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Mistaken for Parents

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“There you go, honey.” Beth cooed as she gently placed Judith into her crib.

 

The baby quieted as she began rocking the cradle to and fro. She was just about to sing when a shadow fell over the room.

 

He had been visiting often, almost as much as Carl and Rick.

 

“She sleeping?” came his gruff voice.

 

Beth turned to him “Just about.”

 

Without the baby to look at, Daryl stood there awkwardly, shifting his crossbow from one shoulder to the other.

 

After a moment of silence he spoke “Does she need anything? I can go on a run…”

 

The normally self-assured man always seemed to be at a loss of words whenever he was around Hershel’s youngest. Maybe it was because she was so small and delicate.

 

Yeah, that’s not it – he pushed the thought away before it could finish.

 

“No thank you, she’s fine for now.” Beth smiled, and Daryl felt his nerves increase by tenfold.

 

“Well, if you need anything, just give a holler – ”

 

Judith broke out crying, and Beth rushed to her cradle.

 

“Shh, honey, it’s okay.” The blonde glanced at Daryl “I’m trying to get her on a new nap schedule.” She offered by way of explanation.

 

“Ain’t seem to be working.”

 

Beth hoisted the baby onto her hip “She’ll quiet down if we walk around.” After a moment’s hesitation she asked “Would you like to come with?”

 

Daryl tensed, eager to say yes, but unsure what it would mean. His prolonged silence sent Beth’s nerves working and blossoms of red began to color her cheeks. She had kind of
hoped he’d agree, she was always comforted by his large presence.

 

“There are walkers pushing the walls of the prison and I can’t hold a knife and Judith – ”

 

“Yeah, I’ll come.”

 

Beth was secretly relieved, and Daryl was just glad he’d get to be with Judith and Beth, to protect them of course. That’s all he was there for, to offer protection.

 

The trio set off, Daryl opening doors like a proper gentleman ought to.

 

The spring sunshine was warm on their faces, a stark contrast to the damp coolness of the cells.

 

Daryl watched Beth from the corner of his eye, seeing her smile at the taste of fresh air.

 

Gingerly she picked her way along the path, heading to the gardens, Daryl followed in close pursuit.

 

The blonde shifted Judith higher onto her hip before falling in step with him.

 

“So, how do you like the prison so far?”

 

“It’s al’ght.”

 

His lack of communication didn’t deter her, “I love it here, just think, once the crops get growing good and strong we can have summer picnics, holidays, it’ll be just like old
times.”

 

The faintest trace of a smile appeared on Daryl Dixon’s face, and Beth was inwardly pleased.

 

“Maybe.” He didn’t believe a word of it, but it would be wrong to crush her hopes and dreams. Besides, it was nice to be around someone optimistic once in a while, it was a welcome from his dark, brooding thoughts.

 

“What do you miss most about the old world?”

 

“The booze.” Came his gruff response “Too damn hard to find it anymore.”

 

She laughed, the merry sound at home with the warming sunshine and gentle grass.

 

“I miss chocolate cake, and mama.”

 

Well, he wasn’t real sure how to respond to that one.

 

“I ain’t ever had chocolate cake.”

 

“Really?!” Beth stopped dead in her tracks, turning to face him, shock written on her face.

 

Daryl ducked his head in embarrassment.

 

“I’ll just have to make you one one day.”

 

Images of Beth, standing barefoot in a kitchen, with sugar and cocoa on her face came to mind. Maybe she’d let him lick the batter from her face and neck…

 

Daryl briefly stumbled, confused by the unbidden thoughts.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

Beth was beside him now, one hand kindly touching his shoulder before moving to brush the hair out of his eyes.

 

As her fingers lingered lightly on his forehead he momentarily closed his eyes, relishing her soft touch.

 

“I’m fine.” He grumbled, and the moment was over too soon.

 

Her fingers moved quickly away, and he felt the loss of contact like a tear in his heart.

 

Judith was resting her head on Beth’s shoulder, one tiny hand curled around the neckline of Beth’s tank top. The sight was enduring, and Daryl ached to hold her.

 

The blonde must have noticed “Here, want to hold her?”

 

Daryl shied away like a skittish horse but she kept up, placing Judith into his arms. Her delicate hands were over his rough ones, shifting them into a proper position.

 

“Place your hand under her head, and that one over there, yeah.”

 

Daryl felt a bit awkward at first, especially with Beth looking at him the way she was, delight shining in her eyes and smile.

 

They walked on, Beth’s shoulder occasionally brushing Daryl.

 

They’d made two loops around the small garden before Daryl started to relax. Judith was even beginning to fall asleep on his shoulder, her tiny body snug and secure in Daryl’s embrace.

 

Beth made small talk, commenting on everything from the cucumber blossoms to Laundry Thursdays. Though Daryl rarely answered, beyond a few grunts, he found her voice
entrancing, hypnotizing. It was light and airy, always so full of cheer. It put him at ease, to the point where the sunshine, once so harsh and brutal, seemed warming and gentle.
The everyday chatter of the insects and walkers, once aggravating, was now endurable.

