25 - Coming of Age

Now that distance had been laid between them and their motel home, Rick didn't feel like the needed to run so hard, so fast. Glenn had circled around, helped Daryl refill the fuel reserves. A hand siphon had been the best find they had made all winter. They had dropped one car along way and were tight but handling well in three vehicles now. It felt like they had made the right decision. The further west they traveled, the less walkers they were coming across. They had even skirted a town yesterday, one they didn't feel they needed to stop at, they drove the long way around and continued on.

The unfinished cul-de-sac made for a good place to spend a night or two. Cars parked out of site in garages, folks huddled for safety. Watch shifts set up and though there had been no food to scavenge, there were fruit trees not far behind the first set of houses here on Apple Barrel Circle that were abundant. They feasted that first night on too much tart fruit and soup that Pete had whipped up with canned beans they still had.

Daryl walked hand in hand with Cassie on the unfinished second floor of the house they were all staying in. He had slowly gotten past his desire to grab her and hold her every time she walked near him. Watch was being held from the lot across the street but this place had a great view as well. They sat in an unfinished window and looked out to the tree line. Lightning bugs lit up the perimeter and Daryl knew that this was the closest thing to normal they would ever experience any more. "Yer ok with Ass Kicker sleeping with us tonight?" Rick had asked Daryl if they would take the baby and Carl, he needed time with Beth. Cassie nodded. She loved that baby, hell she loved both those kids. She may have been the newest one to their group, but she had fit in just fine.

The sun had yet to fully set, there was still an orange haze in the air. He kissed her hair. Cassie smiled at him, feeling happy and safe, at least for tonight. She knew that this was all she could ask for. "Let's go round them up and play cards with Carl." They had only brought one deck of cards and three toys for Judith. There was no risking taking up much more space than that.

Michonne was waiting at the bottom of the steps as they came down to the main floor. She kissed Daryl as he approached her and waited for Cassie to join them in a hug. "This is a good night." She was pleased with the distance they had made, the safe they were all experiencing and the full feeling in her stomach. "I hear we're babysitting?" Rick had thanked her in passing for agreeing to take the kids for the night and she just smiled and nodded. They were going to have to stop calling her a baby soon, she was getting to be a toddler. Learning to walk and chattering up a storm.

Daryl pulled gently at one Michonne's dreads, "They need some alone time. Shit, Rick is so wound up I'd offer to fuck him if I thought it'd help." Daryl had a point. Rick had been trying to hold it all together. The group, his family, his love life. But being on the road, uncertain of where they were going to land each night. Fear of walkers and humans, he had been holding it together but it would be a losing battle if he and Beth didn't get some time together.

"Um, yeah… no." Michonne smirked at him. "There will be no fucking Rick for you." She started to walk to the front door.

Daryl pulled at Cassie's hand. "Oh, I get it. Only you two get to have any fun." He was smirking and waiting to dodge a slap from either or both of them that never came.

"Yup." Michonne opened the front door which had no lock on it.

They rounded up the kids, Rick and Beth kissing them both goodnight as Jude jumped in Uncle Daryl's arms climbing to ride on his shoulders. Carl grabbed his back pack and followed them into the main house that had been claimed for the group. They didn't know exactly where Beth and Rick would spend the night, but it wouldn't be with everyone else.

The girls took Jude and Daryl grabbed the deck of cards from Carl and dragged him into the kitchen where the moon light was pouring in through unfinished windows. "War?" Daryl sat on an out of place kitchen cabinet and Carl sat on a bar stool that obviously didn't belong in this house.

"Nah, Gin rummy?" Carl was pretty good at most card games. Daryl nodded as the kid took the pack from him and started to shuffle. "Sorry you got stuck sittin' so my dad could get laid." Carl started to deal the cards.

Daryl just nodded his head. "'s good." He didn't mind hanging out with Carl, he could be a pain in the ass, but for the most part he was a good kid.

"Hey Daryl?" Carl started dealing, seven cards to each of them. Daryl's eyes shifted to the kids face. "Do you think it's weird? I mean dad and Beth?"

The question took Daryl by surprise. Rick and Beth had been public for months now and Carl had been given plenty of chances to bring this up but never head. "Nah."

Carl organized the cards in his hand, "It's like twenty years difference, and I'm not even twenty." Daryl wasn't sure of the exact number, but that was probably close, maybe a little high.

