So let me be the roots you need
Let me help you grow, let me help you succeed
Know that you are loved, not just by me
They’ve been married a decade today.
Beth would say they’ve had a pretty great run so far. They’ve survived the typical bumps in the road, like making sure they communicate or disagreeing on finances. They’ve even survived the not so typical bumps in the road, like Daryl’s crippling fear of fatherhood because of his past or Beth’s total emotional instability while Doctors were trying to find the right antidepressants—once when they were dating and again after she gave birth to their first.
Regardless of the problem, they’ve conquered it (or at the very least tamed it enough to be dealt with later) and while they might not be as in love as they were ten years ago, she doesn’t think she’ll ever love anyone the way she loves Daryl. They’ve seen each other at their worst and still, they always choose each other. No one will ever know her better.
So, it’s safe to say she noticed it before, but it only became really noticeable on vacation.
The beach house isn’t theirs, but it might as well be with the amount of times the ever generous Grimes family has reminded them they can use it whenever they please. It took them years to take them up on the offer and when they arrived, Beth felt a moment of guilt for leaving behind their children for a New Year’s Eve getaway. The moment dies quick since Michonne wasn’t exaggerating when she said the beach was in their backyard.
They’re sitting on a beautiful beach with beautiful weather on the first day of their beautiful childfree weekend. Beth’s laid out in her bathing suit, towel warm beneath her and sand sticking to her fingers and feet. She’s covered from head-to-toe in the strongest sunscreen she could get with a ridiculously huge floppy hat on her head because she still burns something fierce despite thirtyfour summers in the Georgia sun. She knows she should re-apply soon but she’s on her fourth glass of Sangria and she’s starting think maybe she’ll turn the same pretty shade of golden tan her husband does if she lets the sunblock fade a little bit. She should be having a fabulous time right now.
Instead she’s noticing .
“Oh my god .” Beth squints at her husband through her sunglasses. “Baby, you’re makin’ me sweat just lookin’ at you. Take your damn shirt off before you have a heat stroke and kill my buzz.”
She can’t see his eyes because they’re covered in sunglasses but she can feel his judgemental side eye. “I’m alright.”
Most of his long hair is tied back at the base of his neck; a style he’s expressed his extreme distaste for multiple times. A dead giveaway to how not alright he is. There’s also the fact that his face, neck, and cotton tank top are drenched in sweat.
“You’re a few seconds away from making me a widow, Daryl. Why the hell are you wearin’ a shirt in this weather? We’re on a private beach, it’s not like anyone’s gonna see you but me.”
Daryl sighs and shifts in his beach chair, hand raising to bring his beer up to his lips. The condensation rolls down to wet his fingers as he tilts it up. He continues to ignore her when he’s done taking a sip, staring out at the waves.
“Fuckin’ quit it, Beth.” His snappy interruption makes her flinch and she doesn’t need to see his eyes to recognize the immediate regret on his face. They’ve gone to counselling in the past and despite the fact that that one of them went in thinking it was going to be a waste of time, the communication tools sure have come in handy. She watches him and waits, knowing what’s coming next. He sighs, arm raising to wipe the sweat from his brow. “M’sorry. Shouldn’t have spoken to you like that. I just don’t wanna, okay?”
Beth lets that hang in the air before nodding and mumbling a soft okay . “Help me put more
sunscreen on my legs?”
She spots his eyebrow raising above the black frame of his sunglasses. “You can rub that into your legs yourself, y’know.”
“Yeah.” She smiles. “But I sure like it a lot more when you do it.”
Beth flicks on the lamp in the living room, throwing the room into a soft glow. The massive sliding doors leading out to the pitch black beach turn into mirrors at the new source of light. She hears Daryl drop his wallet and keys on the table by the door and watches his reflection when he walks into the room, the bright screen illuminating his face as he thumbs through his phone. She can tell by the look on his face that he’s breaking the no-checking-on-kids rule they set for the weekend. Beth would bet good money he’s stalking her parents on Facebook.
“Don’t worry so much, Dad . They’re fine. DJ promised he’d keep Della out of trouble.” Daryl shoots her a look when she turns around and Beth rolls her eyes. “Don’t you start. DJ and Della are perfectly fine names.”
“So are Daryl Jr. and Adeline.” Daryl walks up to her, hands reaching out to rest on her waist. His tone rings of familiarity and Beth has genuinely lost count of how many times they’ve have this conversation before. “Their real names.”
