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 Title by Artist.

All Chapters Here


Fall Right In
Chapter 31 – I’m Lookin’ for Me, You’re Lookin’ for You


*~*

Daryl awoke to a flash of lightning through the small window, illuminating the little space for an instant before throwing everything into almost complete blackness. Just outside the office door, the remnants of their fire glowed faintly orange, but otherwise cast no light at all beyond the coals. He wasn’t certain what woke him, whether it was the rumble of thunder or the lightning itself, or the rain pounding on the roof at least twice as hard as it was when he fell asleep. Nothing felt amiss. His usual internal alarm remained silent, but he kept still and listened all the same.

In front of him, Beth murmured something in her sleep, and—for the moment satisfied that their shelter had not been disturbed—Daryl settled back in with her, pressing his nose into nape of her warm neck to breathe in the scent of her, sweat and smoke and rain. He had missed holding her, falling asleep with her, even if the floor beneath them wasn’t at all forgiving.

Beth mumbled again, and her legs, bare and bent in line with his, stretched out slowly, the backs of her knees pushing into the fronts of his. She so rarely moved in her sleep except for when she dreamed and Daryl held his breath, waiting, hoping that this was just her waking up and not the stirrings of a nightmare. She’d been so certain, before they lay down for the night, that she was going to change the dreams, and after not sleeping more than half an hour at a time for days she fucking deserved a good night’s rest. Daryl pressed his palm a little more firmly into her belly, hoping she would pick the third option and just stay peacefully sleeping.

But she didn’t move again after the initial stretch, nor did she wake, and Daryl tried to let go of the tension in his own body to keep it from transferring into her. He wouldn’t sleep again, especially after sleeping right through last night, but there was no reason yet to get up. More reason to stay, since he couldn’t leave the blanket without waking her or letting in the cold. That, and lying here with Beth topped the list as the best thing he could possibly be doing right now. So he breathed deep and felt the even deeper rise and fall of her back to his chest as she slept on through the storm raging outside. He listened to it as he lay there with her, warm, not entirely comfortable but not particularly concerned about it, either, so long as she slept.

And she did, for a while, the rhythm of her breathing lulling him not quite to sleep, but somewhere warm and floaty where each exhale washed over him like little waves lapping at some distant shore. He drifted there for a time, aware of Beth’s warm body nestled against his but the chill of the floor, the unforgiving surface beneath them faded away. A little space made of just Beth and Daryl, weightless, safe, just far enough outside of the world that it couldn’t quite touch them.

Awareness of the rustling trickled in slowly, and at first he thought of it like footsteps in the sand, like the waves in his head had transported them to some actual beach. Beth murmured something and he thought, it’s okay, go back to sleep, but the crunching of sand only got louder, and the wind gusted, whining through the trees, quiet at first but soon ramping up like a kettle building steam, hooking onto his eardrums to pull him up with it.

Daryl sucked in a breath like he’d burst out of the water for real, jolting awake as a crash of thunder sounded overhead and in his arms, Beth let out another loud whimper—not the wind at all—and pulled her knees almost up to her chest. Not the crunch of sand, but the rasp of Beth’s legs against the canvas as they shot back down, heels knocking hard into his shins.

“No. No,” she mumbled, at the tail end of another drawn-out whine. “Not Daryl. No. No...”

Shit.

“Beth,” he said, struggling to get his tongue to work. He pushed against her stomach as she whimpered again and launched into another volley of Nos, each one more frantic than the last. “Beth. Beth, c’mon. Beth. Beth!

With a gasp, she jerked awake, launching forward and out of his arms, landing flat against the dingy carpet. He couldn’t see but he could hear her breathing, rapid and shuddering, and his pounding heart sank down into his stomach as he reached for her, settling there like a block of concrete as she curled into his chest. A tremor rolled beneath his hands, just a fine little wave that ramped up while her breathing shifted from plain shuddery to those silent, wracking sobs and something else, too. Something whispered, over and over, too muffled, too mixed up in her tears to understand. All he could do was tug her close beneath their blanket, drag the pad of his thumb along her spine, try to soothe her with the usual litany of words.

And silently curse at the world for never letting her get any fucking rest.

First night she finally slept, first fucking night she got that glimmer of hope back in her eyes and now this. Right back where she started, her tears soaking into his shirt and her whole small body shaking, suffering the aftermath of the terror living inside her head.

Daryl pushed his face into her hair and tried to will away the pricking thing burning behind his eyes. “Beth. Beth. So fuckin’ sorry, girl.”

