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Wasn't Born an Angel

Chapter 46: Sanctuary of Thoughts

~Author’s Note: So once again, despite my best intentions, this chapter is late. I really hate that life gets hectic and sometimes gets in the way of what I love to do. I really do appreciate each and every one of you who keep coming back to read new chapters that I post! I love you all. This is a quiet, soft chapter, but I’m proud of it...and it always needed to happen. Things should be picking up a little bit next chapter. Thank you as always for reading, and I hope you enjoy!~
_______________________________________


It all started and ended with the same question. “Did you read it?”

_______________________________________

He knew this area. They weren’t all that close, but they were getting closer.

Scenic Lookout.

That’s what the conservation department called it. A little covered picnic area with two rustic hewn tables and a fire pit behind it. It was scenic. Daryl hadn’t loved much in his life before Beth, but he loved Georgia...the place where he was born and bred...the land. It was beautiful...beautiful in a world that had always been so ugly for him. Didn’t have much to compare it to...never been out Georgia, but he didn’t need to to tell him what he knew. Only someone who didn’t have no eyes in their head needed to be told this spot was scenic...couldn’t stop and discover it on their own...appreciate what the world had to offer. People probably didn’t even look at what was right in from of them...needed a sign, not a metaphorical sign, but a real sign that slapped ‘em right in the face...basically said Look. Right here. This is Beautiful. Once they saw that sign, the urbanites and suburbanites would stop to sight-see, escaping their shiny SUVs to rough it for a couple minutes. Rough it under the shelter of a roof, sit at a picnic table, and cook over a fire in a pre-designated pit.

Thinking how the world changed, but it hadn’t changed all that much for him, Daryl needed to stop...knew that much about himself. Needed to get his shit together. They hadn’t even rode most of the day, but Daryl was dead on his feet...well...on his bike. He wasn’t weak, but being on the road again...the stress of what happened in that silo...out in the open now when they...no, he’d gotten complacent at the funeral parlor-the soft life...the real world was getting to him now. Pushing himself to his absolute limits had always really been his MO, but there was something else added to all that now that had everything and nothing to do with Beth, everything and nothing to do with who he was now. The anxiety and stress of going back...getting so close...going back to his beginning...the place, the life he came from...knowing Beth wouldn’t judge him but he judged himself, knowing this was a place where they could live and make work, but fearing he would see disappointment in Beth’s eyes as soon as they got there. And he didn’t want to face his own past. Daryl was his own worst judge. Feeling Beth clinging close behind him, he remembered her truth, what she tried to teach him...taught him.

You gotta stay who you are, not who you were.

I’m trying... Daryl thought to himself.

He was trying, but he still needed to stop.

But even more than worrying about himself, Daryl needed to have an honest moment with Beth to really see if she was doing okay after what happened...not just gauging her state while they were on the run again. The scenic lookout was as good a place as any to stop. A clear valley with a good vantage of the rolling hills hemmed in by a tree line in the distance...a three-hundred and sixty degree view of what was coming. It was as good a place as any...well, better than any, and he knew it...was starting to know the land again. Beth didn’t question him about stopping, but since they were on this path together, he felt obliged to tell her something.

“Need to make some marks on the map...that herd from last night was pretty big. Mark it just so we know which way they went...so we don’t run into them in the future. And the people too.” It was just an excuse.

She probably saw right through it, but she didn’t say nothin’. Didn’t call him on it, just gave him a little bright-eyed smile as he went to rifling through theirsaddlebags for the map. If he made the excuse, he was at least gonna carry through with it. Daryl perched himself up on top of one of the picnic tables...not sitting at the bench...those things tripped you up if you needed to move quick...got the map unfolded, checked in on Beth exploring a little. She probably needed to stretch her legs...those long, beautiful legs...

“Don’t wander too far...” Daryl cautioned, quelling his intense instinct to take off after her...hover over her...biting back the real thing that was trying to crawl its way out of his throat. Get over here now!

He tried to tell himself it was okay...she was right there...right in his line of sight if he needed to get to her or take something down.

“Beth...you hear?” He was adamant about getting a response from her.

“Sugar Creek...” That was her response, standing by the highway sign that pointed out the distance of conservation areas. “You lived by Sugar Creek Conservation Area. This says the turn off is in three miles. Are we close?”

