Alright, so here is the new story. As I said in The Making of a Man of Honor, this will be a series of one-shots. The idea is that it will be all the ways Caryl could have happened, though I'm more than willing to do requests for other things. This is not a "fix it" fic. While I'm chronically annoyed that the writers can't just give us all what we want (read: Caryl), the show is fantastically written and there is very little I'd ever want to the fix. This is simply some of the ways it could have happened throughout the seasons.

Now on to the question you're all probably asking: Will there be smut? Of course there will. I'll try to warn at the beginning in case there are those who are interested in the fic, but not in the smut.

This particular one-shot occurs around "Guts," "Tell it to the Frogs," "Vatos," and "Wildfire." Obviously not necessarily AU, but obviously not totally canon.

Smut? Not in this one, sorry ya'll. I just couldn't make it happen for this one and you'll see why.

Oh, also, harsh language and Ed warning.

TWD

It was late. The kids had finally settled down and the adults had followed soon afterward. The minutes crawled by as Carol waited for her husband to fall asleep. As soon as Ed started to snore Carol grabbed a basket and headed for the quarry lake.

She sat on the rocks scrubbing at the blood stains on Ed's shirt—evidence of his latest tirade over something she couldn't even remember doing now. She knew she should have been paying more attention, but she just couldn't muster the energy to care. Ed managed to beat that out of her on a daily basis recently. Carol was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't hear the footsteps approaching her from behind.

A gruff whisper brought her back to present. "You out here tryin' ta be walker bait, or what?"

Carol sucked in a surprised breath, only to take in another as she turned around and came face to face with Daryl Dixon.

"J-just, uh, finishing laundry." She offered.

"Shouldn't be out here alone." Daryl didn't really know why he'd stopped. He didn't want to get involved, but he just couldn't shake the need to make sure they didn't lose anyone else in their group. Despite Merle's original scheme to rob the group of supplies and run, Daryl felt himself drawn into the group.

"I'm fine." She knew she sounded irritated, but she just wanted to get Ed's clothes cleaned up so she could get some sleep. She had no desire to face the beating that would await her if that shirt wasn't clean come morning.

"You could leave him, you know." It was a statement, not a question. He wished he could just shut his damned mouth. It was going to get him in trouble if he kept on, but that didn't stop him. "We'll move on. Take your little girl and just go without him. It's that simple."

"I don't—" Carol stopped, afraid that the tears would spill over. She didn't understand why he'd stopped. He spent most of his time on the outskirts of the group, he was surly, and he didn't seem to like anyone. Yet here he was, telling her she could leave her husband. She felt anger overtake the tears. "Why do you even care?"

Daryl shrugged.

Carol sighed and turned back to the stained shirt. She fully expected that Daryl would walk away, but he didn't. Instead he dropped down onto a boulder and watched as she finished cleaning the shirt.

Daryl was drawn to this woman and he couldn't understand why. She was married. Furthermore she was married to an abusive asshole she didn't seem to want to leave. It should have been a turn off, but it only served to make him want to protect her. It wasn't like he could run it by Merle for advice. First of all, Merle would call him a pussy and knock him around to straighten him out. Once he'd beaten it out of Daryl, he'd probably tease him mercilessly about wanting a woman like that. Second of all, he sure as hell didn't want Merle's advice about women seeing as how Carol was most definitely not the type of woman Merle was into—his type being meth addled whores.

Finally Carol stood and held the shirt up to the moonlight to inspect it. She seemed satisfied and picked up the rest of her belongings to head back to camp. Daryl followed close behind. About halfway back to camp Carol slipped on a rock and lurched forward. Before she could hit the ground a strong arm wrapped around her waist and yanked her back to standing.

"Watch your step." Daryl mumbled into her ear.

Carol stood stock still as the arm around her waist held her longer than necessary. The feel of Daryl's breath whispering across her neck caused goose bumps to form. She nodded and let out the breath she didn't realize she'd been holding. Before she could thank him a voice broke the silence.

"The hell you think you're doin' bitch?" Ed growled.

Carol felt Daryl tense as he let go of her. "I…Daryl was just making sure—"

She was cut off when Ed reached out slapped her. "That boy don't want you. Ain't anybody wants a used up slut like you." Ed spat.

"Sorry." She whispered.

"Get your ass back to the tent." He growled as he shoved her up the path, not giving Daryl a second glance.

Daryl felt helpless as he watched her walk back to camp.

TWD

The next day held a flurry of activity. A group had gone to scavenge supplies in Atlanta and had returned with a man who turned out to be Lori's husband and Carl's father. The reunion had been bittersweet to watch because much of the group knew about Lori and Shane. It also turned out that Daryl's brother Merle had been left handcuffed on a rooftop due to his erratic behavior.

No one had seen hide nor hair of Daryl. His tent and belongings were still unpacked so everyone assumed he'd gone hunting. Carol hoped he'd be around so she could talk to him about last night. When she and Ed had returned to the tent, he'd really done a number on her. It took everything she had not to show it. She had the feeling that his statement last night had been an offer to help and she was now willing to take him up on it.

