So many years had passed since that fateful day, but Maggie had two important reasons for returning to Grady Memorial Hospital.
The question bothered her ever since they left her sister behind. Had they done the right thing? They'd all tried so hard to convince themselves and each other they had. Beth was barely hanging onto life, there was virtually no chance she'd survive. Especially if they moved her.
If somehow she did manage to recover from the wound it would only be because Dr. Edwards pulled off a miracle. And then what if she wasn't really Beth anymore? After all, the bullet went into her brain. Didn't it?
It must have.
They couldn't stay with her, they were pressed by their mission to get to Washington DC in time, and the herd of walkers were rapidly approaching. They had to go. That's what they told themselves. They had no choice.
They left her behind for the people at Grady to care for.
It seemed that everyone else managed to put the whole ugly scene behind them, everyone but her and Daryl. Although he was uncommunicative about the time he'd spent with her sister, Maggie could tell the man was filled with profound sadness and regret.
She knew Daryl never stopped thinking about Beth, and she knew he'd never stopped being angry at himself for leaving her behind.
Even though Daryl wasn't the kind to open up and share matters of a personal nature, Maggie had her suspicions. She was sure there had been more to his and Beth's time together than just their fight for survival.
Although there was a time when such an idea would have been unimaginable to her, she'd come to believe Daryl and her younger sister had been in a love relationship.
He and Beth were together a long time with no one and nothing but each other. Living together, searching for food and shelter together, surviving together, sleeping together. Maggie was realistic, things happen between a man and a woman.
Her suspicions were validated by him in the way he'd handled the "loss" of Beth. He never acted like a man who'd lost a good friend, he acted like a man who'd lost the love of his life. It was clear to Maggie that during the time Daryl and her sister were alone together, feelings had developed. Feelings he still had and would never be over.
Every day since they'd left Beth at Grady the man suffered.
She accepted the idea of their relationship. She felt sure the rough but big-hearted redneck with his gravelly voice and irritable demeanor, was in love with her sister. She wouldn't be at all shocked to know the feeling was mutual.
Since Glenn's death and the birth of young Hershel it had been bothering her even more. Beth was her little boy's only other living relative. His only blood. If something were to happen to Maggie and Beth was still alive, it should be Beth who raised young Hershel.
Her mind was made up. She'd been eaten up by guilt long enough. It was time for action. She needed to make the trip to Grady and find out once and for all what had become of her younger sister.
The second reason that pressed on her had to do with her other family. Her people at Alexandria, Hilltop, Oceanside. The Kingdom had fallen and all the other communities were under attack by a vicious group of freakish survivors who'd killed so many people, people she considered family.
This group who called themselves the Whisperers wore the skin of walkers to "blend" with them, to live and walk among them. They weren't a family of survivors. They were a cult.
She'd heard all the news through letters, couriers and radio relays. Each community had experienced attacks by large groups of walkers and the leader of this group calling themselves the Whisperers, a woman named Alpha, supposedly had a herd of 10,000 walkers just waiting to be unleashed on Maggie's people.
That wasn't all of it, nor was it necessarily the worst of it. There'd been a spy who tampered with the water system at Alexandria causing widespread illness. Then the dirty coward murdered the one and only doctor the communities had, Siddiq.
If things were as they'd left them when they left Beth, Grady had a doctor. Grady had trained nurses. What if she could convince the people of Grady to come with her? Together they could defeat the dreaded Whisperers and their sadistic leader, Alpha. And together they could continue to build and thrive in the new world.
Georgie, the leader of the community where Maggie had been living the past few years, The Commonwealth, was wholeheartedly opposed to Maggie's plan. She also realized Maggie was stubborn, determined and both physically and mentally tough. She'd made up her mind and there would be no stopping her.
She encouraged Maggie to at least leave young Hershel in safety at The Commonwealth, but Maggie wouldn't hear of it. "No. My son goes where I go."
