Karen walked over to the nursery area to relieve Merle. She scheduled him to watch the little one's right before nap time. He always played with the kids and wore them out so they went down for their naps easy. She saw Merle walking towards her, and at first she was concerned that he had hurt himself. He wasn't a young man and he was dragging his legs as he approached her. She smiled as he got closer and she noticed that Sara and her friend Hanna were sitting on Merles feet with their arms and legs wrapped around his caves.
"Oh Karen, I'm glad you're here. I really need your help. I can't seem to find Sara and Hanna anywhere. Would you mind helping me look for them?"
The girls were giggling already, and Karen smiled and pointed to his legs. He bent over at the waist and look at the girls attached to his feet. Both girls were overcome with a fit of giggles as he stared at them.
"Oh, well there you two are. I was getting worried. Ok girls, I have to go now. Head on back and get your nap mats ready for Miss Karen."
Both girls hopped up off his feet and began to head back into the room. Sara turned and pulled on Merles pants leg. He knelt down so he would be on her level.
"Mr. Merle...can you come and play with us tomorrow?"
"Well I haven't checked the schedule, but I bet that can be arranged."
Sara launched herself into Merles arms and gave him a hug. He gently put her back down and she ran into the room after her friend.
"You certainly have a way with the little ones. I would have never guessed that Merle Dixon; undisputed champion of the bitter fights would be a natural with kids."
"Surprised you and me both." Merle just shrugged.
"Say have you got an update on Maggie?"
Merle nodded. "Yea, she got knocked on the head pretty good, so her pop's is making her stay in bed for a few days and she aint any happier about it then Beth was. Looks like she's gonna be fine though."
"Glad to hear it, well I don't want to keep you. If you don't mind it would be great if you could be here the same time tomorrow."
Merle smiled. "Well I wouldn't want to disappoint the little ladies."
"Ok great, see ya tomorrow."
Glen walked into the storage room. He knew that Rick asked him to help inventory the guns and ammo to keep him busy. Maggie is recovering nicely, but she is not out of the woods just yet and as much as he hates to admit it he can't stand seeing her in banged up like that. The guilt begins to gnaw at him the moment he walks into her room. He should have been there, should have protected her. It's ridiculous but he can't seem to shake it. Walking up to the first shelf to his left; he began to reach up to take down the contents of the top shelf. He grabbed the barrel of one of the guns and slowly pulled it down. He was not able to see the box of ammo that was being pushed towards the edge of the shelf. It fell over and landed on Glen's head. He managed to not drop the gun, but once it was on the table he rubbed his head and began muttering curses under his breath. That was when he heard a snicker.
"Funny, I thought all you chinks were supposed to be smart. Guess that's just one o them racial stereotypes."
Glen looked up and noticed that Merle was in the room as well. He glared at him while continuing to rub his head. There was definitely a knot forming there.
"Let's just do this job and try to stay out of each other's way."
Glen turned back to his shelf but his mind began to wander. He had another issue that was nagging at the back of his mind. What did he do with Merle now? He still despised the man and considered him to be a raciest jack ass. Glen most likely could have forgiven Merle for what happened to him. He could have just killed Glen but he did give him somewhat of a fighting chance. It was Maggie; what she had gone through that made him so bitter. Merle was the one that handed her over to the Governor, so he was just as responsible for what happened. However; it was very clear that Maggie would have died if Merle had not gone after her. It was Maggie that had made him reject Merle entirely and now it was Maggie that was giving him cause to reconsider. He would never be friends with the man; hell he doubted that he would ever even like him. The fact remained that he was the reason Maggie was still with him; and to Glen that meant everything. After he had cataloged the contents of the top shelf, he walked over to Merle.
"Listen; I still think you're complete douche bag; but I never said thank you. Maggie means everything to me and she would have died if it wasn't for you. So; thank you." He extended his hand out to Merle.
Merle regarded him for a moment. He had several nasty comments pop into his mind, but he just kept imagining Beth standing in the room with her arms crossed and her blue eyes filled with disappointment. He sighed and briefly shook Glen's hand.
"I'm just glad she's ok. It would have tore Beth up something awful to lose her big sister like that."
Glen's eyes narrowed. "Say, what's up with you and Beth anyway? I noticed she's been a lot more independent since hanging around you; and you seem to be almost human."
Merle again though of several snide remarks, but took the high ground. "I guess she's just a positive influence. She did mention that you haven't been up to see Maggie very often. You having second thoughts about that rock you gave her?"
Glen shook his head. "No, no way. It's just…seeing her like that. I feel so guilty. I know there is nothing I could have done to help and who could have guessed that she would be in danger while watching the kids? I know it's not rational, but it bothers me…you know?"
Merle was not a man to open up to anyone, much less some annoying little china man that hated him most of the time. However, he was feeling a bit more emotional recently and figured what could it hurt?
