What Doesn't Kill You
By Cider Sky

A/N: Prompt: 'Daryl suddenly comes down with appendicitis, I guess they'd still need to be at the farm, Hershel'd have to do surgery, or if you prefer, perhaps someone in the group has a small hidden font of medical knowledge and gives it a shot. They are living in a time of do or die after all. Maybe Daryl finally realizes the

others do give a shit about him because of their reactions. Please no slash.

A/N2: This was originally posted on the kink!meme and has been under a long hiatus! It's back though and will be uploaded in two parts. Also, this takes place in the second half of season 2, before 18MO.

A/N3: For everyone that has PM'd me or asked elsewhere, sorry for the late response! Yes, I am returning to the WD fandom – I just needed a break from it, as usually happens for me when a show takes a break! Thank you for all the encouragement and PMs. I hope you enjoy this little bit – I have about 6 stories that need polishing, hopefully I will actually get those up soon. Enjoy!

Daryl Dixon doesn't get sick.

As far as he is concerned it is a fact, pure and simple, belonging snug next to other known-to-be-true statements such as, 'the sky is blue' and 'Shane is batshit insane.'

It doesn't matter that he awoke with a gasp of pain, his side alight with a pain similar to being jabbed with a hot poker. It doesn't matter that a definite ache has settled into his bones or that each sudden movement sends the world turning or that his bedroll is looking far more appealing than it should.

It certainly doesn't matter that he can smell powdered eggs from across the damn field; he's grateful that he has decided to take up camp away from the others because it means there's no one there to witness his losing his stomach contents.

When gutting a squirrel becomes too much - something Merle would have given him hell over, calling him a pansy or something equally emasculating – he chalks it up to the heat.

Yes. It's the heat that's put lead in his stomach and set the pounding behind his eyes. It's the heat that's bringing on those persistent pangs, the ones made of the same thing that had woken him up in a sweat.

It's a piss poor excuse that makes no damned sense but his stomach has never turned at the site of blood and guts before and it's a little unsettling.

Unsettling but ultimately it means nothing because Daryl Dixon doesn't get sick. He knows damn well what it would mean.

When he was a kid it meant needing to depend on someone, usually his brother, and that was a crapshoot in itself.

'Don't be such a fuckin' pussy, Darlena, man up.' Merle would say giving him a slap on the back that was always meant to hurt.

'You want I rub your feet, maybe make you some fancy herbal tea?'

'Well ain't you as delicate as a rose.' Daryl scoffs at the memories – it never mattered whether he was sick from a night spent drinking or actually sick sick, Merle had always been a right asshole.

He could still remember with disturbing clarity the one and only time it had been his father, not Merle; it meant laying in bed, hot with fever and being called useless when he couldn't drag his ass to the store to get the old man some fucking beer. It meant him getting his ass beat when he got sick all over the bathroom floor – it had taken him two weeks to recover from that one, the beating mixing with the illness to create one enormous physical hell.

Daryl swipes the back of his arm across his forehead clinging to the idea that he's just overheated as he tries to forget those particular memories.

He shoots a look over at the farmhouse and the people milling about; he's pretty sure that's Lori sitting on the farmhouse steps and Rick just behind her. He's gesturing and pacing and Daryl figures it has something to do with Herschel or Shane. He may not be camping next to them and their noisy ass business anymore but it's hard to escape the basics of the group's drama.

He's squinting and another wave of nausea barrels through his being, forcing him to look away with a groan.

It's a good thing he's here on the outskirts and not smack dab in the center of it all, as he was before. He doesn't know what he had been thinking back then, why he thought he was a part of it.

He had been fool enough to think they wanted him there, that he should set up camp between the RV and Lori and Rick's tent – their tent for fuck's sake! – and keep on as though they were his neighbors or something equally bizarre.

No, it's a good thing he moved out here. They had hardly noticed his move as it were – it had been surprisingly easy to pull up stakes and roll his brother's Harley across the field without warranting a single glance.

No one had questioned him, save for Carol and really, that had gone so well. She hadn't been around since he had yelled at her, since he had said some really vile things.

Daryl closes his eyes, squeezing them tightly shut in an attempt to rid him of that aggravating throbbing.

Stop bein' a little bitch, he tells himself, even as his hand moves to his right side again.

With a final glance over at the farmstead Daryl stands, wincing as the movement pulls at his side, and relents, making a beeline for his tent.

Daryl all but collapses into his cot and doesn't bother with his mud caked boots. He pulls in a deep breath trying to get his racing heart down to a less uncomfortable pace.

He wipes at the sweat collecting at his temples again, trying to find relief but there is none to be found in the stagnant tent.

Just dehydrated. Daryl tells himself as his eyes slide shut, despite the fact that the thought of drinking anything right now sounds absolutely repulsive.

He just needed to rest, as much as he hates the idea, hates the fact that he's so suddenly laid up, but it's just temporary because Daryl Dixon does not get sick.

Regardless, he can't fight the fatigue that pulls at his overheating body.

It's barely noon but he falls asleep all the same.

When he wakes up again it's dark.

He lies there for a moment trying to figure out just why his entire cot has taken to shaking before realizing he's shivering. Shivering, like a scared kid.

He forces his body to stop, muscles straining in rebellion and despite his efforts he can't fight the occasional chill.

He had fully been expecting to wake up, head clear and body cooled by the arrival of night but nothing has changed; if anything he feels even worse.

"Fuck." He forces himself into a sitting position, hands going up to meet his aching head, cradling it as he swings his feet over and onto the lumpy floor of his tent.

Daryl rubs at his aching eyes and squints out at the light beyond his tent, taking in the beacon that is the farm.

They're probably gathered around that table - the one he's only seen but has never actually sat at – eating a dinner of chicken and vegetables and whatever the hell else Hershel farms.

He's glad for it; it means no ones going to come poking their nose in his business., means he can sleep off whatever this is in peace, not that they'd give a single shit.

Just as he was with Merle and the old man, he'd be nothing but a burden, another thing for the others to argue about, and another waste of resources to Hershel – to hell with 'em.

The hunter feels like absolute shit but he needs to eat something, knows he can't let himself get weak, put himself in the position to become Walker food.

The pain is surprising, keeping him hunched over when he attempts to stand but he soldiers through it, gritting his teeth.

He makes it to the fire and half-heartedly puts a squirrel on a spit.

"Ain't so bad." But it is, it's worse than he expected it to be, the smell of melting fat and cooking flesh.

It takes no more than two minutes and he's heaving, throwing up nothing but bile over the other side of the log.

He goes on like that for far too long and is left exhausted.

Somethin's wrong – a little voice inside him urges but he is quick to push it down, a scowl appearing on his features as he spits, desperate to get the taste of sick out of his mouth.

Should see Hershel … the fuckers insistent and for a fleeting moment, hunched over as he is, watching the squirrel carcass burn and go to waste, he agrees.

