Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 21: What's Left of Me
~Author's Note: Sorry about the wait between chapters. No excuses, just an apology! This chapter has some bonding and some fluff and stuff. It might be stupid with too much fluff, but I liked it. I hope you enjoy even in the smallest amount. By the way, if you read "I Will Follow...", I will have that story updated tomorrow night barring any catastrophic events. Thanks as always!~
"Nope." Daryl snapped his fingers, pointing at the bed.
He didn't have to look up or see her, he could hear her movin' to get out from under the covers.
"No." He didn't need to hear her reason either or whatever she wanted to say.
They were gonna be hitting the road soon, and Beth was gonna rest and stay warm as long as she could. She decided not to fight him on it. She was still and silent for a moment, but that probably wasn't gonna last too long.
Daryl was still fuckin' riled up by what happened with Abe, but he needed to get over it. It was done...decisions had been made. Now there were just more decisions that needed making. He was sitting cross legged on the floor by the bed, map spread out in front of him, same map fate had provided for him when a stranger who escaped from Terminus with them showed him where Beth was. That had to mean something.
"Do you know where we are?" It was an innocent question.
He needed to think, but staring at the map was makin' his cross eyed.
"In a house." He knew what she meant, but with all the stress, it didn't hurt to play with her. Have a light moment. God knows he needed it. Daryl's lips turned up at his witty reply.
"I mean on the map," Beth clarified.
"How do you know?"
Looking over to watch her reaction, "'Cause I can read a map."
She rolled her eyes and shook her head because he was being impossible, but Beth knew he was just teasing with her. There was the hint of a smile on her face too. It was a shame though because right now, they didn't have that much time for fun. It had to be back to serious. Beth decided to go with him, and he needed to let her be a part of as many of the decisions as she could, at the very least let her know everything he was planning. What he thought was best.
"I thought...I don't know. Maybe we take the bike. I mean it's better on gas, we don't have a lot of shit to take with us, we can go places a car can't, and it's reliable...I know that." Knew it with his own two hands.
Daryl wasn't really tryin' to make a case, he was just waiting for Beth to give an opinion, say anything really.
Did okay mean she agreed, or was she just acknowledging what he said?
"So...what do you think..." Daryl needed more than okay.
"I think I'm terrified."
He furrowed his brow, looking at her, afraid she changed her mind.
"I've never ridden a motorcycle," Beth confessed.
Of course she was and of course she hadn't. That wasn't what her world had been like.
"All you gotta do is hold on tight and trust me."
She was so shy, nodding and looking away, biting her lower lip a little. It was intoxicating, but it was time lay down plans.
"Tomorrow, we'll stay. Get our stuff together, let you say your goodbyes". Daryl paused, giving Beth a chance to object or say her peace, but nothing. "And I want to make sure me and Rick get all the cars running. Don't want to leave 'em stranded. We'll leave the day after."
He was still pissed as all get out that they abandoned Beth, didn't give a shit, but that wasn't all of them. Rick, Carl, Judith, Michonne, Bob...there were enough people he cared about or who helped to outweigh the bad...and no one needed to die. Beth just nodded, clear and calm, back to serious from her shy place.
"Do you know...where are we going?"
If it was just him or like at the beginning when it was him and Merle, there'd really been no plan. It'd all just been about survival, day to day. Things changed though. A lot. He wanted to live. He wanted them to live. They needed security and stability, and right now, they had to take it easy, one step at a time so Beth didn't get worse and had time to heal up all the way. Daryl didn't like where they were going...but it might be their best option. Hopefully Beth would understand.
"I'm gonna take you away from here. Suburbs, subdivisions...whatever...I don't like 'em. Too much chance of other people or walkers. Thought we'd head back south, further away from population centers. Hole up there for a while. Let you get better."
That answer was the immediate game plan. It wasn't the answer she was looking for, and it wasn't what he needed to tell her. He was stalling. And she was just waitin' him out.
"Phhh...You remember back that night we got drunk on the moonshine?" It was kinda a shitty question, her first time bein' drunk and the aftermath the next morning...people really didn't forget things like that, but she nodded anyway, then shook her head, cringing a little at the memory. "Well, I told you I knew what that place was 'cause my old man had a place just like it..."
You know, if we didn't burn it...we could've stayed there. I would've stayed there and been happy with you...
She'd said that, about that shack and Daryl knew she meant it, but the decision, it was affecting him. He didn't want to go back to a place like that.
