Author's Note: {AU} one-shot written for ultimatebethylficlist 'Bethyl Holidays Fest: Halloween' 2019 Tumblr challenge.

Prompt: 'Black Cats'.


Nine Lives

Emily Dixon-Greene glanced around her, her free hand holding onto the brim of her witch's hat, the other cradling her newest secret. The coast seemed clear, so she set off through the hall, making for the stairs. If she was a real witch, she would just fly up to her room, but as it was, she couldn't defy gravity - yet.

Daryl padded softly into the hall, only to stop at seeing his daughter contemplating the stairs, instantly setting off his suspicions. "What's that you got there, kid?" he asked, coming up behind Emily, making her whirl around.

"Nothin'," Emily said shiftily, clutching the front of her jumper, trying to shield the suspicious bulge with her arms.

"Don't look like nothin' to me."

"So says you."

"Don't get smart with me, you little asswipe," Daryl snapped. "What you hidin' under that jumper?"

A forlorn meow was his answer, the sound making Daryl freeze. One glance at Emily's guilty face was all he needed to confirm he hadn't been hallucinating.

"Alright, hand over the critter," Daryl said, raising his gaze to the ceiling, trying to keep his patience.

"No!"

"Give it 'ere!"

Pouting, Emily hesitated before carefully handing the kitten over, knowing she couldn't keep it hidden under her jumper forever. "A witch needs a familiar," she said defensively, "or else she ain't a witch."

Daryl ignored this piece of logic. "Hey there, lil buddy," he crooned, gently cradling the kitten in the curve of his calloused hands, "where did you spring from, huh?"

"Mr. Negan gave me him," Emily replied, bridling slightly.

Daryl's jaw tightened at the mention of Negan's name. Despite the Council's assertion that Negan had now been fully rehabilitated into the community, he wouldn't trust that fucker as far he could fling him. The others might have let time tarnish Glenn and Abraham's memories, but he would never forget; he couldn't. And for some bizarre as hell reason, the local kids adored Negan, swarming around him like flies to shit. Judith Grimes was the favourite, Negan standing in as some strange sort of father figure, but for the rest of the kids, he existed somewhere between favourite uncle and the Bogeyman, their childish minds enthralled by the allure of the forbidden, all too aware of his ugly past even as they were ignorant of the finer details.

"He found it outside," Emily said, shifting from one foot to the next, "its momma was dead."

"Why is he palmin' it off on you, then?" Daryl snapped again, even as he knew he wouldn't have left the kitten to die either.

"Cos he just did."

Daryl studied the kitten with narrowed eyes. "Looks half starved," he observed critically, "probably crawlin' with fleas as well" –

-"What's crawlin' with fleas?" Beth asked as she came through the doorway, balancing a basket of laundry on her hip.

"Mr. Negan gave me a kitten, Mommy," Emily piped up, tossing her long blonde hair back, nearly losing her witch's hat as she did, forcing her to frantically grab it.

Beth tensed, her gaze instinctively finding Daryl's. After Negan had been released, she had been ready to rip out the roots she had put down in Alexandria, and flee to the Hilltop. But then the line of cold steel that ran through her character had risen to the fore, stilling her hand. Men like Negan never changed, and somebody had to be ready. So Beth had stayed, watching and waiting, readying herself for yet another fight to the finish.

"What are you going to call him?" Beth asked, putting the laundry basket down, deliberately keeping her voice even.

"Is it a boy?" Daryl said doubtfully, making to check, only for Emily to halt him with her hand.

"It's a boy, I already checked," Emily said imperiously. "I don't sit around lettin' my ass hang out."

"Emily!" Beth reproved. "What did I tell you about your language?"

Emily just pouted again, slinking over to the kitten, holding her finger out for it to sniff.

"I never can decide if she's more like your daddy or your sister," Daryl said, shaking his head. "That attitude problem though is all Merle, man."

"Sure she doesn't get it from you?" Beth said slyly, peering up through her lashes at him.

"What about you, huh?" Daryl grinned. "I didn't have that kid all by myself."

"Oh, I'm all angel," Beth smiled, taking the kitten from him.

"I'm my own person," Emily said defiantly, making Daryl roll his eyes.

"Of course you are," Beth said smoothly. "What are you going to call your little friend, then?"

"Scarface?" Daryl hazarded, making Beth elbow him in the side.

"Midnight," Emily said without a second thought.

"Midnight," Beth tried out, liking the sound of it. "Midnight it is then, and just in time to say hello to Halloween."

"More like hell to Halloween," Daryl grumbled, but Beth just smiled again, knowing the kitten was here to stay, just like them.

This is a place where I don't feel alone
This is a place where I feel at home...