Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 13: Place In This World
~Author's Note: Good morning guys. Just to let you know, this chapter is different from the last 12. The chapters have been full of violence, anger, sadness, heartbreak, fear, pain...at least one of those heavy elements. At this point, I just needed something less heavy, and I think the characters need a break too. A chance to breathe...This by no means should be read as this story turning into one that is full of fluff and stuff, but there needed to be something else at this point. I hope you all enjoy. As always, thanks for reading. You guys are awesome.~
"Deputy Grimes was out at the shop today pickin' up his car..." Daryl told her, washing off the day's dirt in their ancient stained enamel sink. "He had his boy with him...Carl...well, he ain't a boy anymore. I don't even know if you'd recognize him."
Beth put what she was doing aside to focus on Daryl. She always tried to keep herself busy when he first walked through the door because he'd never touch her with greasy hands...but today she was more impatient than usual.
"...and Judith, he showed me a picture. She's gettin' so big..."
Daryl wiped his clean hands dry on his pants. Beth smiled. His pants were almost as dirty as his hands had been, but it was Daryl. Old habits died hard. He kissed her softly...it felt so new...and awkward, but it wasn't, was it?
"I told him about you and me finally finding our place together. Said he was happy for us." It was so odd how he phrased it, finally finding our place together... "He told me he wanted us to come over some time. Don't know why he even talks to someone like me."
"Because you're a good person," Beth reassured him. He was always so down on himself. "Anybody who doesn't see that is either blind or just plain stupid."
He held her close, but the way he was looking at her was heartbreaking.
"Yeah...well, maybe you would've been better off if you were stupid or blind. Would've been much better off seeing that this is all I can give you."
Beth looked around. She knew what he saw...one rundown room that served for everything, kitchen, dining room, living room, their tiny bedroom and bathroom through the door to the back. Daryl saw failure. She saw possibilities. Beth wouldn't fight him on it because he wouldn't listen. She just wanted to stay happy.
"I see all I need standing right here in front of me." Her voice was happy. She had no reason not to be. Daryl looked at her, a sad smile on his lips...his expression saying that he wanted to believe her, but he was too afraid to believe it was the truth. "By the way, your Dad stopped by this morning. Wanted to bring us something to 'spruce' up the house, but he knew you wouldn't want to see him." Beth had to tell him...had to share. It was just too funny not to.
"You let him in?" Daryl went even more serious on her. She should've known better. There was something between him and his dad...something he'd never told her but she understood...wasn't there?
"Yeah...what else was I supposed to do?"
"Lots of things you could've done. Hide. Pretend you weren't home. Racked the shotgun. He would've gone away eventually..." He took a deep breath, shaking his head. "Beth, there're things about my past, my life, that I don't want you to be a part of...to know."
"Anyway..." Beth wasn't going to let the mood go any more somber, "he brought us this." She presented the bright pink planter in the shape of a huge bra. Who'd go into a store and walk out with this?"
"My Dad, that's who. He'd set those up on top of the TV set, use them as target practice," there was the tiniest bit of amusement in Daryl's voice.
"He shot things inside your house?" It was a question Beth shouldn't have asked, but it came out before she could stop it. The idea that anyone would shoot a gun inside of their house for fun...it struck her.
"It was just a bunch of junk anyway..." Beth just wanted Daryl to forget about all the bad, but here she was just reminding him what life had been like. Not only had his Dad target practiced in his house, there had been nothing worth having to start with.
It was so strange...like deja vu. Daryl stopped speaking, but there was something that came after. Something else he needed to say...like the conversation had already happened...
That's how I knew what this place was. He didn't say it, but she knew that was what came next.
"He also wanted to know when you were going to get that still up and running." Beth couldn't even say why she told him that...it was so...irrelevant?
"That ain't never happening. We've had enough moonshine for a lifetime."
We've? Beth couldn't remember drinking moonshine...ever. She tried to think, but her memories from before today were blurry and jumbled...like they were fighting each other.
Ain't gonna have your first drink be no damned peach schnapps...
Moonshine...That's a real first drink right there.
Beth shook her head.
"You alright?" He was worried now. Daryl always worried too much.
"Yeah...I'm fine." Beth was just trying to make sense of the images in her head.
"What would your Dad say about this?" Daryl's voice was verging on depressed as he looked around.
They were supposed to be happy...they were starting a new life together...but he was so self-conscious. Beth looked down at the pink bra planter she still held in her hands.
"He would say that we should hide it in the closet and only bring it out when your Dad came over for a visit to be tactful."
"That's not what I meant..." Beth knew that.