Daryl eyes the farm again, looking just in time to catch Dale sauntering down the steps, Carl moving animatedly about as they make their way towards the RV, the camp. Then there's Maggie and Glenn, hand in hand talking, he assumes, to T-Dog, all pausing on the porch, their body language comfortable and relaxed.

Fuck it, your fine – he's not about to burst their perfect delusional bubble.

Sophia's freshly buried and there's a stranger recuperating on the second floor but none of that seems to be an issue – they're all carrying on, doing dishes, making sit down dinners, all as if nothing happened.

He hasn't forgotten about Sophia, not like they have, and that alone proves he doesn't belong with them, that he's right where he should be.

He sinks down, back against the log, freezing and burning at the same time.

- right where he should be.

The sounds of footsteps bring him back to awareness, his eyes opening to the light of the painfully bright day. He didn't remember passing out; he only remembered the pain in his gut and head.

Already the cicadas are at the height of their buzzing and it hurts his head just listening to it. His body is stiff and uncomfortable

Daryl pushes himself up onto the log, cursing himself for passing out in the open like this; this whole day has taken an incredible dive towards the pathetic and he would be damned if he let this visitor in on his apparent weakness.

It's not really a surprise when Carol appears out of the dark, weaponless, and if Daryl hadn't been using all his energy to stay sitting upright, he would have given her an earful over walking around defenseless as she was.

"Though you might want something different, for a change." He hadn't noticed it initially but she's carrying a plate covered with a cloth, no doubt his 'share' of the night's meal.

"Ain't hungry. Already ate." Her eyes drop towards the fire, taking in the charcoaled remains of the squirrel.

"That's fine." She stands there, staring, and he wishes she would just turn around and leave because he is pretty damn confident that he's on the verge of keeling over.

"What?" He all but croaks as he swipes at his forehead again.

"You need to come back to camp." She steps closer and her brows furrow when she finally gets a good look at him.

"Don't tell me what I need. What I need is for ya'll to stay out of my damned business." He manages as his left hand sneaks across his belly and to his side again.

Daryl isn't in the mood for this. His stomach is threatening to turn on him again and his vision is blurring making the world before him a hazy mess.

She says something but he can't be bothered to know what; his entire body is choosing this moment to stage it's rebellion and damn, he can't remember a time he has felt this terrible -

"Daryl!" He lurches forward and he can feel Carol's hands on his back. He jerks away from her touch and that only makes things worse, sending him sideways and it's his steely pride that keeps his limbs in check, preventing a sudden and unwanted meeting with the ground.

"Daryl, you're burning up." She's steadying him; her arms are wrapped around his back and he flinches again, trying to buck her limbs off like a petulant child.

"'M fine! Just mind your own –" He tries to stand, to walk away but his legs are filled with lead and his right side has reached a pain filled crescendo. Every movement is agony and it takes every fiber of his being to keep from giving in and scream himself ragged.

"You're not fine, you have a fever and you need to see Hershel –" He can hear the worry in her voice and it burrows into his chest, reminiscent of their relationship before the barn and fuck, that's the last thing he needs right now; he just wants her to go away.

"No, just had a long night, back off –" He pulls himself away from her grasp and, steeling himself against the pain he knows is coming, he gets to his feet.

It's worse than he expected but he makes it the few yards to his tent, Carol hot on his heels as he pushes his way inside before collapsing into the cot for the second time in as many days.

"Please, Daryl, be reasonable."

Daryl lies there, one arm cast over his face, hoping that if he carries on this way for a long enough period of time she'll get bored and just wander away.

But he knows how unlikely that is; she ain't a dog or an impatient child, for one, and his experience with her has taught him that she can be freakishly persistent.

"If you're not going to do something, than I am." He doesn't like the sound of that and cracks an eye open to find her turning away, no doubt intending to run off to Rick to get the group all riled, playing the alarmist.

He lurches forward, just managing to grab her wrist.

He's not about to have Rick and Shane and hell, half the camp wandering over to watch him lie around his sick bed, to have them converse over him rather than with him.

The idea of it is enough to help him push aside the agony for a moment, fixing Carol with what he hopes is a fairly lucid looking gaze.

"M fine, just a bug. Don't you get sick of wastin' everyone's time –" It's not the nicest (or worst) thing he's said to her but really, he's not about to have them worry over a little bug, a virus, like he's a child

Carol's mouth quirks and he can tell she's thinking it over, taking him in, looking for cracks in his already questionable reasoning.

"At least let me fix you some tea," He glares at her for that but the nausea keeps him from commenting, and maybe that's a good thing because what he wants to say rivals all the other shitty things he's said, "get some food in your."

She almost gets him, almost has him heaving again, but he pushes it back, trying not to gag as his throat tightens mercilessly.

"Fine." It's gruff and hoarse, all from fighting back the need to cruel into the fetal position like a little bitch but Carol's small smirk feels like a victory.

Let her think she's won, he thinks as he closes his eyes again, waiting for her to leave so he can zip up his tent and be left to his misery.

"Well, come on."

But she's still there and he can tell by the silence that follows that she is fully expecting him to follow her back to the RV.

"Forget it, I ain't goin' nowhere."

She's still staring and it's a testament to how shitty he's feeling that all he can do is stare back, trying to ignore the sweat that is dribbling into his eyes.

Sensing he is going to be stubborn about it she sighs.

"I can't carry all that on my own," before Daryl has the chance to say 'bullshit' she continues, "but if you insist, I'll get Lori to help."


He's sitting up at that – the last thing he wanted was Lori poking about; he'd take a Walker over her in his camp any day.

With a barely concealed grunt of pain, Daryl pushes himself off the cot and does his best to stand tall, grabbing his crossbow on principal.

It's only by the grace of some malevolent God, bent on seeing him suffer, that allows him to make it to the campground.

It was a couple of hundred feet but it might as well have been miles for the way he was sweating and the intensity of the 'stitch' in his side.

He all but lets the crossbow drop to the floor as he takes a seat in one of the collapsible camping chairs. He leans forward with a small groan, trying to find a position that would lessen the agony in his gut.

It warrants a look from Glenn and Dale, both of who are sitting beside the campfire, clearly surprised by his cameo appearance.

T-Dog is there, too, but he at least has the sense to act normal and to mind his own.

Glenn looks him up and down as Carol pulls the teakettle over the fire and it's distracting enough for Daryl to challenge it.

"What you lookin' at, Kim Jong?" The remark goes unnoticed but Daryl is too busy trying not to hurl to mourn the apparent lack of annoyance in the younger man.

"Dude, you look like shit." Daryl looks over at the gray-haired woman tending the tea and he can tell by the way her heads cocked that she is listening in.

"Though I would've used a bit more tact," Dale says giving Glenn a slightly disapproving look before continuing, "I have to agree. Are you feeling alright?"

The teakettle begins its high-pitched whistle and he can't stop his hand from flying up to his temple.

'M fine. Ya'll gotta learn to mind your own damn business." It's supposed to sound dismissive and filled with his usual venom but it comes out in a tone that barely surpasses a whisper, pain filled and weak.

