"Owwwww. Holy shit. MOTHERFUCKING JESUS CHRIST. It huuuuuuuuurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts." Carol was trying really hard not to laugh as Eugene danced around. Carol knew exactly how much a bite hurt, and hers, even though it was likely far worse than Eugene's… didn't hurt that much.

"Stop moving for a second so I can see how bad it is," Rostita said, grabbing his arm. "Oh for fuck's sake Eugene, it's barely even bleeding."

Eugene glared at her. "It hurts," he stated.

In the grand scheme everything went very smoothly. They restrained the walker, secured the rope in it's mouth - just like the trial run. Daryl stood on a table and Morgan helped keep the walker as still as possible. Abraham and Rick each took hold of Eugene's arm and moved it to the walkers mouth. As soon as it made contact with Eugene's skin Daryl yanked on the rope. It pulled the walker's mouth right open and he kept pulling and pulling until it ripped the top of the head off and the walker slumped over, dead.

Eugene looked petrified the entire time and she felt awful for him. But the hard part was over now and by the looks of the bite, he'd got off pretty easy - though he certainly wouldn't agree. He looked like he was going to cry. Or maybe pass out... "Someone get him a chair," Carol ordered, reaching for Eugene to steady him.

"I got him," Daryl said, taking over, knowing Carol wouldn't be able to hold Eugene up if he fainted even on a good day, let alone the day after giving blood. Rick brought over a chair and they guided Eugene into a sitting position.

"Do you think it's even deep enough?" Rosita asked, examining it again. She'd gone for ointment and gauze to cover up the bite and keep it from getting infected. Carol laughed when Eugene glared at Rosita again.

"It's deep enough," Sasha said confidently. "Bob's wasn't that deep and…" Her voice trailed off. Carol gave her a comforting squeeze on the shoulder. It had been a while since they lost Bob, back at the church, but Sasha still wasn't over it. She put up a great front, but deep down she was hurting and Carol could see it in times like that.

Once Eugene looked a little less pale they moved him into the rec room where Carl had been waiting with Judith while everything was taking place. With the colorful words that had come from Eugene Carol was glad Judy was too far away to hear. Nothing like a hearing a baby babble 'motherfucker', Carol thought.

They got him set up on the couch and the waiting game began. The process started early in the afternoon, a full 24 hours after the transfusion had finished. People came in and out all day, but a few of them never left. Tara was glued to Eugene's side. Abraham was near the back of the room, pacing and sitting, pacing and sitting. Carol kept herself busy playing with Judith and challenging Carl to a couple game of chess. But other than to use the bathroom, Carol never left either. Daryl was in and out, likely keeping an eye on her like he always did. Rick was the same. He would return every half hour to check in.

Sometime after dark, when eyes were getting heavy, Tara suddenly jumped up. "Oh my God, I think he's dead," she said. Everyone was at Eugene's side in an instant. Carol was terrified. Please no, please no, she repeated over and over in her mind. Everything had gone so well. No sign of a fever all day long. How could this be happening? She had just got to the point where she was actually starting to believe maybe it had worked. Maybe she could actually help immunize them all eventually. And now this? Carol felt bile rising up in her throat.

All of a sudden Eugene's eyes flew open and Daryl reached for his knife. "Please don't stab me," Eugene spoke sleepily. "But it's after 2am and I'm really tired. So if you could all quit staring at me, I'd like to go back to sleep."

Tara flung herself at Eugene and hugged him and Carol felt her own knees go weak with relief. 12 hours. Eugene had survived 12 hours since the bite and there was a very, very good chance at that point that he was going to be just fine. It was overwhelming and she was exhausted. "Let's go to bed," she whispered to Daryl.

"Thought you'd never ask," he replied with a yawn.

When Carol woke the next morning the sense of dread she'd felt for weeks was gone. If anything had happened to Eugene during the night someone would have came and got them. Which meant that he was fine. He'd survived the bite. She noticed Daryl was watching her with a grin. She returned the smile, "Morning."

"You look happy," Daryl stated. "It's the first time in a really, really long time you actually look happy." He placed a quick kiss on her lips. "Let's go see what's happening."

Carol could feel the relief in the air as she walked down the stairs. Every face she saw looked happy, relaxed, almost peaceful. When Abe noticed her he started clapping and the others joined in. Carol glanced back at Daryl, who simply shrugged. "Ya think it's my new pants?" he cracked a joke. She laughed. Carol was in too good of a mood to even let the unwanted attention bother her.

