By Jenna Black
A/N: I don't really know what to say at this point, except for welcome! There is no update schedule to this story, as unfortunately, anytime I commit to one of those it goes downhill rather quickly. I can say that I am already deeply invested in this story, and have much more planned and written out. For those of you who have stumbled upon this by chance, there is a companion story to this called "Winters Warmth" You can find it on my profile page. That was meant to be a one shot, but before I had it halfway written I realized I was already invested in that world, and now can't wait to experience writing it. I have already switched gears and changed some things from that to here, so do not consider it a completely accurate predictor of things in this. Thank you!
"'Round here, 'round here!" Daryl yelled, and grabbed Beth, throwing her into an alcove formed by the prison wall. Gunshots rang out around them; one of the attackers had made it up to the guard tower and was laying down cover fire. "Gimme that" he said, taking the machine gun out of her trembling hands. "Let's see how that bastard likes being the one shot at!" The first few shots missed the tall man, but eventually one connected somewhere; he tumbled over the railing and was quickly taken out by a couple of walkers. Daryl looked at Beth; she was shivering, and if he had to guess, fighting off going into shock. Hell, he was fighting off going into shock with all that had happened. "Beth. Beth. Beth!" He finally had to slap her to bring her out of it. "I don't need you to think right now, but I need you to stay close and follow me. Okay?"
"What do we do? Where do we go? If a prison's not safe, where the hell is?" She asked, her voice growing a little softer the more she spoke. Her spirit was giving out, even if she didn't have any wounds on her body. They would never make it far with her in this state, even she knew it. She shook her head, as they started jogging away from the wall, trying to bury all thoughts of everything but survival into a place to be dealt with later. "Daryl, what's the plan?" She asked, hoping he had some sort of solution in mind.
He surveyed the spot around them. They were far enough away from the battle that the walkers hadn't made it over here yet. Even from this distance though, he could see there was no saving the prison, the living area where the cars and his bike rested were completely overrun. "We gotta get outta here somehow. " He muttered, thinking about where they were. It wasn't too far to get to the section of prison they had never bothered to clear of walkers; the walls were down, so it hadn't been worth the trouble. But that was just going from the frying pan into the fire. There was no safe place anymore, and the agitation he felt that they were right back where they had started was getting him worked up. He felt her grabbing his shirt "What do you want?" He asked her, but didn't get an answer, just more damn tugging on his arm. "I'm thinking" He turned and yelled at her.
"I know that dummy," she said, "but you weren't hearing me. Look…" She pointed to outside the prisons gates. All the walkers from the far end of the prison were traveling along the fence, drawn to the noise and action down by their old portion. "I was never at the other section of prison – is there a place there we could get through to get out?"
"If most of them are working their way to our side, we just might. " He answered. He closed his eyes quickly, drawing up a map of the far side of the prison in his mind. With his eyes closed he noticed everything was dull and muted on his left side. All the explosions musta done a number on his ears. "I can't hear out my left side" he said, pulling on his ear as he was saying it… now that he had noticed, it was bothering him mightily. It made them open and exposed to more danger. "I need you to be my ears in there. We gonna be in tight, cramped, quarters in there – sound travels too much. If ya hear something, I need you to grab me and point me where it's coming from, ya hear?" She nodded her head. "Alright then. How much ammo we got?"
"As much as is in the gun," she replied, showing that there wasn't much. "I have my six-shooter, but only a pocketful of rounds." She gestured to her pants pocket. She was too tiny for that pocket to hold too many in there. "My knife got left in a walker." She gestured back the way they came. He had two knives on him, and passed the smaller of the two to her.
"Don't lose it, that's my favorite." He said to here. He would have given her the other, but it was more than two inches longer, and he had issues hanging on to the bigger ones, let alone her. "Follow me." He led her out of the hideaway, around the side of the prison. About two hundred yards past, they reached the end of the line. This was where they had built up the wall to block off access from the other side. The last good guard tower and section of fence was attached to vehicles, concrete blocks, and anything else they could find to block the walkers from their side of the prison. "Be careful," he said to her, "This things prone to movin' a bit."
