Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 17: Blood and Chocolate
~Author's Note: Wow...so...what a tragic night. I don't even know what to say. It all feels like a fever dream. I don't read fan fiction, I only write it, and Daryl and Beth's story has been my first real foray into writing fan fiction with this story and "I Will Follow You Into the Dark". I don't know what happens once one part of your ship suddenly no longer exists. I was so not ready to give up writing these stories. I knew this tragedy was a possibility, but I don't think I was prepared enough. I had this chapter ready for tonight, so I am going to go ahead and post it. I have another for "I Will Follow..." too...but after that...I don't even know if people would read anymore. I'm so devastated about the show. Anyway...there is some sweetness in this chapter. I hope if anyone is still reading in the aftermath that you enjoy it.~
Daryl was watching her. She could feel his eyes on her as she navigated the place between asleep and awake. When she could finally open her sleep crusted eyes, Beth saw Daryl sitting on the edge of the bed bathed in the moonlight pouring through the window.
"Everything okay..." Beth asked, rubbing the sand out of her eyes.
It was still full night.
"Nothin' to worry 'bout." Daryl's voice was raspy sometimes, but now he sounded hoarse. Getting a good look at him, his eyes were puffy and his face drawn.
"Are you okay?" That was a very different question.
She pushed herself up, sitting, so she could be closer to him.
"Yeah..." he hesitated, and Beth knew he wasn't telling the truth. He couldn't lie to her. "I just wanted to talk to you about..." He trailed off.
Beth waited, but the about what never came. Everything about Daryl was off since he got back from hunting. She didn't get it. He'd brought back food, hunting was something he seemed to like, and as much as he might deny it, Beth knew that providing for the group gave him a sense of purpose. The only thing that could've put him in this place...well, she'd kissed him before he left; he kissed back. What if time alone, time in the woods reflecting, made him change his mind? When he'd gotten back, Beth really needed someone to be close to. After talking to Rick, spilling all those memories she just wanted to forget, he'd hugged her, literally let her cry on his shoulder, but it was Daryl she wanted. She thought he saw that when he came to her at the window when he got back...he was always so intuitive, but he'd just stood close to her. When she'd reached out to him, he closed his eyes and flinched away. Daryl was distant the rest of the day...not unkind, just distant, in his own world. Maybe she didn't want to know the about what. It would probably break her.
"Beth, you're strong."
Beth's breath caught in her chest. Daryl...his voice was still hoarse, but gentle. If he was setting up to push her away...telling her she was strong...she couldn't...Daryl was it for her. She loved him.
"I'm only strong because you taught me..." Beth focused, trying to keep her voice from cracking. Desperation would only drive Daryl away.
"No...you've always been strong. People just didn't see it." The way he was looking at her, his eyes...it didn't seem like he was trying to put distance between them...but what was it? "And you were the one doin' the teaching. You taught me...hope...love..."
Definitely not a break-up speech. Beth didn't know what she was supposed to say. It was late, she was tired, stressed, still sick and hurt. All those things plus what Daryl was saying made the tears come. It had only been a few days...a few days since she was freed. Everything was starting to crash. It was all too overwhelming. Daryl saw her crying, breaking his eyes away, looking at the floor.
"You survived, Beth..." Was Daryl about to break now? They were both just so exhausted. "You fought...you survived...nothing else matters..."
"And you came for me...that's all that matters..." Beth couldn't brush her tears away as quick as they were falling.
Daryl shook his head, still not looking at her.
"It wasn't enough. I couldn't save you..."
"You did..." But it didn't matter what she said. Daryl didn't believe her.
Beth wanted to hug him, give him what comfort she could...but what if he didn't want it? Emotions were high. Sleep...they just needed sleep.
"Tomorrow...tomorrow things will be better..." Beth said it for herself as much as she did for Daryl. She stopped crying. Her emotions were so volatile...she didn't know how Daryl was handling it.
He nodded his head, but she wasn't really sure he believed her. What Beth wanted to ask...what she was going to ask...she thought maybe she needed it, and he might need it too.
"Daryl, will...do you want to sleep beside me..." Beth wasn't offering anything more than sleep. She couldn't go there even if she was ready...just thinking about how much it hurt when Daryl accidentally grabbed her, and he would know that...but still it was hard to ask.
