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All I Have to Give

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He shouldn’t have done it. He knew better, had a gut feeling, but he decided to listen to her insisting and go hunting, hopefully to bring back enough meat for a meal or two, while she stayed at the small clearing to set up camp. She’d really started to surprise him, picking up how to track, how to start fires without a lighter, how to rig up the tarp to give them at least a little shelter while they were out in the middle of the woods.

It had been just them for a little over a month now, at least as far as Daryl could figure. Days kind of blended together when you were just focused on surviving. Every day was the same:  keep making their way around in ever widening circles, looking for any signs of the rest of their family. Beth was bound and determined to find the rest of them, convinced they weren’t the only survivors. Honestly, at first, it was easy to brush her and her silly ideas off, but she was so damn sure of herself. He found he was impressed with her spirit, and had to admit she was right:  she may not be like any of the other women in their group, but she made it, and was apparently determined to prove just how damn tough she was.

It was this tenacity for life she was so keen on displaying that convinced him she’d be okay while he was gone. There wasn’t much light left; he had an hour, maybe two, to find some little critter and get back to camp. As luck would have it, he found a rabbit warren maybe half an hour’s walk away from where he’d left Beth. He hunkered down behind a bush, peeking through the leaves at the partially hidden entrance to the warren, trusting that now that the sun was starting to set and the heat of the day was starting to escape through the tree tops, the residents of the little burrow would start poking their little noses out and he’d be able to bring dinner home for the both of them.

He had just finished dressing his kill and was starting the short trek back to camp when he heard Beth screaming for her life. Daryl took off, running as fast as he could, navigating through the darkening forest, not giving thought to the rocks, roots and fallen branches that his feet were somehow miraculously avoiding. His heart pounded in his throat as his stomach sank to his feet; his blood ran cold as different scenarios ran through his brain.

Had she hurt herself? Been bitten by a snake? Did a walker sneak up on her? Did a herd of walkers surround her?

Her continued screams, some of them cut off inexplicably, had Daryl fearing the worst.

The worst wasn’t even close to what he found.

There in the clearing was Beth, on her back, struggling as much as she could, fighting against a large brute of a man who had ripped her shirt open and was now working her pants down her legs. Her fists struck him about the head and chest ineffectually as she cried and begged him to stop. It was all in vain; he grabbed both her wrists in one of his hands and held them above her head as his other hand went from backhanding her into silence to working her jeans down her thighs, pulling her underwear with them as he went.

Daryl’s blood boiled and froze at the same time. Not even wanting to spend time loading his crossbow, he dropped the heavy weapon and rabbit carcass, which he had somehow managed to unknowingly carry with him this whole time, and unsheathed his large hunting knife as he rushed into the clearing. Using strength he wasn’t sure he had anymore, he lifted the pathetic excuse for a man off Beth and dragged him past the tree line of the clearing before he slit his throat and stabbed him in the brain to ensure he wouldn’t be bothering either of them anymore. He stood over Beth’s attacker, breathing hard; it was the sound of her retching that pulled him out of his trance and back to her.

When he returned to the clearing, he found her, doubled over on her knees, bent over the roots of a large Georgia pine. Even several steps away, he could see that her pants were pulled back up, but not fastened, and her shirt was hanging limply by the shoulders; her arms were crossed in front of her, covering her stomach and trying futilely to hold the torn pieces together to give her some sense of modesty. Forgoing his usual silent tread, Daryl tried making as much noise as possible so there was no chance of him sneaking up and scaring her.

He didn’t have clue one as to what to do. In their time together since the prison had fallen, he was only now just becoming comfortable with talking with her, even striking up conversations on his own once in a while. But this...this was a whole different situation. He awkwardly dropped to one knee next to her and attempted to pull her hair back behind her, not sure what else he could do for her. Hopefully she’d be able to tell him.

Eventually, her dry heaves eased up and she sat back on her heels, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. Daryl pulled his red handkerchief and offered it to her, which she accepted silently, unfolded it to cover the palms of her hands, and buried her face in the worn fabric. He felt her start shaking; at first he thought she was about to get sick again, but then realized she was crying.

Still at a loss for what to do for her, Daryl scooted around into a crouch to look at her, trying to see if she’d been hurt in any way besides psychologically. Taking a cursory glance, he only saw red marks around her wrists from where the bastard had held her down, but not much else. It wasn’t until she pulled the handkerchief down from her face that he literally saw red  and determined that if he could, he’d bring the fucker back from the dead just to beat him to death...he’d killed him too quickly the first time.

He fought like hell to keep his facial expression under control. If she saw him get upset, she’d only become more so.

