Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 39: The Doe
~Author's Note: Okay...I know...I'm so bad. I don't even want to talk about how late this chapter is! I put off this update because of "I Will Follow..." (I know that's not really any comfort for those of you who don't read that one, but for those who do, I think you understand). Anyway, the last chapter of "Wasn't Born..." is really hard to follow up. This one has its merits, but it's still kind of "meh" in comparison. It does put Beth and Daryl solidly on the path to healing, so it serves a solid purpose. I haven't gotten to say this often in this story, but I think that chapter 40 is going to be kind of sweet and fluffy almost in its entirety, so I'm excited! I'm looking forward to it. Thanks guys as always for reading and for being so awesomely patient with me!~
They both froze in the same instant, hunter and prey. It didn't even cross his mind to shoot her. There was no way he was gonna kill, gut, and clean something as big as a deer this close to where they were bedding down at night and drag it back to Beth so anything could follow the trail. The sky was going dark so early now, quicker than he expected, and if he didn't want to go back to Beth empty handed, he needed to get a move on. He came out to hunt; that's want he told Beth, that's even what he told himself. They still hand plenty of peanut butter, various dry goods, even some diet soda, but he wanted to get some fresh meat for her. The pickled pigs feet were fine for him, he even liked 'em which was saying something now in their world, but Beth wouldn't get near the things. It wasn't just that though. He was getting restless. Not restless because they were staying in one place; that's what they needed so desperately...but restless 'cause he was getting comfortable, starting to feel secure when he knew better. Daryl's trip into the woods was two-fold, not just hunting, but looking, seeing, watching...going on the offensive. They'd been here, what, close to a week. He wasn't so good at keeping track of time anymore. Didn't need to, but every day that passed without a walker...without a human, it made him uneasy, what, with their track record and all. He was determined to see them before they realized he and Beth were there.
And last night...the truth...Daryl allowed his thoughts to steal his senses, gazing atthe gentle doe. There wasn't much prettier than a doe in the woods when you didn't have to kill her...
He wasn't tired...shouldn't be tired, but all the emotions finally breaking took a lot, left his eyes sore, body exhausted. He had to pull away from Beth...finally pull from the comfort of her arms...not because he wanted to but because he needed some space to breathe...get himself together. He still wasn't used to it, showing his emotions to someone...anyone...it had just been Beth. She didn't say nothin', just starring at him with her big doe eyes. Her eyes were tear tired too. That girl had seen more than a lifetime's worth of tears, but God did she look beautiful...beautiful and so much less broken than she was before.
They always said it was the darkest before the dawn, but somehow even though dawn was still hours away...a whole night away, light and hope found its way back into his world. Daryl could see it in her...she wanted to reach out and touch him, but she didn't know how...he was the one who'd pulled back. Lowering his head, looking away, just trying to keep his emotions in check...Beth wanted to touch him, wanted to be by him...and as much as it scared the shit outta him, something he could never understand, she wanted him. She wanted. It was overwhelming knowledge on all accounts. There were no other fears, traumas, past experiences...nothing that made her feel like she had to be near him or touch him or suffer through his touch...
Belief made things real.
Her hand on his cheek...covering it in his, leaning into her...that reality...that reality he wasn't just allowing himself to believe but believed now, it was so untarnished, one of those things their world set out to destroy, but he was gonna fight for it, protect it with everything he had.
"I'm sorry..." There was a tiny tremor in her voice.
"No..." Beth was apologizing for what...what didn't happen to her? What did happen to her? Apologizing 'cause he was making everything that happened to her about him? He couldn't accept that from her.
"I'm not like you...I get scared sometimes...a lot. I get afraid..."
Damn Beth, I get afraid. I lied when I said I ain't afraid of nothin'. I'm so afraid to lose you...that I can't protect you.
But he didn't say it, just peered through shaggy hair at her, listening.
"...but I'm not afraid of you. I'm not afraid of us...this."
