From the Embers
( A follow up to From the Ashes )
"Daryl, maybe you should sit down?" Maggie suggested, adjusting Hershel more comfortably in her lap, as he squirmed against her, like restless toddlers did. Her voice tense and strained, like Daryl's nerves, as he paced the floorboards beneath his feet thin.
Glenn pushed off of the porch rail he was leaning against, and opened his arms, "C'mon buddy, wanna go see if Aunt Tara has anymore of those peppermint candies?" He asked, giving Maggie a knowing look as he scooped their son up and heaved him up on his shoulders.
Hershel giggled, jet black hair and large bright eyes, innocently unaware of the severity of the situation unfolding behind the scenes, and for a brief moment Daryl envied that innocence. An innocence he wondered if he had ever had.
"I can take him," Enid offered, giving Carl's hand a squeeze as she popped up from her chair. "Carl?" She asked, reaching for Hershel's pudgy little hand, as Glenn gently lowered him back to the ground.
"No, I'm good," Carl answered, keeping his eyes hidden beneath the wide brim of Rick's sheriff hat. "I'm gonna stay."
Daryl didn't have to see Carl's eyes to know what was there ...what he was thinking about, having lost his own mother to this same scenario years ago. They were all thinking it, though no one said it. Never mind that circumstances were different, and that Beth was being operated on by an actual physician with medical tools and not in some dark and dank prison boiler room with only Carl's dirty knife and a herd of Walker's clawing at the door.
But it was there -hanging over them all like some menacing dark cloud, sapping the happiness out of what should have been one of the most joyous days of Daryl's life. And it was shitty for him to think such things, when he should be hopeful, like Beth would want ...but every stroke of the minute hand felt like a knife in his chest.
Like Beth's cries of pain, as contraction after contraction tore through her tiny frame, and he was powerless to do anything but stand there like an idiot and hold her hand, trying to be supportive. Women were meant for birthin' babies, Carol said so, and Beth was strong, dammit she was so strong and brave and beautiful, bearin' down through all that pain and pushin' for hours and hours until she was white as a sheet and sweat soaked, and then suddenly there was blood, there was so much blood ...
Put it away.
The seconds ticked by, and Daryl pushed impatient hands through his hair, sparing a glance over at Rick, who looked like shit ran over twice, Michonne lovingly rubbing his back from where she was perched behind him. Of course Rick was sick with worry too -not just because he loved the Greene girls as if they were his own blood, but for the same reasons that Carl felt the need to wait this out. Haunting memories of the love he'd lost, things left unsaid ... And lucky for Rick, he'd found that kind of love again with Michonne.
It would not be so, for Daryl. God forbid if something happened to Beth ... Having gone almost his entire adult life and only ever feeling that way about one person -he knew Beth was it for him, and he'd love her and only her until he drew his very last breath.
Wouldn't kill ya to have a little faith.
"Daryl sit," It was no longer a suggestion, and Maggie's stern tone left no room for argument.
Begrudgingly, Daryl moved to take the seat beside her as the wail of a newborn shattered the otherwise nerve wracking silence. They all stood simultaneously, Daryl ready to bust down the infirmary door, as Glenn placed a calming hand on his shoulder.
Carol emerged a few minutes later, clutching a wriggling bundle of wrinkled pink flesh and newness, "Congratulations Pookie," she beamed proudly up at Daryl, "it's a girl."
Daryl felt the air rush out of his lungs like a deflated balloon, as the baby protested loudly, her little fists swinging out to slice the air in frustration. "It's a Dixon," he mumbled, taking his feisty daughter -holy shit, his daughter, from Carol's outstretched arms.
Daryl was oblivious as everyone gathered around him to get a glimpse of the newest member of Team Family, his undivided attention on her and only her. Perfect. There was no other way to describe her. From the matted brown tufts of hair on the top of her head right down to her wrinkly little toes, and Daryl was instantly smitten.
"Been waitin' on ya fer a long time, Lil' Bit," Daryl cooed, pushing his index finger into one of her fists, ceasing her protests momentarily, as she blinked her curious eyes up at him. Blue like Beth's. "Beth!" Daryl cried, suddenly frantic. "Can I -"
"In a few minutes," Carol nodded. "Doctor Anderson is still stitching her up."
"But she's -"
"Fine," Denise interrupted them both as she stepped out the infirmary door with a bottle of formula. "But she can't breastfeed for a bit because of the pain medication, so why don't you feed your daughter?"
