Chapter 3: Captured

After a few passing minutes, my cell door rolled and clanked open once more. This time, a white-haired man in crutches, who appeared to be in his sixties or seventies, calmly made his way inside. Upon closer inspection of his form, I discerned the reason for his crutches: a missing portion of his right leg. The sight didn't alarm me, given the horrors I've seen in the past, but made me curious as to what exactly happened to him. We both remained silent as he moved closer and inspected my form in return.

"My name is Hershel," he introduced cordially as he looked down upon me. If he had been briefed by either Rick or Daryl about what exactly happened and who I was - and had any reservations towards aiding me - he didn't show it. The older man even smiled, baring teeth. "I'm here to look at your wound."

"I'm Louise," I replied weakly. "So you're the vet."

"Would you rather me be the other kind of vet?" he gestured to my uniform. "We'd probably have a lot more in common if I were."

I managed a small smile at his humour. "Well, I don't know if an army vet would know as much as an animal vet about treating flesh wounds."

By this point, I had managed to sit myself up, using my right elbow to prop myself a few inches from the mattress. I had trouble removing my vest and jacket at first; but, with a little help from Hershel and placing more resistance to the pain, we managed to succeed. Now in only my green t-shirt, we could both see the severity of the wound and the reason why I had lost so much blood. The bullet had only managed to graze my arm, but it was enough to render a horizontal, gaping cut several inches below my shoulder.

I winced and moved my arm upwards to get a better look. "I'll need stitches."

"Yes, you will." Hershel gave a nod, then twisted his head towards the entrance of the cell. "Daryl?"

Almost instantly, we heard his quickening footsteps echoing through the empty cell block. When Daryl appeared, he was armed with his crossbow once more, readied to take a shot. He surveyed my form, then looked at the older man. "Hershel? Everything alright?"

Hershel raised his hand and made a placating gesture. "Yes, yes everything is fine."

"Sorry. Thought she died and turned."

I narrowed my eyes at him and hissed under my breath: "Asshole."

Waving all of this off, the vet said, "I'll need some more clean fabric - whatever you can find. She'll need stitches and her wound dressed."

It didn't take long until everything was prepared for the minor surgery. Hershel kindly asked me to lie down and relax, then sat down on the mattress at my side. As I attempted to make myself comfortable in supine position, Daryl's form loomed over me. I sent him a questioning glance. In answer, he merely tossed me a rolled up piece of cloth. "Something to bite on," he said simply.

I gave him a nod in thanks and took his advice.

It's true that I've stared death right in the face - and today was clearly no exception - but if there was one thing I most hated in the world, it was needles. Prickly little fucks. Couldn't take the sight of them being injected into my body at all - not even for a mere tetanus shot. So, when Hershel was ready to make the first poke, I quickly turned my head away.

"Scared of a little needle, Lieutenant?" came Daryl's sing-song voice, followed by a snicker.

Annoyance quickly surged through me, and I spat out the cloth to retort, "Oh, fuck you, Daryl!"

Hershel shot Daryl a disapproving look, almost as a father scolding his son. "Daryl, you're not helping the situation!" I felt the vet pat my side. "Just relax, Louise. Not good to tense up your arm."

"Lemme know how long it takes her to faint, doc," Daryl continued unrelentingly as he retreated, "Imma go out for a ride."

Fuckin' Daryl.

3 3 3

I had no idea how long the surgery took, because almost as soon as Hershel began, I found myself falling asleep. I did not faint, as Daryl supposed; the fatigue of the past few weeks, coupled with everything that had happened that day, took a toll on me. Even the hard prison mattress felt so soothing beneath my aching form. So, unable to control my body any longer, sleep finally engulfed me.

When I awoke, it was the middle of the night. As I oriented myself, I instantly felt the throbbing pain of my arm. It had become somewhat numb, but there were still instances of shooting pain once in a while. My arm had been expertly bandaged, and the bleeding seemed to have stopped, despite my tourniquet being bloody. I had to thank Hershel if I ever saw him again; a festering wound these days would have been just as deadly as a bite from the undead.

