Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 52: Became Along the Way
~Author's Note: Hey everyone! Here is the new chapter where we will get to see Beth's POV of their arrival home and the things that transpired between Daryl and his past. I really believe that it was necessary to have dual POVs on this event. Thank you as always for reading, and I hope you enjoy!~
“You stay here, you hear me?!”
Beth was trying...trying to stay. She didn’t want to let him go, but for the first time in a very long time, Beth didn’t know what to do. Or maybe it was that she didn’t think that anything she could do would make a difference. She was stupid in believing there would be no consequences in coming here...a naive little girl in thinking that it would be a happily ever after. She’d felt Daryl’s tension on the ride in, but she had been so obsessed with the abstract conceptof home that she couldn’t comprehend that Daryl’s anxiety...his worry was about so much more than just whether or not it would still be standing. For him, it was about coming to the place where he used to live...facing that tortured past. And that life wasn’t just a fading nightmare...it had stared right back at Daryl...tried to rip him to pieces. Beth had never seen Daryl so debilitated...not when it came to survival.
“No trespassing. Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.” Beth giggled a little reading the warning sign hammered to the wooden gate with rusty nails.
It was just so...so very Daryl, and it had nothing to do with the world he came from, but the protective Daryl she’d come to know...even before the prison fell. But now, even more, it was about what Beth as a survivor knew Daryl would do to defend her and their home...and that was nothing to laugh about.
Daryl was being serious enough for the both of them though...in full survivor mode, eyes everywhere but on her even when she spoke to him. More than just his wild alertness, there was apprehension deep in him too. The next few steps they took...there was so much uncertainty, not about what they would find...the road had been surprisingly clear of any signs of the living or the walking dead. It was about what they might not find...what might not still be there. Nothing was sure in their existence except each other. Everything that brought them to this place...not just the trip but the decisions that led them here, Daryl leaving the group for her, Daryl fighting every step of the way for her, fighting together...today would yield the culmination of that journey. Not to mention all of the feelings and memories he was keeping inside, reliving them in trekking down the paths of his past...going back to a place that scarred his life in hopes of making a home for her there. No matter how much she assured him he wasn’t his past...he wasn’t a failure, he wasn’t nothing...no matter how much she hoped or even began to think he believed it, there was nothing Beth could really say or do about it until she saw it...was facing that past standing beside him. Even so, part of her was beginning to understand therewere some things that she would never be able to heal for Daryl; he would have to find it within himself. Beth prayed and prayed hard, not knowing if Daryl could take what he would see as another personal failure. She would follow him anywhere; they had already established the place didn’t matter, but for Daryl, he desperately needed a win.
“Yeah...when land’s all you got, you tend to be protective of it. Sign kinda takes on a whole new meaning now.” Daryl’s reply...a reply that surprised Beth to start with...began almost defensive, but lightened at the end.
It was the first time since Daryl pulled down the barely discernible dirt road that almost didn’t exist as the wild reclaimed what was once its own...left the motorcycle concealed in the brush, and they set out on foot about a half-mile back that Daryl actually spoke other than out of necessity. Beth had to look at him to make sure she heard right... there was humor in his voice...
“...with the walkers and all...” He went on to explain, as if he wasn’t sure she understood his wit.
It was dark humor, but she would take what she could get, smiling brightly at him.
He avoided though, grabbing the gate, rattling it to check its stability, not going to open it, but reaching out for her arm, guiding her.
“Come on, up and over...almost done...about 500 yards at the most.” Giving her a boost when she didn’t need one.
Beth could climb a fence as well as any girl who grew up running as a child wild and free on a farm, but he probably sensed that she needed to be stilled, her heart pounding out excited beats in her chest...the part of her that would be eternally optimistic, knowing that home was just a few minutes away. And she wouldn’t complain about Daryl’s hands on her...couldn’t deny the way her skin rippled under his touch...how much she craved his attention, now especially after the intimacy they had shared.
Just as she was settled...boots on the ground...Daryl hopped the gate, steady on his feet beside her, again traveling down the path together in silence...
“Just up ahead...we’ll clear the trees, hit a small open space and see what we see...”
They were almost there, but he stopped.
“Daryl?” Beth reached out, fingers barely trailing down his leather clad arm. She was steadying him too.
“Mmm-hmm...” Chewing his lip, he glanced over at her then away, Beth knowing she didn’t have to say any words of comfort or assurance...just letting him know she was there was enough.
