Noxi: I wanted this. All my feels. This takes place pre-season 3, winter months. Because screw season 4 that's why.

The Walking Dead belongs to Kirkman and AMC.

Lying Next to You

It was colder than the previous night and to keep from going numb he decided to wander near the camp and find more wood for the fire. Rick gave him a pointed look about going off, but he just pulled the crossbow higher over his shoulder before grunting and walking off. He wasn't going to sit around and wait for it to fucking snow. He was cold, he was too tired to sleep, and he couldn't stop thinking about how they were sitting ducks out here in the middle of nothing.

They needed shelter and food and warm clothes. They needed a place they could call their own, something they didn't have to run from every day or so. They needed a home.

Daryl wasn't sure they would ever find one. He'd never had one before all this shit had happened so why should the apocalypse change any of that. There were too many dangers, things they couldn't account for. They were only so few against what felt like thousands. It was futile.

He'd never had a home and he didn't need one now. But he understood the rally for something solid. It would give them all hope.

And they couldn't make Lori walk and sleep on the ground any longer. Any further into that pregnancy and she was gonna give birth to that kid running.

He could see the exhaustion on her face and he knew why Rick was so determined to find a permanent place. He didn't blame him. He was sick of running too. But he didn't count on nothing. Because nothing lasted, ever. Didn't before, and it certainly didn't now.

He dragged a hand over his face, sighing heavily.

Carol had talked to him the other day about a place to make their own. Something stable and theirs. Where they could walk around without fear of making too much noise or attracting the wrong kind of attention. Where they could sleep at night without a watch and worrying about who would be cold. Where Lori could have the baby and be safe.

When she talked about it, when her eyes roamed over everyone as she spoke, he knew she wasn't worried about finding a place for herself. It was finding a home for them. And it made him want to find a place for her.

She never stopped taking care of everyone else long enough to see that she was stretching herself thin. And he wanted to fix that.

He didn't even bother with the wood. He was too tired and his eyes were strained and he was suddenly colder than when he had left. He slipped back to the camp, eyes trained on the fire as he kept quiet.

He found Rick still up, eyes carefully fixed on the darkness around him. But then he glanced to his side and a small smile tipped his lips. Daryl stepped further into the light of the camp and saw that Carol was up now, arms huddled further under her blanket and as close to the fire as she could get. Seems he wasn't the only one who was cold and unable to sleep. She whispered something and Rick smiled broader, before turning away.

He waited a moment before slipping back into the group. He watched as Carol stoked the fire, her hands trembling in the cold. She observed the group, eyes pausing on each sleeping form, and if he hadn't a met her he would never have known what to call the look on her face. But he did know.

It was love. She loved them all, and she never hesitated to give anything to each of them. She reached over to the pull the blanket further over Beth's shoulders, her lips turning up slightly. And then she was pushing Lori's boot further away from the flame. She dusted ash from Maggie and then he saw Carl shiver in the light of the flame and Carol did too. Because she was up, tiptoeing around the others toward him and laying her blanket over him gently. Rick looked as if he was about to protest but she just shook her head and stepped back toward her place next to Lori. She settled down, giving the group one last glance looking satisfied before she turned to the empty spot next to her. And then her lips turned down, her features twisting into something of a grimace. He knew that look as well, and he was usually the only one it was reserved for.

He had always watched her care for the group separate from it, sure that he was never taking away from the others. They needed it more than he did. It wasn't like he needed her to take care of him. He was damn well able to do that himself.

But she never appreciated how well he dodged her efforts. The frustration and the worry on her face always made him feel uncomfortable. He wasn't used to that. People never cared. And yet, he was oddly reassured that she was concerned about his absence.

He couldn't stay there any longer and he headed toward his spot, the empty one next to her. It was never planned that way, but it was unspoken among the others that they slept next to each other, for whatever reason. He never made a fuss about it and she didn't seem to mind either.

She turned at the sound of his approach and relief washed over her face. She didn't say anything as he sat next to her, settling the crossbow on the ground beside him. She waited patiently, as she always did.

