Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 32: Bare
~Author's Note: Good morning guys. This one I'm pretty proud of. I haven't shed a tear over anything I've written since "It Only Hurts When I Breathe" after the Season 5 Midseason Finale, but I cried a little at the end of this chapter. Hope you enjoy.~
It was a surprising spot where Beth's fingers first found his skin, at the point of his wrist, and not expecting it made it all the more shattering. Daryl sucked air through his teeth, the muscles in his arm tightening involuntarily as she drew the tips of her fingers up skin so taut it felt like it was going to tear. Beth wasn't looking him in the eye. Instead, she was following the trail her fingers were tracking up his forearm, smiling so soft, chewing her lower lip endearingly despite the healing split it still bore. Daryl wasn't really ever comfortable with people gawking at him or his body, never really had it happen neither, but he was comfortable...well, as comfortable as he could be...with Beth finding joy in his strength. He just wished Beth would touch him harder instead of what she was doing...just the whispers of a caress on his skin. It would make it less...arousing. He wanted to be better than that, getting all worked up just from her touching him, but he wasn't a saint...just a man. And there was love there. Did that make him any better?
Beth continued her exploration, pressing into the dent where his shoulder met his collarbone, her fingers skimming over his wife-beater and down the line of his chest. It was the point where Daryl got all insecure, knowing he wasn't built as good as some guys, wasn't as strong as Beth deserved.
"Don't got nothin' there to feel."
She withdrew her hand, not at all what he wanted. He'd just been rambling outta nerves. Her eyes met his for a split second, looking away before he could even catch 'em.
"Me neither."Beth turned her face away, shy, embarrassed by what she said, and that's when Daryl realized she was talking about her small breasts.
He almost looked down at them, forced himself not to, hated himself for that inclination. Beth was being all self-conscious. It wasn't a fucking invitation to go staring. Daryl reached out, lifting her chin, forcing her to look at him instead of away.
Beth went to say something, but he wasn't gonna let her speak or refute what he said...read her parted lips as invitation to kiss her, and she didn't deny. Daryl made that move, softly took her lips, but let her come to him, lean into him, rest her hands on his chest...didn't want Beth to think he was being all forceful.
The evening was so clear, the night birds were calling, the fire flickering so warm behind Beth that Daryl could feel it radiating off of her. Everything felt so natural, so right...the whole world around them suddenly so full of beautiful possibilities. Being outdoors, out in the open, with Beth, he was in his element. Couldn't it always be like this...with just them? When Beth pulled back from his lips, Daryl's instinct almost drove him to grab her in protest, but somehow he knew Beth wasn't done with him yet. Divine torture...she was divine torture made flesh. It wasn't bad enough, his dick throbbing, fighting to break free from pants that had never felt so painfully constricting before, but when Beth, all timid and slow, crossed his lap, settling her body down against him...Beth's soft intake of breath, all surprised...he had to close his eyes to gather himself. Just a second, he just needed a second.
But Beth...why was she trying to move away when she just got there? That slight shift, just that small movement, drove him to the edge of madness. He didn't want her to move away, but he couldn't have here squirming around either...no movement, at least until he got adjusted. It had been so fucking long for him, and while he was okay with it, his body wasn't cutting him any slack. Daryl had to stop her, grabbing her hips, forcing her to go still in the vice tight grip of his hands, but not like holding her there made things all better. The shape of her hips, his fingers reaching down under her waistband into the top of the soft curve of her ass...and it made him all the harder since she was the one who did it. Beth was the one who brought them here.
Good God girl, just sit still.
"No." That was as close as he could get to saying what he needed to.
He was prickfor being all turned on by her...not being able to have better self control. He was supposed to be better than this, thinking about Beth this way so soon. She deserved better. Peeling back his eyelids, there was some fear in her and confusion that killed him...was she afraid of him or just his sharpness? And then, seeing Beth all shy, gone awkward, avoiding him...it made him feel like a bastard. But why? There shouldn't be any shame on his part as long as he didn't push her. And Beth, she knew how things worked. What else did she expect? But shejust looked so damned...innocent.Innocent?
