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The Good, The Bad, & The Broken

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Gunshots. 

Someone laying in a hospital bed is woken by the sounds of yelling, screaming, crying, and gunshots

Scared, they try to get out of bed and fall into a heap of pain. They notice that they're attached to an IV pole and use that to limp their way to the bathroom to try and hide. 

The door to the room is busted open, and the noise from the corridor gets louder before they hear "Clear." 

The person waits until the men sound far away before they slowly open the bathroom door. Noticing the room door is still open, they crawl forward to peek around the edge in the direction of the yelling. They notice what looks like a man in a police uniform pushing a gurney in front of a door while pointing his gun at something before he turns toward their room and starts running. They quickly duck back into their room to avoid being seen and when the cop runs past they look back and see something that is unbelievable. People with bloody and gaping wounds walking with an unnaturalness to them. 

The person rushes to close the door and tries to make as little noise as possible. They grab the pillow from their bed to muffle the sounds of their cries. Looking around the room they notice none of the machines are on and it’s dim, the only light coming from the window that has the blinds opened. 

They limp to the window to see what is outside and nearly collapse again. Bodies covered in sheets are lined up and military vehicles are driving away as people are running around in a panic while other people seem to be attacking them, but they too are moving in that unnatural way as the people in the hall were.

They slowly sink to the floor, sitting underneath the window and try to take stock of the situation. The last thing they remembered was smiling at the news that they were all good to go home in a few hours. 

Who was shooting? What happened between then and now? Where is their family? When did the power go out? Why did that guy block a room?

Calm down. Breathe. Think.

They heard and saw people being gunned down by the military. They had a searing pain coming from their abdomen. They wouldn’t have left without a reason. It’s not completely out, the lights are flickering under the door. And finally, it appears the dead have started walking.

Chapter Text

‘Ok, ok, ok,’ Ace sat below that window in shock for at least an hour judging by the shadows in the room now.

‘Get a hold of yourself Ace. You’ve been in a hospital many times, you’ve been in fights. Life or death, and you haven’t fucking died yet. Get up you pussy, Nobody can kill a Dixon but a Dixon damn it!’

Ace grabs the window ledge and uses it to push herself to standing. Wincing she looks down and moves the hospital gown out of the way to see her abdomen. There is a bandage wrapped around it and she gently lifts the edges to see puckered tiny holes that are lightly bleeding.  

‘What happened, I thought there were no complications?, Damn doctors don’t know shit, where is my chart?’ Looking around Ace notices the folder holder at the base of the hospital bed but it’s empty, and there is nothing on the floor or table. ‘Shit.’ It can only mean it’s at the nurses station. 

She looked at the IV pole and noticed the bag was empty anyway, so she took the needle out gently and held it for a minute. Using the pole to keep her steady, she slowly began pacing the room to regain her balance. ‘Fuck I want my pants.’ Back and forth she went until she could move without stumbling. 

‘Alright, weapon, chart, clothes, maybe not in that order. Lets fucking do this Dixon.’ Leaning against the door Ace listened for any movement, running/walking/shuffling, there’s nothing.

Slowly, they crack the door open and is hit with the stench of blood and death. ‘Fuck, alright don’t vomit Ace, that won’t help the smell any.’ The hum of the fluorescents flickering is the only thing she can hear so far. Looking left where the shooters went she sees dropped bodies and pools of blood. To the right where the cop ran, is less blood, bodies, and the nurses station. Keeping her door open, making note of which room number, she quietly makes her way down using the wall for extra strength. 

There’s bullet holes everywhere. The computers are sparking, papers are all over the floor and she sees the nurses on the ground with bullets in their foreheads. ‘Oh god, what kind of person kills nurses?’  

She looks for the folders that they keep for current patients and sees it tipped onto the floor, ‘Thank you clipboard folders.’ none of the papers are from those folders and she slowly bends down looking for her room number. ‘Come on, come on, 306, 306. 607? What the fuck, someone fucked up their charts, Fuck yeah 306!’ Resisting the urge to raise her arms up in victory, she looks across from the nurses station to see what number room is in front of her and sees that it counted up. So, whatever is in the room that cop blocked would be lower than hers. Grabbing 301-305, she stands back up and places them on the counter when she notices a door behind the station, ‘Locker room, fuck please have clothes.’

She hesitates before grabbing the handle, ‘Are ya fucking insane Ace? Ya trying to die? That it? Ya don’ know what’s behind that door and ya have no weapon, grab something you can swing damn it,’ a voice that sounded so like Merle growled in her head. 

‘Bastard, but a right bastard, not that I’ll ever tell him that.’ There’s nothing swingable at the station, except a stapler ‘too close combat, fuck gotta come back, pants I’m coming back I swear.’ She grabs the folders and looks back to the right to make sure it’s still nothing but dead bodies. The coast is clear and she makes it a little bit faster to her door and closes it. After a second thought, she drags the bedside table to block the door. ‘Fuck that hurt, god what did those bastards do to me.’ Forgoing the bed, for in front of the window for light she slides down the wall again. ‘Alright assholes, what happened?’  

 

Chart for Patient Dixon, Ace 22316609  

Came in for scheduled induction, delivered a healthy baby boy after 12 hours of labor,  presented as no complications, cleared for release after a few hours of rest

Dixon, Baby 22316609a

Requested time to think about names, passed all tests, healthy 6lbs 8oz, 20in; Dad taught how to feed and burp by family counseling

Patient collapsed on way to restroom with noticeable bleeding, rushed into emergency surgery

Hospital told to begin evacuations to Atlanta Safe Zone, family notified that after surgery they will be there, sent them ahead, told them to keep babies’ ID band on for acceptance into the hospital

Emergency Laparoscopic Hysterectomy, only the uterus was removed, scheduled for transfer by helicopter 3 hours after surgery, 2-4 weeks recovery expected, NO HEAVY LIFTING

 

 

Her head hit the wall after reading through her chart. Eyes blurry, “My baby,” she whispered to the empty room. 

“No, no, no, nope, nothing is wrong. My boys are fucking strong, Nothing kills a Dixon but a Dixon.” She scrubs at her eyes to stop the tears and growls, “I swear if they fucking try to name him without me, there will be blood.” 

She turns her head to the other charts and grabs the first one, “Alright, let’s find out if anyone has something I can swing, maybe some crutches or a cane. Fucking no heavy lifting my ass, it’s the end of the world bitches, and I got a family to find.”

She scans the chart, ‘Tonsils, next.’ ‘OD, next.’ ‘Broken femur, well hello, yes! prescribed crutches, save.’ ‘Coma? Shit.’

Taking the time to actually read through room 304’s chart makes her think this is probably the patient the cop was blocking. ‘Gunshot a few weeks ago, coma after surgery, Fluids and pain meds, well shit man, hope you’re still breathing.’

The light was finally fading from the window and Ace was exhausted, physically and mentally. ‘Great, I need to sleep with no one to watch my ass, fuck, ok think.’ Looking at her bed and the barely blocked door was not comforting. ‘Bathroom it is,’ grabbing the sheets and pillow from the bed was a struggle but she managed to drag it all to the floor of the bathroom. She made as much of a nest as possible and settled down facing the door.

‘Better than that time we got caught in a downpour while huntin’ 4 miles out in the woods babe’ This time the voice was all Daryl, and the tears were back. ‘Now now Angel, why ya cryin’ you’re gonna find us in no time, we’re waitin’ on ya, he needs a name babe.’ 

“I’m coming, and you better have my ring asshole.”

She finally settled enough to drift off, with her last thought, ‘See you tomorrow Patient Rick’.  

 

Chapter Text

Her entire body was stiff. Stiff and in pain. It was like she slept with 80 pound sheets. The adrenalin crash from yesterday and her surgery are not a healthy combo. She slowly stretched each limb trying to regain feeling. 

‘Oh god, never again, I’m risking the bed next time.’ She finally makes it to her feet, using the sink for leverage and grimaces into the mirror for the first time since before they came to the hospital. 

There are dark circles surrounding her eyes, and she frowns harder remembering her piercings are back home, ‘My face is so naked, I need my metal.’ Her 3 inches of hair was limp with grease and sweat making the purple look darker and her sides need to be shaved again. ‘Oh right, we went purple because we wanted to be surprised for the birth, oh well.’ Ace tried the faucet and was so happy to see it running, and dunked her head and scrubbed the grime and color out. Flipping back up, she takes a second to appreciate her natural blonde, “And I hate it again, note to self, stop at home before Atlanta, jewelry and all my hair dyes. I am not spending the apocalypse with blonde hair.” 

Looking down to her hands she rubs the tan line where her wedding ring should be. 

 

 

She flashes back to stopping Daryl before they walked out the door to come to the appointment. “D, you gotta take my ring, I’m not leaving it at the house and they said all jewelry would be uncomfortable.”

“Well where am I suppose ta put it? Not like that’s gonna fit my hand babe,” Daryl pointed out, and she just shook her head at her fool of a husband. Took off her leather string necklace and slipped the ring on before wrapping her hands around his neck to clasp it.

“Better not lose either of these baby, or I’ll kick your ass after this kid is out,” she kissed his nose before leaning back.

“I know ya will Angel. Always ready to kick ass and take names, now let’s go meet our kid.” His smile as he looked down at her the biggest she’d seen since their first sonogram. 

 

She’s back in the bathroom and pissed. ‘Wish I could kick those fucking doctors asses. If they weren’t gunned down by the military, assholes separating my family,’ she glances to the patient band that will match her baby and Daryl, “For family.” 

Ace put her ear up against the door and listened. Not hearing anything she slowly pulled the bathroom door open to see the early morning light streaming in to her undisturbed room. ‘Definitely sleeping in the bed tonight.’

Listening to the room door like yesterday, all she can hear still is the hum of the fluorescents, ‘Alright, 303 for crutches hopefully, locker room for pants hopefully and then lets check and see if Patient Rick is still breathing.’

She cracked the door open and thanked her stars that it was clear again and that the smell seemed to have settled, but if it’s anything like when the boys leave a mess after cleaning a kill, it’s gonna come back with a vengeance after a few days.

Despite the appearance of calm, Ace still walked as quietly as possible towards room 303, and nothing was gonna prepare her for what she saw. The door wide open and the patient and what she could only assume was their family, riddled with bullets. She suddenly remembered the male voice yelling clear while she hid. 

She covered her mouth, and shook her head leaning against the doorframe, ‘I am so sorry.’ Ace took note of the crutches by his bed and steeled herself for the new world, ‘Can’t break down yet Dixon, not safe.’

She grabbed both crutches, bowing her head to the man in the bed in silent thanks, and turned back towards her room. She dropped off one for later just in case and made her way slowly back to the nurse’s station and the door for their locker room. 

‘That’s it lil’ sis’, gotcha weapon, now go put some clothes on, this ain’t the time ta be running around with ya tits out.’ Merle’s voice ringing through her head made her pause again, ‘What the hell Merle, you know I have never had tits, even pregnancy wouldn’t make these suckers grow. Oh my god, I need water and food I’m going insane.’ Her eyes grew wide at even thinking a response to the Merle inside her head.

‘Come on now, ya know I just like fuckin’ with ya’ 

Ace shook her head to clear it, ‘Not helping!’ She held the crutch, prepared to swing and turned the handle for the locker room, pushing the door open slowly.


And nothing happened. It was just a small room, with lockers lining the walls with a single bench down the middle. No corners or even a place to change, ‘I guess that explains why the door didn’t have a window,’ she shrugged and went in. There were a few lockers open but none of them even had locks on them, just the lever to push up and open them. ‘Dang, not much privacy for the staff, but lucky me I guess.’ 

‘Alright, someone had to have brought extra clothes, it’s a hospital, accidents happen.’ She went through 8 lockers before finding one that had a duffle bag shoved in it, ‘Oh sweet lord, please be pants, my right arm for a pair of pants.’

The gods must be looking out for her, because whoever the owner of the bag is must have been planning on hitting the gym after their shift. There is a pair of workout leggings, a couple tank tops, a towel, travel size toiletries and deodorant. 

‘Bless you, I hope you are one of the ones that got out. Not exactly my style, but ya know beggars and all.’ She took off the hospital gown and slowly got dressed, being careful of the bandages around her abdomen, ‘Shit, I need to grab shit to change this, fuck man, I’m tired already and I just woke up.’

Ace kept the duffle bag on the bench and continued going through the lockers, tossing things in that she thought could be useful; sharpies, a packet of hair ties, some batteries, ‘Ooo a bunch of Snickers’ , a few more towels, one of those mini flashlights, hand-sanitizer and a packet of baby wipes,  a t-shirt, and an empty water bottle.  

‘Alright, decent haul, now to find the supply room and get some shit or maybe one of those cart things.’ She zipped the bag and put it on her back, picking the crutch back up and looked back into the hall. Coast still clear, she slowly moved further down the hall in the direction the cop had ran. Just before the corner is the supply room, looking into the window she sees the shelves filled with gauze, tape, ace wraps, syringes, IV bags, gloves, etc.

‘Jackpot!’ Before she can grab the handle she hears a noise from around the corner, ‘Shit, celebrated too soon.’ She slowly backed away from the door to her way back to her room to drop off the duffle, but before she could turn around something shuffled her way and she finally saw what was being shot down. 

It had blood splattered all over it’s scrubs and a gaping wound in the neck that had it’s head stuck at a terrible angle. As soon as it noticed Ace, it started gnashing its teeth and reaching for her, getting closer. 

She held in a scream as she swung the crutch with both hands towards it’s head managing to tear it the rest of the way off the body, and nearly collapsed from the pain. She slumped against the wall panting as the body fell to the floor. Adrenaline coursing through her once again is the only thing keeping her upright.

‘Jesus fucking Christ!’

There isn’t any more noise coming from around the corner, but she needed to check before the adrenaline wipes her out again, and sees fully dead bodies lining the corridor along with bloody gurneys. Turning back she looks down to the now decapitated head of whatever the hell that was. She noticed it’s eyes were clouded over almost like cataracts and it was an unnatural pale. 

