Disclaimer I do not own the rights to anything pertaining to the walking dead. Including their characters, plot or dialogue. I have merely borrowed them for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended.

2

Once inside the prison, Carol noticed everyone making themselves scarce as she and Daryl walked through. She moved them toward the showers, but Daryl hung back a bit. "I don't know if I can even stand up long enough to get outta my clothes, let alone get clean." he muttered.

"'Don't worry, I'll help you." She smiled as she said it, but didn't look to see his reaction. She did notice he stumbled for a second before he got his footing.
"Oh yeah?" he sounded intrigued.

"Yeah. Head on in, and get started. I'll get us some clothes and join you in a minute." She turned toward the cells aware that he was standing where she had just left him watching after her.

When Carol entered the showers a few minutes later, she could hear the water running at the far end. She placed towels and clean clothes on a bench and nervously made her way to the last curtained shower stall. She paused a moment, wondering at the wisdom of what she was about to do, but remembering how shattered he was, and how he clung to her earlier, she took a deep breath and quickly removing her clothing, stepped into the stall behind him.

Daryl stood beneath the spray, his hands on the wall, head down, just letting the water wash over him. He looked so weary and dejected. He looked like a man that had just lost everything he had left in this world. She knew first hand how that felt, and she hadn't forgotten that he was the one person that brought her back from the brink. She had loved him ever since, and now she was going to be the anchor he needed. She was going to make sure he didn't give up or let this break him. She wanted to be sure he knew without a doubt that he was not alone in this cruel world. As long as she drew breath, he would have someone to turn to when the world crashed down around him.

"Daryl?" She spoke his name just before placing her hand on his shoulder. She knew how skittish he was about being touched. The many scars marring his body told her why. He flinched a bit, but didn't pull away from her. She stepped closer, wrapping her arms around his waist and laying her head against his back. He straightened and turned in her arms, lifting her chin in one large palm, his eyes full of questions. "I told you I'd help you." she smiled at him and was relieved to see the corner of his mouth quirk just a bit in response.

"You don't gotta do this, Carol. I'm a big boy. I can deal with this shit on my own. I been doin' it my whole life."

"I know you have, and that you are more than capable. But I'm here for you, and I want you to know that as long as I'm alive, I ALWAYS will be. I want to be here for you and with you. Let me help you get through this. I know you can handle it alone, but you don't have to. Not anymore." He watched her face intently as she spoke, searching for the sincerity in her words. She never broke eye contact with him, wanting to make sure he understood how serious she was. Slowly, he leaned down, and brushed her lips with his, hesitantly to be sure, pulling back to see how she would react. In response, Carol raised her hands to either side of his face, and gently drew herself up to place a small kiss on his mouth in return. She pulled back and smiled at him, drawing a small smile from him in return. Her heart soared. This was more than she had ever dared to hope for.

They didn't dawdle long in the shower. She knew he wouldn't last too much longer. The adrenaline had worn off and he was completely wiped out. Daryl didn't move, nor did he protest when she took up the shampoo from a nearby shelf and pouring some into her hand, reached up and began to run her fingers through his hair. His only response was to close his eyes and tilt his head back ever so slightly. She massaged his scalp, working the foam to the ends of his unruly locks. He allowed her to maneuver him under the spray again and rinse his hair. She then did the same for herself. When she opened her eyes upon rinsing the shampoo from her short hair, she realized he had been watching her. She couldn't read the look on his face, but decided not to think about it too hard. This was what it was, right at this moment, and that was enough for her.

He watched as she took up the rag and soap next, bringing it to a lather, before stepping toward him again and beginning to wash his chest. He stopped her after only a moment by covering her hand with his own. She looked up into eyes that were now laden with desire. She smiled up at him. "Let's get you clean, shall we?" He released her hand and allowed her to continue, watching her all the time she worked. His eyes only left her when she asked him to turn and allow her to wash his back, doing so before turning back around. When she had re-lathered the rag intending to wash herself, he reached out, taking it from her hand. "I think it's my turn." His voice was husky, barely more than a whisper, and she thrilled to the sound if it. He started at her neck, and worked his way down, slowly and methodically washing every part of her. She closed her eyes and just reveled in the sensations his touch evoked within her.

When he had finished, and they were both rinsed and ready to get out, he wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her against him. His eyes again searched her face for something before he apparently found what he was looking for, and he leaned down and kissed her gently, first on the lips, then on her jaw line, and finally on the curve of her neck, before laying his forehead into that spot and sighing. She hugged him close for a few minutes, and then pulled away. "Come on. Let's get dressed and get you to bed. You're asleep on your feet."

"Yeah, it sorta feels that way. Like I'm in a dream or somethin'. Not real sure if I wanna wake up from some of it, though." He raised his hand, brushing his fingers down the side of her face and she turned her head enough to kiss his palm before looking back at him with a smile that he answered before moving away from her and going to retrieve their towels and clothes.

They left the showers as they had entered the prison, with her firmly tucked into his side, his arm holding her against him. It seemed that for all his assurance to being okay, he held her like a security blanket, as if afraid that if he let her go, his demons would come for him and he'd be helpless against them. And maybe they would. She wasn't going to take that chance.

The cell block was quiet and seemingly deserted with the exception of Rick and Glenn, apparently waiting for the showers. Carol blushed thinking about why they would have waited to enter and clean up, knowing that they would have done just that if she hadn't been in there with Daryl. They both looked up and smiled slightly at Daryl and her as they passed. She returned the smile and Daryl nodded, but they didn't pause and no words were spoken. She could feel their eyes on them though as Daryl entered her cell with her. They both looked away quickly as she turned and slid the sheet hanging over the door closed.

When she turned back around, Daryl had already sat on the side of the bed, shoulders slumped, elbows braced on his knees, his head cradled in his hands. She stepped close and he looked up reaching for her. As she stepped between his knees, he wrapped his arms around her hips, pressing his face into her stomach. She ran her hands in his hair, smoothing out the tangles, trailing them down to rub his neck and shoulders, trying to work the rest of the tension still remaining out of them.

Finally, she pushed him away, and began to undress. "Get out of most of those clothes and lay down, Daryl. You need your rest." she had turned her back to him, but could hear him start to comply without comment. She turned back around when she was down to her panties and camisole, He was already undressed save for his underwear. He watched her for a minute, finally asking, "Would ya mind to sleep down here with me instead of on the top bunk? I won't try anything. I'm too tired for that anyway." he smirked slightly before continuing. "I just would feel better with you next to me. I need…" he trailed off and looked down, but she didn't need to hear more. She understood all too well.

"Of course, Daryl." she came over as he slid back on the bed to the wall. He turned to his side and she slid in next to him. He immediately wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her back flush against him. She closed her eyes, caught up in the feel of his bare skin against hers, and his breath wafting over her neck and cheek.

"Carol?" he whispered in her ear, causing her to shiver. "Yes, Daryl?"

"Thank you." he said it so softly that even with his lips practically brushing the shell of her ear, she barely heard it, but she could feel the depth of emotion in those two little words, and knew that they said a world of things that he couldn't otherwise communicate to her.

She turned her head enough to kiss him softly, "You're welcome." She turned back around, wrapping her arms around his. As she drifted off to sleep, she felt him press a kiss to the nape of her neck, before snuggling his face against the same spot.

Tomorrow, they would have to face the world again, but for tonight, they would rest in each other's arms. She had him back and that was what mattered. He was broken, shattered even, but he was back and now she knew, he was hers. They would face the Governor and whether they lived or died, they would do it together and for now that was enough.

By

Crystal Helms