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When Life Creates Art

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Daryl entered the dive bar through the back door the stale odor of cigarettes and sweaty bodies hitting him almost immediately like a mini punch to the gut. Squinting through the haze and dim lighting he made his way towards the private room in the back where he knew his friends would be waiting.

Pausing at the bar for a moment he hailed the establishments owner loudly yelling over the music," Josh can I get a beer?"

"Sure thing man," the owner who reminded Daryl very much of one of Merle's biker friends responded. Gesturing towards the back room he continued, "Everyone's already back there man. Pretty sure you're the last to arrive. I was just about to bring a round over to them."

Daryl nodded at the man, who despite his rough exterior he also considered a friend, because underneath it all Josh had a heart of gold. Josh had owned the Boxcar Ale House since Daryl had moved to the area to film the quirky show he had figured might last a season or two. Turns out that quirky show had taken off and become the number one show in the country and in the process catapulted himself and his friends and coworkers into a professional stratosphere they had never inhabited before. Recognition meant a lot in his chosen field of employment. It meant that when this show was over his agent swore he'd have his pick of new projects and it meant that in between filming he had a plethora of small movie roles to choose from. Given where he'd come from and how hard he'd struggled to get where he was Daryl understood what a gift this show and opportunity truly were.

The Boxcar Ale house was only a couple of miles from the base camp they'd worked out of for most of the show and the group had started coming to the establishment to unwind when they had been a bunch of no bodies back during the filming of season one. Now that they were likely to be mobbed even trying to go to the grocery store, Josh had made allowances for them by setting up a back room for their use, allowing them privacy when they would come by to unwind after a long day. The private back room allowed them to be able to get together like normal people and to not be hounded by well meaning, but still intrusive fans.

Daryl had just turned to head back towards the room when Josh startled him from his thoughts barking out over the loud noise of the bar, "Your girl is here tonight Daryl. Missed her smiling face. Was glad to see she's come for a visit."

Startled at the revelation Daryl was only able to grunt at Josh and raise his hand at the man in acknowledgement before continuing on his trek to his intended destination. His mind was reeling though as he considered the fact that Beth was here as that could be the only girl that was his that Josh could be referencing. Tonight was supposed to be a large gathering as most of the cast and crew were planning on coming out, but still he hadn't expected her. He'd filmed with Glenn all day today and he'd never mentioned that his wife's sister was in town.

Reaching the doorway into the private room the group occupied Daryl paused in the portal surveying the crowd. It was like an invisible string was pulling him towards Beth because it didn't take him but a minute to locate the familiar head of wavy blonde hair in the crowd. She was standing with Maggie, Tara, and Rosita off to the side of the room casually dressed in ripped jeans and a plaid flannel shirt with her hair in loose disarray. The woman were giggling and pointing as Aaron and Glenn sang the worst karaoke version of 24 Carat Magic that Daryl had ever heard.

He actually had the momentary desire to cover his ears before he noticed Rick approaching him from the side a sly grin on his face," You didn't tell me Beth was going to be here tonight."

"Would be hard to tell you something I didn't know," Daryl grunted unable to keep the tension from his voice.

Running a hand through his overly long hair, an overt display of his agitation, he took a swallow of his beer before admitting to his friend," Things have been weird lately. Everything was good at first but not having her here every day things have gotten," he paused searching for the right words and finally settling once more on," weird."

Cocking his head to the side Rick mused," And you didn't think it would be a good idea to divulge that kind of thing to your best friend?"

Sighing Daryl huffed out," I wasn't sure what I was divulging Rick. At first she was fine. I mean as fine as she could be having to move back to New York and knowing she has to pretend she's off the show for who knows how long but then," he paused to fidget with his glass," Lately she's started talking about moving to LA and working on her music career and," there was a long pause," she's even considering picking up some other acting gigs for a while."

Shrugging his shoulders Rick mused," Sounds pretty reasonable to me Daryl. They told her it could be a while. Gave her carte blanche to do what she wants as long as she's prepared when they're ready for her. Why wouldn't she take the opportunity to do those things if that's what she wants," he paused to take a swallow of his own drink, "it would allow her to work in her chosen fields and to fill her schedule instead of just sitting around twiddling her thumbs?"

"Because," the frustrated actor huffed before shifting from foot to foot and admitting rather reluctantly," We're almost done filming here and then I'll be back in New York for the hiatus and," he grimaced as if knowing what he was about to say was supremely selfish," I miss her man. I miss working with her every day and I want her to be in New York with me when I am there. I don't want to have to chase her all over the country."

An understanding look graced Rick's features before he placed a comforting hand on his friends shoulder," It'll all work out man. Just give her some time to adjust to all the changes happening in her life and just be there for her. Stop putting so much pressure on her. Beth's had a lot of upheaval in her life lately. She needs you to be her ballast right now not her anchor."

When Daryl just glared at his friend through his shaggy bangs Rick sighed before turning his head to watch the aforementioned blonde as she climbed the karaoke stage. The serious look on her normally carefree features made Rick's gut twist. Something told him this might not be good and when Beth turned her brilliant blue orbs in Daryl's direction and the music began Rick knew all hell was about to break lose.

The vivacious blonde sang Michelle Branch's "Goodbye to You" with haunting perfection and with her gaze laser locked on the rugged man standing beside him Rick had no doubt that Daryl was the intended recipient of the message in the song. For his part Daryl stood stock still gazing at Beth incredulously and Rick couldn't decide if the man was simply stunned or deeply hurt or a combination of the two.

Everyone thought Daryl was impervious to deep emotion and the devil may care attitude he projected in public didn't dissuade anyone of the idea however Rick knew the truth . . . that Daryl was someone who became deeply invested in those he cared about and Rick knew the man cared about Beth with a ferocity that he'd confessed shook him to his core. That was the reason he was pushing the young actress so hard to remain in New York. He wanted her to be near him and he'd taken her temporary separation from the show hard. He'd confessed just a few weeks ago that he'd been looking forward to going home to her during the hiatus in just a few short weeks and while the actor had confessed that they were negotiating her pursing other projects Rick hadn't realized the complexity of the rift that was forming between his friends.

