Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 41: Ignited
~Author's Note: Hey guys...yeah, I know this one is beyond late, and no excuses, just an apology! It is a soft chapter...a direct continuation of last chapter, and I love it. I just want to say that even though this chapter is so late, I'm not abandoning this story. It still has my heart. Just be aware though that the holidays are coming, and for both this story and "I Will Follow..." that could mean some possible delays in chapters as life gets a little hectic this time of year. Anyway, thank you guys so much for being on this journey with me, and I hope you enjoy!~
"So, I told you my campfire story...Merle and the marshmallows...your turn." He confiscated the flashlight from her, making fantastical dancing shapes on the wall of their blanket fort in front of them, glancing over, waiting for her to start talking.
"There's no campfire," Beth protested playfully.
"It's a tent...a camp...we're camping if I say so." It was a Daryl answer made light by his tone.
Beth thought about it, not the story she was going to tell him, not yet a least, but the fact that he really knew nothing about who she was. The only things he really knew were from being part of the same family, at the prison...being together and talking then-it wasn't like they were strangers, anything Maggie and Daddy might have told him, and what he learned from leaving with her after the prison. That was little enough...the only things she had ever really shared with him were on that porch after the moonshine and the things she told him...about what happened to her. Daryl though...the enigma he was...he had told her so much...laid himself out on a silver platter for her. She could give him something. She wanted to give him everything. She would give him a story, something good, and give the memory back to herself too.
"I've always been afraid of storms...but not this afraid."
Starting out, it didn't seem like the sort of story Daryl was looking for, the frown on his face plain enough, but she just drew him in with her eyes, asking for a chance to tell it.
"When I was little...well, you know...knew Daddy. A lot of our stories came from the Bible. My favorite was always Noah's Ark...you know that one, right?"
"Hmmp...yeah." He looked at her like it was an absurd question. Maybe it was. "All the animals, two by two, going on a little Mediterranean cruise."
Well, that was the gist of it.
"Yeah...and you know, how can you not love it...I mean, how could I not love it as a kid, all the animals in the world coming together in harmony? Well, anyway, there was this really bad storm. I was little...I don't know how old. Daddy made us all go in the basement, Mama, Shawn, Maggie, and me. And he sat down and started telling us the story of Noah's Ark. Shawn was pissed to be down there, didn't want to listen, and when I got excited to hear, Shawn asked me 'Bethy, what do you think happened to all the other animals...all the other people?The storm killed them. God destroyed the world'."
"Ass..." Daryl's eyes were narrowed listening...realizing what he said. "Sorry..."
Daryl just didn't sound all that sincere.
"No, that's what he was being. Daddy was fuming, I was crying, Mama and Maggie were hugging me. I mean, maybe I was too little and I just always overlooked that part of the story...never understood that everything else that wasn't on the ark died...but after that, I've always been so afraid."
"We're gonna be fine..." Daryl reached over, squeezing her thigh, Beth taking the opportunity to claim his hand, pulling it into her lap.
"I know, but back then I didn't. I would always go to Maggie when storms came...or she would come to me. The first storm after Shawn told me that, I was a mess, but I remember Maggie...she was always so smart and strong. She brought me one of her old toys...her Glo Worm..."
"What in the hell's a glow-worm?" He interrupted her story and her train of thought.
"A Glo Worm? You never had...saw a Glo Worm?" Of course he hadn't...age difference, different lives...she didn't imagine Daryl had many toys when he was little...probably lots of weapons, but no toys.
He just frowned a little, shaking his head no, having no idea.
"He was a worm..."
"Yeah, I think I got that..." he teased, Beth rolling her eyes a little and shrugging.
"He was a worm in a onesie..."
"What's a onesie?"
This story was going nowhere, but Daryl, there was something childlike and happy in his eyes.
"Like what a baby wears...this one like when they're really little, like the ones you found for Judith that made her look like she had no legs or feet."
Nodding, he understood.
"He had this little sleeping cap too, and when you squeezed him, he lit up for a few seconds and glowed. Maggie told me that if I squeezed my Glo Worm really tight when the thunder and lightening started, his light would make it go away. He always worked." Beth knew now that he always worked because she squeezed hard enough that he just stayed lit longer than each crack of lightening and rumble of thunder, but...but he never failed her.