Glenn and Dale share another small glance before going back to whatever it was they were doing before his arrival and Daryl sighs, wincing at the discomfort it causes.

Carol's there a few moments later, pushing a hot mug into his hand and fuck, to his burning body it feels like she just handed him a hot coal – who the hell wants tea in this kind of heat?

But then he realizes that it's around early November and Glenn is wearing a hoodie and that the day before, in the early morning, he had been able to see his breath.

The mug is burning a whole in his hand and he stares at the yellow tinted liquid; he'd never been one for tea, was happy to leave it to pansy asses and women and it looks just as unappetizing as ever.

They're all staring again so he takes a sip and fuck – it's bitter and his stomach is turning again.

He doesn't even care that they're watching; he promptly drops the mug and drags himself across the camp in quickened steps, losing the terrible bitter shit behind the RV, into the grass.

As his head spins and he's nearly brought to his knees with the awakening of pain, brought on by yet another bought of sick, he starts to think that maybe something's really wrong.

He doesn't fight it, can't fight it, when someone, maybe T-Dog, drags him back towards camp, steadying him when he weaves before pushing him down into the foldable he had previously been occupying.

There's commotion and it's exactly what he didn't want but whatever the fuck is wrong with him overpowers the burning desire to get away. So he just sits there and let's them question him.

He hears someone say something about Hershel and it's all downhill from there.

He's says something in protest though he has no idea what it is – his head is filled with cotton and all he can hear is the muffled sound of his own voice and his own damn heartbeat.

Whatever is happening, it's bad; his vision has blurred and he can feel himself pitching forward, two pairs of arms groping, trying to keep him from face planting …

There's one final wave of agony and then, nothing.

Daryl comes to in a flash of pain, something pushing down on his side, and it's pure instinct that has him jerking away, throwing a fist towards the unseen assailant.

He gets lucky and he catches something, someone and that someone swears; he recognizes that voice, only he doesn't – he just knows that had he not been in an excessive amount of pain it would have been satisfying.

"Whoah, easy now! Daryl!" Daryl forces his eyes open but it's all blurred shapes he can't put names to and their voices reverberate, too loud, in his head.

"Keep him still, please." He doesn't like the sound of that, doesn't recognize that voice and

"Son, calm down! He's going to hurt himself if he keeps this up -" Hurt himself? He couldn't imagine it getting much worse and hell, he hardly knows what's going on as is.

He feels hands tighten around his wrists, his biceps, and it creates a new wave of panic – despite the pain he bucks, twisting in their grasp and it sets the entire room to shouting once again.

Daryl tried to make sense of it, tried to decipher just where the pain was coming from, why it was happening and why the hell everyone sounded so damned panicked.

"Daryl! Hey, easy –" There's pressure on his legs now, as though someone was laying across them and before he has time to ponder the idea, something cold is pressing against his cheek.

"Daryl, listen –" the voice, the one he now recognizes as Rick's, cuts through the haze, sharp and sudden, bringing everything back into focus.

And then he remembers – the nauseating smell of freshly butchered meat, heaving until his ribs hurt, waking up in the open, the pain, Carol, getting sick in the middle of the damn camp …

That's how he ended up where he is now, he figures; Rick too close, hand on his cheek, talking down at him, Shane, bloody-nosed and pissed looking, holding his arms down, Hershel, standing back, waiting and someone unseen, all but laying across his legs. He wishes that person would just get the fuck off because all he wants to do is curl up and try to ease the throbbing in his gut.

"Can you hear me?" Right. Rick. The incessant noise the man is creating is threatening to make his head explode, so intense is the volume – and damn, he isn't deaf.

"Back off, Grimes, 'm fine." Is what he intends to say but it comes out garbled and thick with pain – half coherent-English-sentence, half-groans-of-agony.

Rick looks at him for a moment, searching his features for a hint of whatever had been there before, and, seeming satisfied for the time being, gives Shane a nod.

The pressure on his arms and legs ease up as the two men step away – now that Shane has backed off he can see T-Dog stepping away from the bed – and it eases his discomfort, if only slightly.

But they're still there, hanging back, staring and it's making him very uncomfortable; he tries to push himself up, to maintain some inkling of dignity, but it's next to impossible.

"I wouldn't do that, son, unless you want to make things worse than they already are." Hershel places a hand on his shoulder, giving him a nudge that wouldn't knock over a domino – it works, regardless, and it's testament to how wrong this is.

"Worse'n what?" He grunts trying to ride out another wave of pain and fuck, he wishes they'd stop gawking – didn't anyone have anything better to do around here? It was no wonder things were as fucked as they were, no one had their damn priorities straight.

Hershel sighs and with that simple gesture Daryl knows this whole thing went from a minor inconvenience to shit-storm.

The older man looks to Rick for a second and the look on the ex-Sherriff's face suggests that he two is hearing the prognosis for the first time.

"From what I can gather from the short examination I managed, it looks like you are suffering from acute appendicitis," Rick looks genuinely shocked but it's nothing compared to what Daryl's feeling; he never figured himself for much of a medic but he knew the basics and even that was telling him that this is bad – very, very bad. Hershel continues, blunt and to the point, "normally this is a somewhat benign illness, but these times are far from normal, as we know."

It doesn't take a genius to understand what the man is implying and Daryl squeezes his eyes shut through another bout of nausea and that piercing, now constant pain.

"Don't you got some pills, some antibiotics or something?" T-Dog steps forward and Daryl forces himself up onto his elbows; it hurts but he can't stand being crowded like this, can't stand how vulnerable he is.

Hershel sighs again and Daryl wants to snap at him, to get the old man to just come out with it and tell him what he needs to do so he can get out of this damned bed, but for once, he bites his tongue and it's a good thing; he's all piss and vinegar at this point and the last thing he needs now is for their host to turn him away.

"I wish it were that easy but it simply won't do, if he had said something earlier we may have been able to treat the inflammation with antibiotics and IV therapy but it's progressed past that point –"

Daryl is absolutely sure Rick is about to question, ask him why he didn't say anything, but instead, the man just looks at him and he'd be damned if the man was actually concerned; perhaps he's feeling gracious or perhaps he realizes the last thing he needs is to be questioned and lectured like a child, either way Rick tables it for the time being and fixes Hershel with a very serious stare, arms crossed.

"Well, what are our options then?" Daryl's suddenly glad for Rick's taking the initiative in terms of doing all the yapping because each passing moment is becoming an uphill battle against exhaustion; already his arms have taken to shaking, ever so slightly, and his heart is fluttering uncomfortably in his chest.

"The only viable option I see is surgery." Hershel's voice drops, apologetic and grim.

"What?" Daryl blinks, sweat beading down his temples; his voice is low and gruff and he's damn near positive he misheard that last bit.

The room quickly falls into silence, everyone caught in a state of surprise - the only sound being that of the creaking floorboards as someone shifts their weight.

