Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 10: Still My Heart
~Author's Note: To start, everyone should be aware that this chapter is going to contain a descriptive violent sequence. I guess the severity of that violence is different based upon everyone's own point of view, but this is a warning because it is more violent than anything I have written in this story or "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" if you read that one. Just for anyone who might be worried, this violent sequence doesn't include Beth or anything violent being done to her. Also, I wanted to note about this chapter and the last chapter, that even though it may seem like a lot of time is passing and Daryl, Beth, Rick, and Carl need to get out of there ASAP, not that much time has gone by since Daryl busted through that door and was reunited with Beth. I have been writing this very vividly from Daryl's POV as he is experiencing it, and time is moving slowly for him in these very violent and stressful moments. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope that this chapter, even if a bit violent, was enjoyable in relation to the story I am creating for Daryl and Beth.~
"Being honest, I don't know why or how she is still alive. I was brought in four days ago for the first time to treat her. I knew there wasn't much chance. Truthfully, I wished that she would die because of...what's been done to her. That's no life. She lost consciousness the same day. I didn't think she'd wake up, but she did, yesterday afternoon. She seems to be fighting for some reason. When I first saw her, she asked me to let her die. Now, I think she wants to live."
I'm not Michonne. I'm not Carol. I'm not Maggie. I survived, and you don't get it 'cause I'm not like you or them. But I made it...
That was reality. Beth was a fighter, a survivor. She was fighting her battle to stay alive. If she wanted life, Daryl would be her strength. He would fight the battles she couldn't until he died...until she took her last breath. Daryl knew that to do that, to be there for Beth, he had to get it together and keep it together. There was just this one thing left. This one thing he was gonna do...let himself go. Daryl placed her hand gently on the bed beside her, leaving her so he could put to rest the one other thing that was occupying his attention. He drew his knife again, approaching the dying body pinned to the wall. Before it had been about pain and drawing out the suffering. Now it was just about destruction. Ending it.
The preacher groaned as Daryl neared him. Had he lost faith in God? Was he afraid? Daryl hoped he was afraid. He thought about how afraid Beth must've been, but she fought...fought through everything that was inflicted on her. She fought through hell. He paused, not because he was thinking anything deep or needed the moment but because he wanted the fear to set in deep. This man, this false prophet, had to know now that he was dying, but fear...he needed to be much more afraid.
"I...I see you...now..." he coughed, spitting more blood down his chin "see you're from Hell...Satan's angel testing me...my faith."
Daryl was intimately close now, knife in hand, an extension of his fury, pain...
"I told you already...I ain't no angel. I'm just a man. But I'm your death. Have your faith. I don't give a fuck. But her...Beth...you picked the wrong man to fuck with!"
This time there was no skill or precision, no method to his madness. Stabbing, ripping, slicing, gouging at his gut...
"Oh my God..." That was the stranger...the doctor.
"Stop. I have no problem shooting you." That was Rick. Did the doctor wanna run from the carnage? Didn't matter.
Daryl just had to let it all out. While he'd given up skill, now he gave up variety, just stabbing, plunging his blade into the body over and over and over again. It wasn't really even stabbing anymore. The gut was such a ruin, just hanging bloody viscera, that the only real resistance Daryl was hitting was the wall behind, random ribs, and the spine. He should stop. It would ruin his knife, but he couldn't.
"Jesus Daryl...he's dead..." It was Rick again. Rick missed the point. It wasn't about the bastard being dead or not, it was about vengeance. It was for Beth, and for him.
It was harder...his next cut...cut through bones. He'd slaughtered animals all his life...knew it wasn't easy. It was a hard job. A man's job. This was no different. Daryl could've reached under the ribcage, but he needed this physical brutality and the effort he was forced to put into it. He just needed to feel more. He had to turn his knife, use the handle to crack at them, break them through all the way, pounding and hammering. Daryl reached in with his hand, snapping the sawed and broken ribs back, feeling the sting of his hand being cut by the sharp edges of the cracked and splintered bones while blood seeped into his wounds. Finally, he'd made enough space for his hand and knife to fit into the chest cavity. He sawed and cut and pulled until finally, his prize was free, warm and slick in his hand. Daryl sheathed his bloody knife as he stared down at the heart, panting and worn from the effort. It wasn't a clean job. It had been hacked and gouged, but there it was. He'd ripped it out. Daryl let out a sigh, letting go. This was what had been done to him the night Beth was kidnapped...his heart was torn from his chest. The difference was, his heart had still been beating, and he'd been alive to feel the pain after.
