~~ White walls, white ceilings, white floors, a white coat…that was all that covered the hospital from what anyone could see inside. Doctors and nurses passed by patients and families who had gone through hell. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons gathered as one to wait for a family member they loved; sharing stories of their lives and achievements. Though, one man sat alone. His right arm, shoulder, and head bandages thickly with cotton and small blood splotched visible through the gauze. Merle slouched over his chair in the corner of the waiting room, his guilt rising higher and higher with each passing minute. Why did he have to lose his temper? The damage he had done crushed him and it would crush Daryl. Would he even be able to bare the sight of his brother? Merle thought back to the officer who save him, and most importantly, saved Kayleigh.
“Hello?” a voice trailed off.
Merle could not turn his head to match a face with the voice. Another small groan escaped from his throat in response to show he was still alive. The shrewd sound of banging added to the pounding headache until Merle felt his left side relax and his arm dangle. He realized that the owner of the voice had opened the door. “Sir, help is on the way. Can you talk? Can you move at all?” the voice spoke out again. No response from Merle. Be it his best, he could not respond and his body went limp. No matter how tough a man may be, every man has a limit and this was his.
His sigh caught in his throat once he’d went over what had happened and what he was going to say, before he noticed his brother. Daryl tensely stomped over to him, barely giving Merle enough time to even stand up and explain. He wore his black collared shirt with black slacks, showing he hadn’t even gone home to change once he had heard the news. Daryl expression pushed the limits of being angry and worried. Merle could see the outright fear in Daryl’s eyes, yet the anger boiled over and masked it. Silence lingered heavily within the air and seemed to weigh on everyone who passed. Merle attempted to break the silence, “She’s gonna be alright, baby brother. Don’t you worry.”
Daryl opened his mouth to speak, but froze before he could utter a word. He thought of what to say, how to see Kayleigh, and more importantly, how to deal with Merle. “Is…Is she alright?” Daryl choked out.
“I don’t know. Ain’t nobody told me nothin’.”
Daryl stood straight and took a deep breath. His blood began to boil and if he did not control his anger, things would not go too well with Merle. “What happened?” Daryl questioned his brother.
“What ya goin’ to do, interrogate me?” Merle spat at Daryl, knowing all too well that his mouth would get him into trouble. With a low, dangerous growl Daryl questioned his brother again, teeth clenched as tightly together as possible and his hands already formed into tight fists.
“What…the hell happened?”
Tensions grew between the two brothers and anger built within them both. Merle glanced at his brother and then looked away, avoiding eye contact with Daryl. He refused to speak at this point to save himself from saying something he might regret. His mouth had often gotten him into some serious trouble as well as his short temper. Daryl’s entire body slowly began to tense up until he release the stress he’d put on his body and pushed Merle into the waiting room chairs and onto the floor as hard as he could. “You bastard!! The fuck did you think you were doing!? I bet you were drunk or high, you dumbass!!Is that all you think about, Merle?! Drugs, women, and drinking! Pick your lazy ass up for once and do something right!!” Daryl spat, acid seething in his words.
Merle shot back up, his injuries bursting with sharp pains from the shove, but he managed to stare down his brother in the most threatening way possible, and threw a punch at Daryl. It was enough to knock Daryl to the ground. Merle had snapped the minute Daryl pushed him and now he was ready to fight. Doctors and nurses became alarmed at the sudden fight that had broken out and began moving people away from the Dixon brothers. Daryl stood and lunged at his older brother, tackling Merle down to the ground and began punching him repeatedly. The blows Daryl inflicted upon Merle’s face had caused the wound on his forehead to reopen and the bandages had fallen off. His nose started to bleed heavily and his lip busted. Merle began to fight back and wrapped his hands around his little brother’s throat, beginning to choke him.
The fight was quickly ended once Daryl was pulled roughly away from Merle and Merle was held back by another man. Two police officers held both brothers back, one looking rough, most likely from a long shift. “Let me go, damnit!!” Daryl hissed dangerously, “I’m gonna kick his ass!!”
“Imma kick your teeth in, brother!!” Merle threatened.
“What you both need to do is calm down,” the officer who was holding Daryl back said, “Then we’ll work this out in a better way.”
Daryl was first to give up his fight against the officer and as soon as he stopped the policeman let him go. Merle was next to give in and was let go. The two brothers glared hatefully at one another then avoided eye contact. “I’m Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes. And that’s my partner, Officer Shane Walsh,” Rick began. A doctor in a long hospital coat with a clipboard in hand stood among the group silently and waited for them to finish their squabble.
“Now ya’ll going to tell us what happened here?” Shane chimed in.
A smirk spread across Merle’s lips as he scoffed snidely like he often does before making a sarcastic remark. Daryl could just sense his older brother about to do something stupid once again. “We just ain’t gettin’ along. You gonna make us stand in a corner for bein’ bad?” Merle remarked with a sarcastic tone in his voice. Shane frowned and looked at Merle seriously, opening his mouth to say something to Merle but was cut off by Rick. “I’m guessing one of you is the father of the girl I pulled from the crash?”