"Well it worked," Abe announced. "How about a disgusting instant coffee toast to Carol," he held up his mug. "To Carol."

She crossed her arms and rolled her eyes as the rest echoed, "To Carol."

"I guess we start packing for DC soon, huh?" Abe said to the group.

"Hold up a minute… about that…" Carol interrupted. Everyone's eyes were on her. They all knew the deal she'd made with Eugene. They had all agreed it was the right call. They were all more than prepared to get back all the road… well, most of them. But they definitely all supported the decision. "We're not leaving just yet."

"But you said…" Eugene jumped in immediately, looking somewhat devastated.

Carol held up a hand to stop them. "We'll go. I made you a deal and I'll go through with it. But you need to give me two months…" She gave Tyreese a look and a very quick smile that no one else would catch.

"Two months?" Eugene snapped, echoed immediately by Abraham, Rick and Rosita.

"Yes, two months," Carol replied. Even Daryl was looking at her curiously by that point. She walked over to Michonne and plucked Judith out of her arms. "There's no way I'm going back out on the road until Judith…." she kissed the baby's soft hair. "And Carl are given transfusions."

The protesting ceased immediately and there were nods of agreement all around the room. Rick came over and gave her a warm hug. "Thank you," he whispered in her ear.

"Well I guess we have lots of time to start stocking up on supplies," Abraham commented. They already had a good stockpile, but the town was still full of treasures and anything they could add would be helpful for such a long trip. Eventually the crowd started to disperse and people began their daily tasks. Carol felt a sense of easiness as she looked around at her family. It was a great feeling.

"Hey," she said to Daryl. "Come on. We have somewhere to go." He shrugged and followed. She stopped beside Rick and touched his arm. "Daryl and I are going on a quick run. We'll be back in a couple hours. Don't worry," she added. "We'll take a vehicle this time."

"Where are we going?" Daryl asked, climbing into the passenger's seat.

"I like to finish what I started," Carol explained. "We've been to that canning factory twice now and still haven't had the chance to see if there are canned goods there."

"Third time's the charm," Daryl chuckled.

When they arrived Carol led the way into the building, knife drawn, searching for any sign of walkers. Daryl followed, covering behind. She slipped into the office they'd been in the first time. "Why we in here?" Daryl asked, watching her shove a chair against the door for added security.

"Told you. I like to finish what I start," she replied, sheathing the knife and moving closer to him. "We were in the middle of something when Morgan interrupted us..." Carol twisted her arms around his neck and gazed into his eyes.

Daryl nodded, "Be more than happy to continue that, but come sit first, 'Kay?" He put the crossbow down on a table and they sat on the couch. "I shouldn't have agreed so easily for you to go on a run, after what happened last time, but... I couldn't bring myself to ruin your mood," he admitted. "But is it real? Are you really okay? It's been a long few months..."

"Daryl," she interrupted. "I promise you, I'm fine. I still grieve the girls and what Tyreese and I went through, I still grieve Beth, Bob, Hershel... And there isn't a day goes by that I don't think about Sophia. Lori... Andrea... T-Dog... Dale... Everyone we've lost along the way... They're a part of me, they're a part of you. We'll always feel them. But they're dead. And we're here." She gave him her brightest smile. "You said we get to start over. We were both trying. But I'm not trying anymore... I'm doing it. I'm starting over." Carol touched his cheek. She loved how far they had come. There was a time she was terrified to touch him, afraid of how he would react. But now he enjoyed it.

"I might not be able to save the world," Carol said, brushing his cheek with her thumb. "Might be way too late for that. But I have something that I can use to protect my family. Maybe that's why I'm here. Everything happens for a reason, right?" Daryl nodded. "As much as it hurts to lose people they have all taught us something in death and brought us to this point."

Daryl put his hand over top of hers, "I love you."

"I love you too," she replied, a warmth spreading through her body and wrapping around her heart. She dug into her pocket and pulled out a condom. "Now, where were we?"

Daryl plucked it from her hand and tossed it across the room. "Ain't gonna be needing those anymore."

"What? Wait..." she started to stand and go after it but Daryl caught her and pulled her into his lap.

"We don't." Daryl kissed her. "Eugene lived. I have your blood too. We're safe. Believe it. Believe me. Believe yourself." Carol smiled and relaxed. He was right. She finally believed it with her whole heart - there was no longer a reason not to. This time when their lips met, there was no stopping. It was the first time they would make love far away from the others, somewhere they were truly alone.