She set out in an old but reliable utility van. It was fortified with game guards front and rear and there were large cans of reconditioned fuel strapped on the back bumper. She wasn't worried about running out, she'd scavenge more along the way if need be.
She had a cooler of dried foods for herself and her seven year old son, and a mattress in the back for them to sleep on. Of course there was also her stash of weapons, including two knives, two guns, a sword and a crowbar.
She had all those things, a strong will and the faith her father had instilled in her.
She left at first light with her son still asleep on the mattress in the back. She calculated the distance at somewhere close to 540 miles. That wouldn't have been a bad trip in the old world. In the new world how difficult the trip would be was dependent on so many variables.
She resisted the urge to speed, these days a person could never be sure what might be on the road ahead and an accident would be disastrous. Especially with Hershel.
She encountered no problems the first two hundred miles. She spotted a few walkers, and a few dozen abandoned cars here and there but they weren't in her way so she simply ignored them. She wasn't stopping for anything she didn't have to.
She did have to stop when Hershel woke. He had to pee and of course he was hungry. They were just finishing what they had to do outside when she heard the walker. She didn't hesitate to pull her knife from its sheath and stab the creature in the head. She thought it was just the one.
Hershel had pulled his knife too but she told him, "Good boy, but not this time son, Mommy got him." No sooner had she helped Hershel into the van's passenger seat than two more walkers were within feet of her; and there were more. She spotted a larger group behind the two close ones.
She used her preferred weapon again, her knife. She quickly jabbed the blade in the skulls of the two walkers closest to her, then rushed around the van and jumped in the driver's side, quickly slamming the door shut. She'd caught the hand of walker in the door but there was no time to waste. She quickly opened and then slammed the door again and the problem was solved.
She cranked the ignition; hit the gas and they were back on their way. Hershel looked over at her and proudly said, "You did good Mommy."
She smiled, "Well we can't let them stand in our way, can we?"
"No Mommy, nope."
She didn't remember much about that day except her feelings that morning as she dressed. She was putting on the only clothes she owned, the same clothes she was wearing the night she ran from the funeral home. Hers and Daryl's home. Her torn and faded calf-length jeans, the badly bloodstained yellow polo shirt, and the worn cowboy boots.
She remembered feeling a heavy mix of excitement and dread. She couldn't wait to see her family again, all of them. But there was someone she looked forward to reuniting with most of all, Daryl. She never thought she'd see him again, but now it was real.
Dread because she didn't trust Dawn.
Then her mind wandered back to the time they spent together, and she smiled as she thought about the odd way they'd fallen in love.
She'd been both fascinated by him and a little afraid of him since the day he and his group showed up at her family's farm. They were a mismatched assemblage of people on the run. Looking for a home in the crazy new world they'd all found themselves living in.
They may have never found their temporary new home on the Greene family farm if it hadn't been for the accident. Her folk's neighbor and good friend, Otis shot the young son of the group's leader. The boy, Carl, was near death and Beth's Daddy, who happened to be the local veterinarian was doing his best to save the child.
She was curious about the entire group but the man who really caught her attention was the one called Daryl. She knew he was too old for her and besides, she had a boyfriend, Jimmy. Yet she just couldn't help herself from having a little crush on him.
He was handsome and sexy in a half-wild and coarse way. Like a beautiful horse that just won't be tamed.
He was quick to anger and always seemed to be looking for a fight. Those were her first impressions, but she soon saw a different side to him. A side that impressed her and endeared him to her.
The Greene family learned another child had been with the group. A little girl named Sophia. The girl was lost and alone somewhere "out there." This man Daryl, who appeared so rowdy and rough, was the one who refused to give up on the search for the child. He nearly got himself killed in his efforts to find the little girl.
When that awful day came, the day the men in the new group opened the barn door and took aim at the walkers, both Beth's Mama and the little lost girl were among the undead who flooded out.
If she closed her eyes she could see it all so vividly, the group shot and shot until eventually all who had been in the barn were dead.
