This has been in my head for a while and it has taken me forever to get out and I'm so glad I was finally able to finish it!
"I have to push."
Beth's mind is completely fogged over with fear and worry – fear because that alarm is still going off from somewhere in the prison and worry because she has absolutely no idea where the rest of her family is – but somehow, through all of that, she hears Lori's panted words.
"NO!" Beth all, but shouts at the woman.
Lori is gripping a pipe on the wall, obviously in excruciating pain, trying to stay on her feet.
"No, Lori," Beth says again in – what she hopes – a calmer tone. "You can't push yet. I have… I have to check and see how dilated you are."
Lori turns her head to look at her. She is sweaty and her skin has taken on a grey hue that frightens Beth. Beth can just imagine what the woman sees when she looks at her. Beth knows it's how everyone in their family looks at her. She's just a kid. Carl, younger than her, has better aim than her and can contribute at least something to the group. Beth sings songs when she thinks they need to hear them and what does that really do or how does that really help any of them?
Beth doesn't doubt that right now, Lori is wishing absolutely anyone else in the group was with her in this boiler room right now with her other than Beth.
"Please, Lori. I need to check," Beth says in a soft voice, but the plea in it strong. She seems to know the instant Lori agrees because she suddenly sags heavily against the pipe she's clutching to. "Carl!" Beth calls to the boy who's standing at the locked door, as if he's making sure that it stays locked. "I need your help."
Together, Beth and Carl help Lori lower herself onto the floor and Beth sends Carl to look around the room for anything. Towels, rags. Anything. While he's off doing that, working together, Beth and Lori get her boots, jeans and underwear off, soaked with sweat and something else. Her water has definitely broken.
Beth's hands are shaking and she does her best to shake them out. "Do you want to leave your socks on?" She asks before she has Lori open her thighs.
"Does it matter?" Lori asks with a tired laugh. "Have you done this before?" She then questions Beth and she remembers the way the woman had questioned her daddy back at the farm, when Carl needed that surgery.
"Helped deliver a baby in a prison boiler room? First time. You?" Beth does her best to make a joke and it works because Lori lets out another laugh that is quickly cut off with a groan of pain.
"There's a sink in the corner," Carl says, breathless from hurrying through his task. "And here." He hands her every towel he could find and Beth flashes him a smile before taking the towels from him and setting two aside, she lays one out on the floor at Lori's opening.
"Carl, sit at your mom's head and distract her," Beth orders next. "Lori, don't push. I mean it. I have to wash my hands and then we'll see how far along you are and we'll… we'll go from there," she finishes lamely.
Carl seems to know that Beth is in charge and thankfully, he doesn't give that argument. He does as she says and kneels down next to Lori's head and he whispers something.
"I'm okay," Lori whispers back, doing her best to smile up at him.
Carl has tried so hard to be a man over the past few months, but now, he looks like the child he is and even though he is also trying so hard to hide it, Beth can see how scared he is.
Beth hurries to her feet and then within seconds, has found the sink in the corner. Her heart is crashing against her ribcage and the alarm – still baring – is echoing in her ears and pounding her head. She prays to God that there is running water though why would there be? She had woken up early a few mornings before and the ground had been soft and the grass had been a lush green. There is a creek nearby. Maybe…
Please, God, maybe…
She closes her eyes and sags with relief once she turns one of the handles and water pours out. There is a bar of soap on the sink's ledge and Beth quickly scrubs her hands and her arms up to her elbows roughly, washing them until her skin is pink, nearly red.
She has brought the final towel with her and she runs it under the water until it's soaked through.
She can do this. She has absolutely no idea how she is going to do this. She has absolutely no equipment, but women used to give birth in caves without equipment. She, Lori and Carl are in a prison boiler room right now; their very own cave. They can all do this.
She's just turned seventeen two days ago. She hadn't told anyone and daddy and Maggie had forgotten – and with good reason. No one kept track of days anymore and with her daddy's leg… there have been far more important things than Beth seeing another year.
The point is though, she's seventeen and she's not a little girl anymore and she needs to prove herself. She had hoped for something perhaps a little bit easier than delivering Lori's baby, but what's easy anymore?