It wasn't long before their clothes were strewn all over the floor. Carol wanted him so badly it was hard to stop kissing long enough to remove their shirts.

Daryl eased her back onto the couch and kissed his way down her body, teasing her with light nips along the way. She spread her legs as he approached and held her breath, waiting for that first moment of contact. Daryl tortured her, taking his time, nuzzling her thighs with the rough stubble on his cheeks, and breathing warm air over her sensitive skin.

Finally Carol couldn't take it any longer. She grabbed his head and pulled it to her body, arching her back and lifting her hips to just the right angle. She rubbed herself against his face until he finally licked her and from then on she was at his mercy. Carol relaxed and enjoyed the feel of not only what he was doing to her physically, but all the emotions and desire he was eliciting inside of her. Daryl made her feel alive from head to toe. He made her burn, ache, and want to scream, but at the same time he also made her feel more loved than she thought was possible. Somehow this man had come into her awful life, in an awful world and brought her everything she'd ever dreamed of. He wasn't perfect, but neither was she. They complimented one another in every way.

Daryl worked her over thoroughly, bringing her desire to a boil before he lifted his head and looked into her eyes. He held her gaze as he slipped his dick inside her very slowly. Carol gasped and moaned, enjoying the feel of him, all him, absolutely nothing between them. It was like their first time all over again, but with a lot more comfort and confidence… and longevity. The love and trust was always there.

Carol felt dizzy by the time she came. Somehow it was the best time yet. It sounded so damn cliche - but it was the truth. Perhaps it was the location, the fact they didn't use a condom, the experience with each other, or just because her mood had never been so positive, but Carol was certain no other time had been that perfect.

They were still lying tangled in each other, tired and sweaty, several minutes later. Carol sighed, "I have no idea how long we've been gone, but I would rather not get rescued again… naked." She squirmed out from under him. "Let's get dressed and load up that car with a ridiculous amount of supplies."

Daryl snorted, "I don't know if I'll ever get used to Miss Optimistic, but it's cute."

"Yeah, well enjoy it while it lasts. If there aren't boxes and boxes of fruit cocktail out there I might go into a deep depression," she joked.

"I was hoping for Spam or sardines myself," Daryl replied. Carol eyed him, not sure if he was kidding or not. The man ate squirrel even before the apocalypse… Spam was a slight step up. "I'm joking," he added, responding to her blank stare. "But, a can of cherry pie filling and a spoon would be heaven."

"Mmm," Carol groaned. "I miss cherry pie… and blueberry… apple… and cheesecake. I would give anything for a piece of cheesecake."

"Okay stop, I'm starving," Daryl said. "And you're getting my hopes up."

When they finished getting dressed they readied their weapons and headed out into the factory. They eventually found the warehouse and Carol almost started crying. There were skids and skids of canned goods. There would be enough food in there to keep them going for over a year… if only they were staying in the area. They both ran for a skid and sliced open the plastic wrap. "Oh my god… I have peaches," Carol called out.

"This one is all corn," Daryl replied. "I love corn," he sighed dramatically.

They attacked several more skids and found several other kinds of canned veggies, pork and beans, pasta sauce, tuna and pudding. "Carl will love this," Carol laughed, remembering the story Michonne had told him about Carl polishing off an entire tin of chocolate pudding. "Let's load up the car and bring back a big group tomorrow to get more."

They took several boxes, a little of this, little of that, and filled the trunk and entire back seat of the car. Daryl let her carry a couple boxes and then talked her into keeping a lookout for walkers while he finished, worrying about her health as usual. She gave in easily because the second trip had left her feeling a bit woozy.

They raced back to the fire hall, excited to show the others what they had found.

"Look at her," Tara said quietly to Rosita, gazing at Carol from across the room. Carol and Daryl had just returned with a huge haul of food and the news that there was an endless supply. Everyone was excited and smiling. Tara exhaled a long breath, "I want whatever she's got."

"Ha, don't we all," Rosita laughed. "Daryl and the cure." Tara gave her a look. "Oh right, guess the Daryl part doesn't matter much to you."

"It's not that," Tara said thoughtfully. "It's her."

"She's beautiful," Rosita admitted.

"She is. And she's smart, brave, strong... She acts straight from the heart. She's special," Tara said. "But she doesn't like the attention. She has flaws like the rest of us. And she only wants to be what she is."

"What is she?" Rosita asked.

Tara smiled, "That's simple. She's... Human."

~ THE END ~

Thank you so much for reading and supporting me along the way! Love and hugs!