AN: After This Sorrowful Life aired, Rhanon Brodie asserted that Daryl needed a life-affirming screw, with which I agreed wholeheartedly. I grappled a bit with whom that screw should happen before settling on Karen. Then the season finale happened and Karen totally secured her place as a Daryl fangirl with her clinging to the truck window action… I hope y'all enjoy! Let me know what you think.

Disclaimer: All copyright and trademarked items mentioned herein belong to their respective owners. The remaining content is mine.

When Karen first learned that Daryl was Merle Dixon's baby brother, she was shocked. From what she remembered of the dead man, he unapologetically displayed crude and loathsome behavior, and by comparison, Daryl was almost genteel, even with his random and rude outbursts. Since getting to know Daryl better, however, Karen realized that he was the more precarious of the two by far.

Underneath that calm, cool exterior was a torrent of rage and emotion. Karen had seen Daryl take down multiple walkers with chilling precision. He didn't miss a beat to volunteer when a run for clothes, or meds, or baby diapers needed to be made, or another pair of eyes or hands were needed for watch or patrol. Karen wasn't even sure if he ever slept.

But she swore when she dared look into his eyes, ocean-deep-and-blue, she knew he had already seen what was to come, already figured it out before anyone else even suspected it was coming, already ridded them of the problem with a single and precise bolt to the head. He was ice-cold and calculating, but whatever it was that drove him was red-hot and bubbling just under the surface, right on the verge of exploding—constantly; and Karen was sure that she never wanted to see that happen.

She pushed her heavy, dark curls out of her face, then shot a look over her shoulder at Daryl, as they quietly stalked through the house. It was their first run alone together, and he wasn't any easier to be around than he was the first time she'd met him and he pulled a crossbow on her.

She shifted the backpack she was carrying to her other shoulder and turned to head down a hallway toward where she thought there would most likely be bedrooms. "This house is a lot like mine back in Atlanta," she said, casting another glance his way. "The layout, I mean."

Daryl nodded once and barely made a sound in response; his sweeping gaze was as keen as always. Karen still wasn't quite used to the way the prison group kept watch. She'd heard stories from Carol and Michonne about surviving out in the woods for months at a time. The thought terrified her, especially with biters all around.

Extreme vigilance was second nature to Daryl, though; unlike any kind of inclination toward pleasantries, basic hygiene, wearing sleeves, or using actual words to communicate his thoughts. He was that one enigma of the group that she had yet to figure out, and his resistance to making it even remotely possible for her to do so was infuriating.

"I'll just grab whatever clothes I find, then look in the bathroom for medical supplies," she stated, reiterating their group's typical procedure for taking runs. Daryl's utter lack of response made Karen feel like she was talking to herself, as usual. She felt like a silly girl around him, and she didn't like feeling that way. She was just trying to be friendly and communicate with him, and maybe even be friends.

Daryl waved her off and stood at the end of the hall to keep watch of the house and listen for any sounds from outside. He kept an eye on the windows and doors, as Karen proceeded through the rooms for supplies, but he also kept an eye on her.

The rest of the folks they'd brought back from Woodbury could barely wipe their own asses, let alone protect themselves, but Karen had somehow survived the Governor's attack on his own army. By luck or wit or might, Daryl still didn't know, and that was reason enough for him to watch her closely.

Their goal for the day was to gather a few supplies for comfort. Carol had declared that each person living in the prison should have at least one change of clothes in order to ease the burden on those who were doing all the washing and cleaning, until they could determine longer-term needs. The Woodbury residents, who the Governor had left behind, had come to the prison with not much more than the clothes on their backs. They would need more substantial clothing stocks soon.

Daryl stood watch in each house as Karen gathered what their list called for, wondering why in Hell he volunteered to go with her. Should be huntin' right about now, he thought. 'Stead a wastin' time on a damn shoppin' spree. Once she was done, they loaded up the Hyundai with the bags that she informed him were stuffed full of underwear, socks, and t-shirts in as varied sizes as the ten households they'd scoured had leftover.

"…I also found a good amount of bandages and over the counter meds for the infirmary," Karen continued, violating the imposed silence of the vehicle as they careened down the highway back toward the prison. "You can never have too many Band-Aids, right?"

