Her eyelids fluttered open slowly and she rolled onto her side, grimacing with the effort. She searched the room in an attempt to figure out where she was, then she smiled when she saw him.
He was sitting in a folding chair near the window reading a book, one of her books. His mouth moved slightly as he followed along with his finger and the whole scene made her heart flutter so wildly that she had to watch him for a few moments before she spoke.
He didn't look up, so she called softly to him, hoping her voice would work. "Hey, Pookie," she said sweetly. "What're ya reading?"
He froze for a second, his eyes locking on hers, then he threw the book aside and was crouching down beside her in less than three steps. "Hay, you're awake."
"Mmmm… where are we?"
He frowned. "Don't you recognize it? We're in our house."
"Our house?" She lifted her head to look around, realized that they were back in the house they'd been holed up in. "Oh, yeah. B-but Rick?!" She asked, feeling slightly panicked as she recalled the last events that she remembered.
"Ssh, ssh," he soothed. "He's fine. Moved in with Carl and Li'l Ass-Kicker next door, actually."
"He did?" she asked with a puzzled expression on her face. She attempted to push herself up in the bed and a wave of dizziness crashed through her.
"Take it easy," Daryl warned, gripping her arms to steady her. "C'mere. I'll help ya. There's somethin' I wanna show you anyway."
She placed her hands on his shoulders, clutching tightly to his shirt as he pulled her up. "How long have I been out?"
"You've been in and out for a couple'a weeks now. Surgery was rough, but you're gonna be jus fine."
She nodded. "What- what happened to the kids?"
"Kids're fine. The girls're with Glenn an' Maggie, a few houses down. We can move them in here, if ya like. In the spare room, once you're feelin' up to it."
Her eyes widened. "Is everybody here? On this block?"
He slowly led her over to the window. "Ev'ryone that made it."
She decided that she would ask him about that later, not wanting to spoil the first moment of security she'd felt in a long time.
"We're buildin' a wall around this block and the next one. Not done yet, but it'll be soon. Might not be a bad place ta settle down once an' for all," He said, his face close to her ear as he stood beside her for support.
She gazed out the open window, leaning her arms against the sill. From this distance, she could see into the other yard, like always. Rick's yard. She could spot him in the middle of it, talking to Carl. He looked up when he saw her watching them, raised his hand in a wave.
She waved back as a slow smile started to spread across her face.
"What're you thinkin'?" Daryl asked, the corners of his mouth twitching up as he watched her.
She turned back to him with a big grin, the kind that showed all her teeth. "I think this feels like home," she said quietly. "It's perfect. Now nobody has to be alone, ever again."
He nodded. "That's the idea."
She regarded him carefully with her chin tilted to the side. "You won't ever leave me, will you, Daryl?"
"Course not. I'm never lettin' go a you ever again." He shook his head and a long lock of hair fell into his eyes.
She giggled, gesturing at it with her hand.
"Yeah, it's gettin' kinda long, huh? I, uh, don't s'pose you'd wanna cut it for me. Ya know, when you're feelin' up to it?"
"Hell no," she said, reaching with her fingers to brush the hair from his face. "I kinda like it."
He looked down as a light blush started to spread across his cheeks.
"Makes you look…. tough," she said with a mischievous grin. "Actually, it's kinda sexy."
"Stop," he urged, embarrassed, but the way he said it sort of made her feel like he didn't want her to.
"Really?" She asked softly, gazing up at him with wide eyes.
He shook his head. "Naw. Believe it or not, I've missed your teasin.'"
"Good," she said with a little laugh. "Cause I could go all night!"
He groaned. "Okay, yeah, stop," he said as his cheeks flamed brighter. "Unless of course, you're serious."
She froze, her heart suddenly pounding in her ears at the slightly husky tone his voice had just taken. "You mean… you want to… again?"
He shrugged. "I know we gotta wait til you're healed more. But I kinda miss that too."
She nodded. "Me too," she said in a small voice. She slowly stepped closer to him. "I'm really glad you found me," she whispered.
"Yeah," he agreed, holding out his hands, ready to catch her if she fell. "I just… really needed ya back. Glad ya are."
She thought for a moment, chewing on her bottom lip. "There's something else I should tell you."
"Oh yeah?" He asked, looking up at her. "What's that?"
She took a deep breath, keeping her eyes steady on his the whole time. "I'm in love with you, Daryl. I'm….. in love with you." She reached out to take both of his hands in hers. "I have been for a real long time now."
He watched her stroke her fingers over his, didn't say anything.
"I-I'm sorry…. if that's too much for you to hear," she whispered.
He shook his head. "Naw," he whispered back, pulling her forward into his embrace and engulfing her in his arms. "It's just enough."
She held onto him tightly for a few long moments, breathing him in.
"There's still that thing I wanted ta show you," he said, a little gruffly, after awhile.
She looked up at him quizzically.
He pointed out the window with one arm, keeping the other one wrapped firmly around her slender frame. He gestured straight down at the ground and she leaned her head out all the way to see a bush of white flowers growing against the house. "Is- is that…?"
"Cherokee roses," he murmured into her hair. "Been growin' there tha whole time. I told ya you'd be okay."
He placed a gentle kiss on her temple. "We all made some mistakes, all of us. That don't mean we don't all get a second chance."
She smiled widely, taking in the whole scene before her. Rick was still out in his yard with the kids, playfully holding Judith's arms up above her as she took a few unsteady steps towards Carl. Tyreese was there too, with Beth, and Maggie and Glenn and the rest of the children, and they all cheered her on loudly.
Carol placed the hand that was still holding his over her heart and breathed in deeply.
"You okay?" He asked.
"I'm fine," she said, letting her gaze linger out the window before turning to look up at him with a contented sigh. "I've found my way home."