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beth writing 30 days without

FIC - TWD - Three Moments for Every One - A BETHYL fanfic - Chapter Three - Starting Over

Chapter Two:
http://maddie-amber.livejournal.com/31292.html

Beth had just emerged from the basement, arms wrapped around a basket laden with sodden clothing ready to be hung. It had been her turn to assist with laundry and she had not shirked despite still being hampered by slight paralysis in her right arm and leg. Laundry, she discovered, required no conversation on her part, but she could still enjoy the banter that surrounded her. She never thought she would take comfort in so mundane a routine but, she had also never thought so mundane a routine would ever again exist. And it reminded her so much of their brief life at the prison, when she still hoped that there could be some semblance of normalcy in this horrific world. She remembered how Carol would marshal her “troops” once a week, gathering, scrubbing, hanging, folding clothing for the all the prison’s inhabitants. The thought of Carol brought a momentary pang. Carol had been so badly injured. She wondered if her friend had survived. She wondered if any of them survived.

She quickly turned her thoughts away. She knew that only sorrow would be found at the end of that road. She had to continue to have hope that one day her family would arrive here safely as she had done. Surely Noah would deliver them here if at all possible.

“Doing okay, Beth?” asked a gentle voice at her side. “You seemed a bit lost there for a moment.”

Beth glanced up, realizing she had been frowning at her basket. It was Anne. The closest she had to a friend in this new place. Anne had taken Beth under her wing from the start. She was a nurse and had served in the Army before. She had experience with head wounds and had taken it upon herself to work with Beth hoping to help her recover her ability to speak and to reduce the remnants of paralysis that still affected her right side. Anne had begun singing to her, hoping the melodic repetition of music would be the key to healing the damaged part of Beth’s brain that prevented her from speaking coherent words.

“Gumby,” Beth said, then winced. Anyone else would have laughed at the totally inappropriate comment, but Anne knew that the words Beth used were often the only ones her brain would produce, appropriate or not.

“Pretty Gumby myself,” Anne said with a gentle laugh.

And Beth knew she was not being laughed at, but with, in the most empathic way.

“Gumby,” Beth said again, smiling. It was as good a word as any she supposed.

“I have the boys looking for new sheet music,” Anne said in her light breezy tone. “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little bit tired of church music. Hymns are fine and all, but I could use something a bit, I don’t know.”

Beth nodded and laughed. She loved the old church music, because it reminded her of the past she was slowly forgetting, when Daddy and Momma took them all to church on Sunday and they would sing. She knew Anne hoped the music would help her find the words she struggled to find on her own. Music therapy she called it. But something a bit less churchy would be fun.

Just as they stepped out into the bright sun of the courtyard, she heard the stomping of half a dozen sets of feet coming from one of the side streets. A small group of militia dog-trotted into view obviously on a mission.

“Hey,” Anne called to one of the young women in the lead. Beth recognized the woman but could not recall her name. “What’s goin’ on?”

“Got a situation over near gate three. You might want to keep your charge away. It could be dangerous.”

“What kind of situation?”

“Outsiders. Pushed their way through the gate. They’re pretty wild. Been livin’ without walls for a long time.”

“Did Aaron bring them?”

“No. I don’t’ know if Aaron will even let them stay. They came in on their own, but they seemed to know a lot about us. Look, I gotta go. They want snipers on the walls just to be safe.”

“Thanks.” Anne called after her as she trotted away after the rest of her crew. Then she turned to Beth, “Nothing to worry about. Happens once in a while. Some outside group gets wind of what we have. Sometimes they prove trustworthy and are allowed to stay. Sometimes, they’ve just been wild for too long.”

Beth had frozen in her tracks, and even though Anne nudged her she held firm. She held up three fingers towards Anne, cursing the words she could not find. She pointed to herself, then grabbed Anne by the arm and started to pull her in the same direction as the sharpshooters. She held up three fingers again. Anne pulled back.

