Hi everyone! I would just like to formally apologize for how much I suck. I can't really tell you what happened. I just kept losing my motivation. Maybe being so close to Merle's return has me feel a bit meh to what's happening now. I just want to skip ahead and get there haha. I'll give a bit more of an update at the end. I hope you enjoy!
The Whole Truth
"And before she had time to realize what she was doing, she bent, reached through the bars, and snatched the toad up and away from harm, dropping it on the grass inside the fence."
I made a sound of distaste as Carl paused.
"What?" Carl twisted his neck in an awkward position, smiling up at me in question. I'd been lying on the cot in the cell I'd chosen while he sat on the floor just under me, his head just a few inches of my own.
"Ya know what," I told him.
"It's not that bad, I kind of like this part."
"Didn't say it was bad just . . . dumb. The hell does a frog need magic water for?"
"She saves it from dying," he shrugged, turning back to the book. It was the third time he'd reread the book to me, and I never enjoyed that part specifically. It wasn't the first time we talked about it. "It does kind of suck though, I wish she'd kept it."
"Why does it matter? She could always just go get more."
"I guess. I wish she'd gone with Jesse, or drank the water when she grew up."
"Everyone dies," I said, and regretted it immediately. I felt the silence between us stretch awkwardly. I'd said something stupid and ruined the mood, I didn't mean to. It was something the book mentioned about death, how everything should come to an end.
"Not them," Carl murmured. For a moment I thought he meant the immortal family in Tuck Everlasting, but the sounds and images of Walkers popped into my head. After another moment of me feeling like shit, I was ready for him to just leave. Instead, he picked up where he left off.
"A feeling of revulsion swept through her. While the dog whined, pawing uselessly at the fence, she stood rigid, staring at the toad, wiping her hand again and again on the skirt of her dress. Then she remembered the actual feel of the toad, and the revulsion passed."
"What's that word mean?" I stopped him. I must've heard it before, but it was the only time I really thought about it. "Revol-what?"
"Revulsion," he repeated. "It means she's grossed out."
I hummed in understanding and he continued. After a few more minutes of peace, I felt that dull pain in my ear worsen. The pain felt deep, almost as if it was coming from my neck, but I knew that wasn't right. I clenched my teeth, hoping it would pass, instead it grew more intense and seemed to spread. I moved my hand to hover over the ear as if it would somehow help but I was careful not to touch it. A low sound erupted from my throat, I was in too much pain to care.
Carl moved quickly, leaning over me to look. I squeezed my eyes shut and just whined. He knew something was wrong, it was too hard to hide it. I wanted to scream.
"I'll get mom," I heard him say after a moment.
Stop being a dumbass, Hershel had his leg cut off. You don't deserve to scream because your ear hurts. You're such a baby. Once again, I was a mess, just not an emotional one like before. I could hear Carl calling for Lori as his footsteps got further away. I thought I'd get annoyed, but I actually wanted her to come. I wanted someone to come and fix it, I wanted Daryl but he was gone.
When Lori came in she didn't ask any stupid questions, even to her it was obvious I was hurting. I eyed her hands, There was some dried blood on them, but not as much as before. She'd tried to clean them but wasn't able to get it all.
"Can you sit up?"
"Uh-uh," I whimpered, I was afraid to move.
I felt her hand around my wrist, pulling it away. I resisted her grip, unsure of what she was doing.
"I know, hon, I know," she cooed quietly. "I just need to see, you shouldn't be touching it."
I was a statue, not to be defiant but was actually scared any type of movement would hurt. I just wanted to be still, as if it would help somehow.
"Please, I need to see you're not bleeding."
Bleeding? What? I thought about before, when there was fluid coming out, it looked like water, but sticky. Why would she think there would be blood? Why would she think anything would be coming out of my ear? I was being stupid. Someone would have told her what Hershel said. Everyone probably knew that there was something wrong with me. But I still didn't understand why she would think to look for blood.
Unless she knows something you don't, I pointed out to myself, something no one told you. Even though Hershel gave a thorough explanation of what was wrong with me, he still took Daryl aside into his kitchen. I moved my hand and let Lori look, flinching as I felt one of her finger brush against my ear lobe.
"Hold on," Lori stood and left. I noticed Carl was in the doorway. I looked away from him quickly, feeling embarrassed. When Lori returned she was holding a water bottle and an old cloth. She offered me the water while kneeling next to the bunk. Not wanting to lift my head for it, I refused. Then she revealed a small squared package. Recognizing the Advil, I didn't refuse and slowly lifted myself to take both pills.