For a moment they all just sit in it, stewing in the quiet, collective acknowledgement that he is so impossibly fucked.

The conversation becomes more and more difficult to follow and Daryl struggles to keep up with the sudden, shitty turn of events.

He can at least be grateful that Rick had T-Dog and Shane leave the room – there was really no need for them to be privy the conversation they were about to have and it was becoming harder and harder to maintain his already shaky composure.

Once they were gone he relented, giving way to his body's undeniable need to relax; the exhaustion is thick and persuasive and every inch of him wants to give in but he's not about to leave the other two men in the room to the decision making.

Daryl stares at the crook of his elbow as Hershel slips an IV into his vein. The hunter waits for Hershel to say something about wasting resources, again, but the man just tapes it up before promptly adjusting the drip rate.

"There ain't no other way?" Daryl murmurs incredulously as he fights back another violent shiver.

"Afraid not." And just like that it's back on the table.

Surgery. Fucking surgery. He's never had anything like that before; sure, there had been times where he probably should have gone and seen a real doctor but he had always managed on his own, stitches, broken bones, concussions, all had been completely manageable with the intervention of a white coat.

Daryl forces himself to take a deep breath even though it pulls at his side. He's not scared – no, it's more a matter of being off his feet, again, for an undetermined amount of time. Or, at least that's what he tells himself.

"Surgery." Rick says, clearly going through the scenario in his head, "Like you did for Carl, right?"

Daryl is only half listening, though he knows it's in his best interest to pay attention. It's not exactly easy – these people are all talk and when you feel like your guts are being torn to shreds it's really hard to care about making good conversation.

"It's not that simple, Rick –"

"We've got all the stuff you need, the supplies, and Glenn, he can get anything you need in terms of medicine –"

"What we have, what we did with Carl, was different. What Otis gathered was meant for children. That intubation kit will only work for a child."

Daryl watches as Rick wipes a worried hand across his mouth, as he's seen him do when faced with a tough decision – he knows what he's debating: go look for supplies or …

Daryl does his best to sound aggravated, huffing and rolling his eyes. He wants this over with so he can get the hell out of the house, out of the inevitable gossip pool and back to the solitude of his camp.

"Then we do without it, ain't a big deal." They look at him like he's gone absolutely insane and Daryl manages to hold their collective gaze, eyes darting between the two.

"Son, I'm not sure you understand what that would mean –" Another wave of pain and Daryl's very much done with talking.

"I ain't stupid. I get it, no supplies means I stay awake, now if we're done chit chattin' like a coupla' old ladies, I'd like to get this done with."

The pain has transcended into excruciating and every word is a small battle – truth is he doesn't think he can wait for supplies; wait for Rick and whoever to go out, get caught in some trouble and to come back just at the right moment – presumably the moment he's really at death's door.

No, he's not up for that particular brand of bullshit right now.

"Can you – can that be done?" Rick seems relieved and Daryl can't blame him, but at the same time, there's more doubt in his voice than the hunter wants to hear.

"There's no way to manage the pain correctly," in true Hershel fashion he doesn't directly answer Rick's question, "no way to sedate you safely. It would be, for lack of a better word, excruciating."

Worse than what he's experiencing now? He can't really imagine it.

"Isn't there something –" Rick starts, clearly uncomfortable with the idea.

"We can give him a post-operative dose of the Vicodin we have, but I fear it won't have much of an effect."

"Fine." Daryl says trying to sound confident and it's no easy feat, as weak as he is.

The whole thing sounds like scene out of a Western; the cowboy takes ill and the town doc takes a suspiciously shitty looking scalpel out as they all share swigs of whiskey and then, as the cowboy's being held down by a bunch of dirty, whiskey filled men, the doc makes an incision and the hero hardly flinches and the whole things over after a cut scene and, of course, he's fine.

Just like that except not at all because Daryl knows three things to be complete unchallengeable fact: one, this ain't a Western, two, there ain't no Whiskey and three, he ain't the hero of this particular shitty story.

"Wait, Daryl, we should talk about this."

"What, take a poll?" He can't keep the groan of pain that escapes his lips, he's hit his limit, "We're done talkin'."

"I don't like it, but he's right, any longer and it doesn't matter what we decide to do."

Rick nods, swallowing hard.

"Alright, I'll let the others know the plan." Daryl doesn't know why it's anyone else's business or why they'd care to know in the first damn place but he doesn't fight Rick over it. It seems to be how they operate, the group. They seem to subsist primarily on drama and gossip and hell, if that were true, they'd be around for a long while because their lives were chock-full of it.

"I'm going to gather my supplies and talk to Patricia. I'll need you and two others to help – I expect he'll need holding down."

Hershel gives them a final, shaky nod and exits the room and it's just him and Rick now. He doesn't mind, so much, and let's himself sink deeper into the bed, gritting his teeth.

"You sure you can do this?" Rick asks as though it's something he's volunteered for, that he woke up this morning and strolled into the farm asking for an elective surgery.

"Don't got much choice." Exhaustion is quickly winning him over and he's letting because it's doing a great job making him forget the excruciating throbbing.

"We can make another run into town, Glenn and I –" Rick offers because it's his nature; the man needed to learn to keep his mouth shut when it mattered, needed to stop offering to put himself in danger, not that Daryl cared what he did.

"Ain't worth it. 'Sides, I'm already on your wife's shit list." Rick actually chuckles at that, though Daryl wasn't trying to be funny.

"You're gonna be ok, Daryl." Rick says after a minute and Daryl furrows his brow because he's pretty sure he wasn't complaining and that he wasn't looking for comfort.

But it doesn't take a genius to analyze the look on the man's face, to realize Rick says it because he too needs to believe it. And just what the hell did that mean? What was he so damn worried about? It wasn't his son or his wife or his psychotic 'brother-in-arms' laying here.

"Ok." Rick says when Daryl fails to respond to his earlier attempt to comfort him, or whatever, "I'll send Carol up to sit with you while Hershel and I get everyone together."

"Don't need a babysitter." He says, or maybe doesn't say, because Rick just stands and gives his shoulder a small pat before leaving the room.

The door closes with a quiet thud and he can hear voices in the hall – Dale, Lori, Carol – and their footsteps as Rick leads them down the hall, away from his room for the time being.

As soon as they're out of earshot, Daryl pulls in a ragged gasp, letting out a soft moan of pain, as fear – genuine and raw - hits him like a sledgehammer.

"You're going to what?" Lori is wide-eyed, genuine surprise coloring her voice as she tries to understand what her husband is telling her.

"Hershel doesn't have the right supplies and it needs to be done."

"Well, can't someone get the supplies? Go back to that place." Carol offers, arms wrapped tight around herself.

"Shane said the place was overrun, it would be dangerous and –"

"No, no you can't go back there –" Lori starts, shaking her head. She had almost lost him and her son far too many times and from what Shane had said, going back would be suicide and they would lose two, maybe three of their men.

"It doesn't matter. Daryl doesn't have that kind of time and anyway, it was his idea."

