A story in three parts. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Springtime. I really love creating/writing Daryl's family.
Part One. Thanksgiving.
"Mama! They're here!" Annie Berry shouted as she was already running outside, the screen door slapping shut behind her, and she ran barefoot through the dirt despite the chill in the air and threw herself against her older cousin just as he got out from the pickup truck he had stopped in front of the house. She had been standing at the front door for what felt like hours now, keeping a lookout for their arrival.
"Oof!" Daryl Dixon grunted as the fourteen-year-old slammed against him. It took him a moment to catch his footing and then he smirked a little, hugging her in return. "Damn girl. Let me breathe a lil'," he said.
Annie pulled back and frowned fiercely at him. "What took you so long? You were supposed to be here ages ago."
Daryl just smirked again. "I'm marryin' a girl who doesn' have a bladder. We had to stop a few times," he told her, ruffling her hair even though he knew she hated it and when she jerked her head away and glared up at him, Daryl just kept smirking.
"You drank just as much coffee as I did, Daryl Dixon," Beth Greene said, coming around from the other side of the truck and doing her best to frown at him but the corners of her mouth were twitching upwards despite her best efforts.
Annie came skipping to her next and the two embraced in a tight hug. Annie loved Beth and was so happy Daryl was marrying her. She couldn't wait for the wedding in just a few months – in the spring down in Georgia where they lived – and Daryl had already said that the whole family was invited. Beth was so nice and she was the prettiest girl Annie had ever seen who wasn't a movie star. And probably prettier than most who were.
The front door opened and Clementine Berry stepped out, her youngest in her arms. Anne Sparrow-Knox had had six children and Clementine was the youngest of her brood. She had married Bill Berry and they had four children themselves and they all lived here in the old Sparrow house with Anne. The Sparrow family was a big family with too many cousins and great aunts and uncles to count and Daryl was still trying to keep them all straight. He had only met most of them just a few months earlier for the first time and had visited a couple of times since but it was always overwhelming for him. He had gone through most of his life thinking he didn't have anyone in the world and not only did he now have Beth but he now had all of them.
"Anne Berry. You get your butt up here," Clementine ordered. "No lick of sense in you, runnin' out like that in your bare feet. Let your cousin catch his breath 'fore you start pesterin' 'im."
"Mama," Annie whined as she usually did but obeyed and returned to the porch.
Daryl liked Clementine. She was his cousin closest to him in age and his Aunt Anne had already said that if his Grandma Liv had gotten around to bringing him up here back to Kentucky to live like she had planned, Daryl and Clementine would have been raised together. Clementine was a no-nonsense woman and he supposed she had to be, running the house and in charge of her kids and taking care of her elderly mom while her husband went off every day to work at his job as a groundskeeper for a nearby cemetery. It didn't bring home nearly enough money but Bill Berry was one of the lucky ones to actually have a job.
He grabbed both his and Beth's bags and Beth had already reached the porch, Clementine smiling as they embraced, and then Beth eagerly took the baby from her arms into her own. Daryl stepped onto the porch and set the bags down and he and Clementine hugged in greeting.
He supposed he was also getting used to hugs. He had gone through so much of his life never being touched except for punches, and now, he had Beth – who had to damn well be the most affectionate girl in the world – and this family who seemed to be hugging him every few seconds.
"Mama's been askin' 'bout you all day. We were expectin' you a while ago," Clementine said once they broke apart.
She had the classic Sparrow look that many of the women in the family had. Strawberry blonde hair and freckles and pale skin. Most of the men were dark-haired and tanned like Great Grandpa Sparrow had been but a few of them had the strawberry blonde, too. He had had light hair, himself, when he was a little kid but it had eventually darkened out. Sometimes, Daryl caught himself wondering what their kid would look like if he and Beth were to have one.
"I'm sorry," Beth spoke up. "I had to make Daryl stop a few times on the way up. I really don't have a bladder."
"Don't be sorry. We just were beginnin' to worry you were rolled in a ditch somewhere," Clementine smiled. "You best get inside," she said to Daryl.
He nodded and felt a little nervous as he had the other times he had gone inside. He didn't know what it meant to have a family. Once Grandma Liv had died, he had never had anything close to one and his time with his grandma had been so short and so long ago, it wasn't as if he had been able to get used to it. Each time he came up to Clay County and stepped into this house, everyone was so happy to see him. They didn't even know him. All they did know was that he was one of them and maybe that was all that really had to be known.
Inside, there seemed to already be a full house, some helping in the kitchen, others sitting in the living room, watching a Duck Dynasty Thanksgiving marathon on TV.
"Daryl's here!" Annie called out, eagerly rushing into the house.
