Lori couldn't stop shivering. The concrete floor she was lying on was cold beneath her and there was something digging into the small of her back. A soft groan escaped her lips and she tried to open her eyes, but when she did the room was blurry, as though she was looking at it through a fish tank. She wondered if she had fallen, but her hand wouldn't co operate when she tried to lift it to inspect her head. Closing her eyes again she tried to focus on the room, her ears straining for any sound. She could hear shuffling somewhere in the distance and dripping from above her. She tried to lift her hand again but it felt stuck, like she had been glued to the floor.
"What the-" her voice sounded scratchy and thick. Opening her eyes again, she squinted at the light filtering through the windows to her right, and then lifted her head slowly to inspect her sticky hand. Her mind worked slowly, trying to wrap itself around what she was seeing.
A lot of it. Hers? But why was she bleeding?
Her hip felt tender and she used her other hand to explore the area where the pain was radiating from. Her fingers tingled as they felt around clumsily until she came into contact with the offending object. Giving it a tug she pulled it free from beneath her and lifted it for inspection.
"Carl," she whispered, inspecting her son's knife.
Eyes widening she dropped the knife to her side as shock swept over her. The light shiver coursing through her body intensified, becoming a hard shake. Squeezing her eyes shut she bit her lip against the pain that built steadily, throbbing in her lower abdomen.
"Maggie," she whispered, the word trailing off into a deep groan.
Opening her eyes she felt the world drop out from under her and the edges of her vision blurred. Fighting the blackness, she willed herself to stay conscious. Slowly, she peeled her right arm free from the blood that was quickly drying around her. Her left arm was next and she unsteadily positioned them behind her, pushing herself up in the process.
Her heart pumped furiously in her chest as she inspected the incision site. Her abdomen, splayed open, oozed in sync with her beating heart. Horror gripped her as she raked her eyes over her belly, the skin torn jaggedly, pulled back to reveal fatty tissue and her insides.
The world swayed again and she dropped onto her back, panic overwhelming her. She was alive, but she wouldn't be for long. Her breath came quickly and she whimpered at the pain and the cold.
"Please," she whispered, unsure of what she was asking for. "Please," she tried again, the words cut short as a sob escaped her, and then another, and another. "I'm supposed to be dead."
The next time she was aware of anything, it was the feeling of her ears ringing. Something had slammed loudly. Taking a deep breath, Lori opened her eyes and grimaced. The pool of blood had dried further and she fought back a wave of nausea. As disconnected and lightheaded as she felt, she was still aware enough to know that it would do her no good to throw up while she was stuck on her back.
Ears still ringing from a sound she wasn't even sure she had truly heard, she listened hard. The first thing that struck her at the sound of the light scuffle was fear. Squeezing her eyes closed she continued to hold her breath, waiting for the damn thing to pounce on her and eat her alive.
The weight of the Walker hit her side hard and fast. Bony knees collided with her hip, jarring her lower body and she braced herself for the pain of having her already abused abdomen shredded further. She listened to the things ragged breathing and waited, one second, then two, and then three too many.
Finally, she opened her eyes and registered quickly the pale slender face looming over her. The thin woman leapt back, a gasp escaping her lips.
"Shit, you're alive," Carol paled further, her blue eyes darting over Lori's body.
The brunette felt a weak smile curl over her lips, but it was quickly replaced by a grimace. "That d-d-does," her voice shook and she swallowed hard. "Seem to be the unfortunate circumstance."
"Jesus, Lori," Carol moved quickly to her side. "Are you bit? The baby… did Walkers…"
"Abscond with it?" This time Lori let out a light chuckle, but it was a nervous one. "No, Maggie and Carl…"
"Were you bit?" Carol asked, hesitating, letting raised hands linger just above Lori's exposed uterus.
Lori shook her head, hot tears pricking her eyes. "But your hands," she winced both in pain and fear. The other woman's hands, though clearly washed, were stained almost to her elbows. "Who?" Lori finally asked, bracing her hands against the floor, not sure if she was prepared for the answer.
