Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 14: Apologize
Beth was awake when Maggie came through the door. It was the first time she had seen Maggie since the day Daddy died, and she should be excited...but everything was somehow different... Daryl wasn't with her anymore. She didn't remember him leaving; she must have fallen asleep, but she knew wherever he was, he wasn't far away. If he had tracked her, found her, fought for her, he would always be near...always find her, no matter where she was. Beth rubbed the raw spots on her wrists where the handcuffs had worn the skin away. They didn't hurt as much as everything else, more of just an annoyance, but they were the only wounds she could see. And she needed a distraction. It was Maggie, but she felt awkward. Everyone was alive, she knew that now, but she had only seen Daryl, Rick, Carl, and Bob...Bob who'd come to check on her in the middle of the night while she was still awake with Daryl. His reaction had been unexpected...he was joyful, and he barely knew her, had only been at the prison a few weeks before everything fell apart. Maggie looked excited to see her awake too...Beth just wished she could share the same feeling, but something was off. It was probably just her. Maybe she was just too broken for anyone besides Daryl.
"Where's Daryl?" Beth wasn't afraid that he was gone, but she still wanted to know where he was.
That probably wasn't the first thing she should have said to her sister, but it didn't really matter.
"He's with Rick. Daryl's been by your side since you got back, wouldn't budge an inch, but Rick needed him." It was like Maggie was justifying why Daryl was gone, assuring her that he did just abandon her, but she didn't need to do that. There was no way Beth would ever doubt him. "Can I sit with you?"
It was an odd question for a sister to ask. Maggie...was something weighing on her? Beth nodded, sitting up against the pillows, trying not to wince. Maggie, sitting beside her, took her tussled hair, gently brushing it with a soft bristled brush.
"You never wear your hair down...but it's so pretty. You've always been so pretty, so gentle, so filled with light..." Maggie was emotional.
Beth grabbed a section of her own hair, feeling it, examining it. Maybe it was the only thing pretty and light left about her. She hadn't seen a mirror in, well, longer than she could remember, but she couldn't imagine with the way she felt that she would ever be pretty again.
"Beth, what happened out there before you were...between you and Daryl?"
That brought a sad smile to Beth's face.
"Everything." She knew Maggie was looking for more than that, but Beth wasn't willing to share. It was her happiness, her memories, the joy that she had to hold onto...the things that kept her fighting for the possibility of that future.
Okay, so clearly not everything...barely anything before...and now Maggie thought that she and Daryl...she could hear it in Maggie's voice. But it didn't matter what she thought. Beth wished they had...hoped maybe they would. He said he loved her. It was Daryl. That wasn't something he would just say as a passing fancy. She knew it was the truth. Maggie reached out and touched her cheek. It was still bruised. Beth knew because she felt the ache when Maggie's fingertips came in contact with it.
"What did they do to you Beth?" Maggie was shaky.
Beth had to close her eyes tight and take a big breath to quell the nausea in her stomach. The images...the memories...they were too much...still too fresh.
"I'm sorry...this is all my fault."
Beth opened her eyes, shaking her head no. Another person in her life was feeling guilty about what happened to her when there was absolutely nothing she could have done.
"No...it's not you're fault..."
"Yes Beth, it is...you don't understand," Maggie was never one to be dramatic...emotional yes, not dramatic, but her voice was frantic and broken. Beth was waiting, listening. "I...after...I'm your sister. I'm supposed to protect you. I didn't think you made it. I didn't even look...didn't even try, even after I found Glenn."
Maggie wouldn't look at her. She was crying.
"I let myself be happy with finding Glenn...let myself forget about you..."
It made her heart ache that Maggie forgot her, but she understood. Maggie had no reason to believe that she made it out of the prison alive with Daryl of all people. And Beth was far from innocent of allowing herself to forget...allowing herself to be happy. That is what she did with Daryl. Beth reached out, hugging Maggie. She was her sister, and if these were the worst of her sins, there was nothing to forgive.
"I love you Maggie." Then she realized Maggie's confession wasn't over. What more could there be?
Maggie pulled away, and Beth realized the worst was still to come.
"At Terminus...the place where we were all reunited when we were captured...I found out that you and Daryl ran together, you were together a long time, and it had only been recently that you were separated."
Beth nodded, listening intently.
"Daryl, he had a clue, a sign he remembered about the people who took you, and he believed that you were still alive." Maggie's breath shuddered before she pulled herself together to continue. "After we got away...it was so close...we got safe here. Abe wanted to push on to Washington D.C., and Glenn and I were in favor of going. After everything, I couldn't let myself believe you were alive only to lose you again, despite what Daryl believed. We knew Daryl was planning to go after you, but we...Glenn, Abe, Carol...I...tried to convince him not to leave...to let you go..."
