Author's Note: I decided to try my hand at a Bethyl story, especially because the new season will begin soon without her. :( This story takes place right after Beth's kidnapping in season 4. I've been writing an AU 1920s Daryl/OC story, but not many people have taken to it so far, so I wanted to start this side project for something set back in the ZA.
Credit for the story title goes to Nine Inch Nails.
Please review and let me know what you think!
There is a place that still remains
It eats the fear, it eats the pain
The sweetest price he'll have to pay
The day the whole world went away.
Daryl was exhausted. His lungs burned and his muscles screamed in protest, but he pushed himself on. He felt as though he had been running for several hours, and judging from the lightening sky that signaled dawn's approach, he probably had been. He hadn't stopped running since Beth had been taken. He couldn't stop. The white cross that had been on the back window of the car was burned into his mind.
He had passed several walkers along the way, their decaying arms reaching out for him as he ran, but he passed them by. His thoughts were only of Beth and of getting her back. She was the only thing that mattered.
Daryl knew there was a time when he would have given up on her, when he wouldn't have kept running like he was running now. Back before he knew her, and before he had begun to let her in to his life. Back when she was just another dead girl, according to her words. But she was so much more than that now. She was starting to get under his skin, and he was starting to let her. He was letting his guard down around her for the first time in a long time. And she had helped him let go of some of the demons he had been carrying his whole life. At that moment in time, she was his everything. His world. She had been ripped from him, and he wasn't going to let her go without a fight.
He thought of her innocent, wide-eyed expression when she'd realized that she was the reason he had started believing in good people again. He wished that he could continue that discussion with her now, and tell her outright that she was all that was good and pure in the world and he couldn't help seeing the world in a better light when she was around. She was like sunshine, and he wished he could have told her so. His legs threatened to give out beneath him, but he forced himself to keep going. Every step could be bringing him closer to Beth.
He heard the walkers before he saw them. It didn't sound like there were a lot of them, maybe three or four, and they were making sounds that told him they were eating something. The road took a sharp curve, and as he rounded it, the source of the sounds came into view. Two of the biters in question were devouring a body on the ground. Daryl's eyes traveled to the mess of twisted metal and glass behind their meal, and a panic flooded him as he realized that it was the remains of the car that had taken Beth. The white cross on the back window was still there, but the front of the car was crushed like a tin can into a tree. Skid marks all over the road showed how the car had swerved violently before smashing into the large tree. Another body had been thrown (or dragged) from the car a few feet away from where the first two walkers were eating, and a third ghoul was shoveling entrails from the second body into its mouth.
Daryl sprinted toward the wreck with renewed energy, quickly sending a bolt through one of the walkers' heads on his approach. He unsheathed his hunting knife and dispatched the other two. He frantically examined the partially devoured corpses on the side of the road and was met with brief relief when he saw that neither of them were Beth. He rushed to the crumpled car and peered inside one of the cracked windows.
There she was, her torso slumped across the middle console and her legs sprawled across the backseat. Her hands were zip-tied, but she held a bloody knife loosely in her grip. She was unconscious, and Daryl couldn't tell if she was breathing. The front doors of the car were completely collapsed, and the back doors appeared to be locked. He hurriedly bashed in the one of the cracked back windows and unlocked the door, wrenching it open and tossing his crossbow to the side. He grabbed Beth's limp body and pulled her to him, praying to a god he didn't even believe in that she wasn't dead.
With a huge burst of relief he felt a pulse. The side of her head was covered in dried blood, however, and Daryl knew the wound on her forehead would need stitches. Daryl quickly cut the zip ties on her wrists and held her unconscious body to his chest, holding her as tight as he dared in light of her injuries. He couldn't stop the tears from falling, and he rocked her back and forth against him as he sobbed into her hair.
Beth probably didn't weigh 100 pounds soaking wet, but she felt heavy as Daryl carried her through the woods. After running for hours and carrying her through the woods for several miles, he wasn't sure how much farther he could keep carrying her. But he knew that he had to get her somewhere safe. Now that she was back in his arms, his exhaustion was the last thing on his mind.
Dawn had broken over the horizon, which was a good thing because it allowed Daryl to see where it was going as he traipsed through the woods with Beth dangling limply in his arms. His vision was starting to blur, and he blinked hard each time it did. When the small hunting cabin came into view, he made sure to blink several times to make sure it was real. He stumbled toward it, only sure it wasn't a figment of his imagination when he stumbled onto the steps of the front porch.
He tried to slow his labored breathing as he laid Beth down on the warped wood boards of the screened in porch. He quickly approached the front door and knocked on it loudly. When no sounds of shambling dead came from inside, he pulled open the door and scooped Beth back up in his arms. He made his way inside and kicked the door shut behind him.
The cabin was dark and smelled moldy, but thankfully no smell of decaying corpses reached him. Two mismatched old couches surrounded a stone fireplace in the living room, and a tiny kitchen with a wood stove overlooked the living room area. He shuffled over to one of the couches and gently laid Beth down on one of them. He quickly strode over to the other three doors that remained closed in the small hallway of the cabin. One led to a linen closet, which was stocked with blankets, sheets, and towels, and another to the small bathroom. He took a quick breath before opening the door to what had to be the bedroom, thankfully finding it empty. A double bed was pushed against the wall with a plain chest of drawers in the corner of the room. He let loose a breath of relief and made his way into the bathroom.
After raiding the cupboard and the medicine cabinet, he found a first aid kit, but nothing to stitch Beth's wound with. He sighed in frustration and pulled the first aid kit from the cabinet. It was better than nothing. Still, he kept searching through all the cabinets in the place until he finally located a basic sewing kit in an end table drawer in the living room. The needle and thread in the kit weren't meant for stitching wounds, but they would have to do.
Daryl hurried back to the living room and looked at Beth laying on the couch, her eyes still closed but her breathing even. Her golden blonde hair fell around her, creating a bit of a curtain for her face. He took a deep breath and brushed the hair away from her face to reveal the deep cut in the corner of her forehead where she had most likely hit the center console. Daryl had never stitched up a wound before, but he knew he had to try.
He grabbed a small spray can of antiseptic from the first aid kit and doused the wound with it. He then quickly threaded the needle with the black thread, the only color of thread that had been in the simple sewing kit, and held the needle above the wound, afraid to pierce it through her skin. He frowned at himself and told himself to nut up and do it. Beth needed this wound stitched up, and he was the only one around to do it. He blinked hard and moved the needle steadily toward the wound. As he began to stitch it up, he realized that it was a lot easier than he had thought it would be. Before long, he was done. The stitches weren't pretty, but they would hold.
Daryl began inspecting Beth for other injuries. Her arms had several bruises, but looked fine. He raised her shirt to reveal a large purple bruise along her ribs, but aside from that, her torso seemed to be fine. Daryl didn't even want to think about removing her jeans, so he just settled for hoping that her legs were in okay shape.
He sighed deeply and ran a hand over his face. He couldn't believe that he had almost lost her. He felt tears stinging his eyes and he blinked them away, refusing to cry again. He took a few deep breaths to push his feelings away before standing and scooping Beth off the couch. He walked steadily to the bedroom and laid her gently on the bed. He stared at her for several long moments before tentatively laying down next to her. He wanted to move close to her, to protect her, but he didn't want to frighten her when she woke up. He settled for laying close to her on the bed and not touching her in any way.
It didn't take long for Daryl to succumb to the exhaustion that had overtaken him. Beth had almost been taken from him, but he had gotten her back. He wasn't ever letting her go again.
Thanks for reading! Please review! :)