Carol didn't answer right away and Lori's heart skipped a beat before it began to hammer in her chest again.
"Rick?" She asked after a moment, the tears in her eyes finally spilling over and sliding down her cheeks. "Please, God," her throat tightened and the words barely made it around the lump swelling there.
"No, no," Carol shook her head and leaned in, her hand moving forward to cradle Lori's cheek. "T, it was T-Dog," her thumb swept over the trail of tears, drying the other woman's cheek. "We were separated. I haven't seen anyone else," she sat back again.
"I'm sorry," Lori whispered. "I shouldn't be relieved," she reached for Carol's hand but it was quickly pulled out of her reach.
Carol shook her head again. "I need these to be clean," she explained quickly. "And I need help."
Lori's head moved slowly as it moved from side to side. "It's too late, Carol. I can feel it-"
"You are not allowed to talk like that," Carol cut her off, her brows knitting as she turned her attention fully to the task at hand. "We need to keep you warm," she looked around the room and then let out a frustrated sigh, punctuated with a soft damnit. "I don't have anything, Lori." Carol pushed herself to her feet. "I need help."
Nodding, the brunette's lower lip wobbled as she fought back more tears. "Okay," she agreed, resolving herself to bravery. If she had survived this long, she could push through until Carol came back with help. Maybe, if she found Hershel she would actually stand a chance at making it through this. Maybe she would hold her baby and Carl again. She just needed to be brave.
Carol was already halfway up the steps when she looked over for her. The sight of her retreating back sent a shiver down her spine and she looked towards the windows to block it out. Maybe she really was dead, she mused. Maybe this was hell.
Maybe hell was rusted rotting pipes, drip, drip, dripping, lying in your own caked blood, and hope, just a little out of reach.
A squeaking door followed by commotion and voices sliced through the silence but Lori didn't have the energy to look over. She had drifted off to a place that felt comfortable. The pain in her abdomen had dulled then vanished, and the cold was gone too. She knew what it meant- that she was dying- but she was beyond concern.
Lori wasn't a doctor; she knew a little first aid and had picked up some tidbits of medical information from pop culture. But despite her limited knowledge, she knew that the body could only withstand so much blood loss before it went into hypovolemic shock.
Her thoughts swayed in another direction, towards the past. The night that Carl had been shot and Hershel had worked so hard to keep him alive until Shane got back. This time, there would be no Shane. There was so magical cure on its way. The few medical supplies that Carl had recovered from the infirmary had long since been used up on Hershel's leg.
Vaguely, she was aware of being touched and she wasn't sure if she liked it or not. The contact tugged her back a little, away from the euphoric calm that had settled over her. She didn't want to go back- to the pain and the fear or to the cold. Her view of the windows was obstructed as someone leaned over her, and then hands were on her face, cradling her cheek, stroking her ear.
A smile began in her heart and warmed its way up to her mouth. She knew those hands. Those hands were gentle, loving, and tender. It occurred to her that it had been so long since she had last felt them, since they had reached out to her. Lori hadn't realized how badly she had longed to feel them again, and she closed her eyes to relish the moment.
Open your eyes, Lori, baby. Hold on.
The extent of that order wasn't lost on her. But somehow she complied and allowed herself to be pulled back, toward him. Her husband's face filled almost her entire field of view, his crystal eyes lit with tears. Tearing her eyes away she glanced slowly around the room, from Glenn, to Carol who had a roll of plastic kitchen wrap in her hands. Hershel stood over her shoulder and he was instructing her, to do what, Lori couldn't understand.
Lori's eyes sought out Carl, wrapped tightly in Beth's arms. She paused on his face and pondered the guilty expression, mixed with relief. His hand shook slightly where it rested on the hammer of his gun. Her own hand twitched and she longed to go to him and wrap him up in her arms and hold him.
Rick was telling her something and her eyes flicked back to his face. He was so close, his breath hot on her cheek. Curiously, she watched his mouth form words that she couldn't hear over the roaring in her ears.
