Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 18: Strong
~Author's Note: Please be gentle when judging this chapter. I am clearly not over what happened in the show, and I am not at the top of my game at this point, but I am ready to move forward. No matter what, I think my first chapter back on this story was going to be bad. Also, I am going to try to get back on a regular posting schedule, but please try to be patient with me. This is a process to recovery, and the holiday season is adding a little bit of complication too. I love you all, and thank all of you who still want to read my work. I hope you all have an awesome day as we move forward with Bethyl love! True love never dies.~
"The Ka-Bar's good and sharp, almost as sharp as my knife," Daryl slid it back in its sheath.
"What about this one?" Beth asked, picking up the tactical knife.
"That one...see this clip here on the sheath?" Daryl turned it over in her hand, pointing to what he was talking about. "That you're gonna clip on the edge of your boot and the knife is gonna be hidden, tucked inside by your leg where no one will see it."
"Walkers don't care whether or not they see your knife."
"It's not for the walkers."
After what she'd been through, what they'd all been through, they knew how to handle walkers pretty good. It was the people now...the animals that could think.
"Here," Daryl took it, pulling it out, shifting it from side to side so Beth could see it. "It's double edged, but it's not made for slicing. The blade isn't all that long so it's easier to pull if you get caught or you're all up close and personal, but it's long enough to kill...made to kill. If you're in a situation with another person where it's you or them, don't hesitate. Make it count."
He hated having to tell Beth that, but if he wasn't there, if he died...he wanted her to live. He handed it back to her.
"How do I hold it?"
"When you pull it, the handle needs to be between your fingers...yeah, like that," he coached her. "Okay, now, make a fist around the back grip so it's nice and tight against your palm. When you drive it in, you push with your palm, driving with the force of your hand, not your knuckles."
Daryl illustrated with a closed fist absent a knife.
"That bar above your knuckles, it's just there so your fingers don't accidentally slide onto the blade or incase you lose your grip and have to push that way, got it?
Beth was holding it properly. "Like this?"
"Yeah, just like that. And Beth, when you drive that knife home, aim for the heart, here..." Daryl pressed his hand to the lower middle of his chest.
He paused for a minute...he was giving the gruesome details, the things a man should never have to tell a woman...but she had to know. Grabbing her hand, Daryl needed to make sure that she knew where she was aiming.
"Feel here..." He placed her hand at the center of his chest. "Press..." Beth listened. "Feel that bone. That's the sternum. It protects the heart." Daryl drew her hand down until her fingers sunk into the unprotected flesh under his sternum. "Feel that. That soft spot. That's where it'll be the easiest...up close and personal. It's where we're the most vulnerable. Aim here, drive the blade up. Even if you miss the heart, don't hit the right angle, you're likely to hit the liver."
Daryl let her hand go, but she kept the contact, Beth softening her touch outside his influence, just resting at the center of his chest.
"When you stab, no matter where you're aiming...you're small, they're probably gonna be bigger than you. Drive the blade up, not down. Drive it until you can't push anymore, and don't pull back until you watch the soul drain outta the bastard's eyes."
It was aggressive...but he was driven to what he said by all life's experiences leading up to this point. She looked down, away, putting the blade aside.
"Beth, look at me..." They needed to be very clear on this. She listened, wide blue eyes fixed on him. "No hesitation. You hear me?"
He couldn't be all nice about this, had to be serious. Killing, there was nothing more serious than killing. Well, living, and where they were, living and killing went hand in hand. Daryl couldn't be gentle about it, and Beth couldn't afford to be emotional. It just had to be the plain truth.
There were a few quiet moments between them...those moments where reality really sank in and there was nothing that could be said to change it.
"So, I'm gonna head out with Rick, just around the neighborhood. He wants to see if we can get some cars running for when we need to leave." He waited for her to protest, but she didn't object.
Daryl wasn't even sure if they were on good terms...after he'd found out the truth. Things felt off...but what did he know. Beth, she wasn't doing nothing wrong...she was just responding to him...and he didn't know how to be around her anymore. How could she even want him near?
"Where are we going to go?"
Somehow he knew that Beth's we was him and her, not we, the group. Daryl didn't know how to answer. Despite what he'd told Rick...this DC thing...he hadn't been in the right frame of mind to actually think about Terminus and the brutal truth that there was no sanctuary, and that was only a small promise. Eugene...he was promising not only a working government...structure and safety...he claimed he was the man with the cure that could save the world. Daryl didn't believe it, not for an instant, but the safety of traveling with a group of people he knew could fight, people who'd survived...even a few he still trusted...it could mean everything.
"I don't know, Beth..." He was trying to figure that one out for himself.
"Do you not...are you going to leave me because..." Her voice was trembling a little.
Beth was strong, maybe stronger than any of them, but what she'd been through...her situation now, she was feeling it. His answer had been spiked with his own confusion, not doubts about being with her. How could she question that? He'd stand by her until the day he died if she'd allow it. But now...now he just needed to stand up and be a man. He ran his hand through his hair, not even knowing how to start. However it was, he couldn't waver. Daryl knew he needed to be direct in his questions and confident in his promises.
