So this is a companion piece to Shattered Memories. For anyone who hasn't read it, you probably could still read this piece but it might be confusing. To my previous SM readers, I hope you love this ❤️
Down on his knees.
Why does this feel so fucking familiar?
Last time he was down on his knees, he didn't expect to survive just like he doesn't now.
Bent like a pig over a trough, he thought he would have to watch the men he calls brothers die, watch their ruby red blood flow before him.
Then in the five seconds he would remain alive after his throat was slit, he would watch his own blood meet theirs.
Brothers, bound in blood forever.
Blood brother in every sense of the words.
Blood is what dribbles from his mouth now, the bastard who knocked him out getting louder, penetrating Daryl's ringing ears.
From the corner of his eye he can see the mad knob raising his barbed wire bat. This dickhead think he's cool because he wrapped shit around a bat?
Gonna have to call bullshit on that one, since Merle done it back when he was thirteen. Fucked up some poor guys leg with it too.
Merle got attacked by the kids dog after that, had the scar on his stomach until the day he turned. Died. Whatever Death is now.
The bat's coming, he realises. Rick begs. He never thought Rick would beg for him. Brother or no, Daryl has too much pride to beg.
Rick's a better man than him, trying to save Daryl's life when Daryl doesn't think he could manage to do the same. It won't do anything.
Rick gets smacked up for it and sags back to his knees with a grunt Daryl feels in his gut. Was good of him to try.
If Daryl can remember something from this life in the next one, he wants it to be that. Rick tried. Rick was his brother until the end.
The air rustles and the bat keeps falling. A rise of screams sweeps him under his arms and carries him in a sea of adrenaline, his pulse racing as fast as his heart.
This is it.
The world stops.
The bat stops.
His eyes fly open and there she is. Blonde hair flying in the wind, chopped sharp and uneven, eyes fierce. Standing with nothing but her scowl and her bravery to protect her.
There's shouts between Beth and Maggie, Beth's voice taut and frayed. Then she turns to him. Their eyes hold, a burning between them to be near.
He feels it like a rope around his ribs. God, she's stunning. It takes him a minute to process her and a further one to understand why she's here.
His eyes dash around to the family on their knees and then back to her.
She's gonna die here. He's gonna watch her die again because she's not quite herself, not yet. Rage is already simmering in his veins at the hold that ugly looking prick behind her has on her arms.
Her shoulder must be in agony and all Daryl wants to do is get her to safety, look after her.
"Oh-ho. I missed you sweet thang."
Daryl's mind comes to a sluggish stop before it speeds up again, working in overtime. Beth is nervous, tongue darting out to wet her dry lips as she glances between him and Negan.
"Leave them alone, Negan. I'll come with you."
I'll come with you.
Like fucking hell she will. Beth is never leaving his side again and certainly ain't sacrificing herself for him. He ain't worth it, no matter what she used to think of him, maybe thinks of him now.
"No!" Daryl shouts as he pushes up on his knees.
Negan turns to him with a face like he's smelling a pile of shit. The bat flips in his hand, flies and then Daryl goes out like a light.
He wakes to a nightmare.
Beth is kissing Negan.
Not just kissing but tongue fucking, his hands gripping her ass like he knows just where to squeeze and his head moving with hers.
Daryl feels sick to his stomach, his muscles vibrating with rage. Negan's hands grip her ass where Daryl knows it's softest, her flesh guaranteed to melt into his palm.
The other mans grip is so constricting on Beth's head, his fingers twisted in her hair violently and Daryl thinks about the scar just there where Negan's palm crushes her skull.
He feels violated for her, destroyed that someone can touch something so… precious and not know.
Know what that skull looked like cracking with the force of a bullet. Not knowing the taste of copper that followed. Not knowing fucking anything.
They stop and Daryl wants to look away. He doesn't want her to know he saw but he can't.
The worst part is he's not mad at her because that would be so much better. It would hurt so much less too, would be easy to embrace the anger over the agony.
Beth's so fragile and broken, so easily swayed, he knows deep inside that it's not her fault. That prick could have said all kinds of things to her while he was passed out, convinced her to join him.
He's angry at Negan, raging at Negan. Because she's no better than a child and he's taking advantage of her. That's a dangerous thought that pops into his mind.
Dangerous because it's fucking hypercritical. Negan's kissing her but Daryl made love to her. He's little better than that fucking paedophile.
His head sways with the thought. Fuck, he's sick. She loves him though. She told him. If there's anyone he believes in, it's Beth.
It's always Beth.
She's still trying to teach him that. See the good in people. See past rage, see past anger and revenge. Look deeper. There's so much more to people. Carol. Beth. Fuck, even himself.
When Beth yelps because Negan yanks her by her bad shoulder, an acidic rage spills through his chest and he bares his teeth in a growl.
"What you gonna do 'bout your little piece down here then, Beth?" Negan grins.
Little piece? What the fuck was said while he was knocked out?
There's a burning sorrow in Beth's eyes when she answers Negan's question. "Nothin'. I'm done slummin' it."
Hurt grips his spine and shakes him like a tree in the wind. Fuck. Why does that burn so much? Maybe because it's always been his deepest fear.
That she would stop looking deep for something more, something better and realise he's exactly what's on the surface: a damaged little red neck whose Daddy used to beat him.
You fuckin' sad sack, Merle hisses in his ear. Get your fuckin' girl back. There's somethin' happenin'. Pay attention. Don't act like I ain't never taught you nothin', boy.
Negan talks at him but Daryl just sees a moving mouth. He's looking at Beth. Really looking at her. Something is off. Something doesn't add up.