"Hershel?" I asked. That's where she should have been, not fussing over me.
"They don't need me in there right now. Lift your head." Lori laid the small cloth on my pillow, "warm water should draw out the puss, but we can't warm it so this will have to do for now."
I flinched at the cold feeling of the cloth against my ear. Lori began stroking my back softly. The odd sensation made me tense up, I was ready to shrug her off or tell her to stop, but I let her continue. As odd as the sensation was, after a few moments of it I found it soothing, it gave a bit of a distraction from the pain.
"This side hurts," I tried and failed to make myself not sound whiny.
"I know, but you have to stay this way for a while to drain out the pus. It's not good for it to be in there."
I was so tired of being sick, I may not have been coughing as much but I wasn't getting better. Why was this happening? People were missing limbs, getting stabbed, shot, bit. Why, with anything else it could be, was it my ear?
Maybe because you deserve it.
As my inner voice went back and forth I had to wonder. So many times I expected to be next, to get bit, to die, anything. I was a weak little girl with no one. Had I ever done anything good or helpful?
This is payback for lying about Carol. You helped kill her.
She was dying anyway.
Was she? You helped kill her. You let him get away with it and he killed again.
Shane wasn't a killer.
He killed. He wanted to kill Rick.
I was drawn out of my own head when Lori stood to turn away. I saw Sasha in the entryway, her hands and elbows coated with blood, while a decent amount was displayed on her shirt.
"Are you okay?" Carl walked up to ask me.
I gave a subtle shrug with one shoulder, trying not to move or talk. It hurts, and I'm really tired of announcing it.
"How is he?" Lori asked Sasha.
Sasha glanced at me before answering, "Guillermo is in there now. I needed to stretch my legs and see what was going on, was it her ear again?"
I saw Lori's head nod with her back to me, "she's a bit calmer now. I put a wet cloth under her head for the pus, like he said to do if something happened. We can't warm any water yet for obvious reasons so it's not the best, but it's something. There's no blood, he said she could still have drainage if it wasn't getting worse, right?"
Blood, I'd already forgotten she was talking about my ear bleeding. Blood would have meant my ear was getting worse, maybe that was all it was. As long as I wasn't bleeding I was fine.
"Yeah, at least he was able to warn us what to do before this happened. But it won't matter if we don't get her medicine. There's got to be an infirmary here."
"There is. We'll find it."
"We need to find it now, we can't keep Hershel alive on ratty rags and pillow sheets. We can't avoid infection—gangrene without the proper supplies. If we don't get antibiotics . . . if she gets meningitis-"
"-She won't. We're going to get through this."
I'd heard that word before at Hershel's farm. What's it mean? I would ask Daryl later.
"Mom, can I help?" Carl prodded.
"I don't think so."
Carl crossed his arms at her, making his frustration apparent, "Mom, I'm not a baby-"
"-Don't raise your voice at me. I'm not trying to dismiss you, I'm telling you there isn't anything for you to do right now."
Carl's arms went to his sides. He looked at me and I stared back. I waited for him to smile, he usually tried to even without meaning it, he didn't that time.
"Sasha said you need stuff, what is it?" Carl's voice seemed to jump out, looking for any opportunity to pounce and grab at something that needed to be done.
Sasha scoffed sarcastically, "right now we could use some antibiotics, painkillers, some sterile gauze-"
"-things we don't have." Lori cut her off with a wave of her hand. She knelt down to Carl, speaking to him at eye level. "Your dad and the others will find the infirmary and bring it all soon. Until that happens I can't give you anything else to do."
"But they're with those prisoners, how can they do anything with them? What if-"
"-Look at me, do I look worried?"
"You look disgusting," Sasha answered instead, causing Lori to laugh. I almost wanted to laugh too, but that would've taken effort, and effort was painful.
"Not any worse than you," Lori fired back before turning back to Carl. "I know you want to help, baby, but I think it's best you keep your distance. Let us handle it and give Hershel and his family some space."
"Stay with Toby, why don't you read? Before we got here you were in the middle of that one book, you can spend some time with her and finish it."
"I've already read it three times."
"Then you shouldn't have offered three times," She joked with him. Carl smiled and glanced at me briefly and looked away. That made me think how pathetic I must've looked.
Sasha and Lori continued their conversation as they walked out.
"Does it hurt a lot?" Carl asked me after standing in silence for a few seconds.
"Do you want anything?"
"When do you think Daryl will be back?"
"I don't know."
