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Open Wounds

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When he woke and found himself still captive in the windowless dirty cell, he wasn't surprised. He wasn't anything. Negan made damn sure of that. A pungent, metallic scent assaulted his senses. It was the all too familiar smell of blood and decay; of a dead animal, of the dead walking around, of him. He was dying, and he couldn't help but feel a little glad that soon it would all be over.

They tried to treat his injuries, but Daryl wouldn't let them. All he knew was that they wanted him alive for some reason, and he'd be damned if he helped them in any way. He didn't even tell them he was infected with the disease, that when he dies he'll turn and take as many as he can with him when he does. He doesn't really want to die, but locked up in here slowly bleeding to death is the least he deserves for getting Glenn murdered and leaving Maggie a widow and their child fatherless.

Time no longer has meaning here. He'd managed to escape three times, it was daylight twice, and night the other. For all he knew he escaped on the same day, or different days over the course of several weeks. The last attempt resulted in the threat of Negan killing another member of his family to punish him. So Daryl stopped. He stopped fighting; he stopped caring, he rebuilt his walls around him and waited for the inevitable end.

"On your feet, boy…" echoed a voice around him. He froze, that voice didn't belong here – it belonged to his past.

Daryl forced his eyes open, peering out from beneath his hair to see his old man standing before him – a beer in one hand, his belt in the other. He once thought a beating from his old man was rough, but Negan has far surpassed his father in terms of abuse and degradation. Something Daryl had previously thought impossible.

"I said on your feet…" he commanded again, whipping the belt against the ground. Daryl sat up, resting his back against the cold concrete wall. Funny how suddenly Daryl no longer feared his father, how weak and truly pathetic he seemed in light of Negan.

"You ain't real – ya can't hurt me…"

"I didn't raise you to be this weak! Get on your damn feet, boy…"

Daryl actually laughed, then spit blood at his father's feet. "Ya didn' raise me at all…"

"Yea, your worthless mother and brother did that – no wonder you're so pathetic."

Daryl rubbed at his eyes, wincing at the pain of the bruises and cuts that still bled. He wasn't broken, not really. Being this near to death, he still didn't consider it defeat. Negan wanted something, and he wanted it from Daryl. Information, an inside man, Daryl couldn't be sure, but what they saw as a broken spirit was Daryl's own stubbornness, refusing to cooperate with the people who murdered his friends so ruthlessly – even if it cost him his life in the end – this wasn't defeat.

"Oh, little brother, yer a sad sight…" Daryl's eyes snapped open, glaring at his brother. Their father was gone, and Merle stood shaking his head in disappointment. Maybe he had already died and this was actually hell. "First you lost me, than that pretty little songbird, then you got that Chinaman killed…"

"I told ya…he's Korean."

"He was," Merle laughed.

"Shut the fuck up!" he growled rising up on his hands and knees.

"That's right little brother, get angry – wake the fuck up and get a move on 'fore you get someone else killed." All at once Daryl's anger left him, deflating back to the ground.

"They'll kill them if I try. I gotta protect the ones left…" he curled into the corner, pulling his knees to his chest and closing his eyes as if that would make his brother stop.

"How can ya even live with yerself? Ya let blondie get in your head, mess you up. You let that whipped piece of shit steal your crossbow and kill the kind Doctor lady. You should just stay on the ground – bleed out the last of your miserable life."

"Her name's Beth."

Beth… Like saying her name conjured her spirit before him. It wasn't the first time he'd seen her or heard her sing since he'd been locked up here. But unlike his father and brother, her presence brought him comfort. He couldn't fight her, even if he wanted to. She didn't have the scars on her face, wearing what he last saw her in – the clothes she got at the golf club.

"I missed ya…" he whispered, feeling a small smile pull at his dry and cracking lips.

"Told ya you would." She smiled so bright it lit up his dark cell, the same way she'd once lit up his whole world.

"I remember." He relaxed, letting his memories of her wash over him, watching as she sang her song about a struggling man. He'd never heard it before, but he listened until he lost consciousness.