And then he and Beth were both surrounded. He remembered pretty much everyone's names. He just had a hard time remembering exactly how they were all related. Great Grandpa and Great Grandma Sparrow had had a lot of kids and then their kids had had a lot of kids and on and on and it was a safe bet if Daryl just assumed that someone was his cousin. It made him wonder though why his Grandpa Chris and Grandma Liv had only had one child.
"Daryl and Beth Dixon, you get your asses over here!" Anne called out from where she was standing at the stove.
Someone plucked the baby from Beth's arms so she could hurry over to hug Daryl's great aunt, the woman squeezing her tightly and kissing her cheek. She had been reminded by more than one person that Daryl and Beth weren't married yet but Anne could have cared less about technicalities like that. Beth had a ring on her finger and they had a date set and she would be officially Beth Dixon soon enough.
"How dare you keep me waitin' all day. This could be my last Thanksgiving," Anne frowned at them both before pulling Daryl into an equally tight hug.
"Don't say that, Aunt Anne," Beth said.
"She'll say it at Christmas, too," one of Daryl's cousins piped out. It sounded like Roy.
"I found somethin' and I want to show it to you," Anne said, clasping one of Daryl's hands between both of hers. "You, too, Beth," she said and then snatched one of Beth's hands, tugging them both towards the kitchen door.
"Oh, I was going to help Clementine…" Beth trailed off uselessly as Anne continued pulling them and for being as old as she was, she sure still had her strength.
"I'm comin', too!" Annie exclaimed and then hurried after them before anyone could stop her and make her help in the kitchen.
Now that Daryl was here, Annie was probably never going to leave his side until he left again. There was something she saw in her older cousin that made her quite attached to him. It didn't matter that he was forty and she was just fourteen. And it wasn't because he was "new" in the family, either. Her grandma had once said that some people, you just meet in life and you click immediately with them. Sometimes, two people meet and it makes sense and it's as easy as that. Annie liked to think that meeting her cousin, it was as easy as that. It certainly felt like it was.
Anne lived in a small back bedroom with a twin bed against one wall and she shared the room with Annie, her own twin bed against the opposite wall. She pointed a crooked finger towards the closet.
"Annie, top shelf. That box," Anne said but as Annie went to go fetch it, Daryl beat her to it, easily stretching his arm out and taking the old shoe-box down from the shelf, turning and handing it to his aunt. He wasn't surprised when she lifted the lid and there were pictures inside.
There were two Sparrow children left – Anne and the youngest, Jeremiah. All of the other brothers and sisters of Grandma Liv had passed on. And Anne was the family historian. She was the one with all of the pictures and all of the stories. She had already given Daryl plenty of pictures – mainly of his mom and Grandma Liv when they were both so much younger and Will Dixon hadn't entered their lives yet. The original Sparrow family had been too poor for a camera so there were hardly any pictures of Anne or the others of when they were children and there were no pictures of Great Grandma and Grandpa Sparrow.
"Thought you might like this one," Anne smiled after sifting for a moment and pulling out a 4x6 colored picture though it had faded in time and now looked to be in all shades of yellows and oranges. "Found it stuck to another picture and I lost track of it or I would have given it to you last time you were here."
Daryl took the picture and Beth leaned in to look at it as well. He didn't say anything as he looked down at a ten-year-old Merle holding his newborn baby brother in his arms. He recognized him sitting in the worn recliner that had been in their living room and Merle was actually smiling which made Daryl think that the picture had been taken when Will hadn't been around.
"Liv was so happy when you came," Anne said and Daryl didn't stop looking down at the picture. There really had been a time when Merle had actually been a kid with buzzed light brown hair and a nose that hadn't been broken yet. "She loved Merle but she knew that Merle was already getting to be too wild and she and your mama couldn't control him. She wrote to me that when she babysat your older brother, afterwards she felt as gray as a catbird."
Daryl smirked at that and he could imagine his grandma perfectly saying that. And he could imagine a little Merle being a hellion. He always had been.
"When you were born, she was scared because of your father but she could tell that you were going to be a sweet boy. You were such a good baby. Hardly ever cried. Or so she said," Anne teased with a faint sparkle in her eyes.
"Thank you," Daryl said softly and finally lifted his eyes to look at Beth as she looked at the picture with a faint smile on her face. Even after all of this time, he still got so damn sad whenever he thought of his brother.
He missed that asshole every single day.
"Is Merle buried where your grandparents and mama are?" Annie asked then.
Daryl shook his head and cleared his throat. "Nah. Didn' have money for a coffin or burial or anythin' like that. County took him after he died. They just burn those bodies up. Took his ashes and scattered 'em in the woods."
He cleared his throat again and he felt Beth leaning into him, her arm sliding around his waist as if she was trying to hold him up; as if knowing that she needed to.
"Come on now," Anne broke the heavy mood and lifted a hand, patting Daryl on the cheek like she did with everyone in the family. "None of this. It's Thanksgiving and Daryl and Beth are here with us today and it's a happy day."