Still muffled into his chest, Beth’s mumbling got a little louder, until she pulled back just far enough that he could hear her saying his name. She took in another shuddery breath, which left her in a long huff of air and ended in something like a gasp of surprise. “Daryl. Daryl, it worked.”

Oh.” His own release of breath matched hers, a sound part air, part laugh, as the pulse in his stomach once again rose up where it ought to be. If she meant what he thought she meant...  “Beth?”

He felt the twisting of her arms as she swiped the tears from her face, and a second later she wriggled up until they were lying face to face. It was too dark to see her, even the coals from the fire behind her didn’t cast enough light, but in his mind he knew what he would find there if he could. Those big eyes, still red, still glistening, but wide open and bright, too, that spark blazing in them beneath the tears, hot enough to burn right through them.

Beth touched her palm to his face, thumb sweeping a slow arc across his cheekbones, her touch light as a feather but buzzing with the weight of what she was about to say. “It was still bad, but I-I did it, Daryl. I said. I said he wasn’t gonna trick me this time and he didn’t. It worked.”

A million thoughts swirled around his head, bouncing off each other like bumper cars on fast forward, but the main one, the important one, was an echo of her words. It worked. He would ask her later to explain what she meant about being tricked, to tell him more about the dream itself. For now he let the questions go and focused on the burst of relief, the trickle of something kind of like joy blooming in his chest.

Pulling her close, Daryl smoothed his hand up and down her back and murmured into her ear. “Good, Beth. That’s good.

Her next breath definitely held a note of laughter to it, puffing warm on his neck. “Now if I can get them to stop...”

“Don’t get ahead a yourself.” He dropped a kiss down at her temple and glided all his fingers across her back, smiling into her skin when she sighed in that warm little way.

It worked,” she whispered into his neck. “It worked. It worked...”

It worked. Wasn’t perfect, wasn’t any sort of quick fix, but it worked, in more ways than one. He held onto her, listening to her whisper those same two words over and over. Soothing herself, now, as the trembling settled and her breathing slowed, evened, lost the gasp and hitch of crying. And that was where it counted, if she could come back to herself that quick ‘cause of one little thing—whether it was the change itself or just the fact that she now knew she could. She could and she did and maybe the dreams weren’t gone, but she already found a way to make them less devastating.

Oh, this woman. This strong fucking woman.

Beth trailed her fingers back and forth along the neck of his undershirt, barely brushing his skin but leaving behind a tingling trail in her wake. “I am strong.”

There he was, speaking out loud what he only meant to think in his head, but he couldn’t regret it when she repeated it in that voice. Whispered, sure, but the words had a backbone of steel like the woman herself, and feeling that conviction from her revived that flutter of wings in his chest. Their sweeping beats drove a pulse of warmth right through him, from his pounding heart, through his belly, right down to his toes.

“You are,” he said, lips brushing against her still damp cheek. “An’ anyone tells you different’s a fuckin’ liar.”

Beth, nosing gently at his Adam’s Apple, chuckled in a way that only deepened the warmth inside him. “Even me?”

“‘Specially you,” he said, fingers flexing at the small of her back.

She giggled again, just as softly. Her gliding fingers travelled up his chest, drawing a little pattern of circles up over his collarbone and along the ridge of his shoulder until she reached his neck. As she slid her hand into his hair she traded her prodding nose for the light scrape of teeth over his quickening pulse. He tried to fight the resulting shudder, but lost, and flattened his palm at her back as it rippled through him.

Before it settled, Beth scratched her nails down the back of his scalp and nibbled down his throat, little nips of her teeth and swipes of her tongue until she reached the place where his clavicles met. The point of her tongue swirled around the little hollow there before she bit down on the bone, drawing a moan out of him he didn’t expect and couldn’t’ve stopped if he tried.

Jesus, Beth,” he said, almost out of reflex by now except he meant it.

Fresh off a nightmare, he wasn’t sure she should be taking this where she seemed to be heading, but no matter what logic his brain tried to force, his body had other ideas. Before he could think better of it, he pressed in at the small of her back and pulled her flush against him, pushing his half-hard cock into her warm, soft belly.

“Mmm, Daryl.” Beth arched against him as she followed the line of his collarbone up toward his shoulder with that same agonizing mix of tongue and teeth.

Just that little movement fired off a round of those frissons in his belly, bursting out like a starburst of fireworks inside. She wasn’t gonna make this easy on him but when did she ever? He groaned, felt it building in his gut long before it rumbled out of his lips, and Beth laughed against his chest, a rich, gravelly sort of sound that shot straight to his cock.