God that girl remembered details, and her voice, it was laced with hope.

“Nah...not that close. This is a different branch.” It was the truth.

Through the woods, maybe twenty miles, by road, the way they were goin’...a good thirty-five.

“Oh...”

Shit...he hated that some of the joy left her voice. He should’ve just told her they were close. More than anything, Daryl wished he could temper Beth’s expectations of where they were going. She told him she would go anywhere with him...that they could’ve stayed in that damned shack they burned down, but he feared that Beth remembered that place so fondly ‘cause of what happened there...the spark that was ignited when they broke open. That was where they solidified their path together, finding what they needed in each other. Dammit, maybe he should just let her hold onto her romantic ideas...their world was hard enough as it was.

“I know this place though. Been out this way more times than I can count,” he offered something reassuring.

It didn’t take long for Beth to come perch on the tabletop in front of him, face graced with a gentle smile aimed at him, but her all seeing eyes read into him so easily. He couldn’t hide nothin’ from Beth especially when it came to what he was feeling about her. She was far too intuitive,and his soul was too honest. That beautiful smile that had been edging at the corners of her pretty little lips slipped away so quickly.

“Do you want to talk ‘bout it...what happened last night?” A graveled whisper that came out all growl and only part intelligible...the way his voice got when he was thinking too much on something...trying not to say the wrong thing.

But he...it...everything was still just too damned complicated. He wasn’t gonna force her...he wasn’t gonna break her like he did the last time he made her talk. He was gonna keep his emotions in check. This was about Beth now....even though it should’ve always been about just her this entire time, he couldn’t deny that things...things that happened...things he thought happened had been about him too. How could they not...those things ate at him...ripped him to shreds. He was so entwined in Beth’s life, losing her, getting her back, only to have his soul torn to pieces when his bright angel was so broken by everything. He was broken too. Now, it wasn’t about him...wasn’t about him at all. She told him everything he needed to know...shared as much of her story...as much of her pain as she could...he forced her to share it. Taking on her pain and truth helped ease his...but he wouldn’t make her do it again. Wouldn’t risk triggering a break. Being out in the world, Daryl had to be the strong, steady one for her. He was gonna be there for her, offer what he could, but he wouldn’t make her talk.

Beth was quick to make her answer clear, breaking from his gaze...shaking her little head almost frantically, wild wisps of pale, windblown hair encircling her head like a halo.

“I’m here, Beth...” Trailing a finger down her cheek, across the line of her delicate jaw...under her chin, tilting her head up. “I’m here...”

She nodded against his finger before he drew his hand away. She knew...but it was hard for Daryl, not being what she needed.

“Phhh...” Heavy sigh...realizing he did have something she needed...something that could help, but it was gonna be a confession of his own just in offering it.

Reaching back, he freed it from his pants pocket where he’d kept it safe and guarded since that day...that day he left ‘em all behind to set out on his impossible journey to find her. Gave every other thing that Beth owned over to Maggie...but this...this he kept for himself...to carry Beth with him. It had become a part of him, some days so much a part of him that he didn’t feel it there...didn’t remember he carried it, but he never forgot...just like he could never forget her name...was more likely to forget his own.

Daryl should have given it back a long time ago...he had an excuse...didn’t remember it sitting there all snug in his back pocket, but back at the funeral parlor, there was a day...coming home soaked from the storm that caught him out while he was hunting...when it dropped outta his pocket on the bathroom floor. He wasn’t ready to give it pack then...give that part of her up...he should’ve, but he was selfish...kept if for a while longer for himself...wanted to find the right time. But Daryl realized something...maybe it was the way the world was working...maybe something in him knew he had to keep it...had to hold onto it ‘til this moment because she needed it now.

When he brought it forward, he wouldn’t look at her...couldn’t yet, just turning the little green leather bound journal over in his hands. Nervous. He was nervous.

“I picked this up...on the road that night...where you dropped it with your backpack...before I realized...” Looking through his shaggy bangs at her, Beth was all wide-eyed and quiet, but she wasn’t surprised.

She knew. His confession wasn’t all that much a confession. His eyes were asking the question now where he couldn’t, and she answered.

“I saw it. Before we left everyone behind. I was with Maggie in the house. I saw you in the front yard talking to Rick. I could barely see it...but I saw it peeking out of your back pocket.” Her voice was soft, melodic...soothing.