Beth nodded her head and started to climb. It was solid enough in its enormity to keep the walkers out, but she could definitely see what Daryl had meant once she'd gone more than a couple feet. The car that was the base of the wall had flat tires, but the suspension still functioned somewhat, when Daryl started climbing behind her she could feel herself sway slightly. She climbed quickly but carefully, trying her best to always move upwards, though with the way things were stacked she could see that both she and Daryl had moved several feet to the side just to get higher. "Ah!" She cried out. During the time they had been climbing, a group of walkers had made their way over and was grabbing at her leg. Daryl was up higher than her, and out of their reach, but he couldn't get his crossbow out to take a shot. He quickly tried counting, planning to jump down to fight, but once he saw more than eight he knew he couldn't handle them on his own like that. All he could do was help pull her up.
"Grab on!" He yelled down to her. She wasn't climbing anymore, there wasn't a place for her to put her feet that would keep her out of the walkers grasp; all she was doing was stamping their hands whenever they got too close. She was down and to his left, but just out of reach. When he tried to shimmy down closer the entire wall felt like it would topple. "Beth, you gotta trust me," He yelled to her. "Jump and grab my hand. I won't let ya go." He only hoped the shifting weight wouldn't bring any of the wall down. They had tested the other side thoroughly to make sure no one could climb or shift it from the other side, but apparently no one had thought to do that to this side. "You gotta do it now Beth, we don't have much longer!" The crowd below them had grown to more than twenty now, just standing here, he could feel the entire wall swaying from the crushing weight of the undead.
Blood rushing, she looked down one more time, and jumped.
Adrenaline will do funny things to you. In this instance, it gave Beth the feeling of flying, as she jumped with all of her strength as far as she could. There was one terrifying moment where she felt herself start to fall, and then a strong hand grabbed hold of her arm and swung her into the wall. She hit hard on her right side and felt all the air leave her lungs. Struggling to breath, she started grabbing for the wall. Here there were places she could reach, and soon she and Daryl were at the top of the wall looking down.
"Small mercies" She muttered quietly, laughing bitterly inside. All the work they had done to build this wall, and now rather than keeping the corpses out, it was keeping them in. There was a couple here and there on the other side that she could see, someone that was once a guard, a couple prisoners and a woman dressed like a librarian. None were particularly vigorous looking. She was pretty certain Daryl could take them on even if she wasn't there. "Where are we headed to next?" she asked, surveying the land below. There was rubble all over the place, and giant chunks of the building were missing.
"Follow along the top of this 'till we hit the building. Better chance of getting down safe and ready to swing that way." He led her along the top of the wall, picking a way through the debris. When they reached the walls juncture with the building, Beth was relieved to find the ground had sloped up. Instead of the twenty feet drop they were looking at when they had first reached the top, it was down to only 10 or so. "I only got 4 bolts left, so I'll take what I can out, but we both best be ready to fight."
Beth watched him raise the crossbow; the sight of it calmed her down a bit. Without missing a shot the first four were quickly dispatched. After that Daryl dropped down and took out the other two with his knife. When it was over and done he came back over to where she was working her way down. When she was about five feet off the ground she could feel the press of walkers on the other side, the wall was pulsing almost, as it gave way, about to give out. She jumped, grabbed onto Daryl, and started running for the woods. They had just reached the first outcropping of trees when she realized just how hurt she was. "Shit." She bit out, slowing down. Her side was killing her, and grabbing it, she could feel a trail of sticky wet heat making its way down her side. "Daryl, I have a problem."
"Oh shit" He echoed, looking at her and seeing the trail of blood. It had reached down to her knee already, and she was already turning sickly pale from blood loss. Looking back, he could see a dozen or more walkers slowly making their way towards them. "We gotta get a little bit further." He gently put her arm around his neck, and struggling, made their way into the woods. "Ya see that ridge there?" He motioned in front of her. It wasn't all that far off, but in her condition it looked miles away. "We get there and I got a supply bag. Insurance policy when I was hunting. There's more ammo, some food, and basic first aid. We get that bag and then we gotta go west; we'll end up right in the nearest development. Get us a house to hide out in and a place to patch you up." He talked as they walked, trying to give her something to focus on other than the pain. He was scared though, at the rate they were going they weren't gonna make it, not between the walkers and the wound. They had to come up with something else.
"Daryl," she whimpered, after they had walked for either a lifetime or ten minutes, Beth wasn't sure which. "You gotta go, just put me outta my misery first" she said to him. She could do the math too, and minus a miracle, she didn't see herself getting out of this alive. "Just don't let them get me alive" She told him.