Carol shakes her head, her mouth turning downwards into a small frown. She doesn't want to believe it, that he would willingly suffer through that sort of thing when they technically could find another way but, from experience, it makes perfect sense – he wouldn't want others putting themselves out for him, not that he'd say it that way.

She wasn't in the room when they had had the conversation but she is fairly confident she can guess how it went, full of false bravado and exaggerated impatience.

"But, what about the pain, is it possible to do something like that? Is it even safe?" Dale gestures wildly, uncomfortable with the idea of that level of suffering.

"Hershel seems confident that he can perform the procedure and Daryl," Rick pauses, all eyes boring into him, "Daryl understands the risks and what the procedure entails."

"Do we at least have something to give him for the pain?" Lori shifts – she doesn't want her husband running out, risking his life, though she knows if he wants to, he will and she will have to support that, but that doesn't mean she wants to see Daryl suffer. She had seen what it had been like for Carl and she didn't wish that on anyone and if she were to be honest, she couldn't imagine anyone surviving the entire procedure, awake.

Rick looked away for a second, hands going to his hips.

"Oh, you have to be kidding. Rick, this is insane. We all know Daryl's tough but this is – this is too much."

Rick doesn't disagree, can't, because Dale is only saying what they're all thinking.

"We're just going to have to trust Hershel … and Daryl."

"We're going to need help – two at least. Patricia and Hershel are going to perform the procedure but Hershel requested help to … keep him still."

"To hold him down, is what you mean." Dale says, incredulously.

"And for another pair of hands, if need be." There's silence again, the reality sinking in, heavy and terrible.

Before Rick, or anyone, can say anything further, Carol is turning away, heading towards Daryl's room.

"I'm going to sit with him." She says, her voice is tinted with sadness and a definite hint of anger – whether it's at Daryl or the group or the situation in general, it's hard to say.

T-Dog had always made a point to return favors and to pay his debts; he had always taken those kinds of things very seriously and the damn apocalypse wasn't going to change that.

If T-Dog owed you something you could count on him, day or night, to make good on it.

And there was no bigger debt than the one he owed to Daryl Dixon.

The man had saved his life, twice; first by dragging his ass to safety back on that highway and then again by offering up those antibiotics and though he can't begin to understand the man's reasoning behind his actions, he realizes he doesn't really need to.

He owes the man and that's that.

So when he hears the prognosis and what's to follow and Hershel's small comment about the lack of proper antibiotics it's an easy decision, one he makes alone because he's not about to distract them with another argument; Lord knows it wouldn't be hard.

"Dale, man" He catches the man when their little pow-wow breaks up and he's smart to keep his voice low, "'m gonna take a trip into town –"

Dale opens his mouth to protest but T-Dog is quick to hold up a hand, effectively cutting him off.

"- 'm goin' into town. Gonna grab the meds and come right back but I thought I should tell someone, someone who ain't gonna start somethin'."

T-Dog's message comes across loud and clear, though Dale clearly doesn't like it.

"And if you don't come back? What am I supposed to tell the others?"

"I'm comin' back." T-Dog ignores the exasperated looks Dale shoots him and gives the man a pat on the shoulder before heading out the door, intent on finding Glenn.

Carol makes a small detour, gathering a bowl and a cloth, before making her way to Daryl's door.

She knocks lightly, taking a moment to notice the small tremor in her hand, and waits. When there's no answer she opens the door, turning the handle quietly as not to startle him or catch him in a position he wouldn't have wanted her to see.


She pokes her head in and isn't quite ready for the sight in front of her.

He had already looked terrible when she had approached him earlier that morning, but now – he looked like he was at death's door, pale and covered in an unhealthy sheen, hair plastered to his face, one arm drawn over his face again, as he was that morning.

He shows no sign of noticing her presence so she tries again, "Daryl? It's Carol. How are you feeling?"

It's a useless, stupid thing to say but the point is to elicit a response, any response.

Nothing; she quirks her lips, unsure, before setting down the bowl and cloth. Carol reaches out a tentative hand.

"Daryl." She lightly touches his arm and he flinches, pulling the arm up and away, squinting at her.

Though their contact had been brief, she had been able to feel the heat; his skin was burning hot to the touch, worse than it had been that morning, and it shocked her into action.

"They haven't done anything for you fever?" She says, upset, before grabbing the bowl and hurrying to the sink in the tiny bathroom; she runs the tap, filling the thing with cold water, and returns to his side.

"Got this." Daryl croaks, sounding absolutely worn, and he lifts one arm lazily, before letting it flop back to the bed.

Carol eyes the IV in the crook of his arm before shaking her head, still not happy with his overall treatment thus far.

She dunks the cloth in the water, ringing it out and the sound has Daryl's gaze shifting lazily over to her.

"What're you doin'?" She frowns, taking in the flushed skin and fevered stare, before jutting her chin up.

"Someone's got to take care of you right." He wants to roll his eyes, she can see it, but he's simply to exhausted, and settles for a low mumbling.

"'M fine. Quit fussin'." Regardless, she places the cloth on his forehead, dabbing it as she had always done for Sophia when she took ill.

She is rewarded with a soft groan, almost a whimper, of relief.

"Carol - " He breaks the silence as she dips the already warm rag back into the cool water – she continues her administrations, patiently waiting for whatever it is he has to say.

"I'm – 'm sorry for what I said, 'bout you 'n Sophia. Didn't mean it." She gave him a small, sad smile as he stares up at her. She realizes it's probably the fever that is spurring this conversation but it's appreciated all the same.

"I know." She says as his eyes drift shut. He's exhausted and she's not about to draw out a conversation they don't need to be having. Of course she knew – he had been upset, had put so much into looking for Sophia, it was the only way he could have reacted to it all. She was just glad he was back with the group; somewhere she could keep an eye on him, even if the circumstances weren't great.

Daryl hisses in pain and she jerks back, afraid she had done something to happen.

"What, what is it –"

"Nothin'. Just … it hurts." Carol can feel her throat squeezing closed – she hates seeing him like this and knows that if he can admit the pain he is suffering it must be God-awful.

She watches in small fascination as he pales in front of her, his brow furrowed and teeth grit. She doesn't like what she's seeing, knows it's just getting worse.

Without consulting him, because she knows damn well what he's going to say, she gets up and rushes out the door.

He can't wait any longer.

No sooner than Carol leaves she's back in the room and Daryl figures he must've passed out again; that or the woman was freakishly fleet-footed and had managed to gather every damn person in sight and pull them back into his room in a matter of seconds.

There are too many people in the room – Rick, Hershel, Carol, Patricia, Dale – and it has him struggling to sit up. It's no surprise when the nausea comes back full force, angry and vengeful, and he'd be damned if he gave into it in front of this fucking crowd.

He wants to tell half of them off but his throat fills with bile and speaking seems a dangerous, near impossible thing.