"Age aint nothin' but a number. Look at you." In the old world Carl was a kid for sure, but now a days, he was a man. "You aint no kid anymore." Carl nodded. "'Sides, they love each other." Daryl didn't want to get all mushy but it was true, they were very much in love. He shuffled the cards in his hand, putting together his sets and runs.

Carl lowered his voice and leaned in a little, "She calls him 'Daddy'." He had heard her say it more than once in the past months, it bothered him at first, he didn't understand it, and even now he did necessarily grasp it all. "I know it's just some weird sex thing." He drew a card and put one back in the pile.

Daryl swallowed hard wondering when all the saliva had gone out of his mouth. "That's private." He didn't know what else to say. No need to try and explain it, the kid knew it was sex related, he didn't need to know more than that.

Carl laid down his cards and Daryl slapped his down right behind. Carl had won that hand and Daryl was pretending to be pissed about it. Daryl rounded up the cards and started to shuffle. "Private like the three of you?" He glanced over his shoulder toward the living room where Cassie and Michonne were with the rest of the group.

"Yeah, private like that. Now let's stop talkin'." This conversation was making Daryl uncomfortable.

Carl contemplated his cards. A million questions were spinning in his head, had been for months. "How do you, I mean…." He sorted his cards, "the three of you?" He didn't look at Daryl, he couldn't, instead he burned a hole into his cards with his stare.

The redneck slapped his cards face down on the counter top. "The fuck? Really?" He couldn't believe Carl was asking him this.

Carl put his cards down, "Oh come on Daryl…." He tried to keep his voice down. "Everyone treats me like a kid. Jeeze." He picked his cards back up.

Daryl watched his face, he was serious, he wanted answers. You really couldn't blame the kid. Daryl had learned about sex from Merle's porno magazines and videos. He screwed around with a couple of girls, disastrously, but he had done it. Carl had gone from kid to man without any of that. No one to teach him the birds and bees.

Daryl drew a card from the pile and shuffled it into his hand. Stopping to lick the dirty spot on the back of his knuckle and watching the kid who just looked annoyed now. "Look… I' mean, Carol and Pete. Maggie and Glenn. That's all normal shit. Just pay attention to them." He had no idea what else to say. Carl rolled his eyes. "What?"

"I did that already. That's why I can't figure out your shit." Carl almost laughed.

They played a few hands without any talking, then Daryl finally spoke, uncomfortably. "We all love each other. Just like your dad and Beth. Like those normal couples." Whatever the conversation in the living room was, they were all having a good time, it was noisy in there and no one was paying attention to them. "There's just three in the bed instead of two."

"So you kiss both of them?" Carl knew that, he had seen Daryl kiss both of them before, well, more like they kissed him, Daryl didn't show that kind of affection. Not that they had all done it at the same time, but as couples, Carl had seen it happen. Daryl nodded. "And they kiss each other?" Carl's brain was spinning to think of two girls kissing. After a pause Daryl rolled his eyes and nodded. "So you all…"

"Hey!" Daryl cut him off before he could continue. "Ya don't need to know mechanics to drive a car. Ya don't need to know any more 'bout this, just to know it works."

Carl laughed, "You already taught me all the mechanics for the car." They both laughed. "Seriously though." Carl's face shifted. "Sometimes dad… um… hits her." He didn't look up from his cards. He had heard her cry out once from a distance away but it was Beth and it was pain, he knew that sound. Carl had seen a few bruises on Beth as well. When she was washing up and didn't know anyone was around. It scared him and pissed him off all at the same time. If his father really loved her, why did he hit her?

"Com'mon." Daryl put the cards down and started digging though his shirt pocket for a cigarette he had found stashed in a tool box in one of the empty garages. He held up a finger telling the kid to wait, he walked into the living room and used the oil lamp to light his cigarette. He kissed Jude on the head and told Michonne he was going for a walk with Carl. Cassie waved from across the room, she and Maggie were steeped in conversation. He went back out to the kitchen dragging on his cigarette and walked out the side door. Carl followed behind him.

They walked for a while, crossbow over Daryl's shoulder like it was part of him. They stayed on the street walking the cul-de-sac. One of the houses they passed housed Rick and Beth for the night, but they were all dark, they didn't know which one. Daryl flicked the end of his cigarette and walked up a sidewalk, sitting on the front stoop of an unfinished house. Carl sat next to him.

