Thank you so, so much for the reviews, favorites and alerts on the first chapter. I hope you like this one just as much. I am already planning the next chapter and I think it's going to be from a POV other than Daryl and Beth.
Chapter Two. Touch.
Cloth diapers were just easier. They had found a box of Pampers in the beginning but after that, using cloth diapers and just being able to wash them and reuse them was ideal and far easier than having to go on runs every few days for more of the disposable kind. Beth could not wait until Judith was old enough to begin potty training. She really hoped Daryl was able to find a book so she could read and learn and know when the ideal age was to begin to teach her that. But if he wasn't able to get it, she knew she would have to forgo her stubbornness and ask one of the women in the prison who have had babies before.
Beth knew she could ask a number of people and they would be more than happy to tell her but something inside of her always stopped her before she could. She had one job in this prison and that was to take care of Judith and if she asked others, it would just further show everyone that she couldn't do it. She knew most of them already looked at her as if she was useless and she didn't want to give them anymore proof of that.
Judith sat on a spread out blanket on the concrete floor of the laundry room, playing with her usual pile of red plastic cups, giggling as she smashed them together, and Beth kept one eye on her as she scrubbed the cloth diapers up and down the washboard into the steel tub. She hummed to herself as she worked and listened as Judith giggled and babbled to herself in words only the baby could still understand but Beth liked to pretend she knew exactly what Judith was saying. She wondered when Judith would actually begin to speak. Beth knew it would be up to her to teach her that as well.
It wasn't that Rick was a bad father. Not at all. He loved both of his children deeply and Beth knew that. But Judith was something to him that constantly broke Rick's heart again and again. A constant reminder of everything and everyone who had been lost in this new world and most days, it simply hurt Rick too much to be around her too often.
So everything regarding Judith Grimes fell to Beth. And she didn't mind. She loved the baby girl as much as if she had birthed her herself. She had always wanted a child of her own and she knew that this was probably the only chance she would ever have to fulfill that dream. She never hated that caring for Judith was her job. She was never angry or frustrated that she couldn't go out on runs or be on guard duty or even patrol the fences like most everyone else.
Rick had told her once. "We can't have anything happen to you."
And she had given him a small smile and nodded and she knew that it was because if anything did happen to her, who would have time to watch Judith?
Finishing scrubbing the cloth, she wrung it out and added it to the pile in the basket. She would take them out and hang them on the laundry line to dry once she was finished with this last one. She grabbed the final cloth and dunked it in the soapy water before bringing it up the washboard. She hated the washboard. It sometimes rubbed her knuckles raw and her hands ached and she had such respect for women now in the past before washing machines were invented. Beth supposed she was just like them now, too. They had no choice to use the washboard. The old prison washing machines took too much water and too much power and they had to conserve things like that.
Because of how long and strenuous the task was, almost everyone in the prison was in charge of their own laundry. Beth was in charge of her own and Judith's as well as a few of the orphan children's, and sometimes, Rick and Carl's. She knew Daryl also didn't wash his own clothes but it wasn't because he was lazy or was one of those men who thought doing the laundry was women's work. Daryl didn't wash his clothes because he simply didn't think about it. Daryl had no problem wearing the same shirt and jeans for days in a row and bathing really wasn't high on his list either until Carol threatened to strip him naked and shove him in the showers herself. Carol was usually the one to wash Daryl's clothes.
Beth was glad Carol was back. What she did was horrible and Beth couldn't help but frown when she thought about it but she could also see Carol's reasoning behind it. In Carol's mind, killing Karen and David the way she had, it had been the greater good; a way to keep everyone else safe from the sickness. Beth would never do something like that, herself, and she didn't agree with it but she could understand Carol's thinking.
Rick had tossed her out, exiled her from their home, and the members of their original family were the only ones to know why. Daryl had been furious, pacing like a wild animal trapped in a cage and Rick had taken his arm and tugged him away so the two could speak in private. Beth was not only glad to have Carol back because she was a part of their family and Carol had become someone Beth could sometimes confide in but she was also glad because of Daryl. She didn't understand Daryl and Carol's relationship and it wasn't any of her business but she knew the two were exceptionally close and she knew Daryl had missed her terribly when she had been gone.
It wasn't as if Daryl had confided in her and told her that. Beth nearly snorted in amusement at just the idea of Daryl telling her anything. But Beth could see it on his face even if he was able to hide it from everyone else. She had just gotten good at being able to read everyone. No one really paid attention to her so she was able to observe and learn everything about the people around her. And it was obvious to her that Daryl loved Carol.
Daryl had the most responsibility of anyone at the prison; the most jobs. Her daddy said that they all had jobs to do but Daryl must have had at least fifty. With Rick stepping down for a bit from his leadership position, Daryl had stepped up and now, everyone in the prison looked to him. She saw the responsibility of that weighing on his shoulders each night as he dragged himself up the stairs to his cell. Daryl deserved to have someone around who he cared for.
Finishing the last cloth, she tossed it into the basket with the others and then went to go collect Judith, the baby clutching one of the cups to bring with her.
