Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 27: Sometime After Midnight
~Author's Note: Good morning everyone! Here is your new chapter. In this one, everyone is emotional, exhausted, mentally and physically drained following the Gareth incident. After this chapter though, it seems like Daryl and Beth might be in for some quiet, happy time. Anyway, as always, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!~
Iron or copper. He couldn't decide what it tasted like or whose blood it was, he was so covered in it. So was she. Life was one fucking bloody proposition now, but it was life. Nothing else seemed to matter. Daryl's blood was up, burning through his veins, his body still boiling from the fight, the win, the promise of survival for another day no matter how short those peaceful moments would be. Beth, she was feeling it too, hands in his sweat dampened hair, pulling him down to her, feeling that need to be alive. He'd pulled her away after Rick finished with Gareth, after everyone moved past the shock that it was over, took her away to somewhere private to check on her, make sure she wasn't hurt bad...see if she was gonna break after killing her first, but there wasn't a chance. Everything he felt was so fucking immediate. He wasn't able to think once the door to the bedroom slammed shut. If he wasn't able to think, he sure in the hell wasn't gonna be able to stop himself.
Sex and violence, Daryl always heard they went hand in hand, that a man always needed a woman after a fight, and that wasn't just comin' from Merle. It had never been the case for him though. Now, with Beth, he was feelin' it, but it probably all boiled to the fact that it was Beth, not just any woman. She deserved better; Daryl knew it, deserved better than being rammed up against a door, but it wasn't gonna get that far. Even so, even though he knew that, he wasn't capable of knowing anything. He had no past and no future...just Beth, this moment, and life. She was warm and soft; he had her on her tiptoes so her face was closer, tilted up to him, her lips so close even as he pulled back to suck in some air. And everything fit so fucking perfect pressed hard to her. Beth's breath was ragged, her heart beating quick and heavy. Daryl had to force his hand firm against the door to steady himself, keep himself from crushing her trying to get at her. Diving deeper into her mouth, the blood, it tasted more intense, still warm, and she was pulling back, trying at least, her body moving away even though she had nowhere to go. He wasn't moving, neither was the door. It wasn't just someone or something's blood he tasted. It was her blood from her busted lip...she was beaten and broken again. That's why he brought her here, to have a look at her, not to brutalize Beth more. No matter what he did, what he intended, he was a fucking violent prick. Daryl pushed back away from her, bodies still touching, but just barely, so Beth could breathe again.
"Don't stop...just...go gentler..." Beth said it all shy and hesitant, a broken statement like she was ruining everything when he was the one going there...hurting her when he should've been hands off.
Her fingers went instinctively to her lips, coming away red. It broke him...go gentler...that's what he wanted to be forher. Daryl lowered his head in shame, shaking it at himself.
Gentle didn't seem to exist in their world anymore. But he couldn't leave it as it was, and he couldn't deny her either. Hesitant to move again, trying to make the right move...he didn't even get the chance, Beth leaning up under his bowed head, her lips finding his first. They...she could be bruised, broken, and bleeding, and she was still the sweetest, most beautiful thing he'd ever hoped to possess.
"I love you, Beth. God...I love you so much."
Everything felt so much more after almost dying...almost losing her, and that was the nature of their lives now. That had been their time together since square one, the day they ran when the prison fell. It was a constant cycle of pain, danger, fear of loss. But sweetness, and love, they were there too.
"Even like this..." Beth's hand brushed her cheek, refusing to look at him, wincing away from her own touch as she probed the tender flesh.
Her hurts, her bruises, her breaks...all her scars, especially the ones he couldn't see, the ones she wouldn't share with him, they weren't her flaws, but marks on him, burdens he had to bear. It all came down to him, not being able to protect her. Daryl wished he could say something comforting, but even if he had the words, he wasn't like to be able to get 'em out. Instead he answered with his lips, something that would've been more difficult for him than sayin' something before, but not with her...not with Beth. This time, he tried to mimic the way Beth kissed him. He was still trying to figure out...learn the whole love thing, but it seemed to be working. Her body melted into him. He didn't have to crush her to get her as close as possible because when he asked the right way, Beth gave. Daryl still had to keep his palm pressed hard against the door to physically curb that burning instinct...that primal need. That was made even worse and more acute by Beth kissing back, Beth pressing harder, her hand clenching the back of his neck, gripping his upper arm, his muscles flinching under her touch. Beth needing him. Wanting him. The fight he had to wage against himself...it was so fucking painful. Never felt that kind of pain before. Was barely able to stand it.