"I can't explain it, but some people like getting roughed up during sex." The kid was too grown up to sugar coat things. And Daryl was pretty sure Carl didn't like thinking his father was being mean to Beth. "She doesn't think of it as gettin' hit. She just likes it." The expression on Carl's face didn't change, he was still lost. Daryl thought hard then came up with an analogy. "Ya know how ya jerk off one way, somethin' that feels good to you?" He waited for the kid to process, a slight nod happened. "Ya figured out what ya like, right?" Carl turned beet red. How did Daryl know that he did that? "Well, she figured out what she likes and found someone to do it with her." Wasn't that what sex was really about? Figuring out what turned you on and finding someone to share in the weird with you.

They didn't talk for a little while till Carl started playing with the laces on his boots, "Cassie and Michonne, do you rough them up?"

Daryl smirked. "Ahhh, no. That's not something they like." Daryl laughed.

Carl had that serious look again, "Do you think he hit my mom? I mean, roughed her up." Damn this kid had grown up too fast, why the hell couldn't he just read comic books and play video games. He had too much time to think.

"Nah. You're mom wasn't like that." He didn't know for sure, but he could never picture Lori taking hit from anyone. Extended silence wasn't difficult between these two. Daryl didn't always know how to word things and Carl needed time to process sometimes. "Just know that Rick loves Beth. No matter what. He gives her what she wants." He had seen firsthand how much Rick gave to her, any man that let his woman have sex with another man, that was love.

"So what does my dad want?" If Beth wanted to be hit, what did Rick want during sex?

Daryl put his arm around Carl. "He just wants to protect her." Carl looked at him, then back at his shoes. "Know it sounds weird, but sometimes love aint about flowers and shit. It's 'bout giving the other people what they need, even if it's weird to everyone else." Carl nodded. "Ky ask ya somethin'?" Carl nodded. "You mad at your dad cause you like Beth?" Daryl was fishing for information.

Carl shook his head. "She's not my type."

Daryl laughed, "You have a type? You know like six women."

"Nothin', doesn't matter." Carl muttered trying to slide out of Daryl's hold. "Forget it, she's taken. And too old for me." He laughed at that thought knowing the age gap between his dad and Beth, "Age aint nothin' but a number right?" He slipped out of Rick's hold.

Daryl realized, it had to be either Cassie or Michonne. He was a gluttonous bastard, even if they were both way too old for Carl, Daryl got to be with two women. It was greedy. "Sorry… I mean…" He was apologizing to this kid for no reason.

"Ewe, no." Carl slid away from him. "Not those two. Gross. They are too old." He wiped fake germs off his arms. "Shit no." He stared across the street to the house they all occupied. He looked up at the upper deck where Glenn was on watch and Maggie had joined him. Daryl was relieved, he figured it out; they both looked up at Maggie. "I mean, not her. But ya know, someone like her. I don't know." He was embarrassed again, glad that the moon light didn't shine too bright.

It was getting late, "Look. You can always ask me stuff. Might not have a good answer, but ya can ask."

Once they made their way back into the house, Carl eventually bunked down in the corner of the living room while Daryl, Cassie and Michonne went into the dining room space. Judith slept on the floor next to them. He laid in the middle between them both of his women holding them.

"So what was the big pow wow about?" Michonne was curious.

Daryl kissed her cheek. "Birds and the bees. Well, more like birds of prey and killer wasps. That kid is way beyond a sex talk." Cassie kissed his shoulder. "Don't ever make me do that again." It had been a hard talk for Daryl.

The night had started with tears. Beth was still crying about the woman she had gunned down days ago. Even though she knew that it had been the best for everyone, she would have killed one of their own if Beth hadn't ended her. But it had ripped her apart. Rick held her and rocked as she seemed to get it all out of her system. Petting her hair, telling her how much he loved her.

It had ripped him apart to know that she was this upset about things. He knew it was about more than just killing some anonymous woman. Rick was pretty sure that this shit ass world they had all been forced into had finally caught up with her. For the most part, since her suicide attempt two years ago, she had been a rock. But everyone had a breaking point, he knew that all too well after his wife died. They rocked together for a while till the tears stopped and her brain had settled.

"I need you Rick." Her voice was small. Beth had been wrestling with so many emotions these past days.

Rick kissed her forehead sweetly, "What do you need Little One?" He would let her set the pace, let her direct things if that's what she needed.