"Beth, we need to talk about what happened to you." She wet awkward just as he gained his nerve, refusing to meet his eyes. "Beth, look at me. I want you to talk to me about what happened. I'm not stupid. I knew most of it...then Rick...he filled me in on the rest."
"Then there's nothing left to talk about..." She was still so broken, he didn't know if he could ever fix her.
"I can't make you talk to me, but you do gotta listen to what I have to say. Please look at me...Beth..." She finally lifted her face. "I could only kill him once for what he did to you, and he went slow. I know that can't be enough...not after..." Fucking hold it together... "It wasn't even enough for me..." Daryl looked down at this hands still wrapped in clean gauze where they'd been ripped by the splintered bones.
"You did all you could..." Beth might think that, but he could never believe it.
"I don't know how you could ever...love me after what he did...but I'm here...for whatever happens..." God dammit, even he could hear the emotion in his own voice.
"But you're not...you're not here...you're distant, so far away since yesterday when you got back from hunting. You won't touch me, you won't even look at me." Beth swiped a tear from her cheek like she was trying to hide it from him, trying to be strong when she didn't have to.
"I don't know how anymore. Didn't know how in the first place." Daryl took a few deep breaths to control what he was feelin'. Didn't need her to get anymore worked up than she already was. "I don't wanna push you, scare you...hurt you..."
"What changed between yesterday morning and now?" Her eyes were boring into him, her blue eyes filled with tears waiting to fall. How could she ask him that when she knew the answer more intimately than anyone else?
"Everything I knew changed." Daryl knew it was the wrong answer, but he wasn't able to stop himself from saying it.
"You know I'm damaged...scarred..."
Oh God...was that how she thought of herself...damaged...
"No...I know you're mine, but I couldn't protect you. I know you're broken, but I don't know how to fix you..." But he did, he knew, he just didn't know if she'd let him.
Beth had pulled his sorry soul back together with one hug. Slow, deliberate, he went to his knees on the bed, opening his arms, and Beth came to him. She melted into him as he embraced her. He felt her let out a deep sigh like nothing else mattered.
"And Beth, everything that happened to you matters 'cause I wasn't able to stop it...nothing that happened makes me think you're flawed...damaged...'cause I love you."
She nodded against his chest. Pulling her just a little tighter...he hoped it didn't hurt...but he couldn't risk her looking up and seeing the pain in his eyes when he said what he needed to say...the hard but most important part of his promise to her...the thing that had been weighing on him so heavily...the possibility that Beth was pregnant.
"Beth, if you're..."
A soft tap on the door broke the moment and his nerve.
"Daryl, you about ready to head out, take a look at some of those cars?"
Stopping now, thinking about what he had to say to her, he clenched his eyes tight, wishing that holding her close was enough...enough that he didn't have to say it...enough to erase everything that happened to her.
"Yeah...I'm comin'. Give me a minute."
Beth let go before he did; he didn't wanna go. Even after he wasn't holding her, neither or them was moving. She wasn't looking at him, looking down, and it was strange...caught him off guard when he felt Beth tracing the hole in the thigh of his pants. He didn't know if she realized what she was doing, but when she saw him looking down, watching her, Beth drew her hand away. Daryl caught it.
"No Beth...don't be. Stop being sorry..." Why was everything in his life so fucking complicated?
People never touched him before her. He wanted Beth to touch him...it was all just so new...
And he had to go...
Fuck it all...
"I want you to...touch me. Whenever you want. I just ain't used to it..."
"We get to be happy, Daryl. I don't want to cry anymore. I don't want you to feel bad anymore. Please tell me we get to be happy..."
It could've been very different. Carrying her in his arms the night he found her, she was alive and he could feel her breathing...still warm. Daryl thought that night, he was gonna lose Beth, but for once in his life, the world stayed its hand...let him keep one thing...the most important thing...Beth. It a crueler world, he would've carried her body, broken, praying for the world to end him too.
"We get to be happy."
She smiled for him when he said it...and he was able to see past the healing bruises on her face to where her light shined through. Beth still looked so innocent.
"But Beth, you gotta do something for me..."
"You gotta stop questioning what I feel for you...asking or thinkin' I'm gonna leave...'cause I'm not...ever..." Daryl was a better man than that even if people didn't always know it. "This is it for me..."
Beth nodded, her hand finding its way into his, sharing a quiet, soft moment. She realized the magnitude of what he said...what it meant to him.
"But you have to do the same for me. Believe me, and stop doubting yourself."
Daryl leaned in, kissing Beth's forehead before he left. He couldn't make her that promise, but he could try.
Beth winced a little as Bob's fingers pressed against her ribs.
"You know, I don't like coming in here and checking on you when Daryl's standing behind me. He scares the shit outta me." His voice took some of her focus away from the pain of his touch.
