A/N: :( I feel so bad for having delayed this chapter for so many weeks... I won't bore you with my excuses of how my life is hectic and chaotic and how I couldn't find the time to write this. I'll just get right down to it. I haven't had much time to actually plot and plan out this chapter as I would have liked so this was a bit of a rush job. This particular chapter is shorter than the usual but I promise I will make up for it in the next couple of chapters. There aren't many more chapters to go sadly as they are almost at Washington DC. Anyway before I digress even further (I'm so tired right now that my mind is like slowly shutting down to the point I feel as if I'm dreaming) I hope this chapter turned out alright and as always thanks for all those awesome reviews!
"Come to me now and rest your head for just five minutes, everything is good."
Our House by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
There's a fireplace in the house and its warm and nice and yet so strange to be safely tucked within the confines of a home with a warm crackling fire warming the place up. But he takes what he gets these days and he holds moments like these close and commits every second of it to memory because moments like these are rare and real and all that really matters anymore. He glances from the flames to Beth who is sitting in the corner on the other side of the living room with Maggie now talking in hush whispers and looking all serious but sometimes giggling too. He throws Glenn a look whenever they do and the man always offers him a smirk in response. Between the both of them, he and Glenn still can't quite get over the giggling. But nevertheless he feels a whole lot warmer now a days whenever he hears her laugh. As cliché as it may sound he admits quietly in his mind that her laugh does sound like music to his ears.
Not that any woman's laughter has ever brought that sort of a feeling to his heart before. He doesn't get a chance to really relish in the afterglow of her laughter now though as the kid shifts a little in sleep. He tightens the blanket around the kids shoulder and when he shifts back he spends a moment thinking about how natural it seems to do this now. It's so domestic and fatherly and everything he never thought he would ever deserve let alone even feel. But here he is minding after this kid as if this kid is his.
He tries not too hard to dwell on it anymore; not to wonder about the ifs and the maybes and the multitude of possibilities that could ever transpire had this kid never run into them. The kid is where the kid is now and here with them and that's all that he really needs to know now. Between him and Beth they have this sorted somehow in a very strange yet fitting way. He doesn't know; will never know. It's the sort of thing that is like the feelings he feels for Beth. He will never understand it; never really get it either but he will feel it and know it and live entirely for it. That much he knows now and that much he is sure off.
He looks from the fireplace to Beth now; sees her with the blankets thrown around her and her eyes firmly focusing on Maggie and Maggie alone. Maggie sees him though and it only takes a moment and a second later before Beth looks over and meets his eyes too. He offers a little smile; nothing like a grin or a beam or anything ecstatic like the way the kid smiles at him and Beth sometimes. It's a smile that is entirely him in every way and he knows that she is so in line with him now that simply looking into his eyes would tell her everything she needed to know.
True enough she smiles back as well in the very subtle but yet full of emotion and feeling. It hits him like a wave of warmth and he holds on to it even though he feels like this almost every time she looks at him now a days. She makes to move and pull the blankets up with her but before she completely does he watches as she turns her gaze back to Maggie. He hears the whisper of goodnight and sleep tight and all that other shit he used to never think much off until now. She hangs around for a moment longer than he expects though and speaks something very low and quiet that even he can't pick up.
He looks to Glenn in hopes that the man would give him some indication on the topic of their conversation. But then he realises the man is fast asleep and he glares momentarily for no real reason before sighing and looking away and around the room instead.
They're still in that house by the graveyard; the house that is so similar and same as that house he lost her in all those months ago. They've been here for two days already and though there were many rooms throughout the house the entire group somehow managed to gravitate towards sharing the entire living, dining and kitchen area together. The stay here was longer than it ever has been in any house or cabin or camp area they have been but after much discussion it was decided that they would stay here for a few days more to recuperate before resuming their walk to Washington DC. They weren't far off anymore; only a couple of weeks to go before they would be there. But it is likely that the rest of the journey from Charlottesville to Washington DC would be difficult and testing. They didn't have forest to hide in anymore; didn't have the safety of shielding themselves from everyone and anything else by setting up traps all around and moulding their camp into the very trees and bushes of the woods. No. The road from now on would be on hard cement and gravel; street houses and small towns.
They would undoubtedly come across unexpected herds of walkers but that is not what scares him the most at the thought of it all. He thinks about people like Joe and the men Joe was with and knows that he will not feel quite at ease as he does right now until they reach Washington DC. But he buries that thought for now and pushes it to the furthest point in his mind. They have a few more days here and he has a few more days to just bask in the feeling of complete safety within these four walls.
He sees her move to stand completely now and that does wonders to erase his thoughts completely. The kid shifts too and he glances down to see the boy throwing those tiny arms wildly to the front and then stretch and then yawn before falling right back to sleep. He looks back to Beth now and sees her already halfway across the room. He offers her a smile again and she directs him one back with equal measure.
She sits beside him when she eventually gets here and he looks back at Maggie and sees the woman looking at him. It looks for a moment that Maggie is almost studying him and his actions and movements that it leaves him feeling a little bit vulnerable. But when Beth finally curls next to him and settles and leans into his side he looks to Beth and forgets entirely about Maggie.
"Y'much warmer than Maggie," she whispers and he smirks at her.
"Yeah," he murmurs and lifts his arm to curl around her shoulders. The movement brings her entirely closer to his side and his heart feels the kind of warmth that is so complete and right.