It was a knife to the heart, and Beth felt like her world had just shattered into a million pieces, but she wouldn't cry.
"Rick...Rick was the only one who supported Daryl, why, I don't know, but I'm glad he did. They brought you back to me."
That was wrong though. On the night that Daryl rescued her, she'd had the feeling that even if she survived to make it back to their group, she would never really make it back. Beth didn't understand a lot of who and what Maggie was talking about...Terminus, Abe, Washington D.C...but she got what was important out of it. Even after Maggie found out she had lived past the prison and Daryl believed she was alive and was willing to track her, Maggie not only chose to forget her, she tried to get Daryl to forget...other people tried to stop him too...except Rick. She was dead to Maggie and everyone else, just a ghost in their world.
"I'm so sorry Beth, but now you're back...you came back to me." Beth didn't know what to say. "And you're lucky...you're lucky you weren't with us at Terminus. It was horrible. They were...eating...people. It was so close...they almost killed Glenn. You wouldn't have made it Beth...you're too gentle, too sweet to have gone through that."
Beth put her head down. She couldn't look at Maggie...not now. She wasn't weak, not like Maggie thought. She wasn't a person who felt sorry for herself or thought about herself before others...but this, this was different. Beth had no doubt that whatever they went through at the place called Terminus was horrible. She saw how badly beaten Rick, Glenn, and Daryl were...but those wounds were from fighting. And cannibals...people who ate other people, especially in their world, just the thought made her sick, and that fear sitting with all of them must have been unbearable, but they had all been together. They were strong, united, and if any group had a chance at survival, it was them. Maggie's words, they really drove the truth of the matter home. It was so close...they almost killed Glenn...close...almost... Beth had been alone and afraid. She was beaten, drugged, feared the wrath of Brother Allerton, fearing the moment when he grew tired of her refusals and decided to take what he wanted and she wouldn't have been able to do anything to stop him...waiting to die. There was nothing close or almost about what she went through. If Maggie had had her way, she would've died there.
"But everything's okay now. You're back. Everything can go back to how it was. You just have to forgive me."
Beth was strong. She was a fighter. She was strong enough to say the words.
"I forgive you." She just wasn't strong enough for them to matter.
"So the plan is, since we're hunkering down here for a while until Beth gets better, we're going to need to send out some groups to scavenge and keep some people here to help secure the place."
Daryl leaned against the door frame, arms crossed, listening to Rick lay out the game plan. He was anxious to get back to Beth, but he understood why Rick wanted him there. He was still a decision maker in their group supporting Rick, and this was for him and Beth. Daryl was waiting for someone to dare to speak out against staying in place or making runs because of Beth, but no one made a peep. Maybe that was why Rick wanted him there too. Rick clearly cared about Beth, but most of the others didn't give a shit. But what had happened between him and Abraham before he left for Beth...that sent a pretty strong message.
"Those of us who go out, we're going to stay close, see what we can find and use around here before we pan out any further." Daryl understood that Rick didn't want to go further than they had to, but he wasn't sure what they were gonna find close. A small subdivision with woods to the back...it was really gonna be hit or miss.
"I'm going to lead one of the groups," Rick asserted, "but since Daryl's out of commission..."
"Out of commission? How hurt are you?" Carol cut Rick off, looking directly at Daryl.
Daryl felt his eyes narrow at her. He had a few busted knuckles wrapped in pretty white bandages, and she was all concerned. But she hadn't cared about Beth or tryin' to find her...just tryin' to keep him from leaving to go after Beth.
"I ain't hurt, just outta commission," he snapped. "I just ain't goin'. I ain't leaving Beth."
"I'm going to lead one of the groups," Rick reiterated, "but since Daryl is staying, I'm going to let him pick his people to stay behind with him, then we'll figure out who else is going to lead and who's going in each group."
Daryl looked around the room knowing he had an easy decision. There was no way he was gonna pick anyone who tried to keep him from going after Beth. They could go and never come back...good riddance to them. Scanning the room, Daryl noticed someone was missing...Maggie...damn it...he knew she was with Beth, but there was nothing to be done about it at the moment. If she was upsetting her though...
"Daryl..." he snapped back to the task of the moment at Rick's prompt.
"I'll take Michonne and Ty. I'd like to have Carl too if that's okay with you. He had my back out there, and I'd like him to have it here." Rick nodded his okay. Daryl didn't pick Carl because he was a kid he was trying to protect but because he trusted Carl more than a lot of the people standing in the room, and the kid had balls. Carl looked surprised, but he nodded too. "And Bob. That's a given. He ain't going nowhere away from Beth."