She remembered her Daddy would either talk all quiet and soothing to horses that were hurt or else have someone distracting them to take their mind off of what he was doing to them. Apparently it worked for people too. And what was she supposed to say to Bob? You should be afraid? That was the truth.
"Oh, you know Daryl." It was the only answer she could really come up with.
Bob stopped touching her, looking down on her where she was laying in bed. She would've been more uncomfortable if Daryl was there, truth be told. Just the look on his face...the pain she knew she would see in it when he saw her bruises. Bob cocked his eyebrow at her.
"Exactly...I know him."
Well, it was the best she had.
"Talk to me about the pain."
So, he was done distracting; time to be real again.
"It hurts still." She wished it didn't.
"Does it feel sharp, like you're being stabbed, achy, something else?"
"It's sharp sometimes if I sit up too quick or put too much pressure on my sides. It's mostly achy, and sometimes it throbs and aches, then other times I feel all itchy inside, but I know I can't scratch it." When Daryl was with her, sometimes she didn't feel the pain at all...being with him took it all away, but she wasn't going to share that. It had absolutely no medical value.
"That's good. The ache is better than the sharp pain, and the itching, that means you're healing. And how about your breathing?"
Beth breathed deep to illustrate that she could without terrible pain.
"Good, that's good. You need to keep breathing deep like that. It'll help keep your lungs free of fluid. And since some of the pain is going away, you might be tempted to overdo, but that would just make things worse," Bob counseled.
"When will I be better?" Beth needed to know.
The group wasn't going to wait forever. She was dead to them already. If she put them in danger, it would be game over.
"I don't see why you can't get out of bed and walk around a little. It might even help speed up recovery. But only a little. Let's try that and see where you are in a few days."
"No, I mean, when will I be back to normal?" Daryl...she knew now he would stay with her no matter what, but she didn't want to be a liability...couldn't be a burden to him.
"Beth...you shouldn't be alive..."
That hit her hard. Bob's voice wasn't unkind, but after what she learned about no one caring, her first instinct now made her think that Bob was saying she didn't deserve to live. Even when she saw the truth in his face, it wasn't an easy pill to swallow. He saw it.
"You beat the odds already, Beth."
Beat the odds...it didn't feel like she beat anything...the world had defeated her...
"Why don't you stand up for me so I can change the bandage on your back."
Beth did what she was told, but that was the worst part, the part that she could never hide or erase, the part that Daryl would always see and remember.
"Lookin' good..." That was a poor choice of words.
"Looking good..." Beth repeated.
She never used to be cynical.
"You're healing well. I don't see any signs of infection." He couldn't go back and correct what he said, so he just moved on.
If only it would be that easy for her to get past it.
"But I'm scarred..."
"Scars remind us the past is real...and that past never dies..." Beth countered.
She was arguing with Bob. She barely knew Bob, and he was helping her, might very well be one of the reasons that she was still breathing. But talking was good. When she stopped, she felt him rubbing salve into the still tender flesh of the newer cuts. He was almost done.
"You're right. Scars remind us that we survived. You survived."
Beth went silent.
"You're a survivor."
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.
Beth had argued that point with Daryl before...that she was a survivor and deserved to live. He knew it now. Maybe Bob was just saying it to comfort her...but maybe, just maybe he saw it too. Beth watched the handle on the door turn. It couldn't be heard, but she sensed it...noticed it. She'd started noticing a lot of things after she spent time with Daryl before she was taken. He taught her, but then she just learned a lot from watching him. Bob didn't notice from behind her, even when the door was opening.
"You're strong, Beth."
It was Maggie standing in the doorway.
"I am strong."
Maggie's hand shot up over her mouth as she stared at Beth's mostly bare body. Bruised, beaten, broken, Beth stood still letting Maggie see. Maggie was her sister, they'd shared everything before, but in her current state, Beth was feeling self conscious, wanted to cover herself because she didn't want Maggie to see, but she stilled herself.
She didn't know what Maggie expected, what she thought the extent of her wounds were, or if she just would've rather not seen and lived in a little fantasy where Beth was sick in bed with a cold...but maybe Maggie needed to see. She needed Maggie to see it.
"God Beth.." Maggie's voice wavered, and she broke down into tears before she turned away.
Everyone thought Maggie was strong...the survivor...
I'm strong too, Beth reminded herself. I survived.
Bob apparently finally realized there was something going on.
"Maggie...what's wrong?" Bob went to her.
"Beth...she's so..." Maggie sobbed.
"Beth's gonna be fine. Let me get her bandaged up and you can have her and talk to her."
Did Bob not know what happened between her and Maggie? Of course he didn't. Even Rick had said that what happened between them was only her and Daryl's business, but he had to know that Maggie wanted to write her off as dead...everyone did.
"I can't..." Maggie just walked away.
"I just want my sister back..." Beth whispered under her breath.
I'm strong. And maybe, just maybe, she was even stronger than Maggie.