Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 6: Barely Breathing
~Author's Note: Hi everyone! Here is the next chapter. It's a Beth chapter. Sorry we're moving away from Daryl for this one, but we need to see what's going on with Beth. Thanks to all of you who are reading this! I hope you enjoy, and I appreciate all of you!~
She was cold...so cold...weak, nothing mattered...everything hurt. She just wished she could stop breathing, but she couldn't. Instinct, survival instinct wouldn't let her...
She wasn't even Beth anymore...she had no memories of her life before...she was just a soulless body waiting to die...too weak to even beg God for mercy. She just waited for death. Every time she began to slip from consciousness into the void, she felt grateful that her pain was at an end, only to wake and find it had been only a momentary release from the pain.
When Brother Allerton came for her, she was burning with fever. He released her hands from above her head, sending her crashing to the floor as her body crumpled under her. Beth felt the pain of the collision, but she couldn't do anything about it. She couldn't even cry. The cold floor was soothing though. She pressed her body flat against it for relief despite the pain of the pressure. Beth felt a toed boot come in sharp contact with her side. The pain was muted in the moment. She almost didn't feel it. She knew he was screaming at her, she just couldn't make out what he was screaming. Even if she could, Beth wouldn't be able to do what he wanted, so she just laid there, hoping he would continue kicking her until she died.
Beth hadn't really noticed the attack had stopped. Maybe since she couldn't fight...she didn't struggle...the violence lost its appeal to Brother Allerton...but was he even there? For a moment, she thought that maybe, just maybe she had escaped the world...the pain...the sadness, even if it was some place in between...
But that wasn't the case. Allerton came back. Even though her eyes were closed tight and there was some odd disconnect between herself and the world, she knew that much because he was the only one that came for her. No...there was something else...
"What happened to her?" The unfamiliar voice drew her closer back to reality.
"Her injuries...she sustained them from her fall...they worsen. She's an angel, too fragile for this world." It still amazed her that he could be so composed between his fits of violence.
"Cut the bullshit. You know I don't buy into your religious extremism." The voice was strong, assertive, but Beth cringed, dreading the pain that Allerton would inflict on him.
"Be careful my son. You would not want to find yourself outside the grace of the Lord Our God." Beth could hear the tension in his voice, but Brother Allerton didn't snap.
"Don't threaten me. You need me. You're not likely to find another doctor around. And if this is what your god tells you to do to women, I don't want his grace."
Beth felt a presence beside her, a hand brushing back her sweaty hair from her face, resting on her forehead. She instinctively flinched from his touch, waiting for the pain to follow.
"Shhh sweetheart, I'm not gonna hurt you..." He spoke softly, slowly, as not to frighten her. "She's burning with fever! Why is she not in bed? Why is she handcuffed?!"
"She spends her nights in devotion, bound to God, reaching for the heavens." Brother Allerton was insane. Maybe this person, this doctor, saw it too.
He touched her arm gently. Beth was unable to stop the small cry of pain that escaped her lips. The pain had become a constant; she embraced it, but when another factor such as touch was introduced, it was too much.
"He hangs you from the ceiling." It wasn't a question. The man knew she couldn't answer...it was a realization, a realization that he let her know he understood what she was going through.
Beth felt strong arms scoop her up off the soothing cold floor. The pain was extraordinary, but the fact that the embrace was a kindness made it bearable. The bed...the blankets...a pillow, softness allowed Beth a small measure of comfort.
"The keys!" The doctor barked, and Beth felt her hands released.
He was gone then...had it all been a hallucination? But Brother Allerton was still near...he was the one person she could never escape...he was always there.
Beth had slipped into merciful darkness again but was jolted out of it by the excruciating pain of hands pressing against her broken ribs covered in black and blue skin. She couldn't cry out, but she feebly grabbed the man's hand to stop the pressure. The pain wasn't being caused intentionally, but it was torture all the same. He held her hand momentarily, squeezing it softly.
"I'm sorry for what's happened to you," he whispered as he drew the covers up over her.
Someone she didn't know cared enough to say that to her. It was a kindness.
"Is it the Lord Our God's will that she live? What is her worldly affliction?"
Beth forced herself to focus. They were talking about her. She needed to know.
"Pneumonia. Brought on by the broken ribs. The original injuries, however you claim they were sustained, would have been enough to cause respiratory problems, but continual trauma and constant stress to the body exacerbated the wounds and allowed the pneumonia to set in deeper. Is there anything else you've done to her that I need to know about?"
Brother Allerton hesitated. "...there have been sedatives...to help her with the stress of living in the mortal world..."
This was her death warrant. Death would come to collect her soon.
"Will she live?" Was that fear she heard in Allerton's voice? She wanted him to be afraid.
"I doubt it, and I hope she doesn't. It would be a kindness with what she's suffered." Beth waited to hear Brother Allerton's rage in reply, but it didn't come. "If there is any chance of her living, you have to stop beating her. You need to let her sleep, stay in bed, rest, she needs to have food. Even then, I'm not sure any of it will matter."
"She must come to the Lord's meetings. The congregation expects her." He'd regained a bit of his composure, no doubt driven by his delusional fervor.
"Do what you want with her. Nothing I say to you is going to matter. Parade her around, it will only hasten the end. It's out of my hands now."
There was unexpected contact, a hand behind her neck raising her head...pills being offered. Beth refused them; she just wanted to go.
What are we waiting for? We should both do it...help each other...it's hard to do, no one wants to, but...we can do it so it's peaceful...easy...our choice, and then it would be over. Or we'll be forced to do it when the farm and this house are overrun...no one can protect us...we're alone...I wanna go in this bed, tonight...please...