She curls into him and rests her head on him and he takes this opportunity to breathe her in again. She is all earth and dirt, leaves and wood that it settles something warm in his gut. He wants very much now more than ever to kiss her completely and to bring her close and lose himself entirely in her. But with the way the rest of them are all in this living room, he tries not to think on that too much for now. She pulls him down with her a moment later and he curls around her as she does too and eventually they are both asleep.
He wakes sometime after midnight; not that he exactly knows but he figures it is somewhere near it from the coolness in the air and the fact that Michonne is navigating through everyone to the front door where Abraham and Rositia are currently sitting at. He peers sharply and tries to blink the darkness away properly so that he could see properly. Eventually he manages to see Rick move closely behind Michonne and soon the exchange of nightly duties happen through quiet whispers and updates and before he knows it, everyone is moving again.
He sees Michonne and Rick settle quietly by the door and hears and also feels the soldiers quietly walking through the masses of blankets. They are slow in their stride which tells him that they are being extra cautious and careful to not step on anyone's legs as they navigate their way from the clearing to the living room to the dining room where they have their area set up at. He sighs softly when the silence settles in again and feels her shifting and curling into him as well. She is still sleeping; he is sure of it from the way she breathes so evenly and steadily. The kid he knows is definitely asleep from the light snores he hears behind him.
He curls a hand tighter around her middle now and feels her nuzzling her head into his shoulder. She pulls on the blankets too and soon she sighs and lets out a long breath. He listens for a while more to the even sound of her breathing and he spends a moment feeling completely at ease with the knowledge that everyone that they know is okay and safe. But mostly he feels a part of his soul completely settle as well at the knowledge that she and the kid are completely safe for tonight.
The way she is laying right now grants him perfect access to kissing her forehead and with that in mind he shifts very slightly and presses his lips on her forehead. She murmurs something completely inaudible but he hears his name somewhere in between. She doesn't open her eyes though; only shifts again before she settles and drifts right back to sleep. The whole thing leaves him smiling like a fool and he honestly doesn't care anymore. He leaves his lips there on her forehead and closes his eyes too and soon drifts off to sleep as well.
It's much later when he feels her move and feels her arm bumping into the side of his chest. The movement jolts him awake but he isn't at alarm but instead wakes comfortably slow for a change. He feels her move even more and that's when he decides to shift too and blink his eyes open to check on her. She's looking perfectly at him when he meets her eyes and she's all eyes wide and awake already. He wonders just how long she must have been awake and whether she had been staring at him this entire time. The thought leaves him smiling and soon she is smiling too.
"Y'okay?" he murmurs in a tone sounding awfully groggy and full of sleep.
She nods and blinks sleepily at him before she covers her yawn with the back of her hand.
"Time is it?" he asks softly and glances just barely over the side of her head and to the other bundles of blankets.
He still hears the kid snoring lightly behind him and figures it must still be rather early. He sees the soft rays of light shining through the curtains too and still hears all their collective snores symphonically synchronised.
"Little after sunrise I think," she murmurs as she glances to the little ray of light streaming through one of the windows.
He nods and at the sound of that he is sure they have at least another couple of hours of sleep to go before everyone would be up and about getting all the last minute packing and things sorted before they resumed their walk. But for now he feels sleep pulling at him and for now he pushes those thoughts to the back of his mind. But just before he is about to close his eyes she moves again and this time he feels her hand sliding up his chest and around his collar.
He smiles a little at her and mimics her action by sliding his hand on to the top of her hand; effectively pressing it right onto the side of his neck just at his collar bone. She leans in and he meets her in the middle and lets her kiss him. It's completely sweet and perfect and gentle. This sort of kiss he categorises as their lazy morning kisses; but lazy or not they are perfect to him in every way.
They don't sleep for all that much longer but when he wakes up he feels better than he has been in the longest time he can remember. It takes them a couple of hours to get their things sorted and for everyone to pack up their blankets and sleep things. Ben hangs around him mostly and towards the last half hour of their time in the house the kid disappears into the kitchen to help Beth.
But as they step back on the dirt road he pauses for the briefest of moments. This is where he is now standing there staring at this house with her lingering close next to him. Her eyes are on the house too and the kid is all quiet between them and looking all serious and determined and quiet observation again. He wonders what the kid thinks of them right now; wonders if the kid understands that everything about this house and that little graveyard means a lot to him and to Beth. He figures the kid mostly doesn't understand and instead just stands there with them quietly and respectfully.
"Y'okay?" he asks softly and looks to her.
It takes her a moment to respond; to draw a breath in and to turn to look at him and smile.
"Think we did good…" she murmurs and glances back to the house.
He hums in agreement and feels her hand now sliding into his.
"Won' have t'think 'bout that place anymore…" she tells him softly as she still looks at that house, "Will just think about this."
"Mhmm…" he sighs contently for a change.
He feels the kid slipping that little hand into his and the feeling is warm and genuine and real and it brings him right back to here. It lifts his spirits just like she does everytime she so much as looks at him. But right there the next thing the kid says has him and Beth smiling for the longest time.
"I won' ever forget when Glenn screamed at that rat in the kitchen…that was pretty funny," Ben adds out of nowhere and the innocence of it and simplicity of it makes him laugh.
Beth was right after all. They really did replace that memory of that house by the graveyard with a much better one.