(note: Story title is from Summer Wind by William Cullen Bryant)
They crouched at the forest’s edge, keeping to the relative safety of the trees’ shade.
Not five hundred feet from where they hid sat a white farmhouse, reminding them of the Greene farmstead and the memory had made their breath catch.
Daryl reached over and silently handed Beth a small handful of the wild blueberries they’d come across earlier that day. Beth accepted them, eating them one by one to stretch the small meal out as much as possible; when you go so long on so little, eating becomes just as much psychological as it is physiological.
They’d been watching the house for about an hour, looking for any signs of human activity. Neither had the strength to hold their own in a fight; they’d been running on fumes for days and simply couldn’t afford to meet up with a group of people with bad intentions.
“Think we can move in,” Daryl finally said, grunting as he stood. “Slowly, though. If there is anyone in there, I don’t want ‘em thinking we’re looking for a fight.”
Beth stood, her knees protesting, and nodded. She didn’t think she could have moved fast if she tried.
Silently, they made their way into the field separating the house from the woods. It was godawful hot – must have been mid-August for sure, by Beth’s reckoning – and the heat coming off the waist-high grasses was nearly suffocating. There wasn’t a lick of a breeze to cool them off and she felt sweat trickling down between her shoulder blades. Insects buzzed all around them, butterflies and grasshoppers moving to the music of crickets and cicadas.
She used to love days like this. Hot, humid lazy summer days spent playing her guitar underneath the shade of the big oak tree. Her mom would come out with two glasses of sweet tea and take a break as Beth played Fleetwood Mac; they’d both sing, laughing when one would flub a line.
Those memories used to be painful, but now they were what kept Beth going. Thoughts of her family – especially of Maggie, who had to be out there surviving just like she was – were what got her up, pushed her along.
They reached the house, where the grass surrounding it was still overgrown and undisturbed.
“Doesn’t look like anybody’s been around for a while,” Daryl whispered, his attention split between the ground around them and the house before them.
It was a smaller farmhouse, more modest than the one she grew up in. It had a small front porch, with concrete steps leading up to a landing surrounded by an iron railing with peeling black paint. Daryl took point, his crossbow held out before him, his focus on the door as he climbed the steps. Beth waited below, knife out, keeping an eye out on the field and in the yard. Danger was just as present outside the house as it was in it.
“All clear so far,” Daryl said, his voice a low rumble.
Beth ascended the stairs backwards, turning around once she was on the landing. She joined him in a small mudroom, closing the door behind her. She considered locking it to keep anyone from coming in behind them, but if they encountered trouble inside they’d need to make a fast getaway.
The room was tiny. She and Daryl practically stood arm to arm, squeezed in between a wall of cubbies and a stacked washer/dryer duo.
“Christ, it’s hot in here,” he complained, wiping his brow on the tail of his tattered shirt. There was another door leading into the house. He reached down and tried the knob; it turned, and he pushed the door in a bit before closing it back again.
“Get your knife up,” he said, knocking on the wooden part of the door.
They waited, ears straining to hear any noise in the house. Two, three, four deep breaths later and still there wasn’t any sound. Daryl turned the knob again, pushing the door in and slowly walking into a kitchen. Immediately to their right was a door that was ajar. Beth looked through it, seeing a dark stairwell leading up to two open doors, one on each side of a small landing. There didn’t appear to be anything up there but she shut the door just in case.
The kitchen was cozy, with sunshine filtering through closed lacy curtains, highlighting the honey coloured wood of the cupboards and table. It looked undisturbed, as though its inhabitants had tidied up before going to work for the day. The house was quiet, but not in a creepy way like most of the houses they’d come across where it felt like they were intruding and someone was going to pop out of a doorway and “shhhhh” them; it felt as though it had been waiting for someone to come back, to occupy it, keep it company.
Beyond the kitchen was a living room with a large window overlooking the back of the house. Daryl turned to the right, following a hallway where there were two doors to the left and two to the right. The first on the left was open, showing a small but clean bathroom. Beth was tempted to ask Daryl if he could hold on so she could use the toilet; it had been a long time since she’d had the luxury of peeing sitting down, but she shook herself free of that thought. Later, she told herself. If everything is safe.