It was such a little noise...nothing in the scope of the storm, but they went still and silent, listening to the clanking and clattering of the perimeter alarm on the porch, the rest of her story forgotten. They were both back there...that night...she could see it in his eyes...the sudden desperation. Beth sucked in a sharp breath despite herself, remembering...seeing Daryl pressed against the door...holding them back...all back. Daryl against all the walkers...boots sliding against the slick wood floor. She threw him his bow, but what was he going to do...? Daryl not being able to hold on anymore...telling her to run...giving against the door, that was her last vision of him before everything...
Closing her eyes so tight, trying to make it go away...she could feel his hand on her cheek. Beth looked at him for comfort...he was still there, but not for long. Crossbow in hand, Daryl on his knees making to leave, cupping her face to reassure her...
"Walkers ain't got no reason to go tearing into the house. They have no idea we're up here. Just wandering around. They're gonna pass on their own. " He was saying all the right things, but his voice was strained. He was tense and alert. And if he was going down there, he was worried.
It was serious. She wasn't stupid, and she knew there was nothing he could do. Grabbing him before he even got it in his mind to move again, Beth knew she wasn't strong enough to stop him from going if he wanted to, but there was no reason.
"They don't know we're here..." Repeating his words to try to stay him...it was much more comforting than the truth, There is nothing you can do.
He let her be the voice of reason even though she could see he was clearly battling the instinct to go fight and kill or just sit in front of that door, but she won, and he settled back down. More alert, crossbow resting in his lap, he was staying, but he was ready.
It got worse, the ringing of the metal...the tin cans clacking together, banging against the porch, the perimeter getting ripped and tangled. Her nerves were fraying with every new note struck. Daryl saw.
"And they came, two by two, male and female alike, to Noah. All the beasts of the land and birds of the air, the lion and the lamb, the hawk and the mouse, the horse and the wolf..."
His hoarse whisper was rough at first...but it didn't matter...his words, she knew them...
"...all creatures great and small, mighty and meek, beautiful and useful, prideful and humble, together in peace because it was seen fit by God that they should live and be fruitful when delivered upon the Earth cleansed of sin and evil..."
She had heard them her entire life...
"...fresh and new as the Garden of Eden. A chance to begin again. A promise to be kept."
It wasn't how it was told in the Bible...it was how Daddy always told it.
Daryl was peering at her through bangs falling in his eyes, his words stopped. She didn't want him to stop, but she couldn't say anything because the memory...his words...Daddy's words choked her up.
"I'm sorry...I didn't mean to..."
"No...you..." She was even worse at getting her words out than he was.
"It ain't my story to tell."
"How do you...know it?"
He hesitated, trying to read her.
"Just this one night...back at the prison...Judith was still really little. She was crying, wouldn't go to sleep for nothin' for Rick. She'd been fussy the whole day through. You were sleeping after having her all day..."
Beth remembered. Judith rarely cried, but she had be colicky, still a newborn. And Beth, she had been exhausted, thrust into motherhood...totally unprepared. She just crashed that night when Rick came for his baby.
"Rick still wasn't handling her too well, but Hershel...your dad came out, took her from him so you could rest, sent Rick to bed, sat on the stairs leading up to the perch were I slept, telling Judith that story. I shouldn't have listened, but I did. Sometimes I hear things, and they stick with me." He said it like he was apologizing, like he did something wrong, but it was a gift.
"Do you remember it...all of it?"
"Mmm-hmmm..." Daryl was chewing at his lower lip again.
He remembered it, and hearing it gave her hope. Pieces of Daddy were still alive. Maybe one day Daryl would tell someone, passing on his memory of that story and Daddy...help them know who Daddy was even though they never met him.
"You okay? Beth...?"
"Yeah..." Lost in a moment, she still missed Daddy, but somehow the sting of it wasn't so bad knowing he was still with them, not just with her and Maggie, but with other people who loved him...and Daryl did...
I...I loved him too. He had said it...meant it.
Silence...the rattling on the porch stopped somewhere along the way, but this was the silence of just being.
