Daryl was completely mesmerized by the stunning woman whose naked body was writhing in pleasure underneath him. She was beautiful. Even more beautiful than he remembered. They had been apart for too long, though the second their eyes met once again it was clear that nothing had changed. Their connection was deep - an unbreakable bond that neither time nor circumstance could break.

Even though nothing had changed, this was new. They had never reached the level of intimacy that was taking place. In fact, Daryl had never been that intimate with anyone. He'd fucked plenty of women but never one he loved. There was never a woman who could captivate him more and more with each groan, moan or sigh that escaped her lips. Carol was perfect. And she was the one. She'd always been the one.

She had arrived at Terminus that morning, with Judith, Tyreese... And Beth. Somehow they had found Beth and rescued her. After supper that night Daryl had snuck off to his room and waited for her. He knew she would come and she did, only a few minutes later. They talked for hours and he told Carol everything he'd been through from the last time they had seen each other at the prison until the moment she walked through the gates of Terminus. She told him everything as well. He knew she was still devastated about Lizzie and Mika though she held herself together. Daryl couldn't believe how much Carol had been through in the 4 years they'd known each other and she always landed on her feet, stronger than ever.

He looked at Carol's face as he moved deep inside her and Daryl was absolutely sure he was in love with this gorgeous woman and had been for longer than he cared to admit. The feel of her, not just her wet heat, but every part of her, made his body ache with desire. Brushing her cheek burned his fingers. Touching his lips to hers left them tingling afterwards. Licking her skin with his tongue left the most delicious flavour he'd ever enjoyed on his taste buds. The whole experience was something he would never forget.

Carol arched her back and moaned as he pushed into her again. But there was another sound… "Oh my God," Carol said, her eyes flying open. Daryl turned and saw Beth standing there, watching them.

"Beth? What the fuck are you doing here?" he hissed, grabbing a blanket to cover up himself and Carol.

There were tears streaming down her face and a sob escaped her throat as she tried to speak. "I thought… thought you… loved me…" the last part came out as a whimper as Beth turned and bolted from the room.

Daryl looked at Carol, completely baffled at what just happened. His eyes were wide with shock and he had no idea what to say. Carol's smile relaxed him slightly. "What on earth did you do to her?" she teased.

"Fuck if I know," Daryl muttered. Suddenly something else struck him. "Carol, nothing happened. I told you everything. I swear I didn't do anything to make her think I was in love with her." He searched her face, terrified she wasn't going to believe him. "She's a child for Christ sake. I'm old enough to be her father… why would she even think I would look at her that way?" Daryl was starting to get angry. "First she thinks I've spent time in jail and now she thinks I'm practically a pedophile?" Carol reached for him, but Daryl wasn't through ranting. "She just watched her father get his head chopped off. We lost our entire family. And she thinks I was falling in love? What is wrong with her?"

"Daryl, she's a teenager and you're not that easy to interpret," Carol said gently. "I have no doubt that in your mind you did nothing wrong. But not everyone understands Daryl-speak like I do." Carol smiled at him again, "in fact, I may be the only one left in the world that's fluent in it."

Why's she always so calm and reasonable? Daryl wondered. He wracked his brain trying to think of anything he'd said that would give Beth the impression he was in love with her. "I think I know," he muttered. "Right before she was kidnapped, remember I told you we were in the kitchen and I suggested we stick around for a while?" Carol nodded. "She asked me what made me believe there were still good people in the world. She kept prodding me to actually say it, but I knew she already knew it was her. I just said, 'you know' and she got this weird look on her face and said 'oh.' I bet that's it. She thought I was telling her I loved her."

Carol let his words hang in the air for a moment before speaking. "You know you need to go see her, right? Talk to her."

"No fucking way," Daryl protested. "I can't deal with her crying and shit." Carol was giving him a look. "What? I can't talk to her. I'll just get mad. Why are young girls so damn annoying? I thought Beth was more mature than this - smarter."

"Be nice," Carol chastised him. "We just broke her heart into a million pieces Daryl. She's devastated. You need to talk to her, make her understand."