She set the planter aside and moved closer to Daryl, letting him hug her. She knew what he needed even if he didn't know it or want to say it, but he would hug her if she was there even if he thought he was doing it for her.
"He would've said it's not about where you are, it's the person you're with."
Daryl nodded, accepting what she'd said, just a hint of a smile on his lips, but she was sad now. She talked about her Daddy like he wasn't with them anymore...like he was dead. The sting of the loss was so fresh, but she couldn't remember...
The Governor rolled right up to our gates. Maybe if I wouldn't have stopped looking. Maybe 'cause I gave up. That's on me.
No...and your dad. Maybe...maybe I could have done something.
Daryl had cried. She'd hugged him through it. That had happened here...just outside...but it wasn't even real...was it? They'd made it...they'd survived...but survived what?
Banging and growling from outside startled her, pulling Beth out of her muddled thoughts. Daryl raised his hand, telling her to remain quiet. He approached the window, crossbow in hand. When did he get his crossbow?
"It's just one of 'em," Daryl reassured her. One of 'em what?
"Should we get it?" At this point, Beth didn't even know what she was saying.
"If he keeps making too much noise, yeah."
Walkers. More of them came. Beth knew now, knew somehow that the most unbelievable part of her world was her reality.
They were both outside. All of the walkers were dead now. Beth and Daryl were both covered in blood. Beth turned and looked at Daryl at her side. She knew who he was...appreciated everything that made him the man that was standing beside her.
"You were made for this world..."
He looked at her, nodding his acceptance. He knew.
"We were made for this world," Daryl added. "We would've never happened without it, and we're going to make it together."
Beth...please fight...fight for me...Daryl said it, but it didn't come out of his mouth...not the Daryl beside her at least. It was distant, but somewhere more real than where she was now, trying to pull her back. She wanted to go.
Beth was a fighter...she had something...someone...and she was going to fight for her place in the world...
Maggie had seated herself at Beth's side again after she let him outta the hug. He'd been thinkin' about how to tell Maggie that she needed to go when he'd seen Michonne at the door. That bought Maggie a few more moments.
"I don't want to come in and take the chance of making her more sick, but we found you this." Michonne passed him a crisp folded shirt. "Your shirt...well, I'm sorry to tell you, it isn't going to make it." Daryl could hear the amusement in her voice.
"It's just a shirt." Daryl unfolded the new one he'd been given, looking down at it, then up at Michonne. "I take that back. I don't care what my shirt looks like. I want it back..."
Daryl looked at the shirt again...the western shirt...the shirt with a small floral pattern.
"You'll get over it." Michonne clearly had no sympathy, her smile evidence. "She's going to make it."
"Yeah...that's what Bob says," Daryl answered, still allowing himself to feel the hope.
"That wasn't a question. Beth's going to live because she's strong."
Someone like Michonne saying Beth was strong...someone like him knowing it...gave him hope for their world, hope for humanity.
"I know." There was no doubt in Daryl's mind about that. "You remember that shack and still we found before..." he couldn't say it...even now it was still too fresh to say before we lost the prison.
Michonne nodded. She knew.
"I took Beth there. Everything fell apart. I...she showed me what it was to be strong...that she was stronger than me. That's when it happened..." Shit, had he just said that? Well, not like they didn't know. Michonne was observant, and no one needed to be all that observant to realize at this point. She nodded again, the traces of a smile on her face. People like him and Michonne, the world didn't give them much to smile about, but people like Beth...they touched everyone. "That night...she said we should burn the shack. We did. After that, everything was new..." Daryl couldn't say why he was opening up...
Before he could continue spilling his guts, Rick and Bob showed back up on scene, sliding past him and Michonne into the bedroom. Bob placed a hand on Beth's brow then fingers at her wrist, and even though he knew no harm was being done to her, Daryl had to fight the urge to be on top of Bob.
"Maggie, it's about that time. We need to be letting Beth get some rest." Daryl's attention flipped to Rick and Maggie.
He stepped further into the room, putting down his clean clothes, waiting for Maggie to lose it. It was coming.
"I think I'm just going to stay with her tonight. Make sure she's okay...make sure she's not alone." Maggie's voice was calm, like she was told it needed to be for Beth's sake. She stroked Beth's hair like she was some sort of little pet or doll.
"Maggie, we talked about this," Rick's voice went from sympathetic to stern.
Daryl let him handle the situation. If he stepped in, had to make Maggie leave, there were like to be some choice words said.
"I'm not leaving." Maggie stood, planting her feet firmly on the ground. "What if she...dies..."
Daryl narrowed his eyes, taking a second to breathe before he said anything. After all this shit, every thing he'd done to get Beth back, all of Beth's suffering and fighting, Maggie had no right to mention death. It wasn't an option.