Ace poked it with the end of the crutch and it started biting at the air again.

Releasing the scream from earlier she smashed it with the crutch until the skull was crushed in. 

Falling to the ground in a heap she was panting again and tears were beginning to blur her vision. ‘Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, what the everloving fuck!’ 

‘Can’t break down just yet lil’ sis, ya fucked up your wounds, gotta fix ‘em up, not safe in the hallways,’ Merle was back and right again, her abdomen was on fire and she could feel blood leaking past the edges of the gauze. 

Using the crutch for its intended purpose this time, she gets back up and grabs the door handle only for it to not turn. Hitting her head against the window, she tries not to scream again from frustration. ‘Fucking knew my luck would run out.’ She limped her way back to the nurses station to try and find either the keys or a paperclip. 

After a quick scan revealing no keys, she looks at all the papers on the ground and nearly cries with relief at the little container of paperclips that must of gotten knocked off the desk during the gunfire. ‘Into the duffle with you my beauties.’ And she limps back to the door, kneeling down to drop the bag and reach the keyhole. Picking the lock took a very tense few minutes with her checking the corner every few seconds for an ambush that thankfully didn’t come.

Now inside, she grabbed handfulls of almost everything. She dumped an entire container of the gauze and alcohol wipes into the duffle. She noticed there were suture kits on the very bottom shelf and nabbed a few of those as well. 

Satisfied for the short term, she cautiously made her way back into the hall, quietly closing the door behind her and stepping over the headless corpse. And back to her room with her. 

Closing her door, she used the crutch to jam the door knob in place as a makeshift lock, and set the duffle onto the bed beside her.

Ace grabbed one of the pairs of scissors she grabbed from the room to cut away the gauze and cringed at the damage. What were originally 3 small holes the size of a fingernail, were now torn at the edges from her twisting to attack the walking corpse. ‘Shit, I hate doing my own stitches, and with no alcohol either.’ 

Sighing, she reaches into the duffle for one of the suture kits, gloves, a Snickers, some alcohol wipes and one of the towels. 

Quickly eating the candy bar, she shoved the towel into her mouth and got to work cleaning the blood from the edges of the 3 holes and opening the suture kit to thread the needle. Taking a deep breathe in through her nose she bit down on the towel and shoved the needle through the first hole. 

She clenched her eyes closed, groaning for a few seconds before shaking her head and psyching herself back up, ‘Come on Dixon, you fucking did labor for 12 hours like it was nothing, don’t be a pussy over stitches.’ 

By the time she was done stitching up and rewrapping the gauze around herself, it was a little afternoon by the shadows from the window. 

‘Alright, okay. Shit, I need to keep track of days, chart said 2-4 weeks from surgery, my doc said 4-6 weeks from the labor, and stitches are 1-2 weeks. Fuck, I am gonna punch someone before the time is up. I hate waiting.’ Ace sat on the bed just staring at the window, trying to think of the best way to keep track, before she looked down at the tattoo on her right wrist of the roman numerals and remembered the sharpies she grabbed from a locker. 

She pulled out the black sharpie and started at the crease of her elbow, writing down ‘May 21st’ above a talley mark, because that was the day her baby was born and so that was the same day as her surgery. ‘Okay, I woke up that same day to the gunshots, so this is day 2,’ grabbing a red sharpie next, she added a second talley and wrote underneath it ‘Stitched’.

‘Gonna have to work.’ She put the sharpies into the pocket of the leggings and grabbed the water bottle from the duffle, ‘Tap water sucks but at least it’s clean,’ she walked into the bathroom and drained the bottle twice before closing it up and going back to the bed.

‘Alright, Patient Rick, sorry for the detour, I’m coming and you better still be breathing, that cop had to have a reason for blocking your door.’ She got back up and listened at the door once again hearing nothing but the hum. 

Grabbing her crutch, she opened the door looking both ways before making her way down to the gurney. She pushed it so it was still blocking one side of the hallway for some kind of protection before lifting the crutch prepared to swing again at whatever is behind the door.

The same afternoon light is pouring in and the machines are all off as well, there are some flowers at the bedside and a man lying motionless on the bed. ‘Fuck, he’s so still,’ she crept forward slowly, with the end of the crutch pointed at him, finally close enough to jab at his leg with it. 

Nothing.

‘Shit, man is he dead?’ She got closer to his head and couldn’t really tell if his chest was rising or not, she reached her hand forward and held it up to his nose holding her own breath. 

The faintest puff of air hit her palm, ‘Holy shit, he’s still in there.’ Ace looked at him better from up close, he looked like crap. Pale, but not like the corpse, she noticed the sweat on his brow and that his IV was practically dry it was so empty. ‘Right he was supposed to be getting fluids and pain meds, gunshot wounds hurt like a right mother,’ remembering that there were those bags back in the supply room she hissed, “Fuck me, you better be worth it.”


*Back to May 21st*


 

She had just collapsed. Blood was running down her legs and she wasn’t responding. 

“Ace! Fuck! Somebody help, get your ass in here she’s bleeding!” Daryl was yelling from the floor where he had caught her when she fainted. Merle was taking his turn holding his nephew when she said she needed to go to the bathroom. 

Now they were waiting in the room, after they took her away, and he didn’t know what was happening. He was crouched close to the floor with his hands on his head while Merle kept glancing between him and the baby in the car seat they had brought for the drive home. 

“It’s gonna be okay baby brother, the lil’ Demon ain’t done with this world yet. She’s got more hell to raise with ya lil’ one here.” Merle tried to get Daryl out of his head and focused. 

Just then a doctor finally came back into the room, “Mr. Dixon? It appears part of her uterus ripped during labor, this is rare but can sometimes happen after inducing. They rushed her in for an emergency hysterectomy, we are very sorry.” 

“Fuckin’ docs why didn’t y’all mention that ‘fore ya did it?” Merle growled getting up into the doctors face.

“Merle! Back off, ya know we had ta induce, her body wasn’t making the right chemicals or whatever, fuck!” It took everything in him not to punch a hole through the hospital wall. Looking down to the car seat where his son was somehow still asleep despite his Uncle and Dad yelling up a storm, ‘He’s a Dixon alright, shit, gonna be our only one.’ Even though he had been a surprise in the first place despite all their precautions, they had loved him from the first pee stick. 

“Also,” Daryl whipped his head back to the doctor when he started talking again, “The government has ordered us to begin evacuating the hospital due to the virus that I’m sure you have seen in the news. All surgeries are allowed to continue and once she is out, she is on the short list to be helicoptered over to the Atlanta safe zone, I know you don’t want to leave her behind, but we are sending your info over right after I get done in here, so long as you keep the babies’ and your own medical bands on, and have your ID with you, they will let you straight in to wait or meet her.”

Daryl froze, leave without her, he couldn’t, they’ve been through everything together, ever since she had followed him into the woods when they were 6. Looking down at his right wrist at his matching roman numeral tattoo, he saw past it to his son. Ace would want him safe above everything else, his Angel would never forgive him if they weren’t there when she wakes back up in the safe zone. 

“Aight, we’ll go, gotta grab all his stuff from the house first, you’re sure everything is okay with him doc?” He asked while crouching and softly touching his little fist curled around the baby blanket the hospital wrapped him in. 

“Yes sir, he passed all the newborn tests, his bloodwork was fine, his weight is healthy and you’ve been taught how to do his formula and burp him. There is no reason for him to stay in the hospital.” 

“Thanks doc, we better get goin’ then Daryl, house is the opposite way from Atlanta.” Merle shook the doctors hand before holding the door for Daryl to walk through holding the car seat. 

They made it down to Daryl’s four-door truck that they had just got a month ago so they would have a backseat, and got him buckled in the way the instructions said, “Meet ya there bro, not leaving my bike behind,” Merle took a second to touch his nephew before walking over to his Triumph, and cranking it up. 

Daryl shook his head looking to his son, “Please don’t be like ya mother and uncle. Bikes are fine but they ain’t the world.” He got into the driver’s seat and fixed his mirrors so he could see behind him and into the backseat, and took off for home. 

They made great time since all the traffic was heading towards Atlanta, and when he got to the driveway he saw that Merle had already got his bike and Ace’s strapped into the trailer they use when going hunting. He turned around and backed up to the hitch shaking his head. 

“Don’t give me that look Darlina, ya know she’d kick my ass if I brought mine and not hers’.”

“I know, I know. Watch him, while I go grab everything.” Daryl made sure Merle was paying attention before heading inside. 

‘Aight, all the fucking formula and water bottles, can’t just use regular water. Cloth diapers, pacifiers, clothes, shit don’t got a lot cuz we didn’t know what he was.’ He brought all the baby stuff out first and set it into the back seat. 

Heading back in, he went to their bedroom and started filling one of the duffles with some of his and her clothes from the closet, looking down to the gun safe drilled into the floor. “Fuck, gotta, people go crazy with this kinda shit,” he unlocked it and filled the other duffle with the handguns, shotgun and all the ammo, picking up his crossbow from his side of the bed he slung it across his shoulders before heading back out. 

Tossing the duffles into the bed of the truck, he spoke to Merle, “Got our stuff, go get yurs.” Merle noticed him gripping the strap of his crossbow and nodded, “Smart baby brother,” before heading back into the house. 

Daryl looked into the back seat and saw his son had woken up and was looking around, “Hey, lil’ man look who’s up, ya hungry?” He grabbed one of the bottles and opened the container of formula, using the scoop like they showed him, he measured it out and opened one of the water bottles to fill it up. He shook it until it was all dissolved and unbuckled him from the seat. Holding his head in the crook of his arm he put the tip near his mouth and he latched right away, “Yeah, that’s right, ya were hungry, eat up lil’ man, gotta get big so you can help protect ya momma. Don’t tell her I said that tho’, she’ll kick my ass. Ya momma is amazing lil’ man, she knocked this fucker out last week at the bar who asked where her tits were to match her belly. Thought she was gonna kill him.” 

He smiled mistily down at his son who was just looking at him almost entranced with his voice, “Don’t ya worry none, we’re gonna go for another drive and then you’ll be back in ya momma’s arms like ya suppose ta be.” 

“Damn Darlina, did ya lose ya balls after he came out? What ya cryin’ for? So she’s back in surgery, nothing keeps our Demon down for long, now let’s go meet her there, I bet I can beat a helicopter ta Atlanta.” Merle appeared from the house, tossing his own duffles into the bed of the truck, before grabbing the tarp to tie it down. 

“Fuck off Merle, ya ain’t drivin’ my truck, especially not with my kid in the back seat.”

“Fuck you! I’d never do nothin’ to hurt the lil’ one and ya damn well know it,” Merle growled throwing a glare back at Daryl. 

“I know ya wouldn’t but you and Ace have no concept of speed limits when ya off ya damn bikes, I’m drivin’ and that’s final. Now, wanna try burping him? I did it back at the hospital.”

Merle looked at him like he was crazy, “Boy ya know I was the one takin’ care of yaself when ya was born, I know how to burp a damn baby, hand him over,” Merle gently took hold of him and placed him next to his shoulder supporting his head as he gently circled his back until a loud belch came out, “Oh yeah, he’s a Dixon alright, that’s my nephew!” Merle grinned as he shifted the baby into his arms, noticing him drifting his eyes closed. 

Daryl had a little smile as he watched his brother with his son, “Didn’t know if ya remembered man, ya were only 9 dude, it’s been awhile.” 

“Shut ya trap, ole’ Uncle Merle has got this, go get the car started,” he started for the car seat to strap him back in and covered him up with the blanket, before getting into the passenger seat. 

“Atlanta prepare yaself, the Dixons are on their way! Whoo!” Merle whooped while smacking his hand on the roof of the truck. Daryl just shook his head, looking into the mirror to see his son fast asleep, ignoring his crazy Uncle. 

It takes them until sunset to finally make it to the exit right outside of Atlanta. The traffic is insane, bumper to bumper and they ain’t even moving. Daryl finally turns the truck off, and Merle hops out of the car. “There’s no way they lettin’ anyone in until it’s light out again, gonna have to camp it out in the car tonight.” 

Merle goes and checks on the trailer to make sure the bikes haven’t shifted while Daryl looks back to see his son starting to scrunch his face up, “No, no, no, shit!” He lets out a piercing wail that causes Daryl to flinch before he rushes to get out of the car to open the back seat and get him out of the car seat. 

He starts to rock him gently, swaying from side to side as he walks in circles around the car, “Shhhh, come on now lil’ man, hush now, it’s okay, we’ll be there in the morning, shhh,” Daryl made 3 laps around the car before he was approached by 2 ladies and a little boy and girl. 

“Is everything okay? Do you need some help?” The brunette looked at the baby in his arms. 

“He just started crying, he was asleep the whole drive, I can’t get him ta stop,” Daryl was beginning to panic, doubting everything Ace had told him about being ready to be a father, how could he be ready when he can’t even make him stop crying.

“Did you try changing him?” The short-haired lady asked with her arms around what he assumes is her daughter. 

Daryl froze, of course, he fed him, burped him, and even remembered to grab the damn diapers but forgot all about having to then change him. 

The brunette smiled a little seeing him freeze in his pacing, “My name’s Lori and this is Carl, why don’t I hold him while you go grab his stuff?” 

Daryl hesitated to release his newborn into the hands of a stranger, but she seemed harmless enough, and she had a kid of her own so she must know what she’s doing, “Aight, but be careful, I can’t let anything happen ta him, his momma will kick my ass,” the ladies gave him a sharp look at his language and he flinched, before mumbling, “Sorry.”

He quickly ran around to the other side of the car and started rifling through for the cloth diapers and wipes, before running back, “Here! Set him on the front seat bench.”

Lori looked at his little wrist and noticed the medical band, “How old is he, where is his mother?” 