As shaken as she was she saw that this man, Daryl was equally shaken. She also saw how, in his own rough way he tried to comfort the little girl's mother, Carol.
How could she have ever imagined how dramatically things would change? Even when the farm fell, and they wandered hungry and cold and in search of a place to settle in. How could she have known how life would change for her and Daryl?
The group traveled together through harsh weather and under frightening circumstances. Fighting starvation, walkers and the elements just to try and survive another day.
Then one day the group's leader, Rick, along with Daryl, found the spot the small group would make their new home. It was a prison that would provide them with shelter, protection and facilities they'd gone without for so long.
It was a surprise to her how much she grew to love the prison. Together the family managed to turn it into a true home with running water, electricity, cooking facilities, gardens and its own government lead by Rick. They even had new people that came, and eventually it had become a thriving community.
Then something happened to destroy their home and the future they were building together. An evil man who referred to himself as the Governor attacked their home. He killed her father and let a herd of walkers loose within their fences.
Her family bravely fought the enemy, but it soon became apparent they were beaten and all there was to do was flee.
The scene was chaotic and she was half in shock and so frightened. She was desperately trying to locate her sister and the children when Daryl found her. She'd never forget the urgency in his voice when he called, "Beth, Beth we gotta go."
They ran and they ran until finally they'd broken free of the walkers and free of the human enemy, they collapsed to the ground. They were exhausted, barely able to catch their breath, but she and Daryl were alive.
When they recovered their strength they began to walk, looking for shelter. They found a car on the side of the highway but couldn't get it to start. Then more walkers came. A herd of the hungry. She and Daryl secured themselves in the only place available, the vehicle's trunk.
They stayed there all night maintaining complete silence. It was hot and they were tired and scared, as they waited to see if the herd would ever give up and move on.
By morning the walkers had indeed given up. She and Daryl scavenged what they could from the car and began to walk again.
They were so hungry and thirsty, unbelievably tired and wrestling with loss, grief and fear. None of which they talked about, they just kept pressing on.
Together they set up a small camp. Just a place for the night really. They knew they wouldn't be staying. She secured the perimeter and built the fire, while he went to find them food. His bolt broke when he fired and the squirrel he'd aimed at was gone. They had to settle for a dinner of snake.
He was reticent. She couldn't get him to talk about anything. She was consumed with grief and guilt and certain she would soon die. Die without ever having a chance to live and have fun. She was determined to at least try and live a little before her end came.
They quarreled and she left, even though she knew it was foolish. She was scared but also determined to prove to him and herself that she didn't need him.
She ran into a small group of walkers and just as she was about to stab one a bolt whizzed by her; striking the creature in the head. That's when she knew Daryl had been following her.
Maybe she should have been grateful, but she was too busy being mad. He snarled and she yelled, and it wasn't until more than a year later she realized something. She'd won the fight. Daryl would never leave her to wander out in this screwed up world alone.
He was grouchy and he could say some pretty terrible things, but he was also protective. And although he tried to hide it, she saw something else. He was grieving as deeply as she was.
Admittedly, he wasn't the only one acting out. She was desperate for him to see she wasn't a kid anymore. She was an adult now and she wanted him to treat her like one. In a lot of ways.
She'd never had a taste of alcohol and for some reason she was now fixated on it. Certain that getting drunk would make her feel better, feel more alive and maybe she'd forget the sorrow. As ornery as Daryl was about it, she realized he was determined to get her what she wanted.
There was a country club. She could see that at one time it had been a gorgeous place, even after a couple years of neglect it still looked impressive. There were walkers milling about outside, but no big or immediate threat. Daryl got them in.
There was a shop and she was excited; she could get a change of clothes. She took off her old shirt and put on a pretty new yellow one and a new white sweater. She almost felt pretty.
She hadn't been wearing them ten minutes when Daryl brutally beat a walker, not just until it died. He was far more brutal than that. The thing was way beyond death and still he was beating it with the golf club, and the blood spattered all over her, ruining her pretty new clothes.
