[Author's Note: this story picks up right where the season 2 finale ended.]

"Getting Closer" Chapter 1: First Night After Leaving the Greene Farm

After the "Rictatorship" speech, Rick was far too agitated to even think of sleeping. He and Daryl took the first watch, while the others settled down around the fire to try to get some rest. They were all mentally and physically exhausted from the walkers overrunning the farm, and the long day of driving that followed. Soon Hershel's snores could be heard, bringing smiles from Maggie and Beth.

As Rick patrolled the perimeter, Daryl kept watch from atop one of the crumbling stone walls of their temporary camp. He could see Glenn and Maggie "spooning" on one side of the fire, with Hershel and Beth nearby, back-to-back in a chaste effort to share body heat. Lori held Carl tightly, both wrapped in a down comforter they had found in one of the abandoned cars on the highway. There weren't enough blankets to go around, so Daryl had given his leather jacket to Carol when he began his watch. She had protested, but he had shrugged his shoulders dismissively, saying "the cold will keep me alert," and walked away before she could say more.

Now, as his eyes lit upon her slender form in front of the fire, Daryl's thoughts turned again to Carol. He wasn't sure when she had become "his" burden, but somehow he felt very protective of her. When they had met the rest of the group on the highway that morning, he could have asked her to find space in one of the cars, but instead he had found himself motioning her to get back on the motorcycle. He had rarely had a woman on the back of his bike, and that day he discovered that he liked having Carol there. He remembered the sight of her elegant hands clasped around his waist, and the feel of her arms squeezing against his sides. Daryl hadn't been hugged much in his life, but he imagined that this is what a good hug felt like, this connection between two people that went beyond physical contact, this sense of togetherness…

"Oh, Hell!" he thought, tearing his eyes away from her and sweeping them across the landscape. Rick had moved quite a ways along the perimeter since the last time Daryl checked. He berated himself, "Damn woman is going to get us all killed, and all she's doin' is layin' there! I'm gettin' soft!" With that, he resolved once again to keep his head firmly in the here & now, and stop thinking about the past.

An hour later, Rick woke T-Dog and Hershel for the next shift, and settled in behind Lori. She might still be angry with him for killing Shane, but in her exhausted state she didn't even notice the familiar sensation of his arms wrapping around her. Now Daryl faced a conundrum: should he take the space vacated by T-Dog, which was now directly downwind of the fire, or try to find a comfortable spot further from the warmth of the flames? He saw Carol on the upwind side, curled tightly into a ball, shivering despite the thick leather of his jacket. Once again he noticed Glenn holding Maggie, and he quickly decided it was "logical" to share body heat with Carol. He silently moved around the fire circle and cautiously lay down beside her. She must've felt the small movement at her back, because she twitched and moaned slightly – and his right arm instinctively wrapped over her, and he whispered "Shhh" into her delicate ear.

Despite feeling awkward in this unfamiliar position, and hoping T-Dog and Hershel didn't notice him holding Carol, Daryl soon drifted into an exhausted and uneasy sleep. Carol slowly relaxed, releasing her small form from the tight ball, and settling almost full-length along Daryl's body. They both managed to sleep through the next shift change.

When they got up for their shift and saw Daryl & Carol together, Maggie and Glenn exchanged knowing glances. Perhaps they weren't the only "new couple" that had found romance on the farm!