Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 25: Thing of Nightmares
~Author's Note: Hey guys! Wow, it's been a long time for this story, I know. My class from hell is finally over, and this chapter...I just really needed to get everything right. I love it, this one and the next. This one turned out just the way I wanted it to, so I'm proud of it. It is very much a Beth showcase chapter, so don't expect much Daryl. Anyway, as always, I love you guys, and I hope you enjoy!~
Once the distant gunshots started, Gareth went silent, his eyes grew brighter, and an unsettling smile crept up at the corners of his lips. The end was coming quick, too quick, but Beth knew the end itself wasn't going to be quick at all. It would've been better if she'd died in bed before Daryl rescued her or if she just fought and defied harder and got herself beaten to death. Then, there would have been no rescue, they wouldn't have stayed in this house waiting for her to get better...no one would have been able to find her family. They would all be alive, but now, they were all dead because of her. In the silence of waiting after the gunshots ceased, Judith started crying from upstairs. They were all going to die, Judith too. That's when Beth started thinking about it...how she wanted to die. The Ka-Bar, the one Daryl gave to her, it was laying so close on the coffee table, right in the middle it. If she was quick enough...
"Gareth...Gar...we go...m..." Beth hadn't even notice the walkie-talkie resting close to her knife on the tabletop. He leaned in so slow, picking up the radio like he didn't have a care in the world, but she could see the excitement in his eyes.
"Repeat that. There's too much static." He kept his voice calm and cool.
"We got them."
Beth's heart sank.
"All of them? Are they alive?"
"Yes. All alive. Pretty beaten up though." The person on the other end of the radio was breathless.
At least they didn't go down without a fight, but it didn't matter. It wasn't enough. Beth just didn't know which group was captured. Did they have Daryl or Maggie?
"Four. We lost four."
"Okay." Gareth wasn't even phased by the loss of his own people. "Did anyone splinter from the main group?"
He was distracted. She could get the knife now, take him out. When Beth lifted her eyes from the weapon to calculate the distance, his eyes caught hers, shifted down to the knife, reaching for it, sliding it closer to himself. Gareth saw what she'd been planning. His knowledge of what she was going to do stopped her in her tracks because if there was no surprise, there was no way she would be successful. But he left the knife on the table within her reach to taunt her. Beth still had one play left, but she was going to hold on to it. It was her last resort, and Gareth, he expected something now.
"Come on. Who's not with the group?" Gareth rolled his eyes.
"Sorry, had to look. We don't have the kid, the scientist, the commando's girl, the blonde, her baby, Tyreese..."
"I already knew those. We're sitting on them here." He was getting annoyed, and with a man like him, that was dangerous.
From the corner of her eye, Beth could see Martin, who had been standing still, not saying a word, now shifting uneasily, listening to Gareth.
"Sorry. Rick, Daryl, and Michonne."
"Alright then. Let's go ahead and bring your group in."
Rick, Daryl, and Michonne...they were still out there...still alive.
Gareth hailed his other group, the other people he had laying in wait...he'd known their plans all along.
"Here," the response came back.
"Any sign of them?"
"No. Just took out a small group of the dead. Other than that, everything's quiet."
Rick, Daryl, and Michonne were close now; Beth knew it without a doubt. In their time together, Daryl taught her a lot of things about hunting and the woods. Animals might not be able to sense one hunter if he was good enough, but it wasn't just one hunter out there, it was three. And animals could sense danger. There wasn't anything much more dangerous than those three together.
"The other group is on their way back. The only ones they don't have are Rick, Daryl, and Michonne. They'll be headed your way toward the house."
"Which ones are those?"
Gareth sighed at his people's apparent incompetence.
"Ringleader, Archer, and Samurai."
"Shit. Those are the worst ones."
"Try not to get killed. We lost four from the other group. And make sure you bring them all in alive..." Eye contact again...his eyes boring into her. He wanted her to hear. "Beth here, I know, is eager for a family reunion. I'm sure the others are too."
Daryl was still free. He had a chance.
Beth! Beth! Run! Run! Beth...
Daryl chose to die so she could live. He made that choice in the funeral parlor. Beth would have done the same. She wished she could tell Daryl to run...save himself.