And even if the nausea wasn't enough to keep him down, the pain and extreme light-headedness is. Every breath brings spots to his vision and he can feel his body at war with itself; he's hot and can feel the fever intensifying but at the same damn time he's breaking out in a cold sweat and his muscles tense as he fights back tremors.

He isn't even aware that someone is touching him, the side of his wrist, until a voice speaks up.

"His blood pressure's dropping," Hershel's words set everyone into motion and really, he's right here, they didn't need to talk over him like he was a child. But then again everything is hazy and the voices all have a muted quality to them so maybe he isn't really liable to respond coherently, "Patricia, a new saline bag, please."

Daryl watches, or tries to, as Patricia moves beside him, fiddling with the bag draped over the headboard.

Hershel is busying himself with his tools, all sickeningly sharp and the whole room has taken on a sickly, antiseptic smell. Daryl figures the best they could do in terms of sterilization was to just douse everything in a bucket of alcohol.

"His shirt will need to come off. Pants, too." He may be edging on delirium – the room is swirling around now and black spots appear randomly in his field of vision – but he isn't about to lay there while they undress him.

"Back off. I got it." He mumbles, the words slurring together and there's nothing threatening about it.

But Rick relents, albeit with a small amount of exasperation and disbelief, pulling his hands back and settling on hovering.

Daryl lifts shaky hands to impossibly tiny buttons and he manages one before it becomes clear that his body has reached a full-blown rebellion. Even that small motion is impossible –

There's a small sigh and Carol's hands are gently pushing his away.

"Let me." And he does because his arms might as well be laced with lead. A moment later sees him bare-chested and then off come the grime-encrusted pants and he's in only his boxers.

He looks down, spotting the still healing stitches in his side from his last incident and fuck, this can't be happening.

If possible, he's burning a little hotter from the shame at being seen like this, but it's a small thing compared to that hot, consistent agony pulsing in his side.

He tries focusing on something else; the sounds of the room, his breathing, the pinching sensation in the crook of his arm – Patricia must have finished replacing the fluid because though it does nothing for the pain he feels slightly less likely to pass out now.

Carol is back to dabbing that blissfully cool rag against his forehead, his chest and he makes no move to fight it because it's the only thing keeping him tethered to the present.

Stay awake, he commands himself as he takes in pitifully shallow breaths, quit bein' a pussy and stay awake.

"Here." He hears another voice, feminine and not Carol, so by the process of elimination he realizes it to be Patricia and sure enough there's a blonde blur entering his vision. "Have him take these, if he can manage it."

"Wha'sit?" He croaks as he wills his vision to steady so he can make out whatever's sitting so delicately in Carol's hand.

"Painkiller." She says and her brows raise into sympathetic arches. "But it won't do much I'm afraid."

Daryl nods miserably as Rick helps him sit up a bit.

"Easy, easy –" Rick mutters when the movement pulls at his side, causing him to gasp.

Carol hands him the pills and he pops them into his mouth with a shaky hand. Rick offers him a glass and it's by pure luck that he doesn't spill the entire thing.

Despite the small the fluid and the small dosing of whatever painkiller he's ingested, Daryl figures he must look terrible because a new voice speaks up – Dale – and there's nothing confident in his low timbre.

"I-I really think we should consider other options," there's a hand patting his cheek and he opens his eyes – when had he closed them? - to find Rick bending over him and Hershel and Dale off to the side; Hershel's laying out the tools on a roll out table and Dale is holding a bowl of clean rags, looking overwhelmed, "he's barely conscious –"

" – 'mawake –" Daryl's annoyed interjection goes unnoticed because it's barely above a whisper and is more pain filled groan than it is words.

"Dale –" Rick's joined in and damnit, are they really going to do this now?

"No. You can't, you – this, this is barbaric!"

"This world is barbaric." Hershel shot back but it didn't hamper his quick, practiced preparation. There's the sound of a running tap and Patricia appears with a bowl of water and it's suddenly becoming very uncomfortably real.

"We need to do this now, otherwise his appendix will burst and if that happens there will be very little we can do."

So quit your damn yappin' – Daryl thinks but can't say. He doesn't no how much longer he can take these people arguing over him, pretending that they care whether he's in pain or some shit like that.

He knows that it's just how they react, how they think they should react to situations like this; if he dies they'll dump him in the dirt, say a few empty words, act sad for a day and then go back to arguing over the goddamn chores.

It's exhausting, so when Carol speaks up it feels like a fucking Godsend.

"Stop it!" Carol manages, her voice shaking with barely contained fear and a desperate urgency. "Whether you agree or not this is not the time or place for this. Can't you see that?"

Daryl's sure that she's on Dale's side, the side that finds this situation to be absolutely fucking insane, but she's got a good head on her shoulders and knows when and when not to pick a fight; it's no small thing, not right now when he's fighting the urge to curl up and die, and it's not hard to admit he appreciates it.

Rick nods, his face set into grim lines while Dale looks at a loss for words but Hershel ignores them and finally addresses him and it's about fucking time they got this show on the road.

"Now son, I need you to listen to me," Daryl wishes the man would drop the tone, the one that made him feel like a stupid child, and he furrows his brow, trying to bite back a rather toothy insult – the pain is unbelievable, "while I'm working I need you to stay very still, a still as you can – "

" – and I know we discussed it before but this is going to be painful. Regardless, I need you to let me know if anything changes. If the pain gets worse or you feel sick, I need to know. And – "

" – and I know this is a lot to ask but, son, you need to stay awake, if you can. Like I said, I need to know if anything changes and there's no way we can monitor you correctly."

Stay still. Stay awake. He can do that, he tells himself; he has to.

Carol looks near tears and everyone else seems to be sharing the same look of dread, anticipating the worst and it turns his stomach.

"'Nuff talk, ain't got all day." He hadn't meant for it to be humorous but the irony of it hits him soon after it's left his lips. He had tried to put all his annoyance and impatience and venom into it but clearly, it hadn't worked because Hershel gives him a weak smile and Rick snorts before dragging a weary hand across his face.

"No. I suppose you don't." The final preparations are made and a sudden spike of adrenaline – no doubt born of anticipation and dare he say, fear – have him more clear-headed then he's been in two days.

"Patricia, please keep the incision clear." she gives a small nod, ready with the bright white cloth.

"Rick, Dale." Hershel nods to both men and there's a set of hands on his legs, pushing down and it's a sad fucking day when an old man can hold him down – he briefly wonders why the hell it's Dale and not T-Dog, not that he rather have one over the other seeing him in such a pathetic position; it just seems an odd choice on Rick's part.

Daryl swears the knife glints in the low light, winking at him and suddenly, that abrasive courage is gone – he's seven years old again, sick, fevered, watching light glint off his father's belt buckle …

"Wait," It's a moment of complete desperation and a sudden rush of pure panic that has him stopping the man's scalpel millimeters above his abdomen. The whole room is looking at him now and fuck, as if this isn't humiliating enough. Hershel's eyebrows perk up expectantly and Daryl does his best to keep his voice neutral and calm, "Y' done this before?"

