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Whisper Softly to Me

Chapter Text

Beth had no idea how to feel right now. She was standing a few feet behind Alpha, walker skin over her face, eyes wide in shock. How the fuck is this possible? She asked herself. This was supposed to be quick. They were to retrieve Alpha’s daughter from this community, trade her for two of theirs, and then go back to their camp. That’s it, it was supposed to be easy.

But things never are. Beth felt like she couldn’t breathe, using all her willpower not to cry out.

No emotion. No weakness. No emotion. No weakness. No emotion.  No weakness.

She chanted the mantra over and over in her head, forcing herself to take a deep, silent breath…but she was still on the verge of breaking down. How could she not? The man who was responsible for saving her life was standing so close to her, but he didn’t even know. He had no idea she was alive.

Daryl.

Instantly, Beth was drawn back to the last conversation she’d had with the man.

Beth had grabbed a piece of paper and the pen from her journal she carried with her, setting them on the table beside the soft candlelight.

“I’m gonna leave a ‘thank you’ note.” She had said to Daryl.

“Why?” He asked, in the rough voice that brought a strange comfort to her. She glanced at him before responding, eyes back to the words in front of her.

“For when they come back,” she paused, “-if they come back…even if they’re not comin’ back, I still wanna say thanks.” She looked back up towards Daryl, trying to read his face in the low light of room. Unsure what he was thinking, she turned back to the paper and continued writing.

“Maybe you don’ have ta leave ‘at.” He said suddenly, causing Beth to look at his face, even though he wasn’t looking at her. “Maybe we stick ‘round here for ‘while.” He paused, eating a spoonful of jelly, “-they come ba’, we’ll jus’ make it work. Mean, mayb’ nuts, but…mayb’ a’right.”

Beth couldn’t stop the smile from forming on her face, blue eyes twinkling in the candlelight.

“So you do think there are still good people around.” Daryl could only shrug in response, looking back towards the jar of jelly. “What changed your mind?” He looked to her, a small smirk on his face.

“Ya know.”

“What?”

Daryl looked at Beth again, debating on saying something, instead he grunted and shrugged his shoulders again.

“Don’t mhmm,” she replied, mimicking his gesture with a small roll of her eyes, “-what changed your mind?”

This time, instead of answering, she was met with a look so intense she felt her heart skip a beat, face growing warm as Daryl stared down at her, as if silently communicating what was so obvious to him, but not her. And the message was received.

“Oh.”

And then shit hit the fan.

-----

To this day, she still couldn’t remember very much of the last time she ever saw any of her family. She knows what happened, the scars on her face are evidence of the horrors that she endured at Grady Hospital. And the small, circular mark on her forehead makes it understandable why her family thought her dead. Hell, in their position she would’ve assumed the same thing. She wasn’t going to hold it against them. It was the apocalypse, surviving a gunshot wound anywhere was pretty much a death sentence, let alone one to the head. Yet somehow, she was still standing. She supposed she did owe Grady some thanks for saving her life…but that’s a story for another day.

Beth was shaken from her thoughts when the doors to the community opened and Daryl walked out again with Lydia in tow. She couldn’t help but study him, thankful to see him alive and well, still wearing the old leather vest. She next checked over Lydia, grateful to see the young teen clean and safe. Clearly this community is well-off. She vaguely registered Lydia walking to Alpha, saying something in a hushed tone, but her eyes were focused on Daryl, and studying his movements. Hearing a harsh slap echo around them, Beth looked back towards Lydia and Alpha, the former holding her face. Oh. Looking at Daryl again, she could tell from how tense he was that it was taking all his willpower not to interfere. Beth hoped for his safety that he didn’t.

“Delta.” Beth’s head snapped to Alpha, who was looking right at her, “Take my daughter with you and your group, get her back to the camp and in a new skin.” She nodded, holding an arm out to Lydia, while risking a glance back towards Daryl once more, and she froze on the spot when she realized he was staring directly at her, a look on his face that she’s only ever seen him give to his enemies. And her heart breaks a little inside, realizing she is one of the bad guys to him. Lydia stepping towards her made her break eye contact with him, and when she gestured towards her group of ten to follow, circling around Lydia to keep her away from the dead, she didn’t let herself look back. Even though she could feel his gaze burning into her spine, she couldn’t look at him and see that expression again.

Because it’s been years since she’s seen anyone from her family, and she wasn’t that naïve, seventeen-year-old girl anymore. She’d done what she had to do, to ensure her own survival. She had to put away the girl that she was, lock her in a box and become somebody else.

She had to, before it killed her.

-----

Once Beth decided they had enough distance between them and the community, she spoke softly to Lydia. “Are you alright?” The young girl gave her a small nod. “How did this happen?” Lydia wasn’t sure how to explain everything that happened. She didn’t even understand why her Mother had come back for her.

“It just did. They killed the group I was with, I surrendered. They kept me locked up in a cell…and that guy, in the vest, he asked me questions about us.” Beth listened closely as she spoke, keeping her eyes forward and walking like the dead that surrounded them. “I told him the truth.”

Don’t let Alpha fool you, she was worried for your safety.” Beth told her, and Lydia released a low sigh. She knew that Delta meant well, but she also knew that Delta disagreed with Alpha’s methods, though she’d never say so out loud. They continued to trudge along, the groans of the dead filling the silence of the forest. Beth became so focused on the path in front of her, that she almost missed Lydia’s whispers to her.

Delta.” Beth turned her head slightly, acknowledging her. “They’re not…bad people.” Beth faced forward, inhaling before responding.

“I know.”

-----

Daryl didn’t like this one bit.

It had only been a few hours since they’d been forced to hand Lydia back over to the Whisperers. And in those few hours, Henry had managed to go missing again. When one of his friends found Daryl and gave him the note Henry had left, he immediately got his crossbow and pack, Dog trailing behind him, ready to track the young boy down. He was stopped by one of the new arrivals, Connie, on his way out of the gates, her insisting she go with him. Hell, he didn’t care at this point, his mind was too focused on the day’s events.

There were so many of them.

How the hell were they supposed to deal with this new enemy? He had no damn clue. He thought back to the woman in charge, Alpha, she called herself. And the other one with a name, he was fairly certain she’d been called Delta. He didn’t know much about Greek, but he knew a couple of the letters, and Delta is fourth…which must mean she’s high in command. He recalled making eye contact with her, and even though he couldn’t see her face behind the mask, which still creeped him out, he could see her eyes. A bright blue that didn’t belong with a walker’s rotted flesh. He hadn’t seen eyes that blue since…

Stop Daryl. Don’t think about the past.

He squeezed his eyes shut and took a deep breath, pushing away the memory and the voice of a ghost in the back of his mind, reminding him what to do.

You have to put it away, or else it kills you.

So he did.

Chapter Text

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay?” Dr. Edwards asked her one last time, convinced that if he kept repeating the question, she’d change her mind. “It’s safer in here, than it is out there. You’d be an asset to us.”

Beth rolled her eyes while she put the few supplies the people of Grady had given her into a backpack. In her opinion, anywhere was better than here. She’d been stuck behind these hospital walls for months, healing from the shot that should’ve killed her. It was time for her to move on, time to find her family. Edwards knew that.

“Thanks for the offer, but no.” She replied, turning and putting her arms through the straps of her pack, “-I gotta go.” Dr. Edwards nodded his head in defeat.

“Well, if you say so…none of us will stop you. Not anymore.” He hands her another bag that he’d brought with him when he came to say goodbye. Beth gave him a quizzical look as she took the bag. “Some extra weapons, and a couple of maps...to help you find your people.” For the first time in what felt like ages, Beth gave the man a small, but genuine smile.

“Thank you, those will definitely come in handy.” She says as she opens the bag to peer inside and take a quick inventory of the contents. Two hunting knives, a handgun with a holster, a rifle, a fire axe, and enough bullets to last her a while, if she’s sparing. The maps are tucked along the inside edge of the bag, and she counts three of those. Beth is genuinely pleased, and she can’t remember the last time she felt that way. She glanced back up when she heard Dr. Edwards talking again.

“Unfortunately, we can’t spare a car, but one of the officers will drive you out of the city a few miles, wherever you want to be dropped.” Beth nods her understanding, and sets the bag full of weapons on the hospital bed beside her, pulling out the stack of maps and choosing one that she knows will have the place she wants.

Unfolding the paper, her eyes search the roads and highway lines, before she finds what she’s looking for. Putting her index finger on the spot, she shows Edwards where she wants to go. His eyebrows raise in surprise.

“You sure? That’s where you want to go?” She gives him a firm nod.

“Yes. I have to.” Edwards releases a sigh, not bothering to try and understand Beth’s choice of location.

“Alright, I’ll tell Officer Shepherd. She’ll be the one taking you.” Beth watched him leave the room, then turned back to the map laid out in front of her. Maybe she was crazy for choosing where she did, but she had to start somewhere.

She may as well start back at the beginning.

 


 

 

“Turn right here.” Beth said to Shepherd, pointing at the old dirt road with the mailbox sitting on the side. The faded name on the side of it made her heart hurt, but she pushed it away.

“Any particular reason you wanted to be dropped here?” Beth just shrugged, not having an answer for the woman.

“Gotta start somewhere…” She says, before unbuckling her seatbelt, “-stop here. I can walk the rest.” Shepherd eases onto the brake, pulling the car off to the side of the dirt road.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, it ain’t that far.” She climbs out of the car, and opened the backdoor to grab her bags. Shutting the door, she walks around to the driver’s side window and Shepherd rolls it down. “Thanks for the ride. Safe travels.”

“You too, be careful out here. And for what it’s worth, I hope you find who you’re looking for.” Beth offers a weak smile. She was hoping the same. Stepping away from the car, she offers one final wave before turning and starting the short trek up the dirt path, glancing back when she hears the car turning around and driving away. Taking a deep breath, she walks for about five minutes, before the trees thin out and she can see the old white house on the hill.

Her family’s home didn’t look too terrible from the outside, despite the dead bodies rotting in the grass. A few walkers were ambling about in the old fields that ran along the dirt road, but they hadn’t noticed her, so she left them be. She could see where the barn used to sit, nothing left but charred wood and memories. The RV was gone, which meant people had been through here. She stopped walking and tossed the weapon bag down, opening it up and digging out one of the knives and the axe. She stuck the knife inside of her boot, zipped up the bag and threw it over her shoulder, wielding the axe in her grip.

Better to be cautious than dead.

Beth continued her walk up the small incline towards the front door, which was wide open. As she climbed the old set of steps, a female walker on the porch noticed her and started towards her, arms reaching out and snarling. She swung the axe at its head, imbedding it into the walker’s skull, and it fell. Yanking hard, the axe pulled free, and Beth shook the small bits of flesh and bone off the blade, before continuing through the front door. She made a low whistle, waiting a few moments and listening closely for any sounds, from the living or the dead, but she only heard a thump from the upstairs, and she could tell it came from a bedroom.

Deciding to investigate the noise first, she quietly made her way up the stairs, axe in front of her, ready to swing. Once she reached the top of the stairs, she let out another whistle and listened. The thump happened again, and she glanced down the hall at a door leading to one of the bedrooms. Maggie’s old room. She walked to the door and knocked on it, and she could hear the growls from the other side, before the thumping started. How a walker got locked inside, she didn’t know, nor did she care to find out. First things first; dispose of the walker, then search the house.

Beth twisted the knob slowly and pushed the door open a few inches, and almost instantly a rotting arm shot out through the crack, trying to grab her. Holding onto the door, she opened it enough for the walker to stick its head out, then she pulled it shut so it was trapped between the door and the frame. She made quick work of smashing the axe into the dead man’s head, watching as it collapsed onto the ground inside the room. Instead of walking inside the room though, she pulled the door shut and left the room alone. This was already hard enough, being here surrounded by the ghost of her memory.

Heading back down the stairs, she went into the kitchen to raid the pantry, hoping it wasn’t totally empty. Her mama had died before canning season, so Beth knew there wouldn’t be lines of jars full of food in the cellar. Opening the cabinet doors around her, she found two cans of lima beans, a jar of peaches, and a jar of pickles. Well…beggars can’t be choosers. Food is food. She put all of the food in her backpack, before glancing out the window, noticing the sun was going down.

“Might as well stay here for the night.” She said to the empty space around her. It was probably for the best, her head was starting to hurt. Thankfully, Dr. Edwards had given her a full bottle of painkillers, telling her to take one when the pain became too much. Beth had a feeling this one was going to get bad, so she made quick work of locking up her family’s house. Heading upstairs again, she barricaded the staircase with an old table that always sat in the hallway, the top covered in pictures and knickknacks. And with as much willpower as she could muster, she made her way into her old bedroom.

When she crossed the threshold, Beth felt a million different emotions hit her. Her childhood bedroom looked as if it had hardly been touched, and she wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. At least if it had been wrecked, it’d be easier to stay detached. But all that was missing was some clothes from her closet. She didn’t think she could stay here for more than one night, it was just too painful. Looking out the window above her old desk, she could tell the sun was below the trees, and decided to barricade herself in the room while she still had some light. Closing the door, she locked it first, then slowly but surely pushed her tall dresser in front of it.

“That should do it.” She spoke softly to herself, tossing all her bags on the bed and digging out one of the cans of lima beans. She cracked it open before sitting on the bed and leaning back against the headboard, watching out her window as the sunlight slowly faded away into night.

She would leave in the morning. And she would put the pain of these memories away.

 


 

“Delta.”

Beth’s body was shaken awake, and she pulled a knife from her side and held it at the throat of whoever woke her. When she was able to see clearly, she realized it was a man from her group. Amos, he called himself. Whether it was his actual name, Beth didn’t quite care.

What?” She hissed at him, knife still poised to attack. Despite her high ranking, the shit Alpha let her people do to each other made her constantly on edge, no matter how long she’s been with them.

“Two of the scouts found somebody from that community,” Amos said, his voice a bit loud for her liking, “-apparently he tried to follow us. They captured him and are waiting for your orders.”

Beth’s heart leapt into her throat. He tried to follow us. Who was ‘he’?

She prayed it wasn’t Daryl.

Chapter Text

Beth breathed an inaudible sigh of relief, it wasn’t Daryl. It was only a kid, a boy. She hadn’t managed to get a name out of him, and unlike Alpha or Beta, she preferred not to resort to questionable methods.

What do we do, Delta?” Another of her group asked, stepping up behind Beth so she could hear them speak.

“Send word to Beta,” She answered, regarding the boy they had tied to a tree, “-if anybody will be able to get answers, it’ll be him.” Turning away from the boy and a few of her people, she headed back to her sleeping pack and began rolling it up. “Pack up your things. We’re heading back for the main camp now.”

But you said…”

“What did I say?” Turning a sharp glare to Amos, who’d been silent since he woke her, she dared him to question her judgement. When she was met with silence, Beth put her things on her back, wielding her old knife in her hand. “You all have five minutes. Be ready, or be left behind.”

“Where are we going?” Beth’s head snapped to the boy tied to the tree, mildly surprised he actually spoke. She studied him for a moment, taking a few silent strides towards him, and he immediately tensed. Good, she thought, he should be nervous.

“We’re going home.”

 


 

It was daylight by the time they were almost to the main camp. When they reached the field outside their borders, they were greeted by Beta and two more scouts. Beth walked ahead of her group to meet them, sheathing her knife into the holster on her hip.

“Delta.” Beta greeted her in a low, deep voice. He was an incredibly large man, standing at around six-foot, five inches, with wide shoulders and long facial hair that hung below his mask. He was easily a foot taller than her, and anybody else would be extremely intimidated by him, but not Beth. He knew what she was capable of, had proven her strength and determination to him in the past, and for that he respected her, even if she was a lower rank than him.

“Beta.” They grabbed each other’s forearms, rather than a handshake, as a sign of loyalty. Beta glanced over her head, and immediately noticed the fresh-faced boy amongst them.

“Who have you brought with you?” Beth turned her body to the side and gave a sidelong glance at the blonde-haired boy that was being held by Amos.

“Two of my scouts found him lurking outside our camp,” she said softly, “-according to them, he comes from the settlement where Alpha’s daughter was being held.”

And why does he still live?” He asked her, weapon clutched tightly in one hand, “You know the rules.”

“I couldn’t get answers from him,” she answered, “-you’ve always done a better job at getting them to talk.” Beta snorted and studied the shorter woman in front of him.

“Flattery is unbecoming of you.” She smirked at him and put her hands on her hips.

“Just as modesty doesn’t suit you.” He finally cracked a grin, turning to the two scouts behind him.

Take him to Alpha.” The two behind him nodded, and begin walking to grab the boy from the others. He then looked back to Beth stepping to her side and gesturing ahead with his arm. Taking the hint, she began walking beside him across the field, the rest of their people following behind.

“Welcome home, Delta.”

 


 

Daryl stuck his head back around the shrubs, watching them. He could see Henry a few feet back, arms held behind his back by one of them. He looked off to the right and saw two of them, a large man and what he assumed was a woman by their size, communicating. Though what they were saying, he didn’t know. He watched them grasp each other’s forearms, and their gestures towards Henry. Worry etched into his face, he wasn’t sure what to do at the moment. Feeling a tap on his shoulder, he turned his head back towards Connie, and saw her holding up her little notebook.

Let’s wait until dark.

Daryl regarded her, before nodding in agreement. Slowly, they backed away from the field and headed into the forest, putting distance between them and the enemy. They backtracked almost a mile, finding the small campsite they set up, Dog curled up beside the dying embers from the fire they’d made the night before.

Dropping down onto the dirt, Daryl sat with his legs propped up, elbows resting on his knees, trying to come up with a plan of action. He could see Connie out of the corner of his eye, petting Dog on the top of the head. He didn’t know how long he sat there lost in thought, he just knew he snapped out of it when Connie threw a stick at him and he glared at her, before noticing the small notebook held up in the air. Squinting his eyes, he read the small print.

I have a crazy idea, but I think it’ll work.

He studied her face, noting the determination set in her eyes, the confidence in her body language. Well, if she thinks it’ll work, what do they have to lose?

“Wha’ is it?” Connie offered him a small smile and grabbed a stick, beginning to draw in the dirt. He managed to follow along, though there was some difficulty. He agreed with her, her plan was crazy, but it could definitely work if they were careful. He looked up and met her gaze, mouthing his words as good as he could.

“We go a’ dusk.”

 


 

“Well, well, well…what have we here?” Just hearing her voice alone made Beth’s posture go rigid, whether it was out of fear or respect, she was never sure. Beta stepped away from her and towards the source of the voice.

“Alpha.” He addressed her, even bowing his head some, acknowledging her authority. Beth looked back behind Alpha, she could see Lydia beginning to stand, mask in her hands rather than on her face. And the concern on the teen’s face was obvious when she saw the blonde boy that they brought. It was clear to her then.

She recognized him. Interesting…What else had Lydia not told her?

“Delta.” Alpha was addressing her now. “Who is the boy?”

“He’s one of them.” Beta answered for her, and Alpha turned her head to the large man, regarding him.

“I don’t believe I was asking you, Beta.” Quickly realizing his error, he submitted and stepped back behind Alpha, forever her shadow. Barely sparing him a second glance, Alpha returned her gaze to Beth, and she stepped forward.

“Two of my scouts found him, he followed us from the community that had Lydia.” She began explaining, gesturing to the boy behind her, “-he wouldn’t answer any of my questions, and I thought it better to bring him here than just kill him.” Despite the mask over her face, Beth could see that Alpha didn’t seem too impressed with her going against their rules.

“So instead of following the rules, you brought him here.” Alpha crossed her arms and walked closer to Beth, circling around her, but Beth knew better than to back down.

No emotion. No weakness. No emotion. No weakness. No emotion. No weakness.

“If he followed us, that means somebody will be coming for him eventually.” Beth stated, forcing herself to be confident, “We have a bargaining chip. And in the meantime, we question him and learn what we can.” Alpha stopped her circling, and stood directly in front of Beth, staring her down.

“It is so rare that a judgement call is a good one...” Alpha began, and Beth felt her heart freeze, “-but in this case, you made a smart decision by bringing the boy to us, Delta. Good work.” Alpha patted her mask covered face, a small and yet disturbing smile beginning to form. Beth noticed as the older woman pulled her hand away, the fresh blood covering her skin, that she was certain now was on her mask as well.

Someone challenged her. She thought to herself.

They lost.

Well, that would explain the walkers that seemed to be in a slight frenzy when she’d arrived. She was brought back to reality when she heard Alpha summon Beta to follow her, and Beth released a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. Glancing back at Lydia once more, she made eye contact with her, and doing a quick scan of the others around them, Beth tilted her head towards the forest’s edge, knowing Lydia understood the gesture.

We need to talk.

The brunette girl nodded and held up three fingers, indicating how many hours until she’d be able to meet. Beth looked towards the sky and held three fingers below the sun, before nodding back to Lydia in confirmation.

They’d talk at dusk.

Chapter Text

With the sun starting to creep below the tree line and steadily losing daylight, Beth started to head towards the edge of the forest. When she reached the usual place her and Lydia would talk, she sat and leaned back against one of the tree trunks, twirling her knife in her hand.

While she waited, her mind kept drifting back to the day prior, and seeing Daryl, alive, for the first time in years. If she had to guess, it’d been at least seven years, if not more, since she last saw him. Trying to keep track of the months and years seemed pointless when she was alone, and she never bothered after she’d joined Alpha’s ranks. She’d never expected to see anybody from her family again, and to see even one of them had her questioning too much.

Beth was interrupted from her thoughts when she heard a twig snap behind her, and she turned her head and saw Lydia approaching, arms crossed over her middle, mask not present. Beth stood slowly, but continued to lean against the tree. She made eye contact with Lydia, and the girl stood two feet from her, shifting from one foot to the other. The silence stretched for a moment, before Beth decided she’d have to be the first one to speak.

“You’re still not wearing a mask.” Beth said, stating the obvious, but the underlying message was clear; something happened that you’re not telling me. Lydia broke eye contact, glancing out towards the field, watching the small herd of walkers shuffling about in circles.

“I know.” She made no excuses, Delta knew her better than her own mother. She saw no point in lying to her, not if she knew Delta could see right through it.

“You failed to mention the boy,” That made Lydia look back at her, “-he a friend?”

…If I say yes, are you just gonna kill him?” Even though she was younger, Lydia glared at Delta, refusing to back down. Beth smiled softly at her, shaking her head.

“Of course I’m not, you know that.” She stated, putting a hand on the teen’s shoulder in comfort, “-but you also know it’s not me you need to be worried about. Alpha and Beta haven’t gotten many answers from the boy-”

“-His name is Henry.”

“-and if they decide he’s outlived his usefulness, you know he won’t survive.” Lydia bowed her head, taking a deep breath and trying to hold back her emotions. Delta was the only one who was actually kind. And she’d saved Lydia more than once from her own people.

“He’s my friend.” Beth’s heart broke for her, she understood how she felt, but there was nothing that either of them could do. They would need an insanely good reason to let the boy, Henry, she called him, go. That, or a fucking miracle. Neither seemed very likely. Deciding she need to know the full story, Beth spoke up.

“I need you to tell me everything that happened, start to finish.” Lydia nodded, and leaned back against the tree beside Beth’s, before she started to speak. She told her everything, how Gamma’s group that she’d been traveling with was taken out, how she’d given herself up and held prisoner, and how she’d met Henry, the boy who was in the cell next to her for getting drunk and caught in a pit, or so he’d said. She explained how the man in the vest, Daryl, had questioned her, didn’t buy a word of her bullshit story she’d try to tell him, and Beth held back a snort to that, remembering how good Daryl was at reading people. Beth listened closely when Lydia told her about being interrogated, and how she finally came clean to Daryl, telling him the truth, mostly. And how Henry had let her out, and she’d thought about attacking him, but changed her mind. She listened, absorbing every detail Lydia gave.

When she finally finished, the sun was barely visible, and stars were beginning to litter the sky. Beth stood there, staring out at the walkers, trying to organize her thoughts.

“So Gamma is dead?” Lydia nodded her head in confirmation. Beth can’t say she cared that much, Gamma was an asshole, he had it coming. If he was dead, that meant she was now third in command. It also meant she’d have to watch her back, because somebody was most likely going to challenge her position, and having to kill somebody was something she’d never enjoy, not like Alpha or Beta.

Beth was about to ask her next question, but was interrupted by somebody screaming from within the trees. Both their heads snapped around, trying to see what the hell was going on, but Beth looked back towards the walkers in the field, that also heard the noise and were now trudging towards them. And Lydia didn’t have a mask on.

Well, fuck.

Grabbing Lydia by the shoulder, Beth shoved her back into the trees, mouthing the word ‘go’ at her, and Lydia gave her a single nod, running back in the direction of their camp, Beth not far behind her, knife poised and ready to strike.

Once they reached camp, the screams only continued. Somehow, a group of walkers had stumbled into their camp, and had begun to devour the few who were sleeping without masks covering their features. Beth glanced around, but couldn’t figure out where they could have come from. Hearing more snarls behind her, she turned around and noticed the walkers from the field were only a few feet from her and Lydia. Grabbing the teen’s hand, she started to pull her away from the insanity that was going on, but Lydia ground her feet into the dirt and stopped her.

“I can’t leave Henry!” She hissed at her, and Beth gave her an exasperated look, before glancing back towards the camp. She could see Henry still tied to a tree, lifting his one leg to push a snarling walker away from him, even though it wouldn’t help for long. Making a snap decision, Beth shoved Lydia into the bushes, and wielding her knife, ran back into the massacre. She stabbed three walkers that were in her way, and stabbed one more that was trying to bite Henry. He looked at her in fear as she walked straight towards him and held her knife high up.

