Beth woke up slowly. There was a pounding in her head and her eyes felt crusted together. When she finally blinked them open, her vision was blurry and they felt gritty.
"Oh thank god," a voice said softly.
A figure bent over her and after a minute Beth realised it was Carol.
"Beth, I need you to wake up. You might have a concussion." Carol was still speaking to her very quietly.
"What's wrong with her? Why isn't she speaking?" Someone else whispered. Beth turned her head with an effort. Karen was sitting off to the side looking very concerned.
"Why are you talking so quiet?" Beth managed to mumble.
Karen and Carol exchanged glances.
"We're trying not to attract attention," Karen murmured ominously.
Beth struggled to sit up, much to Carol's dismay. Carol quickly grabbed her shoulders and helped her up. Beth immediately regretted the decision as the world swam. Beth's stomach lurched and she vomited.
Carol hastily pulled her hair back.
"I'm sorry," Beth said groggily.
Both women shrugged. "We've had kids," Karen said. "Not much grosses us out." She tried to smile but it was a little too grim to be genuine.
"I wish I could give you some water to wash your mouth out," Carol said sadly, which drew Beth's attention to their immediate predicament.
Beth felt better already and though she regretted the mess she had caused, she was glad of the clear head. She looked around the room. It was uninspired with no distinguishing features. The walls looked like some kind of stone or concrete and there were no windows.
What had happened before Beth passed out was starting to come back to her. That man had taken her. She awkwardly felt around her hips and realised that all her weapons were gone. She looked down at her bloody hands and at the other women.
"Where are we?" Beth asked dreading the answer.
Carol grimaced. "Woodbury."
"What did he look like?" Martinez asked.
"I don't know!" Daryl snarled. "There was a shit load'a other things goin' on!" He was pacing restlessly. He wanted to follow the trails the men had left. Carol had been dragged away and that kind of abduction left a clear mark. But his Beth, his clever Beth, had left a trail so obvious a blind man could follow it. He had felt his heart constrict at the sight of the scratches in the bark and the blood but he knew she'd handed him a gift.
Every second they wasted talking was a second they got further away.
"I wanna know if it was the Governor's men," Rick said patiently.
"Does it matter?" Maggie demanded. For once Daryl and her were in complete agreement. Hunt down those assholes and kill every one of them that laid a hand on their people.
"I don't wanna be walking into a trap and get anybody else... hurt."
Daryl stared at Rick. He sensed that he'd been about to say killed. He couldn't let himself think that Beth might be dead. If it was the Governor, he'd make a point of taking them. He'd want Michonne or a fight. As much as Daryl wanted Beth back, he'd never give in to any of his demands. This had gone on long enough and the only solution would be a bullet between that bastard's eyes.
"The man who took Carol had a tattoo on his forearm," Tyreese offered helpfully. Daryl knew his emotions were getting in the way of him helping but he couldn't stop the whirlwind of thoughts turning over in his head. All he wanted to do was deliver some violence.
Bowman and Martinez exchanged a look. "Sounds like Thomas," Martinez said contemptuously. "He's not much of a threat on his own but he's a follower."
"So he's the Governor's people?" Hershel asked. He'd mostly kept quiet until now, his distress at Beth's abduction obvious.
"Yeah," Martinez spat. "He'll go to Woodbury."
"Why Woodbury?" Rick asked.
Martinez laughed humourlessly. "Because that's where it all started. And he'll want to put on a show!"
"You think he just wants me again?" Michonne rasped. She was seated on the ground, her back against the wall.
"Most likely he wants us all dead," Bowman said slowly. "After he's inflicted some pain on us first."
Maggie was clutching Glenn's hand so tightly, Daryl could see his skin whitening from lack of circulation. "We have to get them out!"
"Agreed. We need to quit the talkin' and start moving," Daryl snapped.
"How many of them?" Rick asked, not done with his question.
Martinez cocked his head. "More than us."
