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 All I Can Do by Chantal Kreviazuk.

Trigger Warning: This chapter contains a discussion of a past suicide attempt. If you are at all concerned, please see this expanded warning note, or send me a message here on LJ, or an ask or a message on tumblr. Stay safe.
All Chapters Here
Fall Right In
Chapter 30 – When the Day is Long and the Night is Coming Down on You
*~*
Daryl slammed the door shut again with a resonant clang while Beth stood guard, covering his back. The big rusted latch groaned in protest when he pulled at it, but with a grunt he got it moving, too, and swung it closed to lock them inside. Beth still had her crossbow up when he turned, her gaze moving across the space at eye level while he cast a glance up and around. High windows all along the building’s long sides meant it wasn’t much darker in than out. Dark, but not too dark to see as they quickly set out to clear the building.

Place was empty, except for the stacks of old pallets piled beneath the low ceiling of the small loft space above. Tucked in behind those, in the corner formed beneath the loft, three doors opened to what probably used to be an office, plus a janitor’s closet and a tiny washroom. Daryl headed there along the wide hallway between the back wall and the loft’s hanging edge. The coverage provided by the stairs and the loft was about as ideal as he could hope for, and they could bed down in the office where the floor had carpet, low pile industrial crap but better than bare concrete. Nodding to himself, Daryl cast a quick glance over the space in the fading light, then shrugged off his canvas bag and crossbow, tied the rabbit up to an eye bolt in the ceiling, and turned to make sure Beth had followed him. Whatever spark of a thought was in his brain got whisked away like leaves in the wind the moment he set his eyes on her.

“Beth,” he said, taking in her pallor, her almost violent shivering. “You gotta get out of that wet shit.”


Somewhere amongst the shivering, Beth nodded her head at him, and set her crossbow down on top of the stack of pallets next to his. She kept her eyes on them while working the straps of her pack off her shoulders. “Th-think w-we can m-make a f-fire?”

“Yeah.” Daryl swept his gaze over the stacks. Plenty of them, stacked up good and probably mostly dry, seeing as how the roof wasn’t leaking, and they could crack open the little window in that washroom for ventilation. “Good thinkin’. Now c’mon. Get ‘em off.”

“I-I’m tryin’,” she said, now free of her pack and fumbling at the buttons of her grey sweater with trembling fingers, a hint of a smile tugging at her lips.

If it was a smile, it faded quickly. She got the buttons undone but when she tried to take the sweater off, her arms got caught in the sleeves. Tugging at them only got her more stuck, with her shoulders rolled back so she couldn’t even reach one hand with the other. Daryl didn’t think about what he was doing when he closed the space between them and pulled her arms, one at a time, out of their wet wool prisons. Didn’t think about it at all when the sweater landed on the cement behind her with a wet plop and he moved on to the buttons of her flannel. Only when he pushed the sleeves down her arms, and his fingertips slid over her clammy skin, did it occur to him, and by then his hands were kind of shaking, too.

Daryl flicked his eyes up to her face, unsurprised to find her big blue eyes waiting for him, wide open and steady despite how fucking tired he knew she was. They caught his, hooking in like two harpoons so he had no hope of being able to look away, and his heart was pounding and his hands still shook, even as they kept moving, sliding down her arms until the flannel joined her sweater in a pile on the floor.

She still had the yellow polo, the collar wet but most of it dry enough, and Daryl wasn’t certain if the pressure in his gut was disappointment or relief or some impossible combination of the two. Beth kept her gaze locked to his as he rubbed his palms over her upper arms, warming her skin and the muscles beneath, flexed tight from shivering. He knew what was coming next, what he was gonna do for her because she couldn’t right now, and his heart was already racing but now it ramped up even further. It didn’t mean anything, not like that, no matter what he maybe thought he wanted, but he couldn’t stop the warmth gathering in his belly, a hot pooling of blood threatening to rush south.

Beth reached up to set her trembling hands on his biceps, her grip strong despite the chill and the exhaustion. “‘S o-okay, D-Daryl.”