“Tell me to stop,” she whispered, voice just as raspy as her laugh, arching again as he literally hardened against her belly. “But not ‘cause of where you think my head’s at right now.”

All he could say in response was her name, the rest of his words stolen away by the gathering heat, the weight of the blood surging into his cock, overriding the little spike of fear poking at his nerves. He felt her smile against his neck, and with her nose she marked a path up toward his ear. Her breath tickled down inside, starting a shudder rippling out from the base of his skull where her fingernails scratched tiny circles, to the tips of his own fingers pressed warm against her back.

The glide of her tongue along the shell of his ear kept the shivers rolling up his neck beneath her fingers, while her breath teased his eardrum in maddening little huffs which only deepened them. Fuck, she felt good, too fucking good, and before that spike could dig any deeper he gave in and pushed against her belly again, pressed his cock into that perfect cradle of soft and warm and firm, building just enough friction to rumble another moan through his chest. Beth moaned, too, a breathy little ohhh that floated down into his ear, right before she dipped her head and bit down hard on the cord of muscle in his neck.

He shuddered hard. “Fuck, Beth.”

Her giggle kept that gravelly tone to it, buzzing against his skin as she nibbled down from beneath his ear to the join of his shoulder. She paused there, though, nosing at him again like a little piglet rooting in the dirt only a thousand times more adorable, and he wanted to laugh, too, wanted the light little flutter building in his chest to bubble out of him the way it bubbled out of her. But it stuck there and all he could do was draw circles at her back and breathe out a heavy sigh as she once more arched her body against his.

He could roll her over. She would let him. Turn her onto her back and cover her small body with his, rock down into her through those goddamn red shorts. Get rid of the shorts altogether and sink right inside, bare and warm and hard and wet and so, so good.

And there it was—the tremble in his arms he couldn’t stop, even as the beads of pleasure burst in his belly. That spike of fear, or something, whatever this was hiding deep in his gut and now rising to the surface, a cold little island amidst all the coiling heat. Enough to pull him out. To rattle around the inside of his chest like a pinball pinging off every doubt he ever had. Beth smoothed her palm down along his arm, her lips pressed to the fluttering pulse in his throat. He didn’t want to stop but he didn’t know how not to, didn’t know how to push beyond this, and he let out a shaking breath and silently begged her not to let go.

He didn’t think he said anything out loud, but she stayed anyway, the lean length of her warm body still up against his, her delicate thumb tracing along a vein in his arm from the bend of his elbow to where it disappeared beneath the muscle. His whole body sagged into a pile of trembling flesh and bones made of rubber, except for that part of him still achingly hard and cradled against the warmth of Beth’s belly.

“It’s okay, Daryl,” she murmured, the vibration of her words against his chest louder than the sound of them in his ears. “It’s okay.”

She was too good for him, this woman, but he knew by now that what he thought about that didn’t matter. Only mattered that she wanted to be. He slid his shaky palm up her back to cup the back of her head, buried his fingers down into the loosened strands of her hair. Pressed the side of his face to the side of hers and tried to tell her without words every single thing screaming inside his head that wanted saying. All the thoughts and shit poking at his brain, demanding he let them out, make them real, clogging up in some giant bottleneck on their way to his tongue.

But Beth didn’t need words, not these ones, and he was always forgetting that. He remembered it now as she dragged her nose along his collar bone, as light as a soft breath. His pulse kicked up into that rapid pounding all over again in anticipation of the words he knew were coming. Words that would undoubtedly be exactly the ones he needed to hear.

“I’m not sure about a lotta things, Daryl, but I’m sure about you,” she whispered. “And it’s you and me no matter what, all right?”

No matter what. That settled down inside him like the blanket tucked around his shoulders. Like a soothing whisper to the fussing baby that was his fucked up head. Swallowing down the lump which instantly thickened his throat, Daryl nodded against her face, feeling the slide of her smooth skin against his rough cheek. Beth and Daryl against the world. He thought it. Maybe even managed to mumble something like it, the way Beth’s smile bloomed wide against his skin.

She breathed in deep and placed the gentlest of kisses against the curve of his clavicle. “Let’s just stay like this awhile, okay?”

He could do that. He wanted that, and he whispered his answer as he tucked her face back into his chest. Beth sighed softly and burrowed in a bit, turning her head just enough that she could still breathe, fingers still tracing back and forth along that same vein in his arm.

They lay together in silence for a long while, listening to the sounds of the storm outside which showed no signs of letting up. It had to be closer to morning than not but the sky remained as dark as ever.