They all smiled at that and Anne and Annie left the bedroom, leaving to return to the kitchen and leaving Beth and Daryl alone for a moment.
"We need to buy a frame once we get home," Beth said and he nodded. "You're getting quite a collection going on the mantel," she then said with a smile.
He smiled a little, too, and slid the picture into the back pocket of his jeans. "Yeah…" he said and his voice trailed off because he wasn't too sure what else to say.
But Beth was more than used to that and she smiled, lifting herself up on her toes so her face was more level with his and Daryl slid his arms around her, holding her closet to him. And when she placed herself back down on her feet, he didn't let her go and instead, he bent into her, keeping their faces close together.
"Maybe you can ask one of your cousins to be your best man," Beth suggested then and she had tried to discuss this before.
He had considered Rick, Shawn and Glenn. Even T-Dog. But he didn't know if he could ask any of them; if they were close enough for him to want them to be his best man when he got married. He wished he didn't need one at all but Beth was having Maggie stand up with her and he couldn't have it unbalanced like that – even if Beth hadn't exactly said that he needed to have a best man.
"Nah," he shook his head. "I keep screwin' up their names, still. Be a lil' awkward askin' someone for somethin' like that if I can't even get their name right to do it."
She giggled at that and he smirked before closing the space between them and pressing his lips to hers. Beth eagerly pressed her lips back to his and he could feel them beginning to twitch. She did that often – smile when he kissed her. And sometimes, it made him smile, too, and sometimes, their teeth would clack together and it would make them smile wider and laugh and Daryl never would have thought that kissing a girl could be so much damn fun.
They both heard giggling from the doorway and their lips parted, heads turning to see who it was. There was a baby there, around a year old, wearing a diaper and a tee-shirt and his blanket over his shoulder. Beside him, there was another boy – this one around three, a bottle in his hands and his lips curved in a smile around the rubber nipple in his mouth.
Daryl knew the baby was Albie – son of his cousin, Al. The man had three older daughters and had been eager to finally have a son and immediately gave him his name – which was actually confusing because he had a daughter named Allison and everyone called her Al, too. The other boy, the toddler, was RJ – named after his dad, Russ, and his grandpa, Rusty, and his great-grandpa Rusty who had been one of Grandma Liv's brothers.
RJ pulled the bottle from his mouth. "You're kissin'!" He giggled and Daryl felt his ears turn red as if he wasn't a forty-year-old man.
"Yes, we are," Beth just smiled though. She left Daryl to go and hoist Albie in her arms and then smiled down at RJ. "Let's go help in the kitchen. The more we help, the faster we can all eat," she said as they all left the bedroom and Daryl followed.
As Beth went into the kitchen to join the others there to help with food preparations, it seemed like almost immediately, the talks turned to those of the wedding plans she had made so far.
"I have my dress already," Beth said. "It was my mama's and I'm a bit smaller than she was so I took it to a tailor in town and she's helping fit it and making a few other small changes to it. As long as with the holidays, I don't gain that much weight from now until May-"
"Child, every time I see you, I'm always worried one of these strong mountain winds are going to carry you right away and we'll have to pull you down from a tree!" One of the woman cousins teased and they all laughed.
"And what about you, Daryl?" Clementine asked, looking to him as he stood in the doorway and Annie sneaked them both a couple of the rolls cooling on the stove before her mama could slap her hand away. "You gonna be wearin' a tuxedo?"
"Jus' a suit," he answered.
"Paul wore a tuxedo for our weddin'," another of his cousins said. "You 'member that? It was that powder blue and he looked so awful."
"I looked damn good, woman!" Paul yelled from the living room, having overheard, and his wife just looked at the other women and shook her head and they all laughed and Daryl followed Annie as she left and headed into the living room.
"No weddin' talk in here, Daryl," Russ said, RJ now sitting in his daddy's lap, and Daryl's lips twitched in a little smile as he sat down on the couch in the spot Russ had made for him and Annie to sit down in.
It wasn't as if he minded talking about the wedding. Mainly because Beth didn't do that much talking about it. They had been planning on something small but with the invites going out to his family – and they learned just how large it was – it wasn't going to be that small after all but even then, Beth didn't seem to be panicking that much. They were getting married in her family's church and then the reception would be at the Greene farm and with Daryl's job at GE and an early wedding present from Hershel, they had money for food and flowers because Beth admitted that she wanted flowers more than anything at their wedding.
They watched two more episodes of Duck Dynasty before Aunt Anne came in and with her fists on her hips, she ordered all of their lazy asses to get up and help get the tables together since dinner was just about done.
