"I was drunk," Daryl blurted out. It was the only readily available excuse he had.

"Oh so you want to back up and start there do you?" Carol asked, raising her eyebrows. "What the hell were you thinking getting a teenager drunk when it's life or death out there? And not to mention her daddy just died, you know… her alcoholic daddy? Remember him?"

She was giving it to him hard. Not that he didn't deserve it, of course. Daryl knew it was something they both needed to get out in the open. He took a deep breath and a minute to gather his thoughts before he answered. "I wasn't thinking, that's the problem," Daryl said.

"Obviously," Carol scoffed. When she met his eyes she softened, "I'm sorry, I'm being mean. Go ahead, explain. I'll shut up."

"I couldn't think Carol, I just couldn't," Daryl sighed. "It hurt way too much so I shut down, and shut everything off. I reacted to Beth. She pushed and I allowed myself to be bullied." Carol reached for his hand and gave him a comforting squeeze. For some reason, with her touching him it was even easier to talk. "I didn't act like the adult, I acted just as foolish and immature as she was. And I didn't protect her," his voice broke but Daryl pushed through. "I didn't protect you, or Hershel, Michonne... Anyone."

"Oh Jesus," Carol whispered. "I should have known. Oh God Daryl, I'm so sorry. I know you, I should have realized you'd put it all on your shoulders." She slid closer and hugged him. Daryl was surprised how much he liked it every time she hugged him. He wondered why he hadn't let it happen months ago, years ago even. Daryl knew what he'd done was stupid. And he knew it would never happen again. The look in her eyes told him that Carol believed him too and that was all he needed.

Finally everything was right. Balanced. The group had reunited. Beth was safe. Judith was safe. Tyreese was safe. And most importantly Carol was safe. "Hey," Carol said, breaking the silence and changing the subject. "You know I didn't need all this, right? I mean, don't get me wrong," she added. "It's incredibly romantic and I'm absolutely flattered… But I don't ever want you to think you need to be, or do things differently, for me." Carol put a hand on his face and gazed deeply into his eyes. "I love you for who you are. I've loved you for a long, long time. Likely since you were searching for Sophia if I'm honest with myself."

Daryl couldn't believe she'd loved him for that long. He wished he could remember when he first started loving her. He obviously had just realized it recently, but Daryl knew he'd loved her for a long time too. Maybe since he'd lost her the first time and found her close to death at the prison. Maybe during those months between getting run off the farm and finding the prison. Maybe since the night the herd appeared and she jumped on the back of his bike. Maybe since he held her in his arms while she grieved for her daughter. Maybe since the night she kissed his forehead and told him he was a good man. Maybe since he first saw the fear and devastation all over her face when Rick returned without Sophia. Maybe since he handed her the pick axe to finish off her asshole husband. Maybe since the first second her saw her face, and looked into her beautiful blue eyes that held so much pain - just like his own. Daryl suddenly realized that he may have even loved Carol before he knew her. Before they ever met. He had never believed in soul mates or any of that bullshit until that moment, when finally came to the conclusion that somehow, someway, it felt like he had loved this woman his entire life, even though he'd spent over 30 years without her. "I think I've always loved you," Daryl said shyly, quietly, unable to meet her eyes.

Carol lifted his chin and made him look at her. "It's me. You can tell me anything and I'll never judge you." She kissed him so tenderly the restraint physically hurt him.

"Can we? Again?" he asked, pulling away to speak.

"I was counting on it," Carol laughed.

Daryl reached for her and caressed her body gently. He laid her back on the bed and moved over every inch of her with kisses. Sometimes they were soft and light, in other places they were wet and warm, and in the right places they were nips and sucks that caused her to moan. When Daryl moved between her legs she tensed. He lifted his head and looked at her. "I um, I mean, you don't have to… If it's…you, just you don't have to…" she stammered. Daryl grinned and moved back to what he was doing.

It took a few minutes, but when Carol finally relaxed and started to just enjoy the pleasure, it was incredible. She was so wet and tasted delicious. She sighed, trembled, moaned, shivered and eventually he made her cry out and shudder. After Carol settled from the final waves of the orgasm Daryl slid into her and made love to her with patience he didn't know he had. It wasn't until he was able to make her come again that he finally focussed on himself. Somehow this second time was even more intense than the first and Daryl couldn't help but wonder what the third… fourth… fifth… times would bring.

The only thing that mattered though was that they were finally together. Daryl lay back down beside her and fit her warm body tightly against his. He knew they should get up. He knew they should get dressed. He knew they should get back in the vehicle and head back to Terminus. But Daryl just couldn't make himself… let her go.

Only know you've been high when you're feeling low
Only hate the road when you're missin' home
Only know you love her when you let her go

And you let her go