Holding The Fort
the walking dead
It's a quiet moment in the prison for Beth and Carol, but, in this world, quiet doesn't always mean the best circumstances.

Prison, Interior

"We're all lucky, to have each other."

Though the massive stone structure's designed to keep in, sounds quite easily escape, creating a din of echoed noises— of ghosts, both real and imaginary— to shoot across the lonely cell-blocks. Yet, the air feels dead: still. It's a quiet troop left behind in the cells, trussed up mockingly like a home, where Beth Greene hums a newborn baby to sleep where no babe has rested its head before. Carefully undoing her arms from beneath the blanket, the miniature limbs, she leans down to press a hearty kiss to Judith's forehead before slipping towards the top of the stairs, intent on going down. Intent pauses. Makes way for a tighter clench of her hand, whitening knuckles on the railing. She breathes a stale, trapped breath, turning her head along her shoulder with a soft whip of blonde hair to eye the slumbering child.

For the seventeen-year-old, focus is narrow; it doesn't include the scrawny red-haired prisoner, arms looped over the railing with a couple fingers loose to stroke his mustache, nor his leer, as he stares up to the top, to the blond teen like an angel, pink round cheeks amongst the stone and cement.

Focus is much broader for another one of the prison dwellers. Someone's watching Axel watch Beth watch Judith: a chain of eyeing she's intent on breaking, at one link in particular.

Carol hardly makes a sound as she approaches the stairs, just one shuffle amongst other ghostly echoes, and hardly a stand-out sight anyway when she nears; ashy clothes and ashy hair in the dark. The dull cement of the building seems to have crept into everyone's bones, clad them in shadow, and hollowed out their faces to match their old empty prison cells. All but Beth and the baby. Pictures of innocence that they are. "Move on," she tells the convict flat out, coming up alongside him as she follows his gaze knowingly up. Quiet, but commanding, she doesn't completely blend into the dim background after all. "She's seventeen."

Each aspect of Carol startles Axel anew, arms sliding too hurriedly out from around the railing as he straightens, laughing with unconvincing naivety and sincere sheepishness. "Ohhh, no… no, I wasn't— " a flicker of eyes betrays him in traveling up the stairs. Then it's strictly on Carol till he squints at the floor before her, "No, ma'am."

He's saved from himself by the gentle clomp of Beth regaining her intention to come down the stairs; not the energized scamper of youth, but a slow step conscious of a slumbering baby as her hand squeezes around the railing. A teenage existence without frat parties, iPhones, and sleepovers, though, hers has always been, home-grown on a farm. Hearing her, Axel turns up the light incline, smiling beneath the ruffle of his mustache, "Well, hey there." Beth's lips mimic the expression gamely, causing a flutter in Axel's eye that has him shooting a glance to Carol then, in a mumble, excusing himself. He passes by where Carl prowls the entrance to the cell-block like both the man and guard-dog that he is not.

A hundred thoughts shallow the childish dimples of the blonde girl's cheeks, lengthening the shadows that the dust of apocalyptic living has given her complexion. But, with a glance up the stairs, she voices merely, "She's sleepin' okay now."

Carol follows Axel's trek off with her eyes, giving him a look that says he's right to carry on his way despite his no ma'ams. Her expression softens for Beth and up to where the babe among them sleeps; she smiles, short-lived, but it lingers in her throat. "For now," she says, knowingly; naps can be a restless thing, easily broken. Still: "Better than any of us could." She sees Beth's thoughts there clear as day, a hundred or more are on her mind too, darkening the back of her gaze. As she turns, her back to the stairs, a hand twisting onto the rail, all she voices is, "How are you doin'?" It's not exactly tiptoeing around any issues; it's sincere — it's just not putting voice to them. They're in the dark here while the rest of the group's in Woodbury, for reasons voluntary and not, but they all know the stakes are high. Even for the unknown. Maybe higher.

"Okay." Not quite an automatic response, though barely chewed on. There's little evidence of 'gristle' on Beth's face, appearing nearly dumb to everything if not for the hint of haunting in certain light. Grief's chiaroscuro, straddling her maturity and im. "Thinkin' about the others out there," she admits after a second, tucking a strand of straw hair behind her ear, head turned to watch Carl's grim staging. "An' when they'll be back." When, because they must, her tone sings sweetly. "It'll be better," another need spoken as fact as she daintily crosses her arms over a yet-developing chest, "With everyone together again."

A hm of thoughtful laughter, fond at the thought, just barely sneaks out of Carol. She's not as optimistic, can't be, but she smiles a little. "Me too," she replies — if not to the latter, then the former train of thought. The others; where they are, what they're doing… how they're doing. She watches Carl pace. "I hope they're on their way back by now. Seems strange with 'em all off like this, it's so empty." She rolls her head to peek up the stairs. "Lucky for her it's quiet. To tell the truth though," she smiles just slightly again to the girl like they're sharing a secret, "I think I'd rather some noise. I wouldn't mind the excuse to hold her."

Though it flashes no tooth, like before, Beth's smile creeps up enthusiastically; her lean inspired by the tone, bathed in the brief glow of normal conversation and the kind of humanity that a baby brings. Sudden grief, then, contrary— but not foreign, not unusual, here. A cavernous weight drawing the girl's gaze down, trembling her lower lip with its grave purpose. Shaking her head to dispel it only buries the pain, transforming it from sharp lines under her eyes to an ache within the chest she squeezes. "It's time enough, they should be headin' back." Another, this one increasingly spastic, brush at her hair from a half-crossed arm and shakes have turned to a couple fluidly firm nods, "Rick and Daryl…" Others— but she stops there, wallowing in a fondness cast over her face for the group's captain and lieutenant; she pins Carol with a look simultaneously blisteringly young and frightfully old— technical, "We're lucky to have them."

The smile Carol had thins out, her mouth pinched at the edges, acknowledging. Grim, in its way, after taking in the contrasts upon Beth's soft face. Funny how the girl's nice words head up the strongest seize in Carol's own chest. "Yes we are." Spoken as a solid truth, but her voice isn't so solid; she goes a bit distant as she dwells, thinking beyond the prison gates. "We're all lucky," she says as she snaps gently out of it, and it's a foreign thing on her tongue. She impresses onto Beth, "To have each other." A two-way street.

Slowly but decisively, Carol pushes off the rail. "I think I'm gonna go watch for 'em."

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