Beth’s legs rasped against the canvas as she bent them out behind her. “I think we should stay here ‘til the storm blows over.”

“Mmm.” He drew his hand back, curled his fingers around the little braid in her ponytail. “As long as it does.”

Beth hummed into his chest, and with a swish she straightened out her legs again. “We could use some more clothes. Coats at least.”

He hummed at her, having thought the same thing before while he undressed her, when everything she wore was everything she owned and almost all of it was drenched. The chances of finding something to fit him weren’t always great, but for someone Beth’s size, they might have a shot.

“Think you’re up for a run?”

Her knees bumped into his before she pulled them back again. “Think so.”

“Good.” He gave her ponytail a little tug, and she tapped at his sock-covered foot with her sock-covered toes. “You’re plannin’ it.”

A forceful puff of breath hit him in the chest, and Beth mumbled something he couldn’t quite hear. He tugged on her ponytail again and pushed at her knees with his until she laughed and whispered, “I should’ve known you’d make me.”

Before he could chime in again, though, Beth poked him in the sternum with her nose and sighed. “All right. Just promise you’ll keep me from doin’ somethin’ dumb.”

“Long as you promise the same thing.” As though she hadn’t already done that a million times since the day they fled the prison.

With a nudge of her knee and a bob of her head, Beth answered, “Deal.”

She said nothing else for a few minutes, just kept up with the moving of her legs. Bending and stretching, sometimes bumping his. Wiggling just enough that he wondered if he shouldn’t tell her to get up and take a piss, or something, if she couldn’t keep still, just to see how she’d retaliate.

She rocked forward a bit, shoved him gently using her whole upper body. “Wanna practice fightin’ dirty?”

His snort burst out of him without him even meaning to, and Beth butted her head in the centre of his chest.

“I mean it,” she said, once more flexing and then extending her legs against the canvas. “Big empty space, storm so loud nothin’s gonna hear us. C’mon, Daryl. We haven’t got to since the barn and my legs are gonna take off without me if I don’t do somethin’.”

He knew what she really wanted to do, or at least had some general idea. If they weren’t gonna be sleeping—or doing other things—might as well do something, like she said, and practicing her fighting wasn’t a bad idea, anyway.

She was up and out of the blankets before he’d finished grunting yes at her, a squeal of delight echoing back to him as she left the office, the beam of her flashlight sweeping across the floor. The chilly air assaulted him when he got up to follow her, like walking into a giant cooler, attacking his arms and his legs and other places where the ghost of her body heat lingered.

They banked the fire. Passed over their still wet boots and left the damp clothes where they were to dry. In the glowing light from the renewed fire, Beth shone like a beacon, or something. All long legs and wild hair and a grin on her face he couldn’t help but echo. He stood there a moment just looking at her, let his gaze take her in under the relative safety of the dark.

The fire didn’t throw much heat, but what it lacked they made up for in exertion as they practiced. After Beth’s initial move—a football tackle turned bear hug—she got right down to it with the same seriousness as before. They started slow, with Beth first recalling the best places to hit, then practicing a few slow-motion blows in response to whatever hold he came up with. Like before, though much quicker this time, his holds got harder and her hits had more of her weight behind them, and they passed a good couple hours that way before switching things up a little to make use of the wide open space.

It was Beth’s idea to combine this sparring, or whatever it was, with something like their original game. Now she had to fight her way out and run for it, and it was good, working with her. Doing something other than the endless walking. Beyond their cold but dry shelter the storm raged on as angrily as ever, while inside he faced the fierce determination of Beth Greene, and her sharp little elbow jamming hard into his solar plexus.

It didn’t knock the wind out of him but it sure as hell hurt, and he couldn’t have held onto her if he tried. While he unfolded his abdomen, Beth shouted her victory and darted away, stopping about half way between him and the wall, no doubt ready to gloat.

Yep. There she stood, hands on her hips, grin on her face, the smug little bastard that she was. “That fuckin’ hurt.”

Beth laughed, ‘cause she knew what he really thought of it, her and her enthusiasm for something that could very well save her life one day.

“C’mon,” she said, swiping the hair back from her forehead. “Let’s go again.”

“You ain’t made it to safety yet, girl,” Daryl said, following the path of her hands.

He hadn’t thought Beth’s hair could get any wilder, but he was somewhat pleased to be wrong about that. She looked like that backwoods woman he teased her about being before, with the squirrels. A ponytail still existed in there somewhere but her braid swung free of it and the bits of hair that escaped alongside it stuck to the sweat on her neck and her forehead or stood out at all angles like she’d jammed her finger in a light socket.

