A/N: This one is a bit shorter than usual, I had a little trouble with it. But I didn't want to keep you all waiting any longer, so I'll try to make up for it next chapter. This first scene is for sweetveruca )

Disclaimer: The Walking Dead and its characters belong to AMC/Robert Kirkman. Lana Fitzpatrick and Sheriff are my own fan characters and belong to me.

Chapter 6

A warm, soft breeze rustled the trees overhead, shaking a few small leaves loose from the gently swaying branches. The air was sweet with the scent of daisies and azaleas that grew just outside the fences, the colours matching those painted across the sky in true sunset fashion. It was peaceful. The kind of peaceful that was hard to come by these days, that Carol craved and loved.

As she leaned against the old, worn trunk of a nearby tree, just outside the dulled lines of what was once a football field, she sighed contentedly, soaking up the last of the sun's warm rays before she'd have to return to her nightly duties. It was her shift for dinner tonight, along with Maggie and Glenn. Then after dinner she'd get a few hours of sleep before being woken to go on watch, go back to sleep, wake up and carry on with tomorrow's chores, it seemed unending. Speaking of which…

The sound of oncoming footsteps drew her peaceful evening to an end. Maggie was probably coming out to fetch her for dinner preparations. It was a pleasant surprise when she turned with a sigh to see Daryl stop dead in his tracks as their eyes met. He lingered in place for a few moments, blue eyes darting to his feet before he dared to venture nearer.

She cocked her head to the side, smiling warmly, before pushing herself up from the tree trunk and taking a few steps forward to meet him.

"Do Glenn and Maggie want me?" she asked as he took the last few steps over to where she stood.

"Don't think they've started yet" Daryl replied.

"Its so peaceful, you can hardly even hear all the snarling and growling tonight" she said with a brief chuckle, breaking her eyes away to look at the horizon.

"Beautiful" he said from behind her.

"It is isn't it? I don't remember the last time I really admired a sunset, the colours are so pretty"

"Wasn't talkin' 'bout the sky"

Her smile widened as she turned to face him, her eyes sparkling in the evening light. A small, hint of a smile cold be seen on Daryl's lips. But the look he gave her, pure happiness and love simply radiated from his eyes. He edged closer, intertwining his calloused fingers with hers.

"I love you"

The words were rarely spoken between the two, it just wasn't how they worked. They didn't need to voice their feelings, the other simply understood. They showed it. Their relationship was more intimate than little declarations of love being thrown around. But still, hearing the words being uttered from his mouth gave Carol a tingle of delight. It sort of made it seem more real, more definite. As if the way he spoke to or looked at her told her any different.

"I love you too" she said softly, giving him a small peck on the lips.

"Y'know, we found some pretty good stuff out there" Daryl said as he pulled away.

"Oh, like what?" she humoured, eyebrows raised.

"Clothes, food, all kinds a good stuff. Nothin' too unusual" he shrugged. "But I did find one thing you might like"

Carol's interest was piqued as Daryl dropped one of her hands and reached into his back pocket, his eyes dropping to the ground as he dug around in the fabric. His eyes shot up the moment his fingers found the object, seeming almost nervous. Slowly he eased himself onto one knee, bringing his clenched hand forward and producing a ring.

Bright blue eyes lit up at the sight of the polished stone held between his thumb and index finger. Carol's grip on his hand tightened as the other shot up to cover her open mouth. The words were caught in her throat. She was completely speechless. Silence filled the space around them. Daryl looked at her expectantly, growing instantly worried when she didn't react. He tensed up, nearly loosing his balance but managing to stabilise himself.

"Daryl, I—" she stammered, lost for words.

He was just about ready to spring up and hurry away red-faced and embarrassed when he saw it. That smile, that smile he loved finally creeping across her face. The happiness in her eyes was beyond measure. The corner of his mouth turned up on one side and his eyes brightened. Carol nodded her head excitedly as she searched for words.

"Yes, yes of course!" she blurted out, before jumping forward and wrapping both arms around his neck tightly.

The force of the hug knocked Daryl clear off his feet, his hands flailing backwards in an attempt to catch himself, but to no avail. The pair crashed to the ground, but Carol's grip didn't falter. Now laying on top of him, she pulled her head back and planted a kiss on his lips. She allowed him to pull one of her arms out from under him and watched in sheer joy as he slid the ring over her finger. She held her hand out in from of her face with a beaming smile spread across her lips. It was simply beautiful. From the shining polished gold making up the band, to the sparkling jasper stone encased within.

Daryl had spent most of his life believing he would never have a real family. The closest he would ever have were the ones he shared blood with. His family, but not by choice. He never would've thought it took the dead rising for him to find that family, somewhere where he belonged and where he really mattered. That was the first surprise.

He'd also expected that he would never to get hitched or settle down with anyone. He didn't believe he was capable of being loved by anyone in that way, and it seemed pretty impossible that he'd ever find someone who would. He didn't care, it was just another stupid part of life that didn't really matter.

But God had she gone and turned that around.

Carol had proven him wrong, and he was glad. He never saw himself proposing to anyone, but he did. And she said yes. That, he thought, would be the last surprise.