“Don’t make a sound.” He gave her a confused look, until she stepped to his side and sliced through his restraints. Henry rubbed his wrists, then glanced at the ground where his staff was laying and picked it up, smashing a walker over the head. He nodded his thanks to her. Beth let out a low whistle, and Lydia stepped out of the bushes, a large rock in hand to use as a weapon. Their people were still screaming around them, and she had no clue what her next move would be. She didn’t get to decide either, because somebody snuck up behind her and held a knife to her throat.

No, stop!” Henry shouted, making Beth wince at his volume, her eyes scanning around. Thankfully, there was too much chaos for them to draw any extra attention to themselves, at least for the moment. Whoever was holding the knife to her throat pushed on her body, forcing her to walk. They continued to do so until they were a few yards away, and both of the teenagers had followed, begging her captor not to hurt her.

“Please don’t hurt her.” She heard Lydia plead, “-she’s my only friend. And she saved Henry’s life!” Henry, who had apparently had enough, yanked the person’s arm that was holding the knife to her throat away. She immediately stepped away, rubbing her throat while turning around, only to immediately be confused. Why were two of her people attacking her? But everything became clear when one of them pulled off the mask, and Beth thought she was going to throw up.

Daryl.

“You need ta fin’ better friends!” He said, pointing at Lydia.

“Daryl, back off!” Henry growled, stepping between them. Beth could only watch, unable to process her emotions. She noticed from the corner of her eye that the other person, a woman, had pulled off her mask and was now aiming what appeared to be a slingshot, at her. She was trying to assess the situation, when she heard somebody yell for her from the camp, and all their heads snapped back the direction they came.

“We need ta go, righ’ now!” Daryl said, grabbing Henry by the shirt and pulling him, but the boy yanked himself free, standing his ground.

“I’m not leaving without Lydia!” He said, jaw set in place and moving to stand beside her. Beth kept looking between them all. Part of her so badly wanted to reveal herself and go with them, with him, but she knew she couldn’t. Knew she wasn’t that girl anymore, so she made the decision for them.

“Go.” She said, and they all looked at her, though Daryl’s look was more of a glare than anything, “-go, right now. I can buy you some time, but not a lot.” Lydia immediately started shaking her head.

“No, Delta!” She whimpered, no longer caring if she cried or not, “I’m not leaving you here. If Alpha finds out you let Henry and I leave-”

“-I can handle myself, and you know that.” Beth put her palms on Lydia’s shoulders, pulling her in for a hug, “You deserve better than what’s out here.” She felt Lydia sniffle into her shoulder, and turn her face so she could whisper into her ear.

“So do you.” Fighting back her own tears, Beth pulled away from her, giving her a sad smile. She put her knife in Lydia’s hand, so she’d have something to defend herself with from any enemies, dead or alive. Hearing her name being called again, she bid the girl farewell.

“You all need to leave, while you still have the chance.” Daryl regarded her, before looking away and gesturing with his head to the others that it was time to go. She stood there and let them past her, about to turn and leave when Daryl grabbed her by the arm.

“Why you helpin’ us?” Beth looked at him through her mask, wishing she could tell him all of her reasons, but knew she couldn’t.

Because no matter how shitty everything is, there’s still good people in the world.” And with that, she pulled her arm from his grip, and walked back towards camp, refusing to look back. She didn’t think her heart could take it.

If she had looked back though, she would’ve seen that Daryl was frozen to his spot, the words that Delta had whispered ringing in his ears, echoing through his head and reminding him of somebody he’d never forget, no matter how much he tried.

There are still good people in the world, Daryl.

Chapter Text

The sun shining directly into her eyes is what woke Beth up. Her headache had long since subsided, thankfully. Slowly pulling herself into a sitting position, she threw her feet over the edge of the mattress, needing a moment to remember where she was. Looking around, she remembered the events of the day prior, and recognized the room as her own. She rubbed her eyes, forcing away the exhaustion she felt, knowing she had to leave today.

Beth stood up and stretched her arms above her head, letting out a yawn. She made her way towards her old closet, hoping there was something useful she could wear besides the many sundresses she had. Flipping through the hangers, she was disappointed when she didn’t find what she was looking for, so she walked towards the dresser she had pushed against the bedroom door. Pulling out the drawers, she found three pairs of denim jeans and a couple of shirts. Hoping the pants at least fit, she shrugged off her old hospital scrubs and pulled on the pair sitting atop the pile, thankful they fit for the most part, she’d just have to dig around for a belt somewhere. Next, she grabbed an old grey tank top and plaid shirt, rolling up the sleeves and fastening the first few buttons and tucking it into her pants, just to help hold them up some. Sliding her feet into her old boots, she took a quick glance at herself in her old vanity, feeling somewhat human.

After Beth had finished getting dressed, she loaded up all her supplies and scrounged around her old bedroom, taking whatever she could find that may prove useful, and once she finished she heaved the old dresser away from the door. Knife tucked into her boot and tossing her bags over her shoulder, she slowly opened the door and listened, deciding to be cautious. Hearing nothing but silence, she made her way down the hall and to the staircase, sliding the old table out of her path and heading down the old stairs, careful to avoid the ones she knew that creaked. Before she left though, she made a snap decision and headed into the old den, going straight for the mantle that had some family photos sitting on top. She grabbed three of them, one of her and her siblings, another of her mama, and one of her whole family. Because no matter how much it made her heart ache, she never wanted to forget their faces or the good memories she’d been blessed with.

She was just walking onto the front porch when a crazy idea hit her, but it brought a smile to her face. Taking a few steps away from the house a few yards, she dropped her bags on the ground and ran to the old horse stables. Her daddy had usually kept a gallon of kerosene to light the old lamps they’d used in the stables, always refusing to get electric cables put in. Beth stepped into the stables, trying to ignore the stench of decay, that most likely came from one of the horses. Making her way to the shelves where they’d keep all the grooming brushes and tools, she found the kerosene sitting on the lowest shelf, easily within reach.

Beth knew what she was about to do was absolutely crazy, but she also knew if she didn’t do it, this place would continue to haunt her, making her wish for a life that would never be. Heading back to her childhood home, she walked up the stairs and through the front door, before she twisted the top off the kerosene and started dumping it all over the furniture. She continued the walk around the downstairs, pouring the kerosene on whatever she felt like, pausing when she reached the kitchen to dig out a large box of matches from the junk drawer. Making her way back to the front door, she poured a path down the steps until the tin was empty, throwing it off to the side. She walked back towards her bags, reaching into the one with some spare clothes and pulled out the old hospital scrubs. Wrapping them around a fallen tree branch, she took a few matches and lit them on fire, walking back to the house. Taking a deep breath, she threw the branch with her scrubs through the front door, and watched as the flames slowly spread throughout the house, burning her pain and her past with it.

Smiling like a crazy person, she hefted her bags onto her back and gave the burning structure the one-finger salute, remembering how she and Daryl had burned down that old shack. Putting away the pain, she had said. Well, she was taking her own advice.

Hearing the growls and snarls of walkers from the fields being drawn towards the fire, Beth decided it was time to go, stabbing a few walkers that were reaching out for her. Already knowing her next stop, she walked until she reached the highway before taking a short break, walking over to an abandoned car and unzipping her bag that had the maps inside. Laying it out flat on the hood of the rusted Sedan, she searched the highways and backroads until she found it.

West Georgia Correctional Facility.


“What in the hell happened here!” Beth’s heart was pounding in her chest, Alpha never spoke at a loud decibel, if she did that meant there was about to be a shit storm. “Well?!” Beth took a shaky breath and stepped forward.

It was strangers that led the dead into camp.” All eyes turned towards her, and Alpha took a few steps towards her.

“And how is it that you know this, Delta?” She questioned, her voice snide and silent, but Beth knew better than to cower. Fear meant death in Alpha’s eyes.

“I was with Lydia,” she began, “-when the screams started. We came to investigate, and saw two people wearing our masks. They were releasing the boy.” She scrambled through her thoughts, trying to come up with a convincing lie, “I was trying to stop them, but Lydia…she stole my knife from me and held it to my throat. Said if I tried anything she’d kill me.” Beth lifted the edge of her mask, showing the small cut on her throat from the knife Daryl had been wielding against her skin. “She cares for the boy, Alpha, she admitted it to me and almost killed me, just so he could escape.” Alpha cocked her head to the side, looking at the knife mark on her neck and then back into her eyes, studying her.

“And if she allowed them to escape, where is she?”

She went with them. I was trying to follow them, but when I heard somebody shouting for me, I came back.” Alpha stepped back from Beth, and she put her hands behind her back, turning and walking towards Beta, who Beth only just noticed was in the vicinity. She stood still, not moving an inch.

What are your thoughts, Beta?” Their leader asked, looking up at the giant man. Beta glanced at Delta, thinking for a moment before speaking.

“Delta is loyal,” he began, resting his hands on his hips, “-she’s proven that time and again. But you know I will always trust in your judgement, Alpha.” Beta bowed his head to Alpha, and she nodded before turning around and walking back towards Delta, walking in circles around her.

Beth knew this would go one of two ways; she’d either be killed, or she’d get to live another day. Alpha stopped in front of her, but got right in her face.

This is the second time I’ve had to question your judgement, Delta. Don’t make me do it again.” Beth could only nod and bow her head, submitting to her. Alpha turned so she could address everybody. “I need volunteers to go and retrieve my daughter.” Immediately, people started to voice their objections, saying how that was against her own rules, and Alpha silenced them all with a glare. “I know what she has done, and don’t think that she won’t pay the price. Beta,” she turned to face her second in command, and he stood at his full height, acknowledging her, “-I want you, Delta, and two others to go after them. She’s our best tracker, and it seems only fitting that she be the one to go after them.” He bowed his head once more, agreeing to the mission. “Everybody else, get rid of the bodies of the fallen. You know what to do. Dismissed.”

Beth was just turning to walk away when she heard Alpha call out to her. Stopping in her tracks, she waited as the older woman approached her. “Go clean that cut, if it gets infected, it’ll be a problem. I can’t lose another person in command. You and Beta will leave in the morning.” Beth acknowledged her orders, and watched as Alpha walked away before heading back to the tree where she left her bag sitting. Hefting it onto her shoulder, she decided to head to the stream and take a bath. Considering they had to constantly blend in with the dead, body odor was something they didn’t worry about, but right now all Beth wanted was to wash away the grime, even if she’d just have to dirty herself all over again in a couple hours.

She trudged through the forest for about twenty minutes before she could hear the sound of running water. Pushing through a bunch of thorn bushes, she stepped into a small clearing and could see the glistening stream, the moonlight reflecting off it’s surface. Feeling giddy at the thought of washing the layers of grime off her body, she dropped her bag to the ground and glanced around, checking for walkers and people. Knowing she was alone, Beth untied the mask from the back of her head, pulling it off and exhaling. She always forgot just how much more normal she felt when she could remove her mask. She hung it on a nearby branch, then proceeded to strip out of her ratty and threadbare clothes, tossing them into a heap along the water’s edge, setting her old boots next to them.

Dipping one foot in the water, she hissed at the cool temperature, but decided the sooner she got in, the quicker she’d adjust. Wading out until she was waste deep, she took a deep breath and dunked her entire body under, staying like that for a few seconds. When she emerged, she ran her fingers through her blonde locks, trying to pull out the tangles and rinse away the dirt. Beth had been in the water for only a few short minutes, when she heard leaves rustling behind her. She paused in her scrubbing and listened closely for the shuffling footsteps or groans that would indicate whatever was there, was dead. Hearing neither, she knew almost instantly who it was.

“You should know better than to sneak up on a woman when she’s bathing.” Beth said faintly, not bothering to turn around, but instead continuing to rub water into her dirty flesh. Hearing a deep chuckle, she glanced over her shoulder, seeing Beta step through the brush.

Just as you should know better than to bathe without a weapon within reach.” She snorted at him.

“If I was worried about being attacked, I wouldn’t be in the water.” She said, turning towards him, not bothering to cover herself. It’s nothing he hasn’t seen before. “What do you want, Beta?”

“I think you know.” There was that deep chuckle again. Beth studied him for a moment, slowly making her way towards the bank of the stream, her skin covering in goosebumps from the cool night air.

“And if I say no?” They always played this game. He would come to her, she would feign disinterest, but he’s known her long enough to know what she wanted; a distraction. That’s all they were to each other, and all they’d ever be.

“You won’t.” Beta smirked at her, and Beth stopped a few feet from him, water dripping down her naked body, hair plastered to her neck and back. She thought about his proposition for a moment, and decided she needed the distraction, needed her attention to be directed at something besides everything that had occurred over the last couple of days.

“Then you know what I want.” There was one thing that she always demanded from him, and she knew he would do it, albeit reluctantly. He glared at her as he reached behind his head, slowly pulling the threads loose to his mask. So long as he lived, there would only be two people who’d ever see him without it. You can probably guess who those two people are.

Pulling the rotted mask from his face, he tossed it to the ground and stared down at her, eyes roving over her pale flesh. Beth smirked at him, striding closer until her feet were just barely covered by the water. Beta was actually a very attractive man, and she’d have to be blind not to notice. Reaching her hands up, she slid them under his long leather trench coat, pushing it off his shoulders and down his arms, letting his hands slip through it and fall to the ground. With his heavy coat off, Beth stretched onto her toes and wrapped her arms around his neck, and Beta didn’t waste any time in weaving his arms underneath her thighs, gripping her ass with his hands and lifting her against his body. Beth didn’t even gasp, completely used to the routine they had developed over the last couple of years.

Beth kissed him first, not caring about the stench of death that always seemed to linger on him. She wrapped her legs around his torso, and he carried her to a nearby tree, pressing her back into the rough bark to support her weight. Pushing his hard body into hers, he lifted one of his hands to her small breast, squeezing it roughly, eliciting a soft moan from her. Digging her nails into his scalp, Beta groaned into her mouth and ground his hips against her heated core, letting her feel just how hard he was. Beth pulled her mouth from his before whispering into his ear.

“You know what I want, Beta.” she growled into his ear, pulling his head back and staring him in the eyes, “-so give it to me.” Beta was only too happy to comply, reaching between them to loosen his belt and shove his pants down just enough to allow his erection to spring free. Gripping himself, he dragged his length back and forth along her slit, feeling how wet she was from a mixture of her arousal and the water that still dripped from her body.

Not wasting anymore time, Beta forced himself into her aching heat in one quick thrust, causing Beth to moan so loudly he had to cover her mouth with his palm. The action only turned her on more, and he kept his palm firmly over her mouth, muffling the noises she was making as he pulled himself almost completely out of her wet heat, before driving back into her as hard as he could.

But no matter how good of a distraction Beta’s constant thrusting was, Beth’s mind couldn’t stop wandering back to the man with the angel-winged vest, and that’s how she knew.

She was going to be in so much fucking trouble.

Chapter Text

Daryl’s lungs felt like they were on fire. They’d been running for what felt like hours, but in reality, it had only been about forty-five minutes. He finally came to a stop, hands on his knees, gasping for breath. Glancing around him, he could tell the others were just as tired out as him, but they couldn’t stop. Not yet.

“So what now?” Daryl looked over at Henry, standing up to his full height before replying.

“Now we gotta se’ a trap.” Lydia and Henry both looked confused, but Connie pulled out her small tablet and jotted out a quick note, striding closer to Daryl so he could read it.

I know someplace we could hide.

He nodded, stepping aside so she could lead the way now. Stuffing her tablet back into her bag, she looked behind her to the two teenagers, pointing the direction they were heading and waving at them to follow along. They began moving at a quick pace, no longer running since they’d put a good bit of distance between them and the Whisperers. While they walked, Daryl let his mind wander to the one that’d helped them escape.

He remembered seeing her that first day, when they all came to the Hilltop to make a trade for Lydia. She’d been the one to guide Lydia away, and he recalled making eye contact with her and giving her the dirtiest look he could muster. He hated all of them, especially that bitch in charge, Lydia’s mother. Alpha. But none had made as much of an impression as Delta had. Daryl couldn’t fathom why she had bothered to help, and for a split second he actually considered grabbing her arm and bringing her with them, but when she’d spoken those words to him, he’d been too stunned to make another move. And she’d taken the opportunity to shake herself from his grip and sneak back into her camp, not sparing him another glance.

It sent chills up his spine, how such a small detail could drudge up so many memories that he’d tried to lock away. How a few simple words could make him feel things that he’d tried his damnedest to forget. Daryl hated to even think about those days, hated to think about how he’d failed one of the most important people in his life, and it had cost them theirs. Fuck, he couldn’t even bring himself to say her name, and it’d been, what…seven, maybe eight, years?

With Daryl so lost in his thoughts, he almost walked right into Connie’s back, but managed to stop himself in time. She turned to look at him, and gestured to a tall, off-white building. She pulled her table out again, writing quickly.

Choke point.

“Good idea, les’ go.” He said, and they began walking towards the building.

“I don’t understand…” Henry spoke, trying to keep up with Daryl and Connie, but not leave Lydia behind. Daryl glanced back him.

“Use walkers to hide themselves, righ’? So we go up, where tha walkers can’t go. Sep’rate tha livin’ from tha dead.” He kept walking, but turned to his attention to Lydia, “They trav’l in a herd, bu’ there’s only like, five or six of ‘em in tha middle, righ’?” Lydia nodded her affirmative, but looked hesitant.

“Yeah, but if we go up there, we’re trapped.” She stopped walking, causing the others to pause in their step. Daryl turned his body and faced her. “Alpha’s not gonna send a whole army if she doesn’t have to…she’ll send Beta.” Daryl considered her for a moment.

“This Beta, he yer bes’?” The young girl could only nod her head again, worry etched into her brow. “Good. Kill him firs’. C’mon.” And with that, they started moving again. Lydia kept following behind them, but her heart was torn.

She didn’t want anybody to get hurt, especially not over her.


 

Flashlight in hand, Daryl and Connie walked into the lower half of the building, Henry and Lydia following behind. He aimed the beam of light around the room, getting a feel for the layout. Splitting up, Connie headed for one of the stairwells, while Daryl continued to explore the lower half of the building. He opened doors and noticed the piles of furniture and timber that barricaded the stairs, realizing somebody had been here before. Shutting the door, he left the two teens in a room on their own and headed for the stair case that Connie had gone up.

He found her in a hole in the floor, surprised to see a stock pile of supplies surrounding her. The pieces began to fall into place in his head.

“Stairs are a’ready barricaded…” He stated, glancing down at her, “-guess you know tha’.” She bobbed her head in acknowledgement, offering him a water bottle. “Thanks.” Twisting off the cap, he took a couple large swigs, pulling the bottle away and wiping his mouth. He watched as Connie pulled her tablet out of her back pocket, listening to her pen scrape against the paper.

We stayed here once.

“Ya, secret stash fer emergencies…smart.” She smirked at him and lifted her chin, her face quickly changing expression to be serious, gesturing for him to follow her across the room. He followed behind her, and she stopped beside a paper pinned to the wall. It was the floorplan for the building. Taking a couple steps closer, Daryl put his hands against the wall and studied the entry points.

“A’righ’. Only two ways up, thas’ good. These two barricades are a lil’ too barricaded-” He tried to make gestures and face her, so that Connie could follow along and understand what he was saying, “-so we cut open holes, so they can walk up ‘ere.” He stood up straight and looked at her, waiting for a response. Connie smiled and gave him a thumbs up, indicating she had understood and agreed. He patted her shoulder and thanked her, telling her how good the place was and that this might actually work. She watched him, thinking for a moment before puling out her trusty tablet, and Daryl paused, giving her a chance to write. She held the notebook to him when she finished.

Then what?

“Then we go.” He replied, making a sweeping gesture with his arm, water bottle still in hand. She looked at him with a straight face, flipping to the blank side of the paper.

The girl stays.

Daryl shook his head no, an irate expression on his face. Connie looked annoyed, taking her pen and underlining the same words twice, just to reiterate her point. He tried to explain to her that people would die if they brought her back, but she couldn’t understand him, so he took her tablet and the pen and scratched the words into the paper.

Our friends will die.

Connie snatched the paper and pen back, rolling her eyes and writing another note, looking more and more irritated with each letter. When she finished writing, she ripped out the paper and smacked it onto Daryl’s palm before storming away.

We have friends, she doesn’t.

Well, fuck. That’s an easy way to make him feel like an ass. He’d already lost too many of his friends and family, he didn’t want to see any more people die. But he couldn’t worry about that right now, he needed to start setting up a trap.


 

There was nothing but silence, except the groans coming from the walkers that surrounded them. Beth walked slow, sagging her body forward so that she didn’t stand out amongst the dead. The sun had been up for an hour or two, and they’d been tracking Lydia, tracking Daryl, since the first rays of sunlight shone across the sky. Beta trudged beside her, his eyes constantly scanning their surroundings, searching for signs of the living. Beth kept her eyes down on the ground, tracking the movements and knowing which direction Daryl and his group had gone.

“This way.” She murmured to Beta, turning in the direction of the paved road that ran between the trees, knowing it led to the outskirts of a city. They kept ambling at a steady pace for another thirty minutes until the road reached the city, the trees thinning out and coming upon wide open space, a large building on one side, and broken-up parking lots on the other. Beta looked around slowly, glancing up and paused for a moment. Beth took immediate notice, but did nothing to acknowledge him, she only paid more attention to her surroundings.

It took all her willpower not to jump in fright when the walker directly in front of her was shot down, an arrow sticking out of the side of its skull, and she knew immediately who’d shot it.

Daryl.

Apparently, Beta also took notice, along with the three others they’d brought with them. Amos, who’d unfortunately volunteered, a man named Jacob, and a female who insisted she go as well, whose name Beth couldn’t recall. She followed Beta’s line of sight, and saw Daryl standing a few stories above them on a balcony, crossbow balanced on his hip. Right away, she knew it was a trap, and she was certain Beta knew as well. But he didn’t care, he lived to serve Alpha, and Alpha’s orders were to bring back Lydia. So, it looked like they were going to play along and head into the building.

Beth followed behind Beta and watched as he and the two other men pushed hard on the double doors, the walkers hearing the noise and adding their own weight to it. It only took a minute until the doors gave in to the pressure, and Beth could hear crashing and banging, the sound coming from what she assumed they’d used to barricade the door, albeit weakly. Once inside the building, she could see the two stairwells on either side had been barricaded more heavily, and she knew what that meant.

“They’re trying to separate us, Beta.” Beta turned back to face her, ignoring the snarls of the dead pouring through the doorway. Before responding, he glanced towards the stairwells and saw what she was talking about.

“So we leave them no way out.” He enunciated the words, making it clear that they weren’t leaving the building without a fight. The group split up, her and Amos taking the North stairwell, while Beta and the other two headed for the South one. The walkers obviously were trapped below, they couldn’t get past the barricades. Beth and Amos silently made their way up the staircase, with Beth leading first. Finding a door that was unlocked, they opened it and slipped inside, shutting the latch behind them as quietly as they could.

At this moment, Beth had absolutely no clue what she would do if she came upon Daryl. Would she fight him, or would she give up and turn against her people? She was so pissed at herself. It’d been over seven years, and seeing him brought back a whole mess of feelings that she wasn’t sure she could handle, not as the person she’d become.

So distracted by her inner turmoil, she didn’t see Henry until it was too late. Quicker than she expected, he knocked the blade from her hand and smacked his staff into her head, causing her to smack into an old filing cabinet, knocking her out cold.

Why can’t things ever be easy?


 

Daryl was waiting. He could hear them coming, their loud footfalls echoing outside the door. Adrenaline pumping through his veins, he had his crossbow armed and ready, his body still as stone. When the door burst open, he took a shot, cursing under his breath when he saw that the big son of a bitch was carrying a table to block the shot. That had to be Beta.

Moving light on his feet, Daryl snuck in between the wooden beams, tossing his bow over his back and running between the tarps that hung from the ceiling. He tossed his crossbow down a couple feet away and lifted the large fire axe off the ground. Waiting, he listened closely as one of them made their way towards his hiding spot. He could see their shadow cast against the tarp, and sucking in a breath, Daryl swung the axe, embedding it into the bastard’s chest, blood staining the white tarp as they fell, taking the tarp and the axe with them. Leaving the piece of shit to bleed out, Daryl pulled out his hunting knife and peaked around the next corner, seeing it clear.

He found another one of the assholes and snuck up behind them, grabbing their head and holding his knife to the guy’s throat. He barely acknowledged the asshole’s objections to being killed, slitting his throat and letting the body fall into a bloody heap on the floor. He took a step back and listened, hearing loud footsteps charging towards him. Beta broke through the drywall and charged at Daryl, hefting him into the air and slamming him into the wall.

Only one left.


 

Beth groaned as she slowly came to, surmising that she probably had a concussion, which was just fan-fucking-tastic. As if a bullet to the head hadn’t been bad enough. Well, that’ll teach her not to go first. Gingerly, she pushed herself off the floor and scanned the room, seeing Amos fighting off Henry and the woman she’d seen the other night, but no sign of Lydia. Just as she was about to sneak away to try and find her, Amos had knocked the woman away, her back smashing into a row of shelves, effectively knocking the wind out of her and Henry, who had been holding his own until this point, was tripped and fell backwards. Amos lifted his weapon and stabbed the poor boy in the leg, and Beth decided she had to intervene, because Lydia would never forgive her if she knew Beth hadn’t at least tried to save the boy’s life.

Beth grabbed her knife from the ground and didn’t even hesitate, she threw it straight at Amos, hitting her target. The knife was protruding from his head, and his body dropped to the floor with a thud. Smirking to herself, she walked to Amos’ body and leaned over it, pulling her knife from his skull. As she stood up straight, she noticed the woman was aiming that slingshot at them, but Beth didn’t feel threatened. Instead, she turned towards Henry, who was leaning against the back of some filing cabinets, holding his left leg, blood seeping between his fingers. Kneeling down beside him, he gave her a wary look, recognizing her from the previous night. Beth didn’t bother trying to reassure him that he’d be fine, she just reached for his shirt and sliced it with her knife, making a long strip. She wrapped it a few times around his wound, making sure it was tight to slow down the blood flow. When she finished, she stood up and turned towards the woman, who still was nameless to her, and nodded. Confused, she nodded back to Beth, signing ‘thank you’ to her.

