Warning: This chapter is very violent and very brutal. There are references to rape, but no actual rape.
Everyone was frozen. Even Eric's group stood there blankly, not knowing what to do. Daryl scanned the group to see who had fired the lethal shot, but nobody had a gun in their hands. He looked back to Eric's limp body, which was lying in a puddle of his own blood at the feet of his former group. It was then that he caught a glimpse of someone in his peripheral vision. He turned his head to see who it was.
It was Beth, her arms still outstretched, the gun pointed in the direction she had just fired. Even from this distance Daryl could tell that her hands were shaking. He turned his attention back to Eric's group, who were slowly retreating back into the woods, waving the white flag of their surrender.
Out of the dead silence he heard loud gasps. It was Beth. She had started to cry, but was struggling to catch her breath between sobs. He saw the worried and pained expression on her face. Everyone else was still frozen in place, barely taking notice of Beth and her current condition.
Daryl didn't know what to do. Beth was struggling to breathe and needed help. But that group, Eric's group, the men who had tried their hardest to ruin Beth, the men who had taken her and abused her, who had left her just a shell of the person she had been, they were here, standing right in front of him, but slowly leaving, disappearing again to become the monsters that haunted Beth in her sleep.
He wanted so badly to kill every single one of them; to give them each a slow, miserable death. He wanted them to suffer the way they had made Beth suffer and probably dozens of women before her had. But Beth was in trouble and needed him. He glanced back at the rest of his group, all still standing frozen. They weren't reacting. He needed to get to Beth, but he wasn't willing to let Eric's group go. Turning back to Eric's group he looked down the sights of his crossbow. He aimed at the easiest target; a tall, muscular man with shaggy brown hair. He thought he recognized him. He vaguely remembered seeing the man when he and Beth had been running away. He had been right behind Eric when he had yelled his threat to Daryl and Beth, and he had laughed along with Eric after.
Resting his finger against the trigger and making sure his aim was perfect, he gently squeezed the trigger. The arrow went soaring, piercing his target exactly where he had aimed, and the man fell to the ground, screaming in pain. A headshot would have been too easy for him; that man didn't deserve the mercy of a quick death. Daryl was going to be sure that he died slowly.
As soon as the man fell everyone jumped into action, suddenly remembering what was going on. Rick, Glenn, Maggie and the others rushed past him, heading straight to Eric's group.
"Leave that one for me. He's mine," Daryl yelled.
If Daryl wasn't able to give every one of those men the death he wanted to, he was going to at least give it to one of them. His arrow had pierced that man's knee. Daryl was claiming him as his now.
Daryl looked over at Beth again. Her gasps were louder, filling Daryl's ears even over the sounds of the fight happening before him. Daryl rushed to her. She couldn't breath, and if it went on any longer she would collapse from lack of oxygen.
"Beth, look at me." He tried to keep his voice calm, tried to hide his anger, and gave a gentle smile when her eyes met his. "It's alright Beth, you're going to be fine."
Her gasps were growing louder and the panic in her eyes was starting to show on her face as well. She was still clutching the gun, her knuckles turning white. He placed his hands on her shoulders, making sure he kept eye contact with her.
"Beth, I need you take a deep breath. Come on, do it with me. One deep breath in, you got it." Daryl took a deep breath in, repeating it until he saw Beth's chest rise. "That's good." But it wasn't, the breath had barely brought in any oxygen, and it wasn't stopping her from hyperventilating. "One more, just one more. I know you can do it."
He watched her chest rise and fall again, and heard as the gasps dwindled to sobs. He pulled her to his chest, holding her tight. Beth dropped her gun, and Daryl ended up supporting the majority of her weight as her legs gave out. They eventually both collapsed to the ground, Daryl never letting go of her.
Beth moved, trying to peek her head over his shoulder to see what was happening. Her eyes were wide and bloodshot. Daryl gently put a hand on the back of her head and pushed her face back into his chest, keeping her from seeing anything.
"Don't look, Beth. Don't look," he said over and over again to her, gently rocking her back and forth in an attempt to calm her.
Gunshots were ringing out behind him. Screams and shouts were filling the air. But Daryl was blocking all of that out. He only had two things on his mind: keeping Beth safe and the man that would be waiting for him.
He wasn't sure when it had stopped. He never heard the last gunshot ring out or the screams and yells start to fade. He probably wouldn't have known it was over if Rick wouldn't have come over and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"They're dead. It's over with."
"Did you save him? That man, did you leave him for me?"
Rick swallowed hard and nodded slowly. "Yeah. He's still alive."
Daryl looked down at Beth. Her hands were tightly holding onto his shirt, her body was shaking with every sob she let out. She had made so much progress, but here she was, lying on the ground in his arms like she had done so many times before. Daryl just hoped that she'd be able to get past this.
Maggie and Glenn slowly made their way over to them. Daryl looked at Maggie and saw the tears slowly rolling down her face. He knew that she was trying to hold them back, that she was trying to be strong for Beth. She slowly walked over and knelt down in front of him and Daryl gently passed Beth to her. Beth's eyes widened even more when she felt Daryl's absence, and it broke his heart.
"Shh," Maggie whispered into Beth's ear, trying to soothe her. "They can't hurt you anymore. They're gone," she said as she gently began to stroke Beth's hair.
"G-get her inside," Daryl said, his voice shaky. "I have to take care of this," he said as he turned around.
He knew that Rick was following. He heard his footsteps close behind him. He wanted to turn and round on him, tell him to go mind his own business, but it would be no use, he would just keep following him. So Daryl tried to ignore him.
"Daryl, what are you gonna do?"