That wasn't all of it though. His actions had been so violent he scared her.
Still she stayed close to him. What else would she do? They were all that each other had in this world.
They wandered through the darkened rooms and corridors. For some reason Daryl was loading up money and jewelry in his pack. She asked him why, but he only grunted. At least he was also taking practical things, like matches.
She gingerly picked through a few items, more from curiosity than for any other reason. She found a small silver souvenir spoon. It seemed out of place. It was engraved Washington D.C. and they weren't even out of Georgia. For some reason it fascinated her and she slipped it in her back pocket.
When they finally made it to the bar the liquor was gone. Whoever had been in the place had consumed it all, except for a small amount of something called Peach Schnapps. He stunned her when he pulled the bottle from her hand and grunted, "Ain't gonna have your first drink be no damned peach schnapps," as he threw the bottle to the floor.
He led her away with the promise of getting her a real drink and she happily followed.
They came to an old shack; he knew the place and he knew about the moonshine stashed there. He poured her very first drink into a mason jar. It tasted like gasoline and burned like fire. At first he was reluctant, but she convinced him to drink with her.
She found the more she drank the easier it went down. They were both pretty drunk by the time she convinced him to play a drinking game with her, one she'd seen her friends play. He reluctantly agreed and at first it was fine, but then she offended him.
He got mean and a little rough and drug her outside to shoot a walker. She broke free and called him out on his grief, and the feelings she knew he was trying to hide. She was startled when he began to cry.
He'd turned his back on her, but she didn't turn hers on him. She wanted to comfort him. At first he pushed her away. Even through his tears he was trying to act like such a tough guy, like none of it hurt.
She persevered. She could be just as stubborn as he could be. She wrapped her arms around him and laid her head on his back, and that marked the end of their fighting.
Later they sat together on the front porch of the rundown old shack and she kept sipping the moonshine, but Daryl was done. Something good happened between them that evening. They talked. He gave a little insight into who he was and where he'd come from, and she gave of herself in that way as well.
She suggested it and he didn't hesitate to agree. They'd burn the old shack down to symbolize that the life they'd had, and the people they'd once been were forever in the past. They were changed and they were moving on.
Things were different between them. There was more trust, and although he was still protective, they were more like equals. They were friendly, they talked, and he taught her things. How to track and how to use the crossbow, and now sometimes he even smiled.
They'd been wandering for a while, getting a little closer to each other with each day that passed. Her feelings for him had grown into something more than just the teenage crush she'd once had. More profound than just a deep friendship. In spite of his often crabby and abrasive demeanor, she was starting to feel something she believed in her heart was deep love.
She suspected that, although he did his best to hide them, he had those feelings for her as well.
Neither of them was quite ready to act on them. Not until there was a sequence of events that would change them both forever.
He'd trusted her with his most prized possession, the big crossbow that was his weapon of choice. They were tracking and he was being just a little playful as he asked her about the fresh tracks they saw. Playfulness was not in his nature at all, but he'd begun to loosen up around her.
Then they spotted the walker. What she wanted with it was the gun it carried. In her excitement to fire the crossbow, get the walker and get it's gun she made a mistake. She got overly anxious, walking forward without checking the ground in front of her. When she stepped in the steel trap the pain was excruciating. Thank God that between she and Daryl they were able to put the walker down.
It was also a lifesaver she was wearing her cowboy boots. The leather shaft saved her from worse injury.
He held her arm across his shoulder and kept her tucked close to his side as he walked and she hobbled, looking for shelter. And shelter they found.
It wasn't too far, a big stately funeral home with the small cemetery in front.
He encouraged her to hop on his back and at first she thought he was kidding. He wasn't kidding at all. He would have carried her like that the whole way, but then she spotted the grave.
It seemed fitting that they should stop in front of the man's tombstone, both of them thinking of her Dad. Two things happened that made her even more certain of her love for Daryl. He was so much more than just some big brooding redneck who could survive anything. He really was the warm and caring individual she'd come to see him as.