“I am,” Daryl spoke up.
Rick nodded, “If I were you, this goes for your brother too; I would be more worried about your little girl than whose fault it was.”
Silence fell upon everyone as they exchanged glances. Merle huffed out a rough sigh and looked straight at Daryl, regretting the fact that he was about to apologize. Daryl didn’t want to hear it, none of it. “How bad is she hurt?” he mumbled.
The doctor piped up, raising a fist to his mouth and clearing his throat before speaking. “Well, it is bad,” the doctor stated, “She suffered from severe head-trauma as well as a few broken ribs, a fractured femur, and the left part of her pelvic bone was shattered. The pelvic bone is a hard bone to heal, and there is a chance she will not heal properly.”
Rick pinched the bridge of his nose and turned away from the astonished group, making a pace to the wall and back. Daryl seemed to have lost his voice for a moment; he just stared at the doctor with disbelief. His mouth opened to speak; however, no words came out. Daryl’s vision blurred and his ears deafened. Fear began to swallow him whole as he desperately tried to stay strong, clinging to the only hope he had left. He looked at the doctor, studying his expression for any sign of an exaggeration. “Any long term complications? How long will she be here?” Rick asked. He turned his head back towards the doctor. Shane stood at Rick’s side awaiting an answer. Daryl refused to look at or even make eye contact with Merle who stood in the back against the wall. “That depends on her. Infants…more along the lines of children ranging between 5 months and 2 years of age, heal within a variety of times. It could be a month or it could be six months. Though, with her injuries, there will be long term effects. As I said, the pelvic bone is very hard to heal and there is no guarantee it will heal properly. She will not be able to walk right when she is old enough, that is, if she is able to walk at all,” the doctor explained, “It is important for her sake that the family stays positive in this situation.”
Daryl felt sick to his stomach, though he spoke out, “C-Can I see her?”
The doctor took a moment to think over Kayleigh’s fragile conditions and the possible outcomes of her injuries, but more importantly, he thought of how Daryl would react to the machines and Kayleigh’s overall look. He finally gave a nod of approval to Daryl. “Only you…for now,” he stated.
“I am going to come and check up on her every now and then. I want to see that she gets better,” Rick informed the doctor and Daryl.
The doctor nodded one last time before leading Daryl away from Merle, Rick, and Shane. His anger and worry had calmed during the talk with the doctor, but his worry soon swelled and washed over him again. He watched as he passed by room after room, hearing the coughing and groaning of some patients. Daryl had become unaware of his surroundings and collided right into the doctor when he stopped. Both men stumbled. “Sorry, doc. Kind of losing it right now,” Daryl apologized as he peered into the window of the room they both had stopped in front of.
“That’s alright, Mr. Dixon, it’s a common excuse for family members undergoing a stressful situation like this. But I have to warn you, this will not be an easy sight. She is attached to a few machines and we have a schedule to keep in giving her medications. Visitation ends at 10:00 PM and it is 9:35 PM at the moment,” the doctor said, “I have other patients to tend to, but if you need me, please call one of the nurses and they will fetch me.”
“Okay, doc. I understand,” Daryl nodded.
Daryl watched as the doctor walked away, and hesitated to go into her room. His breaths became uneasy and choked when he placed his hand on the handle of the door and he glanced through the window of the room just enough to see the end of her bed. A part of him seemed a bit scared by how she would look. Would she be able to giggle and play normally? No, what a stupid question. Would she machines and medication disable her from being the bubbly little girl he knows? Diseased, over-reactive, worried thoughts rushed through Daryl’s mind at a thousand miles an hour. The faint sound of Kayleigh’s crying snapped him back to the realization of the situation. He let out a raspy sigh before turning the doorknob and walking into her room.
A small part of him knew the sight of her would not be easy to see, the doctor even warned him, and yet, upon glancing at her….his heart still sunk. So many bandages wrapped around her head, chest, leg, and lower torso. A breathing tube was placed down her throat to help her inhale and exhale while an ivy was pierced into her arm. Kayleigh nothing but a diaper and bleach white socks to keep her small feet warm and the blanket that was once covering her, now draped over the side of the small hospital crib. However, what really drew Daryl’s eyes away from his daughter were two cards placed on the table beside her bed, both reading ‘Get Well Soon’. He finally was able to walk closer. After seeing Kayleigh’s condition, his legs had become weak.