“You can stop lookin’ at it,” Beth grumbled, though he could see her grin from here, stretched wide and bright on her flushed face. She shoved the mess back again with both hands and took a couple of side steps, starting her slow circle in one direction while he did the same the opposite way.  “Yours ain’t much better, you know.”

She was probably right but he was willing to bet his wasn’t near as delightful to her as hers was to him, and fuck if he knew why, but like many things with Beth, he’d given up on trying to understand it. Just go with it. Made life a lot easier when he didn’t question these things.

Beth took another step, which Daryl matched. Halfway through her next one he came at her, intending to grab her by the shoulders. Instead of letting him grab her, Beth slid back a few paces then ducked out of reach, darting around quickly to get behind him. Before he could turn she got her elbow into his kidney, enough of her weight behind it that he felt the blow. Had she meant to hurt him she could have, not enough to take him out but enough to delay him. As it was she had a good couple of paces on him by the time he took after her.

She could usually outrun him if she had a head start and this time was no exception.  He was still a couple of paces out when she smacked her hand on the wall over the discoloured brick marking the agreed upon ‘safe spot’.

She turned to lean against it, breathing hard, tipping her head back with her eyes closed. “I should’ve gone around the other way. Got here quicker.”

He hummed his agreement, though he had no real criticism for her. She had taken to critiquing herself, thinking about what she could do better and he let her run with it. There’d always be something that coulda been done different and he cared more that she took this as seriously as she did.

“Thanks,” she said now, pushing off the wall and rolling her shoulders. “I’m gonna feel that later but it was good, doin’ something besides walkin’.”

“Mmhm.” Daryl joined her over by the wall, rubbing at his abdomen where her elbow had likely left a bruise. “You hungry?”

Beth shook her head and looked up at the windows overhead, rain pouring down them in sheets broken only by the splatter of drops. Beyond that, the shadows of trees danced in the wind, which blew howling through them and rattled at the glass and made him shiver, just thinking about being out there in it.

“Nah, let’s eat later. I’m tired. Doesn’t look like this is gonna blow over any time soon.” She looked back at him, then tipped her head in the direction of their ‘camp’. “Might as well stay warm and get some rest while we can.”

Beth headed for the bathroom, calling back something about taming the hair beast, while he went to check if the rainwater they boiled in some of their empty aluminum cans was cool enough to drink yet.

“Oh my god!” Beth called out from the bathroom.

Daryl smirked, knowing she’d got a look at herself in the mirror. “And you thought mine was bad.”

“This is like, Medusa meets Edward Scissor Hands!” She grunted and, judging by the rattle of porcelain, slumped down onto the toilet. “Think there’s a hair salon nearby?”

Daryl lowered himself to the pallet in front of the fire, glancing over toward the bathroom as he took a big sip of still-warm water. He could just see the tips of her sock-covered toes through the doorway. “Yeah, it’s called Daryl’s knife.”

“Oh har-har,” she said, though she let out a real bleat of laughter right after which didn’t quite hide the trickle of liquid into the toilet bowl. “Be careful. I hear Beth’s Sneaky Trims likes to catch you while you’re asleep.”

He opened his mouth to reply, but the words suck inside, muted by the sheer weirdness of having this conversation—any kind of conversation—while she was taking a piss.  Beth, mistaking his silence for something else, maybe, laughed again, the sound of it echoing around the little room, carried straight to his waiting ears on a gust of wind. The porcelain clinked again, a lid shut, and a couple seconds later Beth appeared in the doorway, ponytail restored but not in any sorta way he’d call tidy.

“I mean it,” she said, as she stepped across the floor between the bathroom and the fire. “One of these days you’re gonna wake up without your hair hangin’ in your eyes and we’ll never know what happened.”

She stepped up in front of him, a tower of long, lean legs from where he was sitting, and Daryl craned his neck back to look up at her, looking down at him. “You’re good, Greene, but you ain’t that good.”

“We’ll see,” she said, draining the can of water he passed up to her.

He set it back down for her when she passed it back, and watched as a smile stretched across her face. She reached out to push his sweaty hair out of his eyes, and Daryl couldn’t keep them from drifting shut as she carried on with the motion to drag her fingernails across his scalp. Lightly at first, harder once he started making those completely involuntary rumbling sounds she liked so much. Both hands got involved after a bit, and about then he brought his own up, fingers finding the soft little hollows at the backs of her knees. Her rhythm faltered just a bit, with the first circles he made there, caring less about the sweat clinging to her than the feel of the smooth skin beneath it.

