Safe Haven in the Chaos

BY : IdrilsSecret
Category: S through Z > The Walking Dead
Dragon prints: 3341
Disclaimer: I do not own the walking dead or any of the characters. No money is being made from the writing of these stories

Chapter 39 – Head Games

 

 

“Eeny … Meeny … Miney … Moe,” Negan said slowly as he passed in front of each person, pointing his barb wire bat in their faces. Everyone was on their knees, breathing heavily, scared, sweating, praying that he didn’t stop in front of them when he got to ‘IT’. They were also fearful for whoever that person might be.

 

Aaron glanced over at Daryl whenever Negan had his back turned. Shit, he looked bad. He was doubled over, blood all over his shirt and in his hair. His eyes were swollen from being hit. There was a cut on his lip too. But what was breaking Aaron’s heart was the look of pure fear on Daryl’s face. Everyone was afraid, but Daryl . . . Aaron had never seen him like this before.

 

“Catch a … Tiger … By its … Toe,” Negan continued with his cat and mouse game. Someone would be sacrificed. Someone would be the example. Dear God, please don’t let it be Daryl, Aaron prayed. Take me first, he thought. Just let Daryl live.

 

Negan watched each and every one of them, Carl, Rick, Michonne, Sasha, Abraham, Maggie, Aaron, Rosita, Eugene, Glenn, and Daryl. He stared hard into each person’s face as he watched them squirm at every threat. He turned again, this time with his back toward Daryl, who was at the opposite end of the line they were in. He took the opportunity to make eye contact with Aaron, and he was desperate to get a message across. Aaron watched as he lips quivered, tears staining his eyes, and without any sound, he said, “I’m sorry.”

 

Sorry for what, Aaron wondered at first. He was so scared, he had forgotten where they had left off last time they saw each other. Oh, Aaron thought solemnly. How could he forget? Daryl was upset with him because he had gone to Hilltop with Paul while Daryl was out on a run. But things went wrong, Denise died, and Aaron wasn’t there when Daryl returned to Alexandria. It had been a terrible fight. Daryl went as far as to accuse Aaron of sleeping with Paul. Then he left, said it was over, and moved into his old house, sharing it with Morgan. Aaron remembered the hate and deceit in Daryl’s eyes. He was untrusting of the only person he’d ever given complete trust to. What had Aaron done? He’d made a mess of things, that’s what. He thought for sure that Daryl would never look at him again, never talk to him, never come close to him. Now, Daryl looked at Aaron with need and desperation to get his message across. He was sorry. He took it all back.

 

If only Aaron could go to him, hold him, take him in his arms and tell him how much he loved him, how sorry he was for not being there when Daryl needed him most. Of course, to move now would mean instant death. What if Negan stopped in front of him, Aaron thought. If it was going to happen anyways, then it was worth the risk to touch Daryl one last time and tell him how much he loved him. He couldn’t die without Daryl knowing, without telling him aloud one more time.

 

“If he … Hollers … Let him … Go,” Negan chanted, reaching Aaron again, staring into his face with that wicked psychotic smile. Aaron wouldn’t look at him, but he couldn’t help seeing the barb wire up close and personal. It would hurt, he thought, to have that cracked across his face. It would tear bits and pieces of flesh, maiming him until blood and muscle was exposed, then skull bone and then . . .

 

Negan went the rest of the way down the line and turned back, passing Aaron. Once he wasn’t watching, Aaron turned his head and looked at Daryl again. Daryl’s eyes hadn’t left him, he thought. This might be his only chance.

 

“I love you,” Aaron mouthed the words silently to Daryl. His bottom lip quivered, but he didn’t stop watching Aaron. Negan was approaching him again. Daryl didn’t look at him until he was standing directly in front, the end of the bat aimed at Daryl’s cheek.

 

“Eeny … Meeny … Miney … Moe,” Negan continued, every word falling on a different person. He was past Daryl now, standing in front of Glenn.

 

Daryl took the opportunity to glance back at Aaron, desperate to make contact again. If this was to be the end, they would spend every moment within each other’s gazes. “I love you too,” Daryl mouthed back in answer to Aaron.

 

He couldn’t help it. Aaron’s eyes filled with tears, escaping and running hot down his cheeks. After everything they had recently been through, Daryl still loved him. He should never have doubted this. Their love was strong. It always had been, even during those times when they fought, when they separated. Negan could take either of their lives, but he could never take their love from each other.