"You know..." Daryl sighed between his words, "...you remember how you said you always thought, for your dad, that he would get to live and have all those good things, get to be a granddad and all...you know he got that, right? Maybe not all of it, and maybe not in the way you thought...but he did."
It made her a little sore thinking about it...hearing it and not knowing what he meant...but he needed to talk it out. Losing Daddy hurt him too.
"Judith might not have been his grandbaby, but he treated Judith like she was his own. And you were her mama. He saw that, talked about being proud of you."
Was that true? Daddy never said anything to her, but then their lives were so busy.
"And he knew Maggie had Glenn...I just wish he would've known you had...someone, someone to look after you..."
"He knows..." Beth reassured, squeezing his hand.
"And I don't know what he would've said about that person being me. I told Rick I probably would've gotten an ass full of buckshot if I got within a mile of you, but..."
Laughing a little, she couldn't help it. It probably was true...not so much because of Daryl but because of the time Daddy had with Maggie and boys and dating and sneaking out of the house. She remembered how Daddy would never even let her and Jimmy out of his sight, and he'd known Jimmy for most of that boy's life.
"I could've done something, but I didn't even try..." Back to that again. Daryl's guilt...but it was starting to sound...be a little less.
"No. Nobody could've done anything. And Daddy could never expect...ask for more of you than you've done...are doing for me."
Daryl reached out, flipping the blanket wall hanging beside him...avoiding her words or what he was feeling...which one she didn't know.
"I'd build a fortress around you if I could."
Daryl was never going to stop being Daryl. It was something that she could never change, and she didn't want to. She must have drifted away in their blanket fort because when she opened her eyes again, her neck was stiff and back sore from sleeping sitting up against the bed. The flashlight still illuminated the space, the light protecting her from the rumble of thunder that seemed to be passing far off into the distance...a forgotten memory...but Daryl and his bow were gone.
Beth found him just where she expected, sitting sentry on those stairs, watching the front door. She was quiet...thought she was quiet enough that he wouldn't hear, but Daryl's shoulders stiffened, and he straightened before her bare feet even touched the first step below the top landing. Beth half expected him to bark at her and send her back to the bedroom, but he didn't. Maybe he was just letting her think that he didn't notice, hoping that she would turn around and go back on her own once she saw he was okay...or maybe it was that he had more on his mind. But if he was going to sit in front of that door guarding itfor the rest of the night, she was going to watch over him, taking a seat on the top step. Hearing Daryl sigh, seeing the breath expel from him, Beth considered he might be angry, but then his body relaxed...well, as much as it could relax and still be poised to kill. He knew she was there and accepted it.
The herd that came with the storm just passed by, not even realizing they were there, following whatever drew them on their relentless search for food, well, most of them. There were a few stragglers that were still disoriented or too stupid...was stupid even the right word?...to play follow the leader with the herd that were left milling around the house and in the graveyard. Daryl didn't say it, but he needed it. Beth knew. Being cooped up in the house with her was one thing, bad enough for Daryl, but actually feeling like he was trapped by the herd and couldn't leave if he wanted too, he needed this...a reason to go out there and take them out. They had a viable one...water, not just for washing but for drinking. The last of their soda had run out; they probably should have rationed that luxury better, but when you didn't know what tomorrow was going to bring, saving things like that when you could enjoy them now really didn't seem all that worth it.
Their only option for water was the well pump by the caretaker's shed, and that meant Daryl had his reason to go out there. Her too. Truth be told, Beth needed to get out and do something constructive.
"I'm gonna get them all going, lead 'em all to that far edge of the graveyard." Daryl kept his voice low, pointing out the partially cracked door from where he was, close behind her, so she could see. "When I get them halfway through the cemetery, you check your surroundings; if you don't see anything, you go for the water. I'm gonna put 'em down once I get to the other side...or take them out when I get halfway across, whatever works."
"I'll go with you. We can get it done faster." Beth wasn't questioning Daryl's ability with these ten or so walkers all spread out, but she wasn't weak. She could fight too...he taught her.
Turning around and looking up into the seriousness that was Daryl's face, he didn't even have to say no.
"I'm handling the walkers; you're getting the water." End of story.