Daryl could only nod, feeling a bit overwhelmed, as he took the bottle and brought it to his daughter's little suckling lips, flooded with memories of when he'd fed Lil' Asskicker her first meal, too. Lil' Asskicker, and now, Lil' Bit. She latched on immediately, slurping greedily while everyone watched, arguing over who was going to get to hold her first.
Naturally, it was Aunt Maggie who struck her claim, scooping the baby from Daryl's arms as soon as Denise returned to give him the okay. He stumbled behind her, trying to ignore the copious amounts of Beth's blood that littered the infirmary floor as she led him to one of the beds in the far corner with the privacy curtains -like where Noah and Sasha had been recovering when they first arrived in Alexandria -so, so long ago.
Pale. She was so pale, but Beth smiled up at him, love and pride shinning in her wide blue eyes, as Daryl dropped to his knees beside the bed and folded her small hand in both of his. Dragging it to his mouth, he kissed her knuckles as she threaded her fingers through his.
"Beth, God dammit ..." Daryl choked out, his voice thick with emotion as he fought back the tears that were threatening to fall. "I was so sca-"
"Shhh," Beth hushed him, reaching to brush the hair back from his eyes. "Oh ye of little faith. I'm sorry I gave you such a fright, but your daughter is just as stubborn as you apparently."
"She's beautiful," Daryl gushed, letting his tears fall freely now. "She's so perfect Beth, an' ya did so good," he rambled, his thoughts flying through his head so fast he could barely keep up with them.
"I know," Beth nodded, giving his hand a squeeze. "I got to hold her while Denise was cutting the cord."
"Everyone's passin' her 'round now. They're all eager ta see ya-"
"I wanted to see you first," Beth squeezed his hand again. "You looked so terrified when Denise shoved you out the door, and I was so worried about-"
"Shhh," it was Daryl's turn to hush her, as he smoothed the damp hair from her forehead. Beth would be worried about him while she was fightin' for her own life, and he wanted to scold her, shake her and kiss her, and not necessarily in that order. "I love you, Greene."
"I know," Beth smiled. "And I love you too, but I'm never goin' through that again," she laughed, then whimpered, grimacing from the pain, as if to emphasize her point.
"Fair enough," Daryl nodded, leaning over to lightly brush his lips against hers. She would get no arguments from him. If he could, Daryl would wrap her in blankets and put her in a damn bubble -ye of little faith be damned! And his daughter, too. Both of them.
"She needs a name," Beth said, pulling Daryl from his thoughts. "Got any suggestions?"
Daryl shrugged. "Guess Merle's off tha table?"
Beth snorted. "Yeah, that would be a safe bet."
Daryl rubbed his thumbs against the hair on his chin, still holding onto Beth's little hand, as he wracked his brain for a suggestion. "I got nothin'," he finally admitted, coming up empty after several minutes of thought. "We'll just call 'er Lil' Bit."
Her eyelids growing heavy, Beth squeezed his hand again. "Can you go get her? I'm not sure how much longer I can keep my eyes open, and I just wanna look at her for awhile." She paused a moment to yawn, then continued, "Have a little faith, we'll think of something eventually."
Wouldn't kill ya to have a little faith.
Oh ye of little faith.
Have a little faith.
"How 'bout Faith?" Daryl asked, suddenly.
Beth tilted her head, as she considered it. "Hmm ...Faith Annette Dixon ... I suppose I could live with that."
"She approves," Denise interrupted them, shoving the curtain aside, little Faith in her arms. "Hope you don't mind that I chased everyone away. Told them to go home and eat something, come back in a few hours so you can get some rest. And you do need rest," Denise ordered, as she laid the baby into her mother's waiting arms, then turned on Daryl. "And you," she waved a finger at him, then pulled a sandwich baggy from her pocket and tossed it at the foot of Beth's bed. "Eat that. You need to eat something."
"Tha hells that?" Daryl asked, eyeing the bag skeptically.
"Just eat it," Denise snapped, tugging the curtain closed again as she exited through it, mumbling something about him eating squirrels.
Daryl smiled, brushing his lips against Beth's knuckles as he spoke. "Yes ma'am," he called after her.
And when Beth finally succumbed to sleep, Faith snuggled up against her, Daryl sat back in the chair at her bedside, chewing whatever disgusting concoction that Denise had left for him. Soon their family would return to pass the baby around some more, and wish Beth well and he'd have to share them. But in the meantime, in this perfect, beautiful quiet moment, they were all his.