Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 23: Hand You're Dealt
~Hey guys, I'm so very very sorry about the amount of time between chapters. I'm in a kind of tough Masters class right now that has been taking up a lot of my writing time. I am going to try to get consistent again...I might not have an update for both of my stories every 7 days, but I am going to try to keep the time between chapters to no more than 10 days. That's the plan. This chapter might be a little slow, but it will be picking up after this. I hope you enjoy!~
"We can go at dark, take the bike, leave. I ain't saying it ain't dangerous 'cause it is."
They were both sitting on the edge of the bed, Daryl's elbows resting on his thighs, rubbing his forehead. Everyone else was downstairs doing final weapons checks, getting ready to go out. The plans were finalized, but he had to talk to her. He had to let her know they had an option.
"Rick wants us to go. He wants you to live. Wants us to take Judith with us."
If she wanted to go, he would leave with her without a second thought. There wasn't even a choice there for him. The only regret he would really have was leaving Rick and Carl, and Michonne, but they knew Beth was his family. Beth was hesitating. Thinking. Taking much longer than he thought she would've to answer. That wasn't helping his resolve to stay none. If she had doubts...was it because of him, being with him, wanting that chance? Was it 'cause of Judith...saving her? Didn't matter.
Please be selfish. Daryl just needed her to say the word. Or maybe he should just force her to leave, take Judith, use Beth's love for her to get her to go no matter how much she'd hate him for it later.
"No. They're our family." There was no emotion in her voice. Glancing to the side, he could see Beth was staring straight forward, trying to be strong but there were tears welling in the corner of her eyes. "We can't just leave them."
Why in the fuck did she have to be so selfless? Beth...she was better than he'd ever be. She was better than all of 'em. None of 'em deserved her. He sighed. It wasn't the answer he wanted, but it was the one he knew he was gonna to get.
"Ty, Judith, Carl, Rosita, Eugene, they're all stayin' behind." Daryl didn't need to lay out the whole plan, but she needed to know what she might face. "You listening to me, Beth?" She was still just looking straight forward but nodded. "You know what they are...they wanna hurt us...for escaping...killing their people."
Beth nodded again, but he hadn't asked a question. She looked dazed now, probably just nodding 'cause she heard his voice, but she had to understand what he was saying. Daryl went to a knee on the floor in front of her, planting his hands on her thighs. After seeing what happened to Tara, helping patch her up even though she was dying...knowing what was done to her...and Beth experienced the evils humans could inflict first hand...he'd be hopeless too, on the verge of giving up. You could only take so much. And they were just starting to get their chance, trying to move forward as much as they could from everything. Daryl promised himself this wasn't how they were going to end.
"Beth. Look at me. Listen." It wasn't the time for sweet and soft. He'd be tough on her if he had to. "They don't want to kill us right off, they wanna hurt us. They've been watching us. They know about how to hit the vein. They're gonna come for you and the other's stayin' behind. It's not gonna happen, but..." what was that old saying? Anything that comes before 'but' don't matter... "if they take the house, don't fight 'em. They're not gonna hurt you 'cause they think they're gonna take us too, and when they've got us back together...that's when..." He didn't need to finish. She was already seeing those images in her head.
There were full tears running down Beth's cheeks now, and he wasn't even done with what he had to say. What came next was gonna kill her. He tried to steady himself so when he spoke, maybe the blow would be softened.
"They know I love you, know Carl and Judith are Rick's life, that Eugene's important to Abraham and Rosita, their whole mission." Beth finally looked up at him, not really looking like she was understanding where he was going. "Tyreese is choosing to stay behind to help with Judith, and Rosita, she's gonna be protecting Eugene. If they take the house...they know Ty and Rosita don't matter."
"Daryl..." She was objecting before he even got it out, finally realizing.
"No," he snapped. She was gonna hear him out whether she liked it or not. "If it comes to that, they're gonna kill Ty and Rosita no matter what, and there ain't nothing you can do about it. You ain't gonna do nothing stupid to try to help them. You'll just get yourself killed."
Beth wasn't responding. Straightening up on his knees, he grabbed her by the upper arms, tight, forcing her to look.
"Beth, promise..." His voice was breaking off. He was weak. "Beth, please...this isn't just about you anymore...promise me..."
