AN: I've been playing with a Bethyl idea, fleshing out the timeline and whatnot, and this random moment came about. It has nothing to do with Beth or Daryl, but I wanted to get it off of my hard drive!

Disclaimer: All copyright and trademarked items mentioned herein belong to their respective owners. The remaining content is mine.


Each hour that passed was a struggle. I knew my visions of Lori weren't real—knew she wasn't a ghost or anything like that. I knew I needed rest.

Slowly and steadily, Daryl took over the basic operations of our group. He seemed to even get Merle under control, and he was finding a groove with Tyreese as well. Most of the time, before a run outside the gates for food or supplies, one of them would come to me, but I knew they were just keeping me in the loop out of respect. I knew they weren't asking permission for nothing.

I wasn't sure what day it was anymore—not that any of us knew or cared, but I could tell by my baby's face, as Sasha handed her over to me, that she was probably several weeks old. Lori'd been gone for more than a month.

"She's doing really well, Rick," Sasha said, settling Judith in my arms. "You must be so proud."

She smiled at me, then, and I looked at her for the first time—really looked at her. Sasha had an open, kind face with the fire of passion and determination behind it—like my wife's. Of course they didn't look anything alike, really, but there was that patience, that knowing, that fierceness.

"I guess I am," I replied, really taking her in. Sasha and her brother Tyreese fit into our group, bringing strength and compassion with them—things we needed.

"She's a real fighter, this one," Sasha said, holding my eyes with hers. "Daryl's nickname for her is appropriate."

A smile lit Sasha's face, and she smoothed her hand over Judith's downy head. Sasha wasn't just kind; she was beautiful and sincere. Something began to unravel in my chest with every word, every tilt of her head, and every swipe of her hand over Judith's soft skin—something full that was wound tight and pushed into a corner.

When I looked back down into my daughter's face, my vision began to blur. I pulled her close to my chest and rested my cheek against her head, listening to Sasha tell me about how well Judith was eating and sleeping and responding to all the stimulus a baby her age should be.

"She's just perfect, Rick." Sasha's voice was quiet next to me. If she noticed I was crying, she didn't say a word. She just kept telling me about the miracle that was my baby girl.

"Wha'did ya do before all this?" I asked, wondering about the authority with which she spoke.

"Well, I have a master's degree in Child Development, but I ran the Boys & Girls Club of Northeast Florida," she answered, sitting up straight and tall, looking proud. "Tyreese and I spent a lot of time there when we were kids, so I knew first hand the impact they had; I wanted to make a difference."

"That's wonderful," I said. It made perfect sense, too—that Sasha would be in charge of a place full of life and possibility. I was only just then getting to know her, but her spirit shone bright, especially through the bleak world we lived in.

"Sasha?" Carol appeared in my peripheral vision, smiling down at Judith, where she burrowed into my chest. "I hate to interrupt, but can I get your help? Daryl brought some good stuff back from his hunt this mornin'."

"Of course," Sasha said, then turned back to look me in the eye. "It was nice talking with you, Rick. Do you want me to put Little Ass Kicker down for a nap?" she asked, with a wide teasing grin

"No, no," I replied. "You g'on ahead. I think my baby girl and I've got some catchin' up to do."

"Okay," Sasha said, nodding and smiling, and giving one of Judith's stocking feet one last squeeze, before getting up to follow Carol to the kitchen.

"Just let us know if ya need anything, ya hear?" Carol said, smiling down at Judith.

I nodded in assent and shifted Judith in my arms, getting comfortable and settling back into my chair. I watched Sasha and Carol disappear down a corridor and listened as the warm bundle in my arms cooed and grunted and fisted my shirt.