I knew he wouldn't, I wasn't even sure why I asked. It occurred to me that I'd been doing that a lot lately, filling the silence with a comment or question. That wasn't something I did, while others scramble to avoid the awkward silence, I thrived in it. I was more comfortable when everyone was silent, I could tolerate them then, I could deal with everything and everyone in silence. When everyone was joining together in conversation, I didn't always know how to keep up, the times I did try I'd say something odd and then get stared at.
I was talking more than I used to, even though I knew my voice sounded raspy and quiet.
Maybe you wouldn't feel so lost if you just kept your mouth shut, not like anyone wants to hear you anyway.
I wanted to tell myself that some people did, I could talk to Carl and Daryl. I used to be able to talk to Maggie but I hadn't been around her too much because of all the work we had to do. I felt as if my inner voice was proven right just a second after.
"I can stay?"
Carl wasn't asking, it was a suggestion, barely. He was asking for permission to leave, I knew that tone, that expression. I'd mastered it.
"Gonna sleep," I gave him permission, closing my eyes for good measure. After hearing his footsteps patter away I opened my eyes. I was disappointed he'd left, I must have annoyed him. He was fine with me reading until I started crying.
My mind drifted back to Daryl. How long does it take to clear out just the cell block?
I kept asking questions I knew no one would answer, I had to wonder if the prisoners would leave, or join us as Sasha and Tyreese had.
I hoped they would leave, or everyone would have the good sense to toss them out. Ultimately it would be Rick's decision, but Daryl had his crossbow on them, so he didn't trust them, Rick would listen to Daryl.
I wasn't entirely confident about that last part, Rick and Daryl were getting closer, Rick asked his opinion and usually took it on everything. Daryl even took Rick hunting more often. I didn't like it but I knew my opinion didn't matter, all I could do was pretend it wasn't happening, and steer clear of Rick the best I could.
Absentmindedly, throughout my whole thought process, I'd been turning the 22 pendent in circles beneath my fingers, causing the chain to twist upward. I brought the pendant up to my eyes, the shine it once held was gone, replaced by dirt, grime, and possibly some dried blood. Using my thumbnail, I attempted to scrape off whatever I could, trying not to think of the pus that may or may not have been draining from my throbbing ear.
Or at least, it sounded like he had.
A while after Carl left, I was jolted out of bed by loud shouts and crying. I hadn't been fully asleep, just resting. The pain faded a bit, luckily, but did still hurt a considerable amount.
I hesitated before getting out of the bed, but it was too hard to ignore the rising panic in my stomach. I had to know. I glanced down at my pillow to see the small cloth folded on top of it. In the center, there were a few yellow-orange coloured smears or spots. I grimaced as my hand rose to my ear, there was actual pus coming out.
When I was out of the cell I stood at the perch, my hand on the railing as I peered down. I could see bodies hovering near Hershel's cell below. I swallowed anxiously, it was so hard to listen to. You could hear every emotion as they called for help, called for Hershel. There was grief, panic, and pain rolled into every sound I heard. I didn't know Hershel, I wasn't sure how I felt about him dying personally, but that didn't make hearing his death any easier.
I resented Daryl in those moments, just for leaving me there alone. I didn't know what to do, should I have gone down there, should I have tried to help, or just keep out of the way? If he was with me he could tell me what to do.
I heard the metal door creak and looked away from the cell, Carl had opened the door and was coming in. I furrowed my eyebrows, why was he out? I noticed a large black duffel bag hanging from his shoulders.
Noticing the panic, Carl quickly shut the door without locking it, dropping the bag in the process before rushing over to the cell. His movement coaxed me to make my way down, while he hovered in front of the cell, I stayed several feet back.
Glenn was inside, hugging Maggie from behind as she stood very still. I could partially see Sasha, Beth, and Jimmy, but wasn't sure what they were doing. Beth was the loudest among them as she cried and screamed for her daddy. Guillermo stood right outside the cell, with his head bowed, holding his clasped hands against his forehead. I couldn't really see what was happening from where I stood, but I could hear the panic in everyone's voices.
Someone shrieked and the others gasped, jumping away from whatever was happening. Carl quickly had his gun out and was aiming it into the cell.
What the fuck. I was too nervous to get closer. They were eerily quiet, just watching and waiting.
"Daddy?" I heard Beth's voice shake.
Carl was lowering his gun while the group seemed to relax. After a few seconds, I started to approach, there was no longer any panic or concern, only relief.
I gave Carl a questioning glance.
"Mom had to do CPR, I think he's okay now."
