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Beth Amber

FIC: The Walking Dead - Twenty One Days and Counting (PG) (Bethyl)

Title: Twenty One Days and Counting
Author: maddie_amber
Characters: Beth Green, Daryl Dixon, Bethyl
Rating: PG
Words: 1794
Summary: The events portrayed in "Still" did not take place the day after the prison fell. Or even two days after. Daryl and Beth were on the road for some time together – at least three weeks – before “Still”. Long enough for Beth to become thoroughly tired of a tight lipped, emotionally closed Daryl Dixon. Time enough for her to know she had to take matters into her own hands.



Twenty One Days and Counting

Daryl had pulled Beth from the prison, telling her they had to go. She followed his lead because she knew she had to, but she left with a fractured, aching heart. She had no idea what had become of her sister Maggie, dear sweet Judith, or any of the other children. She wanted to stay and search, but the prison was overrun with walkers, the fences destroyed by the Governor’s men, and Daddy was dead. Running kept the vision of his gruesome death at bay. Maybe that’s why they ran until they finally collapsed in exhaustion. Maybe that was Daryl’s plan. To keep her moving so she didn’t have time to break down into a useless sobbing mess. If she was running he wouldn’t have to deal with a distraught girl who just lost half or family. It was like he was trying to keep her so exhausted she’d forget everything that had happened. Or maybe, he was the one who needed to forget.

***

Maggie used to tease her whenever she wrote in her journal. Beth’s older sister was rooted in the here and now, dealt with what was tossed at her and moved on. She rarely needed to analyze what had occurred. But for Beth, putting her life into words, helped her sort out her life. And her emotions. Maybe Maggie thought it was silly, but it was so much a part of who Beth was that she felt incomplete without paper and pencil. Nothing she wrote was ever intended to be public, or published. She had no aspirations to write the great American novel. But writing was a balm for her psyche. Especially as she had moved into her teen years. Writing helped her sort out all the tumultuous highs and lows of growing up, it kept her level-headed, helped her see the optimism in her life, when she wasn’t sure there was anything to be optimistic about. Never had that been truer than when the dead began to rise. When she was at her lowest, after her mother had attacked her and had been brutally but mercifully put down, she had forgotten about her lifeline. She had set aside her journal as childish. She had not sorted out her thoughts and emotions, and had made a very stupid choice to cut her own wrists. She never imagined she could be that sorrowful and confused. Until now. And while suicide was the farthest thing from her mind, she wished she could take comfort in sorting out her thoughts and putting them into words on paper. Instead she fed its pages into the fire, slowly, one at a time.

***

Old Stone Face. That’s what Daddy used to call Mr. Larsen who ran the Pharmacy back in town. Once Beth asked him why. “Because his expression never changes,” Daddy had answered. The next time they went to town she had tried to secretly watch Mr. Larsen from outside the drugstore window, just to see if his face ever changed. Funny how things come around. Now she sat watching Daryl hoping to see if his face changed. Hoping for some sign that he was alive in there somewhere. Wanting to know what he felt, and what he was thinking. He never showed anything. It was like he had completely shut down. She’d get so angry at him all she wanted to do was smack him. Anything to get a response. But something told her smacking was a thing he’d learned to side-step years ago.

***

Disgusting would hardly describe how she felt. Beth was so filthy she could barely stand herself. All she wanted was to find a stream big enough to strip down and dive into. She really didn’t care whether Daryl watched or not. She grew up on a farm and never in her life had she been this dirty. Not after cleaning the barn on a stinking hot August day. Not after helping Daddy with that difficult calf that just refused to born. The problem with being the smallest person on a farm is that you always got elected to be the obstetrician for anything than that couldn’t get born on its own. Calves. Foals. Kid goats. Come on, Beth, her daddy would say, your hands are smaller and it will hurt them less. So he’d talk her through it while she stood with her arm inside a cow or mare or goat up to her shoulder in some cases, til the unborn legs, heads and tails were sorted out and the young one was pulled into the world kickin’ and bawlin’ and she would be covered with amniotic fluid, blood and manure. She felt dirtier than that right now. Maggie always said the best part of farmin’ was takin’ a shower. Well the best part of prison life was having a shower, even if it was cold half the time. Right now she’d just settle for a stream. Maybe if she jumped in buck naked she could get some response from Daryl instead of his stony indifference.