"Do you want to take that with you?" Beth asked her as she went to hold the basket against her other hip.
Judith just gurgled and began gnawing on the rim of the cup. Beth really hoped Daryl would be able to find a baby book for her. She didn't even know when Judith would start teething. Did this mean she was teething right now?
Outside, she went towards the laundry line and carefully set Judith down on the grass, watching her for a moment to make sure the baby was alright before she began draping the wet clothes over the line. She began humming to herself again as she worked. She could see her daddy, Rick and Carl in the crops as always. Carol was outside the fence as Maggie stood watch. The water pump must have gotten clogged again and Carol was cleaning it. She saw Tyreese and Sasha up in towers, on watch, and most of the other able adults were down by the fences, picking off the walkers building up there. She heard laughter of children and looked to see a small group of them was standing at one of the walls, drawing with the bucket of sidewalk chalk that Daryl had brought back from a previous run.
The sun was warm and the breeze was cool and it was a beautiful spring Georgia day.
She heard the familiar roar of an engine in the distance, getting closer, and she knew it Daryl returning from the run. She was surprised he was back already. Usually, runs took all day if not days. Supplies was getting harder to come by and the teams had to go further out to find anything of use. She hoped the early return meant it had been a successful run.
Carl had run to open the gate for them and Daryl drove up the gravel drive on his motorcycle with Glenn and Michonne driving in the car behind him.
People began heading over to see what they got and if they could help carry anything inside but Beth remained by the laundry lines. She finished hanging the cloths and just as she turned to pick up Judith once more, she heard a sharp cry and her eyes instantly began searching for the person who was hurt. She saw one of the little kids sitting on the ground, their hands clasped around their knee, hugging it to their chest.
Beth hurried over and dropped down in front of Molly, shifting Judith to one arm. "Let me see, sweetie," she told the girl in a gentle voice.
"She tripped over her shoe laces," Lizzie explained, standing with the other children, watching what was happening with rapt attention.
"It's alright. Let me see," Beth said again and Molly whimpered, moving her hands away. Beth saw the scraped knee and the blood and dirt and she looked to Molly and smiled. "I have seen much worse. We'll get you cleaned up and you'll be back to playing in just a few minutes." She stood up and held out her hand. Molly sniffled and wiped at her tear-soaked cheeks before grasping Beth's hand and pulling herself up.
She led Molly into cellblock C and straight to her own cell. She set Judith down in her playpen Beth had pushed against the wall in the corner and then pat her bed, signaling for Molly to sit down. Molly was no longer crying and she even managed to give a small smile as she pulled herself up and sat down on the bed. Beth kept a small first-aid kit beneath her bed for whenever one of the children hurt themselves. It wasn't that stocked. Just Band-Aids, cotton balls and a small bottle of antiseptic.
"First, we'll get it clean," Beth said, taking a bottle of water and a tissue from her small desk before kneeling on the floor in front of her.
Beth cleaned the knee of blood and the small bits of gravel and Molly only whimpered once. She then took the bottle of antiseptic and one of the cotton balls and looked up to the little girl. Molly's eyes were already slightly wide with fear.
Beth gave her a smile. "It'll be alright. It will only sting for a second, I promise."
"Can you sing?" Molly asked her in a quiet voice.
Beth's smile grew. "I can definitely sing. Any requests?"
Molly just shook her head and Beth saw the little girl curl her fingers into the blankets of her bed in preparation for what was to come. From the corner of her eye, she saw a shadow and turning her head, she saw that Daryl had come to her cell, standing in the entryway, a bookbag in his hand. She gave him a small smile but he didn't say anything to her; just looked at her and then to Molly. Beth looked back to Molly, too, the girl staring at her with her watery brown eyes.
Beth smiled at her and began to sing. "Hey, where did we go/Days when the rains came/Down in the hollow/Playing a new game/Laughing and a-running, hey, hey/Skipping and a-jumping/In the misty morning fog with/Our, our hearts a-thumping/And you, my brown-eyed girl/You, my brown-eyed girl."
As she sang, she quickly swiped the cotton ball of antiseptic across the wound and Molly only flinched and hissed once before she relaxed again and Beth continued singing and placed a Band-Aid over it. She then gave it a kiss and Molly burst into a smile.
"As good as new," Beth smiled. "And you were very brave," she then added.
"Braver than Lizzie?" Molly asked and Beth knew that many of the little kids looked up to the older girl, Lizzie, for some reason.
"Much braver than Lizzie. Don't you think so, Daryl?" She asked, looking to the man still standing there, watching them.
Daryl seemed surprised that he was suddenly involved and he straightened a little and cleared his throat. He gave his head a single nod. "Gonna want a brave girl like you on my run team one of these days."
And the smile that burst across Molly's face was practically blinding.
She threw her arms around Beth's neck and squeezed her and then kissed her cheek before hopping off the bed and running from her cell. Beth smiled and began cleaning up, standing up once more. She smiled faintly at Daryl.
"That was just what she needed to hear," she told him.