Daryl nodded, not really knowing what to say...stuck in the silence of a few moments, looking down at the little journal again. Green. It was green. Like Greene...like Beth. He never realized that before. Daryl finally passed it to her, closing the space in between...now it belonged to her again.

“If you...” If you break again...nope, that’s not what he was gonna say, checking his words. “If things get overwhelming again and you can’t say the words to me, you got this to ground you...remind you what’s real...” Why in the hell was it so fucking hard to say things?

Just trying to calm himself, watching Beth run her hand over her journal...

“Why...?” Her little voice eeked out an incomplete question, Daryl forced to wait before he could give her an answer. The wait didn’t matter. Whatever the question was, he’d give her the truth. “Why did you take it?”

That was the easiest question to answer, but that didn’t mean his words were gonna come out easy...they were wrought with every emotion that ever existed.

“Was runnin’ low on faith. You were the only...the only one who ever taught me. I needed to carry it...you with me...”

Beth’s little sigh broke when a tremor caught in her breath.

More silence as she accepted the truth. Then...

“Did you read it?”

Daryl’s heart clenched...stopping its beat before it went into overdrive...

Did you read it?

There was nothing in her that was accusatory or condemning...just a question...but he felt like he violated her by reading her innermost thoughts. Ashamed. Even though the passage he read was innocent...he still felt ashamed...wanted to avoid...couldn’t look at her, but if he didn’t answer, didn’t tell the truth, he’d never be able to look at her again.

Call me whatever you want, just make sure it's true. There's lots for you to choose from. But don't call me a liar 'cause I ain't.

“Mmm-hmm...”

I know it's been a while. I'm gonna be honest, I forgot about you. After the farm, we were always moving. But something happened. Something good. Finally. We found a prison. Daddy thinks that we can make it into a home. He says we can grow crops in the field, find pigs and chickens, stop running, stop scavenging. Lori's baby is just about due. She'll need a safe place when it comes. The rest of us, we just need a safe place to be. I woke up in my own bed yesterday. My own bed in my own room. But I've been keeping my backpack. Keeping my gun close. I've been afraid to get my hopes up thinking we can actually stay here. The thing is, I've been starting to get afraid that it's easier just to be afraid. But this morning Daddy said something. "If you don't have hope, what's the point of living?" So I unpacked my bag and I found you. So I'm gonna start writing in you again. And I'm gonna write this down now because you should write down wishes to make them come true.

We can live here.


We can live here for the rest of our lives.


Remembering...remembering that passage.

“... ‘If you don’t have hope, what’s the point of living’...”He looked at her when he recited that line.

Not really knowing what to expect, feeling something between sheepish and strong but holding it together like a man of resolve, knowing the truth of what he said, just waiting. Daryl watched Beth roll up onto her knees...close to him...so close now...felt her warm lips pressed against his forehead before she swept his bangs aside out of his face...eye to eye...blue fire and blue ice.

“If you don’t have hope, what’s the point of living?” It was so much more beautiful coming from her mouth...

Three short, sweet kisses to his lips...he tried to catch hers each time...draw her mouth into something longer...deeper...more satisfying, but his lips were slow. He was tired. Sitting back down on the tabletop, Beth distanced herself, but before he could voice a complaint, she drew his head down into her lap. Daryl didn’t fight her...wanted to go...as strong as he had to be in their world, being able to feel safe in her arms...it was something he never imagined for himself before.

“Close your eyes...I’ve got watch...” Beth began humming softly, threading her fingers lovingly through his hair...humming a melody he didn’t know, soothing him with a lullaby. There hadn’t been any lullabies in his life.

Daryl sighed, releasing all his worries, if just for a few moments...except for one. One that just hit him. One that was brought to mind in remembering the passage he read from Beth’s diary...

The rest of us, we just need a safe place to be...

“I’m sorry...sorry we’re still running...” The pull of sleep was dulling his words, but he got ‘em out.

Never been one much to apologize before Beth...but with her he meant it. He wanted to be able to give her a stable, loving life where they could stop running and just be...

He wished she wouldn’t have stopped humming...but what she said in her simple little reply was music to his soul.

“We’re not running anymore...We are going somewhere together.”

