There are times they all want to fall apart. And there are times that some of them do.
Hell, there were times he did. So many times. Times when he thought she was gone and he wanted to crawl out of his skin to escape the sting of it. Times when he thought she was dead and he’d have done anything - any goddamn thing - to bring that sting back.
Sometimes it’s easier to fall apart. Comforting to give into that abyss of drowned men and lost souls. Sometimes he wants to dive so far inside it that he’ll never find his way out. Never claw his way to the surface. He’ll suffocate, he’ll choke on it.
And that’s just what he wants.
It’s easy, simple, straightforward. Give into the grief and let it consume him. Live with it, wallow in it, feel it until his muscles cramp from the sobbing and his shoulders ache with every hitching breath. And wait, just wait until your heart shatters. Until it breaks into pieces, pieces which become shards, and shards which become splinters, splinters which become a dust so toxic so that he craves a calming breath of wind that’ll just blow it all away. All the hurt, all the pain, all the regret. But somehow he holds on. Because he has to. Because it’s all he has. That dust, those ashes. He has to keep it, because without it, he has nothing.
Sometimes he wants to fall apart. But now is not one of those times.
She sits with him in the garden behind these high walls. Sits at his side, fingertips reaching out to his in the earth and the soil, only just touching. Sometimes so lightly that he thinks it’s only the idea of her fingers he can feel, only the imagined heat of her flesh between the blades of cool grass.
But it’s enough. For now it’s enough.
She found her way back to them. To him. Against all odds Beth Greene is alive. And she’s here. And that’s enough.
And even if they never finish their conversation and even if he never gets to hold her again and even if he has to let her go and make a life with someone else in this safe zone which ain’t safe at all, it’ll still be enough.
She’s different in small ways. A little quieter, a little more withdrawn. She doesn’t sing as much. She tough, but she’s not mercenary, she’s not ruthless, which, he has to admit, is something they could all learn from.
He thinks the truth is they’re all a bit insane. That’s what this world gives you. Death or madness. Take your pick. If you’re really unlucky you get both.
But he’s not unlucky. And neither is she.
Because they’re here. Sitting in the grass together. Fingers almost touching. And maybe something good can come out of this. Maybe something right.
He wonders how long it will last. Not in the grander scheme of things, not in a universal sense. He doesn't ask himself those kind of questions. Not now, not in this world. You don't wonder how long someone will be in your life. Not any more. No one has the luxury of growing old.
No, he just wonders how long this will last. This unspoken routine they have where their afternoons are shared with only each other. The two of them, sitting here in the fading light, content not to speak, not to even touch really. He wonders if one day she won’t come and find him, if she’ll be called away with another task or errand. And then if the day after that it will happen again and again, until this is all lost and they go back to the lives they always led.
He can’t even begin to guess what those lives were.
He loves her. He wonders if she knows. He loves her like she’s a part of him, his bones or his breath. His shattered heart. He loves her enough to die for her and to live for her. He loves her enough to let her go.
He wonders if she knows. He wonders if anyone does.
So every day he waits. Every day he waits for her not to come. For that door to the garden not to open and for her not to walk outside to him. For her not to plant herself in the grass next to him, just close enough not to touch. For her fingers not to stretch towards his in the grass. And every day she proves him wrong.
And he’s never been so grateful.
And maybe one day he’ll move his hand along the ground, feel the grit and sand under his nails as his fingertips reach for her, as he slides his skin over hers. And maybe she’ll pretend that she doesn’t notice, that’s it’s as natural as breathing for him to grasp her hand in his. Maybe she’ll run her thumb across his palm and lean against him like she once did when they stopped each other from falling apart.
Maybe one day, when they’re both stronger and the call of that abyss not so loud. Maybe one day.
They can be good, they can be sweet. They can put it all away, put it all behind them.
Sometimes he wants to fall apart. Now is not one of those times.
Now is one of those times when he wants to put it all back together. Find that dust and remake it into splinters, craft the splinters into shards and the shards into pieces. Put a great big band aid on it and voila! he’s whole again. Or at least as whole as he’s ever going to be.
One day he’ll let himself think of the future. One day he’ll let himself think of the past.
But for now, for now, this is enough