"We need to even the playin' field," a voice behind Daryl piped up.
Daryl turned to find Carl.
A grin slowly crept across Morgan's face. 'I got some ideas that could help."
Something in Morgan's smile cooled Daryl's rage just a little.
"He won't kill them straight away," Bowman added. Daryl's anger flared up again but he knew what he was trying to say. They had some time.
"Daryl and Tyreese, go get the weapons. Martinez and Bowman, you two know the layout better than anybody, you can work with Morgan. We'll go from there," Rick instructed.
The door to their room opened and the three women drew closer. None of them slumped or cowered. They would face whatever came through that door without giving them the satisfaction of their fear.
Beth's pulse thundered when the Governor walked through. He had a chair and moved with an easy manner. He sat down and regarded the women.
"Karen, what a pleasant surprise." His smile was almost genuine which scared Beth more than a threat would have.
"Yeah, I didn't die. It was a good day," Karen replied as casually as if they were discussing the weather. It was only Beth's proximity to the woman that revealed a slight trembling.
His eyes swept over Carol without much change but then they settled on Beth.
"You were supposed to be Michonne." His entire demeanour shifted.
Beth's mouth was dry but she managed to say, "Your help must not be very good."
The Governor sighed and crossed his arms. "They see a pretty girl and the plan just goes out the window."
He leaned forward and Beth fought not to wince. "I'm sure we'll find some use for you." He picked up a strand of her blond hair and ran it through his fingers slowly. For a moment he looked miles away, caught in a memory that no one else could share.
"Don't touch her," Carol said, deadly quiet.
The Governor chuckled. "You're a feisty one, aren't you? Don't worry; you'll get used to the order of things around here." But he released Beth's hair all the same.
The Governor stood and his expression hardened as he surveyed the women. "They will come for you and when they do, I'll kill them all."
The door shut behind him, closing with a neat click. They could hear footsteps fading into the distance. As soon as silence enveloped them once more Beth exhaled sharply, it sounded like a sob. One tear trailed down her cheek. Carol noticed and gathered the young woman to her, wrapping her arms around Beth. Beth could see that Carol's own eyes were glistening with tears that she refused to shed.
Karen slumped against the wall, tilting her head back. "I really, really, hate that motherfucker."
When Daryl rejoined the group he found Martinez hovering over Morgan doubtfully. Morgan had a bunch of bottles surrounding him and when Daryl got closer he could see they were cleaning supplies.
"That can only end well," Tyreese muttered, his arms laden with weapons.
Daryl snorted but they still walked closer. Rick was standing a little way off with his hands on his hips, talking in a low voice with Michonne.
"You sure this is gonna work?" Martinez was asking.
"Yeah." Morgan was carefully mixing different chemicals.
"And explain to me again how you know how to make a bomb?"
Daryl flicked his eyes from one man to the other. Bomb?
Bowman ran his hands through his hair, looking nervous for the first time since they'd joined the group.
"Well shit," Martinez said.
Daryl added the weapons to a pile and backed away from the chemistry experiment, praying Morgan knew what he was doing.
Michonne and Rick were speaking in hushed tones but as Daryl approached he could see they were arguing.
"You expect me to baby sit?" she was demanding, clearly livid.
"I'm asking you to stay with my son and my daughter and protect them." Rick was fighting to keep an even tone but Daryl could hear the underlying plea.
Michonne did too and her anger faltered. "Half the Governor's problem is with me," she pointed out.
"True but in the end this might be a distraction to get us out of the prison. To make us vulnerable. Sasha has offered to stay too and Hershel will be here but you're one of the best fighters we have."
There was no mention of Michonne's injury. The spike hadn't killed her but it had definitely made her a liability in a fight. Daryl still wouldn't have pointed it out to Michonne's face though. He didn't have a death wish.
"Please Michonne." Rick's last entreaty made all the difference. She nodded once and then strode off.