"It's in the woods, in the middle of nowhere. I don't wanna take you there...live that kind of life. You deserve...better...more. But Beth, I think I can secure my old man's place. I can't see nobody ever wanting it or being there. And the land, the terrain, I know it like the back of my hand, and that means everything in surviving...fighting." Daryl looked down, ashamed, thinking how that was all he could offer her, but it was what he knew. It was their safest bet now.
"Okay, but only if there's more moonshine."
"Hmmph, you can't hold your moonshine Greene, go burning our house down again." Our house...just the thought that they could have a house together...
"Will you show me where? Where home's going to be?"
Not a house...a home...their home.
Yes, he'd go to her, show her. Home was anywhere she was, where they were together. Pushing off the floor, Daryl had forgotten he'd just beat the shit outta Abraham...truthfully had some of the shit beat outta him too. His hands weren't feeling their best.
"Son of a bitc..." He broke off.
Beth didn't need to hear that, but she'd caught enough to know somethin' was wrong.
"Get me some water, and I'll clean your hands for you, wrap them if you have some fresh bandages." Beth threw aside the need to see where they were going to take care of him.
Perched on the bed beside her, Beth carefully blotted the blood off the new cuts from working on the bike and the old wounds broken open from fighting. It stung, but not as much as when Bob did it. Focusing on Beth helped. It was silent work until Beth finished the cleaning.
"Why did you break the mirror?" She was hesitant, like she knew it was a sore subject, but she asked anyway 'cause she had to know the answer. How did she even know it was him?
That moment...he'd been so lost...
Daryl didn't remember Bob finishing with Beth's back or laying her down on the bed, leaving her side. He was standing in front of the dresser mirror, staring at his reflection. Bloody, beaten, black and blue, lethal, nothin' he didn't expect. Too bad mirrors didn't tell the truth of what was on the inside...show failure and weakness. Beth was scarred now. Her abduction was his fault, and now her scars...he couldn't run fast enough, track far enough, fight hard enough to spare her...never enough. And what about the wounds they couldn't see...would never know. What if they...took all of her...There were some fates worse than death...was that the reason she wouldn't fight now? She would've been helpless to stop it, forced to endure...helpless like he was...had been his entire life. Was Beth able to stop feeling, to fight in her own way, or had she felt and suffered through every agonizing, brutal second of it? Beth was him now...just like him...they were the same, damaged and scarred. He couldn't stop it. Daryl drove his fist into the mirror. He didn't feel it...he'd wanted to...needed to...but he didn't.
Everything he'd felt then...everything he'd feared...now he knew what happened to her. What was he supposed to say? Because I was broken. Because I saw what he did to you, and I knew he did things I couldn't see. Because I thought you were gonna die. That was the truth, all of it.
"'Cause there was nothin' I could do." That was the truth too.
He looked up at her though so see could see the full truth of it in his eyes. See everything there he couldn't say. Beth deserved that.
"I don't remember."
It was just a statement, like she had no emotion about it one way or another.
"I'm glad." If it had been painful for him to watch what Bob had been doin' to her, the real pain for her, she was spared that. He couldn't have handled that too.
"Time...it doesn't make any sense. I think I lost it..." Beth took his hand, starting to wrap it in sterile gauze. What did she think she lost? It wasn't making sense to him either. "How long were...oww..."
She breathed out softly, her question forgotten, pulling her hand away and pressing it against her stomach.
"Yeah, my tummy's sore. Just girl stuff..."
"I'm sorry." He tried to sound sincere 'cause he was sorry she was feeling bad, but the reason, it was a godsend.
"There's nothing you can do. It just sucks..." Beth reached out, taking his hand again, "...being a girl. I mean, it was bad enough before, but now, with everything the way it is, apocalypse and all..."
Daryl felt himself flush a little. Fuck it all. He was a grown ass man, but he'd never had to handle stuff like this. Never lived with a woman. Didn't even stay around one long enough to learn how to deal, know what he was supposed to say. If he said something, he was like to fuck up. Beth saw him confused, smiling to herself, realizing.
"Sorry. I'd just kill for a heating pad right now," she finished before she focused on his hands again.
Warmth. Warmth is good? Maybe he could do something to make her feel a little better. He pulled his hand away, unwrapping her work.
"What are you doing?"
"Just lay back."
Daryl went to his knees on the floor beside the bed, and Beth listened without him having to tell her again. He made sure to move real slow, made sure she could see what he was doin', no quick or threatening movements. Daryl edged her sweater and shirt up just a little, baring the smallest strip of her stomach. He went for the button at the waist of her jeans slowly, but made her aware of his intentions. Beth was breathing heavier, looking confused, and even though she didn't tell him to, he stopped.
"Trust me, Beth."