Something changed in Beth, distracted her, took her focus away from the moment, from them. Her hand on his arm pulled away, went back again...she turned her face from him, confused.
"Daryl..." Her breathy voice did nothing to put out his fire.
The softness of her neck called to his lips.
He kept his contact soft, just lips.
No mouth. Didn't wanna mark her. Didn't need people seeing that and talking.
Beth's voice had seemed distant and hazy. It hadn't registered, not at all. Now her hand pushing at his chest, trying to get him away...and her words, they hit him hard.
Daryl...Stop...Daryl, no. Daryl, please...stop.
He couldn't catch his breath, feeling the anger, guilt, and helplessness...all those emotions welling up in his chest. Hatred too. He hated himself for what he did to her and what he wasn't able to stop from being done to her. Daryl released Beth, turning his back. He couldn't face her, couldn't let her see him like this. Weak and powerless. How could she even look at him...love him.
Reality was blurry. Crossing the room away from her, he needed the distance. The heated moments with Beth might've made him feel like he had no past or future, just living and loving each precious second with her. But Beth, she had a past, a painful past, a past that scarred her. Reality was blurry and muffled, he could barely hear Beth saying his name and nothing of what came after, but the past, things he never saw but knew happened, his imagination provided a clear brutal picture now.
Is that what she cried when the bastard pinned her and fuckedher? She fought until she didn't anymore, until she gave up all hope, was too sick, too hurt, too tortured to fight. Were those her words when the fucker playing God threw her down on that bed in the sickly bright white room that had been her prison? Daryl cringed...he could see Beth forced, another man's lips biting at her soft skin, rough hands ripping through her tangled hair, a knee driven hard between her legs forcing her thighs apart...all her defenses broken.
Daryl balled a fist, about to put it through the wall until something stopped him, the same thing that stopped him from driving his fist into the concrete the night Rick told him Beth had been raped...the possibility there could be a child. If he did the damage he needed to do to get it all out, feel the pain, what he needed to feel to try to drown out the emotions, drive away the images he saw in his head, he couldn't fight, couldn't even try to protect her. He was bad enough at that as it was. Then they'd both be dead. He had to man the fuck up. He'd already failed her enough.
A sob caught in his chest, one he was able to fight...hold back. He had to stop being such a fucking pussy...needed to be the man she deserved. Daryl found his way to the edge of the bed, elbows on his knees, palms rubbing his eyes, brushing away the wetness he couldn't bear to let her see. Beth was stronger than everyone gave her credit for. She was sure in the hell stronger than him. When he opened his eyes, finding her, still standing at the door...confused, worried...maybe there was something in his eyes that asked her to come to him, give him comfort, or maybe that was just her, who she was...but she came. Beth knelt on the floor between his legs. He wanted to tell her no...she didn't belong on her knees...she shouldn't go to her knees for any man, but he couldn't.
He saw it. Beth's raised hand, covered in bright, fresh blood...his blood. Daryl felt it now, the sting where Beth had been grasping his arm, a wound he hadn't even felt when it was inflicted. That's what made her push him away, what made her tell him to stop...it wasn't about her not wanting him, him being too aggressive. It was just now he was able to realize it, coming to his senses. Beth approached the wound tentatively, watching him carefully. Was he that unpredictable? Hell yeah. Look at the little breakdown he'd just had. She had no idea what in the hell was going on in his head...no idea what triggered him losing it. After what she'd seen today with Tara, gone through this afternoon, was forced to do, see, and hear tonight, no wonder she was fucking spooked.
"You're hurt. I'm just going to..."
Daryl nodded, straightened, and went still for her. Beth pulled back the material of his shirt that had been driven into the entry wound...it had to have been a bullet. He hadn't felt it. Couldn't say when it happened. Barely felt the pain now if he just kept focused on her. Beth's fingers gently probed the back of his arm, her brow furrowed and face drawn in concern. Good, there was an exit wound. That's what she was feeling.
"It was a clean shot, through and through," Daryl assured her. That was something he could be confident in...should make her feel better.
"You're...you were shot..." Beth went all shaky.
Would it have been any different, any better if it was a stab wound or a bolt sticking outta his arm?
"I need to get...you need Bob." She'd gone frantic on him.
Daryl grabbed her by the upper arm, stopping her before she could make to move, with the wounded arm none the less.
"Beth, I'm fine. It's clean. Just a flesh wound."
"You could be in shock." She put up a little struggle, trying to pull away, but he wasn't gonna turn her loose.