Her right eye had a shiner growing around it already; her bottom lip was split and swollen; there was quite a bit of redness on her chin, like it’d been rubbed extra hard – Daryl felt his own stomach lurch when he realized her assailant had kissed her. He wasn’t sure what was worse: knowing he’d done that, or that he’d held a knife to her throat, leaving a thin line of blood stretching across her neck. Thankfully, ironically enough, it was no deeper than a papercut. Still...

He had no words. A simple ‘Are you okay?’ wouldn’t have sufficed, not by a mile, he was certain of that. Daryl wasn’t sure if he should touch her, not wanting to freak her out any more than she already was. So instead he just sat with her, silently waiting for her to decide what she wanted.

He was still taking in all her wounds when she flung herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and crying fresh tears into his shoulder, sobbing over and over, “I’m sorry...I’m so sorry.”

He dropped one knee to the ground to help support them both as his heart shattered at her apology. He’d heard an identical one time after time from his mother whenever his old man would come home and take what he wanted from her, whether she wanted to give it or not. When she’d emerge from their bedroom afterwards, often showing some of the same wounds that Beth had now, she’d always apologize to Daryl, though he never knew why. Just like now, if anything, he should be the one apologizing for not being there to protect her. He slowly put his arms around Beth’s back, mostly as a means of support , and let her get it all out in her own time.

“I’m just so stupid,” she went on. “I wasn’t paying attention, looking at the bushes around here, just sitting wondering what kinds they all were, when he came up and just grabbed me. I didn’t even reach for my knife, for my gun, nothing. Just froze until I screamed. Then he hit me and he...” she trailed off, her body wracked with another bout of crying. “I’m sorry,” she said again in between sobs.

Daryl had had enough. “Ain’t nothin’ to be sorry for, girl,” he said sternly, tightening his arms around her. “Ain’t done nothin’ wrong. Piece o’ shit thinkin’ he can just...” he stopped himself. She didn’t need to be reminded of what he’d tried to do to her. “It ain’t your fault. Not one bit.” He hoped she believed him, seeing as how it was the God’s honest truth.

A flash of anger shot through him at the thought of God. What the hell kind of God would let something so terrible happen to a good girl like Beth? And people wondered why he’d never ‘found religion.’

Not knowing what else to do, he just held her and let her cry it out against his shoulder, then his chest as she shifted to sit between his legs and in the cradle of his arms. He was way out of his comfort zone, never having touched or been touched in such an intimate way for such a long time, but this wasn’t about him, and he recognized that. He could deal with holding her as long as she needed. Apparently, it was the one thing she needed for now. Tending to her wounds, most of them thankfully superficial, could wait; cooking dinner could wait. She needed him, and he was determined to be there for her, just as she had supported him outside the moonshine shack.

The days following her attack stretched into weeks, and she healed...at least physically. Though her wounds had all faded and disappeared, she wasn’t the same Beth that he’d come to know and...appreciate. She had practically abandoned talking to him, speaking only when absolutely necessary. There was no more prattling on about things she missed from before the turn, no more stories from her childhood growing up on the farm, no more questions for him to give his own minimal answers to...not even asking where they were going as they walked through the late Georgian summer heat.

What he missed most were the songs she used to hum as they travelled. He was sure she never really put any thought into making the music, figuring that it just flowed naturally from her without effort. He noticed now that they were gone that the songs showed that she was safe and happy, if not content – a fact that hit him like a truck when he realized it.

And there wasn’t shit he could do for her to help. Oh, he’d tried. He’d pointed out little things that used to make her smile: a mama duck leading her babies to the water, a flowering bush growing in the middle of a bunch of weeds, a sunset that turned the clouds every shade of red, orange and purple imaginable before the sky was swallowed into an inky blue-black. Nothing seemed to help.

It reminded him of the time they’d spent on her daddy’s farm, after Shane had released all the walkers they’d kept in their barn; how she’d just shut down and ended up slitting one of her wrists. While they might not have known each other very well back then, he hoped she wasn’t on her way down that same path now. He wasn’t sure what he’d do without her now that she’d become such a big part of his life – so much more than just a travelling companion.

That’s when he decided to teach her how to use the bow. She gave off the vibe that she felt helpless, scared of her own damn shadow, that she couldn’t protect herself, even with all the training he’d given her with her knife. If anything, it would hopefully take her mind off...everything...give her something to focus on.

It was going well, too. She’d ended up tracking a walker for close to a mile before following him into a clearing. He watched as she stepped carefully, lining up her shot...then crashing to the forest floor as the arrow flew into the walker’s neck. He rushed to dispatch the walking corpse before it could come after her, then dropped to her side, finding her foot trapped in a damned animal trap. He pried the metal away from her ankle and checked to see if she was alright.