The nod he sent to Carol and Glenn sent her hurtling into agony and a scream tore from her throat. There was something underneath her, pulling, tearing her in half. It only lasted a moment before darkness came. Then there was nothing.
Rick watched in horror as Lori screamed in agony before going slack in his arms. Frantically, he looked over at Hershel who calmly watched as Glenn continued to jack-up Lori's body so that Carol could work.
"Hershel?" He asked, looking back down at Lori's face that was void of all colour.
"Check her pulse, Rick," the older man moved closer, his movements awkward and clumsy as he tried to negotiate his stump. Calmly, the older man rested his hand on Lori's chest, feeling the slight stuttering rise and fall. "She is still breathing," he drawled, his voice reassuring. "She probably just passed out from the pain."
Rick's blood stained fingers quickly traced along his wife's jaw line then dipped down until he found the spot to the right of her throat. Applying pressure, he held his breath and waited. The slow but steady pulse against his fingertips eased the pressure building in his chest. She was still alive, barely, but it was something. "I can feel it," Rick reluctantly pulled his fingers away. He sighed in relief and moved his hand over Lori's brow, pushing her hair back.
"Okay, Carol," Hershel spoke up, putting a hand on the slender woman's shoulder. "Wrap it tightly, so we can move her upstairs. Beth and Carl, I need you to have a room clear and ready for when we get there."
The two youngest members of the group wordlessly started up the stairs, Beth's arm still secured around Carl's shoulders. "Daryl, make sure they get there safely. We don't want any more crisis before we're done dealing with this one."
Daryl nodded in agreement. "And then I'm goin' on a run. Can't do much without any medical supplies and the baby's gonna need food. A buck ain't gonna do her much good and looks like her mama ain't either. Not for a while."
Looking up, Rick offered his wingman a grateful nod. "Take someone with you," he suggested. "Like Hershel said, we don't need another crisis," his eyes swept Lori's features again. When no one moved or said anything he looked up.
Carol was focused on wrapping Lori's abdomen, creating a plastic layer of skin that would hold her together while they moved her upstairs. Glenn watched her work, clearly avoiding meeting Rick's eyes.
"No hands left," Daryl spoke softly. "Maggie's with the baby. Glenn," he thrust his chin in the Asian's direction. "And T…"
"You're right," Rick smoothed Lori's cheek. "It will have to be me then," he conceded, pressing a kiss to his wife's forehead. He tried to ignore how cold and clammy it felt under his lips.
Daryl scoffed. "You stupid? Your place is here now," he said gruffly. "I'll be fine on my own. Just keep it so the trip ain't a waste of my time." With a last look he adjusted his crossbow on his shoulder and left, slamming the door behind him.
"What do we do now?" Carol asked, inspecting the plastic wrap for leaks. It seemed to be doing its job containing any further bleeding and had accomplished in pulling Lori's incision together concealing the majority of the damage to her uterus.
"We need to get her upstairs," Hershel informed them, using Carol's shoulder to get up. Wordlessly, Glenn got to his feet and stepped over Lori and helped the older man rise. "I need to tie off her uterus, or she'll just keep bleeding internally. Maggie will know what I need; maybe there is something left in the infirmary."
"She can't go alone," Glenn asserted. "This place is still crawling with Walkers. I'll go with her."
Rick looked away from the exchange back down to Lori. "You're going to be okay," he whispered, checking her pulse again. He kept his fingers on her pulse point and took her hand. "I'll carry her."
"I'm a crap shot," Glenn kneeled down on the other side of Lori's head. "You should cover us, I'll carry her," he offered, already sliding his arms under the unconscious woman's knees and shoulders. Slowly, he got to his feet, adjusting Lori in his arms.
Rick maintained his grip on his wife's hand and rose with her. He pressed a kiss to her fingers before laying her hand across her ribcage, and then positioned her head onto Glenn's shoulder. I love you… please don't die.