Hurrying back to Lori and Carl, Lori is now gripping Carl's hand as her eyes clench shut.
"Start counting," Beth tells Carl. "We need to know how far apart the contractions are." She kneels down on the other side of Lori and begins wiping at her sweat-soaked face with the wet towel. Lori seems to sigh the instant it hits her skin.
The alarm is still blaring and Beth tries to hum to counter it, but it's too loud and constant.
"Three minutes. I think," Carl finally says. "I'll do that." He takes the towel from Beth and Beth moves to kneel between Lori's legs, gently pushing the knees apart.
"It's fast. Five minutes or less is fast," Beth tells all of them, including herself.
"How do you know that?" Lori asks, panting, trying not to scream out.
"My daddy is a vet and when Maggie went off to college and Shawn was helping Otis with the farm, I was the one, helping in his office."
"So what am I? A dog or a horse?" Lori tries to joke.
"I'm thinking of you as a horse, to be honest," Beth replies. "There's only one foal in there and not a litter of puppies."
"What if it's twins?" Carl asks with wide eyes.
"Hush," Lori immediately responds to that, lifting a hand to her son's mouth as if to quiet that thought.
Beth completely agrees with Lori. They need to squash that idea even being put out in the universe.
Beth has seen a birthing video once. Jimmy had come from a large family and when his mom had been pregnant with their seventh – and last – child, Mrs. Campbell had said that she had never gone to one of those classes that women in movies and on television are always going to. Jimmy and Beth had just started dating at that time and Mr. and Mrs. Campbell took the young couple with them. Beth thinks that their son's new relationship is the only relationship they wanted to go to the childbirth class in the first place.
"Education," Mrs. Campbell had said.
"They'll never want to have sex after this," Mr. Campbell had murmured to his wife and hadn't known that Beth had been able to overhear him.
Highly graphic and disturbing would be how Beth would describe it, but Mr. Campbell had been absolutely right. Jimmy hadn't tried to touch Beth for a week after seeing that video and Beth hadn't wanted him to.
Beth peers between Lori's thighs. The baby isn't crowning yet and the contractions still seem to be three minutes apart. The alarm is still blaring and Beth doesn't even have a clean knife to cut the baby's umbilical cord when it comes. Right now, the only thing she has is the pounding of her heart and the determination that she is going to get all four through this because she has no other choice. Her daddy or Carol or Maggie isn't here. All Lori has is her and Carl and there's nothing that any of them can do about that.
"Do you think dad's okay?" Carl asks his mom.
"Of course, he is," Lori answers and gives him a tight smile and Beth wonders how much of that is from the pain she's currently experiencing from the labor or another kind of pain. "Daryl's with him."
Carl nods, seems to be satisfied with that, and Beth silently agrees.
She suddenly wishes that Daryl was in the boiler room with them because even if he's clueless as to how to deliver a baby, just having him here would make all of them feel better. That's just what Daryl does. He's quiet, but he's strong; the strongest of all of them and whenever he's near, the entire family just feels that much safer. Beth admits to having developed the habit of watching the man over the past few months as their group moves from one place to another.
She doesn't know anything about him except the very bare basics. When he had showed up at the farm, the very first time Beth saw him, she had been frightened by him and the way he paced and fumed, about to snap under the weight of his fury at any moment. Every day, he had just been so angry, but then, slowly, he's changed since the farm. Beth knows they all have. He's quieter. Calmer. And Rick and him oftentimes have conversations now between the two of them, talking back and forth in whispers, before Rick tells the rest of them what they have decided their next move will be.
He's also started talking to the others. Daryl now talks with everyone in their group. Except for her. He's never exchanged a single word with her before and Beth tries to not let that bother her, even as she watches him talk with the others. She knows why he doesn't talk to her. He more than likely sees it as useless. There's no reason to talk to Beth since Beth brings nothing to the group; just another person to feed and keep alive.
Still though, she finds it almost odd how she would feel better if he was here.
She's torn from her thoughts when another contraction rips through Lori, the woman grinding her teeth together to keep from screaming out and she's holding both of Carl's hands so tightly, her knuckles turn white and Carl does his best to not wince.
"They're getting closer," Beth says. "Lori, I'm going to check… inside. I washed my hands and I'm going to feel for the baby."