It's a hell of a time to ask and he's pretty sure he won't like the answer – did animals even get appendicitis? - but he wants to know, figures he has the right to.

The silence in the room is heavy as their collective attention turns to the veterinarian.

"No." His tone is apologetic but his gaze doesn't waver.

Daryl lets out a choked huff and it's almost a laugh because what the fuck else is he supposed to do; the whole situation is so damning and there's a small part of him that is genuinely surprised the man hadn't just lied to him.

He cranes his head up and finds everyone's eyes on him, all filled with sympathy and pity and they're all waiting for him to change his mind –

Carol gives his arm a small squeeze and he takes a deep breath, wincing when even that small motion sets his side on fire, but it does the trick and his panic is pushed, far, far back.

He squeezes his eyes shut and gives a small nod, hoping Hershel can interpret it as a sign that he's ready – he doesn't have the strength to say anything at this point.

The scalpel descends and Daryl tries to remind himself that these people are trying to help him.

T-Dog moves through the house with purpose, intent on finding Glenn.

Its no surprise when he finds the kid alone on the porch, cleaning a rifle; he doesn't know what's happened between him and the farmer's daughter but by the looks of it, it isn't good.

"Glenn." The kids head pops up and it looks as though he'd been deep in thought. His brow furrows at the sight of him and he immediately looks up and over to the room Daryl and the others are in.

"Is Daryl –"

"That pharmacy, I need directions." He starts, cutting straight to the point.

"You're going out alone? Now?"

"Man, I don't got time for this. Gonna grab Dixon some meds. It'll be in and out …"

"No, right, okay –" Glenn shakes his head looking slightly aggravated over the fact that he's seemingly adopted the group's 'argue-before-we-get-anything-done' tradition.

"It's a couple miles up the road, just – " Glenn pauses and T-Dog fears the kid has forgotten the way, as unlikely as it would be.

"Forget it, I'm coming with."

"Seriously?" T-Dog quirks a brow because he knows the girl has him on a tight leash – but then he remembers that this is what Glenn is good at and things are a little rocky between him and Maggie.

"Two minorities going off alone? How bad can it be?" Is all Glenn says and there's no mistaking the light humor – the humor that was slowly disappearing from the kid's persona - in his voice and he gives the other man a weak smile before standing.

"Give me ten minutes." the Korean mutters as he makes his way towards the barn; it seems T-Dog isn't the only one who's sick of not thinking for himself.

Daryl Dixon has experienced a lot of pain in his life and had always come out on top.

He'd broken bones without so much as wincing, had a knife driven through his hand and had patched it up with an iron, and most recently had been impaled by his own arrow, climbed up a fucking ridge and hiked back to camp only to be shot in the head and was up and about two days later.

But this. None of that compares to this.

Agony – the pain in his gut – on top of agony – the pain of the incision is quick and surprising and has him jerking back, trying to get away as his skin is sliced open.

"Easy! Daryl, stay still." Rick sputters as he holds his shoulders down and fuck, he can feel the warmth of his own blood spilling over his side and each dab of the cloth Patricia is holding feels like a punch in the side.

"Fuck, sonuva –" He grits his teeth and tries to look down but Rick's not having it and it's probably for the best.

"Don't look, just - just focus on me, on Carol." Rick looks positively green and the image of him, pale and watching him gut that Walker pops into his head.

He'd never have figured the man for squeamish.

He kicks out slightly feeling very, very trapped as Dale does his best to keep him from bucking which is probably a good thing because this whole thing would be over very quickly if he managed to stab himself on Hershel's scalpel.

He forces a deep breath but it's a terrible idea and he groans at the onslaught of pain. Daryl can feel the sweat pouring off him in thick rivulets and he'd do anything for that wonderful, cold cloth –

Like a fucking mind reader Carol has the cloth against his forehead and he looks over, his expression tight and pinched and pain filled and the mere sight sets her to tears.

He doesn't say anything because Hershel does something, something extremely painful and it feels like his insides are tearing apart.

"Wha-" It comes out in a small whimper and tries jerking back again as Hershel mutters something to Patricia about abdominal muscles and the abdominal wall.

Stay awake. Stay still. He tells himself even as he kicks out, eliciting a surprised shout from Dale.

A wave of nausea hits him again and he forces himself to swallow the acrid bile; the last thing he wants is to lose his stomach contents during this.

"How're we doing, son?" Hershel's voice is clinical and calm and Daryl fights the urge to tell the man to fuck off.

Instead he groans as Rick pushes him down again – it's an unconscious thing, his squirming, and he's really doing his best to get his body under control.

"Daryl? Please." Carol says, chokes out, from beside him and he can hear her sniffling.

He grips the sheets tightly, trying to control his breathing – he's nearly hyperventilating – and swallows, fighting the churning in his gut.

"Fuckin' peachy." He manages and he's so damn proud of it because everything up until now has been moanin' and cryin' like a little bitch.

"Patricia, ready the saline please." Daryl spots a bloody cloth and maybe it's the sight of it or actual blood loss but he's suddenly light-headed.

"Now, Daryl," It's the first time the old man's used his name instead of calling him 'son' and fucking finally because it was starting to get on his nerves; but he quickly realizes it's because the man knows he's about to deliver news no one is going to be particular fond of, "this is going to hurt, but after this, the worst is over."

He's exhausted and just wants this over with, everyone does. Rick's sweating and his brow is pinched upwards in tight lines of worry and he can feel the slight tremor in Dale's hold as the man shifts his weight.

It can't be any worse than what he's already experiencing, he thinks.

He feels a delicate hand slip under his and normally he would have recoiled, wouldn't have allowed such a pitiful display of comfort, but it's warm and promising and may be the only thing keeping him from letting the pain and fear win.

Carol gives his hand a squeeze and as a spike of misery radiates through him he squeezes back.

"Do it." He groans through grit teeth because he's quickly losing the battle with consciousness, so great is the miserable pull of exhaustion and pain and stress.

He hears a muted 'snip' and his entire body explodes in white hot agony; tendrils of pain travel down his legs and up into his chest, into his arms, echoing in his head, all encompassing and blinding.

He hears something reverberating in his ears, can feel his throat being ripped raw and he realizes he's screaming bloody fucking Mary. He doesn't have time to process and shame or humiliation because it's fucking justified and it's all his body will allow him to do as he tries to buck the older man from his side, tries to push Rick from on top of him.

"Daryl, it's ok, it's – Hershel, do something–" Rick's ragged, panicked voice joins his own and the whole room explodes into a cacophonous hell.

"Hold him down, damnit!"

"Please stop, please – Daryl –"

"Patricia, the clamps, stop the bleeding –"

Stay awake.Stay. Awake. He all but screams to himself internally because staying still went to absolute shit and he just needed to do this last fucking thing because this was not how he was going to die.

"Got it." It's the most beautiful thing he's ever heard because it has to mean this thing is almost over. And God, he just wants it to be over, and he doesn't care how fucking pathetic that sounds.

