Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 5: Provoked and Broken
Author's Note: On to Chapter 5! Daryl's still in a dark place. Thanks to all of you who are reading! I hope you enjoy!
He turned just as Abraham stepped into his personal space.
"Son, you need to calm the fuck down..."
This wasn't gonna go well...Daryl's group knew that, clearing out and making space for the prospective kill zone.
"Who you callin' 'son', Red?!" He was already on the edge. Daryl didn't need much more to be pushed over.
"You need to calm the fuck down and just think about this for a minute." Daryl wasn't calm, but he hadn't been pushed to the limit here yet, so he just stood his ground. "We've got a mission. As soon as we've had some time to recover, we're heading out to get Eugene to D.C. We're fighting for something big...we're fighting for the world, and you're coming with us."
"Pfft...should've asked me if I cared 'bout the world before you made an ass of yourself thinking I did, 'cause I don't. World ain't never cared 'bout me, ain't never done nothin' but fuck me every time it got the chance. I care 'bout these people, but they got Rick and each other. I care 'bout Beth, and she ain't got no one. I ain't gonna leave her that way!" Daryl asserted.
"I can't let you go."
Daryl disregarded him, turning away. "You don't got no say in it!"
Daryl didn't really know what triggered his response, whether it was Abraham's beefy hand grabbing his upper arm or the words that flew out of his mouth.
"She's dead, as good as dead, or worse. She's gone. Get the fuck over her!"
The butt of Daryl's bow was always good at breaking bones. Abraham was on his knees, his nose spewing blood, blood dripping between his fingers as he attempted to staunch the flow. Daryl's crossbow was aimed squarely between his eyes...it was the business end now...he only needed a reason, one small reason, and it would only be the mullet scientist and GI Barbie heading off to DC to "save the world". Daryl saw Rick beside him through his peripheral vision. He waited for Rick to intervene, but he didn't.
"You gonna do something about your boy?!" Abe was furious, blood dripping through his ridiculous mustache and down into his mouth, the stream of red starting to pool on the wood floor in front of him as it escaped his hand...
Apparently Abraham was taking him serious now, not making a move against Daryl. He found a lot of people really started taking him seriously when he was staring down the sights of his crossbow at 'em.
"Sorry. This is between men...not my place...I'm not gonna step between you." Rick had his back. "Just to set the record straight, I'm with Daryl. Beth's one of ours. We protect our own. I wanted to go with him, but Daryl vetoed my decision."
Rick said it...someone finally said it...Beth...her name...and he said she was worth it...Rick told everyone that Beth was part of them; she mattered and deserved their protection.
Daryl took a deep breath. It was over. He had Rick's support. He needed to get a move on. He just needed to let it go...he turned away form the bloody mess...
"Son of a Dick! You lost a piece of ass, and you're gonna..."
Daryl heard some sort of guttural noise escape his throat before he had the prick laid out flat on the ground...but it didn't seem to sound like it came from him. He'd felt Rick try to grab his arm before he flew at Abraham, but it wasn't enough. Foot on the heaving chest below him, Daryl allowed his face to get uncomfortably close to Abraham's, just not as close as his hunting knife biting at his jugular. For someone out to save the world, he sure in the hell didn't have quick enough reflexes. Daryl pushed just hard enough to bring the blood. The body below him was absolutely still, knowing that one wrong move would end it all, either his or Abraham's, which, didn't really matter.
"Her name's Beth, and that's not what she is!" Daryl wasn't really sure whether he intended to kill Abe or not. It could go either way. "You got somethin' you wanna say before we part?!
"Your sweet little piece of ass, even if she isn't dead, she isn't yours anymore. She won't recognize you, and if she lets you touch her, she'll do it 'cause she thinks she has to to survive, not 'cause she wants you. You'll be just like any of the other dozen or more who've fucked her by now. On the off chance you find that little thing you want so bad out there, do yourselves both a favor and shoot her between the eyes. She won't be no good to you anymore, and it'd be a kindness to her...or maybe not. Stupid redneck like you wouldn't be any different to her than those other men. And you probably won't know the difference either!"
How could a person even say those things? Daryl's world went blurry. He lost his grip on both his knife and crossbow...heard both clattering against the wood floor.
He didn't know how, but he found himself back in the hallway, away from everyone, kneeling, facing the wall, hand pressed against the smooth surface just to keep contact with something real. If he made it back with Beth, there would be a reckoning!
Daryl bowed his head. He didn't even try to fight back the bitter tears. Beth...everything that happened to her was his fault. He couldn't even...
Daryl heard more yelling from the other room. Rick...Abraham...maybe even Glenn...Tyreese? It didn't matter. He couldn't understand anything they were saying...was that Maggie's voice...nothing mattered. He clenched his eyes tight.
Rick came to him...he didn't know how long after...
Daryl felt Rick beside him, felt Rick's broad hand pressing between his shoulder blades. He couldn't say anything...he was still cryin' like a pansy-ass and couldn't pull a coherent string of words together if his life depended on it. Rick probably knew he was cryin', but there was no way he would call him on it. Daryl allowed his forehead to lean against the wall. The cool surface felt good against his pounding head. Rick didn't say anything. Didn't make Daryl talk. He just kept his hand steady in the middle of his back, making his presence known. That was what Daryl needed. Sometimes too many words were too much. When Daryl finally calmed himself as much as possible, he let out a deep breath and tried to focus on what he needed to do. He just needed to clear something up. Not that it was directed at Rick...at anyone...maybe Abraham...but the next "conversation" he had with Abe wasn't gonna turn out so pretty...maybe he just needed to clear it up for himself.