It was Lori who finally triggered a reaction from Daryl when she came up to her husband and put a hand on his back before craning her head around Rick and asking bluntly," Daryl what the hell did you do to Beth? This is a rather pointed song choice clearly being directed at you."

The actor's shaggy head snapped in Rick's wife's direction for a split second before quickly surveying the room and realizing it had gone mostly silent with everyone focused either on him or Beth. His face suffusing with a deep red blush the suddenly embarrassed man grumbled with frustration," Excuse me for a minute," before turning and heading for the stage where Beth was belting out the final lyrics to the song.

Daryl knew the anger coursing through him was simply a reaction to his embarrassment but no matter how much he told himself that as he strode towards the stage he couldn't seem to diffuse it. He couldn't believe that Beth was doing this here, now, like this, in front of all their family and friends. True they'd had a blowout argument three days before where she had told him she wasn't going to sit around in New York and rot while his career flourished but he'd thought they both just needed time. He'd understood what she'd been feeling. Every aspect of her life over the last several years had been upended and just when they'd started whatever this thing between them was morphing into but he'd honestly believed they were on the same page about how they were going to handle this and her moving to LA had not been part of the plan he'd envisioned. It was also true that he might have told her that if she moved out there they were done, that whatever they were trying to build was over, that he couldn't and wouldn't be involved in such a long distance relationship but he'd said that out of anger and he'd truly believed that she understood that. Now he was facing the cold hard reality that Beth had apparently flown in to town to publically humiliate him by ending whatever it was that they had via song in front of everyone they knew and who was a part of their beloved show. A show that they were going to at some point have to work together on again.

By the time he reached the stage Daryl knew he wasn't going to be able to control the words that passed from his lips. His hurt and anguish were welling up within him like a tidal wave and Beth's apparent lack of concern as she met his eyes did nothing to settle his emotional turmoil.

Focusing on the blonde's visage which Daryl could see Beth was fighting to keep impassive the actor demanded as he crowded her in order to not be overheard," What the hell was that darlin?"

Raising her chin defiantly as she gazed up at him Beth icily whispered," You gave me an ultimatum the other night Daryl. This was simply my answer."

Daryl had guessed that's exactly what the petite blonde was doing but confirmation of his thoughts did nothing to quell the rising fury that he was barely containing. Reaching down with deceptive calm he threaded his fingers through Beth's surprising her.

He had her hand before she realized what he was doing and using his body to shield her from the view of those around them he leaned down to whisper in her ear with absolute authority, " We're leaving," before turning and heading for the door.

Not in the least bit intimidated by Daryl and his cave man like antics Beth thought about pulling her hand back and refusing to leave with him. However, she'd come here tonight knowing what she was going to do and knowing that it was likely to incite Daryl to behavior just like this. She had been spoiling for a fight and she'd gotten her wish. She wasn't about to back down from that now. Expecting just this type of thing she'd already told Maggie not to worry if she left with Daryl unexpectedly that no matter what she'd be safe and that she see her and explain it when she got home.

Daryl couldn't shake the haze of red that had enveloped him as he towed Beth from the room, through the main bar, and out towards his Jeep. For her part she didn't fight him, she followed along docilely, understanding that making a scene in a public forum was a bad idea for both of them.

It wasn't until they were in his Jeep and he was tearing out onto the main road that she asked rather nonchalantly," Where are we going Daryl?"

"Home," the actor ground out struggling with the word like he couldn't even force the simple statement through his clenched lips.

Flopping back into the passenger seat Beth realized that it would be best to just enjoy the ride because engaging Daryl while he was still so angry was bound to get her absolutely nowhere. Gazing out the window the blonde ruefully acknowledged that no matter how angry the actor was he was driving with enough caution to make her feel safe. No matter what she knew beyond a doubt that Daryl would never do anything to physically hurt her or put her at risk.

The interior of the Jeep was silent save for the sounds of their breathing for the twenty minute drive to Daryl's house. There was never any question as to where they were going since it wasn't like she had a home here anymore and they certainly weren't going to go back to her sisters to fight. As Daryl killed the engine she slid from the vehicle stalking towards the front door and reaching for the hide a key before he could catch up with her. She'd opened the door, kicked off her converse sneakers, and sat cross legged on the leather sofa in his living room before he managed to make it onto the porch.

When he'd barreled into the living room slamming the door behind him she'd simply looked up at him expectantly. He met her gaze, his own still wrought with conflicting emotions of hurt and anger, and held it for several long minutes that felt like years before finally grinding out, " No."

Beth felt the incredulous laugh spill from her lips before she could even try to stop it, "no," she repeated in disbelief.

Stalking away from her as he ran a hand through his hair the actor whirled as he reached the doorway to his kitchen before turning back to her and elaborating, "No I don't accept this. We aren't doing this. You aren't doing this. This isn't happening."

Frustration finally getting the better of her the hurt blonde ground out," Daryl you told me the other night that if I insisted on going to LA then it was over between us. This," she paused to gesture between them," whatever this was or is or was going to be. . .that it was over if I didn't abide by your demands. I am not twelve Daryl. You aren't my father or my boss or whoever you think would have the right tell me how to live my life. I am a grown woman who's trying to establish a career in a world where only a few lucky ones make it. I. . . "

She was cut off as a frustrated Daryl burst out," You made it Beth. Your part of a number one television show. You don't have anything to prove. You don't."

Slashing her hand through the air Beth cut Daryl off as she snorted," Really I was part of a number one show. Now as far as everyone's concerned I am not anymore and I won't languish around waiting to be called back. I have time. Based off what the writers are saying possibly a lot of time to kill and I need to use it productively. Why can't you understand that? Why can't you support me in this Daryl?"

The actors face softened a bit as he acknowledged the validity of some of what Beth was saying. Huffing he shoved his hands in his pockets," You can work in New York. You can work and spend time with me. I can help you. Put your name out there a bit and . . ."