He nodded, watching diligently out the window. He wished she would keep her fidgeting and inner ramblings to herself. They didn't serve any other purpose than to fill the silence, and he didn't have any trouble with silence. When she was quiet, she wasn't so bad to be around; she was handy with almost any weapon, fast on her feet, and pretty damn nice to look at. He knew he made her uncomfortable, but he wasn't fucking Oprah Winfrey, so she'd have to find entertainment somewhere else.

Carol had explained to him and Rick, since she and Karen had spent some time together, that the experiences of the kids and the old folks from Woodbury, leading up to the war between the two camps could explain a lot about the Woodbury survivors' thinly veiled hostility and apparent confusion. Many of them still considered the Governor to be a good man, who strived to provide food and shelter for them, and the prison group to be the downfall of their safe haven. Carol was convinced, though, that Karen wasn't of that mind. She further explained that when a woman loses a child, such that Karen lost her son (and Carol lost her daughter), those feelings of anger have a tendency to linger. Daryl's response was simple: don't much matter if it's a son or a brother—stings all the same.

Karen rolled her eyes at Daryl's non-response to her lighthearted chatter in the car.

At least he isn't pulling that crossbow on me again, or going all caveman about the baby, like that day with Beth…

"The hell're you doin'?" Daryl demanded of Karen, when he saw her at the top of the stairs, peeking into Judith's makeshift cradle. He wondered where Beth was right then, because nobody left Judith alone, ever.

Karen jumped, fear in her eyes—and something else. "I was just-"

"Jus' what?" Daryl demanded again, but Karen and he both knew he didn't want an answer. He pushed Karen out of the way and reached in the mail bin to pull Judith out of what he perceived as harm's way. Beth poked her head around from the inside of one of the cells.

"Oh, Daryl, I was just changin' my shirt 'coz Little Ass Kicker spit up a little, an' Karen was helpin'…"

There was an awkward silence then, but Daryl didn't let up. He was resolved that Karen had no business being anywhere near Judith. He shifted the cooing baby up onto one shoulder away from his crossbow and gestured with his free hand.

"Girl, get your clothes changed and get out here and take this baby. She's fussin' up a storm, and she don't need no stranger pokin' and proddin' at her."

Beth smoothed her newly clean top over her midriff and came out of the cell. She didn't bat an eye at Daryl's boorish behavior as she took Judith from his arms. Karen was still reeling from it, though, and the fact that the slight, 17-year-old girl seemed totally unaffected by his harsh words and behavior. Karen wanted to defend herself, to say that she'd taken care of lots of babies in her lifetime, but somehow she knew Daryl wouldn't much care about anything that happened before all of this.

Daryl and Beth exchanged a few more words about the status of Judith's sleeping and feeding times in relation to his perch. Then Beth assured him that she and Karen were just leaving and that he should take a shower and get a nap, since he was so "cranky."

"Thanks for watching out for me today," Karen said, as she and Daryl unloaded the car back at the prison.

"'S my job," Daryl replied, without a glance in her direction before slamming the hatchback shut. It didn't make much sense for her to keep on thanking him for shit that needed to be done.

"Looks like y'all hit the jackpot," Beth commented with a smile, as she and Carol approached Daryl and Karen to help them carry their load. Daryl handed a duffle bag to each of them, then headed straight inside the prison without another word. Once he'd disappeared and was presumably out of earshot, Karen spoke.

"Sometimes I think he just tolerates me." She sighed. "He looks at me like he hates me."

Carol and Beth both smiled fondly. "Well, we're all just tryin' to find our way in this world, but Daryl…" Carol paused, looking to Beth, sharing a knowing smile. "He's got his own way. He's a good man, though, Karen—never doubt that."

Karen didn't believe he was a bad man, necessarily, but she couldn't shake her intimidation of him—nor the feeling that he really didn't like her.

Weeks went by and the residents of the prison went on about their business. Most people began to relax into the idea that Rick had legitimately rescued them from certain death. Word about their beloved friend Andrea got around, and what the Governor had done to her, and her previously positive association with the prison group solidified Rick's place as their new savior.

"This boy's growin' like a weed," Carol exclaimed, as she mended the seam of one of Carl's shirts. "Pretty soon he's gonna be wearin' his daddy's trousers."

Karen thought of her own son's growth spurt, how challenging it was to keep his rapid metabolism and growing body sated, even before the virus hit and wiped out the world as they knew it. She wondered how tall Noah would be if he were still alive, and then decided to tuck that thought away for another time—or never, considering she didn't have a lot of time to grieve these days.