Leave it to Beth to know exactly what was going on inside his head. Her voice billowed into the air and settled across his shoulders like a warm little cloud. He swallowed hard and tore his eyes away, tried his best to push those other thoughts to the background as he dropped to his knees in front of her, barely noticing the chill of the concrete. Beth carded a shaky hand through his wet hair, her other coming to rest at his shoulder. Daryl’s breath shuddered out as he first removed her gun holster, then opened the two little buckles holding her brown leather belt closed and lifted it away from her body, knife and multi-tool with it. Even with her jeans hanging a bit loose without the belt, it took him two tries to push the button through the hole, knuckles grazing her belly as he did. And it wasn’t any sort of new place to be touching her but she sucked in a sudden sharp breath, muscles of her abdomen quivering beneath his hand.

He shouldn’t have looked up at her, should not have dared to meet her eyes while he lowered her zipper. The sound of the teeth releasing echoed loud in the emptiness of the building, almost as loud as the rush of his pulse in his ears. He stared up at her, at her eyes so wide, so blue even in this dim light. It made him dizzy, the world around him spinning softly on its axis, just enough that he might have fallen to his knees if he wasn’t already there. But he was and he had a job to do and he curled his fingers into her belt loops, fighting to keep his breathing from growing ragged. Fighting to keep away those thoughts in his head, those visions, of this very thing in a different context entirely but he couldn’t keep them away.

He kept looking at Beth, though, his eyes locked on hers, that tether stretched taut between them. It hummed in the air around them, pulsed down inside to swirl warm and deep in his belly. Beth stared back at him, fingers still twirling shakily through his hair while he fought with the jeans. The wet denim proved uncooperative, his fingers replaced with eight fumbling thumbs, and he had work at it to finally get them moving. She was still wearing those red shorts, the ones that hugged her ass like no men’s underwear were ever meant to, and they pulled dangerously low when he finally got her jeans down past her hips, exposing much of her belly to his greedy eyes. Pale skin and muscle beneath that his fingers itched to touch.

Daryl swallowed hard, the sound of it so loud he was sure she heard it. Knew she had, when she swallowed, too and brushed her thumb across his forehead. He felt the blaze of it reaching down to his frozen toes, his fumbling fingers, rising up his neck until his eyes had to be burning with it. His want for her, his—god, all of it, everything he felt for her, hammering inside his body as loud as the rain hammered on the roof.

Beth turned her hand to cradle the side of his head in her palm, fingertips curling gently against his scalp, and both their breath tumbled out shaky and rushed. It wasn’t quite cold enough but he imagined them mingling, two little puffs of air meeting in the middle and swirling together into something bigger than either could be on their own. Daryl wanted to abandon her jeans and glide his thumb along the edge of those shorts, tease that perfect, smooth line of pale skin, hear her soft giggle overhead when it tickled.

With reluctance he kept going, trying not to make this into something it wasn’t except he couldn’t shake the thought that it was. That it wasn’t just a bad case of the shivers that landed him here, on his knees in front Beth Greene, sliding her jeans down past her strong, toned thighs.

His fingers dipped into the backs of her knees, pulling a little sigh out of her she didn’t even try to hold in, and he gave into the urge to do it again. Fingertips retraced the contours, the soft concavity flaring out into the firmer curves of her calves. The sound Beth made in response had a bit more weight to it, though still mostly breath, and her eyes held steady to his as he touched her there again, barely brushing this time and feeling a shiver roll through her that had nothing to do with being cold.

But she was cold, and he reined his own selfish desires in and carried on. When he could pull no further, when the wet denim pooled around her ankles, Daryl had to pull his gaze away from Beth to work at getting her boots off her. He felt her eyes on him as he tossed the boots away and went for her socks, heavy with that force still flowing between them even though he couldn’t see her face. The puddle of jeans tried their best to devour her ankles before he could get her free of them, and her feet were white and wrinkled underneath. He looked up at her as he lifted one foot up to rub it between his palms, remembering when it was Beth kneeling down by his feet, rubbing the warmth back into them. The little smile that bloomed on her face as he switched one for the other told him she was remembering that, too.