_______________________________________


There were times Beth anticipated this moment, wondered how it was going to play out...what the circumstances would be...times that she was so caught up in the tumult or beauty of what her life became that she totally forgot...but in this moment, it caught her off guard. Daryl reaching back behind him, drawing out her journal from where she knew he kept it safe in his pocket. He held it so carefully...so gently like he was afraid he was going to ruin it...like it was going to turn to dust. He worshipped it with his scarred hands. For a few fleeting moments, when they stopped their journey...sitting with him like they were children, on top the picnic table...Beth thought it was about him...maybe he was stopping for himself and she could be there for him. She knew it wasn’t about the map. Daryl had a better sense of direction and grasp of which way the threats were headed than anyone had a right to, and that pretense didn’t last very long, Daryl just looking up, peering at her through his unruly bangs falling in his eyes. Sometimes Beth wondered how he even saw anything anymore through his wild mane, but she wouldn’t trade him just as he was for anything. He wouldn’t be her Daryl. And for Daryl, his hair almost seemed like his security blanket, the way he hid from the world...the way he hid what he thought were his weaknesses...the truth of him that could always been seen in his eyes...his kind soulthat was tucked away behind those deep blue pools. He hid from the world.

He was tired. His eyes weren’t black anymore, the first time she’d seen him without black eyes since the good times when they were all building something at the prison. They were almost faded...almost gone by the time they made it to the funeral parlor...the first time around...before they were separated...dinner...candlelight...his eyes, knowing now what the sparkle she saw in them meant...

What changed your mind?”

Those steely blues on her...those eyes begging her to understand what he couldn’t say...

“Oh...”

Beth felt a small smile capture her lips...just for herself. It was easier to smile about those moments now, easier to forget what happened in between because they made it. They made it together.

Daryl’s eyes might not have been black anymore, but there were dark circles under them from a sleepless night guarding her...that stress and tension. The last days at the funeral parlor, though emotionally wrought, ended up being a blessed respite from both their demons...but they both knew it wasn’t permanent, and it wasn’t enough. They needed the stability Daryl’s house and his land promised, and this was the last leg of their journey. Daryl needed to rest, not just for a few hours or even a night. He needed a place where he could rest. And Beth wanted to take care of him...wanted to give him more than that, but she knew if he was ever going to let it happen...ever accept any of her loving care, allowing himself to be taken care of, Daryl feeling that they were safe and secure was key. Their home would be her domain...where she looked after him...

But none of it was about him or how he was feeling now. Suddenly it became about her again...always about what happened to her. He asked...asked if she wanted to talk about it...and it was like a block hit her mind...she couldn’t...couldn’t even talk...just shook her head without even thinking, strands of her hair whipping around her face and tickling her cheeks. She couldn’t.

“I’m here...”

Beth wished she could answer him...wished she could tell him he never had to say that...she knew, but still...no words. His hand was on her face, forcing her to look into his gently hooded eyes while she nodded. Then it happened...her journal in Daryl’s hands...everything that went with it...confessions...

Daryl confessing that he had it all along.

Beth confessing that she knew.

Daryl confessing that he carried it so he always had a part of her with him. Deep inside, Beth knew that truth...knew it all along...as soon as she saw it in his back pocket that day...but Daryl saying it...

Then...then considering something that had never crossed her mind...

If Daryl thought he lost her...if she...her journal was his hope...the last piece of her that remained to him...her voice...all that was left...

What if he read it?

Beth was partly terrified that Daryl may have read it as innocent as what she wrote may have been...but knowing that he carried her with him all along, that most intimate piece of her...the biggest part of Beth hoped he did and found some sort of comfort in her words. She had to know one way or another.

“Did you read it...?” Beth was glad by the time that her voice passed her lips that she was calm, almost contemplative...there was no way Daryl could read her wrong.

But he went shy...turned timid all over again...refusing to look at her, no doubt making what he thought was his biggest confession.

“Mmm-hmmm... ‘If you don’t have hope, what’s the point of living’...” Daryl recited her words like they were a verse from the Bible...revered...holy...like her words were the words he lived by...at least he was trying.