"No," Beth spat vehemently before dragging in a deep breath and repeating with more control, " No." Adjusting her position on the couch the blonde ran her hands up and down the inside of her legs before verbalizing haltingly, " I know you're just trying to help when you say stuff like that Daryl but I don't want to be that person. You've made it. You've put in the work and the time and you've made it and you deserve that. You're one of the hardest working people I know and it's one of the things I admire most about you besides your passion for giving back. But can't you even try to understand why I have to do this on my own? Can't you see that I can't be the girl who made it because of who I was sleeping with?"

Clearly still frustrated Daryl snapped," It wouldn't be like that Beth. That's not how it is between us. You know that. Why are you making this into something it isn't I just want to help you."

"It doesn't matter if that's how it is Daryl. We know that isn't how it is but other people will assume that."

Angered anew Daryl snarled," I don't give a fuck what other people think Beth and you shouldn't either."

"Accept that I do," the blonde snapped back," and you know that it matters in our world Daryl. It matters to the people who would hire me and I don't want to be seen that way. "

Finally accepting that at least on some level Beth was right Daryl's shoulders sagged as he exhaled with defeat," So what are we doing then Beth? What are you telling me here?"

Her own heart breaking more than just a little the blonde swiped at an errant tear as it slipped down her cheek," I am sorry," she rasped hoarsely.

Stepping closer to where the ethereal blonde sat on the couch Daryl's face crumbled as he whispered hoarsely, " Please don't do this darlin. We were just figuring this thing out. We just need some time. In New York we can have that. I . . .," he paused sucked in a deep breath," I've never felt this way about anyone before Beth."

The absolute vulnerability on Daryl's face coupled with what she knew to be a very heartfelt confession nearly broke Beth's resolve. She cared for this man more deeply than she'd ever cared for another human being. He was her best friend although she'd never admit that to her sister or any of her girlfriends and he understood her on a level she knew no one else did. It was part of the reason she knew he understood exactly what she was telling him now. Exactly what she'd been telling him last week. It was why he'd become so emotional and reactive when he was normally the cool, calm, collected one. He'd understood that for now it was time for them to go their own separate ways and while the timing couldn't be worse it was the right thing for both of them. But being the right thing didn't make it easy and she had known that he would rail against her choice. It wasn't in Daryl's nature to walk away from those he cared for when he perceived that they needed him. That was the problem though, he was an older established actor, and she was young and just getting her feet off the ground. She had to do that on her own and she couldn't rely on anyone, not even him to help her make that happen.

He wouldn't be able to let her struggle, it wasn't in his nature to do that, and inevitably he would swoop in to save her, and she'd never know if her success was her own or a result of what he'd done for her. Ruefully she mused that pride was most likely going to be her downfall. A huge part of her was screaming at her that she was a fool. That what she was potentially giving up was worth more than what she was seeking. But the other part of her, the part that had been unmoored by all the sudden and traumatic changes in her life, eagerly sought to cut this final tie and release itself out into the world. She wanted to fly even if it meant that eventually she was going to fall.

Slowly unfolding herself from the sofa Beth rose and walked to the distraught man. Her gut twisted as she raised a hand to gently cup his cheek. Looking solemnly into his eyes she vowed with much more conviction than she felt," It's going to be okay honey."

Leaning into her hand and peaking up at her through a fringe of wild hair the actor demanded gruffly," Then why does this feel like an ending," as he reached up to place his own hand over hers.

"Because it is for now," she acknowledged painfully as her fingers stroked over his stubble covered jaw," but that doesn't mean we can't still be here for each other the way we've been for years. You're my best friend Daryl and I don't want to lose that . . . ever. But for now this other thing whatever it was going to be . . . it's ending."

Their eyes locked then soft cornflower blue and fierce cerulean as they watched each other intensely for several long moments. Then before Beth could react Daryl was raising his hand to cup her jaw and leaning forward.

"What are you doing," she managed to whisper just seconds before Daryl's lips met hers.

"What I should have done a long damn time ago," the actor vowed fiercely as his lips settled over hers.

Chapter Text

Their eyes locked then soft cornflower blue and fierce cerulean as they watched each other intensely for several long moments. Then before Beth could react Daryl was raising his hand to cup her jaw and leaning forward.

"What are you doing," she managed to whisper just seconds before Daryl's lips met hers.

"What I should have done a long damn time ago," the actor vowed fiercely as his lips settled over hers.


Shockingly it was the first time Daryl had kissed Beth with intentions other than fun and clowning around. She'd insisted on taking things slowly and in deference to their already established deep friendship he'd agreed. But tonight with nothing else to lose Daryl decided that he couldn't let Beth walk away from him without so much as a kiss to remember her by.

What he'd intended to be a sweet goodbye kiss took on a life of its own as she eagerly opened her lips to his probing tongue. Daryl had always believed that there would be passion between them but even he had underestimated the degree to which the fire would burn. Her hands were threaded into his hair and he was backing her towards the couch before he'd even realized what he was doing. Pushing her down he was quick to settle himself between her jean clad thighs one hand on her hip and the other at the back of her head as he kissed her thoroughly and deeply rational thought seeming to have escaped his mind altogether. Then ripping his mouth from hers he trailed kisses down her jaw and over the throbbing pulse at her neck. Suckling gently he took a moment to enjoy the effect he was having on her, the harsh sounds of her ragged and broken breathing ringing in his ears, before his right hand moved to begin unbuttoning the flannel shirt she was wearing. His mind was spinning and he was acting purely on emotions, instinct, and a desperate desire to be close to her.

It wasn't until he was pushing the offending garment from her shoulders and running his hand to dip it underneath the thin camisole she was wearing that Beth reacted.

Arching underneath his touch, pressing into him, she choked out tightly," We shouldn't be doing this." The message was one big contradiction her words warning one thing and her body saying something completely different. Even knowing that she was right Daryl ignored the sage advice instead leaning forward to kiss her fiercely again drawing deep ragged moans from the back of her throat.

Finally pulling back he looked deep into her eyes as he demanded fiercely," You want me to stop," one hand tracing tiny circles on her flat stomach.