 

Daryl Dixon was going soft.

 

“I wanted to thank you for picking up those hair ties for me on your last run.” She fixed him with her steady gaze, her eyes wide and welcoming.

 

“No problem.” Was the gruff reply. At the time of the run he had picked them up as an afterthought, but now he was sure glad he did. Beth’s shining hair was in a thick braid
looped over one shoulder, and Daryl couldn’t help but think of it as a river of gold. Soft gold, not that he’d ever touched it. The style suited her, though he’d never say so.

 

Beth blushed as if reading his thoughts, and reached her arms out for Judith.

 

He reluctantly handed her over, flexing his biceps to stretch out the cramped muscles.

 

An amused smile spread across Beth’s face, and she quickly looked away.

 

“Like what you see?” he couldn’t help but tease her.

 

Her blush deepened and she opened her mouth to say something when a loud exclamation shattered through the air.

 

On instinct, Daryl shoved Beth and the baby behind him, drawing his crossbow.

 

“What was that?” Beth stood on her tiptoes, peering over Daryl’s shoulder.

 

“Stay behind me.” He growled, quickly scanning the area. He was on high alert, every muscle in his body tense, primed for action. Nothing would get through to Beth and Judith,
not a dozen walkers, not a hundred.

 

The sound came again, and this time the two located the source. A woman dressed in bright pinks and yellows trotted towards them “Oh a baby! Gerard, it’s a baby! Gerard! Come here!”

 

An unenthusiastic man in a Hawaiin print shirt trudged after her.

 

With each step closer they took Daryl’s breathing increased. He could take them, easily, if need be.

 

“It’s okay.” Beth lightly touched his back, the contact causing him to flinch.

 

“Sorry.”

 

He lowered his crossbow, though he eyed the two newcomers warily.

 

“Oh a baby!”

 

Beth smiled at the woman, and Daryl marveled at how she could remain so composed.

 

Beth ignored the woman’s outstretched hands “You must be new.”

 

“Oh yes! Some nice young Asian man found us where we’d been cowering in the back of a storeroom. Been there for weeks you know! We probably wouldn’t have survived much
longer.”

 

“Well I’m glad you made it here.”

 

“Oh we are too! We didn’t think places like this still existed!”

 

Daryl inched closer to Beth, his stance strongly suggesting the two newbies back off.

 

The over-exuberant woman took the hint and retreated one small step.

 

“Oh how are you feeling dear, giving birth in a place like this must have taken its toll.”

 

Her stare shifted to Daryl “Were you there for the birth of your daughter?”

 

Beth tried to interject, “Actually um – ” but the woman rushed on

 

“Such a beautiful healthy baby! You two have truly been blessed, and it’s a miracle your little family is still together! My, my, she definitely got the best genetics from you both.”

 

Now Daryl tried to intercede, but responding to this woman was nearly impossible, she kept firing off word after word.

 

The woman took a step closer, conspiratorially whispering “Now I used to be a gynecologist, and a bit of friendly advice, go easy on the love-making, your body’s still healing.”

 

Shock flooded Beth’s face while Daryl turned beet red, “That’s enough.”

 

“Oh, sorry honey, did I overstep my bounds?!”

 

Daryl placed a hand on Beth’s back and quickly guided her to the cell blocks away from the woman.

 

She was at a loss for words, but luckily Daryl didn’t seem in a mood to talk.

 

“We could have corrected her.”

 

Daryl raised an eyebrow “And spend more time listening to that damn talking? No, I got more important shit to do.”

 

Besides, one small part of him felt secretly smug that that woman thought him capable of having such a beautiful family.

 

“Plus, if she thinks we’re…

 

“Together,” Beth prompted shyly

 

Daryl cleared his throat uncomfortably before continuing, unable to meet Beth’s eyes, “She won’t dare bother you or Judith again with me around.”

 

Beth let out a nervous giggle “Ya, you’ll definitely scare anyone off.”

 

He didn’t bother replying, just silently watched as she put a sleeping Judith back in the crib.

 

When she turned around he tried hard not to focus on her disheveled hair or rosy cheeks.

 

“You look damn tired. Should get some sleep.”

 

The blonde nodded, hesitating a heartbeat before stepping towards Daryl.

 

He tensed, uneasy at this sudden closeness.

 

Gently, her lips brushed his cheek.

 

“Thank you Daryl Dixon.”

 

“For what?” his mind was floundering, all he could think of was that feather-light kiss, her closeness, her peace. He wanted to know what it would feel like if her soft lips were somewhere other than his cheek, like his own lips for instance….

 

“For going on a walk with Judith and me.”

 

He was beginning to regain his senses, though most of them were flooded with Beth, her smell, her voice, her hair that had loosened from its braid.

 

“No problem.”

 

Hurriedly he left the cell, eager to find some work to do, something to get the petite blonde with the big heart of his mind.

 

Daryl Dixon was going soft.