"I didn't lose Beth...I didn't...lose her...She was stolen from me!"
Did Rick know that or was he just sayin' it to make him feel better? It didn't matter.
Daryl finally found the strength to stand...the strength to get on with what he needed to do. Rick handed him his crossbow and hunting knife which he had disregarded in is retreat from the others. At least Rick hadn't let 'em lay. He needed to stop being so irrationally emotional and man the fuck up! Daryl felt much better with his knife at his hip and the weight of his bow over his shoulder where it belonged.
"And take this. You never picked it back up after Terminus." Rick pulled Daryl's gun from his back waistband, offering it to him.
"No...you should keep it. Too many people, not enough guns." Daryl might be leaving, but he still cared about what happened to his group.
"We need you to come back alive. The man holding the gun means a hell of a lot more than just an extra gun, and you've only got so many bolts," Rick insisted in the way he always did.
Rick was right. The problem was, he was probably goin' on a one way trip. He took his gun all the same and tucked it in the familiar spot at the small of his back.
"Rick, if I don't find Beth, I ain't comin' back." Daryl looked at the ground. For some reason, he couldn't look Rick in the face.
Daryl didn't know exactly what he meant by not coming back if he didn't find Beth, but he just had the feeling that if he failed, he wouldn't ever see any of them again. Whether he would die trying or wander off on his own until he was done and had punished himself long enough, he couldn't really say...
"I had a feelin'." Rick wasn't stupid. Never had been. Sometimes he was too hopeful or unrealistic because of that hope or need to hope, but those were flaws a person could live with.
"I'm not stupid. I know it's pretty much impossible that I'll find Beth..." Daryl knew it, but he just had to try.
"Hmmph." Rick looked down and shook his head a little.
"Not impossible, just improbable...and I see a whole lot of improbable that brought us here today, alive, standing face to face." Rick's voice carried the small hint of hope that Daryl so desperately needed.
He nodded, accepting what Rick said.
"We'll wait here for you to get back with Beth."
"You probably shouldn't do that...like I said, if..." Rick didn't give him time to finish.
"I know what you said, but we'll wait, let's say, a couple days at least. Then after that, you know where we're headed and how we plan to get there. We'll be watching for you on the horizon." Rick was getting all poetic.
"Red ain't gonna like that, you waitin' 'round here for me to get back." Truth was, now Abraham would probably be glad to see him go!
"Like you said, he doesn't have any say in it." That was something Daryl needed too, Rick still standing by his side.
"Rick, be careful though. You really need to think about this save the world mission." Daryl didn't want to undermine Rick, but Rick really needed to open his eyes and see.
"What do you mean?" Rick sounded confused.
"Just remember the CDC and everything Jenner told us. You need to think on it..." It was like with Shane. Maybe Rick didn't want to see what was going on. But things were different now. Daryl was different now. He wasn't gonna let things get as out of hand as they did with Shane. He was too invested.
Rick nodded. "You gonna say goodbye to everyone?"
I'm glad I didn't say goodbye. I hate goodbyes.
"I hate goodbyes," Daryl closed his eyes, thinking about Beth, about how every memory he had of her, with her, was so strong...how everything she had ever said or done had such a huge impact on him, even now when she was gone...so far away...
Rick clapped him on the shoulder.
The unfamiliar voice broke the brotherly moment. They both looked at one of the men who'd escaped Terminus with them. It was okay he interrupted though. Daryl decided to take the opportunity to leave without any prolonged awkward moments.
"I'm gonna go ahead and head out. I hope to see you again, brother." Daryl offered Rick his hand.
Rick took his hand and pulled him into a strong embrace. They were brothers.
"No...wait..." Daryl didn't really know why he should wait on this man's word, but something told him it might be worth it.
"You got somethin' to say, say it. I ain't got all day."
"You guys lost someone, you're looking for a girl, right?"
"What of it?" Rick's interest was peaked.
"Well, we heard you guys talking last night about a car with a cross on it's window...we've seen..."
"Where?" Daryl just couldn't give him a chance to finish. Hope. Maybe it was a sign.
"It was before we got caught at Terminus. It was a little community we came across. They were secure, but they took us in, no questions asked. They gave us food and a place to stay as long as we wanted. But I think they were some kind of cult...they preached some pretty strange things. We didn't stay...they let us leave and everything, but I had this bad feeling. The car was there though..."
"Beth, was she there? A young, pretty blonde girl?" Rick got the question out before Daryl got the chance.
"I don't know. There were a lot of people there, and I was keeping an eye on my own, but there was one young blonde woman who stood out..."
"Spit it out!" Daryl was starting to loss his patience. He didn't need this guy's life story, just the facts.
"We couldn't get anywhere near her, so I don't know...she didn't look like she belonged there though...like she wanted to be there...they said she was a gift from God..."
Daryl's pulse raced. It was Beth. He knew it in his heart. She was alive...but what had they done to her? Would he ever really be able to save Beth?
"Can you tell us where...give us directions?" Rick was as frantically excited as he should be, but Daryl was struck speechless with a contradictory combination of hope and terror.
"Yeah...I can do better...I can show you...we found a map last night in the desk."
Rick grabbed Daryl by his shoulders, the closest thing to happiness possible in their situation spread across Rick's face.
"Daryl, this is a solid lead! Everything points to Beth being there! You've got you're sign!"
"The signs are all there, you just gotta know how to read 'em," Daryl said below his breath, closing his eyes to see her.
"What?" Rick questioned.
"Nothin'. Just somethin' I told Beth while we were together." If only she'd known that he meant so much more than just tracking.