A/N: This happened after hearing this particular song on the radio one day on the drive home from something. I just pictured Daryl for some reason with all his insecurities about himself. 4699 words later, I created this little prison AU. So enjoy and let me know what you think! Thanks!
“I just don’t get why! Help me understand!”
Beth stood before Daryl, hands firmly planted on her hips as she narrowed her eyes at her….lover? Well the term lover implied there was a physically intimate relationship between two people and they weren’t there yet.
Not even close, much to her dismay.
You would think a man of Daryl’s stature would be chomping at the bit to get between the sheets with his nubile, young “lady friend” but you would be wrong. It wasn’t from lack of trying on her part, but between an absence of a private enough place, little time together, and major insecurity on Daryl’s part, the furthest place his hand had ventured was up her thigh and that was by accident.
And then there was this argument.
They had discussed it ad nauseam. Beth was ready to go public. They had been secure at the prison for almost two years now since Daryl had eliminated The Governor. They had professed their feelings for each other nine months ago and while at first it had been nice keeping it to themselves, Beth was ready for them to be open with their family. She wanted to stay with him at night, hold his hand under the table, smile at him, and hug him without having to wonder if anybody saw.
Most of all, she want to make love with the only man she ever had and ever would love.
She had absolutely no shame in being with Daryl. And she knew he didn’t either. His problem was fear. For the man that “ain’t afraid of nothin’!” he sure carried a large amount of it when it came to her. And she understood, really she did. She was young, 19, probably 20 by now. He was twice her age and a million times more life experiences than she had. He was rough in character and outward appearance where she was soft, kind, light, and happy. People were easily intimidated by just his presence. Beth walked into a room and they fell all over themselves to help the “delicate” woman.
But they both knew better. Daryl was soft and gentle for her, sharing his secrets and showing vulnerability in the few quiet moments together. Beth showed her strength and tenacity in protecting her family. From Hershel to little Judith, she made sure they were all provided for. They were the perfect balance for the other and it was time to share that with everyone.
So now they stood in the guard tower, eyes holding each other in place as Daryl fought for a proper explanation. Beth didn’t understand and Daryl couldn’t find the words to explain. “I’ve told ya, girl! They won’t understan’ it! They’ll think I don’ brainwashed ya or sumthin’. They’ll talk ya outta this, pull ya away an’ I just can’t stand the thought of ya finally seein’ me as everyone does.” Daryl paused, taking a deep breath. “I’m scared to death you’ll finally see the asshole loser that I am and then you’ll finally run like ya shoulda to begin with.”
The last was said with his head hanging, the shame of a life spent being told you were no good taking over him. Beth stepped as close to him as she could and grasped his face with both hands, pull it up so she could meet his eyes. “Daryl, you know none of that is true. You are everythin’ to me and so much more to this family than you realize.” She lowered her hands to his hips, but maintained eye contact. “Without you, there is no way we would have survived. Not that winter on the run, not through everythin’ we have experienced. And it ain’t just because of you are an amazin’ hunter or that you took out The Governor. You provide strength when our leaders need it. You are Rick’s right hand, an ear for Carl when he can’t talk with his dad. You are a wonderful caretaker for Judith and her favorite adult besides me and her daddy.”
Daryl’s lips quirked into that half smile she loved so much. “Please Daryl. You know in your heart, no one will protest this. They may question why we kept it quiet or may be shocked initially, but once that passes, they will be happy for us. I promise.”
They held eye contact for a moment before a door opening at the base of the tower broke them apart. Daryl cleared his throat uncomfortably and lowered his eyes again. “You sure you wanna go out there?” Daryl questioned. Beth nodded. “Yeah. Judy is growin’ like a weed and needs new clothes and shoes. I’m hopin’ this store has what we need and I’m the best one at findin’ the right sizes for her.” Daryl nodded and grabbed her hand, squeezing it quickly before the trap door of the tower popped up and revealed Rick.
“Ready Beth?” he questioned. Beth nodded at Rick as he held the door for her. Rick glanced between her and Daryl before fixing his gaze back on her, eyebrows raised. Beth smiled at the man. “Let’s go sheriff!”
The town was surprisingly quiet when they initially made their way through. Only a few walkers roamed the streets and Michonne was quick to dispatch them once the group exited the big truck they came in. Michonne and Rick were hitting the grocery store while Beth and Glenn were going to raid the Dollar General.