 

“My mother told me . . .” Negan said as he turned from Glenn and started down the line again. It was like playing Russian roulette and Negan was the gun. His bat, Lucille, was the one loaded chamber. Someone was going to end up with her in their head.

 

“To pick the very best one . . .”

 

Oh God, he was coming back to Aaron. Only four words left. Aaron was too frightened to do the math and see where Negan would stop. He didn’t care if he was supposed to look straight or at Negan. Instead, he glanced down to Daryl again. If Negan stopped in front of him, he was going to shout his love to Daryl. It wouldn’t matter if Aaron was the one picked to die. He would cry out to Daryl, tell him he loved him, and that he always had … always would.

 

“And … You … Are … It.” Negan finished and Aaron noticed that it wasn’t him but … Oh God … not Abraham. Aaron felt terrible as a momentary sliver in time let him feel relief that it wasn’t him or Daryl that Negan stood before. That split second turned to shame for thinking the thought, and then horror when Negan followed through with his promise.

 

It was so surreal. Aaron kept thinking that someone was going to swoop in and save them. An arrow would fly out of the dark and impale Negan through the heart. A gunshot would mysteriously crack through the quiet and put a hole in Negan’s temple, dead before he even hit the ground. None of those things happened, and Negan’s bat came down on top of Abraham’s head. Blood instantly ran down his face, but Abe never looked away from Negan. If he was going to die, he’d do it with his eyes upon Negan. The only thing he did was put two finger out, showing them to Sasha, some sort of signal. And then, going out in true Abraham Ford style, he glared up at Negan and said, “Suck … my … nuts.”

 

Aaron thought the insult would bring on rage from Negan. Instead, he smiled, almost respecting Abraham’s fearless defiance. “Taking it like a champ!” Negan said.

 

Aaron thought for a moment that Negan might not kill him. Maybe Abe’s tough attitude earned him a second chance out of some kind of bizarre acknowledgment and honor from one unwavering son of a bitch to another. But it wasn’t to be. Negan kept his part of the bargain, and slammed the bat down on Abraham’s head repeatedly until there was nothing left but blood, bone and mush.

 

Aaron couldn’t watch. He just looked straight ahead in terror. The sound, though. That would stay with him for the rest of his days.

 

>>------->

 

The silence was deafening. Daryl couldn’t believe what he’d just seen. Abraham’s body laid stretched out on the ground, no longer recognizable. There was nothing left of his head and face. It was just a pool of blood and gore. Daryl had watched until Abraham fell, but when Negan repeatedly smashed his bat on the dead man’s head, he looked away. When it was finally over, he slowly looked at each person. They were all terrified. Even Aaron wouldn’t look at him now. He stared straight ahead off in the distance, breathing rapidly. When Daryl looked at Rick he saw the silent rage beneath the shock in his eyes. Daryl suddenly feared for the man. What would he do in retaliation to Abraham’s murder? Whatever he was thinking, it would mean Rick’s murder too.

 

As though this was just his daily routine, Negan lifted his bloody bat, smiling and proud, talking to it as if it was a living breathing entity. Rosita was closest to him. He stopped in front of her and asked her a question about her and Abraham. She looked straight ahead, ignoring Negan. Then he told her to look at his Lucille, mocking her, egging her on. She showed no response and Daryl was afraid of what he would do to her. She’d just seen the man she cared about bludgeoned to death. She didn’t deserve this kind of treatment.

 

Daryl had a sudden flashback of his incident with Jake, the family friend who raped him as a teenager. In a similar way, Jake had antagonized him, tried to make him watch, tried to make him speak. Jake tried to break him, and when Daryl wouldn’t respond because of shock, Jake abused him some more. Daryl remembered wishing he could just die so he didn’t have to suffer anymore. As he watched Rosita, he saw in her eyes the same thing he had felt while being pushed into the dirty mattress, called names and belittled. No one was there to stop Jake. No one was there to protect Daryl. Well, today Daryl was here, and if no one else was going to do something, then dammit, he would.

 

With no warning, and Negan so close to him, Daryl found enough strength to ignore the pain of the gunshot wound to his shoulder. He jumped up from his crouched position on the ground, and punched Negan in the jaw. At the very last second, Negan saw movement from the corner of his eye and deflected a full on hit that probably would have broken his jaw. Daryl still got a hit in, though. At least now the attention was away from Rosita.

 

In a split second, Dwight, who had been standing behind Daryl this whole time, knocked him to the ground and aimed the crossbow at Daryl’s head.

 

“I’ll fucking kill you for doing that,” Dwight said, finger on the trigger and about to squeeze.