Beth knew in an instant the portion he read. She could never really know if he read her entire journal...she wasn’t going to put him on the spot and ask...or if by some chance Daryl opened her diary to that spot, the exact thing that he needed to read to keep him going. Daryl wore the wings in their relationship, but maybe, just maybe...there was something greater than them out there, someone besides her, looking after Daryl. She went to him, repeated her own line out loud...what her Daddy told her...

“If you don’t have hope, what’s the point of living.”

...knowing the intimate truth to those words...knowing there was a time not so long ago where she had no hope, and there was absolutely no point to live. She had been there. She gave up. She wanted to die. But now all she wanted to do was live and love. Hope...her hope was infinite.

Daryl...he was tired...so worn...she could see it in his face even if he wanted to deny it, kissing him innocently...not allowing him to take it any further...just promising that she was there too...

_______________________________________

Daryl fell asleep quickly...head in her lap. That’s how she knew just how much he needed it; he didn’t fight at all, just drifting away listening to her hum quietly...the music soothing them both. After she was sure he was sleeping soundly, gently laying his head on the table...and he didn’t stir a bit...Beth covered him in their blanket then looked to make herself busy before taking up watch. The problem was, there wasn’t much to make herself busy with. A fire...that was the only thing she could really do, gathering tinder, twigs, and wood to burn, careful not to stray too far from where Daryl slept, afraid he had some sort of instinctual perimeter alarm that would go off if is she got too far away. So adept now at building their fires, it took a whole of fifteen minutes to go from gathering wood to robust little flames jumping towards the sky in the low burning fire.

That was when she decided to sit down and revisit an old friend. Opening her journal to find the last page she wrote on...Beth sighed...feeling all warm, not because of the fire. The last thing she wrote wasn’t even there anymore...she’d ripped the page out to write it, and it wasn’t a journal entry; it had been an unfinished Thank You note. Smiling on the inside...

Maybe you don't have to leave that. Maybe we stick around here for a while. They come back, we'll just make it work.

They did stay for a while. Daryl was right...they made it work. They made it. Pen in hand, Beth started a new page for a fresh new chapter in life.

_______________________________________


“The last time I saw you sittin’ by a fire with your journal, I was watchin’ you rip pages outta it to feed the flames.” Beth didn’t expect him to be awake yet or to sit down at the fire, but she wasn’t caught off guard.

Her instincts were honed enough now to sense when danger was near, knew Daryl wasn’t a threat to her but moved silently enough that she would never sense him coming. His voice wasn’t groggy or sleepy as he took his place across the fire from her. Out in the open, he was always instantly awake and alert...not afraid, not startled or rattled, just ready as soon as his eyes popped open.

After writing her entry, Beth flipped to the first pages of her journal, reading, remembering, seeing who she’d been back then...all those things that were her past but couldn’t really be who she was anymore. She was still such a child in so many ways then. It would always be a part of her, but it wasn’t her anymore...and she was glad for it.

You got to stay who you are, not who you were.

That journey...reading...had taken her all the way into dusk...the sun setting sooner as the days grew shorter. That’s where they were now.

Beth remembered the night Daryl was talking about...suspended in the desperation of the time between losing the prison and finding each other. They were together...yes...but they were lost. The pain and devastation...the ways they were coping...made her and Daryl worse than strangers...it made them almost enemies. That night by the fire, Beth made no protest about doing nothing...didn’t fight Daryl about sitting there and not tracking. She didn’t cry either...cried too much already...told Daryl...told herself she didn’t cry anymore, but there she had been, reduced to tears. She made Daryl track because she refused to give up...she believed everyone was still alive...taking off into the woods in the dark, taking his knife with her, she forced him to track because even though Daryl was shutdown, Daryl’s innate goodness...his code...wouldn’t let her leave alone. And how was she rewarded for her faith...her persistence? Daryl tracked for her, and all they found was a pile of people by the train tracks...not even people...just...just gnawed on body parts...torn apart...and a little shoe...a child’s shoe. Was that Luke’s...or Molly’s? Beth thought that day...those tears would be her last tears. Sitting by that fire, she didn’t cry again. She didn’t fight him to track...none of it mattered then because she thought everything was gone. Beth couldn’t have been more wrong.

“It was like you were tearing up your hopes and dreams...burning away your future. Like you didn’t believe anymore.” Daryl leaned in, poking at the logs and bright burning embers.