Her taunt stomach quivered under his gentle touch her eyes remaining locked firmly on his, as she shuddered out on a ragged sigh," No . . . no don't stop. Please I," only to be cut off as he dropped his lips back to hers.

The kiss was deep and it left them both gasping for air as Daryl pulled back to tug at the camisole impeding his further exploration. When he struggled Beth scooted to a sitting position locking her eyes with his as she crossed her hands at the hem of the garment. Pausing she launched forward to give him a quick passionate kiss before pulling back and drawing the shirt over her head effectively baring herself as she wasn't wearing a bra. As the camisole fluttered to the ground beside the couch the blonde blushed momentarily before reaching for the hem of her partner's shirt.

"Off," she grunted with frustration as she tugged on the garment. When she was unable to make any progress in removing the shirt she huffed out a frustrated breath earning an amused chuckle from Daryl.

Tugging at the shirt the actor had it over his head in seconds before all amusement fled and he dropped his hands reverently to Beth's bare sides. Sliding his calloused palms around to her back he pulled her towards him as he groaned," God you might be the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."

As he dipped his head to her bare chest Beth wove her hands back into his overly long hair sighing on an exhale," Not beautiful. Just human," only to release a tiny moan as the actors lips closed around her breast.

He suckled gently for several long moments drawing a myriad of soft eager sounds from the woman in his arms before pulling back and affectionately brushing her tangled blonde hair from her face.

"Beautiful," he reiterated lowly but firmly before elaborating," Everything about you is beautiful to me Beth. Inside and out your amazing darlin. Can't tell you enough," he whispered softly as his hands traveled to the snap on her jeans. Pausing with one hand on the snap he dragged the other back up to cup her cheek with deep affection before sighing, "Been waiting for you my whole life sweetheart. You're my best friend and that alone makes this one of the most deeply powerful moments I've ever, " he paused shaking his head as if not sure how to continue. Then dragging his eyes back to hers he confessed raggedly as his hand deftly undid the snap to her jeans," I need you honey."

Beth felt her heart clench at Daryl's confession and leaning forward she sealed her lips to his desperate to deepen the contact between them as she struggled to push her jeans down her hips. He helped her and in just a matter of moments they were both bare and as he kneeled between her thighs the blonde realized she had never felt so exposed in her life. Unable to help herself she began to tremble as he settled one hand on her hip and brought the other to her neck. Her hands found their way to his sides as they stared at one another both shaking and completely raw and exposed.

Ducking his head Daryl confessed ruefully, emotion clear in his tone, his fingers tightening," I haven't been this unsure since I was a kid," then leaning forward he kissed her gently before probing," We can't go back from this darlin are you sure?"

Shaking beneath him, her hips bumping against his of their own volition dragging a ragged moan from him, she confessed in a tiny uncertain voice," No but please don't stop. Daryl I," she paused trailing off as if struggling with what to say before trying again, " Daryl I," only to be cut off with a gentle finger against her lips.

"Hush," he soothed gently as he raised her hips to his," you can tell me later," before positioning himself at her entrance and reaching down to guide himself home.

There were several long moments of panting breaths and gentle moans of pleasure as they came together and adjusted to the feel of each other. When he was fully seated Daryl gathered her in his arms pulling her close and just holding her against him as he sighed," You feel amazing."

Releasing a ragged chuckle Beth sighed wistfully as she reached up to cup his cheek," Nah we feel amazing," before shifting up to kiss him again.

The movement caused Daryl to shudder softly and then ever so gently he began to move in slow sure strokes as if they both needed to find their footing. Possibly they did as they were both shuddering and grasping at each other as the emotions of the day and in fact the last several weeks caught up to them.

Taking control of the situation Daryl anchored Beth to him as he began to move with more purpose building the intensity of the moment and at the same time trying to draw it out as long as possible. Pulling Beth close he shifted them both until he was sitting up on the sofa and Beth was straddling his lap ,one slender thigh on each side of his, still connected to him in the most intimate way.

She giggled softly as she settled in his lap a question clear on her face but he stopped her with a gentle finger to her lips. Leaning forward he drew a deep passionate kiss from her before placing his hands on her slender hips and urging, "Move for me honey."

Grinning at him ethereally she started a slow but rhythmic dance that built as one of his hand traveled from her hip to her breast. He massaged gently for several moments before removing his hand and placing it at the juncture of her thighs.

Her eyes had been closed in pleasure, her head thrown back, so when he began to rub her clit gently she startled her rhythm faltering as her eyes flew to meet his.

"It's okay," he soothed hoarsely," I got you darlin," prompting her to kiss him deeply before beginning to move again.

What had been slow and languid transformed as it built steadily from soft subtle sighs and unhurried movements to rasping breaths and desperate thrusts. They were both chasing their release and Daryl wasn't about to get there without Beth.

Hanging onto the frayed edges of his self-control Daryl refused to let go without her and using his fingers he drove her toward the edge she was desperately trying to reach. He could tell the moment she tottered there poised to go over but not yet ready to release control.

Leaning forward he nipped at Beth's ear before whispering," Come for me darlin," effectively sending her over as she began to shake and shudder against him.

Pulling her close Daryl crushed her tiny frame against his own as his world exploded with a cascade of bursting lights and feelings. He thought for one horrifyingly overwhelming moment as everything went dark that he might actually pass out before light began to once again filter into his vision.

Once more becoming aware of his surroundings the actor pulled his face from the crook of Beth's shoulder kissing the tender skin softly as he took careful stock of his companion. The tiny blonde was collapsed against him her own forehead resting against his chest, her waterfall of blonde hair shielding her face. They were both covered in sweat and as he came back from his high Daryl realized how chilly his living room actually was. Reaching behind him he pulled the quilt from the back of the couch, wrapping her in it and pulling her close, before moving to tilt her head back so that he could see into her eyes.

She met his gaze for a moment before bashfully dropping hers. Using the pad of a finger he tipped her face back up before leaning in to press his lips to hers. The kiss was deep but soothing lacking the passion of the previous embraces.

