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Wasn't Born an Angel

Chapter 45: Liability


"You gotta name?" Daryl wasn't looking to make new friends, but knowing a name didn't hurt no one.

"Thoreau. You?"

He wasn't sure if that was a first name or a last name...Thorough? Throw? Pfft... Southern name. Maybe a French name...? Didn't really matter.

Daryl had a redneck name through and through...pretty much synonymous with the old Stars and Bars, but at least you could tell which was his first and which was his last.

"Daryl." Thinking on his own name made it come outta his mouth with even more of drawl than usual, a bit of growl thrown in.

"So, where are you headed, Daryl?"

Nope. Didn't know what the motive behind that question was. Teaming up 'cause they were survivors. To follow him and Beth to try and take what they had. Just plain curiosity. Didn't care...but it made him wary. He wasn't telling.

"Home." That's all Daryl was giving.

"Us too...well, what used to be home for me anyway. I'm thinking if we can make it...Louisiana...the bayous are where I came from, maybe these things won't be able to find us. The swamps will take 'em." That made sense with the name. Cajun...Creole or whatever...something like that.

This Thoreau must feel pretty secure in his belief that Daryl meant him and his family no harm, telling him where they were headed and all.It sure in the hell wasn't that he thought he could take Daryl. They were the kind of men who didn’t underestimate easily.

Daryl justnodded, but something made him speak after a few moments of extended silence, whether that something was to pass the time, some sort of strange affinity he felt to this stranger, just to help out another survivor who was trying to keep his own family safe, or even just to make sure that they all kept going in their respective directions so Daryl didn't have to worry about him and Beth being followed more than he already was.

"The swamps..."

"Hmm...?" It was like him talking, breaking the silence caught the stranger off guard.

That man probably knew Daryl's type, never liked to talk when he didn't have too, especially not likely to give nothing up for free.

"The swamps. You're right about the swamps. It's smart. The soggy land catches 'em up real good."

"How do you know? Are you from the bayous?"

"Nah...I ain't ever been out of Georgia." Didn't plan to neither. "But Beth's Dad's place...he had a lot of land, some of the areas were marshy, and the walkers got stuck...couldn't get out."

"What happened to that place?" He asked it all gentle like he already knew the answer, so why in the hell was this dumbshit asking?

Daryl shrugged, remembering watching that barn burn down from his bike, watching the walkers stumbling toward the house...a place that could've been home...feeling the warmth from the fire on the frosty night even though he was so far away...

"What happens anywhere?" He wasn't gonna show he was feeling it.

"Some things aren't meant to last."What in the fuck kind of poetic bullshit was that? It was a rhetorical question...didn’t need no half-ass, life affirming answer.

Places were meant to last, you just had to be strong enough to fight for them...hold onto 'em. Maybe Daryl hadn't been strong enough before...he failed...but he didn't lose the funeral parlor, and he wasn't gonna lose home.

"So what in the hell took you all this time since the shit hit the fan to get from Virginia to Georgia?" Daryl went confrontational...didn't even know if he was looking for a real answer, just needed to change the subject, but the man obliged him anyway.

"Early on, we had a group...our first group. We made the mistake of staying too close to dense population centers. I knew better, but that ease of supplies, shelter, and safety in numbers was too big of a draw." Thoreau reflected.

He could see the flames flickering in the stranger’s eyes now as he paused, looking into the fire. It was like seeing inside his head...seeing his world burn down around him as he remembered. Daryl's world...his world had burned too...more than once...Mom burned away, house too, the barn at the farm that signified the end of that home, that safety...but he ended up getting a better life out of it in the end...burning down that shack with Beth.

"The worst kinds of people turn savage the quickest, and you expect that, but pretty soon, too many people too close together, all looking out for their own interests turn into the worst kinds of people...turn savage too."

Everyone who's alive right now, everyone who's made it this far, we've all done the worst kind of things just to stay alive. But we can still come back. We're not too far gone. We get to come back. I know we can all change...

Daryl remembered that...every word...every fervent word Rick pleaded to the Governor, trying to stay his hand and save their lives. Daryl knew the truth of it...the worst kinds of people...it was inevitable...

They had been such a small group, even at the prison...probably lucky that things didn't go more primeval there, but even the core of them...the people closest to them...Carol killed Karen and David, covered it up, and lied to everyone. That one...that one was beyond his concern now, but Beth...what the group did to her...