He didn’t know how right he was...or maybe he did. Beth hadn’t realized it then, but ripping out those pages...that had been exactly what she was doing...burning away her future. Any faith...any belief she had left was turning to ash. Things had changed.

“Everything’s different now...” Beth reassured him, or tried at least...sentence broken off by an unbidden yawn.

But he had to know. He knew. No matter how self-conscious Daryl was, that was a truth he had to know and accept.

“Go on...get some sleep.” He nodded her to the picnic table where he’d left the blanket crumpled...waiting for her.

If she was lucky, it might still retain some of the warmth of his body. She should make an excuse, protest...but she didn’t. Beth went to him first though, leaned down low, tasting his lips before she left him alone. His fingers lingered in her ponytail as she straightened, combing through the wavy mess until only the ends were in the tips of his fingers when he had to let go. Daryl wasn’t moody anymore, he wasn’t tired...he just didn’t want to be alone...Beth could tell...but was letting her go because she needed it. Out in the open, they didn’t really have the luxury of sleeping together.

“What...?” Daryl was confused when she held out her journal to him.

He wouldn’t reach for it...hand went to his bow beside him instead like he needed something to hold onto, to keep his hands busy.

“Will you keep it safe for me...” Beth couldn’t say why she did it...for her...for him, but Daryl didn’t refuse her...taking her offering.

_______________________________________


Daryl contemplated the little green notebook, in his hands once again for safe keeping, looking over to the little pavilion where Beth was curled up in a tiny ball under the blanket. Why’d she go and give it back to him? She had a back pocket...they had a backpack...it was hers...thought she’d want to hang onto it...keep it close after having been without it so long. He didn’t mind keeping it...now when it was gone after all the times he never noticed it was there...now that it was gone, his pocket felt empty...part of him felt hollow. Daryl noticed things...maybe read too damned much into them for his own good. Beth’s little journal wasn’t closed, well at least it wasn’t closed right, like it was supposed to be, her pen stuck in the middle of the pages like a bookmark. No...he wasn’t gonna go there again...wasn’t gonna read what wasn’t his...what weren’t his thoughts...just flipped it open to the marked page to pull the pen out. It would break the book’s back and ruin her diary if he put it in his pocket like that...that’s what he told himself.

But the pen wasn’t marking the last page she wrote on...where she would start writing when she picked it up again. It was marking something that had just been written, a page of new black ink in her neat handwriting...new words, new thought’s from tonight he knew ‘cause the last thing before it was torn out.

Maybe you don't have to leave that. Maybe we stick around here for a while...

Daryl remembered.

Beth had ripped out blank pages of her journal to feed their dying fire, giving up her future...her dreams to keep it burning in hopes they might survive just a little bit longer. Daryl slid his finger down the jagged ridge the torn out pages left inside the small book...remembering...remembering that the last page she tore out had been a page torn out not in desperation, not in sadness, not for survival...but because of belief in the world and what it could still be...

I'm gonna leave a ‘thank you’ note.

Why?


For when they come back. If they come back. Even if they're not coming back, I still want to say thanks...

Eyes back to Beth...she was asleep...not watching him. He shouldn’t, but he did...

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written in you. It wasn’t that I forgot about you. Not this time. I lost you for a while. Someone else found you and carried you in their back pocket like I used to. He carried you to remember me. I’ve known for a long time where you were. I saw you in his back pocket. I didn’t know you existed anymore until I saw you that day. It was a hard day, I’m not going to lie...but it wasn’t a hard choice. I chose to leave Maggie and the group to go with Daryl. I made my choice because I wanted my life with him, not because I was afraid what would happen to meif I decided to stay with my family and go with them the Washington D.C. It was what I wanted. Leaving is always just a little hard though, no matter where you are in life. I was sitting on the floor that morning with Maggie, and I remember feeling excited, nervous, anxious, and Maggie was making me feel just a little sad, maybe the same way I made her feel sad before she went away to college. She was excited, nervous, and anxious then too, but I didn’t want her to leave. That’s what life is though, growing up, moving on, making decisions for yourself, getting to do what you want in life while you have the chance. Chance. That’s what it’s all about, now more than ever...having a chance. I have a chance to be happy. I am happy.