"Okay then. Michonne, Tyreese, Bob, and Carl are with Daryl. Eugene will stay behind too..."
"If Eugene's staying behind, I'm staying..." Red stepped forward, standing his ground. Daryl just waited. This could be amusing. "I don't trust leaving him behind with Daryl. He's really not all that stable."
"Yeah...that's not going to happen. I promise you, Eugene's the last thing on Daryl's mind. And after what happened between the two of you, there's no way I'm leaving you alone together," Rick was firm on his decision.
Abe's eyes came to rest on Daryl...black eyes from his broken nose...Daryl's doing.
"We still need to settle that, son." Abraham was riled up. Daryl could hear it in his voice, see it in his stance. "Do you want to talk about that now or later?"
"Do you wanna die now or later?" The fact that Daryl was calm and collected made his reply worse, Rosita putting a hand on Abraham's chest to steady him.
Michonne's "hmmph" accompanied by a small laugh from beside him didn't help the situation, but Daryl's attention was drawn by Maggie, coming through the other door, joining Glenn. She looked like she'd been crying.
Daryl looked to Rick who nodded for him to leave.
Beth had been despondent when he got back to her. No tears...but he knew.
"What did she say to you?"
Daryl didn't know exactly how much truth Maggie told her or even exactly what the truth was, but it was enough to throw Beth into a dark and desperate place. He sure in the hell was gonna find out. When he found Maggie and Glenn, he promised himself he was going to keep his cool...it was the best way for him to find out what he needed to know.
"Maggie, we need to talk about Beth." It was hard, but his words came out civil.
Maggie looked to Glenn, nodding, kissing him, then coming to the room across the hall, no complaint. Daryl closed the door. It wasn't anyone's business but theirs. Maggie's face was once again puffy from tears, but who did she think she was? She had no right at all to be crying. She lost that right not just by giving up on Beth, but when she forgot she even had a sister.
"What did you say to Beth?"
Maggie's breath caught in her throat like she didn't expect him to ask that, and she didn't have an answer thought out. What in the hell did she think he was gonna ask her?
"I...I asked her what happened to her...I knew it was wrong...but...she wouldn't tell me anything anyway."
Daryl sighed, shaking his head. She shouldn't have asked, but it wasn't a crime. He couldn't hate her for that question...but what it did to Beth...Maggie should've known better. But that wasn't it. That wasn't what Beth said. Beth said Maggie apologized.
"What else Maggie?" His voice was sharper now.
"I apologized to her...I had to."
"What did you say to her?" I apologized wasn't going to cut it.
"I told her I was sorry...for...not looking for her after the prison...even after I found Glenn. I told her I thought she was dead...even when you thought she was alive...told me you knew she was alive. I just couldn't believe because having hope just to have you fail and lose her again was too much..." It all came pouring out now.
"Damn it, Maggie..."
"Don't worry, Daryl, I told her the truth, that you were the only one who believed...were willing to risk everything. I told her that most of the rest of us, all except Rick, didn't want you to go...tried to talk you out of leaving to find her. She knows about you. When I went to see her, my sister, the first time she's been conscious since...well, the first words out of her mouth were 'Where's Daryl?', so you're good." Maggie's voice had gone from sadly urgent to bitter, but she had no right to be. Deep down, she had to know that.
Daryl forced himself to breathe, fight his rage, hold back all the anger balling inside. This apology...Maggie didn't do it for Beth; she did it for herself.
"It was hard, but I had to tell her the truth. It was killing me..."
"And now it's fucking killing her." Daryl lost it.
He wasn't stupid. He knew the reason she apologized, but the fact that she actually said it, proving what he knew...it showed just how self-centered Maggie was being.
"What?" Did she really not comprehend?
"Yeah, you're feeling all better now, unburdening your soul...all you're sins. But who's left to deal with them now? Your little sister...that girl laying beaten, broken, and sick up there in that bed, that's who. And now, not only does she have to fight all her own pains and demons, she knows that no one gave a shit about her or what she was going through. She had to fight, by herself, every day to stay alive, and for what? People who weren't willing to fight for her. Her sister who wouldn't even shed a tear. Her group...her family who would rather forget she ever existed so they didn't have to deal with the loss and pain. Well, guess what? Your pain's real now because you can't ignore Beth. And you have to live with it, live with what you did...what you didn't do...unless she dies, and I ain't gonna let that happen..." Daryl stopped.
He had so much more he needed to say, but it would get out of hand. He'd said enough...enough on Beth's behalf. And he wasn't gonna waste any more fight on Maggie. It took too much energy...energy he should be devoting to Beth. Maggie wasn't worth his time.
