last piece of wet, dirty clothing off her body and hold her close beneath the quilt, fingers stroking her belly just the way she liked. The shaking would stop and she’d fall into a sleep so sound she wouldn’t dream and she’d wake up warm and smiling, and then—

Before he could force his mind onto something else, the flashes came. Images, saturated with colour, moving through his head like a slideshow on double speed. Lips and tongues and so much warm, naked skin. Teeth scraping down sweaty necks. Tanned fingers against pale curves. Hot, wet mouths and other places that were hotter and wetter, and the sounds, Christ, the sounds. Soft sighs and raspy groans. His name on her breath and her name on his.

Daryl shuddered, trying to shake those thoughts right out of his head, but once the film started rolling it wasn’t easy to turn off. He shouldn’t even be thinking like this right now. Shouldn’t even be thinking like this at all except he’d gone and reverted back into the horny teenager he never was. He hadn’t been able to stop since the barn, since kissing Beth was never just kissing, except when it was. Like today, when what she needed from him had nothing at all to do with sex and that screamed at him in a voice that was far louder than the ones in his head. And one look at Beth was enough to quiet things down even more, if not make them shut up altogether.
Still, his want for her throbbed warm and heavy, an ache in his belly that never went away and a shard of panic in his lungs whenever he thought too long on it. But it was getting harder and harder not to think about being with her like that and he wanted to. Fuck, he wanted that, wanted her, and if this was what it was like for everyone else, all the time, all this shit clanging around in their heads without reprieve, then the world was more fucked up than he even realized. And Beth, well—no, this wasn’t the time and the cabin, and all he imagined them doing there, wasn’t an option.

They couldn’t go back. They made their choice to leave and he knew Beth wasn’t ready to give up on the others, not until they had the chance to really look for them. Even hurting, even exhausted, Beth wouldn’t want him giving up either. Convincing her to turn back now would make this entire journey and everything they went through completely meaningless. It would be like kicking her when she was down, dragging her back, telling her that what she wanted was never worth the effort after all.

He couldn’t do that to her, and even more than that, even if part of him wanted to hide away from the world with Beth forever, he couldn’t stand knowing he didn’t do whatever it took to find the others. If they were still out there—Carol, Michonne, Glenn, Maggie— then he had to know. Had to find them. They could’ve made it just the same as him and Beth, that’s what convinced him on this the night they decided to look for them and that’s what would keep him going forward now.

That, and Beth, who never for a minute thought otherwise.

Daryl settled his thoughts as he caught up to Beth, walking alongside her where he could and dropping behind when he couldn’t.  She kept her footsteps nearly silent as she navigated through the trees, and he’d be more impressed if she wasn’t barely holding her head high enough to see where she was going. She still spotted the rabbit, though, spotted it and bagged the thing with a clean head-shot before he even noticed it, since he was too busy focusing on her, yet again, and he needed to quit that. She wasn’t gonna disappear and she wasn’t gonna get lost if he took his eyes off her. At least they’d have something fresh to eat today, if she didn’t spoil it the way her hands shook as she knelt down to gut the rabbit. She had the same thought, though, and without a word passed the cottontail over to Daryl when he stooped down beside her, and leaned into his side while he made quick work of the guts.

They saw no active signs of people as the day wore on, despite the abundance of once-tended fields and well-travelled roads. Just former people, groups of walkers in threes and fours, some of them they dealt with and others they snuck past without drawing attention to themselves. Late that morning they edged close enough to a town to spot a gas station, burnt out and abandoned, its hand-painted sign leaning precariously on a blackened pole cracked down the middle, but somehow still holding together. That road was paved, centre line still visible, and they hurried across it without stopping to look.  It wasn’t until midday, when they found the train tracks that he met Beth’s eyes and they shared a nod. Tracks led northwest, where he’d hoped to head, and without a word they turned to follow them, walking alongside them but inside the trees.

The clear weather had held through the previous days, hours of blue skies and warm sun followed by chilly nights beneath a gradually waning moon. The ground was nearly dry, now, on the fifth full day of good weather, but a couple of hours after they found the tracks, the clouds began rolling in, gradually dimming the orange autumn light back toward that pale, lifeless grey. By late afternoon, the wind had kicked up, blowing at their backs with enough strength to whip Beth’s hair around even when she tucked it down beneath her collar, while overhead the clouds darkened to an ominous steel blue.