Daryl was slightly annoyed at Carol's heart of gold that he loved so much. "I don't want to," he said, pouting. "I want to stay here with you and get back to what we were doing."

Carol sighed, "you know I want that too, but just go. Get it over with. We have plenty of time to be together."

Daryl grumbled while he got dressed. "You better not go anywhere," he warned.

"I'll be right here," Carol said, snuggling in the blankets. "Promise."

~.~.~.~.~.

Beth could barely breathe as she ran back to her room. The images she had just witnessed were burned into her brain. She had stood there for quite some time before they knew she was there. Beth had never seen two people having sex before and it was heart breaking and beautiful all at the same time.

The way they were so wrapped up in each other than neither one of them noticed she was standing there. The way he touched her body with his rough hands was so gentle and tender, unlike anything she had seen before. The little sighs she made when he sucked her nipples. The deep male groans that escaped him as he moved into her, over and over again. And his tongue. He licked Carol in places Beth never would have imagined a man would lick a woman. When Carol arched her back and moaned Beth finally couldn't stand it anymore, she let out a whimper. She didn't mean to. She honestly just wanted to sneak out without them ever knowing she was there. But she just couldn't hold the pain inside any longer.

Daryl was in love with someone, but it certainly wasn't her. How could I have been so stupid? So naïve, she wondered angrily. Beth flung herself onto her bed and sobbed into her pillow. She was head over heels in love with Daryl and she believed he felt the same way. He hugged her when she arrived that morning. He said he missed her and was glad she was safe. Beth never saw him hug Carol. But apparently he was saving all his Carol hugging for private, she thought bitterly.

Beth was sure she was never going to stop crying. It felt like her heart was just gone. When her daddy died it felt like her heart was shattered, but it was still there. Now it felt like it was completely missing and there was nothing left but a painful ache that throbbed when her heart should be beating.

She thought back to all the moments she had shared with Daryl. He'd protected her and taught her to track. He'd helped her find a drink and allowed her to hold him when he broke down. He wanted to hear her sing and then when she asked what made him believe again… it was her. Beth was sure that his inability to speak in that moment was because he wanted to say he loved her. She was sure of it. But it wasn't true. Daryl loved Carol. And he probably always had.

A rap on her door interrupted her thoughts. It was him. "Go away," she shouted, with a sniffle. "I hate you."

~.~.~.~.~.

The scowl on his face spoke volumes as Daryl came back into the room. Carol was almost afraid to ask, "how'd that go?"

"Just like I told you it would," Daryl said. "The first thing she said was she hates me. She was crying and blubbering and she could barely speak. I told her to stop crying so we could talk and she just started crying harder. Then I got mad and said a lot of shit I shouldn't have said. She told me she hated me again and I left."

Carol sighed and climbed out of bed. She started to get dressed. "What are you doing?" Daryl asked.

"I'm going to talk to her," Carol said. "She needs to know it's going to be okay. I know she's a different person now, but I still think back to how she was on the farm… and it scares me a bit, ya know?"

Carol found Beth's room and knocked. She could hear her crying through the door. "Can I come in?" she asked gently.

"No, go away," was the quick response.

Carol ignored it and went in anyway. She walked over to the bed and sat down. "I know I'm the last person you want to see right now, but I also know you need a mom when your heart is breaking." Carol opened her arms, "come here." She wasn't surprised at all when Beth dove into her arms like any little girl would and clung to her tightly. Carol stroked her hair and let her cry. It was a tough moment because it made Carol think of all the broken hearts she would never mend for Sophia… Lizzie… Mika…

"I'm just a fool. I feel so stupid," Beth said quietly as she pulled back.

"Don't ever feel stupid, you're not," Carol soothed her. "He's the hardest person to understand that I've ever met."

"I love him Carol," Beth said simply, starting at her with wide innocent eyes.

"I know Sweetie," Carol said gently. "He told me everything you went through and that you helped him find himself again. That's special, and no one can ever take that away from you."

