Daryl's mind was only half on the conversation at hand. He was standing off to the side. Dale was arguing for Randall's case but Daryl could only see Beth's haunted eyes in his mind.
He didn't want to be the one who had told her about Otis. It wasn't any of his business but she'd popped out of the trees with that annoying habit of being exactly where she shouldn't be and Daryl hadn't been able to lie to her.
He'd wanted to be blunt but he'd found himself giving her the small reassurance that despite what had happened, Otis was a hero. His death had given life to Carl. And since Otis was responsible in the first place then maybe that made sense.
Daryl cast a furtive look at Shane and wondered. When he'd first met Shane he'd thought he was a bit of a dick. Maybe one of the cops who liked his power a bit too much and exerted a tad more force than necessary. Daryl wasn't so naive that he thought Shane was morally good just because he had a badge on his chest but he'd seemed alright. He'd taken people under his protection who couldn't fend for themselves and while that hadn't been high on Daryl's advisable-things-to-do survival list he couldn't fault him too highly on that.
He knew Shane was sleeping with Lori but hadn't fully understood their connection until Rick had come back to the camp. Then he'd been too preoccupied with his brother's disappearance to think too much on that relationship. Later he supposed it made sense. In their grief they had sought out a person who made them feel close to Rick.
Then that morning, back at the Centre for Disease Control, when he'd seen those scratches on Shane's face, he felt a chill down his spine. Even through his hangover, Daryl had recognised those marks. They were defensive wounds, made through fear and desperation. He hadn't said anything but he could see the way Lori refused to look at Shane now, the way she jumped when someone touched her and she wasn't expecting it. Daryl quickly put two and two together even if no one else seemed to see. They were all caught up in the euphoria of finding a safe haven.
Daryl had kept his mouth shut. Who would believe his word over Shane's anyway? Besides he didn't owe Lori anything. They all still looked at him like he was to be tolerated and nothing more. But he filed that information away and he treated Shane a little more warily now. If he could do that to someone he supposedly loved, what would he do to someone who meant nothing to him? Kill them, if Otis was anything to go by.
Daryl wondered if he could have done it. If it was Merle lying shot on a bed. Chances were that Merle was probably more deserving of the bullet than Carl had been but still he just didn't know. This whole apocalypse thing was forcing him to rethink his allegiance to the rest of the human race. A month ago, Daryl would never have dreamed he'd be out risking his life to save a little girl but hadn't that been what he'd done?
Daryl wanted to curse and tell himself he was being an idiot. Had he already forgotten how that situation turned out? What happened when he tried to help? She'd been right under his nose the whole time and he'd never noticed. If he'd just taken the time to properly search the farm, he would have seen the amount of foot traffic leading into the barn didn't match the occupants in the farm. But like everyone else, he thought the danger was out in the woodlands. It still was but there was danger here too.
Daryl looked down and chewed on his thumb nail to give himself something to do other than glare at Shane.
He was snapped from his reverie when Dale addressed him.
"You're right," Dale said, saying two words Daryl had never heard from another adult in his entire life. "This group is broken."
Dale sounded lost. He'd truly expected everyone to agree with him and spare Randall. Dale just didn't understand the world had changed. Even Rick, the golden hero, was beginning to accept that things had to be done differently.
Daryl didn't want a teenager to die but this kid was a bigger threat than any single walker. His knuckles ached from hitting Randall. At least his death would be quick. Rick would see to that.
Dale wasn't the only one who looked forlorn. Even now, Rick had been hoping that someone would present him with a solution that would save him from executing Randall. And Daryl knew Rick would be the one to do it, his honour demanded it.
Daryl left the room then. He needed to be back outside where he felt more at home. He was beginning to hate this farm. There was too much death and misery now. Everyone he saw seemed to have haunted eyes.
He stepped onto the porch and resisted throwing his hands up in the air in frustration. "Don't you have anywhere better t'be?" he demanded roughly.
Beth was sitting on one of the chairs, listening to the conversation. Her eyes were red rimmed and it was clear she had been crying but she made no comment about it and neither did he.