Beth was about to leave the room when she heard a door burst open and saw Lydia, accompanied by a German Shepherd. Immediately, the two hugged, and Lydia started asking her a million questions, none of which Beth had time to answer. She held her hand up, and the teen grew quiet.

“Beta is here.” Lydia released a shaky breath, clearly unsurprised by this.

“Daryl is gonna try to kill him.” Beth’s eyes grew wide. Daryl and Beta, fighting to the death? Fear gripped her insides, making her heart race and her head spin. She couldn’t even form a sentence. And she wouldn’t have the time to either, because she could hear bodies crashing from the floor above, and knew where she was needed. She looked at Lydia, putting her hands on her shoulders and looking her dead in the eye.

“I’m gonna do whatever I can.” And then she hugged her once more, before pushing her into the stranger’s arms, telling her to stay out of the way and not follow her.

Running from the room, Beth bounded up the stairs as quickly and quietly as she possibly could, following the noise. She found where both men were located, and walked in to see Beta holding Daryl’s neck against a saw blade. She could hear Beta growling at Daryl, not bothering to keep his voice in check. Terrified that she was about to see the one person she’d spent so long searching for die, Beth shouted at Beta.

“I found her!” Beta’s head snapped in her direction, and to say he looked pissed off was an understatement, but it provided just enough distraction for Daryl to regain some control.


 

“I found her!”

Daryl felt his blood run cold. That voice. It sounded so eerily similar to the one that haunted his dreams, he would’ve sworn it was the same. But that wasn’t possible, there was just no chance it could be her. It was a coincidence and nothing more.

Besides, he had bigger problems at the moment.

Using Beta’s momentary distraction to his advantage, he slammed his elbow into his sternum, knocking him back, then turning and punching him across the face. Beta crashed into a bunch of glass and debris, but grabbed Daryl by the vest and threw him to the ground, trying to stomp on him. Just managing to roll out of the way, Daryl pulled a switchblade from the inner pocket on his vest and swung around, stabbing Beta in the chest.

All that seemed to do was piss Beta off though, because he backhanded Daryl so hard his body went crashing through the drywall.


 

“Beta!” Beth shouted, having seen more than enough after she witnessed Daryl’s body crash through the drywall. She stomped over to Beta, grabbing him by the forearm to stop him. “I found Lydia, she’s willing to go back with us. There’s no need to kill him.” She was lying through her teeth, and part of her felt as if Beta knew that, but she didn’t care. She just needed him to stop.

We don’t leave until they’re all dead.” He snarled at her, ripping his arm from her grasp and punching his way through the drywall. All Beth could do was follow him, she was fresh-out of ideas. She winced when Beta ripped the small blade from his chest, throwing it off to the side. Hearing a noise, they both turned towards a tarp with a tear down the center, and it was obvious Beta thought that was where Daryl was hiding.

“You and your people are nothing to me.” He said, taking slow, measured steps towards the tarp, “-your world…is already dead.” Beth was standing a few feet back and off to the side, watching Beta’s back when she noticed movement from the corner of her eye. She watched in shock as a piece of plywood slid across the floor, and Daryl stuck his head out, seeing Beta and then noticing her. And in that moment, Beth knew she had to make a decision that would greatly impact the outcome of this fight.

Does she give away Daryl’s position, and watch as Beta murders him without mercy?

Or does she stay silent, and choose a new side?

Fuck, why couldn’t things ever be easy?!


 

Daryl thought for sure he was fucked when he stuck his head out from his hiding spot. Delta had noticed him instantly, and he was waiting for her to give away his position. But as he watched her for a few moments, he realized something.

She wasn’t saying anything.

Taking it as a sign that he better move, Daryl slowly hefted himself out of the crawl space in the floor, barely registering Beta mumbling some more bullshit. Blood running from his nose, he stood up and inhaled a deep breath and started charging towards Beta.

Beta had only just realized that Daryl was behind him, turning just in time to see him crash his body into him, using the momentum to keep pushing Beta until he went through the tarp, and down the elevator shaft. He could hear the big bastard crash at the bottom, and Daryl spit blood out of his mouth before turning and walking away, stopping to pick up his switchblade.

He paused at the doorway when he noticed Delta standing there. Her body language told him that she was nervous, and he stared her down. Out of all of those bastards, she’s the only one he couldn’t quite figure out.

“Why?” His rough voice startled her, like she wasn’t expecting him to say anything. Delta stared at him, unsure how to answer.

“I did it for Lydia.” She knew that was only the partial truth, but it was all she had. What was she supposed to say? ‘Oh, hey Daryl. It’s actually me, Beth, remember? I didn’t die that day, and I’ve been searching for you for years. Surprise!’

Yeah, fuck that.

Daryl snorted in disbelief, glaring at her.

“Wha’ever.” He walked away from her and picked up his crossbow, heading to the stairs, not caring if she followed or not.


 

Beth didn’t know how to feel right now. Beta was dead. I mean, surely she should feel something? Especially when you considered the type of relationship they had, if you could even call it that. But…Daryl was alive.

And for some reason, that meant everything to her.

She followed Daryl down the stairs, back to the room where she’d left Lydia with the rest of Daryl’s people. Seeing the young teen, she gave a rare smile and pulled her in for a hug. When they pulled away from each other, Lydia’s face asked a silent question; what happened to Beta?

“He’s dead.” I think, but she kept that thought to herself. She’d seen Beta live through a lot of shit that should’ve killed him, and even though Daryl had won the battle, she knew the war was only just beginning. And now she was left wonder one thing.

What the fuck am I going to do now?

Chapter Text

Chapter Text

The journey to the prison took longer than expected.

Beth wound up having to hide out in an old shed for two days, staying silent and hardly moving, because a herd of walkers suddenly started pouring from the woods around her and blocked her path. Naturally, she ran until she found a place to hide. And when the groans continued for more than two hours, she knew she was going to be stuck for a while.

When those two days passed, having stayed an extra day just to be cautious, Beth continued her trek to the prison, fighting the exhaustion that she felt in her bones. She had checked the map before leaving the shed, but she’d been in such a hurry to escape the herd, she had no idea where she was. So, she walked to the first street or highway sign she could find, then tried again. Luckily, she was able to locate the prison and her location, and guessed she was about five miles away. If she had a car, she could be there in a few minutes. Alas, her own two feet would have to suffice, and she’d reach the fences before nightfall.

While she walked, knife in her boot and axe in her hand, Beth let her mind wander to her family.

She had no idea if or when she’d find them, but she knew she would never give up. She remembered telling Daryl that it wouldn’t kill him to have a little faith, and she wasn’t about to go back on her own words. She knew they all thought she was dead. By all logic, she should be…and yet, she was breathing and standing on her own two feet. Still, Beth didn’t blame them for leaving her behind. According to the officers at Grady, who had watched the whole event unfold, Daryl had carried her body out, sobbing. And when Maggie had spotted her lifeless form, she collapsed on the ground in hysterics. Unfortunately, her family couldn’t give her a proper burial. Walkers from the within the city had heard the commotion and started gathering at the hospital, and they were forced to hide her body in the trunk of a nearby car, before fighting their way out of the city limits.

It was Officer Shepherd who had ordered some of the officers to go and retrieve her body, wanting to at least give Beth a proper burial, since her family hadn’t had the chance. And it’s fortunate for her that they didn’t, because when they pried open the trunk of the car, instead of the telltale sign of decomposition, they were greeted by the sight of Beth’s body covered in sweat, her skin deathly pale, but she was somehow breathing. Immediately they lifted her from the trunk and carried her in, shouting for Dr. Edwards. After months of recovery and rehabilitation, Beth was almost normal.

The snarls are what pulled her back to reality, and Beth turned around, noticing a small group of walkers trailing her. She counted seven, which was more than she was comfortable with having at her back. Deciding to deal with it now, she dropped her packs on the road and strode towards the first one, swinging the axe at its skull and hitting her target. She managed to take down four with her axe, but the fifth one must have been more recently turned than the others, because the axe got lodged in its head and she couldn’t pull it out. The second to last walker grabbed her arm, and Beth panicked, only for a moment, before kicking it away with as much muscle power as she could. Reaching for her knife, she left the axe and stabbed the remaining walkers in the eye sockets, wrenching the knife free both times.

When she finished, she was panting for breath. Hunched over, hands on her knees, she examined her forearm where the walker had grabbed hold of her, checking for any scratches or injuries. Breathing a sigh of relief when she found none, Beth walked on wobbly feet back to her axe, still embedded in the skull of one of the walkers. Gripping the handle, she tugged as hard as she could, almost falling on her ass when it dislodged. She wiped the blood off on the walker’s ratty shirt, doing the same with her knife before putting it back into her boot, careful not to press the blade into her skin.

Standing up straight, Beth looked up to the sky and tried to slow her breathing. Taking down seven walkers used a lot of energy that she didn’t have to spare. She unzipped one of her packs and grabbed her water bottle, taking a couple swigs and then twisted the cap back on, putting it back in her pack. Gathering up her gear, she took a glance around her, listening for anything. Hearing nothing but the cicadas and some birds, she turned and started walking again, hoping if she kept a good and steady pace, she’d still reach the prison before night.

Luck was on her side for once. She walked off the main road leading up to the prison and into the woods surrounding it. Beth reached the edge of the tree line and crouched down, hyper-aware of her surroundings. She peeked through the bushes, looking at the old prison yard, taking note of the damage and disarray. She could see walkers everywhere, but not as many that had been there when the prison fell. Although, that didn’t count whatever had managed to make its way behind the walls.

Beth knew there would be plenty of supplies in there, and she knew that any strangers who happened to pass by and saw all the walkers, wouldn’t have risked trying to get in. But Beth wasn’t a stranger, and she needed anything she could find. Hearing a groan from a few feet to her right, she turned her head and saw a walker shambling towards the prison, completely unaware Beth nearby. An idea came to her then, one that was disgusting and made bile rise up her throat, but she knew it would work. Taking a deep breath, Beth stood and let out a low whistle, drawing the walker’s attention. It turned towards the sound, and seeing food, started heading for her, arms stretched towards her. Instead of using her axe, Beth grabbed the knife from her boot and stabbed the rotting corpse in the temple, holding onto its shirt to slow down its fall. When the walker was down, she grabbed it by the feet and drug the body back to her small hiding spot.

Beth knelt beside the body, inhaling a few breaths to brace herself for what she was about to do. Holding up her bloodied knife, she glanced at the milky eyes of the corpse, that was once a living person.

“Sorry…” She whispered, more to herself than anything. Taking her knife, she stabbed the torso of the walker, dragging the blade down and ripping it open. As if the smell of a walker wasn’t bad enough, the smell of its innards had Beth gagging, and she crawled a few feet away, retching into the grass, what little food she had in her belly now gone. Giving herself a moment to recoup, she pulled her pack off her back and dug around, knowing she had a spare shirt inside. When she found the article of clothing, she ripped it as hard as she could, making a thick strip of fabric, long enough to tie around her face, covering her mouth and nose. Not enough to totally avoid the smell, but enough to make it bearable.

Steeling herself for more, she crawled back to the walker corpse and got back to work, cutting open its chest and stomach, fighting the urge to gag again. When she had enough flesh carved away, Beth said a silent prayer to whatever God was listening, before sinking her hands into the walker’s belly. Grabbing handfuls of intestines and guts, she began smearing them all over her clothing, careful not to cover any open wounds she may have. She moved to stand, spreading the blackened blood on her jeans, hating the way it seeped through and she could feel it on her flesh. She did this for a few more minutes, making sure to get some on her exposed arms, before deciding it was more than enough.

Beth grabbed her bags again and wielded her axe, heading to the entrance of the fence. She walked slowly, careful to not draw attention to herself when she passed through the gate. Her plan seemed to be working, the walkers were passing by her, ignorant of her presence. Hurray for small miracles, I suppose.

She had made it to the second gate at the top of the yard, and she crept through the opening, avoiding walkers that were wandering in and out. She didn’t want them getting too close, just in case. The door they used as the main entrance to the prison was cracked open, but she was going to have to push it open to get inside, potentially drawing attention to herself. Luckily the door still had a cage around it, so she could close it behind her, preventing anything from outside getting in. Beth moved silently, axe at the ready, reaching the cage door and slipping inside of it, pulling it shut behind her, latching it as quietly as she could. Turning, she hopped up the short staircase and peeked into the crack in the door. She couldn’t see nor hear anything, but that didn’t mean it was clear.

Beth turned to face the prison yard once more, taking mental notes of where the walkers grouped together most, so she’d have some semblance of an escape plan, if worst comes to worst. Facing the door once again, she wedged her body between the door and the frame, using her body weight to push it open. She cringed at the loud metallic screech, but knew there was nothing to be done about it now, she just needed to get on the other side of the door. Finally, it opened wide enough for her to fit through, and she pushed it shut almost the entire way, leaving a small crack so she didn’t somehow lock herself in.

Axe held level with her head, Beth steadily made her way into the prison, ready to attack anything that jumped out at her. She made it to C block, where she and her family all had resided, before she let her guard down some. Walking in, she could see a set of prison keys hanging on a hook, right where Rick would usually leave them. Plucking them off the hook, she walked to the cell door and unlocked it, closing it behind her.

If Beth had thought her childhood home was hard to be in, this was somehow worse. So much worse. Everything was in disarray, the walls crumbling, a large hole in the wall where it met the ceiling, a beam of light pouring in. Before she walked any further, she knocked the blade of her axe against the metal of the cell door, the clang echoing throughout the small space, but nothing came out of the shadows, and no other noises were made. She was, without a doubt, alone.

Beth walked further into C block, glancing at all of the rooms. Deciding to start with her own, she pulled the old sheet hanging in the doorway aside, stepping into the small space. Some of her old things were strewn about, probably from whatever caused that hole in the ceiling. She started pulling open the drawers of the old filing cabinets she’d used as storage, breathing a sigh of relief at seeing some fresh clothes. She wondered if she showers would still work? Beth doubted they would, without someone to maintain them, but it was a nice thought. Dropping her packs onto the bottom bunk where she used to sleep, Beth dug out her half-empty water bottle and the shirt she had ripped earlier to make her mask. Pouring some water on the torn cloth, she wiped off her arms, trying to remove as much of the blood and grime as she could. She peeled off her ruined clothes, adding more water to the cloth and wiping her legs, feeling a little better each time the walker blood became more diluted. Feeling more normal than she had all day, Beth grabbed a fresh pair of denim jeans and pulled them up her legs, then pulled on a green t-shirt that was a few sizes too big, but it was extremely breathable and one of her favorites.

Raiding her old stuff after she’d dressed, Beth was annoyed with herself for not being a bit more prepared for a horrible scenario; a crazy man with a tank, for example. But the past was the past, and all she could do was move forward. Pulling on her boots, she left her bags where they sat and headed into the surrounding cells, going through each one and throwing whatever she thought would be useful out of the door, making a note to pick it all up on her way back. She had finished with the lower half of the cell block, and was half-way through the upper half when she reached one cell that she had rarely ever entered, never had a reason to be there.

Daryl’s.

Beth paused in the doorway, looking around the scarce space and feeling a sad, bittersweet smile form on her face. Of course, Daryl wouldn’t leave a bunch of things laying around, wouldn’t collect bits and bobs of junk from runs. She took a deep breath and stepped into the room, almost feeling like she was intruding on the abandoned space. Glancing at his bunk, she noticed the top bunk held all of his clothes, which wasn’t very much. She reached up and grabbed a handful of his clothes, sitting on the bottom bunk and holding them near her. Laying them out, she pulled a long-sleeved, dark grey flannel from the pile and held it to her nose. Breathing in, she could still faintly smell him, a mix of sweat and earth, dust and soap, something so completely Daryl that Beth felt her eyes start to water and her nostrils start to burn, fighting them back.

She would not cry. She was stronger than this. Daryl saw that, saw it before anybody else in her family had. He knew she was strong, and that gave Beth enough motivation to dry her eyes and stand up, taking the flannel and one of his old shirts with her.

With renewed determination, Beth finished raiding the cells and headed back for hers, packing away everything she’d found into her duffel bag with the weapons from Grady, before gathering her things and going back up to Daryl’s cell. She tossed her stuff down and put her axe along the side of the bed, sitting on the edge of the bottom bunk. She pulled out the flannel that belonged to Daryl and put her arms through the sleeves, letting the scratchy fabric bring her a sense of comfort she hadn’t felt in a long time. Laying back, she closed her eyes, the faded scent of Daryl enveloping her and lulling her to sleep.

She knew he wouldn’t mind.


 

“There ain’t no way in hell yer comin’ with us.” Daryl growled out, facing Beth. Despite the fact that she had helped them, helped him, against her own people, he was being a jackass about her joining them to go to another community.

Alexandria, he called it.

“Daryl, please,” she heard Lydia plead, stepping between her and Daryl, “-Delta is my only friend. She saved Henry’s life, please don’t just leave her behind!” Lydia was on the verge of hysterics, which Beth had rarely seen happen. Deciding to speak up, Beth put a comforting hand on the young girl’s shoulder, stepping around her to stand toe-to-toe with Daryl. She knew she was going to have to speak to him, but for fear of him recognizing her voice, she decided to continue speaking softly.

“I don’t blame you for not trusting me,” she began, glancing back at Lydia, before turning back towards Daryl and putting her hands on her hips, “-but you need to realize, I can’t go back to my people now. Not without Beta, and certainly not without Lydia.” She was simply stating facts, having grown blunt over the years.

“She ain’t goin’ with you!” Beth sighed and rolled her eyes; even after all these years, Daryl was still bullheaded and stubborn.

“I’m not saying she is. You didn’t let me finish.” She pauses, waiting to see if he’ll interrupt again. When he’s silent and glaring at her, Beth continues. “I can’t go back to Alpha empty-handed. If I do, she’ll kill me. I was already on thin ice with her, bringing Henry to our camp and then allowing him and Lydia to escape.” She gestured towards Henry and Lydia, who had moved back towards the desk where Henry was sitting, resting his injured leg. “You have no idea what Alpha is capable of…if you did, you wouldn’t have come to our camp the way you did, bringing the dead in and getting people killed.” She’s not trying to blame him or anything for her problems, she’s just trying to make him understand the position she’s in. She can’t go back, not without something to show for it. That’s just how they work. If she had Beta to go with her, then maybe she could do something…but that’s not the case.

“Why tha hell shoul’ I trust anythin’ comin’ from yer mouth?” Daryl asked, staring down at her, looking into her blue eyes, the eyes that were too alive to be behind that rotted flesh. Nothing this woman did made any sense to him, and he was damn sick and tired of it. He wanted answers, and he wanted them now.

“Because I haven’t lied to you about anything.” Even as she said it, Beth felt guilt pooling in her gut, but she ignored it. Hiding who her identity wasn’t necessarily a lie, it was just withholding information. Daryl regarded her, thinking to himself for a moment.

“If yer bein’ so honest, take off tha’ mask.” Beth’s blood ran cold. How the fuck was she supposed to do that without him realizing who she was? Even though a part of her wanted so badly to tell him everything, she knew it wasn’t time. She wasn’t ready for that, not yet.

“I can’t.” Daryl snorted in disbelief, completely unsurprised that she refused.

“Why not? Ya ugly ‘r sumthin’?” Beth felt her lip quirk in a small smile, hidden by the mask. Daryl trying to piss her off was doing the opposite, instead it was humorous.

“Or something.” She replied, dropping her hands from her hips, turning away from Daryl and walking back towards Lydia. She pulled her off to the side and began speaking to her in hushed tones, Daryl was only catching snippets of their conversation, but he didn’t really care because Connie had walked up to him, tablet in hand.

We need to get moving.

Daryl nodded his head, agreeing with her. They’d wasted too much time here, they should’ve left as soon as Daryl had finished off Beta, but instead they got distracted, trying to decide what to do about Delta. He was torn, even though he didn’t want to bring her along, he also didn’t think it’d be wise to just leave her behind, free to go back and report everything to Alpha, despite what she’d said previously.

“A’right,” He said, loud enough for everyone in the room to turn and face him, minus Connie, who had already been looking his way. “-she’s comin’ with us.” Lydia looked instantly relieved, but Daryl wasn’t finished speaking. “Gonna hafta tie you up tho’. Sorry, but I ain’t takin’ no chances.” He spoke directly to Delta, and her body language told him that she was indifferent to his decision, like she understood his caution. Good.

“And how long am I gonna be your prisoner?”

“It ain’t like tha’.” Delta snorted while striding towards him, before turning around and putting her hands behind her back, offering herself willingly. She looked at him over her shoulder, and her blue eyes felt like they were burning a hole into his soul.

“Got another word for it? I’m all ears.” Daryl ignored her, instead using an old telephone cable he found laying on the ground to bind her wrists behind her. He pushed her sleeves out of the way, and froze for a millisecond, eyes zeroing-in on the thick, faded scar across her left wrist. He’d seen a scar like that before, and he knew then that Delta had been through some shit. He made a mental note of it to ask later, but right now, they had to get moving.

Once he finished, he stepped away from her, and she turned back towards him.

“Might wanna take my weapon. Not really a good thing for your hostage to be armed.” Daryl rolled his eyes at her, reaching for her hip and unclipping her knife and holster.

“Got any others?” She shook her head negative, and Daryl nodded at Connie, who walked out onto the balcony, shooting out car windows to guide away the walkers on the lower level, giving them an easier escape. Daryl walked over to Henry, helping the boy off the desk and throwing an arm around him, supporting his weight. Lydia grabbed his other side, and Delta walked behind them, Connie bringing up the rear as they made their way out of the building.

While they walked, Beth’s mind was moving a million miles a minute. She had to seriously consider her options now, because once they got to this community, Alexandria, something told her that she wouldn’t have the mask on for much longer. And that meant she would have to tell Daryl everything, and if by some miracle he didn’t hate her by the end of it, she’d be shocked.

Fuck.


 

Beta groaned as he slowly made his way to his feet, roaring in pain when he tried to put his weight on his left leg. He was almost impressed, that bastard had managed to push him down an elevator shaft. Mind you, he was still seething, and he’d most likely kill the man when he saw him again, but that wasn’t his main concern at the moment.

Where the fuck was Delta?

He thought back to her loud interruption earlier, when he was about to shove the man’s throat into the sawblade. It had irritated him and confused him as well. It wasn’t like Delta to interfere, and she’d never had a problem with doing what needed to be done in the past. Was it because of Lydia that she was becoming soft? Alpha wouldn’t be happy about this, not at all.

Beta looked up, and noticed an elevator door cracked open within his reach. He limped his way over, and started to pry it open, just enough so he could pull himself out of the elevator shaft. Once he’d managed that, he stood up and ambled over to a window, instantly spotting them. They hadn’t gotten far, a few dozen yards away at the most. He squinted his eyes, noticing an extra person with them, and he realized it was Delta, with her hands tied behind her back.

How the fuck had she managed to get captured?

Beta became more enraged as he watched them walk away, and even though every fiber of his being was shouting to go after them and finish the job, he knew the better option would be to go back to Alpha and tell her what’s happened, then to come up with a new plan.

Alpha definitely would not like this. Not. One. Bit.

Chapter Text

“So, you’re telling me…not only were you beaten by one of them,” Alpha begins, her voice and stature calm, almost lazy, “-but Delta was captured?” She stood up, walking to where Beta was sat against a tree, his injured leg stretched in front of him and his hand pressed against the stab wound in his chest. “How?”

Beta thought to himself for a moment, trying to decide if he should be honest and admit what he believes happened, that Delta had chosen Lydia over the pack, or if he should give her the benefit of the doubt and come up with something else.

Decision made, he began to talk, the deep rumble of his voice slurring from his swollen jaw.

“I believe…she got caught on purpose.” He chose his words very carefully. Alpha knelt down in front of him, staring into his eyes. He can’t believe he’s actually doing this, lying to Alpha. “Delta is smart. She’s strategic. She knew if she let herself be captured, they would take her to the community again, if not another one. Forgive me for saying this Alpha, but Delta is smarter than Lydia. She knows what to look for, knows what to do to escape. She can get information from them without giving anything away.” He leaned forward, closer to Alpha. “We need to trust her to come back to the pack. And when she does, she won’t be empty-handed.”

Alpha seemed to consider this, and she nodded her head in thought, glancing around at her people, her pack, milling about and doing their jobs. She looked back to Beta, grasping him by the hand, and a slow smile formed on her face, visible through her mask.

“So we wait until she returns. Patience is our ally, Beta. Remember that. You did well. Now you rest.” Beta could only nod, leaning his head back against the tree trunk and closing his eyes.

Delta had better come through for them, or else he’d kill her himself.


 

Daryl couldn’t help eyeballing Delta’s back as the walked along the cracked highway.

Connie had taken his place on Henry’s side, helping to support him walk, which left Daryl to walk at the back of their group, Delta a few paces ahead of him, but a few paces behind the others. His eyes were constantly moving, scanning the trees around them, with the occasional glance over his shoulder to make sure they weren’t being followed. But his eyes were constantly drawn back to Delta, and his mind was reeling over how she’d helped them, on more than one occasion. He also couldn’t stop thinking about the scar he’d noticed along her wrist. He had so many questions running through his mind, and he didn’t want to wait any longer to get some answers.

Picking up the pace, he strode forward until he was beside Delta, her body tensing when she sensed his approach, unsure of what he wanted. Daryl grabbed her arm, forcing her to slow her pace and allowing the others to get a little farther ahead of them, so they wouldn’t overhear their conversation. Continuing their leisurely pace, Daryl cleared his throat.

“Noticed yer wrist.” Delta’s head snapped up, staring at him with shock in her eyes, but he just continued staring straight ahead, “Ain’t judgin’ ya. Just wonderin’ why ya did it.” He said it so casually that she wasn’t sure how to react.