“He was born today, my wife collapsed and had ta be rushed ta surgery. They told us she would be transferred ta the safe zone after she got out,” Daryl noticed her looking warily at him in his cut-off vest and ripped jeans, and nearly growled, “I got a matching band ya judgemental bitch, now give me my son,” He gently took him back and set him down onto the seat, “Shhhh, hush now lil’ man, daddy’s gotcha, he’s an idiot but he’s gotcha, come on now stop ya squirming, ya gotta work with me son,” He was struggling to get him to calm down enough to be able to change him without letting him fall off the seat.

“Do you want me to show you how?” A quiet voice asked from behind him and he turned to see the short-haired woman was still there after Lori had stormed off with Carl in tow. “The first time is always a little difficult, I remember how much trouble I had when Sophia here was first born,” She gestured to the little girl that was now hiding behind her mother looking up at him. 

Daryl looked at his son who must have been so uncomfortable and nodded his acceptance of her help. She took over and quietly showed him how to regain control and went through the process of cleaning him up and securing the cloth with the safety pins. He almost immediately calmed back down once he was back in Daryl’s arms afterwards. 

“See, all better, but he will need another bottle now and remember to check that he doesn’t need to be changed again at least once an hour. If you need anymore help, we are in the yellow Cherokee about 5 cars up okay?” She said with a little smile to the bundle in his arms.

“Yeah, thanks, what’s ya name?” he asked while adjusting his hold.

“Carol Peletier, this is Sophia and my husband is Ed, he’s asleep back in the car.” Carol introduced.

“Name’s Daryl Dixon, my brother Merle is somewhere around here and my wife’s Ace.”

“What about this little fella, what’s his name?”

Daryl paused again, ‘Shit, we never decided on one, fuck, I can’t without her.’ He finally spoke, “We didn’t get a chance ta choose, we didn’t know he’d be a he, wanted the surprise ya know? Gotta wait for her, she’d kill me if I picked without her.” 

She smiled and nodded, “That’s fine, no rush on names, not like he can respond to it yet, well good night Daryl, remember if you need any help, I’m here.” and she walked off with her arm around Sophia back towards her car. 

“Damn, gonna have ta borrow him sometime, babies are chick magnets,” Merle’s voice came out of nowhere from behind him, causing him to turn and glare at him.

“Where the hell were ya bastard, I needed ya damn help!” Daryl hissed back at him. 

“Baby brother, ya need ta learn this shit, he’s ya kid, and I wasn’t far, I saw them ladies comin’ ta ya rescue, if they hadn’t ole’ Uncle Merle woulda stepped in.” Merle puffed up like a peacock everytime he used the name Ace had called him after they told him about the pregnancy. 

Daryl just shook his head, “Whatever, just make yaself useful and make a bottle for him please?” 

Merle held one up already prepared with a smug grin.

“Bastard.” 

“Bitch.” 








 

 

Chapter Text

Daryl is woken up to Merle poking his forehead over and over again, he slaps his hand away grumbling, “Knock it off fucker.”

“Up and at ‘em baby brother. I changed the tyke a few hours ago, it’s ya turn now.”

Daryl notices that its beginning daybreak and the cars haven’t moved an inch. “Aight, I’m up, where ya put the used ones at? We gotta figure out how we gonna clean ‘em.”

“Tossed it in a shoppin’ bag I found under the seat and put it in the bed, don’t need ‘em stinkin’ up the car,” Merle got out to go grab the bag while Daryl opened his door and went to the back seat where his son is still asleep sucking on one of the pacifiers. “He’s asleep, why’d ya wake me up?” 

“Because Darlina, babies piss while they sleeping, figured it would be good practice for ya if he wasn’t awake ta wiggle around on ya,” Merle walked back up with the bag and put it onto the road, “Come on now, pick him up and lay him out, I fed him about an hour ago, he’ll be out for a good while.”

Daryl timidly unbuckled the latches, trying to avoid moving the boy before he absolutely had to. Finally picking him up, he froze when he let out a small noise but all he did was shift in Daryl’s arms before resuming sucking on the pacifier still asleep. Looking back at Merle, he glared seeing the man with a shit eating grin trying to hold back laughing at him.

“Ya look like a damn scared rabbit, come on man, ya got this, I’ll stop ya if I see ya fuckin’ it up too bad,” it was a new thing to hear Merle trying to be quiet. Even when they used to go out hunting, Daryl used to have to smack him a few times to stop scaring away all the game. 

He moved towards the front and gently set him back down, noticing that at some point Merle must have changed him into one of the onesies and he looked back at him after staring down at ‘My Uncle is Better Than Yours’, shaking his head he unbuttoned the clasps and got started. 

No amount of gutting and cleaning kills could have prepared him for the smell, he immediately started gagging, but his need to protect his son kept him from backing away from what surely must be toxic. 

Laughing, Merle chimed in, “Oh yeah, ya might wanna hold your breath for the first couple days or so, worst shits a baby can make when they first are out.”

Daryl’s eyes began to water as he looked back at Merle growling, “Jackass,” before taking a deep breath in and turning back to his still fast asleep son. 

He still paused before any motion, and had to verify with Merle that he wasn’t hurting the baby, and after 10 minutes he was finally redressed and swaddled in his blanket. Daryl just held him, gently swaying, and looking down at him with the biggest swell of pride in his chest, this was his son.

“Good job baby brother, knew ya could do it,” Merle said looking at Daryl with almost the same look of pride in his eyes. “Aight, gonna take my turn for some shut eye. Saw a couple helicopters flying back and forth from the city last night, I’m sure Ace was in one a ‘em. She’ll be back in our hair soon enough.”

“Oh shut up, actin’ like ya don’t like her more than me and ya always have,” Daryl scoffed.

“What can I say Darlina? She’s just got more balls than ya,” he laughed while settling down in the front seat, closing his eyes. 

Daryl shook his head and took the moment to look around. He saw families sleeping in their cars and a few pockets of people talking to each other in the middle of the road. He just started walking around the car again, not even noticing that he was slowly and gently bouncing his arms.

“Always such a precious thing to see,” a male voice cuts through Daryl’s aimless pacing. He looks around but none of the people he saw earlier are near him, “Sorry about that, give me a moment to come down.” He looks up and over to the RV that was parked a car away on the right and saw an older man climbing down from the roof. 

“Whatcha want?” Daryl looked at him warily, unconsciously moving his arms so the baby was less visible. 

Holding up his hands in as non-threateningly as possible, the man smiled, “Nothing young man, just saw you with the little cargo, been awhile since I saw a baby, my nephews moved away years ago and I had been traveling for holiday when all this started. Name’s Dale Horvath son, and yourself?” 

He reached his hand forward for Daryl to shake and he looked to his baby and back, having a mini panic about how to keep supporting his head with only one hand, before Dale lightly laughed  and put his hand back down, “First born, saw that same look on my brother’s face.”

Daryl huffed before nodding, “Daryl Dixon, this is my son, don’t gotta name yet, his mom was being transferred to the zone yesterday after giving birth ta him.” 

“Oh wow, congratulations, didn’t realize he was so new,” Dale smiled brightly, “New life, always a good sign for the road ahead. Oh! Give me a moment, I need to go grab something,” He walked back around the RV and was gone for a few minutes. 

Daryl looked to the sleeping bundle in his arms and shook his head, “Maybe Merle is right, ya definitely are a magnet, never talked this much ta total strangers,” he got a screwed up look on his face before looking back down, “Never talk ta strangers, in fact ya grounded already, never goin’ nowhere without one a us with ya.” The baby just continued sleeping peacefully, unaware of his father’s craziness. 

Dale came back around with something in his hands, “Here, I want you to have this, my wife had many hobbies near the end and knitting was one of them. She probably made our nephews 20 baby blankets each by the time they were well past the age of needing them. I almost forgot I had a few stored away.” He held up a small 3 by 3, multicolored knitted blanket. 

“I can’t just take that from ya man, don’t need no charity.”

“Please, I insist, I know for a fact Irma would have kicked my butt silly if she knew I still had them and I didn’t offer the little one something.” Dale folded the blanket back up and set it down on Daryl’s shoulder.

Daryl got a little half smile thinking about Ace and how she would have done the same with him, “My wife would definitely do the same ta me, best damn thing ta ever come in my life, I’ll make sure ta tell her, so she can thank ya as well.” 

“ ‘The greatest thing I have ever done, or will do, is to make you smile for the rest of my days.’ Wives are a splendid thing, I can’t wait to meet her Daryl, you two have a good morning,” and with that he walked back off towards the RV, leaving Daryl a little confused.

He walked back to the car seat and finally buckled him back in, taking the blanket from his shoulder, he gently placed a corner of it over his lap, since it was much too big for his current size. 

Leaving the door slightly cracked, Daryl walked towards the front of the car and leaned against the bumper, pulling out a pack of cigarettes. Him and Ace made a pact to never smoke around the baby, both knowing that after smoking since they were both 16 it was too hard to quit. Lighting the stick, Daryl smirked remembering how fidgety and extra pissed off Ace had been the past 9 months without her nicotine. He started spinning the ring hanging from his neck, ‘Damn it Angel, ya supposed ta be here, can’t do this without ya, I’m gonna end up killin’ Merle.’

He sat there watching the sunrise for a few hours, keeping an ear open for noise from the car, before he figured it was near 10am, and he went back to see his son awake but just quietly sitting there. 

“Hey, look at ya, this gonna be a habit? Cuz ya momma had me convinced it was gonna be crying all the time ‘til ya were older.” Daryl talked to the boy while grabbing a new diaper and making a bottle for after he was changed. 

“Okay lil’ man, ya gonna be good and let me do this or am I gonna have ta wake ya Uncle?” Daryl asked the boy in his arms, who just looked up towards his voice and drooled a little.

Daryl nodded his head, “Aight, let’s do this, I’m ya daddy and I don’t need help.” It still took him a little while, but he did everything Carol and Merle showed him, and because it wasn’t as full the last time he was awake, he wasn’t struggling as much. Daryl got him bundled back up and gave him the bottle. 

“Told ya, ya’d get the hang of it,” Merle spoke from the front seat, sitting up and stretching, letting out a jaw cracking yawn. “They still not letting people in?” He looked out the windshield at all the cars still around. 

“Nah, the only thing moving, is people givin’ up and goin’ over the median, heard a group talkin’ ‘bout walking up and asking,” Daryl nodded towards a group of men a few cars up. 

“As good a plan as any, think I’ll go with ‘em,” Merle got out of the car, and brushed a hand over the baby’s head before making his way towards the group. 

About an hour later, Merle was back and pissed off, “Fuckin’ military douchbags, always thinkin’ they above everybody, fuckin’ remember why I left those jackasses,” he was grumbling as he made his way back to the truck.

“Ya didn’t leave, ya punched ya sergeant dickhead, what’s happening what they say?” 

“Assholes said they at “capacity”, gonna be at least a day ‘til they can make more room, even making people leave the city towards other zones. Told ‘em we had a spot cuz of Ace and they said they didn’t know what I was talkin’ ‘bout and to come back tomorrow. Some douche pulled me away before I could knock the fucker out.” 

Daryl started biting the side of his thumb and looked into the back seat to the sleeping bundle. “We can’t keep him in the car the whole day, it’s just gonna get hotter, where are we gonna go?” 

“You can come with us,” Daryl looked over to see Dale walking back to his RV from the direction of the barricades, “A group of us remember a turn about an exit back for a quarry that was converted to a little camping spot. Got a lake at the bottom and everything.” 

“Well how ‘bout that Darlina, we got the tents back in the trailer, boy gets his first Dixon Camping Trip, and ya can go hunt ya nerves about Ace out ya system,” Merle was all for joining the group that he hasn’t even met yet, and Daryl looked at him suspiciously. 

“Ya sure Dale? People gonna be okay with havin’ a baby around?” 

“Of course son, a couple of the groups have some kids as well. Granted you have the youngest, but who doesn’t love a baby.” Dale smiled back at Daryl. 

Merle claps Dale on the shoulder, “I like you, old man, name’s Merle, the better Dixon brother, we’ll follow behind ya.” and he opens the passenger door, getting in and immediately turning around to talk to his nephew. 

Daryl looked back at Dale grimacing, “I apologize in advance for him, it’s not gonna be easy with him, but I promise to try and keep him contained to wherever our spot is.” 

It took some time for everyone to maneuver and get all the vehicles turned around, but they finally managed to get a small caravan of cars heading towards this quarry. 

Driving up the hill, Daryl notices Carol’s car and Lori standing outside a car with her son and some guy directing cars. There was also a hispanic family with two kids, and several other cars behind his truck. Merle pointed over towards the trees that everyone seemed to be avoiding, “Over there, string up some rope between the trees, got shade and I can set some snares up while ya hunt.”

Daryl nodded, pulled over, and stopped the truck. He hopped out and moved to unbuckle the car seat so he could watch over him while they set up the tent. 

Merle moved to the trailer holding the bikes, and opened up the metal trunk that is built into the tailgate of it, pulling out their big tent and two of the foldable cots. 

Daryl looked at the truck bed where they had the tarp tied down over their duffles, “We could tie it to the trees, grab some sticks and make a canopy outta the tarp.”

“Smart thinkin’ baby brother, get ta climbin’.”  

Daryl pointed down to the car seat, “And just who is gonna watch him?”

“Shit,” Merle looked down at his sleeping nephew puzzled.

Neither brother wanted to leave the baby unattended, even if they would be right next to him. They knew someone had to keep their eyes on him, and it was gonna take both of them to get everything set up. 

“I could ask that Carol lady? She did offer last night if we ever needed help,” Daryl looked over to find where her yellow car ended up, and saw that they seemed to have also chosen a spot further from the rest of the group like the Dixons. 

“Yeah, she seemed like one a the good ones, head on over and I’ll get the tent laid out.” 

Daryl started walking over to their car and noticed the little girl just sitting on a rock looking out at the rest of the people, while Carol seemed to be trying to find something in the trunk. 