Daryl wasn't gonna avoid though, wasn't gonna waste a moment of connection thinking on it. Maybe there'd never been a moment where Beth was more beautiful to him than she was now, seeing past the healing bruises to the wisps of wild hair that escaped from her ponytail, falling around her face; small pink lips starting to swell from being kissed, not 'cause someone knocked her in the face; big blue eyes downcast in uncertainty.
Daryl just wanted to feel her, as much of her as he could pressed against him without going too far, wanted to let her know that everything she was doing was so good...just wanted her closer. He went in too bold, sliding his hand up her warm bare back under her shirt...knew it was too much the moment he did it, but it was too late, and he realized just how stupid he was when his fingers ran over the cuts on her smooth back.
It was maybe the most intimate thing Beth had ever experienced...not sexual...just intimate...together. Daryl unbuttoning his shirt struck her. She knew that was what was going to happen when she offered to bandage his arm, but somehow, being alone with him, happy with him, when he slid that shirt off his broad, powerful shoulders, saw she was watching, put himself on display, it was so much more. And he gave her permission, nodding, for what, she wasn't quite sure, but she was going to feel him. Just approaching him though, approaching Daryl like this, him watching her every move with wildfire in his eyes, it was intimidating.
He was a man...not Jimmy, not Zach, not a boy...so very much a man that he made her feel every inch the girl she was.
His skin was so warm, whether from the fire or his own body heat burning through the surface Beth wasn't sure, and the muscles in his arm were contracting under her fingertips making her feel all stupidly giddy. Refusing to look up at him, let him see her reaction, instead she kept her eyes down and bit her lip to cover. Beth didn't think about where she was touching or what her end goal was because if she did, she would turn into a complete mess. She just followed the strong path laid out before her, his tight muscles and tendons continuing to flicker under the tension when her fingers skimmed over them, going where his body lead. Beth never really had the chance to explore a man's body before, and this was Daryl who was still so new to her, still so closed off to the rest of the world, so it felt all the more exhilarating, maybe even a little dangerous and forbidden, knowing that the only reason this was happening was because Daryl chose to let her...he chose to be still to allow himself to be explored.
She couldn't help marvel at how solid and unyielding his body was, how tight and powerful his arms were under her touch, in contrast to hers, knowing she was soft and smooth and giving. And his veins, she could feel his blood flowing through them, life coursing so quick through his body...so very alive. Beth paid special attention to the beautiful spot where Daryl's shoulder and neck and chest met, the convergence of all that power, muscle, and strong bone. More than anything, Beth wanted to kiss him there but pushed away that desire, afraid she was still too hurt to be able to go where it might lead. That wouldn't be fair to Daryl.
"Don't got nothin' there to feel." Daryl's raspy voice startled her out of her admiration of his form just as her fingertips started traveling down the center of his chest.
Beth pulled away quick, glancing up at him, realizing though that he didn't say it to make her stop; he said it because he was judging himself. If Daryl was self-conscious, what should that make her?
"Me neither." Did she just say that? Did that come out? Beth couldn't even look at him, had to look away, after drawing his attention to what she didn't have.
It was the truth though. She was so tiny...so flat-chested. Beth always wished she had a curvier body like Maggie...could be prettier like her sister. What a disappointment that must be for Daryl. She didn't even have a body he could enjoy.
Daryl didn't give her the choice to avoid long, gently turning her face to him.
He was a liar even if he believed it was true.
Kissing her soft and slow, not touching her anywhere else, Beth was forced to give to him, pressing her palms against his chest to steady herself, to balance because of the distance between them. Suddenly brave or stupid or just not willing to fight against that distance, Beth found herself straddling Daryl's lap. Her soft inner thighs were so tender from days of riding behind him on his motorcycle, the constant vibration and tension even though she tried hard to loosen up, but the sudden contact, pressed against the solid mass of Daryl's legs instantly eased the soreness. Coming down to rest against him, Beth realized just how much she'd misjudged her closeness or the effect she had on him, not just sitting on Daryl's lap, but feeling...him...lodged between her thighs. And he was...it was...well, Beth just didn't really expect that, or maybe she did, or maybe she just wasn't thinking about it because she was being all naive, but it was starling anyway.