“No, Beth, I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

But Beth would not hear of it. She set the laundry basket down with a loud thunk in the middle of the courtyard. She was sure the look she gave her friend would have scorched the earth. She had to see who the strangers where.

“Look, Beth, I know you keep hoping your family is going to show up, but,” Anne paused as though carefully choosing her words. “I think it’s pretty unrealistic to think that this might be them. It’s been months since you saw them at Grady. People don’t survive outside for that long.”

With those words Beth knew she was glaring. She pointed at herself firmly, then pointed to the outside. She had survived. Everyone from the farm had survived. For eight long months, through the winter, after her family’s home had been overrun. They had learned to survive. No one in this privileged place seemed able to comprehend that. Anne had reached out to gently take her arm, but Beth shook her off. She would see for herself who this new group was. Turning her back on her friend she stated in the direction the militia had gone.

“Okay, Beth, wait,” Anne called out after her. “At least let’s do this the smart way. You don’t need to get hurt again if there’s any real trouble. Come with me, we’ll go in the back way.”

Beth hesitated.

“Honest, Beth, I’m not trying to fool you. I just don’t want you hurt. I know the safest way to get a view of the gate without being seen ourselves. Come on.”

Anne lengthened her stride and Beth did the best she could to keep up despite the still nagging paralysis in her right leg. She had to know.

True to her word Anne knew the city and its back streets and soon they were standing on the edge of the broad, open plaza just inside gate three. It had been a park or something before the change, and there was still an expanse of trees and undergrowth both inside and outside the wall at this entrance. Beth had wanted to explore this part of the city, but had not yet gotten the opportunity. Anne held her back when they reached a point where there was a partial view of what was going on. She craned her neck to see over her taller companion’s shoulder. Overhead, on the wall’s parapet, she counted at least three rifles trained on the people below. She heard voices, talking heatedly though she could not understand the words that were spoken. She imagined someone just beyond her range of sight, was pleading their case, as the officers that had brought her to Richmond had pleaded for her. Laying out exactly why they should be trusted, and be allowed to stay behind these walls in this fragile bit of sanctuary. Beth wanted to get closer to see. One voice, muted by the building between her and it, was naggingly familiar, but the other voices were completely strange to her. Then she heard a shout and sensed the danger behind it followed by total silence. There was a subtle shift in the sharpshooters above her. They were picking their targets.

No longer caring whether she remained safe or not, Beth ducked under Anne’s arm, determined to reach a vantage point where she could see.

“Beth,” Anne hissed in a barely vocal whisper.

Beth felt fingers rake against her arm but she twisted away from them and was gone before they could reach her again.

***

Daryl’s aim was unflinching. He knew with deadly certainty he would take one of their leaders with him should anyone fire on his people. There were, in this moment, at least half a dozen rifles pointed at his head, he had counted three snipers on the outer wall alone as they came in. It was like Terminus all over again except this time he didn’t give a fuck how it ended for himself. He hadn’t cared since that fucking hospital in Atlanta. He had stayed alive this long because he owed Rick. He wanted Judith and Carl and the rest to know the safety and security of walls. Once they were safe he didn’t care what happened to himself and if the only way to end this standoff was a blood bath he would give as good as he got. But his family was not going to be denied the chance for survival beyond the simple act of staying alive. They were going to have the chance to live.