See what we see...
The woods retreated just where Daryl said they would...this was his land, and like he told her in coming here, he was proving he knew it, every rock and tree and hill. The small meadow was ringed by trees standing sentinel...tall grasses shed their summer greens to don the golds and yellows and pale ambers of autumn, having lost their crowns of seeds promising new life after winter melted away.And across the grassy expanse, set back in a lovely grove, up a little rocky incline Beth could begin to see it. Somewhere between jubilant and ready to double over sobbing...it had been such a long and arduous journey since they escaped the prison...she found the happy median of simply moving forward towards that hope, but Daryl’s arm thrown up quick to halt her caught her across the chest.
“Stay here. I’m goin’ in first.”
She understood that was his instinct, but Beth wouldn’t accept it.
“No, we’re in this...we’re in this life together.” And she wasn’t going to lose that life again. It wasn’t worth anything without him.
“Fine. Stay behind me...” growling none too kind. “You ain’t gonna be like Bambi bounding off across that field.”
Stepping out into the open, she didn’t expect anything different from him...fierce...she just didn’t know what he was so worried about.
The high grass reached up under the hem of her shirts and tickled her tummy, broadening the smile on her face as they waded through the sea of gold. Daryl was cautious in every step he took...stopping, hesitating, listening, but Beth was soaking up the bright sun...brilliant in a cloudless sky streaming down on them. And there where before she could barely make out the frame of the building set back in a picturesque copse of trees, the warm light cutting through the autumn canopy of colors illuminated it. Home. Stopping...staying close to Daryl’s hip just like he told her...Beth just wanted to run to it, grazing her hands across the tops of the grass like a child...carefree because she knew her life was safe and happy and just within her reach. The house...at least what she could see from the distance where Daryl stopped them...it was...rustic. It needed some work and some tender loving care, just like she and Daryl did, but it was far from irredeemable...
The security and promise of their newfound life came crashing down around her when she fell from where Daryl carried her as a single walker set upon them. It was just one walker...but in that second...when Daryl turned to it, everything changed. Beth was the one who had to act fast...out of instinct, barring the door once Daryl ejected the thing from their home. It would’ve been just as easy to take out this single walker as to cower in the house, but Beth’s own instincts hadn’t quiet matured into fight mode. Flight...or in this case hide...was still her first inclination if given the choice.
She hadn’t realized it...not at first and not even with her back against the door...that the walker was Daryl’s father. And not for a long while...confused...so stupid...seeing Daryl so shaken by what they encountered. How had she never considered just how alive Daryl’s past could be...that Daryl’s father could still be there? He’d told her that his mother was gone; she just assumed his dad was dead as well...but with the abuse that man inflicted on his son...Daryl would have mentioned his death. Beth should’ve known that. There was no excuse on her part. But it didn’t hit her...the flicker of acknowledgment didn’t form itself in her mind until she offered to put it down, and Daryl jumped into action from his near-catatonic state. He said it was to protect their house from bloodshed...but in his words, Daryl called it he before he stumbled over his tongue, correcting and calling the walker what it was...it. Walkers weren’t people to Daryl. They weren’t hes or shes...but this one had been something more personal...someone more personal to Daryl...Beth finally realizing the flash she saw of its face when it charged Daryl how much it looked like Merle.
Daryl needed to lead it away, not just to protect their home from its stain, but because he needed to rid himself of his father...his influence. And he needed to do it on his own, refusing to let her go with him.
Perched alone on the porch steps...just waiting...Beth rested her head in her lap fighting off the dull throb between her eyes. The adrenaline was fading fast...not just the adrenaline of the last few moments, but the adrenaline that kept her going on the final leg of their trip. She could have bided her time by exploring their new place in the world, but not without him...it had to be together...that simple joy. And her thoughts were consumed with sadness for Daryl. Not pity. He would never accept her pity, but she couldn’t help feeling sad, praying that this didn’t tarnish all the hope and happiness she wished for them so desperately in starting their life anew.
Too long. It was taking too long for Daryl to come back if all he did was lead it out in the woods to put it down. Sometimes people needed time alone...but sometimes people needed the one they loved and just didn’t know it. Daryl had been standing tall in hell since the day she met him. She wasn’t going to let this be the thing that cut him down.She’d made no promises not to follow.