Pulling back he rasped out gruffly setting his hands on her shoulders and massaging gently," You okay?"

"More than okay," she whispered in response before snuggling into his embrace.

"Good," he murmured before pulling her firmly against him and moving to rise.

"What are you doing," she gasped struggling to find purchase as he stood and shifted her into his arms. She realized rather belatedly that he had her securely and she relaxed into his embrace choosing to look up into his face as he answered her question.

Gazing down at her with an expression she wasn't able to decipher he sighed," It's late Beth. We're both exhausted. I am taking you to bed. We can talk in the morning."

It wasn't the first time he'd told her such a thing. There had been plenty of late nights post filming when they'd stayed up well after they should have dancing and drinking or watching movies and he'd hauled her off to bed with him. She even had an extra pair of pajamas at his house for just such occasions but while tonight might be very similar to past nights it was also very different. Neither adult was under the impression that this was a repeat of their frequent platonic sleep overs between friends.

He carried her to the bedroom and carefully deposited her on the side of the bed which in the past he'd jokingly referred to as hers. He pulled up the covers before leaning down to drop a soft kiss on her forehead and murmuring, "I'll be right back."

He disappeared into the en suite bathroom then and Beth could hear muted sounds through the closed door as she snuggled into the comfortable mattress her mind spinning. She hadn't intended for this to be the outcome of the evening. She'd expected Daryl to fight her on this decision but she'd thought that she could convince him that what she intended to do was best for both of them right now. Yes something had been developing between them but at their core they were best friends and she'd thought she could convince him to fall back on that for now while she spent some time finding herself. Now she'd gone and complicated everything. Any rational debate she'd intended to try to have with Daryl had flown from her mind the minute he'd kissed her.

She'd often wondered what it would be like to be kissed by him and the reality was that it surpassed any expectations that she'd had and every rational reason for why she'd come to talk with him had fled her mind as soon as his lips touched hers. The gut wrenching reality though was that it didn't change anything. She knew she was still going to go to LA and now she'd made this whole thing so much more complicated. She had the momentary desire to curl into a ball and start crying because she knew without a doubt that Daryl would be even more hurt now that she'd allowed this to happen. That knowledge was like a punch to the gut because she didn't want to hurt him. She'd never wanted to hurt him and it seemed like every decision that she was making lately did just that.

She was swiping at the tears that were beginning to track down her cheeks as the bathroom door swung open and the light flicked off. The quiet of the room was broken only by the soft sound of Daryl as he padded to his side of the enormous king size bed.

She felt the bed dip slightly and then he was letting out a soft sigh as he reached for her breathing out, "Come here darlin."

Without hesitation she slid back into his arms but she was unable to mask the soft sniffle that escaped her as her emotions overwhelmed her once more.

"Hey," he soothed shushing her gently as his arms tightened pulling her back into the firm wall of his chest," Hey what's the matter?"

A broken sob escaped Beth as she gulped," I just," she broke off instinctively snuggling back into the safety of Daryl's arms before confessing brokenly," This hurts too much."

Daryl released a ragged sigh before leaning forward and kissing her bare shoulder softly, " Life hurts sweetheart that's the nature of living but we'll get through this."

There was quiet for a moment as they drew comfort from their embrace before Beth whispered tightly barely able to force the words out but unable to hold them inside," I am still going to LA."

" I know darlin," Daryl admitted with a rough exhale of breath. Then wearily and a bit defeated," I know you are." Then quietly as he wrapped himself around her," We're both exhausted Beth. Turn it off for now. Turn off your mind . . . the doubts, the thoughts, the fears. Turn it all off and just be here in the moment with me. I don't know what tomorrow is going to bring but we have tonight. We have right now in this moment and I just want to hold you." Kissing her neck he continued," We'll figure it out in the morning but right now I just want to be with you."

It wasn't a confession of love but Beth knew he loved her even though he'd never said as much. She knew he loved her in a way that transcended romance and bordered more on the connection between soulmates because she loved him in just that same way. As she lay in his arms surrounded by him Beth was consoled somewhat by that bond which created such a dichotomy that they were able to draw comfort from each other even as they broke each other's hearts.

They were both quiet for a long time as they lay in the dark simply holding each other and drawing strength from the connection between them. The deafening silence of the room was punctuated by their rhythmic breathing and the sounds of the night creature's right outside the windows. Neither slept though as if they were both willing time to slow to a crawl so as to extend the finite amount of time they had left with each other.

Finally Beth's lids began to droop with exhaustion as the emotional and physical toll of the last several hours began to catch up with her. Just before she drifted off, caught in the nebulous land between wakefulness and sleep, she predicted drowsily and with sorrow," I think you're going to hate me in the morning."

It took Daryl who himself was close to sleep a moment to decipher what Beth had said and by the time he did he was rather chagrined to realize that she had already drifted off to sleep. Leaning forward he whispered in her ear more for himself than for her a vow he intended to keep no matter what the future held, " I'll always be here for you Beth. No matter what I am always going to be here. You're my best friend and nothing is ever going to change that. Ever."

Chapter Text

Daryl woke up to the pressure of feet standing on his chest. Pointy little feet that were kneading and pulling at the thin sheet covering it and he was very glad there was at least a sheet between his skin and the cats claws and that it wasn't his chest receiving that treatment. Cracking a bleary eye he peered up at his cat who apparently had decided he needed a wakeup call.

Reaching up he stroked the cats head lightly before grunting," You hungry buddy."

He was still lazily stroking the cat as he turned his head to glance at Beth's side of the bed. It was of course empty and he was slightly disappointed that he hadn't woken with her wrapped in his arms something he was more than familiar with after their many sleep overs. Glancing towards the clock on his night stand he noticed it was almost eleven and he chuckled ruefully to himself. He never slept that late of course last night had been a pretty big deviation from his normal routine. He supposed he was glad he didn't have to work today. A clattering from the kitchen drew his attention and gently shooing the cat he moved to swing his legs over the side of the bed.