Being out of the wet clothes was a good thing, but not as good as it woulda been if she had something else to change into. She’d had on everything she owned and almost all of it was drenched. They ought to think about making a run, finding her a jacket, at least, instead of that useless little sweater. He left her for a moment to get the dry socks from his bag, helped her into them, then stood up again, thinking to rub her arms for a moment before he got to building a fire.

But Beth pushed him back, fingertips prodding at his sternum. “Y-you t-too,” she said, with a lift of her chin. “Y-you’re just a-as wet as m-me.”

Of course he was, and of course she was right. He wasn’t surprised when she looked prepared to watch him, as she rubbed her own arms and hopped around on the spot trying to generate her own heat. Watch him she did, and the tremble in his fingers had nothing to do with the cold, not even anything to do with Beth dancing around with those long legs all but bare.

Daryl pulled off his vest and tossed it on top of his bag, then started on the buttons of the denim jacket. This wouldn’t be the first time he and Beth stripped down to the bare minimum, but things had changed since then, and he couldn’t force his pulse to slow back down to normal, even with the cold air and the chill from all that brick and concrete prodding at his skin with every layer he pulled off. Had they stayed at the cabin, chances were they’d have long past this point, locked safely away together each night behind those big heavy doors with nothing stopping them. Nothing except him, but Beth Greene was a woman he’d learned not to underestimate.

His boxers were damp, but wearable, when he struggled out of his soaking wet jeans. Undershirt, too, once he finally got out of all his shirts, and a bit of extra tension wicked away from Daryl’s shoulders with the knowledge that he wouldn’t have to take it off.  That he could have a bit more time to figure out how to go about telling her, to find the words for this amongst the jumble in his head. The weight may have lifted from his shoulders but a different one sunk down into his gut, with knowing he would have to. Somehow, he would have to tell her what he couldn’t even tell his own brother, ‘til he found out for himself.

“D-Daryl...”

Dragging himself out of his head, Daryl looked back up at Beth, who despite her continued hopping was shivering even harder now than she had been. No longer wet but just cold, ‘cause he’d taken too long worrying about his own stupid shit when he should have been getting the fire going.

“C’mon,” he said, holding out his hand for her. “Gotta get you warm.”

Didn’t take long to tear the pallets apart with both of them working at it. Like before, when the focus needed to use her crossbow allowed her to push aside her exhaustion, the act of breaking down the pallets and stacking them up to burn drove away the worst of her shivering. Beth found an old packing blanket hidden amongst the stacks and once the fire was blazing, more deconstructed pallet pieces piled nearby to keep it going, she laid out their canvas atop the pallet she dragged over to sit on and curled up in it. Daryl got the rabbit cooking and then propped another pallet up against the wall for drying their wet things.

“Get under here,” Beth said, when he finally got her jeans right side out and hung up next to his.

Beth lifted the edges of the blanket and he slipped in behind her, leaned back against the wall with his knees drawn up. Beth mimicked his pose, her back to his chest, her body between his knees, and together they folded the blanket up tight around them. It was thin and scratchy and smelled vaguely mouldy, but it was dry, and with the fire in front of them and Beth’s back to his chest, the chill from the rain and the cold quickly seeped out of his body.

Beth wasn’t shivering anymore, either, and her legs and arms were cool against his, but not enough to worry him. She’d been quiet and that didn’t change now, but her thumbs moved in gentle circles over his knuckles and something about her felt more settled tonight than she had been in days.

Daryl ducked inside the blanket to hook his chin over her shoulder, and in response Beth tipped her head to rest it against his. “You okay, Beth? I mean really?”

“No, I’m not,” she said, without hesitation, fingertips pressing into the backs of his hands. “But I’ve been thinking about how I can change that.”

Daryl waited a minute to see if she would continue on her own, and when she didn’t he tightened his arms around her.  “You wanna talk about it?”