Beth remembered the day it happened, how much she had wanted to die, then once it was done…the regret was simultaneous with the glass slicing into her pale flesh. She also remembered how Daryl had thrown it in her face, when they were on the road alone, but she had known he was just lashing out in anger and guilt over what had happened at the prison. She thought to herself for a moment before mumbling, no longer looking at Daryl.

“Because I was being weak. The weak don’t survive in this world, and I wanted to survive.” Beth rolled her shoulders and tried to stretch her spine, having her hands tied behind her back for so long was starting to ache, but she wouldn’t complain. She’s been through worse.

Daryl watched her from the corner of his eye for a moment, wishing he could see her face so he could read her expression. He didn’t understand why she was with the Whisperers, she seemed more humane than any of the ones he’d met.

“Why ya even with ‘em?” She turned to look at him fully, tilting her head in confusion, so he elaborated. “Why ya follow ‘em? Delta ain’t yer real name, s’yer title. But ya don’ seem as crazy as tha rest of ‘em...so why?” Beth sighed, her shoulders sagging slightly as she looked at the ground, her mind drifting away. No, she probably wasn’t as crazy as some of her people…but she’d earned the name ‘Delta’ for a reason. Most of those reasons were dead now, but that was the cost of living now, wasn’t it?

“Long story.”  Daryl heaved a sigh, thinking that was all she would give him, but then she surprised him by continuing, “You’re right, it’s just a title…but I’ve been Delta for so long now, not sure I know how to be anybody else. I did try…tried my damnedest to hold onto who I was…” Beth took a stuttering breath, trying to explain without telling him too much, “-but I had to adapt. It was either that, or be killed.” She studied Daryl’s face, trying to read his expression, but he was always good at hiding his feelings. Beth simultaneously admired and hated that about him. Light laughter drew her attention away, and she could see Lydia’s profile looking at Henry, a smile on her face, laughing at whatever was being said by the blonde teen. Beth felt a soft smile form beneath her mask.

“Lydia…she sometimes reminds me of who I used to be.” Daryl followed her line of sight and stared at the two teenagers, only turning back to Delta when she spoke again. “I like to think I was able to hold onto some of my humanity because of her. She gave me a reason to keep going.” Beth paused, watching Lydia up ahead. “There was a time, thought I’d lost her too, like everybody else,” He knew she was referring to when Lydia was captured and brought to Hilltop, “-but I didn’t. Your people…you brought something out in her that I haven’t seen in years. She’s acting like herself…like the things she’s done or that have been done to her, never happened…suppose I have you to thank for that.”

Daryl felt that Delta’s words were honest, and for once he believed what she was saying. He shook his head in disagreement at her last sentence though, he couldn’t take credit for that.

“S’all Henry. Kid gave her a chance, saw sumthin’ tha rest of us didn’. S’one ya should be thankin’.” Daryl could feel her eyes on him, and finally looked at her, blue meeting blue, and beneath the mask, he could see a soft smile on her face.

“You could’ve killed her. You didn’t. For that, I’m grateful.” He wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so he didn’t. They allowed silence to take over, the only sounds coming from their feet on the asphalt, and the soft voices coming from Henry and Lydia. Beth rolled her shoulders again, trying to relieve some of the cramping. She kept searching the wood, her ears tuned into the world around them, listening for anything out of the ordinary. Tied up or not, she could still defend herself if necessary.

“How come ya won’ take off tha mask?” Daryl’s words startled her, the deep rumble of his voice giving her chills. She considered her words, unsure how to explain it.

“Not ready to face what’s underneath.” Well, that only managed to confuse him more.

“When we get ta Alexandria, ya know yer gon’ hafta take it off.” He was just stating facts, no point in beating around the bush. “Michonne ain’t gonna be happy wi’ me, bringin’ you n’ Lydia.” Beth’s steps faltered, and she almost tripped.

Michonne is still alive?

If that were the case, then who else? If Michonne and Daryl had made it, that meant more of her family had to be here…right?

“You can’t convince her not to take it from me?” Even while she said the words, Beth knew there was probably nothing Daryl could do. She knew it was inevitable.

Her mask would be coming off soon, and there was nothing she could do to prevent it.


 

When Aaron came to get her, saying Daryl was at the gate and that he wasn’t alone, Michonne had a million different scenarios in her head.

What she wasn’t expecting, however, was Daryl standing there, a woman in a mask in his grasp, with Henry standing off to the side, a bandage around his leg. She also noticed one of the new arrivals from Hilltop, and that girl from the bridge that they’d captured a few days prior.

She exchanged a few words with Daryl, and he gave a brief summary of what had occurred. Deciding to trust in him, as she’s always done, she told her people to open the gate. Climbing down from the guard post, Michonne hugged Daryl and looked over at Henry.

“Take him to Siddiq, get his leg checked out.” She ordered, and Eugene, who was standing closest, came forward to help the boy limp to the infirmary.

“I’d like to go with him, please.” Lydia requested, stepping forward, worry marring her features. Michonne looked at Daryl, who nodded, and Michonne nudged her head in Henry’s direction, indicating for Lydia to go. Connie went along as well, wanting some antiseptic for a gash on her hand.

Watching them leave, Michonne looked back at Daryl and the woman in the mask.

“Why did you bring one of them here?” She spat, irritation evident in her voice. Daryl looked between Michonne and Delta, the latter whose hands were still tied behind her back, trying to find the words he wanted to say.

“She helped us. Ain’t like tha rest of ‘em.” Michonne snorted, crossing her arms and glaring at the stranger.

“Take off her mask.” Beth immediately started to panic, and when a man with curly hair and a beard reached behind her head, she spoke without thinking.

“Please don’t take it.” All three of them froze, the man who had been reaching for her mask dropped his arms, and Michonne had a bewildered expression on her face. Beth knew she seemed crazy, but she just wasn’t ready.

“Give me one good reason why I should listen to anything you say.”

“Because you’re good people.” Michonne could tell it was bullshit, and she wasn’t going to let this go, but she also knew she wouldn’t get answers right now. So, she had to make a decision.

“Aaron,” the man with a beard looked at her, “-take our new friend to the cells. Leave the mask, for now.” Aaron nodded, and he wrapped a hand around Delta’s forearm, guiding her away. Michonne and Daryl watched them walk off.

“Sumthin’ ain’t addin’ up.” Daryl mumbled, his eyes never leaving Aaron and Delta’s retreating forms.

“What exactly happened out there, Daryl?” She turned to face him, confusion evident on her face. Daryl released an exhausted breath, shaking his head and pinching the bridge of his nose.

“S’a long fuckin’ story.” She could tell he was exhausted, and he had the beginnings of a bruise forming on his cheek. She felt a wave of sympathy for her old friend, and she put a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“Let’s go back to my house, we can talk in private.” Daryl could only nod, and together they headed in the direction of Michonne’s home.


 

“Watch your step.” The man, Aaron, spoke to her as they walked through a gated doorway, into a cement room that had minimal light. Beth kept her eyes down, watching her steps so she didn’t trip.

“Well who in the fuck do we have here?!” Beth jumped in freight, her head turning towards the source of the voice. It was a man who had spoken. He was tall, not nearly as tall as Beta, but close. His hair was short and his face was covered in salt and pepper stubble. Well, looked like she wouldn’t be totally alone.

“Quiet, Negan!” Aaron ordered, walking past the first cell and to the one beside it. He placed Beth in the doorway, before stepping behind her and cutting her restraints, giving her freedom to move her arms again. Rubbing her wrists, Beth stepped into the small room, and she ignored the clang of the door as it was shut behind her. The exhaustion finally catching up to her, she leaned against the cement wall and slowly slid to the floor, releasing a shaky breath.

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” There was that loud voice again. “-but are you wearing a mask?” Beth rolled her eyes, debating whether or not to answer.

“You’re not wrong.” She spoke normally, knowing that nobody she knew was within hearing distance of her.

“And why the fuck are you wearing a mask?” Fucking hell, this guy was loud.

“To hide.” She heard a deep chuckle from the other side of the wall.

“You sure as shit don’t say much, do ya sweetheart?” Beth felt her blood boil at the term of endearment.

“I’m not your sweetheart.” The laughter continued, and she could hear movement; he was walking closer to their shared wall.

“I beg your fucking pardon, we have not been introduced!” She saw a hand reach around the wall, “I’m Negan.” When she didn’t respond immediately, she heard him clear his throat. “Now’s the part where you shake my hand and introduce yourself, sweet cheeks.” Rolling her eyes, she ignored his hand and instead only gave him her name.

“Delta.” Negan started howling with laughter.

Delta? The fuck kinda name is that?” Beth heard his shoes scraping the ground and fabric rustling, and she assumed he was sitting against the wall behind her back.

“It’s one you earn.” Negan rolled his eyes, his new cellmate was a strange one, that’s for damn sure.

“And just how do you earn a name like that?”

“By showing loyalty.” Negan snorted and leaned his head against the wall.

“Back to that mask you happen to be wearing,” Negan said, thinking of what it had looked like when he saw her being directed to her cell, “-just what is it made of?”

“The dead.” She didn’t even hesitate in answering, why bother lying? He let out a low whistle in amazement.

“Well I have seen some shit in my days, but nothing as fucked up as that.” Beth snorted, stretching her legs out in front of her. Negan continued spouting nonsense at her, but Beth had drowned him out, in favor of laying on the hard floor and trying to get some rest. She was beyond exhausted, she couldn’t remember the last time she had slept. Letting her eyes fall shut, she made an attempt to sleep, hoping when she woke up that she’d know what to say.


 

Beth had been dreaming of Grady Hospital. In her dream though, she was locked behind the walls, watching from a window as her family started leaving. Screaming for them, screaming for Daryl, for Maggie, for somebody to come back for her, to not leave her behind. But not matter how much she shouted, her voice never came.

She woke with a gasp, her body drenched with sweat. Slowly, she sat up, her muscles screaming in protest. Sleeping on concrete wasn’t exactly comfortable, but Beth had been through worse. Looking around, everything was shrouded in darkness, and she knew it was late at night.

Apparently, her dream wasn’t the only reason she woke up. Beth could hear somebody unlocking the door and walking inside, light pouring in and casting a shadow against the wall across from her cell. As the light grew closer, Beth could see that it was Daryl, and by the serious expression he was wearing, she knew what was about to happen.

“C’mon.” He said, his voice husky. Pulling herself to stand, she waited while Daryl hung the lantern on the wall and unlocked her cell door. She was about to walk out when he held up his hand, indicating for her to stop. He pulled a small length of rope from his pocket, and Beth understood. She turned around and put her hands behind her back, going through the same motions as they’d both done earlier that day.

When she was bound, Daryl held her forearm and guided her out of the cells and into the night air. Beth looked up at the stars that littered the sky, a sense of calm washing over her.

“Funny when you think about it, how the universe is so vast and never-ending.” Daryl watched Delta, looking up towards the sky before glancing back at her. “And we’re all here, just grains of sand on a continuous beach, fighting the waves.”

Daryl had no idea what the hell she was talking about, and when he didn’t respond, Delta shook her head, a small smile on her face.

“Just rambling. Sorry.”

He just grunted in acknowledgement, and they continued on their way, to where, Beth didn’t know. They only walked for a few minutes, when Daryl turned and walked into a wooden building. Inside, there were candles and lanterns illuminating the space, and Beth could see Michonne sitting in a chair. The man from earlier was there as well. But besides her and Daryl walking in, there were no other people present. Beth noticed a chair a few feet across from Michonne, and Daryl was directing her towards it. Pushing lightly on her shoulder, she sat down, her arms still bound and more than a bit uncomfortable.

Everybody was silent for a few moments, but it was Michonne who spoke first.

“Do you have anything you want to say, or should we just get on with it?” Beth looked up and met Michonne’s eye.

“If by ‘get on with it’ you mean remove my mask, my hands a little tied, sorry.” Michonne glared at her, leaning forward and resting her elbows on her knees, hands clasped together, looking annoyed.

“You do realize I could have you killed, right now.” Beth looked at her, completely calm.

“But you won’t.” She looked at the bound woman, thinking she must be crazier than what Daryl said.

“And why won’t I?” Beth took a deep breath, trying to quell the anxiety that was churning in her stomach.

“If you take off my mask, you’ll know why.” Michonne was perplexed, Beth could see that. “Just…when you do…please know that I’m sorry.”

“Sorry? For what?” This time it was Aaron that spoke, stepping forward, good hand resting on the blade clipped to his belt, his gaze questioning. Beth looked directly at Daryl, their eyes meeting, wanting him to know her next words were aimed at him.

“Know that I’m sorry for lying to you.” Daryl was getting frustrated. Delta seemed like she was talking in circles, and he was sick of it. Apparently, so was Michonne, because she stood up so fast the chair behind her fell.

“Enough of this. Take off her mask.” Knowing she was talking to him, Daryl strode forward and stepped behind Delta, and she willingly leaned her head down so that he could untie the laces in the back.

Beth’s heart was pounding so hard she could hear it echoing in her ears, her hands were shaking and she felt like she might throw up. She felt Daryl’s hand grasping the laces, pulling them loose, and her mask started to slip from her head.

When the mask was loosened enough to remove, Daryl reached up with steady hands and grabbed it from the top, pulling it off Delta’s head in one smooth motion. The first thing he noticed was the pile of blonde hair that tumbled out from beneath the mask, but what got his attention was Michonne gasping, and he looked up at her, seeing her eyes wide and stance rigid. What the hell? He thought to himself, confused as to why she’d react so strongly.

Stepping around Delta, Daryl turned and faced her, and when she lifted her head, the curtain of her hair fell to the side, revealing her face to him. And he felt all the air leave his lungs.

No. It’s not fucking real. No way.

But it was, and he knew that. What he didn’t know, was how she could be here. He watched her get shot, in the head, no less. She was dead. Daryl had carried her lifeless body, he knew she was dead.

And yet, here she sat, covered in blood and grime, but alive and breathing, staring directly into his eyes.

Beth?”

Chapter Text

Beta looked up from where he’d been sitting on the ground, sharpening his knives. A small commotion drew his attention away from the task, and he stood up when one of his people approached him.

“Delta is back.” Beta’s expression grew hard, and he sheathed the knife he was sharpening before responding to the man.

“Notify Alpha of her return.” The man nodded, heading off in search of their leader. Beta watched him leave, then turned and stomped over to where a group of people had gathered, assuming Delta was among them. It had been two days since she’d been captured, and he was starting to believe she’d been killed.

She always managed to prove him wrong without realizing it.

Spotting her small figure standing amongst a small squadron, mask on her face with dark blood splattered on her clothes, he made his way towards her, and their people spread apart, making a path for him.

Delta lifted her head and saw him striding towards her, and her eyes grew wide, watching him with bated breath. She had to hide her shock that he was still alive, although simultaneously she wasn’t surprised that he hadn’t died. He looked her over, taking note of her arm wrapped around her center, realizing she must have been injured in some way. When he was done inspecting her, he looked back into her eyes and held out his hand. Delta released a breath, reaching her free hand out and clasping Beta’s forearm, words being unnecessary, the gesture said everything that needed to be said.

Welcome home.

“Delta.” Both of their heads turned in the direction of Alpha’s voice, seeing her standing there, mask on and watching the exchange.

Beth released Beta’s arm and turned away from him, gingerly stepping towards her leader, trying not to wince in pain. Alpha held up a hand to stop her, silently telling her that was close enough. It was obvious to her that she was wounded.

“Tell me everything, now.”

Beth tried to steady her breathing, knowing that she had to make this story convincing, she needed to keep Alpha’s trust.

Opening her mouth, she spoke softly.


 

Silence. That’s all there was.

Daryl had no idea how much time had passed that way, with nobody speaking, nobody making a sound. He couldn’t form a coherent thought, words escaping him. Even if he could find the words, his voice was gone. His ears were ringing, his heart was hammering behind his ribs, eyes unable to focus on anything but the ghost that was sitting in front of him.

Beth.

She was alive. He didn’t understand how, but he didn’t need to, not right now. His eyes were darting all over her form, drinking her appearance in. He noticed so many differences about her. Her hair was shorter, just barely past her shoulders, but it was still the pale yellow he remembered it being. She had three scars on her face, two he recalled having stitches in them, but the third...he wanted to throw up, seeing the small, round scar on her forehead, just below her hairline. That scar…that should have killed her.

And yet, here she was.

It suddenly all made sense to him. There’d been so many signs, so many hints as to who she really was. The scar on her wrist, it had reminded him of Beth, all those years ago, when they’d been on the road together. When she had shouted and distracted Beta, long enough for him to get an advantage and possibly saving his life, Delta’s voice had sounded so similar to Beth’s, it had scared him. And when she had spotted him in his hiding place, she didn’t give away his location, giving him the opportunity to shove that giant asshole down the elevator shaft.

And those words she had said to him, about there still being good people in the world…why hadn’t he seen it then? It all seemed so obvious, he felt like a fucking dumbass. But in the back of his mind, he knew why he hadn’t realized it. Beth had taken a bullet to the brain. Even before the world went to shit, a head shot like that…the chances of survival were miniscule. In the apocalypse? Instant death.

So how?

They’d all lost so many members of their family over the years, the only thing Daryl wanted to do was hug her tight, but his feet were rooted to the floor. He had realized something else; he didn’t know this Beth. It’d been over seven years since she ‘died’, there was no way she was the same person. She couldn’t be, especially not if she was one of them. So, no, he didn’t know her.

Not anymore.

It was Beth who broke the silence, clearing her throat and looking back and forth between Daryl and Michonne, an eyebrow raised.

“So…gonna untie me now?” Her voice broke the spell that seemed to have overtaken the room, and Michonne was the first to attempt to respond.

“How-” Beth knew what she was about to ask, and didn’t let her finish.

“-Am I alive? Lucky shot, I guess.” The double entendre wasn’t amusing. Aaron, who’d been silent up until this point, finally spoke up.

“I’m sorry, but you all know each other?” He inquired, looking at Beth and moving to put his hand on Michonne’s shoulder. The gesture seemed to snap Michonne out of her stupor, and she turned around, setting the fallen chair upright and putting it directly in front of Beth, dropping down in the seat. She was dumbfounded by the entire situation. Daryl was the only one who hadn’t moved, completely frozen in place, but he’d managed to answer Aaron’s question.

“We did.” Daryl answering in a past-tense made Beth stare at him, her face impassive. She couldn’t say that she didn’t understand, because he wasn’t wrong. At one point in time, they did know each other…but it’d been years. And she was, technically, the enemy. They couldn’t just forget about that. Looking at Aaron, Daryl muttered to him.

“Can ya give us a min’?” Aaron only nodded, casting one final glance in Beth’s direction, before leaving the room, taking a lantern with him. When he was gone, Michonne looked at Beth.

“How did you survive?” Michonne asked, her voice calmer than she appeared. Beth could only shrug.

“Like I said, lucky shot.” She could feel Daryl glaring at her, but ignored him. “All I know is what the people at Grady told me. That you had to leave me behind because of a herd, and you hid my body in a trunk. They were gonna bury me, since y’all didn’t get the chance.” Daryl turned his body away, unable to face her and remember that day. “Couple of the officers went to get me, popped open the trunk, and imagine their surprise when they realized I wasn’t dead.”

Michonne looked visibly distraught, her face full of regret. Beth could only assume Daryl’s was the same.

“Beth, we’re sorry we left you. We had no idea…if we had…” Beth merely shook her head, stopping Michonne’s unnecessary attempt at an apology.

“I’m not mad that y’all left, I understand why you did.” Daryl’s head snapped to look at her. How could she not be mad? They left her there, he left her there…

“I can hear you blamin’ yourself from here, Daryl. Stop. It’s not your fault.” Instead of acknowledging what Beth had said, he turned and grabbed a stool, dragging it closer to her and Michonne. He sat down and leaned forward on his elbows, resting his chin on top of his folded hands.

“Ya need ta tell us everythin’.” Out of the hundreds of things Daryl wanted to say to Beth, this wasn’t particularly one of them. But there was a time and a place for everything, and now just wasn’t the time. He’d find the time later to talk to her, privately.

For now, they had bigger problems.

Beth tilted her head, considering her options.

“I will, but only if you answer some of my questions first,” Beth glanced between them, “-and could you untie my wrists? This isn’t exactly comfortable.” Michonne and Daryl looked at each other, silently conveying their thoughts without speaking.

Standing up, Michonne walked behind Beth and reached for the rope binding her wrists, pulling the knots loose and freeing her hands. She stepped back over to her chair beside Daryl and sat down, watching Beth closely, as if she was waiting for her to run. Instead, the blonde simply thanked her and leaned back into her chair, crossing her arms over her chest.

“You said you had some questions.” Beth looked at the dark-skinned woman, studying her for a moment.

“Obviously you and Daryl made it,” she looked down, speaking softly, “-did anybody else? Did my sister…?” It was quiet for one beat, then two. To her surprise, it was Daryl who answered her.

“Most a’us made it. Lost a lot a people o’er tha years, tho’.” Beth felt her heart stutter, terrified to know who had been lost, to the shit storm that was the world they lived in.

“Who?” Their lack of response irritated her, and she heaved a sigh in annoyance. “Just tell me.” Michonne cleared her throat before answering.

“Maggie’s alive, or at least she was, the last time we saw her.” Beth furrowed her brow in confusion.

“What does that mean?”

“She was in charge of Hilltop, but she left, about a year ago. Took her son with her.”

“She had a son?”

“With Glenn.” While Beth was relieved her sister was alive, she didn’t understand why she left.

“Why would they take their son and leave?” Daryl huffed out a breath, rubbing his hands over his face.

“S’no ‘they’…” He looked Beth in the eye, “Glenn died, few months after we got here.” Beth gasped, her eyes darting between them.

“How?” Michonne spoke this time.

“He was killed.” Her shoulders slumped at the news. Her brother-in-law was dead, had been for years…and she’d had no idea. How many others had been lost? She closed her eyes and asked them, wanting to just get it over with, and had to brace herself for their answer.

“Bob, Tyreese, Noah…” Beth choked back a small sob. Noah died? All he’d wanted was to get out of that damn hospital and find his family. She didn’t ask how, not really caring to know. It wouldn’t make a difference. She listened as Michonne picked up where Daryl had left off.

“Sasha, Carl…Rick…” Michonne choked on the words, still mourning the loss of Rick and Carl, her heart aching. Beth felt her eyes burning. Basically, everybody they knew, the family they had created at the prison, they were pretty much all gone. A few names she didn’t hear, so she had to ask if they’d somehow made it.

“Carol?” Daryl answered her, his response clipped.

“Alive, lives in tha Kingdom, with ‘er husband.” That surprised her. Carol was married? She supposed it made sense, though. Michonne speaking up pulled Beth from her thoughts.

“Judith is alive.” Beth’s eyes grew wide, and a small, but genuine smile formed on her face. Michonne studied her reaction, remembering how much the blonde had cared for the little girl. Maybe the old Beth was still there, buried deep beneath the layers.

“How old is she now?”

“Nine, give or take a few months.” Beth knew her next question would probably be denied, but she had to ask.

“Can…can I see her?” Michonne’s face was sympathetic, she couldn’t even begin to imagine what Beth had been through over the years, being left behind and all alone. So, even though she wasn’t totally comfortable with the idea of her seeing Judith, not in the current state she was in, she didn’t want to reject her flat-out, either.

“Maybe.” The young woman nodded her head, accepting that it was the best answer she was going to get. She was so relieved to know that the sweet little baby, now grown-up, had survived. Even though so many people had been lost, knowing Judith was still with them made something light up inside of her that Beth hadn’t felt in a long time.

She felt hope.

And that scared the absolute shit out of her.

After those first two years alone, Beth had pretty much given up on ever seeing her family again. She’d seen so much shit that trying to hold onto hope, praying for something better, seemed pointless. So, she’d decided enough was enough, and she adapted.

In this world, you had to.

Beth felt overcome with emotion, she had so many different feelings hitting her at once, she didn’t know how to process them. It left her feeling weak, and she hated being weak. Weakness got you killed. She needed to leave, needed to be alone. She started chanting her mantra under her breath without realizing it.

No emotion. No weakness. No emotion. No weakness. No emotion. No weakness.

Daryl’s sensitive hearing picked up on Beth’s mumbling, and he watched her as she sat there, her head down and her hair covering most of her face. He glanced at Michonne out of the corner of his eye, and she was watching her closely as well.

Standing on shaky feet, Beth tried to steady her breathing, forcing down the panic attack that was trying to seep out. Daryl and Michonne both tensed, wondering what she was about to do. She kept her eyes on the floor, hands making fists at her sides, clenched so tight her knuckles were white.

“Take me back to my cell.” Clearly, neither Michonne nor Daryl were expecting that. Beth could guess what they were thinking; sweet little Beth Greene, the girl who couldn’t even defend herself or fight off a couple of walkers. But that’s not who she is. That girl was dead. She was Delta now. She was who she’d had to become to survive. After years of living that way, she couldn’t go back.

Michonne watched her, could tell how uncomfortable and distraught she’d become, and she couldn’t blame Beth for reacting the way she had. She’d at least had time to process all their people’s deaths when they happened, but Beth is learning about them all at once. On top of that, she isn’t the same Beth anymore, that’s obvious, but just how far gone was she?

Michonne made a silent promise to herself, right then and there, that she wasn’t going to give up on Beth. They’d lost so many people, seen so many bad things happen over the years. And yet, by some miracle, Beth was alive, and they’d found each other. And this would be different than when Jocelyn had found her years prior. She’d known Beth after the turn, knew what she was like in this shit-hole of a world. She hadn’t known Jocelyn then, not really.

It would be different this time. The old Beth was still in there, somewhere. Her reaction about Judith being alive gave that away. She just had to find a way to bring that girl back, or at least some of her.