Abraham was the only one who ever said it...actually talked about leaving her behind, before and after Daryl brought her back to her family. Before, no one else really talked...and that silence spoke volumes. It said nobody but him was willing to stand up for Beth, and because Abe was doin' the talking for them, they didn't have to taint themselves with Beth's blood in leaving her behind. Let Abe sell his soul for the mission. Rick stood for him, offered to go with him to search for Beth, did even after he said no, but he was the only one. Maggie...Maggie wasn't even willing to go looking for her own sister, told him he shouldn't go after her. Who was she to tell him what he should and shouldn't do for Beth? Did Maggie think she was absolving him, releasing him of a duty to her...when she knew...she had to know he loved Beth? Maggie would've condemned her little sister to a horrible fate...something worse than death. After...after Beth was back and alive...fighting for her life so hard...getting better, well, Abe was still the one doin' the talking, and Rick stood up for Beth. That was no surprise. Maggie finally fought for her sister too, but it was too little, too late. Daryl tried to shake it off...the memories and the rage boiling inside, gently stroking Beth's back, trying not to wake her but needing to touch her to ground himself.

Beth was such a kind and gentle soul. He remembered finding her asleep in the bed with Maggie that night after he executed Gareth's surviving hunters. Her hands were entwined in her sister's while he had blood on his. Beth didn't deserve it...any of it, but she came to terms with Maggie despite the pain he knew Maggie caused her. She was a far better person than he would ever be.Daryl was glad they were the first to leave that morning after Gareth's attack instead of staying behind and recouping with the group. He wasn't gonna risk Beth again...whether there were any of Gareth's people alive or not, there were a lot of gunshots that could've drawn any threat down one them. He was forced to leave Beth behind to protect her from the threat; that's what he told himself to make himself feel better when he left her that night, going to carry out the only plan they had against Gareth that had half a chance of working. In truth, to protect the group, it was far worse than just leaving Beth behind that night. He didn't just leave her behind...he had to leave her behind as bait. That was unforgivable. Like he told Rick, he wasn't ever gonna make that choice again. But more than anything, for Beth, he wanted to be the ones leaving, looking back at the others in the rearview mirror. He didn't want Beth to see her family leaving her behind.

Yeah...he knew about what people turned into...

"Even after we set out on our own, it was slow going...you know that..." Daryl did. "And we had a child too, our girl. Then...after a while on our own, well, we found out we were pregnant. We eventually had to find a group, for security, somewhere to stop a while until the baby came and to help with him early on. We didn't plan to stay, but things were good there. It seemed like a place where we could...well, that doesn't really matter. There was a sickness...a contagion. I knew it as soon as I saw it...as soon as the infection started to spread. I had to get my family out of there. It was better to strike out on our own."

So, it wasn't just them...the plague that weakened them. World was just dealing one blow after another...survival of the fittest and who they were willing to fight for...protect...weeding out humanity like everything they were was just some huge evolutionary joke.

"We had a plague too. Pleurisy, hemorrhagic symptoms...people drowning in their own blood, bleeding eyes and all." Yep...those were big words...Thoreau looking at him. Daryl might not be educated, but he was more than met the eye. Picked up knowledge he heard and held onto it. "But we had doctors...real doctors. Found meds. A lot of us lived."

The stranger didn't ask where Daryl's group was. Just 'cause he elaborated on something didn't mean that anyone should go asking questions, especially about people who weren't around. They were far enough into the apocalypse now that if someone talked about people you didn't see, that probably meant something bad happened.

After a few seconds of nothing but silence...

"Can you help us out...?"

Here it was...the favor. Thoreau wanted something, and there was very little Daryl was willing to give despite the fact that he helped Beth. Narrowing his eyes across the fire, Daryl forced himself to listen, but gave no indication that he was willing to do anything.

"Can you tell me any threats we might be facing in the area? What should I be watching for...just roamers...just the dead?"

He knew better than that, didn’t he? That it wasn’t just the dead...

Daryl still had his hand on Beth's back, feeling her breathing beside him, but going somber, just looking away, he started picking at the frayed edges around the hole in the knee of his pants. He didn't wanna say, but he owed the stranger this much.

"People. The worst kinds of people."

The man across the fire knew enough to know how affected Daryl was...gave him time.

"Cannibals..."

"Cannibals? Of the breathing variety?" There weren't many things in the world that shocked men like them, but he heard it in Thoreau’s voice.