Beth wiggled out of his hold and grabbed for her back pack, "I have my special restraints," the ones she had made months ago of soft lamb's wool so that her wrist's would not reveal marks of their love making. "Will you tie me Daddy and make my body feel good?" By feel good, she meant feel pain. Beth wanted to lose her thoughts to the sting of his hand or his belt as she lay there helpless and bound only to his care.

Rick smiled. "You sure you're ready to be bound Little One." His earlier voice of soothing concern was now gone. Now his dominate voice was in play. The one that made her nipples harden at the mere sound. She nodded. They had moved up to using a belt for her spankings, they couldn't do it for long, she was still adjusting to the sting of it and he always worried about breaking the skin, but they were enjoying this experimentation into something more aggressive.

"Stand up then Beth and take all of your clothes off." He pushed her away a little bit and settled against the unfished wall.

She knew he wasn't looking for some sexy striptease and slow reveal. Rick liked to see her simply take her clothes off, almost shy about showing her body to him. She pulled her tank top over her head and flicked off her bra. She stood topless with her pale breasts exposed to him, her dark pink nipples pointed straight out. She toed off her boots and turned around as she shimmied her ass out of her cargo pants. Beth stood in her panties, not bright white as when she acquired them but Rick still thought they were the cutest thing he had ever seen.

His voice was a little horse, "Bend over." Beth obediently bent over, showing him her heart shaped ass and she listened, waiting for the sigh that inevitably came from him.

He had chosen this house for a reason, first, its distance from the main house everyone else was using, but this one in particular because there were plenty of unfinished beams that he could bind her to and still have room to swing his belt.

Beth waited submissively, bent at the waist her hands clasped behind her ankles and her eyes closed. She slowly started to push all of the baggage that seemed to have been strangling her these past days out of her head. She listened as Rick stood up and circled her, but she focused on closing the doors in her mind to the shit she no longer felt like dealing with.

Rick picked up her back pack and sorted through it, she had put in the lamb's wool and some fabric straps they had acquired over time. Condoms, there weren't many of these left, a bottle of water and the rag they used to clean the cum off her body. It was always washed and neatly folded and kept in a zip bag. There was also some fresh fruit. She always had just what they needed. He loved that she would stay in that position as long as he wanted her to, she was flexible, she could put her palms on the floor, but holding her ankles was very sexy to him, it had her beautifully exposed.

He took out her restraints and walked over to the finished beam in the middle of the room, it was decorative, like some old Greek column, this was most likely going to be some pretentious master bedroom, there was a matching beam nearby but it had not been finished. "Come." He acted as if he was more interested in the post than in her, but they both knew that was a lie. She stood straight and walked to him. If she were a good submissive, she would have kept her eyes cast down, but she hardly ever went that way. She watched him till he looked at her. "Wrap your arms around the pole." She did, she pressed her chest to the wood and hugged the post.

Rick first bound her wrist together then bound her arms to the post. She gave a tug to make sure she felt secure. She was tied and with Rick, she would always feel secure. He pressed his body against her. "You want the belt to start, or should we go slowly?"

He had learned to understand her needs. She needed to give up control, to have him make her decisions, give her pleasure, give her pain. Beth, like everyone else now, spent most of her day surviving, helping others, killing, stealing, protecting. When she got a moment to give up all of that and simply let Rick take control, it seemed to fill a place in her life.

Her tears started again. He kissed her hair. "The belt Rick. I need the belt." They hadn't been using it for long but she found that though it inflicted the most pain, it also took away the most pain. He nodded. Rick crossed in front of her and she watched as he took off his shirt, his broad chest coming into view. The hickey she had left on his rib was still fading. He dropped his shirt to the floor then took off his boots. Finally he unbuckled his belt and her face lightened as it slid through the loops.

"You like this don't you Little One?" He opted not to talk about what she needed, the pain she craved to push down the fear. Things had been to tense with her this past week, he needed to bring it all down to a more manageable level, that was his job. She nodded at his question. As his belt slid out his pants adjusted lower on his hips. She could see the cut of his abs.

Rick stalked back around her now, he drew the leather belt slowly down her back, she rose up to meet the touch. He drifted his hand over her ass, down her thigh. "Your skin is perfect. Not a mark on you". It had been over two weeks since they had used the belt and his hand never left lasting bruises. She rested her cheek on the post and listened to him. "I'm gonna fix that." He massaged her skin. "You want me to leave red marks?" He knew she wouldn't answer yet. "You want Daddy to hit you till you bruise?" He listened to her breathing as he used both hands to widen her stance. "I'm gonna leave you looking so beautiful Beth." Her crying had slowed but still hadn't stopped.