Daryl shrugged, not looking at her anymore. Instead, his eyes had settled on Judith as the baby sat in the pen, still chewing on the red plastic cup. "Got you two some things," he said.
Beth threw the cotton ball and tissue and bandage wrapper into her small wastebasket before stepped forward and taking the bookbag he extended to her. She set it on the desk and pulled the zipper back.
"Judith, look what Daryl got you," Beth beamed as she pulled out a small stuffed elephant.
"Saw it in a car," Daryl shrugged. "Figured she could use it."
"It's perfect," Beth smiled at him as she went to the playpen and held out the elephant for Judith to take. "Elephants have always been my favorite animal. Whenever my parents took me to the zoo, I only really cared about seeing the elephants. I wanted to touch one more than anything and I knew I wanted to go to Africa some day and see them roaming. They have elephant farms there. I had always planned on going for a visit after graduating."
The baby dropped the cup and took the stuffed animal, immediately beginning to gnaw on the grey trunk. Beth laughed, watching her for a moment, and when she turned, she saw that Daryl had his eyes on her. He quickly flicked them away.
Beth went back to the desk and looked into the bookbag once more. "Daryl, thank you so much." She pulled out the book, Everything You Need to Know About Baby Development, and she flipped quickly through the paperback before hugging it to her chest. She wondered where he had found exactly what she asked for. "Thank you."
Daryl shrugged as if it was no big deal and she wasn't surprised because Daryl always shrugged and act like nothing he did was that important. She wondered if he had any idea how badly they would all fall apart without him.
"Lemme know if you two need anythin' else," he said, practically mumbling the words.
Beth looked at him and wished he would look at her for more than a second. "I will."
She remembered the first time he showed up on the family farm. Rumbling in on his motorcycle with a permanent scowl on his face. She had been frightened of him. He had always been so angry and loud and always looking like he was ready to fight.
And then they lost the farm and spent months as a group, running from one place to the next, and Daryl had gotten quieter and calmer and she saw how hard he worked to always track down enough food for all of them. He made sure they were safe every night when they laid down to close their eyes. He made sure that nothing happened to them. Beth found herself feeling safe as long as Daryl was around.
They had barely ever talked to each other. She supposed they didn't really have a reason to. He was always with the others, talking plans, and she was always with Carl and Lori, making sure the woman had everything she needed though even if she did need something, Beth didn't know what she would have done to get it.
She and Daryl were part of the same family but she knew that to Daryl, she was nothing more than another mouth to feed.
She knew that that was how most of the people in this prison saw her as.
But then Zach had died and Daryl had been the one to come and tell her. She didn't know why Glenn hadn't since he had been on the run, too, but looking at Daryl as he leaned against the door of her cell, she felt something close to gratitude that it had been him coming to tell her instead of Glenn or anyone else. She wasn't in love with Zach. She was sad he was dead but so many people had already died, she felt somewhat numb to it. But she looked at Daryl and he looked so down about the whole thing – losing Zach and the failed run and having the responsibility of this whole prison. He looked drained. So Beth did the only thing she could think of doing. The one thing her mom used to do to her when she had been in a sad mood.
She had hugged him. And she had felt him flinch and tense and she braced herself for him to push her away but instead, he stood there and she felt his fingers on her elbow and the rumble of his chest as he said that he hated goodbyes, too.
They hadn't really talked with one another after that – just an occasional meeting of the eyes and she would give him a smile and he would acknowledge her with a nod but nothing more than that. She didn't entirely know why he was here now – he could have sent anyone to give her the book and stuffed animal – but again, she was glad that he was the one who came. She had never looked at Daryl in any other way than just Daryl but ever since that hug weeks earlier, she was seeing something else about him.
Daryl Dixon was handsome.
And she wanted to shake her head at herself for having that thought but she couldn't help it. He really was handsome in a way she never would have thought before. In high school, she had liked the clean-cut boys but there was absolutely nothing clean-cut about Daryl. And he wasn't a boy either. As far from it as possible. Daryl Dixon was a complete man.
"Thank you for everything, Daryl," she said, her voice sounding quieter than before.
Daryl grunted something but she couldn't decipher her words.
She told herself not to. She told herself that he would hate it and this time, he really would push her away and she told herself that she would just have her feelings be hurt even though she expected him to react like that and there was no reason to be hurt over it.
But Beth couldn't help herself. She was an affectionate person, she reminded herself as if she had forgotten that. She always had been and that hadn't changed. She just didn't have that many people to show her affection to anymore.
She stepped towards him and again, he jumped slightly as if he had expected her to hit him and she moved the book to one crook of her arm and the other arm slid around his waist. He was thin and hard and muscular and she had never hugged someone like him before. Even her brother, Shawn, had had a little leftover baby fat to him.
She squeezed her arm and she braced herself, knowing he was going to push her away any second but instead, she felt his fingers on her elbow again and he was stiff but he wasn't moving either of them away and Beth couldn't help but close her eyes and rest her head against his chest, able to hear his heart beat steadily in her ear.
It had been far too long since someone had last touched her.
Thank you so much for reading and please take a moment to review!