Lots of things...lots of feelings were running through her. The stone solid bulge under her was...intimidating to say the least...much more than she expected, but beyond that, it wasn't just butterflies tickling in her tummy. There was something much more intense stirring deeper in her. And any fear, that fear of the unknown was tempered by desire, the feel of a man...Daryl...who couldn't hide that he wanted her, pressed so hard, too close to the center of her need for her to be unaffected even if she had no idea what she really wanted. But Daryl, when she looked at him, so close she could feel his ragged breath, his eyes were closed and a pained expression was etched in his face. Maybe this wasn't so right after all. Daryl clearly wasn't feeling what she was.
Beth made to shift off his lap, feeling so awkward and confused, wishing she hadn't been so stupid and forward. That wasn't even what she had intended. She should've stuck to her guns about Daryl being the one who would initiate anything. So stupid...she was so stupid and naive. But Daryl caught her quick and firm like his life depended on it, his hands locking at her hips, rough fingers digging down deep into the fleshy part of her just above her butt.
"No," voice all grit and gravel...and maybe even a little bit desperate.
She couldn't move now if she wanted to, but Daryl...his voice, him refusing to let go, it all made the flutters inside so much more intense. All Beth could do was wait. Hips trapped in Daryl's hands, not knowing what she could or would do even if he let her move, she stilled herself as best she could, trying not to think too much.
When his eyes finally flipped open, locked on her, whatever boldness drove her now disappeared. That intensity in his eyes, it threatened to devour every piece of who she was. He'd looked at her with desire and longing before, actually quite a few times after torching the cabin in the woods, but then it seemed like those moments for him were confused and uncertain; Daryl was almost childlike, unable to even tell her what he was feeling or thinking. Then, everything changed, both of them learned from each other and from life and its finite and cruel nature. Now...now he didn't have to tell her anything...say a word. Beth could feel everything for herself and sense it too. He wasn't confused like a boy overwhelmed by the giddy anticipation of groping a girl. Daryl was confident in knowing exactly what he wanted but restrained enough not to throw her on the ground and have her right then and there.
Beth felt warm and safe knowing that Daryl loved her. And something about knowing that he wanted her so badly...that she was the object of his desire, that felt pretty amazing too. Daryl's confidence in his feelings, his knowledge and experiences in life...she wasn't on equal footing with him, but maybe that was for the best, at least in this. Despite that comfort...all of it...everything she was feeling was still a little intimidating.
But Daryl shouldn't want her...his love, his desire, his soft restrained touch shouldn't be wasted on her. His large, warm hand sliding up her back grazing over her healing wounds...there was no more of a visceral reminder of her damage than that...
It was a lie...all a lie.
Don't lie to me. Please don't lie to me. Don't kiss me like you don't know. Don't touch me like I'm fine and delicate because you don't want to break me. I'm already damaged. I'm already broken. Don't treat me like I'm worthy of your love. You deserve better. That's what she was screaming in her head.
What kind of life would that be for Daryl? Kissing her and touching her like the cuts and scars weren't there. Pretending he didn't see the marks on her body that first time he took her clothes off...that first time he saw her...all of her, when he was supposed to look at her like she was fresh and new and beautiful, untouched by the ugliness of their world. But she was carved up like a piece of meat.
I'm just used to it, things being ugly. That's what Daryl told her when she said he was built for their world, made to survive how things were now. And here she was, another reminder of just how ugly the world was, how ugly and cruel it had always been for him...how it would always be. If he stood bedside her forever, he would never escape that ugliness.
He would tell her she was beautiful anyway, Beth knew that, but it would all be a lie. Would she be able to see it in his eyes...that lie? No, Daryl was a better man than that...kinder. He would never let her see it, his disgust. He would never let her hear it in his voice, feel it in the way he touched her. But it would still be a lie. Daryl wasn't a liar, but she was turning him into one. She couldn't condemn Daryl to a life of lies, could she? He was better than that. He deserved better.
Fuck, Daryl cursed himself for forgetting.
Beth went rigid in his arms, jerked away, was off his lap before he even had time to react. God, did he hurt her? Of course he did... He'd fucked up.
"Beth...I'm sorry...I didn't mean..."