I let out a breath I had no idea was being held, "what?"
"He's breathing," Glenn announced, "it's okay."
I felt a bit angry, so much had just happened for it to be okay at the end. I didn't understand any of it. After a few minutes, when everyone was calm, Carl went back to the cell block door to close and lock it before picking up the duffel bag.
"Here," Carl said, pushing his way into the cell. "Will this help him?"
I watched him push past Glenn and disappear into the cell.
Why wasn't he in the cell block? When did he leave?
"Where did you get this?" I heard Lori ask in an anxious voice as I got closer, attempting to lean around Glenn to see.
"The infirmary," Carl answered.
My eyebrows furrowed in surprise. It instantly started a fight with Lori, and this time, I wasn't sure who's side I was on. Carl had left, without anyone knowing to get the supplies Hershel needed, maybe even what I needed. But he left without me. I felt a small trace of betrayal. He didn't even ask, or tell me what he was thinking. Carl had done some stupid things, sneaking away when we were in the school, stealing a gun, but I'd always been a part of it.
I knew it was because I was sick, because I was stuck in bed trying to sleep away the pain. But that didn't make me feel better about it.
Carl argued that he was able to protect himself, exploiting the number of Walkers he had to kill. Lori told him that it didn't matter, he shouldn't have gone on his own, using what happened to Hershel as an example.
"Carl!" Beth intervened, causing the fight to seize, "she's your mother, you can't talk to her like that."
Then Carl ran away very quickly, I watched him run up the stairs and veer off into a cell. I turned my head back, watching the others go through the bag that Carl brought in. The relief had finally started to settle in, Hershel was actually still alive.
I watched them for a while, unable to tear my eyes away, as if afraid his heart would stop as soon as I did. I barely knew Hershel, I didn't even know if I liked him, but I knew I didn't want anyone to die.
As my ear throbbed a stray thought danced around my head, if he did die, could I get better? As Hershel was the closest thing we had to a doctor, would I be screwed without him?
I backed away from the cell, reluctantly taking my eyes off of the scene as I started up the stairs. My plan was to find Carl and figure out what exactly happened. Why did he go? Why did he go without me? Why didn't he even tell me?
I walked along, peeking into each cell, but before I could get far, Maggie startled me.
"Which one is yours?"
I stared at her a moment, then I caught on and pointed to the cell at the end. Her cheeks were still tear stricken, and her eyes very puffy.
"Come on, then," she coaxed, taking the lead. I followed, catching a glimpse of Carl alone in a stray cell. I kept walking behind Maggie out of curiosity, only a few minutes ago Hershel almost died, what did she want from me?
She motioned me to sit on the bunk, I obeyed and she joined next to me.
"What's that?" Maggie pointed.
My eyes went to the shelf, "a duck."
"Well, I can see that."
"Then . . . why ask?"
Maggie held her lips together tightly and shook her head, "what I mean is, where did you get it?"
"No, I . . . never mind. Here," I watched as she opened a small bottle, pouring it into her hand.
"What's that?" I asked eagerly, anticipation rising. "Advil?"
"Advil is medicine."
"No, Toby, real medicine. These are antibiotics. Hopefully, the exact ones you need. But we can't wait to find out, so you need to take these now, alright?"
I held my hand out and she put a large capsule in my hand, I'd never taken a pill so big. It was shiny and seemed to be made of plastic, one half was yellow and the other was red.
"It's gonna help?"
"Hopefully," she forced a smile, but it looked awful. I didn't even know why she bothered, if anything it made me feel uneasy.
I took the pill and she went on to explain I needed to take one every few hours, I had to make sure to take them consistently. When she was done explaining, she showed me a small box and began to open it.
"Have you ever used an inhaler before?"
"It's another type of medicine. I had to use it when I had pneumonia a few years ago. It should help the breathing and coughing." Maggie slowly explained what it was for and how it worked. She showed me how to properly use it. As she went on extensively about the inhaler, I watched her face, slowly starting to realise that this wasn't right.
"Why are you here?" I asked, it seemed to catch her off guard.
Maggie only looked back at me for a moment before trying to answer, "to give you what you need."
"Lori can do that, or anyone. What 'bout yer daddy?"
Maggie's lips went tight again, she turned to avoid my eyes. "I just . . . I needed . . ."