“I’m calling them DJ and Della for the rest of their damn lives and you can just deal with it. Lord, you are such a pain in my ass sometimes.”
Daryl grins. “Yeah, well, you married me.”
“Oh, is that what we did?” Beth’s head tilts to meet his eyes, hands reaching up to take off her earrings and drop them on the coffee table. Her brow furrows as if she’s considering. “I thought it was just a really great party. Should I break up with my other boyfriend?”
“Ha ha, my wife, the fuckin’ comedian.”
Beth’s laugh is cut short when he leans down to press his lips to hers and while they might not be struck dumb with puppy love any longer, she still gets all sorts of fluttery feelings when he kisses her like this. Every ounce of his attention focused on her mouth and body against his. Her arms wrap around his neck and she tries to remember the last time they had the time to kiss without fear of interruption. She still can’t recall when his hands slide to her lower back to press her close and his mouth opens to catch her bottom lip between his teeth, but she knows it’s been too long.
She can feel his hardness at her hip and smiles when she pulls back. “Wanna piss Rick off and screw in his living room when he told us not to?”
She has him. She knows she has him because he chuckles and gets that mischievous look on his face like he’s about to say yes, but then he looks over her shoulder and falters. Beth watches him try to figure out how to tell her no and turns to see what the hell has got him so knotted up. They weren’t a hugely adventurous or kinky couple, but they knew how to have fun. Daryl almost never turned her down because he knew he’d have a great time delivering.
Beth frowns, confused when she sees nothing but the empty living room. The curtain on the sliding doors is open, so the concern of privacy briefly crosses her mind, but when she realizes she can see her own frowning face, she pauses.
She faces him again and while they’re still wrapped around one another, he feels a million miles
away. “Hey, something’s been botherin’ you.”
“It’s stupid.” Daryl announces it like that’s all he’s going to say on the matter, but the beers he had at dinner must have softened him a bit because he caves after a few minutes of her pouting. “Adeline kept pokin’ my stomach and callin’ me squishy and then Rick made some joke about my beard almost bein’ all gray the other day and I just…I don’t know. I said it’s stupid. Just forget it.”
She doesn’t laugh even though it’s a little funny seeing her husband—a man who couldn’t care less about his appearance to the point she had to resort to tears to get him to brush his hair on their wedding day—struggle to tell her he’s feeling self conscious. She doesn’t laugh because, oh God, has she been there. She loves their children and family, but that love has been tested many times. Like when DJ was three and said he thought her flat, fat butt was funny or last month when their daughter asked if her belly is growing because there’s a baby in there or even yesterday when they were dropping off the kids and her Mama told her she could tell she wasn’t using the anti-aging eye cream she bought her.
“It’s not stupid.” Beth’s arms unwind just enough to cup his face. “I get it. Gettin’ old is hard. Our bodies are changin’. It’s normal to feel like this, Daryl.”
Daryl snorts. “Beth, you’re thirty-four and you look exactly the same as the day I met you and when I met you, you barely looked legal.”
She’s a little offended by the dismissal, but the flattery of the comment wins out and she laughs as she presses a quick kiss to his frowning mouth. “While I really appreciate that you think I look as good as I did when I was twenty-two, boy, have I got some surprisin’ news for you. Maybe you wanna sit down, old man.”
“Don’t start, woman.” He rolls his eyes and tugs on her waist. “I said forget it. It’s fine. C’mon.”
Beth resists his hold, trying to be as immovable as possible. “No. I wanna talk about this. Do you think I find you less attractive because of all that stuff?”
Daryl sighs and shrugs, but when he catches her dark look he answers. “I don’t know. Don’t you?”
“No.” Her hands move from his jaw down to his shoulders. “I would say I find you more attractive, actually.”
“Oh bullshit —”
“Don’t be a jerk, I’m serious!” Daryl rolls his eyes dramatically and she jabs him in the shoulder with her finger, lips pursed as she fights a smile. “Daryl, I’m serious. Look—”
She steps out of his grasp to walk behind him and push him forward until they’re standing in front of the sliding doors. She’s behind him so her arms slip around his waist and start to pull at the buttons on his shirt. He cringes with a murmured really, here? and moves to turn away but Beth locks her arms in place. “Baby, I’ve seen you naked before. Can you just let me do this? I promise to stop if you really really hate it, okay?”
