She'd always loved watching people at airports. The warm, low key reunions of family, the long embraces of lovers. The last time she'd taken a plane (God, the last time she'd ever be on a plane, that was a thought) it was the one wistful thought she'd had among all the anxious noise in her head. Airports are full of good ghosts. So much love performed in those banal spaces with soft carpets. It was funny, how she didn't feel anxious anymore. She hadn't in well over a year.

Seeing Rick made her remember thinking about the airport. She looked down at the forest floor, the crumbling leaves a motif in the soft, silent earth. She knew he would be pleased to see her and it wasn't just because of the child, his child. She nudged Tyreese's arm and he turned his back to her so she could haul the sleeping child as gently as she could out of the carrier.

When he'd left her, she'd driven just out of sight and pulled over until she managed to stop shaking. Giving him the watch from Ed, Jesus. At least she'd got a pointed remark in. She dropped her head on the steering wheel and cried at that. At how proud of herself she'd been to get the last word in and to walk away. It was pathetic. It didn't matter how guilty she felt about Karen and David, she had just accepted it without a fight. It was as if she was still under Ed's spell.

She blotted her eyes with her wrist, pinched away the snot from her nose and wiped it, laughing a little, making a shiny mark in the shape of her initial on the passenger seat. Maybe if she'd pushed him he would have killed her. Maybe he'd been planning on it and had changed his mind sometime that afternoon.

He had killed his best friend and what was she to him?

No. She knew him better than decision would weigh on him. He would come to regret it.

She could handle Tyreese. She saw him then. His soft, liquid small searching look he had given her when she had said "I'm so sorry about Karen." She broke down again and sobbed uncontrollably until she was spent.

She slept the night in the car and, in the morning, turned the car around to go home.

Ever vigilant, he walked stiffly towards their little group.

"Rick." she said, just to break the silence, which started Judith fussing.

She soothed the whimpering child as he came towards her. One look between him and Tyreese told him that he knew. With the child held close with one arm he pinched the bridge of his nose to stop the tears. He was too exhausted to think.

Carol put her arm around him and quietly said "It's good to see you." and then Carl was wrapped around her.

The sun had begun to go down. She peered into the gloom as the others gathered around them. They were here! Alive! A couple of faces she didn't know, a glimpse of a stranger she mistook for Daryl and felt her gut twist when she looked again and the big red-headed man stood up.

Each in turn hugged them, kissed them, laid their hands on the sacred head of the child, who had begun to cry in earnest. Moving to calm Judith, she became aware that someone had been holding her hand for a while. Standing quietly beside her, just waiting for the performances to be done. The others melted away, cooing at the baby, and she became aware of him all at once; his body heat, his scent, his grip became tentative and drifted, she clutched at the tips of his fingers, caught them and turned to look at him.

She'd thought a lot about when she'd started to look at him. After Ed, the night they'd left Jim she'd had a sex dream about him that had been so vivid she had felt the beauty spot on his upper lip brush against her inner thigh. She woke up feeling confused and more than a little delirious. She'd put it down to grief but after that she began to notice him looking at her. Her first awful thought was that it was her child that he was looking at, she had come to feel so invisible, but that doubt left when it dawned on her how alone he was. How much they both were. She'd never been a sucker for a pretty face, but God, he was beautiful under all that filth. She'd checked herself the first time she'd moved closer to him to ask him again what he'd mumbled at her, even though she'd heard him the first time, she'd just wanted to breathe him in.

There he was, that beloved face more bloody and dirty than she'd ever seen. A cut that looked as though it might scar on his temple, a scab on his lip. Clearly as exhausted as Rick, he swayed a little on his feet, childlike, his eyes lowered he reached out to paw at her hand, at the hem of her jacket.

"Ha!" she grinned at him, eyes beginning to brim. He looked at her, awake from a dream. He grimaced, rasping out a laugh, or sobs, she didn't know which. The cut on his lip had split open and it began to bleed. He was shaking so much it frightened her.

She reached out and touched his mouth.

"Sweetheart, you're bleeding, " she murmured and wrapped her arms around his waist. He all but collapsed onto her, his arms around her neck, she staggered under his weight, his leather vest creaking.

"Honey, are you okay?" Her maternal tone stopped him. He wasn't a kid. He collected himself, straightened up, trying to control himself. Looked at her again. Framing her face with his hands, shaking his head, laughing, looking into the pale oval of her face, into those eyes that couldn't hide a thing, her lashes wet and spiky, tipped with fat, wet tears. It all felt so unreal. He didn't know what the fuck he was doing when he dragged her back into his chest, breathing her in, running his hands over her, squeezing at her with his hands, petting her hair back from her forehead almost like she was some damn dog.