He scratched the back of his head as he crossed his legs, too aware of the closeness between them. She touched her knuckles to his knee and he looked up.

Her brows were drawn down in confusion, questioning, probably wondering where he'd been. But she never asked and he was grateful she hadn't.

"Everything okay?" she whispered instead, leaving it open, leaning into his shoulder. He glanced down at his boots, resisting the urge to pull away from her. The warmth, that was what he needed. It was what he could use. At least, that's what he told himself as he leaned back into her, subtly, wanting. He nodded, picking at the nothing that was at his feet. She said nothing, letting his answer be enough as he felt her shift, scooting closer to him, her entire body pressing close to his. She shivered against him, and he stared up at her in shock.

"We should sleep," she murmured, staring at the fire as if their proximity meant nothing, but was like a weight on his chest. He forced himself to breathe right, and grunted, unable to get anything else out. His jaw hurt he was clenching it so tight.

And he couldn't take it any longer. He had no idea what to do, and he felt foolish and inadequate sitting there so close to her. So he just lay on his back, stretching one arm behind his head. He stared up at the night sky through the trees and ignored the rushing pit opening up in his stomach as he tried to figure out how to deal with the things she was stirring inside him.

He never knew what to do when she just – did them. Maybe for her those actions were normal, but to him? He had no idea how he was supposed to respond. He could feel her staring down at him, the silence between them suddenly heavier than the weight of her body against his. He should have waited for her to lay down first. Now he was at a disadvantage.

He shifted, straightening the poncho out across his chest; trying to contain the heat, trying to avert the attention Carol was giving to his face. He knew she was staring at his face, he could feel her eyes there. Her sigh was like a release and he knew she had given up trying to figure out what was wrong.

She pushed her bag out of the way, closer to him, and he waited to see if she would lie down and sleep or if he would lie there awake all night wondering what was keeping her up as well.

He hated to think she that there was nothing that could lull her to sleep. He knew this world was fucked, and there wasn't much for any of them. But she had grown stronger, proving to everyone that she was more capable than they had given her credit for. He hadn't doubted her.

He jerked, stilling, unable to breathe when he felt her knees brush against his leg, her body following. He held still as she settled in close, her head resting in the crook of his bent elbow as her hands bundled under the poncho. He nearly jumped out of his skin when she pressed close, her hips and legs connecting with his followed by the press of her chest against his side.

He wasn't breathing.

He didn't know what to do, if he was supposed to do anything. He waited until she settled, listening to her quiet breathes. He tuned into the things he usually never did like the form of her body, so unexpectedly small against him, and so much more fragile than he had ever thought. Carol was strong, and he had never thought differently of her physically. Now, as she lay against him, he couldn't help but think of the woman that was lying next to him. He swallowed thickly.

Her hair tickled his arm, sending goosebumps up his neck and a chill down his spine. Her face buried into his shoulder and her chest expanded as she breathed. And then her hand, and the soft callouses that she had slowly developed over the past few months, as she trailed them over his stomach, wrapping her arm around his waist and found his mind wandering as his body relaxed.

He exhaled, and felt the warmth between them radiate stronger.

Nothing had ever been as stable and safe as Carol. There had never been more of a home than her.

He chewed the bottom of his lip slowly, his eyes dragging suddenly and he turned toward her slightly, pulling his arm out from behind his head. He grabbed her bag, pulling it behind him for a pillow. And then he curled his arm around her shoulders as she shifted with him, fingers curling in his side. She gave a sigh of content when he was wrapped around her, fingers clutching at her sweater.

And he could feel her drifting off to sleep as her body relaxed against his, her breathing evening out. So quick, so easy. As if she had been seeking him out all along. As if he was the thing that put her mind at ease.

She always did what she wanted, what was best. Best. And for once, he was grateful for that.

He turned his head to hers, everything around him Carol, and home, and good, and finally closed his eyes.

a/n: I wanted snuggling Caryl. I hope you enjoyed.