He had to find her a place to rest her foot for a couple days, maybe even a week or more. Somewhere she would feel safe.

As luck would have it, they stumbled upon a large white house on the other side of an abandoned cemetery (although in this world, every landmark they’d come to was abandoned). She’d been hobbling beside him for the better part of two miles, so he offered her a ‘serious piggyback’ to cross the last stretch of land. He stopped when she let herself down in front of a headstone revering a beloved father. Though he had no beloved father, he paused and paid respects to the best father figure he’d ever known – Beth’s own daddy, Hershel – even offering a handful of weedy flowers on top of the gravestone before offering his back once more to carry her to the front door of the house.

He did his best to ignore the fact that he was suddenly completely comfortable having her so close to him, her body pressed up against his, her warm breath on his neck and whistling past his ear. Where he used to flinch at the slightest contact, now he was apparently alright with holding her hand and offering a damn piggy back ride. He also ignored the fact that the same could not have been said a mere two weeks ago. Something had definitely changed between them, but Daryl wasn’t quite sure what that something was.

They explored all over the house (which was apparently a funeral home, and the irony of finding it here at the end of the world when the dead walked the earth was not lost on Daryl). In the downstairs embalming room, they found some bandages to wrap her ankle in, then a stash of food practically gift wrapped for them in the kitchen. Daryl set Beth up in the parlor, instructing her to rest her foot while he went and secured the rest of the house. Although the house appeared deserted, the cache of food indicated otherwise, and he wasn’t about to take any chances. When he returned, he followed the sound of her singing and playing piano, overcome with a sense of relief that the music flowed easily from her once again.

He leaned against the entryway to the room and listened, glad to hear the proof that she felt safe and happy, at least for the moment. He cleared his throat, again, so he wouldn’t be accused of trying to sneak up and scare her, and crossed the room to hop into the empty open casket on display near the piano. She questioned him and he informed her it was the most comfortable bed he’d had in years, then encouraged her to keep singing, hoping that it would be as therapeutic for her as it was for him.

The smile she gave him shot a jolt right through to his heart, and he spent the next several minutes wondering what it meant and just what this girl was doing to him. He found himself caring for her, not just because of her attack, but overall. There was a time before when he would have craved silence from her; now it tore him up inside and he realized he’d missed the sound of her voice. He missed her ready smile.

He missed how close they had become, how easy it was to be...friends?

Were they friends? Is this what it was like to have a female friend, someone who genuinely cared for you with no ulterior motives? To not feel like she was using him for a quick lay or a hit from his brother’s stash? She may have been using him for protection, but she watched his back just as much as he watched hers, before and after her attack. So what the hell was this feeling growing in his chest? He stared at the ceiling, tinted with candle glow, and tried to figure it out.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when he glanced over to find her standing right next to him, her hands resting on the side of the casket. He hadn’t even noticed she’d stopped singing and playing, and wondered how long she’d been standing there while he was lost in thought. “’Chu want, girl?” he asked.

“That’s the most uncomfortable couch I’ve ever met,” she said softly. “There’s no way I can sleep on it, and I...”

He knew what she was getting at. Since they’d been together, they’d never slept more than a few feet apart, knowing there was at least some safety in proximity. “Here, I’ll sleep on the floor. You crawl in here,” he offered.

She shook her head. “You’re already comfy. I...I was just wondering...is there room for two?”

His eyes searched her face, surprise surely written all over his own features. True, there had been nights, usually after a cool, rainy day, when they cuddled up together to find some warmth while they slept. But then it was always just understood. It was for survival, using each other’s body heat and all. It was a mutual understanding, a silent agreement. Never...just because.

Still, it was the first time in a long time that he’d seen her relatively at ease (aside from her nervousness in asking him to share his bed with her). He didn’t want to squash any bit of progress she’d made in healing her mind. Eventually he nodded and scooched so his back was against the side of the satin-lined coffin, making room for her to crawl in beside him. He figured if they kept their arms crossed over their own chests all night, their elbows would be banging up against each other while they slept...that or they’d just keep leaning against each other and waking each other up all through the night. Instead, he unfolded his arm, welcoming her in, and she promptly rested her head on his bicep. One dainty hand came to rest on his chest as he felt her relax against him.

He couldn’t help curling his arm around her back to hold onto her other shoulder, but promised himself it was only because they needed the closeness for warmth, as they hadn’t found any blankets yet.