She doesn't know if that's right. It sounds right though.
"With Carl, I had to have a C-section," Lori begins to say, but Beth is already shaking her head.
"No. I'm not going to do that. You won't survive that and I… no," she says firmly. "Let me try it this way."
Lori looks at her and Beth wouldn't be surprised if Lori doesn't except herself to get out of this alive. But Beth is prepared to do anything to ensure that four of them leave this boiler room, alive, today.
It's best if she doesn't actually think and dwell into what she's doing; slowly inserting her hands into Lori. Inside her mind, she doesn't stop praying up to God to help her.
"Lori, can you push for-" Beth begins to say and she doesn't even get to finish her sentence before Lori is doing just that.
This time, she can't contain her scream and Carl clutches her hand tightly with one of his own while wiping her face with the damp towel with his other.
"Breathe," Beth says once Lori has pushed as hard as she can.
The woman's face still looks ashen to her, but her cheeks are flushed now as well. Beth counts to sixty in her head and think of exhausting it was to help one of the horses on the farm deliver their foals and how intense the whole process was – for both the horse and her daddy, Otis and herself. All were sweaty and covered in blood and other fluids by the end of it all. She wonders if she'll have to dump a bucket of water onto Lori's baby as she had to more than one foal once they were out in the world.
Beth had helped deliver horses and she can deliver this baby. There's no reason why she won't be able to. She's not her daddy or Maggie or Carol, but still. She can do this. She will do this.
"Push!" Beth orders and again, Lori screams as she pushes.
None of them even notice that the alarm has stopped blaring now.
"The baby's coming. I can feel it," Beth says, feeling out of breath herself as she can feel the slippery skin of the baby inside of Lori against her hands.
"I have to push, Beth," Lori pants.
Beth nods. "Push. Almost there!" She then sees the top of the baby's head beginning to crown. "Carl, take off your shirt," she orders him as her fingers feel for the umbilical cord.
She releases a breath. She had been scared that the cord would be wrapped around the baby's neck, but God must really be in this boiler room with all of them right now. The baby's coming. They're all doing this.
"Here," Carl tosses his plaid shirt over her shoulder and then goes back to letting his mom grip his hands.
"One more push, Lori!" Beth says and Lori screams one more time as she pushes with all of her might.
Beth gently holds onto the baby, helping Lori along and pulling the baby out. Lori collapses onto her back, panting as heavily as a person can, and Carl wipes at her face again with the towel as he watches Beth, anxiously. Beth takes her knife – wishing, again, that it was a clean knife – and swiftly cuts the cord. She turns the baby gingerly over in her arms and begins patting and rubbing the baby's back, clearing her air passages.
Seconds later, the boiler room is filled with the cries of the newborn baby and Lori begins crying, struggling to sit up enough to see her new baby.
"It's a girl," Beth says, tears in her own eyes. "Carl," she addresses the boy, who's staring at his new sister with wide-eyed amazement. "Take that towel and go soak it again. I'll want to clean her off."
Carl snaps to and with the towel, he runs back to the sink. Beth wraps the bloody mess of a baby in Carl's flannel shirt and crying openly now, but smiling, she gingerly passes the baby into Lori's waiting arms. The baby is still crying, her day just as trying as all of theirs, and Lori cries along with her, holding her close.
"She seems healthy," Beth notes as she listens to the baby's loud cries.
"She's perfect," Lori says, staring at her baby daughter with complete amazement. "You're perfect, Beth," she then says, looking back to her, tears of absolute gratitude shining in her eyes.
Beth promptly blushes, but she shakes her head. She's never had anyone look at her like Lori's looking at her right now. "I just did what any of us would have done."
Carl returns, the towel soaked and dripping wet.
"Thank you," Beth says to him. "Can you help your mom sit up a bit? I want to clean the baby and then Lori, I'll clean you a bit, too."
Beth helps Carl and together, they get Lori sitting up enough against the wall. Beth wishes they had a pillow for her to lean back again. She wishes they had a hospital room, too, but she will continue to work with what they have.
"I'm going to clean her and then you can try feeding her," Beth suggests and Lori nods.
She kisses her daughter on the forehead despite the blood before passing her back to Beth so Beth can begin wiping her down with the towel.