"Stop. It's just a little blood. It's already slowing up." Daryl looked towards the wound, the blood turning thick where it was clotting and congealing
Her eyes, they spoke sincere concern, and he couldn't help smile at the absurdity of Beth thinking a clean flesh wound he hadn't even noticed was gonna kill him. He'd been hurt worse before the world went to shit. Granted, it'd never been a bullet doing the damage, but some things were worse than getting shot. It wasn't a matter that could be cured by a smile though. Beth's arm was trembling in his hand, and she was crying.
"Hey, Beth, listen up. I'm fine. I'm gonna be just fine."
"It's all my fault. They found us because of me, because you all stayed here. People are hurt because of me. Tara died because of me. You...you're..." She broke off, and he let her go so she could wipe her tears away. "I should've just died".
Anger sparked inside, not anger at Beth, anger at the world and people who made her feel like it would've been better off that way. He grabbed her shoulders, made her pay attention, forcing her to look at him.
"Don't you ever say that again, you hear me?"
Silence. Nothing. No response.
"Beth, answer me. You understand?"
Finally a reluctant nod. How could she even believe that? She knew...knew what she was to him...how could she...because of a bullet hole and a little bit of blood.But no...there were deeper issues here. Neither of them were in the right place in the head, so much torment inside. Daryl had to force himself to soften his touch.
"Ain't nothin' worth having in life that you don't have to fight for, bleed for, especially now. And some things are worth dying for. You're worth dying for." Reaching out, he brushed her hair back from her face.
Beth wasn't gonna fight him on this one, her big doe eyes on him, seeing straight into his soul, knowing it was his truth. Eyes locked on him, it looked like she was going to...needed to say something to him, something that needed to be shared. Maybe in the aftermath of life or death tonight, she was ready to open up about what happened to her before.
The tap on the door stopped whatever she'd been thinking about saying. It was like he saw the unsaid words fade from her lips. Daryl breathed deep before answering, before their moment of quiet and solitude was broken. But they didn't get the time to process that shift in their reality, the door opening hesitantly without an invitation. What the fuck? Didn't they fucking understand privacy, closed doors? Did they need a damned do not disturb sign? Beth startled, turning between his legs, both hands getting a grip on his thigh.
Daryl went rigid...deadly still. Did she even know how close she was...how close she was to grabbing him? That was probably so far from her mind; he shouldn't be thinking 'bout it neither, but Beth, her touch, intentional or not, set him fire.
Maggie was waiting in the doorway, looking in on what could've been judged as a compromising situation. Daryl was more uncomfortable at that thought than he could ever imagine.
Get the fuck out was itching to bust outta his mouth, but he held his tongue for Beth's' sake.
"Can I talk to Beth...have a minute with my sister?" Maggie wasn't assuming, and her voice was on the verge of breaking. So much emotion everywhere.
Daryl wanted to snap hell no, but as much as he hated it, this wasn't his call. Looking to Beth, he waited for an answer. It wasn't immediate. She had to think about it before she gave him the smallest nod. It was against his better judgment, but he wasn't gonna control Beth or make her decisions for her. Drawing her off her knees up to the bed, Daryl caught the back of her neck gently, leaning in for one last soft kiss. Every nerve in his body was screaming, anxiety coursed trough his body...with Beth, this was sacred, private; it felt all wrong being on display. But in front of Maggie, he needed to, not as a mark of ownership or right to Beth, butas a sign of his love and protection, the seriousness of his intentions even though he had nothing to prove. For Beth too. To let her know even though he was leaving, turning her over to Maggie, he was still there. Passing Maggie, he fought it...the need to inform her that if she upset Beth, she'd have to deal with him, but he let it go when she made eye contact with the floor instead of with him. Before Beth, before everything, he'd been the one to avoid looking people in the eye. Things changed. He changed.
Daryl slid down to the floor, back against the wall at the dark end of the hall, just trying to catch a fucking breath. It had been an impossible day, an even more impossible night, but it wasn't over yet, still some unfinished business at midnight. He was really feeling it, the exhaustion with all the adrenaline wearing off.Now it was just him alone in the dark with only his thoughts, and those were torment enough. Beth...it should be just happy thoughts, but it seemed like every time they had a few quiet moments, the world felt the need to throw a shirt storm of hell their way, and Beth was always getting the brunt of it. But that was the way of the world, always had been, it was just worse now. Daryl...looking back, he realized how many times he'd dodged death, so many scrapes he should've never made out of alive. He wasn't easy to kill, but he was broken. So was she. The world destroyed him by breaking Beth. Destroy the man by breaking his woman. Daryl just wondered if he would ever be enough to fix her, because Beth, she was his salvation.