I waited for a moment to discern any movement around me. Silence. Guided by only moonlight peeking from windows high above the wall across from my cell, my eyes caught sight of a cup, a pack of crackers, and a lone potato on a plate. I somehow managed to sit up completely without much pain. I took in my nourishment, thankful once more that these people were kind enough to take food from their rations and feed me as well. Feeling my strength quickly return, I forced myself to stand up. I wobbled and felt blood quickly rush to my head, but I gritted my teeth, hauled my clothes over my right shoulder, and walked towards the cell door.

Unlocked.

I pried it open, attempting to make as little noise as possible. There was no one in my immediate surroundings. Finding that my steps were quickening, I raced towards C block - the only safe place I knew of in this prison - made a sharp left, and moved as quickly as I could manage towards the front door exit. By this point, I was certain that this was the route that I had come from when Daryl and an Asian man had hauled me inside, so my spirits were instantly elevated.

...Until I found out that the front door was entirely locked.

I pounded at the door in frustration.

"Guess I gotta remind ye that it's a prison."

That familiar voice rang through my ears. I shut my eyes and exhaled my frustration. I kept my back turned to him. "Give me the keys, Daryl."

"Ain't it a little late for ye to be goin' out for a stroll?"

I whirled to face him. I was right when I hypothesized that his crossbow would be pointed at me, but what I had not hypothesized was seeing what he was carrying in his left arm. I was dumbfounded for a moment, jaw literally hanging open. After a few more seconds, I managed, "Is that...is that a baby?"

Daryl didn't reply. He merely readjusted his grip on both the infant and his weapon. He gave her a light peck on the forehead when she started to fuss. She instantly quieted down. As she did so, he turned his attention back to me. "Get back to yer cell."

"Daryl?"

A woman's distressed voice called out from behind him. He slightly twisted his head to face her. My eyes followed the sound of the voice and caught sight of a thinning, light-skinned woman. Her equally light hair was fashioned as short as a buzz cut, her light eyes filling with worry as she surveyed the scene unfolding before her. She pulled her sweater more tightly around her body when she cautiously approached Daryl.

"Take her." Daryl said in a low tone, turning so that the woman could get hold of the child. The woman quickly took the bundle in her hands and, without even a second look at me, dashed back into C block. She ensured to lock the door behind her, then tossed the keys back to Daryl, who caught them expertly.

I was becoming sick and tired of Daryl's goddamn crossbow being pointed at me, so I finally raised my hands up in surrender. "Look. I've told you before that my soldiers and I were not given orders to take this place and hurt the people within it. Our platoon came from Fort Benning, Georgia; we were based there until hordes overtook it. We're all exhausted and hungry and have been on the road, fighting for our lives, for months. We just came by the prison and, just like you, needed a place to stay for a while." By this point, Daryl's crossbow somewhat lowered, though not entirely. I persisted, "I don't know who this Governor is, or whatever Woodbury is - but what I do know is I do not plan to harm you, your child, your wife...or anyone else that's here with you. I'm even grateful that you helped and fed me. I just need to get back to my platoon...to my family. I can tell them to move on, and we'll be out of your hairs permanently."

Daryl stared at me for what seemed like forever. When he finally made his decision, he took the arrow off of the crossbow and slung the weapon around his shoulders once more. "Okay," he said simply. "But yer leavin' in the mornin'."

I took a few steps forward in alarm. "No!" I protested, gesturing towards the northern perimeter. "It's been hours since I've left. Who knows what they're planning, and..."

Daryl let out a scoff, then placed his arrow back in his quiver. "'Hours'? Jesus. Is that how long you think you've been out?"

I looked at him wide-eyed. "W-what do you mean?"

"Ye've been asleep for almost a couple of days, Lieutenant."

"...What?"

He kept my harsh stare and took a few steps towards me. "Believe it or not, it's true. Now, either ye wait till mornin' so that ye can actually see where yer goin' and where the livin' dead are around ye, or ye go out there right now and take yer chances. Yer life, yer decision."

Without another word, Daryl strolled back to C-block's entrance and allowed himself inside. He gave me one last, stern look, locked the gate, and disappeared into the shadows.