Seeing Daryl go into hunter mode, watching him stalking down the stairs off the porch low and feral, whistling to them to get their attention, Beth went out to watch. She knew there was no way he was going to be able to wait until he got them all moved to the far edge of the cemetery or even to the midpoint, instead taking down the first walker that got anywhere near him...he just had to much pent up energy. She got that, understanding who Daryl was, not really a planner, but a doer. He navigated the world by instinct, dispensing violence and brutality when necessary to keep alive, and those skills...well, sometimes patience and planning didn't always go hand in hand with taking out a threat. With Daryl, he knew exactly what he was doing and what he needed, and what he needed wasn't all about just eliminating the threat, it was about his need to protect and fight... destroy the walkers that terrorized her during the storm when there was absolutely nothing he could do about them then...but now...
Beth had never been able to handle blood well, death, pain...any of that growing up, not even able to go near the butcher shed when something was being slaughtered or cleaned. So much for being a farm girl, but Daddy always used to pull her close, kiss her on the top of the head, and say Bethy, God gave you a gentle soul, and the world needs gentle souls like you. Was she even a gentle soul anymore? She had killed people...she had to, and she would do it again. They deserved to die. Watching Daryl work...mowing through the walkers...it was like his art, they way he moved, the way he anticipated them, a blade to the skull dropping one, a crunching kick to the chest putting another to the ground, a brutal booted heel to end it, Beth watching the brains explode from the crushed ruin of a head, and she didn't even flinch. She just marveled at the man that was made for this, Daryl now thrusting a slender bolt through an eye socket by hand while simultaneously freeing his knife from another. The world changed her.
I wish I could just change.
Not enough. Not like you. It's like you were made for how things are now.
She had changed, and it was enough. Every day she fought, she realized that even if she wasn't made for their world, she deserved to live. And watching Daryl made her feel so alive.
There were two walkers...two of them on her path to the well pump that seemed to have absolutely no interest in following Daryl, so Beth decided to handle them on her own. It had nothing to do with feeling like a burden or that she needed to do her share to pay Daryl for taking care of her, it was that she could, she knew how, and now that she was feeling better, there was no reason she wouldn't. She and Daryl, they were together, that meant they fought together. Beth didn't just get to stand there and watch Daryl fight despite how enticing that may be; she had a job to do. Drawing her knife and heading to the well with her buckets, one of the walkers saw her, started lunging towards her, but was caught up in a gnarled tree root that had been washed from the dirt by the heavy rains. The other, the one that wasn't caught that she took down first, crumpled to the ground before it even turned on her. Walker two down, and there wasn't even a spot of blood on her clothes. Okay, so the third one...the third one she didn't expect.
"Beth!" Daryl saw it before she did, calling out his warning.
Coming at her from behind, it was one of his that had been by the house, turned on her, reaching its hands dripping rotted flesh, but she had it...until the tip of one of Daryl's bolts sprouted out of its forehead. The corpse falling forward, Beth had to scramble away from it so it didn't take her down too, but colliding with the ground, it slopped mud all over her...everywhere. Daryl was there in an instant, had to have run because he was steadying her with a brutally tight grip on her arm and chastising her at the same time when she could have handled the situation.
"Hey, I told you not to go if there were walkers!" Pointing angrily at the porch with his crossbow where he expected her to stay.
Trying to jerk away from him..."I had it!"
"I don't care...I told you..."
Beth was pissed, so mad at him for underestimating her...treating her like a child, but it was something more than that. Frustration. That frustration ignited. Digging her fingers into sweat damp hair at the back of Daryl's head and dragging him down to her, Daryl released her arm, dropped his bow, taking a stance to brace himself...brace them from the sudden impact, his arms trapping her...crushing her as she dove into his mouth. Daryl...well, he couldn't hide what his body was aching for...going form zero to sixty in like two seconds...hardening against her tummy. She wasn't scared or intimidated, everything else stopped mattering; Beth just needed something...to feel him...this. She wasn't dying, she wasn't sick, she was barely broken...alive...feeling so alive.