Sophia noticed him walking up first and got up to run behind her mother, causing Carol to look up and see him with the car seat. 

“Hey, sorry ta bother ya,” Daryl ducked his head to hide his nerves, “Our tent takes both a us to set it up, but I don’t want no one ta be watchin’ him, and was wonderin’ if ya could maybe just keep him near ya for a few minutes, he’s asleep, and if he wakes up ya can bring him right back ta me.” 

Carol seemed to nervously look towards the woods by her car, before getting an almost defiant look in her eyes and nodding at Daryl saying, “Of course we can, you can set him down next to the rock that Sophia was sitting on. She’ll be my little helper and make sure to let me know if he starts to fuss.”

“Thank ya ma’am.”

“Oh heavens, how old do you think I am.”

Daryl started to stutter and looked from Carol to her short, grey almost white hair and the floor, She gave a small laugh at his flustered appearance before taking the car seat and shooing him back towards Merle. 

He sped-walked back over to their area, shushing Merle when he asked why his face was red. They got the tent set up in probably record time, and got the tarp tied up high enough above the tent to give them a decent sized patch of shade in front of the entrance to their tent. They looked over to Carol and saw two girls kneeling by the car seat talking with Sophia and Carol. 

“Seriously baby brother, don’t be shocked if I borrow him one day,” Merle shook his head, grabbing the cots and walking into the tent to set them up. 

Daryl headed back over to the ladies. They all turned and looked at him, causing him to almost freeze in his tracks wondering what was wrong. 

The older looking blonde used her hand to shield her eyes while looking at him and finally said, “Yep, definitely got his dad’s eyes,” before looking back down to the baby, which Daryl noticed was just looking between all the people around him. 

“When did he wake up, told ya, ya could bring him back,” Daryl reached for the car seat and held it so he could look down at his son’s face, “Hey again lil’ man, ya been good for Ms. Carol?” With all of his attention on the baby, Daryl doesn’t notice the two women looking at the muscles of his arms flexing while holding up the car seat and back to each other. 

“He only just woke up Daryl, and I told you it was no problem to watch him, but he probably needs a diaper and bottle,” Carol told him. 

“Thank ya again,” and he started to walk away before the two blondes stopped him. 

“What’s his name?” 

Daryl turned back around to see it was the younger looking blonde to have asked the question, “Don’t got one yet, his momma just had him yesterday, but she had to stay in the hospital and was going to be helicoptered into the zone sometime yesterday.”

“Oh you were who Dale was telling us about!” The younger girl perked up, “This is my sister Andrea and I’m Amy, we’re staying in the RV with Dale, he saved us from some of the sick people when our car broke down on the way to Atlanta. It was so creepy, they kept trying to bite at us like they said on the news.” 

Daryl nodded, remembering the stories, and how if Ace hadn’t needed to be induced they wouldn’t have been within 20 miles of a hospital. 

“Well, if you need help with him while we are here, feel free to come find me, I’m in school to be a preschool teacher, and I have tons of baby-sitting experience.” She cheerily waved at the baby, before walking off with her sister over to where Dale parked his RV closer to the exit of the quarry. 

Daryl just kept walking back towards the tent shaking his head, “Gettin’ real tired of talking ta people lil’ man, gonna need ya ta step up next time.” 

Walking into the tent, Daryl sees that Merle has already moved their duffle bags in from the truck and is arranging the baby stuff in the center between the two cots. “Hey can ya get a bottle ready while I change him, he woke up while he was over there.”

“Yeah, and here, change the onesie as well,” he tosses a green onesie onto Daryl’s cot, “I’m thinkin’ later we go down ta that lake with some buckets and bring it back up ta boil on a fire to clean all his stuff, gotta wash out the bottles and diapers.”

Daryl grunts in acknowledgement and sets the car seat down and gets the baby out and onto the cot. He takes the onesie off very carefully, scared to pull his arms through the fabric, “Come on Daryl, babies ain’t made a glass, yes ya gotta be gentle but trust me, they bones never more flexible than right now. So long as ya careful with the head and neck, ya can pretty much move ‘em however ya want.” 

“How the hell do ya know all this shit Merle, there’s no way ya just remember all a this from takin’ care a me.”

Merle looked at the ground, mumbling something incoherently.

“Speak up man, what is it?”

“I read all the books Ace bought damn it, ya happy!” Merle growled, moving towards where he put the formula and bottles.

Daryl sat there stunned looking down to his son. He knew Merle had gotten clean for the pregnancy, but actually taking the time and reading the books so he would know how to help take care and raise him left him speechless. 

He finished getting the clothes on the baby in silence and when Merle brought the bottle over Daryl grabbed his upper arm and gave him a squeeze. Merle looked at the hand on his arm before grunting and reaching for his nephew to begin feeding him. The silent energy between the two brothers spoke louder than words ever could. 

A loud rumbling was suddenly heard from up above. They looked at each other confused, before heading outside. They saw everyone in camp looking up, and they saw a bunch of jets flying overhead back towards Atlanta.

“Guess they’re bringing in more cavalry?” Someone said, before they saw what was really happening. 

Explosions were climbing towards the sky, all across the cityscape. Plumes of fire and smoke rising from in between the buildings. 

Gasps and screams started ringing around the campsite, but everything started going silent for Daryl. He dropped to his knees, no longer able to hear Merle yelling his name while trying not to jostle the baby in his arms. His vision started tunneling while all he could think was that his son had even less time with his mother than Daryl did with his. The last thing he saw before he blacked out, was her smiling face after they had finished dyeing her hair purple a few days ago. 


 

Ace had just finished closing the supply closet again, turning around back towards Rick’s room with her arms loaded up with IV bags, when she stumbled into the wall. Something in her chest clenched, she didn’t know what happened. As suddenly as it had happened, it was over. She shook her head, standing back up straight, she needs to get back to Rick.



Chapter Text

Ace walked back into Rick’s room and dumped the IV bags onto the bedside table. ‘Alright, let’s see, this looks like it twists off, and this looks like it goes there, what’s this lever?’ She messed with the tubing connected to him until she managed to get the new bag to start flowing into the needle in his arm. 

“Sweet, well, that’s about all I can do for ya Rick, gonna need ya to wake up soon, cuz I am not force feeding you,” ‘Speaking of food,’ She knew she was going to need something besides a few Snickers to eat while she recovers, and decided to look for some vending machines or maybe the cafeteria. 

Picking up her crutch, she looked down at Rick, “Don’t move,” laughing a little to herself she walked back out, closing the door quietly.

Looking at the signs that are splattered with blood on the walls opposite his room, she sees that the cafeteria is to her left, where all the blood and bodies are visibly scattered around the floor. Sighing, she pulls the gurney back in front of the door and slowly makes her way down the hall.

Reaching the turn, she nearly gags at the sight. Military and hospital workers lay everywhere, blood and viscera on the walls and floor, puddles of blood, and ripped off limbs all down the hall leading up to a set of double doors and another turn. 

There would be no way for Ace to navigate the floor without slipping or stepping on someone, looking down to her still bare feet, she grimaces. She hadn’t found any shoes in the locker room, and she looks at the nearest body. A man in a bullet proof vest and a rifle in his hands, with half of his face eaten off. ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck. Damn it, don’t feel bad, he probably helped shoot Crutches’ family.’

Steeling herself, she knelt down and began untying his combat boots. They were the same kind that Merle brought back from basic that she had stolen from him, and so he had bought her, her own pair. They were a little big, but they will get the job done. 

Grabbing his gun as well, she checked the magazine and noticed he still had a few shots left and swung it over her back. As she slowly made her way down, she checked every magazine for ammo, by the time she reached the double doors she had about 15 magazines with random amounts of bullets left in them. 

Looking at the doors, she noticed they were closed with a pad lock and chains along with a piece of 2x4, looking up she saw that this was the cafeteria, but why was it locked up? Getting closer, she could hear something coming from inside. Getting closer to the door, she could see that there was a slight crack in the door and saw hundreds of people just standing inside. And to her horror she saw that they were all the same sickly pale as the thing that attacked her. 

She slowly backed away, looking around, she found the vending machines just around the bend, but her arms were full with her magazines and the crutch, deciding the food can wait another day, she turned to head back but paused. What if there were other people that pass through and try to get in to the cafeteria? Internally groaning, she looked back at the doors, trying to think of how to make it clear to stay away and against everything her mind was screaming at her, she dropped down and stuck her hand into a puddle of blood.

It was sticky, but because there was so much, it hadn’t fully dried yet, and she began to write. After several dunks back into the blood she had finished the message, looking back at it she frowned. ‘Damnit, why did I write it like that?’ She had written DONT OPEN DEAD INSIDE, but seeing it once it was done made it seem like it says DONT DEAD OPEN INSIDE, ‘Fuck it, I blame the pain, if some dickhead doesn’t get the message then Darwin Award for them.’

She made her way back to her room, leaving the gurney in front of Rick’s door for the night and closed her door jamming the crutch in the handle. Dropping the magazines on her bed, she opened up the pack of baby wipes she got from the lockers and went to the sink to scrub her hand of the blood. When she finally got all the red off, she used some of the hand sanitizer, and sat down on the bed. 

Taking a moment to just breathe, she thought about her family and what Daryl might do when he realizes they never transferred her. She knows Merle will probably try to kick someone’s ass, but her Daryl, oh her sweet Daryl. He was always the softer of the three. The most reluctant to start a fight, but the first to have her back when someone tried to start shit not knowing who she was.  

Ace rubbed her tan line where she would usually spin her ring, ‘Just keep it together baby, don’t kill each other, I’ll be there soon.’  

She spent the next half hour emptying all the magazines and putting all the bullets into one. She ended up with an almost full mag of 30 bullets. Nodding at her new weapon, she set it down on the table and went to grab her blankets from the bathroom floor. 

Settling down on the bed to crash for the night, she thought about what she was gonna do tomorrow. ‘Change Patient Rick’s IV again, pick the locks on the vending machines, maybe try and find a linen closet or something for some scrubs if he wakes up, maybe find the pharmacy or something for some painkillers, cuz ow,’ and she drifted off with thoughts of raiding.  


  

‘Ugh, bed didn’t help, it’s just gonna be like this for awhile I guess,’ Ace woke up in pain again, not as bad as after the floor, but not much better. 

Stiffly sitting up, she grabbed the water bottle and drained it. Groaning as she stretched, she moved towards the bathroom to do her business and refill the bottle. 

Getting back to the room she looks out the window to see the first rays of sunrise and looks to the talleys on her arm, grabbing the black sharpie out from her pocket, she adds a third.

Pulling the duffle up onto the bed, she grabbed another Snickers bar out, ‘Never thought I could be sick of chocolate, but damn do I need something different,’ and a few of her paperclips. Looking around her room for a second she goes and grabs the trash can from the corner. Thankfully it was empty, so she grabbed the bag from it for her eventual vending machine plunders. 

Swinging the rifle onto her back, she gets up to listen at the door. Hearing nothing, she grabs the crutch, and makes her way back down the bloody hallway. Nothing has changed, and the doors appear to be undisturbed. 

She was surprised to see the soda machine was still on, nearly drooling, remembering that it’s been 9 months since her last soda because she wasn’t allowed caffeine, planning to come back for the sodas, she got to work picking the lock on the junk food machine. Thanking Merle in her head for teaching her and Daryl how to, back when they were teenagers. She filled the trash bag with every chip, treat, candy, and gum that the machine had in it’s rows. 

Satisfied with her food haul, she gave one last parting glance to the soda machine, giving it a silent promise to return, she headed back to her room. 

After eating a bag of chips and some gummy snacks, Ace grabbed some gauze, scissors, tape, alcohol wipes, and one of her towels. And made her way back into Rick’s room since there is more light coming in. 

She changed his IV bag and noticed he was sweating again. She used the towel to wipe his forehead off, and talked to him, “Hey man, I know you don’t know me, and hell you probably can’t even hear me right now, but hey. My name’s Ace, and the world has gone to shit, but I’m trying to help you. I read your chart man, and I feel for ya man, gunshots suck, granted mine was in my arm, but still, that fire as it tears through,” She winces in memory, “I don’t know much in ways of medical shit, but I do know that stitches gotta be watched, so, forewarning, I am a married lady so I’m not trying to see nothing. But I gotta check ya side man, ya sweating and I don’t know if you got an infection or something, because I don’t have any antibiotics, or even have a way to give ya any if you needed them, and I think I may need to find something else to eat because I might be having a sugar rush,” Ace felt ridiculous rambling on and on, but talking was helping her nerves with being alone for the last couple days. 

Finally deciding to just bite the bullet, no pun intended, she moved his hospital gown away from his side to see a bloody bandage similar to what was on her yesterday, but more towards his hip than belly. 

She grabbed her scissors and removed the bandage to see stitches that were probably a week old already and saw that the edges were starting to turn a little red. “Shit, man, yeah I think it’s infected or damn near close, this is gonna hurt man, but I gotta clean it at least somewhat, and maybe let it air? Don’t know how old your last bandage was, fuck.” She opened the alcohol wipes and cleaned around the edges, slowly getting closer to the actual redness, apologizing even though he hadn’t moved a muscle beyond his very shallow breaths. 

“Okay, Rick, that is about all I can do for you, I’m gonna cover this back up just incase ya decide to roll over or whatever your body decides when it’s in a coma,” She put a clean square of gauze and taped the edges down. “I’ll be back later okay, I’m gonna go explore some more, and work off this sugar rush.” She closed up his door and blocked it with the gurney again. 

 


 *From the POV of a bed*


 

A little boy is sitting next to the bed, “Hi dad, mom says you got hurt catching the bad guys, but that you’re getting better. My class made get well cards for the last day of school, but mom made me leave them at home. ” 

Everything fades out. 

A woman is now sitting next to the bed, “You need to get better Rick, I’m not ready to be a widow damnit, I love you.”