Kayleigh’s crying continued to ring through Daryl’s ears causing an uneasy panicky feeling rise inside of the grown man. He reached over the small girl and took a gentle hold onto her hand. His thumb brushed over her cold hand to comfort her as he shushed her, it being hardly audible. Once her crying subsided, Daryl snatched up on of the cards and opened it. He read it aloud to better understand who what it said and to let Kayleigh hear him, “Get well, Kayleigh. We know you’ll make a full recovery. We wish you the best, The King County Sheriff’s Department.” He stared at the childish themed pictures on the card then looked down to Kayleigh. She held onto one of his fingers and kept her eyes half open. Daryl set the card back down, placing it just as it was on the table, and picked up the other card, reading it aloud, “Dear, Kayleigh, I hope you get better. I know you will, you are a pretty tough little girl. I wish you the best, Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes.”
“Well, at least they care about you enough to send ya this, Bug,” Daryl commented towards the cards and to Kayleigh. He let his soft grip on her hand slip and pushed one of the chairs in the room closer to Kayleigh’s crib. He seemed to relax more once he had seated himself, reaching down into his pocket. “I brought one of your toys in from the truck. Always felt stupid for leavin’ them in there, but…I guess, I’m glad I left one,” Daryl rambled as an attempt to break the unbearable silence in the room and pulled out a rather small stuffed bunny from his jacket pocket, “Hope this makes you feel better, baby girl.” He leaned forward and tucked the stuffed rabbit beside Kayleigh on the opposite side of him. Upon seeing the treasured toy, Kayleigh began kicking her feet out excitedly as best she could. He cringed and started to cry at the pain in her hips and leg. The breathing tube restricted her cries slightly and caused her to start coughing.
Daryl shot up, his mind empty on ideas of what to do, and he stroked her hair. He shushed her just as he did earlier and looked down at her feet. He gently grabbed her feet and held them. “Hey, stop kickin’ your feet,” he said. Kayleigh’s kicking slowed, but her cries did not. Once her feet had stopped, he let go and brushed his hand softly against her cheek to let her know that he was there. “I’m sorry this happened to you, baby girl,” he whispered.
“I’m sorry, but that cannot be in here, sir,” a voice chirped out from the door. Daryl glanced at the young nurse standing in the doorway. He had not noticed her coming in. “It has not been properly sanitized and it may infect her in her condition. Please. Let me take it and I will have it clea-.” The woman was suddenly cut off by Daryl’s unamused tone of voice.
“Just take the damn thing…,” he whispered out.
Without another word, the nurse walked over to Kayleigh’s crib and took the toy away. She glanced at Daryl a moment before leaving the room. He sighed deeply and looked at Kayleigh. Her crying had stopped and she tried to begin whining and reaching for the door, indicating that she wanted the nurse to return her beloved toy. Daryl reached over her crib and placed his hand over her head, his thumb running over the small patch of light brown hair on top of her head. “Sorry, baby girl, I’ll getcha another,” Daryl said softly.
Kayleigh’s strained whining abruptly stopped as she began to yawn as best she could. The look of her trying to yawn warmed Daryl completely; he couldn’t help but smile. He watched her for the longest time and occasionally whispered parts of a lullaby to her that he sang for her often. Suddenly, he felt the sharp edge of something under his arm. He lifted his arm up and looked into Kayleigh’s crib. At first glance, you wouldn’t have been noticeable right away, yet, there tucked under the pillow was a piece of paper, in fact. Daryl pulled the paper out from under his daughter’s pillow and looked at it for a moment. The handwriting wasn’t that good and the paper looked as if it’d been through hell, but Daryl could recognize the handwriting and read it.
“’Hope you get better, Squirt. Sorry about everything. I’ll patch things up with your papa. Just got to say though, you are one tough sucker. Your Uncle Merle,’” Daryl read the note aloud. He stared at the writing and read it over several times. “Damn, he must feel bad ‘bout this,” he thought to himself. He folded the note back up and placed it back under Kayleigh’s pillow. He could tell someone was standing at the door, but didn’t bother to turn and look.
“Um, sir-I mean, Mr. Dixon, visitation is almost over. It is 9:57 right now. Maybe you should go home. I will take care of her and you can come back in the morning,” she said barely above a whisper. Daryl turned to look at the woman, the same nurse as before.
He nodded simply just as he walked out, but before he left altogether, he stopped just outside the doorway. People passed him by as he stared down the hallways and turned back towards Kayleigh’s room. He watched the nurse check over Kayleigh’s heart-rate, bandages, and monitored her medication without so much as a word until he spoke up. She was rather scrawny, thin, with extremely short hair, and kind of shy from the looks of her. He scratched the back of his head before addressing her. “Um, miss, can I have your name at least?” he asked.
She looked up at him, her eyes searching him over and as hard as she tried, she couldn’t look away. He noticed how uncomfortable with the question she looked and spoke up once more. “Just so I know who is caring for her,” he added.
“Peletier…nurse Peletier,” she said quietly.
Daryl bid to her and walked away, “Have a good night.”
She offered him a small smile as he walked away. Daryl noticed the police officers and his brother were all gone, and with luck, they took Merle away from him just for tonight. Even having read the surprising note, Daryl did not want to deal with Merle tonight.