He picked a handful of flowers, weeds really but they were flowering. Just knowing he would make the gesture tugged at her heartstrings. He lay the flowers on the headstone, then stepped back. Then he did the second thing. He took her hand. The moment was touching and tender, sad and cathartic.
And it felt so good to feel his big strong hand as their fingers wove together.
They entered through the big front door and the place was so lovely. It was as if it were untouched by the harsh new world.
Daryl quickly began to clear it, although as clean as it was it didn't appear that any walkers were inside. There was a viewing room with a body in a casket, clearly made up to hide the fact that whoever the body belonged to had turned.
Daryl scoffed and from there lead them down a flight of stairs to the room where bodies were prepped for viewing. There was another walker on the table. Daryl thought the idea of making them up was foolish, but she could see the beauty in trying to restore the dead to the people they once were.
Without knowing it Daryl once again showed his sweet, concerned and caring side as he did his best to doctor her ankle with the supplies on hand.
From there they went back upstairs and found a kitchen with a cupboard stocked full of food. Not a huge variety but more than enough to fill them. That's what they did. For the first time in a long time they ate their fill.
Later that evening with all the candles lit in the chapel room, she sat at the piano. It seemed like forever since she'd had a chance to play. Her first couple of notes were a little sour, but then she began to sing and it all came back to her.
She sensed him watching her and she stopped playing, turning to look at him. He'd complained about her singing when they had their fight at the old shack. She wasn't going to leave herself open to him getting upset with her.
She watched him as he walked over, climbed in an open casket and settled himself in. Then he asked her to keep playing. She mentioned she thought her singing bothered him; he made some snippy little remark about there being no jukebox. She wanted to shake her head, maybe shake him. Instead she finished the song.
She'd thought about it a while. If they were ever going to get really close it was going to be up to her to make the first move. He would never be the one, and she knew there was more than one reason that was true.
They were together and for all she knew, it would always be just the two of them. She wanted them to be a real family, she did what she felt she had to do to make that happen.
She stood, and she saw how intently he watched her as she walked toward him. When she got to the gasket she took his hand in hers, trying her best not to sound nervous when she told him, "I'd like to go to bed too Daryl, but I don't feel comfortable sleeping in a casket."
"There's bedrooms upstairs. Can ya make it upstairs on your own? Ya need me ta help ya?"
"I do need your help. And Daryl, when we get to the bedroom, I want you to get in the bed with me. It's time we did something about these feelings we're having."
For at least a solid minute he didn't speak, he didn't move, she wasn't even sure he was breathing. He just stared into her eyes. Then he sat up, swung his leg out of the coffin, paused and asked, "Ya sure Beth?"
"I'm very sure."
He didn't say anything else, he was nervously chewing his lip as he climbed out of the casket, held her close to his side, and together they walked up the stairs and to the big bedroom.
They hadn't spoken, not a word. But as soon as they were in the room he looked around, then looked at her and once again asked, "Sure?"
"Yes Daryl, I'm sure."
They'd slept side by side in the woods, they'd lived closely. They'd seen so much of each other, they knew so much about each other's habits and manner, but they'd never been this kind of close. Never this kind of intimate.
What got them through their initial shyness and apprehension was what they felt for each other. They'd never said the word but they'd both felt the word for a long time. Love.
She never worried for one moment he'd be rough with her but the level of gentleness he displayed came as a bit of a shock. His coarse outward appearance made the tenderness of his touch a surprise. A most delicious surprise.
He gently took her face in his calloused hands. As he looked into her eyes his smile was so soft and shy but he looked happy, like this was exactly what he'd been wanting. Then he quietly whispered, "Been wantin' ta kiss ya for so long Beth. Since back at the prison."
She smiled and whispered back, "Don't make us wait any longer."