We sat together in silence for a while, I contemplated putting my hand on her shoulder, as Shane would do for me. Or maybe something else, because I wasn't sure what to do, I ended up not doing anything. I could understand her avoiding the chaos, that was all I wanted to do, I was beginning to envy that Carl was able to slip away unnoticed, I wanted to do that. It was hard and stressful being around Hershel's situation. Even being upstairs I could hear most of what was going on, I could hear the fretting, the worrying, the crying, it was awful.
It must have been worse for Maggie.
"Your father . . ." she started suddenly before stopping. Maggie took a deep breath and continued, "what do you think happened to him?"
It was a strange, and unexpected question, she still wasn't looking at me.
"He's gone," I answered quietly.
"But what do you think happened?"
"Ya askin' if he's dead?" I'm confused.
"Do you think he is?"
I stared at her with my lips parted, at a loss of how to continue. I glanced at the cell door, contemplating making a break for it, then I immediately felt bad. If anyone else had been trying to bring this up, I would've already been gone, but Maggie was different.
"Sometimes I don't think he's dead. But I know it don't matter . . . so I try not to think 'bout it."
"Why doesn't it matter? If he could be alive, wouldn't that matter?"
I swallowed thickly, trying to keep any and all emotion down. "'Cause I ain't ever gonna know. Not worth lettin' it eat me up inside," I told her, remembering what Daryl told me.
Maggie met my eyes for a very brief moment, I saw a few tears fall, "does it get easier?"
I shrugged a shoulder, "I guess. Just used to him not here. I used to get sad a lot. Now . . . sometimes I just feel mad."
"Would it . . ." Maggie hesitated again. I felt my stomach knot with anxiety, I didn't like the conversation and the fact that she had more questions to ask made me feel sick. I wanted to get mad at her, to run away, but I kept in mind Maggie was not acting like herself.
"What?" I coaxed her, wanting to get it over with.
"Would it be better if you knew?" The question came out in a hurry, as if she had to spit it out to make herself say it.
It took me a moment to understand. I had no idea how to answer, some days I wanted an answer, others I was happy not knowing.
I saw Carol all over again, I knew exactly what happened to her, and that was the worst part. I was there, I saw it. I saw Dale's stomach torn open, I saw Shane get shot and stabbed before the life bled out of him. I remember I used to wish Sophia had stayed missing, finding her shot and keeping her partially alive was what led to Carol getting bit.
All the people we lost, we knew what happened, we saw it.
If something horrible did happen, I didn't want to know. Being in the dark felt secure, as if I could hide from more trauma. It took me longer to realise why she was asking such an odd question. I'd asked the same one so many times, wondering if it would be better to never know what happened. If I could be ignorant, not just about my dad, but of everyone and everything else. Maggie wanted to comfort herself, she wanted to be assured that being aware of the situation was better than the alternative.
"It don't matter, he ain't coming back," was what I said. No, it wouldn't be better.
Maggie didn't respond, keeping her eyes planted on the wall in front of her. Our attention was diverted when we heard yet another commotion. Though it was different, we could hear the loud metal clanging of the cell block door opening, then footsteps followed by multiple voices.
I stood up quickly just as Maggie spoke, "they're back."
Maggie followed behind me as I left the cell and glanced over the railing. Daryl was standing with Tyreese and Sasha. I let out a sigh of relief before moving to go downstairs.
My movement stopped at the cell Carl was moping in. Biting my lip, I forced myself to step inside, rather than rush to Daryl like I'd wanted.
"Are you going to yell at me too?" Carl grumbled when he noticed me.
"I had to do something! No one else will. Dad was dealing with those prisoners and we were just waiting around."
Carl looked at me, taken aback.
"Maggie gave-" I paused to cough and clear my throat, "uhm. She gave me the anti—whatevers, the medicine. You brought it."
"I just grabbed what I could . . . I wasn't sure. Does that mean you'll get better?"
I shrugged, I really hoped so. "They're back."
Carl nodded in affirmation, he'd heard too, "Dad's going to get mad. I'm in trouble."
Carl's head turned to me sharply, his eyebrows furrowed.
"You might get yelled at, maybe," I remarked. "Just get it over with and move on. You got stuff to help me and Hershel, won't be that bad."
"Yeah," he stood up slowly, "I guess you're right."
"You were still stupid."
"Probably . . ."
"Just . . . don't be stupid alone next time."
Carl seemed to have a hint of a smile and we left the cell.
Several of the group members were gathered by the entrance of the cell block, others were standing outside of Hershel's cell. There was a sense of relief and wariness that rested among them. Much different than the panic everyone felt earlier.