Beth gave a little nod, and pulled her hands away from his to fumble with something beneath the blanket. A moment later she pulled her left arm out. She held it up, turning so her inner wrist faced him and only then, when he saw the scar, did he realize she had taken off the collection of bracelets she usually wore over it.

“The day I did this, I thought—I really believed I wanted out,” she said, sounding more herself, despite the subject matter, than she had in days. “And for a long time I thought that made me weak, wanting out and tryin’ to do something about it. I know everyone else thinks that way.”

That hung in the air a moment, a sharp little blade that swung down to catch him in the gut.

I sure as hell never cut my wrists looking for attention!

Like always, though, she read his mind. With the hand still tucked inside the blanket, Beth found one of his and squeezed. Didn’t make it right, what he yelled at her. None of what he did that day up until he broke down in her arms would ever be right, but she’d be the first to say they were past all that. It mattered, it happened, and maybe in some twisted kinda way it needed to happen. But it could stay there, stay where it was, and have no place in who he was now.

“I know what people think,” she repeated, pulling him away from the past and back to her words, and beneath the blanket she turned her hand to lace their fingers together. “But it wasn’t about weakness at all. It was about me being strong enough to want to live, and I did want to. I do. I knew it the moment the blood started flowin’, there was this feelin’ in my chest...”

A heavy gust of wind surged against the building, hard enough to rattle the high windows and send a rush of air in through the office window.  It stirred the flames of their fire, throwing up a cloud of sparks and ash. Beth breathed with it, the pull of air into her lungs as deep as the wind raging outside, and though Daryl couldn’t see her face he imagined how she would look right now. Those big eyes shining with emotion, with everything she felt then and everything she felt now as she remembered that day. A determined set to her jaw, the same determination she showed in everything she did, whether she knew it or not. This couldn’t be easy for her, talking about this, but if she was talking about it she had a good reason.

“Go on,” he whispered, pulling her tighter to him to offset the chill in the air as another surge of wind rose up around them.

“It was screamin’ at me,” Beth said, voice dropping to a raspy whisper that was somehow louder than her normal way of speaking, louder than the weather or the crackle of flames. She patted her chest over top of the blankets and took in another impossibly deep breath before continuing. “This thing burnin’ in my lungs, a poundin’ in my head and my heart and, like, this need. This longing that came on so strong it made me dizzy, but it made me understand, too.”

She twisted in his arms, just a bit, just enough to force him to pull his head away from her shoulder. Their gazes met and he was right about the way she looked.  Whatever the thing was, back then, burning in her lungs, sure as shit burned now in her eyes, and seeing it there stirred up those wings in his chest.

“I didn’t want to die, I wanted to live.” Beth swallowed hard and pulled her other hand free of the blanket to trace a steady finger back and forth along the silvery scar. “Nobody really got it, besides Andrea, but—but I think I had to cut my wrist to believe it. To believe it here.”

She pressed both hands over her heart, and the weight of what she was saying hung there in the air, too. Heavy, pressing in from all sides, something once hidden now refusing to be ignored. Like she never said the words out loud before and maybe she hadn’t. He’d done his best to keep away from that house after the shit went down at the barn, but he wasn’t oblivious. He heard the screams, Beth and Maggie without a shred of understanding there on either side, at least about that. After the farm, he never heard it come up again and maybe she never had told anyone. Maybe she never thought anyone would understand and yet here she was, telling him, and he didn’t know what to make of that, beyond the spark of surprise. Surprise and honour, or something very like it, that she felt she could trust him with this, something she obviously held so close to her heart.

While his thoughts ran amuck, Beth’s fiery gaze lost its focus, and she stared into the past and whispered, “The pain doesn’t go away. You just make room for it.”

His skin prickled, a chill that rose the hairs on his neck and his arms and wiggled down inside to tug at his guts into tiny little knots. Before he could speak, or try to, her gaze sharpened again, catching once more on his.

“This, the whole thing with the nightmares a-and everything, it’s kind of like that. I’ve been just letting it wear me down, thinkin’ it was gonna keep at it until there wasn’t anythin’ left of me. What happened with those men, the—the flashback—it scared me so bad, Daryl.”

