So I decided to update early as a big THANK YOU for all the reviews, alerts and favorites. :D
I always reply to my reviews and there were a couple I couldn't get to so here they are:
Dancingnancy77: Thanks for biting! ;) I hope this is soon enough. :D
Leyshla Gisel: Thank you! I hope you continue to enjoy the story. :) I can't get enough of Daryl, either! :D
Also, just a quick note to say that the second half of this chapter takes place during the episode "Tell it to the Frogs". I'm not one to rehash episodes as I assume we've all seen them so many times already, so some minor things have been changed or shortened to add C.C. and her brother in there.
C.C. didn't know how long they had been there. Days? Weeks? Night seamlessly meshed into day. It was all a blur to her. They had no knowledge of the outside world. All that came out of their battery powered radio was static.
"We're running low on food," Matt announced.
C.C. looked up from the medical textbook she was reading. They had been living off of canned goods since the moment they had arrived at her parent's house. They rarely ventured out into the main house, afraid that they would run into more of those things. She and Matt had opted to remain in the basement. It had been remodeled to resemble a family room, though C.C. was at a loss to determine the purpose of it considering she and her brother had long since moved out, and her parents had never been the family-oriented type.
The basement offered them what they needed. They had a full bathroom and couches to sleep on. It had occurred to C.C. that they would eventually run out of food, but she didn't think it would be so soon.
She nodded, closing the book as she stood. "When do we leave?"
Matt immediately shook his head at her. "You're not going anywhere. I'm taking the Rover into the city to see what I can find. Figured I'd have better luck there. More stores to search."
"I'm not letting you go alone," she replied. "Either we both go or no one does, Matty."
He ran a hand through his hair, something he always did when he was nervous or agitated. It seemed to her that he'd had it all figured out. Leave without her, try to get some provisions in the city, and come back in the same day. Except they both knew that all of it was unlikely. He would need someone to help him, to keep watch.
"Fine," he finally said. "But you have to promise me that - "
"That I'll leave you behind if something happens to you, blah blah blah," she interrupted with a roll of her eyes. "We've been through this before, Matt. I make the promise with no intention of following through with it, and you accept it just so we can move on."
"I hate that you're so stubborn."
"It runs in the family," she retorted. "Look, how about we compromise? I'll do whatever you tell me to do, I promise. But I'm not going to leave you behind."
"Ugh, fine," Matt groused, throwing his hands up in defeat.
She gave him a big smile and gathered up her makeshift first aid kit. It was made up of items she had found around the house before they had taken refuge in the basement. Needles and thread, rubbing alcohol, real alcohol, band-aids, strips of her dad's old shirts. C.C. wished they could make a stop by the hospital but figured it would be too dangerous. Whatever she had on hand would have to make do.
Matt got behind the wheel as they drove out of their parent's estate, through the backroads, and finally onto the highway. The stalled cars in the opposite lanes gave C.C. an almost eerie feeling as the Atlanta skyline came into view. She wondered where those people were now and if they had managed to escape whatever horrors had taken over the city.
As they cruised by, the wind ruffled the dark blonde strands that had escaped from her messy ponytail. A passing rain cloud had offered only a sprinkle of rain, making it not only hot but humid as well. C.C. grumbled at her decision to get leather seats for her car. Even in shorts and a tank top, she could feel the sweat running down her neck, but they had both decided that they would forgo the air condition to conserve gasoline.
"Do you hear that?" C.C. sat up straighter in her seat. She could barely make out some sort of wailing noise.
Matt slowed the car down, moving over to the shoulder of the road. C.C. strained her ears. Whatever it was, the noise was getting louder.
"Look," Matt pointed out in the distance.
She leaned forward in her seat. It was a vehicle...and it was headed straight for them. The noise seemed to be the car's alarm. She glanced at Matt worriedly. While C.C. was under no assumption that she and her brother were the only survivors in this now post-apocalyptic world, it had certainly felt that way. Other than the random looters they had seen when they left her apartment, they had remained completely isolated.
The car sped past them, alarm howling loudly. Whoever was driving must have seen them because the screeching of tires and the smell of burned rubber filled the air. C.C. turned in her seat to find the car reversing back to them.
"Sweet ride!" the driver, a young-looking Asian kid, yelled over the noise of the alarm.
"Thanks, uh...you, too!" Matt yelled back.
"Where are you guys headed?"
"The city...almost out of food."
The kid shook his head. "The city's overrun by walkers. Too dangerous if you don't know your way around. Why don't you head back with us? We're camped out in the woods."
The kid jerked a thumb behind him, and it was only then that C.C. noticed a big box truck also making its way down the road. Matt glanced over at her, and she nodded. They had been cut off from the world for way too long. They needed some human interaction. Her brother gave her a small smile, then turned the car around to follow their fellow survivors back to camp.
C.C. rolled her neck on her shoulders. Maybe sleeping in the Rover hadn't been such a good idea. But she had to admit that sleeping was sleeping no matter where she was. After years of studying and then the countless hours spent at work, she felt that she was finally catching up on all the sleep she had missed before things had turned to shit.