Beth didn’t know how long she stood there, waiting for somebody to take her back to her cell. All she knew was that if somebody didn’t take her soon, she was going to run. It didn’t come to that though, because Michonne moved to stand as well.

“You don’t need to go back to the cell, Beth.” She slowly moved to look at Michonne, brows furrowed. “We have a couple empty houses that are used for guests. You can stay in one of them for now.” Beth scrutinized her, unsure how to feel about the gesture.

“How do you know I won’t just run?” Michonne’s face expressed a tenderness that she hadn’t seen before.

“Because you’re still a good person.” Beth looked away from her, unable to reply. “Daryl can show you the way. Get plenty of rest, tomorrow will be busy. We answered your questions, now you’ll have to do the same for us.” Looking at Michonne again, Beth accepted the offer with a nod of her head, and they bid each other goodnight. Daryl cleared his throat, and Beth turned her attention to him.

He wouldn’t look at her.

“Les’ go.” He commanded, his voice gruff. Beth figured he was probably pissed off at her for keeping her identity a secret. She followed him out of the building and back into the night. They had been walking for a few minutes, silent except for the sounds of their shoes hitting the ground. He was moving so fast, she was having trouble keeping up.

“Can you slow down please?” He ignored her, continuing his fast-pace. Annoyed, Beth picked up speed and yanked him back. “Daryl!”

“Don’ touch me.” He growled, ripping his arm out of her grasp, like her touch burned him. She tried not to let it bother her, knowing he had a right to be pissed off. She just wanted a chance to explain herself, that’s all.

“I’m sorry, okay?” He spun towards her, fury in his gaze, and the old Beth would’ve been afraid of him. But not this Beth.

“Yer sorry?” He snorted, but there was no humor behind it. “Fer which part? Tha part where ya lied to me? Or that yer one a them?” He stood there, glaring at her through the hair that hung over his eyes, but she didn’t back down.

“For all of it. I wanted to tell you. I did.” Daryl shook his head, pivoting on his heel and storming off. Obviously, she followed him, talking while she tried to keep up with him.

“I know you’re wonderin’ why I didn’t tell you. But I couldn’t, Daryl.” She almost tripped, but quickly righted herself and continued following him, steadily becoming more annoyed with him running away. “You don’t understand! I was on my own for years!”

“I been on ma own ‘fore, Beth! S’not tha end of tha world!” He spat over his shoulder, not even sparing her a glance.

“But it is! And that’s just it! I was alone!” Beth growled out, imploring him to understand, but he just seemed to ignore her words. “I tried to find y’all, but I didn’t know where to go! I wasn’t a tracker like you, there weren’t no trail to follow.” Her accent grew thicker the more hysterical she became, “-I was about to give up when Alpha found me. She made me better, made me strong.” Her words caused him to stop so suddenly that she crashed into his back, immediately taking a step backwards when he whirled around to face her. She stood there, waiting for him to lash out again. But he surprised her when his voice came out soft and husky.

“Ya were always strong…ya just didn’ know it.” He said it so sincerely, her heart ached. Daryl finally looked up, meeting her eyes. His gaze was so intense that Beth couldn’t look away, even if she wanted to…which she didn’t.

“Why ya with ‘em?” He repeated his question from earlier that day, expecting the real answer this time. She just stared at him, a somber look on her face, hating how weak she felt under his gaze.

“Because…anythin’ was better than bein’ alone.” She said, her voice quivering, “And I had been alone for so long, Daryl…” Her voice cracked as she whispered softly, “-I didn’t wanna be alone anymore.” The lump in her throat grew too large, preventing her from saying anything more, and she could no longer fight back the tears as they rolled down her dirt-stained cheeks.

Daryl stared at her, watching her face as her tears glistened in the moonlight. He didn’t know what to say to her in that moment, didn’t even know what to do. Should he comfort her? Or would that be wrong, considering they were practically strangers at this point? Deciding that he had to say something, he coughed into his hand, looking back at the ground.

“S’my fault.” That caused Beth to glare at him, ready to argue, but he didn’t give her the chance. “It is. Never shoulda left ya, tha’ night at tha funeral home.” He stared into her eyes, his face full of regrets. “Shoulda just ran wit’ ya. None a’this woulda happened.” Beth stared at him incredulously. Leave it to Daryl to somehow blame himself. The man never learned to accept the fact that there were things in this world that he just couldn’t control. What happened to her, getting captured, taking a bullet to the skull, being out on her own…none of it was his fault.

“You don’t know that.” She said softly, taking a small step closer to him, wiping away her tears. “If things hadn’t happened the way they did, what’s to say something worse wouldn’t’ve happened?” Daryl just shrugged, stuffing his hands in the pockets. “None of this is your fault, Daryl.” She stated, her voice stern.

Shuffling from one foot to the other, Daryl kept glancing from the ground to Beth, unsure what to do now. The air around them seemed to get stiff and uncomfortable. Having said more than he’d wanted to, Daryl turned and continued leading Beth to her temporary home. He could hear her fall into step behind him, and he moved a bit slower so that she could keep up with him this time.

She noticed. And she smiled softly to herself.

They came to a stop in front of a line of red-brick townhouses.

“Yer gonna be stayin’ in tha’ one, on tha far end.” Daryl rumbled, lifting his arm and pointing to the front door, a metal number hanging on the front. Lucky number thirteen. He looked over at Beth, “Me n’tha others are a couple doors down, s’one with tha eleven.” Beth nodded, not bothering to speak.

They stood there, awkward silence starting again. Beth, thankfully, spoke first.

“Well…g’night then, I guess.” Daryl nodded at her.

“G’night, Beth.” Having nothing left to say, she started walking away, feeling his gaze burning into her back. She had just walked up the small staircase, hand resting on the doorknob, when she heard Daryl call her name again. Peering over her shoulder, she noticed he’d moved closer from where he’d been standing. She waited for him to speak.

“Fer wha’ s’worth…” He started, shoving a hand in his pocket and chewing on his thumbnail, “-I don’ blame ya, keepin’ it a secret.” He sighed, dropping his hand from his mouth, staring up at her. “M’sorry for snappin’ at ‘cha.” Beth felt her lip quirk up, looking at him, her features soft.

“You don’t gotta apologize. I’m sorry, too.” Daryl grunted in acknowledgement, shifting on his feet again. Beth smiled at him. “See you in the mornin’?”

“Ya, see ya in tha mornin’. G’night, Beth.” He muttered, just barely loud enough for her to hear, before heading for door eleven and walking inside. Beth watched him go, her heartbeat steady and feeling a strange sense of calm.

She turned the knob to number thirteen and walked in, shutting it softly behind her. Seeing a couch, she didn’t bother exploring the home, instead choosing to collapse on the soft piece of furniture. Beth was beyond exhausted, it felt like it’d been years since the last time she’d slept, and the couch was the most comfortable thing she’d laid on in ages.

Closing her eyes, it didn’t take long for sleep to claim her. Oh, she still had a million thoughts going through her head, mind you. But she found she was too tired to care.

So, she slept.


 

Beth was woken up by sunlight pouring into the room, hitting her right in the eyes. She groaned, gingerly sitting up and stretching her arms above her head. She had no idea what time it was, just that it seemed to be early in the morning. She stood up and walked over to the window, peering through the blinds. It was still fairly quiet outside, and Beth saw a few random people milling about, doing what, she didn’t know.

Sighing, she stepped away and turned back towards the room, getting a good look at it now that it was day time. The couch she had slept on faced the wall with the window and the front door. There were two overstuffed chairs sitting across from the couch, a small coffee table in the middle. The floors were a dark, cherry wood, and all the walls were painted a pale yellow. To her left, there was a decently sized kitchen with granite counters and an island that separated it from the rest of the room. The cabinets were all white and clean, and Beth knew if she touched them, she’d leave dirt behind.

She was about to explore the upstairs when there was a knock on the door. She hesitated, unsure if she should answer it or not, but then she remembered where she was and strode to the door, opening it wide. It was a woman with dirty blonde hair and a strange tattoo on her neck. Was it a barcode? What the hell?

“Morning,” The woman greeted, “Michonne asked me to drop off some clothes and shower stuff for you.” Beth finally noticed that she was, indeed, carrying a pile of clothes and a few other items. Reaching out, she took the pile from the stranger, before looking back up at her, her face impassive. “I’m Laura, by the way. I’m a member of the council.” They had a council? Beth found that ironic, remembering the prison’s council. Realizing she hadn’t introduced herself yet, she went to speak, but then stumbled. What name should she say? Her automatic response was to say ‘Delta’…but without her mask on, she was confused.

“Beth.” Saying her given name out-loud felt foreign on her tongue. It’d been so long since she’d said it herself, it almost felt wrong. She was drawn from her internal dilemma when the woman, Laura, spoke again.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Beth. Welcome to Alexandria.” Beth wasn’t entirely sure how to respond, she wasn’t used to meeting new people.

“Thank you, it was nice meeting you.” She mumbled, looking down at the pile of items in her arms, “Think I’ll go take that shower, been a long time since I’ve had one.” Laura smiled, sympathy clear on her face.

“Of course. Enjoy it, and when you’re ready, Michonne will be waiting to meet with you.” Beth merely dipped her head in acknowledgement, watching as Laura turned and walked away, before shutting the door and releasing a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.

Heading for the L-shaped staircase by the kitchen, she made her way upstairs and to the second floor. The stairs led to a long hallway, and Beth counted three doors. She walked to the first one of the two on the right, and realized it was small bedroom. Peeking inside, she noticed a twin bed and dresser, sheets and pillows resting on the end of the bed, waiting for it to be made. Stepping back, she walked to the single door on the left and opened it, grinning to herself when she saw that it was the bathroom. She wasn’t lying when she told Laura it’d been a long time since she had a shower, having grown used to bathing in a cold creek.

She looked at the bathroom for a moment, noticing it had the same granite and white cabinets as the kitchen, but the walls were painted grey and the floor was a dark blue tile. The toilet sat on the other side of the sink, and across from them both was a standing shower with glass doors. Inside, the same dark blue tile went up the walls to the top of the shower doors.

Walking in, she left the bathroom door open so she could see if somebody came in, uncaring about her modesty. Living in the woods with over a hundred others made privacy a hard thing to come by, and she’d long since gotten over the idea of random people seeing her naked. She dropped the pile of clothes and shower supplies beside the sink. Deciding to use the toilet first, she did her business and almost gasped when the toilet flushed. Running water was a rarity, she’d have to ask how they got it to work. Toeing-off her boots, Beth stripped out of her filthy and worn-out clothes, left in her bra and underwear. She looked at herself in the mirror, not remembering the last time she was able to gaze at her own reflection.

Her face was filthy, even though she’d bathed a couple days ago. In this world, staying clean always seemed impossible. Her hair was knotted and oily at the roots, most likely from the constant wearing of her mask. Sighing, she looked away from the mirror, instead reaching for whatever shower supplies Michonne had sent her. Beth saw a glass bottle, of what she assumed was shampoo, and a bar of handmade soap that smelled like lavender. Mildly excited at the prospect of smelling like something other than death, she finished stripping out of her underwear and took stepped into the shower, turning it on and waiting for it to heat up.

Once steam started to form, she stepped under the spray and sighed in relief, the hot water soothing all the aches from her body. She glanced down, watching as the dirt and blood that once covered her body spiraled down the drain. Reaching for the shampoo, she pulled out the stopper, sniffing it first, noting the strong aroma of honey, before pouring a generous heap into her palm and working it into her scalp. Beth almost groaned at how good it felt, closing her eyes as she rubbed the shampoo into her hair, feeling more human with each passing second. When she finished, she rinsed her hair and grabbed the bar of soap, running it over her arms and torso, scrubbing away the layer of filth.

Beth didn’t know how long she was in the shower, but she didn’t care at all. It felt so good, and she felt so clean, she didn’t want to leave. But, once she was finished scrubbing her body, she did one final rinse-off, and cut the water off. Opening the shower door, she reached for a towel that was hanging on a rack between the toilet and the shower. She wrapped the soft linen around her body, stepping out of the shower and onto the cold tile floor. Goosebumps covered her skin, but she didn’t really notice.

Beth stepped over to the pile of clean clothes, looking to see what she was given. Seeing a simple pair of black underwear, she stepped into them and pulled them up her legs, relieved they actually fit. Next, she held up the bra that had been sitting between the pants and shirt, trying to gauge on whether or not it would fit her small chest. Even though she’d grown some over the years, she still wasn’t particularly ‘gifted’ in the chest department.

Oh, to hell with it.

She clipped the bra on, putting her arms through the straps. To her surprise, the cups weren’t too big, there was only a small gap of space that her breasts didn’t fill. She pulled on the pants next, noticing they were washed-out and grey. She took her belt out of the loops on her old pair and put it through the loops on her new ones, tightening them around her waist. When she noticed there were two shirts, she studied them both. One was a navy, loose-fit t-shirt, with a pocket square and a low neckline. The other was long-sleeved and black. While she would usually choose the long-sleeved, she went with the t-shirt, remembering how warm it was the night before. She figured it’d only be hotter yet today, and if she didn’t need to hide her skin, she wouldn’t.

Dressed and feeling better than she had in a long time, Beth took another glance in the mirror, amazed at the difference. She almost looked like her old-self, minus the scars on her face and the shorter hair. She combed through her hair with her fingers, trying to pull out the knots and tangles, before giving up. She pulled on her boots and walked out of the bathroom, heading back downstairs.

Beth paused on the bottom landing when she saw Daryl sitting in one of the chairs in the living room, chewing on his thumbnail. His head snapped up when he heard her descent. She stood there, staring at him, surprised she never heard the front door open. Daryl stood up when she walked down the last few stairs, coming to a halt within arm’s reach.

“Mornin’.” He muttered, and Beth just stared at him for a moment, still a little awkward from their conversation the night prior. Giving him a gentle smile, she greeted him back.

“Good mornin’. What are you doin’ here?” She didn’t beat around the bush. Daryl was here for a reason, she doubted he came just to see how she was doing.

“Was gonna take ya ta see Michonne.” He mumbled, his voice scratchy and rough, just as Beth always remembered it being. “Figured ya didn’ know where yer headin’.” Beth felt her lip quirk up at him. Helpful as always, Daryl.

“Okay, thanks.” She glanced around the room. “Well, I’m ready now so we can go, if you’d like.” And of course, Daryl being Daryl, merely grunted in agreement before heading out the front door. She raised an eyebrow to his back, following him outside and down the front steps.


 

Daryl had been up for well over an hour. He was sitting out on the steps, sharpening his knives, when he saw Laura walk by out of the corner of his eye, her arms full with a bunch of random shit. Narrowing his eyes, he watched her as she walked up to Beth’s door, knocking on it. He witnessed the exchange between he and Beth when she answered the door, looking the same as she had last night. They only spoke for a moment, and then Beth was closing the door and Laura was walking back the way she came, passing Daryl and smiling at him in greeting. He nodded his head at her in acknowledgement.

He sat there on the steps for a few more minutes, trying to focus on the knife in his hand, but now that he knew Beth was awake, he wanted to go over there and see her. It still felt surreal, Beth being alive. But seeing her, living and breathing, brought back so many unresolved thoughts and feelings that Daryl wasn’t sure he could be around her without losing his damn mind. The girl, woman now, was confusing the hell out of him. And normally, Daryl would stay away and that’d be the end of it, but with Beth…he huffed out an annoyed breath. Standing up, he clipped his knife back onto his belt and made his way over to number thirteen. He inhaled through his nose and out of his mouth before knocking gently on the door. Waiting for a few moments, he was confused when she didn’t answer like she had for Laura.

Hesitantly, Daryl opened the door, peeking his head inside and looking around. Realizing Beth probably wasn’t downstairs, he stepped over the threshold and closed the door behind him, listening closely. He could hear water running upstairs, and he realized the reason she didn’t answer was because she was in the shower. Knowing that brought too many images to Daryl’s mind, and he pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to block them out. This was Beth, for Christ’s sake. He’d known her since she was sixteen, there was no damn reason he needed to be having those kinds of thoughts about her. But as he was reprimanding his brain, he also reminded himself that Beth wasn’t sixteen anymore. She had to be about twenty-six, if not twenty-seven now.

That thought made him feel like less of a dirty, old, redneck asshole. But he was still thirteen or fourteen years older than her, give or take a few months. He should not be thinking about Beth Greene the way he was.

He almost left then, but decided against it, putting his inner turmoil to the side and sitting down, knowing there were more important things to be dealt with. His own issues could wait. So lost in thought, he didn’t hear Beth until her boots hit the bottom landing of the staircase. Daryl felt stuck to the chair when he saw her, skin pink from scrubbing and free of any blood or dirt. Her hair was still damp, hanging in wet tendrils. Her face was clean, pale and beautiful, like he always remembered her. But now that the dirt was gone, Daryl was able to get a better look at the scars on her face. The two cuts weren’t as bad as he thought, the thin lines healed better since they’d been stitched shut. The one on her forehead though, that one still made him sick to his stomach. Not because the scar was ugly, but because of what it stood for in his mind.

But now wasn’t the time to think about that.

He stood up, taking a step away from the chair as she finished walking down the stairs. They were an arm’s length apart, but Daryl felt miles away from her. He hated it.

“Mornin’.” He cursed himself for feeling so awkward around her. He was fairly certain she could pick up on his discomfort, because the smile she gave him was gentle and comforting.

“Good mornin’. What are you doin’ here?” Well, she didn’t waste any time. Straight to the point. That was something Beth didn’t used to do, but she had started becoming blunt when they were on the road together.

Wanted to see ya. “Was gonna take ya ta see Michonne.” Had to make sure ya weren’ a dream. “Figured ya didn’ know where yer headin’.” Missed ya so bad, girl.

Everything he wanted to say was left unsaid. There would be time to tell her later, if he ever did.

“Okay, thanks. Well, I’m ready now so we can go, if you’d like.” He just grunted and walked away, unable to face her anymore. He could hear her following him out the door, and they walked together in silence. Daryl could feel Beth’s gaze on him, could see her constantly looking at his face out of the corner of his eye. It took all his willpower to ignore it.

He knew if he looked at her right then and there, all the words he left unsaid would come pouring out.

And now wasn’t the time.


 

“Morning, you two. Thanks for coming.” Michonne greeted Beth and Daryl as soon as they walked into the council room. Beth recognized it as the place that they’d removed her mask. Looking at the floor, she didn’t see her mask anywhere, and her brow creased.

“I hid it.” Michonne states, drawing Beth’s attention to her. The younger woman didn’t ask where or why, just nodded in acceptance.

Looking around the room, Beth finally noticed that Henry and Lydia were both present, leaning against the wall across from her. Lydia did a double-take when she saw her, realizing that her mask was gone. She tilted her head when she made eye contact with Lydia, silently asking her if she was alright. When the teen confirmed that she was with a confused nod, Beth turned her attention back to Michonne. Not wanting to waste any more time, she spoke.

“You said I had to answer your questions today. So ask.” Michonne’s eyebrows raised at her bluntness, and she glanced over at Daryl, and he could only shrug, unsure of what to say. Giving Beth her full attention, she gestured to a rectangular table with chairs and the three of them sat down, Daryl beside Beth and across from Michonne. Henry and Lydia stayed where they were against the wall. Michonne thought to herself for a minute before clearing her throat and looking at Beth.

“Let’s start with the Whisperers. How many?” Beth had to think about it, doing some quick mental math.

“At least, two hundred. That doesn’t count the dead that follow us around.”  She saw no point in lying to them. Even if she wasn’t one of them anymore, she didn’t want them to be charging into battle, blind. They seemed to process the information, and it was Daryl who asked the next question.

“How long you been with ‘em?” Again with the mental math? She huffed and took a rough guess.

“About four years, give or take? We don’t really keep track of the days.” If either Michonne or Daryl were shocked by this, they hid it well. Michonne leaned on the tabled, crossing her arms on the surface.

“Daryl told me that they call you ‘Delta’,” She looked at him while she spoke, before staring at Beth again, “-what does it mean?”

It took all her willpower not to roll her eyes at the question. Didn’t they know anything about the Greek alphabet? She leaned back in her seat, folding her arms over her chest.

“It’s from the Greek alphabet. Fourth letter. Means I’m fourth in command.”

“Tha’ mean Beta was second?” Daryl questions.

“Yeah.”

“So who was third?”

“Gamma was third in command,” she stated, glancing at Lydia, “-but he’s dead now. When you captured Lydia, he was killed in the process. I’m sure as shit not complainin’ though, he was an asshole.” Daryl snorted at her statement.

“And Beta wasn’?” Beth narrowed her eyes at him.

“Beta respected authority. Gamma didn’t.” And that was all she would say on the matter. She knew the Whisperers seemed completely insane to them, but it had a structure to it. They just didn’t understand. She was pulled from her thoughts when Michonne spoke.

“Back to your position. You were fourth in command, you must’ve had your own duties?” Beth nodded in confirmation. “What does being ‘Delta’ entail?” She sighed, looking at the woodgrain on the tabletop while she answered.

“I had my own separate group. Usually about fifteen to twenty people. My job was to scout ahead of the rest, find new places to go, occasionally bring in new people…but no weak ones. The weak never last long around Alpha.” She didn’t bother to elaborate any further. She was sure they got the point of what she was saying. If you were weak, Alpha would kill you.

Simple as that.

Michonne cleared her throat again, looking at Beth.

“Beth, I know we’ve been separated for years,” she began, choosing her words carefully, “-but I came up with a plan last night. To defeat the Whisperers.” Beth raised a brow at her, waiting for her to continue. “But in order for this plan to work, I need you on our side.” Beth’s face became stoic, refusing to let her feelings show. She knew exactly what Michonne was going to suggest, as far as her ‘plan’ went, but she wanted no part of it.

“No.” Daryl’s head snapped in Beth’s direction, shocked by her immediate rejection without even hearing what Michonne had to say. Michonne heaved a sigh, rubbing her forehead.

“Beth, I understand you-” Beth didn’t bother to let her even say her piece.

“You don’t understand shit.” To say that the older woman looked shocked was an understatement. “Until last night, I’ve been dead to you for the last seven years. I ain’t blamin’ you for that, but you think just because we called each other ‘family’ at one point means I’ll just forget the last seven years of my life without all of you?” She looked back and forth from Daryl to Michonne, glaring at them both. “Not all of the Whisperers are bad people. We have families, small children, infants, elders.” She stood up, irritation radiating from her body. “Say I went along with your plan-which I’m assumin’ is to kill Alpha-say I go along with it, you get what you want, which is obviously a person on the inside. Alpha dies, you all win. What happens to all the people left without a leader?” She glared at Michonne. “What happens to them, Michonne? I’ll tell you what. They all die. Because they sure as shit won’t be welcomed in any of your communities.” She spat the words like they were vinegar in her mouth, her nostrils flaring.

The room was so silent, the tension weighing down the small space. Daryl could only watch in shock as Beth had raged, unsure what to say to calm her. He turned his head toward Michonne, but she just sat there, letting Beth yell at her. A few moments passed in tense silence, everybody staring at Beth.

Closing her eyes, she clenched a fist and leaned against the table for support, suddenly feeling overwhelmed.

“Either take me back to the cell and leave me there to rot, or give me my shit so I can leave.” She opened her eyes and stared at Michonne, her gaze unwavering, “Because we do not know each other, not anymore. So don’t sit there and ask shit of me, like we’re old friends and I owe you a favor. I owe you nothing.” And with that, Beth stormed out, slamming the door behind her.

Nobody moved. Nobody spoke. They all just stared at the door. It was Lydia who broke the silence, stepping over to the table where Michonne and Daryl still sat.

“She’s right.” They both stared at the teenager. “She’s right,” She says again, this time louder, “-I don’t know what exactly happened between you three, but it’s obvious you have a past together. Delta…she never spoke of her past, never mentioned anything about who she was or where she was from. I could tell it bothered her to think about it, so I never asked. I can tell she cares about you, especially you,” she directs that to Daryl, and he has to hide his surprise to her statement, disbelief clouding his brain, “-but Delta isn’t just gonna choose you over her people because of history.” Lydia looks down at the floor, rubbing her hand over her arm, trying to get her thoughts together.

“Was she right?” She asks Michonne this, and the dark-skinned woman gazes at her, confusion obvious, “Was Delta right about your plan? I mean, you didn’t get a chance to explain it, but she seemed pretty certain what it was you were gonna say…”

Michonne released a heavy breath, looking Lydia in the eye as she answered.

“Yes. She was right.” Lydia pursed her lips, breaking eye contact with Michonne and crossing her arms. “Is it true, about their being families and whatnot amongst your people?” Lydia looked at her like she was stupid.

“Of course it is. Delta wouldn’t lie about something like that.” Michonne seemed to consider this, looking over at Daryl, who met her eye and nodded.

“If Beth were to agree to our plan, we’d be willing to negotiate that some of the Whisperers, the innocent ones, are given a place to live. Whether it be a section of land or their choice of a community to reside in, that’s up to them,” Lydia looked more and more hopeful as Michonne spoke. “-but Beth has to agree to work for us.” The young girl nodded, looking determined.

“Let me talk to her, she’ll listen if it’s coming from me. No offense.” Michonne smirked, shaking her head.

“None taken.” Just before Lydia walked away, Michonne called her back for a moment. “Are you absolutely sure you want to do this though? I know Alpha is your Mother.” Lydia frowned, looking at Henry and then back to Michonne.

“Delta has been more of a Mother to me than Alpha ever was.” She explained, her stance confident. “So yes, I’m sure I want to do this.” Michonne smiled at the determined young girl.

“Alright.”


 

Beth had managed to find her way back to townhouse thirteen, storming inside and throwing the door shut. She paced around the living room, trying to calm herself down. She understood why Michonne would ask her to help them, she did. But Michonne needed to realize that Beth wasn’t part of their family anymore. She felt bad for Daryl, knowing she had lashed out a little bit. And he hadn’t necessarily done anything wrong, he was just there. Forcing herself to sit down, she collapsed onto the couch in a huff, resting her face in her palms, trying to put away the anger and irritation. Taking deep breaths, she slowly inhaled and exhaled the oxygen from her lungs.