Daryl was by the entrance speaking with some others, I felt my gut wrench at the thought of talking to him. I decided to wait until he was further away from anyone else, I had no intention of approaching too many people at a time. And as much as I wanted to let the truth out and maybe spare myself of ongoing guilt, I wasn't in a hurry.
While I stopped at the bottom of the stairs, Carl rushed passed to join Lori and Rick outside Hershel's cell.
"Hershel stopped breathing, mom saved him," Carl exclaimed excitedly.
"I was told," Rick forced a quick smile that didn't last more than a second. He was covered in sweat, dirt, and what looked like Walker blood. His eyes were tired yet restless at the same time.
I took a few steps toward them to be closer to Carl, unsure of what to do with myself as I waited for Daryl, my eyes kept going to him, checking for my opportunity.
"I, uh, I'll talk to you in a bit," Rick rubbed the back of his neck and turned to walk away.
"Okay," Lori replied quietly. I caught her blinking rapidly and turning her face.
Carl followed his dad, although Rick seemed too out of it to notice. Carl stopped to talk to Daryl and Tyreese, no doubt to share the heroism of his mother.
"What?" I asked brazenly. Lori's eyes were glassy as she stared off into space.
"Huh? Oh, nothing, sweetie."
Ugh. "It's never nothin'," I looked away in annoyance. Why did I even ask?
"We've got medicine. Got you the antibiotics you need, Hershel seems stable, today was a good day," she went on. She wiped her face as she sniffled, trying to hide it. It was easy to notice the way her eyes danced around as she talked.
"Yer not good at it," I told her, to which she furrowed her eyebrows. "Bein' blank." She still didn't seem to understand, so I went on. "Yer lyin'. It ain't a good day, we don't have good days. You think he's dyin'."
Lori's lips parted as she stuttered out an answer, "no, no, you can't think that. The bleeding stopped, he could pull through."
"But you don't think he will."
"Of course I do. I-"
"-Please," I cut her off, giving her a tired expression. "I'm not stupid."
"I never said you were."
"Then stop treatin' me like it," I pleaded. "I ain't Carl. He just believes you cause he's just as bad at it."
"It's not like that. We can't be negative, we need to support each other, do whatever we can to get through this. We have to have hope."
"Then just have it. Don't fake it."
"It's not always that simple. Like you said, we don't have good days. Without anything good to stem from, how can we have hope? How do we keep going? We have to summon it, pull it out from deep down."
I was a bit annoyed with Lori, but I had nothing else to say. I didn't fully understand what she was saying. Deep down from what? Before I could think too hard about it, I saw Daryl disperse from the rest.
I grimaced at his appearance, he was much dirtier than before, coated with dirt, sweat and blood. I gulped, thinking about how bad the prison might be. I did a double-take, checking that everyone who went had returned. Everyone was back, no one seemed hurt. Though by the way everyone was acting and talking, something happened.
Lori walked toward him and exchanged a few words. I was momentarily distracted by the others again. They were talking quietly and very engaged in the conversations. I was expecting everyone to go and check on Hershel, but no one did. Not right away. Rick had even taken Carl aside from the others, kneeling in front of him as he talked.
"What happened?" I came forward and interrupted. Lori glanced at me before looking back at Daryl. They exchanged something quietly before she left.
"A lot," he sighed. "Come on, let's go up, I'll tell ya."
Daryl began to pass me to go toward the stairs. I opened my mouth to stop him, "can we go outside?"
Daryl turned back to me, "what for?"
"I don't wanna be in here no more, I don't wanna sit around and listen to them."
He hesitated, taking a look around as he processed what I said.
"Been listenin' to them waitin' for him to die all day. I just wanna be outside."
Daryl met my eyes again with a sense of understanding. As much as everyone wanted Hershel to pull through, they were still waiting for him to die or get better. They didn't want to admit it, but Hershel could die, at any minute.
"Please?" I said when he was taking too long to answer.
Daryl let out a heavy breath and nodded, "yeah. Not for long, but we can get some air and I'll fill you in."
After walking with me to the door he stopped to let Rick know, then Daryl unlocked the door and led me outside. When we were outside, I took in a deep breath of the air, before coughing. The stale air and synch of the bodies irritated my throat. Luckily we weren't close to any, they'd been piled a bit further away, but the smell still hung in the air. I guess that was one of the things they'd done today.
The sun was gone, possibly still hiding behind some distance trees as the sky was not completely dark. The building cast a large shadow over us, I had to examine the ground carefully, afraid I would trip over a body they'd missed.