"Maybe it's time for another clothing run," Karen said, looking up and across the courtyard, from where she and Carol and a couple other ladies sat mending and folding clothes, to where Daryl and Rick stood talking about God only knows what. "It's not like the men have a lot to do these days but stand around and wait to escort one of us for supplies…"

Carol chuckled. "I think they do more than ya know. There's always the threat that the Governor could come back for us. I know they've been workin' on double and triple fortifyin' the prison, and comin' up with Plans B, C, and D."

Karen shrugged and folded one last shirt before getting up and crossing the courtyard with purpose. "Rick," she said, gaining the attention of both Rick and Daryl. Daryl barely glanced her way, but she felt his eyes heavy and stuttering everywhere but her own gaze, before he grunted some kind of parting comment and left.

Karen watched out of the corner of her eye as he walked away. "Rick," she started again. "Carol and I were just going through the laundry and mending, and it looks like we need to do a real clothing run soon."

Rick nodded, his eyes wandering to where Carol stood, holding up a shirt to his son's quickly growing frame. His brow creased as he watched his boy and Carol interact. "Prob'ly a good idea. Got a list of what we need?" His gaze cut back to Karen.

She nodded. "Mostly in my head, but we can pull something more solid and formal together in no time."

Rick nodded again, then looked back to his son and Carol. "Take Daryl with ya," he said before turning away from her and walking inside the prison.

Karen worried her lip, then turned to watch Daryl with Carol and Carl, thinking about how different he was with his family than he was with her. She didn't understand it. She wished that he would acknowledge her in some small way, even in the barely noticeable ways that he acknowledged everyone else.

Maybe I just need to get used to him like Beth and Carol have, she thought. But she knew, deep down, that she wanted more than to just get used to him.

"In here," Karen said, leading Daryl inside the neat and tidy bedroom of Sarah and John Rasmussen, old neighbors of hers from her time in Woodbury. The Governor had gunned them down after the final attack on the prison, but Karen tried not to think about that.

She opened the closet and glanced back at Daryl again. It made her uneasy to have him behind her; having him in her periphery kept her mind as much at ease as possible these days. "Here," she said, handing him a duffle bag she found on the floor of the closet. "Start filling this up."

He arched a brow at her. "Yes, ma'am…"

She was getting bossier by the day with him—not that he minded it; he kind of liked that she was taking charge of some things rather than just leeching onto whatever one of the other women was doing. It wasn't the first time that she reminded him of Andrea—her spirit and her determination showing through any measure of defeat.

He took the duffle and pulled it open, then set it on the bed next to where they stood in front of the open closet doors. She moved quickly and efficiently, pulling clothes from hangers and tossing them into the open duffle on the bed.

"There was a boy who lived here," she said, her voice suddenly wistful and her movements halting; Daryl listened. "He was a few years younger than Noah."

Daryl had learned from Carol that Karen's son was named Noah. He was 16—older than Carl, even, so it's not like Daryl didn't know the kid was practically a grown man by this world's standards—yet Daryl felt a twinge of sadness for Karen's loss. She'd watched her son being gunned down with the rest of the Woodbury army by that son of a bitch. Then Daryl pushed the mounting sadness aside, because everybody's lost somebody these days.

"We got a prison full a people could use clothes on their backs," he replied gruffly with a shrug, then pushed his way in next to her, ransacking the boxes on the upper shelf to find anything of use. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Karen stooping to pick up shoes from the floor and tossing them into the bag.

Once they'd emptied the meager contents of the Rasmussens' closet, they moved to the boy's room next door and continued to work quietly, filling another bag, until Karen finally broke the silence, the edge he'd sensed for weeks creeping back into her voice.

"He was supposed to take care of us—keep us safe," she said, sounding angry and resentful. "But my son's dead, and not from biters, but from senseless violence. My friends are dead…" Her voice drifted off as her eyes drifted up to meet his.

Daryl was ready to say something pointed about alotta fuckin' people're dead and it ain't no one's fault alone, but the desolation and ire in her eyes stopped him in his tracks. She had that look that Andrea had as he watched her burning up from the fever and getting ready to put a bullet in her own head, that look of the frantic eternal optimist, that look that was bound to get Karen killed sooner rather than later.

Daryl shifted uncomfortably under her intense gaze, suddenly feeling trapped between her distress and the open door to the closet. He knew he could most definitely get clear of her, but there was something inside him that made him stay rooted—something stirring in his gut like that feeling he got just before he'd let a bolt fly into prey on an early morning hunt.