Crushed against him, she laughed into his neck, her lips and teeth vibrating against his skin and he became aware of the way she fit into him, yielding completely against him, her thighs draped apart a little over his. His hands dropped to her waist and he pulled her up on tip-toes, her back arching to push her hips into his erection. He groaned and held her there, neither of them moving for what seemed like forever.

When he did pull back from her, his bloody lip had stuck to her temple. Gingerly, he peeled it off and the blood pooled fresh and bright again. "Fuck. Sorry"

"What?"

"I'm bleeding all over you, Jesus."

"Oh. Ouch." It was silly. Daryl Dixon probably had one of the highest pain threshold's of any of them. Of anyone she'd ever met. She put her hand on his jaw to turn his head so she could see.

"'S nothin'. Looks worse than it is."

"Won't heal because you talk too much, huh?" She was stroking his cheek now. He smiled, winced.

"Hmm, yep. You know it." He hummed against her palm, closing his eyes for a moment. Thinking about how he'd got it, how he'd given up in that moment, dropping his weapon. He was beyond caring about surviving anymore. Seeing Rick and Michonne...these people were his family, he loved them, didn't he? He'd do anything for them, that was why he'd offered himself in their place. But since she'd been gone, some part of him just wanted to be done with this life. Some part of him welcomed death.

It was getting dark. Wiping his face, blotting his lip against his wrist, he gently pulled away. His voice thick and low he started to say,

"Come eat..." He cleared his throat, " I got a pig today. Come on, there's still something left."

Glad of the darkness hiding his arousal, he walked a little behind her, keeping a hand on the small of her back, as they made their way back to the group around the fire.

After they'd eaten they began to settle into little groups to sleep and take watch. He hadn't left her side all evening and when she settled to sleep he lay down next to her and wrapped his arms around her as if it were the most natural thing in the world. They were exhausted. He wasn't going to dance around this anymore, he knew that much. They were both almost asleep when he whispered her name into the back of her neck.

"Carol."

"Mmmf, yeah?"

"Tomorrow I'll find us a bed."

She squirmed against him, "Yes, please."

Turning her head to face him in the dark, smelling the musk of his upper lip to find his mouth in the dark, she pressed her mouth against his. Her tongue dipped into his mouth and he kissed her back, soft and lazy. She reached back and rubbed her knuckles along his shaft under his jeans and scratched a little at his thigh before rolling away with her back to him. Licking at his blood on her lips, she wriggled her hips so she was snug up against his cock and closed her eyes. He grunted a little in protest, but lay still, eventually sliding a hand under her shirt to cup her breast, plucking softly at the nipple a little before he fell asleep.

They'd left in one of the vehicles at dawn, telling the others they'd be back at camp by nightfall. When they found the A-frame hippy house it was early afternoon the next day.

The mezzanine bedroom was beautiful. It smelled of cedarwood and bed had been made and the sheets were crisp and white. She couldn't believe their luck. It was like a fairytale. Carol stood at the window and looked out at the trees covered in fresh new growth and the sparkling river, tapping the crystal hanging there with her finger, sending little rainbows dancing around the room. She smiled, seeing the little boy in him surprised by the vivid spots of light patterning the room. Above her on the wall was a faded copy of the poster of Nijinsky as a faun. It wasn't hard for him to think of her as other-worldly. He had been in darkness and squalor without her and here she was in this beautiful room, standing against the window like a silver sprite, her hair in the sun a halo, those blue, clairvoyant eyes watching him, with the little spinning rainbows settling like a butterflies all over her. He moved closer to stand beside her, his fingertips resting on a rainbow in the hollow of her collarbone. She picked up a little bottle of essential oil, removed the stopper and breathed it in; ylang-ylang and lavender, it smelled divine. She was about to dab a drop on her neck but he stopped her.

"Don't. I want to smell you."

She put the bottle back on the shelf and turned to face him. He stroked her elegant neck, clasping his hands at her nape and digging his thumbs in to massage the long muscles and tendons there.

He breathed in her ear, " Little hippy witch."

"My angel," she replied, "Take off your clothes."