He believed her. She believed it too, but how could she be so sure? Just because he believed her didn't mean that he understood. She was just a little young thing. All she'd ever experienced of the real world was pain, death, and horror. She should be afraid of men like him. That's what their world should've taught her. Men like him and Joe and Len...even though he knew that wasn't him. He fell to that...his darkest tendencies. Those darkest tendencies weren't nowhere so bad as theirs, but he was still with 'em. Maybe Daryl's darkness was what was gonna keep her alive now. She was claimed. Or maybe it was that he was claimed.
"I know you're not him...I could never think of you like that...and you...you thinking that rips me up...in here." Beth pressed her little balled up fist against her heart so fiercely. "You're not him, and you're not nobody; you're not nothing.You're mine. You are the only thing that kept me going...kept me alive."
Tell her you believe her. Tell her you know that now. All he could do was nod. She knew he wasn't good at saying things; she would accept that.
"I've never...I've never been in love before, but it hurts...a lot..." Shit, she wasn't tellin' him anything he didn't already know. "But it shouldn't...it doesn't have to anymore."
Say something...just say something to her.
Beth's little ragged breath...he started to get all worked up...sounded like the beginning of a cough. All this crying...all the stress, being outside in the cool, damp air, it couldn't be good for her. What if she was getting sick again...was she even better? But it wasn't that...just what came next...it was hard for her.
"I ran, like you told me, out to the road. I was going to wait there for you. I wasn't going to leave you...I would never leave you..." Swiping a tear away, Beth cleared her throat.
"What are you doin'?" Why was she torturing herself after everything?
"I would've fought for you...with you...but I don't remember what happened..."
"Beth..." She didn't have to, Daryl not sure if he should go it to comfort her.
She shook her head gently when he barely made to move. Her senses were getting almost as sharp as his.
"No...you need to know. No more secrets. It almost destroyed you...it's not just me anymore. It's us. This is us. It's always going to be us, and you were right. I can't hide from it forever. It's part of who we are." She was adamant in her decision.
"Yeah...but you don't gotta do it now..." He'd been fighting her ever since he got her back to tell him anything, share anything with him. Now she was offering everything, and he didn't know if he was ready to put her through it...make her relive it all again.
"No...I do. I just...I can't tell it all at once. I'll...we'll get there eventually I think, but..." Beth shivered...he saw it, homed in on it.
It might not have been because she was cold, but it sent him into action, pulling the warm throw off the end of the bed, draping it around her shoulders before going to his knees in front of her, watching her cuddle it close.
"Do you wanna..." Daryl opened his arms to her, sounded like an idiot but didn't care.
"No. I need to look at you...I need you to see me." Beth shook her head a little as he sat down facing her, so near to her.
"I'm here." He was trying to give her what she needed, touching her knee lightly just so she would know.
"I think...when I got to the road...I think I was hit by a car. It's the only thing that makes sense, because I can't remember. Hit by a car in the apocalypse...hmmph..." The irony in Beth's voice didn't do anything to hide what she was feeling, her brow furrowing like she was trying to remember or imagine what it would be like.
That had to be it. That had to be what happened. Somebody slammed into her with that fucking black car. When he got out there, it was too late, tires squalling, car tearing off into the night, ripping his life away. If Beth had been conscious, she would've fought...he might've had enough time to save her. Daryl closed his eyes, cringing as his imagination sewed horrific images into his mind...solid metal plowing into her, bones crunching, soft skin tearing, body giving to the brutal force. He was glad she didn't remember...a small mercy if there ever was one...that she didn't remember at least this little spec of what happened. It would've just been more pain piled high on a mountain of pain. Her lips twitched; she was contemplating what came next.
"There was this one moment, just this place in between here and there...I was conscious just for a second...too dazed, my world spinning and it hurt so much, but I was being carried. I thought it was you until I knew it wasn't and everything shattered around me. That was my first memory after..."
He should've fucking been there for her. She trusted him...believed in him enough that her first thought waking up was about him, but he wasn't there. This wasn't about him though...if he went and lost it again, she was like to get emotional, so Daryl just forced himself to listen.
"When I actually woke up, it was the confusion and nausea that overwhelmed me...from hitting my head, a concussion I think...not the pain yet, and the first thing I remembered..." Beth's little laugh interrupting the horror of her story caught him off guard, not understanding until he heard why. "Moonshine..." cringing just saying it. "I was so disoriented that I thought it was the moonshine, that it was the morning after..."
