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Sleeping with one eye open has become a practice that Daryl is accustomed to. Despite the prison being dead silent, an uneasy feeling has been creeping inside of him, keeping him awake most nights. His crossbow is always within arm’s reach, loaded and ready to take down anything. But it’s mostly Carol that keeps him up at night lately.

***

It must have been seven months ago by now, but time is hard to keep track of these days. Hershel had pulled Daryl aside after the particularly nasty head trauma Carol sustained during an encounter with some Walkers. Daryl knew immediately that something was very wrong; Hershel’s transparent blue eyes had that glimmer of sadness that Daryl had seen far too much of over the last eight months.

“She’s blind,” he had said, his voice just a whisper, “It’s possible that her condition will improve with time, but it is highly unlikely.” Hershel placed a comforting hand on Daryl’s shoulder. Daryl couldn’t find the words; he was angry for not keeping his promise to himself, for not protecting her. Moments passed in silence before Hershel let his hand fall back to his crutch.

“She needs you, Daryl.”

 

Daryl had nodded wordlessly and taken off to Carol’s cell. She was alone, lying on the bottom bunk. She immediately turned her unseeing eyes in Daryl’s direction, a sigh of relief escaping her lips. She wiped a hand across her flushed, wet cheeks trying to hide her tears.

“Daryl?” It sounded so desperate and needy and Daryl had never wanted to pull her into a tight embrace and never let go more than he did then.

“Yeah, s’me,” he mumbled, coming to kneel next to her bed. She must have felt his presence beside her because her tear-dampened fingers promptly reached out to touch him, stroking across his cheek. Daryl closed his eyes and let her cool fingertips roam over every inch of skin she could reach.

When she had finished mapping him out nearly an hour later, he quietly kicked off his muddy boots and climbed into bed with her. He held her, even when Beth called for dinner and when Glenn and Maggie came to see her. He held her all night, quietly shushed her when she started to cry, let her settle into a restless sleep in his arms.

From that moment on, he hardly ever left her side. In the late summer, the two of them would take walks almost every day, their hands clasped together tightly. They would pick flowers and talk about things that didn’t involve death or Walkers or how the world had gone to shit. Carol would laugh and smile and Daryl lived to see it. He loved the way that her hazy blue eyes still lit up when she grinned. It became his favorite thing in the world, the only sanity he could find…

***

Daryl jumps and automatically reaches for his crossbow when warm fingers brush against his neck. He must have drifted off thinking about the past. To his relief, it’s only Carol, her fingertips caressing the line of his jaw. He rolls on his side and wraps his arms around her, pressing a gentle kiss to her temple.

“I’ve been thinking…” Carol starts before Daryl even has a chance to ask her why she’s up this late. He yawns, thinking she’s going to continue, but she has completely stilled in his arms.

“’Bout what?” He pulls away enough to cup her cheek, stroking the pad of his calloused thumb across her cheekbone.

Carol remains silent as she leans in and presses a kiss to the corner of Daryl’s mouth. He draws back a little bit, looking perturbed, his mind trying to piece together the clues. It’s not often that they kiss and it’s very rare that there is even the smallest bit of urgency behind those kisses. There was a spark there just now, something sexual, and it makes Daryl nervous.

“We should go somewhere more private,” Carol suggests, gently skimming her fingers along Daryl’s exposed collarbone. The comment makes Daryl feel like he’s sixteen years old again, nervous about banging the girl he took to the homecoming dance in the front seat of his dad’s pickup. It’s been a decent amount of time since he’s had sex, but he certainly has thought about it. Sex with Carol is something he’s been looking forward to, but he wanted to wait until she was ready. He’d slept with plenty of girls before, but Carol is special. She’s worth more than a quick fuck.

“All right.” The words are out of his mouth before he’s even thought about it and he curses himself for sounding hasty. He adds quickly, “Only if you want to.”

His response prompts a hearty laugh from Carol. She pulls him in for another kiss, opening her lips enough to let him know her intentions. He reads her loud and clear and slides out of bed, taking her hand. He helps her up then snatches the blanket and pillow from their bed.

They make their way through the cellblock quietly, Daryl knowing just the place to go. Before he moved into Carol’s cell, he had a brief stay on the perch of the cellblock before moving to the small observation room overlooking the rec area. It was perfect, if a little small, and as far as he knew, he still had a few blankets and pillows stashed in there in case he ever needed to return. He’d also swiped a lantern from the group’s stockpile the first night they were there but barely ever used it. He imagines that there’s still enough kerosene for at least a few hours. The last thing they need to do is grab the keys and they’re good to go.

He nabs the keys from the pile of assorted things in the main hall before leading Carol toward the locked cellblock door. He peeks through the bars of the door before slipping the key into the lock. To his immense relief, Merle is out at the guard tower on watch, his cot unoccupied in the adjoining room. He’d prefer it if Carol didn’t have to hear his lewd remarks. He opens the door enough for the two of them to slip out before closing and locking it behind them.

The two of them head toward the observation room, Daryl’s hand on the small of Carol’s back, leading her through the darkness. He helps her to the stairs where she insists that she can handle going up on her own. Daryl lingers beside her, but doesn’t interfere. She’s gotten much more comfortable with the layout of the prison and at this point, he’s confident that she can handle a set of stairs on her own. When they reach the top of the steps, Daryl pulls the door open and Carol walks right in without waiting for his guiding hand.

