Disclaimer: I don't own AMC's The Walking Dead or any of its characters, wishful thinking aside.

Authors Note #1: The way the season premiere left off understandably had us panting for more. I wanted to explore the scene when night falls and Team Family takes stock. This is told from Daryl's perspective as he works through being reunited with Carol and all she has been through since the Prison fell.

Warnings: This drabble is meant to fit in a few hours after the credits rolled after 5x01 "No Sanctuary." This was written before 5x02 so depending on tonight's episode it could very well either fit right in or be completely AU. *Contains: angst, UST, adult language, adult content, very-very mild sexual/allusion content, emotional baggage and season five spoilers.

Lion in her heart (beast in his belly)

She didn't say much as they made camp.

Not with words anyway.

But she stuck close.

Or maybe he did.

These days it was hard to tell.

He'd stopped caring somewhere along the line.

Accepting the little things like they were his due.

Maybe he'd gotten greedy.

Maybe all this was his fault.

His fault why some higher power had up and taken her away.

Aiming to teach his ungrateful hide a lesson or whatever.

After all, a starving man didn't just stare at the meal he was provided.

He gorged himself.

He took the first watch, but eased off on patrol considering most of them were still too keyed up to sleep. Instead, he settled down on a sawed-off old stump as the others paired off. Soaking each other in as Ford and his group built up the fire without compliant.

The three of them seemed decent enough, full'a shit, but decent.

Still, wasn't like looks weren't deceiving these days or nothin'.

Only time would tell.

That went for Glenn's new friend as well.

It came as a surprise to no one, least of all him, when he stuck close to the spit of dirty silver-grey as exhaustion kicked in and his girl sunk deep into her blankets - dead to the world, but surrounded by family.

The corner of his mouth twitched. But the smile was small. Because, really, judging by the uneasy silence that'd aired out after the rest of them had come together, he had to wonder if that made her feel better or worse.

He dug the toe of his boot into the gravel, trying his best to keep quiet as the others started turning in for the night. Rick was half awake, still clutchin' littleasskicker as she blew spit-bubbles into the crook of his neck. Tyreese had an arm around Sasha, smiling at all the right times as she chattered on, but the firelight showed the truth of it as his eyes reflected – dull and dark – against the crackling flames.

There was something neither of them were sharin', something that had happened while they'd been out on their own. It was weighing on her, on both of them. It was a visceral thing – a buzz kill - pitch black and heavy as it sickened the joy and relief in the air and thinned it down to muted exclamations and various shades of grey.

It was bad enough that he wanted to shake her.

To holler and yell until every sullied part of it slipped out.

He wanted to tell her that it didn't matter.

That he didn't care.

That every single one of them had a chance to start fresh now.

But he couldn't.

Because that wasn't the way she did things.

This was something she had to work through on her own time.

She had to feel it.

Suffer it.

Alone but not alone until she'd let him share the weight.

Wasn't his place to ask for any more than that.

Her sleep was restless.


All twitching limbs and soft sounds as her eyes made tracks behind tightly closed lids.

It was almost like she was still running.

Still alone.

He chewed on the inside of his cheek for a long moment before he leaned over – quiet and slow, no sudden moves – and snagged the corner of his blanket. He swore his heart beat ten times louder than it should have when he arranged it over her.

The curl of his palm ghosted across her cheek – breathless and bright – before the moment broke and he sat down hard – ass to bark - damn near winded. Grateful that no one could see the heat coloring his skin as the fire started banking itself on its own embers.

He swallowed hard when she breathed in, ragged, the curves of her face hiding themselves as her breathing gradually smoothed out – spaced and peaceful.

The hours wore on but he hadn't been able to get over it.

The brush of a curious palm.

The way her skin had felt, pressed up against his.

The smell of her, heady and sweet.

The sweaty-stiffness of her hair as he'd buried his face deep.

The comforting thrum-thrum of her heart as he'd dropped his head into her chest.

Hell, even the sight of her now, all curled up, nosing against the corner of his pack like she just couldn't get enough. Movin' and squirmin' until her arm flung out and found his jacket, reeling it in – raw and honest – until it was pillowed safely under her chest.

It had him picturing some she-wolf, mature and patient. Embracing the scent of her new mate as she rolled playfully in the grass, belly slung low, heavy with secrets and lovers long past. But willing to take a chance on the virility of new blood all the same. Scenting his things with her own until neither man nor beast could tell them apart.

It appealed to some basic part of him he wasn't ready to examine too closely.

Something that warmed him from the inside out.

Turnin' cartwheels in his belly as an emotion - something half strangled between hope and arousal - rose like a hot air balloon on an autumn morning.

He moved off sometime during the night, makin' the rounds, checkin' the perimeter. Making eye contact with Ford's woman every other pass – nodding. Seemed like the polite thing to do, especially after how she'd handled herself gettin' outta Terminus.

He'd always had a thing for the resourceful type. Figuring they deserved a measure of respect right from the get-go.

He was on one of his homeward swings when Carol stirred from the mess of blankets.

"Stay?" she asked, voice low and slurred with sleep as she stretched – all arching back and cream-colored nape - as her hand snaked out and caught him by the pant leg.

She was barely awake. Existing in that weird head space that meant it would be a toss-up if she remembered any of this in the morning. But for once, savin' face, if it even was that, didn't seem to matter much.

He sunk down on his haunches, feeling light and just a little bit impossible as his thumb ran down her forearm, followin' the graceful, tapering lines right back to the source without even a lick of discomfort.

It felt right.


"You know I will," he murmured, settling down beside her as her slitted eyes glittered in the low light. Marveling as the right words flowed off his tongue. "Go back to sleep, I got 'ya."

He wasn't sure who was more surprised, him or her, when she did just that.

Hours passed like that, slow and trickling and good in a way that somehow rivaled what had been between them at the Prison. It was better, mature, tested. It was surety to the possibility that had once existed in its stead.

She kept her hand wrapped around his ankle, anchored firmly even when the watch changed and the awkward position started twangin up his spine in uneven waves of strain and discomfort.

Insurance, his sleepy mind figured. Insurance that he'd still be there when she woke up.

But he never moved, not once.

Because hell if he intended to ever let her go again.

A/N #1: Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think! Reviews and constructive critiquing are love! – This story is now complete.