"I'm fine. Don't worry." Her words were clipped and defensive as everything fell apart.
He was a fuckingidiot to believe even for a second, no matter how good things seemed, that it wasn't gonna be complicated. Not with all the shit they'd been through. Beth closed herself off to him, arms wrapped around her drawn up legs. But he couldn't let it go. Not this time.
"Beth..." Moving towards her, slow, steady, still low to the ground on his knees...no quick movements.
"No. I'm fine."
Beth wasn't breaking or crying...not a reaction he expected. But this...those cuts...what they meant...maybe she didn't have anymore tears. She saw, recognized he wasn't gonna let it go, so she tried to avoid.
"Sit down so I can look at your arm. We need to get your wound cleaned up."
That wasn't gonna happen. He was the one who'd been neglecting Beth, not taking care of her like he was supposed to. It just came back to him now.Bob told him before they left that Beth was healing up good, better than he expected, but Daryl was gonna have to especially watch after the fresher lacerations...the open wounds 'cause having been sick, she was more prone to infection. He would have to re-bandage her, rub the salve in them Bob found for her. That would help her heal...help minimize the scarring a little. But he'd forgotten. It wouldn't happen again.
"You need to let me see, Beth." He tried it all gentle and calm at first, but in the end, this wasn't something he was gonna compromise on no matter how much she fought him on it.
"NO." Dead serious.
Daryl knew he couldn't ask again, catching Beth's upper arm before she even sensed he was coming after her.
"Let me go." Once he had a grasp of her, she had to know it was game over.
Even though she wasn't gonna win, Beth still decided to put up a fight, testing him, trying at first to just slip free.
"You're gonna let me take care of you." Tightening his grip, he hoped that would be enough to stop her.
"No." She jerked in earnest this time. "Stop!"
But fighting against him just made Daryl more firm, more resolved, turning her away, forcing her back to him, pulling at her sweater.
"Daryl, no. Stop!" She was fierce, angry, strong, if not strong physically, strong in will. "Daryl...Dammit!"
"Beth, stop fighting, you ain't got no choice." Voice all raspy, pissed that Beth was actually making him overpower her. It was the last thing he wanted to do.
He could have her down in a second flat, no question there, but if he was gonna have to force her, he couldn't bring himself to brutalize her too. She was jerking and lunging away, trying to break free even though she knew it was useless. Beth was a fighter. He'd known that all along, but why was she fighting so hard. Daryl had already seen. He saw all her bruises and breaks when Bob stripped off her dress the night he'd brought her back...saw the tracks of the blade drawn across her skin.
...seven...eight...nine...Nine precisely inflicted lacerations. I don't think they need to be stitched, but...they'll probably scar.
Bob...Bob had been so clinical, ticking off the bloody slices on her back while Daryl was sitting there on the bed holding Beth, breaking to pieces. She'd been out cold, but she had to know that he'd already seen. They were her wounds, but he felt the pain...her scars, but he bore their burden too.
Beth turned into him, her last ditch effort to break free, maybe not losing the will to fight but not having the strength. Daryl thought for a second when she swung around to him that she was gonna slap him full in the face. He would've accepted that, maybe even deserved it, but that...that wasn't it.
"Daryl...please..." She wasn't angry or fierce anymore. "Please stop...don't..." Beth pleaded.
She went totally still because she was helpless to stop him. Her tears came then rolling down her checks that just a few minutes ago were flushed and blushed and confused and beautiful.
"Please..." voice wavering in desperation.
Beth had been trying so hard to be brave and strong, but she was broken...saw herself as damaged, and that made her think he didn't want her...couldn't ever want her. Daryl knew because that was him too. They were getting nowhere like this; her thrashing around and fighting him wasn't gonna do her any good. And Beth crying, begging him to stop was breaking him so many ways for so many reasons...she was giving up because he was forcing her, could overpower her and there was nothing she could do to stop him. He couldn't...
