It takes him barely twenty seconds to come to terms with it when it happens. And then he’s back on his feet, leading Siddiq to a safe place to stay. The world needs doctors more than ever.
The bite is raised, painful, still seeping a little as he pulls the fabric of his shirt away from it, wincing where it pulls where the blood has dried.
As he showers away the dirt and the blood, he uses everything he can; the soap that still clings to his hands after using, and the shampoo that despite its age still smells faintly of coconuts. He uses some of the conditioner that Michonne uses, enveloping himself in the different scents.
He cleans and covers the bite, dabbing it with alcohol and covering it with a clean patch.
He’s not sure if the sick feeling is from fear, or the infection.
Judith smells like oranges.
He cuddles her close in the rocking chair, cheek pressed to her hair and caressing her small side as she clings onto him. She plays Patty-Cake with him, her words still not fully-formed, but already becoming articulate. He’s proud of her, for living so long, and for being so brave in the face of all the chaos. She has no idea what is going on, or that the world she lives in has been anything other than the dead eating the living. In a way he envies her; she’ll grow up strong, knowing what to do from the get-go, instead of having to mentally beat out the security of a roof over her head and the safety of having somewhere to settle.
For just a second, everything feels normal. Then Judith tilts her little head upwards, planting tiny lips on his cheek and curling closer, and her elbow digging into the bite below his shirt.
There’s nothing quite like a child to make you remember your own mortality.
One of the hardest letters to write was the one to Enid.
He wondered when he was young whether he would fall in love one day; girls had seemed icky and gross up until he’d realised that he liked the shininess of Sophia’s hair, and her wide eyes, and the way she would play chase with him. He’d briefly wondered a while ago whether he could feel the same sort of feelings for boys; Ron Anderson had been jealous of him and his budding closeness with Enid, but one night he had awoken from a dream of kissing him that hadn’t been entirely unpleasant.
The gun pointed at him that night had reduced that idea to nought, the scarred space where his eye had been the only reminder that Ron had ever existed.
He tells Enid everything he loves about her. He tells her about her vaguely annoying habits, like chewing a lock of her hair when she’s nervous, but then how much he appreciates that she tries to refrain doing it by tying it back. He confesses that she was the person he had wanted to lose his virginity to, and how he wishes that he had wanted them to be a family one day. The names of their children that would never be flow out of the tip of the pen, and the hope that she would fall in love again after he’s gone.
He tells her every tiny secret he thinks is relevant, misspelled and messy and barely legible in his still-childish scrawl. He suddenly doesn’t want to say goodbye all that much more.
He folds the paper, and kisses it. When he pulls back, he coughs into a hand. The spit-diluted blood slipping between his fingers looks especially red now.
His father can’t see it.
He can hear their breath outside the building, Michonne’s staggered as if she’s trying to choke back tears.
He can remember a few times talking to her, when he’d forget for a moment, and accidentally called her ‘mom’. The first time, he had felt so guilty, all the memories of his mother flashing before him. He remembers everything about that day; her eyes closed, her lips parted, gaping hole in her abdomen where Maggie had cut and pulled out Judith’s silent body. He remembers a morbid idea of waiting, just to see if she would really turn into one of them, before squeezing the trigger. He remembers the numbness, and the ache, and the fear that even more people were going to be taken away from him soon.
The second time, it was only half by accident. He’d apologised, but she’d simply hugged him, and told him it was okay. Her hugs were just as wonderful as his mother’s.
He knows she’ll be okay. He knows his dad will be okay. They can live. They can survive.
As his finger curls around the trigger, he smiles.
See you soon, mom.
The shot rings out. He doesn’t hear the echoes.