The house was small so they had to do some arranging, bringing the dining room table and the kitchen table out in the living room, pushing the couch and recliners out of the way and there was no room to line them up in a row so they had to set them down beside one another. And then they helped the women carry all of the food from the kitchen to set it out on the tables as the kids helped place plates and silverware. There was a turkey as well as a couple of ducks that they had hunted, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade stuffing, fresh green beans and rolls.
Anne sat at the head of one of the tables and she made sure Daryl was sitting right next to her. Beth settled into the seat on his other side and Annie sat next to Beth. Daryl looked at everyone sitting at both tables and the food spread out in front of him and he had never had a Thanksgiving before. Not like this. There had been small turkey dinners with his Grandma and mom on this day when he was little but then his mom died and Grandma Liv died shortly after that and after that, there were never any holidays in his life ever again.
Was he going to have Thanksgiving every year? Here, like this, with his family?
"Let's pray," Aunt Anne said, holding out her hands and Daryl was slow to take it as Beth slid her hand into his other and everyone held hands. "Thank you, Lord, for providing us with such a bounty today, for keeping everyone in our family healthy, happy and safe and for finally bringing our Daryl back home to us. Amen."
"Amen," everyone echoed and Daryl felt the breath catch in his throat.
Anne squeezed his hand and then handed Bill, who sat on the other side of her, the plate of rolls and Beth still held his other hand, giving it a squeeze. He turned his head and looked at her and she gave him a smile and he squeezed her hand back. She leaned in and gave him a soft kiss on his cheek.
The meal was long and loud with everyone laughing and talking and Daryl didn't talk – just ate and listened to everyone around him. Annie was telling Beth that she had a pretty white dress to wear to the wedding in the spring and Clementine told her that she couldn't wear white to a wedding; the bride was the only who could, and Annie frowned at that before Beth told her that maybe they could figure something out so she could wear white, too.
"I'm not gettin' married, too, just so I can wear my white dress," Annie huffed and they all laughed at that.
When the pumpkin and pecan pies were brought out for dessert, everyone groaned and said they were stuffed to the gills but no one seemed to have any problem eating at least one slice. And after that, they all helped clear away the dishes and the men set the tables back to where they went and arranged the living room once more and then the kitchen was crowded as they began the large task of washing everything.
There was a football game on now, too, but some began to leave, heading home for the night though leaving took a while because they had to say goodbye to everyone.
It was late when it was finally just Aunt Anne, Clementine and Bill with their kids, and Beth and Daryl. They would be staying the night and the next day before heading back to Georgia on Saturday.
"'s not the most comfortable thing in the world," Bill said as he got the bed in the pull-out couch ready for them.
"After that meal, I think I can sleep anywhere tonight," Beth smiled as she took the extra blankets that their oldest daughter, Natalie, handed her.
"Thanks for everythin'," Daryl said to Clementine.
She just shook her head and stood on her toes, giving him a hug. "Sleep well, you two. Bill and mama are early risers but they'll try not to wake you."
"We wake up early, too," Beth assured them, looking to Bill. "You don't have to tiptoe around us in your own home."
"And jus' somethin' to keep in mind… this couch squeaks," Bill said and Clementine smacked his arm and Daryl felt the back of his neck flush.
Anne was the last to leave as the rest went to their rooms and she first hugged Beth, wishing her a good night, and then went to Daryl, hugging him tight.
"I'm almost scared that when I wake up tomorrow, you won't really be here," she confessed to him, tears glassing in her eyes.
Daryl swallowed a thickness in his throat. "I'll be here," he said to her, as if it was something he really had to promise.
Anne smiled and patted his cheek and then went to go to her own room, leaving Beth and Daryl alone in the living room. They got themselves ready for bed and Beth slipped in between the sheets as blankets as Daryl turned off the lights and crawled in beside her. Immediately, Beth laid close to him, her head resting on his chest and his arm wrapping around her shoulders, holding her tight. It was quiet – the kind of quiet he liked. The kind of quiet where a person could think they were the only one left in this whole world.
Beth yawned and shifted, trying to nestle even closer, and Daryl made sure she was covered completely with the blankets. She always seemed to be cold all of the time.
"This will be such a nice tradition to have," she said, her voice already getting a little slower as she began to drift off to sleep. "Coming up here every year for Thanksgiving. Just wait until we add our own kids to all of this."
Daryl didn't say anything but he squeezed his arm around her shoulders a little tighter and listened as she dropped off into her slumber and he looked up at the dark ceiling.
He felt himself smiling a little. He couldn't wait to bring their kids up here – and not just for Thanksgiving. He wondered how Beth would feel about having a baby right away. He was thinking that he wanted Aunt Anne to meet any baby of his while she was still around to. Since they wouldn't be able to meet Grandma Liv, they could still meet Aunt Anne and he wanted his and Beth's kids to always know that they had this big family up here in Kentucky who would always welcome and love them.
Christmas at the Greene farm in the next chapter told from Beth's POV.
Thank you for reading and please review!