It fades again.

A man is standing above the bed holding a vase of flowers, “Hey bud, we’re still here, I know I say it every time I come, but we’re still waiting on you. The ladies over in dispatch picked out these for you, everyone can’t wait for you to be back. Look I’m gonna put them over on your table alright.”

Fades.

“ My name’s Ace, and the world has gone to shit, but I’m trying to help you….This is gonna hurt man….I’ll be back later.”

Fades.


 

Ace stood in the hallway for a few minutes, trying to think of what to do next, and looked warily back towards the supply room where the corpse that attacked her still lays. ‘Gotta start searching further.’ Sighing she picks up her crutch and starts heading down the hall shaking her head, ‘Doubt the manufacturers ever had this in mind for their product.’ 

Reaching the corner, she looks down to see that nothing has changed. Bodies are still on the floor with bullet holes in their heads and several patient room doors are wide open. Some of the lights are out down this hall giving it a creepier vibe you wouldn’t think was possible with dead people lining the walls. But trudge on she did. 

Every open door was cautiously looked into, and she didn’t pause until she found a closed door near the entrance to the stairwell that was marked ‘Linen’. Trying the handle, she found it locked just like the supply closet and got to work picking it. Now inside, she found extra pillows, blankets, sheets, towels, and even scrubs. ‘Yay, Patient Rick can cover his shame when he wakes up,’ she let out a little breath laugh through her nose, and used one of the sheets as a makeshift bag, piling a little of everything in and started back for the room.

Dropping the stuff off in her room, she decided to hang out in Rick’s room until nightfall so she could change his IV before going to sleep. Grabbing some snacks, and her water bottle, she made her way over, making sure to pull the gurney to block the door before closing it and jamming the crutch in the handle. 

Moving his chair out of the corner of the room to the foot of his bed, she propped her feet next to his and moved the rifle to her side leaning back in the chair. 

“Told ya I’d be back Rick. Still don’t know where the meds are, but I am not going any deeper in this hell hole until I can move a little faster ya know? So looks like me and you are just gonna have to tough it out. Though just between you and me, I’ll admit, it really fucking hurts, oh wait you don’t even know anything about me or what’s happened. Well shit man, buckle up,” Ace spent the next couple hours talking about how she had went through 12 hours of labor with no pain meds, and then an emergency surgery, just to wake up to the end of the world. She told him all about waking up to the shooting, killing the thing that attacked her, and scavenging for the stuff to fix them both up. 

“But ya know what the worst part of it all is Rick? The death and killing I can get over...The worst part, is my baby is out there. My baby, who I don’t even know if he got my eyes or Daryl’s because he hadn’t opened them, my baby who we didn’t even get to name yet, and I swear if he let’s his brother fucking name him I might gut the pair of them.” Ace finally let a few tears of frustration fall that she had been holding back for the last 3 days. She had her head tilted back, staring at the ceiling while popping Skittles into her mouth. 

“I doubt they would risk that,” a gravelly voice suddenly came from the bed, causing Ace to yelp and nearly fall from the chair.

“Holy shit!” 

“Careful, from the sounds of it, you don’t need to hurt yourself anymore,” Rick had his eyes open and for the first time got a glimpse of the owner of the voice that has been non-stop talking, and she was a tiny pale little thing. Wide light brown eyes staring at him, short blonde hair with the sides shaved down. He could see several tattoos on her arms and the side of her neck, and she was wearing something he think’s Lori would wear going to the gym. 

“Did you just talk, are you really awake or have I finally gone insane?”

“Water?”

“Shit! Yeah, here, careful, don’t go too fast, I’m not exactly sure how long you been out,” She got up, and helped him drink from the water bottle. 

After he drained the bottle she asked, “How much of that did you hear?” 

“I think all of it? Where is Shane, he brought the flowe..” he trailed off looking to the side table and seeing the dried up flowers. 

“Is he a cop with black hair? Cuz if so, he’s the one that blocked your door 3 days ago, that’s when I woke up. You were so still when I got to you, he probably thought you were dead.” 

“Lori, Carl, he would’ve went to them, I need to get home, I need to find them,” Rick started trying to get out of bed and Ace struggled to calm him down.

“Dude, dude, stop you’re just gonna fall over! Listen to me! You aren’t the only one trying to get back to your family jackass, but we are no use to them if we hurt ourselves further.” She managed to get his attention before he tried to stand, now sitting on the edge of the bed. 

“I don’t know exactly how long you’ve been off your feet, but I can tell you that even I had to take it slow at first. Here, use the crutch to lean on at first, and do slow fucking steps man. I ain’t trying to figure out how to make a cast if you break a leg asshole.” 

Getting the crutch from the door handle, she brought it to him and he cautiously stood up on wobbly legs. He took a few steps while she moved his IV pole with him in the direction of the window she noticed, “Hey man you probably don’t wanna see that just yet, ya just woke up.” He ignored her and kept going, pulling the blinds up when he reached them. 

He was horrified by what he saw. There were hundreds of bodies covered with sheets in the little area sectioned off of this side of the hospital, “I think they tried to contain it at first, whatever it is. But they must a got orders from someone or they gave up, because they just shot everyone from what I can tell. There are patients still in their rooms with bullet holes, and there was still some staff at the station. I don’t know if you were awake for the news coverage about it, but I think it’s some kind of virus? They said it was like rabies, makin’ people act crazy and want to bite ya. I’m starting to think they lied.” 

“I vaguely remember them mentioning it being in other states, but that the CDC was working on a vaccine or something. What day is it?” Rick whispered, still looking at the death down below. 

“Best guess? At least May 23rd. My son was born on the 21st, see?” She showed him her arm where she is keeping track of the days. 

“It’s been a month, The last full thing I remember was driving with Shane to a call at a roadblock. What Carl said makes sense now, I remember him telling me about his last day of school.” He finally looked away and made his way back to the bed slumping down.

“Listen man, I get it, I wanted to get out a here the minute it quieted down, but we gotta think logically about this. Both of us are injured, no means of transportation, hell the only reason I got a real weapon is because whatever those things are killed the men with guns. It’s also about to be night again, and I don’t know about you, but I have no plans for walking back to my county in the dark.” Ace took a seat back in the chair. 

“You haven’t seen those things up close, I can show you tomorrow, and you will see that it’s not safe to be alone anymore. How about this, I promise to help you get back to your son if you help me do the same? Deal?” She held out her left hand for him to shake and he looked down at the bloody crutch, the rifle strapped to her side, and reached forward and shook on it. 

Noticing the little spade and letter A on her wrist, he looked closer to the tattoo on her neck and saw it was a larger spade right below her left ear. “What county are you from? I know this hospital intersects with two others besides King.”

“Bartlow, why?” She was looking down to where she placed the rest of her snacks.

“Needed to be sure of something. There a reason you got known gang tattoos?” 

She looked up suddenly, and saw him giving her a pointed look, “Now Patient Rick, gang is such a harsh word. We are merely a group of individuals enthusiastic about motorcycles. Society deemed us dangerous, but guess what, society’s collapsed. How’d ya recognize ‘em, we never did business in King?” She handed him one of her honey buns, before getting back up to go refill the water bottle.

“BCPD sent over files on the group, they never knew much about the motorcycle club, just that the spade was their symbol, but figured the surrounding counties should be aware.” He opened the snack, and devoured it in 3 bites. 

“Well don’t ya know, A Spade beats a Club anyday . You gonna arrest me? I promise I have a permit for this firearm,” She smirked gesturing to the rifle while taking a drink of water. 

He snorted, but then somberly looked down to his lap, “From the looks of outside, I don’t even know if there is a police anymore. Besides, like you said, not safe to be alone.” 

Ace frowned at his sad tone, “So! Let’s get to know each other then, I’ve been going crazy talking to myself, we still got about an hour of light, tell me about your son?”

Rick got a smile on his face, “Carl is 10 and he just finished fifth grade, he was so excited to start middle school. Likes stealing my hat to play cops and robbers with his friends.” 

Listening to Rick talk about his son makes Ace put a hand to her flat stomach and nearly start crying. Rick notices how quiet she became and looked over, “Hey, I’m gonna get you back to your son okay, both have people looking out for them, they are fine.”

“I know Rick,” she gave him a watery smile before getting up, “Goodnight, I’ll bring you some scrubs tomorrow morning okay? Keep the water bottle and crutch. Hey what size boot do you wear?” 

“12 why?”

“Sweet dreams Ricky, I’ll do a special knock so ya know its me,” she sent him a wink before closing his door and headed back to her room. 

Closing her door now, Ace shook her head to get rid of the negative thoughts, ‘Daryl and Merle can handle themselves, hell they’re the ones that taught me everything. Merle is gonna get a kick out a me teaming up with a cop.’ She snorts, and grabs the second crutch to jam her handle, before laying down on her bed with her hands on her stomach, “Sweet dreams baby, I doubt ya daddy is gonna sing the lullabies, but I’ll be there soon, I promise.” 


 

‘I’m starting to think it might be me,’ Ace woke up stiff once again. ‘I swear it wasn’t this bad even while pregnant, maybe my body just isn’t used to being almost back to normal. Can’t wait ‘til I can sleep on my stomach again.’

Moving around in the early light of morning was a little difficult, but she has stuff to do. Marking another talley off, she starts piling everything back into the duffle bag. Filled with junk food as well as medical supplies now, she keeps a pair of the scrubs out and picks up her rifle and heads to the door. Listening first, she opens the door and makes her way towards Rick’s room. She places all the stuff onto the gurney and carries on down the hall towards the cafeteria with the rifle held up. Stopping at one of the military bodies, she unlaces his boots and sees they are actually her size. Which is excellent since she was already wearing a size 12, so she can just swap them out and give that pair to Rick. She grabs one of the guns as well and heads back to the gurney putting the stuff down and turning right back around. With the trash bag in her hands she gleefully makes her way to the soda machine. 

Back at Rick’s door, she performs the special knock to the tune of ‘Shave and a hair cut’, and waited. 

From the other side of the door, Rick gives it a look of exasperation when it doesn’t immediately open after the knock, before sighing and knocking twice on the table. 

Ace swings the door open with a shit eating grin, “Morning Officer Friendly, did ya sleep well?”

He looked down at her like she was crazy as she wheeled the gurney in, “Not particularly.”

“Understandable. Everything still hurts for me as well. Welp, brought ya some clothes and I even have some baby wipes so you can clean yourself up. Also got you a present, it’s a gun!” She smiled brightly holding up the rifle. “Gonna have to share bullets though buddy, cuz I already scavenged what they had left and I don’t even have a full mag.” She passed him the scrubs and baby wipes before sitting down to switch the boots. 

“Shake a leg Rick, only so many daylight hours and I want to go to my house at some point too.” She pointed towards his bathroom while getting up and opening one of the cans of soda she pilfered. 

“Do you really need the caffeine? You seem to be awake enough as it is.” Rick said while limping to the bathroom. 

“Rick, I only have a few vices in this world, and I have been deprived of all of them for the past 10 months. Kindly fuck off.” 

Draining the can within minutes, Ace began filling up Rick’s magazine with half of the bullets from her gun. “Before I got pregnant, I used to get low blood sugar really easy, docs never said it was diabetes so we never worried about it, but my brother-in-law used to carry around a ziplock bag just filled with sugar. I never did drugs personally, but it was funny when one of the guys thought it was and snorted it.” Ace started laughing remembering the guys pained face, shrugging she continued, “So I used to drink a lot of soda and smoke a lot of cigarettes, it’s been a very irritating almost year. And now the world has ended, so forgive me if I indulge in what may be our last chance at a cold drink.” 

Rick walks back into the room and grabs two of the sodas, handing her one, he just clinked them and popped the can, downing it as well. 

“Good man.” She grinned, and handed him the loaded rifle. 

“Aight. Now, thankfully, this floor is clear except for the cafeteria that someone blocked up, So if you want a controlled experience seeing what we are up against instead of being ambushed and hurting yourself like moi, that is your best bet.” She grabbed the water bottle and put it in the duffle and swung it up onto her shoulder grunting.

“I can carry that ya know,” Rick said, but she just shook her head.

“Not that I don’t trust ya Ricky, but I’ve been awake longer, so get ya strength back and then we’ll talk. Can ya grab the crutches though, I wanna return ‘em.”

He looked confused, but did as she asked, and followed her to the room next to his and recoiled at the scene. 

“Just set ‘em against the table will ya?” She pointed and bowed her head, “Thank you, they helped me, I wish you peace.” She said to the man on the bed before turning around and setting off down the hall. 

Moving quietly she looked back to make sure Rick was keeping up, and paused to let him take in the sight of all the violence that was left behind. He looked up like he wanted to say something and she just shook her head putting her finger to her lips, pointing to the locked double doors. He crept closer and she noticed there was a noise now coming from inside. The doors were lightly pushed forward and she grabbed the back of his scrub top to keep him from getting any closer. Hands were reaching from between the cracks and growls became louder as the doors pushed against the wood and chains. 

“They must be able to tell there are more out here. They didn’t seem to react to just me,” Ace whispered from behind his back. He looked back and down at her terrified. She just nodded and gestured back towards the other way. 

They left that side of the floor quicker than they started, and when they reached the nurses station, he said, “What are those things?”

“I’ve no clue, I don’t even know if they are dead yet, what I do know, is that you gotta get their head. See that one? Even though I managed to get it’s head off the body, the head kept biting.” She shivered remembering it coming at her. 

“The stairwell down is that way, you gonna be good or do you need a minute?” 

“I’m good.”

“Aight, let’s do this shit, I have no clue what’s on the other side of that door just so you know,” She pushes open the door and it’s just pitch black, “Well, wasn’t expecting that, I guess the power isn’t prioritized in the stairwells? That makes like no sense, hold this open while I find the flashlight in the bag.”

She pulls out the flashlight she raided earlier and clicked it on, “Not the brightest, but better than nothing,” shrugging she takes off down the stairs. 