Beth loved these stores before the world went to shit. They were filled with a hodge podge of cheap things and they needed everything they could get. Her first target was quickly eliminated as she went straight through the clothes section. She really lucked out there. While most bigger stores were primarily stocked with summer clothes when the dead started rising, this store still had a large supply of winter items on the “Yellow Dot” clearance rack. With winter quickly approaching, Beth stocked up on plenty of clothes, shoes, socks, and unders not only for Judith, but for Carl and the other kids they had acquired over the past two years. She even found a cute pair of Ugg style boots she hoped would fit Judith.
Next she hit the adult clothing for jeans and shirts and more under things. She didn’t know everyone’s size, but they would go in the community stockpile. Beth did keep a pair of men’s jeans, a flannel shirt (that she was sure the sleeves would get ripped off of!), and a pack each of undershirts and boxers in her personal backpack for Daryl. She blushed at the boxer shorts but kept them anyways. She grabbed her own set of clothes to stuff in the bag before declaring that section done.
Beth placed the duffle bags full of clothes by the front door to be taken to the truck when they left and went in search of Glenn. She found him in the hygiene section, raking soaps, shampoos, and deodorants in his bag. “Got all the clothes done?” he asked. Beth nodded and Glenn grinned at her before tossing another bag her way. “Go ahead and start on the food section. There should be a bit left that’s good. I don’t know how this place hasn’t been hit, but I’m not gonna argue with it!”
Beth chuckled as she grabbed the bag and made her way to the canned and boxed goods. It took a while but she eventually had another full bag of vegetables, soups, and boxed pastas. As she made her way to the front of the store to drop the bag Glenn hollered that he was almost done in the paper towels and toilet paper and she decided it was okay to browse for a minute.
Beth had always loved perusing clearance bins. You never knew what you were going to find in there. Everything from mismatched items, old “Top 25 Hits” CD’s, to movies from her childhood. There was one such bin at the front of the store stacked full of old DVD’s. There were off brand copies of Snow White and Cinderella, a couple of Jerry Lewis movies, and some random comedies. She even found a “Special Edition” of Titanic.
But what caught her attention was a two-pack of “The Nutty Professor”, the “new” ones with Eddie Murphy. Beth honestly loved those movies. It wasn’t that they were particularly good or bad or anything like that. But they were fun, Eddie was HILARIOUS in all his different character personas, and they carried a good message, especially the second one. Sherman Klump finding love no matter what he thought about how he looked was inspiring.
A nostalgic smile crossed her face as she turned the case over in her hand. She had just about worn out her DVD player one summer watching movies in her room. Maggie and Shawn were out living their lives and she hadn’t much else to do. Her eyes landed on the group picture on the back and her mind drifted to the end of the second movie and the song that Janet Jackson sang.
It was a silly song really, happy and light and she could remember dancing around her room, singing it into her hairbrush. Her younger body moved awkwardly, rhythm not really developed, but it was a happy memory. It was nice to think about now, to remember happier times on the farm without pain. So much bad had happened at the end that it was harder to keep that image in her head. The good should really outweigh that. It was time to bring the happier memories forward and keep them there.
Beth was just humming the chorus of the Janet Jackson song when Glenn appeared at her side. “Nutty Professor? Really?” She smiled at him brightly. “Just some fond memories” she replied. Glenn smirked and nodded toward the door. “Time to load up and check on Rick and Michonne, make sure they didn’t get ‘distracted’.”
The both laughed as they grabbed the bags next to the door and started making their way to the truck. It took a couple of trips, but they were quite satisfied with their haul. They had just tossed the last bag in the bed when Rick and Michonne emerged from the grocery store across the street. They were pulled two carts each and with Glenn and Beth’s help, the got them loaded safely in to the truck. Rick closed and patted the tailgate. He glanced around cautiously, checking for walkers one more time. “We ready?” he asked. Everyone nodded and got into the cab of the truck. Beth looked out the window as they left the town. And just in time it seemed. There was a small herd of walkers heading into the area from the east. It seemed the truck hadn’t been noticed though, so they easily made their way out of town and back to home.
Avoidance seemed to be Daryl’s M.O. Whether intentional or not, it always happened when he was made to confront issues. He more often than not made himself scarce in order to clear his thoughts. People may have thought he was cold because of that. But the truth was he needed the quiet to think. He had spent so much time alone growing up that the crowds (even as small as they were now) and noise of the prison were just plain overwhelming.
