It was well into winter now. Probably mid-January, not that anyone was keeping track anymore. The days had been cold when they'd been forced to flee the farm, and had become bitterly so by the time they'd found a place to hole up in for the winter. The sad excuses for shelter they'd used all the nights before, thankfully a thing of the past.
They'd found a second rate motel, one of the semi-nicer ones that had rooms inside the building, rather than rooms opening directly outside. It was pretty secluded, in between towns, so the only buildings near it were a couple greasy spoons and a gas station.
Daryl trudged through the woods behind the motel, his breath coming out in visible wisps before him and the gentle snowfall catching in his hair before melting, leaving dew drops in their stead. He carried with him a scrawny rabbit and two even scrawnier squirrels. Not much of a haul, but it'd have to do. Their food stores were rapidly dwindling, and Daryl'd been going on all day hunts every day for the past two weeks now. He didn't often bring much game back, there simply wasn't much to be had.
With a weary sigh Daryl wiped a hand across his face, their situation was looking bleak. He had to bring back something substantial soon or they were fucked. But he hadn't seen anything bigger than a fox since they'd been in this area, and only the one time. He stopped a moment just before breaking the treeline to stretch his aching muscles; it did little to ease the discomfort. He was sore all over, the aches seeping into his bones along with the cold. He groaned in frustration as he felt the beginnings of a headache joining in on his torment.
He resumed walking, wanting to get back as quickly as he could. All he wanted was to go his room, get cleaned up a bit and go to bed. And really he wasn't looking forward to cleaning up, he was already cold and the luxury of hot water was a thing of the past; but he'd do it anyway, he was too dirty to climb into his bed in such a state.
When Daryl got inside he went straight to the kitchen were Lori was chopping some sad looking carrots. He wondered where she even got ahold of them as he gave her his contribution to their meal.
"Thanks." She offered setting the dead animals aside before going back to chopping.
Daryl nodded in acknowledgment, then headed out to his room. Once there, he turned on the sink. Thankfully the water still ran, but damn it was icy cold! He quickly took a miserable shower, his teeth chattering violently by the end of it. As soon as he was dressed he laid down in bed, huddling deep into the blankets and wished he had about ten more he could burrow under.
He woke to someone pounding on the door, the sound reverberating through his skull. He still felt exhausted, and for all he knew, could have been sleeping for five minutes or five hours.
"What?" He called gruffly to whoever was bothering him.
"Hey, dinner is ready." It was Carl. They must have sent him to alert anyone who hadn't already wandered into the little dining area that used to hold the morning's continental breakfast.
"Okay." Daryl called out, just wanting the boy to move on. He had no intention of leaving this bed. He wasn't hungry. But he was tired and the aches were more prominent than before, he was still cold and his throat was sore. He felt downright awful if he was being completely honest; of course, if someone where to ask him, he wouldn't be. It felt like he'd only just closed his eyes when someone was banging on the door again.
"Daryl?" This time it was Rick. "Carl said you were on your way. Aren't you coming?"
Why couldn't these people just leave him the hell alone? "No, I ain't. Now go away."
There was a pause, then, "Why not?"
"Can't you people follow directions? Give my share to someone else, if that's what you're worried about. Now leave me be!"
"What? You're not hungry? Are you okay?"
"I'm fucking fine!"
"You don't sound fine! Your voice is all shaky. And Lori said you weren't looking so good."
Fuck. Was he that bad off? "Shakin' with rage! And what the hell would she know? She hardly even looked up. Now leave me be, Grimes!" He wasn't sick. He refused to be sick. He was just tired.
"I'm not going to leave you alone until you let me in to see for myself that you're fine." Rick was using that tone Daryl knew meant the man had no intention of budging, not now, not ever. If he ever wanted any peace, he'd have to comply.
"Damn it all to hell." Daryl muttered under his breath. Painstakingly, he got to his feet. He had to stand still for a moment, dizziness overwhelming him, then shuffled over to unlock the door.
"There, you see me." He tried to keep the exhaustion from his voice. "We done yet?"
Rick was eyeing him critically, all of a sudden his hand shot out, trying to reach Daryl's forehead before he had a chance to fend it off. Daryl jumped back, Rick's fingertips barely brushing his skin. "What the hell!"
"Lori was right, you don't look good." Concern shone from the ex-deputy's eyes. "And I barely touched you, but from what I felt, you are burning up!"
Rick looked down, as though he was ashamed of what he was about to say next, but he exuded nothing but seriousness when he looked back up. "You didn't get bid, did you?"
"Fuck you! No, I didn't get bit!" Daryl snapped, thoroughly offended. "You think I'd come back here bit, and then not even say anything!"
"No, I don't think that. But I still have to ask." Rick pushed his way into the room, taking Daryl's arm and guiding him back to the bed as he spoke. Daryl didn't lay down when they reached it, just stood there glaring.
"How are you feeling?" Daryl's glare just darkened at that. Rick glared right back. "Look, cat's out of the bag. I know you're sick, so you might as well just admit it."
Daryl let out a defeated sigh, "I feel like shit, okay? I'm cold and tired. All I want to do is go to sleep, so if you'd just stop buggin' me..." He left the sentence open, hoping Rick would get the hint.
Fortunately, he either got the hint or had deemed his reconnaissance mission a success. "Okay, I'll leave you alone. But someone will be coming to check on you every so often, and don't hesitate to tell us if you need anything."
"Whatever." Daryl grumbled, sliding under the covers as Rick made his way back to the door. He was asleep as soon as he heard the door snick shut.
Everything was muddled and confusing after that. All the information his clouded mind tried to gather, thrown into some disjointed mess. Time ceased to have meaning, he had no clue how long things had been this way. A day, a week, a month? The disorientation permeated his mind, destroying his ability to make heads or tails of anything. He was trapped in some surreal non-reality, fading in and out of terrible fever dreams consisting of things that left even him rattled, unsure and hoping that it really was just a dream. Occasionally, he'd catch something going on around him, though he could never be sure if it was real or imagined, a flash of a concerned face, something cool and wet on his head, someone trying to coax something vile down his throat, snippets of conversation; like this one, that filled him was a hollow sense of dread.
"... doesn't have to if it's not the stomach flu."
"... so long... fever still hasn't broken."
"... look for antibiotics?"
"Won't do any good..."
"... have to do something!"
"... nothing more we can do."