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Title: Baby Girl Gonna Be Tough - Part 2 of Five Times Beth and Daryl Weren't Virtual Strangers Before the Prison Fell (and the One Time They Still Weren't)
Author: Abelina/Abby/Abelinajt
Fandom/Pairing/Characters: The Walking Dead - Beth Greene & Daryl Dixon (friendship/pre-Bethyl), Judith Grimes
Setting: Seasons 3.
Rating: T/PG13
Summary: The baby won't sleep, but Beth doesn't mind. She's happy to be the one who gets to watch over her on her first night in this world.
Notes: Takes place at the end of Slay the World (the same say as Judith’s birth) before the final scenes that happen the next day. Carol at this point is missing and presumed dead, and both T-Dog and Lori have just died. Also—I know newborns actually tend to spend much of their first day sleeping, after the whole ordeal of being born and all, but the child about to be known as Judith Grimes has other ideas.


Five Times Beth and Daryl Weren’t Virtual Strangers Before the Prison Fell
(and the One Time They Still Weren’t)

2 - Baby Girl Gonna Be Tough

*~*

Lori’s baby girl might just have been the most precious thing Beth had ever seen. She’d been around babies before, of course, many times, though not any quite as new as this little bundle, wrapped up snug in a soft grey blanket made out of an old sweat shirt. But none of those babies from before came into the world as it was now. None of them had to go about surviving their first hours in a prison where the dead moaned outside the fences and their mamas died so they could live.

So she was precious, this tiny girl without a name. Well, okay, without a proper one. Li’l Asskicker was a good nickname, Beth had to admit. Secretly, at least.

Beth tried once more to lay her down, but the moment the tiny girl left the warmth of Beth’s arms, she started fussing again. Resolved to a mostly sleepless night, Beth lifted the baby back into her arms and the fussing stopped. Her big dark eyes looked up at Beth and her mouth formed a little ‘o’, and Beth couldn’t help but smile.

“At least you’re a happy awake baby,” she said, brushing her finger over the baby’s squishy little nose. “Should we take a walk? Would you like that?”


Beth tucked the blanket in snugly around the little girl and rose from her bunk. If she had to be awake, she at least didn’t have to stay in her cell. Wearing just her socks so that her boots didn’t echo on the concrete and wake anyone, Beth gently jiggled the baby and walked quietly around the cellblock.

Beth had always wanted to be a mother, since she was a little girl herself. That wasn’t such a possibility anymore with the way things were now, but Beth was okay with that. Sacrifices had to be made and dreams had to change, and now all she wanted was a place where her family—those who were blood and those who were not—could live a decent life with some semblance of safety. Of normalcy. Asking for more felt greedy, and that was something Beth tried very hard not to be.

But this girl, this tiny little child not even a full day old, no, she wasn’t Beth’s, and Beth wouldn’t dishonour Lori’s memory by pretending otherwise. But Beth could love this baby like she was her own. Was pretty sure she already did. If Lori couldn’t be here to love her daughter, maybe she could rest easy knowing she had left this sweet girl behind with people who could.

Beth could. She thought of that old saying, it takes a village, and that was never more true than it was now. A night without sleep wasn’t going to hurt Beth, but it might hurt Daddy, this early in his recovery. And even though Maggie’s arms were the first this baby knew, it was Beth’s into which Daddy had trusted this tiny child. These arms which had plucked many an infant from their weary parents for the span of an evening, now responsible for the care of their group’s newest, most vulnerable member. Beth couldn’t go on runs and she would never be strong the way Maggie was, could never protect the group the way Maggie did. But these arms would protect this baby and keep her from ever knowing a night without comfort. Without love.

As Beth came around the front of the stairs, she saw a little glow coming from the perch above. Daryl never seemed to sleep much, and she wasn’t surprised to find him awake even in the middle of the night, especially a night like this one. They might have gained a new life amongst them, with the arrival of this small girl, but they had lost three good people. Beth thought about seeing if Daryl wanted some company, but decided not to bother him and continued on her circuit around the block, looking down and smiling at baby girl staring back up at her.