A sudden knock on the door startled Beth from her stupor, and she glanced up in time to see the door crack open, Lydia peeking inside. Seeing the young girl, she instantly felt calm.

“What are you doing here?” She asked as she stood from the couch, watching Lydia as she walked inside.

“I came to talk to you, about Michonne’s plan.” Beth set her hands on her hips, waiting for Lydia to continue. “I think you should do it.” She didn’t bother hiding her bewildered expression, looking at the teen like she was crazy for even suggesting the idea.  “Before you say no, I talked to Michonne. I told her that you were right about our people.” That only made her more confused.

“Then you should know why my answer won’t change.” Lydia shook her head, and she grew silent.

“Michonne said they’d be willing to negotiate a section of land to the innocent people, or find them a place amongst any of the communities, it would be up to our people to decide.” Beth raised her eyebrows in surprise, but Lydia wasn’t finished yet. “But for that to happen, you have to agree to Michonne’s plan. I think you should do it, Delta.”

Now she was conflicted. She hadn’t wanted to go along with her plan because she knew how many innocent lives would be destroyed along the way, but if they were willing to negotiate…

Well, fuck. Things just got more complicated, and Beth felt the weight of the world on her shoulders.

“What about your Mom?” Lydia released a breath, looking down as she hugged her torso.

“Like I told them, you’ve been more of a Mother to me than Alpha. I’m on your side. You’re my family, Delta.” Beth’s eyes started to burn at Lydia’s declaration, and instead of responding, she stepped forward and pulled her into a hug. She had always considered Lydia to be her little sister, like Beth was to Maggie, but she had no idea that Lydia looked to her as a mother-figure. And it made her heart ache, in a good way. It also made the decision easier for her. She pulled away from Lydia, rubbing her arms in comfort, her lip quirking up in a small but determined smile.

“Okay.”

The grin she got in return would be worth all the hell she would be facing.


 

Daryl was surprised when Beth walked back into the council hall, Lydia trailing behind her. Her expression was determined, and that’s when he knew that Lydia had convinced her.

Beth was on their side again.

He was pulled from his thoughts when she began to speak, her voice clear and firm.

“I’ll do it, but only if you agree to help my people when this is all over.” Daryl still wasn’t sure how he felt about helping the Whisperers, but he had to trust that Beth was telling the truth, that they weren’t all bad.

“You have my word, and the word of the other communities, that there will be a place for your people.” Michonne confirmed, and that was all that needed to be said. Beth put her hands on her hips, her stance lazy, but confident. And there was something about this new, confident Beth that had Daryl’s heart stuttering in his chest.

The fuck?

“I’m gonna need my mask and knife back.” She says, shifting from foot to foot. “And there’s one other thing…” Beth trails off, hating that she had to ask this. She lifted her head to look at Daryl, then to Michonne, before settling her gaze back on him.

“I’m gonna need one of you to beat the shit outta me.”

If he thought it’d been silent from her earlier outburst, it was nothing compared to when she made that request.


“They were polite, at first.” Beth began, forcing herself to be as confident as she could manage. “They put me in a cell, but then moved me to a house. Gave me clean clothes, food, shelter.” She could tell that Alpha was unimpressed by what she was saying. “The politeness didn’t last though.”

“What happened?” Alpha asked again, her patience wearing thin.

“They questioned me, about our people,” She said, her voice soft, “-but I refused to answer any of their questions. That’s why I’m like this.” She gestured to her body, her one arm still wrapped around her middle, wincing as she tried to breathe.

In the end, it had been Henry that had hesitantly agreed to beat her up. Daryl and Michonne had flat-out refused, saying it was pointless and a stupid suggestion. Lydia had remained silent because she knew it was necessary, but that didn’t mean she had to like it. So, when Henry agreed, the others left the room, and Beth didn’t put up a fight as he hit her with his staff in a few different places, grunting in pain and fighting back a cry when he caught her in the ribs.

Fuck, he didn’t hold back.

She’d have to remember not to get on the kid’s bad side. He could clearly hold his own in a fight.

“They wound up throwing me back into the cell. There were guards, but they were stupid, never shut up. There’s more than one community, and apparently they’re having some festival in a few days.” She didn’t have to explain to Alpha what that meant, her leader knew.

There was an opening to attack.

“How did you escape?” This was the question Beth was the most nervous about, because it required some next-level bullshitting.

“Lydia snuck me out.” She could see Alpha’s eyes widen beneath her mask. “She gave me back my knife and helped me get out, but when I tried to convince her to come with me…” She sent a mental apology to Lydia for this, knowing it’d put a target on her back, “-she said if any of us came after her again, she’d tell them everything about us. Said she’d also kill any of our people that she came across, myself included.”

Beth knew what that would mean for Alpha. Their leader would have no choice but to disown her cub, and if ever they came across her, she’d probably be killed for betraying the pack.

“How many other communities?” Alpha backtracked, putting the topic of her daughter to the side for the time being.

“Four, as far as I can tell.” Beth’s body was protesting the longer she stood, but she continued to ignore it. “These communities…they like to pretend they’re strong. But, it’s obvious to me they’re the opposite.” Alpha looked intrigued, motivating Beth to keep going. “They live hoping that one day, the world will return to the way it was. They’re lying to themselves. They’re weak.” She didn’t know whether or not she believed her own words. She knew she had to lie to Alpha, tell her the fabricated story, but just how much of it was a lie?

“There’s no place for the weak in this world.” Alpha declared. And just like that, the discussion was over as quick as it had begun. Alpha walked closer to her, and Beth felt her entire body tense. “You did good, Delta. I must admit, I questioned your loyalty once upon a time, but you have proven yourself time and time again.”

Well, thank fuck for small miracles.

 “We must come up with a plan. We must show these people that The Whisperers are to be respected and feared.” Alpha was addressing all that had gathered around when Beth was sharing her experience. “Beta.” The large man stepped forward, looking down at Alpha, awaiting her orders. She gestured to Delta before speaking. “Take Delta, check her wounds. When you’re done, I want both of you to take a group and stake out these other communities, then report back to me.” Having said her piece, she spun on her heel and strode away, a pack of Whisperers following behind her. When she was gone, the rest of the crowd dispersed, leaving Beta and Delta pretty much alone.

He looked down at Delta, his expression a mask of indifference.

Come.” He commanded in a gruff whisper. Together, they slowly made their way to the stream, but as soon as they were out of sight of the others, Beta lifted Delta into his arms, able to move quicker. She almost gasped in shock at the gesture. As if sensing her confusion, he declared that she was moving too slowly, and she snorted while rolling her eyes at him.

Walking into the clearing, Beta set her down on her feet, Delta leaning her body against a tree trunk. Slowly, she sunk to the ground, stretching her legs out in front of her, still holding her side. Beta crouched down in front of her, reaching behind her head to untie her mask and pull it off. Next, he grabbed the hem of her shirt and lifted it over her head. Once the fabric was gone, he was able to get a good look at her.

Delta’s left eye was turning an ugly shade of purple, her lip was split open and still bleeding down her chin. He reached up and wiped the trail of blood away with his thumb. She had a bruise starting to form along her jaw and neck, more noticeable because of her pale skin. As his eyes trailed lower, Beta reached for the hand that was wrapped around her torso, pulling it away. She hissed in response, and he narrowed his eyes, looking for signs of anything broken or internal bleeding. Her ribcage was also bruising, the length and thickness of the swelling giving away what had hit her.

“Did that boy with the staff do this?” She could only nod, her eyes scrunched shut and fighting the pain. “Surprised he had it in him, he seemed so weak before.” Beth snorted, the lie already slipping off her tongue.

“Well, when you tell him everybody he loves will die because of his stupidity, that seems to piss him off.” Beta cracked a grin at her fiery attitude, before resuming his poking and prodding of her injuries. When he touched her stomach, leaving a trail of goosebumps along her cool skin, she hissed in pain. “Take it easy, fuck.”

Beta chuckled at her, ignoring the request and continuing to check her over.

“Nothing seems to be broken, just bruised to hell.”  Delta rolled her eyes at his observation.

“Thanks for stating the obvious.”

Beta watched Delta as she moved to stand up, careful of her ribs. They may not be broken, but that didn’t mean they didn’t hurt like a son of a bitch. Once on her feet, she reached for her shirt, pulling it back over her head, hissing at the movement. Beta stood up straight, glancing down at her. She was holding her mask in her hands, adjusting the laces in the back when Beta did something strange.

In an unheard-of show of affection, he lifted his hand to cup her uninjured cheek, angling her head up to look at him. She watched him, curious as to what he was doing. He studied her face, noticing the obvious exhaustion. He moved his hand to her chin, tilting her face to the side to examine the bruising again. When he was done, he moved his hand back to her cheek, tucking a piece of her hair behind her ear.

“I know you cared for Lydia.” Her eyes widened a fraction, before narrowing at him. “But you were wise to choose your people over your friend. For that, you have my respect.” He dipped his head down, brushing his lips against her forehead. Delta’s eyes remained wide, perplexed by this strange side of Beta that she’d never-before bared witness to. “So, know that when the time comes, for Lydia to be removed from this world,” He said, pulling away to look at her again, his whispers coming out as a rumble, “-I will take care of it. Don’t let her weakness be your undoing.” She didn’t have to ask what he meant by ‘take care of it’, she knew.

I’ll kill her so you don’t have to.

Having said his piece, Beta rotated his body, ready to head back the direction they had come from. He glanced over his shoulder at Delta, oblivious to the millions of thoughts going through her head.

“Let’s go.” He ordered, and she followed him back to the camp, a few paces behind, watching his back as they walked.

Beth hadn’t been very conflicted about betraying Alpha or Beta when she’d agreed to Michonne’s plan, but seeing this strange side of Beta had left her disoriented and unbalanced.

What the hell did it mean?

Chapter Text

Daryl didn’t waste any time after Beth had left Alexandria. They needed to keep moving. He spotted Connie and pulled her aside, explaining to her that it was time to go, and she nodded, pointing back to the townhouse where their stuff was, silently saying she’d start packing. Watching her walk away, he headed for the council hall, where he knew Michonne would be talking with Lydia, trying to learn everything she possibly could about the Whisperers. They heard him enter the building, and paused their conversation to glance up at him.

“We gotta get goin’.” He stated, gripping the strap of his crossbow that went over his chest. Lydia looked back at Michonne before standing up. “Tell Henry.” She acknowledged his request and walked out of the door that Daryl had just come in, leaving him and Michonne alone. Neither of them said anything for a minute, until Daryl got sick of the quiet.

“Sure s’a good idea?” He didn’t need to elaborate what he was asking, she knew what he was talking about.

“Best damn idea I’ve had in a long time.” He wondered just how much Michonne believed the words coming out of her own mouth.

“D’ya trust her?” Michonne contemplated her response.

“I don’t think we have much of a choice. Do you? Trust her, I mean.” Daryl looked into her eyes and pursed his lips.

“I wanna.” Michonne gave him a sympathetic smile, understanding in her eyes.

“You never talked about her, after Grady.” He huffed, tightening his grip on his crossbow.

“Wasn’ much ta say.” She tilted her head, doubt marring her features.

“I doubt that. I think you just don’t wanna talk about it, and that’s fine,” Michonne paused, studying Daryl’s face. “-but I know you’re worried about her, Daryl.” He was quick to deny it.

“I ain’t worried.” He growled, glaring at her through his bangs. Michonne rolled her eyes and crossed her arms, leaning back in her chair.

“I’ve known you too long, Daryl Dixon. I can smell your bullshit a mile away.” She smirked at him, but her expression quickly returned to being serious. “I understand why you’re worried, I am too. We thought she was dead, then we get her back, and we immediately sent her back out there…” Michonne was just being honest, but that didn’t mean he had to like it. “-but Beth can take care of herself, that’s obvious…it doesn’t make me any less worried about her, though.” Daryl looked down to the floor, unsure how to respond.

He was lying to Michonne and to himself. He was worrying, a lot. He knew Beth could take care of herself, that much had been proven to him by how she’d helped them on multiple occasions, before he’d known who she really was. But he just got her back, and the guilt was eating away in his gut for believing she was dead, when she was just as alive as him. How had she survived those first couple of years alone? In this world, especially. No, Daryl knew that she was strong, he’s always known that, but he didn’t realize just how strong she’d become.

He didn’t really feel up to discussing that with Michonne, though. So, he steered the conversation in another direction.

 “How we gonna explain this ta Carol?” He sighed, feeling stressed just thinking about the conversation they’d have to have with the Queen. Michonne could only shrug.

“I think our best bet is to just be honest with her and explain everything that’s happened.” Daryl just grunted, knowing that when it came to Carol, it was definitely easier to just tell her straight-up rather than try to keep something from her. She’d find out sooner or later anyways, it’d be stupid for them not to tell her about Beth. Hearing Michonne’s voice, he stared at her.

“I spoke with Judith this morning, before we met with Beth.” Daryl watched her, waiting for her to continue. “We talked about the different communities. I…I told her about Jocelyn.” His eyes grew wide, never thinking he’d see the day where Michonne would finally explain to Lil Asskicker the reason she was so cautious with Alexandria. “She shocked me though, because she can actually remember us going after them, remembers what happened,” he what she was referring to, he’d never make her say it out loud, “-and yet Judith still wants us to help the other communities. And I think…she’s right?” Michonne huffed out a breath and rubbed her eyes. “Beth literally coming back from the dead, it’s made me realize something. Most of us, we don’t get second chances at this life. If I died tomorrow, I’d have so many regrets, Daryl.” She looked up at him, knowing that he was hearing every word she was saying. “The choices I’ve made, the things I’ve done to protect us when it was necessary, I won’t regret that. But, preventing Alexandria from growing and becoming the best community it can possibly be, just because I’m scared? I don’t think I could live with that.”

“So wha’? Where ya goin’ wit’ this, Michonne?” Daryl didn’t intend for the words to sound so rough, he was honestly just confused as to what her point was. She regarded him before standing up and taking a step in his direction.

“Where we’re going, Daryl.” He raised an eyebrow. “Judith and I are going with you and the others to the Kingdom.” For the first time in what felt like ages, Daryl’s lip quirked into a small grin, and he patted Michonne on the shoulder, no words necessary. He still wasn’t entirely sure what she was trying to tell him in her little speech, but the fact that she was clearly trying to let go of the past was good news.

“Well, then we bes’ get movin’.” Michonne smiled at him, and together they left the council hall and headed for the gates.

As they walked, Daryl felt just a little bit lighter, knowing that Michonne was making peace with her demons. It meant that he might be able to do the same, in regards to Beth. Don’t misunderstand, he knew there was still a war ahead of them, but he had a feeling they’d be okay.

He had hope.

Interesting…how such a positive feeling can garner such a negative reaction.


 

Beth was making her way back to the rendezvous point that she and Beta had agreed upon hours earlier. She had been staking out one of the roads leading to Hilltop with an older woman named Laura, whom Beth couldn’t say she cared for. She was short-tempered, moody, and hated that Beth was in a position of power, despite their age difference and Laura’s supposed level of ‘maturity’.

Yeah, okay.

The road where they’d been watching for travelers was about an hour’s walk from the rendezvous point. And it took longer since they traveled slowly, with the dead surrounding them. They were almost to the location when Beth heard Laura hiss something at her.

“I’m not stupid, you know.” Beth barely acknowledged her, but Laura continued. “I saw you, that night in the camp.” Her blood turned to ice in her veins. She knew where the bitch was going with this, but she decided to try and play it off. She just kept walking, seeing the clearing up ahead.

“And just what did you see?” She whispered, not sparing Laura a glance, forcing herself to be calm. She heard her huff out a humorless laugh.

“You. Helping the boy escape with Lydia.” Beth looked over at her, face stoic. “I followed you, when those strangers took you with them out of camp. Heard you tell them to leave, tellin’ them you’d buy them some time. I heard it all.”  Beth had stopped walking, turning to fully-face Laura, and she could see her grinning like a maniac beneath her mask. Beth heaved a sigh, knowing very well what was about to happen.

“You sure about that?” Laura’s face faltered, only for a second, before she glared at Beth.

“I know what I saw,” she growled, taking a step towards Beth, “-and I should’ve told Alpha, but then you were gone, and I figured I didn’t need to, I could just take your place.” Beth looked around, the walkers were still ambling towards the field where they were supposed to meet the others.

“You couldn’t handle the responsibility of being Delta.” Beth declared, spinning on her heel and continuing in the direction of the field. She didn’t get very far though, because Laura yanked her back by the arm, causing Beth to hiss in protest, her body still extremely bruised and sore.

“You’re the one who can’t handle it! I warned Alpha, warned Beta, that they shouldn’t trust you or the bullshit that comes outta your mouth! But they damn-near killed me, because I was going behind your back and against the rules!” She knew, before Laura even said the words, what was going to happen next.

“So I’m challengin’ you. Right here, right now.” She hissed in Beth’s ear, pushing her away from her body and getting into a fighting stance. Beth just rolled her eyes, surprised it took this long for somebody to challenge her position since Gamma died. Looking at Laura now, she could easily pinpoint the weak spots in her stance, and Beth lazily pulled her knife out of the holster on her hip, twirling the blade in her fingers. She stepped forward, watching Laura tense and go for her own knife, an empty smile forming on her face.

“How pathetic,” Beth mumbled, cocking her head to the side as she advanced on Laura, “-that you actually believe you can win against me. You think you can beat me? Go ahead, I’ll give you the first shot.” Beth spread her arms out, but her stance was relaxed, if not a little bored. “But after that? I’ll have to kill you.” Laura’s gaze turned murderous, and she shouted before charging at Beth, knife raised. The scream caught her off-guard, and she actually stumbled when she sidestepped out of the way, giving Laura the chance to slash Beth’s right arm, making her grunt at the sudden pain. She took a quick glance at her bicep, and saw the blood seeping through her shirt.

Irritation spread throughout her body, and Beth dodged another one of Laura’s attacks, kicking her knee in as hard as she could, and the older woman let out a cry of pain as she dropped to her knees on the forest floor. Beth stepped behind her and grabbed the arm that was wielding the knife, using her weight to smash Laura’s torso onto the ground, the knife falling from her grip, and she then yanked her arm back as fast as she could, hearing the ‘pop’ of dislocation. She dropped her arm and kneeled over Laura’s back, putting her weight on her arms to hold her down, and Laura yelped at the weight on her injured arm. Beth took a firm hold on her skull, and started to smash her face into the ground, anger seeping from her pores. Laura hollered in pain, and Beth was fairly certain she’d broken her nose, but she didn’t care. Hearing footsteps, she looked over her shoulder, the walkers they’d been traveling in were drawn to the sounds of their fight and the smell of Beth’s blood. They were still a couple of yards away, and Beth had a morbid idea. She ripped the mask off of Laura and lifted her head, whispering into her ear.

“Hope you’ve said your prayers.” The look on Laura’s bloodied face was one of confusion, but it quickly changed to fear when she heard the groans and snarls of the dead approaching. She looked at Delta, pleading with her to change her mind and forgive her, but it fell on deaf ears.

Beth continued to hold her down until the walkers were within grabbing distance, then she jumped off of Laura and rolled out of their path. She heard Laura scream as the rotted bodies collapsed on top of her, ripping into her flesh. Her screams died off quickly, passing out from the pain or just from death, who knew.

Beth leapt to her feet quickly, noticing there were a few coming in her direction, smelling the blood running down her arm. Counting four, she was quick to take them down, stabbing each one in the eye socket or the temple and letting their bodies collapse.

Taking a step back, she watched as the rest of the walkers focused on the fresh meal laid out before them. If she was ten years younger, Beth would be disgusted by the scene, even more-so knowing she caused it. But Delta was numb.

“I win.”

Her shoulders sagged in exhaustion, but she tensed when she heard twigs snapping. Lifting her head, she relaxed some when she realized it was only Beta returning with three others trailing behind him, the walkers around them heading straight for the dead body on the ground.

Beta was silent as he approached the scene before him, tense and ready to fight if necessary. But whatever had occurred was clearly over now, that was obvious once his eyes found Delta. He stared at the bodies on the ground, then back at the girl covered in blood. Her eyes narrowed as she stood up straighter.

“You’re late.” Beta almost snorted, but instead he glanced back to the pile of the dead, feasting on something, or someone.

“What happened?” Delta exhaled slowly, sheathing her knife before answering him. She looked up at Beta, staring him directly in the eyes.

“I was challenged.”

No other explanation was needed. She had been challenged, and she had won. His eyes were drawn to her right hand, noticing the blood dripping from the tips of her fingers. She followed his gaze and looked down at her arm, as if just remembering she’d been hurt.

“Bitch might’ve nicked me a little.” Beta smirked at her, used to the way she played off her wounds. He lifted her arm, and Delta hardly flinched as he examined the cut. The knife had managed to rip her sleeve wide open, making it easier for him to see how bad the damage was.

“This will possibly need stitches.” He rumbled, noticing the cut ran almost the entire length of her upper arm. And while it wasn’t deep enough to be a problem, it still needed to be taken care of. Delta groaned in annoyance.

“Alpha’s gonna be pissed at me. And it wasn’t even worth the fucking trouble. Dumb bitch, dunno what she was thinking.” She huffed, watching as Beta ripped a strip of her shirt that was still semi-clean and wrapped it around her arm, wincing a little at the tightness. She was so annoyed right now, he could practically see the tension rolling off of her in waves. He always enjoyed it when she was fired up, made her more aggressive when they had their fun, and just the thought of their past endeavors had him growing stiff. He cast a quick glance over his shoulder at the others that were waiting for them, and nodded his head at them, silently telling them to start back without them.

He wanted a moment alone with Delta.

Beta watched them leave, pleased when they managed to get the dead to trail after them by whistling. Once they were out of sight he looked down at Delta.

She was so caught up in her thoughts that she was barely aware of what was going on around her, until Beta was pushing her backwards and she had to make a conscious step. Delta looked up at him, her blue eyes curious as to what he was doing, but he just continued to push her backwards until her back connected with tree bark. When she was leaning back against the tree, he reached behind her head for the laces to her mask, pulling them loose enough to lift it away. Beta would never say it out loud, to her or to himself, but he quite enjoyed her natural face, without the dead flesh she hid behind.

“What are you doing?” She questioned Beta, although deep in her gut she knew exactly what he was doing, knew exactly where this was headed. And for the first time, since they started this…whatever you’d call this thing, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to.

“You, in a moment.” He growled, his voice husky and low. She lifted her head and met his eyes, seeing the lust in them, and she didn’t know what to do. If she stopped him, he’d question her as to why, seeing how she’s never done so before, and she wasn’t sure she could come up with a plausible lie. Being injured was no excuse, they’ve had sex before when they both were damn-near crippled by injuries. He wouldn’t believe that for a minute. And her menstrual cycle? Well…let’s just say Beta is used to the sight of blood.

Fuck.

She let out a gasp when Beta lifted her into the air. Her legs automatically wrapped around his waist, with her good hand gripping his shoulder, and her other hand pressed against his chest. Beta dipped his head down, and his mouth claimed hers in a greedy kiss, swallowing the involuntary moan that escaped her throat. She could feel his grin in their kiss, and his hands squeezed her ass. She felt like her skin would catch fire from the heat radiating off his body, and it made her moan again.

Beth could’ve cursed her body for responding so readily to him, when her mind was indecisive. Did she want this? Instinctually, yes. But mentally? She wasn’t sure.

Beta moved his mouth along the side of her jaw that wasn’t bruised, biting onto her ear, causing shivers down her body. She was so dazed that she almost missed it when he spoke.

“Your mind wanders.” She forcefully exhaled a lungful of oxygen, shaking her head no, that her mind hadn’t wandered, but he didn’t believe her. “It does. Don’t worry, I can redirect your attentions.” With a speed she didn’t know he had, he forced his hand down her pants and in between her legs. His growl of approval when he discovered she was responding to his touch had her reeling. Her mind became muddled, and her earlier internal conflicts faded from her thoughts.

Beth supposed she wasn’t as conflicted as she originally believed.

She’d deal with the guilt later.


 

The sun was beginning to set when Beta and Delta wandered back into camp. Some people glanced up at them, but nobody said anything. It was no secret amongst the Whisperers that two of Alpha’s commanders had an…arrangement, so nobody questioned it when they came back to camp together.

Alpha spotted Beta’s large figure first, then noticed Delta walking alongside him. She wasn’t stupid, she knew why they had fallen behind the others. She had no problem with them using each other as stress relief, so long as it didn’t disrupt or distract them from their jobs.

Upon further inspection, Alpha noticed Delta’s right side had blood everywhere, and that her right arm was wrapped in a makeshift bandage. Narrowing her eyes, she stood up and made her way to her second and third in command. They both stood still when they saw Alpha coming towards them.

“I want answers.” She spoke directly to Delta, and the young woman gave her a serious expression.

“I was challenged.”

“By who?”

“Laura.” This wasn’t a surprise to Alpha, she knew Laura had objections to Delta’s rank, but she didn’t actually think the dumb woman had it in her to challenge her.

“And she’s dead.” This wasn’t a question, it was Alpha stating the obvious. Delta nodded, her gaze unwavering.

“Yes.” Delta didn’t elaborate further, knowing Alpha didn’t care about the details. She won, that was all that mattered. Alpha held out her hand and she gazed at her leader with a confused tilt of her head.

“Let me see your arm, Delta.” Delta hesitated for half a second before slowly lifting her injured arm, Alpha grabbing her elbow to hold it up. She took a step closer, unwrapping the bloodied bandage and dropping it to the ground. The cut was long, but it wasn’t deep.  Stitches probably weren’t necessary. Alpha looked at Delta’s face, watching for any signs of pain. Alpha was pleased by her lack of reaction to her arm, which she was certain must hurt. Delta was strong.