Sensing she wasn’t done, Daryl just nodded at her to continue. She flashed him a small smile, just a quick one, and wriggled around a little more, folding herself into some sort of Beth pretzel so she could lean against his bent leg, facing him, all but the bottom third of her legs still wrapped in the blanket.

“It still scares me, what happened,” Beth said, gaze dropping down now, voice a regular sort of whisper instead of that impassioned one. “It scares me that it could happen again. But it got me thinkin’.”

Unable to stop himself, Daryl lifted his hand up to trail his fingers down the side of her face. “Whatcha thinkin’, girl?”

She flicked her eyes back up, tongue darting out to wet her chapped bottom lip. Daryl repeated the path of his fingers and watched her fight to keep looking at him, instead of letting her eyes flutter closed like they wanted to. At the end of the line he dropped his hand down to curl at the back of her neck, thumb just grazing along her jaw, and Beth let out a little sigh, the one that always trickled right down inside him to curl warm in his belly.

Beth’s lips pulled into a little smile, and she again held up her scarred wrist for him to see. “I didn’t survive this—” she rubbed her thumb along the length of her scar “—just to let some ghost get the better of me. I’m gonna fight it, Daryl. I-I know you said, but I think I had to—I’m choosin’ to fight it, now. I want to fight it. I believe that I can.”

That was the Beth he knew, worn down to the point of exhaustion, barely warm enough not to shiver, but so, so strong. Strong and beautiful and determined, everything he knew she was, and continued to prove over and over. He was so fucking proud of her and he couldn’t fathom a day when he wouldn’t be, when he’d set eyes on this woman and not feel the rush of pride coursing through his veins. His heart pounded with it, warming every last inch of his being with a heat far richer than any fire could ever do, and stoking that other flame, the one that always burned for her in the deepest part of him. It sparked and flared like the fire beside them. His girl was gonna make it. She didn’t need no redneck asshole worrying about fixing her problems when all along, she was gonna take them on herself.

Of course, all he could say, despite everything in his head, was some whispered thing that mighta been her name, as he curled his fingers into her now-warm neck and hoped somehow, she could understand what it meant. Like maybe she could see inside his heart like she could see inside his head sometimes and understand, better than he ever could, this thing inside of him that was entirely hers.

Beth closed her hand around his wrist and squeezed, thumb moving in a slow arc over the sensitive skin there, starting a shiver in his nerves that whispered all the way down inside him.

“This scar, it’s always gonna be a part of me,” she said, blinking slowly at him, that same blaze still burning in the depths of her eyes. “But it isn’t all of me. It doesn’t define who I am. Gorman’s just a different kind of scar.”

Jagged lines of mangled skin stung with an echo of the strap which cleaved them, sharp for an instant and then fading to a throbbing ache, but not before stealing every last bit of air from his lungs. He struggled to breathe in against the weight which crashed down onto the centre of his chest, like he’d had the wind knocked out of him only he hadn’t moved. She couldn’t know what she just said. Couldn’t possibly know. Inside his chest his heart pounded, beat against his ribcage like a freight train screaming down the tracks, rising up to fill his skull and  drown out the rain, the rattle of the wind, the words Beth was speaking but he couldn’t hear. He could only see her lips moving as his fingers, his toes, the long-dead tissue on his wreck of a back, his gut and his lungs and his cock picked up the rhythm and pounded in sync to a heart that never before beat as hard as it did now for Beth fucking Greene.

Something inside him cracked, broke apart into tiny shards of glass that blew away in the wind, a dark roiling blackness that engulfed him until she was all he could see. Beth, backlit with a dancing orange glow off the fire, her wild, golden hair arcing around her like a flaming halo, but even in the darkness she was bright. So fucking bright that he had no choice. He took her face in his hands and kissed her hard.