Beth wondered if her eyes would be blue like Rick’s once they cleared, or brown like Lori’s, or—no, she wouldn’t spare another thought for the rumours she wasn’t supposed to know about. This was Rick’s daughter. Rick and Lori’s precious girl, all squishy and new and already beautiful.

“Aren’tcha, sweetheart?” she said, stoking the baby’s cheek. “And I know you’re there, Daryl.”

She had heard the shifting of the mattress above, a few moments ago, about the time she would have wandered into his view. And even though he somehow managed to sneak down the stairs without making a sound, Beth knew when she turned she would find him standing there. He was dressed like it was the middle of the day, except for his lack of boots, standing two stairs up from the bottom, looking rather impressed—if she said so herself—at having been caught.

Daryl nodded his head to toward the baby. “She keepin’ you up?”

“Little miss isn’t ready for her first day to be over yet,” Beth said, walking back toward the stairs as Daryl descended the final two. “But it’s okay. We’re havin’ a nice stroll, aren’t we, baby girl?”

She glanced down at the baby, who blinked slowly up at her, squishing her little mouth up around a grunty baby noise. When Beth looked back, she knew she hadn’t missed the hint of a smile on Daryl’s face, even if he tried to hide it before she saw.

Features now schooled into something more neutrally Daryl, he came up beside her to peer down at the little face peeking out of the swaddling blanket. “Oh she’s wide awake, ain’t she?”

“Sure is.” Beth shifted her arms, tilting the baby up a little so Daryl could see her better. “Least she’s happy, so long as I’m holdin’ her.”

This time he couldn’t quite hide the smile as he reached out to touch the baby’s cheek. She turned toward the finger, as babies did, in the process shifting her soft focus onto Daryl, and now that was a definite smile on his usually grim face. “You keepin’ Auntie Beth awake, Li’l Asskicker, hmm? Two a you up kickin’ asses all night?”

Beth had to giggle, trying to smother it behind her lip to keep from making too much noise. “That’s right, it’s an asskickin’ party. You wanna join us, Uncle Daryl?”

Daryl rolled his shoulders a bit, not exactly a shrug, but close. “Ain’t got nothin’ better to do.”

It took Beth a second to realize he had answered her question seriously. She thought , for a split second, about suggesting sleep as something better to do, but held her tongue. Chances were, whatever kept Daryl up so late wasn’t something he could control as easily as that.

“Bring ‘er up if you want,” he said, glancing toward his perch.

That wasn’t the sort of invitation she expected out of Daryl, but then, it wasn’t every night she was up entertaining a very unsleepy baby, either. Of the few of them left, fewer of them slept up there and if they were gonna be awake they might as well do so with a bit of candlelight and less chance of waking the others. She followed Daryl up and picked a spot against the wall, far enough from his sleeping space so as to not invade it, and slid down the smooth concrete to sit on the floor.

Beth drew her knees up and laid the baby on her legs, little swaddled bottom and feet warm on her stomach, both of Beth’s hands holding her safely in place. Baby girl blinked up in that slow way of hers, that unhurried new baby way, those big eyes slowly finding Beth’s face amidst the big wide blur that was the world. No fussing, not even a grunt, just that slow little blink and subtle pursing of her wrinkly lips.

“Look at her, lookin’ at you,” Daryl said, not a little bit of awe apparent in his tone.

When she looked up, Daryl was standing over them, eyes on the baby and his face so completely unguarded it took Beth by surprise. She barely kept in the little gasp, seeing that wonder there that made him look almost boyish. Imagine that, Daryl Dixon turned completely to mush by this one tiny human. Not for the first time, either.  Beth would never forget the sight of him cradling this baby in his arms, smiling, feeding her that first bottle, rocking her back and forth and calling her sweetheart, like loving on babies was something he did every day. Like loving on a baby was something he did ever.

She didn’t say any of that, though. Instead, she turned back to the baby, smiling down at that little face. “She seems to like lookin’. Just wish it was Lori she was lookin’ at.”