Daryl hadn’t heard her making her way through the woods...of that she was certain. She wasn’t being cocky...knew where cocky got her...
I'm getting good at this.
That tracking lesson...his crossbow had been heavy in her hands, but she held it level, pointed it straight forward no matter how much her arms were starting to quiver. Daryl was following so close behind her, and she didn’t want to look weak in his eyes...wanted him to be proud of her because she was feeling a little bit of her own pride.
Thirty seconds later, she got her foot caught up in a hunter’s trap with a feasting walker just a few steps away. And even though she got off a shot that miraculously hit its mark, the bolt didn’t kill the brain and Daryl had to come to the rescue.
Pretty soon I won't need you at all.
That part proved to be even more devastatingly false. A few days later, Daryl was stripped from her like he never existed along with all her hope and faith. Only her will to die as herself and her love for Daryl...love that seemed too late and left unsaid...remained.
No...he didn’t hear her because he was too consumed, and the proof he didn’t hear her was everything he was saying. Daryl told her about his life...shared more with her about his past...a million and one things he would never tell anyone else...but what he was talking about now...it was different. Daryl made it very clear to her once that he wasn’t a liar...not to call him one, but lying and staying silent were two very different things. He wouldn’t lie to her, but these were things that he wouldn’t talk about with her...not now, maybe not ever. Feelings, emotions, inadequacies of the past...Daryl was confessing to and challenging his father...meant only to be between two men, an abuser with no more power and a victim who found his strength to stand.
Beth saw the body...the walker and its state. She didn’t see it happen, and she had seen so much carnage, the destruction and devastation these things caused that it didn’t matter. It was as if she didn’t see it because something more important...something so very human...something about life was happening before her.
“You tired to kill me...tried to destroy me. Didn’t just try...almost did...”
She could hear the walker that used to be Daryl’s father growling and hissing at him, but Daryl’s quiet acknowledgment...his acceptance of what happened to him drowned out the monster.
“Even when I got away, you had me walkin’ around knowing I was nothin’ and nobody. But you were fucking wrong. I was wrong.”
Conviction...that conviction was there. He finally believed it. It had taken so long, but Beth knew it now because he wasn’t saying it to her or for her...wasn’t trying to convince her, he was only really saying it for himself.
“I made it!”
I made it...
I know you look at me and you just see another dead girl...I survived and you don't get it 'cause I'm not like you...but I made it...
She’d been so fierce in standing up for herself for what seemed like the first time, taking on Daryl, showing Daryl she deserved to live. But she was wrong. Daryl did get it. He felt like he had to justify his existence too. Beth was right about something that day outside the moonshine shack. Daryl was like her in one way...he was afraid, but they were both tough enough to live and face their fears. They proved it every day.
“And I made somethin’ of myself. I am someone...I’m someone...” He lunged forward at the thing...just a step before Beth saw Daryl restrain himself; maybe he realized challenging a walker would do nothing in the end.“...even though you tried to...you broke me. I’m man enough to fucking admit that...more of a man than you ever were. You told me I was nothin’, but that wasn’t true.”
Daryl’s fists balled at his thighs so tight Beth knew his knuckles were turning white, popping and cracking under the force.
“I found my place. People cared ‘bout me...stood by me...fought by me...and look at you...” His words fell away as unbidden emotion overtook him, Beth wondering briefly if he was grieving the loss of their group, or if it was just the overwhelming magnitude of the moment, confronting the physical manifestation of the past.
“You...Where’d all that hate get you? You’re dead, and I’m glad for it. I’m the last Dixon standing...”
Despite the truth and anger in his declaration...that he was relieved his father was dead, and of that Beth had no doubt...the inflection in his voice at the end...facing that he was the last of his family alive, no one could realize that and not be affected. Not even Daryl. Especially not Daryl. She might have been drunk that night, but the moonshine hadn’t blinded her enough that she didn’t realize how much it scared Daryl...how very afraid he was when she prophesied he would be the last man standing. Beth knew it that night even before everything that came after...when he lost her. But she was his family now, and he was hers. They might not be bound by blood, but they were tied by more...love and everything they had been through, everything they fought against to be together...their bond of love such a deserved thing.
If Beth felt like she was intruding before...this...these things that Daryl said now...they were about her...awkward and nervous hearing what spilled from his mouth. He spoke so passionately of her goodness and her love and how it changed him...they were things she was never meant to hear. But he finally got it right without any convincing, assurances, begging, or pleading on her part...