The wind creaked through the trunks, whistled high in the branches, and rushed down along the line of the tracks like a wind tunnel. Beth huddled even more into herself, already so worn down that the wind just made it worse. They kept to the trees’ edge but that couldn’t prevent it from licking cold at their necks, their cheeks and ears and fingers, clutched into fists inside their sleeves.

A pair of walkers ambled along the tracks, one of them burnt like the two from that morning. It was only ‘cause the walkers were downwind that Daryl couldn’t smell it, that choking odor of burnt, rotten flesh. Two bolts ended their walking for good, and Daryl dashed quickly up onto the tracks to retrieve them before retreating to the cover of the trees.

“It’s gonna rain hard,” Beth said, the first words she had spoken since that morning at the road. “It’s like it was, when you went hunting.”

He was already zoned out in the relative safety of that oak tree when that storm rolled in and he’d missed the lead up, but he suspected Beth was right. Even the days of dreary rain preceding this stretch of dry weather hadn’t come on like this. No, a proper storm was brewing and they were gonna need to find something more than just trees for shelter.

“Maybe there’s a boxcar or somethin’,” he said, peering down the long line of empty track. “Keep walkin’.”

He still had no idea where they were. These tracks might just as easily lead into a small town as they could lead to miles and miles of desolation without cover in sight. Getting caught in the storm wasn’t high on his list of things to do today and Daryl pushed on a bit faster, conscious of Beth, lagging now despite trying her damnedest not to. Ten minutes on, they had yet to come across any sort of shelter and the first drops were already falling, escalating within a few paces until the rain fell hard and fast in giant, frigid globs. The wind kicked up, too, paying no heed to the supposed cover of the trees, whipping low-hanging branches into their faces, making whirlwinds out of fallen leaves, and tearing the garbage bags from their heads the moment they tried to put them on. Twenty minutes in the sky grew so dark Daryl could barely see ten feet in front of him.

They had no choice but to climb up onto the tracks, trading the treacherous branches and zero visibility for no cover at all and not having to worry about catching their feet on unseen hazards. Afraid of leaving her behind, Daryl grabbed Beth’s hand and locked their fingers together, trying to run fast enough for the both of them. The wind drove the rain down on their heads and necks like stinging needles and puddles gathered amongst the ties, splashing them up to their knees with water and mud with every pounding step. Beth’s fingers were icicles in his and he was soaked right through, jeans wet and heavy and restricting his mobility but he ran on. Ran as fast as he could, almost dragging Beth along with him.

Walkers wobbled down the tracks toward them, impeded by the wind, decayed limbs and ragged clothing flailing around like one of those annoying inflatable things favoured by used car lots trying to draw new business. Crossbows were useless in this kind of wind so they knifed their way through them, boots sliding in the mud, on the slippery old wood now coated in filth, as they, too, fought the wind. The last couple they left behind to toss around like grotesque pinwheels in their futile attempts to follow. Beth shouted something as they ran, but the wind tore her words away and she didn’t try again, just held onto his fingers which were now going numb along with his toes and his face.

They both stumbled. Fell in the mud and struggled back up. Ran for minutes. Ran for hours. Ran forever, until the storm swallowed the whole world in a raging temper tantrum of falling branches and torrential rain and a sky so black it looked like night. And Beth shouted again but this time he heard her, somehow, over the roar of the wind and the drumming of the rain.

There!”

Daryl followed the path of her shaking fingers and spotted the outline of the building, barely visible in the darkness ahead.

They ran for it, feet pounding through the puddles on the tracks before scrambling up the wide metal steps of the long brick structure. The overhanging roof, covering the deck spanning the length of the building’s front, offered no reprieve from the rain, not in wind like this. Daryl banged on the big metal door and nothing banged back, but Beth had her crossbow in arms anyway, somehow finding enough strength to keep her hold steady as he moved to push it open. It wasn’t locked, and though it groaned in protest, the heavy door rolled back along its rusted rails just far enough to let them in.


*~*
to be continued in chapter 30 >>

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