Daryl examined their eclectic group and he felt the first tendril of hope. Glenn, who he had been with the start, was quietly strapping on weapons, preparing to go into battle. If anyone could get them in and out without trouble, it was Glenn. And Daryl almost felt sorry for anyone that got in between Maggie and rescuing her little sister.
Rick joined him. "I told Carl he had to stay here and protect our home."
"How did he take that?"
"Better than I thought. He just told me to go kick his ass. Y'know, he never used to cuss so much."
Daryl quirked an eyebrow. "I don't know where he picked that up. Maybe Beth?"
Rick's smile was wry. "How you holdin' up?"
Daryl shrugged. "I don't think it's sunk in that she's gone. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm fuckin' pissed but I think we can get her back."
Rick clapped Daryl on the shoulder. "I know we can."
Beth felt her head starting to loll and all she wanted was sleep. Carol gently tilted her chin up.
"Sorry honey, can't let you sleep." Her cool hand cupped Beth's cheek. "He must have hit you hard. That's a nasty bruise coming up."
Karen had her head in her hands, staring at the wall. She looked like she was thinking up a plan.
Footsteps echoed outside and Beth felt herself come alert. The door swung open and Beth expected the Governor to fill the space but another man walked in. Beth recognised him as the man who had hit her. Her body tensed as adrenaline flooded her system.
Karen narrowed her eyes at the man. "Where's Phillip?"
The man had a twitchy smile. "Not here. He said I could come here and play. You're mine; I got you fair and square."
Beth's blood turned to ice in her veins when she realised he was talking to her.
"I'm not yours," she managed to say. Beth pushed herself to her feet and wished that she wasn't feeling so disorientated. "I'm not property."
The man looked confused, his own messed up logic didn't allow for any arguments.
Carol and Karen had stood up and were on either side of her, glaring daggers at this man. Beth had her back to the wall, using it for support. He was taller than she remembered and he must have been strong to lug her dead weight all the way back to Woodbury.
"You're out of luck," Carol stated, "You'll just have to go and play by yourself."
The man giggled nervously and pointed at Carol. "That's naughty." His voice dropped, "I can't do that. God might be watching."
Beth slipped her hand into Carol's, staring at the man aghast. Martinez hadn't been exaggerating about the quality of men that the Governor had found himself. This man wasn't just evil, he was obviously very sick too.
He beckoned at Beth to join him. Beth shrunk back and shook her head. Then he struck, moving with a speed Beth hadn't expected. He pulled Beth away from the wall and flung her across the room. She hit the opposite wall hard and sunk to the ground with a whimper.
Beth tried to get her shaky arms underneath and push herself up but the man grabbed her hair and yanked her backwards. Carol and Karen rushed the man but he was strong and deflected their attacks, pushing them away hard.
Beth saw a crazy gleam in his eyes as he grabbed at her. Beth tried to push his hands away from her but he backhanded her across the face so hard she saw stars. For a brief moment Beth lost control of her body and the brute managed to manoeuvre his way on top of her and between her legs.
With horror, Beth realised that he was pawing at the top button of her pants. Beth began to struggle, thrashing around wildly even though her whole body screamed with pain.
The man used one hand to wrap around her throat and pin her down. Beth was seized with a blind panic.
A slim arm snaked around the man's throat, jerking him back. Carol's determined face appeared over his shoulder. She didn't have the same kind of strength the man did but her forearm was crushing his windpipe. The man's face was red and he clawed at Carol's arm. Vicious, bloody scratches appeared in her skin but she didn't let go. Karen grabbed his arms, thrusting him further away from Beth. Beth was able to sit up, breathing hard. Her eyes landed on his belt. She saw the knife there and didn't hesitate.
Beth pulled it out quickly and stabbed him right in the gut with a cry. She pulled the knife out and it glistened with the bright blood of the living. With brutal satisfaction, she plunged it back in to his body, aiming higher this time. The man groaned and his arms dropped to his side.