"Shut yer trap." He bit out at her "I ain't losing you too. We'll get outta this, just give me a sec." He stopped walking for moment. They were deep in the woods now, and it was silent but for the rustling leaves. He couldn't hear gunshots anymore, which meant the battle was over; he only hoped more of them had gotten out of there. He let out the bird whistle he had taught Michonne, Rick, Maggie and Glenn, holding his breath hoping to hear something. At first all he could hear was Beth's shallow breaths, but then the groans of a couple of walkers came from somewhere off to his right. Beth was in no condition to fight, and he knew they would be running into walkers all over these woods. "Tuck in here" he told Beth, bring her to a fallen tree, he helped her lay on the ground and covered her partially with leaves. "Stay here." He told her, and hoped the grunt she made was supposed to be yes.
The first walker was close now. He grabbed his knife and with a disgusting squelch put it down. He dragged the body over to Beth and left it leaning against the tree, partially over her. Hopefully that would be enough to disguise her smell for now. He stood silently and brought his bow up, as a trio of walkers made their way towards him. They looked to be a family, with a little boy between the two adults. With a sigh of defeat, he pulled the trigger. He hated taking out kids. The parents were quickly dispatched, and he retrieved his arrows, wiping the blood on his pants. The blood shone in the setting sun, and Daryl had an idea.
When he got back to Beth she was passed out. "You're gonna be madder than hell when you wake up," he told her "but this is the only way I can think of to get through here, 'specially with that hole in your hide." Biting his tongue to help settle his stomach, he gutted the walker that was now lying next to her. Careful to avoid any place that had any cuts or wounds, he painted both their bodies in the blood. Their clothing was already ripped and dirty from the fight, but it twisted his stomach to have to put some on her hair. "Your head releases the most heat, and that hair of yours smells like dessert to these things." He talked, hoping something of what he was saying was getting through to her. She was starting to make noises as he moved her at least, and hoped that meant she'd be coming around soon.
With a start her eyes opened. She looked at Daryl, then down at herself, and then the smell hit her. Throwing up against the tree, she carefully worked her way up to standing, with his help. "What did you do to me?" She asked him, raising her arms away from her body in an effort to now notice how truly disgusting she felt.
"It's camouflage." He told her quietly. "We got too many walkers between here and where we need to be. It'll make 'em less likely to notice us, 'specially since we're gonna be limping along thanks to you." He motioned to her gash. "I didn't put any bits or blood where you're cut. We stay silent but for groans near 'em, and we should make it ok." She nodded. He went beside her and stooped a little to help her walk. Thankfully there wasn't all that much of a height difference between them anymore.
"How did you think of this?" She asked him, hoping for a distraction from the pain. Her side felt like it was on fire, and her head was pounding. Everything was slightly blurry, and she needed something to keep her focused. Thinking back, she had been told of the escape from Atlanta, but it was the last thing on her mind before she woke up. A walker came near them, so they shuffled silently for a while, other than a groan from Beth when she moved the wrong way. The walker looked at them for a moment, sniffed the air, and shuffled on its way. She let out a deep breath once they lost sight of it.
"Getting my arrows back, I wiped them on my pants." He told her, and looked around quickly, thinking he had heard something. There was nothing around. They were both going to be extra jumpy for a while. The sun was truly setting now; they would be able to make it to the bag of supplies but they would never make it to the houses before dark. "Once I did that I 'membered back to being on the highway, and hiding T-Dog under a corpse too. That was when he had that gash on his arm, just spurting out blood for all those suckers to smell. Figured if just a body could work like that, may as well go for broke with the innards." He looked down at her, her color was getting worse and he was carrying more and more of her weight as they went. They needed to get to that bag so he could stich her up. "Give you props for going forward still, but we need to hurry this up if we gonna get there tonight." He stopped and picked her up, doing his best to not jostle her wound too much.
"Thank you," she whispered to him, he was holding her in front like a bride, probably to avoid pulling too much pressure at her side. It meant she could keep an eye out while he carried her. Twilight in the forest was spooky to her, as the crickets and nocturnal animals were coming out she kept thinking she heard walkers all over the place. The bats flying overheard gave her the heebie-jeebies. The world wasn't spinning quite so much now that she wasn't spending all her energy walking. It gave her a chance to try and get her bearings. She looked out to where she knew the prison would be, but all she could see was a dim glow off in the distance. Whispering against his ear, she asked "How far have we gone?"