"Told you that was a real first drink...no damned peach schnapps. Told you to take it slow too." The tiny smile that appeared on her drawn, serious face made him feel better about giving her a moment of respite...but he knew, and she knew more than anyone ever would, that the worst was yet to come.
"But then I remembered there was so much more to us. I didn't remember what happened to me, but I knew what happened between the moonshine and when my life stopped. Then I realized I was caught...handcuffed. You know, that's when instinct took over. I couldn't think about anything except breaking free. I mean, I couldn't even think about what happened next...what happened after I slipped the cuffs. Would I get out the door? What would happen on the other side? Nothing else mattered."
Daryl knew. He knew all too well...what that instinct to survive felt like.
"There wasn't even really fear at first; it was just that need. But then, when I realized there was no way I was going to be able to get out of the handcuffs, that's when the fear set in. I was so afraid...I was afraid, frantic, still fighting even though I knew it would do me no good. That state...that's where I stayed for a long time...even after that first night...even when I thought I was going to die. It wasn't about instinct to stay alive anymore or even fear of dying. I never thought I would say this, but that fear then...it faded so quickly compared to the other fear. It was the fear of what was going to happen to me before I died...the things I was helpless to stop...that's the fear that consumed me."
It was hurting her. He just wanted to take her pain away...all the fear it left behind. He'd be there too, afraid of what he couldn't do nothin' about...on his knees at Terminus waiting to die. Except he'd been afraid to die...and he told Beth about it...confessed it to her.
"They were gonna kill us. Me, Rick, Glenn, Bob. They had us and some other people tied up, on our knees in front of this long trough. They were bashing people in the back of the head with a baseball bat. It didn't kill 'em, just stunned 'em, took all that fight out of 'em so they could slit their throats. All I could do was watchas the blood flowed towards the drain in the trough, slowly leaching closer to me, waiting for it to be my turn. I knew I was dead...nothin' I could do. The hardest part...I've never been afraid to die...when everything fell apart, I never had much reason to be afraid. Like everyone else, I realized I was just livin' on borrowed time. But the thing is, I wanna go out fighting...I wanna go out with meaning. I couldn't even fight for my life; I was just tied up like some stupid animal waiting to be slaughtered. Worst of all...before this...before you, I knew I was nobody...nothing, but you changed that. I wanted to live for you, and I knew you were alive. If I died...who would go after you...protect you?"
Beth hesitated...hesitated for a long while, long enough that Daryl was feeling uncomfortable in the silence, trying to think of something to say or if he should just tell her to stop.
"...and...waking up handcuffed to a bed...as a girl, that fear...there's just that one thing, that one fear...and that, that and thinking you were dead...nothing to live for...that would've been worse than death."
He couldn't say nothin', all choked up...back to the thing that had consumed him. And what Beth must be going through...hesitating saying it because of him and his fucking emotions...but needing to say it because that fear was what she'd lived with every day...that fear was still a part of her. Beth let him take her hand. Maybe she didn't let him, just didn't notice, eyes on him but very far away. Daryl focused on the fading red welt encircling her wrist, where she had fought, the metal rubbing raw and mercilessly biting into her skin.
"I knew that was what was going to happen to me. The things he said...the things he believed God wanted..."
"What did he say, Beth?" Daryl didn't know if he wanted to know, but he needed to. Beth seemed like she was coming to the point where she couldn't share anymore, but somehow he knew that she needed to tell this...needed to get this out. He was gonna push her for her own good.
She balked, started to pull away from him, not in distance but in presence. He still held her wrist so she couldn't escape if she tried.
"You gotta say it...just say it this once, then you never gotta say it again."
"Those people Daryl...those people...he told them things I didn't understand...maybe I couldn't understand because he drugged me...drugged me just enough to keep me calm and quiet, my senses dulled during his congregation's devotions...but that first time, he didn't. I cried for help, begged...there were so many of them, and I was hurt and scared...no one helped me. They believed him...believed in him..." It was weighing more heavily than she'd been letting on...or maybe she didn't realize how much until she actually starting talking.