When he woke the next morning, she was already up and at ‘em, which surprised him since he was usually the first to rise each day. He found her sitting with her foot propped up on the couch, reading a book she had found somewhere. When she saw him sit up, she greeted him with a warm smile and bid him a good morning.

The rest of the day they explored the grounds, checking in the storm cellar and storage shed now that it was nice and light out, and found a few more supplies they could use. Daryl noticed Beth growing quiet again and had a sinking feeling in his gut. She seemed to perk up when they returned to the house, probably feeling safer in there than anywhere else. He decided they’d spend the rest of the day inside, just letting her rest her foot and build up that feeling of safety she’d found. That night, they both crawled into the coffin again without comment, having agreed that it was, in fact, the most comfortable place to sleep in the whole house.

Daryl was still waiting for sleep to come when Beth’s voice cut through the silence around them. “Daryl? Can I...” she let out a low puff of air before continuing. “Can I ask a favor of you? A...really big favor?”

“What’s that?”

“I...I want you to sleep with me.”

He half opened one eye to look at her. “I think that’s what we’re tryin’ to do.”

“No,” she said. “I mean...sleep with me.”

Both eyes shot open and locked on hers. “The hell you talkin’ ‘bout?”

She took a deep breath and started to explain: “Growing up, I promised myself I’d wait til marriage before having sex. The thing is, marriage ain’t really a thing anymore, so when all this happened, I said if it was someone who really and truly cared for me, and I really and truly cared for him, that’d be close enough. Someone that I could trust with my life, I could surely trust with...that. I never let Jimmy get even close, and Zach and I might have been getting there before...” she trailed off, then looked up from beneath her eyelashes. “But Daryl,” she made sure he was looking right at her before going on, “that’s you. I trust you.”

“Beth, I...”

She cut him off. “I’ve thought a lot about this, Daryl. Since not long after...him.” Her eyes began to shine with tears in the moonlight. “This world has taken so much from me. My home, my friends, my family. I don’t want some...terrible man...to take that from me, too. It’s the only thing I have left to give, to choose who to give it to, and I’m trusting you with it.”

Daryl tried to crawl away but was trapped between her tiny body and the hinged side of the coffin. “Jesus, Beth, you don’t know...”

“Daryl Dixon,” she said with a new confidence and quite a bit of exasperation. “What if you’re right?” He blinked at her, waiting for an explanation. “What if everyone else is dead?” She swallowed and went on, “And even if you’re wrong and they are still alive? Who else could I go to? Glenn’s closest to my age, but there’s no way that would ever happen. Rick? Carl? Tyreese? I couldn’t do that with Rick and betray Lori’s memory, or Carl because he’s like a little brother to me. I hardly know Tyreese. But I know you,” she almost whispered, laid a soft hand along his cheek, and waited for his answer.

He shook his head, “Beth, we can’t do this.”

“Are you seriously going to turn me down, knowing you’re possibly the last man on earth? That I may be the last woman?” she asked testily. When he still didn’t answer her, being at a complete loss for words, she went on, “Are you trying to kill what’s left of my ego here?” He wasn’t sure if she was serious or joking, but, more importantly, wasn’t sure if he was willing to take that risk to find out. Either way, he decided, she had a damn good point.

It’s not like he’d never thought about it. Living in each other’s pockets for weeks, months on end, he’d have to have been some kind of saint to have never entertained the idea. She was cute...beautiful...inside and out, no doubt about it. A guy like him’d be lucky to come close to a girl like her. But he’d sworn to protect her, and not just for her sake, but in honor of her father. She’d saved him, so he was bound and determined to save her right back.

But he thought of what almost happened. He felt a tightening in his stomach as he realized how close she’d come to having her virginity stolen from her, how damaging that would have been for her in so many ways. If he hadn’t gotten there in time...

He sighed heavily, “Christ,” and rubbed his free hand over his face. “You absolutely fuckin’ sure about this? I mean, I ain’t...”

“I’m not doing this lightly, Daryl,” she said with all manner of seriousness. “And yes, I’m sure. Absolutely fuckin’ sure,” she echoed his words back to him. “I care very much about you, Daryl. I trust you more than anyone else I know, living or not.” She met his eyes again, allowing him to see how serious she was. “I want this.”

He lifted his hand to curl some loose strands of hair behind her ear, taking this one last moment to think of a way out of this. He could just tell her no, but would that be betraying her trust? Could he really take something as important as her faith in him and throw it in her face? “There ain’t no going back if we do this. Ain’t no do overs. A lot of things change, here on out.”

“I know,” she nodded. “I’m okay with that.”

He grit his teeth and leveled with her, his voice almost a growl, “The second you feel like you don’t want to anymore, you best tell me. Once it’s done, it’s done, and I ain’t gonna...force anything you don’t want just ‘cause you brought it up but then got scared.”