I'm not gonna leave you!
Daryl would have the same answer she did. It wasn't in Daryl's nature to run to save himself, but he had run with her from the prison. They ran together. Daryl was right. It was going to end tonight, and they were going to end how they started. Together.
Setting the radio beside him, Gareth's full attention was back on Beth. His plan was working out just like he expected...what Daryl feared and said it wouldn't come to. Once everyone was back together...
"I'm sorry about the interruption. Where were we?"
So, it was back to the pretense of polite conversation? She didn't even need to play the game anymore. Beth knew what was coming.
"That's right...your group, your family. Do you know what they did to us? Our home...my family? My real family."
Beth's stare was cold, uncaring. Whatever they did, it wasn't enough.
"My brother, he died because of Rick, your valiant leader and his act of aggression against us." He paused, taking a moment, like what he was going to say next was all the harder. Beth thought about what Rick's act of aggression had been. Fighting to stay alive? Rick did what it took. "My mother...well...the grey haired queen bitch...she killed my mother."
Gareth, he was less articulate, his words less measured, less steady. The more he talked, the more he was starting to descend to what he really was. He couldn't keep pretending. The monster was coming out.
"You have to understand, Beth, your group, your family, they're bad people."
Beth wondered if he knew that nothing he said mattered. She might not be able to fight like Rick or Daryl or Michonne or even Maggie, but she was strong. Nothing he said could change what she knew, who Daryl and her family were. Gareth cocked his head at her. Was he trying to figure out how to break her? Picking up her knife from the table, examining it closely, Gareth was starting to switch gears. Beth looked down trying to steady herself, gather her courage. If he couldn't break her mentally, he was gong to hurt her.
They weren't putting up a fight anymore. Hadn't been much of a fight to start with. They thought they were hunters, but they'd been wrong. Daryl's booted foot kept his catch pinned to the ground while it tried to staunch the blood seeping out of its shoulder. Michonne and Rick bound the other two breathers. Looking back at them, Daryl watched as Rick checked their new guns, handed one to Michonne, passed another to him. Daryl tucked it in his front waistband just before Rick nodded.
It was such a small plan...but these breathing bodies would get them to the door unnoticed, maybe through the door, then they would turn into shields. After that, they were on their own.
"Make the call, and do it right," Daryl growled, watching the bloody hand intently as it left its place pressed against the wound, slowly reaching for the walkie Daryl held out to it.
"Who gave this to you? Rick? Maggie? Daryl? It's a big knife for a small girl. Dangerous. Sharp."
"You never asked me how I knew Daryl loved you."
Beth raised her eyes, finding his cold gaze. It sickened Beth that Gareth was talking about Daryl and what he felt for her.
"I said I knew that Daryl was genuinely in love with you. You didn't ask me how I knew. One would think that you would be curious how a complete stranger knew that."
Gareth ran his thumb back and forth over the edge of her knife listlessly. He was toying with her, taunting her, playing with her emotions and fear.
"The doctor...the man who helped save you when you were sick...he saw it all, what Daryl did to their leader."
That memory of being there struck fear in her heart, and despite her resolve, Gareth recognized that fear in her. Fed off of it.
"Daryl ripped his heart out. No, I'm not talking metaphorically. Daryl literally ripped his heart out."
Beth remembered that night in bits and pieces, the moments between the darkness. She had been sitting on the floor, Daryl just released her from his embrace, that beautiful pain from him holding her too tight, but she hadn't wanted him to let go. He left her on the floor, bolted Allerton to the wall, then Daryl, his intense blue eyes filled with rage caught hers, wouldn't let them go. Beth watched him slowly draw his knife, not saying anything, but asking her all the same. He needed her permission, and she had no reservations giving it, wanting him to suffer. Beth nodded her head, sentencing Allerton to a horrible death. After that...it went dark.
"Actually, it's difficult to rip a heart out, but it just sounds more poetic that way, ripped out his heart. Daryl hacked his heart out after he disemboweled him. Held that heart in his hands."
Beth was no different than Daryl. She passed the sentence; he just dealt the blow.
