Nick loathed hospitals.
He hated the smell, the way the doctors seemed to act as if every god damn person in the building was going to die, and how everything seemed so clean.
"Doctor Memphis to Room 246 please, Doctor Memphis to Room 246 please," said the nurse over the intercom. Turning to him, she smiled sweetly at Nick. "Oh yes, you're Julie's dad, aren't you? She's in Room 266. It's right down that hallway."
"Thanks." Nick turned from the nurse and walked down the hallway, his hand in his pocket. His other hand was wrapped around a bouquet of white lilies, Julie's favorite flowers.
Nick found the room and, without hesitating, pushed the door open.
Julie was lying on a hospital bed, her body attached to a series of machines via several tubes. Nick hated to see her like that, but he hid his distaste behind a rakish smile. "Hey sweetheart. I brought these for you."
"Daddy, you really shouldn't have," Julie said, taking the bouquet from him and inhaling the sweet scent. "I hope none of your buddies saw you buy this. I know you have a reputation to think of."
"Fuck my reputation," Nick answered, sitting on the bed, beside Julie. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine." Julie leaned back on the bed, her face obscured by the bouquet.
"I know when you're lying, Jules," Nick told her, frowning. "What did the doctor say?"
"He said I should continue taking the medicine, but right now surgery is the only way." Julie was looking everywhere but him. Nick gently cupped her chin with his hand and turned her head towards him.
"Julie, you know I would save you if I could," Nick said.
"I know." A tear slipped down Julie's cheek. "But Daddy, I know we don't have the money. And I don't want you to-"
"I'm going to Savannah."
Julie's eyes widened. "Daddy, you promised me…"
"Nobody knows me there, Julie," Nick insisted. "And if you think I'm just going to sit here and watch you die, you're mistaken."
"Daddy, didn't you hear the news? Pennsylvania has fallen. Don't go to Savannah, please," Julie begged. "Stay here. With me."
Nick sighed. "Sweetheart, you need the surgery. And since you don't want me to go to the poker tables in this goddamn town, I'm going to Savannah. It's relatively unknown, and I know my buddies haven't gotten that far yet."
"Daddy please. I don't want you to go," Julie said, her lip trembling.
Ah crap, Nick thought. He hated seeing her cry; it made him feel vulnerable. Hell, everything about his daughter made him feel vulnerable.
Julie was the only person in the world Nick completely trusted and cared for, but he remembered a time when he had wanted nothing to do with her. Julie was born when Nick was 23 and was just starting as a professional gambler and conman.
Julie's mom was a stripper who didn't plan on getting pregnant, and the moment Julie was born, she'd tracked him down and gave him the baby.
"You were supposed to wear a fucking condom," she had hissed at him, and left without a backward glance. At first Nick wanted to bring Julie to an orphanage, but then she slowly grew on him. Julie was like him in more ways than one. She stood just like him, spewed sarcastic and snide comments the way he did, and could stare grown men down with that icy blue gaze of hers.
Soon the two became a father-daughter team, but Nick was careful not to let Julie into his world too much. Out of concern for Julie, Nick had tried looking for women who could serve as mother figures. These all failed, as his ex-wives were nothing but jealous bitches who only cared for themselves.
"Julie, you'll be fine," Nick assured her. He was lying, he knew, but he'd rather be damned than let his daughter die. "And hey, you know I can take care of myself. I'll be back before you know it, sweetie."
"Daddy," Julie began, but was interrupted by several spasms. Nick's eyes widened and he started shouting for the doctor.
A man clad in a white coat and several nurses entered, attracted by the insistent beeping of Julie's heart monitor. It took them several minutes to resolve the issue, and once Julie had calmed down, the doctor pulled Nick aside.
"She doesn't have much time," the doctor said softly. "She needs to have that operation, otherwise her heart may just give out."
Nick nodded, not trusting himself to speak. "I understand. Thanks."
The doctor patted Nick's shoulder and left, the nurses trailing after him. Nick took a deep breath and entered the room. Julie was looking pale, but she gave him a wide smile that made him feel like he could fight a hundred guys and win.