Rubbing at his eyes he took stock of his bedroom before reaching to grab his boxers and a pair of sleep pants from the floor where they had previously been discarded. He didn't bother with a shirt it wasn't like Beth hadn't seen much more the night before.

After a quick detour to the en suite bathroom he made his way downstairs padding quietly his cat at his heels.

As he entered the bright sunny kitchen Daryl stopped in his tracks the sight before him hitting him like a swift punch to the gut. Beth had her back to him clad only in her underwear and one of his worn jean button down shirts. The hem barely reached the middle of her slender thighs and the sleeves were rolled up to her elbows. Adele's "Water under the bridge" was playing softly from his echo which was sitting on the counter top near his stove and her hips were swaying to the music as she sang along her voice melding pretty seamlessly with the singers. She hadn't heard him yet the music and the sizzling and popping of whatever she was preparing on the stove masking his entrance.

Mesmerized by the sight before him he approached her quietly making sure to wrap his arms around her and pull her back against him away from the stove. His sudden embrace, the pressure of him against her back, startled her and she did jump so he was very glad he'd thought to pull her away from the heat of the appliances burners.

Laughing she relaxed as she realized the pressure was him," Morning," she giggled.

"Morning," he grunted in return momentarily distracted as her bottom pressed against his groin. Unable to help himself he pressed back into her as he inquired," What are you doin'?"

Moaning softly at the pressure against her she tipped her head back into his shoulder so that she could look into his eyes as she murmured coyly," I was making you pancakes for breakfast."

"Huh," he muttered gazing down at her intensely before gently turning her in his arms and then backing her against the marble counter top," I am suddenly finding myself pretty damn hungry but it's not pancakes I want on the menu."

As he moved Daryl reached over to flick the burner on the stove to off. He had things in mind and he didn't need to literally burn down his home while satiating the hunger that was suddenly overwhelming him.

Beth pressed back against him as he crowded her into the counter top. Placing her hands on either of his flexed arms as they caged her into his embrace she murmured," Oh yeah well what do you want then? I wanted to make you breakfast so," a pause as she demurely peaked up at him through her lashes," why don't you tell me what it is you do want if not pancakes."

"You," he grunted without hesitation as he lowered his head to suckle gently at the tender skin where her neck met her shoulder which was exposed by the gaping neckline of his unbuttoned shirt.

His other hand moving from the counter top to her hip he slid it up under the hem of his shirt as he pulled away to murmur softly in her ear," I am suddenly starving for you. Do you have any idea how hot you look standing in my kitchen wearing my clothes?"

"No but I am suddenly figuring it out," she moaned back as she raised a leg to wrap it around his hip effectively pulling him closer. The move connected their groins for a split second and they both moaned loudly as they rubbed against each other.

Daryl was sure somewhere in the back of his mind that he hadn't intended for this to happen this morning. Not after last night but any objections he might have had fled his brain along with his ability to think rationally. Beth seemed to have that effect on him quite a lot and suddenly he found himself needing her desperately all over again. The thinking part of his intellect was screaming at him to consider that he was making this situation even more complicated but his heart won out over his brain as he dropped his lips to hers.

Beth accepted his forceful kiss with an equal degree of passion and need and within seconds he'd ripped off her panties, freed himself, and pushed her up against the counter until she was open to him. They were both mostly still dressed and he was spreading her even more and guiding himself home before he'd even stopped to think about it. It wasn't until he was seated inside her and her slim legs were wrapped around his hips that he realized that they were really doing this again.

They were still kissing their lips and tongues dueling and pulling away he found himself moaning," I don't know that I am ever going to get enough of you."

Pulling back from where she'd buried her head in his shoulder he caught a look on her face that was more sorrowful than he'd like to consider so he avoided it by dropping his own head to her shoulder to suckle softly as he pushed forward into her.

Her moan of response was enough to tell him he was doing something right and it wasn't until a few thrust later that he realized he was literally pushing the small of her back into the marble countertop. Her eager response to him as she thrust back against him and suckled at his exposed skin didn't indicate she was uncomfortable but he worried about bruising her delicate porcelain skin.

"You okay," he all but groaned in her ear as he continued to thrust," I am not hurtin' you am I," he leaned in to nip at her ear before muttering," You never should have left the bed this morning."

"I wanted to surprise you with breakfast," she moaned before nipping at his shoulder then on a breathy exhale," you're not hurting me. Please. . . I need," only to trail off with a gasp as he increased the tempo of his thrusts.

"Well you surprised me," Daryl chuckled passionately before adjusting his grip on her to move his hands to span her back effectively protecting it from the hard edges of the counter," I got you baby girl just let go."

Daryl retreated into a haze of feeling then. Letting go as much as he'd encouraged Beth to he shut down any rational thinking. He just felt. Felt Beth's slender legs wrapped around him, felt her warm wet heat as it enveloped him, felt her chest as it heaved against his, felt the swelling in his heart that indicated that when this was all over he was probably in for a world of heartache.

She was coming apart then shaking and shuddering in his arms as she all but sobbed his name and he was quick to follow her internal muscles clenching around him and pulling him over the edge. Pulling her to him he thrust deeply into her one final time as he caught her lips with his own. Kissing her passionately he emptied himself inside her shaking and trembling with spent passion.

Recognizing that his knees might give out on him the actor hefted the trembling blonde in his arms gently disconnecting them before sliding her up and onto the counter top. When she was sitting on the edge he stepped between her splayed thighs thrusting his hands into her wild blonde locks as she looked to him dazedly. They were both sweating, both trembling, and he had a feeling he looked as dazed as she did because he certainly felt that way.

Ducking his head he snatched a quick kiss before whispering as he watched her intently," You okay?"

Her blue orbs began to clear some as the heaving in her chest lessened. Still a little breathless she giggled adorably as she ducked her head," More than okay."

"Good," he sighed carding his hands through her hair before pulling her close to him. He enveloped her in his arms and he felt her clinging to him and despite their lack of clothing it wasn't seductive. A hefty dose of desperation had leaked back into the exchange and Daryl could feel it there between them like a purple elephant.

