Title: And My Heart Is Anywhere You Are
Author: untapdtreasure
Rating: K+
Spoilers: Strangers
Summary: Her heart skipped a beat as the memories of his warm, full-bodied embrace flooded through her mind. She had welcomed him into her space as if he had always been there.
A/N: This is potentially the first oneshot in a series of connected oneshots. Also, this was written for the 'What If' challenge at NineLives.

Carol had chosen to take the first watch as they made their camp that night after she had taken down and rescued the others from Terminus. It still felt so surreal to her that she'd found them at all after resigning herself to having lost everyone; especially after seeing the devastation at the prison.

She glanced toward the fire in his direction as she felt his eyes on her, but she kept her gaze from looking directly where she knew he was sitting. Her heart skipped a beat as the memories of his warm, full-bodied embrace flooded through her mind. She had welcomed him into her space as if he had always been there.

Her eyes stung as tears threatened to fall. She wiped them quickly on her sleeves and squared her shoulders as she focused on the task before her. She had one job and only one job; she had to protect her family. No one else could do the job that she could do, and she wasn't about to let them try. She had lost them once, and it wouldn't happen again.

She didn't know exactly what her place was now that she was back. She and Rick had put her banishment behind them and had joined forces to lead the others to safety. If the situation had been reversed, she couldn't deny with complete confidence that she wouldn't have done the exact same thing had she been forced to make the tough decision that she had forced him to make.

But for the first time since Rick had left her behind, she felt like she was home. Home was wherever her family was; more importantly, wherever Daryl was. She swallowed back the lump that formed in her throat as she finally let her gaze move in his direction.

Their eyes met as she watched him stand and move toward her. Her heart began to pound so loud that she feared it would draw the walkers to them. Her hand curled into a fist, forcing her nails to bit into the skin of her palm. It calmed her nerves and slowed her heart as she concentrated on the pain her nails caused and her breathing.

Daryl now stood beside her, taking in the woods around them at the edge of their camp. He then let his eyes fall on her, drinking her in as if it had been years since he'd seen her. He narrowed his eyes a bit as he watched her shift her weight from one foot to the other and back again.

"I don't wanna talk about it. I can't. Not yet." She turns her head and meets his eyes and holds his gaze for only a moment before turning away from him to scan the perimeter. Her body relaxes slightly as she leans heavily against the tree she's standing near.

He reaches out, touching her arm gently. "Whenever you're ready, I'm here to listen." He felt her hand slip over his and hold him in place. Their eyes meet once again as he steps closer to her and pulls her into a hug. This time it's full of tenderness and complete surrender as his head tucks against her in the space where her shoulder meets her neck.

Her grasp loosened on the strap of the rifle she's carrying over her shoulder and slips under his arms and around his back. She has both hands pressed flat against his shoulders as she holds him even tighter than she had earlier that day. She felt his breath on her neck; hot as fire in the humid Georgia heat that even the night doesn't seem to cool it off. Her head turned slowly, brushing her lips along his ear. "Thank you." The tears that had threatened to fall all evening slipped down her cheeks. "I thought that I wouldn't ever see you again. That I'd never get to wrap my arms around you, hold you..."

He lifted his head then, searching her eyes for any seeds of doubt as he moved his mouth to press against hers. His lips weren't as graceful as hers as he managed to get more of the corner of her mouth and upper lip instead of the kiss he'd often found himself imagining between the two of them.

He gave her a shy smile before he felt her mouth press against his once again. He relaxed as the kiss lingered for a few seconds longer than the first. He rubbed his nose slowly along hers as he pulled back to search her eyes. He gently wiped away her tears, causing him to turn the dirt from his hand into a streak of mud once it had mixed with the moisture on her skin.

She covered her hand with her own and nuzzled her cheek against it as she closed her eyes. "That I'd never get to kiss you." Her lips feathered against his gently before she mimicked his earlier position and laid her head against his shoulder.

If being torn away from his entire family had taught him anything, it was that you had to take the moments as you got them and stop wasting time. He wrapped his arms around her back and held her gently. Beth had given him the hope, and now that Carol was in his arms, he felt like maybe he could finally have a little faith maybe he wouldn't always be losing people.

"Carol?"

She'd never heard him speak her name; not in all the time that they had known one another. Now that she had, she was glad he'd never said it in her presence. Her heart sped up as she moved her hand down to his hip and squeezed gently. "Hmm?"

"I'm glad you're home."