Daryl felt it too...that primal fear clawing deep down inside. It wasn't bad enough the dead rose up and feasted on the living, now breathers were eating their own too.

"Mmm-hmm." Daryl sighed, knowing he couldn't shy from the question. "They had a trap...a place that claimed to be a sanctuary for all. We were wary. Went in the back way, all nice and quiet...unobserved, or so we thought. They herded us up in there...cornered us, nothing more than just a meat packing plant, slaughtering the people they caught like livestock. We escaped...burned the bitch to the ground in the process, but they came after us. They hunted us. There were more of us, more than just me and Beth. I think we took 'em all out, but I can't be sure."

The stranger nodded in understanding but his face was grave, trying to hide disbelief, trying to stay strong and unaffected. Daryl's forehead scrunched and his eyes clenched, preparing for the pain of what was coming next.

"There was a cult too. They....they took...kidnapped Beth. Had her a good long while before I was able to track her. They worked her over good...almost killed her. I didn't think I was gonna find her..." Breaking off.

"But you did. You got her back."

"I did..." That made it better. Not good, but a little better. "Watch your wife and your little ones. I killed their leader, but I don't know about the rest of 'em. The cannibals, they found the cult. That's how they tracked...found us. They might be dead, they might still be practicing, or they might be on the hunt now too..."

If he hadn't had Beth to worry about...not trusting anyone else to take care of her...he would've went back and finished it...made sure it was done for good. Him and Rick...made sure there was no one left to track or hunt them ever again. But Beth was his only concern, and they made it...got away. It wasn't his problem anymore.

"So...you were there...at the center of it all when it went down? The Pentagon ain't far from the Capitol?" Daryl had been skirting the issue since he heard the stranger say Pentagon. Might as well have been DC; it was the place where all the security plans and decisions were made.

Daryl didn't believe in Eugene's story for a second...hadn't from the beginning. Didn't believe in Abraham's mission neither...the thing that tore his group...his family apart, what it would've done to Beth. But it was the place where everyone else he knew in the world was headed...and despite everything, there were still a few he cared about. Rick, Carl, Lil' Asskicker, Michonne. And Beth, maybe he could find out something that could give her a little peace of mind about Maggie. Maybe just plain curiosity too...not that it mattered what happened, all that mattered was what they were facing and where they were going now, but Daryl knew very little about anything that happened in the beginning.

"Yeah..." Thoreau was the one being reserved now. "I had pretty high clearance...people seem to think in disasters like this, knowing things makes it easier, but it doesn't. Before anyone under my clearance much less the public knew there was an outbreak, the flu, even though it hadn't happened yet, we knew...we knew it was our extinction event. No one was saying it, but we all felt it. We knew we lost the war before it even started."

Extinction event? He and Beth were still breathing. Hell, the stranger was still breathing, he had a family...babies were still being born...Judith and the stranger's pup. That looked like surviving to Daryl, not extinction.

"You know what it was...what it is?"

A shake of the head didn't confirm anything that Daryl didn't already know.

"The event was declared Wildfire. We knew about it months before it went global. Once it did...well...that was end of game. I'm no scientist. My classification wasn’t to analyze the projected spread of the virus. I was C2...Command and Control...I took the analyzed data and made the decisions where to deploy troops, where they were needed for evacuation and later, containment of the crisis...but..." He went far and away as the words trailed off.

Daryl knew what that but meant. Wasn't stupid. This man made decisions about where to send the army...didn't issue their orders, but felt responsible for what they did all the same. Daryl remembered stories from early on...Shane, Lori, Carl, and Carol were outside Atlanta when the military napalmed it...set their world on fire.And Shane...he told the story of soldiers in the hospital lining up people, bit or not, for mass executions...Rick waking from his coma to that aftermath.

"We were in close contact with the CDC in Atlanta. They held out there longer than we did...longer than anyone else. For all I know, they could still be operational."
"The CDC...they ain't." Daryl interjected, not wanting there to be any false hopes. "My group...we made it to the CDC in the beginning, maybe two months after it really started. Met a man named Jenner. Power went out while we were there...damned building tried to opt out for all of us. We escaped...barely, but Jenner...the CDC, it's gone."

"You made it out after the protocol locked down?" Thoreau looked at him in disbelief...didn't know how desperately resourceful they were or just how God damned lucky.