Silence had descended on the group in the plaza. A lack of sound that spoke of death or rebirth, ends and beginnings. Tension rippled through everyone around him, he could see it in the taught muscles and unwavering weapons, could feel it like a static charge that arced from body to body. A silence so deep his eardrums ached with the need to feel something, anything. And as if in answer to his desire he heard shuffling behind him, then a muffled grunt as though someone were struggling. But he refused to take the bait, holding his target, his back to the new disruption. Then he caught the slightest motion to his left. It was Maggie, turned so she could see what was behind his back. He did not risk a glance in her direction, refusing to be sucked in to whatever ploy these people were using to distract them. He was almost able to ignore the half choked mewling sound that seemed to come from Maggie. He couldn’t tell if the noise was meant to be anger, fear, joy or all of those wrapped into one and he was not going to look at her. But even without looking he could feel the raw emotion pulse from her as she dropped to her knees in the dust, Glenn, as he always was, at her side. He heard footsteps behind him, light, running with a slightly off step gate, and as he saw Tara and Carol turn to assess this new threat, he felt a slight body slam into his back, and two slender arms wrap around his middle. And a jolt went through him more powerful than any gunshot because the contact was so familiar. He still had not dropped his aim as all around him descended into chaos - voices shouting words his mind refused to comprehend.

And then the warm weight against his back was gone, the arms faded, proving they were truly a fantasy, and still those around him babbled words he chose not to hear, because to hear would mean to hope and he no longer would hope.

Then she was standing in front of him. Her back to him, blonde hair drawn up in a sloppy pony tail. But it couldn’t be her because there was no blood. Her arms were thrown wide, like Jesus on the cross, encompassing all those around him. Gesturing wildly she pointed to each of them, then pounded her chest “Mine,” she said in the voice of an angel. And still Daryl’s aim did not waiver. He would never waiver. Never for a nightmare, and certainly not for a dream.

***

Beth stood with her arms spread wide as though her body alone would protect her loved ones. Her heart had stopped when she rounded the corner of the building and saw the unmistakable form of Daryl Dixon. Without thinking she ran straight to him, ignoring everyone else, wrapping her arms around him as tears of joy half blinded her. But her embrace only lasted a moment as she placed herself between her family and those who had given her sanctuary. She had to stop this. She had to make them understand

“Mine,” she was able to say. Standing behind her was everyone in the world that she loved. Everyone she feared she would never see again. Everyone who thought she was dead. She could see their shock in the ashen white face of her sister as she slowly sunk to the ground, mouth moving without sound, terror that she was seeing a ghost mingled with hope and denial.

Beth stepped boldly forward making sure that she was placed between the weapons of her family and those who had accepted her and given her shelter. “Mine,” she was able to say again. And as she did the shock suddenly melted from those around her, as the confrontation was momentarily forgotten. Rick was the first at her side, touching her tentatively then wrapping her in an embrace so powerful she thought he would squeeze the life from her. The Maggie was there, incoherent as tears rolled down her cheeks.

“We thought you were dead,” Carol said softly, her hand resting on Beth’s back.

Beth shook her head vehemently, trying to see them all at once, to touch them all, to savor a reunion she had once been denied. Carl was there and Michonne and Sasha. Plus people she did not recognize, but who seemed to be part of the group now. Suddenly little Judith was crying, making her presence known, and Beth took her from Carl, holding her closely, smelling her baby hair and skin, amazed at how much she had grown.

Then she heard Anne’s voice outside the madness of everyone’s greetings. “You know Beth was separated from her family before she was brought here. We’ve accepted Beth, we need to give equal consideration to those she calls her own.”

Hearing those words, Beth handed Judith back to Carl and pushed forward through her friends to stand beside Anne, as she pleaded with the men who, moments before, were prepared fight it out with her family if needed. Beth swept her hand to indicate those standing behind her, then placed her hand over her heart wishing she had the words to plead their case, hoping they would be given the same opportunity she had.

“We asked them to surrender their weapons,” said one of the men. “They reacted badly.”

“Do you blame them?” Anne asked. “They’ve been living out there for months if what Beth tells us is true. Would you be quick to surrender your weapons?’

“We’ll let Aaron decide this,” the man said. “In the meantime could we at least get them to put their weapons up, holster their knives and pistols.”

Anne looked at Beth who nodded as a grin spread across her face. She turned to look at Rick who was standing closest behind her. He had heard their entire conversation and she stared at him waiting for him to respond. Slowly, Rick holstered his pistol, indicating that the others should do the same, then as if to re-inforce his willingness to co-operate, took Judith from Carl and slowly rubbed her back to calm her. Absolute joy overtook Beth in that moment. She had her family back.

