This fic is based on a suggestion by queenofshipping on Tumblr.
The Walking Dead isn't mine.
The first time it happened was on the first really cold night after they had fled the farm. The fire had been as large as they dared, but still offered little comfort. Carol's arms were wrapped tightly around herself in an attempt to retain some body heat. She averted her eyes from the others around the fire. The lovers and the families, who clung to each other for warmth. Even Rick and Lori, who were not speaking, wrapped their arms around each other with Carl between them.
She didn't really blame Rick anymore. Hadn't really blamed him, but for a moment. But seeing him hold his son made her heart clench painfully. Why did he leave Sophia alone in the woods? She pushed that thought away immediately but could do nothing to stop the tears. She was cold and lonely and her arms ached for her daughter.
Carol got up and stumbled away from the fire, needing privacy. She waved off Lori's concern, pretending she simply needed to relieve herself. Really she just needed five minutes to herself so she could have a good cry. She didn't go far. She curled in on herself at the base of a tree and let go. Really let go. For the first time since this whole nightmare had started.
She didn't just mourn her daughter. She mourned the world. What was the difference in living with Ed or living with this new threat? The fear was constant. She'd forgotten what it had ever felt like to be relaxed. At least before all this she could fantasize about packing a suitcase and running away with Sophia. There was no where to run now. And all she dreamed of was something to eat. Anything at all.
Her fingers worried the cross that hung around her neck. It was an old habit. She hadn't prayed once since Sophia had walked out of that barn. Where had praying ever gotten her? Without thinking she yanked the object off her neck and flung it into the bushes.
"You might regret that." He spoke, suddenly there. Had probably been watching her the entire time, she realized. She'd made extra work for him by wandering off. She hastily wiped her eyes and managed to smile at him. She was good at that. Could bury her emotion at a moments notice. Ed had had no patience for tears.
"Sorry." She said. Always sorry for every damned thing.
"Shouldn't be out here by yourself." Daryl stated, though made no move back toward their camp.
"I know. I just wanted to be alone."
"Sophia?" He asked, surprising her. They didn't talk about Sophia. Not since that night he lashed out at her back on the farm.
Carol nodded. "Partly. I'm just so cold." She admitted, looking away. "And they're all so cozy. I just needed a break. I know that sounds petty." It sounded ridiculous as she said it out loud.
He surprised her again by kneeling down next to her, nodding in her general direction. "You ain't got nothing else?" He asked.
She glanced down at the thin cardigan she wore. "This is it." She shrugged. "Same as everyone else."
"Need to do a real run." Daryl said. "Clothes, tents, sleeping bags, if we can get them."
"Sounds like heaven." Carol said, shivering again.
Daryl put his crossbow on the ground beside him and reached out to run his hands vigorously up and down her arms.
"Wish I could have a long soak in a hot bath." Carol smiled, leaning into Daryl a little.
Daryl grunted in that way she understood to be a laugh. "Guess we could all use that."
Carol noticed Daryl had stopped rubbing her arms and was simply gripping them lightly.
"Come on." He said. "If you can put up with the smell, you can bunk with me."
"Best offer I've had in awhile." Carol joked as Daryl turned red.
"Stop." He demanded, his hands still lingering on her arms. "You're blue. I ain't gonna let you freeze."
Carol blamed the cold for what happened next. She simply moved into his arms and held him, her arms up inside his vest. It took him a moment, but he did tighten his arms around her and she sighed with relief.
"Sorry." She said again.
"I ain't complaining." Daryl insisted gruffly. "Warmer?"
"Getting there. How about you?" She asked, pressing herself further into him.
"Yeah, just, be careful." He said quickly, jerking away from her slightly.
"Oh." Carol said.
His arms dropped from her then and he stepped away, embarrassed.
"Wait." Carol said, missing his warmth immediately. "Could we?" She asked, amazed at her nerve. But she had nothing left to lose.
Daryl's eyes narrowed. "What?"
"Just something to get the blood flowing." Carol suggested. "That's all, I swear."
"That's all?" Daryl questioned. "Easy as that?"
"What else is there?" She asked. "I'm so cold. I need to feel something. There has to be some life in this dead world. In us. Something besides running."
He seemed to accept this and nodded, before taking her by the elbow and leading her further away from the camp. They didn't undress. They didn't dare. Pants were shoved down to the knees. She lay with her back on the hard, uneven ground. A few quick thrusts and it was over. Not a single kiss between them.
"Thanks." She said, pulling up her pants.
Daryl snorted. "You warm now?"
"Yes." She smiled.
She returned to the fire and lay down, knowing she could sleep. Daryl returned later. She heard him store his crossbow nearby and then felt him lay down next to her, his back against hers. She swore to herself that she wouldn't move or disturb him in any way. He was doing this for her benefit. His warmth was a gift. His body had been his gift to her and she was grateful.
That was the first time it had happened.