***

As far as she could tell it had been days since Daryl did more than cat nap. He always insisted on taking first watch and never woke her until it was almost dawn. Beth couldn’t understand how he kept pushing himself, pushing both of them. She was exhausted and she managed to sleep a few hours every night. He had to be running on empty and it was starting to show in his actions. More than once she had caught him literally asleep on his feet. This evening she had decided she was not going to take no for an answer. She was taking first watch. He’d given her the Dixon glare, challenging her to make him sleep. Without voicing a word, she moved to the edge of their tiny camp and positioned herself as guard. There would be no argument. He finally gave in, lay down by the fire and was immediately gone. It wasn’t very long before she began to understand why he refused to sleep. She didn’t know where he went in his dreams, but she knew she didn’t want to go there. More than once he jerked violently, thrashing and covering his head with his arm as though fending something or someone off. She thanked God he didn’t wake up screaming. Not that Daryl Dixon would ever scream. She screamed in her dreams and her life hadn’t been ugly like his. Two hours later, he was awake, deep lines of fatigue creased his brow and his eyes were ringed with shadows as dark as the abyss. She never bothered him about sleeping again.

***

She wanted to believe with all her heart that the others had survived, that somehow Maggie, Glenn, Rick Michonne, Carl and the others had escaped from the prison and were out here, wandering like they were. They had found tracks. Other people had passed through this area. It gave her faith that their family had made it. He just turned his back on her as though not looking at her would be enough to make her hopes vanish. “It wouldn’t hurt you to have a little faith,” she had said sharply. “Faith ain’t done shit for us,” was his bitter response. “Sure as hell didn’t do nothin’ for your Dad.” It was her turn to look away so that he would not see how deeply his words had scorched her soul. She started mindlessly pulling berries off a bush in front of her. “They’ll need something to eat when we find them.” The words sounded hollow even to her. He must have felt something because he wordlessly handed her a kerchief to wrap the berries in. It didn’t ease the sting of his words nor the fear that he might be right.

***

Beth told Daryl she no longer cried. For the nameless bodies on the railroad track, for everyone who had died since this all began, for all those she knew and didn’t know, she didn’t cry. She grieved, from the depths of her soul for this heartless world that had taken so much from her, from her family, from everyone.

***

She tried hard to keep track of the days but they all blended into a blur. They would trudge through the woods for hours. Hunt. Build a fire. Cook. Then sit wordlessly, each a slave to the isolation of their own thoughts. She was going to go crazy if she had to spend the rest of her life staring into a fire with an unresponsive companion. The frustrating thing was, she thought Daryl at least liked her as a friend. Back at the prison he used to say hello, and ask how’s Lil’ Ass Kicker? Whenever he’d go on runs he always remembered to bring her something special. Once it was a little bottle of nail polish. She’d done her nails so he’d know she appreciated it. Another time hair ties that weren’t rubber bands. Once he brought her a whole box of new pens. Another time a book. He never said much then either, but at least there was expression in his face as he’d slip some little trinket into her hand. He said it was ‘cause she never got to pick out nothin’ for herself. Because she was always tending Judith at the prison. This man with her now, was so tightly walled up that she could barely get a word out of him even if she asked a direct question. The prison had never confined him, but he had built his own prison now that it was gone.

***

She was starting to feel as lifeless as Daryl Dixon looked.

***

Beth had had enough. For weeks she had watched him sit on the far side of too many campfires silently staring into the flames. She was done with this. She was taking the lead. He was going to follow her or he could stay in this miserable camp alone forever. She didn’t care if he approved of her quest. She just had to do something besides wander aimlessly through the Georgia countryside. She needed a goal however frivolous. “I need a drink,” she said quietly but firmly.

(And the rest can be seen in “Still”.)

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