He came back early one day from hunting and found her awake.
She wasn't upset, not really. Just kinda... looking around. It was weird because there was nothing really interesting to look at. Just a room. But she looked completely fascinated and when she saw him she asked him immediately.
Didn't ask him with words. Asked him with a push of her belly up. That was starting to get weird. She was getting to do things that freaked him out. Learning to communicate. It was weird when he started to realize she knew who he was. That one nearly gave him a heart attack. This felt just as life threatening.
He leaned over and picked her up, brought her up to him. Her body wobbled back and forth and he struggled to balance her with a string of obscenities. He tried to remember what Rick told him, 'always support the head,'and his other hand shot up to hold her mostly bald head in place.
When he knew he had her he let out a big sigh of relief. He was getting better, but was still nowhere near being good at this. Because he needed to relax, Andrea told him all the time. 'Relax, Daryl, you're too tense. You're not gonna break her.'
How could he relax, though? This little critter was too small and wobbly. Just a week ago he picked her up and her head leaned back too much and he almost dropped her. Nearly had a heart attack and he hated the fact that Andrea didn't yell at him for that. Hell she even laughed and trusted him to hold her again hours later.
Andrea lay in bed now, fast asleep. The piglet didn't seem hungry, just in need of some attention. Well shit. How the hell do you entertain them? He almost began to wake Andrea up but then stopped. Being a mama was a 24 hour job and he knew she was tired. And the critter wasn't crying so that was good. He'd let her sleep and go get Lori should he need help.
"Wanna go outside?"
He received no answer, of course, but he always talked to her. But he only talked to her because he knew she didn't understand. And really, he didn't know any other way to communicate. Andrea did, with cuddles and hugs and kisses. But he'd never been good at that stuff, even though he tried a bit more now. So he just talked to her. Or talked at her, at least.
She was only two or so months new, but she was new every day. Every morning he woke up to Andrea singing her that Neil Diamond song but every morning was different. He didn't know how to explain how. He'd had a dog, when he was a kid. Merle told him dogs die faster cause dog years are quicker. That's what it felt like now. Like she was growing in dog years. The days went too fast and every day she did something new.
Was that normal, he wondered? He'd ask Rick later.
"Look, that's a squirrel," he showed her, pointing to the distance. "We'll let this one go but ya'll have to eat one some day. S' alright. Even your mama doesn't mind them anymore."
He couldn't even bring himself to call her by her given name, always referring to her in several different animal monikers. Cause really, that's all he knew of parenthood, what he'd seen from nature. Does taking care of their little fawns, wildcats carrying their cubs by the back of their necks, bears teaching their little ones to hunt.
Even holding her like this felt wrong, and after a while he shifted her and pressed her back to his stomach, his hand wrapping round the wedge of her diaper. This way she could see better, too, and didn't wobble as much.
And the cricket seemed to like it. She kicked her legs out at the view like she wanted to run into those trees and stay lost in there forever.
"'S nice, huh?" he told her automatically. "Imma teach you all that stuff some day. Pain in the ass most of the time but then ya get to kill something. Don't tell her I said 'ass' and don't you be saying that, either."
He kept walking and found a mark on a tree trunk. He traced it with his fingers. "See that? That's a moose. Moose. Been tracking him for a while. Keeps getting away from me."
She made some more of her incoherent noises. He strained to recognize a word but Andrea said it was too soon for her to be talking. The noises meant nothing, but he always found himself listening when she made them. Almost felt like it was some secret language and he was always fascinated by the idea of learning it.
But oh well, they never made sense to him. Maybe it did mean nothing. He'd ask Rick later.
"Was that, ya wanna talk? Just like her, huh? All she does is talk, your mama. Sometimes I fall asleep right in the middle and when I wake up she's still yapping."
He looked at her and she smiled at the trees. Like she knew what he was saying. Knew some day that would become a secret joke between them. 'Oh, God, dad. Mom talks too much.'
"But you got Dixon hair right there. Too bad for your mama. Dixon hair's so straight ya won't even be able to keep it in a ponytail."
"There you are," Andrea said as she found them. He turned to her and she put her hands on her hips instantly. "Daryl, why are you holding her like that? She's not a baby kangaroo."
"She ain't as wobbly like this," looking down at the little wisps of hair that were starting to lighten.
Andrea shook her head. Well, at least he had her clothed this time. "I just wanted to make sure you two were doing alright."
He nodded at her. "We're just fine."
He studied her. He could tell she was itching for the child. "Ya want the cricket back?"
She rolled her eyes and walked over, reaching for her daughter and sighing at him. "Daryl, say her name."
"Naw, here," he said as he passed her the bug.
Andrea smiled as she reached up to kiss his cheek. He'd get there some day. "Come on, let's finish packing."
She walked away but he stayed back a little while longer. Tomorrow they were going to move on, see what they could find in D.C. Daryl felt even more uneasy about being on the road now, but this area wasn't safe anymore. They had to leave, leave the house where his cricket had been born.
He ran a few fingers along the mark the moose had left behind. He took out his knife and carved deep into the wood.
They moved on the next day and those words stayed behind on that tree long after they were gone.