That was when I saw you for the first time again, while I was sitting there and talking to Maggie about leaving. I saw you peeking out of his back pocket. Daryl told me something once...before everything that happened...before we were separated. It was about tracking and hunting when he was teaching me to use his crossbow...yes, he was teaching ME to use his bow. He let me touch it...hold it. Anyway, he said “The signs are all there, you just gotta know how to read ‘em”. He was right, but it wasn’t just about hunting or tracking, at least not how I see it now...

A shaky smile threatened to seize Daryl’s lips as he pulled his eyes away from the lined pages, gaze darting to Beth, making sure she was sleeping...praying he wasn’t gonna get caught. The signs...the signs are all there...it had never really been about hunting and tracking, had it? Not even for him. Something he was telling himself. Something he was subconsciously telling Beth. Sure she was toting his bow while he said it, tracking a walker...but that was it, wasn’t it...the signs. Beth was holding his bow, his weapon. He was teaching her his means of survival...hunting and tracking. They were his, had been since before the turn...the way he lived, the way he ate, the way he survived. Wouldn’t even let Merle touch his bow...but Beth...he was giving her that part of himself, more of himself than he was ever willing to share with anyone else. The signs had been there all along...

I didn’t need a sign that day, but there you were in his pocket, something I thought I lost...part of me. And I know what you are. I know how to ‘read’ you. You’ve carried all my hopes and dreams...like I told you before, Daddy said "If you don't have hope, what's the point of living?" Daryl saved you like he saved me. He didn’t just save you and me...he saved my hopes and dreams. He is my hope, and he carries you...that with him. Even after, when I knew where you were...safe with Daryl...I didn’t ask for you back because I think he needed you more than I did. But here we are now. So much has happened since the last time that I wrote in you. After the prison, we were always moving. We just needed a safe place to be. Where we could stop running, stop scavenging. Then we found a place we could’ve stayed...Daryl wanted to stay...I wanted to stay with him...until our world was turned upside down.

So much has happened. People have died, I’ve killed...so much more. But I can’t tell you those things. I don’t want to remember...but I’ll never forget. I told Daryl though. I’m telling him. Not everything at once. It’s too much for either of us to bear, but even if we don’t talk...even if I don’t tell him everything, Daryl is taking those things that haunt me as part of himself, taking them as his own scars so I can be free. I’m not sick anymore. I’m not dying. I’m still a little broken, but little by little, day by day, I feel more and more normal, and I know that’s because of him. So much happened...but the only thing that happened that mattered was that Daryl, he didn’t just save my life...he saved me...he is saving me. I wish Daryl didn’t have to take my pain. It shouldn’t be his burden, but that’s who he is. A savior. A protector. A sacrificer. That’s who he was all along, even before me. I’ve told you that. I know he is strong enough to bear the burdens I can’t, I just wish he didn’t have to be.

So Daryl...this is about Daryl, not the bad things that happened to me, but the one good thing I have. I’ve never really talked to you about love...well, not about loving someone...a man. I’ve talked to you about boys, but not love. Jimmy, that first crush, the first boy Daddy let me date. Zack. I barely knew him. He was just the only guy that showed interest, and I think I needed that. Daryl was wrong when he said I had two dead boyfriends I didn’t shed a tear for. I cried for Jimmy a little even though my tears weren’t just for him but everyone and everything we lost that night when we lost our farm. I lost my innocence, my home, and my first crush. He was right about Zack. I didn’t cry for him at all. Zack deserved better. I’ve loved people...I care...I guess I just don’t fall in love easily, but I fell hard. I know my first love is my only love. Daryl will be that only love until I die. It can’t be any other way. I don’t have it in me to love anyone else like this, and Daryl told me the same thing. “Nobody's ever owned my heart before. I told you it was yours. This is a one time deal for me.” You just can’t ever know what those words...knowing they are Daryl’s truth means...what they did to me.