Their arrival the day before had certainly been full of surprises. Not only had a family been reunited but the other members of the camp had been a little surprised to find that two more survivors had now joined the group. She and Matt had introduced themselves and related their "survival story" at the campfire the night before.
She got out of the vehicle, letting out a low groan at the soreness in her muscles. C.C. tried to smooth the wrinkles from her clothing the best that she could. She made a mental note to meet later with maybe Rick or Shane. She and Matt still needed to go back to their parent's house to get the rest of their stuff, having left everything behind when they had left the house for food.
There seemed to be a big commotion coming from the woods and she frowned, looking around for her brother. Just as she was about to call out to him, he emerged from the woods with the other survivors following behind him.
"What's going on?" she asked worriedly.
"Kids found a walker in the woods," he explained, leaning against the Rover when he reached her. "But everyone's okay. That hunter guy shot it in the head."
"What hunter gu - "
C.C. turned around to see a man walking into camp holding a crossbow in one hand and a string of squirrels in the other. She noted his well muscled arms and overall athletic build. He gave a rather rugged impression, what with his worn boots and dirt-stained clothing. The sweat on his face and arms seemed to make his skin glisten. There was just something about him that seemed to capture her attention, and she cocked her head to the side, frowning as she tried to figure out what it was.
"That's Daryl," Matt whispered in her ear, pulling her from her thoughts. "Merle's brother."
She almost winced at Matt's words. She remembered that Merle was the man that had been left handcuffed to the roof. And it looked like Daryl was about to find out just what exactly had happened to his brother. Rick approached Daryl, and she and Matt watched the exchange from their vehicle. They were close enough to hear the argument and yet far enough away to not be in their way.
C.C. tensed up as the argument escalated. Daryl tried to take a swing at Rick only to be tackled by Shane. She was never one to get into fights or even intervene in one, but she couldn't just stand idly by when Shane grabbed Daryl in a chokehold.
"Hey!" she cried out, running over to them. She was surprised to find that no one else had tried to step in. "Let him go!"
"Not until he calms down," Shane said calmly.
She turned to Rick. "How would you react if you just found out your brother was left behind tied to a roof? You can't blame him for reacting this way!"
Rick gave Shane a small nod and Shane finally let Daryl go. Daryl let out a few coughs, wheezing as he tried to catch his breath. She knelt down next to him, placing a hand on his chest while she examined his throat. He froze at her touch. His blue eyes looked up at her in confusion.
"Are you okay?" she asked softly.
He blinked a few times, his breathing finally returning to normal. "I'm fine," he said gruffly, pushing her hand away as he stood.
Daryl dusted off his pants as T-Dog stepped in offering his own explanation of what happened.
"The hell with y'all," Daryl shouted, swinging out an arm at no one in particular. "Just tell me where he is so I can go get 'im."
C.C. was vaguely aware that she was still kneeling where Daryl had left her. Everyone resumed whatever it was they were doing before the argument. Matt came over and helped her to her feet.
She chewed on her bottom lip as she stood there watching the men gear up to go back into town. She refrained from pacing because she knew that Matt was watching her closely.
"Don't even think about it," he said as if reading her mind.
But her mind was already made up. Matt held out a hand to stop her, but she sidestepped it. She ran over to Shane and Rick, who were having a hurried conversation about weapons and ammo.
"Maybe I can be of some help," she called out when she reached them. "I'm a doctor."
"Seriously?" Shane let out a derisive snort beside her. "You barely look old enough to drink."
C.C. chose to ignore him and kept her gaze on Rick, who also looked a little doubtful at her statement. "I am...or rather was an emergency room doctor in Atlanta. The man you left behind will probably need some medical assistance after being out there with no food or water."
She tried to keep the criticism out of her voice, but the look on Rick's face showed that he had still caught it. She could see the turmoil in his eyes, and C.C. concluded that it had not been his intention to leave Merle. Behind them, Daryl honked the truck's horn, yelling at them to get a move on. At this outburst, Rick finally nodded his consent.
"Alright," he conceded. "But you gotta do as I tell you. It's too dangerous over there. No heroics."
"No problem," she agreed immediately. "Let me just go get my medical kit."
Matt, having heard the conversation, stopped her when she reached their car. He grabbed her arm and led her to the side, away from any prying ears.
"What the hell are you doing?" he hissed at her angrily. "They freakin' left a guy handcuffed to the roof!"
"I don't care about the details. There's someone out there who needs my help." She reached into the car to grab her kit. "Please, Matty, let me do this. What kind of doctor would I be if I knowingly turned my back on a person that needed me?"
"We don't even know these people! You don't owe them anything!" He ran an agitated hand through his hair, knowing all too well that she was going whether he approved or not. "Fine, then I'm going, too. I can't let you go on your own."
"Just trust me," she whispered, placing a hand on his arm.
Matt shook his head at her but realized that this battle had already been lost. He let out a long, drawn out breath. "Damn it, C.C., why? Why do you want to help out this complete stranger?"
She spared a quick glance at Daryl, who was glaring at her from the truck because she was taking too long. Her gray eyes defiantly met her brother's.
"Because if it was you on that rooftop, I'd want for that complete stranger to not hesitate and go back for you, too."