The memory formed in her mind...something from her past...a piece of herself...and she'd thought she'd lost all of herself to the sickness and pain. She'd wanted to go then...with Maggie...Maggie, her sister, she remembered...but for some reason, she knew she was grateful she hadn't died then, a reason the extra time mattered...she just couldn't remember the reason.
"You need to take these." The voice was kind but insistent.
"Plea...please...just let me die..." Beth managed, but she wasn't sure her words could be understood.
"They will help with the pain, make you sleep."
Sleep. He'd said she would likely die. It felt like the end was near. If she was going to go either way, sleeping would be easier, and maybe the pills would even help her along her way. She accepted them, forcing herself to swallow a sip of water.
Beth was alone again with Allerton; she could feel his presence looming over her.
"You do not have my permission to die. I am as God to you." He was losing his battle, losing her, and there was nothing he could do about it. Beth took satisfaction in that, satisfaction in knowing he was afraid...He was lost.
You are not God. Beth wasn't able to say it, but just being able to think it in the end was defiant enough.
Then she remembered the reason it was better she hadn't died...killed herself...on the farm. Daryl. His image in her mind so clear and vivid now she didn't know how she'd ever lost it.
No one can protect us...we're alone...
That wasn't true...it wasn't even true then, when she had said it to Maggie ba, but now...now it was even less true. She hadn't been alone...Daryl took her with him when he ran from the prison. He could've left her...but he didn't. He'd protected her with his life...
And the sweet moments they'd shared, no matter how brief the time, she remembered. He'd died for her...died saving her...that meant something...she'd meant something to him. Maybe she would see Daryl again...soon...She drifted away, happy she remembered why living had been worth it...
Beth's eyes fluttered, but she refused to open them. She just wanted to sleep.
"Bethy, time to get up..." A gentle hand on her shoulder shook her this time.
She opened her eyes since there didn't seem to be any other choice. It couldn't be...it wasn't possible.
Beth threw her arms around his neck. He hugged her...it all felt so very real. Maybe it was. She let him go, pulling back to look at him. He looked just as he had the last time she was with him...before the Governor...she looked around the bright, sunlit room...her room in their home.
"Am I dead?" She wasn't scared to be dead. If this was what the after looked like, she was happy.
Her Daddy was perched on the side of her bed, now holding her hand.
"Do you want to be?"
The memories of the pain and torture formed fresh in her mind. And even if she lived, somehow survived, she...almost everyone was guarantied a gruesome death...the walkers. If she was already dead, death had come softly, as a mercy. She couldn't find the right answer to the question...the simple answer was "yes", but it refused to come out of her mouth.
He reached out, brushing her hair back, resting his hand affectionately on her cheek. She never thought she would see him again, talk to him, hear his voice. Beth felt like crying, but the tears wouldn't come.
"Maggie was always such a willful, independent child. More often than not, she was causing trouble rather than trying to stay out of it. She never needed me much, never wanted help from me even when she needed it. Maggie grew up to be a strong, beautiful, independent woman I'm proud to call my daughter."
Beth smiled; that was Maggie alright. She could hear the happiness in his voice, see the sparkle in his eye. Her Daddy had never been a prideful man...unless it came to his children...especially Maggie.
"And then you came along, my sweet, gentle Beth. You needed me, and sometimes for a father, any man for that fact, being needed means everything. You even allowed me to help you when you didn't need me, for my sake. Maggie's strong and independent to a fault. Those are her strengths, but you Beth, your hope, faith, your capacity for love, those are rare strengths, rarer still in the world as it is now."
"Daddy..." Beth didn't really know why he was saying all this, but she wanted him to stop...needed him to stop. She was afraid he was saying it all because she wasn't dead, and their time together was short.
"No Beth, you need to listen," He insisted, squeezing her had. "I was never much one for praise. I was afraid it would ruin you girls, but you deserve to hear it now. You have a rare gift, Beth. You know what people need, and you are selfless enough to give the people you love what they need despite yourself. You let yourself need me, and as a father, that is one of the greatest gifts I ever received."
"But I did need you, Daddy. I still do!"
A sad but knowing smile spread across his face.
"Not so much anymore."
"I need you," Beth insisted. She didn't understand why he thought she didn't need him...especially now!
Her Daddy's face bore a bittersweet smile. "No man is good enough for your little girl, until one is. I just never thought that man would've come along for you so quickly...but he was there when I couldn't be. You need him now..."
Beth felt a strange emptiness in the pit of her stomach, something pulling at her...pulling her away from where she was to something unknown.
"I'll always need you..." Her heart was breaking. How could he be thinking that!
"No Beth...you'll always love me...but need, someone else stood up and took my place. He's a good man. He's in your heart too...yours is big enough for both of us." He touched his hand softly over the place where her heart was beating...
Now that she focused on it, she could feel her heart beating, hear the beat in her ears...it was deafening...drowning out everything else...telling her she wasn't gone yet.
"I'm not dead..." It wasn't a question, rather a sad realization that this was nothing more than a dream...a fever dream or hallucination...the only real thing, the pain, waited for her on the other side.
"Do you want to be? What you want is part of that decision. You should be dead." His voice was serious and wise as it had been so often throughout her life. "But there is some part of you, something you are holding onto...something you're not willing to let go of."
No man is good enough for your little girl, until one is.
"God never gives us more than we can bear. Is what you're holding onto worth the pain, worth the suffering?"
"Daryl...is dead..." Beth managed before choking up.
"He couldn't have survived..."
Daddy was still sitting beside her, squeezing her hand, but part of her was moving away...becoming more distant...
"Bethy...he needs you too...fight for him...let him know you need him...it's okay..."
Do you want to be dead?
Beth knew the answer now...
"No." Beth opened her eyes. She was awake...alive...