He huffs and drops his arms, hands spread out as if to say fine, continue. Beth smiles and presses a kiss to his shoulder as she finishes unbuttoning his shirt. It’s too hot out for an undershirt, so when she slips the garment off his shoulders, it’s all bare skin. Daryl’s entire posture changes, fighting between the urge to curl in on himself or suck in his stomach and she feels a twinge of shame, wondering how she missed this loss of confidence. She’s still in her heels so she can see their reflection over his shoulder and tries to give him a reassuring smile when he catches her eye. Her
hands draw back from his waist to rest on his shoulders before slowly smoothing over and down his biceps and arms.
“I love that you’re still so strong. Strong enough to pick me up when all we’ve got is a few minutes in the shower and you just have to fuck me.” She’s standing so close to him she notices the deep flush on his neck at her words. She’s not much of a dirty talker because she always afraid she might sound stupid instead of sexy, but this is important enough that she doesn’t mind going out on a limb.
“I love your hands because they show how hard you work to take care of us.” Her hands drop to his wrists, lightly dragging across his palms when his hands twitch open. “I love that they’re the same hands that stroked my hair when I brought our babies into his world. The same hands that made me feel so good when we made those babies.”
She catches his eye to make sure he catches her wiggling eyebrows and she smiles when he grins at her, his tense shoulders slowly loosening. Her hands move to his hips and when she curls them forward to rest on his stomach, his breath falters. Her fingers spread wide and stroke his small belly.
“I love that you’ve gone a little soft because it makes me feel like I’m takin’ good care of you.” Her chin rests on his shoulder as she stares him in the eye. She watches him struggle with the new information, unsure of how to feel. She turns her head to nuzzle his scuff. “I love that you’re goin’ gray because it means we’re growin’ old together just like you promised we would.”
She closes her eyes and stays still, enjoying just being able to hold him close to her. Being able to feel him breathing until her breath matches his. The moment breaks when his hands rest over hers on his stomach and when she opens her eyes, he’s already looking at her. He lifts her hands and raises an arm in the air so she can step around his body and face him head on.
Her arms wrap around him like they have so many times before and when he kisses her she remembers what it felt like, being twenty-two and out on a first date with a guy with a sexy bike and questionable reputation. She remembers what it felt like being kissed silly on the stoop of her first shitty apartment and thinking she had better trap the hell out of this guy before he met her Daddy and ran. She laughs and Daryl pulls back, nose bumping against hers.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothin’, just feels good.” Beth lets her hands fall to his back, tracing scars and tattoos of past lives. Her laughter sinks into a sly grin. “You gonna keep making me feel good?”
Daryl narrows his eyes. “Here? Really?”
“Really.” She nods and presses her lips to his, knowing he’s almost where she wants him. She trails kisses across his jaw until he feels her whisper at his ear. “I wanna watch.”
Beth lets her mind wander as she stares at their graceless reflection. Naked limbs placed for comfort instead of appearance. It’s almost ugly. She tries to imagine how she would have felt about such a picture a decade ago without the reassurance of memories and hardships with this man. She smiles as Daryl’s hand traces down her spine. Maybe if someone prefaced it with details on the sex, she might not have minded.
The familiar ping of a text message interrupts their break. Daryl releases a strained grunt as he stretches for his phone, fingertips catching the edge but it does nothing but bounce a centimeter
closer. It pings again. “God fuckin’ piece of shit—”
Beth huffs a laugh from where she’s pillowed on his chest. “Stop movin’, you’re killin’ the mood.”
Daryl finally grabs his phone when it goes off again, thumb swiping at the screen. She feels him tense beneath her and her head snaps up, her heart in her throat. “What’s the matter? Are the kids okay?”
“Uh.” He purses his lips, trying to make a quick decision on whether or not laughter is the right path to take. Despite his efforts not to piss his wife off, laughter wins.
She smacks his chest, but her worry is eased by his small chuckle. “C’mon, what is it?”
He shows her the phone and she groans, burrowing her face between his arm and the couch cushion. He laughs harder as a new text comes in.
RICK G: WE HAVE SECURITY CAMERAS U FUKER!!!!!
RICK G: U R DEAD TO ME!!!
RICK G: >:((((((((
RICK G: BTW U OWE ME A NEW COUCH!!!!!!