It's enough to make him swallow the pain, to quiet himself but really he's too fucking weak to manage anything above a groan and the whole room quiets down.

He's left panting and sweating and can only make out words here and there, all warped as he listens from his world of excruciation.

They talk about butterfly clips and infections and fevers and there's a hand on his wrist as Carol sobs and Rick talks down at him – "it's over, it's over –" he repeats and it sounds more like he's trying to convince himself.

He feels the slight pressure of Carol's hand in his own again but he's too weak to respond.

He feels the adrenaline ebb and his eyes slipping shut even as Rick begs him to stay awake, as Carol grips his hand.

But he can't, it's too much.

They pick through the pharmacy's dredges with building anxiety – someone had been there recently, had cleaned out the shelves and had left them with few choices.

Half of what's left is ruined, no doubt destroyed by the humidity and heat; some of the pills look as though they are foaming, frothing from saturation and the rest are disintegrating in their bottles.

The other half are drugs mostly unknown to the two men; Flagyl, Celexa, Flecainide, Lisinopril … all names that mean nothing.

They are thorough and check every shelf, twice, and after that, scour the floor for any wayward bottles.

But, in the end they only manage a quarter of a bottle of vancomyocin – they had debated leaving it behind, it's efficacy in question because it had been on it's side, opened - a sheet of sublingual Zofran tablets, a few rolls of gauze and two bottles of hydrogen peroxide.

'Better than nothin'." T-Dog sighs as he wipes sweat from his brow.

"You think it's enough?" Glenn asks as he eyes their pitiful bounty. There's no more than eight pills in there; that can't possibly be enough, not in these circumstances.

"Don't know. But we don't got a choice. Store's been cleaned out pretty good." T-Dog says as he surveys the small store again; he can't help but wonder why the Greene's hadn't just taken everything on the first trip.

But then he remembers Herschel's way, the meekness of Patricia and Beth, the tender-heartedness of Maggie; they had probably wanted to give others a fighting chance.

"Yeah." Glenn agrees, his voice tinged with worry. "There was a lot more here, last time, I mean, when I went with Maggie."

There's nothing for it now, though, and T-Dog's sure Glenn'ss kicking himself for not bringing back more, as pointless as it is. He can also sense the younger man has more to say, has something else on his mind, but it seems he understands that now isn't the time.

Daryl didn't really have time for them to mull over women and the end of the world.

"Let's do one last sweep." They kick around a few empty bottles and they both come up with a few more items, things they think will be helpful to both Daryl and the rest of the group.

"That's it." Glenn says as he zips up his pack, frowning at how pathetic it all looks in his large pack, and T-Dog nods.

"Yeah." They've only been there fifteen minutes but T-Dog's already feeling like they've spent too much time here and the rotting corpse of a Walker in the middle of the pharmacy stinks to high hell. "Let's get the hell out of here."

They sling their packs on their shoulders and hope it's enough.

Rick's hands shake as he absently accepts a bandage and places it against the newly closed wound, against skin that is far too hot.

Dale is quick to remove his grasp on the hunter's legs, no doubt unhappy with his role in the procedure; he stands off to the side, twisting his crumbled hat in his hands.

Carol is sniffling beside him, one hand dabbing a newly wetted cloth against the grievously ill man's forehead and the other clasping his limp left hand.

Patricia works around them, gathering bloodied bandages and hastily discarded tools. Hershel rips small pieces of medical tape from a nearly exhausted roll

Save for Carol's small, barely audible sniffles, the room is silent. What they'd all just experienced, what they had all just witnessed … it was a level of suffering that had left them all slightly shell shocked.

It wasn't to say that Carl's ordeal had been easier to watch but there was something about watching a very lucid, very conscious man willingly face that sort of agony; to be present while he grit his teeth against the cutting of his skin and to witness the moment it becomes too much.

Rick gives the man a once over and wonders how he's going to pull through this; his skin is nearly grey, the only color a sickly rouge at his cheeks, no doubt an indication of the fever raging within him. His dark hair is matted and stuck to his forehead; it's hard to ignore the unhealthy sheen and the thick droplets of sweat coursing down his temple. Worse is the man's pained, shallow breathing – even in unconsciousness his respirations are careful and guarded, his body working to avoid disturbing the traumatized area in his lower right abdomen.

Hershel finishes his work, pushing Rick's hands gently away.

"That'll do for now, Rick." Hershel's voice is solemn and gravelly; it's clear the man is just as concerned about Daryl's welfare as he is.

"Will he –" Rick starts but the words get lost. Asking whether Daryl will be okay or not seems a lot like asking the same about the world they lived in now; the answer could only be grim.

Hershel responds anyway, despite the ex-Sherriff's aborted sentence.

"He needs a blood transfusion but without knowing his blood type it would be too dangerous to attempt –" it's a bad start and Rick can feel the tension in the room rise – as if it were even possible – as Carol shifts to put her attention on the old veterinarian.

" – since that's not a possibility right now our first priority is keeping the wound clean and the fever under control. If he develops an infection –"

Hershel wipes his hands on a sullied towel, his brow knit into a tight frown. Infection. In Daryl's state it would mean certain death.

" – we'll do our best with the antibiotics we have on hand, but like I said, his condition requires intensive treatment –"

Carol whimpers and Dale moves aimlessly across the room but Hershel continues. Rick fights the urge to scrub a grubby hand across his tired eyes.

" – we'll have to watch him overnight, monitor his vitals, get some fluids in him."

Rick sighs and nods because it's all he can do; there isn't a single word of comfort or promise in there. Hershel seems to sense the effect the weight of his words have had and, while taking Daryl's pulse – thready and weak – he softens his tone and catches Rick's and Carol's gaze, eyes flitting between the two.

"He's survived the worst of it – if he makes it through tonight his chances only increase."

It is clear by the short silence that follows that everyone is trying to find a shred of hope in those words; but as the silence stretches on, punctuated only by Daryl's soft rasps, it also becomes clear that it isn't a real comfort to anyone.

"I'll take first watch." Carol says quietly and it's no real surprise to any of them, even though she is beginning to look worn and emotionally drained.

"And I'll keep you company." Dale's morose tone suggests that he wants to be there for more than Daryl's medical needs, that he wants to be there just in case …

"I'll talk to the others, let them know what's goin' on. I'll be back to take a shift –" Rick's voice is thick with fatigue and stress, but he can't really remember the last time it wasn't.

"We'll be okay for now." Dale interrupts because he knows Rick can carry on like that for a good long while, doing nothing but harming himself with his own damn thoughts.

"Right. Thank you." Rick says in earnest as he looks to Hershel; the man gives him a final nod as he packs up the medical equipment.

He thinks about giving Daryl's shoulder a gentle squeeze but doesn't, afraid that even that small touch will cause the man further pain.

He settles for a silent plea for Daryl to make it through the night.

Thank you for reading, as always. I appreciate it very much! Until next time!