"Nah, I've got my sleepin' spot on the floor waitin' for me." His rejection was gentle, but it burned all the same.
His "sleeping spot" was just a pillow and a throw, just one blanket either to cover with or lay on. Daryl would rather sleep on the floor than beside her. Beth laid back down, defeated, as Daryl went to the floor by the bed. She wished she could rewind the moment so she could go back and not make the stupid offer.
"You know, if there's somewhere else you can sleep...another bed, or a couch...you don't have to stay here..." Beth gave him an easy way out.
"I'm good. I'm not leavin'." Silence followed
Beth was so confused. She closed her eyes, resolved to sleep. How did they get from the sweet moments of the morning to where they were now?
"Beth...if you need...want to talk to me...I want you to. You can tell me anything..." Well, at least he sounded sincere, and no one could ever question Daryl's sincerity.
But she couldn't...couldn't talk. Not after opening up to Rick, realizing for the first time not just the damage she would carry on the inside, but the external scars...the scars she couldn't hide from Daryl forever if they were together.
"I just want to forget..." she knew she couldn't, but it was better to keep it to herself, especially since Daryl was battling something of his own, something she didn't understand that was putting distance between them.
"It ain't that I don't wanna sleep by you. I just don't wanna hurt you more than you already are..." He was self-conscious. Self-conscious Daryl was something she understood and could handle.
Beth looked over the edge of the bed, down to where Daryl was on the floor. He looked like he was about to share something deep, but he was thinking about whether or not he wanted to open himself up. She didn't push him, just waited. In the end, he decided to be vulnerable.
"It's just.." Daryl paused, forcing Beth to wonder just how dark his confession was. After everything they had been through, everything she had faced...it didn't really get much darker than that. "...it's just..."
Instead of staring at the ceiling, Daryl rolled to his side, propped on his elbow, looking up at her, waiting for her judgment.
"I ain't never slept with a woman." Daryl stopped, but Beth knew that couldn't be right. "Shit...that's not what I mean...I've never slept beside anyone, beside a girl...in bed. I've never shared a bed with a girl." Daryl finally got it out right.
In the darkness of their world, Beth couldn't help thinking just how beautiful what Daryl shared with her was.
"Daryl..." Beth looked up when she heard Carl at the door.
The door was open, and he was peeking through, eyes focused on Daryl.
"Yeah," Daryl straightened from pulling on his boots.
"Can I talk to Beth?" He asked hesitantly.
"Uh, yeah. Door's open. She's right there. Don't need my permission."
Well, that might be true for Carl, but other people...there were others she knew he would turn away.
"I got some stuff for you," Carl finally spoke to her, and he was super excited.
That made Beth excited. Carl dragged a duffle bag in, dropping it on the end of the bed. She looked up at Daryl who was watching, waiting to see too.
"What is it?" Beth felt like a little kid, anticipating, watching Carl dig around in the bag for what he was looking for. It took her a second after seeing it for her to realize what it was, taking what Carl offered her eagerly.
"It's a whole candy bar, just Hershey's, but it isn't even open." Carl was just as excited giving it to her as she was getting it.
Beth couldn't say if it was the gesture or the actual chocolate bar that made her feel happy and giddy, but it didn't really matter.
"Yeah, you're lucky. I was with Michonne on this run. Had to hide it from her. If it'd been a Big Kat, she would've sniffed it out, and you would've never seen it." Carl was as proud of the candy bar as Daryl was bringing back a kill.
Beth ripped open the wrapper, closing her eyes, savoring the smell of the chocolate. She broke off a piece, offering it to Daryl.
He shook his head, just watching her, and she could see the hint of a smile. "You enjoy it."
Carl took what she offered him, and Beth felt better that she wasn't enjoy the rare treat alone. Putting the square on her tongue, she didn't chew, just letting the chocolate melt. It was heaven. She caught sight of Rick at the door, gesturing for Daryl to join him in the hall. He nodded to her.
"You touch her, I'll put a bolt through your hand." Beth was a litte shocked. He only sounded like he was half joking.