"Julie." Nick resumed his position beside her and took her hand in his. It felt cold and clammy, and he stroked her hand gently. "I'm leaving for Savannah."
Julie's lip trembled. "Daddy I've heard the reports. They say the Infection's spreading. What if they reach you?"
Nick's voice was firm. "Sweetheart, you know I love you. No matter what happens, I'm going to find a way to come and get you."
Julie nodded, covering his hand with her other one. "And Daddy, you know that I will do the same for you, right?"
"I know. But Julie, promise me you'll stay here," Nick told her, frowning at her.
Julie hesitated, and then nodded again. "I promise."
Satisfied, Nick leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. He could feel her clutching the lapel of his white suit jacket – the one she had helped pick out during one of their Christmas shopping trips in Las Vegas – and he pressed his forehead against hers, ignoring the fact that it was almost covered with beads of sweat.
"I have to go." Nick pulled away from her.
"Be careful, Daddy." Julie's voice sounded so small, Nick almost changed his mind. But the doctor's voice echoed in his head, reminding Nick what he had to lose.
And Julie was the only thing in his life that he could not – and would not – bear to lose.
Twenty-one hours later…
"Julie? Everything okay?"
Vivian, one of the nurses in the hospital, entered the room and smiled at the girl.
Julie smiled. "Yeah, I'm okay Vivian. Thanks. Has my daddy called yet?"
"No sweetie, he hasn't," Vivian replied, and Julie noticed the nurse's expression seemed to light up at the mention of Nick. "But don't worry, I'll tell you the moment he does."
"Thanks," Julie said, and Vivian left. Julie scratched her arm and closed her eyes. She could feel the medicine taking effect, and she was getting groggy. Suddenly she heard screaming, as well as a series of loud thuds.
"Vivian?" Julie tried to sit up, but she ended up sinking back down on the bed. The screams continued, and were joined with growls that gave Julie goosebumps. She could hear people running past her room, and she called out for Vivian, a doctor…anyone.
It was then when Julie heard her door creak open, as well as the sound of someone breathing heavily. A figure was standing in the doorway, its arms held away from its sides.
"Vivian?" Julie called, but the figure didn't respond. "Vivian, what's going on?"
Julie's vision blurred even further, and she felt herself slipping into a medicine-induced sleep. Before she could, however, the figure launched itself at her with an angry growl and clawed at her. Julie screamed and tried fighting the figure off, which felt cold to the touch.
"Get off!" Julie shook her head and pushed with all her might, but the figure was too strong. Julie could feel blood gushing from the many wounds the figure was inflicting on her, and her thoughts immediately went to her dad.
Keep my daddy safe, she thought. Stay safe daddy, stay safe.
And then the world went black.
The Witch hopped off the little girl, her claws dripping with blood. Prior to becoming a Special Infected, the Witch was once known as Vivian, a nurse who worked in the hospital.
As the Green Flu flowed through her system, Vivian had stumbled to Julie's room, hoping she could somehow warn the girl about the zombies that were in the building.
Unfortunately the virus had taken a hold of her just as she twisted the doorknob open and, infuriated at the presence of a nearby human, had attacked the girl.
The Witch, realizing what she had done, stopped her attack and ran out of the room, holding her head in her hands and sobbing uncontrollably.
Meanwhile, the girl The Witch had just attacked lay in bed, unaware that the wounds were slowly healing due to the virus that now ravaged her system.
Within minutes, the wounds had healed, but were marked by several long gashes against the girl's now pale skin. Her fingernails elongated into sharp claws, tearing into the bed sheets. The only thing that remained unchanged was the girl's long, dark hair, and the locket that still hung on her neck.
Author's Note: I know that there is a huge possibility that Nick is a Carrier, and since the immunity to the Green Flu virus is passed down from the father's side, you may wonder why Julie was Infected with the Witch strain if her dad was immune in the first place.
Of course it's very possible that Nick isn't Julie's biological dad. But they don't know that yet, do they? ;)