 

“Wait just a moment,” Negan said, stopping Dwight. He walked up to Daryl, his hand rubbing the side of his face where Daryl cocked him. “Damn,” he said as though impressed. “We got us a fighter. That’s some impressive fury you got there. See Dwight, that’s the kind of shit that shouldn’t be kept bottled up. A man with that kind of anger could be useful.” Negan pushed the end of his bat against Daryl’s head. “Or you’re just stupid and I should take you down right–”

 

“No!” Aaron shouted from the other side of the yard. He instantly regretted it, fearful that Negan would kill Daryl in punishment for breaking the rules, but he couldn’t help himself. He had to.

 

Negan squinted his eyes, trying to figure out who called out. He could have asked his men which one it was, but he didn’t. He turned back to Daryl and smiled. “Looks like today is your lucky day. You’re cheering section has spoken. And besides, it took balls for you to do to me what you just did. That’s the kind of shit I like to see, though not when I’m the target. I’ll let it slide this time.” Negan turned back in Aaron’s direction. “Your man here is safe.” Then he turned back to Daryl and his smile turned to something of pure evil. “But this one here isn’t.”

 

The bat came down on Glenn’s head, who had been kneeling next to Daryl. The first hit was so hard that his eye popped out of its socket. Maggie screamed. Daryl watched in horror. Everyone couldn’t believe what they were seeing.

 

“Jesus, would you look at that. His eye came right out of his fucking head. Shit. That is fucked up,” Negan said.

 

Glenn’s attention went to Maggie. He mumbled something, but he was having trouble forming words.

 

“What was that?” Negan provoked. “You trying to say something? Christ!”

 

“M-M-Maggie. I-I will f-find you,” Glenn sputtered.

 

“Alright, that’s enough of this shit,” Negan said, and he proceeded to beat Glenn in the head the same way he had done to Abraham. It seemed to go on forever, and when he was done, he turned to the group again. “The first one was an example. Every group has to pay my price. Now, I didn’t want to have to do this to him, but your boy here got out of line. There are rules, and when they are broken, there are consequences. I don’t want to kill you people. If I kill you all then who will be left to work for me? But I can’t have you all acting up. I can’t have you ignoring me or my rules. I will not tolerate that kind of behavior. I will shut that shit down.”

 

Daryl was in shock. He was shaking uncontrollably after being dragged back in line by Dwight. He didn’t fight it this time. He just let the man haul him over dirt and rock. If Dwight said anything to him, he didn’t hear. There was nothing but loud ringing in his ears, and he closed the world out. What had he done? This was all Daryl could think about. Why couldn’t he have controlled his anger? Now, Glenn was dead because of him.

 

>>------->

 

Aaron was numb with fear and shock. Two of their people were lying dead, and the rest were still being held on their knees. He dared to glance at Daryl, who was curled up on his knees on the ground with his own crossbow aimed at his head. Daryl wouldn’t look towards Aaron. He was just shaking and staring at the ground.

 

Negan came back to Rick and had words with him, but Rick was so full of rage. He threatened to kill Negan, who found it funny at first, but when Rick made a promise to kill him, Negan had finally had enough. It ended with Negan dragging Rick by the collar into the RV, the same RV they had used to try and get Maggie to Hilltop.

 

Oh God, Maggie, Aaron thought. Something was wrong with her or possibly the baby. She’d been so sick and running a fever. Aaron glanced at her and she looked terrible. If something was wrong with the pregnancy, seeing her husband senselessly beaten might cause her to miscarry. Their whole reason for being out here was to get her to Hilltop and get her the help she needed. Aaron wanted to say something to the man standing behind him. If he could convince someone to at least take Maggie to . . .

 

No, he told himself. The Saviors couldn’t know that Alexandria and Hilltop were working together. Shit, they were really alone out here. Not even the people back home knew what was happening. Maybe the Saviors had a doctor or someone who could help her. Aaron turned his head to the side. “Please,” he begged to the man standing behind him. “Maggie, the woman over there, she’s sick and she’s pregnant.”

 

“Shut up,” his captor commanded.

 

“She needs a doctor. If you have someone here that’s–”

 

“Keep your mouth shut,” the man interrupted him.

 

“She could lose the baby,” Aaron tried again.

 

“I said shut the fuck up,” the man said, and he hit Aaron in the back of the head with the butt of his riffle.

 

Aaron immediately saw stars and he thought he was going to pass out.

 

“Aaron!” Daryl cried out in a whimper.