"I'm gonna give him what he deserves," he said lowly.
"Think about what you're doing, Daryl. Is this really what you want to do?"
Daryl stopped walking and turned to look at Rick. "You weren't there, Rick. You have no idea what it was like. You didn't wake up and hear her screaming. You didn't see her when she came back. She wasn't the same, Rick. She-she just wasn't herself…she was lifeless. And then when we ran," he said, his voice wavering, "I had to pull her with me. She didn't have any fight left in her. And then that time with the walker; she was going to give up, let it bite her. They took something from her that she can never get back! So yeah, I am sure that this is really what I want to do. Now you can either come with me or walk away, but I'm doing this," he said, turning back around and walking towards the man.
Rick continued to follow him. He didn't understand why he was being so persistent. Daryl knew that what he was about to do was going to be something horrible. He just didn't understand why Rick was going to be there with him, why he was going to watch. He wouldn't blame Rick if he saw Daryl differently after this.
Daryl saw the man. He was in the same place he had been when Daryl had shot him. His hands were grasping his knee with the arrow sticking out of it. Blood had begun to stain the leg of his pants, but he wasn't bleeding enough to kill him. His injury was minor, something he would be able to survive; Daryl had made sure of that.
He crouched down next to him and looked at him carefully. His hand went to the arrow and he swiftly pulled it out of his leg, earning an agonizing scream from the man. He should feel bad, he knew that, the man's scream should have caused him to stop, but he couldn't.
He looked over to where he had left Glenn, Maggie, and Beth. He didn't want Beth to be out here when he did this. He didn't want her to see this. He was thankful when he saw that she was already inside. And without anymore hesitation Daryl punched the man with all of his strength in the face. The man turned his head back to Daryl, blood running from his nose, and smiled a wicked grin.
"You don't remember me, do you?"
"Ya'll look the same to me. You're all just worthless pieces of shit."
"Think real hard about it."
Daryl ignored him and punched him again, and the man laughed, turning his head to look Daryl directly in the eye, and Daryl raised his fist to punch him again as the man began to speak
"Oh, I don't forget you. I remember your face when I grabbed her from you. You didn't hesitate to raise that crossbow, but you sure did hesitate to shoot it at me when I put that knife to her throat."
Daryl's fist stopped midair. The man was familiar, he knew that, but he hadn't connected the dots. He had remembered seeing him standing behind Eric when they ran, but it wasn't until now that he remembered him grabbing Beth. Daryl's thoughts were broken by the man's chuckling.
"Now you remember, don't you? Oh, but you missed the best part. You were knocked out when the fun began," he said.
Daryl raised his fist the rest of the way and quickly brought it down, feeling the man's nose break under the force of his punch. The man laughed again.
"You missed him beatin' her. Missed when he punched her and then kicked her. But the best part was when-"
Daryl cut him off with another punch.
"Daryl, don't listen to him. He's just trying to make you angry," Rick called out to him, moving a step closer.
The man laughed again. "But the best part was when we dragged her away from you. Oh, she was a fighter alright. She kicked and scratched and screamed. In fact, I think she called out for you a few times. Where were you, Daryl? That's your name, right? Where were you when she was beggin' for your help?"
Daryl began an endless rampage on his face, punching him over and over again. His anger was at a level it had never been at before.
"'Daryl, help!'" the man screamed, mocking Beth's pleas for help. "'Daryl, please!'"
Daryl punched him again and again and again, and then finally stopped. The man's face was a mess, barely recognizable. But he wasn't giving up, the man kept talking.
"It got real good when she gave up. That's when Eric really got to have his fun with her. He did absolutely everything you could imagine to her. Eric was probably right. She still has marks, doesn't she? They're probably all over her body….Eric didn't leave a single inch of her untouched," the man said cruelly.
Daryl had had enough. He couldn't stand listening to this man anymore. He unsheathed his knife and gripped it tightly in his hand. He was going to end this. Looking at the man he slowly stabbed the man in the gut, twisting the knife once it was all the way in.
The man's back arched off the ground in pain, his eyes widening. He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. Daryl slowly removed the knife and then stabbed him again. Daryl's eyes began to fill with tears as he released all of the anger and sadness and guilt that he had been holding in.
When he was finished the only thing that could be heard was the man's wheezing breaths as his lungs struggled for air through the blood. Daryl stood and looked down at the man. He wanted to make him suffer more, but he couldn't find it in him. He grabbed his crossbow and quickly put an arrow through the man's head, ending his misery.
Daryl turned away from the man, looking down at his hands, which were covered in blood. He risked a quick glance at Rick. He was standing, looking at Daryl, not saying anything. He had expected to see disappointment or disgust in his face, but it wasn't there. The only emotion he saw was empathy. Daryl looked back down and quickly walked past him.
"I'm goin' to wash up. Need to check on Beth. Do something with the bodies," Daryl said quietly, his voice shaking.
Daryl ignored him.
"Are you alright?"
"I told ya to do somethin' with the bodies, Rick. I'm fine," he said, quickly walking away from him.
Author's Note: This chapter was really hard to write. That man is a creep and he disgusts me. But I do have to say, this is probably my favorite chapter so far. I think it's a very important chapter for Daryl. He had to make the decision of helping Beth or brutally killing Eric's group...he chose to help Beth. And then he endured listening to that man telling him what happened to Beth. I think a pivotal point in the chapter is when Daryl kills him. He could have let the man die slowly, but Daryl couldn't find it in himself to do that. While those men have completely lost their humanity, Daryl has managed to hold on to his.
Please leave a review and tell me what you think!
Next chapter will be from Beth's POV!