A/N (updated 2-10-2013): This was originally written as a fill for the twd kinkmeme asking for Daryl whump. Loving Daryl whump, I happily complied. This is the result – shameless Daryl h/c, written way back in April 2012. Rated for language and violence. Gen/cannon pairings and eventual spoilers for 2.12. Since it's so old, I have to say that it's definitely AU after 2.12 and doesn't take anything in season 3 into account. The premise of this story is that the group saw the walker invasion coming and everyone left the farm before the events of 2.13 rather than trying to make a last stand - thus *SPOILERS FOR 2.13* Jimmy and Patricia are still alive and Andrea is still with the group. *END SPOILERS* For my readers new and old - many apologies for the long, long time between updates. Thank you all so much for the favorites, follows, and reviews - you've helped me look forward to coming back to this story after what turned out to be an insanely busy summer and fall!
Disclaimer: I own nothing except the DVDs.
A Time for Healing
Daryl realized the little girl on the road wasn't a walker when she opened her mouth and screamed, her voice high and desperate and her eyes wide. He'd never heard a Walker do that before, and now that he was practically on top of her he could see her skin looked healthy and alive and her terrified eyes were free of that glazed-over dead stare. Time slowed in that instant, as he slammed on the bike's brakes and twisted as hard as he could, desperately trying to avoid the girl. There was the screech of metal on asphalt, as the world went sideways and sparks flew through the air above him. Pain flared in his shoulder, on his hip, as he felt himself sliding and then he came to an abrupt halt with enough force that the world went white around the edges as he struggled desperately to breath.
When he came back to himself, the first thing he became aware of was the pain. He was lying on his side, his head resting on the curve of his arm. His chest burned with every breath and it was all he could do to keep breathing in shallow pants that brought the black dots back to his vision. His side and leg felt raw, his head pounding. The second thing he noticed was the commotion going on around him. People calling his name and behind that, the high pitched wailing of a girl sobbing. It made his head throb even harder and he tried to tell everyone to just shut the hell up, but it came out as a moan instead.
The light burned his eyes, and he pinched them closed against the intrusion. Heard a feminine gasp from somewhere over his head, and a muted "Oh god."
He forced his eyes back open, blinking against the light and the pain in his head.
"Daryl?" Hands on his face, holding him still, and Rick's face wove in and out of his vision. He could still hear the ragged sobs of the little girl.
"Sophia?" he mumbled, trying to turn and look. Pain flared in his chest at even that tiny motion, and Rick tightened his grip, shifting so he held Daryl's head tighter.
"Don't move," Rick ordered. "Sophia isn't here, remember. Do you know where you are? What happened?"
Daryl turned away, the noise and the movement too much. Over it all he could hear Sophia crying. Merle sat on his legs, leaning against his chest so he couldn't breathe. Taunting him. "What the fuck is this? You pussying out like a damn girl, little bro? Always knew you didn't have it in ya. Go on, open them eyes if your man enough." But Sophia was dead and Merle was gone, Daryl realized with a start, and he smelled hot metal and the voice that was talking didn't belong to his older brother.
"Daryl, open your eyes. Look at me Daryl." Rick still held his head steady, shifting so he was leaning over Daryl from above. "Good, that's good," he said when Daryl blinked open his eyes and found himself staring up at Rick's face. "Hershel," he yelled back over his shoulder. "We need your help over here!"
T-Dog suddenly entered his line of vision. "Hershel's on his way," T-Dog said. "He's grabbing the first aid kit. Should we move this bike off him?"
"Shit," Daryl gasped, trying to look at the damage. Rick held his head firmly in place and the rest of him didn't seem to be doing a good job of moving on its own. "Merle's bike."
To his surprise, T-Dog dropped down beside him and clasped a hand gently on his shoulder. "Don't worry about the bike. You hurting?"
Daryl grunted, half denial, half protest that these people kept touching him unwelcomed and then Hershel was there, squeezing in between Rick and T-Dog. Daryl tried to recoil, feeling boxed in and trapped, three people hovering over him and him on the ground. His body jerked backwards reflexively, and the pain in his chest nearly blinded him. Hershel said something, but he couldn't hear it beyond the roaring in his ears and the desperate need to breathe shallow and fast in order to control the pain.
"Easy, easy," Hershel was saying when the pain subsided enough for Daryl to focus again. The older man moved slowly and deliberately as he knelt down in front of Daryl. "I'm going to touch your neck to check your pulse now. Let me know if anything hurts you, son." He slowly reached out a hand to Daryl's neck and Daryl swallowed down the panic that was starting to build.
"Let me go," he ordered Rick, though he didn't struggle, not wanting that agony to return.
It was Hershel who answered, his voice that same maddening calm cadence that Daryl associated with wounded animals and frightened livestock. "Just relax. We'll let you up as soon as we know you're not hurt too badly. You're breathing pretty fast there, son. Can you tell me why?"
"Hurts," Daryl gritted out. "Chest on the… left side…"
Hershel's face was pinched in concern and he laid a light hand on Daryl's exposed side. "What does it feel like?" he asked. "A crushing pain or a sharp pain?"