 

Dwight kicked him and put his finger on the trigger of the crossbow, aiming it at Daryl. “Negan said there’s to be no talking while he’s gone. Not a fucking sound. Any of you makes even the slightest noise, I will shoot him in the head. Got it?”

 

It seemed like an eternity before the RV pulled up. Negan and Rick exited, and Rick was put back in his original spot. Aaron thought Rick looked like he’d had a rough time of it, and he wondered what Negan had done to him. He had words with Rick, and was still unconvinced that his rules were being taken seriously. The last of Negan’s torture happened when tempers flared, and he ordered Carl to be held on the ground.

 

Jesus, Aaron thought, Negan was going to kill Carl in front of his father. If there was one thing that would break Rick that would be it. But Negan didn’t want Carl dead. Instead, he gave Rick back his hatchet and ordered him to cut off Carl’s hand. Death would have been horrible, but to maim one’s own child, to cause unbearable pain and suffering was a worse fate. Aaron couldn’t take it as he watched Rick cry and beg Negan to not make him do this. Negan threatened to kill another member of his group if he refused. He would take a life or Rick could take a hand. It was just that simple.

 

Rick glanced around at his people, and in the end, he made the decision to cut off his own son’s hand. Aaron couldn’t watch. He wished he couldn’t hear Rick crying and blubbering, a man truly broken and submitting to torture. It was horribly demoralizing and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

 

Just before Rick was about to take Carl’s hand, Negan stopped him. What now, Aaron asked himself in disgust. When would it end? Negan said he changed his mind. Then he proceeded to force Rick to swear his loyalty to him. Alexandria’s leader was broken and no longer in charge. Negan ruled now. Life was about to change in a way that no one could imagine.

 

By the time it was all over with, the sun was coming up. The whole group was exhausted both mentally and physically. They were all broken to some degree. All Aaron could think of was going to Daryl and seeing how badly he was injured. First thing would be to get him to Hilltop with Maggie, and get both of them medical attention. It couldn’t be much further. They had driven quite a ways before they were caught by Negan.

 

Aaron paced on his knees, like a runner getting ready to hear the gun go off. As soon as it was safe, he would sprint to Daryl. He watched Negan approach the RV, one of his men opening the door for him like he was a king. Then, Negan stopped and turned back. Aaron’s heart sunk. What now he wondered.

 

“You know, I get the feeling I might need some kind of collateral, so . . .” He paused and pointed at Dwight. “Load this one up in the back of the truck. He’s coming with us.”

 

“No,” Aaron instantly begged. “Please, don’t take Daryl. Please don’t.”

 

Negan paused and glared at Aaron as though a light was going on in his head. He looked back at Daryl and to Aaron again. He smiled that disgusting grin of his. “Holy shit. Why didn’t I see it before?” He turned to one of his men standing closest to him. “We got ourselves a couple fags here, don’t we?” Negan covered his mouth with his hand. “Oh, I’m sorry. How rude of me. I meant to say homosexuals. I forget my manners sometimes.” His face turned severe, no longer making jokes. “Get him up,” he commanded to Dwight. Dwight forced Daryl to his feet, and Negan got right in his face, whispering. “Is this true? Is that your boyfriend over there? Is that why he couldn’t keep his mouth shut while I was gone with Rick? Oh yeah, I heard about that. Lucky for him that I wasn’t here.” Negan glanced down at Glenn’s dead body and back to Daryl. “I wish I had known this earlier. I might have wasted my message on the wrong person.”

 

“You touch him, and–” Daryl seethed, only to be cut off by Negan.

 

“You’ll what?” Negan said in a threatening tone, trying to get Daryl to finish the sentence. When Daryl didn’t answer, Negan smiled. “I didn’t think so.” Without taking his eyes from Daryl, he gave his next order. “Dwight, load lover boy up in the van.”

 

Dwight shoved Daryl toward the back of the box van that had brought him, Michonne, Glenn and Rosita. Another man helped load him in. Aaron watched him struggle against his captors. Once Daryl was free of Dwight’s grip, he tried to make his way out of the van, but the door closed him in. Dwight knocked on the side of the truck, signaling to the driver that everything was ready. All Aaron or anyone else could do was watch.

 

Negan turned to Rick to explain his reason for taking Daryl. “I’m taking your man as, shall we say, collateral. I’m giving you a week to take inventory of your shit, and I mean all your shit, in which, at the time of my arrival I’ll be expecting you to give me half. If I find out you’re holding out on me or if any of you try to fuck with me in any way, I will mutilate him to the point where you don’t even recognize him.” Here, Negan glanced at Aaron to get his point across. “All you have to do is follow my simple rules, and there will be peace between our communities. I mean, really, what’s the big fucking deal? Am I right? Okay then. A pleasure doing business with you.”

