AN: Phew, I was able to finish this one before the show caught up - that was really important to me. Thank you all for reading, it means so much. And also thank you to those who left reviews along the way they are so appreciated. I was inspired by Greg and Norman saying that Melissa was a good singer and I couldn't help but work that info in for the end of this one:) Maybe someday we will get to hear Carol sing on the show. Thanks again! Love you all. Hope you enjoy the conclusion.

Conclusion

The second Carol and Maggie saw each other they both started crying. She looked so good, beautiful with the pregnancy glow that some women are blessed with, but Carol could see an emptiness in her eyes that only came from losing someone important and it was like a knife to her heart.

They hugged, and held each other for a long time. By the time they finally parted Daryl was nowhere to be seen. He'd left to give them privacy to talk. Carol couldn't help but feel like she was missing something with him gone, but she had Maggie and they had a lot to talk about.

Maggie led her to the little apartment she shared with Sasha and Enid. "There are more places like this…" she started, as they took a seat at the table. "You can stay in the one 3 doors down tonight… or for as long as you want…" Maggie didn't push any more than that and Carol was thankful.

After nodding in acknowledgment she reached out and took Maggie's hands. "I know you probably don't want to talk about this…" Carol said softly. "But I need you to know how sorry I am…" her voice cracked and the tears started. "I should have been there… maybe I could have done something…"

"No, no," Maggie said fiercely, shaking her head. "Carol, you couldn't have done anything… no one could." There were tears in her bright green eyes once again. "I'm glad you weren't there. Because you're here now and you're alive."

"I know but… I should have been here for you… for Sasha… everyone, in the aftermath," Carol persisted, swiping at the tears. "I know about Daryl too," she added, feeling her chest tighten at the thought of all he must have faced being held captive.

"He told you?" Maggie looked surprised. "He's never talked about it with anyone."

Carol shook her head. "No, I don't know anything more than the fact he was captured. Morgan told me." She paused and looked at Maggie for a moment. "God, I'm so sorry," she said again dipping her head.

"Hey, you don't need any more guilt than what you're already going through," Maggie said gently. "It's okay. If it wasn't Glenn it would have been someone else…"

"But it was Glenn," Carol interrupted. "It was him and now you're alone. The way he loved you Maggie," she sighed. "It was so beautiful." There were tears rolling down Maggie's cheeks and Carol felt bad. She didn't mean to upset her, but she just had to tell her. "You deserved to be happy, to start a family, to show the rest of this shitty world what true love looks like. And that disgusting asshole took that way." Carol's eyes flashed. "He will pay for what he's done. He will," she insisted.

"Hey… hey… it's okay," Maggie whispered. Wait, what was happening? Maggie came around the table and hugged her. "You just found out… you didn't know…" Was Maggie comforting her? "We've all had time to deal with this, but you haven't." Finally Carol let go of the guilt and allowed Maggie to hold her while she cried. She cried for Glenn and Abraham who she'd spent so much time with over the years. She cried for Spencer and Olivia who she was just getting to know but considered family. She cried for Daryl and everything he'd gone through. And she cried for everyone else, who had suffered the losses as deeply as she was.

When her crying finally slowed Maggie stepped back and looked at her. "You're right," she said. "Glenn was the love of my life and I'll never have that again. I don't even want it again. But I still have a piece of him," Maggie rubbed her tummy and smiled. "And you're also right about that asshole - he will pay. We're going to fight and we're going to win."

Carol nodded. "The Kingdom will help too. Ezekiel wants me to let Rick know… and I guess whoever runs this place…"

Maggie smiled, "I think that might be me."

"Yeah?" Carol grinned back at her.

"Gregory is a huge dick," Maggie sighed, sitting down again. "He refused to fight the Saviors, but Enid talked to the others and many of them want to fight with us. She brought them to me… we're gonna do this Carol. We're gonna teach them, make them strong… and Negan won't have a clue what hit him."

"I would like to stay here for a while," Carol said. The words were coming out before she'd really even clued into what she was saying. "I can help teach them."

Maggie's smile got bigger and she was nodding her head. "That would be amazing. You're the biggest badass I know… Oh…" she cut herself off and frowned. "I'm sorry… that was so insensitive."

"No," Carol shook her head. "It's okay. What Negan did… what he continues to do… it changes everything. I don't want to kill people, no one does, but I can and I will to protect the people I love." It was all starting to become clear to her. This was life now. Maybe once they dealt with Negan things would calm down a bit and they could live a more peaceful existence, but there would always be threats. She wanted to live because she was in love and because she was loved. And living meant doing everything she could to protect the people she cared about. She would be okay with it because she had to.