“I will, Daryl,” she whispered. “I promise.”

I must be out of my mind, he thought as he looked at her, her eyes and heart wide open, all for him. He wasn’t even sure where to begin. While they’d certainly been getting a lot closer lately, sharing innocent touches here and there, they’d never even kissed before; he had no frame of reference as to what she did or didn’t like.

She ended his internal quandary and reached up to kiss him softly. Her lips were soft against his, but he kept still, waiting for her to set the pace. Little by little, she began to move her lips against his, and their embrace went from stiff and stilted to welcoming and warm. They melted into each other, as if they’d been building up to this point all along, as if they’d done this a hundred times before.

Her arms wrapped around his neck loosely while his hand drifted down her side to her hip, then around to her lower back, pulling her into him. His fingers found their way under her now dingy yellow polo to find her soft skin beneath, earning him a gasp of surprise at the contact. He pulled back immediately, but she grinned up at him and let loose a nervous giggle. “You just startled me is all. It feels really nice. Please, don’t stop.”

Daryl raised an eyebrow questioningly, but returned to her kisses, daring to venture down her long creamy neck to the base of her throat. He was bound and determined to make this as good for her as he could, and if that meant nearly killing himself by going slower than a snail stuck in molasses in January, then so be it. He wouldn’t admit to himself that he’d wondered how her skin tasted more than once – that certainly wasn’t why he was allowing himself to do this. He felt her hand grip his bicep as he moved and groaned in surprise when her teeth caught the shell of his ear. “That feels so good, Daryl,” she encouraged him in a breathy voice, and he let his teeth close lightly down on one of the tendons in her neck, feeling the goosebumps rise on her skin as she gasped sharply and arched her body into his.

When he’d reached as far as her shirt would allow, he pulled himself away and snaked his hand around to her front, lifting the hem slowly, silently checking with her to make sure she was still alright with this. She took his cue and worked to pull her shirt over her head. He gazed down at her, the thin material of her bra doing very little to conceal anything from him. As he took his time just looking at her and running his fingertips along her torso, enjoying the play of her abdominal muscles as she moved according to his touch, she reached up to thread her fingers through his hair, carding it back and out of his face, then letting her fingers trail down the side of his face, his neck, resting on the top button of his shirt, slowly pushing the plastic disc through the buttonhole.

They’d seen each other almost naked before, bathing in whatever lake or stream they could find, but never this up close and personal. He was sure she’d seen the scars on his back, but had never mentioned them, as was her way. He wasn’t too keen on exposing his back to her intentionally, but supposed if she was taking such a huge step in showing how much she trusted him, he could do this...for her...if it was what she wanted. She’d made it clear that she felt safe with him; he could do the same now. He rocked back on his knees and worked on removing his shirt then returned to her, angling his body so he was now partially covering her, holding himself up on his arms. Her hands came up to touch him, delicate fingers running through his patch of chest hair, exploring down over his stomach before landing on his belt buckle.

His eyes snapped to meet hers, always gauging how comfortable she was with each step. She caught her lower lip with her teeth and worked the leather through the buckle, unfastening the tongue through the notch slowly before both ends hung loose between them. Next she slid the button of his jeans through the buttonhole.

Before she could take things one step further, Daryl leaned down and kissed her, wanting to slow her down, even just a little, giving her every chance he could to allow her to back out of this. His plan backfired slightly, though. Her hands left his waist and slid all over his back, surely feeling the raised flesh of his scars under her fingertips. Daryl wanted to pull away, but there was something oddly soothing about the way her skin glided over his. Instead, he covered her body with his, feeling the skin of her smooth stomach against his. He found himself craving more of her, wanting to feel more of her, taste more of her.

He’d never been with a virgin before, but he figured she’d need to be beyond relaxed in order for him to cause her the least amount of pain, and he had a pretty good idea of how to get her to that point. Fighting the fact that this was still awkward as hell, he began to lose himself in her, in her scent, in the feel of her skin beneath his lips. He kissed down her throat, her breastbone, letting his lips play along the ragged lacy edging of her nearly see-through bra. She gasped when he kissed her through the fabric, his lips closing around her nipple. There wasn’t much there to really play with, hardly even a handful, but that didn’t bother Daryl in the least. He’d always been an ass man himself.

And Beth had one hell of a cute ass on her. Not that he ever checked her out that way.

He moved further down, kissing down her stomach, smirking as she bucked her hips against him and giggled as he reached more sensitive parts of her skin. He stopped in his tracks when he reached the waistline of her jeans and she gasped once more, but in a very panicked sort of way. He jerked his head up to look into her face, making sure she was okay.