They reach the bottom with no trouble and brace themselves. The sun was blinding after being in the dark and they both shielded their eyes while gagging at the smell. They came out to the area that was covered with sheet wrapped bodies.

They made it out of the gate and saw abandoned military vehicles, “We should start walking, my neighborhood is a 20 minute drive away so I don’t know how long it will take to walk.” 

Ace turned to look at Rick like he was crazy, “Dude, the parking deck is right there,” and started heading over that way. 

“I don’t know how I feel about hotwiring a car.”

“While it is nice of you to assume I know how to hotwire, which I do but beside the point,” Ace pulls a pair of keys out of her pocket and swings them around her finger, “There were plenty of purses in the locker room Rick, they can’t use ‘em anymore.” 

Rick frowns at that, but begrudgingly agrees with her. 

Arriving at the entrance to the parking deck, he looks down at her and asks, “Now how are we going to know which car those go to?” 

“Easy,” she clicks the lock button on the keys and in the distance they hear a beep, “Your chariot awaits Sleeping Beauty.” and they both start heading towards the beeps, Ace clicking the button every floor. They finally arrive at the right car when they notice a flaw in this plan. 

The creatures were following it as well.

“Shit, shit, shit, get in the car Rick,” Ace hastily unlocks the doors and throws the bag into the backseat and gets behind the wheel. 

They peel out of the parking spot and come face to half-rotten off face with one of them, “Hold on,” And she guns it, running the thing down and starts heading down the garage. 

“Jesus, how was that thing still walking? That couldn’t have been alive.” Rick was looking back, while holding onto the handle above the door. 

“I don’t know Rick, would you like me to stop and ask it? Now, which way to your house?” 

Rick gives her directions, while still clutching the handle, “There is no reason to be going 80!” 

“Now you sound like my husband.” Ace rolled her eyes, but slowed down to about 60, when she noticed something important, “Dammit, we aren’t gonna be getting much further with this ride.” 

They ran out of gas about 2 neighborhoods away from Rick’s house. Bringing the car to a stop in the middle of the street, they look around and notice how empty it is around them. Doors to houses are wide open, only a few cars are in driveways, and there is trash strewn about all down the street. 

They get out of the car grabbing the bag and Ace gestures for Rick to lead the way. They make it to what she assumes is his house by the way he runs in yelling Lori. His door was open like the rest of the houses, and it looked like they left in a hurry. Rick is running around yelling for Lori and Carl, before collapsing onto his floor asking if this was a dream. 

Ace decided to give him a few minutes since this was only his second day of being awake, and decided to see if there was anything Lori might have owned that would fit her. Reaching what she thought was the master bedroom, she noticed a lot of clothes thrown about, and picked up a pair of jeans. Holding them up to herself she scoffed, ‘Don’t know what I was thinking, not many people are as short as me,’ the pant legs fell way past where her feet were at, ‘Just gonna have to wait ‘til we stop at my house.’

She suddenly heard shouting coming from outside, and ran to the window to see Rick on the ground and a little black boy with a shovel yelling for someone, “Fucking Shit, don’t break my cop,” growling she picked up her gun and made her way outside when she heard a gunshot.

She saw that there was now a man holding a gun to Rick’s head asking if he was bit. Ace aimed her rifle at the man before speaking, “Don’t you know better than to point a gun at something you don’t intend to shoot.” The man looked over at her and immediately moved to cover the boy, aiming his pistol at Ace. 

“I swear if ya gave my friend here brain trauma after I spent time getting his ass up, I will not be pleased.” She looked down and noticed Rick had passed out with blood coming from his nose and that there were now some of those things beginning to walk in their direction, “Fucking shit man, help me get him inside, ya fucking knocked him out, don’t let him die, I can’t carry him.” 

“Are either of you bit?” 

“Bit? What the fuck man, no, now will you come over here and help,” Ace was kneeling next to Rick and smacking his cheek to try and rouse him. “Rick, ya just woke up man, it’s not nap time yet!” 

The man finally acted, “Duane keep watch, but you run if they get too close, you hear me? You run.” He tucked the gun into his belt and grabbed Rick into a fireman’s carry before hauling him towards a different house down the street, Ace following behind with her gun aimed at the encroaching bodies. 

When they make it into the house, he places Rick onto a couch before turning around and barricading the door. Ace puts the bag down next to her, kneeling to look at Rick’s head. She checks his nose to make sure nothing was broken, and felt for any swelling. “Come on Ricky, ya lasted this long, ya gonna let a kid take ya out?” She lifted his scrub top to check the bandage and hears a gun be cocked behind her head. 

“Now I know ya ain’t pointing that thing at me.”

“You said you weren’t bit, what’s that bandage for?”

“Move the fucking gun.”

“Answer me.” 

“He was shot awhile ago ya asshole. Jeez, the guy only just woke up from a coma yesterday and ya son probably sent him right back into it!” she growled turning to knock his arm away from her head, before she started searching in the bag for one of the baby wipes to clean away the blood from his face. 

“Gonna have a black eye Rick, but I think ya nose will be okay.” She got him cleaned up before she turned and sat down on the floor in front of the couch and took in the rest of the house. Each window was covered up by a blanket or dark sheet and there were candles lit around the room. 

Wincing, she put her hand to her abdomen, “The only good thing about these damn adrenaline rushes. The pain goes away for a little while, y’all wouldn’t happen to have any pain meds would ya?”

They both looked at her warily, “What happened to you?” 

She put her head back onto the couch and laughed, “Long story, might wanna take a seat, but seriously though, advil, tylenol, hell I’ll take a baby aspirin if ya got it?” and so she told her story once again, to who she learns is Morgan and his son Duane. 

“And so we drove here first since we were already in King County, and mine is further away. Have y’all searched this whole house? Cuz if not, I’m gonna go see what’s left, can I trust ya not to hurt him any further?” She asked gesturing to the unconscious Rick. 

“I’m sorry about hitting him ma’am, you all are the first people we’ve seen since the start.” Duane apologized, looking down to his hands.

Ace smiled and went into her bag grabbing a Rice Crispy Treat, “I understand kid, and hell, it was an excellent hit, just remember to make sure of what ya hitting next time okay?” and she handed him the treat before heading to check out the rest of the house. 

She was rummaging around in the bathroom when she found a bottle of Advil, and nearly wept with joy. Walking back to the rest of them, she sat back down next to Rick, taking out one of her sodas and taking a couple before sighing, “So what about y’all, do you know what’s happening or what those things are?” 

“Call them walkers. You get bit or scratched, the infection gets ahold of you. The fever is what takes you, burns you out. But then, you don’t stay dead.”

“Seen it happen.” Duane says somberly.

“It’s why we’re here. My wife got bit in the frenzy of escaping, had to stop somewhere, thought the fever would pass like the flu.” Morgan looks towards the door upset, before looking back at Ace, “Look, I’m sorry about your friend, but you can’t be too careful anymore. You all both welcome to stay with us in here until you are better, just don’t go firing your guns. I shouldn’t have fired mine earlier, sound draws them closer.” 

“Yeah, we noticed earlier when we got to the car. Thank you, I appreciate it, I don’t see us staying long though, we have our own sons to find.” Ace puts her hand to her stomach.

Morgan sees her motion before gesturing to the chair in the room, “You should be sitting down, you just had a baby and you got stitches of your own, I remember after Jenny had Duane how much pain she was in.” 

Ace smiles at him before shaking her head, “I don’t know if I can just sit still but I’ll try.” 

Rick didn’t wake up until nightfall, while Morgan was cooking and there were candles and lanterns everywhere. 

“Hey Sleeping Beauty, how you feeling?” Ace was knelt next to him again, touching around his head to check the bruise.

“Like I was hit with a shovel.”

“Yeah, am I gonna have ta supervise you from now on? Can’t leave you alone for 2 minutes without ya getting into trouble. How many fingers am I holding up?” She holds her middle finger up and he glares at her saying one. 

She just grins and pats his cheek, “Good, I think ya gonna make it. Can you stand? Food is about done and you have to meet our hosts.” 

“Hosts?”

She just walks around the corner into the dining room where four bowls are set and Morgan is scooping some beans into each. Rick slowly follows her and stands bewildered at the sight, before walking to the window. Just before he can move the curtain Morgan speaks up, “Don’t do that, they will see the light.”

“This is the Drake’s house.” 

“Never met them, like I told Ace, it was empty.” 

They all sit down when Rick starts talking again, “You shot that man.”

“It weren’t no man,” Duane starts, but is interrupted by Morgan, “What the hell was that out of your mouth just now?”

Ace just smiled, stifling a laugh.

“It wasn’t a man.”

“My friend you need glasses, that was a walker.” 

They say grace and eat their meal, Morgan explaining what was going on for Rick, and Ace gave Duane another treat for a dessert before they settled down to go to sleep. 

Duane is nearly asleep when he asks, “Dad, did you ask them?” 

Morgan laughs, “We got a bet going, on how you got shot? He thinks you’re a couple of bank robbers.” 

Ace covers her mouth to keep the loud laugh in, while Rick gives a small smile before replying, “Yep that’s me. Heist gone wrong,” he shakes his head, “Sheriff’s Deputy actua-” he’s cut off by a car alarm loudly going off somewhere outside causing Duane to flinch. 

“Hey, it’s okay, I’m here, one of them must've bumped it again. Just like before, it’s okay. Let’s turn the lights off.” They each grab a lantern and turn them off Morgan going to the window and slowly peeking out. “Same one as last time, blue one down the street, nothing we can do but wait them out.”

“I can fix that in the morning,” Ace pipes up, “Was a part-time mechanic since I was 18.”

“She’s here,” Duane gasps reaching for the window, but Morgan grabs him away, “Don’t look, get back away from the windows, now go.” Duane starts to cry and Morgan tries to comfort him while muffling his cries into a pillow. 

Rick and Ace look to the woman walker that had started coming toward the porch before looking at each other and backing away towards the other two. 

“She died in that room over there. Fever took her, felt like a furnace. I know I should’ve done it, but it’s the mother of my child. I couldn’t, I can’t,” Morgan explains rocking Duane to try and calm him down. 

Ace kneels down and helps try to soothe Duane, “No one should have ta do that to a loved one. I know she wouldn’t want you to. I’m sure she understands, it’s not her anymore, she’s in peace now, whatever this infection is, is what’s walking around like a bad Halloween costume.”

It takes a while but he finally calms down enough to fall asleep. “Thank you, for saying that, trying to help,” Morgan whispers. 

“S’nothing, I know I would never ask my family to do that. Especially not with my baby nearby.” 


 

Morning couldn’t come any faster for Ace. Eager to get back on track for Atlanta. Marking off the fifth talley on her arm making a crosshatch, she caresses the first talley before steeling herself. 

“Aight, plan time people. I’m gonna go deal with your car alarm problem, why don’t y’all teach Ricky here how to deal with those, walkers? Good a name as any I guess.” Ace is searching around the kitchen for anything useful, grabbing one of the knives from the block and shrugging, ‘At least it’s quiet’

The boys are armed with a crowbar, baseball bat and shovel. ‘Dang, maybe I should have kept at least one of the crutches.’

Looking through the peephole Morgan declares that most if not all the walkers had moved on, opening the door quietly. They creep out onto the porch and see that all except one laying against the fence is gone. “Blue one right? Have fun boys,” and she quickly makes her way down the street, dancing past the grabbing hands of the walker. 

She gets to the blue car and looks back seeing Rick take out the walker before bending over probably in pain. She searches the grill of the car and finds the latch to pop the hood. The alarm immediately starts back up again, but she quickly uses the knife to sever the wires connecting to the battery shutting it back up. 

In the silence she hears a groan getting closer and she looks up to see a walker coming towards her because of the sound, and she stands up straight with the knife in her hand waiting. It was probably around a foot taller than her but then again, most people were, so she waited until it got a bit closer before moving to the side and kicking at the knees making it stumble. Once the head was closer to her reach, she jammed the knife into it’s skull getting it stuck since the handle wasn’t meant for that and she lost her grip. 

Looking up again to make sure it was the only one, she noticed all three staring at her in shock with their weapons raised frozen in their attempt to help her. 

Ace smirked, “Gonna have ta be faster than that if ya wanna save the day boys. Close ya mouths, and look alive.” 

Rick is the first to recover, before nodding to her and started walking back towards his house, walking into the door with a purpose, “They are still alive, or they were when they left.” 

“How can you be so sure, look at this place?” Morgan says taking in the abandoned house. 

“They packed clothes, I was upstairs when you shoveled Rick.” Ace mentioned moving towards the fireplace and picking up a fire poker and swinging it a couple times before holding it behind her head with both hands. 

“You know anyone could have come in here and took clothes,” Morgan said, but Rick just shook his head. 

“You see the photos on the walls? Me neither, family pictures, photo albums, who’s stealing those in a time like this?” 

“Photo albums,” Morgan starts laughing lightly, and moves to sit down at the dining table shaking his head, “My wife...Did the same thing. There I am packing for survival and she’s grabbing the baby pictures.” 

“I bet they’re heading for Atlanta,” Duane chimes in. 

“That’s right, the refugee center, they told people to go there before the broadcasts stopped.”

“And that disease place right Dad?”

“The CDC right, said they were working on the cure.” 

Rick nods his head, looking to Ace, “You said Shane blocked my room before running right?” She nods. “Lori’s car is still here, Shane would have took them in his jeep.” Rick heads into the kitchen, coming back in with two sets of keys. “Let’s go see what happened to the station.” 

They stopped to get their guns and bag from the Drake’s house and headed over to the station. It looked as abandoned as the rest of the town. They entered the dark offices, shining their flashlights into every corner. 

Duane saw the sign for the showers and locker room and sighed, “I miss hot showers.” 

Morgan patted his head, “I know buddy, but the gas lines got turned off a while ago. Spent the funds setting up the camps.”