He didn't. His mouth went to hers and he gently kissed her. But it was just light and gentle that once, after the first kiss it got so much more intense. Still gentle but urgent, hungry and full of passion. His kisses were all it took for her to know this was right, this was the way it was supposed to be for them. In that moment she was already his completely, emotionally, mentally and physically.
As he kissed her he began to loosen her ponytail and she felt her hair fall around her face and down her back. He was playing with the strands and letting his fingers comb through the curls. It felt good, sweet and intimate. She took his idea and did something she'd longed to do for a while, she let her fingers slide through his surprisingly soft hair.
They were so engrossed in their kissing and the intensity of finally bringing their feelings to life, that without even taking his lips from hers he was tugging his vest off, casting it aside and then his shirt.
Then, for the first time since he'd began kissing her, he stepped back. Just a few inches. They didn't speak, there was no need for words. They both knew what was about to happen between them. They simply looked longingly and lovingly in each other's eyes as he slipped the tattered gray sweater from her shoulders, and her stained yellow shirt over her head.
He bent and removed his worn shoes. She was about to do the same with hers, but he said, "No, lemme. Ya gotta be careful a that ankle.
She sat on the edge of the bed and he carefully removed her boots, then her socks, then stood and began to loosen his pants.
She watched, fascinated and intimidated by his manly build. He skin was scared and tattooed but it didn't change the fact he was beautiful to her. And as she had that thought he dropped his pants to the floor. Once again he appeared shy and awkward. She wasn't bothered by that because she felt shy and awkward too.
He lifted her a little, gently moving her body further up on the bed. Then he leaned in and kissed her as his fingers loosened the buttons on her jeans. She got a little nervous as he began to slide them down and he sensed it immediately. "Ya okay girl? Ya change your mind bout this?"
She reached up and touched his cheek and smiled when she said, "I'm fine and I'll never change my mind about wanting you."
They lay together under the sheet as he kissed her lips and his hand glided gingerly, tentatively over her body. Then he asked, "Ya ever done this stuff Beth?"
She was honest, "No. Have you?"
"Once or twice. Never with anyone I cared for." Then he touched her cheek and even though he looked shy about saying it, he was honest too, "I guess I never cared for anyone til you."
They smiled at each other in the way that friends and partners do, and then the look changed a little as the love was reflected in their eyes.
Her body was small, soft, warm. His body seemed so big and strong and his muscles so hard.
His hand went to her breast and he was tentative, as if he wondered whether he should or he shouldn't, until she whispered, "Daryl, I want this with you." That's what he needed to hear. His mouth covered her small breast as his open hand clutched at her narrow waist.
The nervousness they felt soon gave way to an all-consuming desire. This was something both of them had silently thought about back on the farm and later at the prison. Then it was just a little fantasy each had. Now though, now that they knew each other in so many ways, and their feelings had grown so strong, it was their reality. It was what they both knew they wanted. To be forever bound.
That first time was a little awkward, maybe things went a little too quickly. Maybe they were both a little too nervous and excited.
The second time, and all the times after things were so much better. They were learning about each other's bodies, what excited her, what got him going, where to touch and all the places they wanted to feel each other's lips and tongues.
For the few days they had there, they were happy, in love and hopeful about their future.
She saw the ceiling lights begin flashing. It was a warning that a stranger was approaching the hospital entrance. Beth quickly made her way to their meeting place. They'd agreed what they'd do years before, they even practiced it monthly like a fire drill. If security was breached they would meet in the linen supply closest. Then, if they had to, they would die fighting to save each other.
She got there and he was already waiting for her. They hugged and she asked him, "Do you have your weapons?"
He answered, "Yes. Are you ready?"
"Yes, I'm ready."
Then she heard her name being called, "Beth? Beth? You have a visitor."
She was stunned by the statement. A visitor? She slowly opened the door, peeked around it and let out a squeal as her hand went to her mouth and she whispered, "Oh my gawd. Oh my gawd. It's you." She ran toward her sister and they embraced.
Beth's companion stood back, unsure what to think. He'd never seen the woman and the child before.