“She loves me ‘cause of who I am...and I...I deserve her. I’ve earned...I deserve her love.”
Yes, he did...more than anyone ever could. And he understood that she loved him because he was Daryl...it couldn’t be anyone else.
A still and quiet moment came...contemplative but not peaceful for Daryl, Beth watching his muscles tense and flinch in his arms under his coat, clenching then releasing his fists. If she could see his face, she knew his jaw would be so tight it would threaten to shatter...couldn’t even grind his teeth. Beth didn’t understand some of what he said after the silence broke; it must have been connected to a moment he’d been recalling but never shared with her.
“Who do I think I am? It’s not who I think I am, it’s who I know I am. I’m Daryl Dixon. You’re the one who doesn’t deserve the name Dixon. I’ve made good on it. I’ve made it mean something...this life. My life. My name. And you don’t deserve the honor. You. Not me! That blood running through your veins...”
There had never been a question in her mind that Daryl was a proud man...not prideful, but proud...but she never knew just how much his name meant to him or to what extent his father told him he didn’t deserve to bear it and the impact it had on him.
“You don’t own me...I’m not my scars...”
Daryl severed the hold his father had on him...
“But I am my name. Dixon. And I am my blood. It’s my name now, not yours. My blood now, not yours...”
And he resolutely claimed what was his not by privilege or accident of birth, but by right.
“Maybe someday...that girl who loves me...I hope it might be hers too.”
Hope...there was such hope in Daryl...Beth heard it. Hope for the first time in facing his past. And what he meant...I hope it might be hers too...His name. He meant his name. Not so long ago, before she left everyone else behind in pursuit of her life and happiness with him, Maggie in the final moment of offering her concern and protection as a sister questioned...
Is he going to marry you, make those promises to love and protect you?
It was ridiculous...couldn’t have been further from Beth’s mind, and she wasn’t angry at Maggie for what she asked because Maggie didn’t get it. She didn’t get Daryl and everything he did to save her and protect her...love her when Beth made him no promises of her own. The only thing she’d left him with before they were torn apart was oh...
And Beth knew in the most viscerally painful way possible how beautiful things could be corrupted, made dirty and ugly...so much so the idea scared her...the torturous voice still sharp in her head...
As the Lord Our God created Eve for the comfort and companionship of Adam, so too has he released you from the heavens to be my bride amidst our dark world. Will you cometh to me this night as a bride cometh to the bridegroom?...and when she refused...before the punishment began...Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as you do in the sight of the Lord Our God. I am as God to you.
...and how pure and beautiful and innocent and life-altering love could be with no title at all...so many times Daryl risked everything for her...or even in the way he just looked at her or the softness in his tone when he spoke to her or how he gentled when he touched her. She never thought that was something Daryl would want...such a practical man...or maybe she just never had time to think about that particularromantic fantasy. Never imagining something like that would be important to him...Beth was now realizing just how traditional Daryl was.
It doesn’t matter...
That had been her answer to Maggie, and it was her truth. It didn’t matter to her. Love was all that mattered.
But it did matter because it mattered to Daryl, and if he offered her that honor...
“And if that blood...my bloodline is carried on...you ain’t got no claim to it. I’m not yours...not your son. You ain’t gonna have a legacy. No one’s ever gonna know you. Your name ends here.”
So fierce. He was so fierce, shredding the shroud of abuse that Beth knew strangled the life from him for so many years. So strong, until the hesitation crept into his voice again, as if he was afraid to own what he was saying...not because of his father, but because it was something more. Something he wanted, but it frightened him to even consider...
“But I might have a son...and he’ll have my name...Dixon...”
Daryl spoke of having a child...after everything. Daryl who thought the worst had happened to her...rape...and for a short time as she came to realize later...too late to ease his unnecessary torture on any account...he bore the burden of a future with her where he would raise a child that wasn’t his but he would still offer it his name so no one would know any different.
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...
No one came away untarnished from possibilities like that, real or imagined.
But Daryl...the way he spoke it like it was prayer...the wistful lit in his voice...it sounded as if he thought it would be the most beautiful gift she could bestow upon him...how something so normal and natural would change the world.
Could they have that...she was so broken...so unstable...Maybe if it was just them, they could have that normal...maybe life would find a way. Someday...