"Yeah, I got it." Carl's reply was light hearted, so apparently he and Daryl had an understanding. Carl knew he wasn't all that serious.
Daryl followed Rick into the hallway, but he wasn't planning on going too far, picking a spot on the floor just a little ways away from the door. He was happy Beth had someone to talk to, didn't want her to feel like he was isolating her, but he was only gonna go as far away as he had to.
"You should've been with us right after the pris...well, anyway...I found this can of chocolate pudding, and I ate it all, all hundred and twelve ounces of it in one sitting." Daryl could hear Carl telling Beth his war story as Rick took a seat on the bench next to where he was sitting on the floor.
"A hundred and twelve ounces of chocolate pudding? That's seven pounds." Daryl shook his head in disbelief.
"Yeah, Carl seems to think that's his greatest accomplishment." Rick shook his head right along with Daryl.
The real accomplishment was that Carl was still able to have a conversation about something like chocolate pudding, and a topic like that must be a welcome escape from the heavy shit Beth was dealing with. Daryl hoped to God that whatever Rick wanted to talk to him about wasn't as devastating as the last conversation they'd had, but he wasn't stupid enough to expect nothing happy.
"The runs today, they did a little better. Found some more food. Had people scouting for some vehicles. They found a few that might do. I want to be ready in case we need to move. I was hoping maybe you'd go with me to have a look at them." If this was the darkest part of the conversation, he could handle it.
"Yeah...we'll see which ones we can get running."
"We got some new clothes for you. I mean, I know you have the old ones..." Carl shared with Beth. Apparently his duffle bag was full of a bunch of stuff for her. That was good. It would make her feel like people cared.
"Maggie picked up some clothes and boots for Beth. I told Carl not to say they were from her. Thought it would be better for Beth that way." He was glad that Rick fully understood the situation with Maggie but didn't push the issue, didn't shove his nose where it didn't belong.
"I grabbed a different shirt for you. Hmmph...no flowers this time." Rick thought it was funny. Daryl was thankful though; he was ready to get rid of the stupid flowers.
"Thanks, but I really don't know if I want new clothes. Every time I get some, they just get messed up." Beth's voice, when she was talking to Carl, it sounded so normal, and not faked normal. It gave Daryl a small glimmer of hope that maybe it could be normal for them too...but how could it ever?
"Why?" Carl questioned. Did Beth even have a story to go with that?
"Daryl and I, we were at this country club..."
"Pfft..." Daryl shook his head, remembering, knowing what was next. Rick watched him, waiting for some sort of explanation. "Just wait for it, there's a story comin'."
"...and I found this really pretty white cardigan. Then there were some walkers chasing us. Daryl started taking them out. The last one...Daryl was beating it with a golf club. Finally, when it was on the floor, Daryl took a swing at its head like it was a giant gushy golf ball, and my white sweater got covered in walker brains and blood and goo."
That hadn't been his finest moment, but the way Beth told it now, there was something in her voice...something positive about the memory.
"Really Beth? A white sweater?" Carl questioned, like that was the most outrageous part of her story...picking out a white shirt.
Carl and Beth were both laughing now.
"It's good...laughter. They both need it," Rick commented.
"Carl's a good kid." It was the truth, and Rick already new it.
"Yeah, but he's not a kid anymore. He's in there laughing at a story about Beth getting splattered with blood and guts. What kind of world is that?" Rick had gone somber.
"It's a world where he's alive. A world that he's accepted. Maybe better than some of us." Daryl offered what he could.
"He had to grow up too fast. You remember him...back at the beginning. Now, even if somehow tomorrow the world miraculously righted itself, Carl would never be a kid again. I'm his father, and I don't even know what grade of school my son would be in, but I know he would never be able to go back and function in that kind of world again. And Judith, if she gets a chance to grow up, she won't ever be a kid. What kind of life is that for children?" Rick was really letting it go, and Daryl listened.
Sometimes people tended to forget that Rick was a person too. They liked to blame him when he showed human flaws...expected him to be infallible.