I could feel my heart racing, all I could think about was what he wanted to say, and what I needed to say. Daryl witnessed my outburst after having a nightmare about Carol, I'd already confessed, but we were both out of it and exhausted. Maybe he thought there was some truth to what I'd said.
Even though Daryl said he wanted to talk about what happened today, I was still mildly panicking. My stomach felt as if it was full of rocks. Could I rid myself of this feeling by confessing? Or was I condemning myself to something much worse?
"How's the ear?"
I just shrugged.
"I talked to Lori."
I nodded. I knew someone would tell him, I was sure it would've been Lori. She could never keep her mouth shut. I was really sick of people asking how I felt, as if me telling them how much pain I was in made a difference.
"You ain't been coughin' as much lately, hope the meds will help."
"Did you kill them?"
Daryl's eyebrows rose at my question, then he shook his head, "one got bit, nothin' we could do. The other one tried killin' Rick. So . . ."
"Rick killed him?" My voice cracked on the last word, I coughed to clear my throat.
"Yeah. One of 'em ran off. The other two we locked in the other cell block for now. Not sure what to do 'bout 'em, not sure if they'll cause more issues."
"What about the one that ran?"
"Just another dumb asshole, the guy's good as dead if he ain't already."
I looked at him for a while, I could see he meant it, so I nodded in acknowledgment. I was a bit unsettled about the idea, I'd just seen the prisoners that morning and two were dead. Rick killed one of them, that affected me the most, how Rick had taken someone's life again.
Maybe it didn't bother me as much as it should've, I didn't know those people, so it was hard to sympathize, and I trusted Daryl when he said the man was dangerous. Maybe I just couldn't focus on the prisoners when I was seconds away from saying what I needed to, but still didn't want to.
I opened my mouth, about to spill my incredibly anxious guts.
"We got this," Daryl said before I could speak. "Just a few more things to check, make sure there's no openin's, start cleanin' up the place."
Bile was rising, burning in my throat, I was almost happy to get sick, I could get out of it and just go to bed. Daryl turned his head to look at me, "what's with ya?"
I wanted to shrug and just ignore everything that had happened that day. "I don't feel good."
"Ya just begged me ta bring ya out here."
Reluctantly, I glanced behind me, back the way we'd come.
"Let's go back then," he motioned for me to follow. I didn't move, my eyes went to my shitty shoes.
There was concern in his voice, it was subtle, but I could hear it.
"Somethin' happen today?"
"Well, yeah, but . . . no, not that," my fingers reached up to my scalp, pulling my hair in frustration.
"What is it then?"
"Carol," I blurted softly, not able to take my eyes away from my feet.
"What . . . this 'bout last night? Was just a dream, ya don't gotta think 'bout that now."
That's not helpful, because I do, and I am.
"It's like it's happenin' again. With Hershel. He's just lyin' there and we're just waitin' for him to die or . . . I don't wanna watch it again."
In Daryl's silence, I resorted to biting my tongue.
"I know this is bad . . ." He started, trying to be reassuring, "ya can't think like that, he's still Hershel right now. I dunno if this helps, but what you saw, it wasn't her. She wasn't the same thing anymore, ya saw a Walker die."
"What if she was the same?"
"They aren't people after that. You know this."
"But she was." I knew I wasn't making any sense to him, I could very easily just say it outright to make him understand. Somehow, I couldn't find those very easy words.
The silence dragged on between us, I knew he was watching me, waiting for more explanation. When he couldn't wait anymore he finally asked.
"What're you sayin'?"
I fidgeted with the end of my shirt, pulling and twisting as if a perfect answer would pop out. I'd cornered myself, I had no other choice.
"Carol didn't turn . . . she . . . she wasn't a Walker."
Daryl didn't speak. I waited again for a long time, hoping I didn't have to say more, but I knew it wasn't enough. It probably didn't make sense, I'd have to say more. I waited moments longer before finally accepting he had nothing to say.
I took a deep breath and felt my lungs stutter, trying to keep my voice even I confessed, "Shane lied, I—I lied. She was cryin' and hurtin' she kept beggin' an—she kept beggin' him to do it, she wouldn't stop-" I was interrupted by my own sobs. I didn't try to continue. I kept my mouth shut tight and attempted to control my breathing through my nose. I wouldn't look at him.
"What? Why . . . That's not . . . what the fuck?" When I didn't respond, he began to get riled up, jabbing his finger in my direction, "no, I'm asking you. What the fuck, Toby?"
"-Why would you do this, why would you tell me this?"
"I needed . . . It's fuckin' with me!" I exploded, terrified of his reaction. "I couldn't get it outta my head. I didn't want to keep it anymore."