The second door on the left was closed. Daryl reached over and knocked twice. They both jumped when something banged in response, a low growl heard through the solid wood.
“Damn it,” Daryl groused, taking a step back in the tight confines of the hallway. “You got your knife ready?”
“Yeah.” Beth’s voice was small but steady. They’d done this before. It never got easier, but luckily it never got harder, either.
Their execution was textbook perfect. A twist of the doorknob, a shove at the door, an arrow to the brain. Beth had been poised to strike if the shot hadn’t found its mark; instead, she sheathed her knife and helped Daryl lift what had once been an old man up and out of the house, hyper alert of their surroundings. It sure as hell wouldn’t do them any good to clear the house out only for someone else to come and take it from them.
But no one came, and no other rooms held walkers. The two doors on the right led to another bedroom and the basement. The two doors on the upper floor also led to bedrooms – bright, spacious rooms not unlike the ones in Beth’s childhood home. They were dusty and smelled stale, but they didn’t smell of death like the room the man had been in. They’d closed that door and wouldn’t even consider going back in.
While Daryl went back out to do a perimeter check, Beth looked through the kitchen cupboards and the basement, finding plenty of food. She almost cried at the haul, her stomach cramping from the meagre calories she’d been subsisting off of since they’d escaped the prison. It seemed like so long ago that she’d had a full tummy.
A loud thump! made her jump, dropping the tin she’d been holding. She spun around, knife at the ready, only to exhale with relief when she saw an amused Daryl standing at the table.
“Sorry,” he said. The mischief dancing in his eyes told her otherwise, but she bit her lip. It was so nice seeing something other than anger or guilt or sadness in his blue eyes. She missed seeing happiness on his face. When they were at the prison, he’d let his guard down and had let people in, building friendships and actually smiling. (He was handsome when he smiled; she’d found herself thinking of him at night when she was lying in her bunk in her cell, trying to sleep. She wondered what it would feel like to have him smile at her like that, eyes dancing and gaze fond.)
She was about to ask him what was up when her gaze fell upon a large watermelon.
“Oh, god,” she said, gasping. “Is it good, still?”
“Gonna find out,” he said, walking by her to grab a serrated knife from the butcher block sitting on the counter.
A pool of bright pink juice overflowed onto the table as he cut, and Beth’s mouth watered. She hadn’t had watermelon in what felt like forever. It had always been her favourite, easily overtaking peaches and strawberries and cherries.
Daryl handed her a misshapen chunk, kept one for himself, and they both dug in.
“Ohmygod,” she groaned through a mouthful of sweet, juicy fruit. It was so delicious. Better than she remembered, better than anything she’d eaten since they’d left the farm. If the apples in Eden tasted half as good as this watermelon, no wonder Adam and Eve had risked being cast from the garden, she mused.
“Fuck,” Daryl agreed, slurping at his piece noisily as he dug in.
He cut them each another piece which they devoured just as voraciously. They had to stop there, though. Gorging themselves after starving would make them sick, and they couldn’t afford the ensuing fatigue or weakness (or worse) that could ensue.
Beth sat back, sucking the juice off her fingers (waste not, want not) when she noticed Daryl staring at her with an odd glint in his eye. “What?” she asked, suddenly self-conscious.
“You got a little something,” chuckling, he drew a circle around his face, “here.”
So do you, was her initial thought, seeing the juices on his lips and chin, sticky through his beard and running down his throat. Her traitorous imagination nudged her, pushing suggestive thoughts her way. What if that wasn’t watermelon juice – what if that was… She felt her cheeks flush at the mental image of Daryl on his knees at her feet, face pressed between her thighs, gorging himself on her cunt like he had on the watermelon. Desire bubbled up deep down inside her, sudden and all-consuming; she tried tamping it down but it was so vivid, and it had been so long since she’d felt like this.
As though his mind was tuned in to the same channel, Daryl groaned, shifting on his chair like he was trying to get more comfortable. His gaze followed her tongue hungrily as it peeked out, licking the soft flesh of her lips.