Shy and timid, feeling so very fluttery and just a little overwhelmedthinking on all these things, Beth shifted nervously, the underbrush beneath her revealing her presence.
Silence...Daryl went silent, the woods around them went silent. With not so much as an outward ounce of rage or overt violence, he stepped in, putting his knife through his father’s forehead and took a deep breath...
“You’re gettin good at that...walking in the woods.”
A mourning dove nestled somewhere in the thicket startled...took flight...the unmistakable whistling of its fluttering wings mirrored the frantic tempo her heart pounded out. Beth caught her own breath...she didn’t know what she expected from him...sneaking up on him like that. She wasn’t actually trying, but she should’ve made herself known.
“Almost didn’t hear you.” His voice was a forced...strained calm. He didn’t need to hide from her, but he was.
Moving up beside him...that’s what she did because that’s what she planned all along. Standing with him, taking his hand, Beth quietly reveled in this one shining, beautiful moment the world allowed her to witness, seeing Daryl’s vulnerability and strength, his hopes and dreams, conquering his past so he could have a future, claiming his name...himself...and breaking the chains that bound him to an abusive life that no longer existed. Daryl found the thing in himself that was worth fighting for.
“Whataya doin’?” Instinct should’ve propelled him forward, caught her, stopped her from doin’ anything to get herself hurt except only an unintelligible slur of words came out.
She’d escaped him while he’d been lost in a peacefully oblivious moment...and there was really nothin’ that could hurt her...except the barbed wire. Beth focused intently on untwisting the rusted strands that bound the corpse’s hands behind the pine. Last thing he needed was her to go cutting herself and getting lockjaw...but he was immobilized by the delayed recognition of what she was actually doing...freeing the body, which meant it was all real to her. She saw it...knew everything he did. Beth hadn’t seen what he did to the bastard who...mutilated her...mercifully passed out on the floor of her cell while Daryl carved his heart out and cut his guts to pieces. She saw this though. And Daryl saw too with clear eyes...eyes that were averted now but had seen. He did for himself what he did for Beth, avenging the wrongs...not letting evil stand...he was worth it too. Retribution.
Beth was too little to ease what was left of it down; it just plopped and crunched unceremoniously to the forest floor.
“We’re going to bury him.” There was no naivety or innocence in her...she knew full well the thing on the ground in front of her was a monster. There were no delusions about what he was. She knew all that, but Beth’s respect for life still ruled her...Daryl couldn’t accept it though.
“No. He don’t deserve it. He wouldn’t piss on a burning man to put out a fire...” Sadness...the injustice of it all...life...that good people like Beth cared enough to put that sorry piece of shit in the ground when in life he would’ve spit on her grave...his words were squeaking out. “He never did nothin’ for...”
Enraged...breaking off before finishing...
Never did nothin’ for me.
Choking up made him angry at himself. What he’d done...what he’d said was supposed to be closure...the end of it all.
He wished he could be stronger for her...
“It don’t matter...he don’t matter...”
She kept her distance while he spit out his words...sadness spreading through her too.
“It does matter. You matter.”
He didn’t understand.
Finally, she stepped closer when he didn’t throw anything back at her, but Daryl shied away.
“Help me bury the part of you he stole.” Another step closer, and another...he didn’t move away this time...allowed Beth to melt up against him as her words sank in. Beth was grieving...but she wasn’t grieving his old man, she was grieving ‘cause of everything she knew he suffered, everything he’d told her, everything she’d heard him say...
Daryl didn’t want to agree at first...on any account, but he had to.
We bury the ones we love and burn the rest...
It was what the group adopted after Glenn had his breakdown cleaning up the carnage of the midnight walker massacre at the quarry before he even met Beth. It was how they kept their humanity...a tenant that remained that separated them from the dead things that walked the earth and the humans who weren’t human anymore. And Beth, she already helped him burn the rest....drunk on moonshine...purged his past by torching the cabin...purifying it with fire. But something remained. Here was his chance. He had to bury a piece of himself...not his old man, but that scared little boy the prick destroyed. Daryl was trying to learn to love himself...for Beth’s sake...tryin’ ‘cause Beth loved him, it was hard though.
The boy...he could love the boy...himself...that died so many years ago...the boy that never really had a chance. Maybe all he ever needed to survive was a kind touch and a hug. The hug that mattered hadn’t come ‘til Beth...‘til he was a man. He would bury the boy to honor him with the man he became along the way.