"Sharp," Daryl gasped. "Son of a bitch…"
"Easy, son." Hershel's hand was on his shoulder and Rick still gripped his head tightly, but it was all Daryl could do to keep himself still in the face of the agony that ran through him.
"…nk you can answer a few questions for me?" Hershel's voice was still gentle and even, but Daryl found himself lost nonetheless.
"What?" he managed, forcing the pain down, into the background. Years of experience helped him, and the pain complied, though reluctantly. What was left was a dull noise, ignorable for now, though it threatened to spill over if Daryl let it.
"Do you remember what happened?" Hershel's voice was an anchor to which Daryl attached himself, regardless of the answer. It was a few moments before he realized he was supposed to supply the answers himself. "Sophia," he murmered, thinking of the stark blonde hair and the thin frame he'd swerved to avoid. No, it was a girl he'd avoided, but not Sophia.
The thought had him alert again, his eyes snapped open even as he tried to move against Rick's hold. "The girl," he gasped. "She alright?"
"She's just fine," Rick said, even as Hershel nodded his consent. "Just a bit shook up is all. You did a real good job of avoiding her."
"Rick's right," Hershel agreed. "She's just shook up and a bit overwhelmed. Seems she's been on her own a while. We're more worried about you at this point. You have any pain besides that in your chest?"
Daryl considered lying, then remembered that this was the damn zombie apocalypse and decided that he was better off telling the truth. Either they fixed him up and he survived this, or they threatened to leave him for dead and he'd figure out a way to end it here and now, rather than be walker bait.
"Hurts to breathe," he said again. "And my side feels like it's been ground up for sausage. Think… think Merle's bike is cutting off the blood in my left leg. Can't feel nothing there."
"We'll get that bike up off of you in a minute son." Hershel shifted so that he was closer to Daryl. "Just keep breathing as best you can and let me know if it gets harder or feels different. I'm going to check your back, make sure you haven't damaged it. Let me know if anything hurts."
Daryl concentrated on breathing, ignoring the hands on his back that made him want to twitch away and the way Hershel leaned over him, blocking him in, which made him just want to run. The little girl had quit her sobbing and the commotion around him had died down, but Daryl could see them gathered around behind Hershel's silhouette. Could see them staring down at him, trapped beneath the weight of his bike and the pain in his chest. It made him want to hide away somewhere they couldn't see him laid out like this, unable to get up or move, unable to even breathe. "The fuck they staring at?"
He didn't realize he'd spoken the thought aloud until he felt Rick stiffen and look over at the small crowd.
"We're not moving for awhile," Rick told them, his voice loud and full of authority. "Plenty of abandoned cars around here. Why don't you all scavenge through them and see what you can find. Take some gas if there's any left." It wasn't a request.
Hershel nodded down at Daryl as he finished his examination. "No pain? Good, looks like your back made out alright, at least." He eyed the bike lying on top of Daryl's leg with a frown. "T-Dog, could you help me get this machine off him?"
When they pulled Merle's bike off of him, it hurt. Pins and needles began running up and down his leg as the blood rushed back in. And then he felt it, a searing, throbbing pain in his leg. "Fuck," he gasped, trying to look down at it until a sharp pang in his already aching chest brought him up short.
He tried to jerk his leg away as Hershel pressed down on it, but the old man held him still with surprising strength. "The hell you doing old man?" Daryl shouted. Or tried to. It sounded weak and shaky even to his own ears, and ended with a gasp as the effort tore at his chest again.
"You've got a deep cut on your leg. We've got to get the bleeding stopped." Hershel pressed down again and Daryl couldn't help but yell, kicking out with his good leg and trying to move away before Rick and the stabbing in his chest stilled him.
"Daryl?" Rick was leaning over him again, patting his cheek lightly. "You still with me? Stay with me now."
Daryl ignored him, trying to get enough air with the shallow, panting breaths that seemed to be all he could manage. The pain in his leg was distant now, the world gray around the edges, and he needed to breath but couldn't. He needed… "Need to sit up," he gasped.
Hershel looked up from where he was working. "Let him. Might help him breath."
"Okay, let's get you up," Rick said, shifting so he was just out of Daryl's line of sight. Strong hands moved under his armpits. "Let me know if this hurts you."
Daryl tried to help, but each movement was agony and he couldn't help but grunt when he moved the arm that had been on the ground. He tried to push with his good hand, but Rick did most of the work and suddenly he was leaning back against Rick, panting at the pain of the movement but also, finally, at last able to breathe if not deeply, enough to drive the dark edge of his vision away.
"Motherfucker," he cursed once he caught his breath and gathered the nerve to look down at his leg. Hershel was still adding bandages to it, pressing down as the red stain started to seep its way through the white padding. The side of his leg that had slid across the ground was a mess of shredded denim, ragged skin and blood. His arm looked no better. A swell of nausea rolled through him at the sight, and he cursed himself for being a pussy even as he looked away.
He curled his arm protectively against his chest and breathed as best he could through the rolling in his gut.
