Carol sighed for what had to be the hundredth time in the last hour, "Remind me again why I agreed to work a double tonight?"
Maggie was frantically clicking the mouse, eyes rapidly searching through the patient's chart, "Because it's a nuthouse in here! And I promised you margaritas after."
She jumped up, slamming the laptop shut and rounded the nurse's station, "Oh hey, do you think you could take the guy in five? I'm swamped right now! Please? I got a kid that swallowed a bunch of marbles! Please Carol!?"
The older woman rolled her eyes dramatically but smiled, "Yes."
"Thanks Carol! You're the best!", Maggie was already walking off, grinning over her shoulder, "He's cute too! A little scary…but cute!"
Carol quickly downed the rest of her strong black coffee, and muttered mostly to herself "Great."
The emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital was always hopping but nothing compared to a Friday night during the full moon, that's when all the crazies seemed to come out. Carol had already been there ten hours and was more than ready to go home and slip into a hot bath and rest her sore feet. She hadn't planned on working the double but they really did need her and Maggie had all but begged her to stay. The young brunette had been working at St. Joe's for two years now and had immediately taken to Carol her first day on the job, Carol helped the new nurse along and always managed to calm her nerves. Carol walked through the emergency room smiling, remembering Maggie's first day and the mix up with the urine specimens that had embarrassed the new grad.
Pulling back the curtain, Carol spoke without looking up from the chart in her hands, "Sorry about the wait. What can we do for you, Mister…Dixon?"
"Bout damn time! What you can do is get me the hell outta here. Been waitin fer hours. Lucky it aint nothin serious or I'd been fuckin dead", the man growled at her.
Carol finally looked up at the man that had been pacing the small curtained area and was somewhat shocked, she had not expected the gruff voice to belong to such a handsome face and the bluest eyes she had ever seen. She felt a bit flushed and chastised herself 'Get it together Carol, you're a professional! Not a fifteen year old girl! Yes, he is cute but he is also your patient!'
"Again, I apologize. Now what brings you in?", Carol asked in a serious tone that masked the nerves she was feeling.
Daryl Dixon hated hospitals. He hated the way they smelled. He hated the bright fluorescent lights. He hated those stupid gowns they put you in. He hated all the sick people wandering around. But mostly he hated the way those doctors and nurses looked at him, like he was just another trashy, redneck junkie trying to score a prescription for Oxy.
He wouldn't have even come this time but he knew he needed stitches, and he couldn't reach the injury on his own to have tried patching it up at home. And now, if being in a hospital wasn't bad enough, he had to explain what his dumbass had done this afternoon while he was out hunting.
"I was huntin and I climbed up a ridge and some rocks started to slide, I went down with em'. Landed on a damn arrow. Went straight through my side, hurts like hell", he explained quickly, not daring to make eye contact with this woman.
"And I thought I was having a rough day", Carol smiled even though the man wouldn't look at her.
"Why don't you have a seat and I'll take a look", She thought it best to get down to business, clearly this man was anxious to leave, he hadn't stopped fidgeting. Daryl eyed the woman wearily but complied and sat on the gurney in the tiny curtained cubicle.
Carol had her back to him and busied herself with snapping on a pair of gloves, "Go ahead and pull your gown down to your waist", she thought it best to not watch him, he seemed a bit uncomfortable.
Daryl wasn't happy about this but knew it was unavoidable, he had never been comfortable around people and he definitely never let them see him without a shirt. That's where his shame was, the secrets hidden in the jagged lines across his back.
Carol turned back to the anxious man with a warm smile, attempting to calm his nerves. She immediately noticed the scars that far outnumbered the tattoos on his body but she managed to keep the pity she felt in check, he didn't strike her as the type of man that would take kindly to it. She began examining the wound on his side, all the while pretending not to notice how he flinched and avoided her eyes, "Well you certainly did a number on yourself. I'm assuming you pulled the arrow out on your own?"
Daryl gave a quick nod, still not making eye contact. His body was tense and he was fighting the urge to flee, he wasn't used to someone touching him, especially with such care. While the woman was poking and prodding the jagged flesh he took the time to examine her from the cover of his shaggy hair. He had never been good at judging age but she seemed to be in her forties, maybe a few years older than himself. Clear, blue eyes in a kind face, with short, no nonsense hair. He rarely understood what most people thought of as desirable features but he thought this woman was pretty. She didn't seem to be judging him either, he could find no revulsion or pity in her eyes as she carried on cleaning the old blood from the wound. He let out a loud hiss as she came across a particularly tender spot, "Shit! Watch it lady, that fuckin hurts!"
"Sorry, you're definitely going to need some stitches", Carol finished cleaning the injury and turned to throw away the bloody gauze and take off the gloves, completely unfazed by his outburst. "Alright, the doctor will be in soon and we'll get you all stitched up and on your way."
Daryl silently nodded and let out a sigh of relief as she pulled the curtain closed. That was the most human contact he had had in a long time and it set his nerves on edge. The nurse, Carol, her plastic ID badge had read, had been nothing but kind to him but he needed to get the hell out of there. Even through the rubber gloves Daryl had been able to feel the softness of her hands and it set his skin on fire, what the hell was wrong with him? That woman would bandage him up and send him on his way, never giving another thought to the dirty redneck again. He was shaken from his thoughts by the sound of the curtain being yanked back, Carol had returned followed by an older man, the doctor most likely.
The procedure itself hadn't taken very long, sixteen stitches in total. Daryl sat on the gurney dressed in his own clothing again, tying the laces of his dirty boots quickly, anxious to leave. Carol returned to the curtained area with a few forms for him to sign and a prescription for an antibiotic ointment, "Ok make sure to keep the wound clean, change the dressing every day."
"Yeah, alright", Daryl said absently, while chewing on his thumb, his anxiety clearly visible. He was ready to get out of there but was also worrying about how he would pay for this.
"Take it easy for a while, you don't want to tear the stitches. It should take a couple weeks to heal up, you can come back and we'll remove them", Carol knew the nervous man in front of her was barely listening. "You're not gonna come back are you?"
Daryl's head snapped up to look at her and their eyes met for the first time, her eyes weren't critical, just concerned. His first instinct was to make a harsh remark about her minding her own business, instead he just shook his head and looked away, "Aint got insurance, don't even know how I'm gonna pay for this."
Carol was unsure of how to respond, she chewed her lip for a minute, looking at the man in front of her. She hastily scribbled on a note pad. "Here, this is my phone number. Call me in two weeks and I'll take the stitches out", she handed him the slip of paper and turned to leave, stopping at the curtain she smiled at him and quickly walked away.
Three hours later, Carol sat behind the nurse's station, staring off into space, contemplating the shy man with blue eyes and more scars then she could count. She couldn't believe she had done something like that, it was inappropriate and definitely against hospital policy but she just couldn't get the image of him trying to remove the stitches himself in a dingy bathroom out of her mind. Sure, she had felt sorry for him but she also saw something of herself in him, she had spent plenty of nights caring for her wounds alone in her bathroom, too ashamed to ask for help.
As good as her intentions were she still couldn't believe that she had given her phone number to a patient. "What the hell is wrong with me?", she asked herself out loud. She silently convinced herself it didn't matter because he would never call, he probably hadn't even taken the slip of paper with him, it was probably balled up in a trash can somewhere. 'Yeah, that's right Carol, doesn't even matter, just forget about it.'
Maggie ran past the desk, "Carol, they need you in eight. A kid threw up everywhere."
Carol sighed again, "Be right there."