"Yea, I do know what you mean. Every time I see Beth flinch when she moves her arm the wrong way, I get nauseous. She should never have been in that position."
Glen nodded. "Yea, I guess the lesson here is, never try to tell a Green girl what to do. It's a waste of breath." Glen turned to walk back over to his shelf. Merle grinned to himself before calling out.
"You know you anit so bad for a china man."
Glen turned and glared with a smirk on his face. "That's Korean man; or don't they teach geography at redneck high?"
"Listen Jackie Chan; at least I anit the one with the knot on my noggin."
"Oh yea; well at least I can clap; stumpy."
Merle looked like he was angry for real. He stood and stared at Glen and then raised his middle finger. Both men broke out in laughter. Glen decided that he was no longer going to complain about Merle's presence in the prison. Life was far too short to hold grudges.
Everyone was feeling pretty festive. Judith's first birthday was coming up and Beth was fully recovered. Maggie was doing well and Hershel allowed her to come down and eat with the group. Carol was so happy, she decided to break out the Governor's good stuff. After dinner was cleared and the children were put to bed, Carol began to poor everyone a glass. They all sat and began to drink and talk until it was late and everyone began to head for bed. Andrea went to the kitchen to see if there was anything that needed to be put away. She noticed that there was a full glass of liqure on the counter. It was from the Governor's stash and Andrea watched Carol pour the 18 year old single malt bottle of Glen Fidich into the individual cups. She looked around and decided to risk a sip. She took the glass and felt the liquid warm her through as the subtle flavors lingered on her tongue. She leaned on the counter and began to savor another sip when she heard someone clearing there through. She turned and saw Milton standing in the doorway with that pirate smile on his face.
"Should someone in your delicate condition be drinking?"
"Oh, haha. Very funny."
Milton decided to push it a bit, just to annoy her. "I mean we should be thinking about the baby, shouldn't we?"
Andrea tilted her head back and downed the rest of the drink. "That should answer your question."
"Andrea; I'm surprised at you."
Andrea turned to see Hershal standing behind Milton. She felt her face fall as she began to think of an explanation. She was drawing blanks and figured she would just try apologizing.
"I'm so sorry Hershsl, we were just teasing each other and I figured one drink wouldn't hurt. It won't happen again."
"Well I have to say, I'm very disappointed. I mean it's so unlike you to be this irresponsible."
Now Milton was getting angry. "Ok; that's about enough."
Andrea looked to Milton, her eyes pleading with him. "Milton, its fine."
"No it's not fine. You didn't do anything wrong; because you're not pregnant."
"Milton, this is not the time."
His voice was raised and his eyes were wide. "Your right; it's not the time. The time was days ago, and it involved a private conversation with her family which is what was supposed to have happened. So yea, it's not the time but here we are."
"I heard shouting; what's going on?" Andrea looked up to see Carol, Daryl and Carl in the kitchen.
"Andreas not pregnant and Milton is mad cuz Hershal was fussing at Andrea for drinking." Carl spouted the information in a matter-o-fact manner and Andrea was curious as to how long he had been standing there unnoticed.
"Wait; if Andrea's not pregnant, who is?" Carol looked thoroughly confused.
Daryl eyed Milton hard before he spoke. "You might want to think about everyone involved before answering."
Milton pointed to Daryl. "He knows?" He turned to Andrea. "He knows?"
"Well, I didn't know that, but it makes sense."
Carol was even more confused. "How do you know? There isn't anyone else in our group it could be except Maggie and she would have told us." Carol's jaw dropped and she turned to Milton. "Oh no! You can't mean Beth."
Milton responded with a simple head nod. Carol dropped her head into her hands. "Oh my word."
Andrea held up her hand. "Guys." Everyone turned to her. "Where is Hershal?"
Carol and Daryl look to each other and ran. Andrea, Milton and Carl were close behind and headed to Merle's room. They found Hershal headed up the stairs with a gun in his pocket. Everyone made a bee line to stop him. Daryl got there first.
"Hershel, slow down man. You don't wanna do this. I know your pissed, but think it through."
"Daryl I have been thinking it through. As a matter of fact; I've run it through my mind at least 4 times since I realized what was going on. And for future reference; I'm not pissed off. You've seen me pissed off…this is well beyond pissed."
The group made their way to Merle's room and found Maggie standing in the hallway outside of his cell. She placed a finger to her lips and motioned them to come closer. They crept slowly toward the doorway and began to hear two voices.
"So, I think I like Bianca for a girl name. I always loved The Rescuers and that was the name of the girl mouse. What do you think?"
Merle was sitting on his cot and Beth was sitting in front of him with her back leaned against him.