"Beth ain't gonna die." Daryl stepped close to Rick and Maggie to make sure he was heard. "And I ain't gonna let her be alone neither."
"See, even Daryl thinks I should stay." Maggie was living on a different planet.
Rick looked like he was contemplating his words carefully, trying to find the most tactful way possible to handle the situation, knowing Daryl wasn't leaving. The thing was, Rick might be their leader, making decisions for the group, but this wasn't a group matter, it was a family matter. At this point, Daryl would stand for his family.
"Maggie, you need to go. Now." He wasn't aggressive or angry. They hadn't hit that point yet, but it wasn't up for negotiation. "I'm staying."
"What..." Maggie looked from him to Rick, back to him again. "You're letting him stay," to Rick.
"I'm not letting him stay. I'm not letting him do anything. He let you stay. Now we're both telling you it's time to go."
"But...she's my sister...my Beth..." Maggie was losing her composure. Rick looked to him and nodded. Daryl nodded back.
"Maggie, we're going to take this conversation outside, for Beth's sake, but you're not going to win." Rick guided Maggie out of the room with a firm, unrelenting hand on her back, pulling the door behind.
Bob was moving to make his exit.
"No fever. Her pulse is strong. Her breathing is steady. Now it's just about waiting." Daryl should've said thank you, but he just nodded. Emotions were still too high. "If she wakes up or anything changes, come and find me."
Finally they were alone. Daryl put on his new shirt before sitting on the edge of the bed beside her. She looked so peaceful, but the bruises on her face told a different story. He closed his eyes, recalling the image of her before she was broken by the world. When Beth woke up, he was going to make sure that she got back to that place...that nothing ever hurt her again.
"Rick...she's our family. Maggie's her sister. Daryl's not..." He'd been ignoring the conversation outside the door, until now. And apparently, Glenn was in on it too.
"I wouldn't even finish that thought where Daryl might hear you," Rick cautioned, cutting Glenn off.
"But Rick, she's my sister...you can make him leave for me...if only one of us can stay..." Desperate Maggie was coming out again.
"I'm not going to make him leave. Even if I wanted to, and I don't, none of us could make him. All of us might be able to, but a lot of us would be coming away hurt, now more than ever. It's Daryl." Rick was so right he didn't even know. Daryl glanced to where his crossbow was leaning against the nightstand, just to make sure.
"If he's that dangerous...maybe we shouldn't leave him alone in there with Beth..." Daryl took it personally even though he knew he shouldn't. Maggie was just using the ammunition she had to try to get her way, but she didn't have the right.
Funny thing was, before he left to find Beth, Maggie hadn't even uttered her sister's name. But now that Beth was back, after he'd fought and killed and bled to save her, Maggie was her sister again, finally remembering that Beth existed in the first place. Now Maggie wanted to fight for her, to claim her, and she was gonna fight dirty. Problem was, Beth had already been claimed. He wasn't gonna make the mistake of not letting that be known.
"Daryl's not dangerous to Beth...he's dangerous because of her."
"Rick, be reasonable." Glenn was always pretty rational, this time he just didn't get it, or refused to see...not yet at least.
"You don't know what he's been through because of her..." Rick's voice was hushed, like he didn't want Daryl to hear, but he did. "You didn't see what he did..."
"No Maggie." Now Rick was done. Rick had seen. He knew. "If Daryl didn't go after her, believe she was alive, fight for her, Beth would be dead. There would be no Beth for you to try to fight him over." That was Rick's final say.
Maggie sobbed. Sometimes the truth was hard, but it was still the truth. It probably hurt even more since Maggie made her own choices about Beth.
"Maggie, don't hate Daryl for this...he saved her...he's the reason she has a chance."
That should be more than consolation enough for Maggie. Her sister was alive, breathing, and she was going to stay that way...
Awake...clear...the air was cool and sweet. She could breathe deeper, and it didn't hurt so much. Eyes open. There were candles burning on the table beside her. Everything was quiet and still. The rain had stopped, the thunder and lightening were gone...and so was Daryl.
Beth, I love you.
Beth was questioning everything about the past ten...no, eleven nights now...what was real and what were hallucinations and dreams, but she didn't question Daryl...what he'd said.
Beth, I love you.
Beth heard movement. It sounded like a boot sliding across the floor...Daryl. Beth turned on the bed, quietly, just wanting to see him first. It hurt. Everything hurt, but it was worth it. They were getting their chance...more time.
