I'm Only Human
WARNING: SPOILERS! SO MANY SPOILERS! S7 SPOILERS. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE S7 PREMIERE.
A/N PT I: The premiere made me so sad and I'm not cool with the story line they gave Daryl and I'm STILL not over Beth so here we fucking are. I know there's a ton of stories like this but I just…need Daryl to have a semblance of a happy ending. :(
"I'm only human after all, don't put the blame on me."
He'd forgotten how to breathe.
This was supposed to be the end. He wasn't supposed to still be. He shouldn't be alive, lying there in the back of this god forsaken metal truck. He'd lost so much blood it was hard to see straight. It was hard to focus. Hard to believe anything was real.
For a minute, he thought, maybe it wasn't. Maybe he was still asleep and this was all a nightmare, but when he rolled to one side, putting weight on his bad shoulder and the pain soared through him, he knew it was all very, very real.
Daryl was done. Done in all sense of the word, and he'd been done for a very long time. Maybe it had all started with Denise, but, if he was really honest with himself, it had started before that. Back when he lost Beth. There was something about her, about that light being extinguished. He'd been devastated. And he was so sick and fucking tired of losing people.
Alexandria made it seem like things would be okay for a while. Yeah, maybe it was a bunch of clueless, privileged suckers who hadn't known the true danger of what was really out there, but it was better than anything they'd had. Daryl had a real bed, all to himself, for the first time in years.
But nothing good ever lasted for Daryl fucking Dixon, and now they were here and Abraham was dead and Glenn was - well, Glenn was dead because of him. He'd caused a man to die, a woman to be widowed and a child to be fatherless.
He couldn't stand to think about it, but there was no way around it. The scene unfolded quickly behind his eyes, making his stomach churn and bringing his throat to a close. Shock still consumed him, both emotionally and physically, but he knew, once that faded, the pain would be unbearable.
There was a sudden shift to his surroundings. The deep voice outside was gone, and all at once, he felt the truck jerk to life, shift into gear and begin moving.
Daryl felt each bump, swerve and turn. He was struggling to stay awake, though each time he closed his eyes he thought he might just rest. Just rest for one moment, before snapping himself awake with a grunt. He needed to stay awake. There was no telling what Negan and his men would do if they found him passed out in the back of the truck.
Despite his efforts, the blood loss was too great, and finally, his body gave up and Daryl succumbed to sleep.
"Get up, motherfucker."
Someone gripped his arm and pulled him straight across the back of the truck, pulling him out before he was ready. He couldn't get his body to cooperate with his brain, so he fell out the back of it, onto a very solid ground, the pain in his body now excruciating. It hurt to move. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to be.
"I said, get the fuck up!"
Daryl wanted to tell them, whoever was yelling at him, that he couldn't. He physically couldn't right himself. And at this point, he just didn't fucking care.
A boot collided with his ribs, and the breath that was in his lungs was forced out with an 'Oof!' and his limbs began to respond, coming up to cover himself as another boot collided with his cheekbone.
"Dwight!" A sharp voice broke through the air like a whip. Loud and cheerful, and although Daryl still couldn't see very well, he could feel Negan's smile as he brought his hands to the neck of Daryl's shirt. He lifted him up, so Daryl could feel his breath on his lips. "That's no way to treat our new guest."
"Fuck. You," Daryl managed to spit out, squinting at Negan's dumb, fucking, asshole, shit-licker face.
Negan chuckled, letting Daryl's shirt go. He crumpled instantly, falling to the ground, his head pounding, his shoulder numb and his legs completely useless. He was theirs at that moment and he knew it.
"Get a fucking stretcher, you animal," Negan commanded Dwight. "And get him to the motherfucking medic."
Dwight left, though Daryl could see, through glimpses, he was still being guarded by two men - one with a knife, the other with an assault rifle. Not that they needed them. Daryl was definitely not going anywhere.
The stretcher came quickly. Dwight and some other asshole lifted him carelessly onto it. He wished they would just leave him where he was, laying on the floor, in the dirt, to die. It was useless. He would be useless to them. To himself. He'd been useless to Merle, useless to Beth, useless to Denise, useless to Abraham, useless to Glenn. He'd destroyed Maggie's life, the baby's life, disappointed the group - his family. And he was of absolutely no help to them here.
They brought him through the front door of a larger building, down a first hall, and then a second, through a smaller door, into what was clearly a place meant for the ill and the wounded. There were various cabinets filled with boxes and bottles, plus three beds lined up beside each other. Between them were those metal I.V. poles with fresh saline bags hung on the hooks.
They dumped him onto one of the hard beds and he winced in pain, grabbing his shoulder as he did so.
"Pussy," Dwight spat at him, turning away. He and the other man who'd carried him left the room, leaving him to himself and his thoughts. His body was tired, just from the short journey from the truck to this bed, so another black-out continued to threaten him. He would welcome it, he thought, the blankness of being unconscious. So he didn't have to remember.
And then, the door slammed open, startling him.