He was almost at a loss of how to make her feel better. He slid his hand along the inside of her thigh till he found her sex, she was wet but far from dripping. He mind was still not where it needed to be. Rick rubbed his fingers along her labia, teasing her. Her body was still too ridged, in no condition to be whipped.

"Beth," He was at her ear now. She was focused on his words. "Let Daddy take all the pain away." It was a command, plain and simple. She nodded. "You have to relax." He rubbed his hand up and down her back till her crying finally stopped. Rick actually wished he could have been half as emotional as she was sometimes. He held it all in till it broke him. "You want Daddy to make you feel good here," He ran his hand between her legs, she had begun to relax, her body was starting to release fluids, lubricating her. She shook her head. "You want me to make you hurt here?" He ran his hand over her ass. This time Beth nodded. "Say it then. Tell me what you want."

He needed to hear say the words. "I… Daddy…." Her voice was solid. "I need the belt on my ass, take my pain away." He never knew how he should feel when words like that made his cock stiff. He rubbed himself through his pants then kissed her shoulder and stepped back, taking his belt in hand.

He folded the belt in half, shortening the length and helping with his accuracy. The goal was never to injure. He smacked it into his hand once, getting a feel for it again then turned and let it fly, coming down on her perfect skin. The crack filled the empty air in the room and she squealed at the contact. One perfect start to the night. He drew back again and let the belt fly, he chose a new spot and made contact, leaving a second red mark on her pale skin. Every crack made his dick twitch.

Beth pleaded, "More." It was fascinating to watch her body. She took each hit seeming to draw the pain in as she moaned out what ever demon was filling her head. Like there was only room inside her for so much pain and the belt pushed out the rest. He knew only ten or fifteen hits would be appropriated before he risked breaking the skin. Oh, he could ease up on the force but she would beg for more. He made each hit count, spreading them from the top of her butt to the edge of her thighs. He listened to her body as well as her sounds. When he got to fifteen, he knew she needed more.

He slid his hand between her thighs, "Five more Little One, just five." He couldn't risk the injury, she would have to work through her demons. She nodded. She understood. He licked his fingers and lengthened the belt to its full reach. He drew it back and snapped it. The sound was different, crisper, she moaned out 'yes'. He did it again and again. Her body was beginning to wilt, she held on tighter to the post. Another smack and she was moaning, more sexual now, he walked behind her and could see her body now dripping, she was pushed past her demons, this was just sexual now. He debated skipping the last hit but he knew she had been counting them out.

"Such a good girl." He smacked the leather center across her bright red ass, it was beautiful, she was beautiful. Her body released knowing that there were no more hits coming. She slumped at the pole. Rick dropped the belt to the floor. He would love to just drop his pants and fuck her hard, but she needed his comfort first. He took hold of her by the hips and lifted her. Rubbing her red bottom he whispered, "So good Little One, Daddy's got you." He held her then finally started to untie her. They slipped to the floor and she curled up into his lap. Her hair spilled everywhere and he rocked her as he observed his handy work on her skin. She'd be sore tomorrow. She whispered a thank you and he smiled.

Beth wasn't sure how long they had sat there holding each other but she felt better than she had in a week. It didn't matter that things were far from what she had envisioned her life would be like. Their little world was perfect as far as she was concerned. "Make love to me Rick." She wanted to feel him inside her. He had been hoping for hard, pounding sex, but he would never deny her anything she asked for.

His beard had gotten so full and gray. Something she loved to run her fingers through as he started to fall asleep at night. She was playing with it now as she moved out of her aftercare and ready to have sex. "I want to climb on top of you and ride you." She said it with a lithe little grin that made Rick so happy.

"Yeah?" He started to move her around like she was a rag doll. "You want to sit on top and be the one in control?" He knew it could cause an inner conflict for her.

She enjoyed the manhandling. "Well, I don't have to be in control, I just wanna be on top." All of the pain she had been wrestling with these past days seemed to have gone. Her voice had gone back to playful and little. She rubbed her hand over her backside. "My butt hurts too much to be on the bottom." She pouted out her bottom lip.

He massaged her hip then ran his hands over her perfect ass. "You need me to kiss it baby, make it all better." She slowly nodded her head, as if she wasn't giddy over the idea. Suddenly Rick picked her up on moved her to the side, "Hands and knees Little One." Serious time was over. It had been a long week for all of them since they had left the motel. He was tired of being in charge, tired of having to always be in control of things. He was ready to get lost in loving Beth.