"What are we going to name her?" Carl asks.
"I…" Lori begins to say, but then trails off, watching Beth and the baby. "What's your middle name, Beth?"
Beth's eyes fly to her, widening. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why Lori is asking her that.
"You don't have to do that, Lori," Beth begins to say, shaking her head.
"What's your middle name?" Lori just asks again.
Beth looks down to the baby. She has stopped crying and is a bit more clean now. She agrees with Lori. She seems absolutely perfect; being born in this world after surviving through a pregnancy with absolutely nothing to make it easier, that's a miracle in itself.
"Anne. After my mom," she answers quietly.
Lori looks to Carl and Carl smiles at his mom, reading her mind. Lori then looks to Beth, smiling as well.
"Anne," Lori repeats and Beth can't help herself from kissing baby Anne on the forehead before passing her back into Lori's arms.
All three turn their heads when they hear the heavy metal door screaming open on its rusty hinges.
"Dad!" Carl exclaims.
"Carl!" Rick runs into the room with Daryl, followed by Maggie.
They all stop right in their tracks though when they see Lori, holding her newborn baby.
"This is Anne," Carl beams at all of them and he looks like such a boy in that moment; a boy brimming with excitement at having a new sibling.
"Beth, you…" Maggie begins to say and Beth can hear the disbelief in her older sister's voice.
Beth understands it. She'd have a hard time believing it, too. After all, in their group, she's just Beth.
"I wouldn't be here without Beth," Lori tells the three new arrivals.
"You did most of the work," Beth replies, her cheeks still blushing at the praise and everyone looking at her.
Rick hasn't said a word. He's staring at the baby, unable to stare at anything else. He slowly comes forward and kneels down on the ground on the other side of his wife.
Beth takes her cue to stand up and leave the new family of four alone for a few minutes. She really needs to wash her hands anyway.
As she walks towards the sink in the corner, she feels someone's eyes on her and when she turns her head, she expects it to be Maggie, but instead, it's Daryl.
He's looking right at her; looking at her as if he's never seen her before. Beth looks at him, too, for a moment before she turns her head away, continuing onto the sink.
They've lost T-Dog and as soon as Beth finds out, tears flood her eyes.
"Gotta keep those chicken legs of yours warm," the man always said during the frigid winter nights, always with that warm, infectious grin of his, and he always made sure that Beth had a blanket.
Glenn has already dug the grave and Beth will go to see it and say her prayers, but first, she really needs a shower and sleep. They've lost T-Dog, but have gained the two remaining prisoners, Oscar and Axel, and everyone besides Lori and Carl are just staring at her with open amazement.
After washing herself of the blood and sweat in the prison shower room, she combs her hair back and pulls back into a loose braid.
"Knock, knock!" Maggie pushes open the door. "I've brought you clean clothes."
"Thank you," Beth says, grateful beyond words because the idea of tugging her dirty and sweaty clothes back on makes her want to grimace. "Is Lori and Anne okay?" She asks as she goes back behind the shower curtain to remove the towel wrapped around her body and tug on the clothes Maggie has brought her.
"Tired, but both are good. Better than good, daddy says. Thanks to you," Maggie smiles. "I don't think you realize how amazing it is what you did today, Bethy."
Beth doesn't say anything as she finishes getting dressed. Maggie has brought her a pair of underwear, another pair of socks, a plain grey tee-shirt that is labeled a "small" and a pair of faded blue sweatpants with D.O.C. – Department of Corrections – stenciled on the side of one leg in white. The sweatpants are so large, Beth has to fold the waistband over several times so they don't slip down.
She knows Lori and the baby both being alive and safe is amazing, but is everyone amazed because of that or because Beth had been the one to keep Lori safe and ensure the baby arrived, alive? She just had done what everyone else in their group would have done.
At least now, maybe she won't be looked at as just another mouth to feed. Maybe now, the others will look at her and know now that she's capable of doing more than just singing.
"I told Lori I was picturing her as a horse," Beth finally replies and Maggie lets out a laugh at that.
"How does everything fit? Axel and I found the closet where the prisoner clothes were kept," Maggie says.
Beth pushes back the curtain so Maggie can see and when Maggie does, she smiles.