Beth looked at the child standing next to her sister, and asked, "Maggie, who is this?"
Her sister smiled, "He's your nephew Bethie. This is Hershel."
The name brought tears to Beth's eyes as she whispered it, "Hershel." Then she asked, "Glenn, where's Glenn?"
"He's gone Beth, he's with Daddy." And then Beth's tears fell.
Maggie didn't want their reunion clouded by sorrow and she quickly changed the subject, "Who's that gentleman behind you?"
That made Beth smile, "That's your nephew." She turned to the boy and said, "D.J., come meet your Aunt Maggie and your cousin Hershel."
Maggie was smiling and she asked, "D.J. as in Daryl Junior?"
That brought a smile to Beth's face, "No. D.J. as in Daryl James. I thought it sounded good."
They boy appeared so serious with his piercing steel blue eyes and no expression at all. His hair was sandy blonde and even for a boy of no more than nine years old, his shoulders were broad. Someday he would be built like his Daddy. Maggie wanted to give her nephew a hug, but he only stuck out a hand to shake.
Beth shook her head no, "D.J., you don't always have to be the tough guy. Give your Aunt Maggie a hug, and your cousin Hershel too."
He looked at her like he wanted to say no, but he could never say no to her, "Alright Mama."
When there had been lots of hugging all around, Beth asked her sister the biggest question she had. It just took one word, "Daryl?"
"He's alive Beth and I can take you to him. He needs you. He needs us all."
They sat in Beth and D.J.'s room and talked about all the things that had happened in the long years they'd been apart. Beth cried over the loss of so many people she loved, "It just never seems to end Maggie."
"I know Beth." Then Maggie told her sister how Daryl had become the group's leader, but also about what awful trouble was about to descend on them. "That's where I'm going and I was hoping a few people here would want to join us."
"D.J. and I are going, we belong with you and we belong with D.J.'s Daddy." Then her face grew dark, "Unless of course he's moved on. Does he have someone new?"
"Are you kidding Bethie? You'll always be the only one for him. He's been pining over you all these years."
There were new people at Grady these days, a new doctor and two new nurses and a physician's assistant. One of the nurses, Dr. Edwards, and the physician's assistant all agreed to join the Greene sisters.
The next day was spent in preparation. It was decided Dr. Edwards, the P.A. and the nurse would travel by ambulance. It would be stocked with both equipment and supplies. Maggie, Beth and their sons would follow behind in the van.
Arrangements were made to pay for the supplies they took. When the new war was over the sisters would see to it that meat, eggs and milk were sent to the hospital. If that was not possible, it would be something of equal value.
The small group left just before dawn, the larger, heavier vehicle in the lead. They all took turns driving so that they only had to stop to refuel and for bathroom breaks. The children didn't complain about long hours in the vehicle or of being bored. They'd been born into the apocalypse. Survivors didn't complain.
Daryl was discussing war plans with a small group when there was a knock on the door. It was Alden, "Daryl, there's some people here to see you. One of them is Maggie Rhea."
Daryl smiled, "Oh yeah? Tell her ta come on in."
"No, I think you need to come with me."
Something told him not to question, he followed Alden to the parlor and he nearly lost his footing when he saw who was there. He hurried to her, wrapped his arms around her and held her so tight it hurt them both, and that was just right. He kept whispering over and over, "Beth. Beth. Beth..."
He pulled his face away just enough to look in her eyes, "Beth, you're here I…Beth."
Then there was a tug on his arm, "Be careful Daddy, you're squishin' my Mama."
As he looked in the direction of the voice he thought he might lose his footing again. He didn't have to ask who the boy was, he saw his own eyes looking back at him. The boy held out his hand to shake, "I'm D.J."
Daryl grabbed the boy nearly as fiercely as he'd grabbed the boy's Mama, "Proud ta meet ya son. I see ya been takin' good care of your Mama."
"Yeah, it's my job. I guess now it's your job too."
Daryl knew, no job would ever matter as much.