“I was going to take her to get it cleaned and stitched.” Beta murmured, and Alpha shook her head.

“Stitches aren’t necessary. I’ll take care of it, Beta.” Delta and Beta both were momentarily shocked when Alpha decided to clean her wound, but they quickly recovered when she continued speaking. “I need you to gather a few people and go back to the road leading to Hilltop. One of the scouts said they overheard some people getting ready to leave. When they do, I want you to kill them. Discreetly. Hide the bodies and whatever they have with them. I’ll be there when I hear word that the job is done.” Beta bowed his head, quickly taking his leave and heading further into camp. Alpha looked at Delta’s face, and they stared at each other for a few moments.

“Let’s go get this cleaned up.” Alpha declared with a wink of her eye.

What the hell? Was the entire camp on drugs or something? First Beta acting strange, now Alpha?

Beth was feeling more than a bit confused, but she quickly followed Alpha as she headed off in the direction of the stream, stopping to grab a first-aid kit while they walked. She walked slightly behind her, unsure why Alpha offered her assistance. There had to be an ulterior motive.

When they reached the stream, Alpha pointed her to a nearby tree root, telling her to sit down. She did so without asking questions, watching Alpha’s back as her leader knelt down by the stream, soaking a cloth in cold water. This was extremely out of character, so something had to be going on. Alpha didn’t just ‘help’ her people with an injury. She glanced towards the stream as Alpha turned around and strode towards her, acting as if she hadn’t been burning holes in her back.

“I plan on sneaking into that festival tomorrow.” Well, this was news to Beth.

“How?” She asked, curious as to what Alpha has planned. She bit back a hiss when Alpha started wiping away the blood from her arm.

“Never you mind how. I have a job for you.” She waited for Alpha to elaborate, but she just continued to wipe the blood from Beth’s arm. She tossed the cloth to the side and reached for the first-aid kit, popping the lid open. “There’s a barn, about two miles west. Have you seen it?” She confirmed that she had. “Tomorrow night, when the moon is at it’s peak, I want you to be there waiting with Beta and a couple others. You’ll know why soon enough. It’s time we stake a claim on our land, don’t you agree?” Beth could only nod. She was puzzled, what was Alpha planning? She wanted to ask her, but it was terribly unwise to question Alpha. She would take it as a challenge against her authority.

But what the hell did she mean, ‘stake a claim on our land’? The Whisperers didn’t have land, they were wanderers. They never stayed in one place for more than a couple weeks. Was it because of the approaching winter? Did Alpha want them to settle in for the time being? But why would she do that? They always traveled further south during the winter months. So what the hell was she going to do? Beth was drawn back to reality when Alpha finished wrapping a clean bandage around her arm, tying it in a tight knot so it’d stay put.

Alpha looked up at her, her face serene and free of emotion, like always. “All done.” She said, before standing back up and glancing down at Beth. “When we get back to camp, get some rest. And then, when you wake up, the fun will begin.” She had a confident look in her eyes, and for some reason that terrified Beth.

She still had no idea what was going to happen, but she had a horrible feeling in her gut. She needed to warn Daryl, or Michonne. But she couldn’t just leave camp, not without a good reason, and she had none.

She was well and truly fucked, completely and utterly on her own this time.

Son of a bitch.

Chapter Text

Murphy’s Law is fairly common knowledge; whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

Fuck, did things ever fucking go wrong.

The festival had started off strong, people were laughing and bonding, overall merry. And when Henry had walked up to her and Ezekiel with a young girl at his side, Carol felt a wave of relief wash over her at seeing her son. The girl, whose name was Lydia, was the daughter of the leader of the Whisperers; the ones who had killed Jesus.

Things seemed to go downhill from there fairly quick.

Daryl and Michonne had asked to speak to her in private before they met with the other community leaders, saying they had something important to tell her. And out of all the things they could’ve possibly said, the words “Beth is alive” weren’t even a consideration.

To say she was shocked would be a massive understatement, and while she wanted to know all the details of how she was alive and where she was at, if not with them, she also knew that there wasn’t enough time to discuss it right then and there. They had to go to the meeting between leaders.

When the leaders came to an agreement to send a small group of soldiers to Hilltop to ensure its security against the Whisperers, Carol volunteered to go along, leaving Ezekiel and Henry behind to enjoy the fair. Together with Daryl, Michonne, the group of newcomers and a couple of the Kingdom’s strongest people they left for the Hilltop.

They hadn’t gotten very far when they were intercepted by the Highwaymen.

Ozzy and his second, Alek, were clearing the roads when they found one of Hilltop’s caravans on the side of the road, a couple of dead bodies left behind. Daryl said there were tracks they could follow, and they agreed to split up. Carol, Daryl, Michonne, and Yumiko were to follow the tracks and see if anybody had survived, while the rest headed straight for Hilltop. They had been following the path for hours when they were surrounded by walkers, but they managed to defend themselves. It didn’t matter though, because they showed up, surrounding them at all angles. Daryl was the first to drop his weapons, the rest followed.

When Alpha stepped through the crowd and walked straight up to Daryl, a horrible feeling started to build in her gut.

Either they were going to die, or somebody else already had.


 

Alpha had left a couple of hours ago, leaving Beth in charge of the camp. Beta was still gone as well. She was supposed to be meeting him at that barn at midnight, but she was seriously debating leaving early so she could try and figure out what the hell Alpha was planning.

Beth looked up at the black sky, the full moon nowhere near its peak. She turned to observe the Whisperers that had remained in the camp, taking note that all of their strongest people had gone with either Alpha or Beta…which meant that she could leave camp soon, virtually unnoticed, if she really wanted.

Ambling her way over to her pack, she knelt down on the forest floor, digging through her meagre possessions for her sharpening stone. Finding the stone, she twisted around to lean against the tree where her bag was sitting, unsheathing her knife and dragging it across the rough surface. The sound of her blade dragging across the rock made her calm, which some may find strange or morbid, but not to her. Besides, she needed to kill a little time before she left for the barn. Focusing on the sound of her knife scraping against the stone, she allowed her mind to wander.

Beth had been baffled by Beta’s strange show of affection the other day. Where had that come from? He wasn’t somebody who was ruled by his emotions, not even close. Emotions were weakness, he lived and breathed that philosophy. So why? What the hell has possessed him to treat her with such tenderness, as one might do for a lover? Sure, they had their fun, relieved their stress…but Beth wouldn’t consider them lovers.

For some strange reason, thinking of the word ‘lover’ brought a strange image to her mind, one that had her face warming up and making her grateful for wearing her mask. She pictured angel wings on worn black leather, dirt and sweat-covered arms, shaggy brown hair and eyes so blue they reminded her of the ocean.

What in the fuck?

She mentally reprimanded herself for picturing Daryl. They’d never been ‘lovers’, not even close. Beth wasn’t even sure if they’d ever been friends. She knew she’d driven him crazy when they were out on their own, separated from the rest of their family. Looking back on it, she didn’t blame him for screaming at her the way he had at the shack. He was right, she just hadn’t wanted to admit it. But she also knew that she’d made a point to him, about not hiding his feelings and that, despite everything, there were still good people. And that memory of them, drinking moonshine and burning down the shack, was something that had kept her going over the years.

It’s funny, when she thinks about those days’ past. Doing the math in her head, Beth realizes she’s been with the Whisperers longer than she’d been with her family, since the world went to shit. And yet, she felt no real loyalty to them. Not to Beta, and certainly not to Alpha. She was willing to admit that she’d learned a lot from them both, and they had made her stronger, teaching her not to be ruled by her emotions like so many were. But Alpha let her own people do horrible things to one another, things that Beth had almost fallen victim to on numerous occasions, when she’d first joined them. Things that she’d saved Lydia from as often as she could, even if it meant taking a beating. If she was being honest with herself, not that many of her people were worth saving. The good ones never lasted long, not with Alpha.

So no, she didn’t feel a strong sense of loyalty to the Whisperers, not when she knew she was always expendable in Alpha’s eyes. Reminding herself of that made her betrayal easier. It also helped knowing that Lydia would most likely not be caught in the crossfires.

Snapping out of her reverie, Beth looked around, noticing that people were settling in for the night, some already asleep. She took a gander at the sky, and seeing the moon was steadily creeping higher, she moved to stand. Tossing her stone back in her bag, she sheathed her knife at her hip and put her bag on her back. Taking one last glance over the camp, she made sure nobody was looking her way as she slipped away, because she wasn’t supposed to be going to the barn alone. She knew Alpha wanted her to wait until Beta sent somebody for her, but she couldn’t. She had to get to the barn before either of them, had to know what Alpha was planning and if there was anything she could do to stop it.

Sneaking out was easy, it wasn’t the first time Beth had done it. And if anybody were to get in her way…well, let’s just say nobody had better get in her way. She crept quickly out of the forest, past the small herd of walkers they kept in the field, sticking to the tree line so that she wasn’t spotted by the Whisperers that ambled amongst the dead. Once she had put a sufficient amount of distance between her and the camp, she started running. She knew it was probably a waste of energy, but years on the road had made her endurance higher, even with the injuries she’d sustained over the past week. She’s been through worse, and she needed to get to the barn as quickly as she could. Two miles could take forever if she walked, especially if she walked with the dead. If she ran, she figured she could get there in less than thirty minutes, which would give her plenty of time to survey the situation before Alpha or Beta arrived.

There were no sounds in the dead of night, nothing but Beth’s hard breathing and the sound of her feet as she ran across roads and through bunches of trees. She didn’t bother with killing any walkers that she came across, instead choosing to dodge them as they reached out for her, her fast movements giving away that she wasn’t one of them. She didn’t have the time to spare.

When she was about five minutes away from the barn, she slowed some, moving at a fast pace but no longer running. She was almost there, she could see the dirt road leading to the barn. Taking to the trees on either side, she started to move much more carefully, thinking through every step and avoiding making any loud noises. She could see the barn, there was a faint light peaking through the gaps in the wood, and she could see somebody standing guard at the door. Knowing Alpha, there was most likely one guard on either side of the barn, and then another two or three inside. So what’s her next move? She needed to get in there, but she had a feeling they wouldn’t let her in without Alpha or Beta present, despite her position. She would probably have to fight her way in…because they were animals.

And animals don’t negotiate.

She snuck around to the back of the barn, taking care to be unseen. She was right, there was somebody guarding the back. By the size and build of the person, she guessed it was a man. She found it ironic, in that moment, that despite the length of time she’d been a Whisperer, she hardly knew any of her own people.

Not like it’d matter for much longer.

She watched the man as he paced the back of the barn, waiting until he turned his back before she crept from her hiding place, tiptoeing behind him and wrapping her good arm around his throat and using her bad one to unclip her knife. Stabbing him in the head, she let his weight fall against her, slowly lowering his body to the ground, trying to make as little sound as possible. She paused for a moment, listening to see if anybody had heard her, but she was met with silence. Breathing slowly, she made her way into to the trees and headed back for the road. She wanted the person guarding the front to see her and announce her presence to whoever was inside.

Mustering up all the confidence she possibly could, Beth trekked up the dirt road in silence. The person guarding the door, another man, tilted his head and murmured against the wood, confirming her original theory; there was somebody inside. She continued to walk, appearing uninterested as to whatever was going on. When she was a couple feet away, the man held up his hand for her to stop, and she did so willingly.

“You’re early. Alpha and Beta aren’t here yet.” She figured they weren’t by the lack of soldiers outside.

“Got bored of waiting. Figured I’d make my way over on my own.” She lied, standing tall and trying to look indifferent, as if this was just another chore to her. The man hesitated, unsure what to do in the presence of Delta.

“Alpha said nobody is be allowed inside until she or Beta arrive. That includes you, Delta.” The man grunted, trying to sound stern, as if he had any power of position over her. Beth snorted and crossed her arms, staring him down.

“Oh does it now? See, last I checked, I’m third in command.”  She hissed, taking a step forward. “I’m fairly certain that makes me exempt of her orders, unless specified otherwise. Now, move aside.” The man’s hands clenched into fists at his sides, his body ridged.

“I’m sorry, Delta. But I can’t let you inside unless Alpha or Beta are present.” Beth huffed out an irritated breath, putting her hands on her hips, her fingers inching towards the blade at her hip.

“Then I’m sorry as well.” The man tilted his head in confusion as she took a lazy step closer, easily within arm’s reach.

“Sorry for what?” She looked at him, a hollow smile on her face.

“This.” As soon as she’d spoken, Beth had her knife in her hand and embedded in his throat, blood immediately spraying out and onto her mask and shirt. Whatever the man was about to say was lost in the gargles of him choking on his own blood. She let his body drop with a loud thud, wanting whoever was inside to hear what was going on.

“Jack? What’s goin’ on out there?” She heard a woman call out, and Beth immediately ducked back behind the corner of the barn, peeking her head around the corner when she heard movement. She could hear the sound of the wooden barn door scraping against the dirt, and a feminine gasp. Glancing around the corner, she saw a woman kneel down next to Jack, before calling out to whoever was inside to get out there. She watched as two more Whisperers came out, both coming to a halt when they noticed the dead body.

“Find whoever did this, they can’t have gotten far.” The woman ordered, and Beth watched as the two people behind her, a male and a female, split up to search. She yanked her head back when one of the women started heading in her direction. Casting a quick glance towards the sky, she knew she’d have to be quick about this, she only had a short while before Alpha was due to arrive. Knife raised in front of her with the blade facing out, Beth pushed her back up against the barn and waited for one moment, then another, then one more before she caught sight of the woman coming around the corner. Not giving her a chance to react to her presence, she swung her arm out and stabbed her in the eye socket, the sound making her want to gag, but she pushed it down.

Letting her body fall, Beth yanked the blade from the dead woman’s skull and turned, racing towards the back of the barn, going around the next corner and hiding in the shadows. She didn’t have to hide long, because the man came around the other corner, and he noticed her instantaneously. He reacted to her quicker than the woman had, and managed to land a hard punch to her gut, momentarily knocking her to the ground. But she didn’t let him keep the advantage for long. Pulling a small switchblade that she kept hidden in her boot, she stabbed him in the calf, causing him to cry out in pain and fall back against the barn wall. Scrambling to her feet as quickly as she could, Beth wasted no time in slitting his throat and shoving his body into the dirt. She was heaving, but she didn’t have time to rest.

One to go.

Beth didn’t bother trying to be stealthy anymore, it was obvious she was there. She stomped her way back around to the front of the barn and peered inside the open door. She couldn’t see very well in the soft light, but there were large forms on the ground, and by the constant shifting of them she assumed they were people. An angry shout made her pull her head away and spin around, just barely reacting in-time to avoid a knife descending towards her head. Beth charged the last woman, wrapping her arms around her center and pushing her with all her might, using her weight as a momentum. The woman dropped her weapon in shock as she was thrown to the ground, Beth collapsing on top of her. She wrapped her hands around her throat, squeezing as hard as she could. The bitch was putting up one hell of a fight though, and she kept clawing at Beth’s face, grabbing at her mask and actually managing to rip it from her face.

The shock of losing her mask made Beth loosen her grip unintentionally, and the woman heaved forward, pushing Beth back and sitting on her stomach, punching her in the face. Beth grunted in pain, but tried her hardest to feel around on the ground for something to use as a weapon. When her fingers brushed up against what felt like a rock, she wrapped her hand around it and held it tightly. She acted as though she had passed out, and the woman stopped punching her, believing she had won.

That was a mistake.

With her guard down enough for her to make a move, Beth used what little strength she had left to hurl the rock at the woman’s skull, nailing her directly in the temple. She collapsed to the side, giving her to chance to flip over on top of her, and Beth continued to smash the rock into her skull, ignoring the fact that she was obviously dead and that she was just making a bloody mess. When she finally had enough, she dropped the rock and hesitantly stood, legs shaking from overuse. Her hair was covered in dirt and sweat, her clothes ruined from the blood of the ones she had killed. She could feel blood running from her nose, and she reached a shaky hand to her face to wipe it away. Her lungs felt like they may burst, and she was so exhausted…but she wasn’t done, not yet.

Slowly, Beth limped towards the open barn door, picking up her knife and bag that she had dropped earlier on her way. Stepping into the barn, she found a second lantern hanging from a beam near the door and lit it up with a candle that was sitting close by, needing more light to see what was inside. What she saw made her freeze, shocked at the sight before her.

There were roughly a dozen men and women kneeling on the ground, all with their hands tied behind their backs and mouths gagged. A few of them looked up in fear when they heard her enter, their eyes wide at her disheveled appearance. One face in particular had her trying to calm the panic she felt welling up inside her.

“Henry?” She gasped, and the blonde teen’s head shot up, looking at her in surprise. Not wanting to waste any more time than she already had, Beth quickly limped over to him, her knife grasped firmly in her palm. She knelt down behind him, slicing the rope from his wrists and untying the gag from his mouth. Once he was free, she offered him the switchblade from her boot and they each moved to another person.

“What happened?” She asked, not looking at him while she worked on releasing a younger woman with short brown hair. Henry glanced at her before working on the ropes binding a man’s wrists.

“Alpha. She snuck into the Kingdom,” He started, coughing to clear his throat, voice sore from lack of use, “-her and a couple others, they just grabbed people at random when nobody was looking.” Beth couldn’t say she was surprised, but what she didn’t understand was why Alpha had kidnapped these people?

She didn’t have time to dwell on the unknown though, she had to get as many of these people out as she could. Her and Henry worked quickly, slicing through the binds on the others and letting them remove their own gags. When everybody in the room was free, she pushed through the crowd and lifted the wood beam that latched the back door shut, tossing the hunk of wood to the ground with a grunt. Turning back around, she faced the people, most whose names she didn’t even know, Henry being the exception. The boy in question made his way towards her.

“You all need to run,” Henry’s brow furrowed, confusion etched into his features, “-now. I’m still not entirely sure what Alpha had planned for all of you, but I guarantee it involved your deaths. So, unless you feel like dying tonight, you all need to go and warn the rest of your people.” Their hesitation to leave irritated Beth. Didn’t they realize they’d probably die if they tried to be heroes? Shit, releasing them and killing a bunch of her own people has pretty much guaranteed her own death.

“You-you’re coming back, right?” Henry questioned, not wanting to leave her behind. Especially considering how many times she’d saved his ass. Beth looked at him, empathy on her face.

“I’ll try.” He didn’t look like he believed her, but she didn’t really care. They needed to leave, and it needed to be now. “Time for you to go, before Alpha-”

“-before Alpha what?” Beth felt dread pool in her gut, the hair on the nape of her neck standing on end.

Fuck.

The small crowd of people whipped around to the front entrance of the barn, and Beth could see Alpha standing there, her mask off, Beta flanking her side.

Well, she’s officially dead.

“Run!” She shouts, shoving open the back door and pushing Henry through, the crowd of people not far behind him. She could only hope they can make it back, because now she had to make a distraction. Turning to face Alpha, she could see how enraged she was, and Beth knew she might not make it out of this alive. She watched as Alpha shook her head before throwing a glance over her shoulder at a couple of Whisperers, ordering them to go and collect as many runaways as they could.

“You did a bad thing, Delta.” Alpha whispered, staring at her, a murderous look on her face. She didn’t need to look at Beta to know his was the same. Beth glared at her, deciding if she was going to die, she may as well put up a fight.

“None of those people deserved whatever the fuck you had planned for them!” She was done whispering, done being Alpha’s bitch. It was time to make a stand. Alpha gave a humorless laugh, stepping in Beth’s direction with her hands clasped behind her back.

“And who are you to make that sort of decision?” Alpha questioned, her tone mocking. “I wonder, how long have you been conspiring with the enemy? What made you decide being weak was better than being strong?” She finished her sentence in a growl, but Beth refused to back down.

“I’m not being weak, Alpha. I’m opening my eyes and seeing things for what they are.” She stated, her voice unwavering despite her shaking palms.

“And just what do you see, Delta?” Beth met her eye before speaking.

“I see a monster,” She declared, her voice agitated, “-I see somebody so obsessed with power they’ll kill anybody that dares to disagree. You think you’re strong, Alpha, but you’re not. You say I’m the weak one for going against you, but I’m not the one who drove my daughter away with my insane beliefs, am I? It’s all bullshit!” She knew mentioning Lydia would get Alpha fired up, and she was right. The woman marched over to her and backhanded Beth across the face. She didn’t even react to the hit; her entire body numb from her injuries by this point. But instead of hitting her again or killing her, Alpha turned and strode away, back towards Beta.

Beth decided if she was going to even attempt an escape, now would be her chance. She was thankful they were in a barn, because barns had a lot of dry hay, and there were a couple candles and lanterns lit. Scanning the space around her, she noticed a lantern hanging from a beam in the center of the barn, between her and the rest of the Whisperers. If she could knock it down, it’d set the hay all over the ground ablaze.

“One more thing, Alpha,” Beth spoke, her voice loud enough to draw her ex-leader’s attention, “-my name is not Delta. It’s Beth.” And in one quick motion, Beth threw her knife directly at the lantern, effectively knocking it off the hook and shattering to the ground.

The small flame spread quickly, thanks to the remaining oil that had spilled from the lamp, burning on the hay surrounding them. Her distraction appeared to work, and she took the opportunity to spin on her heel and haul ass out of the back door, pushing her body to the limit as she ran hard and fast, not caring what direction she went. She just needed to get as far away as she could.

Beth knew she was being pursued when she heard heavy footsteps pounding behind her, and her heart leapt into her throat. She cried out in pain when a large body collided with hers, knocking her down into a bed of leaves. She knew who had tackled her, the size of the body alone was a give-away.

“You betrayed your people,” Beta hissed into her ear, his large hands wrapping around her throat, “-you betrayed me. You’re the same as Lydia. You’re weak.” He growled, tightening his grip on her throat. Beth gagged and gasped for air, trying in vain to pry Beta’s hands from her throat. She knew it was useless, she didn’t have a weapon or anything to even make an attempt to stop him. Beta was going to kill her, right here and now. And she was ready to accept that, with only one regret; not getting the chance to see her family once more.

She was on the brink of losing consciousness when there was a yell from somewhere around them, and suddenly Beta’s weight was off her small frame and she could breathe again. She rolled onto her hands and knees, coughing and gasping for air and trying to get her eyes to focus on what was happening nearby. Looking to the side, she could see that it was Henry who had somehow managed to get Beta off of her. But she could also see that Henry didn’t stand a chance against Beta in a fight.

As quick as she could, Beth pulled herself to her feet and only wobbled for a second, thankfully. She immediately charged at Beta’s back and leapt onto him, wrapping her legs around his torso and her arms around his throat, squeezing as much as she could. Beta grabbed onto her arms and started to pull them away from his neck, but Beth refused to let go that easily. Doing something that would probably make her throw up later, Beth leaned her head forward and bit down on the side of Beta’s throat, and he shouted in pain, his movements becoming more erratic as he tried to remove her from his back. She kept biting him, clenching her jaw so tight that the warm, coppery taste of blood began to fill her mouth; and she was fairly certain it wasn’t hers.

Beta had clearly had enough, and he walked backwards, smashing Beth into a tree, causing her to gasp at the pain shooting up her spine and let go of him, giving him the opportunity to step away. But he fell to his knees, disoriented from the blood loss and from being knocked into by Henry, and the blonde-haired boy grabbed a fallen branch and smashed it into Beta’s head, managing to knock him out cold.

Dropping the branch, Henry turned to Beth and crouched down beside her. She looked like shit, and she seemed like she was having a hard time breathing.

“L-leave…” She heaved, trying to tell him to go without her, but the stubborn kid wouldn’t listen.

“Like hell I’m leaving you here! Lydia would never forgive me, or you for that matter.” She snorted at his declaration, knowing he was probably right. “Alright come on, put your arm around my shoulders, we’re getting out of here.” She groaned in pain when he slowly helped her stand, her body protesting every movement. Before Henry could start guiding her away, she stopped him for a moment. She turned and limped over to Beta’s unconscious form, kneeling down beside his face.

“I’m…n-not…weak.” She seethed, knowing he couldn’t hear a word she was saying but not giving a single shit otherwise. Forcing herself back up, she beckoned Henry over to help her, grateful to him for saving her life. Together, they started to make their way in the direction of the Kingdom, or so Beth was assuming. She was having a difficult time staying awake.

“C’mon Beth, stay awake!” Henry grunted at her, heaving more of her weight on his side, basically dragging her at this point. As much as she’d like to do what he says and keep her eyes open, it was just too difficult. She stumbled over her own two feet, collapsing into the mud, dragging Henry down with her.

“G-go…” She rasped, her throat sore from being choked, “-get h-help…” Even as she mumbled, Henry was shaking his head.

“No fucking way! We either go together, or not at all. So show me why they called you Delta and fucking move!” Hearing him call her that fucking name did something to her insides, and she forced herself up, damn-near screaming in pain as she got to her feet; Henry lifting her good arm back around his shoulders. Every step felt like a fresh stab in her ribs, and she was heaving and gasping as they walked, but she wouldn’t quit. Not when she was so close.

She would see her family one more time, even if it fucking killed her.


 

The sun was just creeping up over the horizon as Daryl was making his way off of Alpha’s land. The crazy bitch had shown him her herd of walkers, and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen so many of them. She had told him where the borders were to her land, told him exactly where he would be able to find it, saying he’d know where the boundary lay. She also warned him that if they crossed into her land again, she’d send her herd to all of the communities. He was so lost in thought, that he almost missed Carol jogging in his direction, her arms immediately wrapping around him in a hug. He was grateful that they’d all been released, and he was still shocked that Alpha had agreed to leave Lydia alone, basically disowning her.

Looking up, he noticed Michonne and Yumiko standing and waiting for him and Carol, and when they were all together, they continued their trek towards the border, ready to head for home.