She laid her cheek on the bed, looking at him, just watching him in his quiet moment. The candles were enough that she could see him so clearly, boots planted firmly on the floor, legs drawn up, crossbow resting on his knees. Beth could barely see his face though, his hair falling forward. Daryl was looking down, toying with one of the buttons of his shirt...well, it wasn't his shirt...there were flowers on it. Maybe it was still a dream. Maybe there was no chance for them. Daddy said that sometimes people and animals who were really sick got better, had a few moments of clarity and less pain, just before the end. No one really knew why; it just happened. It didn't matter. It was more time together...more than she thought she had. Beth was going to reach out and touch him, but she still felt too drained.
"Daryl..." it was the best she could do.
Daryl's bow clattered to the floor as he rolled up on his knees. The noise was jarring...it hurt her head...everything was so sensitive. She closed her eyes until the pain in her temples stopped, opening them to find Daryl looking at her...Daryl with her. It was still such an impossibility. He'd come for her...she knew why.
"Beth..." Her name was like a sigh of relief on his lips.
For a moment, just a moment, she thought Daryl was going to kiss her. She saw it in his eyes, the way his breath hesitated and he started leaning in towards her. The door opened. Daryl was on his feet, bow in hand, aimed. It was just Rick, his revolver in hand too. Daryl lowered his crossbow.
"Everything okay?" Rick's voice was hushed. "I heard a loud...something..."
Daryl approached him, wanting to remove Beth from whatever the conversation was going to be. His heart was pounding hard from Beth, the door being opened, being startled and too many emotions. Why was Rick there? Did he think Beth died...she turned and he couldn't...Just the thought made him sick. But that wasn't the case. Wasn't ever gonna be. Beth was awake. Time...he had more time.
"Yeah...just dropped my bow is all."
"Beth's awake." He couldn't say why he shared so soon. All he wanted was his time with her. He was just to excited to control himself, to not share. And it was Rick.
"She's awake? Is she coherent?" Rick's voice was laced with excitement.
"Don't know. She said my name, my crossbow fell..." I was gonna kiss her, "you opened the door..."
Rick went past him to Beth, standing over her.
"Beth, how are you feeling?"
"Alive." It was a beautiful answer. "Are you okay...Carl?" Her questions showed just how awake she was.
"We're fine...everyone's fine. You don't need to be worrying about us though. You just need to be focusing on you and getting better." Rick laid a hand on the top of her head before turning back to him.
Rick patted him on the shoulder, nodding his head before leaving, pulling the door behind him. Daryl felt awkward...self-conscious. Before Rick came in, he was going to kiss her, but what if she didn't want that. The kiss and her I love you had happened when they both thought Death had come to collect. His was true, had been for a while...but what about her...what if...
Fuck it. Fuck being awkward. Fuck being self-conscious. He might not be able to make those feelings go away, but he didn't have to let them dictate his actions. He sure in the hell didn't have a problem showing everyone else how he felt about Beth. And he'd learned the devastating consequences of not telling Beth how it was in the first place. People like him...well, the world didn't give them chances to start with. Everything he'd had, he'd taken...fought for...bled for. He'd fought for a second chance. Beth was fighting for a second chance. Daryl wasn't gonna waste it.
"Will you sit with me?"
Daryl nodded, going to his knees beside the bed.
"No...sit with me...please..." She didn't need to beg him...never...not after everything.
Daryl moved to sit on the edge of the bed beside her, but Beth sat up, clinging the blanket to her chest. making room for him. Beth meant with her, not beside her. His boots thunked to the floor as he pulled them off. No shoes in bed. At least he knew that much...for her...not that it had ever mattered in his world. But how did this work...how did it go. In a moment where it could be the last, everything just happened without much thought. Now, it was...almost normal...but this had never been his normal. Daryl literally climbed into bed behind Beth so he would hurt her or jar her, sitting with his back to the headboard, a drawn up leg on each side of her. He was glad he was clean, that Bob had made him wash and Rick took his clothes...he just didn't know he was gonna be this close to her...so soon...ever...
"Come on back, Beth..."
Beth leaned back into him, against his chest. His hands...what in the hell was he supposed to do with his hands? Maybe he should...he wanted to put his arms around her, but what if he hurt her? Daryl took the chance, wrapping her in his embrace. She could say no if she wanted...needed to. There was no tension in her body. Beth melted into him like they were meant to be together, like their bodies were made for each other. All the tension left Daryl too. Was this what it felt like...to be whole...complete? To live?
"You should sleep..." He didn't want her to, but she needed it...time to heal.
"I've slept too much." Beth's fingers picked at the edge of the clean gauze bandages on his hands. "You're hurt..."
"It's nothin'." It was less than nothing. He didn't feel it enough.