Beth was obedient, she got down on all fours knowing her knees might be red by the time they were done. He liked to inspect his work, make sure he hadn't injured her. She wiggled her ass in his direction and laughed as she heard him groan a bit. She wasn't sure if it was the site of her body or the fact that his own was always tired now, but either way it made her smile. She felt him close to her and she closed her eyes, she only wanted to feel.

Rick knelt behind her and used the moon light to help see the marks he had left on her. The night wasn't very bright, he'd have to sneak a peek in the morning, but he knew that he hadn't don't any permanent damage. He grabbed at her ass, still warm from the spanking, he rubbed his cheek on her skin. She giggled at the feel of his beard. Rick started to kiss her. "All better Little One?" He used his lips and tongue to soothe her warm flesh.

"No Daddy. Kiss it more." She was going to kill him with her little girl voice and her playful nature. It was never hard to remember that the Beth was a full grown woman in every sense of the word. Age, her body, her mind, the battles she fought every day. But it made him happy to know that he could bring out this vulnerable side of her that allowed him to take care of her. He kissed it more. He dragged his tongue along her skin, kissing each raised welt as he found it. "Better now?" He voice was growing horse with lust.

She shook her head and her bottom in the process then she reached back with one hand and pulled her cheeks apart just a little. "Here Daddy, kiss it here."

Rick rubbed his hand over his face, she would be the death of him someday. He didn't hesitate, Rick moved in tongue first, the tip of it finding the bundle of nerves that made her moan out. She tasted heavenly. He kissed and licked her, spreading her knees wider so he could start to finger her pussy. "Better now Beth." He feasted on her as if it were his last meal. She was moaning and nodding. "Such a dirty little girl, you know that right?" He had two fingers inside of her and she was rocking back to meet his touch. She shook her head 'no', the little minx was provoking him to say more to her, to show her how dirty she should be. "No? Not dirty when you beg your Daddy to do this?" He rimmed her intensely as he added a third finger, spreading her wider as he went.

Beth was getting lost in the pleasure, she was shaking her head but she wasn't sure what she was saying no to any longer. Something about being dirty, but since she knew how much he liked that, she just let it continue. Rick pulled his fingers out of her and brought them up to her mouth, she opened and began to suck.

When she finally couldn't wait anymore she started to beg, "Please Rick, please." There was a need in her voice. He wasn't even sure if she recognized it.

"Come here Beth." He spoke deliberately. He moved away from her and waited for her to turn and face him, he extended his hand and she took it. He drew her close for a kiss. She crawled into his arms and they embraced. "I'm going to make love to you Beth." She nodded. Beth started at his pants, he helped her. It had been a week or better since they had been together this way, though he knew she was going to need him to be gentle, he was still raging to get out of his pants. Rick stood up and Beth undressed him, reverently in a way. When he was finally naked she waited on her knees for him.

He had brought a blanket up to the room, he spread it on the floor and stopped at her bag to get the condom. He didn't let his brain wonder what they were going to do when the condoms ran out. Rick laid back and motioned for his Little One to come to him, she rose from her knees and stood over him, watching as he sheathed himself in latex. When it was in place she straddled him and knelt. Her face was intense as she felt him line himself up, when he started to work inside of her she smiled and when she pushed down on him they both let out a sigh. He took her hands and wrapped his fingers in hers. They rocked together, eyes locked as they made love intently in some half-finished house somewhere in the middle of who knew where.

Thought the night had started as one where he would have loved to have simply been her Daddy, taken control and used her body; it ended in a very powerful moment of love. Something he had never been entirely sure he had felt in his life and something he knew that he wanted to share with Beth for as long as this shitty world would allow.

They held each other through the night and Rick woke just before sunrise. This was the first morning in a while he had felt this content. He listened as she breathed and felt her hair on his chest. He loved that she curled against him. He wrapped his finger in a lock of her long blond hair and listened to the morning start to come alive around them. They would have to get up soon. He was sure Daryl and Michonne were already out hunting, Judith was beginning to stir and Pete would be rummaging through the supplies trying to figure out how to make the food spread as long as possible. This was there life now and Rick could tolerate it with Beth curled up next to him.

"How long have you been awake?" Beth's voice was little.

He kissed the top of her head. "Since that first night you seduced me on the third floor of that house."