Daryl had gone hunting. He didn't really want to be around camp with his brother gone. And he sure as hell didn't want to have to look at Carol after last night. He didn't understand why she went with Ed. He'd offered her an out and she still wouldn't take it. He needed time to clear his head.

TWD

The next day brought Daryl's return. It also brought a Dixon tantrum, the likes of which had previously only been demonstrated by Merle. Daryl was pissed. So pissed, in fact, that he tossed a stringer of squirrels at Rick and then went at him with a knife. Once Shane subdued Daryl and they were able to have a calm discussion it was decided that Rick, Glenn, T-Dog, and Daryl would go back to Atlanta for Merle and the bag of guns that Rick dropped.

It was a long day. Carol, Jacqui, Amy, and Andrea worked on laundry as Ed supervised. Carol tried her best to keep her mind off of Daryl. Her heart ached for him. His brother was a douchebag, as Shane so tactlessly put it, but he was still Daryl's family. She also tried to push thoughts of leaving her husband out of her mind. It just wasn't an option it seemed.

The women reminisced about the things they missed and they all got a good laugh when Carol brought up her vibrator. Of course the laughter set Ed off and what happened next was a blur. By the end of it all Shane had beaten Ed to a pulp and Carol was a sobbing mess if only because the whole debacle would mean another beating tonight.

It was sick, but Carol was almost glad that Ed was too badly hurt to join them for the fish fry. When he'd tried to convince Sophia to stay with him Carol nearly killed him herself. She recognized the look in his eye for what it was and there was no way she was leaving her baby there with him.

A long day turned into an even longer one. While dinner had been fun, a shadow had been cast over the group due to the absence of the others. The night suddenly turned terrifying when walkers over ran camp. Daryl, Rick, Glenn, and T-Dog returned just in time, but not soon enough to save everyone in the group.

Daryl watched as relative calm descended over the group once more. Inventory of injuries and fatalities was taken. He watched on as Carol discovered that Ed was dead and couldn't help but feel a little glad at that fact. He watched as she comforted Sophia before sending the girl off the stay with Rick, Lori, and Carl. He watched as she gathered her meager belongings from their tent and stashed them in her Jeep. He watched as she sat on the old van seats and buried her face in her hands.

Daryl sat silent sentinel over Carol. No one else dared bother her with Daryl nearby. When the soft sobs and shoulder shaking finally subsided he dropped down next to her in the van seat.

"I'm sorry 'bout your—"

"Don't." Carol cut him off. "Don't lie and tell me you're sorry my husband is dead."

Daryl's eyes met hers and then dropped again. "Fine. You're right. I ain't sorry he's dead."

Carol nodded.

"I ain't sorry he cain't hurt ya anymore." Daryl continued. "I am sorry you're hurtin' though."

He immediately regretted his words as a soft sob escaped Carol's lips. He covered her hand with his and squeezed gently trying desperately to convey reassurance. Carol finally looked up at him, her gaze watery and uncertain.

"It'll be okay." He whispered. "Won't let nothin' happen to you an' your little girl."

Daryl pulled Carol to him then. He didn't have a clue what he was supposed to do, but he figured this was as good as anything else. Physical contact made him uneasy. As a child it'd brought him little else but pain. As an adult he'd done his best to avoid it. Now he was jumping in with no life vest in a vain effort to comfort a woman he barely knew, but one whom he felt inexplicably connected to.

Carol collapsed into his arms. Her breathing was slow and steady, the sobs no longer coming regularly. She wasn't sure if she was crying out of relief or grief, but she thought it was probably the former. She knew she shouldn't be happy her husband was dead, but she couldn't help but feel like a weight had been lifted. The beatings had become more regular, especially since the world had gone to hell. And she'd seen the way he'd been looking at Sophia. No longer would she have to worry about protecting the girl from her own father. No longer would she have to hide bruises or act like her whole body didn't feel like it was about to collapse. It was just too bad that the world had to go to hell before she could feel some sort of relief.

Daryl's body felt good against her own. He was a comforting presence, almost like coming home. She let her body melt into his. It'd been a long time since she'd felt anything but disgust when thinking about a man, but Daryl was different. She knew innately that he'd never do to her what Ed had done. Eventually she let her mind slow and exhaustion overtake her.

Daryl was relieved when he felt her breathing even out into a pattern that indicated she was asleep. He was relieved until he realized that he'd have to move her somewhere safe so they could both get some sleep. It was likely that they'd move out in the morning and he'd need sleep if he didn't want to join the ranks of the walking dead.

Daryl nudged her gently. "Come on, gotta get into one of the vehicles so I can get some sleep. S'not safe to stay out here."

Carol startled awake not having realized she fell asleep on him. "Sorry." She whispered raggedly.

Daryl shook his head. "S'okay."

Carol pulled out of Daryl's arms and stood abruptly to head toward her Jeep. Before she could step away he reached out and grabbed her wrist.

"Where ya goin'?" He asked, genuinely confused.