The place is the same as he left it, a pile of blankets covering three-quarters of the floor. There’s a broken arrow in the corner along with the lantern. He grabs it and turns it on; it sparks to life and fills the room with a warm, orange glow. He sets it back down on the floor before making his way to Carol. He throws the pillow and blanket he brought onto his old makeshift bed before turning to Carol and taking her face in his hands, leaning in to press a soft kiss to her lips.

She makes a pleased noise and presses her palm to Daryl’s chest right over his heart, drumming her fingers in time with his heartbeat. He wraps an arm around her waist and spins them around, easing her down until they’re both lying on the pallet, lips still connected. Her free hand finds his and they lace their fingers together, but Daryl pulls away.

“You sure about this?” The apprehension in his voice is apparent enough for Carol to reach up and run her fingers through his hair. She hums gently, a smile on her face, and Daryl feels his heart swell in his chest. Carol leans into him and kisses him and he can’t help kissing her back, his lips parting as hers do the same. Daryl breaks away moments later and sits up, stripping his shirt off and tossing it aside. She slowly climbs into his lap and reaches out with shaking fingers to touch his bare chest.

This is more intimate than sex could ever be, he thinks. Carol’s fingers and hands skim over his chest, his ribs, his stomach, and then she comes closer, wraps her arms around him and brushes her fingertips over the deep scars on his back. Daryl’s breath hitches and he lets his head drop to her neck, giving her tender kisses all the way down to her collarbone.

“I’m so sorry,” Carol murmurs against Daryl’s ear, “It must have been hard.” Daryl leans back and looks right into Carol’s eyes, even though he knows she can’t see him. He closes the distance between them, kissing her passionately, his lips moving in time with hers, and before they know it, they’re both panting wildly. Carol shifts backward and pulls her shirt off in one fluid motion. She’s not wearing a bra and Daryl lets out a low groan, his body reacting immediately. His face flushes and all he can think about is how beautiful she looks like this.

“You’re somethin’ else,” Daryl barely whispers before dipping his head to kiss all the way down her neck again. He lets his lips brush across the length of her collarbones, kisses down her chest to the rounded curve of her breast, plants a firm kiss next to her nipple that leaves her breathless. He reaches up and cups her other breast gently while he laps at her nipple carefully, afraid that this might be too much. Her soft moaning convinces him otherwise and he keeps at it, kneading her breast and suckling her nipple until she pushes him away gently. He looks up at her to find that she’s grinning at him, biting her lip, her hands sweeping through his hair.

Carol shimmies off of Daryl’s lap and lies down on her back, stretching her arms above her head. Daryl gasps quietly and glances his fingers over her pale ribs, admiring. He crawls over her and leans down to kiss her cheek before rocking back on his heels and unbuttoning his pants. He wriggles out of them then places his hands on Carol’s hips. She reaches up and takes his wrists, guiding his hands, letting him strip her down to nothing.

Daryl’s clumsy hands push her legs open and he kisses her, from the sole of her foot to the inside of her thigh, all the way up her stomach and chest. When he gets to her lips, he kisses her like he’s never going to see her again in this lifetime. Maybe because he’s not sure what tomorrow brings, he doesn’t know what lies ahead for them. All he knows is that he loves this woman and that he wants to cherish every moment with her.

Shaking fingers drag down Carol’s side, across her hip, coming to rest on her inner thigh. Between kisses, she laughs softly and nudges Daryl’s nose with her own. “Don’t tell me you’re a virgin,” she teases breathily, tangling her fingers in his hair. Daryl clears his throat awkwardly and lets his fingers press into the flesh of her thigh.

“Been a long time,” he admits with a meek smile, letting Carol brush her lips over his neck. She laughs at him, and maybe that should put him off, but he’s come to far to back out of this now. He works up the courage to touch her, letting his thumb work her clit. The sounds he pulls from her are wonderful, throaty moans that leave him wanting more. He finally shucks off his boxers, leaving them both naked and craving more. He situates himself between her legs, still rubbing her clit, watching her writhe underneath him.

A particularly drawn out moan sends a sensational wave of lust through him, heat pooling in his lower belly. He can’t hold out much longer seeing her like this, naked and absolutely perfect, cheeks flushed pink, chest heaving. He finally manages to stammer, “H-How do you want to do this?”

“I want to be able to touch your face.” Before Daryl can respond, she’s crawling up into his lap, slowly lowering herself down, gasping sharply as he enters her. Her hands reach up to cup his face tenderly while he moans softly against her thumbs sweeping across his lips. Once they’ve both settled, he gently thrusts upwards, his hands gripping her hips to keep her steady. They find a slow, sweet rhythm that leaves them both gasping desperately, breathing each other in. Daryl continues to chant, “I love you,” under his breath and Carol replies with a chorus of moans mixed with broken pieces of his name and unintelligible sentences.

It doesn’t take long for Daryl to be on the brink of orgasm, his fingertips digging into the skin of Carol’s hips. Her fingers slide over his face and he knows that’s she trying to picture what he looks like right now. He holds out just long enough for her to come before doing the same himself, whimpering as he lets go of her hips and reaches up to pull her into a deep kiss.

They stay like that for a long time, lips locked in an unbreakable kiss, before Carol pulls away. She gets out of his lap and falls onto her back, rubbing the space beside her. Daryl crawls over to her and wraps his arms around her, burying his face in the crook of her neck. She buries her hands in his hair and twirls long strands around her finger, lulling him into what feels like the best night’s sleep he’s gotten in a long while. As he’s drifting off, he kisses her collarbone and murmurs, “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Her tired voice reminds him that it’s late and that they both need to sleep. Even though he’s incredibly comfortable, he untangles himself from her to turn the lantern off before returning to her side. He holds her tightly and she does the same in return.