After the button, Daryl pressed his hand to his cheek just to make sure. Yep. Just what he thought.
"What are you going to do?" She was looking at him all innocent from where her head rested on the pillows.
"My hands are hot from hitting stuff," he explained, but Beth didn't look like she was getting it. "They're running a fever 'cause their banged up inside from fighting. Warmth from the inflammation."
Daryl reached up. laying his hand softly against the side of her neck.
"Oh." She understood.
"Can I?" Daryl checked before he put his hand anywhere else, and she nodded with a small smile.
Laying his hand gently on the spot of her stomach he'd uncovered, Daryl slid it down lower, hesitantly, not really sure where she was sore and really not wanting to cross any lines. He stopped when half his hand was under where her pants had been unbuttoned.
"Just a little lower," Beth directed until his hand spanned the distance between her hipbones at the lowest point of her abdomen. "Will you press a little?"
"You show me how much." That Daryl wasn't sure of...didn't wanna make things worse.
Beth's hand was touching his, then withdrawn quickly.
"Your hand's sore," she reminded him.
"I'm fine. You ain't gonna hurt me."
She pressed a little, and then he kept the pressure, watching Beth close her eyes, relax, and let out a sigh of relief.
Daryl's chin rested on the mattress, lookin' at her breathing, watching her just be for a few moments.
"Are you scared of leaving?"
"No." She smiled, opening her eyes to look at him all sleepy now.
He hadn't seen it coming, her hand in his hair...he'd just been focused on her face. It was something...a touch he would've shied away from before Beth. Probably still would if it wasn't Beth.
"I already left with you once. The day you took me away from the prison, I was scared." Her voice went a little shaky, but that memory was strong with him too...that loss. "Now we're just continuing. Maybe that was the way it was always supposed to be. You and me."
She couldn't have said it any better to ease his mind.
"You and me, Beth. It's just you and me."
It was silent for a bit again, but he could see her expression go from content to questioning. Something hit her...was bothering her.
"You...you've been part of this group since the very beginning...and now you're losing them because of me. I can't go with them, so you won't. You didn't even get to make a choice."
"'Cause I didn't have to. There was no choice." His reply...he didn't hesitate. In his world, there was no one else more important.
"I don't want you to hate me for it."
She was sad now. Was she really sad, or was she just emotional 'cause of girl stuff? Daryl was so out of his depth, but sharing things with someone...sharing everything with someone...he knew it wasn't gonna be easy or perfect, especially with everything they'd been through. But maybe that would make them stronger.
Dammit Beth, don't be stupid. That's what he wanted to say, but he knew better than that. He wasn't stupid.
Daryl kept his hand on Beth but came up to sit on the edge of the bed, closer to her.
"Hey, you listen to me. I ain't losing nothing." He was nice and soft with that, but then the emotion came. "You don't know what it was like...how bad it hurt...losin' you. Not knowing if I would ever see you again...if you were alive or dead...'cause of me."
He had to stop, bite back what he was feeling 'cause it was too much. He took a second.
"I ain't losing nothing 'cause I got you."
Sometimes the quiet moments, the moments where no words were needed, they were the ones that stuck with you. Beth just watched him, nodding her acceptance, and it didn't feel like she was just accepting what he said, but she was accepting all of him and the possibility of their future together. Peering down at her through his overgrown bangs falling in his eyes, she'd never looked more beautiful. And at the risk of saying too much...hell...he had to say it. There'd been too much shit he regretted not sayin' to her...things he almost didn't get a chance to tell her...
"The world didn't leave me with much. Didn't have much to start with, but Beth, you can have the rest of me. And somehow..." Daryl got all choked up.
He just cleared his throat to cover and decided to stop talking. He was trying so hard to be a man for her...strong for her. But there was no hiding from Beth. Sitting up, face to face, so close, she brushed the hair back from his eyes, but he wouldn't look.
"What were you going to say?"
"Nothin'...it was stupid."
"Please...tell me..." So soft, gentle, her voice. And looking into those eyes, how could he say no.
A few deep breaths to steady himself...
"Somehow...somehow I think what's left of me is the best of me..."
"It's getting dark sooner now," Rick observed as Daryl dropped the hood on the last of the cars.
It wasn't exactly near dark yet; the sky was just starting to turn pink, but it was coming. It was funny how life now was dictated by light and dark, not really by the time on a clock. The world, what was left of it, was starting to revert back to the way it was in the beginning. People who were still alive had to live in that reality. And maybe Rick was feeling it...the night that would lead to day...'cause he knew goodbye was comin' quick.