"Here," Carol said, urgently reaching out with her free hand. Beth hastily passed the blade to her. Carol grabbed the hilt, fumbling only slightly from the slick blood. She drove the knife down into the top of his skull.
There were no more noises from the man, he was dead and motionless. Carol's final blow had ensured he wouldn't come back as a walker either. The idiot's final mistake had been underestimating them and their will to survive.
Beth hastened away from the man. She looked down at herself and realised she was covered in his hot blood. Karen reached down to grab Beth's elbow, hauling her to her feet.
"This is our chance." Karen tugged Beth towards the door and Carol followed with her knife.
They edged the door open tentatively. Carol stuck her head around the corner and when she saw that there was no one waiting she slid into the hallway. Beth followed and saw that the hallway was as unremarkable as the room.
"Do you know where we are?" she breathed to Karen.
The woman shook her head. "I never came to this part of Woodbury. They had a lot of secrets."
"We have to keep moving," Carol whispered. The knife was ready in her hand.
They found some stairs and looked at each other.
"Maybe there's a fire exit?" Karen speculated.
"We can't go back," Beth observed. Her hands were shaking now that the adrenaline was wearing off but she could still feel her heart thundering in her chest from fear.
They crept up the stairs quietly. As Karen had predicted there was a fire exit.
Carol's hand lingered over the doorknob. "We don't know what's out there."
Beth met her eyes. "We know we can't stay here."
Carol took in Beth's bloody and bruised form and made a decision. She pushed the door open and the three of them snuck out.
The sun was sinking below the horizon and the sudden glare of natural light made Beth blink. But she could still make out the circle of guns they were surrounded by.
Beth was filled with despair.
The Governor came striding up, not looking too concerned to find them trying to escape.
He took in the blood and the knife. "I take it that it didn't end too well for Brian."
Beth glowered at the callous man, who was completely unaffected by the death of one of his men and fine allowing women to be raped.
"You do this, sweetheart?"
Beth's skin crawled as the Governor called her the same thing Daryl did. She stifled a retort. She just had to stay alive long enough and Daryl would find her. She knew he would move hell to rescue her.
"Didn't your father teach you any manners? Is that our thanks for giving you hospitality?"
Karen was staring at the Governor with open disgust. "I can't believe I used to think you were a good man."
The Governor cut his mean stare to Karen. "Quiet! You'll be next after they've had their fill of the blond."
Beth took an automatic step backwards. She shifted her focus from the Governor, who she had perceived as the primary threat and looked at the other men. They were regarding her hungrily and she could only imagine what the Governor had promised them.
"I'm not a bad guy, I wanted to give you some privacy but since you couldn't behave, we'll just have to make sure you demonstrate your gratitude a little more publically."
One of the men with a tattoo on his arm chuckled and took a menacing step forward, reaching for Beth.
"No!" Carol exclaimed and slashed with the knife. The force of her slash removed one of the man's fingers from his hand. He howled with pain, reeling away from the women.
The Governor's expression turned sour and he smacked the knife out of Carol's hand. He twisted her arm behind her back hard and Carol yelled in pain.
"You are just too damn troublesome," he snarled in Carol's ear.
Beth took a step forward, wanting to hurt the Governor, wanting to help Carol but the other men cocked their guns at her and Karen, holding them in place.
Leaning close, the Governor whispered in Carol's ear. "I'm going to hurt them both in ways you can't imagine and you won't be able to stop me."
He met Beth's stare over Carol's shoulder and his one eye was demented in the half light of sunset. His mouth twisted into evil smile.
In one fluid motion, he pulled his knife from its sheath and drew the blade roughly across Carol's throat.
AN: I need to go cry now. Please leave your reviews (words of mourning), it'll soothe my heart after making a very hard decision. Also I was deliberately vague about the bomb stuff because I don't know how to make one and I don't want to type that kind of search in the google. You understand. I love you all, thanks for sticking with me this far.