“You’ve got some explaining to do, girl,” Rick said as he stepped up and gave her another hug. As if on cue there was a burst of questions and greetings from those surrounding her, their confrontation momentarily forgotten and Beth just nodded and grinned, then pointed to Anne.

Anne stepped forward. “I’m sorta going to have to answer for Beth,” she said. “I’ll explain what I know. In the meantime, if you don’t mind, we need to need to ask you a few questions as well. You understand. We need to know how you are going to fit into our community. How you found out about us since none of our recruiters brought you in. But, first, if you’re hungry, we can take you to the commissary and get you all a bite to eat.”

Beth saw a ripple of tension run through her friends.

Then Glenn spoke blithely, “As long as it’s not barbecue.” With his words the tension dissolved into chuckles, and Beth looked quizzically at him. “We have a lot of catching up to do,” he said to her. “All of us.”

Glenn was still supporting an obviously distraught Maggie. Beth stepped closer to the pair, and gently brushed the hair from Maggie’s face. Maggie burst into fresh tears as Beth gathered her into her arms, holding her as she sobbed. For a few moments the two sisters were lost in their own world, the Glenn gently eased Maggie out of Beth’s arms.

Looking at all the faces she loved and a few she did not know, Beth had never felt so utterly relieved, until she realized that one face was missing and she felt her own expression change to one of fear. Frantically she looked over the shoulders of those around her, searching for the one person she most desperately wanted to see. She would not be denied again. She struggled to bring Daryl’s name to her lips, and in frustration she clenched her fists and shook them.

“What is it Beth?” Rick was asking.

Beth pushed her way through the people looking in vain for Daryl.

“What are you looking for, Beth?” Rick asked again.

In desperation Beth went through the motions of arming and firing Daryl’s crossbow. It was then the others realized Daryl was nowhere to be seen

Rick turned sharply on Anne. “Where is he?”

Beth could feel the anger beginning to build in Rick as he confronted Anne and she quickly stepped between them.

“Who?” Anne asked.

“Daryl. The man with the crossbow. He was here with us.”

Anne looked to her compatriots, then up to the men and women on the parapet. “He slipped outside the gate,” one of them called down.

“And you didn’t say anything?” Anne shot back, anger in her voice.

“We weren’t told to stop them from leaving. Just from shooting up the place,” answered the sharpshooter.

Beth did not need to hear anything more. She was running towards the gate.

***

Daryl stumbled mindlessly out of the city and into the woods outside the gate. It wasn’t a real forest not like the ones back home, but it was green and alive, not brick walls and stone buildings. He realized how much he craved the solitude of the woodland. He’d had enough city. He’d had enough sorrow. The aching pit that had replaced his heart since Beth had died had suddenly become a chasm. He had done what he promised he would do. Got his family to a safe place. There was nothing left for him but to slip quietly away. Away from the apparition that could not possibly be, because she was dead. Dead and gone, six hundred miles away in the back of a damned patrol car without even the grace of a burial. Just one more time he’d failed her.

Stopping in his tracks, the sorrow of the last months came crashed down again like a hell storm of despair. Slowly his bow slipped from unfeeling fingers as he dropped to his knees. All the tears he had held inside streamed down his face and he no longer cared. There was no longer any one to hide his tears from.

***

Outside the gate it was not hard to guess where Daryl might have gone. Walking along the edge of the blacktop road, she searched for signs of where he might have left the hard surface. It wasn’t difficult at all. Not for an apt pupil trained by the best tracker. She soon found the impression of a boot heel in the soft dirt and was into the woods. Daryl was travelling quickly, almost running, blindly or carelessly, making no effort to cover his tracks. He doesn’t expect anyone to follow Beth thought. Like he was running away. Running away from her, she thought, suddenly fearful of what he might be thinking. That he’d seen a ghost? Or that she hadn’t been real? Maggie certainly reacted that way.