Beth’s breathing had turned shallow as she tried to calm herself down. “Just...gimme a minute,” she whispered.

“Beth, we don’t...”

“No,” she said adamantly. “It’s just...I saw him...in my head. But only for a second,” she quickly added.

He shook his head, “I don’t care, Beth. If this is gonna be too much for you, we’re stopping right here.”

She threaded her fingers through his hair and tugged, pulling him up to truly face her. “Are you really going to stop when we’ve gone this far already?” She ran her fingers along his scalp, pushing his hair out of his face as she thought. “Can I hold on to you? So I know it’s you the whole time?”

There was a time Daryl would have fought tooth and nail to prevent any kind of prolonged contact like that, but on top of him getting closer with Beth recently, he found he rather liked the feel of her hands on his bare skin. Even when he’d hooked up with some nameless woman before, he never liked them touching him like Beth was now. In fact, more often than not, he’d insist on doggy style just to keep their hands off him, but he couldn’t imagine treating Beth like one of them.

It stabbed him right through the heart to realize that she was putting his level of comfort before her own. This girl...this woman. He didn’t deserve her. No one did. Yet she’d chosen him for this, and while he knew he’d be an idiot to turn her down for his own selfish reasons, he knew that to do so would hurt her more than anything. So he nodded his response then gently kissed her again before slowly moving down her torso to where he had left off.

This time when he reached the button of her jeans, she tensed a little and her hands tightened in his hair, but that was the only reaction she really gave him. He slid the button through its hole and slowly lowered the zipper, but instead of removing her pants like he was sure she was expecting, he kissed his way back up to meet her lips with his. As their kiss became more and more heated and insistent, and he felt her relax beneath him, his hand trailed down her side and eventually burrowed beneath the fabric of her underwear. He sealed his lips over hers and his fingers found her, just the slightest bit of wetness hiding there.

That is, until he reached further down and found her opening just short of dripping with arousal. He bit back his tongue to keep from saying anything that might embarrass her and instead teased up and down her slit, gathering the moisture and drawing it up nearer to her clit, which was still tucked away beneath its hood. Once he was convinced everything was wet enough, he focused again on teasing his fingertip along her entrance, slowly circling it while his mouth trailed from her to her breasts. He brought his free hand up to pull her bra down, exposing her pale pink nipples to his warm, wet mouth.

Her hands tightened in his hair again, but not in any kind of panic, at least none that he could tell. Instead, she was damn near panting with excitement now, moving her hips, seeking more from his fingers. She groaned in disappointment when he pulled his hand out of her panties, and he couldn’t help but chuckle a little. “Relax. I’ll keep going, but...” he tugged playfully on one of the panels of her jeans. “These need to go. Just didn’t wanna startle you again.”

Beth smiled her appreciation, then lifted her hips to help him peel her jeans (and panties with them) down over her hips, her thighs, past her knees, until she was able to kick them off and push them into the far end of the casket. He slowly returned his hand to between her thighs, carefully teasing her again, wanting her to be practically begging for him to go further with each step.

Finally, he heard it – a breathy whisper of his name – that let him know she was ready for more. There was no way he’d have missed it, what with him nuzzling that sweet spot just below her ear. He adjusted the angle of his wrist and gradually slid his middle finger into her, biting back a string of profanities when he felt how damn tight she was around him. She arched her back, sinking his finger even further into herself, then let her knees drift further apart as she came back down, welcoming him in as he moved his hand back and forth, creating a steady friction for her. As he realized she was becoming more and more accustomed to him, two things came to mind: first, he was ready to start playing with her clit, which was now barely peeking out from beneath its hood, making itself known; second, if she felt this hot, wet, and deliciously tight just around his finger, how the hell was she going to handle his cock being inside her? He wasn’t the biggest guy around (metaphorically speaking), but he knew he was larger than average.

Dammit, what the hell had Jimmy and Zach been doing? It was like she’d never even been touched, let alone slept with anyone.

He almost called the whole thing off, not wanting to cause her any more pain than was absolutely necessary. The only thing that stopped him, or rather, kept him going, was the fact that he damn sure didn’t want to upset her. She was already taking a huge step here, had put so much of her trust in him, all while trying to overcome that traumatic experience from weeks ago. The last thing he wanted to do was send her right back to that awful mindset that she had been dwelling in, the one where she was quiet and removed and not his Beth.

Now he was bound and determined to make this worth the pain he’d inevitably cause her. Even if it killed him, he would make sure she fell apart with pleasure before and after taking her precious gift to him.