Rick looked thoughtful, “This station has its own propane system though, I wonder if it’s still lit?” 

They all moved to the room and Rick turned one of the stalls on letting the water run for a second. Putting his hand under it, he got a grin, “It’s hot.” 

Ace let the boys go first since she would have to take more time with her stitches. She spent the time looking for the armory. She found a little cage room that was still locked but it looked like half the weapons had been taken. Rick still had the keys so she turned to make her way back to the showers when she saw a shotgun still in there, ‘Oh I’m calling dibs, always loved the dramatic pump of the shotgun.’ 

“Knock knock, boys, it’s my turn. I’m not shy, so you can either look away or get out.” Ace walked into one of the open stalls behind the boys on the bench.

“Duane the changing room is back there.” Rick tells him handing him a pile of clothes. 

Duane starts to walk off before, “What do we say?” Morgan looks at him before he nods his head and looks back to Rick, “Thank you.”

Laughing lightly, and slowly removing the gym clothes Ace hisses when the bandage moves against the stitches. Deciding to keep them on for now, to keep the water from directly spraying onto them she starts up the shower. She scrubs all the sweat and grime from the last couple of days away taking care not to smudge her talleys, and listening to the boys talk about Atlanta and why Morgan hadn’t left yet. 

“There is nothing wrong with taking the moment to grieve if you have the time.” Ace speaks up causing them to look towards her and quickly look back away remembering she was naked. Not before seeing her completely tattooed back with two different wings. One angelic and feathery down her left side and the other demonic and leathery with rips down her right. 

She turned the water off and wrapped a towel around herself, “But don’t let it blind you to what matters now more than ever. Keeping that boy safe. I know y’all pause when you see her body with the rest of ‘em. Don’t. Like I said, she’s at peace, and she wouldn’t want ya hurting for forever. Grieve, man it’s okay, but don’t forget to put the thing that took her down for good. She wouldn’t want to know that she hurt either one of ya.” She put her hand on Morgan’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze before picking up the pile of clothes that Rick had put down for her and moving out to change her bandage and get dressed. 

She comes out dressed in a uniform top and pants that she had to cut, from one of the female cops that Rick worked with, and sees them loading up a duffle with the guns and ammo. “Rick I call dibs on that shotgun! Also we are driving straight to my house dammit, I am not wearing these clothes for longer than I have to.”

They turn and see her little 5 foot stature just radiating hatred. Rick laughs at the sight, “Yes ma’am,” Tossing her the unloaded gun and strap so she can carry it without having to hold it. 

They load up a cruiser while Morgan and Duane take over Lori’s car. Ace says goodbye to Duane, while Rick and Morgan talk. “Keep on swinging kid, gonna have ya teach my boy how to take down a man when he’s your age.” Duane grins, giving the woman a hug, making her pause for a moment, before slowly returning it patting him on the back. “I hope you find your baby ma’am.” 

“Oh lord, go on, get, not nearly old ‘nough for that.”  

Clearing her throat a little bit, she speaks up, “Come on Ricky, we’re losing daylight.” She heads for the driver’s seat and he shakes his head, “Uh no, I am not letting you drive again. You’re a menace.” 

The drive to Bartlow is quick and uneventful, they only stopped when Ace motioned to a gas station for him to pull over to. She got out and returned with an arm-full of empty gas cans. “I refuse to walk to Atlanta, I’m teaching ya how ta siphon after I get my stuff.” 

She directs him to their driveway, off a beaten path surrounded by woods and she smiles, “Smart man my brother, he took my bike.” 

They walk into the house and she immediately notices the things missing. All the baby stuff they had in the living room was gone and the guns Merle had mounted on the walls were taken down. “I’ll be back in a bit, grab the food from the cabinets we should have a bunch a cans. There should be some bags under the sink.”

Walking into her and Daryl’s room she notes the open safe, ‘That’s my man, thinkin’ ahead.’ 

She changes into her army green cargo pants and a black tank top before pulling out her leather motorcycle vest from the closet, ‘ Hello I’ve missed you’ . Going over to her nightstand, she pulls out her jewelry box and starts putting back on all her metal. Her left eyebrow barbell, her black arrow industrial in the left and the two small hoops for both lower ears, and her spiral lip ring for her lower lip on the right. ‘There’s my face’, she looks into the mirror and smirks, ‘Just need my ring and necklace back from Daryl.’ 

She grabs the last duffle that was left behind and packs more of their clothes, before she thinks and checks underneath the bed and pulls out her own crossbow. Daryl had bought it special for her, it was almost identical to his except smaller with a lesser draw weight so she could reload after firing it. Placing the strap over her shoulder she opens her drawer and grabs out the fingerless gloves she wears when they go hunting so she doesn’t cut open her hands from the string and puts them into one of her pockets. She also buckles the quiver with her bolts to her left hip. Nodding she heads into their bathroom, and pulls out her box of hair dye bottles and debates. ‘What color says I’m pissed about the end of the world, tell me where my family is?’ Going with the classic red, she puts on a glove and rubs it into her short hair, and while it’s setting she goes and dumps the bottles into the duffle with her clothes. 

Sitting down on her bed she looks to the small picture frame that sat on her bedside table. It held the picture from the day they had proposed to each other, and then immediately married each other in the next moment. Her and Daryl had both gone to the same guy in the club who worked with metal to make the other their ring without knowing it. He thought it was the funniest thing and told the entire club. They all worked to convince them to propose on the same day in the bar they all hung out in and Merle got ordained online not even 30 minutes later. That was the day she legally became Ace Dixon, leaving behind her awful birth name. It’s why she struggled to come up with the right name for their baby, she didn’t want them to hate it. 

Putting the frame into her duffle, she gets back up and rinses out the excess dye and goes into the living room where Rick is waiting patiently. He is stunned by the transformation she has gone through. “I don’t know what I was expecting.” 

“Well we most definitely make quite the pair Ricky, The Sheriff and the Outlaw. Now let’s go find our families.” She walks out and throws her duffle into the trunk, “They took all our weapons with them, they better still have my hunting knives in with all our camping gear.” She looks into their shed real quick and pulls out a length of tubing and gets back into the cruiser with Rick. 

“Ok, the first safe cars we pass pull over and lets fill these babies up.”

With a bunch of full gas cans and some food, they make their way to highway 85. Rick decides to announce their approach on the CB, but they don’t get a response. 

When they finally make it to the exit right before Atlanta they stop the car in silence. Hundreds if not thousands of burned out cars are on the road coming from the city, and the trains on the other side are tipped over and burned out as well. 

“Rick,” Ace whispers in horror. 

“I don’t think we should drive in. Let’s park it over there and try to cover it up. Go in on foot.” Rick pulls off and gets closer to the trees before turning the car off. 

Rick grabs the bag with the guns, but Ace decides to just take her crossbow and the shotgun, leaving the rest for when they come back. 

They make it into the city and are in complete disbelief. The streets are littered and nothing can be seen. They just wander down streets sort of aimlessly before they finally find what was a kind of abandoned military spot with burned out cars. As they pass a bus, they hear groans start to move from within and they see a couple of walkers begin to notice them. 

“It’s just a couple, nothing we can’t outrun,” Rick says as he ushers Ace further down the street towards a tank of all things. As they continue down the street in silence they suddenly hear the sound of helicopter blades and Rick looks up desperately trying to find it. Spotting something he takes off before Ace can grab him. 

“Rick,” she whisper yells, “Fucking stop are you crazy, you can’t chase it!” She follows him down the street and just when he reaches the turn he freezes causing her to run into his side.

“Why did you stop?” She stumbles back and looks at what he sees, and nearly screams at the wall of walkers that have now seen them. “Fuck!” She grabs his arm and takes off back the way they came. 

As they near the tank they notice even more coming up the street that was just empty and they realize they are surrounded. 

“Oh shit,” Rick whispers. 

One of the walkers grabs the gun bag, knocking Rick onto the ground and causing the strap to rip from his shoulder. Ace quickly fires a bolt into the head of the walker that tried to bite him before yelling, “Crawl Rick! Under the tank quickly!” She makes her way under it first and finds the hatch is open, quickly climbing up. She looks back down hearing gunshots and sees Rick holding the gun to his head whispering something. “Asshole look up!” She yells holding her hand out to him. He quickly climbs in with her panting. 

He’s now sitting next to a dead soldier and she’s sitting with her head in her hands. When the soldier starts growling she looks up and sees Rick put the gun to its head, “Wait-Motherfucker!” The sound of the gunshot rings throughout the tank causing both of them to cover their ears. In his daze Rick crawls to the top hatch and looks out, while Ace lays on the floor in pain. Suddenly he closes the hatch and drops to the ground next to her.

She punches him as hard as she can on his arm, “Asshole!” 

Rick grimaces, “Sorry,” they take a moment to regain their breath and realize how fucked they are. 

When suddenly the radio in the tank crackles to life. “Hey, you…..Dumbasses.....Yeah you in the tank. Y’all cozy?” 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Shh, shh, Hush now lil’ one. It’s gon be okay.” 

Daryl was groggy as hell when he started coming back around. 

“I kno’ ya worried ‘bout ya daddy, but he just needed a nap. Kinda like ya do, so come on, work with ole’ Uncle Merle.” 

Daryl bolted upright when he finally was able to process the cries as his son, “Give ‘im ‘ere.” He gruffed holding his arms out to take the baby. 

“Don’t kno’ if that’s the best thing ta do right now baby brother, we gotta talk ‘bout what went down,” Merle gave him a wary look while gently rocking the crying boy, “Don’t need ya passing out again with ya arms full.” 

“Give me my fucking son. I’ll stay sittin’, just.. Just let me hold ‘im.” Daryl’s voice hitched for a second looking at the sparse blonde hairs of the boys head. 

Merle relented, and knelt down to pass the baby to his brother. The boy almost immediately settled like he recognized the arms of his father.

“Can ya just give us a moment Merle?” Daryl asked keeping his head down and looking into the face of his son. 

“Yeah, I’ll go an start makin’ us some snares, but ya kno’ we gotta talk ‘bout it. She wouldn’t let us jus’ ignore it.” Merle walked out of the tent and zipped it back closed to give him some privacy. 

“Did he wake back up? Is the baby okay?” Andrea and Amy both asked simultaneously. 

Merle just sent them a grin and said, “Now now, don’t be worryin’ ya pretty lil’ heads ‘bout us Dixons.”

“But his wife, he was saying she was in Atlant-” Merle cut Andrea off before she could continue grabbing her arm and pulling her away from the tent. 

“Listen here Sugartits, if you kno’ whats good fer ya, you will not , bring her up to Daryl right now. Probably ever, understand?” Merle angrily whispers to her. 

“Take your hands off of me.” Andrea looked into his face with such anger that he saw Ace for a second back before she cut all her hair off and he swears he could feel the punch she would have given him for acting like that. 

Holding his hands up, he looked as apologetic as he could muster, “It’s not a great time as ya can imagine. Didn’t mean ta be rough wit’ ya.” and he walked off towards the woods to clear his head and set up some snares.

Amy ran up to her and gave her a look of disappointment, “Andrea, what were you thinking? Give them time to grieve, they just lost the mother of that baby.” She started heading back to the RV, dragging Andrea with her. 

Back in the tent, Daryl was as still as a statue taking in the face of his son. He’s got the Dixon blue eyes, but the sparse hair he had was the same blonde that Ace covered up at every chance she could. He got a small watery smile as he gently brushed the hair, “Ya probably woulda helped make her hate it jus’ a lil’ less.” He laughed lightly, “Or she woulda tried to find baby safe hair dye so’s ya could match.” 

Tears were starting to fall from his eyes as he moved the boy to his shoulder to cradle him closer, “I’m so sorry, us Dixons are fucking cursed, I shoulda known. My momma was just gone one day and now yurs is too. Fuck I’m so sorry. She loved you, so fucking much.” 

His vision blurred as the tears just kept pouring, “Shit, I don’t know what we gonna do, but I promise...Fuck, Ace I promise I’ll keep him safe.” Daryl tilted his head back and closed his eyes listening to the soft breathes coming from the sleeping baby on his shoulder. 

Merle came back to the tent an hour later and saw Daryl laying down on his cot with the boy asleep on his bare chest. Merle nodded to him, remembering them talking about doing that skin-to-skin stuff while sitting on the couch feeling for kicks.  

“Got the snares set and tol’ the others to leave ‘em ‘lone. I think that jackass who held me back at the barricades is takin’ control and actin’ like a leader.” 

Daryl just kept staring at the ceiling of the tent, rubbing slow circles on the babies’ back. 

“Shoulda heard some a ‘em bitchin’ and belly achin’ ‘bout staying in a camp. ‘What about the bathroom? What are we gonna eat?’” Merle mocked the others with a higher voice and holding up his pinky like he was sipping from a fancy tea cup. “Actin’ like they didn’t just see the rest of the world givin’ up fixin’ whatever this is.” Merle shook his head moving to sit down on his cot. 

Daryl still hadn’t acknowledged him and it was pissing Merle off.

“Come on Darlina, talk. Yell, scream, fuckin’ hit me if ya need ta, don’t close up on me. Both a ya are the only thing keeping me sane here baby brother.” 

Daryl finally looked over to Merle and saw that his eyes were glassy with the tears he was holding back. Daryl finally got up and moved over to his cot, and transferred the baby to Merle’s arms. 

Putting his shirt back on and grabbing his crossbow he nodded to the boy, “I’m not gonna hit ya. We made promises ta never be like him. We ain’t gonna fuckin’ teach ‘im to be like us. We gotta raise ‘im right. Teach him about her. Never let her look down on us and be ashamed.” 

Merle looked into the sleeping babes face as a drop finally freed itself from his eye, as he huffed a laugh, “More like look up at us, the little demon. So much anger in that small package.”

Daryl got a small smirk on his face as he moved to the entrance of the tent, “Demon s’just an Angel that's finally lived a little. Going hunting, be back with dinner.” 