"Hold this here," he heard Hershel say. "Add more bandages if it keeps on soaking through." The pressure on his leg lessened, then the pain, which had reached a point where, while it still hurt, didn't consume his entire existence, flared up again as the pressure returned but harder. He must have made some sort of sound because he felt T-Dog pat his thigh with a surprisingly sincere "Sorry, man," and wasn't this just the most humiliating day of his life when all these people got to see him sniveling like a little girl.
Hershel knelt down in front of him, his face grave. "Still hard to breathe?" he asked.
"Better now," Daryl mumbled, looking away.
Hershel moved his gaze to where Daryl held his arm tight against his chest. "This where it hurts?" he asked, tapping Daryl's arm lightly. When Daryl nodded, he continued. "Now, I'm gonna have to look at it. And I've got to cut this shirt off of you to do that."
Daryl nodded again, and closed his eyes, suddenly exhausted. The fall air was cold against his skin when Hershel unbuttoned what was left of his vest and denim shirt, and cut up the front of the wifebeater he wore underneath. Daryl tensed when Heshel grabbed his arm, but he only moved it down to rest on the ground and Daryl didn't fight it, even though it made his chest ache that much more.
"Hm." The noise Hershel made as he examined Daryl's chest was low and concerned, and had Daryl opening his eyes to peer blearily at the man.
"What is it?" Rick sounded worried, but then he always sounded worried these days.
Hershel took a deep breath before he replied. "His chest isn't moving right. Definitely some broken ribs are out of place. Maybe even a flail chest. Lots of complications can come from that. We'll have to keep a good eye on him, make sure he's not getting any worse." Cold fingers traced along his ribcage below the agony that was his upper chest. "Don't feel anything else out of place."
"M'right here you know," Daryl growled, or tried to. "You gonna be putting your hands all over me, least you could do is talk to me insteada over me." But even Daryl could tell he didn't sound the least bit threatening as he paused for breath every other word. In fact, he sounded rather pathetic.
Hershel fixed him with a look he couldn't be bothered to interpret. His head ached and it hurt to breathe, and his leg was throbbing and fuck, but if he hadn't seriously screwed himself this time. He was a fucking liability and they'd probably just pack up and leave him like they did Merle and how the hell could he take care of himself when he couldn't even breathe?
"Hey there, just relax. Take slow breaths. Deep as you can." He didn't even realize he'd been on the verge of hyperventilating until Hershel's calm words washed over him. He hated the fact that he relaxed into them, back against Rick, like some dumb farm animal, but as much as he didn't want to admit it, he couldn't do much else right at the moment.
"We should move you on into the RV," Hershel said, standing and looking down at Daryl. "Don't think it'll hurt to move you, and there'll be more light there." He glanced nervously around at the darkening highway, at the shadows in the woods beyond the concrete barriers. "Plus then if we need to get away quickly, we can."
Daryl shook back the cobwebs crowding his head. "Can move on my own," he protested, struggling to sit up and away from Rick. He made it, but barely, and had to throw out his good arm to catch himself before he fell back, the other cradled protectively around his side. He wavered, lightheaded, his arm shaking as it tried to support a body that weighed twice what it should.
"Easy, son," Hershel warned, catching Daryl by the shoulder. "You've lost a lot of blood and probably have a concussion. Don't want you to get up too fast." He glanced over at T-Dog, who was still holding the bandages on Daryl's leg in place. "How's that looking?"
T-Dog shrugged. "It's not seeping through anymore."
"That's a start, at least." Hershel sighed and patted Daryl on the shoulder as he stood and moved beside T-Dog. "Let's get a pressure bandage around it so we can move him."
Rick had moved up close behind him again, and the pain in Daryl's leg as Hershel and T-Dog worked on it stole the strength from his arms. "Just relax, I got you," Rick said, and Daryl had no choice but to obey. He drifted, focusing on breathing to forget about the other pains, as he rested against Rick's shoulder. Snatches of conversation washed over him. Rick murmuring something to Lori, Andrea saying she'd found a few more guns in a truck up the road, Carol asking after him and laying a cool hand on his cheek. He opened his eyes and saw the little blonde girl staring at him from beside the RV, sucking on her thumb, the other hand clutching the purple backpack she wore. The way she stared at him, eyes wide and terrified, unnerved him and he turned away, listening to his heart beat a fast rhythm in his ears as the adrenaline started to fade and his body began to protest even more than it already had been. He lost himself in the rhythm of his heartbeat, the shallow breaths, the rhythmic throb of pain.
"I think we're ready," Hershel announced, checking the bandage one more time before standing. It startled Daryl out of his haze, brought his focus back to what was going on around him, and he called himself a damn fool for letting himself drift off as he had. "Rick, T-Dog, help him up slowly. Let's get him on his feet."
Daryl struggled upright again, tried to tell them again to just leave him alone, that he didn't need any help, but T-Dog and Rick stepped in beside him anyways and hooked a hand under each armpit. His breath hitched as he leaned forward, chest screaming at him. He pulled his good leg up underneath him and would have been screwed save for the hands under his shoulders as soon as he started to stand. The world spun around him sickeningly and he felt his knees buckle before the grips on his arms tightened and the world exploded in pain, centered in his chest.