And all those people just sitting in that church, not just seeing Beth like that but hearing her pleas...hearing her screams at night when he beat and tortured her...they did nothin'. It was worse than them doin' nothin' though...worse than just ignoring...they were part of it. He and Rick, they should've gone bloody vengeance on the whole fucking lot of 'em, burned that hell hole to the ground.
"He said God gave me to him, that I was his wife. When I denied him, he...he beat me..." She finally stopped avoiding the question.
Daryl's eyes narrowed, not at Beth but at her story...what she was saying. There wasn't an ounce of gentleness in him. If there'd been something in front of him besides Beth, he would've torn it to shreds with his teeth and bare hands.
"He thought he was a god. 'You will respect me as you respect your God. You will love me as you love your God. You will obey me as you obey your God. I am as God to you.' He thought he was God, Daryl."
It wasn't the worst of it. Knowing how closely Beth held her faith and religion, if the corruption of the ideals surrounding her beliefs were the first thing she chose to tell him...for her, what came after...he couldn't imagine the toll it took.
"That ain't God, Beth." Daryl was able to force a growl out...trying to center himself enough to tell her the truth...the truth she needed to hear. "I wasn't raised on God or nothin', but I know enough to know that ain't God...and those people, they're gonna be damned for what they let happen to you."
Beth was looking down at where he held her wrist, Daryl realizing just how tight he was gripping her, loosening, but she really didn't seem to notice.
"And you...you know more about faith than all those som'bitches put together thought they knew...faith and hope. You taught me to believe." He was fierce in that truth. Sad eyes again...Beth's sad eyes on him.
Dammit Beth, just come to me so I can hold you and try tomake it go away.
"I denied him as god. I denied him when he said I was his...but still...he thought...he thought I would be...willing. 'As the Lord Our God created Eve for the comfort and companionship of Adam, so too has he released you from the heavens to be my bride amidst our dark world. Will you cometh to me this night as a bride cometh to the bridegroom?' I denied him. I kept denying. He asked the same question over and over again. With him, it was like a script...like the only things he knew how to say...the only things he believed...and the last thing...how it always ended before...'Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as you do in the sight of the Lord Our God'..." Whatever words might have come next fell off Beth's lips forgotten.
She'd been through hell and back...he knew that...wasn't stupid, knew where her words...the bastard's words stopped was where the worst began...the beating, the torture, the mutilation. Those words would haunt him until the day he died...the images so much more vivid. He could only kill him once...he might've gone slow, been afraid, but it wasn't near enough. Daryl hoped there was a hell. Somehow he hadn't noticed...hadn't felt Beth move closer, waiting for him to notice her...offer her.
She was on him, curled up against him quicker than Daryl could get situated steadier on the floor and wrap his arms around her.
"He thought he owned me. I was just a body he wanted to fuck...just a body to fuck. I was nothing."
That word on Beth's lips...he'd never heard it...never wanted to hear it. Never wanted to hear it again...'cause that wasn't who she was...not the girl he knew. She was wrong though, that she was nothing to the prick. In the most fucked up way, she had been everything to him, and that saved her. She didn't know much about men, especially the dark nature power and the world they lived in brought out. If he'd just wanted to fuck her, he would've fucked her and there was nothing she could've done about it. But he'd been narcissistic enough that he believed she would eventually give in...something he could've read as willing...and he would've owned all of her. Those were just things Beth didn't need to know, whether they were good or bad. Daryl's jaw clenched, wishing he would've done a better job with the prick...hacked his dick off before he died. How could Beth ever believe in love...how could she allow herself to love...feel...after such perversion of it and what went with it...
"No one can own you, Beth, not like that." He wanted to own her...possess her, but not destroy her...not steal her soul...crush who she was, everything beautiful about her.
"But I belong to you..." She was clenching his shirt tight at his chest like she was never gonna let go, spilling out the words he wanted...needed to hear.
Quiet. Stillness. She wasn't crying.