"If I didn't tell her, you would've. It was better she heard it from me. You hate me..." Maggie shifted from victim mode to fight mode, but he was done.
"Maggie, this ain't a game...it's Beth life. You shouldn't have told her. I would've never told her, no matter the reason. Think whatever you want, but you shouldn't have told her even if it was to clear your conscience. If you told her to beat me to it, you were fucking dead wrong. Now Beth has to deal with it, and that's on you."
Daryl was turning away from Maggie, ready to leave but he stopped. He wasn't trying to hurt Maggie, just in this time and place...he needed to make sure she knew...knew who he was, who her sister was.
"You remember back when Merle kidnapped you and Glenn, took you to the Governor?" Daryl didn't pause for an answer. He didn't want one. The only thing he needed was to see her face. "We came after you...I was part of that group. You weren't my blood, but you and Glenn, you're my family. Did you know, when we first found out you and Glenn were taken, tryin' to figure out what to do, Beth was the first one to stand up, the first one...and she told us all 'I'll go'? She would've never let us forget about you."
Maggie trying to be a hard ass wasn't really convincing with all the tears. He wondered who she was crying for.
It was enough. He needed to go back to Beth.
"So, what, you just get to walk away the hero?"
"I ain't tryin' to be a hero. This ain't a fairytale. I'm just tryin' to live. Tryin' to give Beth a chance to live. You're just happy to survive. Living's too hard for you...living means you might lose something."
"Why are you doing this?" Maggie's voice was weak. She was weak. Everyone always thought Maggie was the stronger sister, but they were wrong.
She'd asked him that question before.
Why are you doing this?
She might mean nothin' to you, but to me, Beth's everything...she's all I got.
It was still the same, the answer, except this time he would've just said Because I love her. The thing was, Maggie didn't deserve to hear that. Looking back over his shoulder, Daryl wasn't even sure what he saw, what Maggie had become in his eyes.
"If you don't know the answer to that, you're lost..."
"Will you open the curtains...I think the sun is shining..."
Beth had been sitting up in bed like she was waiting for him to come back through that door. The sun...the sun would be good for her. After he pulled back the curtains, Daryl sat on the bed beside her, not waiting for an invitation. He didn't need one anymore. What he didn't know was how to talk to her...what he should say. He'd never been good at talking until Beth...but now the words she probably needed to hear didn't come. He was self-conscious, didn't know what to do. She was just looking at him, not really waiting for anything, but he still wished he had something to offer her. Beth's hair was down, combed, falling in soft waves over her shoulders. He didn't realize what he was doing until he had a section of her hair in his hands, the silky strands spilling through his fingers. He shouldn't have done that...didn't even know what drove him to it, but Beth's eyes lit up at just the small bit of attention he was giving her.
"It's enough..." Beth was sad, but he saw something in her eyes...something for him.
"You came for me. You believed."
"It wasn't...I was too late..."
"No...we're here together. That's everything. You're everything." Her voice was steady. He wanted to believe her. Deep down he did.
Maybe when she was better he should take her away, find somewhere in the woods, a place where they could be safe, live life, stop running, stop fighting for everything except themselves...
Daryl remembered something, digging in his pocket for the chain and pendant he'd stashed there.
"I've got something for you...I thought...you always had some sort of jewelry, and you don't have nothin' anymore, so I thought you might like it." He held it out to her, the gold contrasting against the white of the gauze wrapping his hand.
Beth picked up the pendant, the heart, holding it between her fingers, examining it and smiling. That's when Daryl noticed there was dried blood on the pendant and in the fragile links of the chain. He felt shitty. He hadn't even thought to clean it...hadn't had the time. But what was he supposed to do now? He couldn't take it back. Either she didn't notice it or she was just to graceful to say anything about it. Beth swept her hair to the side, holding it back, looking at him, waiting. Oh...she wanted him to put it on her...that was how things went, wasn't it? The clasp was so tiny, so delicate in his calloused hands. His fingers weren't made to work this way, fumbling like an idiot. Was this some sort of skill that was passed down from father to son, how to put jewelry on a girl, 'cause it sure in the hell wasn't something his old man would've ever taught him. After three tries, he finally got the damned necklace secured around Beth's slender neck. Her fingers pressed it against her chest as she looked down at it, smiling. And he didn't feel so shitty about the blood on it. It was his blood. He'd bled for her. Nobody else had.
"Thank you..." Beth's voice was soft but no longer sad. Daryl nodded. Her hand came to rest over his heart beating steady in his chest. "But I like this one better..."