"You can pick any girl name you like. You're having a boy. Granddad was one of six boys and dad was one of four; then he had me and Daryl. Dixons have to import woman into the family."
Beth smiled back at him. "All right, then I like Liam for a boy. It's Gallic for William. What do you think?"
"I'm sorry; I was too busy staring at you to listen. What were you saying?"
Beth turned to face him and smacked him on the leg. "You better start paying attention to me mister, or I'm out of here."
Merle laughed. "Yes ma'am Miss Dixon; whatever you say."
"Miss Dixon? That's funny; I don't remember any ceremony and my ring finger is pretty naked. I think you must have me confused with someone else."
Merle pulled her close to him and spoke in her ear. "No ma'am; for the first time ever I aint confused at all. I don't need a piece of paper or jewelry; I already know you belong to me."
Beth felt a warm fuzzy feeling spreading through her body and she sank back into his embrace. Despite everything she had been through; she couldn't recall a time that she had ever been happier.
Outside the cell; Maggie motioned for her father to stand by her.
"I came down to say thank you to Merle and when I got close I heard Beth. I should have left; but anyway. I think it's time to admit that she's grown. You did everything you could to raise her right, and she was able to find the good in that thick-headed redneck. I think that says what a great job you and mom did."
Hershel stood for a moment and nodded slowly. "I guess I should go in there and have an uncomfortable conversation." He started to walk back to the cell.
Hershel turned back to Maggie.
Hershel smiled weakly and handed her the pistol in his pocket. "Can't blame me for trying."
"Well if we honest, we've all wanted to shoot Merle at some point."
As Hershel walked into the doorway, Beth sat up.
"Hello Beth; I came to see about Merle and I didn't know you were here."
Beth looked to Merle and back to her father. "Actually daddy; I'm glad you're here. I need to talk to you."
"Ok darling; what's on your mind?"
Karen rounded the corner and nearly ran into Maggie. "It's time!"
Maggie jumped into action and went to the makeshift delivery room they had set up. Hershel was already there and had his tray of supplies. Maggie and Karen knew there rolls and everything was going smoothly. Soon enough Maggie heard the angry cries of a newborn. She went to examine the squirming bundle of new life in her father's arms.
"It's a boy!" She gently took the baby from her dad and placed him into Carol's arms. Her eyes were filled with happy tears. "Oh, he's beautiful. I can't wait for Daryl to get back."
"Yea, but I'm glad he went on a run. Those Dixon's don't fare well with childbirth."
Carol laughed. "That's an understatement."
Just then, Maggie heard the distinctive sound of Daryl's motorcycle. She went downstairs to tell him the good news. He walked into the main room, followed closely by Beth. He look to Maggie, the tension in his body was visible.
"Congratulations Daryl; you are the proud daddy of a healthy baby boy. He and mamma are doing great if you want go see them.
He grinned like a school kid. "Whoo-hoo; I'm a dad ya'll." He hugged Beth and spun her around before running up to Carol's room.
Beth walked up to her sister. "So, everything went ok?"
"No complications, baby and mamma are recovering nicely."
Beth smiled; she loved her extended family so much. At that moment she herd the pitter patter of little feet headed her way. She saw a little boy with sandy blond curls, a cherub face, and saucer sized blue eyes headed toward her.
"Mamma; help me!"
She scoped up the boy and kissed his face. "What am I saving you from now?" He pointed to the doorway and a little girl emerged. She had dark hair and deep blue eyes. Her pony tail swished back and forth as she searched the room. Once she noticed the boy in Beth's arms she made her way over to them.
"Liam, you promised to play house with me!"
He turned to Beth. "Mamma, she keeps trying to kiss me. Tell her not to; I don't want coodies."
Beth laughed. "You've been talking to Carl, haven't you? First of all; girls don't have coodies, and if you told Judith you would play with her then you should. Dixons always keep their word…right?"
The little boy sighed. "Yes mamma. But no kissing; ok Junebug?"
The little girl raised her right hand. "I promise." No one noticed her left was behind her back with her fingers crossed. Apparently Liam was not the only one getting information from Carl.
Beth put down her son and went to see her new nephew. Life was good for now and she would enjoy every happy moment.
AN: Finally finished! Whew! Thank you guys for your patients, I love you all. Special thanks to Brazen Hussy; Athlete Girl; and English Poet18 for sticking around from the jump and reviewing so frequently. Reviews really do help keep us writers motivated. Also thanks to Muggle born princess and sorry-i-wasn't-listening for their encouragement and helpful reviews. To everyone who reviewed; I want you to know that you really do help shape the story and keep it going…so keep spreading the love. My next fic will be a crossover with TWD and Harry Potter. Yes I know…its crazy and I blame my BFF for asking the question "Would Avada Kedavra work on a zombie?" Damn her eyes! Stay tuned and once I start posting…well you know ;-)