“Wanna help me clean it?” she asked playfully, knowing full well what she was implying. Heat suffused her at the pregnant stare she received, full of promise.
They both needed this. Needed a break, a distraction, an outlet. They also needed the truth, because this wasn’t the first time they’d shared a heavy moment, wasn’t the only time she’d caught him staring at her, was far from the first time she’d looked his way and wanted him.
“Girl,” he warned, his voice less steady than she’s sure he wanted it to be. “Ain’t polite to tease.”
“Ain’t teasin’,” she replied, forcing her gaze to remain steady with his. She didn’t want to look away, didn’t want to give the impression that she was anything less than certain about what she was asking for. “I want this, Daryl. I want you.”
“Beth.” He sounded absolutely wrecked, as though she was offering him something he couldn’t have – or worse, didn’t deserve. Jittery hands rubbed at the thighs of his already-filthy jeans.
Later, she’d see it as one of the bravest things she ever did. In the moment, though, standing up and walking over to him, straddling his thighs, wrapping her arms around his neck had felt more like a necessity. Just like breathing or eating or turning your face up towards the sun when you’re cold.
“It’s ok,” she assured him, bringing a hand up to cup his face, sticky palm to sticky jaw (she doubted he cared any more than she did). “There’s nothing wrong if you want it – want me – too.”
It was all the permission Daryl needed. He slipped a hand around to the base of her neck, holding her in place, leaning forward to breathe the same air as her before crushing his mouth to hers. There was no hesitation, no finesse, just the same hunger she felt. It was as though he’d been primed for days, weeks, just waiting for her permission to go ahead, to release this pent-up need that had been building.
Beth parted her lips to his questing tongue, a high-pitched whine rising from the base of her spine at the feel of him exploring the inside of her mouth, licking her, tasting her. No one had ever wanted her as fiercely, never held her with hands that shook from barely-there restraint, never exhaled ragged breaths, her name a whispered prayer against her skin.
His lips moved away from hers, and it should have felt obscene (or gross, at least) to have him licking a wide trail down from her mouth to her at chin, across her jaw and down her throat, cleaning the drying juice as he went, but fuck it was hot. Beth’s grip on his biceps tightened, fingers digging into corded muscle as Daryl’s mouth became more adventurous, moving down to her collarbone, across to her shoulder, stretching the collar of her shirt as far as it would go.
Beth pulled back, ignoring his grunt of frustration, and pulled the shirt over her head, letting it sail somewhere behind her. Before her courage failed – she could already feel her stomach fluttering, her heart hammering in fear of rejection – she reached back and unhooked her bra, letting it slide off her arms and onto the floor.
“Jesus,” Daryl groaned. Closing his eyes, he let his head fall forward, resting his forehead against her collarbone. Beth could feel his breath panting against her overheated skin, the flexing grip of his fingers at her waist as he visibly struggled not to lose control.
She wanted this to be good for him, too. Wanted him to allow himself this indulgence, something nice amid the hardships they faced every day. “How about we lock the doors and move to one of the bedrooms?” she suggested, guessing he might feel more comfortable in a more traditional setting.
“You really want this?” he asked, his voice rough and gravelly like it gets on mornings where he’s stayed up all night smoking. Except this time it wasn’t because of cigarettes – Daryl sounded wrecked because of her, because of how much he wanted her.
And hell if that didn’t make her want him that much more.
“Yeah.” She looked at him through his shaggy bangs, wary blue eyes staring back at her. “I really do, Daryl. I… I’ve wanted it for a while now. Maybe even when we were still at the prison.”
Her confession earned her a nod – he believed her, to her relief. “Ain’t got any rubbers, though.”
Out of everything that had happened so far, the mention of condoms was what made her blush. “That’s ok,” she squeaked. “You can just, um, pull out, right?”
He let out a humourless laugh. “If I even make it that far. You’re a fuckin’ sight, Greene; make a man go nuts jus’ looking at you.”
“Have you been looking at me, Mr. Dixon?” she asked coyly, tilting her head and watching him through her lashes. She traced a finger along his lips, the memory of how they felt against hers making her pulse race.