They were walking through a small section of forest when Michonne gasped, drawing their attention to a lone figure passed out against a tree trunk.

“Siddiq?!” Michonne shouted before rushing over to him, collapsing on to her knees and shaking him. Daryl took in his appearance; he was covered in dirt and his head was bleeding, but other than that he seemed alright. Thankfully.

“Mi…chonne…” Siddiq groaned, blinking his eyes and slowly lifting his head to look up at the, “-they…were at the…f-fair.” Daryl’s blood ran cold. There was only one ‘they’ that he could be referring to; the fucking Whisperers.

“What’d they do?” Daryl grunted, dropping to one knee to inspect Siddiq’s head wound, but the man was having a hard time speaking. He was struggling for breath, and it was obvious he was on the verge of becoming hysterical.

“Siddiq, calm down. You’re safe now.” Michonne made an attempt to comfort him, but Siddiq shook his head slowly, his eyes welling up with tears. Struggling to find the words, he just pointed behind him, up the hill. They all looked in the direction of his finger, and past the trees they could see a large clearing up ahead. Michonne grabbed one of Siddiq’s arms, looping it over her shoulders and helping him to stand, Yumiko grabbing his other one and doing the same. Supporting most of his weight, the small group made their way up the hill, pushing branches out of their way.

Daryl had a gut feeling that whatever Siddiq was trying to show them wouldn’t be good, and when they reached the clearing, he could see five stakes embedded in the ground around ten feet apart from each other. This was obviously Alpha’s border, and while it normally wouldn’t be something to be concerned about, it was what was on top of the stakes that had fear gnawing away at his insides.

Because there were five heads stabbed on the stakes.

As if in a daze, they all made their way closer to the border, so they could identify who was on each stake. Daryl’s heart was thundering in his chest and his palms were clammy, terrified of who he would see.

“Oh my God…” Yumiko gasped, her free hand covering her mouth in fear and disgust at the sight before them. Michonne and Carol both had similar expressions on their faces, and Daryl felt his eyes burning as he made a mental note of each new grave they’d have to make.

Tammy.

D.J.

Frankie.

Rodney.

Tara.

He subconsciously registered the sound of a sob coming from somewhere beside him, but his attention was on the stakes, his eyes locked on Tara’s decapitated head. The urge to vomit hit him when he heard the groans coming from each one of them. They had reanimated, meaning they’d been dead for hours, and nobody had a clue.

“Mom!” A male voice shouted, and all their heads snapped around, spotting Henry entering the clearing, a beaten and bloodied person on his side. It only took Daryl a moment to realize who it was, and his heart dropped into his stomach.

Beth?

He wasted no time running over to them, Carol hot on his heels. He took a quick look at Henry, and stared at him with concern, his expression portraying his silent question; are you okay? Henry nodded that he was, but turned his head towards Beth, her body sagging against him, hardly able to hold herself up. Carol had reached them and asked if he was alright; Henry reassuring his mother that he’d live. Daryl ignored them, instead taking a small step closer to Beth.

As if sensing his presence, she lifted her head, and his heart wept at the damage done to her face. He could only imagine how the rest of her body looked. He was drawn from his thoughts when he heard her voice.

“Daryl?” She asked, unsure if he was really standing in front of her or if her exhaustion was causing her to hallucinate. She made an attempt to step away from Henry and towards Daryl, but her legs gave out and she fell forward. Daryl was quick to catch her, slowing her body down and helping her to rest on her knees. She reached her hands up to his face, touching his hair and tracing his features. She gave him the best smile she possibly could, which wasn’t much considering the swelling on her face.

“I found you.” She murmured, grasping his neck with both of her small hands and pulling their faces closer; resting her forehead against his, her eyelids fluttering shut. “I swore to myself I’d see you again.” Beth opened her eyes to look at him again, and he could see the unshed tears that she was fighting back. He also noticed when her eyes were drawn behind him, quickly realizing what she was seeing, obvious by the horror etched on her face. “No…” She whimpered, her lower lip quivering, “-I…I got them out.” Her admission shocked him, and Daryl could see out of the corner of his eye that Carol and the others were watching her now as well.

“NO!” She shouted, trying to crawl around Daryl. He didn’t allow her to get far; rotating his body to wrap his arms around Beth’s torso and shoulders, holding her back. He felt her body shake as she started to openly sob in front of them, his own eyes starting to water once more. “I got them out! I fucking told them to run! They were supposed to make it back…nobody else was supposed to die…” She cried, her tears steadily dripping off her cheeks.

Daryl had tuned out everybody around them, his attention focused solely on Beth as she wept, shedding tears for people she didn’t even know. That was how he knew; Beth Greene was still there. Despite it all, Beth had retained her humanity, even if she didn’t realize it.

“I tried, Daryl.” She mumbled, her words a bit garbled from her crying. “I tried to do the right thing, and they still died.” Beth turned in his embrace and hid her face in his chest, her tears soaking his jacket. But he didn’t care. Daryl tightened his arms around her, resting his chin on top of her head, glancing up at Carol and Henry; at Michonne, Siddiq, and Yumiko. They all had devastated expressions on their faces. Daryl could only assume his was similar in-fashion.

“Hush now, girl.” He spoke in Beth’s ear, holding her as close as he could. “We’re gonna be a’right.” Even as he said the words, he wasn’t sure he believed them. But Daryl needed to be strong in that moment, for the both of them. He repeated himself, sounding a little more confident than he had the first time.

“We’re gonna be a’right.” He muttered, low enough so only she could hear.

“I promise.”

Chapter Text

Beth Greene was goddamn fucking lucky to be alive.

She wound up passing out from exhaustion, and Daryl had carried her back to the Kingdom, only to load a caravan and immediately turn back around and leave, their next destination being Alexandria. As soon as they had gotten there and through the gates, he and Siddiq headed directly for the infirmary, Beth still unconscious in Daryl’s arms. Siddiq had made him wait outside while he examined all of her injuries.

He had no idea exactly how much time had passed, but the sun had gone down and the moon was high in the sky before Siddiq reopened the door, allowing Daryl back in to see Beth. He stopped him though, before he could cross the threshold. Siddiq wanted him to be prepared for what he was about to see.

“She has three broken ribs; her spinal cord is severely bruised, I’m honestly shocked she didn’t fracture it. The left side of her face…she has a cracked cheekbone and her eye is still swollen, there’s bruising too. She also seems to be recovering from a concussion, although I believe that was from a different altercation. Not to mention numerous cuts; a large laceration on her right arm and swelling on her ankle…there’s a good chance that it’s broken but I can’t be certain without an x-ray. She’s pretty much covered in bruises.” Daryl was glaring at the ground, his anger growing the longer Siddiq talked.

“She gon’ live?” The black-haired man sighed and rubbed his forehead, his own injuries aching.

“She will, yes. But only if she takes it easy for at least six to eight weeks. Those ribs need time to heal; if she’s not careful she could puncture one of her lungs. If that happens…” He didn’t bother finishing the thought, the message was clear to Daryl; Beth needed time to heal and recover before she was able to do much of anything. He clapped a hand on Siddiq’s shoulder and grunted his thanks, walking away from him and into the infirmary.

He found Beth asleep on a cot, a flickering candle on the small table beside her casting a soft glow against her features. Siddiq had wiped the blood and grime from her face and arms, most likely so that none of her cuts got infected. Her right arm was wrapped in a clean strip of gauze, and there were small butterfly bandages all over her body. She had long, dark, ugly bruises around her neck…she’d been choked, he realized. Just knowing that made the rage bubble up inside him, but he forced it down. There was nothing he could do about it right now. He heard Siddiq step up beside him, and he glanced at him before returning his attention back to Beth’s beaten form.

“I gave her a sedative, just so she can get a good night’s rest. When she wakes up, she’s going to be hurting a lot. There’s medicinal herbs beside her bed, just mix it in some water and have her drink it, should help with the pain.” Daryl merely nodded his thanks, unable to speak or look away from Beth. Siddiq watched him for a moment; it was obvious to him that he cared for the blonde, probably more than he even realized himself.

“She saved us, back in that barn. She did. She killed all of the guards on her own, then she gave us a chance to escape when Alpha and the rest of the Whisperers showed up. It’s not her fault they didn’t make it. Make sure she knows that.” Siddiq didn’t need to elaborate on who ‘they’ were, Daryl knew. The ones they’d lost.

Siddiq bid Daryl goodnight, heading out of the room and towards the staircase; his own quarters being upstairs. He listened to him going up the staircase, waiting for the sound of his door shutting before stepping closer to Beth. There was a chair against the wall, and Daryl carried it over to her bedside, collapsing on to the seat. He was completely drained. The last 48 hours have been mentally and physically exhausting, and all he wanted was to get a couple hours of sleep. He wasn’t totally certain he’d be able to though, at least not until Beth opened her eyes.

Scooting the chair closer to the side of the bed, Daryl double checked the room around him, as if somebody might jump out of the shadows, even though he knew he was alone with her. Slowly and with some hesitancy, he leaned forward and rested his arms on the mattress, clasping one of Beth’s hands between his own. He watched her face, watched her chest as she breathed in and out. Sighing to himself, he closed his eyes and held her hand close to his forehead.

“Bes’ wake up, girl.” He rumbled, turning his head to look at her again. “Jus’ gotcha back. So ya bes’ open yer eyes soon.” Ignoring the lump in his throat, Daryl laid her hand back down and then laid his head on top of his arms, the exhaustion overwhelming. He’d just close his eyes for a few minutes, then he’d wake up and watch over her some more.

Just a few minutes…


 

Beth was jerked from her sleep by a large clatter. Blinking her eyes, she could see that it was now dark outside. Sitting up slowly, she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and listened for whatever had made the noise that woke her up. That’s when she heard it.

Voices.

Heart thundering behind her ribs, she bolted out of Daryl’s bunk, immediately going for her weapons bag. She moved as silently as possible, reaching into the bag and pulling out the handgun, tucking it in the back of her pants before reaching back in and pulling out the rifle and a couple shells. Slipping on her boots, she stuck her knife in its usual hiding place and went to stand. She didn’t leave the cell, instead she listened closely, trying to determine what the voices were saying.

“Man, I’m tellin’ ya! I saw somebody walk in here earlier, straight through all of ‘em freaks outside.” A nasally voice said, that Beth was certain belonged to a man. She heard somebody coughing, and she didn’t like how close they sounded.

“I think yer just full of shit, Art. Why the fuck would somebody fight their way through all that shit out there? Ain’t nothin’ useful in here.” She could hear somebody agreeing with whoever had just spoke, and Beth counted at least three separate voices, all male.

Fuck.

“Nah, they didn’t fight! Just walked right through ‘em! The freaks didn’t even notice. Hell, I almost missed ‘em, but they moved too much like the livin’ to be dead.” Beth mentally cursed herself, annoyed that it hadn’t even occurred to her that somebody might’ve seen her. She should’ve waited until dark. Stupid, stupid mistake. She heard the voices grow closer, and she peeked out of the cell, seeing flashlights shining into the cell block. Instantly she was thankful she had locked herself in earlier that day, taking the only other set of keys with her.

Now she just had to figure out what her next move would be.

“This place is locked up, Dude.” The third voice said, shaking the cellblock door that Beth had locked. “Whoever Art claims to have seen is long gone now.” Good, let them think there was nobody here, maybe they would leave and she’d have an opportunity to escape. But luck was not on her side tonight.

“Well block off the exit, we’ll camp here for the night.” The one with the deep voice, Dude, had decided. She figured he must be the one in charge. Cursing softly under her breath, Beth stepped backwards into Daryl’s old cell, trying to decide her best course of action. She had a few options.

The first, she waits until they fall asleep, then attempts to sneak around them and out the door, letting them live to see another day and giving her the chance to escape. But this plan was severely flawed. Too many things could go wrong. One of them could be on watch while the others sleep, or they could wake up when she’s trying to sneak out, and she didn’t even want to think about what they’d do to her. She couldn’t trust any strangers, not when she was on her own and had no help.

The next plan was to sneak out of the cellblock and through the other door, but that meant she’d be going into the tombs. And she had no idea if the rest of the prison was overrun, plus it was the middle of the night, so visibility would be pretty much zero. She did have a flashlight, but did she really want to waste the battery power? Not like she’d have much of a choice, considering her only other option was to fight her way out, and Beth wasn’t sure she was strong enough to kill three men.

She figured her best chance would be the tombs, but she didn’t like her odds. She sat down on the floor in the middle of the cell, listening to the men talk and joke with one another. She knew there was a slim chance that they weren’t bad people, but after her experience at Grady, she wasn’t willing to take the risk. So she sat there, rifle across her lap, cocked and ready to fire if she needed it.

Beth wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but when she heard snores coming from the other room, she guessed now was as good a time as any to get out. Slowly, she crawled towards her bags, feeling around and making sure she had everything she’d need. When she stood up, she reached up to Daryl’s top bunk and grabbed a couple more of his shirts, telling herself she’d need the comfort they provided, tossing them into one of her bags and zipping it shut as quietly as she could. Lifting her bags, she put the pack on her back and the duffel bag over her shoulder. She had put the rifle away, in favor of her axe, but kept the handgun tucked into the back of her jeans. Just in case.

Taking a few deep breaths, in through her nose and out through her mouth, Beth tiptoed out of the cell, crossing the perch and slowly going down the metal stairs, being careful not to make too much noise. The last thing she wanted was a confrontation with these strangers. Reaching the bottom floor, she turned to face the common room for the cellblock, where the men were snoring, completely unaware of her presence. As curious as she was to go and see how many of them there actually were and if they were all sleeping, she knew it wasn’t worth the risk. Forcing herself to turn back towards the other door to the cellblock. She put a hand to her side, triple checking that the key ring was still hanging off her belt loop. Unclipping the ring, she walked slowly to the door, listening for anything on the other side before finding the correct key to unlock it. She turned it, flinching when the lock made an audible click, glancing over her shoulder to make sure nobody had heard her.

Not wanting to waste anymore time, she pulled the door open, knowing there was no way to avoid the creak and groan as it opened. She slipped through the crack, pulling it shut behind her and making sure she didn’t forget the keys. Digging her flashlight out, she clicked it on and held it up in front of her face, axe held tightly in her other hand. She began to make her way down the dark corridors, listening closely for any groans or snarls that would indicate a walker was nearby.

Seemed she still had a little luck on her side, because the corridor was clear of any dead. Now moving at a quick pace, she followed the spray-painted arrow on the walls, knowing eventually she’d find a way out. Her heart was still pounding away in her chest, steady as a drum. Hair plastered to her sweat-covered neck; she recognized the area surrounding her as the library corridor. The library had windows. They used to be barred, but Rick and Daryl had made it a point to remove them off a couple, in case of an emergency and it was the only way out. She was thankful they had thought that far ahead, because it would now serve as her escape route.

Pushing open the doors to the library, she shone her flashlight around the room, relieved it was empty. Closing the door behind her, she pushed a heavy bookshelf across the carpet and in front of the door, barricading herself in the room. She strode towards the nearest window that was free of bars and dropped her bags on the ground. Glancing around the room, she noticed a table a few feet away. She was going to need it; the window was just a little too high for her to climb out. Walking over to the table, she pushed it as hard as she could, heaving a little as it went. Damn thing was heavier than it looked. That was good though, it meant it’d be able to hold her weight.

Once the table was directly beneath the window, she hefted her bags back onto her person and climbed on top of the surface. The window was an old-fashioned crank one, and she used her axe to cut the screen open, ripping it out of the frame after she’d cranked the glass pane open as far as it would go. Pulling herself up, she looked outside at the ground below, taking note of the random walkers that were nearest to her. The closest bunch were at least ten yards away, so she’d have to be quick when she hit the ground. Hefting her bags through the window, she tried to drop them as softly as she could, wanting to draw as little attention to herself as possible. Pulling herself up the rest of the way, she angled her torso out of the window, gripping the framing above her. She lifted both her legs through and sat on the brick edging on the outer part, taking a deep breath before counting to three. When she reached three, Beth pushed her body away from the ledge, letting her weight collapse beneath her. She managed to avoid injuring either of her ankles, which was a relief. She skinned her knees, but she’d live. It was time to move though, because the walkers had noticed her when she jumped from the window and were ambling in her direction.

Standing up, she collected her bags and gripped her axe and flashlight, striking down any walkers that got too close. She trekked across the small field in the back of the prison, heading directly for the small hole in the fence that had been haphazardly patched. Ducking through the metal wire, she finally allowed herself to relax, but only for a moment.

She got to live another day, as did the guys inside the prison. As to who was luckier in that sense, Beth didn’t know.

She supposed anybody who got that chance was blessed, or as blessed as you could be today.


 

The first thing Beth noticed as she drifted into consciousness was the pain. Everything hurt, her entire body felt like it was broken and put back together with Elmer’s glue. She groaned softly as she forced her eyes open, taking in the bright rays of sunlight that filled the room.

The second thing she noticed was that her left hand was stuck firmly in somebody else’s grasp. Turning her head, she spotted a mop of dark-brown hair on top of tan arms, and her heart stuttered.

“Daryl?” She rasped, her throat dry from lack-of use. Daryl must’ve sensed her waking, because his head shot up at a surprising speed. He rubbed his eyes, still leaning his elbows on the mattress before glancing at Beth’s face. He did a double-take when he realized she must have been the reason he woke up.

“Beth.” The way he said her name gave her chills, and not the bad kind. She gave him a weak smile, every muscle in her face protesting. She went to speak, but instead started coughing, her throat feeling worse than sandpaper. Daryl stood, reaching for the glass of water by her bed and holding it to her lips. She took a couple glugs, wanting to down the entire glass.

“Easy, girl.” He commanded, his voice soft. Grabbing a pillow off another bed, he helped her sit up some and stuck the pillow behind her head, propping her body up more. She winced as she moved, her ribs hurting like hell. Daryl seemed to notice as well, because he was reaching for some dried plants that were on the table beside her. “Siddiq lef’ some medicine fer ya. Said ya’d be hurtin’ whenev’r ya woke up.” He was mostly mumbling to himself, but she heard everything he was saying. She watched as he dropped the powder, which she now knew was medicinal herbs, into the glass of water and held it to her lips again. She took the glass from him this time though, wanting to do it herself. She plugged her nose and downed the remaining water, not wanting to taste the bitterness more than necessary.

“Thanks.” She murmured, her voice a bit hoarse. Daryl just nodded in response, moving to sit back down beside her. She studied him for a moment, unsure what to say. He beat her to it, though.

“Wha’ happened?” She tried to take a deep breath, but her ribs prevented it. Closing her eyes, she recalled the events that happened at the barn and prior.

“Alpha happened.” She began, trying to organize her thoughts. “She said she had a job for me, wanted me at the barn to help Beta with something. Said some shit about ‘stakin’ a claim on our land’…I didn’t understand what she meant until I saw the stakes in the ground, didn’t even realize what she had planned for all of your people that were in that fuckin’ barn…” Beth blinked her eyes, trying to fight off the tears, “-I was too fuckin’ stupid to realize it then, even though it was so obvious.” Her voice cracked, and Daryl felt his heart crack some under the weight of the guilt that he could see her carrying. “I knew she would probably kill them, but I thought she’d try and negotiate their release like she did with Lydia. Guess that just shows how fuckin’ naïve I’ve been.” She growled, more to herself than to Daryl. She was so angry with herself, that was obvious.

“S’not yer fault, Beth.” She snorted in disagreement, but he pressed on. “S’not. Not even close. Ya saved ‘em, even if they didn’ all get away. Ya did yer bes’, girl.” Daryl knew he sucked at comforting others, but with Beth he felt like he had to at least try. She’d just had the absolute shit kicked out of her, and she knew she hadn’t managed to save everybody. The guilt was probably eating her alive.

“My best wasn’t good enough.” She mumbled, looking away from Daryl. She felt so horrible. This was all her fault. Those people had died because of her failure.

“Beth, knock it off.” Daryl growled, glaring at her through his bangs. She snapped her head in his direction, eyes wide at hostility. “It ain’ yer fault. None of it. So stop blamin’ yerself fer shit ya can’t control.” She had no idea how to respond to that, the words were escaping her. The tears she’d fought so hard to prevent started to fall from her eyes.

“I’m sorry.” She whispered, her lip quivering. “I’m so sorry, Daryl.” Beth had no clue what exactly she was apologizing for. Whether it was because of the people that had died, or the fact that she had done everything she could and still failed, she didn’t know. Her mind was all muddled and her entire existence was pained.

Daryl gripped her hand tight, offering her what little comfort he could. He knew she was going to need time to heal from this, physically and emotionally. All he could do right now was be there for her and let her have moments like this; where she could cry and feel the emotions she’s been pushing away for who-knows how long. Neither one decided to mention the strange show of affection that Beth had expressed when she saw him in the field, how she had grabbed him so close that Daryl thought, only for a moment, that she was going to kiss him.

Wouldn’t that have been a mess to deal with.

The silence that filled the room was broken when the door burst open, and they both turned at the sound of footsteps, seeing Lydia rushing into the room with Henry close behind. Her eyes immediately found Beth’s, and she rushed over to her side.

“I heard what happened! Are you okay?” She breathed, standing on the other side of Beth and putting her hands on her face, checking every mark on her face. Her brow scrunched together when she saw the blonde wince in pain from the jerking motions. “Delta?” She questioned when Beth didn’t answer right away.

Beth internally cringed at the name, no longer appreciating what it once stood for.

“Beth.” Lydia gave her a confused look, and she began to elaborate. “Call me Beth. I’m not Delta, not anymore.” The younger girl gave her a small smile, nodding her head in acceptance. Lydia squeezed her free hand and spoke.

“Okay, Beth.”

Henry, who had been standing off to the side, finally moved closer, limping as he went. Clearing his throat, he approached Daryl.

“My Mom and Dad are looking for you, Michonne too. I told them I’d find you.” Daryl raised his head to look at the boy, sighing as he moved to stand up, his muscles stiff from the lack of movement. Beth turned to look at him, a slight frown on her face.

“I’ll be righ’ back.” She moved to protest, not wanting to be left out of whatever was going on, but Daryl beat her to it. “When I ge’ back, let ya know everythin’ they say. I promise.” Huffing in annoyance, Beth accepted that she’d have to stay behind, trusting Daryl to keep her informed. Her and Lydia watched him leave with Henry, waiting until they heard the door close before facing each other. Lydia’s face was rigid, and Beth could probably guess what she was going to say.

“What did my Mother do?” She asked, although her tone left little room for question, she wanted to know everything. Beth released a small sigh, sinking down farther into the bed. She was already exhausted, and she hadn’t been awake for more than twenty minutes. But she would fight the urge to sleep long enough to explain things to Lydia. She owed the girl that much.

“Alpha’s losin’ it, Lydia.” She hissed, her face serious. “She snuck into the festival and kidnapped a bunch of people. I disobeyed her orders and went to the barn, you know the one,” Lydia dipped her head in confirmation, and Beth continued, “-and there were a couple guards outside, plus a few more inside. They’re the reason I look like this-for the most part. I killed them, and when I got inside, there were people bound and gagged, Henry included.” Lydia’s nostrils flared hearing Henry’s name, and the rage she felt was barely containable. Alpha knew what Henry meant to her, she wasn’t stupid. He was taken on purpose, the others may have been at random, but he sure as shit was not.

“I untied him and then we got the rest unbound together…but Alpha and Beta showed up with more of the Whisperers. I told them all to run and tried to distract them and give myself a chance to escape too.” Reliving the memories again made her nostrils burn and her eyes well with tears, but she willed it away. “Beta followed me, tackled me to the ground and almost killed me, he was choking me so hard. Henry saved my life. We got away together.” Beth debated on whether or not to include the small altercation she’d had with Alpha right before she ran, even though she knew Lydia would probably want to know what was said between them.

“What happened to Beta? I thought he was already dead?” She asked suddenly, bringing Beth from her thoughts.

“You know Beta. You seriously believed falling down an elevator shaft would kill him?” Beth gave the teen a dubious expression, to which the girl rolled her eyes and sighed. “He’s not dead. Henry did manage to knock him out though. And I may have taken a chunk out of his neck.” Lydia gave her a bewildered expression, and Beth could only shrug, unsure how to explain that she had bit him as hard as she could. It was a strange decision on her part, and one she would prefer to never have to make again.

“So you got there, let everybody out, but they didn’t all get away.” She wasn’t asking, leading Beth to assume that Henry must have informed her of what happened when they reached Alpha’s boundary. She didn’t bother answering, there wasn’t a point. Lydia knew people had died, and confirming what she already knew wouldn’t change anything. Wouldn’t change the fact that she could’ve done better, could’ve saved them all if she had been quicker. “It’s not your fault, just so you know.” She didn’t reply, not in the mood to have this conversation. Instead, she asked Lydia to help her lay back down, fatigue quickly taking over. She hissed in pain trying to hold her weight up while Lydia pulled the extra pillow out from behind her. She put her hands on Beth’s back and helped her to lay down, being careful of her injuries.

When she was as comfortable as she could be, given the situation, Lydia walked around to the chair beside her bed. Beth was mildly relieved that the medicine Daryl had given her seemed to be working, but she was extremely tired now and she didn’t think she could fight it much longer. Tilting her head in Lydia’s direction, she gave her a regretful smile.

“Sorry, I don’t think I can stay awake.” Lydia snorted and rolled her eyes, a grin on her face. Scooting the chair closer, she reached up and held Beth’s hand, and Beth squeezed her palm in response.

“I’m really glad you’re okay, Beth.” She gave the young girl a sleepy smile, her eyelids fluttering as she tried to look at her and reply, but Lydia just shook her head. “Get some sleep, I’ll let Daryl know that you’re resting.” Beth barely even nodded, letting her head roll back to face the ceiling.

“Love you, kid.” She mumbled, her eyes closing. She just managed to catch what Lydia said before sleep claimed her.

“Love you too.”

And she was back in the darkness of slumber.