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beth writing 30 days without

FIC: The Walking Dead - Standin' (On My Own Two Feet) (PG) (Pre-Bethyl)

Title: Standin' (On My Own Two Feet)
Author: maddie_amber
Characters/Pairing: Beth Greene Hershel Greene, Daryl Dixon
Rating: PG
Words:2550
Summary: At the end of season two Beth was a crying, traumatized young teen who had been too sheltered by her family. At the beginning of season three she’s manning the fence killing walkers with the best of them. She had eight months to change with the help of the other survivors from the farm.

Standin' (On My Own Two Feet)

Hershel gently pulled away from his baby girl. Beth had fallen asleep curled tightly against his side. He had cradled her gently through the night as she cried into the fabric of his shirt. She did not sob aloud or whimper, but he could feel her shoulders shaking as she tried to contain the tears. Better for her to cry now, he thought, to draw out all of the sorrow and anger, to extinguish the agony of her soul with the bitterness of tears. There would be little time for tears after this night. When the sun broke the eastern sky in the morning, they would engage in the most relentless battle of their lives. If his youngest child were to survive she would have to set aside her sorrows and stand strong against the evil in which they now lived. She had risen from the depths of despair, rejected suicide, and chosen life. Now she would need to learn to fight to protect her life and the lives of their companions.

***

The huddled bundles of people slowly began to shift and rise as the skies lightened and the stillness of the night was chased away by the tentative morning calls of birds. Their fire had burned to the barest hint of embers, and she shivered in the foggy morning dampness. Beth pushed herself to a sitting position, looking around until she found her father standing near the edge of their tiny camp deep in conversation with Rick. She shuddered as she remembered the fierceness of Rick’s declaration that their group was no longer a democracy. He had firmly asserted his position as leader of their small band, and defied anyone to criticize his position or decisions. Part of her welcomed a strong voice of authority, and part of her was frightened by his uncompromising tone. She was comforted by the fact that her father appeared to have accepted this new hierarchy.

When he noticed that she had stirred, Hershel smiled and nodded. Lori and Maggie were also awake walking in her direction. As she passed, Lori tapped Beth on the shoulder nodding towards the woods. Beth got to her feet and followed as they slipped into the bushes to relieve themselves. She remembered how Daddy always laughed when they were out about town and Mom, she and Maggie all had to go to the ladies room together. Glancing at his somber expression, she wondered if any of them would ever laugh again. His old joke had taken on new meaning, as had so many aspects of their lives. They were safer together than alone. Emerging from the woods, Beth saw her father motion for her to join him. She quickly moved to his side and waited while he watched people slowly stir. He took her gently by the arm and the stepped a few feet away, but still safely close to the others.

Hershel absently tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, “We need to have a chat, Beth.”

“’bout what?” she asked, leaning in to give her daddy a hug and rest her head on his warm shoulder.

Hershel placed his arm around her. “Well, first I want to apologize to you,” Hershel said, a sad expression on his face, “for not being honest with you and your sister.”

“Honest?” Beth studied his face. He looked so worn and tired and it frightened her.

He sighed, before he began to speak, weighing his words. “I should have been honest about your momma and brother, about these people.”

“You were trying to protect us.”

“Yes, but I was also lying to myself and to you about the cold hard facts. It’s a new world. A dangerous world. I’m not always going to be here to protect you. Instead of sheltering you from the reality of the situation, I should have been doing everything in my power to teach you how to survive.”

“Don’t talk like that, Daddy. You’re not going anywhere without me.” She felt the terror rising in her chest again, a sob knotted her throat and the tears began to well in her eyes. She sniffed audibly, and it sounded like a scream in the still air.

“Calm yourself, child.” Hershel’s tone was neither consoling nor accusatory, his voice and his words where matter-of-fact. “We need to talk like this, Beth. I should have talked like this with you from the start.” He took her gently by the shoulders. “Look at me, Beth. Look at the color of my hair.” He smiled slightly. “This is no world for old men. Realistically, I pray I’ll be gone long before you.”

She started to protest, but he hushed her.

“You need to learn to survive. To stand on your own two feet. You can’t always expect someone else to protect you. You have to learn to do for yourself. I’ve done you a great wrong by not telling you that before now. Look around you Beth. These people are all survivors. Some more skilled at it than others. Learn as much as you can from them. The simplest thing can save your life. Learn and you’ll survive too.”

“I’ll try. I will, Daddy,” she said softly, as he drew her in to a hug and kissed the top of her head.

“That’s my baby girl.”

***

It was mid afternoon, and the sun was beating down hot on her shoulders when Daryl appeared from the woods, a half dozen rabbits strung across his back. Rick had decided they would stay where they were for at least a day or two, to rest. And lick their wounds, Carol had added sarcastically. Beth had done as her father had instructed and helped as much as she could. They found a small stream and where able to fill a few water bottles and picked up enough dried wood from the woodland floor to build a small cooking fire if there was anything to cook. Hershel had helped them find and gather elderberries, wild muscadine grapes and fiddle head fern shoots. If there was no meat, at least they would have had something to eat, but wild game would make it all the better. After a day of scavenging Beth was ravenous.

She watched as Daryl lowered the rabbits to the ground and bent near the fire pit. They had already layered tinder and kindling into the pit. He pulled something from a small pouch at his side and leaned over the prepared pit. Without thinking she moved closer.

“What you want, girl?” he asked gruffly.

Beth was startled by his defensiveness. “I…I just wanted to see what you were doin’.”

“Nothin’ if’n you don’t get out of my light.” He looked disapprovingly at her.

“Sorry. We would have started the fire, but we didn’t have matches.