“Not sure how a man can be close to you and not look,” he confessed, following the path his hand took as it gently tucked a stray curl behind her ear. “You’re so beautiful it’s like staring at the fucking sun.”
There wasn’t anything she could say to that. Daryl Dixon told her she was beautiful and it made her heart sing. She slipped off his lap, her breath catching when she spied the distinct outline of his cock in his jeans.
Eyes always sharp, he caught the gesture. “You done this before?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she replied. “I’m just… it’s…” She let out a breathless giggle. “I really want this.”
Daryl gave her an incredulous look before turning back towards the door. “Jesus Christ,” he muttered under his breath as he moved to lock it. “Survived all this just to die from goddamn lust.”
Beth was sitting at the edge of the bed in the bedroom on the right of the hallway when Daryl appeared. He stopped just inside the doorway, hesitating. She hadn’t finished undressing, but she hadn’t covered up either, and she could imagine the sight of her had him second-guessing himself. She’d never seen him with another woman – well, not in the romantic way – and she wasn’t sure just how experienced he was, but she had an inkling it wasn’t much more than her.
“Come here,” she said, standing up and holding her arms out.
Daryl set his crossbow on the floor, leaning it against the wall by the door, before silently bridging the gap that separated them. It was hot and stuffy in the small house, the trees on the south side only providing so much relief in the persistent heat, and Beth could feel the sheen of sweat clinging to her skin. When she reached up, flattening her palms on his chest, fingers slipping under his vest, she felt how damp his shirt was.
“Should we open the window?” she asked.
“Won’t make a lick o’ difference,” he replied. “Ain’t no breeze to come in and cool things down.”
“Alright,” she shrugged, looking up at him from under her lashes. “We’ll just have to find other ways of cooling off.” Sliding her hands up, she deftly slipped his shirt buttons through their holes, revealing a broad chest and a tattoo on his left pectoral. She parted the sides and slid both it and the vest off his shoulders, leaving them to fall to a puddle at their feet.
Leaning forward, Beth pressed her lips over where his heart beat, tracing a line of kisses over to his nipple. Her tongue darted out, circling it, before she blew cool air over it. When she reached for his belt buckle, Beth felt the world twist on its axis. “Eep!” she yelped as he lifted her, tossing her onto the bed before climbing after her.
“You got a funny notion of cooling off, girl,” he growled, holding himself tensely above her, his gaze stormy. His hands went to her belt, pulling it apart, before working at her button and zipper. “Think we’ll start by ‘cooling’ you off first.”
Stunned by his boldness, Beth automatically lifted her butt up off the bed, allowing him to pull her pants off. With the heat and humidity, her underwear came off with them, leaving them both breathless in the sudden silence.
Her name was pulled from him, rough and desperate and disbelieving. The heat from Daryl’s gaze seemed to raise the temperature in the room, unbridled desire rolling off him in waves, hitting Beth like a pheromone.
“Daryl,” she squirmed, wanting him, needing him. Her hand shot out, reaching for his belt. “Come on, take your pants off, already.”
His hand stayed hers. “Not yet. Fuck, you get my pants off right now, this is gonna be over before it starts.” He leaned down, pressing a kiss just below her ear. Somehow the gesture felt more affectionate than passionate.
“Wanna get you off, first.” His words came out rushed in a hoarse whisper, as though they needed to keep quiet. His touch was tentative as he dragged the back of his knuckles along the curves of her breast, her waist, her hips, sliding over to the centre of her thighs.
This was a wet dream come true. Beth squirmed beneath his solid presence, parting her legs for him as his fingers slid through the slick of her core, circling and delving in just to the first knuckle as he teased her. Her hands carded through his hair, pulling his mouth to meet hers for a bruising, desperate kiss. “Geez, Daryl,” she whined. “I need more. Please.”
Daryl held himself up above her on a forearm, the heavy denim of his jeans scratchy against her bare legs. Apparently he didn’t feel like playing around any more than she did, because he gave in easily to her demands, sliding two fingers into her, his thumb rubbing circles around her clit. “C’mon,” he encouraged her between open-mouth kisses to her neck, clavicle, shoulders – anywhere he could reach with his fingers up her cunt. “Wanna hear you scream, Beth. Wanna hear what my fingers are doin’ for you before I get to hear what you sound like with my cock in your pussy.”