"Speaking of love…" Maggie said, with a twinkle in her eye. "Promise me something, please?" Her tone changed to something different, almost desperate. "Don't waste a second. If you have the chance to be in love, let it happen. Don't fight it. You never know how long you've got."

Carol bit her cheek to keep from smiling. "Is there someone specific you're referring to?"

"Well it sure as hell ain't Tobin," Maggie scoffed. "Oh shit, I'm sorry…" She gave Carol a sheepish look. "Seriously, what was that?"

Carol sighed. "I plead temporary insanity." She could have explained things, she could have defended Tobin because he really was a good man with a kind heart, but she didn't bother because it didn't matter anymore.

"You know who I'm referring to," Maggie said, crossing her arms. "It's always been him Carol. Probably even longer than Glenn and I were together." She met Carol's eye. "He loves you, I can see it - everyone can see it - but you… and I think… I think you love him too."

Finally Carol couldn't hold back the smile any longer and she let it spread it across her face. "He stayed the night at my cottage," she said.

Maggie looked confused for a moment and slowly it sank in. "You two… did you?" Carol giggled. "You did? Oh my God. Finally," Maggie gushed. "I'm so happy for you," she said, reaching for Carol's hand. "We need to see people in love in this world…I need a reminder some days that there's still good and there's still things worth fighting for." It felt so good to see Maggie smile like that. "Hmm, I guess you don't need that place 3 doors down," she teased. "Two doors down should work," she said with a wink.

They chatted a little longer and Carol decided it was time to go find Daryl again. They had things they needed to talk about - if he was ready. And if he wasn't… she just needed to be close to him for a while - she hoped he wouldn't mind.

She got lucky and found him in the first place she looked - the little apartment he was living in. Carol knocked on the door softly and in a matter of seconds he opened it. It took her breath away to look at him. Daryl had showered and changed his clothes, but hadn't fully dressed himself - likely because it was getting dark and he wasn't going out again. He was shirtless with a pair of dark grey Nike joggers on the bottom, but they were a bit big and hung extremely low on his hips… Carol didn't see any sign of underwear yet again. Clearly he was very opposed to the selection Hilltop had to offer, and she was quite alright with that.

"C'mere," he said, opening his arms to her. He knew what she'd just been through. He understood and he'd been in the exact same place himself. The pain and the guilt cut deep and didn't just go away when the conversation was over. They would be there for a long time to come, just like for Daryl. He turned their bodies, moving her inside so he could close the door. Carol put her head on his shoulder and tucked her face into his neck. He smelled so good, like fresh soap and some kind of fruity shampoo. Carol smiled knowing fruit scented shampoo wouldn't be his first choice, but they were lucky to even still have shampoo at that point so they couldn't be picky. "You want to take a bath and relax?" Daryl asked, drawing back.

Carol considered it. Having a warm bath in her little cottage was a long process of heating up water, so most of the time she took a quick cold bath but here they had the same luxuries she'd had in Alexandria and she could easily sit in a steaming tub and soak. But she decided against it because she wanted to talk to Daryl and let him know she was aware of his capture. "Not right now," she replied, shaking her head. "Can we sit and talk for a minute?"

Daryl had a little loveseat in the corner so he led her there and they sat. She took a breath to calm herself and then spoke, "Daryl, I know you were taken prisoner by Negan and escaped. I know that's why you're here and not at Alexandria." His eyes darkened and she could see him physically tense so she moved closer and put her hand on his leg in a gesture of comfort. "You don't have to tell me what they did to you, unless you want to, but I just wanted you to know you don't have to hide it from me," Carol said, lightly rubbing his leg. "I know you didn't want to upset me anymore and I love you for wanting to protect me, but I promise you I can handle it." She managed a smile, "So if you want me to loathe that disgusting psychopath as much as you… I'm ready to listen." Daryl hung his head. "I'm so sorry for everything he did to you," she whispered, as she placed a hand on his face and touched her head to his. "I know it must have brought back really bad memories for you too," Carol added, thinking of the scars on his back. "Just know I'm here… and I love you… and I'll do anything I can to help."

Daryl shifted and Carol felt his lips touch hers. It sent an electric tingle through her entire body. He turned towards her and eased her back onto the couch as he continued to kiss her. This is what he wanted. Daryl was telling her that this was what she could do to help him. He was also telling her even more with his kisses and the way he was so tenderly caressing her body - he loved her too.

If she was being honest, this was exactly what Carol needed as well. The day had been long and incredibly emotional. So much had changed and she was mentally spent. But physically - she had just enough left to enjoy every second of making love with Daryl - for her and for him.