"Hand grenade. Amazing what you can pick up when the world goes to shit." Truthfully, it hadn't been all that resourceful...just dumb luck. Daryl remembered feeling the tightness in his chest in those last moments, not really afraid to die, but not ready, and not like that.

"Dr. Jenner, he was one of the last people we had contact with. Even after Dr. Candace Jenner...his wife, the head of their research, died, he carried on..."

Pfft! Bastard locked them in the basement...tried to make it all their grave 'cause he was ready to give up. Daryl wouldn't accept the words of commendation this man was giving Jenner. He didn't know shit!

"...When word came that no one escapes this, we're all infected, that's when the mass evacuations of the high priorities commenced. The President and the first family had already taken up residence in the PEOC, but they were transferred to an undisclosed secure location. All the other high priorities...high ranking government and military officials and their families...they were evacuated while the entire city was locked down under martial law. No one was helping the people, but even worse, they weren't allowed to help themselves...got shot for trying. That's when everyone...all of us left...lost hope for anything coming back. There were mass suicides...people who didn't have family or anyone to live for. Those of us with family abandoned our posts. Our duty was to our families. We weren't going to sacrifice when we were abandoned by the people who expected us to bleed and die for something they weren't willing to stand and fight for."

Daryl never fought for nothin' he didn't believe in, so he couldn't entirely feel the betrayal that this man felt...except...except that sting of the group chasing DC, choosing a fantasyland with rainbows and unicorns over Beth. Daryl had to talk to shake the anger away.

"What about all your 'top secret' shit...everything that's classified? There wasn't nothin' there that could've stopped this? Nothin' that could've helped?" Daryl didn't believe in a cure; this was as close as he was gonna get to asking...tryin' to make a concrete liar outta the mullet scientist without actually saying it.

Couldn't imagine what this stranger would think if he found out the group Daryl came from left on some grand crusade looking for a magic potion to save the world. He was a survivor...so was Daryl; bullshit like that didn't and shouldn't fly.

"Once something like this starts happening...at the level we knew it was going to be...when shit goes FUBAR, there is no such thing as classified. It's all hands, all knowledge on deck. We went through at least ten contingency plans, but there is nothing for this contingency. You know that."

Daryl did. He couldn't tell if he nodded or just felt it.

"There is no cure." And there it was.

"We either live with it...find a way to survive it, or die." Daryl stated, trying to prove he wasn't an idiot. He was a survivor. It's what he'd been doing from the beginning.

"If this thing is ever going to be beaten, it's going to be beaten by boots on the ground. Bloody, dirty...fighting on the front lines, sacrificing and dying, taking them all out one by one, but we don't have the infrastructure to do that. We can't beat it now. There is no Washington D.C."

"Just 'cause we can't beat it, don't mean we don't get to live." Never one for uplifting speeches or pep talks, quite the cynic himself...that wasn't what he was doin' though. Daryl was defying the world.

"I never said that. I've never been so surprised by the human ability to survive or live. Life is always possible." Thoreau looked again to his family, all huddled together, like they were what grounded him. "This is possible."
_______________________________________________

Liability. That's what she was...what she had been all along...from the very beginning. Daryl took her from the prison. Risked his own life the moment he said it...

We gotta go Beth...we gotta go...

She knew she deserved to live...she was a survivor, but she wasn't strong enough to fight her own battles...keep herself alive. Daryl had to fight for her, follow her...protect her because he wouldn't let her die. She was a liability...his liability.

When he came for her...rescued her...brought her back to her family, they stayed in one place for her, and because of her rescue, Gareth hunted and tracked them. She almost got them all killed. She had been their liability.

And now...now that she and Daryl were alone again...she...the demons in her mind, the grip her memories held on her, and their infiltration into her here and now...they still tried to kill her...tried to make her kill herself and the person she loved more than life. One gunshot at those things that haunted her but no longer existed and they would've been torn to pieces by the herd passing outside that didn’t even know they existed. At least she wouldn't have had to live with herself, but she would have caused Daryl’s death. It took a stranger to save her from herself, and it could've gone differently. He could have seen Beth as Daryl's weakness and killed him. She was a liability, and she couldn't be.