This cut...it sated his need for retribution...but if it had been the first, there would've been no pain...no suffering...no fear. He needed all of those things too, and Beth deserved them. She knew what he was gonna do when she'd been sitting on the floor, watching him before she passed out. She knew what he was capable of...what he would be driven to, and she nodded her assent. She wouldn't judge him. Daryl just hadn't wanted her to see him like this, wanted to spare her the blood. Daryl stared at the heart in fascination, not really seeing it but seeing what it represented. All the complexities of humanity. The human heart, it couldn't have weighed more than ten or eleven ounces, but it bore such a heavy burden. His heart, the pain it suffered, the hate it harbored, he didn't know if it would ever recover. But then, he remembered what his heart had felt before Beth was stolen, the ache that wasn't bad-he just didn't fully understand it, the need, the feelings he'd never experienced before. If this day was behind them, he would feel that again with Beth. But would she love him, allowing his heart to feel even though the guilt would never go away?
He'd gone too far though. Daryl was drawn out of his trance by someone puking up their dinner behind him. Must've been the doctor...and if the doctor couldn't handle it...either he wasn't much of a doctor or Daryl had made a massacre of the situation. He looked down at his hands cradling the heart, spare bits of flesh, some his, some not, and pieces of guts clinging to him. Butchered sections of intestines spilled out of the ruined gut like slimy pale snakes while other remnants swam in a puddle of blood on the cold floor. Daryl was coated in blood. He didn't need a mirror to know that. He could feel it...taste it.
"Carl...watch him..." Rick told his son. Rick...Rick was still there. He could hear Rick approaching. "Daryl, are..."
There was apprehension in Rick's voice. His words were calm though, carefully measured. Rick was testing the waters, seeing what kind of state he was in.
"I'm fine Rick." Daryl let the heart drop carelessly to the ground where it plopped in the congealing blood. The heart itself had no meaning. It was the act of ripping it out that mattered.
"We need to get Beth out of here." Rick wasn't tellin' him nothing he didn't already know.
Daryl turned away from the carnage, and Rick stared at the bloody mess he'd made of himself but didn't turn from him. Now they'd both seen each other at their bloodiest...the level of brutality each was willing to resort to when it came to their family, the people they loved. There was no reason to hide from it or be ashamed. This was their world, survival of the fittest and those they were willing to protect. Daryl stopped beside Beth where she lay unconscious on the bed, but she was breathing. He reached down gently laying his hand against her forehead. She felt much cooler. He left blood in her hair and on her skin and tried to wipe it away with his bandana that was now soaked in blood from his hands. He calmly turned to the pitcher on the bedside table, dipping the bandana in the water and wringing it out to rinse the blood. Daryl wiped his own face with it, trying to wash away the blood of his victim. When she woke up, he didn't want her to see him like this...not Beth.
Beth stirred a little, and Daryl was instantly turned to her. Screw the blood that covered him; he would worry 'bout how he looked later. Beth's eyes weren't open, she wasn't really awake, but he took the pills, forcing them into her mouth. He slid his hand behind her back gently lifting her, letting the glass of water rest against her pale lips.
"Beth, drink." Whether it was instinct that moved her or she actually heard him, it didn't matter. She swallowed, and he laid her back down so she could rest against the bed again.
She was covered in blood now. His blood, the blood on his hands, the blood dripping from his body. Blood. There was just so much blood. Why did their world have to be filled with so much blood...but it wasn't her blood. The dress was ruined...didn't matter...but red against the purity of the white dress, her pale skin covered in the striking crimson...Beth's purity, goodness, and light ruined by the horrors of the world. He was supposed to protect her. It was his one job, and he'd failed. Daryl's actions tonight, the blood, he'd stained Beth. He could see those stains, and they were the kind that could be washed away. The other stains, what had happened to her 'cause he hadn't been man enough, strong enough to protect her and keep her safe, those stains they would both have to live with for the rest of their lives. There was no washing those away. Beth would never be the same. He had the blood of her innocence on his hands.