“Mmmm.” Beth made her own rumbly noise, the kind he had no clue how she could possibly make, with her girl-type voice and that narrow little chest, but mysterious or not it curled in his belly in a way that was far from unpleasant.

That went on for a little while, until a particularly forceful gust of wind whipped in through the window. Beth gasped and shuddered and dropped down to a crouch between his bent knees, almost curling into a little ball to avoid the rush of freezing air. The damage was done, though, and he watched a field of goosebumps rise up to cover her bare arms.

“I think it’s blanket time,” she said, glancing back at him, arms pulled tight around her body, but some sort of warm glint still shining in her eyes. “C’mon.”

He wasn’t certain what made his pulse quicken, as he followed her into the office. Wasn’t just the prospect of lying down with her again, holding her close, but he couldn’t put a name to the feeling. It fluttered and bloomed when Beth lifted the blanket and told him to lie down first, and settled in to pulse warm and steady in the centre of his chest when she laid down over him and crawled in with him. Instead of curling up against his chest as she usually did, though, Beth stretched herself out behind him, nuzzling her face into the space between his shoulder blades and snaking an arm around his waist.

His words, when he found them, rolled out amongst a road’s worth of gravel. “Whatcha doin’ back there?”

Beth swept her nose back and forth from the edge of one scapula to the other, lighting up the skin between. “You always get to be the big spoon.”

Brains were strange things, ‘cause his first thought was how ridiculous it was, him doing anything that required him to think of of himself as a spoon. Took longer than it ought to have to clue in to Beth’s hand moving, leaving the place where it rested just below his ribs and sliding down to where his undershirt rode up, exposing a little strip of skin. A strip of skin which her fingers danced along, little tapping motions first, in time to the rhythm of the rain on the roof, and gliding ones next. Wispy little brushes of fingertips, tickly like feathers, warm like the first mouthful of hot coffee. His belly twitched beneath her touch and at his back, Beth let out a breath, a breezy giggle, and slipped her hand right up under his shirt.

Beth,” he whispered, curling his fingertips into the ratty fabric at his hip as Beth flattened her palm over his belly.

She swept her thumb in a slow arc along the curve of his bellybutton, back and forth, the touch so light he barely felt it yet his skin tingled in its wake. “This okay?”

He knew this. Knew it so well it pulsed like an ache at the base of his lungs as he fought to take a deep breath in. His palm to her smooth belly. His thumb sweeping, stirring, drawing out a little sigh, a gasp of breath, a quiver of muscle like a fine breeze rippling on a glassy pond. Now her palm, her touch, pulling those same things out of him. The shudder started at the base of his spine, rolling outward along every nerve and gathering like a little electric cloud beneath Beth’s warm palm.

“Daryl?” A small voice. A whisper. A little press of fingertips into the muscle beneath. “This okay?”

“Yeah—” He cleared his throat of the rubble gathered there, found the right nerve endings to make his hand move. To cover hers like she would cover his and press down hard until he felt the weight of it in his lungs. “Yeah, Beth.”

“I like touchin’ you,” she whispered, and Daryl felt her smiling against his spine when that made him shudder, too.

I like you touchin’ me.

What came out wasn’t much more than a hum, but Beth knew. She knew him. He lifted his hand from hers, bushed his thumb across her knuckles. Beth pressed a kiss between his shoulder blades and he set his palm back down at his hip. Tried to relax even as the little sweeps and circles she made with her fingers fired off like tiny rockets beneath his skin.

Wasn’t a new thing, Beth touching him, but this brought him right back to that first time, in that lumpy old bed that was still better than any he’d ever had before. When not even a herd and a storm and a pair of idiots more trouble than their worth could tear them apart. When he held onto her like she was holding him now and she made him promise. Made her own promise in turn, with that first press of her back to his chest, the weight of her palm atop his hand.

I’m here. I got you. Not lettin’ you go.

Not new, no, but it fluttered in his chest just the same. Sunk down inside with every stroke she made. Her touches grew bolder, fingertips tracing across the rise and fall of the muscles beneath them. Following that barely-there path of hair from his belly button down and back again when she could to no further. It felt like a scene from another life, remembering the only other time they lay like this. Him, still wary of her touch, his body responding to it in ways he didn’t understand and Beth, asleep at his back none the wiser.