He stopped kissing her long enough to get some of her clothes out of the way, and then moved his mouth to her nipple. Carol arched her back and moaned. His hands were working off her pants and she quickly helped him, then tugged his down as far as she could reach. Daryl released her nipple and got the rest of their clothes off. Then he laid down and pulled her on top of him. Carol stretched out her naked body over his, skin on skin. She could feel his erection pressing into her belly as he drew her lips back to his once again.

They stayed that way for a long time, just kissing and exploring each other's bodies. She loved the feel of his hands moving over her back, squeezing her ass, then rubbing the back of her thighs before moving back up. His touch was light at first and it resulted in goosebumps tickling her skin. But slowly as the kissing heated up, so did the way he was touching her and finally he pulled her legs apart and her thighs forward so he could rub his dick along her slit. Carol gasped and sat up a bit, closing her eyes. She knew she was turned on, but had no idea just how much until he started to tease her like that.

She only needed to shift a bit… Carol raised up and the next time he moved forward she pushed back, taking him completely inside her with a sigh. He continued to move holding her waist, so Carol leaned back and let him fuck her, enjoying every single stroke.

She'd had sex before, but with Daryl is was actually love making. It was so much more intimate and emotional that what she was used to in her past. It was more than just physical urges, though that was also a big part of it, but there was a need that went way beyond hormones. He wasn't just a lover - he was her best friend in the world and they'd been friends first. It meant something that they'd gone for so long without bridging the physical - it meant they were connected in a way that few people experienced with their mate or spouse simply because their journey was so vastly different.

Daryl never sped up, he just continued to fuck her slowly, like he was cherishing and worshipping every second. Carol felt the fire raging inside her and when it started to build she opened her eyes and looked at him. His eyes were something he kept hidden from most people, behind his hair, squinting most of the time, but his hair was off his forehead and his eyes were wide open as he looked back at her. She was lucky because he was giving her a glimpse inside him that no one else got to see.

She was getting so close and the urge to shut her eyes was strong, but she fought it off and kept looking at him. When she whimpered and her body jolted slightly she let Daryl see every bit of the bliss he'd created in her and she knew by the look in his eyes that it was exactly what he needed. He made a little sound and his grip on her hips tightened. As Carol enjoyed the feel of her body's reaction to the orgasm she also got to see the beautiful changes in his face and eyes as Daryl came too. By the time it was over his eyes were glistening and she had tears rolling down her cheeks.

Without a word he got up and carried her to the bed. Carol sat and leaned back against the headboard pulling the blankets over her legs and Daryl climbed under the covers and put his head in her lap. "I don't wanna talk about it, not yet," he said softly. "But when I do - it'll be you. You're the only one I want to tell… the only one I can…" his voice trailed off and Carol smiled. "Can you sing me that song?" he asked, shocking her. "The one you were humming in the kitchen?"

Carol had no idea he'd been watching her long enough to hear her humming the other day. She thought back, wondering what song it was… Then it came to her. It was one of her favourite songs in the world. It was one she'd sang in church with the choir for a funeral once. It was beautiful and she always worried she didn't do it justice. "Will you please?" he asked again, interrupting her thoughts.

Carol stroked his hair. "Of course," she whispered. She took a deep breath and started to the song. "I heard there was a secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord, but you don't really care for music do ya? And it goes like this the 4th the 5th, the minor fall and the major lift, the baffled king composing Hallelujah." She hadn't even finished the second verse before he was snoring softly.

She stayed there and continued to stroke his hair, more for her own benefit than his by that point. She thought about their relationship and how special it was. It was hard not to be maternal with Daryl because he had so many child like qualities and a need to please people, a need for someone's approval. But that was just a circumstance of their personalities and her need to take care of people. Carol knew she was a mom, through and through, but that didn't mean she didn't understand what it meant to be a man's lover, his partner, because Daryl was truly that - her partner. Their relationship was so beautifully symbiotic - the way she gave him the comfort he needed and the way he protected and worshipped her. Women need to be wanted, as much as they need to be loved - and Daryl was able to give her both of those things - he always had, even though their relationship manifested differently now.

Though he was sleeping she finished the song anyway. As the words and music moved through her, right to her soul, with the feel of Daryl sleeping on her, the silkiness of his freshly washed hair - Carol was content. She knew they had a huge fight ahead and were very likely going to lose people, but it was necessary to make sure everyone left could live without fear. She thought about Maggie's words and how she shouldn't waste a second of the time she had with the man she loved and Carol smiled. She leaned down and placed a kiss on his temple then resumed singing. She knew, for the time being at least, that everything was going to be okay.

"I did my best, it wasn't much

I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch

I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you

And even though it all went wrong

I'll stand before the Lord of Song

With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah."

THE END