Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 2: The Place In Between
Blood...there'd been so much blood. It didn't bother him, never had long as it wasn't pouring outta someone he cared about, someone he was supposed to protect. Daryl looked at his hands resting on his knees, his knuckles beat to bits, pieces of skin flaking off and dry blood cracking. He could still smell it, the blood he was covered in, some his, some from others, some from walkers...it was all the same...it's iron tinge filling his nose. Truth was...it didn't hurt...nothing did...he was physically numb. Daryl needed the pain...wished his knuckles stung, wished his body ached, something...anything to drown out what he was feeling. Something to take his mind off...
All he recalled of the last few days, a blur in the scope of his life, was being trapped, reuniting in the boxcar, escaping and the massacre, more reuniting, and stopping at this house to sleep. Daryl couldn't sleep though. He'd picked a spot at the dark end of the hallway, slid down with his back against the wall, and there he sat. Everyone else was together. Rick and his group plus the new paramilitary crew and so-called scientist out to save the world claimed the room to the right of his hall, and the other strangers who'd managed to escape with them from Terminus gathered in the room at his left.
And here he was in the darkness, hiding in the hallway between two worlds. Truth was, he didn't belong in either of 'em; the hallway was his personal state of limbo...his Purgatory.
Judith cried from the next room.
Small miracles. "Pfft!"
Daryl was happy Judith survived. Lil' Asskicker was living up to her name. Rick and Carl deserved that. It was just that, with all the impossible reunions, everyone coming back together and surviving, God or whoever in the universe moved the fucking chess pieces that were their lives couldn't throw him a bone, couldn't give just one more unlikely reunion? What did he expect? This was his life after all, and fate liked to fuck him on the regular. He looked over at his crossbow. Beth's backpack sitting beside it contained all the crap she'd picked up and decided to drag along with them before she'd been kidnapped. He'd scooped it up from the road before beginning his impossible chase of the car that took her, before he actually noticed there was a car. Why he'd picked it up, he had absolutely no idea. Not like it mattered.
Daryl heard people talking, their words floating in from both sides of the hallway, but they were muffled...he didn't understand...couldn't comprehend them. He was glad they were stayin' away from him. They had plenty of shit to talk about, what happened at the prison, what happened while they were separated. He didn't have nothin' to say...didn't wanna talk about it. The only one who had any idea was Rick.
I was with Beth. We got out together. I was with her for a while...
Is she dead?
She's just gone...
His chest tightened as emotion welled up inside him. So many things happened in that time, an entire lifetime between I was with Beth and She's just gone.
Rick, his brother.
It's not on you, Daryl...hey...It's not on you. You being back with us here, now, that's everything. You're my brother.
That meant something, maybe everything now.
It was probably good that nobody tried to talk to him...tried to draw any information outta him or call him on not feelin' anything! He was feelin' plenty, and he was likely to explode if poked at like a cornered animal. And he knew if he was provoked, the episode wouldn't end in a hug with him cryin'. None of them were strong enough to fight back and bring that side outta him. Truth was, he didn't know how a stupid little girl could stand up to him and break him down to a bawlin' mess, being the strong one and hugging him through it.
That wasn't fair. She wasn't stupid, she'd proved that. And she wasn't a little girl either...he didn't see her that way, never had. There was only one reason she had that effect on him...
After a while, the talk started to die down. Did anyone even mention Beth...say her name? He'd been tuned out of the conversations from the other rooms, but Daryl was sure if her name was mentioned, he would've picked up on it. They weren't even talking about her...losing her...didn't she matter to them at all? It must be easier for them to forget, ignoring the truth rather than feeling and mourning the loss.
Fuck 'em! Daryl wouldn't forget. He couldn't even if he wanted to, and he didn't. He would bear this cross, not just because it needed to be remembered but because if he didn't remember, it would be like sayin' that the stuff that happened before he lost Beth didn't. He couldn't let all those things go!
It was Rick who finally came to him, sliding down beside him, back against the wall.
Welcome to my nightmare.