"Hello," a soft-spoken man said, closing the door behind him and coming towards Daryl's side. He had a pair of scissors in his hands and Daryl rolled flat on his back, his heart, broken, hollow and incomplete, facing the pointed edges.
He wished he would just stab him - just sink the blades into his heart and let him bleed out, right here, all over the white blanket. Nothing mattered anymore - he had nothing left to fight for. He was alone, so completely and utterly alone in the world right now. Even if he somehow made it out of here, even if he somehow snuck out right under Negan's nose, there was no way they would welcome him back into Alexandria. He would be banished, if not by Rick, then by Maggie for sure. It was over.
Instead of the blades sinking into his ribcage, however, Daryl felt cool metal against his belly, work its way all the way up to his chin. The man was cutting him out of his shirt, discarding the bloody garment so he could have a closer look at him.
He had a kind face - long, with a heavy, white beard and long, white hair, tied back in a ponytail. The features reminded him of Hershel, which made his heart ache even more. He inspected his wound, then caught Daryl's eye.
"I need to fish the bullet out of your arm. And then you're going to need some stitches and antibiotics." The man took a cloth and soaked it with alcohol. The sharp scent stung Daryl's nostrils - but it was a welcome feeling, contrasting against the pain he'd been feeling non-stop. And then, he pressed it to the wound, and Daryl's eyes crossed as a pair of tweezers entered the hole the bullet Dwight had fired, had formed.
Consciousness wasn't a choice at this point as his vision swam away from him, then back. The pain was making him numb - his body creating it's own anesthetic.
And then finally, it was over. The last shard of bullet was pulled out and the doctor, whatever his name was, smiled down at him, satisfied.
"All done. I'll send Beth in to patch you up."
Daryl's vision swam again. Beth, he thought sadly. If only.
The room went silent again, the door closing as the doctor exited, and then opened again as someone new came in the room. And nothing could have ever prepared him for it.
She looked just like she did when she left him. Straw blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, little fly-aways framing her round face. There were dark circles under her big blue orbs of eyes that widened as if in slow motion as she took him in. And he did the same - her little button nose, thin, pink lips, freckles scattered across her nose. Her face flushed, and she sucked in a deep breath as Daryl tried to move.
"No," she said, scrambling to his bedside. "Don't move. I need to…I need patch you up." Her voice shuddered. "Daryl."
Her hands were on him, and something inside of him exploded. The pain was still there, but warmth spread from her hands, touching - no, grasping at him, like she was trying to make sure he was real.
"Beth," he managed to mumble, drool spilling from the corner of his mouth as he struggled to keep his eyes focused on her. It looked like her. Felt like her, but he still wasn't sure if this was real.
"Daryl," she said, her voice sweet and gentle, just like her fingers, just like her. He had lost her. He hadn't been able to save her. "I don't have much time. I need to stitch up your wound. They'll know if I linger."
"But how?" he asked, his voice sounding foreign. She shook her head. Beth shook her head, and then went to work on him.
"I don't know much," she was whispering to him, the needle she was guiding sliding through his flesh. He sucked in a breath, "but I made it out of Grady. They saved me there, and then they let me go. I went towards Virginia - Noah, he'd always said we'd go. I thought…I thought I could find you all," she sunk the needle in again, "but Negan's people, they found me instead."
"You died," Daryl said between his teeth as she finished another stitch. "I saw you. I made sure. You were dead. Beth, you were dead." He wished he wasn't in so much pain. He wished he was more sure that this was real.
"Sh," she said sternly, her eyes widening at him. "Not here." Her hands were at his shoulder, moving steadily, the pain familiar now. She pulled the thread taut, finishing his stitches and then turned towards him, her wide eyes full of worry.
"Beth," he said, trying to focus on her. She was so blurry. He still wasn't sure if she was real.
"Daryl," she said, looking over her shoulder at the door. She walked away from him for a moment, then came back with a wet cloth, dabbing at his wound. "What matters is that I'm alive. What matters is that you're here now. I thought," she took a deep breath, tears threatening her eyes, "I thought, I'd lost you forever."
He moved to touch her - he wanted to feel her. She'd been so cold, so stiff, so gone after Dawn had shot her. Was it possible that she was really alive now? Or was his mind playing tricks on him after all of these months?
The cloth left his skin, leaving him with goosebumps and cold flesh. She looked at him again, then let her face meet his, their noses touching, her lips, ever so softly brushing his. A kiss.
The softness of it wasn't unwelcome, but it was so unfamiliar Daryl didn't recognize it for what it was until after she'd brushed his face, until after she'd swiped her hands against the white uniform she wore, until after she'd left the room and the doctor had re-entered.
He was helped into new clothes, set back into a comfortable position to sleep and although the darkness and the pain and the guilt was eating at every inch of his skin, he couldn't help but see a glimmer of light - a glimmer of hope, before he fell back to sleep.
A/N PT II: I may leave this as a one-shot, or I may continue (but not for too many chapters) as the season goes on, depending on what they do with Daryl. Thanks for reading and please review if you liked it. Or didn't!
Song Inspiration: "Human" - Rag'n'Bone Man.