"What happened?" Her concern. How was it that she was the one who'd...suffered through everything yet she still had it in her to put others first?
"I punched some people," at Terminus and Abe..."Broke some things," ribs, the mirror..."Nothin's broken. I'm fine..."
And he wasn't lying. If they could stay like this forever, he would be more than fine. Beth brought his bandaged hands to her lips, kissing the top of his knuckles. He choked back an unexpected ball of emotion.
"Are you okay?" Of course she felt it. He couldn't hide from her if he wanted.
"Yeah...I...it's just..." Daryl just stopped trying to cover, trying to say anything.
What was he suppose to say...the truth? No one had ever kissed his hurts, even when he was little and had a mom. All the other kids were pretending when they said a kiss made everything better. He knew it didn't. If they weren't pussies, if they were strong like he had to be, they would know that too. But he'd been wrong...now he knew. It was awkward silence for a moment until Beth started talking. Her voice soothed him.
"You know, right after the prison, that first night, when I wanted you to track and you wouldn't even talk to me...when I left the fire, I took your knife because I knew you would come after it. I was trying to be brave, but I was scared...so afraid to be alone in the world."
Daryl was trying to figure out what was going on in her head. Was she still trying to work out why he came for her, because she knew...he'd made that very clear. She remembered that, didn't she? Her voice was calm and even...after everything. Was this what it was like to talk...normal conversation? He'd tasted this briefly before she was stolen from him...but now it still seemed impossible.
"I would've come after just you...didn't need no other reason," Daryl reassured her just in case. It was the truth. "I was pissed at the world, but I wasn't about to let you die..."
"I know you wouldn't have left me. I didn't know it then though..." She must've been so afraid...with just him, questioning if he would even protect her.
"I'll tell you what though, if you'd grabbed my crossbow, you wouldn't even have made it a step out of camp." Daryl tried to lighten the conversation. He was never much good at it though.
Beth laughed, followed by "ow", followed by another giggle.
"Sorry." It was only a half apology on his part. She was hurting, but she'd laughed...he couldn't ever remember hearing her laugh like that before this. She shook her head no, telling his apology wasn't necessary.
"When you start feelin' better, I'll take you out tracking again. We'll do some more shooting." Daryl thought about the first and last times she'd held his bow in her hands. The first time, outside the shack they'd burned. Well, she didn't exactly hold it then, but that had been part of her introduction into his ugly world...his past. The last time...the last time, she'd thrown him his bow while he was tryin' to hold the door, keep the walkers back...so she could escape...escape to what? Daryl shook his head to try to banish the images. That was over now, and he had the chance to make it right, as right as possible. And he felt secure enough...hopeful enough...to think about that kind of future.
"Beth, I never said I was sorry...for what I did...what happened after we had the moonshine..." It seemed like a lifetime ago, but his thoughts had brought him back to that point.
"We're past that Daryl. I knew...we were both hurting. And I, I never judged you...never thought bad of you...what I said, it was all just a stupid game." She didn't need to apologize, but maybe they both needed the chance to say some things they felt like they needed to say.
"No...it wasn't you. Like I told you, I'm a dick when I'm drunk..."
"You know, if we didn't burn it...we could've stayed there. I would've stayed there and been happy with you." Beth's words surprised him.
"No, Beth. That was no place for you. Like you said, if we can't let go of places like that, they kill us, in here..."
Daryl placed his hand in the center of Beth's chest over her heart. He forgot she was little...he wasn't used to her body...his fingers resting over the lace bra covering her small breast. He didn't mean to violate her...nothing like that had even remotely crossed his mind. Before he could take his hand away, both of hers covered his, pressing it tighter over her heart. It was beating much harder now. His was too.
"Maybe I was wrong...I was wrong. We have to put the past behind us...all the bad things...or that's what kills us. But a place is just a place." Beth took in a deep breath, exhaling like she was breathing for the first time. "I know where my place in this world is...beside you. Wherever you are is where I want to be."
If it was possible for him to be broken by something good and beautiful in his life, this was it. With his free hand, Daryl brushed Beth's silky, pale hair aside, his lips finding the soft spot where her neck and shoulder met. He felt her skin quiver before he pulled his lips away and rested his head at her shoulder.
Daryl knew in that moment, that when the end came, he wasn't gonna have lost more than he won...
~End Note: Just in case the intention didn't come across, the first portion of this chapter was just a trippy dream where Beth was dreaming that she and Daryl were living together in the moonshine shack from "Still" in the previous world, until reality and dreamscape started to blur. The point of that dream was to facilitate, at least on Beth's part, bringing up that she knew that she could be happy anywhere she was as long as she was with Daryl.~