Being a father was also on that list of things he never thought he would accomplish.

It took Daryl a long while to realise Carol was sitting there staring at him, waiting for him to say something, anything. But he couldn't. He didn't know what he could say. The news hit him like a tonne of brinks, he wasn't even sure he'd really processed the information yet. A baby? Was he even ready for something like that?

"Please say something" the hushed, pleading voice broke the silence.

But what was he supposed to say? He inhaled deeply, eyes falling to the ground.

"H—" he started, stopping when he realised that he already knew how. A few weeks ago, the night he proposed… they should've been more careful.

"Thats… wow, that's… great" he stammered, still registering the information.

Just the idea that he was going to be a father seemed incredibly surreal, so surreal he was convinced wouldn't be able to believe it even after the baby is born. Was he scared? Hell yeah. But Carol knew what she was doing, he could only assume that would make things easier. He was good with kids, when they were other peoples', but it was a while different thing when it was your own. It wasn't exactly like he had a good role model either.

"Is it?"

His eyes snapped up to hers. That hadn't been the reply he'd been expecting. She looked at him with glossy blue eyes, her lip slightly quivering. This wasn't at all like her. Something was very wrong. His eyebrows furrowed as he lay a hand on her knee, squeezing it gently while he brushed his thumb against the gathered fabric of her pants.

"You don't have to be scared. You'll be safe n' we'll be ready, 'm not gonna let nothin' happen to you—"

"Its not me I'm worried about Daryl" she cut him off.

She broke her eyes away from his, biting her lip as a shuddering breath passed through. Daryl leaned towards her, tilting his head, in an attempt to catch her eye. She refused to meet his gaze.

"I don't think I can do this. Not after what happened to Lizzie, or Mika. Or— Sophia" her voice faltered on the last name. "I couldn't keep them alive, what makes you think this one will be any different?"

He brought his hand up to her chin and tilted her face towards his.

"Carol, you know that's not true. What happened to those girls, it ain't on you" he said in a comforting tone.

"But I could've stopped it, I could've done something to keep them all safe. But I didn't, and that's why they're gone" she said, her eyes growing more watery as she spoke. Daryl lifted a thumb to her eye and wiped away a stray tear before it could fall. Her voice softened. "I just… I couldn't keep them safe"

Carol pressed her face against his hand, which was now cupped around her cheek. He wouldn't let her just give up like this, after all they'd been through, and all the hope she'd given to the rest of the group. One of the thing's that had first drawn him to her was that fierce hopefulness of hers, even after she lost Sophia. But now all this grief was starting to take a toll on her, he could see that now. It was hard, he knew that, but he wasn't going to let her loose hope.

"You kept Lana safe"

For a moment, just a split second, Daryl swore he saw a flicker of belief in her eyes, but whatever it was it vanished quickly as she pulled away from his touch.

"I never would've been able to without you" she replied.

"An' what makes you think I'm goin' anywhere, huh?" he said as he shifted closer to her, slinging one arm around her shoulder and pulling her close.

She didn't reply, instead offering a feeble half smile before burying her face in his shoulder. He felt her sigh deeply, her breath hot on his bare skin.

"But she's just one Daryl. I've lost three" Carol said softly, her voice cracking towards the end.

"Hey" he said, leaning forwards slightly to look at her. "I know its hard, n' it hurts like a bitch, but that girl, she couldn't handle this world. Somethin' snapped in her mind, there was no bringin' her out of it. What she did, and what happened to her, it wasn't somethin' you could stop"

Carol pulled away, pain in her eyes.

"What about Sophia? You said it yourself, if I'd just been watching her—"

"Don't you dare go blamin' yourself for what happened to Sophia" he snapped, a little louder than he intended. It had caught her off guard, silencing her for a short moment. His features softened. "I lost her too"

Empathetic eyes stared into his, looking thankful in a way, that he understood what she went through. But Daryl was convinced he never really would know, not the way she did anyway, as much as it tore him up to lose Sophia.

He slid his hand over hers, both of them resting just above her knee.

"Carol," he started soothingly, absentmindedly drifting his fingers lightly across hers. "Do you want this baby?"

It took her a moment to respond.

"Of course I do" she replied with a hint of a smile, her head leaning to the side. However, the smile was gone as quickly as it had appeared, as she breathed a long sigh. "I just don't want to lose it"

She pursed her lips, although Daryl could still see the faint tremble she was biting back. He tightened his grip on her hand, pulling her nearer with the other arm.

"I promise you, nothing's gonna happen to you or the baby. I'm not gonna let anythin' happen t' neither a you. We're not gonna lose this kid" he comforted, his voice determined.

Carol let a short sob escape as a smile broke across her face. She wrapped her arms around his waist and pulled him into a tight hug, nuzzling her face into the crook of his neck. Her teary eyes dampened the fabric of his shirt. His arms slid up her back, one resting just under her shoulder and the other tangled in the short curls at the top of her neck. He softly kissed the top of her head, letting a small smile of his own form.

"Hey" he said pulling away gently. "I think Lana's gon' be wonderin' where we've got to"

"We should go see her" Carol replied, nodding as she rose from the mattress. She wiped her dampened eyes and forced a smile. "Lets go".