She doesn't look like she wants to be wrapped around Negan. So why is she? What is she doing? What does she hope to gain by playing this game and how did she get into this position?
Daryl's gaze floods red as the crowd roar back in retaliation to something Negan said and then he turns and grabs Beth again, hands straight to her ass.
The image of another man touching her lances through his gut like a sword. She's his girl, no else's. Other than Beth, that's something he's come to believe in, to allow.
She was and is this little precious thing that makes him want to live longer, makes him want to strive for more. He imagines in the old world she would have impacted him the same way.
The same but with different results. He would have quit his shitty job and got something better. Would have brought a bigger house, a nicer car.
Proposed maybe, if he was brave enough. Give her two dogs to keep her happy, a baby someday…
It plays out, this make believe life as he stays there on his knees. The way he would have tried to woo her, the smile on her face when he made her breakfast.
So humble, so strong, Beth wouldn't need him to do things like that, to be someone he wasn't but he would do it anyway, to make her happy.
Negan's voice pulls him away from his sweet thoughts. "Y'know sweet thang, I know you tried to run from me."
When? How? Why? A thousand thoughts hit him at once.
"I mean, hell, you got away! Good for you!"
Did she you sarcastic little bastard? Because she's trapped in your arms.
"But now that you're not all messed up in the head an' shit…"
Cunt. What twisted fuck gets off on shit like that?
"I'm thinkin' you can make it up to me tonight."
"Gimme a baby like a good little wife, hmm."
His breath catches and the world spins out of control. Gimme a baby like a good little wife, hmm. Fuck no. The utter fucking disrespect to talk to her like a mongrel, to palm her like a piece a meat and talk of breeding her like a fucking dog.
If Beth is to have any babies in her life time, they'll be his. Ain't no one ever lived worthy enough to make children with Beth Greene let alone a Dixon, but he loves her.
God he loves her so much and her belly would swell with all that love. Daryl can see the beauty in something so stunning piercing an ugly world with its birth.
He hopes Maggie and Glenn's baby will do that and that Carl will pass his good ways onto Judith. The kids, man the kids are it.
They're the good that's left, the hope; the preview into a peaceful life. He would be honoured to be a part of that, to let Beth nurse to life a seed of the old world.
Daryl watches Beth go ramrod straight and then Negan's face buries in her throat. Daryl's eyes drop to the ground, his fingernails biting into his palms as he vibrates with his own conviction.
She's playing him.
People always underestimate her.
Daryl doesn't know how but she has history with Negan. It must have been before he found her. He remembers her hurried footprints, how tired she was.
She was running. She was running far and fast, powered by fear. She doesn't want Negan, she fled him but with his smart as fuck girl wrapped around him, that prick is too distracted to kill anyone.
She's sacrificing herself.
As usual, Merle snarks.
He wants to bark at Merle to fuck off, but Merle is his darkest thoughts. Why does she always try and fucking leave?
She's always the first one to jump in with sacrificing herself, always the first to save someone else. For fuck sake, can't she just be selfish for once?
Negan's next words pierce him in the gut. She fucked him. The growl starts in his belly and crawls up his throat, powered by his pain for Beth, for what she's been through.
Twice she's looked for safety; sought help. Negan found her and put her straight in his bed.
Daryl found her and she was just as vulnerable as she would have been when Negan found her. Was he different to Negan?
When he crawled in her bed he was invited but did he force that on her? With the love that kept showing on his face?
Yeah he didn't twist her with sex but he did it with love and emotional abuse always fucks with you more. In that moment he decides that if they ever get free, he's gonna devote his life to her.
Beth is never gonna want for anything as long as Daryl lives.
Even if she isn't faking it like he believes, he has to try something. He can't lose her again and he chooses this time, to believe in her, to see the strength in her.
He was empty for so long after she was gone, so hollow and now her song is back in his life and that was all he needed.
He made a promise. All he needed in his life was some light, all he needed was a song and then he promised, he would be good.
An' we'll be good.
"You missed me, huh?" Beth whispers seductively.
Daryl raises his gaze and her desperate kiss with Negan confirms everything bleeding in his heart. He glances away when she begins to paw at him.
He knows what game she's playing but he can't stomach watching her play it. He knows when it's his turn. He saw her hand sneaking at Negan's waist. The gun is her plan and he knows where to be so it'll work.
He knows his next move.
There's talk. It goes in one ear and out the other, buzzes through his head as he waits, as he plots.
They start to leave and he rises to his knees. Takes a deep breath and makes his move.
"You can't have her."
No matter how this turns out, whether Daryl lives or dies, Negan can't have her. If Negan wants to take her, Daryl would rather die than let him.
He lived in a world without Beth Greene, before and after he met her. Nothing is alive when she's not.
When he faces Negan now, repeats what he said in answer to Negan's question: "you can't have," he thinks about the funeral home.
He thinks about the Beth he loves so deeply and he feels that sweet ache in his chest that she'll never quite be with him again.
He misses her but he won't shun the woman before him either and she is alive. Breathing and talking, living. Maybe she'll sing soon.
Maybe he'll be able to tell her what he should have told she so long again. Maybe oh will stop hurting so much when he corrects the conversation to the one they should have had.
What made you change your mind?
You did Beth. Y'come into my life an' ya made it burn. You taught me kindness an' you taught me loyalty. You made it better, y'know? Made me forget where I started, who I was. God Beth, you just made it all go away an' I love you. I'll love you until I'm the last man standin'. With the last woman at my side.