 

They watched as Negan stepped into the RV, a handful of his men following him, and gave the command to go. When the RV pulled out, so did the box van with Daryl inside. The rest of the Saviors found their own transportation, hitching rides with those who had vehicles. One of them had a Polaroid camera, and he was taking pictures of Negan’s handy work. Aaron remembered seeing the photos on the wall at the Saviors compound, the crushed skulls of nameless victims. Now he knew what it all meant.

 

Finally, Rick and his people were alone again. All the saviors were gone. Daryl was gone. Glenn and Abraham were dead, their bodies still in plain sight. It was as though they were still being held captive. No one moved from their places on the ground. Everyone was still in shock after the long and torturous night. Maggie was the first to speak.

 

“We have to follow them,” she whispered.

 

“We can’t,” Sasha told her.

 

Maggie wasn’t listening. “If we go now, we can catch up, maybe find out where they live.” As she spoke, she struggled to her feet. She was still sick and pale.

 

“Maggie, we can’t,” Aaron said as he got up and went to her. “I, of all people, want nothing more to follow them and get Daryl back. God knows what they’re going to do to him. But you saw how many there were.  There’s probably even more wherever they’re going. We’re outnumbered.”

 

“And we have to get you to Hilltop,” Sasha said. “Think of the baby.”

 

After some arguing, they came up with a plan. Sasha and Aaron would take Maggie and the bodies of Abraham and Glenn to Hilltop. The rest would go back to Alexandria and start preparing for Negan’s visit in a week. They needed to regroup. They needed to make sure no one else died. Rick would have to talk to the rest of the people in Alexandria and make them realize the importance of the situation. Negan was in control now.

 

>>------->

 

Daryl didn’t know how long they had driven, but it felt like a long time. Wherever they were going, they didn’t take paved roads until they were almost to their destination. He could tell because of the rough roads that made the truck bounce and shift. He was in complete darkness, the only light coming through a hole in the roof where a rivet must have come out.

 

Eventually, the truck came to a stop. He heard men yelling in the distance, giving orders to open the gates. The truck started up again, drove slowly for a bit, and then came to another stop. Daryl’s only hope was to overtake whoever let him out of the truck. He had no weapons and he searched frantically for something to use. The only thing on his person of any use was his shoelace, so he quickly untied and unlaced his boot, doubled the lace in half and wrapped it around his hands. The door opened and Daryl was instantly blinded by the sun. They had parked the truck in such a way that the sun shone into his eyes. It didn’t matter much to Daryl. He could still hear voices, and there was one voice he recognized above the others … Dwight.

 

“Tony, you go in and bring out the prisoner but be careful. He’s–” Dwight ordered, but before he could finish his warning, Tony was already taking Daryl by the arm. Before he knew what happened, Daryl stretched his arms out and brought the shoelace down over the man’s head, wrapped it around his neck and pulled. Tony reached up by instinct, trying to get the string from his neck, but it was already burrowing into his skin. Tony started flailing and choking, reaching back to try and grab Daryl, but he was unsuccessful.

 

“Don’t do this, man,” Dwight said calmly.

 

“You let me go and he lives. Otherwise, I’ll take off his whole fucking head,” Daryl seethed. His sight adjusted to the light, and he could see three men, including Dwight, all aiming guns at him. He pulled the lace even tighter until Tony’s eyes started rolling up into his head.

 

“The way I see it, whether you kill him or not, we’ve got the firepower. This is a losing battle. Give up now, and maybe we’ll go easy on you,” Dwight said.

 

Daryl knew he was right. They could shoot him right now to save Tony. He also noticed that they didn’t seem to care if Tony died. They would just shoot Daryl once he had no hostage. His mistake was thinking that they cared about their people. Daryl finally let Tony go, but he shoved him forward when he did. Tony went to his knees, his hand rubbing his throat as he got his breath back. Dwight waited until Tony was out of the way. Then he demanded that Daryl come out of the truck. Reluctantly, Daryl did as he was told. Once Daryl was out of the truck, other men without guns swarmed him, held his arms behind his back, tied his wrists with wire and pushed him forward. As Daryl took his first step, his boot came off and he looked back.

 

“You’re not going to need that where you’re going,” Dwight said. “Move it along, scumbag.”