He smelled like sweat, his lips tasted salty...and the flavor of smoke from a cigarette she hadn't seen him have...it was all so intoxicating...it was so Daryl. Clenching his hair in her fist, trying to get closer when she couldn't...was she hurting him? Did he even care if she was? No, because he was all over her...fingers in her hair too, just gentler than she was being, hand on her back sliding down cupping her butt, jerking her to her tiptoes...surprising her even in her state of desperate need...everything pressed so close...so close to almost being just right. Both needing to breathe, he was the one who pulled back until his mouth found her again, sucking hungrily at her neck, tugging her hair to the side to make her give. It was agony. Beth was hot, body restless and so needy, wishing Daryl would just stop and touch her...give her a taste of what she wanted so badly.
She hadn't noticed she was moving her hips, grinding against him, something so instinctual that her body just took over, until it crossed her mind what she was doing to Daryl, knowing the state that she would be leaving him in and that he wouldn't let her help him. His hot breathy gasp at her sensitive skin, bared teeth pressed to her neck as he buried his face in her hairand hand digging hard into her butt cheek set the flames burning through her...but it was cruel to him...feeling what she was causing, Daryl's...his...jerking against her. Trying to push away from Daryl and what she wanted, he held onto her a few seconds, didn't want to let her go...but released her reluctantly. Standing there looking dumbfounded by the whole event, his hand subconsciously going to the straining bulge in his jeans trying to adjust, Daryl was left wanting...she was too...not ready for everything but...
Beth, feeling out of her depth didn't know...maybe she should give him a private moment...
"Sorry..." What else was there to say?
But she wasn't sorry...not really, biting her lower lip to hide a small, impish smile of satisfaction that suddenly graced the corners of her mouth.
Daryl was flushed, rubbing his palm across his face, the awkwardness the result of her unfinished burst of passion. But when he caught her with his eyes...there was an honesty too them...maybe a realization...a truth in how he was seeing her. He wasn't looking at her like he was her guardian angel, or like she was broken, or that touching her would in some way taint her, ruin her, or break her. Daryl was looking at her...seeing her as a woman, not a girl...a woman he wanted...needed...a woman who wanted and neededhim.
Neither of them was saying anything or moving to do anything either...at an odd stalemate.
Who would've thought that a walker could be their saving grace, stumbling around the corner of the shed.
"I got it." Daryl growled, claiming it. He sounded angry...but no, it was just the same frustration she'd been feeling.
He didn't put it down quick at all, keeping it held back by the chest, sliding his knife up under its chin, impaling it on his blade nice and slow before he threw it down, went to his knees, face stabbing it over and over and over again. He was almost as brutally intent with it as he was at the country club, bludgeoning the walker with a nine iron, but the energy he was getting out now was about something totally different than what it was back then...although she was still the source of his frustration.
Beth turned away...not because of the carnage...to calm herself and go for the water. After filling the buckets, washing the few spots of blackened walker blood from between her fingers and mud off from where she could-at least it wasn't blood staining everywhere-finally breathing normal again, she smiled to herself.
"We should go..." Beth said, turning back to him, finding Daryl standing, done with his purge.
"Come on, I'll get 'em. You head on back." Daryl went for the buckets.
That wasn't what she meant, standing squarely in his path, making him stop and look at her.
"We should go...leave here."
Daryl didn't say anything; he just waited. She had been the one so insistent on staying, Daryl torn to shreds just by seeing the funeral parlor that the road and destiny lead them back to, so he wasn't going to argue, but he was looking for an explanation.
"We can't secure it. You said it. We can't stay forever." Beth looked away thinking about her reasoning for wanting to leave, that it might be stupid and childish, but they got a do-over here...a chance to begin again...
Beth, when we make it to tomorrow, we get to start our life together. We get to begin again.
Daryl said that...he said that to her on a night she didn't think they were going to survive. But he had been right all along.
Begin again. A second chance at their first chance in a world that hardly gave anyone a chance at all.
And they were happy...she was happy...Daryl was actually happy. She wanted to preserve that...remember that...remember this place that way. Maybe even one day they would be able to remember it as if nothing happened in between...no kidnapping, no torture...no trauma for either of them. Now that was stupid...those scars would always be there...digging the toe of her boot into the sandy mud, trying to cover the naivety of her thought.
"...It's just, I want us to get to decide when we leave. I don't want to be chased or forced. I don't want to have to run. I don't want us to have to go. I want us to choose."
Daryl understood that need to control what little they could in their lives, giving her a half smile and nod.