So while the run crew had been gone, Daryl had made his way into the woods. The pretense was he was hunting, which he most certainly was. But his main goal was to clear his head after his… discussion with Beth.
God he loved that woman. She was everything good and pure in this hell on earth. While everyone became cold and hard, pessimistic in every circumstance, Beth remained bright and cheerful. She was optimistic when they brought in the people from Woodbury, when Daryl started his hunt for the governor, and every single time someone appeared at their gate. She wasn’t naive about things, far from it. They had talked extensively about the realities of their world and things that had and could go wrong. Beth just refused to let it get to her, refused to break and give in to it.
Daryl was the antithesis of Beth. He was dark, introspective, and wary. He wanted to save the people of Woodbury but was distrustful of them. When he was searching for The Governor, he had little real hope of actually finding him. That was until he did. It was pure luck he caught him on the roof of that RV, hitting golf balls like he had not a care in the world. Then he started arguing with the man with him. A man Daryl recognized from their conversation outside the building where Rick had met The Governor.
The Governor had just grabbed Martinez by the collar when Daryl finally got his shot and took it with no hesitation. The bolt sunk into The Governor’s stomach, dropping him to his knees. Martinez stared dumbfounded as Daryl ascended the ladder on the side of the RV. He kept his crossbow trained on the Hispanic man as he approached.
The Governor rolled onto his back to face his death. He didn’t seem surprised to see the hunter, maybe just a bit resigned. “So you found me? Where’s Michonne? I figured she would be the one to finish me off.” Daryl just smirked. “Naw, I’m the hunter.” He glanced at Martinez who kept his hands in the air, seemingly frozen. Daryl lowered the crossbow pointing at him, moving it to focus instead on The Governor’s head. The injured man chuckled, spitting blood from lips. Daryl just stared him down, remembering the pain this man had caused. The attack on Maggie, torturing Andrea and causing his death, the attack on the prison, all of his “citizen’s” he mowed down with a thought. Merle.
It was the image of his brother chewing on the entrails of a fallen Woodbury soldier that was the final straw. Daryl pulled the trigger, bolt flying true in the middle of the one-eyed man’s skull. There was a solid THUNK on the top of the RV as his head hit the metal. It was done, finally.
Daryl eyed Martinez. He was still frozen, hands still in the air and eyes wide, clearly anticipating a similar fate. “Do ya have other people?” Daryl’s voice was rough, filled with all the hatred he had for the man that now lay dead before them.
Martinez’s voices was shaking as he answered. “Uh… yeah, a small group. He was… well the leader I guess.” Daryl nodded and stooped to pull the bolts from the body. He wiped them carefully on the dead man’s pants before reattaching them to the crossbow. Daryl eyed the lake before them and turned to Martinez.
“I was never here.” Daryl stated. “You were down at the dock. A walker reached up and grabbed his leg, pullin’ him under before ya could get to him. He’s just gone.” Martinez nodded, knowing any other answer could get him shot. Daryl motioned him to grab the legs of the body. Together they wrestled the body down the RV and to the dock. They tossed him unceremoniously into the water. A walker that had been dormant in the water quickly grabbed the body, pulling it to its mouth to devour. Daryl didn’t care. He turned his back to the water and began making his way to the woods.
Before he fully entered the woods, he paused, looking over his shoulder. Daryl met and held Martinez’s eyes for several long moments. “If I see ya, hear ya, catch a whiff of yer obnoxious scent, hell even THINK yer anywhere near me or mine, that” he pointed emphatically at the lake. “That will seem like a mercy. Don’t follow, find a different path away from the prison. Leave us be.”
Daryl was never more grateful for Beth than that night. He had taken a risk going to her cell, but the block was empty. It was just her and a sleeping Judith. He had laid his head in her lap and told his story as she stroked his hair. When he was done, he sat up to look at her. “That was me Beth. I’m a hunter – animal or man, don’t matter. I have no problems killin’, no worries about takin’ people out.”
Beth had just shaken her head. “No Daryl, you are so much more than that. You are kind, gentle with me and our whole family. You are passionate about protectin’ your family and community.” She cupped his cheeks and he leaned into her hands. “You are everythin’ this place needs, everythin’ I need.” Her big, sapphire eyes held his, boring into his soul. “I love you Daryl, no matter what. Inside and out, you are perfect for me.”