Daryl pushed himself up off his knees, dragging Beth to her feet with him. When he finally let her arm go, she took a stumble backwards away from him, but he didn't expect any different. Daryl had to be quick about it, aggressive in reaching behind his head and pulling his wife-beater off in one fluid motion. Daryl had to make himself be those things...quick so he wouldn't have the chance to back out...aggressive so Beth couldn't see what he was hiding-just how fucking terrified he was. Beth was startled, looked confused, shocked at his aggressively forward action, but not afraid. Daryl was grateful she wasn't afraid 'cause she would have every right to be. He stood there, still, letting Beth appraise him, look him up and down in the faint light, gauge his worth. Daryl stood there for Beth, but most of all, he stood there to gather himself. If Beth saw just how broken he was, what he said next, what he needed to say for her, wouldn't make any difference. And he had to mean it about himself too if she was ever going to believe him.
Turning around, standing straight and tall...frozen in the firelight, shoulders thrown back tight, Daryl bared his weakness...his shame...his helplessness. Hearing Beth suck in a quick breath, he clenched his shirt tight in his fist, knowing what she was seeing.
"You ain't nothin'. You ain't never gonna be no one. You hear me boy?"
Daryl was on his knees, brought his fingers up to his bloody lip where his old man's fist made contact. He packed a punch. Daryl did too, but he knew if he hit back, he was as good as dead. He heard his old man's belt unbuckle, being pulled through his belt loops. This time he used the buckle...the business end. He felt the prong of the buckle dig in deep and tear through the flesh of his back on the first lash. Daryl's hands went to the floor to brace himself, trying to grab at it, clench something...anything, but it was cold and unyielding...solid...what he needed to become to survive. He wouldn't cry out. He wouldn't scream. He wouldn't beg. Daryl wouldn't give his old man that satisfaction. He wouldn't give him...anyone nothin' they could ever use against him. After the third lash, Daryl stopped feeling and started becoming.
It was something he would never forget...a memory made even more vivid...painful...by what happened to Beth, remembering it so acutely the night he first saw Beth's bloody back. But tonight he went there willingly...if it would help heal her, even in the smallest way, he would happily relive it, feel the prong of that belt buckle ripping his back to shreds...suffer those lashes over and over again if it would save Beth, take her pain away.
"We ain't our scars, Beth. We ain't our scars." He had to scrunch his eyes shut tight even though he couldn't see her looking.
Daryl didn't know what he expected, but he flinched away when Beth's small hand touched the scarred ruin of his back. He had to fight, force himself to stand still for her, dead still, clenching the shirt even tighter in his grasp, so tight that his balled fist started shaking from the pressure. He swore, promised himself laying on that floor while his old man was tearing his back bloody that he would become strong, never give anyone a way to hurt him, exploit his weaknesses...he would never be afraid again. But now, as Beth's delicate fingers gently traced the scars that marred his back, the memory of their pain seemed to fade just a little. Daryl already knew he became someone different with her...for her...if just for her, softened his heart to possibilities he never considered, never thought he wanted...love. But now, every single barrier was broken. He knew after this, Beth didn't just own his heart, she possessed his soul.
Beth's hands came to rest on his hips just above where his pants clung low around his waist, her soft lips replacing her fingers, kissing so gently as if she saw the age old scars as open wounds. Letting his shirt fall to the ground, Daryl caught her hands, bringing them around his bare stomach, needing to feel her embrace. It was the closest he could come to asking for her comfort. Beth hugged him tight, her warm cheek pressed against his naked skin. He could feel her tears...tears for him, tears for her, tears for them and all they'd been through together. And he could feel his own slipping down his cheek.
"We ain't our scars, Beth. We ain't our scars."
"You're not your scars, Daryl Dixon."Beth whispered against his bare back.
Daryl's eyes opened, seeing the world just a little bit different.
I'm not my scars...
~End Note: Well, we're getting there, Daryl working out Beth's trauma's one by one. This is probably the biggest one for Beth, but not the biggest one Daryl thinks is there. Still, little by little, they're helping bring each other back to life, and they'll get there together. I also wanted to point out that Beth's not being all shallow, just attached to her looks, thinking Daryl wouldn't want her because she's not pretty enough. It's just that those cuts, those scars are just such a physical reminder of everything she went through, that despite the fact that she's so strong, they are what she is fixated on. It is like her PTSD trigger. I just want to make sure that what Beth is going through is reading right and that she isn't coming off as some stupid shallow little girl.~