Beth didn't know how to stop what happened to her…

Holding onto that necklace, that piece of Daryl had been her lifeline. Holding onto him would've been better, but it wasn't the type of situation that allowed for it...Daryl maybe even too feral for her touch. When she finally settled her nerves, sat by the fire...beside Daryl, very near, he allowed it...took a vulnerable moment, asking her if she was okay...then told her to sleep. Head on his thigh...being near him, his touch, his hands on her soothed the remnants of fear inside. He would bear the burden of the watch while she slept. Exhausted, mentally and physically...drained...sleep didn't come easily though. It wasn't fear. Daryl's insistence that she rest meant he felt capable enough to handle the situation on his own...it couldn't have been that volatile anymore. It was the fatigue weighing so heavily on her.

Waves of sleep took her interrupted by semi-consciousness where her world was still black, but she listened...heard their words and voices even though it didn't feel like they occupied the same space and time. She heard though...maybe not all of the conversation, maybe not what was said from the beginning...but she heard.

There is nothing for this contingency. You know that... The end of what she heard, what she focused on... There is no Washington D.C....

_______________________________________________

Daryl was adamant about leaving with the sun, anxious to go as soon as she was ready. He'd spent the entire night awake, guarding against a stranger, someone who seemed decent, but you could never really tell. Anyone could deceive. Anyone could snap, even just make the decision that for the safety of their family, you would be better off dead. She could feel his intense need to escape even if he didn't show it. Beth was anxious too...to get away from people, the unpredictability and fear that triggered her break. Maybe she couldn't be around people anymore.

Folding up their blanket and shoving it in their bag, Beth was distracted by the soft sucking noises, finding the woman nursing her infant...feeling a longing deep inside. Beth sighed softly...remembering that day so long ago, in the prison, after Judith was born. Tyreese and Sasha watched her so closely, so captivated, as she carried Judith by, going to make her bottle. They said they never thought they were going to see a baby again...and they thought Judith was hers. Beth couldn't help wonder if that was ever in her future...if Daryl would ever even want or allow it. They had what she thought was such a beautiful, intimate moment in the garage when she found Daryl working on his bike...back when she was still sick before they separated from the group...when Daryl told her all the things that stilled her heart...

If there's a baby...I'm gonna be there, Beth...for you, for the child. I can be a father...a good one I think. It'll be our baby...my child. He'll have my name...

...thinking that was a future Daryl was offering her, a future he wanted with her. But it hadn't been that. For him, it would've been a sacrifice, the pain of what he thought happened to her...what he thought was his ultimate failure. The amount of love he bore for her that he would have been willing to raise a child that wasn't his...for her sake...its sake...for Daryl, that would've been a lifetime of punishment...penance. How could he even think about going there now...in their future...after that? And maybe she...maybe she wasn't equipped...stable enough to ever have a child of her own...too unpredictable...too broken. What if she hurt it...or her break put it in danger...got it killed? She couldn't live with that. Could she ever take that chance?

The woman looked up from her child at her breast, gently skimming her fingers through its wispy hair, smiling softly at Beth. There were still good people...a woman who hadn't said one word that Beth heard, and Beth had pointed a gun at her and her child. She didn't know that there was a baby; that didn't matter though...she still did...but this woman could still smile, still take pride in someone admiring her baby. Life found a way...Beth knew that.

Daryl was watching her watch the baby; she could feel his eyes on her. She wondered if that made him afraid or nervous or gave him hope, remembering Daryl with Judith on the day she was born. Maybe she shouldn't have a child...with her instability...her emotional breaks. Maybe that couldn't be her path even though when she was younger and so much less broken she was so sure that would be her life. That thought...all these complications she never expected...made her sad. Daryl took care of...saved Judith when Rick wasn't able to. Beth had taken care of Judith since the day she was born...Beth still hearing Judith's first words...calling her mama. Maybe Judith was the only child she and Daryl would ever have.

I always wanted a child...she confessed that to Carol, cradling newborn Judith in her arms...felt it so often with her...felt it now. Did Daryl know that?

She couldn't look at him. Either way, she wasn't ready for the answer.Distracting herself, but trying to do something right...something good, Beth pulled an unopened box of crackers from their bag...their food from the funeral parlor. Looking at the family who had so little, turning the box over in her hands nervously, Beth was finally able to glance up at Daryl, the question in her eyes. Daryl nodded, giving her leave to place the crackers halfway between the dead fire and the strangers. There was more to being human than just surviving.

"Their gun Beth..." Daryl reached out for the man's weapon, Beth passing it to him without question then going back to close their bags. "You got that?"

