A/N: apparently this story gets written when it feels like it, and I have not been able to force the muse, though holidays and sickness have not helped - so here is the next chapter, longer than sometimes - this chapter is mostly Shane and Carol, the next will be Daryl and Carol - thank you for reading along with the stories in my head

The Walking Dead and identifiable characters, places, and events are not mine - no infringement is intended or implied - my stories are written out of love and a need to create and are solely for entertainment purposes

Shane sat on the steps to his cabin cleaning several guns with an ease and confidence she would have expected. Carol could see him from where she sat on her bed. She folded bits of paper as she watched him. His hands moved with a deftness, with the same repetitive dance that her own did. At one point she realized she'd folded eight cranes and had no memory of it.

She set the ninth she'd been working on to the side, picking it up again suddenly fearing bad luck if she didn't finish. These days she could use all the good luck she could get. She needed to learn about guns. At this point she wasn't even sure if she could use one if her life depended on it. Ed had guns, but he kept her from them, fearing, she was now sure, that she'd use them on him one day.

Carol remembered that in her grief and confusion at the quarry letting Rick go through Ed's things for what weapons and ammo he'd had. She relied on the others to protect her and Sophia once Ed was gone. And now that Sophia was gone, she was still stuck in the same foolish mindset. She set down the ninth crane with the others and stood from the bunk, slipping back into her boots. About time that changed.

She wasn't quite sure how to ask him, how even to approach him. Was he the best one to ask? She wasn't sure what Rick would say to her, and she was pretty sure Daryl would tell her he could protect her just fine. But how long could she let that go on? She'd been letting others do that her whole life. Carol knew Shane would show her.

Shane expected others to carry their weight. He was an easy one to read when someone wasn't. His scowl would deepened and he'd get a hard set to his jaw. Before she even brought it up she knew the odds would be in her favor that he'd be willing. He'd already headed a group to show the others at the farm. She'd used the search for Sophia as an excuse to not participate then, but the truth was she'd been afraid.

Carol didn't want to be afraid anymore. And now was the perfect opportunity. Shane was alone, cleaning guns. Maybe he'd even suggest it. Surely he didn't think she could be useful with her current knowledge. She hung back a little, trying to think of an excuse to draw nearer to him.

He must have seen her fidgeting there. He called out her name, causing her to startle. "Carol! Did you like them?" Shane raised his head from the task of cleaning briefly to smile at her, squinting as the sun hit his eyes.

Like them? Her mind tried to quickly grasp what he was talking about before she looked foolish. Then she remembered and blushed. "Yes, thank you, they are beautiful." She walked toward him as casually as she could. "A very nice surprise." And one that had thrown her. So he had left the flowers. She wondered now what he was about. That seemed a rather unShane thing to do.

Placing her hand on the stair rail, she gestured with the other to what he'd been doing. "Need cleaning often?"

Shane looked up at her amused. "What? All that firepower your old man had and you don't know the answer to that?" His tone was teasing, but his eyes changed at the look of embarrassment that crossed her face.

She decided to greet him boldly. Ed wasn't here anymore. Her muscles still held the memory of the texture of his smashed skull. Her eyes lightened and she said matter of factly, "He was too afraid I'd kill him if I learned how." This was who she was. She was no longer a victim, and she wasn't going to keep going through the motions. Something had to change.

"He took me shooting once, before we were married. I think I liked it too much because he never took me again. But I've forgotten what little I knew. I sure could use a refresher." Carol adjusted the strap of her pack, moving her fingers over the stitched canvas.

Shane nodded. "A woman needs to know how to handle a gun. I'm sure you won't shoot me, well, at least not yet. I hope i never give you reason to." He smiled at her. Was it a game for him or really something more? She was afraid maybe he was the type that needed a mate to prove his self worth. In fact, since she'd first met him at the quarry he'd had someone, first Lori, then Andrea. She swallowed, letting that knowledge sit with her for a moment. She didn't want to be his proof of life, and yet there was something about that she found interesting if not appealing.

Carol shifted her weight from one foot to the other. "Just let me know when is a good time. My schedule is fairly open." She didn't add that sooner would be better, that she needed something to occupy her mind. Her mind felt so unsettled, and although he was a part of that, his straightforwardness actually calmed her. Around Daryl she was far too sensitive of his needs, his comfort level. It was night and day for her, and in this moment, despite what they had found in the woods, she was feeling more comfortable around Shane.

"Well, come on then girl, let's go to the meadow and you can get your gun legs. Need to get you comfortable so you can save my neck. Lord knows I'm gonna need that one of these days. Gonna come a time Rick and your buddy Daryl there won't want to save my sorry ass." He said it lightly, but she knew there was a weight to his words. Shane had burned a lot of bridges back at the farm, and no matter what he did to rebuild them, it seemed that as Lori grew larger, so did the gap between Rick and Shane. Carol actually wondered what might happen if the baby came into this world with Shane's darker features. The world being what it was now, it was the baser things that people were living by. Something like that might even push Rick over the edge. He'd been close before with Shane, right before the farm was overran. It wouldn't take much to push him all the way.