He pointed to the opposite side of the pit, and she sat down there. He glanced at her warily, before returning to his task. In one hand Daryl held a bit of mirror and in the other what looked like a lens. “As long as you got sun you don’t need no matches.” He caught the sun in the mirror then reflected the light to angle through the small lens.

“Like a magnifying glass,” she said, intrigued by the simplicity of the idea.

He nodded, concentrating on what he was doing and not looking in her direction. “’Cept the sun don’t have to be overhead. As long as you can catch it you can use it.”

“Pretty scientific,” she said, half to herself, remembering how much of science class she had not been interested in.

“No science. Just wood sense,” Daryl answered. The tinder had begun to smoke.

“Can I try,” she asked tentatively.

At first it appeared as though he was going to ignore her, then he handed her the two pieces of glass, putting the mirror in her left hand and pointing to the right. “Keep the sun opposite the mirror.” He stood and walked behind her so he would not block the sun.

Beth bit her lip as she struggled to catch the light and focus it into the lens. He waited for a few moments, then with an impatient grunt, knelt behind her, wrapped his arms around hers and covered her hands with his, correcting the angle of the mirror to achieve the desired effect. His hands were large and calloused, his nails short and packed with grime. And yet, his touch was infinitely patient. She smiled as the light caught the lens and she held perfectly still until a tiny curl of smoke rose from the tinder. Only then did she become conscious of the heat of his arms resting along hers and the feel of his breath against the back of her neck. Gooseflesh rose on her forearms, and she was suddenly hyper aware of him. As if sensing her thoughts, he pulled away from her. She turned to see him getting quickly to his feet. There was a guilty look on his face, as he put distance between them like someone who had been caught committing a crime. Beth wanted to put him at ease, to tell him he hadn’t done anything wrong, that she wasn’t offended by his touch. She understood he was just helping, teaching. But the teenage girl that was still so much a part of her was very aware of the maleness of him. She was also very much aware that she was just a child in the eyes of most of their companions, Daryl included.

“Thank you,” she called after him and smiled, hoping he understood that she really did appreciate his willingness to share his skills. But he had already turned to the other edge of camp leaving her to coax the fire into life.

Beth did not know if any of their companions had noticed their exchange. There really wasn’t anything for them to notice. She was young but she wasn’t stupid, and she had always thought of herself as practical, not boy crazy like some of her friends. She was going to treat Daryl the same as she treated everyone else in their group. But as the days passed, she found she was always more aware of where he was relative to her than she was of the others. And that place was usually as far away from her as their close knit group allowed.

***

It had been two months since the farm had been overrun, and in that time their small band of survivors had never stayed in one place more than a couple days. Every time they thought they were safe, they were forced to move again. Beth didn’t pretend that she wasn’t afraid. Most of the time she was more terrified than she ever thought she could be, but she had begun to realize that they were strong as long as they were together, and that her fear and her sorrow did not have to overwhelm her.

She glanced around at those she had begun to think of as her extended family. Exhaustion showed on everyone’s faces and in their actions as they struggled to complete the most basic tasks. She worried about her daddy and Lori who were more burdened than the others, Daddy by his age and Lori by her pregnancy. Lori had been unable to keep food down for the first six weeks and what little she ate quickly came up. Her face was drawn and she was thinner than any of the rest of them.

But to herself, unspoken to the others, Beth worried most about Daryl. Everyone worked hard to scavenge what they needed, but on top running, hiding, avoiding or killing walkers Daryl spent hours in the woods, hunting. He never spoke of the obligation but she knew he felt responsible for providing meat for the group. Occasionally, Rick or Glenn would accompany him, but usually he shunned their assistance and slipped away alone to prowl the land around them for wild game. Most days he was successful, but on the days he was not, she could see how much the burden weighed on him.

Daryl had studiously avoided her since the day he had taught her to use the mirror and lens to start a fire and his avoidance was hurtful. He seemed to have permanently placed her in the background as though she were some fragile china doll to be treasured but never acknowledged. That was his way so she was respectful and kept her distance. But she couldn’t help thinking of him when the camp was quiet and the fire had been banked for the night. She was always conscious of exactly where he was and what he was doing when he was near.

Today had been little different than the sixty odd days that had proceeded it with one exception. Beth had killed her first walker today. A small herd of a dozen or so walkers had emerged from the brush beside them when they had stopped to rest. The battle had been fast and hot. Faced with a half rotten corpse at least ten inches taller than she was, Beth had been hard pressed to avoid his groping hands, and the rotten cavern of his mouth, but when she struck with her knife, her aim had been true and he went down in a boneless heap. She turned away from it to find Daryl ten feet from her, crossbow raised. Tension screamed in every muscle of his frame, and a palpable fear leeched from him. Not fear for himself, but for her. She was startled by his presence having lost track of him in the fray. She smiled weakly as though to say she was alright.

“C’mon,” he said quietly, and together they joined the rest of the group.

He had hovered close to her the remainder of the day, never speaking, but always within striking range. It was not until they made camp that he finally drifted away.

That evening Beth knelt next to the fire. The bed of coals glowed hot, with very little smoke - perfect for cooking. They had done all they could to prepare their meager meal when Daryl emerged from the woods. There was a satisfied look on his face that almost erased the exhaustion Beth usually read there and told her the hunt been successful. She was surprised when he walked straight to her nodding silent appreciation of her fire and she smiled. It was the first time he had ever acknowledged her efforts. That subtle nod was probably the most approval she would ever get from Daryl Dixon. She could live with that.

“Fire’s ready,” she said. “We’ll all eat faster if you show me how to help skin those rabbits.”

“Bring yer knife,” he said.

Beth got to her feet. Smiling as she followed him. Yes, she thought, she could live with that indeed.

(end)

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