If it had been anyone else, Daryl wouldn't have had it. But it was Rick. Daryl was willing to die for his brother, spill his own blood if necessary, and Rick would do the same for him he knew. He had no reason to chase Rick away.
Rick didn't say anything; he just attempted to pass Daryl a plate of food.
"Nah, give it to one of the kids or women," Daryl found his voice, but it was rough and strained.
Rick insistently held out the plate to him.
"Everyone's eaten already. There's plenty. Take it. You're gonna need it." Rick's voice was pained. Why pained? He had his family back, his group. Empathy, Daryl realized. Something new in his world.
Daryl took it, the broken skin around his knuckles cracking fresh open as he gripped the edge of the plate. There it was...the pain...it was good. He looked down at the food idly before speaking.
"I'm going after her."
"I know." Rick didn't sound surprised. Why wasn't he surprised? Because he knew. "I'm going with you."
"No." Daryl was concrete. He wasn't gonna have someone else he cared about getting hurt or killed 'cause of his negligence. Not this time.
"It's not a negotiation," Rick asserted.
Rick was right. It wasn't a negotiation. Rick just didn't realize he was on the losing end of the non-negotiation yet.
"These people need you. You're their leader. They can do without me," Daryl tried reasoning. Better to convince than be abrasive. He was learning. "And you have Carl and Judith." Daryl had him there he knew.
"You're part of our group. You've been at the heart of it since the beginning whether you like to realize it or not. We need you," Rick fought his losing battle.
Heart...Daryl thought on that word for a moment.
"She needs me...I was the one who failed her..." Daryl broke off at the end. Copping to his weakness and failures had never been his strong suit...but this was worse than painful...worse than he could ever imagine.
Rick didn't have a reply. What could he say? He just looked down, helplessly contemplating the floor, working through whatever thoughts were running through his head. At least he knew Rick wasn't gonna try to stop him.
"Rick...I need to do this...on my own. I need to make it right...at least I have to try...because..."
"I know." Rick didn't make him sat it.
Daryl didn't know if Rick really knew what he was going to say...hell, he didn't really know what was gonna fly outta his mouth next...but he did know what was there; he just wasn't willing to share it.
"Do you even know where to start?" Maybe it was just an attempt at idle conversation. Rick was never really good at conversations, but then again, neither was he. What it was doing though was helping Daryl think things out.
"From the beginning." It was plain 'n simple. If you were gonna do a job, you needed to do it right. For a tracker, the truth was always the same...you always started from the beginning.
Rick nodded his head slowly in agreement. Rick was a cop, that much about tracking he knew, the universal truth...start at the beginning.
"Did you see anything? Do you know anything about who took her?" Maybe Rick was tryin' to help him out even though Daryl wouldn't let him come along.
"I just saw the car." The image would be burned in his mind forever. "Rick, do you believe in God?"
Daryl had no idea where that came from. Rick glanced sideways at him before answering.
"I haven't really ever thought on it much. I like to put my faith in things I know, things I can trust. Why?" Rick was confused. He had a right to be with the question Daryl just popped on him.
"The car...the one that took her...it had a white cross on the back window." Distinguishing marks...trackers and hunters always recognized and remembered distinguishing marks.
"You think it was a sign? You believe in God?" Rick asked, his interest peaked.
That was a complicated question...two questions he really didn't know how to answer truthfully.
"A sign, I don't know, but it was there." Daryl paused for a moment to contemplate on it. "About God...I wasn't raised on him or nothin', but I ain't ready to rule him out. I might believe he's there, but I sure in the hell know he ain't on my side." Now he was just feelin' sorry for himself, and that wasn't gonna do anybody any good.
Faith. Such an odd construct. Rick said he didn't really believe in God and chose to put his faith in things he knew and trusted. But that wasn't faith at all. Faith was believing in things you could never fully understand or know until they happened.
Beth had faith...blind faith...in the world, in God, in the future, and for some fucked up reason, she had faith in him. Her words came back to him. Daryl heard them so clearly that she could have been sitting right next to him.
It wouldn't kill you to have a little faith.
Beth had faith...maybe he could have some too. Truth was, having a little faith might kill him, but if that was the way he went out, so be it.