Beth moved quietly, listening for any warning signs of danger. In her time here she had learned that regular patrols kept the walkers well away from the walls, but they did occasionally wander close. She paused to listen and was surprised to hear nothing but the rustle of a slight breeze in the canopy of trees overhead. There was no bird song, no chitter of small creatures going about their business completely unfazed by the change in the world. That means something or someone had startled them into silence and they did not yet feel safe enough to resume their lives. And that meant whoever or whatever had startled them was very close.

Beth found several more boot prints and continued, walking silently as she had been taught, stepping lightly over leaves and broken branches, placing her feet carefully to avoid making noise all while watching her trail and listening carefully. She was only slightly hampered by the awkwardness of her right leg. Moving slowly was easier than running.

She heard him before she saw him. And her heart ached. There was no disguising the heartbroken sound of sobbing. She wanted to run to him and wrap him in her arms and hold him until the crying ceased. She wanted more than the world to tell him how she felt about him, how she had come to realize all these long months they had been separated, that the awkward feeling she had not understood that last night in the funeral home, was now so very clearly defined. What had begun with “Oh” and a strange flutter of her heart, had blossomed into a love she had only dreamed he might return. And now she did not have the words to tell him how she felt.

Peeking through the brush she saw him in a small clearing, on his knees, his shoulders hunched like a broken, beaten soul, fists clenched on his thighs, lank sweat-soaked hair hanging over his face obscuring it from her view, his precious crossbow discarded in the detritus on the woodland floor. She quietly walked out of the brush making just enough noise that he would know she was there and still he did not respond. She was in front of him in four steps. Beth sank to her knees in front of him wanting to wrap him in her arms and comfort him, yet knowing Daryl well enough to understand that he needed to work through this his way. With infinite care she placed one hand over his clenched fist, and it hurt when he flinched away as though branded.

“Go away,” he rasped in a voice made rougher by tears. “I can’t do this. I can’t. You’re dead.”

Determined not to lose him again she squeezed his hand, her own tears now flowing freely, without the words of comfort she was unable to speak all she had to offer was her touch. Moving with deliberate caution she moved her hand to the side of his face, brushing the hair from his eyes, trying to show him how very much alive she really was.

“You were right,” he choked, “If I look at ya, alls I’ll see is another dead girl.”

With persistent gentleness she raised his head. His eyes were squeezed shut like a child who was so afraid of what they might see, that they believe they could be safe if they did not look. Leaning forward, she placed one chaste kiss on his forehead. He was as startled by the grazing warmth of her lips as he had been by the touch of her hand, but his eyes shot open and for a moment she saw all the agony, all the sorrow, all the guilt that had been eroding his soul since the day she had been shot. No, far more than that, since the day she had been taken. If she knew Daryl, and she did, he would have blamed himself for her abduction without knowing how truly evil Dawn’s minions were and how they had callously calculated her kidnapping.

“No,” he said his face crumpling into tears. “It can’t be. I saw the bullet hole in your head. I carried your body down all those stairs. No one survives a head shot.”

Before he could say another word Beth grabbed his hand, working his fingers apart until she could place his open finger on her forehead where she knew the bullet had entered her brain. Like doubting Thomas from the bible who needed to place his hand on Jesus’ wounds to believe he had risen from the dead, Daryl needed to know that she had indeed been shot and survived. She held his hand to her forehead where she knew a small star shaped scar marked her skin, beneath it a tiny indentation, not visible to the eye, where her skull had finally healed. Then she placed his hand on the larger wound at the back of her skull where the bullet had exited. And prayed he would believe.

“I can’t believe. If I believe today then someday I’m gonna lose you again. I can’t live through losin’ you again.”

Believe, she wanted to tell him, but her garbled brain would only let her say “Yes,” slowly and deliberately, followed by a sigh of effort.