He shook her, and she winced, but then she answered.
Daryl knew now that his promise of It's not gonna happen wasn't enough with how shaken Beth was, but he didn't know what else to tell her.
"What are you...going to do?"
Their plan...it wasn't much. It was simple enough it might just work, but telling Beth about it wouldn't ease her fear. Either way, it was all they had. Daryl had to tell her the one thing he was confident in. Face solid and fierce in the belief in this one simple truth...
"What I do best. Hunt." What I do best. Hunt and kill, he thought to himself.
Beth nodded, looking like she was trying to feed off his confidence.
"Is this the end?" Well...looks could be deceiving.
Daryl couldn't lie to her, not after everything.
"Yes. One way or another, it ends tonight." It was honest, but it hadn't come out like he wanted it to.
He was past communicating now. As soon as Gareth showed up on their front porch, he'd shifted into survival mode. That really didn't lend to sugar coating things or even getting words right, but it sure in the hell kept him alive this long and was gonna keep her alive too. Beth was probably wishing she hadn't asked now. He prayed he could be what she needed tonight.
"Beth, when we make it to tomorrow, we get to start our life together. We get to begin again."
She still wasn't responding, but he'd done his best. He had to go. Standing he pulled Beth with him, kissing her quick and short, making sure she didn't have a chance to kiss back or cling to him before he grabbed his bow and headed to the door. It was cruel, but he couldn't risk getting emotional. He needed anger, rage, his ability to think, and it would've been too much like saying goodbye.
He shouldn't have, but he turned back before he opened the door.
"If we would've lived...would you have..." Beth's words were broken, and she never did finish her question, but she didn't need to.
Daryl was gonna give her everything she wanted in life...everything he could.
She smiled a little through her sadness, but Daryl couldn't leave her like that...the last thing he said to her being umm-hmm. He couldn't go to her 'cause if she touched him again, he would be lost, but he did have some words.
"Faith ain't about believing in things you can see or know. It's about believing in things you can't understand or see until they happen."
"Who taught you that?" With the state they were in, Daryl couldn't tell if she didn't realize or if she just needed him to say it.
Almost everybody was assembled at the front door.
"Saying goodbye to Tara," Glenn spoke up. Seemed like he was the only one willing to answer him.
Daryl bit back bitter rage. Maggie hadn't even said goodbye to Beth, her sister...her own flesh and blood. True, he'd monopolized Beth, but she didn't even make an attempt. Tomorrow they'd be done, and he wouldn't have to worry about Maggie anymore.
"Maggie, let's go. Now." Rick called, passing Lil' Asskicker off to Tyreese and saying a final word to Carl.
He thought Glenn was gonna have to go drag Maggie away from her replacement sister when she finally appeared in the hallway wiping her eyes. Tears for Tara. Where'd the fucking tears been for her real sister.
"I have to say goodbye to Beth," Maggie's voice was wavering.
So now she thought about Beth?
"We've gotta go," Rick pronounced his final word.
Beth descended the stairs, and the sister's hugged tight. Daryl wanted to hate Maggie right then for everything she hadn't done for her sister. He wanted Beth to know that she deserved better, 'cause she did, but in the end, hearing their I love yous and tearful goodbyes, he got it. They were still blood, and there was a good chance Maggie was going to die. Merle was his blood, and despite their past, Daryl wished he could've had last words with his brother before the end. When Maggie finally let go, Daryl made eye contact with Beth, nodding his farewell.
"Those of you going after Bob, flashlights on the whole time. That's the only deception we have. Daryl, Michonne, and I are going to break away just inside the woods and double back quick, following the tree line down a ways before we cross back over the road. Once we split, each group is on their own. Just worry about what you're supposed to be doing and everybody gets to live." Rick was sounding confident, and he had just as much at stake as Daryl did.
"Once we're in that tree line and the others head away, we're gonna be still a few seconds, let our eyes adjust. It's a clear night and the moon's bright so there's gonna be plenty of light. You just gotta be willing to use it," Daryl directed to Michonne and Rick. "Your fear's gonna tell you that you can't see, but you have to let your instincts take over. It ain't as dark as you think, and remember, you don't just see with your eyes."