"'Bout 3 miles." He answered between breaths, she was light and all, but it was still a lot to be carrying a person with a crossbow and gun strapped to your back. Thankfully, they just had this one last hill to go. He readjusted her, and started picking his way up the hill. They couldn't get there soon enough; her blood was soaking through so much he could feel it against him now too. When they reached the top of the hill, he had steered well, and it was only a hundred yards or so to the provisions. "Here." He said, gently putting her back down. There was nothing and no one around, but they were still way too exposed for his liking. "We gotta get that gash cleaned up first and foremost. It's another couple of miles to the houses. We can't travel with all the walkers in the dark like this."
Beth bit her lip to keep from crying as she settled onto a fallen tree near them. He came close to her, and reaching under the tree, pulled out a brown and green duffel bag. He opened it, and gave her a bottle of water to drink. It felt cool and refreshing going down, but then the nausea hit and she gagged on it. Taking a smaller sip, she passed the bottle to Daryl. "You have some too."
"I'm alright," He told her, and pulled another bottle out of the bag. "Got four of these stashed in here. We both get one tonight and we'll ration the others tomorrow. You need to make up for blood loss though, so try'n keep as much of that down as possible." He passed her some jerky, she put it to the side for later; it wouldn't do any good for her to waste it by retching it up now. Next, he pulled out one of the white first aid kits ubiquitous in all classrooms and the like. They had one in every main area of the prison. He opened it up, balancing it carefully on a broken branch jutting out from the trunk. "I need you to hold this flashlight while I check you out." He told her. They were in true darkness now, and couldn't risk the light of a lantern; with nothing else around it would be a beacon for any walker that happened to wander by.
"Okay." She whispered back, steeling herself for what was to come. She lay on the ground and lifted her shirt up , tucking it underneath her bra to keep it out of the way. She knew it was going to be bad, but looking at it for the first time she was amazed adrenaline had brought her this far. She had a four inch gash, in a crescent shape, on her right side, from a couple inches away from her belly button, reaching back towards her back. It wasn't bleeding as heavily anymore, but oozing out slowly. A good sign sure, but she had gone with her daddy on too many house calls. She was going to need stiches if she was going to survive without infection. Looking at Daryl, she knew he knew it too.
"I've patched myself up before," he said, "but I ain't never had to do stitches." They were in the middle of the woods, on a near moonless night, with walkers all around. This sucked. He spared a thought for Hershel, and how he would handle the situation. "I can do it, but it ain't gonna be pretty." He told her.
"I don't need it to be pretty." She answered back. "I've seen my Daddy do this plenty of times. I can walk you through it." She looked around at the supplies they had. She started giving him instructions, and he followed what she said. "Grab one of them water bottles, and clean your knife, get under your fingernails, and wash off your hands as best you can. Take the peroxide and rub it over your hands too. Then rinse off and clean the wound. We gotta get it cleared out of everything to try and stop an infection." The pain seared through her when the water streamed over her, and she bit back a curse trying to stay as silent as possible. She knew if she screamed they were dead. The only real question was if she was going to make it through all of this without passing out. "Now listen and remember what I say, because I think at some point in this I'm gonna end up blacking out. Pour the peroxide over it, it will bubble and hiss but that's okay, it means it's doing its job." Now that they were in darkness but for the flashlight, her eyes had adjusted enough that she could see him shake his head, following her along. "Then take the needle and thread, heat the needle up to sterilize it with your lighter, than thread the needle and sew me up." She swallowed hard as she said it. Talking about it was bad enough; she was not thrilled that she was going to be going through it. "It's a crescent shaped wound, start the stiches in the middle and work your way out on one side, then the other, it'll give us a better chance of having everything line up right. Place them about a ¼ inch apart, pulling tight but not so tight it makes the skin pucker." She exhaled heavily trying to sound more confident than she really felt. "When it's all sewn up, pour more peroxide on it, let it dry for a couple of minutes, then put some of that anti-bacterial cream on the bandage and bandage me up."
"So that's all?" He joked to her. What else do you do in a time like this? "Do I get to have initials after my name after this?"
"Yeah," she replied back "M. D. for Major Dumbass for taking so long." She giggled a little. "Don't supposed there's anything in that bag to make me forget things for a bit?" She asked hopefully.
"'Fraid not." He answered, wishing for some himself. "Need ta be sharp when you're hunting. Take some Advil, it'll help your body, but it's not going to do a whole hell of a lot for the pain." He passed it to her and she swallowed it without comment. He grabbed the bottle of peroxide and started to pour. Her face turned red from the effort to not let out any noise. The light of the flashlight danced as she struggled to keep it still, so he grabbed it from her and held it in his mouth. Beth was earning a new level of respect from him, she whimpered a little when she exhaled but managed to keep any loud noises trapped up tight. He turned back to pick up the needle and started heating it with his lighter.