"Yeah"

Chivalry in the old world meant that a man carried a lady's bags for her. Now chivalry meant that Daryl carried the bow and did the killing...was the first and the last person to face the danger. Beth shouldered their belongings and had a peek out the door before he even had to tell her to. Not a walker in sight, the path to the motorcycle clear...the bike still standing despite the herd of walkers that poured by through the night. Looking back at Daryl, it was time to go.

"Wish it didn't have to be this way, but if you try to follow us, I'll put a bolt between your eyes."

Daryl dropped the clip on the man's gun, racking out the round in the chamber, letting the precious bullet fall on the ground. Daryl passed Beth the magazine, nodding her forward, dropping the gun inside the door just before he left the silo behind her.

"Beth will drop your clip outside as soon as we take off." Beth knew that Daryl would still kill this man in an instant, but his voice lost some of its deadly edge. "Hope you find your way home."

Beth could feel Daryl pacing a short track back and forth behind her while she tied their bags down.

"Ready?"

"Hmm...yeah..." Daryl moved to secure his bow to the back of the bike, leaving Beth with her gun in hand to watch.

But he stopped before he got to it, looking at her, a momentary contemplative expression smoothed over his face.

"They were good people, Beth."

"I know..."

"Not today...but someday, I might have to kill good people..." Daryl was telling her....warning her...something she knew all too well.

She knew it last night when the strangers stumbled into their life. This is why they needed to stay away from people...Beth needed to stay away...couldn't be around people until she was better...and Daryl, she knew his heart. He would kill anything...anyone he had to for them...her, but he didn't want to have to kill. He wasn't a killer. There was a difference, a hard reality they were both facing. If we're lucky, we get to decide who gets to live. That's what Daryl said when he talked her through her first kills...the first lives she took...the blood she scrubbed off her hands until they were red and raw, almost drawing her own blood...explained to her what she already knew. Those men deserved to die. It would get harder because, at some point, it might not come down to who deserved to die but who had to die so they could live. Daryl told her if she had to think about it, thinking about who got to live would make it easier. It would always be them...their life.

Not today...Beth repeated in her head.

"Not today..." Beth touched him on the side to reassure him.

Possessions secure, Daryl kick started his bike, and Beth climbed on, finally with a measure of confidence...more than comfortable riding with him. As he pulled away, Beth dropped the full magazine in the gravel where the good people who got to live would find it and maybe get to live another day. She wrapped her arms tight around him, not because she was afraid but because she wanted to.
_______________________________________________

In the middle of the deserted road in the middle of nowhere, Daryl just stopped.
They hadn't gone all that far. If Beth worked it out in her head, thought like Daryl, this felt like the closest point that he felt like they were far enough away from the silo and the strangers to stop because it was necessary. An odd feeling welled up in her tummy.

"Get off," Daryl's voice rumbled just as the rumbling of the engine ceased.

He wasn't being rough or gruff with her...his tone just something she really couldn't identify. It always made her nervous when she couldn't read him. Something was wrong. Off the bike, Daryl avoided turning to her, running his hand through his wind whipped hair, doing a short pace to the front of the bike and back before lifting his head.

"We need to talk."

What was it about those four little words that made any situation so tense, hearts tremble, and fear, irrational or not, take root in a person's soul? Beth sucked in a little nervous breath, trying to hide it, trying to understand what was happening...what was happening with Daryl. He read her...read her like a book, his hunter's instinct sensing that she was about to go to him. Before she could even take that step, Daryl stiffened, Beth stopping before he rejected her.

"What...what is it?"

"Phhh...there's nothin' left in DC. That man...Thoreau...he worked at the Pentagon during it all, and well...Washington's gone dark. It's been dark since the beginning.

It clicked then...why Daryl was so affected. Washington D.C. going dark meant their family was marching towards nothing in the best case, a horrible situation at the worst. The moment Beth heard the stranger tell Daryl that D.C. just didn't hold any hope, but didn't exist anymore, her mind had gone to Maggie and Glenn, Rick, Carl, and Judith...but they chose their own paths. The problem was, Daryl never had a choice. Even if he knew there was never a cure...never believed in D.C., he never had that choice of whether or not he wanted to follow them...because of her.

"I know..." Beth was softly reluctant to say, knowing this could very well change the course of their lives.

"You know?" Daryl asked quizzically, catching her eyes.

"I heard...I wasn't all the way asleep then." She confessed.

"You wanna go after 'em." It wasn't even a question; it was a statement, something Daryl thought he knew.