He worked a second finger into her, but immediately moved his thumb along her clit and kissed her deeply, trying to distract from any discomfort she might feel. He felt her start to relax around him and curled his fingers until he found that magical spot inside her, the one he rarely bothered searching for with any other woman he’d been with, that would help bring her to orgasm.

Within minutes, he recognized the grip she had on his bicep and in his hair as a telltale sign that she was very close. Seconds later, her inner walls squeezing around his fingers assured him he’d done a fairly decent job. She cried out as she found release (hopefully for the first time of many tonight) and held him tight, inside and out. When he finally felt her relax, he eased his fingers out of her. A tiny voice in the back of his mind told him to bring his hand to his mouth so he could learn just what she tasted like, but decided it might be a little much for her this first time. He didn’t want to risk embarrassing her. Instead, he rocked back on his heels, kneeling over her, and lowered his jeans over his hips, kicking them and his boxers off quickly.

Once he had finished, leaving both of them naked, he used her own slickness, still clinging to his fingers, to coat his shaft, preparing him to make his entry as smooth as possible for her. He stopped his movements and looked at her as a major point of order crossed his mind. “I ain’t got a condom.”

Beth cast her eyes downward, and Daryl couldn’t tell if she were disappointed in him for not being able to protect her once again or if it were because they were this close and nothing was going to happen. He watched her worry her teeth over her lower lip then looked back up at him, laying her hand along the side of his neck. “It’ll be okay. I trust you.”

Daryl swallowed hard. He was pretty sure he was clean; never needed any prescriptions to clean up anything like Merle had. Besides, he’d always used a condom before, so there was really nothing to worry about, except maybe going off too early inside her. He hoped to hell he’d have enough control to pull out before he came.

He took a deep breath and nodded, allowing her to pull him back down to cover her body with his. Her thighs spread beneath him, welcoming him into the cradle of her body. He reached between them and guided the tip of his cock to her entrance, stopping once more to let her get accustomed to the feeling as the head slid between her lips. She was positively scorching and beyond drenched at this point. He’d never felt anything like it.

“Last chance,” he murmured, holding himself off her and waiting for her answer.

She let out a long, low breath, physically trying to relax herself. She gave him a weak smile and placed her hands on his sides, just above where her thighs were holding him. “Just...go slow, okay.”

If it kills me, he promised himself, and gradually pushed his hips towards hers. He kept his eyes locked on her face, hard as it was; he wanted to lose himself in her, wanted to feel all of him being wrapped in all of her, and all at once, but knew he had to keep control. Her eyes were squeezed shut and her breathing remained slow and measured, trying to keep herself from tensing up.

The feeling was exquisite as he felt her stretching around him. There was nothing like this on earth; surely he’d died and gone to heaven – a heaven he didn’t belong in, didn’t deserve – and yet here he was. As he pushed his way in, her jaw dropped open, but there wasn’t a trace of pain on her face. When he was finally seated deep inside her, he watched her eyes flutter open to meet his. “Y’okay?” he asked, not daring to move until she said to.

She nodded, “I’m okay. It doesn’t hurt much, it’s just...lots of pressure. Could you...” and she rocked her hips against him and gasped again. “Oh my God...Daryl, please.” She readjusted her grip on his arms, and he followed her lead, moving barely an inch of himself out of her then back in, and lowered himself to cover her. “What do I...?” she began.

He answered her by winding one arm under her neck, pulling her even closer to him, and resting another on her thigh, silently directing her to pull her knee up higher to open herself more to him. They both groaned as he reached a new depth in her, and her legs found their way to wrap around his waist as he kept moving. He wanted to yell out all number of profanities, but grit his teeth and stayed quiet aside from grunting and groaning into the crook where her neck met her shoulder. The last thing he wanted to do was scare her now.

He brought his hand from her thigh up to tangle in her pale golden hair spread on the satin covered pillow, caging her in with his forearms, as if he were protecting her even now. Every tiny noise he heard from her wound its way down his spine and around his cock, shooting electricity all through him. At the height of each thrust, he could hear her panting and sighing quietly, whispering his name like a prayer...at least it was a prayer in as much as he heard his and God’s name over and over in his ear.  

“Please...Daryl.” Those two words alone were enough to send him over the edge, but he fought for control and paused his movements to look down and see what she wanted. “I need...more...please.”

He took a slow breath in, and he could swear he could taste her scent. Gradually, very gradually, he increased his tempo and groaned when he felt her curl her hips up to meet his with each stroke. They came together easily now, meeting each other’s rhythms perfectly, as if it had all been planned. His low groans, as much as they sounded like an animal grunting, created a wonderful counterpoint with her gasps and sighs.