"Is Rick going to kill him?" she asked. She sounded oddly flat. There was no tremor in her voice which was unusual. Beth had always been upset when they spoke. Give her time though; he had a habit of bringing it out in people.
"Yes," Daryl answered bluntly. He was waiting for her recriminations and blame. He was still half expecting her to reveal the truth about Shane even though she had claimed it would help nobody.
Beth nodded once before tilting her head back against the wood of the house. For the first time in his life Daryl was struck by the need to say something. Maybe it was because she looked so young and hurt in this moment, he couldn't really explain it. But he had nothing to say. There was no comforting version to this story and Daryl wouldn't lie.
Beth stood up and he noticed how small she was. Her head barely would have reached his shoulder. She brushed past him without another word, careful not to actually touch him.
The door closed behind her with a neat click and Daryl was left standing on the porch alone, fighting a nagging feeling he only later identified as guilt.
Jimmy couldn't wrap his mind around what was happening. Beth couldn't blame him; she was struggling to understand too. They had decided Randall's fate and only Dale and Andrea had spoken in his defence. It wasn't enough and now Randall was doomed to die.
Beth's father hadn't contributed and she knew that meeting Randall's group had gone a long way to ensure her father's silence as they debated killing Randall. He didn't want those people ever finding the farm. It gave some credence to what Daryl had told her about rape and murder. She had thought it was just to scare her, to punish her for being squeamish and judgemental. Now she wasn't so sure.
Maggie had excused herself to her bedroom and Beth could hear her crying from her own room next door. Maggie was weeping for the boy she barely knew. Maggie had always been the strong one and it took a lot to make her big sister cry. She had waited until she had some privacy before giving in to tears.
Beth and Jimmy sat on the bed, with the door still open. It had always been her parents rule if boys were in her room and even though it seemed silly considering the circumstances they still upheld it.
Jimmy was just as torn as she was. Neither of them wanted Randall to die but nor did they want those men finding the farm. Jimmy tried to play tough but he was still a seventeen year old boy underneath, despite how badly he wanted to play the protector.
Jimmy held her hand, fingers accidently brushing the new scars on her wrists but for now he was too distracted to notice. Normally he'd jump like her skin burnt him and apologise profusely. Beth was glad that he didn't react that way now. It was hard to regain any sense of normalcy between them when half the time he acted like touching her terrified him.
"You think this is right?" he finally asked Beth quietly. Neither of them had offered their opinion earlier. Not only had they not been invited to the discussion but it was an adult decision and nobody really saw Jimmy and Beth as being adults.
"I don't know anymore," Beth responded. Jimmy looked relieved to find that he wasn't the only one conflicted about it. Beth didn't think he had anything to worry about. Shane was the only one who appeared completely certain about the course of action and Beth knew he wasn't anyone to emulate.
Even Daryl, who had endorsed torture, had looked uncertain of himself when Beth had seen him leave the house. Through all their conversations he was all bluster and bravado but tonight Beth had caught a hint of self doubt.
"Maggie blames herself," Jimmy said quietly.
Beth immediately glanced at the wall dividing their rooms and nodded.
"She thinks if she knew him, could vouch for him, then he'd be able to live here."
"Why didn't she lie? Say she knew him and that he was a nice guy?"
Beth thought about the way Maggie looked at Glenn. "Because what if she was wrong? What if someone she loved got hurt?"
Jimmy misunderstood. "I'll protect you," he swore. "If anything happens, I'll make sure you're alright!"
Beth had to smile at his gallantry. Of course Maggie was interested in keeping her family safe but these new comers weren't simply strangers any more either. They had rescued her father from town, Maggie had helped save Carl, and Glenn had saved Maggie. There was a binding in those acts that couldn't be ignored.
Beth shivered on the bed and was suddenly cold. She went to her wardrobe and pulled out a sweater. She took a minute to run her hand along clothes that hung there, forgotten and disused. Beth had preferred pretty sun dresses, except when she was horse riding, but with the state of things that had just become impractical.
Even her wardrobe's set up reflected the chaos that permeated her life. Everything was just thrown in together these days. Maggie was right; Beth did like things organised and neat. She liked labels and boxes and categories. She was discovering more and more that her old world view had no meaning here. One of the scariest monsters she had met so far was Shane and he'd been a cop, someone she would have respected and looked up to.