Sound rushed back in, whooshing like the wind, and the pounding in his ears sunk back into his chest. The storm still raged out there somewhere but it was Beth he heard, her little moan into his mouth, the huff of her breath, hot on his face, and the creaking of the pallet beneath her as she moved. Strong little hands grabbed hold of his shirt to both push him back and close the space between them to almost nothing. Another groan bled into the air and he couldn’t tell whose it was, but he tasted it on his lips, thick like toffee and warm like flame, and he glided his tongue along the underside of hers and felt the shudder roll through her body and into his.

The pallet creaked again with the weight of Beth sliding into his lap, her strong, bare thighs bracketing his. But the smoothness of them, slide of skin on skin, jarred him to reality, to Beth’s reality like a slap in the face, a kick to the gut threatening to knock the wind out of him all over again. He broke away from her, his breath ragged, grimy hands still pressed to her pale cheeks. He released her as though she was gonna burn his palms if he held on another second, and tried to speak, tried to get his tongue to form the apology he intended but all that came out was a twisted mess of non-words and he mentally kicked his inability to ever fucking speak.

Beth uncurled her hands from the front of his shirt and pressed her own grimy palms to his cheeks, forcing him to look at her just as he tried to look away. “Daryl.”

He swallowed around the lump of concrete in his throat and forced himself to look at her, at her big eyes gazing calmly at him in the dark. “I’m sorry—Beth, fuck, I’m sorry.”

She swiped her thumbs across his cheeks, through the wetness there he hadn't even noticed until right then. “Anytime, Daryl, okay? I said it and I meant it.”

He sucked in a breath, hating how it shuddered, even as her words reached him. She had said that. She said it and she meant it because Beth Greene didn’t say things just to say them. He knew that. He trusted her to know what she wanted, but still...

“You don’t gotta worry about that, either,” Beth continued, her words and the tender look in her eyes reaching inside him to cradle his stuttering heart. “When you want to, I want to.”

Finally, he drew an easy breath into his lungs. “Yeah?”

She snorted softly as a flush of red crept into her pale cheeks. “I always want to.”

“I—” Daryl tried to clear his throat but that concrete only thickened, hardening there into an immoveable lump. The desire to put into words what this was, him and her, flared hot in his gut. He wanted to yell it from the roof, shout into the wind until his voice was hoarse, if he could somehow find the words.

He couldn’t, not tonight, but then Beth slid her hands into his hair and pulled him in for another kiss, this one as soft as the previous one was hard, and he knew he didn’t have to try. Not right now. The tremble in her lips matched his own as they slid against one another with the lightest of pressure, like their first kiss back at the ledge. Something sweetly tentative about it even as she tilted her head to deepen the kiss just a little. The salt of tears mingled in with the taste of her on his tongue and he didn’t know whose they were but it didn’t matter anyway.

Beth’s teeth pressed into his bottom lip as they broke apart, catching and holding a moment before she released him. Her eyes were shining but his were, too, and his heart beat with something apart from the spike of fear in his chest or the stir of arousal in his belly.

“Are you okay, Daryl?” Beth asked, reaching again to wipe the wetness from his cheeks.

He let out a little choked chuckle, because no, he wasn’t okay and never had been, and in the void left behind when that piece of him broke away earlier lived just enough awareness to let him see that without the all other shit pressing in to muddle it all up. But he also was, in a way he never expected to be, and it must’ve been that showing on his face, making Beth’s smile stretch wide enough to crinkle in the corners of her eyes as she gazed at him.

Daryl settled his hands at her hips and finally found the words to answer her. “Sweetheart, I’m a fuckin’ mess.”

Her giggle rippled through the air, a warm little sound which made his heart pound that much harder. She draped her arms around his shoulders and tipped her head until her forehead touched his. “That makes two of us.”

Daryl curled his fingers into her through the thin little shorts, pushed aside everything in his head that wasn’t about her. “You’re gonna be okay.”

“I am.” Beth nodded against his forehead before she pulled back again to look at him. “I’m goin’ to change the dreams.”

“You’re gonna— what?”

She giggled again, softly, and the pressure of her arms at his shoulders deepened just the slightest as she adjusted her position on his lap. “The nightmares aren’t gonna stop, just ‘cause I want them to, you know.”