He had a fleeting thought about making beautiful music together, a sign that they were both feeling incredibly safe and happy with each other.

“God, Daryl...yes!” she exclaimed as she clawed at his back, possibly creating more scars, but he found he couldn’t care less...he’d be happy to bear these scars for the rest of his days. “Please...don’t stop,” she begged him as she locked her ankles together behind his back, just above his ass. Her beautiful voice filled the room with her sounds of absolute bliss. “God, I’m so close...don’t stop...”

She wasn’t the only one getting close. Hearing her losing herself damn near pushed him over the edge. He thought he had it all under control until he felt her spasm around him, drawing his release from him. He thrust into her, once, twice, three more times, harder than he had this entire time, spilling himself into her.

It took less than half a minute, not even long enough to catch his breath, to realize what he’d just done, and he pushed himself off her hurriedly. “Shit. Shit, shit, shit Beth!” He looked up at her from his place kneeling between her legs, his face showing every ounce of panic and anger he was feeling.

“It’s okay,” she whispered. “It’ll be okay, Daryl. Please...please don’t be upset.” She tried to reach for him, but he vaulted himself over the edge of the casket and started pacing angrily around the room.

“Don’t be upset?” he growled at her, trying like hell not to yell at her. “The fuck am I supposed to not be upset, girl? Ya trusted me and I just...dammit, Beth. I told ya we shouldn’ta done this.” His voice rose at least an octave as the frantic worry crept into his mind.

He heard but didn’t watch her climb out to join him in the middle of the floor where he’d inexplicably stopped, too pissed to pace anymore, fuming mad and glaring at the wall with his back to the casket. He jerked his arm away when he felt her hand on his elbow, then whirled around to face her, ready to unleash all kinds of wrath on her.

“Daryl,” she said softly, as if she were talking to a wild animal, not sure if he’d attack or when. “I want you to just listen, okay?” She waited a few seconds before continuing, “I don’t really want to go into a biology lesson, but I’m telling you, there’s very little risk that anything will...happen. Trust me.” Her voice had grown stronger as she spoke, seemingly becoming more and more sure of herself. “And if I’m wrong,” she shrugged, “we’ll handle it.”

Handle it?!” he shouted, unable to contain his anger any longer. “In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the middle of the damn apocalypse. Ain’t like we can just take ya to a hospital...if ya even make it that far. And you’re talking like ya ain’t got a damn care about getting knocked up.”

“Because you didn’t knock me up,” she said simply, and not without a trace of frustration. “Nothing’s going to come of this, Daryl. I pretty much can’t get pregnant.” He blinked at her, her answer having stopped him in his tracks, and waited for her to explain. “I don’t really want to get into it, but I was on medicine to try to help my condition, but now I’ve definitely been off it long enough that, well, like I said, very little risk. It’d have to be some kind of miracle if something were to actually come of this.”

Well, didn’t he just feel like a grade A asshole?  He could only stand and look at her.

“So...thank you,” she said after a while, a bright blush crossing her cheeks, her voice barely above a whisper. Did she just thank him for popping her cherry? “Was...was I okay?”

After all this, after him doing this to her and then yelling at her right after, she was still worried about him. He couldn’t put into words how “okay” she was. He just kept right on looking at her, finally pulling himself out of his trance when he noticed her shivering ever so slightly. A rash of goosebumps spread over her body, and he followed them with his eyes across her shoulders, down her torso and thighs, where he saw the evidence of what they’d just done running down her leg. He swore under his breath and went to the casket, pulling his flannel from the pile that had accumulated in the end of the satin lined box, then knelt in front of her to clean her up. Once he’d finished, he stood in front of her, letting the shirt drop to the floor as he reached for her and pulled her into his arms.

“Perfect.”

She looked up at him, eyes wide with something like worry. “Are you sure?”

He smirked, “Absolutely fuckin’ sure,” he murmured before leaning down to kiss her again. Without another word, he bent and hooked his arms beneath her knees and her back, effortlessly lifting her to bring her back to the casket. He crawled in next to her, wrapping her once again in his arms, giving her all the warmth he could.

They lay naked next to each other, hardly noticing their lack of clothes or a blanket, at least for the moment. It was something he’d never done in all his years, but here with this woman, he let his guard down one more time that night. Neither of them knew what each new tomorrow would bring, and he could try like hell to prepare for everything, to protect them both from whatever came their way. Tonight, however, he couldn’t bother to worry about it.

He fell asleep to the sound of her humming some unknown song. It didn’t matter what it was. What mattered was she felt safe and happy here with him.

The feeling was very much mutual.