Shaking her head to concentrate, she tugged the sweater on. It fell to her wrists, covering her scars nicely. When she returned to the bed, Jimmy opened his arms for her and she went into their circle. She appreciated his offer to protect her but it didn't make her feel safe. She just let herself enjoy the comforting touch of another human being.
Daryl helped Shane and Rick march Randall to the barn. There was nothing formal about what they did but there was a sense of ceremony. They didn't see people as they passed but Daryl could feel eyes on them. Some of these people had been hardened by life and what they had seen but none of them were at the point where they could watch Randall die, even if they agreed it was for the best interest of the group.
Daryl tuned out Randall's pleas which were increasing in volume and desperation. Whatever the kid may or may not be, he wasn't stupid and he could sense that his end was nearing with each step.
Daryl had to exert a little pressure to keep him in line but there was no real fight. Nothing like what Daryl would have exhibited if he was being walked to his death. He would rail and claw and scream until he got out of the situation.
Rick looked defeated and Shane looked smug. Daryl deliberately took his eyes off Shane because his expression would just ignite a rage in Daryl's chest. He agreed that this was the sensible course of action. They couldn't afford to make mistakes and Randall was guilty by association. But that was it. There was no evidence that he's partaken in the worse crimes of his group and Daryl knew that for certain. People being beaten within an inch of their life would tell you the truth.
Still Daryl could almost sympathise. He was had been judged more than once, not for his actions, but because of the company he kept. Shane would have been just as quick to send him down if he'd met Daryl in the same circumstances.
Daryl put Randall on his knees and swallowed. Outwardly his expression didn't reflect the tumultuous emotions that were turning over inside him. He could see Beth's luminous but jaded eyes in his mind. When he had walked out onto the porch after they had voted a young man's life away, she had look disappointed.
Daryl was beginning to hate that little girl. She knew nothing of the necessities of the world and yet she had the nerve to reproach him. What's worse was she was getting to him.
Rick was sweating but his hand was steady as he levelled it at Randall. Even Shane looked less satisfied now that the deed was about to be done. The situation was bleak enough to take the gloating out of the asshole.
Rick asked if Randall had any last words and he had nothing profound. Just piteous weeps that made him seem younger than he had yet. Daryl didn't know what his last words would have been if he'd been in the same position. Probably just a curse and a glare.
Daryl could see the war going on inside of Rick. Every agonising conflict was playing out on his face. He was bracing himself and Daryl realised that up until this moment, he hadn't really thought Rick could go through with it. But there was a steel to this man, even as he was shattering his own conscience to pieces.
Then a voice spoke up behind them. "Do it, dad!"
Daryl glanced over his shoulder and saw Carl standing in the barn. Daryl knew what he was seeing though he hadn't seen it in someone so young for a long time. It was blood lust.
Rick looked at Carl with disbelief as Shane hurried to usher the boy out. If Rick's conscience was suffering before then it was his heart that broke when he saw Carl there.
Rick lowered the gun to the ground and told Daryl to get Randall out of there. Daryl didn't hesitate. He jerked the young kid off his knees as gratitude poured out of Randall's mouth.
Daryl wanted to tell him not to count his lucky stars just yet. He'd been reprieved for a little bit but only because Rick had seen a much greater threat in his son's perversity. Daryl didn't know what the hell he was doing there. The kid needed a leash.
As Daryl pulled Randall back to his make shift prison, his chest felt looser. He'd been prepared to back Rick up on the decision but part of him hadn't reconciled with killing this kid in cold blood. Roughing him up a little would teach him a lesson, killing him served no one but themselves.
Daryl had just snapped the lock back into place when he heard a scream tear through the air. It was a man and they were in pain.
Daryl didn't think; he just ran in the direction the noise was coming from.
AN: So much times gets away between chapters. I mean to post earlier but then I get busy, but here it is. As you all have figured out, I'm taking pretty massive liberties with season two. The time line is a bit different, events are a bit different, dialogue is altered, but I hope the characters are still behaving as they would. Please let me know what you think. Reviews make me happy and encourage my little typing fingers.