"I need to wash my bra," Beth says and even though she barely has a chest to begin with, she folds her arms over her chest, subconscious about walking around without a bra on right now.
"I'll wash everything and get it back to you," Maggie promises. "Now. Food or sleep. Your choice."
"Sleep," Beth answers without hesitating.
"We'll make sure you get a big dinner when you wake up," Maggie says as she picks Beth's dirty clothes up and together, the two sisters leave the bathroom, heading back towards their cell block. "We have so many packs of Ramen noodles now, you won't even believe it."
Beth isn't sure how long she sleeps. To be honest, she doesn't even really lying down on the bed, but when she finally opens her eyes again, the cell she had cleaned out a couple days earlier is bathed in orange as the sun is beginning to set outside, and as she lies there, her still-tired brain taking a long moment to wake up, she can hear the soft cries of baby Anne and Lori's gentle hushes as she tries to quiet her again.
Beth smiles faintly to herself and rolls onto her side, burrowing herself beneath her scratchy blanket. Her stomach growls and she knows she needs to get up and eat something, but the truth is, she's quite content to just lay there for a bit longer.
A shadow falls over the orange light and Beth moves her eyes to the doorway. Daryl stands there, looking a bit awkward, and when he sees her eyes, open and looking at him, he clears his throat.
"Is everything okay?" Beth asks and begins to sit up.
Things must not be okay though if Daryl is here.
"Uh, yeah," Daryl answers with a single nod of his head. "I… there's vendin' machines in the guard's break room and I asked Maggie what your favorite is."
Beth gasps when he holds up a bottle of water in one hand and in the other hand, a pack of Reese's peanut butter cups. "Are those real?" She hears herself ask, as hushed as if she has just walked into church.
Daryl smirks a little at that and then takes a step into the cell – enough to place both items down onto the desk bolted to the wall. "No one deserves 'em more," he says in his rumbling voice and Beth wonders if she'll ever get used to the praise as she feels her cheeks warm.
But deep down, she knows it's just not because she is being complimented. It's because it's Daryl doing the complimenting to her this time.
"Thank you, Daryl," Beth says and she lowers her eyes, feeling shy, because he's standing there, looking at her; once again, looking at her as if he's never seen her before.
Over the past few months, spending all winter together, she has begun to entertain ideas of Daryl Dixon being a handsome man. She's never been attracted to a man before – always boys appropriately aged – and if Beth was attracted to a man, she, honestly, couldn't imagine it to be a man like Daryl. Maybe someone a bit more clean cut… but Daryl with his muscles and that tattoo on his back she can catch glimpses of when his sleeveless shirt moves in a particular way and with that crossbow in his arms…
"We should all be the ones thankin' you," Daryl says quietly and she lifts her eyes again, seeing him standing back in the doorway, no longer looking at her, but rather down to the ground. "Don't know how it would be if Lori hadn' made it and that baby…" he clears his throat again. "You kicked ass today, Beth. You really did."
Beth feels a small smile bloom across her lips and Daryl lifts his eyes just long enough to see it and when he does, he matches it with his own small smile. Beth's cheeks feel as if they're on fire now and she looks down to her lap. She remembers that she's not wearing a bra and she knows that Daryl won't even notice, but still, Beth can't stop herself from slowly bringing her blanket up, wrapping it around herself.
"Dinner's jus' about ready, but you don't gotta worry. You can keep sleepin' and as soon as you're ready to eat, one of us will make you somethin' warm."
It occurs to Beth that she's never heard Daryl speak so much – not even to Rick or her daddy or Carol. And now he's here, talking to her. Her. Someone who hadn't even really existed to him before today.
"Thank you, Daryl," Beth says with all of the graciousness in the world and this time, she can see the faintest tint of pink spread across his cheeks.
He looks at her for another moment before turning and walking away. Beth suddenly wishes she had been able to ask him why he's never talked to her before today, but she remembers that she hadn't mattered before today and she's glad she is able to stop herself before she can hear Daryl tell her just that.
Beth hopes that as a new day comes to the prison tomorrow, she'll still matter.
Maybe Daryl will talk to her again tomorrow, too.
Thank you very much for reading and please take a moment to review!