We have a life together. I might have been drunk when I said those things...but I remember telling Daryl that I thought Daddy would get to grow old, enjoy life in the safety of the prison...we would get to have picnics, birthdays, holidays, Glenn and Maggie would have a baby. Daddy would get to be a grandpa. When I told Daryl that, I thought I was so stupid for actually thinking those things could happen...but I wasn’t. Daddy’s gone now, but Daryl said something that night that gave me hope. It helped me hold on...not just hold on, but believe. “That’s how it’s supposed to be.” That’s what he said. Daddy can’t have those things anymore, but that IS how it is supposed to be. Maybe even then, I believed it for myself. That’s how I want it to be for us. Daryl’s taking me home now. We can have that home...that life. Picnics. We will celebrate holidays. Birthdays. Maybe we can’t have everything, but we get to have a full life. I believe that. We fought too hard not to. I don’t think it’s a stupid wish anymore. I don’t think it’s stupid to hope. I don’t think it is stupid to believe. Daryl told me I wasn’t stupid when he said “That’s how it’s supposed to be” even if there was some moonshine involved. I believe this is just the beginning...our beginning. So, I’m going to write down my wishes because I believed once...I believe you should write down wishes to make them come true...and these are for Daryl.

I wish Daryl would stop doubting himself.

I wish Daryl would realize he is the man I know he is.

I wish Daryl would let himself find comfort in me...lose himself and his worry just for a little while.

I wish Daryl would realize that I don’t love him because he is the last man standing, but because he is the only man I can see...

Heart not thumping hard but quivering...a quivering heart never happened to him before he met Beth...Daryl was chewing at the end of the pen between his lips, didn’t realize that until he was done reading...reading her words ‘bout him...what she wrote in her diary. What she wrote in the sacred sanctuary of her thoughts. Damned fire, making his eyes burn and water, Daryl swiped away the wetness on his cheeks. Was it really all that much different than anything she’d ever said to him...hearing all those things in her sweet voice...things no one, much less Beth Greene had ever said about him? No. He needed to pull it together.

But it was...it was different ‘cause it was written...it was like a love letter she knew he might never read. Running the pad of his finger over Beth’s words, feeling the letters raised from the page...it meant something...something to him...maybe everything.

“Phhh...” The sigh popped out of his mouth as soon as he freed the ink pen he had clenched between his lips, chewing at it so violently it was like to crack under the force.

He closed the little book...closed it like it should’ve been kept all along. Daryl was anxious...wanted to...needed to...but this, it was something he’d never done...even thought about doing...

Considering, Daryl tapped the pen against the spine of her journal, the nervous sounding tap...tap...tappity tap resonating in his head, only stopping because he was afraid it would wake Beth up...and ‘cause he made his decision. Flipping it back open, going to the last pages, Daryl set the pen to paper quick before he lost his nerve. There wasn’t much light from the fire, but his eyes were still hunter sharp...more than sharp enough to write. He hadn’t written in a long while...ages it seemed...hadn’t had a reason to...paused and considered his handwriting...compared to Beth’s. Hers was neat, even, clean print. He didn’t know how to print anymore...remembered his grade school teachers rappinghis knuckles with a wooden ruler ‘til he learned how to write cursive ‘proper’. His cursive...it was still cursive...his version, looking like he was writing quick even though he was penning every word with exquisite care and taking up far too much space on the line...

It was easier for him to be self-conscious about his handwriting than to actually think about what he was writing...just letting it come from the heart...

When he went to Beth, it wasn’t ‘cause he needed to sleep. He just needed her. Her journal was back in his pocket...safe... ‘til she asked for it again, safe like he was gonna keep her...maybe safe how they were gonna keep each other. She woke up...he knew she would as soon as he touched her, as soon as he laid his hand on her hip...still so new, there was no way these touches could be ignored...wouldn’t be felt. He could barely see her...barely see just her eyes through the dark, but she was asking...

It all started and ended with the same question...Did you read it?...Daryl actually allowing himself to be vulnerable enough to not just want, not just hope, but believe...believe with blind faith like she did...believe in what she wrote. When she asked him this time, Beth didn’t ask him in words...she didn’t need to. So often now, they were beyond words...their souls so tied that words didn’t matter. And she wasn’t just asking if he read it...that wasn’t what was glinting in her eyes...she wasn’t even just asking if he believed her, but if he believed it, what she wrote about him...in his heart. He didn’t know if he could make himself vulnerable enough to say it just yet. His eyes were still watery from the fucking fire, voice gone rusty as a can of tin nails...rasping out the best answer he could manage.

“I’m tryin’...”

As Beth snuggled closer and he could properly wrap his arms around her, Daryl thought about the day that she got to the last pages of her journal...saw that they weren’t blank but filled with his words, and he got to ask the question...

Did you read 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