"What did they...what did he do to you?" Maggie posted herself on the bed.
It felt like Maggie had asked her that same question, not so long ago. Then, she hadn't had the strength to answer. Now, what happened tonight, it didn't matter...not in the scope of things, but she was feeling it. In the dim light of a few flickering candles and an oil lamp, there was no way Beth could tell just how bad she looked, but she could feel it. Swollen cheek, feverish, stinging lip, but it all felt worse than it actually was...had to. It was just all layered on top of barely healed bruises that were still aching before Gareth laid the back of his hand across her face.
"Nothing. I'm fine."
Maggie reached out to touch her cheek, and she instinctively jerked away. She couldn't even let Daryl touch her hurts, so there was no way she could suffer through Maggie touching her.
"Sorry, I'm just sore...tired." Beth tried to soften the blow of recoiling from her sister's hand. "Are you okay?"
She could see bruises forming and cuts, scrapes, nothing major seemed to be wrong, but Beth just wanted the attention away from her. Maggie nodded her head, biting her lip. Beth knew what that meant. Maggie wasn't hurt; she'd just reached her breaking point. It seemed like they had all reached that point at the same time. Then Beth remembered...the reason Maggie was probably so sad. Maybe it was something she could offer just a little bit of comfort on.
"I held her hand...stayed with her until...until she went. Tara, she's gone."
She shouldn't have said that last part, about Tara being dead. They knew that's how that scenario always ended. And Maggie's eyes went all wide, the way she forced them open too far when she didn't want the tears to come. Maggie, she'd always been so fierce and proud, but they were there, the tears for Tara. Beth knew it...knew Maggie better than anyone else in the world. The pain Tara's loss caused Maggie, there was no way Beth could pretend it didn't hurt. It stung all the more, remembering, hearing Tara's last words resounding in her head...Tara's dying confession. She was with the Governor; she fought with the man who destroyed their home...killed Daddy.But Maggie didn't know that...she never needed to know now. It would only make things worse. It didn't matter anymore, and Beth wasn't gonna be jealous of a ghost.
"But you're alive."
Maggie grabbed her, hugged her tight like there was no tomorrow, and Beth bit back the pain for Maggie's sake. When she pulled away, Beth saw the wetness on her sister's cheeks, the tears she brushed away, the ones that escaped despite her best attempt to fight them. Maybe Maggie's tears were for her now.
"You're alive, but I'm losing you." Beth didn't know what to say. It was the truth. "You're going to leave with Daryl."
"Beth...I'll never see you again...you're my sister. We're all we have left, you and me, we're the last Greenes."
All Beth could do was bite back her own tears. She had to stay strong. She wasn't crying because of leaving her sister or anything in general. It was everything, everything all piled on at once.
"Is he going to marry you?"
"What?" Did she hear right? Maggie's voice was wrought with emotion.
"Daryl, is he going to marry you, make those promises to love and protect you?"
Now Maggie was clear and dead serious, realizing how intent she was on starting her life with Daryl. She went into full, protective big sister mode...a little too late. It was really one of the most absurd questions Beth could imagine at this point. She just smiled a little.
"It doesn't matter."
Maybe Maggie was worried, maybe she thought some official promises of love and protection would ensure her survival, ensure that Daryl would never leave her, would always protect her. And Beth, she had always been the one who fantasized about a fairytale wedding, the romantic, while Maggie was the realist, but now...now people and the love they bore for one another were measured through actions and sacrifices they were willing to make. Daryl had proved his worth a thousand times over. No matter what happened, no matter the hang-ups either of them had, no matter where their relationship went or didn't, somehow Beth knew she and Daryl were bound for life.
Maggie had no idea everything she had been through with Daryl or what Daryl did for her. Those were things that she wasn't willing to share. But she could give Maggie something, share a small piece of what she had with Daryl.
"'There isn't anything worth having in life that you don't have to fight for, bleed for, especially now. And some things are worth dying for...'" Beth choked up, had to pull it together to finish. "'You're worth dying for.' That's what he said to me right before you knocked on the door. That is our truth. That is his promise to me. I don't like it. I don't want to accept it. I don't want him to die, but that...it means everything."