“You can’t even talk, and that’s on me too”

Beth smacked his arm with the flat of her hand scowling fiercely. This was not his fault. Her own foolishness caused this, thinking she could somehow harm Dawn with a miserable pair of scissors. She had put her loved ones through hell because she wanted Dawn to hurt as she had hurt so many others. There was never supposed to be any killing. She could only imagine how Daryl and Maggie had suffered believing she was dead all these months. She had no way to apologize for her stupidity. She wanted more than anything to take all those months back. In the end what had she gained. Noah never did get back to his home. If he had stayed behind with Dawn he would still be alive and might have found a way to escape again. She might have found a way to rescue him again.

But more importantly, she would not have to look at the anguish in Daryl’s eyes, the dark circles, and the worn, ragged expression on his face. She wanted more than anything to erase the tears, to ease the burden of his sorrow, to heal the gaping wound she had inflicted on his heart. She wanted to tell him how much he meant to her. How she had thought of nothing else these long months except holding him, explaining to him what “Oh” actually meant, telling him how much he had become a part of her heart, her very soul. And to know if there was the slightest chance that he felt the same for her.

Taking a deep breath, she placed her hands on either side of his face studying every nuanced change in his expression, not allowing him to look away until at last she saw the first tiny spark of hope. And then she smiled broadly. Sitting back on her heels, she placed both her hands over her heart, then used them to make a heart shaped sign, then placed both hands on his chest. She could feel his heart racing, felt the short catch in his breath, saw him swallow convulsively as if swallowing his sorrow. Then his hands were on her shoulders drawing her to him, and his arms were around her crushing her to his chest, and they were both sobbing only this time they shed tears of joy.

As they sat entwined in each other’s arms, time seemed to slow, as it had right after she had been shot only she hoped this time it would never change. She had wasted so much of the time she could have shared with Daryl, that she wanted each moment from now on to be three moments long. She was only dimly aware of the sun setting, first as a cooling of the air against her skin, then a shift in the sounds around her as day creatures went to sleep and night creatures awoke, and still she did not want to move. Being here right now, with Daryl, was all she had dreamed about and she did not want this moment to end.

With a soft sigh she pulled away from Daryl, realizing as she did that both her legs had fallen asleep, and there was a serious cramp in her right arm. She thought the feeling was glorious, because it meant that she truly was alive, more alive than she had ever been. She smiled at Daryl and he smiled and ducked his head, as though their actions had been somehow inappropriate. And she laughed. Daryl would always be Daryl, and she understood that once they were back with the rest of the group overt displays of public affection would probably not be forthcoming. She understood that. They had a long road ahead of them before Daryl would be as comfortable with his feelings for her as Glenn was with Maggie. If that ever happened. But Beth was good with that. Because it was not what happened in public that was important. It was moments like now that mattered. She would cherish every second and make every one last for three.

“We better go, girl,” Daryl said at last rising slowly to his feet, picking up his bow as he did and reaching the other hand down to her. “They might not let us back in.”

Beth shrugged like that did not matter, because it didn’t. They would be just fine without walls. But she took his hand and let him pull her gently to her feet, falling easily into place at his side. The only place she belonged and the place she would never again leave. As they started to walk back towards the roadway in the gathering darkness, they both heard it at the same time. Shuffling and stumbling through the woods somewhere ahead of them. A walker that had slipped through the patrols. Daryl raised his bow and began to push her protectively behind him, but she would have none of it. She reached down and took her knife, well, once it had been his, from its sheath at his side stepping forward to meet the walker halfway and with a swift precise motion drove the knife through its skull. Wiping the blade on its clothing she turned back to see Daryl’s approving nod.

“Always said you could take care of yourself. And ya did.”

In more than one way, she thought, and knew he meant it that way. Reaching back to him, he took her hand in his, fingers lacing comfortably through hers, and together they walked back towards the walls of the city, and hopefully, Beth thought, towards a chance to start living life.



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