"You can come with us, me and Beth." Daryl wiped his hands off on the red shop towel as he made his offer. He hadn't talked it over with Beth, but he didn't have to. She wouldn't object. "You, Carl, Judith, Michonne...hell, all of us." Rick would know who was excluded from us.
"I know..." Rick was torn, and that meant he was unsure about his decision.
"I just don't believe in this cause. Even if I believed it was true, it wouldn't be worth the sacrifice. I'm not losin' Beth when I can live a life with her, as long as we have." That was where Daryl was coming from, and he was laying it out for his friend.
"They follow me, and they have hope. They believe, and I think that is what's keeping them going." Yep, Rick was torn but being driven by his sense of duty. "Even if I don't believe...I have to, for them."
Every man had to have a code. Daryl knew his code, and he wasn't gonna ask Rick to go against his. That didn't mean they weren't still brothers, and Daryl wasn't going to leave Rick without a backup plan. Grabbing the map and pen from the car's glove compartment, Daryl spread it out over the hood.
"I'm taking Beth south a little ways...there were less people there before everything went down and more game." Daryl circled a general location on the map. "After she's better, we're goin' here." An x marked the exact spot of their final destination. Daryl drew the route on the map, looking to make sure Rick was watching. "Once you get here, it's just the driveway. It won't look like much, especially now, just a dirt path cut by truck tracks, but follow that, and you'll find it...where we'll be."
Rick nodded, folding the map, grasping it like it was his lifeline.
"Things go south...you change your mind, you come find us."
There wasn't much left to say. Daryl stretched, cracking his shoulders. He was sore. Fightin', well, he was sore from his bout with Abe, but fightin', he was used to that kind of sore now. But working on the bike and all the cars, that's what was getting to him. Throwing his bow over his aching shoulder, heading back into the house with Rick, Daryl thought that maybe tonight...tonight he'd take Beth up on her offer...to sleep beside her in that soft bed. The idea twisted his gut up, in a good and bad way. It was a serious step for both of them, even if it was just sleeping...for him because he'd never and for Beth because of what she'd been through. But they were choosing to leave together. It didn't get much more serious than that.
"Daryl, are you shedding bolts?" Sasha caught him off guard when he came through the front door.
"Did you lose one of your bolts?" She questioned.
"No." He didn't even have to look. Knew his count. Always did.
But there it was, in Sasha's hand. That didn't make any sense. Pulling his crossbow over his shoulder...yep...he had all he was left with.
"Well, here it is anyway. Bob found it on the back patio when he went out for his watch. You must've dropped it when you were on yours." She passed it to him, Daryl taking the bolt...confused.
"I don't take watch...I stay with Beth."
Rick's eyes were shifting back and forth between him and Sasha. He saw the worry on Daryl's face.
"How long ago did Bob find the bolt?" Rick questioned.
"I don't know. He gave it to me about twenty minutes, half an hour ago. I didn't want to bother Daryl while you guys were working on the cars. Men and cars you know..." She trailed off, realizing that both he and Rick were serious. "What...it's just a misplaced bolt.
"Who had watch before Bob?" Rick was in interrogation mode now, but Daryl couldn't focus on what was being said.
It was a missing bolt. His bolt, but he wasn't missing one...
"Tara I think, but she wasn't out there when Bob went on watch. We just figured she was with Maggie and Glenn or something."
"Who was with me?" Maggie found her way into the hall.
"No, she had watch today. I haven't seen her since this morning," Maggie informed.
"Maggie, go find Tara...now." Rick was on edge.
Daryl turned the bolt in his hand. Green fletching...twenty inch black shaft, his hand knew it...it was his, no doubt. And there was dried blood. Then it hit him...
"You going to handle that?" Rick questioned.
"Som'bitch wanted to be resurrected. Got his wish." Daryl watched in odd fascination as the walker that used to be the preacher struggled against the bolts pinning it to the wall.
The bolts. He needed his bolts. Daryl went back to the wall, ripping one of them out of the flailing flesh. The walker was still pinned. Daryl wasn't willing to waste two bolts, but one was well worth it to leave this very clear message to the false prophet's followers after what he did to Beth. If they wanted eternal life through the means he preached, Daryl was willing to give it to them.
He'd left his bolt there...one bolt...
"Rick...Tara's gone..." Maggie called, but it sounded blurry to him, like it was from a different world...far far away.
Someone brought the bolt back to them...knew where they were.
"Rick." Rick wasn't paying attention to him. Waiting on Maggie. Thought what she had to say was more urgent, but it wasn't. Daryl's gut knew something was wrong. "Rick, we gotta go now!"
The sharp statement made Rick snap focus to him...but it was already too late...