She could feel it building; it had been so long, it didn’t take much, especially with Daryl’s rough timbre whispering his dirty thoughts in her ear. Beth climbed that mountain and crested it easily, calling out as her release flowed through her, leaving her heaving and boneless.
“God,” she panted. “I needed that so bad.”
Above her, Daryl brought his fingers to his mouth, licking her juices. “Even better’n the watermelon,” he joked, eyes twinkling.
“Oh, yuck!” Beth laughed out loud, squirming out of his way when he tried to wipe them off on her cheek. She writhed beneath him, her leg brushing up against a very solid reminder that Daryl’s needs hadn’t been attended to yet.
They both stopped, smiles still in place. “You ready, Mr. Dixon?” Beth asked, still breathless from laughing. Her hands rested on his belt buckle, but she wasn’t going to move until she got the ok.
“I reckon I’m about as ready as I’ll ever be,” he replied, stepping off the bed.
Beth followed, kneeling at the edge of the bed, unconcerned by her nudity. Daryl surprised her by standing still, allowing her to tug at his belt before popping the button on his jeans. He cupped a shaking hand against her jaw, looking down at her as though he couldn’t believe any of it was truly happening.
Fingers hooked in the waistband of his jeans, she pushed them down past his hips and halfway down his thighs. Still hard, his cock bounced as it was freed from its confines when he toed his jeans the rest of the way off, kicking them to the side.
Daryl leaned forward, pressing his lips to hers in a slow, sultry embrace, his tongue dancing with hers, twisting and teasing and exploring. He eased Beth backwards, following her down, his mouth never leaving hers. The silence of the room was broken only by the squeak of the mattress beneath them and the ragged breaths pulled from their lungs as the kiss became hungrier, needier.
She’d never been consumed by lust before, hadn’t ever felt like she’d touched a live wire, like a current was running under her skin, making her feel like her senses were amplified. She’d been too young with Jimmy, too casual with Zach. But Daryl had awakened something deep within her, some elemental urge to just give in to her desires.
Reaching down between them, Beth took the heavy weight of him in her fist, sliding up and down, gathering the liquid pooling at the head, stroking him from hard to harder.
“Shit, Beth,” he ground out, almost whining. “Gonna make me lose my goddamn mind.”
“Don’t want you to lose your mind,” she whispered against his temple. “I just want you to fuck me.”
It was all he needed to drop the last of his reservations. With a growl he hooked an elbow under one of her knees, holding her wide open for him, and pushed inside her in one smooth, steady stroke.
They moaned in unison as he slid in; she was so wet, so ready for him to take her.
Daryl surprised her by tempering his desire, moving in deep, measured thrusts. “Jesus fucking Christ, Beth. I ain’t ever felt…” He broke off, either unwilling or unable to finish his thought.
He seemed so vulnerable, so overwhelmed that she reached up, cupped his jaw with both hands, and drew him down to her for a chaste kiss. “It’s ok,” she told him. “I ain’t ever felt like this either.”
It was the truth, too. She wouldn’t have – couldn’t have – lied to him, not when they were sharing something so intimate, so special. By opening himself up to her like this, it was as if he’d handed her his heart.
He slipped his arm from under her knee, sliding his hand up to cup one of her breasts. His hands were rough against her skin, calloused from a lifetime of hard work.
“You got the nicest tits,” he whispered hotly against her throat, where his mouth was busy tracing a line of kisses. “Sometimes it’s everything for me not to just sit there, starin’ at them.”
She was having unprotected sex with Daryl Dixon in some dead man’s house after over a week of not washing up (she didn’t let herself think of how bad she must have smelled), and this confession was the thing to make her blush? Beth almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all. Instead, she just squeaked out a “Really?”
Daryl did laugh, a dry chuckle released on a long exhale. “Shit, yeah. Girl, you don’t know how bad I’ve had it for you.”