Daryl slid down the wall, taking a seat beside her, close enough that he could still see the baby. A bit closer than he normally might, but it didn’t bother Beth. She had him figured out. It wasn’t Beth he’d invited up so much as it was the baby, and that was in itself kind of nice, getting to see a bit of this side of Daryl he usually kept hidden.

“Yeah,” Daryl said, and it took Beth a moment to remember what she had said before.

She nodded slowly, never taking her eyes off the little girl but aware that Daryl’s had now shifted onto her. “It’s sad, to think of her growin’ up without her mama.”

Daryl grunted softly. “Baby girl gonna be tough, though, all these aunties ‘n uncles lookin’ out for her.”

“And her big brother,” Beth said, smiling as she remembered her own. “Every little girl should have a big brother.”

“Her dad, too,” Daryl added, voice gone oddly flat. “Maybe.”

Daryl’s gaze was still on her when Beth looked over at him. His eyes, even in this dim light, stormed with everything his voice had not. Of course he was worried about Rick; they all were.

“She will,” Beth said, knowing in her heart that Rick would be there for his daughter, once he came back from wherever it was he had gone. “It’s just gonna take some time.”

She didn’t blame Rick. Couldn’t. Beth knew all too well how easy it was to slip into a dark place after losing someone. But she hoped for the baby’s sake, and for Carl’s—for all their sakes, truly—that Rick wasn’t lost to them for good. If someone like her could make it back from that dark place, surely someone like Rick could, too.

The conversation stalled, throwing the two of them into a weird sort of silence that might’ve trickled into awkward territory if the baby hadn’t picked that moment to start fussing. Her face scrunched up and turned a little redder, and the little grunting noises she’d been making all night were starting to sound a bit more like whimpers. Beth slipped the baby close again, off her knees and into her arms, but the fussing didn’t quit, even when she stood and jiggled her, like before. Tiny arms and legs wriggled inside the swaddling.

“She all right?”

Daryl’s voice was probably a little more serious than the situation called for, and Beth couldn’t help but smile at his concern, glancing over at him as he stood, too. “Probably gettin’ hungry. Could maybe use a change, too.”

Daryl was nodding, eyes drifting down toward the common area below. “Whatcha need?”

Earlier that day, Daryl had gone on a run just to get this baby the formula she needed to survive, and though his voice didn’t carry the same intensity as it had then, those few short hours ago, Beth could hear the sincerity there still. He wanted to help. Wanted to make sure this baby had what she needed, no matter that she wasn’t his, no matter that he’d already had to risk his life in order to do it.

Beth tried to swallow the lump growing in her throat as she turned to face Daryl, standing there at the head of the stairs. “Hold her for me. I’ll go get it.”

Like he had when he took her from Carl, those hours ago, Daryl slipped the baby into his arms from hers without hesitation. Beth heard him whispering to her, words she couldn’t hear in the softest little voice as she hurried down to get the diapers and formula.

On her way back up, Beth paused at the top of the stairs, watching Daryl’s back as he rocked side to side, still talking to that tiny girl, all sorts of nonsense about kicking asses and how to shoot a crossbow and letting Auntie Beth get some sleep. There was so much she just didn’t know about Daryl, so much of himself he kept hidden away, probably with good reason at least in his mind. His past remained a mystery, though it was clear to her that he hadn’t led an easy life. That he doubted very much he could ever lead a good one, despite how his devotion to the group belied that. Watching him now with that baby was just as magical as it was before. She would never ask him. She would never say. But this wasn’t the first baby he’d ever held, ever tried to soothe, and nobody would ever convince her otherwise.

He handed the infant back to Beth without a word to have her diaper changed—and it was both wet and soiled, which Beth knew was a good thing, as it meant she’d gotten enough to eat today. Daddy would be happy to hear it when he awoke. Beth could feel Daryl’s eyes watching her as she worked, cleaning the baby’s soft skin, securing the new diaper onto her tiny body before redressing her and wrapping her back up the way Daddy had shown her.

Beth lifted her up once she was finished, and turned to Daryl, meeting his eyes the moment she stood. “You wanna feed her?”