"Whatever I can do for the cause," Carol smiled at him. She watched him stand, his thigh muscles flexing under his jeans. She found she couldn't not stare. When he leaned over to pick up the guns, her eyes followed naturally, and she blushed, turning away, pretending to be distracted by a noise in the woods. She turned back when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

"Ready?" He looked amused. Like he could see the blush in her cheeks. "No need to be shy Carol, it's okay to like things," he paused, adding, "to want." He nodded at her and offered his arm. Shane didn't play games. Even if they might have been slightly unwelcomed, his advances were plain. There was no doubt in her mind right now that with a gentle tug in the direction of her cabin, they could be engaged in more physical things in a short time. The fright that caused was met with an equal measure of interest.

But she wanted to learn how to shoot a gun. That was her primary focus right now. The one that she'd sought him out for in the first place. She slipped her hand in his arm and let him lead the way. He headed in the direction where she's talked to T-Dog earlier that morning. As they started for the open meadow, she wasn't sure where they were going to shoot. There was no fence, and he hadn't brought bottles, just the guns he'd been cleaning and whatever ammo was in his vest.

As they neared a windmill used for drawing water for cattle, Shane stopped and threw down his vest, pulling the guns from his holster and pockets and set them on top of it. He came around behind her and with his hands, moved her body into a stance. "To be effective with your shots, you want to hold your body in such a way that every pull of the trigger is intentional. If you fire with intent, you are more likely to hit your target." He moved her hand into position, and brought her hip out, adjusting it with his hand. His touch was firm and lingered longer than needed. And yet there seemed no disrespect in it.

"Now, you see those wild sunflowers there? I want you to shoot them off their stems." He placed a gun in her hand and positioned her fingers. Pointing out the safety and basics of the gun. "After this I'll show you how to clean them and the various parts, but right now, you're gonna learn how to fire."

She turned her head to look at him."There's no way I can hit that stem."

"Sure you can, you just need more confidence. How many times you fired a weapon, anyway?" He pulled himself closer behind her and wrapped his hands around hers on the gun, guiding her to aim. He pulled the trigger and she watched a flower drop to the ground. "See, don't take much." He was humored by her attempts then. After each round she fired, she could hear him trying to stifle his laughter. And each miss, he would move back in and correct her posture, or guide her hands to aim. Whispering tips in her ear, and being far to close for her comfort. But she didn't push him away. She needed this. She needed to build her confidence.

After one shot, she could see one flower bend on it's partially grazed stem. "Getting closer, Carol. Now just imagine those flowers with teeth advancing on you." He laughed then, placing his hand at her waist and correcting her stance. She wasn't sure why she did it, but she pushed herself back into him just a little, and he responded, his hand sliding up along her side, slipping under her shirt to run his hand open palmed over her stomach separated only by the fabric of her camisole. He pressed her back into him more firmly, and with his other hand traced his fingertips along the back of her neck before pressing his lips there. She closed her eyes and just let herself feel for a moment. She focused on nothing but the texture of his lips on her neck, and his fingers at her stomach, now pulling at the hem of the camisole.

She was pulled back by the sound of birds taking flight, and the breaking of the silence, a gruff voice, hardly humored. "The hell Shane, the flowers some new threat now, or are ya just wasting ammo for the hell of it." Shane released her and turned to face Daryl, his hand scratching at the back of his neck as he stood defensively one leg turned to the side, and fist tightening. She let the gun drop to her side and watched the two of them.

"Carol wants to learn to defend herself, so she asked someone who could actually help her." Shane glanced at the crossbow slung over Daryl's shoulder and scoffed. "Only need one badass with a bow in this camp anyway." He turned his attention away from Daryl and back to Carol, taking the gun from her hand and checking the clip. He leaned over to his vest and pulled a new clip from the pocket, exchanging with the one in the gun. "Do you need something Dixon, or are you just here to be smartass?"

Carol could hear the shift in Shane's voice. He was threatened by Daryl for whatever reason. Might have been the first time; he'd always treated Daryl like some second class redneck. "Don't need nothing Shane. Just out hunting and heard gunshots. Wanted to see for myself the source of what was going to draw every walker within five miles to us. Glad to know you've got the best interest of the group in mind, Shane." Daryl turned his back on Shane and started walking across the meadow and back to camp.

Shane watched him go and then turned back to Carol. "He's just jealous is all. Probably wants to teach you with that crossbow of his, but that takes strength you just don't have, Carol. Ain't nothin' on you, just is what it is." He gathered the guns and his vest, as if thinking on what Daryl had said. Maybe they really had put the group at risk by firing off shots. But Shane would have considered that right?

They walked back in silence to the camp. She didn't take his arm and he didn't offer it. He seemed lost in his own thoughts. She wondered what would have happened if Daryl hadn't interrupted them. As they neared their cabins, Shane stopped and turned to her, "I got distracted Carol, but I'm not done, not by any means. I'll catch up with you later, I need to go talk with Rick." He touched her elbow. "Maybe tonight by the fire, I can show you how to clean the guns, if you like." He smile and released her, moving toward Rick's cabin. Carol stood there for a moment, collecting her thoughts and wondering where Daryl had gone off to, and just how much he'd seen.