At his back now, Beth breathed into his shirt, open-mouthed and heavy, the cotton moist between her parted lips, the scar beneath that throbbing almost to the point of pain. Not the sort of pain which caused it; something different. An ache that pulsed. Pounded. Laced at its edges with something sweet, like cocoa so hot it burnt his lips but he couldn’t keep from taking another scalding mouthful. Beth’s fingers kept moving, kept touching. Scratching now, a light scrape of nails like she did on his scalp just above the elastic of his shorts. Far from unaware, the way she giggled softly at the groan she dragged out of him, and pressed her nails in that much harder.

He groaned again, low and long, like a rumble of thunder beneath the noise of the storm. Just let it roll on out ‘cause it wanted to, because it felt fucking good. Everything did, from the glowing embers in his belly to the steady flow of heated blood into his cock. Swelling heavier, fuller, with every swipe of Beth’s fingers, every scratch of her nails on sensitive skin. Every fucking sound she made at his back. He still didn’t understand how it was only Beth, only ever her, but he no longer wondered why.

“You’re so warm, Daryl,” Beth whispered, and for a moment she flattened her palm and pressed in. Deep, like he did to her. “Burnin’ my hand.”

Her tone held this note of awe, something achingly familiar, something he felt inside whenever he touched her and hearing it now stole another few pints of blood from his head, threw the whole room into the gentlest of spins. A good dizzy, the sort that tingled down along his neck, his spine, tickled every nerve. Pounded through his cock and stuttered at the back of his ribcage and she knew it. She knew it. Knew exactly what she was doing to him and he never wanted it to stop.

He’d been doing this to her. That thought floated up to join his spinning head in the stratosphere. When he touched her just like she was touching him, he did this to her. He’d known it. On some level he had but not—Christ—not like this, and he wondered at her powers of restraint.

He wouldn’t stop her, if she asked. If she tried. If she shoved his hand lower, urged him to slide his fingers beneath the band of those little red shorts and stroke her clit like he stroked her belly. Tease those sounds out of her, like the ones she tried not to let him hear, the night she ran off to take care of herself. Or maybe it’d be different, having his fingers on her. Inside her. Plunging into her needy cunt while she cried out his name in the darkness.

Oh, God, Beth.

He thrust against the blanket and Beth— fuck—Beth rolled her hips right along with him, pushing at his ass like she had something there to push with. He couldn’t make the words come. Words that wanted. Words that begged. Begged her, as she dragged her fingertips along the line of skin just above his shorts, to dive down beneath and touch him where he needed it the most. Wrap those strong little fingers around his cock and stroke him ‘til he fell apart. But she wouldn’t. Not unless he said. Unless he asked.

He groaned, so loud it echoed off the brick, scraped like broken glass in his throat. Someone shuddered. Her or him it didn’t matter, but it rolled through the both of them as they rocked together on the canvas. Before he could even think to stop he palmed at his aching cock through his shorts. Thrust into the cup of his hand and shuddered again as the pleasure zipped through him—and froze when he realized what he had done.

Beth’s fingers pressed deep, her breath a flutter like wispy little wings over damp cotton. “Go on,” she said, rolling up against his ass then pulling back away, lifting her hand to nudge at his wrist. “Go on, Daryl. It’s okay.”

He pushed again into his trembling hand, a shudder rocking him so hard every muscle ached in its wake. “Fuck, Beth.

Beth’s moan vibrated along his spine. “Yeah,” she breathed, resuming those slow, torturous circles so low on his belly. “Like that.”

He didn’t know how she could make her voice do that raspy little whisper, how she built it so it flowed down inside him like a mouthful of moonshine. How that sound out of Beth’s mouth could feel like fingers of silk on his aching cock, telling him to do it, to touch himself while she curled up at his back and—oh.

Fucking oh.

She whimpered, this time. Quiet. Breathy. The rhythm of her fingers at his belly faltered but the graze of her knuckles against his ass became steady. Steady and solid as her breathing turned ragged, and Daryl tugged hard at his cloth-covered cock as another groan ripped past his throat.

Daryl...”

It was all he needed, that word. His name on her breath like it was his fingers moving against her clit, his touch making her tremble and sigh and moan so, so softly into his back. He fumbled with his shorts, shoved them down, wrapped his shaking fingers around his cock. So hard, so heavy, and that little bit of pressure, that hint of friction as he squeezed, zinged out from his spine in little rippling waves that coaxed out a moan loud enough to drown out hers.