Another worrisome thought came to him suddenly as he realized what he'd just done. Stroking the back of her head he inquired with more than a little apology in his tone," Beth I got a little carried away. We didn't. . . I didn't," he paused not sure how to continue before finally exhaling," this wasn't exactly safe."

Pulling back from him she searched his face for a moment as if looking for something. He wasn't sure what but finally she cupped his chin before reassuring," It's fine I am on the pill," then as if considering something she bit her lip before inquiring," Is there something else I should be worried about?"

Unable to help himself he chuckled wryly despite the situation," God no. Despite what they say about me you know that's not who I am."

"I know," she soothed quickly running her hand down his neck to rest against his chest. Then turning back towards the stove she murmured bashfully," So you still want those pancakes?"

Daryl let his head fall towards her shoulder again giving it a quick kiss before moving to cover her by adjusting the sagging collar of his shirt," Yeah," he agreed nodding his head and meeting her eyes," pancakes sound good."

Half an hour later the actor found himself seated on his living room floor a steaming plate of homemade pancakes situated before him on the coffee table. Beth came bustling from the kitchen butter and syrup in her hands and she folded herself down beside him her own pancakes and coffee already at her place.

Silently she handed him the butter and syrup as she reached for her coffee," We gonna' talk about this now," Daryl finally questioned as he made himself busy plying his food with toppings.

When only silence greeted him the actor raised his eyes to exam the blonde seated next to him. Instead of responding immediately however Beth simply reached out a hand for the syrup. He handed it to her as he observed that at some point she'd already buttered her own stack of golden pancakes.

He watched as she tipped the bottle her eyes heavy and full of emotion as she swirled the syrup but she didn't hurry her task and finally with a deep sigh she plunked the syrup on the glass top of the table," I am pretty sure we said everything that needed saying last night."

Aggressively cutting off a hunk of pancake he shoved it towards his mouth as he snarled his frustration getting the better of him," Then what was this morning Beth? It seems to me we still have plenty to say to each other," he trailed off as his eyes landed on her mashing her pancakes with her fork.

She wasn't looking at him instead concentrating on mutilating her pancake as she choked out tightly," You know what this morning was Daryl."

Swallowing the food that suddenly tasted like ash in his mouth Daryl pondered in a rather disconnected way how things could change so quickly. He hadn't been under any illusions upon waking about the outcome of this morning but he was now considering that he also hadn't been feeling it either. Somehow he'd check his emotions and kept them locked down and in the finality of this exchange they were bursting forth against the walls he'd so carefully erected to contain them.

Dropping his fork on the napkin beside his plate he leaned towards her as he choked out softly," Maybe I don't. Maybe I don't know what it was. Why don't you enlighten me."

He watched as Beth dropped her own fork any pretense of eating long gone as she raised watery blue eyes to meet his own. He could read the pleading in them as she all but begged," Let's not do this. Not now. Daryl please. . ."

Even knowing that she was right and knowing the promises that he'd made to himself the night before Daryl couldn't contain the feelings swirling within him as the euphoria of the morning faded away and the light of cold hard reality filtered in," What was it Beth," he all but growled knowing what she was about to say but not wanting to be forced to acknowledge it.

Her shoulders seemed to sag as the young blonde finally dropped her head to murmur the confirmation he didn't want to hear," It was a goodbye."

Daryl could feel his anger taking over, knew it was a result of the pain and denial he was barely staving off but, he was unable to get a handle on it as he pushed away from the table barking," No I don't accept that Beth. I don't accept that this is all about goodbye. You can't do this to me. I won't let you."

Something in his tone of voice must have alerted Beth to his pain because where she'd shut down somewhat in the face of his anger her head snapped up at the last part of his denial. Even as his heart felt like it was shattering into a million pieces in his chest he could read the regret and self-recrimination that skittered across her features as she studied his face.

Reaching out she captured his hand in her own as she moved to kneel on her knees before him. Sucking in a deep breath it came out on a sob," I should have gone home last night. I am sorry honey. God I am so sorry. It was selfish and I needed you but I shouldn't have."

Her words no matter how sincere cut more deeply than anything Daryl supposed he'd ever heard before. The only thing he was numbly able to process was that she'd used him and that she'd done so selfishly. It hadn't meant anything more to her than goodbye.

Unable to move from the pain that was lancing through his torn and tattered heart he watched dispassionately as she brought a shaking hand to her mouth. She released another choked sob before releasing his hand and rising lithely to her feet. As a haze of emotion threatened to drown him he watched her pad from the room.

She was walking out on him. She was walking out of his life. She was saying goodbye and moving to LA and he had no idea when he was going to see her again. The friendship that they'd cultivated, that had been the most stable thing in his chaotic existence over the last few years, was falling apart. He was losing not only the girl who'd fallen apart in his arms just an hour ago but the girl whom he'd worked beside for years. The girl who made him laugh at the end of a marathon filming day when he'd thought himself incapable of feeling anything, the girl who curled up on his couch on lazy Saturdays after a long week of filming to watch movies, order take out, and drink a few beers, the girl who was always up for an afternoon ride around the countryside on his bike when everyone else was too busy, the girl who was always there when he needed to talk, who always answered a call or text when no one else seemed to be around. He was losing her and in doing so it felt like he was losing himself.

He sat numbly for several long seconds concentrating on breathing in and out which seemed a monumental task before slowly rising to his feet and following the path Beth had taken. He shook off the fog that had enveloped him as he stepped into his bedroom and found Beth tugging on the last of her clothing.

He didn't think he'd made any noise but something drew her attention to him as she scrapped her mass of blonde hair into a messy ponytail. When her eyes met his across the room he didn't miss the copious tear tracks marking rivers of regret across her features.

What was left of his heart crumbled to dust in his chest as he stepped towards her mumbling quietly as if very confused which he suddenly was," Last night," he watched her flinch as he choked on the emotion tightening his throat," last night," he cleared his throat gruffly and shoved a hand through his overly long locks pushing them off his forehead. Finally gathering himself he steeled his ashen heart as he posed a question he wasn't sure he wanted answered," What did last night mean to you? What did you feel?"