These were all things Daryl knew, things he was confident in, things he could depend on...had his entire life.
"This isn't going to work. We shouldn't be splitting up. We're weak when we're separated," Carol spoke up.
It was a little late in the game to be questioning the plan. There was truth to that, they were better as a unit, but there was no choice.
"This is the way we all have a chance...all of us," Rick confirmed, and Daryl saw his eyes panning the hallway, passing over each and every member of his group, all the lives he felt responsible for.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
"Hey, listen up." Daryl was never one to motivate, but if they didn't have some hope, they might as well all just lay down and die. "These people...Gareth...they showed their weakness today. They're too confident..."
"It kind of seems like the have a reason to be confident," Glenn interjected.
They weren't getting it, so Daryl just continued.
"They showed their weakness. They're too confident. He flat out told us they couldn't track us. They weren't even able to follow a trail we weren't trying to hide. That piece of the story means everything. They're so cocky they can't even see their own weakness. They think they're drawing us out...think they're hunting, but they have no idea they're trying to hunt the hunters."
It might have been to give them hope, but it was giving him a world of confidence too. They had a real chance. That was it, their parting words. Filing out the door, flashlights first, Daryl glance back at Beth one last time. He was gonna see her again. Rick's hand caught him on the shoulder.
And he was as good as possible. People always said you had to play the hand you're dealt. That might be true, but it didn't mean he wasn't going in with one hell of a stacked deck.
Daryl was a hunter. Had been his entire life.
The narcotics seemed to be helping the girl...Tara...but she was still conscious, still in pain. She wasn't going to last too much longer, gripping Beth's hand tight. It was a horrible end, one Beth couldn't imagine, but then, now it seemed like all ends were horrible. No one escaped, even when they thought they got a second chance. Beth tried to banish the idea from her mind, but what happened to Tara, it could happen to her next, or Daryl.
Looking back from where she sat beside the bed, Carl was standing in the doorway looking all serious and stern. The funny thing was, he didn't look like a little kid playing at being fierce. He was. They'd all had to grow up so fast...change to survive...each and every one of them.
"Time to go upstairs. Everybody's up there already."
With Rosita looking after Eugene and Ty after Judith, Beth and Carl, they had to have each other's backs. Well, more like Carl having her back with her still recovering.
"I'll be up in a minute." Beth kept her voice low, not wanting to jar Tara...make going worse on her.
"Daryl and Dad said..." Carl tried to assert supremacy, whatever right he thought Daryl and Rick had given him over her. That wasn't how this was going to play out.
"Carl, I said I'll be up in a few minutes.." Widening her eyes, shifting them back towards Tara, trying to convey the importance of what she couldn't say Tara's only got a few minutes left. "Go, just don't barricade the door yet."
He was reluctant, but he left them.
"You can...go..." It was the first thing Tara said since everyone left.
"I'm okay. I'll stay a while."
"Why? Why are you...doing this?" There was a tremor in her voice. It sounded like she swallowed a big gulp of air, biting back the pain. "You don't even know me."
Beth put her other hand over Tara's, holding it in both of hers, knowing it couldn't take the agony away, but it was all the comfort she had to give.
"'A new commandment I give to you. Love one another as I have loved you'. That's what my Daddy always used to say."
"You're dad...he was a good man..."
"Yeah, he was." Beth smiled, sad, but his memory, her Daddy lived on with her. He was still there.
"I'm sorry...I didn't know. I didn't know what he...was..."
"What?" After it came out, she realized there was no reason to ask. It was just the delusions setting in. All she could do was listen.
Tara's head was pressed back against the pillow, eyes closed.
"Brian...I was with Brian. My sister Lily, and Megan...Brian took care of us..." Yeah, she was in a different world. "Brian said...I didn't know...he found somewhere safe for us. We just had to be strong enough to take it."
That was the story of everyone's life now, but you had to be more than strong enough. You had to be strong. Beth wondered what happened to Tara's sister and Megan, whoever she was, and Brian, but Tara would be with them soon.
"Brian...I didn't know...but I watched him die. Brian...the Governor...I was with him when he...killed your dad..."
Beth retracted her hand, covering her mouth, stifling the gasp.
