These things happen .
So they say, and it's a fucking insult. Because he knows it's nothing but a platitude, it’s no explanation. Doesn’t tell him anything, mean anything, or help at all.
Not that anything can help. That at least is something they can all agree on without hesitation.
He doesn’t know what he expected. Because did he really think that good things still happen? The whole idea of good things happening to good people, of having fucking faith, what shit did it do for them this time? Time and again he sees the good people suffer, and he doesn’t think about himself, but her, her goodness, her hopefulness.
She’d argue with him about this assessment. Explain that after Grady she'd changed, and maybe that's true. A streak of darkness literally beaten into her. But she'd never truly lost herself. Was maybe gone for a while but once she found herself again, her smiles had become real once more. She'd become hopeful about the future, excited. With the saviors defeated and Alexandria fortified, things truly looked up. Communities thriving. No more hunger. Families growing. An abundance of hope had spread over them.
But then again. These things happen.
What good does it do to have faith when as soon as you allow yourself happiness it's ripped from you, stitch by stitch? Like the universe laughing at you for the fool you are, because he should know better, he knows better. Always did. Just forgot for a while, blinded by optimism.
Maggie sits with him. They don't talk. There's nothing either of them can say but of all the people she probably knows, at least a tiny bit, how he feels. Rick knows, too, in a way all too similar. But the difference is they go home to their children, tuck them in at night, tell them how much they love them.
Life isn't fucking fair, and these things happen, and nothing ever hurt this much.
“Course I’m sure.”
And it’s terrifying, the marble countertops and hardwood floors, her soft feet and the heartbeat in her belly.
“Course I am.”
The smile she flashes him is genuine and sweet as she blushes and reaches for his hand.
“Course I am happy with you. With us.”
“You sure you don’t need a stencil for this?”
“I can draw a stupid cloud, man.”
“Looks a bit shaky. What makes you sure about the blue theme, anyway?”
“Seriously? You telling me that clouds are a boy thing because they are blue?”
Rick smiles from ear to ear, having reached his goal- goading Daryl. “Are you gender sensitive, Dixon?”
“Oh, fuck off.” His own smile is hurting his cheeks. “I just want my kid to look at more than just white walls.”
“We should go get formula.”
“Formula? What for?”
Aaron sighs uncomfortably. “You know, my sister, she was very excited about having a baby, but.. Ended up never getting her milk in. Needed formula, and I’d rather have that stuff here than be in trouble.”
“Never knew you had a sister.”
“Never told anyone I had. She died of cancer before the turn. My niece died after… I assume. Out somewhere in Oregon. My brother-in-law tried to get her here, but… Well, they never arrived.”
They finish their dinner in comfortable silence- rice with canned mushrooms and canned peas. Eric tells them about his stint in the Blue Man Group, and the next day they meet with Olivia about formula inventory and plan a run.
“He would be thrilled, you know? Thought so highly of you.”
“Sure you’re talking about the same man?”
“Stop being silly. He loved you, you know that, right?”
He’s taking a beat. “Guess he liked me well enough.”
“He always respected you, was impressed by you. Oh, don’t be shy now.” Maggie scoffs, rolls her eyes for good measure. “Maybe he saw it coming long before any of us did.”
“Which would be?”
“How much you loved Beth, of course.”
“I don’t feel right, Daryl.”
Denise is fumbling between Beth’s legs, and then runs back to her books.
“It’s hurtin’ so bad, baby, please stay with me.” Pleading, bordering on panic.
“Course I’ll stay with you, always.”
It’s been close to twenty hours of labour, Denise’s worried glances, and Beth’s cries. Rick’s been popping his head in, and out, crying. Daryl saw it. Thought of Lori. Looked at Beth.
“I wish we had more nitrous.” Tara is sweating, assisting Denise. They had raided a dentist’s office, but run out of nitrous a many hours ago. Beth is shaking, Denise is struggling to hear the baby’s heartbeat.
“It’s time,” Beth says, smiles brightly at Daryl. “You will meet her soon.”
“The baby is stuck.”
It is no explanation, but he knows what it means. It's like a cold fist is wrapping around his heart and he finds himself praying, begging, to whatever deity willing to listen. Beth is squeezing his hand, hard. Everything is blurry.
The following c-section a joke- no blood transfusions to keep her from bleeding out, and the baby, too stressed to survive. He will never forget her screams of pain.
It’s all over within a few minutes. Maybe less. They are all covered in blood, Daryl, Denise, even Tara. There is blood dripping audibly from her belly when Daryl clutches the baby in a blanket. She never lived. But Beth did.
It’s Rick who provides mercy. It’s no mercy at all.
These things happen.
And just like that it's all over, finished. What was supposed to be a beginning is an end, and it shouldn't be an unexpected one - not in this world - but it is.
There is no such thing as closure, the hours he sat with her, with them, don't matter. The graves he dug don't matter. The celebration of life sure as hell doesn't matter. Doesn't help or change anything.
Breathing hurts. Being hurts. Nothing ever hurt this much.
“I have never been happier. And I know it’s foolish- the undead are roaming the earth and the living are vile, but,” She smiles, brushes hair out of her face, and giggles . “But we will be all right. You will be the the best dad, and Judith will be a cousin and-”
“We will live happily ever after. Grow so old. You know, needing a walking stick and all. I cannot wait to need glasses."
"I love you, always and forever,” he says. Means it like he never meant anything before. But for them, there is no forever after all.