All this blood and a haunting image came rushing back to him. In his dream...Beth had been in a bed of blood. Her hair was bloody, she was bloody, dying, all because of him. That nightmare...it couldn't be coming true...he refused to let it happen that way. This wasn't how they ended. They hadn't even started.
It was time to go.
"Just the two guards on the gates?" Daryl heard when he tuned back into the world. At least Rick was asking the right questions.
"Yes, that's the only way in and out. You'll just have to find a way around them." The doctor eyed him anxiously as Daryl stood from the bed. Through them more like, Daryl thought to himself. There would no doubt be more blood before the night was over.
The doctor looked more nervous 'bout him standing up than the gun Rick had pointed at him. Daryl couldn't have said it was a mistake though. He shoved the two prescription bottles in his pockets before approaching Rick. That was when the snarling and hissing started, his attention drawn back to his kill on the wall that had just turned.
"You going to handle that?" Rick questioned.
"Som'bitch wanted to be resurrected. Got his wish." Daryl watched in odd fascination as the walker struggled against the bolts pinning it to the wall.
The bolts. He needed his bolts. Daryl went back to the wall, ripping one of them out of the flailing flesh. The walker was still pinned. Daryl wasn't willing to waste two bolts, but one was well worth it to leave this very clear message to the false prophet's followers. If they wanted eternal life through the means he preached, Daryl would willingly give it to them.
"You have to hit me before you go. Leave a mark so no one wonders why I didn't raise the alarm."
This person, after everything his leader had done to Beth, no one in the group caring enough to stand up and make it stop...help her in the smallest way, and he was worried 'bout saving his own skin? The request made something in Daryl snap again.
He would give him a mark. He'd bash his skull in. Daryl charged forward so quickly that the doctor didn't even see him coming, didn't even have the chance to cower away. But Rick, that was a different story. Daryl slammed hard into Rick's shoulder as he moved to block Daryl's assault on the man who'd been asking for it. His anger was off the charts, adrenaline coursing through every part of him, but it was Rick.
"Daryl, you'll kill him," Rick informed him calmly. But that was the whole point.
Daryl didn't back down, still pressed against Rick. He wouldn't move against Rick, wouldn't fight him over a kill, but he sure in the hell wasn't gonna give. Not this time.
Rick stepped aside, spreading his arms wide, showing he wouldn't stand in Daryl's way. That was when Daryl realized Rick hadn't been stopping him to protest his actions, judging him 'cause he wanted to kill. He was just stopping him, in his moment of rage, to make sure he knew what he was about to do. Rick knew him enough to know that if he hit the stranger, he would go all the way and kill him.
Daryl took a deep breath.
Rick nodded his head. "Beth's my family, but what she means to you...I won't stand in your way."
He'd tried to help her. Maybe this man was the reason Beth was still alive. That bought him his life. Rick watched carefully as Daryl dropped his shoulders, reading his decision. He didn't see it coming. Neither did the doctor, but Daryl heard the crunch against the man's head as Rick pistol whipped him, and he crashed to the floor. They were going now.
Daryl was heading to retrieve Beth when he heard Carl. He'd almost forgotten he was with them. And he'd seen what Daryl had done without making a peep. That was one tough kid.
"Dad, I think these are Beth's clothes. Should I get them?" It was the most random question that could be asked in their situation, but maybe Carl needed to focus on something besides the carnage.
"Carl, get the clothes, but if things go bad, drop them-don't worry about it," Rick replied. "Are you ready to move?" That one was directed at him.
"Yeah..." He'd never been more ready for anything in his life. "Hey Carl," he had the kid's full attention. "I'm gonna have Beth. You're gonna have my back, right?" It wasn't just a vote of confidence for Carl. If they were getting out alive, they all had to have each others' backs.
Carl nodded, but Daryl hadn't expected anything different.
Beth's eyes were opening when he leaned down to get her. He felt the sharp intake of her breath as he pulled her into his arms. She was awake and could feel everything, but she didn't cry out. She was strong, stronger than anyone ever gave her credit for.
"You came for me...am I dead?" Her voice was weak and thin, but it was so very beautiful just to hear her speaking again.
"I came for you. You're very much alive, and you're gonna stay that way." Daryl made his words confident, but he had to bite back emotion at the end 'cause he knew there was a very good chance he was lying.
If Beth died, he was done.