As soon as Daryl left the tent, he felt eyes watching him. ‘Nosy bastards’ . He ignored everyone, grabbing some string and his knife from the truck and walked deep into the woods. 

As he was walking he made sure to keep an eye out for Merle’s mark to know where he placed his snares. He spots the outline of a spade carved into a tree with the letter K in the center and frowned looking down to his own spade on his left wrist with the J next to it. He rubbed his eyes furiously remembering he will never see the A carved again. And he couldn’t have that. So while he was watching for squirrels he also kept an eye out for big enough sticks. 

He returned to camp with 5 squirrels and an armful of sticks, setting them down outside the tent he looked around the camp, and saw Carol and Sophia sitting in front of a fire with who he guessed is her husband; Lori hugging Carl sitting next to the family with two young kids. He walked over to Carol first and wordlessly held out one of the squirrels.

“Oh, we couldn’t possibly take that from you. We have some cans, it’s alright.” She spoke softly, nervously looking between her husband and the offered animal. 

Daryl squinted at the sudden change in her manner of talking to him before saying, “Got it for y’all, kids need food.” And he pushed it into her hands before walking over to the group fire that the others have started. 

They all looked up at him as he approached with different looks of pity and sadness that he ignored as best he could, holding out two squirrels to Lori and the hispanic lady with the two kids, “For the lil’ ones. I kno’ it’s weird at first, but it tastes a bit like sweet chicken. Kids gotta eat.” 

Lori went a bit green at the thought of eating a squirrel, but the other lady took the offering graciously, “Gracias Señor, my kids and I thank you.” He just waved her off and went back to his tent and started building a fire pit of their own. 

Merle walked out then with the car seat and he saw that he dressed him into the little black onesie that had the skeleton body that Ace loved when she saw it in the store last Halloween, making him pause again and have to rub furiously at his eyes remembering that Ace won’t get to take him for trick or treating or decorate his first Christmas Tree. 

“I know baby brother, thought the same thing when I saw it, but ya know she woulda put him in it first chance she got.” Merle set him down next to Daryl before going over to the truck and pulling out their camp chairs and bringing them over. 

“I know. Got us some squirrel, figure I’ll go looking for more in the morning.” Daryl got the fire started and started cleaning up the squirrels to roast them, all while explaining the process to the baby who was just silently staring in the direction of his voice. 

“What ‘bout the youngin’, they need ta eat more than us just yet,” Merle gruffed from his chair. 

“Already brought ‘em over to ‘em. Gave it to their mommas.” Daryl pointed out the three women to Merle.

“Good man.” 

While the squirrels were cooking, Daryl took two of the bigger sticks he found and started tying them together in the shape of a cross. He used his knife to carve the spade and the letter A in the center of the sticks. Looking around for the best place to plant it, he decided on the bigger tree just on the edge of their little site. 

Walking over to it, he knelt down jamming the stick into the ground, and just sat there for a few minutes with his head bowed. Before holding the ring around his neck up to his lips and kissing it gently, and he moved back over to the fire. 

Merle gave him a shoulder squeeze also getting up to have a moment with the new grave. 

They ate in silence, before Merle decided to try and lighten the mood, “Remember when she first saw us bringing back a rabbit?” 

Daryl quickly looked over and saw Merle with a thousand yard stare into the fire, but he grunted an affirmative with a small smile before he looked back down. 

“Thought she was gonna throw the damn thing a funeral she was cryin’ so much,” Merle laughed shaking his head. 

“We were 7 Merle, ya kno’ she wasn’t allowed outside often. She loved seeing the critters at the edge of the woods by the backyards. You walkin’ out with the damn thing by it’s ears was not a pleasant sight.” Daryl still laughed remembering how she cried about how could they. 

“Changed her tune real quick when it was the only thing available,” Daryl glared at Merle for bringing up that time. Both the worst and best 2 years of Ace’s life. When she finally ran away from home and stayed in the abandoned hunting cabin when they were 16. 

Her family were perfect on the outside to the town, church going, step-dad taking care of the widow’s kid like it’s his own, homeschooling and gymnastics. But to the Dixons, their neighbors, they knew the truth, not that they were able to do anything; dead mom, dead-beat dad, and Merle in and out of juvie. Her trips into the woods with Daryl when her parents were out, were her only moments of freedom.

But she finally got away at 16, and she couldn’t be seen in town since her family labeled her missing and the county was on alert. Daryl still remembers going into the woods after school that day when the police had announced her missing, sure her step-dad had finally done something, and finding her in the cabin they had found when they were younger. 

He dropped out as soon as he was 16 a few weeks later, to start working full-time to save money for them. It’s during that time, they finally started teaching her how to hunt and survive, and Merle taught her how to fix his bike and the old generator that the cabin used. She was tracking and killing like a pro by the time she was finally able to come out of hiding. And could build Merle’s bike from scratch if she ever wanted to. 

Daryl finally got his small smile back remembering, “She may be able ta catch and kill everythin’ but god she still can’t cook for shit.” 

Merle let out a big laugh at that, “Ha! Ya got that right baby brother, still don’t kno’ how she under cooked and burned everything. Got ta the point where I told her ta just prep the damn things, and we’d cook for her when we got there,” Merle shook his head with a large smile on his face, “Only woman I know that should never be in the kitchen.”

Daryl punched his arm and gave him a look while whispering, “Just cuz she gone Merle, don’t mean ya can make those comments.”

Merle got a sad smile and nodded, “Yeah, ya right, knowing her, she’d talk the devil himself into coming back just ta beat my ass.”

Daryl looked down at his son sleeping away in the carseat and nodded, getting up, he picked the carseat up, and took him over to the small grave for a moment. “I know it ain’t nothin’ proper, but it’s what we got. Goodnight Angel.” 

Walking back to the tent entrance he looks back at Merle, “Don’t stay up too late, need ya ta watch ‘im while I hunt in the morning.”

“Don’t ya worry ‘bout me baby brother, get some sleep, g’night lil’ one.” 

 

 

Chapter Text

Daryl woke up to the soft noises coming from the car seat. Looking over he sees him sucking on his fist. 

He gets up and starts making a bottle. Merle is asleep in his cot so he unbuckled the boy and takes him outside, noticing that the sun should be coming up within the next hour or two. 

He brings the boy over to the cross and kneels down while feeding him, “Mornin’ Angel,” he whispered gruffly still rough from sleep. 

“Gonna go huntin’ and check on the snares. Don’t kno’ what the plan is. We got stuff for ‘im, I grabbed everything we had, but I kno’ it won’t last. Gonna figure it out tho baby, I promise.” Daryl whispered to the cross as he burped the boy and noticed he fell back to sleep immediately. 

Walking back into the tent, he put him back into the seat and kicked Merle’s cot to wake him back up. Merle growled out as he kicked back opening his eyes to slits. 

“Goin’ huntin’. I fed him but he fell back ta sleep, ya should be good ta sleep lil longer, just movin’ him closer to ya.” 

Merle just nods, looking over to his nephew before slumping back down eyes closed. 

Daryl shakes his head and leaves. 

Only one of Merle’s snares caught a small size rabbit, but it was better than nothing, so he killed it and reset it, making a notch under the spade so he knows which one has worked. He was probably a mile deep when he came across someone just standing staring at a tree. 

“Hey! The fuck ya doin’?” Daryl calls and stumbles back when the guy turned towards him with half his jaw ripped open and his side was completely covered in blood.

“What the fuck?” 

The man started walking towards him biting at the air and reaching his arms out. 

“Fucking stop!” Daryl raised his crossbow up, aiming for the guys heart, but he just kept walking forwards, forcing Daryl to fire.

Hitting him right where the heart is, didn’t even phase the guy. He just kept getting closer. 

“How?” Daryl was stunned for just a second before quickly reloading his bow and aiming for his head this time, and firing. The guy dropped immediately. 

“Fuck! Like rabies mah ass! Motherfucker,” He creeps closer to the body and kicks the leg to make sure it won’t suddenly get back up. 

He yanks his bolts back out and looks at the guy closer. He sees his eyes are milky, and the side that is all bloody has a rip in the shirt showing a decaying infected looking bite mark. 

Looking at the two bolts he used covered in blood he uses the guys shirt to wipe them off before tucking them into his belt, ‘ Prob not good ta use the same ones for game, damn. Only got so many, gonna have ta boil ‘em later. Wish I had grabbed ya quiver babe, only got the one that attaches to my bow.’ 

Daryl looks around for a little bit and thankfully this seemed to be the only one in the area, so he continues on his hunt. In the back of his mind, he files away the information that it only stopped when he shot the head. 

He only manages to catch a few squirrels to go with the rabbit when he decides to head back to the quarry a couple hours later. 

Coming out of the woods near the entrance road of the camp he sees Dale’s RV set up as the first thing you drive up and see.  Dale is sitting on top of the vehicle in a camping chair with an umbrella attached to the back and he waves to Daryl seeing him emerge from the treeline with his binoculars. 

Daryl ignores him, set on his path to make it back to their tent to check on his son and tell Merle what happened out there. 

He walks up to the sight of Merle boiling water while using his foot to rock the car seat and tying sticks together with some string in between them. 

“Merle, fuckin’ ya won’t believe what happened out there.” 

“See ya chupacabra again?” 

“Fuck off! I know what I saw! No, man fuckin’ the news lied man. Whatever the fuck this is, it ain’t no rabies bullshit. There was someone out there, far out but still he was in the woods, man he came at me with his side all bloody, wouldn’t stop. Shot him in the heart man, didn’t even pause. Kept walkin’ forward biting at the air. His eyes were all clouded up, like Blind ol’ Jenkins man. Fuck man, didn’t stop comin’ ‘til I got him in the head.” Daryl was all worked up, pacing in front of the fire. 

“Daryl, calm down baby brother, ya working up the lil’ one. Don’t need both a ya cryin’,” Merle picks up his nephew to soothe the fussing that started midway through Daryl’s rant. 

With the boy starting to calm down, Merle nodded for Daryl to take his seat, “I kno’ ‘bout the geeks Darlina. Some Chinaman showed up while ya was gone. Came from Atlanta, been there since before the bombs. Told everyone what happened. Riots, and people going down and getting back up just to start eatin’ each other. He apparently was hiding out, good at sneakin’. Said if we let him stay with camp he’d make runs into the city for stuff. People already giving him grocery lists,” Merle shook his head at relying on others to get what they need, Dixons don’t take charity. 

Daryl just sat there for a moment stunned. The world really did end. Looking at the tiny bundle in Merle’s arms he steels himself with even more resolve to keep him safe. 

“Pass him over.”

“Nope. Ya had ta kill one of those things, and ya been huntin’. Grab one of the rags and dip it in the water, clean yaself first. He’s fine. I was makin’ a clothesline for his stuff when ya showed up.” Merle set the boy back into the car seat, soothed for now, and picked up the sticks he was tying earlier. 

Daryl reluctantly nods and goes over to the truck bed to grab one of his red grease rags that they use when fixing the bikes and washes up his arms, remembering to also wipe down his bolts. He wrings it out before shoving it into his back pocket.

They sat in silence as Daryl prepped the rabbit to store in their game cooler for later, and set the squirrels to cook next to the boiling pot. 

“How much water do we got?” Daryl asked looking around for a container.

Merle pointed out their beer cooler in the bed of the truck, “That guy I told ya ‘bout, the one taking up the lead, guy must be some kind a cop, way he walkin’ around with that blown up head a his, figures the world turns to shit and the damn pigs still think they got any power over us just cuz-,” Daryl snapped his fingers to bring his brother back on track, “Right, anyway. He told everyone he was driving down to the lake at the bottom of the quarry to get water into whatever people had. Figured hell, this way I don’t gotta lug the damn thing all that way. Damn shame too, probably the first time that thing ever saw water since we got it.” 

Daryl snorted, remembering all the times they loaded that thing up for their campouts with hard liquor and beer. It was their biggest cooler and they always filled it to the brim. He frowned when the image of Ace grinning while managing to lift the 150 pound cooler claiming best catch gets first pick, but smiled sadly remembering how proud she was walking back into camp with that wild hog over her shoulders, effectively shutting up Merle’s boasting about the beaver he found by the river. 

They cleaned all of the babies clothes, bottles, and diapers, before setting more water to start boiling, planning on using the rabbit for stew. 

Daryl was looking through his bag in the tent when he pulled out the vest he wore when riding Merle’s bike. Seeing the angel wing patches that matched half of Ace’s tattoo made him start to tear up. Roughly scrubbing his eyes, he searches for one of her bandanas and grabs it, bringing both pieces out, he walks over to her cross. He hangs the vest over the arms, and ties the skull mouth bandana around the neck of the cross, just low enough to still see the spade carving.

“What is that?” 

A child’s voice startles Daryl, causing him to whip around, placing his hand onto his knife before he realizes and puts his hand back down.

Carl is next to him holding a long stick that he was dragging in the dirt behind him. 

Looking from the kid to the grave, Daryl felt at a loss of how to explain, but decided to be honest, it’s not his kid to protect.

“Grave, for my wife, died yesterday,” he touched her ring turning back to look at the grave.

“Oh,” Carl got a sad look on his face, and started tearing up, “My dad died too, he was in the hospital, my Uncle Shane came and got us out.”

Daryl just nodded, not really knowing what to say to the kid, when he heard another voice a little ways away yelling, “Carl!”

“I think ya momma’s lookin’ for ya. Shouldn’t wander ‘way from ‘er.”

“Can you make me a cross for my dad for near our tent?” 

Stunned by the wide watery eyes staring innocently up at him, he just nods, causing the kid the smile, “Thanks Mister,” and he runs off towards his yelling mom. 

Daryl shook his head, and turned back towards the firepit to see Merle with a wide grin holding his son to his shoulder. 

“Don’t.”

“Didn’t say nothin’...Mister,” and he started bellowing laughter.