It was the first, but most certainly not the last, time she had said that to him. He had kissed her then, as gently as he could and with as much love as he could impart. When he pulled away, he kept his lips close to hers and whispered “I love ya girl. I don’t know why you care, but I’ll take it.”
The memory of that night floated through his mind as Daryl tracked a deer. It would be good eating tonight. He thanked the Lord that tracking was second nature to him and he could think. And really, he need to straighten this out with Beth.
He knew what she wanted, what she really deserved. Beth was the kind of girl you showed off, not hide away like some kind of dirty secret. And she was in no way that to him. She was perfect. It wasn’t her, not one little bit.
It was him.
Daryl never thought himself worth anything, much less any kind of love. He was nobody, nothing. The only thing he had ever done with his life was follow Merle around. But now? He had responsibilities, people depended on him to hunt, protect them. There were people that looked to him for answers, to solve problems, and settle disputes. And he had the love of a woman he didn’t feel he deserved.
Despite all that however, Daryl just knew people would not accept a relationship between the hard redneck and the soft princess. They may like what he provided, but he knew what they thought of him: trash, loser, asshole. He saw the way people hesitated around him, sheltered their children, or just flat out avoided him as much as possible. The only exceptions were his family, his core group. They knew him better, as much as he would let them. They had been through hell together and they at least knew he was more than the others perceived. They would still question it though. And could hear them now:
How long has this been going on?
Did he persuade you Beth, influence you?
Why’d you hide it?
Are you being forced?
And that was the big one because he couldn’t answer it. He didn’t even understand it really. Why would such a… shit perfect was the only word he could think of. Why would such a perfect person want to be with him? She deserved so much better than he could ever give her.
His bolt flew true, straight into the deer’s heart. Birds startle out of the tree next to the deer, forming a black cloud in the sky. Daryl watched as they flew away, a swirl of black feathers and noise. They faded into the distance, taking his thoughts with him.
Daryl had finally come to a conclusion, one he needed to share with Beth as soon as possible. He pulled the bolt from the felled deer and slung the animal over his shoulders. He turned and gazed at the sky again. The sun was setting and he knew the run group should be back. Good he thought. The sooner the better.
Rick greeted Daryl at the gate, smiling as the rough man pulled the deer from his shoulders, giving them a well-deserved break. “Only one today. Was a little warm for ‘em.” Daryl said. Rick just smiled and patted Daryl’s back. “Hey, we got plenty of veggies, plus I think we hit the rice jackpot at that grocery store. We’re good.” Daryl nodded, pulling his thumb from his teeth where he had nearly gnawed all the cuticle off. “A’ight then.”
Rick glanced around the area before leaning closer to Daryl. “Beth is in the laundry are, sortin’ the clothes she got.” Daryl reared back slightly, lifting scared eyes to his friend. Blue clashed with blue as he tried to figure out what exactly knew, or at least thought he knew. Had Beth already said something? Did she get enough of his bullshitting around? Rick just chuckled and squeezed the shoulder he still had a hold of. “It’s ok. I saw the way you two were this morning.” Rick paused, keeping his eyes locked on his friend’s. “If I’m being honest, I’ve noticed bits and pieces here and there. Just little things I don’t think anyone else noticed. But,” he smirked, “I was trained to notice things.” He winked at Daryl.
Daryl sighed. Here it came. You can’t go there man. She’s too young. Whatever this is, you need to stop it right now. He straightened his stance, still holding the other man’s gaze. He wasn’t gonna deny it. Rick was too smart, he knew the score. “Yeah? What about it?”
Rick raised his hands in surrender. “Hey man, it ain’t like that.” Slowly lowering his hands to his hips, Rick leaned forward slightly. “Look, I get it. Happiness is a rare thing nowadays. You find it where you can.” Rick’s eyes wandered the courtyard, landing on Michonne as she talked with Carl and held Judith in her arms. He smiled gently and turned back to his brother. “Embrace it. Don’t be scared of it. I don’t think you’ll find as much opposition as you are thinking you will.”