"Wait." She called out. He turned back to her and waited for her to go on. "You touched the flashlight, clean your hands again. And pass me something to bite on. I'm not going to get through this next part on my own." He shook his head, and reaching into the bag, brought out a rolled up pair of socks. "These better be clean." She told him.
"They ain't" He kidded her. In fact she was lucky, the duffel had several pairs, straight out of the package. He had already used some of them on cleaning her up. She put the socks in her mouth, and motioned that she was ready again. "I been through this part on the other side" He told her, thinking back to a hunting trip with Merle where he'd gashed a chunk outta his leg when a branch had given way. "I'm gonna go as fast as I can, and I ain't gonna stop. Don't fight it, just pass out. I'll take care of you till you wake up." She mumbled something that sounded like an affirmative, and he began.
Beth had thrived in the time at the prison. She was stronger now, but this still brought her to her figurative knees. The first stitch felt like she was being stabbed, but biting down with all her might she managed to stay silent. "It'll get better" she mumbled to herself through the sock, in a moment when she wasn't feeling the sting of the needle. By the third stitch she was crying, and by the fifth Daryl was using his body weight to help hold her down.
"I'm sorry." He whispered to her, as the eighth stitch was put in her side. "Tearing me up to hav'ta do this to ya." He said, as the ninth went in. He was bumbling at first, unused to sewing anything, let alone human skin. Now he had it down, and was moving as fast as he could while being careful and thorough. At the tenth stitch she went stiff as a board, and then collapsed. "Finally, ya tough broad" He said to her as he finished stitching her up. In total, he had placed 11 on either side, for a total of 22 stitches along the path of the wound. It wasn't pretty, and would surely leave a sizable scar; but it should be enough for her to heal. Rushing to finish it before she started coming around, he went in the first aid kit. The peroxide had pretty much been used up already, so he just mixed the last of it with the water and washed it that way. The bandages were the type that came with adhesive already on them – he rubbed the ointment onto the inside of it and attached it, smoothing it down as lightly as was possible.
Her shirt was a problem though, looking at it as he straightened her out. It was drenched in blood, as was his, and would call out to the walkers wherever they went even after it dried. Going back to the pack he took stock of what was in it, to see what they had. There was a shirt Beth could change into, but none for him "At least I have my vest" he muttered to himself, shedding himself of the bloodied shirt. There was nothing he could do about her pants, short of stripping her, and there were limits he was NOT crossing. He knelt down next to her, and fighting the feeling he was doing something wrong, cut off the bottom half of her shirt. At least it would get some of the scent away from them.
In the pack there were also two more pair of socks, a tin of jerky, and a small handgun, with a box of ammo. It wasn't a lot, but it put them in better standing than they were before. Glancing back over to Beth, he saw that her face had finally relaxed, and he hoped she had slid straight from being passed out into actual sleep. After the injury, she needed it to help her heal, let alone deal with everything that had happened in the last three hours.
Making a plan in his head, Daryl decided he would keep watch overnight, "Done plenty of all-nighters before." He muttered to himself, starting some prep to get them set up. He shifted Beth so that she was once again partially covered by the tree trunk, and rolled the bag with the supplies into a semblance of a pillow for her. He took the shirt she would wear tomorrow and layered it over her stomach to provide some protection from the air. She didn't rouse at all as he arranged and covered her, so he felt safe walking a little ways away, just far enough that he could safely throw the bundled up bloody clothes away from them. Going back, he settled down against the harsh bark of the fallen tree. The flashlight was starting to dim, so to conserve what was left of the battery he switched it off. His hearing was slowly starting to come back; he could hear Beth's soft breathing out of his bad side. The moon was a tiny sliver in the sky now, but it was enough light for him to not feel trapped in oppressive darkness. Its rays broke through some of the branches, illuminating shadows and dancing on the blond streaks of hair that peeked out through the blood. It was completely quiet around them, and Daryl almost felt at home, comforted by the sounds of the owls on their nightly hunt.
A/N2: I will not always have author's notes at the end of a story, but I felt that this chapter merited it for a couple of reasons. The first being, I have no idea if what I had Daryl do to Beth was entirely accurate. I have basic first aid knowledge, but sewing up someone in the middle of the woods in the middle of an apocalypse is something beyond the realm of my training. Do not use this as a replacement for sound medical advice.