"It's been like eight months! Eight months! We've moved on! It took a long time to get over that shit with Carol, and you're just diggin' it up again, why would you do that?"
"-Stop," he interrupted. "Just . . . be quiet."
I felt my lip quiver as I held in the sobs that were threatening to tear out of me. I wanted to keep quiet all the while spilling my guts out. I wanted to be mad at him because he was the one asking the questions without actually wanting the answers. I was slightly glad to be told to shut up.
Daryl was turned away from me, rubbing his face with both hands as if he'd just woken up.
I lost track of time in the silence. I'd gone from a sobbing, sniffling mess, to standing absolutely still. My whole body was so tense, I wasn't even sure if I'd been blinking. My body felt heavy and numb, I was scared to move, or maybe I just wasn't able to. It was as if the tiniest movement would cause catastrophic damage.
In my head I begged Daryl to say something, then I begged him to stay quiet, to never say a word about it.
After a while, the silence had stretched so long I was almost fooled into thinking I was in some sort of dream. My surroundings felt distant and unreal.
A weight in my chest dropped hard to my stomach when Daryl spoke.
"You don't say a fucking word," he dragged out the last words slowly. I turned my neck stiffly to look at him, he'd distanced himself from me more, the darkness hiding his features. I felt my stomach do another flip when I noticed how much further he was from me than before. I covered my face with both my hands, desperately wishing I could unsay everything, to go back and keep ignorance alive. Who was I to tell the truth? I was just a little kid no one had to think twice about. I had no expectations beyond that, why would I distort that reality?
"Fuck, I can't deal with this shit. You don't talk about it. To anyone. Just go."
My lips parted and I glanced at the building, unsure and confused.
Daryl's voice went lower, as if he'd been trying not to explode, "Today's been a fuckin' shit day, Hershel's on his death bed . . . I can't talk to you. Go inside, you know the way, it's clear. Go."
I racked my fingers through my scalp, gripping my hair to tug at it from the roots as I turned from him.
I hated myself. I knew months ago, as soon as it happened it wasn't a secret I wanted to keep. I was scared, scared for Shane, maybe a bit scared of him. As time passed, my thoughts were dragged from Carol and I was focused on other problems. Shane's death, Rick, the running around, winter, possible starvation and then getting sick.
Hershel's condition brought it out into the open, him laying there after losing a limb, the whole group fretting what would happen to it was a subtle kind of torture that felt all too familiar.
I dragged my feet on the walk back. As I recalled my conversation with Maggie, knowing how I'd rather stay in ignorance of what happened to daddy, I kind of understood why Daryl was so mad. It wasn't just about what happened and my lie, it was about me clearing the air on something he hadn't known anything about.
Daryl was content with the old truth of Carol, as was the rest of the group possibly. They had no reason to believe anything else happened. Daryl never even had reason to think back on it until now.
I felt like shit all over again for a whole new reason.
I could very clearly remember the day we were leaving the quarry camp. I was expecting daddy to come back at any moment. Shane had crouched to my level and revealed what they'd all known the whole time. He wasn't coming. I'd felt shattered inside, hopeless, and lost. Was that how Daryl felt after hearing the truth? We had different relations to the people who we had learned the truth on, but was it any more or less devastating? I had no clue.
Those emotions hit me hard in the gut, I was feeling everything all over again. As if I'd been numb for a few seconds, giving it all time to crash down on me again.
Hello again! Well, there it is. Toby finally brought it up. I was on the fence about this for a long time, mostly thinking I would have her keep this secret much longer, maybe never tell anyone. But I had to keep in mind Toby did see someone get killed, and that can cause a lot of trauma one can't just let go. So here she's trying to find a way to cope with it.
I do realize Daryl might be a bit harsh here, but that will be resolved.
Anyway, so sorry I took for fucking ever to post. I hate myself for it. As I said in the beginning I kept losing any motivation. I did have a bit of a distraction, almost 2 months my fiance brought home a puppy! She is a white german shepherd, I named her Aloy (after the character in Horizon Zero Dawn: my favorite game). So it has been a busy adjustment. she kept me from my work a bit.
So I'm starting the next chapter now. I know I still take a long time but I do promise to never have a gap this big again.
Please leave a review, I love hearing from you guys and it always helps me along. I do get some messages at times with suggestions or ideas, so feel free to send me anything you think of or something you'd like to see.
I hope everyone is doing well, and for anyone starting school, I wish you the best! Thanks for reading!