Disclaimer: I don't own AMC's The Walking Dead or any of its characters, wishful thinking aside.
Authors Note #1: I was trying to write a Caryl fic, but ended up getting this instead. No regrets! – This story touches on the events of the past two episodes (3x05 – 3x06), but is basically meant to fit into the show's storyline sometime after Carol's return, probably about a month or two after the events of "Hounded."
Warnings: Contains some serious season three spoilers, references to Daryl's past, adult language and mature content.
The little one was a big talker, burblin' on about all manner of things from dawn till dusk. Blowing spit bubbles and making good use of that gummy little smile whenever anyone could spare a moment to hoist her in the air and tickle her from belly to toes. Carrying on until the entire prison echoed with her happy squeals and every living person within a half a mile radius found themselves grinning like an idiot.
Every day, every hour, every god damn minute was like a brand new discovery with her. And true to form, she was all chubby fists and grabby hands as she looked out at the world from her place on top of a pile of blankets or swaddled up in someone's arms. Whether it was a spider skittering across the filthy grey pavement or Carl making faces at her from across the room, she never failed to let them all know about it.
Their little highness was a real chatterbox, make no mistake. And she was spoiled rotten to boot. Most children only had two parents; she had a whole slew of them. He supposed that in the end it probably made up for all the things they couldn't give her. Things like a real home and regular meals. Things like clothes that always fit her, visits to the doctor's office and those weird little milestones new parents always seemed to think were worth celebrating during that first, tenuous year of life.
Either way, for a baby that no one seemed to have wanted in the first place, she already had pretty everyone wrapped around her little finger. Their girl was a smart one, he'd give her that.
Ironically enough, she was a happy, good natured thing. More likely to try and take a swipe at one of her pudgy little toes than she was to have a crying fit. - That being said, she still had a set of brass lungs on her that would have made an opera singer jealous. She'd attracted walkers to the fence more than once with one of her ill-timed melt downs. Usually when someone had forgotten to change her diaper or was slower on the uptake than she figured was reasonable when they were getting her bottle ready.
Still, he figured she was worth it.
Because there were times, often when everyone had turned in for the night, where he'd shoulder his crossbow and ghost into Carol's cell. Nights where he would pause to pull the blankets up around the woman's shoulders and double check the locks on her door before crossing over to the basket they'd set up beside the bed. Hushing the baby's sleepy burbles as he scooped her up, blanket and all, and took her along as he made his rounds, letting the others get some real shut-eye for a change as he watched her curl into the firm of his chest. Echoing her soft sounds with his gravely rasp as they made their way up to the prison roof.
They were times where he was it just him, her, and the night sky. Where there was no one to answer to, no one to judge. …Moments were they could just be.
Because if he was being honest, there was something special about the sight of her tucked into his chest, all snub nosed and tired in the light summer breeze. Her little fingers tugging at the buttons of his shirt as she squirmed around and muttered happily - eventually dropping off to sleep after a flurry of yawns and a few half-hearted attempts to capture his finger, lulled back down into the sweetness by the heady freshness of the open air and the sound of the wind whispering through the trees in the clearing beyond.
They were moments where he simply breathed her in. Taking her in from toes to crown as if he'd never seen the like of her before in his life, finding himself humming along to some long forgotten tune he half suspected his own mama had once sung to him. Smelling like expired baby powder and well…whatever it was that made babies smell like they so often do. All soft and subtle, everything he figured a good, proper home should smell like.
Every so often, one of the others would comment how something about her reminded them of Lori - or other times, often when Rick and Carl were well out of earshot, of Shane as well. But to be honest, he didn't see Lori, Shane, or even Rick in her. He just saw her. All dark hair, dimpled cheeks, and big green eyes a person could get lost in.
Her. …Their baby.
And hard as it was to admit, she was more than just another mouth to feed, more than just another person to look out for or to eventually lose somewhere down the road. She was different. She was hope. Their hope…maybe even his as well.
Because if he knew anything, it was that during the past few months since she'd made her abrupt and somewhat tragic entrance into their lives, she'd already managed to teach him the first of what he figured was going to be more than a few important lessons. She'd taught him, purely by example, that even someone like him could have something good once and a while. Something that didn't come with a hidden agenda or whose morality was riddled through with that discomforting swath of grey you could see from a mile away – something so pure, so sweet that it made his bloody teeth ache just thinking about it.
But more than anything, by virtue of her birth, she'd given him something that wouldn't crumble to dust on him just when he figured he needed it the most. …Something worth any cost, something worth more than just surviving. Something that deserved that perfect future he'd never had.
Hell, she'd already taught him that the good moments don't always have to come at a cost. …Sometimes they do, but not always. And for now, he figured that was more than enough.
A/N #1: Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think! Reviews and constructive critiquing are love! This story is now complete.
"The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief." ~ William Shakespeare, (Othello)