 

Daryl’s shoulder was killing him, but he wouldn’t give anyone the satisfaction of watching him suffer. Instead, he looked around at his surroundings. This place was huge. It looked like an old factory of some kind, with smokestacks and multiple stories, glass windows and corrugated steel. The whole place was about the size of half a city block. He thought back to Jesus telling them that he’d seen as many as twenty Saviors once. They were foolish to think the people they killed at the satellite station were the majority of this group. They had just been a drop in the bucket compared to what Daryl was seeing now.

 

They walked along a narrow path that was surrounded by a courtyard of walkers. They were all chained or impaled, anchored to concrete barriers or chain link fences. Some were impaled with iron rods sticking out of the ground, their decaying bodies sliding up and down their posts. It looked like a defense mechanism that would keep people out as well as keep people in. It wouldn’t take much faltering to find yourself off the cleared path and in the hands of any one of the restrained walkers.

 

Daryl noticed that some of the walkers were freshly turned. Now he knew what happened to people that didn’t follow Negan’s rules. Dwight came up beside him then, noticing Daryl taking in his surroundings. “Even after death, Negan still has a use for us,” he muttered. Then he pointed to a steel door on the building. “In there,” he commanded, and the men leading Daryl shoved him through the door.

 

They entered into a hallway with multiple doors on either side. It looked like a back entrance to the factory. This would have been where the maintenance crew worked. It was the bowels of the factory, and it looked like this was where they would keep Daryl.

 

It was a labyrinth of corridors and rooms, and by the time they reached Daryl’s cell, he had lost his way. He tried to remember the turns so when he escaped he’d know how to get out. His hope in accomplishing this was disappearing quickly. Eventually, they came to another hallway. This one was off on its own. It was poorly lit and there was an upturned bucket at the end where a man sat. He wore a dirty beige sweat suit with a letter H painted in red on the front of the shirt. Daryl thought it was odd. He didn’t look like the other workers, who wore workman jumpsuits or their normal clothes. He looked like he worked in the lowest level of entry, or perhaps he was a prisoner. He wasn’t in a cell though. That was the only difference

 

“Is your old place cleaned out?” Dwight asked the man in the dirty sweats.

 

“Yes,” H nodded.

 

“Good,” Dwight said, pleased. “You keep this up and you’ll be moving up a floor. But for now, you’ve got your job to do. There’s a couple stiffs to take out to the yard.”

 

H nodded again, and made his way down the hall where they had just come from. Dwight pulled the heavy metal door open and stood to the side. There was an unholy stench that came out of the room, like feces, puke, piss and death. Daryl coughed as the smell hit him full force.

 

“You’ll get used to the smell after a while,” Dwight said, as if he knew from experience. He moved behind Daryl and shoved him inside. “First off, give me your shoe and your belt. We don’t need a repeat of earlier.”

 

Daryl took off his remaining shoe and his belt, tossed them towards the doorway and stood in the center of the small room. He glared at Dwight as he did, not forgetting that this was the man who stole all his stuff and killed his friend, Denise. There was still the matter of seeking revenge on the man, but now wasn’t the time.

 

“Now, take off your shirt,” Dwight commanded.

 

“What the hell for,” Daryl questioned.

 

“The doc here’s gonna fix your shoulder.” Dwight looked down the hall and motioned for someone to come into the room. An older man came in with a black bag in his hand, and a stethoscope hanging around his neck. He saw Daryl standing there without restraints and paused.

 

“Are you sure it’s safe?” the doctor asked.

 

Dwight motioned again and four large armed men came into the room, surrounding Daryl and aiming their weapons at him. “He won’t try anything, will you Daryl?”

 

Daryl didn’t answer, but he slowly took off his shirt and held it in one hand. One of the guards made a face, noticing the scars on Daryl’s back. He never let anyone see his scars. Denise had seen a small section when she mended a knife wound once. Aaron was the only one who had seen them, had touched them and kissed them, and asked what his story was. God, he missed Aaron so much and prayed that he was safe back in Alexandria by now.

 

“Turn around a second,” Dwight said when he noticed his guard gawking.

 

Daryl glared at Dwight, but did as he was told. He felt Dwight’s judging eyes on him.

 

“Damn,” Dwight said with amazement. “Guess you’re no stranger to pain and punishment. Doc, fix him up nice and neat. No reason to add to this roadmap on his back.”

