Daryl could not tell anyone what exactly occurred in the hospital. From the moment he left that room to the moment he dragged Nichole out into the low light outside, he had been on nothing but instinct. And now, as he was hurrying through the completely abandoned mall, he spotted Glenn standing at the open front door, waving for him to hurry. All other thought left him as he pushed Nichole into Glenn's waiting hands so she could be taken outside and he would be free to aim his gun where he needed to.

To give the girl credit, she did not react nearly as shocked or scared as he had expected. She simply ran, her slight limp telling him that she was injured more than he noticed at first. Daryl watched as she and Glenn rushed to the cars. The Asian jumped behind the wheel of the car holding Maggie, Beth, Lori, and Carl. Daryl could have cursed as he saw that the other vehicles were full too. He would have to take Nichole on the back of his bike.

But first the front gate needed to be opened. Daryl saw Alex standing near them, his gun flashing every now and then in the sun. The boy was doing his best to push the gate out, but it was at least a two man job. Giving a quick look around, he crossed the parking lot in a dash, slamming hard into the other side of the gate with his shoulder and putting all his weight into shoving it open.

The cars drove by, fast enough that they could not be stopped. The only one that slowed was the truck Rick was driving, and that was to allow T-dog to pull Alex into the back. Daryl tossed the black man his rifle and hurried back to where Nichole was standing, next to his bike.

He saw her backpack already strapped onto her shoulders, which was smart since the bike was not big enough to hold them and the bag. Daryl put his leg over it and gestured with his head for Nichole to join him. She was quick about it, wrapping her arms carefully around his ribs, under his arms, and he took off, revving the engine loud enough to echo throughout the compound they were leaving.

Daryl did not relax until they were at the road again. Heading westward, following the dying sunlight, he could no longer see that wall, the prison that had tried to claim him. Nichole's hands undid the strap holding his crossbow to his back and he felt her remove it with one hand so she could scoot closer to his back. The bow was held in both her hands in front of him, and he let a little smile hit him.

This was a good place to be.


Three hours later...

On the first floor of an abandoned motel on the side of the highway, three rooms had doors open and the rest were closed tightly. One of the open doors belonged to the room Daryl was currently in with Nichole, Glenn, and Maggie. The doctor was seeing to the wounds of the others, steadfastly ignoring her own. Daryl watched as she smiled up at Maggie, saying comforting words as she tended to the bullet hole in the girl's arm.

Not until the other two left did Daryl make Nichole sit on the bed, shutting the door and bolting it. "No more patients, you're getting seen to first."

She waved him off, moving to stand, but Daryl was quicker. To her obvious dismay, he was in front of her, both hands on her thighs, holding her down.

"Daryl, I have to go check on Hershel. He was shot, remember?"

"You've already seen to him. And every other fucking person in this traveling feast. At least let me wrap your hands up for you."

Her eyes flashed for a moment before she flopped backwards on the moldy bed, sending up swirls of dust with every movement. "Fine. But then I continue my rounds."

"Yes, doctor," he said sarcastically, picking up the bandages she had used on Maggie and the antiseptic they had found in the first aid kit at the main desk. "This might sting a bit."

Nichole hissed as he poured some of the liquid onto her hands and quickly wrapped them. She narrowed her eyes at him.

"That wasn't completely necessary," she shot in an annoyed tone.

"Then I'll have to do something to make up for it," Daryl said, slowly climbing on the bed so he was kneeling over her, his legs pinning her to the bed. "But that means you'll just have to let everyone else tend to their own for a while."

Her eyes widened quickly and a smile appeared. Nichole ran her bandaged fingers up his side and to his shoulders. "Really? And what sort of ideas are you having for this 'making up'?" she questioned in a playful voice.

"You'll just have to wait and see," Daryl teased.

The hunter looked down at her, his mind focused, but in the back, somewhere buried deep, he knew that passing through that place had been well worth all the trouble it had wrought.


Research base, Fort Hood, TX

Several of the world's best scientists sat in the room below where Former Army General Joseph Archer now sat. He watched them work through the large window in his office, glaring at the page in front of him. The last convoy that had come through a week ago had the research from somewhere in Georgia. Archer had sent it to his scientists to work on the cure.

Of course, he needed to find the doctor who originated the data these people were now using. He recognized the name as soon as it came across his desk and he was surprised that such a damaged person as her made it through the initial outbreak.

"General," came the voice of his second in command from behind him. "The scouts are ready for deployment."

"Great," Archer said, turning to look at the man who would have one day succeeded him in this position. "Tell them to be extra careful, I don't want my niece injured when they find her."

"Yes, sir," came the automatic response as the XO turned and left. Archer smiled to himself as he looked out the window once more, watching the scientists.

"We wouldn't want to scare Nichole away, after all," he said to the empty room behind him.

A/N: A big thank you to everyone who made it all the way through this story with me. And a HUGE thank you to anyone who favorited/reviewed for me. Unfortunately this is the end of this story, but I left the it open because, yes, there is more. I need to do something to occupy myself until season three comes out. And why not build a huge conspiracy network? ;D