He was still feeling lethal though...ready to kill anyone or anything that got near her, but he knew that's how it was always going to be. What she told him about...what she'd been through, it struck him to the core, but despite being him, Daryl thought maybe he was doing a pretty damned good job at being there for her even while tryin' to deal with his own issues about what happened...get his own shit together. He was trying to be the man she needed...the man she deserved.
It was nice...the lull between devastatingemotions and whatever came next.
"Hmmm?" Daryl wasn't quite sure what he heard.
"One night...I had been there for a while; he was so methodical, but something changed."
"Beth, you don't gotta. It's been enough...enough tonight." Truth was, he didn't know if he could handle anymore.
"Just this...I want you to know this because I don't know if...when I'm going to be able to tell you more."
He really had to focus on what she was saying to hear, voice so soft, head nestled at his shoulder. She didn't need his permission to speak, but she was waiting for it anyway.
"Go on." Not so sure what to expect.
"That night I think that he realized he couldn't break me...not in the way he thought he could. I think something inside...what little human was left in him, realized I was in love and not letting go. He asked me who ruined me. He wanted your name, but I wouldn't even give him that." Beth's voice told him she was smiling, but how could she? Her feelings for him...it just brought her more pain then, more punishment...he knew that. "I denied him your name, but I told him I loved you, that you didn't ruin me...you saved me, and I wanted to be with you."
It was a double edged sword. Beth loved him and made it her strength, her ultimate defiance. In that act, she told the monster torturing her that he saved her, the man who wanted her love and would never have it that it belonged to him, the man that wanted her that she would never yield to that she desired another. But that love...that defiance...that strength almost got her killed.
God Beth, you shouldn't want me...
Did she even know what in the hell she wanted from him?
"It was the only piece of myself I offered him. It was my choice, and it was worth it because I think it destroyed him a little. After that he...after he left...I didn't tell him your name, that was mine to hold on to, but I said it for me when he was gone. It tasted sweet and sad on my lips. It was painful, but I felt at peace. I won't lie...I prayed to die that night. I think it was the first time I prayed to die. You were dead...I thought you were dead. I didn't need to live. It was okay...I was ready, but even then, your memory and everything that happened...everything we were, everything you taught me, helped me remember...helped me stay who I was."
You got to stay who you are, not who you were.
Maybe you got to keep on reminding me sometimes.
Who would've thought those roles would've been reversed...him the one reminding her?
"If you would've...if you weren't here..." Daryl couldn't say it, If you would've died, but he needed her to know anyway. "I wouldn't have made it. I would've stopped fighting to survive."
It was a hard truth to contemplate, not the idea of dying, but the idea of losing Beth...barely able to rasp it out. Daryl knew even if Beth died, he probably didn't have it in him to eat a bullet...instinct too strong, but the world offered plenty of ways out if he just stopped fighting so damned hard to live. Beth pulled back far enough to look up at him, the first time she'd looked at him since she crawled into his lap.
"Our fates are entwined, Daryl, in this world and the after." There was a dreamy quality to her words...her voice, and her face...all serene.
Daryl wished he could believe that...he knew in this world, the only way this world got to keep him was with her or not at all. What came after...it didn't really matter what he believed...he believed for Beth that there was something beautiful waiting on the other side...but for him? He hadn't lived a good enough life to make it there with her.
This was no time to have a fucking crisis of faith, but he couldn't stop what he said.
"I don't think there's gonna be an after for me...I never believed hard enough...never had enough faith."
"God knows you, Daryl Dixon. I believe in you. I have faith in you, and I think he does too."
Beth was faith uncorrupted, untarnished, unbroken...it just scared him that her faith was all wrapped up in him. She had to be the last purely good and beautiful thing left in the world.
The rumble of thunder in the distance, it wasn't nothing serious yet, but it was enough to break him away from his thoughts...back to reality, watching the doe bound off between the trees. Daryl hadn't lost track of time like he thought; the day wasn't fading that quick. A storm was moving in. He could feel it in the air. Should've realized instead of getting all caught up in himself. Turning his face up to the first sporadic raindrops that were making it through the tree cover...they were cold against his skin, promising that the warmth of the last few days...the sun was as good as gone. That was okay though, his light and warmth didn't come from the sun anymore.