There was nothing Maggie could say to that; she wasn't even going to try, but the look on Maggie's face told Beth that they were both thinking the same thing. Daryl was willing to die for her, proved that by believing she was alive, coming after her when everyone else was willing to leave her for dead. Maggie didn't just have nothing to say to that, she couldn't say anything, couldn't judge Daryl. She gave up while Daryl fought for her, chose to move on with her own life while Daryl killed and bled, Maggie chose not to think about what was happening to her sister if she was still alive while those demons still haunted Daryl. He still blamed himself for everything that happened and for not being able to protect her. Knowing Maggie gave up, didn't want to believe she was alive still saddened Beth. Surprisingly though, the bitterness was fading, and she was making peace with her past. This wasn't her life anymore; Daryl was, and shortly, she would be leaving everything else behind.
Maggie fell back onto the bed, her head landing on the pillow followed by a shuddering breath.
"Beth, I'm just so tired..."
Beth realized she was tired too, exhausted, laying down on the bed beside her. Realizing that if these were some of the last moments she was going to spend with her sister, she might not be able to help Maggie be at peace with what happened, but they still shared a life, a lifetime full of happiness and memories.
"Maggie, do you remember..." Feeling sleep weighting her eyelids, Beth wasn't sure if that happy memory from their childhood passed her lips before sleep took her.
The sky was clear and bright, the night cool heading out into the backyard. The Big Dipper's pointer stars were straight aligned with the North Star; it was after midnight, a morning, another morning. It meant life for some, death for others. Abraham was walking the dead men, Rick silent and sullen, face frozen...feral. Daryl, he started out numb to the whole idea, what they were headed out to do, but Rick and his state brought him to a more contemplative place. Was it so long ago when he went with Rick and Shane to execute Randall in Hershel's barn? It was a death sentence decided on by the group, for the group, but Rick, he wasn't able to carry it out...couldn't pull the trigger in the end when he saw his kid standing there watching, tellin' him to do it. Tonight, nothing would stop Rick from blowing out their brains...nothing.
"On your knees," Abe barked.
The dead men didn't have any fight left. No amount of pleading or crying would save their asses. A firm shove from Abe and both sets of knees slammed into the dirt.
"Last words." The growl coming from Rick was enough to scare the shit outta anyone.
"Last words." It was the final offer.
Rick started to move in for the kill. He didn't reach for his Python, fingers closing over the handle of his machete instead. It wasn't gonna be a clean kill...it needed to be clean, but Rick was going in with aggression, emotion, a need for retribution. It wasn't gonna be pretty. Daryl drew, pulled the trigger twice, put them down before they even knew it was coming, before Rick freed his blade. It was merciful, merciful compared to the death Rick planned to deal them. These monsters, these dead men, they didn't deserve mercy, not one ounce of it, but they, he and Rick and Abe, they weren't them. Abe lurched back when the bodies hit the ground, not having seen it coming, and Rick, his eyes were wide and furious, body tense, breathing labored. He was about to snap, and Daryl was the target he had sighted in. Daryl wasn't even sure in that moment if Rick knew who he was, actually saw him, but he wasn't gonna flinch away, back down from what he'd done...stopped Rick from doing...crossing that line.
His eyes were fixed on Daryl, but now it didn't seem like Rick was seeing anything besides rage.
Rick cocked his head to the side like he was starting to hear, starting to come back, but still stepped forward, closer, body rigid like he was getting ready tostrike. Daryl, he'd been there before, knew what it felt like...seeing red.
"You do what you gotta do, but I ain't gonna lose you." Daryl stood his ground, Rick so close that it made him uncomfortable. "I ain't gonna let you lose yourself."
A couple deep breaths, a few moments of tension, then Rick lowered his head, backing away before he turned around and strode back to the house.
Daryl paused on the concrete patio, taking a long drag off a stale cig, watching the smoke he blew out curling and drifting up in the air before it disappeared into the dark of the night. It was a bad habit. Might need to stop at some point. Didn't wanna die of lung cancer. Thankfully, the world was obliging that way, making sure he wouldn't have no choice in quitting. Sooner or later, the world was gonna run outta smokes. Fuck, who would've thought with walkers dogging their every step, and people, people were even worse, nothing to curb their darkest tendencies, that he would've been worried 'bout cancer taking him out? Who would've thought he would want to live long enough with all the shit raining down on them? But he did...he had a reason too...Beth, and that chance, that life meant everything.
It was sometime after midnight when he found himself outside the bedroom door, just needing to be by Beth again, maybe even sleeping in the bed beside her. It wasn't gonna happen though. Beth and Maggie, they were sleeping in that bed together, facing each other, hands clasped between them. He wasn't gonna be jealous of Maggie. Beth was leaving with him. They were making their life together, whatever the future held. She would probably never see Maggie again. Daryl was glad she made peace with her sister. Beth deserved whatever peace and love she could find.