“Yeah,” he rasped, distracted by the heat of her bare thighs against his, of just how close they were, and how few layers actually separated them.

He was already hard, couldn’t help but be when he was with her like this, but he felt it now, that ache for her, spurred by the heat of her body even though she left the slightest breath of space between her and him.

He curled his fingers into her again, into the bit of softness at her hips, fighting the itch to pull her closer, to press his erection between her legs without their jeans in the way. Really feel her, the heat of her, the plump flesh of her cunt teasing him through those red shorts. Wouldn’t have to talk her into rocking against him, into grinding down on him, seeking that fiction he knew she wanted. Taking it, with the wet of her soaking through those damn shorts, those little whimpers she made ramping up until they bounced off the brick walls, filled up the empty space with their echoes as she got herself off. God, she would, too. She’d want to. She’d do it and bring him with her and Christ, he was dizzy.

Dizzy and nauseous and in his lap, Beth shuddered and dropped her forehead down again to meet his. Only when she whimpered did he realize how hard he was holding onto her. How much his fingers shook against her back. He could do it. Could pull her against him, rut into her the way his hips and his cock ached to do. She’d flash him a wide-eyed look first before the lids dropped down and the blue of them clouded with the same heat singing through his veins. The sounds she made would deepen until she’d moan long and loud, like she did in the woods except she wouldn’t try to hide it.

That’s it girl, he’d whisper to her, pushing against her back to bring them together harder. Gonna make you scream...

The giggle that flitted out of her mouth, a gravelly sound he hadn’t heard from her since he gave her a backrub, sent him crashing back out of his head. His guts twisted around like a bed of snakes at the thought that he mighta said any part of that out loud, that Beth might’ve heard it, that she’d want it, that he’d have to figure out how to pull that shit out of his head and make it real.

But Beth just giggled again, this time a little more breathy, a little less like the sounds he imagined her making in his wandering brain. “You tryin’ to distract me?”

Daryl cleared his throat. Willed the roiling in his gut to stay there and not steal away his words as well as his wits.

“Tryin’ not to,” he admitted, drawing his trembling fingers along the band of her shorts, teasing the skin there because no matter what his nerves were telling him, not touching her was worse than maybe touching her too much. He took in a breath, surprised to find it more or less steady. “You’re tellin’ me somethin’ important, remember?”

Oh,” she said, drawing out the word as though she hadn’t. “Right. Nightmares.”

“Nightmares.” He gave her a little nod, gliding his thumb up her spine that way she liked. Absolutely not thinking about the softness of her skin beneath his fingers or about how much more of it he had yet to touch. “Gonna change ‘em?”

“Gonna try,” she said, voice dropping to a whisper as the motion of his thumb drew out a little shiver.

Daryl swallowed hard as burst of heat chased away the unpleasantness in his gut, settled in like a shot of top shelf whiskey, and decided to stay. “You got to. Try.”

She pulled at the ends of his hair, fingertips grazing the back of his neck in a way that made him shiver, too. “Before I go to sleep, I’m going to tell my brain what’s going to happen and what’s not going to happen. I don’t know if it’ll work, but, well...”

He couldn’t fault her on her logic, even if he had no clue whether that would help even if she could change the dreams. But it was better than doing nothing, better than just letting the dreams run her ragged, and knowing Beth, she might just manage it. If anyone could, his bet was on her. “Place to start, right?”

“Right.” She yawned so deep he swore he heard her jaw crack, then dropped forward to cross her arms down his back and rest her forehead on his shoulder. “I’m so tired, Daryl.”

“‘Cause you ain’t hardly slept in days, woman,” he said, and wrapped his arms around her back the same sort of way as she did. Glad, despite the ongoing ache, that he hadn’t acted on any of his baser instincts. “You got a plan, now, though. You’re gonna sleep tonight.”

She hummed into his shoulder. “You gonna sleep with me?”