 

One of the men outside the room slid the bucket from the hallway into the room. An armed guard put it behind Daryl and told him to sit. Daryl did so, but at his own slow pace. The doctor put his bag on the floor and opened it up. He took out a pair of rubber gloves, and a bottle of antiseptic and rags. He leaned down to Daryl’s ear and whispered. “This might sting a bit.”

 

Next thing, Daryl was wincing and trying not to cry out when the medicine was poured over his wounded shoulder. Once it was cleaned up, the doctor made the observation that the bullet had gone clean through, entering the back of the shoulder and coming out the front. That must be why there was so much blood, Daryl thought to himself. The doctor worked to clean the entry and exit wounds, preparing it for stitches. Again, he leaned down to Daryl’s ear. “I’m sorry, but I don’t have anything to numb the area.” He reached into his bag and pulled out an inch thick wooden dowel potted with teeth marks from previous patients. “You can bite down of this if you think it will help.”

 

“I don’t need it,” Daryl growled.

 

“Suit yourself,” the doctor said, and he started sewing up Daryl’s shoulder.

 

Daryl’s jaw clamped shut and he grinded his teeth to ward off the pain. It was the very least he deserved after what he’d done. It hadn’t gone far from his mind, punching Negan and in return, having to watch the man kill Glenn. Negan had said it was the only reason he had to do it. He wasn’t going to kill more than one, but Daryl’s outburst forced his hand. There were rules, and Daryl was the first to break one of them. God, Daryl thought with regret, what had he done?

 

After a short while, the doctor said he was finished. One of the guards in the room yanked Daryl up by his arm so he was standing again. The doctor took off his bloody gloves and looked around for a place to dispose of them. The guard flipped the bucket over and pointed. The doctor gathered up all the soiled rags and the needle, along with the gloves, and put everything into the bucket. He let Dwight know he was finished and told him he’d need to see the patient in a few days to make sure infection hadn’t set in. Dwight nodded and watched the doctor leave the hall.

 

Daryl started to put his shirt back on, but Dwight stopped him. “Uh, no, you don’t need that,” Dwight said, hand outstretched to collect Daryl’s shirt. Daryl gave it to him reluctantly. Dwight held his hand out again. “Gonna need everything.”

 

 “What?” Daryl protested with a disgusted look.

 

“That little trick you tried when we first got here has earned you your first punishment. You can’t be trusted, Daryl. If you can use a shoelace to try and kill a man, imagine what else you’ll think up and use. Everything goes. You get nothing but this shithole of a room to sit in and think about what you’ve done.”

 

“I’m not taking my clothes off,” Daryl seethed. He was answered with the sound of four shotguns being cocked and aimed at him. He decided to test them and see how far he could go. “You won’t shoot me. I’m collateral. You heard Negan. The only way you’re killing me is if my people don’t deliver, and there’s not much chance of that happening.”

 

Dwight smiled and huffed, shaking his head. “Daryl, Daryl. I can see how you might think that way, but I assure you, it’s not going to matter whether you’re dead or alive. Your people will fall in line just like all the rest. I can shoot you right now or next week. Eventually your people are going to screw up and your death will be the result of it. We’ll just say we’re holding onto you until we’re sure they’re onboard. Or perhaps Negan will tell them he found a better use for you. Those stiffs you saw on the way in here … that’s what you’ll be used as. One way or another you’ll be put to use.” Dwight’s smile disappeared and his eyes turned hard. “Now … strip!” he demanded.

 

Daryl had no other choice than to do as he was told. He undid his pants and slid them off, and then his underwear. He brought his hands in front of him to hide his nakedness, and glared from beneath the dirty strands of hair that hung in his face. The three armed guards watched him, but one looked at him differently. Two watched him for any sudden movements, ready to take action if they were needed. It was the third man that held Daryl’s attention. He was a tall and muscular, broad in the shoulders, arms like two cannons. He had long brown hair tied back in a ponytail, and a well-groomed goatee. There was something fierce about the straight line of his jaw, which he clenched and relaxed repeatedly like someone grinding their teeth. Thick dark brows sat over sinister brown eyes that revealed salacious thoughts. Daryl knew what it meant when the line of a man’s sight raked across his body in this way. And standing here naked in front of everyone left nothing to the imagination, except whatever this man envisioned doing to Daryl. He cupped his balls a little tighter, feeling extremely vulnerable.

 

Dwight was handed Daryl’s clothes and turned to leave the room, but he stopped short. “One more thing,” he said over his shoulder. “Don’t forget that I know about your … friend. You try anything, anything at all, and Lucille’s gonna pay him a visit. Got it?” With that said, Dwight left the room, followed by the three guards. Before they were all gone, the last man, the one Daryl was suspicious of, glanced over his shoulder and winked at Daryl.