His breath stuttered out with the first slow stroke down, and he moaned again, low this time, gritty and drawn out, rising up from his belly amidst the gathering heat. Something in it made Beth press her fingers in deep, little points of contact firing, arcing off the starbursts flaring inside him. She knew. Felt the difference, somehow, from the way he was touching before. Imagining it, maybe, the way his fist tightened, how he twisted his grip as he pushed up over the dark head of his rigid cock. How it made him twitch and buck his hips into the blanket, breath sharp and short, before he gathered that bead of moisture to slick of his foreskin on the way back down.

“Beth,” he groaned, stroking a bit harder this time. A bit faster.

“Oh, God,” she whispered at his back. “Oh my god.”

God had nothing to do with this, unless God’s name was Beth Greene. Beth Greene and her little fingers still dancing across his belly like some marionette with half the strings broken. So close. She was so close she could just bat his hand away, take over. Wrap those elegant fingers around his dark flesh and do it herself.

Strokes gaining rhythm, now. Gaining force. Knuckles wet, foreskin gliding like velvet, and it had never been like this. Never. He sunk his teeth into his bottom lip, digging into that raw place, the pain of it like an electric shock down his spine. “Beth.”

Another whimper. Something that might’ve been his name as she arched against his ass, pinning her wrist between their bodies. Fuck, he could hear her, the wet sound of her fingers as she plunged them inside, as she fucked her cunt like he was fucking his hand. Every nerve in his body came alight, blazing, burning for the woman spilling her moans between his shoulder blades. Throaty little ohhhs in time to the press of her hips against her trapped hand, rolling right along with him as he thrust into his.

He was gonna combust. They were, him and Beth, gonna burn up together right here on the floor.

She trembled hard against his back. Scraped her teeth along the edge of one shoulder blade, the force of her breath hitting him like the gusts of wind rattling the windows. “Don’t. Don’t stop,” she said, still with that rasp, that whisper. “Don’t you dare stop, Daryl. Daryl. You—ohhh—you’re gonna come. You’re gonna—”

The rest of her words got swept away, lost to a groan so deep she must have dredged it up from beneath the floor. Even now. Even right fucking now she could still string the right chain of words together to rock him off his axis. Take him out at the knees no matter that he wasn’t even standing.

Fuck.” The word was a growl, an explosion of sound he couldn’t control. Beth laughed, husky and deep and so fucking hot, and all he could do was breathe out her name with each hard exhale.

You, too, Beth. You, too. You’re gonna come, too. Beth. Beth. Oh, god, Beth.

A different sound burst out of her, a moan that began as little more than a low whine at the back of her throat, now swelling out into the air, ringing in his ears as it bounced off the brick. She stiffened at his back, her knees coming up to push at his. “Daryl—Daryl—ohhh, oh fuck. Daryl—

She arched against him one last time, fingernails digging hard into his belly, a ragged moan tearing out of her like something bursting out of her chest as she shuddered against his back. Shuddered and trembled and fucking sobbed his name in that same ragged, tearing way and—and—one last tug, a groan like a jet engine, deafening, rattling, and he was coming, too. So fucking hard. Spilling hot and slick all over his hand and her hand, his belly, the blanket, the canvas beneath them.

The aftermath was a dizzy, floating blur. Sticky hands and trembling legs. Hard, shaky breaths and whispered names. Two sweat-soaked bodies collapsing together, and Beth’s soft laughter, curling warm into the air around them.

*~*

Thunder rumbled in the distance, with a flash of lightning on the horizon ahead. It rippled in the water beneath the little boat, a little rocking echo but they were safe, here. Safe from the world beyond these weathered planks. Daryl didn’t have to turn to feel her there, behind him, her gaze on his back like a soothing balm. He could hear her voice inside his head, whispering. Words of reassurance, warm like bathwater. Like a slept-in bed. Like a place he never wanted to leave.

She wouldn’t make him, either. Wouldn’t try. He knew it as well as he knew the rest of it. That she was there at the prow, luminous. Brighter than the sun breaking over the mountains. Than the forks of lightning trying in vain to dull her shine.

She was waiting for him when he turned at last, as he knew she would be, wings folded around her hips like shimmering silk. Skin shining silver-white in the twilight of dawn, darkening to pink at the tips of her breasts, small perfect peaks standing proud on her smooth, pale chest. His own skin didn’t shine; he lacked that light inside, that light like hers. All he had to bear was the blue cast of twilight, but as he stepped toward her, her light struck him. Hit him in the centre of his chest, glowing and bright, chasing away the blue to light up the dark corners, the shadows, the cracks running deep.

Beth.

She spread open her wings, and he stepped inside.

*~*

I’m lookin’ for me
You’re lookin’ for you
We’re lookin’ at each other and we don’t know what to do


to be continued in chapter 32>>
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