Hearts. So many hearts involved. Daryl's heart...a heart that had been broken. Herheart, one she didn't know would ever get to feel again. The heart Daryl ripped out for her. Should she be astonished, repulsed? No, she wasn't. Beth was grateful. And one thing she knew, Daryl held her heart in his hands, and she entrusted him with it, even for the short time they had been given together. That was all that mattered. It had been his to do with what he wanted; he'd been gentle with it...treasured it.
"We've evolved into hunters because we had to. Your family destroyed us. We had to find a way to survive. Daryl...he's a monster. Always has been. That's the difference between us. You need to realize that."
They didn't evolve into hunters to survive; they devolved to monsters with no humanity. That was the truth he was hiding from.
"Just know Beth, men like him...men like Daryl, before, and especially now, the only way they know to love is through violence."
Beth's heart was beating faster, her breathing heavier thinking on how she wished Daryl would bust through that door and show Gareth just how much he loved her through that violence. But Gareth, he saw those changes in her and read them differently. He thought he was getting to her.
"When we get back there, to the church and their community...I know what you're thinking. It's not ideal or very secure by any means, but we don't have a place in this world anymore; Rick and your family made sure of that, but we'll make it home. Rome wasn't built in a day. Anyway, like I was saying, when we get back there, the people there, those that join us, you'll get to know them..."
Beth was so confused. He didn't actually plan to keep her alive? He said that he was going to let her live, but the whole point of everything he was doing was to bring them all back together so Daryl and Rick could watch her and Carl and Judith suffer and die before they were killed too. Gareth was just trying to terrorize her now. But what if he wasn't? What if he planned to hurt Daryl and Rick by the knowledge that he was going to take them, forcing them to live, trying to turn her and Carl? She wasn't going to be killed first. Beth was going to be broken...forced to watch Daryl die. She was reconciled with dying, but not with this.
What do I have to do for you to let Daryl live?
She almost asked it, almost begged for Daryl...but she couldn't. Beth was willing to sell her soul for Daryl's life, but if she did, she'd be selling his too, and he would never choose to live that way.
"...Daryl, he's the monster they're going to tell their children and children's children about, the beast that will rip out their hearts." Beth tuned back into his madness, going numb. "The man you love is going to be the evil that haunts them in the dark. And you, as Judith's mother, you're going to have to hold her, comfort her through those nights. What will Daryl be to you then...this thing of nightmares?"
I'll be dead.
He wasn't going to terrorize her by the things Daryl did. Beth always knew what he was capable of, and she wasn't afraid of him. Gareth wasn't going to threaten her with a future that wasn't going to exist. Interference on the radio broke Gareth's one sided conversation.
"We've got Ringleader, Archer, and Samurai..."
Beth closed her eyes tight, holding back her tears, forcing the brave, numb mask to stay on her face. She wouldn't give this monster the satisfaction of seeing her cry. She wasn't sad because of the things that were going to happen to her but the things that never did.
"...there's not much fight left in them."
"How many of you are left?"
"Just me, Kevin, and Scott. They got a good jump on us."
Gareth looked much more distressed by the loss of people form this particular group.
"Go ahead and come on back to base." His excitement didn't even seem to be there anymore.
Beth had to wonder how many people Daryl, Rick, and Michonne took out if there were only three left. Gareth laid his radio down, rubbing his eyes with his palms. It worked out in his favor, but it seemed like the price was high. If there were only three left to bring Daryl and the others back, they must be really hurt if they weren't fighting. Three against three should be no match for them. Beth didn't know if she could handle seeing Daryl beaten and broken. He was so strong...a warrior. Even though she didn't want to watch him die, she knew at some point she might have seen him go down, but not without one hell of a fight. Beth couldn't...not this way...Daryl couldn't die on his knees. She could do it now, then she wouldn't have to be a witness to Daryl's execution. Gareth wasn't even paying attention. Martin would take her out, but not before Gareth died. Maybe if she cut the head off the serpent, her people would have a fighting chance.
Beth...please fight...fight for me...