 

The door shut and he heard the sound of a lock click into place. He was thrown into darkness, the only light filtering in from the small space beneath the door. It was hardly wide enough to stick his fingers through, but he could see shadows as Dwight and his men left. There were no windows or vents in the room. There was no furniture of any kind. Even the bucket had been taken away. The walls and floor were solid concrete, cold and unforgiving, and he was naked. The dampness seeped into his skin almost immediately, but he had nothing to protect himself from the dropping temperature. His mind was not satisfied with what his eyes saw, and he paced the room, hands roaming over the walls looking for anything, even the slightest crack. There was nothing, but the movement helped warm him a bit. His adrenaline still coursed through his veins, and kept his blood thrumming, but eventually he knew his body would succumb to the cold concrete and damp. How long were they going to keep him here? He wondered.

 

His only means of escape was through the door, and that would depend on someone opening it for him. He would have to come up with a plan. He only had one chance at it. If he was caught and brought back to his cell, it would mean . . .

 

Daryl didn’t want to think about it, but he had no choice. The decision he made to attack Negan cost Glenn his life. A botched escape would mean Aaron’s life. Poor decisions from his past surfaced, one’s that cost other people he cared about their lives. Was he just that arrogant and selfish that he didn’t care what might happen to those around him? He hadn’t had time to give it much thought until now. It had seemed surreal at the time. Glenn was dead. Glenn, who he’d known since the beginning, who had become a good friend, who he’d seen grow from a boy to a man and soon to be father was . . .

 

That brought his thoughts to Maggie. Would she blame him? Would she consider Daryl responsible for the reason why her child wouldn’t have a father? After all, if he’d only held his temper a little longer, Glenn would probably be alive. God, what had he done? Maybe he deserved to be here. No, he told himself. He deserved to be back in Alexandria with Aaron. But did he really? Maggie wouldn’t have Glenn now, and she didn’t deserve to have her husband taken from her, from the world, from their unborn child.

 

“I’m shit,” Daryl whispered to himself, the first tendrils of guilt beginning to wrap their cold fingers around his heart.

 

Suddenly there was very loud music being pumped into the room. Daryl abandoned his self-pity to give that a thought. If there was music, there had to be speakers. Speakers only worked when they were wired in. Wire could be used to take a man down. A new spark of hope got him back to his original plan of escaping. He looked around the room again, trying to find out where the music was coming from. The problem was it was so loud he couldn’t pinpoint it. He looked at the ceiling and found what he was looking for. They looked like they were recessed in to ceiling, but if he could work the mesh covers loose he could probably pry the speakers out far enough to pull out some wire. He wouldn’t need much, just enough to wrap around a throat. If he couldn’t do that, he might could use the mesh covers themselves, depending on whether it was metal or not. He could sharpen it using the wall and slice someone in the neck, preferably Dwight. Daryl got excited. He had a plan now. That’s all he needed was a plan and . . .

 

What little spark his hope had ignited fizzled out when he realized, “I’ve got no way of reaching up that high.” The ceilings were at least eight, maybe ten feet, and with nothing in the room to climb upon, it was impossible. “I’m fucked.” He leaned with his back against the wall and slid down to the floor. The music filled his head and stole his thoughts. It was a disgustingly upbeat song about having it good, and how great life was. It was the complete opposite of what Daryl was experiencing. He’d never felt so helpless since . . .

 

The thought of his childhood and Jake made him remember the look that one asshole guard gave him. His eyes traveled slowly up and down Daryl’s naked form. Hopefully that would be the last time he’d see that one guard. He could be trouble for Daryl if he tried anything. Naked or not, no one would ever force Daryl into a situation like the one Jake put him in years ago. Daryl would kill any man who tried.

 

He wasn’t completely giving up on an escape plan. Even though there was nothing useful right now, he had the power to change that. It seemed that he wasn’t getting out of the cell any time soon. With the music blaring and being stripped to nothing, Daryl knew they were trying to break him. He would use this to his advantage. He would follow their rules. He would endure whatever tests they were planning to put him through. If, by the end, he was still in this cell, perhaps they would reward him with clothes. Maybe after that it would be a mattress or a bed. If he played along, he just might be able to collect what he needed to get out of this place. He’d have to keep all of his options open and treat every little reward as a step in the right direction. One way or another, he was going to leave this place.

 



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