The storm chose that very moment to rattle the building with a particularly forceful gust of wind, and lightning flashed in through the windows overhead. Beth pulled her head up from his shoulder to blink down at him, eyes wide, a little giggle on her lips.

“I mean...”

The giggle took over, and he could feel his ears flaming, burning as hot as the flush spreading across her cheeks. He knew what she meant. Of course he did, but where his mind was at in regards to Beth it didn’t take long for his thoughts to leap out of bounds and damn it if her head hadn’t gone exactly where his did.  He couldn’t quite look at her, which was ridiculous, considering, and she must’ve known that too, because her hands were back on his cheeks again, forcing him to face her. Beth, with her little smile that tugged at his belly until the warmth there bubbled up, sparkly like champagne or some shit.

Keeping up with the things this woman made him feel was liable to give him an aneurysm, but he let her draw him out, let himself look. Met those bright, tired eyes that never wanted to let him look away.

Beth.

He never wanted anyone before like he wanted her, but he didn’t wanna fuck her on the floor of some old railway building. Didn’t want to fuck her at all. Well, he did, but not just that. Not just that at all and there were words for what he wanted to do with Beth, words that didn’t exist in his vocabulary. Words he couldn’t even say inside his head. He knew how to fuck, not really all that well, but he didn’t know anything about this. Didn’t know if he could give that to her, make it good for her the way she deserved even if he managed to break out of these shackles and let this go where it wanted to go. Let Beth take the reins as she seemed eager to do and somehow find the strength not to stop her.

The inevitability of that beat with a fresh ache through his still-hard cock and shook in his fingers, jittery and restless. He was a walking contradiction but if she knew it, Beth didn’t let on. She touched their foreheads together once more and smoothed her arms down his back and whispered to him like she might soothe a startled horse. The quiet lilt of her voice sunk in and pulled out the fears that had him chewing on his lip again without him knowing, not until he stopped. All that remained was Beth, the comforting weight of her astride his thighs, the warmth of her in his arms and the sound of her name beating in his chest.

“Go on and lie down,” he said to her, after just holding on for a few quiet minutes. From the fire, the sound of grease sizzling against flaming wood signalled that their slow-cooking rabbit was probably done. “I’ll get the rabbit. Secure the place up a bit, all right?”

“Okay, Daryl.”

With one final glide of her fingers through his hair, nails raking his scalp in a way that left his whole head tingling, Beth slid out of his lap and rose from the pallet, taking the blanket with her. Daryl took down the rabbit to cool and made his final circuit, moving mostly on autopilot through the empty building. The heat faded away, arousal settling down to a strong simmer in the background, and Beth’s words worked their way to the forefront of his mind.

Just when he thought he knew the depths of her strength, she went and knocked his knees out from him all over again. Maybe she was right. Maybe—and all he had were maybes, he didn’t know—but maybe she really had needed to get this far down in order to build herself up again. He didn’t like it, but then, there wasn’t anything about seeing Beth hurting that he would ever manage to enjoy. But if he set that aside, pulled out the threads of truth, he saw where she was coming from. He saw how the inspiration she needed could be found in the lowest places imaginable.

More than that, though, there was a little flame of his own burning in his chest. Beyond the one that always burned for Beth. Hope, he thought, or something kinda like it.

Wouldn’t kill you to have a little faith.

If anyone could change the outcome of her dreams, it would be Beth. Beth, who stared death in the face and decided to live. She would stand up to Gorman, too, Gorman and his ghost, and she would win.

Beth Greene was the strongest woman—the strongest person—he knew. And he hoped she was starting to see that, too.

*~*

All I can do is love you to pieces
Give you a shoulder to cry when you need it
When the day is long
And the night is coming down on you
All I can do


Expanded trigger warning notes here. Some extra thoughts on this topic you might find interesting even if you aren't triggered by it.
Daryl & Sexuality meta here.
Random note: Wool is actually a really good material for keeping warm even when wet. However. Beth’s sweater is short and has a deep v neck on it, which basically means everything underneath it gets completely soaked, too.



To be continued in chapter 31>>

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