She had been wrong. This didn't have anything to do with Daryl being concerned about their family. He was reluctant to tell her because he thought she would want to change course. Did it make her a bad person...maybe it did...but inside, when she asked herself that question...Do you want to go after them?...Beth didn't. It was her sister, they were their friends...their family, but Beth was tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of being selfless. She just wanted Daryl...wanted their life that they fought so hard for. Daryl had been fighting for the group since the beginning. Beth fought too...killed for them. Now, for the first time in her life, she was being selfish...just wanted their piece of happiness.

"No. I made my choice." Beth thought she was firm...convincing, but sometimes when Daryl got like this...the strongest man she had ever known...when he got self-conscious and doubted himself, he put up the most fierce fight.

"Hell Beth, you never had a choice. You would've died." Voice all scratchy and rough, trying to hide what she knew was in his heart...self-doubt.

Daryl was speaking in half truths. She would have died, but it was wrong that she didn't have a choice.

"I had a choice. Death is always a choice." Beth was passionate in her assertion, watching Daryl's expression go wounded, regretting the words and the way they came out...how he took them, but not what she meant. "Death is always a choice. You should know that...more than anyone. The life you have lived...I have seen you live...all the times you have been willing to sacrifice. You've bled for everyone else without a thought about yourself...that is who you are, Daryl Dixon. You know death is always a choice..."

She was the one feeling it now, the desperation deep down in her tummy, just trying to make Daryl believe what she was trying to say, not knowing if Daryl doubted it because he doubted her or himself. He tried to come to her now, but it was Beth this time who went tense...unapproachable, Daryl seeing and respecting that.

"There were times...times I wanted to die...before you came for me. And later, I could've made that choice...the choice to stay with the group, but I chose you because...I want this life...not just life...THIS life...with you. I choose you.”

Sometimes the silence was beautiful. Daryl never spoke when he didn't feel he had to...never forced a sentiment, but sometimes, with her, Beth realized that Daryl didn't say anything because he couldn't. That didn't mean he wasn't saying it with every fiber of his being. With his eyes, Daryl always spoke the purest truth. The way he looked at her...he didn't have to utter a word. It happened before...his eyes and the truth in them...the night on the porch when she was drunk on moonshine before they burned that shack to the ground; so confused and innocently intent when she thought the reverence being paid to the dead in the mortuary even though they were walkers...his stare so intense it unsettled her; watching her from where he was laying in the coffin while she played the piano, not just singing, but singing for him; sitting at that table with her in the funeral parlor seconds before their lives were torn asunder and world was shattered...in moments like this, Beth had never felt so understood...so seen...so naked and vulnerable...claimed in the most beautiful way possible. And Daryl, it was like when he looked at her, he saw his future, and there was nothing more he wanted in the world.

"You were the one who never had a choice..." Why did she say it?

Because, the truth of it was, he had a choice now. If he wanted to be with their group, the people that had been his family since before they met...before they bonded...fell in love...since the beginning, he could make that choice now, and it wasn't a choice between her life and death. He had a choice, and she would follow him.

"You're right. I ain't never had a choice...when it comes to you." Daryl's hand came up, instinctively brushing his fingers against his own heart as he stepped closer. "But if I did, I'd always choose you."

Beth squeaked a little before crashing into him...still so unused to being someone's everything...no, not someone's...Daryl's. Daryl once claimed that he was nothing...nobody, but having him made Beth feel like that was her life before...a void, when truthfully it had been so rich in love and family and friends, just not something that mattered like...that consumed her like this.

Daryl stumbled back...not because he wasn't strong, but because of the sudden surprise of it, wrapping her in his arms that always squeezed just a little bit too tight...now it was just tight enough.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, nor is it resentful. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, always perseveres. It never fails. Love never ends.

Daryl might not have faith in God, but that was their love...the way that man loved her. She might be a liability...might have been the group's liability, but he didn't care...it didn't matter because who Daryl was and his love for her...love made it worth it.




Notes

Comments

@Grimesgirl63
Thank you so very much! I am happy to be back!

Aireabella Aireabella
3/24/18

So glad you are back!

Grimesgirl63 Grimesgirl63
3/24/18

@Loul461
Thank you so much!

Aireabella Aireabella
11/11/17

Cliffhanger!! Love it!

Loul461 Loul461
11/11/17

@McDrogoInaNewWorld
Yeah, the cliffhanger! Thanks! And thank you so much for reading and loving my stories. It means the world.

Aireabella Aireabella
11/10/17