"But it didn't make him love me," Beth mumbled. "Why didn't I see it in all the time we spent together? He never talked about you. We talked about others, but never you. I should have known that the hardest one to talk about is the one you love the most." Even though Carol already knew how much Daryl loved her, hearing it from the innocent lips of a child struck her. "You know, I told him back at the prison, after Zach died, that I don't cry anymore. Now look at me. And this isn't the first time I've cried in front of him."

"You've been through a lot Beth," Carol replied.

"We all have," Beth echoed. "Listen Carol, I'm sorry."

Carol tilted her head, "Sorry for what?"

"For standing there… watching…" Beth looked away in embarrassment and Carol felt her own cheeks flushing. "And for ruining your night… with him." Beth looked back, "I saw how much he loves you. I hurt so bad, but I couldn't deny it. And I saw what true love really looks like." Her eyes filled with tears again, "I just want someone to look at me that way."

Carol hugged her again, "someone will. You're smart and beautiful, and kind, with a heart of gold. Some lucky guy will come along and he will look at you like that. I promise." She tilted Beth's chin so she was looking at her as she said the last part and then kissed her on the forehead. "Okay, mom-time is over. Now you need sister time. I'm gonna find Maggie and you're going to sit up the rest of the night and rant to her about how much you hate Daryl and I right now." Beth started to protest. "It's okay, just do it, you'll feel better." Carol grabbed her hand. "And when you're ready just remember that he's still your friend. That's never going to change."

"Thank you," Beth whispered softly. "And I don't hate you."

"I know," Carol smiled. "But you envy me right now. Don't bottle it up, that's what sisters are for. So I'm going to get yours."

Carol found Maggie and woke her, explaining the situation quickly. Glenn was awake too and they chatted for a minute after Maggie left. "I didn't know what Rick did," Glenn said. "But I wouldn't have supported him if I did. Just needed you to know that."

Carol made her way back to Daryl's room, feeling much better about the situation. Daryl was snoring when she took off her clothes and climbed in beside him. He woke when she touched him. "Ohhh, hey, is everything okay now?" he mumbled sleepily.

"Shh," Carol said, putting a finger to his lips. "I've done enough talking for one night." Her fingers trailed down his bare chest and hit the waist band of his underwear. She ducked under the blanket to tug them off and then stretched her naked body out beside his. Daryl seemed a lot more alert when she leaned in to kiss him. The second their lips meet all she wanted was to get right back to that place they were, where the entire world disappeared and all she knew was him.

Carol felt thankful it had taken them almost 4 years to finally be together. She was such a different person, him too. She imagined things would have been so much different, even a couple years ago. Awkward maybe. Difficult perhaps. Definitely not the easy comfortable way they were with each other, even in completely new territory.

"Any chance you locked the door?" Daryl asked, flipping her onto her back and hovering over her.

"Mmm," she groaned, as he penetrated, blissfully filling her once again. "I will never leave it unlocked again."

Before long they were lost in each other once again, bodies moving rhythmically, slowly at first, then faster, leaving them glistening in a sheen of sweat. Looking into his eyes Carol wondered how it took her so long to see the love. It had been there for a very long time but perhaps she was scared to recognize it. The events of the past few weeks had changed her and given her the strength to see what had been staring at her for so long.

Before Carol went to sleep she said a prayer for all those they had lost. And then she said a prayer for all those who had finally found each other again. She added a special prayer for Beth, asking God to heal her broken heart and send her someone to teach her what love is. With one last look at Daryl she fell asleep content and comfortable.

~.~.~.~.~.~.

When Maggie left Beth pulled out her new diary and started to write:

I thought I knew love. But all I've really known is loss. In 3 years I've lost my mother, my father, my first boyfriend, and the only man I thought I loved.

But I've gained too. A family, friends, people who I know will take care of me. So for that I'm thankful. I'm learning to cherish what I have and let go of what I've lost. I hate you Daryl Dixon for making me love you and breaking my heart. I'm letting you go for now, but someday I'll take back your friendship. For now, you're gonna miss me so bad!