Her hard eyes were focused on his mouth before they started roaming over his jaw and neck and shoulders. "What did he take from you?" she demanded, her voice hollow and solid all at once.

Daryl shook his head. He stood passively, his arms hanging loosely at his sides. There was no sense in answering her question; hadn't they all established that the Governor was a lying, murdering piece of shit? He saw no reason to dwell on it, but she seemed to need to.

She scoffed. "You're lying; he had to have taken something from you." Her voice was bitter and mocking. She wasn't mocking Daryl, necessarily, and he knew it deep down, yet her tone and stance got his hackles up. He shifted his weight and gripped the chest strap of his crossbow. Her sharp, dark eyes flicked to the motion of his dirty hands.

"Ain't none of your fuckin' business," Daryl replied. "We got work to do. If you ain't up for it, then feel free to get the fuck out."

He started to leave the confines of the closet space, to go back on watch like he should've been the whole time, instead of sniffing around Karen in a bedroom. Then Karen took another step forward and laid her palm firmly against his chest. Her hand was much smaller than his in comparison—softer, cleaner, gentler. Then she curled her fingers around the cool leather of his vest.

Something in her face changed, then, and it somehow matched the stirring in his gut. Her eyes followed the path of her own hand as it traveled the length of the stiff placard, then began to push back up under the front of his shirt. Daryl brought his other hand up to stop her, and her hungry eyes met his once again.

"What're ya doin'?" he asked, clutching her wrist tightly, but he didn't push her away. Her fingers trembled against the skin of his lower abdomen and tapped lightly through the sparse hair there. If her hand was any lower, she'd feel how hard he was—how hard he always was these days with no release in sight.

"Trying to find my way," she replied, just above a whisper to his rhetorical question, twisting her wrist from his grasp and hooking her fingers over the front of his pants.

Daryl watched, momentarily stunned, as she determinedly worked the buttons of her own shirt open with one hand, keeping her other hand anchored at his waist. Part of him wanted to grab it and shove it down inside his pants, but he was fascinated with what she was doing all on her own. Then when he saw the tops of her full breasts spilling from the bright blue bra she wore, he flew into action.

One hand slid into the back of her hair, gripping tightly, bending her to his will, and the other hand pushed her shirt the rest of the way off and her bra straps over her shoulders and down her arms. He couldn't remember the last time he was with a woman, but fuckin's like ridin' bike—ya never forget how to do it right.

He pulled her head back and to the side, and took a mouthful of the soft flesh of her neck between his teeth, as she ran her hands up under the front of his shirt. His other hand pulled the cups of her bra down to fully expose her breasts. Her nipples were dark and tight, and he ran a calloused palm over them each before alternating between tugging at them with his lips and fingers and teeth.

He pulled her hands from under his shirt and pushed them down over the bulge in his fly. "Take it out," he muttered against her skin.

She reluctantly abandoned her exploration of the ridges of his stomach and chest, and worked at what he asked. Soon she had her hands full of him. He was hot and smooth, and, God, he's hard, she thought.

So much of him was rough in texture and motion. Everything about him was so different than she'd ever had, and it made her feel more alive than she had in months. She started stroking him up and down with one hand while her other hand worked its way up under his shirt again.

He kept his mouth on her neck or nipples when he stepped outside the closet. Then he spun her 180-degrees, so her back was to him, guiding her to the edge of the bed. She struggled, but just a little, twisting her head from side to side to keep an eye on him. Then she decided as long as she could feel him, it was good to have him behind her, so she stopped struggling.

She reached one hand up behind her and smoothed over the back of his head and neck, the backs of her fingers brushing against his crossbow in the process. His hands were everywhere, then, ridding them of her bra, twisting her hair around his wrist, and unfastening her pants.

"Better tell me right now if this ain't what ya want." His voice was a low growl in her ear, sending shock waves down her spine, swirling around her hips and down between her thighs. He was giving her a chance to speak up, if she wanted to, but he didn't hesitate to continue using his free hand to deftly shove her pants down and out of his way.

She let go of a shaky breath and a whimper, when he twisted her hair tighter and pushed a hand between her legs from behind. "That a yes?" he asked, and she nodded as much as she could with her head pulled back so far.