His confession made her heart sing, but it also made her bolder knowing the power she held over him. Wrapping a leg over his hip, she pulled him even closer to her, squeezing her internal muscles to tease him. “I’ve been watching you, too,” she confessed. His eyes tracked her tongue as it darted out, tracing her kiss-swollen bottom lip, giving her the confidence to keep talking.
“Especially your arms,” she whispered, her gaze following the finger that was tracing the hard lines of his muscles.
She needed his mouth like she needed to breathe; desperate, hungry for him, she pulled his lips back down to hers. He shifted, changing the angle of his thrusts, making Beth gasp as he hit a spot inside that was magical.
“What?” he asked, sounding worried.
“Ohmygod, don’t stop!” she almost cried, urging him on with her hips.
“Fuck,” he cursed. “Beth, I ain’t gonna last much longer.”
It didn’t matter, because Beth was in the grips of her second orgasm. Her back arched as she came loudly, calling out Daryl’s name in a drawn-out moan that threw him over the edge as well.
Barely pulling out in time, he finished on her stomach with a strangled groan, his whole body twitching as he slowly pumped himself through several aftershocks. “Jesus,” he panted, falling forward and resting his weight on one hand.
A quiet moment stretched between them as they both came off their highs. Finally, Beth trusted herself to talk.
“Guess it’s a good thing we didn’t open the window after all, huh?” she said, unsuccessfully holding back a smirk.
Daryl laughed quietly. “It’s a good thing we didn’t start anything at the prison, ‘cause Maggie’d ‘a had my hide for sure if you always holler like that.”
“I never had a reason to holler like that,” she admitted, feeling herself blush as she looked up at him.
“Yeah?” He sounded shy, but there was a glint of pride there, too, in the way his mouth was quirked or his eyes wrinkled at the corners. Daryl was pleased with himself.
“Mm-hmm,” she hummed, dragging a finger distractedly through the cooling come. She wondered if there was a well outside; maybe they could pump some water and fill the bathtub to wash off. It had been a long, long time since she’d had the luxury to soak in water.
“Here.” Daryl’s voice shook her from her reverie. “Let’s get you cleaned up.” He pulled the corner of the bedsheet up, using it to mop up the mess on her tummy. His motions were gentle as he wiped her clean, letting the cloth drop back off the side of the bed.
“That’s gonna be your side,” Beth said, giggling when her joke earned her an amused snort. More seriously, she looked over at Daryl, who was tugging his pants back up. “Do you think we can stay here for a bit? There’s lots of food, and maybe we can get some rest and wash our clothes.”
“I reckon we can stay for a bit. It’d be nice to get some real rest for a change.” He walked over to the window, buckling his belt, and peered outside. “Looks like we’re gonna get rain in a couple o’ days anyway; we can sit it out til then and see what we want to do next.”
“Maybe eat some more watermelon.” Beth smiled shyly at him. She wasn’t sure why she was being bashful after what they’d just done (she’d had sex with Daryl – she was going to have to sit down and work through that truth).
“Shit, if that’s what happens when you eat watermelon, I’m gonna feed you all the goddamn watermelon you want, girl.” He walked over and hovered near her, hesitating before leaning in and placing a chaste kiss on her lips.
Her heart beating a mile a minute – that innocent kiss meant more than everything that had happened before it – Beth watched him scoop up his crossbow before walking back out into the kitchen.
She spent five minutes looking for her shirt and bra before remembering she’d taken them off in the kitchen. Self-conscious, she walked half-naked back out to the other room, slipping the last of her clothing on while Daryl busied himself looking through the cupboards.
It hit her, suddenly, how life was strange. Just that morning she had woken Daryl up after a hot, uncomfortable night of poor sleep; they’d had nothing left to eat for breakfast, were just about to finish the last of their water, and their spirits were at their lowest since the moonshine shack. Maybe even lower, because at least they’d had something to drink at the shack.
But then on a hot summer day they’d been presented with the gift of a small farmhouse, somewhere where they could rest and eat and grow stronger again so they could continue looking for their family.
Because Beth knew they were out there. They just had to find them.