Daryl continued to stare for a few more moments before nodding his head. He hauled the deer back over his shoulders and carried it over to the grill pavilion. Carol greeted him with a smile and a hearty thanks. He nodded and made his way into the cell block. Getting to the perch where he slept, he dropped his backpack and settled the crossbow against the wall. He stood there a moment, going over what Rick had said one more time. Finally nodding his head, he took off. It was decided, no going back now.
Daryl left the cell block, going down the semi-dark hallways to the laundry area. He counted himself lucky he met no one on his way there. Not having an audience would make this a bit easier.
As he rounded the corner leading to the laundry, he heard her. Daryl couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face. She was always singing something, not that he minded. He loved her voice and made sure to tell her as often as possible.
This time she was singing something light and happy. He didn’t know the name of the song, but he caught pieces of it. Something about someone being “nutty” over someone and not caring what others say or think. How appropriate he thought, smirking to himself.
Daryl quietly opened the door, not wanting to interrupt her. Beth was elbow deep in a duffle bag, pulling pieces of clothing out one at a time before putting them in their appropriate pile. This went on for a few minutes and when the bag was empty and the song was done, Beth paused for a moment. It was almost as if she was waiting on the music to start back up. She smiled ironically then heaved a sigh, shaking her head. Daryl knew what she was thinking about and knew he had the solution she so desperately wanted.
As she grabbed the empty duffle bag and stood, Daryl cleared his throat, finally making his presence known. Predictably, Beth humped, her hand covering her heart as she turned to the door. “Daryl,” she scolded. “You scared the beejeebus out of me!” Daryl just gave her a little smirk before walking towards her. He didn’t even notice he left the door open. “Where were you? I didn’t see you when we got back.”
Daryl stopped in front of her, reaching his hand to tuck a stray curl behind her ear. He loved those curls, the way they would go wild on the rare days she left her hair down. Or even when they escaped her ponytail and braid. They were untamable just like her spirit, just like her. He let his fingers linger on her face and Beth closed her eyes, relishing in the simple yet intimate touch.
“I’m sorry.” His voice was low and full of remorse. The gravel in it betrayed how deep his apology ran. He was sorry, immensely so. “I know I shoulda done a lot of things different with ya. I am so proud to be yers and for ya to be mine. I know I don’t deserve ya, but for the life of me, I can’t deny how much I love want ya. And I will spend however long I have on this earth showin’ you exactly how I feel. I’m ready Beth. Whatever ya want. Ya want me to shout it from the guard tower? I’m on my way there now. Anythin’, everythin’. It’s yours.”
Beth just stared, eyes wide and mouth agape. She couldn’t believe he finally agreed. No more hiding, no more looking for a few moments here and there. Now they could be themselves. Finally regaining control of her face, Beth’s mouth pulled into a big smile. She put her hands to face and brought their foreheads together. “Well, let’s start smaller” she whispered, amusement clear in her voice. She leaned back slightly to catch his eyes. “We can tell my dad, Maggie, Rick, and probably Carol. They’re the ones that need to hear it directly from us. No one else matters, as long as I’m yours.”
Daryl held her gaze and chuckled. “Considerin’ Rick has already caught on, we ain’t gotta worry about him. But, yeah, the rest we can do.” Beth nodded happily and Daryl pulled her close, just wanting to hold her a moment and absorb her joy. He cupped her face and brought her lips to meet his. It was a tender kiss filled with promise and hope. A promise of more to come, much more than sneaky kisses and very limited touches. It was of many long nights spent with each other, learning each other’s bodies, and fulfilling desires that were burning deep in them. And hope of other things to come: a lifetime spent together, caring for each other and whoever else came along.
As his lips glided over hers, Daryl knew that from that moment on, he would do whatever this woman asked of him. It didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was keeping her happy and safe. They both were so lost in each other, they didn’t hear the footsteps coming down the hall. It was the voice that broke them apart.
“Well about damn time!” Carol’s voice was full of humor and delight. “Come one, dinner’s just about ready. I was just comin’ to let Beth know.” She turned back towards the exit, chuckling and shaking her head.
Beth just smiled at Daryl who smirked and grabbed her hand. Together they made their way out, their love for each other never more obvious than right now. They knew they would be okay. It didn’t matter what other’s saw of thought they knew. All that mattered was their love for each other and that would continue on as long as they walked this earth. They paused at the doorway and shared one more glance and a nod. Together, they stepped through the doorway, hands still clasped and shoulders high, ready for their future.