Those were Daryl's words, that night during the terrible storm, the night he rescued her. They'd talked about love, and Beth thought she was dying. She didn't know then if she could fight anymore even though he begged her, biting back tears. Now Beth knew she was going to die, and she was going to fight. Beth was going to die fighting for him. This was her chance to do something for her family...for Daryl. It would be her sacrifice. Beth could reconcile herself with that. Hopefully, Daryl could too.
It was still hard to breathe...hurting now, but it would all be over soon...
Beth startled, and Gareth jerked upright at the loud crash and thump from the downstairs bedroom. Martin went on guard in the doorway. There was anger on Gareth's tight face...danger in his eyes as they narrowed on her.
"You lied to me, Beth."
"I told you this was about trust between you and me, and you lied. Who are you hiding down here that you didn't tell me about?" Gareth passed the coffee table, closing the distance between them.
"I didn't lie." Beth stood, determined to hold her ground.
She froze at that.
That was the last thing the Governor uttered before he swung Michonne's sword at Daddy's neck. It was to be her fate too. So lost in that terrible memory of the past, Beth didn't see Gareth draw his arm back, but she felt the back of his hand sting across her face and mouth. Stumbling, Beth straightened when she caught her balance, realizing it didn't hurt all that much. Maybe he didn't hit as hard as Brother Allerton or maybe she just didn't care anymore. Her hand found her busted lip, feeling the blood that trickled from it. Pulling her fingers away, she could see they were stained burgundy in the dim light from the lanterns in the room. In an act of defiance, Beth brought her fingers back to her mouth, sucking away her own blood. It didn't taste any different than the blood already filling her mouth from the split.
"Martin, take Beth and see who's hiding down here. And make sure to send her in first. We can't afford to lose anymore of us, but she better come out alive."
Jerking her by the back of the neck, Martin threw her into the hallway, but he couldn't keep his hand on her, hold his flashlight, and grip his gun. He had to let go. Beth knew she had to keep clam. Whatever she was going to do, it had to be good. Martin slammed her against the bedroom door with the force of his body, pressing her hard against the unyielding wood. A whimper escaped her lips, not in fear but in pain although Martin didn't know the difference. That was good. He thought she was weak and scared.
"Stupid little bitch. You're gonna get what's yours when this is all over, and Gareth won't stop it." His breath was hot and wet beside her ear. Beth was glad he couldn't see her cringing. "I bet you taste nice and sweet."
If anything about what he said scared her, it was that she had no idea which type of torture Martin was talking about.
"Open the fucking door."
Beth didn't have any choice except to comply, turning the knob, but at least she knew what was coming. She knew what was on the other side. The door opening and Martin pressed hard behind her propelled Beth into the bedroom. She tripped over Tara's reanimated corpse on the floor, falling, catching herself when her hands smacked flat against the hard floor, stinging at the shock. Tara clawed at her booted foot, tried to sink her teeth into Beth's leg, but the leather was too thick...too tough. She jerked away frantically just as Martin stumbled over Tara too. Everything happened in a split second. Martin kept his footing and flashlight, but his gun went flying, landing right beside her. Beth didn't hesitate. Martin's light made him easy to target. Beth didn't even hear the gun go off; the world had gone so still and silent around her, but she hit her mark because Martin crumpled to the ground without a word, pinning Tara.
No idea what came next, Beth slammed the door and locked it, if only to buy a few more minutes to think. Gareth wouldn't let her stay locked in for long, but maybe the gunshot would let Carl, Tyreese, Rosita, and Eugene know that something went wrong; Rick and Daryl's plan hadn't worked. If they wanted to live, they should have a chance to fight now. Beth knelt on the floor to pick up Martin's flashlight from where it illuminated his face. It had been clean, a head shot, an instant kill...blood pooling hot on the floor and bits of brain clinging to Martin's hair. Beth's breath caught watching the steam rising from the black puddle on the floor. The shudder in her chest hurt. This was her first...
Hold it together...
He was dead...she killed him...but she had to hold it together. Turning her attention to the thing that used to be Tara, the thing that was struggling under the weight of Martin's body trying to get at her, Beth rested the muzzle of Martin's pistol at the back of Tara's head.
"Thank you." Beth pulled the trigger without a second thought.
"Martin, if you killed her, so help me..."