"There ain't no if about it. Judith's gonna make it, live up to her name, grow up to be a Lil' Asskicker. It might not be a world for kids or babies, but there ain't nothin' to do about it. Only thing we can do is our best to make sure they've got a fightin' chance. And the world...it's gonna need survivors like them..." Daryl started feeling it...talking about kids and babies, thinking about his past, how he had to survive, and the possibility of what could be in his near future. It was a place he didn't wanna go...be reminded of, but it was too late now.
Rick realized what he was thinkin' but wasn't gonna make him talk about it.
"Carl and Judith...they're alive...and they got love. That's all that really matters," Daryl finished up, hoping at the same time, the same was true for Beth...being alive, having a chance, and having love.
"I found these for Beth," Rick went in for the redirect from the painful conversation, pulling two knives out of his back waistband, handing them to Daryl. "The Ka-Bar's good and solid. The push dagger, it'll tuck real nice into Beth's boot. No one will even know she has it."
Daryl pulled the Ka-Bar out of its sheath, running his finger over the cold surface of the blade.
Daryl hated that he knew Beth would have to use them. It wasn't an if, it was a when she had to kill to survive. Just something Rick said, about no one knowing Beth would have a knife tucked in her boot...it just reminded him how the game was changing. A walker wouldn't be looking for a concealed knife. Hidden weapons were necessary because now that they were getting good at handling the walkers, it wasn't the walkers they had to worry about, it was the people. The savage animals that could still think like humans.
"I never got a chance to thank you..." Daryl tuned back in to Beth's voice, "...for coming after me with Daryl and your Dad."
"You don't got to thank me. I told my dad it was bullshit, the others who thought you were dead. You're family. We don't leave family behind."
Beth needed to hear that there was someone besides him and Rick who was so enthusiastic about her survival. And Daryl couldn't help smile at Carl's bullshit. He was cussing like a pro, didn't even put more emphasis on the word like someone new to using it would.
"Kid's got a mouth on him," Daryl smiled, Rick shaking his head.
"Lori would have a fit if she heard him."
"Don't worry too much...I wasn't such a great influence on Beth. While we were out there, she said some things, made some hand gestures that would've sent Hershel to washin' her mouth out with soap." He remembered the first time he'd heard Beth cuss, when she flipped him off after he took her back to their camp when she'd wanted to go find booze. She was so pissed at him. Beth had spirit. Enough to stand up to him.
"What do we do now, Daryl? Where do we even go from here?" Rick ran his fingers through his overgrown hair.
There was a much bigger philosophical question there, but Rick was talking about the here and now.
"Don't know. Abe's itching to get going to DC. Everyone seems to be on board with that." Daryl sure wasn't though.
"But you're not." Rick seemed to be questioning the idea. "You told me before you left...before you got Beth back to think on it, about what we found out at the CDC, and I have been."
It was good Rick wasn't going in blind. What Abe and Eugene offered, it had given the others a goal, a rallying cry when they needed one the most. Him...his motivation had always been Beth.
"I can't worry about savin' the whole world if it's gonna risk Beth. You've got people you love too...you've gotta weigh those risks. For me, Beth's worth all the other strangers on the planet. What good's the world if you end up the last man standing on a pile of ash and burned bones?" He hoped Rick was starting to see the light.
"So, if we go, you won't go with us?"
"Is that what you've decided, still goin' along with what they're feeding you?" It was a mistake.
"It's not just my decision. Everyone else, they all seem to be in agreement, and I don't want to lose anyone. We can't split up again."
"I'm not going anywhere 'til Beth's better." Daryl didn't want to leave the group either. He would go along with them as long as it was in Beth's best interest. "But Rick, you need to know...you're my brother, but I will leave with Beth. If anything happens or threatens her, I'm done. Beth and me, I'll find a place for us somewhere. We'll make it."
Rick didn't say anything. He knew. They both just sat, listening to Beth giggle and Carl laugh together.
Daryl didn't have some great epiphany, but a culmination of events leading up to this point left him with an answer for Rick. He'd almost lost Beth, she had been through things he would never understand, he'd begged the universe for more time with Beth, and here she was recovering, healing, loving him...a piece of chocolate could drown out the bloody horror of their world, if only for a moment...they had to be grateful...he had to be grateful.
"Rick, you asked what we do now. You've got Carl and Judith. I've got Beth. The only thing we can do that makes any sense is be grateful for the time we've been given."