"Shit, girl, you're as wet as a whore on payday, ain't ya?" He kept his voice low, right next to her temple, before dipping to pull her earlobe between his teeth.

She gasped, reaching behind her to get her hands on him somehow. She had one hand awkwardly twisted to cup his hip and the other on the back of his neck, until he pushed her cheek-first into the mattress.

"Fuck, yeah, ya are," he said, pumping his long middle finger in and out of her from behind. He played with her like that for a couple of minutes, slipping his fingers in and out and around her cunt, making her swell and throb. "Nice 'n tight, too. But reckon I'll slide right home, wet as you are."

His fingers made her full and stretched in a way she hadn't felt in longer than she could remember, a warm, tight sensation spreading from the pit of her stomach out across her hips. Karen bucked back, feeling the heel of his hand press against her ass. Even just that slight pressure made her moan, nudged her closer, then he used his free hand to squeeze and smack her ass and hip.

Just when she was about to come, he slowed, settled both hands on her hips, making her skin wet with the fingers he was using on her. She flipped her hair over her back to see what he was doing in time to watch him bring his wet fingers to his mouth and lick them clean. He hummed and stared her down, and she instinctually bucked back against him again, jealous of his mouth and wanting his hand back.

"Don't look so disappointed, girl." Daryl reached down between their bodies and rubbed his cock along her wet slit. "You'll be gettin' this next."

Karen closed her eyes and dropped her head, fisting the comforter on the bed in her hands, waiting impatiently for what was to come. She felt his coarse hands lazily travel over her skin as his weight arched over her bare back, then he was roughly cupping and squeezing her breasts, pulling at her nipples to the point of fierce pleasurepain. She kept jutting backward to feel him slip between her thighs.

She wanted him inside her—to make her feel something more than the regimented clockwork of daily life in Zombieland. She'd pushed mourning aside and was making room for something more; now Daryl was giving her something to feel outside of sorrow and regret.

She whined and ground against him, cool air rushing over her skin as he stood upright again and dug his fingers into the flesh of her ass. He pulled her hips back and the tip of his cock slipped through her wetness again. "Please..." she said.

"Oh, I like that," he said. "I like it when ya beg." Daryl gripped her hips hard, then lifted and shoved her up onto the bed, and she wobbled on all fours. He smoothed a hand over her ass, and without even the smallest of warnings or finesse, pushed himself inside her.

"Jesus fuck," he breathed, stilling, his fingers bruising her skin.

Karen couldn't say a word. She was breathless and mindless, shaking as she grappled with her balance on the too-soft mattress, bracing herself on her forearms so as not to collapse under his onslaught. Once she seemed to have gained some semblance of stability, he slowly pulled halfway out of her before slamming back in.

Each thrust was slow and hard, but at a slightly different angle than the last. He seemed to be searching for something. On his fifth pass, he found it. "Ahh, fuck," he groaned, finding a rhythm and narrowing his focus on that one tight spot. Every time he pushed inside her, he pulled her hips back to meet his.

Karen felt his thrusts in her knees and her brain and the tips of her fingers; he shook her to her core and vibrated outward. She risked losing her balance again, as she slid one hand down between her legs. He was pounding her so right, all she needed was a small amount of pressure on her clit. And the second she touched herself, she imploded, then flew apart in a million pieces.

Feeling her pulse around him, he sped up his movements—faster and harder and more ragged. "Fuck… I'm comin'…" He breathed heavy and pulled out, then gripped her shoulder in one hand and his cock in the other, just as he came on her ass and thighs.

Karen shook as she slowly lowered herself to the mattress, feeling his fingers loosen from her hip. Her body was still humming, and she wanted to curl up in a ball and sleep for a week.

"Come on, now." His voice was soft. "Can't be sleepin' on the job, girl. Here." He handed her a wadded up t-shirt.

She rolled to her side, visibly puzzled by the shirt in her hand. Then he motioned to her backside, as he fastened his pants, and she figured out that he was trying to help her get cleaned up. She used the cloth to wipe as much of him off of her as she could before standing on shaky legs.

She stood topless with her pants around her knees, realizing he hadn't even removed his crossbow, let alone his shirt or pants. The events of the past 20-minutes were surreal. She felt like she'd been swiftly fucked into a whole new headspace.

"Hey…" She slowly pulled up her own pants.