"To sleep in the car." She sighed. "You should get some sleep, too. I'm sure we'll be on the road early tomorrow." Carol tried to pull her wrist from his grip, but he wouldn't let go. The grip wasn't painfully tight like Ed's would have been. It was just enough to let her know he didn't want her to go.

"Ya shouldn't be alone. Ain't safe." He implored.

Carol almost argued that she'd be fine alone until her eyes met his. He looked pained and uncertain. There'd been more than enough pain and uncertainty tonight and she wasn't going to add to his. She nodded and followed Daryl to his truck. He didn't let go of her arm until she was safely inside.

Once settled Carol realized how chilly it was as a shiver wracked her body.

"Cold?" He asked. But before she could answer he shifted in the seat and rummaged around in the back for something. He emerged victorious with an old fleece blanket. It wouldn't do much, but it was better than nothing.

"You should keep it. I've got more layers than you do." She argued.

Daryl shook his head. "I'm fine."

She knew he was lying. She could feel the prickle of goose bumps as her hand brushed against his arm.

"We can share." Carol stated resolutely before inching closer and spreading the blanket over both of them.

She wasn't touching him, but Carol could feel the tension radiating off of him. She might have chuckled at his nervousness if not for her fear that he'd bolt if she did that. She was sort of hunched in the seat in an attempt to share the blanket with him without invading his space.

Daryl watched as she tried to settle back into sleep, but she looked uncomfortable and he knew she wouldn't be getting any sleep in that position. Putting aside his own uncertainty once more he threaded an arm between her back and the seat and pulled her into his side. He remained tightly coiled until Carol settled into him and rested her head on his shoulder. It didn't take long for her to drop off to sleep again and Daryl was, surprisingly, not far behind her.

TWD

Daryl awoke to a sharp pain in one side and a heavy feeling on the other. It was dark and it took longer than he was comfortable with to get his bearings. Finally the events of the previous night came rushing back and he realized that the weight at his side was Carol's body melted into his. The object causing him pain was the latch plate on the seatbelt. He tried to adjust, but quickly realized he wasn't going to be able to move without waking Carol.

Carol was vaguely aware of something moving beneath her, but she seemed to be stuck in that haze between sleep and wakefulness. Finally it seemed to register in her mind that nothing should be moving underneath her and she all but shoved Daryl out of the truck trying to get away. Her panic only ratcheted up several more notches when Daryl's arm tightened around her waist.

"Hey, relax!" He whispered roughly, "It's just me."

He repeated a variation of that several times before it sunk in for Carol. Finally she stilled in his arms.

"S-sorry. I thought—"

"It's okay."

She leaned back against him and his grip on her waist relaxed. Suddenly she could feel his heart hammering against her back. Carol started to pull away again, now aware that her proximity was likely the cause for his racing heart.

"Ya okay?" He asked as he again refused to release his grip on her.

"Yeah. I just… You seem—"

"I'm fine." He stopped her before she could voice his own fears.

Carol turned herself in the seat so she could see him. The sun would soon start to peak out between the trees and Carol knew her time alone with Daryl would have to end. She reached up to stroke his face and was pleased when he didn't flinch.

"Thank you."

"Didn't do nothin,'" he shrugged.

Daryl could have sworn her fingers were branding a trail down his cheek with each soft stroke. He was shocked that he found that he wanted to lean into her touch rather than run away. How could a woman who'd seen as much pain and been damaged just as much as he had still be so willing to show kindness to others, and especially to a man like himself? He pushed those thoughts aside as he leaned into her.

Neither of them initiated the kiss. Or they both initiated it. The only thing that was clear to either one of them was that neither of them ever wanted to stop doing this.

His lips brushed over hers. They were surprisingly soft given their chapped appearance. Daryl was gentle and uncertain as his lips moved over hers. He wasn't even sure he should be doing this given the events of the previous night, but she definitely wasn't pushing him away. In fact, her hands were now settled on his cheeks pulling him toward her, deepening the kiss.

All too quickly it was over. Daryl pulled away, but reached up to cup her cheek. The last thing he wanted was for her to think he was pushing her away, but he didn't want to rush into anything. She needed time and she needed to know that he understood that.

"We should get moving. I'm sure Rick and the others'll wanna get movin' pretty early." He rasped.

Carol nodded against his hand. "I should check on Sophia."

Begrudgingly Carol untangled herself from Daryl and moved to open the passenger door. Before she could climb out Daryl snagged her wrist and tugged her back toward him. He kissed her once more before letting her go. A blush crept up his cheeks as he willed himself to just say what he needed to say.

"You an' Sophia should ride with me… Lori an' Carl will probably want to ride with Rick…" he trailed off. "So ya'll should ride with me…if ya want to, I mean."

Carol smiled at him and nodded. "We'll ride with you," she confirmed before shutting the door.

Never write again? Not so great? Good? Let me know. Obviously I couldn't make them get down and dirty five seconds after Carol's husband became walker bait. I really had a hard time making them kiss. Eh…

Also, in case you haven't noticed, I own nothing related to AMC or TWD. If I did the fangirls would certainly be happier. Or at least I like to think they would.