The handle on the door turned, but stopped instantly it seemed once Gareth realized it was locked...realized...
Gareth thought she lied to him before, and he'd snapped. She hadn't lied; she hadn't said anything. Now she had to say something. It was all about buying time...buying time for the others. Beth would've shot him through the door, but in the faint light from the hallway, she only saw the edge of one foot in the space under the door. He was too smart to be standing square in front of it.
"Mar...Martin's dead." Voice wavering, the adrenaline wearing off...everything hitting her...the full impact of what happened, what she'd done. "Tara...she turned, bit him. I had to."
"What's going on?" That was an unfamiliar voice from upstairs.
"Don't worry. The others are on their way in. When they get here, we'll be ready for you to bring Judith, Carl, and Eugene down and take care of the others."
He was so calm and calculated again.
"I'm sorry...I didn't mean to."
She was playing it off instinct, telling him what he needed to hear. Being confrontational or aggressive wasn't going to help. She needed Gareth's full attention on her, hoping that with the gunshots and what Tyreese, Eugene, Carl, and Rosita just heard from Gareth that they were making some sort of plan for themselves.
"I know, Beth. It's okay. Unlock the door."
Well, that wasn't going to happen. After a few seconds of nothing...
"Beth, I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have hit you. I lost my temper. Why don't you come out? Judith's going to need you in a little bit."
He was trying to talk to her all sweet and gentle, lure her out by using her love for Judith, so she could hold Judith while her father was slaughtered? Beth panned her light around the room, stopping at the windows. If she could get out there, get to the back where she could find Daryl...there were only three with Daryl, Rick and Michonne. With Martin's gun and the element of surprise, maybe she could do something, but the windows were boarded up tight. There was only one way in and one way out...through the door. Well...there was another, but she wasn't ready for that option. Not yet at least.
The door rattled violently under Gareth's fists pounding against the hard wood.
"Get out here! Now!" He'd snapped again, his homicidal tendencies overshadowing his attempt at peaceful negotiation. "I'm not going to play this game with you."
Shouting, struggling, banging, the front door was thrown open. Beth heard it smash against the wall. Maggie...that was Maggie's voice. She couldn't make out what Maggie was saying, but it was her sister.
"You son of a dick!" Abraham's bellow was unmistakable.
There was glass shattering.
"Get a hold of him." Gareth's voice wasn't that close anymore. He was moving away from her door.
"Shit, watch him...he slipped his ropes!"
The wall shook as somebody barreled in to it. Abe slamming someone no doubt.
"Come on people. Subdue him." Gareth chastised. "Just put him down. We don't need him. No...save the bullets."
Abe was growling. Beth couldn't see him but knew he was fighting. Was that the back door thrown open?
"Put him down I said. The others are back. He better be dead by the time I come down with Carl and Judith." He emphasized Judith, directed it at her.
Gareth's feet were heavy on the stairs, going to retrieve the baby she was supposed to be able to protect. She was the only mother Judith knew. Daryl, Rick, and Michonne were being brought in. Abraham was about to be the first person killed. Beth could still hear him struggling, but it was only a matter of time. It was now or never.
Courage. Faith. She needed them both...
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.
Daryl said that. He believed, said that she taught him that. Maybe she could believe that too.
Beth dropped the clip. The gun was only missing the two bullets she shot. Fifteen bullets...she had fifteen shots left. They had to count. Stepping out into the hall, no one even noticed her in the darkness. One was holding Abe's arms behind him, another had his head yanked back by his fiery hair, baring his neck, knife about to bite through his throat. They were so systematic, so uncaring...inhuman. Their death's couldn't even matter. Beth aimed carefully. She was only going to get one shot.
Pure shock. That was the look on everyone's face when the executioner hit the floor, knife clattering beside him. It was like they didn't even hear the gun until after the bullet found its mark, after the man died. Abe, his eyes focused intent on her, jerked his head to the side when he realized she was still aiming.
"I said no bullets," Gareth called from the top of the stairs.
The man restraining Abraham didn't even have time to realize he was dead before the second gunshot rang out.
Abe was free. "Gun!"
Beth tossed it to him without question. Madness ensued.