"Hey, nothin'," he said, dipping his head to catch her eye, while reaching for her bra and top. "Let's get a move on. They're waitin' for us." He nodded encouragingly, and she returned the gesture and accepted her clothes from him.

She shook herself free of the regretful thoughts that were beginning to take shape and fly through her mind, and slipped into her bra and shirt. Something had shifted between them, and not just a powerful and long-overdue orgasm. Somehow that little connection that was always missing whenever they interacted was found and slotted into place.

Once she was adequately dressed, Daryl handed her one of the bags and motioned toward the door. "Let's go."

They exited the house quickly and quietly. Karen saw a few straggling walkers and glanced at Daryl. He nodded toward the car. "Keep movin'." They popped the trunk and tossed the bags in back, then hopped in the front seat and took off.

The drive back to the prison was as quiet but less tense than usual, minus Karen's typical nervous chatter. At one point, she looked over from the driver's seat and caught Daryl's eye. He gave her the smallest of smiles, and she smiled back.

Once inside the prison gates, Karen parked the car and moved to get out, until she realized Daryl wasn't moving. She turned in her seat to face him.

"Daryl?" She watched him stare through the windshield, still and silent, worrying the inside of his bottom lip. "Are you... is everything okay?"

He dropped his gaze to the crossbow in his lap and nodded faintly. "Yeah. You?" He looked up at her, genuinely curious.

Karen nodded, a small smile lighting her face. She felt content for the first time in as long as she could remember, and she thought Daryl looked pretty satisfied, too. She felt good about being part of what put that look on his face. "I'm good," she replied.

"So," he said, shifting in his seat, looking down, then looking back at her sideways. "We need to... talk, or somethin'?"

Karen suddenly realized that Daryl Dixon's reticence was vast and multi-dimensional, reaching from his anger over strangers touching the family's baby to awkwardness when talking to girls; and it was kind of endearing.

"No," she said, stifling a full-on grin. "Unless… you wanna talk about anything?"

Daryl shook his head then popped the passenger door open and climbed out. Beth and Carol were already at the hatchback, opening it and unloading, when Karen came around the back of the car.

"This all looks amazin'," Beth said, hiking a bag over her shoulder. "We got some sortin' to do, though. How ya feelin', Karen? Ya up for goin' through all this stuff, or…?"

"Of course," Karen answered, watching Daryl walk away from the car with two of the bags.

"He'll just drop that stuff in the main room," Beth explained, and Karen realized she'd been watching him so long, it must have appeared that she was confused. "That's where we'll sort all this stuff anyway…" Beth looked mildly concerned. "You okay, Karen?"

Karen nodded, and Beth smiled reassuringly, then they both followed Carol inside. They immediately started unbagging and sorting the clothes. Karen didn't know how much time had passed before Daryl appeared in the main area again with wet hair and a fresh shirt.

Karen's stunned gaze swept over him. She'd never seen him so clean. Without all the dirt and sweat and grime, he looked almost sweet—handsome and vulnerable. She wanted to touch him again, like she had a few hours before, and take her time.

"Can I talk to you?" he asked Karen without preamble. His request slightly startled her, but neither Beth nor Carol seemed distracted or surprised by it. Karen blinked a few times then nodded and laid the clothes she was folding to the side. She followed his retreating form toward the stairs and out of the room.

"Daryl, I-" She was cut off by his mouth on hers, fast and wet, then slow and wet. His hands cradled her face with alarming gentleness as he slowly backed her against the wall. She realized then that he hadn't kissed her before, and it was warm and sweet, and it lasted a lot longer than she'd have imagined. Her mind twirled and she was starting to get turned on again.

He pulled back a little bit. "Sorry I didn't do that before," he breathed, resting his forehead against her temple. "I don'really know how…"

"It's okay," Karen reassured, touching him anywhere she could, gripping the back of his neck and his shoulder—holding on. "It's okay." She kissed him again.

Daryl was hesitant but determined, because his brain knew what his body knew—that being close to her was right and was what he'd wanted all along. He sunk himself further into her warmth and softness, until she pulled back slightly, looking him right in the eye.

"We can do this together," she said. "We'll find our way."

He closed his eyes and nodded.

End notes: thanks to Rhanon Brodie for the initial inspiration, for helping me get those damned words out of my brain and onto the page, and for pointing out that Daryl literally "fucked Karen into a different headspace." Thank you MsKathy for the red-penning, even when you have no idea what's going on with these characters, and for being my sister in all things. xox