"What do you wanna do?" he asked her after they'd undressed. They weren't going to have another opportunity like this for a while and as much as he wanted to just throw her on the bed and fuck her brains out, he knew enough about women to know that might not be enough for her. All of his fantasies about her involved making her come. If he was honest with himself he'd been getting to sleep by thinking about making her come as far back as the quarry. That had freaked him out. Rubbing one out thinking about fucking that little mouse. Making her asshole of a husband watch. God, he was a fucking pervert, no wonder he could hardly make eye-contact with her half the time.

She squirmed, shivered, but looked directly at him and said,

"How about I sit on your face and suck you off to start off with? So you can fuck me nice and slow the second time you come?"

Fuck. His mouth watered. She was a fucking witch alright. He wanted to just nail her to the bed right then and there, Jesus she was too much. He pounced on her and pulled her close, kissing her softly, moving his cut lip as little as possible, stroking her tongue with his, nibbling at her bottom lip. Things became heated and she struggled out from under him, pushing him down onto the bed. She positioned herself over him as quickly and gracefully as a dancer, her shimmering thighs tensed as she lowered her pussy to bob delicately against the tip of his tongue.

"Oh, yeah." She murmured, pushing back into his mouth like she was lowering herself into a warm bath.

The way she languidly stretched her arms out along his torso, gathering his cock up in cupped hands, stroking his balls and positioning him before her mouth, it was like a ritual of worship. When she finally began to lick him all over like he was candy, he was seeing stars.

He pulled her hot sweet snatch into his face, holding her ass cheeks as if he were eating watermelon, fucking her deeply with his tongue then settling in to slurp and suckle at her clit. She wriggled slowly from side to side, pushing her ass up in the air as she swirled her tongue around the head of his cock, licking off the surprisingly sweet little tear of pre-cum that dripped from the purple tip.

"Mnn, uh, yum. Mmm, God that's good. I'm gonna come soon, Daryl. I want you to come in my mouth, okay?" She lifted up a little so he could speak, his lips and tongue releasing her clit with a wet pop.

"Fuck, yes. Jesus, woman, are you trying to kill me?" He shifted his hands to her breasts as she took his burning cock into her hot, wet mouth as far down his hard, thick shaft as she was able. She'd barely begun to set a pace when he started to whimper into her, which was enough to send her over the edge, drowning in her juices he pulled her hard up against him and as she shuddered and moaned he filled her mouth with his salt sweet cum.

She caught her breath and climbed off him, turning to give him a filthy kiss with her cum coated tongue, licking at her juices on his lips. He rubbed his soaked scruff all over her face and she yelped, then started giggling as she wiped her face and then his with the corner of the sheet.

He lay sprawled out on the bed, grinning like an idiot. The yellow sunshine slanting in across the bed making her think of him, not for the first time, as a big, tawny cat. She cuddled into his side and laid her head on his shoulder, God she was so beautiful; her face flushed, eyes sparkling, he pulled her close, kissing her forehead. He shifted and opened his leonine eyes and they looked at each other for a long time, just enjoying the afterglow. He was the first to speak:

"'M sorry, baby," he said, finally.

"Hey was wonderful. Why are you sorry?"

"Mm, it was. Jesus... and I haven't even fucked you yet…" he growled and she turned around to face him and wound her arms around his neck, drawing him into a long, slow, erotic kiss, sipping at his tingling, bleeding lip.

"Ungh, fuck, you are going to kill me," he groaned, lying back and closing his eyes while she began to gently stroke his soft cock with her fingertips from balls to tip, over and over.

"Why are you sorry?" she asked again. God, he had missed the sound of her voice.

"We could've…" he started to stiffen again under her fingertips. Her touch felt so good but he caught her hand and held it, he wanted her to hear what he had to say, "we could've been together before now. I just…"

"You weren't ready, Daryl. Maybe I wasn't either…"

"I just thought… I could keep things simple, you know. I was angry when Rick told me he'd left you out there by yourself, but part of me was relieved. Part of me was like, okay, it's happened now. She's gone..." his voice started to falter and she tightened her arms around him, expecting him to stop talking, but he went on, "Thinking I couldn't lose something I never had in the first place, man, what a fucking idiot," he rubbed at his eyes, his voice hoarse.

Carol shifted against him, laid her head on his shoulder thinking about Karen and David. She had killed the woman Tyreese had loved. A hot, wet tear sizzled on his skin. He wrapped himself around her and kissed her forehead.

"We've all done things we regret, baby. I know you. I know you live with it every day. We all do... "

"Yeah, " she whispered, a small wet, sound. She became overcome with grief, thinking of Lizzie and Mika. She started to cry in earnest, collapsing completely into him.