His already uncharacteristically soft gaze softened even more, though he was chewing on the inside of his lip the way he did sometimes, and he didn’t answer. Knowing he wasn’t going to, even though he clearly wanted to say yes, Beth stepped up close until her knuckles brushed against his vest, holding the baby to his chest. Daryl let out a little sigh and took the baby from her again with that same, easy motion, settled her into those strong arms as though that’s what they were meant for.

Beth handed him the formula, and baby girl stared up at Daryl as he fed her the bottle, that same big-eyed soft focus and slow blink, the only sound that of her sucking, strong and hungry, swallowing audibly, breathing in little huffs through her squishy nose. Beth’s gaze flickered between the two of them, the tiny baby staring up at Daryl’s face, and Daryl staring back down at her, lips turned up in a smile he probably didn’t realize he was making. That lump swelled up again in her throat, at the picture the two of them made. This brand new baby and this hardened man, and her eyes threatened to tear up at the simple beauty of it.

“Thank you,” she said, keeping her voice low to hide the way it thickened. “For goin’ on that run today.”

“Ain’t nothin’,” Daryl mumbled, gaze catching briefly on hers before settling again on the baby.

“No.”

Beth’s voice came out louder than she meant it to, and this time Daryl didn’t look away when he met her eyes. “It’s not nothin’, Daryl. We lost too many people today, but this little girl’s gonna make it because of you. That’s somethin’, so thank you.”

Daryl didn’t respond, but Beth didn’t expect him to. She said what she needed to say and she knew he heard her, hoped he tucked it away inside and remembered it. He wasn’t the sort of man used to accepting praise or gratitude, but that didn’t matter. He earned it and she was gonna damn well let him know. He stared back at her for a long time, those sharp blue eyes piercing right through her, almost, but Beth wasn’t going to look away. Not until the baby gave a little grunt and burped, all on her own, did they part, two sets of eyes simultaneously drifting to settle on the small bundle in Daryl’s arms.

“Looks like she’s done,” Daryl murmured, slowly rocking his way back over to where Beth stood.

She took the baby from him without protest, settled her into her arms. A trickle of formula gathered at the corner of her mouth and her eyes were already halfway shut, tiny body lying still now, all wrapped up tight and warm in her swaddling blanket. Looked like she was going to maybe sleep after all.

Beth was temped to stay up here with Daryl, even with the baby drifting off. Keep him company since her night’s sleep was already shot, anyway, and he didn’t look to be settling down anytime soon. He probably wouldn’t mind. Might even like gazing down at the baby a bit longer. Maybe he secretly preferred not being left alone with whatever kept him awake at night. In the end, though, she decided against it.

Maybe someday, she could get Daryl to open up a little. Find out a little more about this man, who underneath was so much different, so much more complex than he appeared on the surface. But that someday wasn’t today, so Beth held out the now-sleeping baby for him to see and whispered, “Say goodnight, Uncle Daryl.”

Daryl brushed his palm gently over the baby’s fuzzy scalp. “Night, Li’l Asskicker.”

She was halfway down the stairs when Daryl called out to her. He was backlit where he stood, at the top looking down, so Beth couldn’t make out the expression on his face, just the shape of him there. Broad shouldered, strong, like a statue standing guard over everything below. “Yeah, Daryl?”

“It’s—nothin’, never mind,” he said, retreating back a few steps into the light. “Get some sleep, a’right?”

Though she wondered what he was about to say, Beth let it go and just smiled up at him. “I will. You too. Goodnight, Daryl.”

From the top of the stairs, Daryl nodded once. “Night, Beth.”

Beth didn’t turn around as she descended the steps and headed for her cell, but she knew Daryl’s eyes followed her the whole time. She could still see the glow from his perch as she settled into her bunk, the warm, sleeping baby tucked securely in the crook of her arm. She had lost her mother, and for that reason alone, Beth’s heart would always break a little for this tiny girl. But she had her village, a ready-made family of both choice and blood—aunties and uncles, a grandpa, a father, a strong-hearted big brother.

Her saviour in leather, up there on his perch, even now watching over her.

Baby girl was gonna be tough, alright, but more than that—baby girl was gonna be loved.


*~*

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