"I watched your dad...saw your dad die..."
A sob wracked Beth's body. Their lives just intersected more intimately than she could have ever imagined.
She was back there now, standing at the fence...helpless...just watching, Daddy on his knees, not fighting, just accepting whatever fate God handed down. In that moment, Beth knew that he was going to live. They were all going to be okay. They had to. They'd fought so hard, how could they not? And Daddy...he'd lost so much already. Mama, Shawn, Otis, Patricia, the farm...their home, his leg. He helped so many people survive the sickness at the prison...he was a survivor. Michonne was out there with him. She always figured things out. Rick, he was down there too. So close. He'd never let anything happen. If things started to go wrong, Rick would take the Governor out. But Rick didn't.
We let go of all of it, and nobody dies. We've all done the worst kinds of things just to stay alive. But we can still come back. We're not too far gone. We get to come back. I know...
Those words, Rick's words meant nothing in the end. Beth couldn't do anything, Maggie either. They both just stood at the fence watching the Governor swing Michonne's sword at Daddy's neck. It didn't even kill him...but he was already dead. He tried to crawl away, but the Governor, he hacked Daddy's head off. Beth saw everything. She'd screamed and cried, didn't even get to tell him she loved him. The whole world had been void of sound, moving so slow. And now, her mind was a mess, as incoherent as one of her fever dreams.
Wouldn't kill you to have a little faith.
Yeah, faith. Faith ain't done shit for us. Sure as hell didn't do nothing for your father...
And my dad. I thought...I hoped he would just live the rest of his life in peace, you know? I thought Maggie and Glenn would have a baby. And he would get to be a grandpa. And we would have birthdays and holidays and summer picnics. And he would get really old. And it would happen, but it would be quiet. It would be okay. He would be surrounded by people he loved. That's how unbelievably stupid I am...
There are still good people, Daryl.
I don't think the good ones survive.
Beth pictured hazy flashes of all those moments. Her weakness, her stupidity, her naivety. Where had it, her faith, gotten any of them when they were just going to die tonight if they were lucky...die another day at the hands of...people...who were worse than walkers. It was all so pointless.
A sweet memory turned to bitter ashes, when Daryl gave her a serious piggyback ride towards a place that could've been their home.
Maybe there are people there.
Yeah, if there are, I'll handle 'em.
Daryl was the kind of person that survived, what you needed to be to survive. He was the only reason she was alive, because he was strong, and he wanted her to live. Beth thought she was strong...instead, she realized she was just stupid. And now, Beth had changed him...
What changed your mind?
Now she knew, and it hurt. She changed him...she taught him...
Faith ain't about believing in things you can see or know. It's about believing in things you can't understand or see until they happen.
Who taught you that?
Beth taught him...taught him a lie...broke him. And now he was probably going to die because of it. Daddy had faith, and he died. She didn't get to tell him she loved him before...Daryl had faith, and she didn't tell him she loved him when he left either...
Had she said it more than once? Beth hadn't heard, but Tara sounded desperate.
"The only forgiveness you need is God's."
"Please..." Tara needed her absolution. Beth just wasn't sure she was strong enough to give it.
She waited longer than she should've, but she was finally able to push the words out.
"I forgive you."
Tara's hand was limp in hers by the time she finished. Whether she heard or not, Beth would never know.
"Beth...Beth! Get up here now!" Tyreese's low baritone bellowed for her from upstairs.
Slamming Tara's door behind, Beth could hear the front door splintering. She didn't have time to make it upstairs to the others.
"Bar the door..." Beth called out.
They didn't need to die because of her stupidity, getting too lost in her own emotion. Something went wrong out there. How did it all happen so soon? Beth hadn't had time to strengthen her resolve for what was going to happen to her...Carl...Judith. She wasn't ready for more pain. She stood frozen in the hallway. There was no use trying to hide. The front door burst open. Beth tried to steady herself, waiting to see Daryl and Rick and Maggie dragged in...but they weren't there...just them...the evil she was facing. At least that meant Daryl was still alive. Things might not be going as planned, but maybe there was still a chance. Daryl was breathing out there somewhere. Maybe that was all that mattered.
Beth wasn't going to fight them. She'd promised Daryl.