He wasn't sure what he expected or even wanted to hear but as he watched her shoulders droop in defeat Daryl understood Beth's response wouldn't soothe the pain ricocheting through him. As he watched her keenly he realized rather belatedly that he had been hoping to provoke her into somehow recognizing that what she was doing was wrong. He'd pledged to himself last night that he wouldn't do this to them but somehow all of those promises and good intentions were flying out the window in the face of his unmitigated pain. His brain wrestled with his heart trying to regain control but the traitorous organ refused to submit to greater reasoning. Instead it sought to hurt as badly as it was being hurt.

Somehow Beth seemed to recognize what he was doing, seemed to understand even as he was unable to himself, what his intentions were. He saw the pain that infused her features bleaching them white and causing her to shake where she stood. He saw the disappointment in herself and maybe even in him as she stepped towards him to rest a trembling hand upon his forearm.

Bravely looking him in the eye even as her body seemed to crumble under the weight of her regret she accepted responsibility for what was happening between them as she choked out on a half sob," I am so sorry honey. I need you to know I really thought it would be okay between us this morning. I thought . . .," she paused trailing off for a second before seeming to gather herself as certainty and regret steeled her voice," I thought you . . .," she trailed off again seeming unsure about continuing with what she had been about to say. Instead she studied his face for a long moment. He wasn't sure what she saw but after several long seconds her features shifted her pain giving way to guilt as she squeezed his arm and murmured brokenly," I told you that you were going to hate me this morning."

Then carefully launching up on her tiptoes, giving him time to flinch away, she dropped a gentle kiss on his forehead as she cupped the back of his head effectively pulling him down towards her. As she dropped back to her feet and released him she stepped away breaking all contact between them with a barely whispered," I am sorry I hurt you," and then she was gone slipping from the room like a shadow from the night before banished from existence by the bright unforgiving light of day.

Daryl stood frozen for several long moments trying to absorb what had just happened over the last several hours as the sound of a car starting infiltrated his senses. He was confused at first, Beth didn't have a car, before realizing that she must have taken his. He wasn't concerned Maggie would return it later but the knowledge that Beth had wanted to flee him that badly carved another cavern of pain through the valley of his soul. She hadn't even been willing to wait for him to drive her back to her sisters.

For several long moments Daryl stood frozen as if absorbing a great shock which he was fairly certain he was. His mind was screaming at him to dress, grab his helmet, and go after Beth to fix this. She might have taken his car but he still had his bike. He could go to Maggie's and fix this, fulfill all the promises he'd made her the night before, apologize for putting her in a position he'd sworn not to. He didn't want to lose his best friend in this way and he'd sworn to himself that he wouldn't. However his bruised and fragmented heart refused to allow him to obey his head. Traitorously it whispered insidious things about how Beth didn't love him, not the way he loved her, how she'd used him the night before, how she was willing to move two thousand miles away from him to pursue a life that didn't include him.

His doubts and pain overwhelming his good intentions Daryl considered that Beth might be just another person in a long line of people who didn't love him enough to take his feelings into account. He'd long envied some of his closest friends and the relationships they had with their partners. He absolutely knew plenty of people with dysfunctional relationships but he had a few close friends who had some of the healthiest partnerships he'd ever seen. He'd watched them and had come to understand the level of sacrifice that such a relationship required. It was a give and take that couldn't exist without a healthy dose of selflessness. But with that sacrifice came the reward of a truly committed, deep, loving, and intimate relationship. Daryl wanted something like that, knew even though he'd never experienced it that he wanted to love someone and be loved in that way, he'd foolishly thought Beth would be that person for him. He'd seen their relationship as one that had been built on a deeply intimate and loving friendship and he'd imagined that as it morphed into something more he would achieve the type of partnership he'd always wanted. He wasn't sure he believed in soulmates but if such a thing existed than he had convinced himself that Beth was his. They fit together with ease, never having to work hard to be together, and they'd smoothed each other's rough edges. Their friends and family had been joking for years that they were like an old married couple even as they'd staunchly insisted they were just friends.

Now as he cleared away the forgotten breakfast dishes, tossed the pancakes in the trash, dumped the coffee down the drain, rinsed the plates, and slid them into the dishwasher Daryl considered that he'd been very wrong. He was disappointed in himself and his inability to follow through with his promises to support Beth no matter what but even more than that he was bitter beyond words. His bitterness flowed from his shattered expectations and in the face of his loss he admitted to himself for the first time what he'd been hoping for. He'd thought Beth was the one. Had been absolutely convinced of that fact to the point where he'd been living the last few months with the idea that she would inevitably be his. She was his other half, the woman he'd been hoping for who would finally love him enough to see him, to really see him, and nurture in him the broken pieces that he kept hidden from the rest of the world. He'd shown those pieces to her, his insecurities and vulnerabilities, and instead of accepting those parts of him and recognizing what he was gifting her with she'd thrown them back in his face.

Weary of heart in a way he'd never felt before Daryl sank onto his sofa his head falling into his hands as he steadied himself with a deep lungful of air. His chest burned with pain but he ignored it focusing instead on one single fact that had become abundantly clear to him. He and Beth had never really been on the same page. He'd been looking for security, safety, and a loving committed relationship. He'd wanted to finally put down roots and he'd thought Beth had been looking for the same. He'd wanted to see that in her so he'd believed it and he'd missed all the signs that said otherwise all the signs that indicated the exact opposite. Being with Beth had made him feel safe enough to finally want to settle down but the irony was that being with him had made Beth feel safe enough to finally want to spread her wings and fly. His love and support had helped to give her the confidence to pursue her dreams and in following those dreams she was leaving him behind. Bitterness burned through him for several long moments before he pushed the feeling away rising to his feet. He needed to go for a ride, needed the freedom that riding always provided, so that he could clear his head. The only way he was going to make sense of this was to let himself feel it all and to come to terms with it which meant he needed the release of the open road and the feel of his bike thrumming beneath him.