Oh goodness, I left this hanging for awhile. Going to try to get it going again over time. Thanks to all who have been patient with me!

This chapter is a bit more light-hearted (and Caryl-ey); please enjoy!

There was an old motel off the highway, with not a sign of life to be seen, heard or smelt anywhere near.

Lori was literally about to burst and they needed to stop, needed to let her rest and see just how close she really was.

Daryl pointedly ignored the muffled sound of something moving inside her womb as he brushed past her to grab their bags from the truck, nodded in silence when she thanked him tiredly.

They chose a cluster of rooms closest to the parking lot, didn't bother unpacking anything they didn't need in that very moment. They were all exhausted, frustrated and weary, but they knew by now that no luxury would be granted to them no matter where they ran.

No matter where they tried to hide, the packs would find them eventually.

Daryl watched the highway on the horizon as they assigned quarters, eyes following a single bird in flight, so far off it would be a speck of blurry dust to the others.

When Carol asked if she could bunk with him, he nodded absently.

Didn't bother to glance her way and find the pleased smile creasing into her cheeks.

Rick was already lowering the pistol to his side when the old man stepped in between them, glancing Daryl's way and nodding as if he knew something no one else in the world knew.

"I've seen this before. Met a man once, when all of this started, who was bit and turned and still kept all his wits about him. Said he could control it, but barely. Traveled alone, afraid he'd lose himself if he stayed with people. That's why I keep hoping, Rick. That's why I can't put my own people down." The old timer gestured to the now full and sleeping beasts in their chains, and Rick shook his head and seemed to nod at the same time.

Daryl grimaced. Growled low, the sound vibrating from his chest. He ground his teeth together and moved, thrusting a hand into the air in a sweeping motion as he bellowed,

"No, goddammit, you can't just take this psycho's word for it like that! Look at 'im, keeping Wolves like pets, hopin' they'll just wake up one day and be normal again? Fuck that; you do what you know's gotta be done."

He was heaving then, the air in his lungs hot and heavy, and his voice was like thunder to his ears and he wondered if he'd ever sound the same again.

No, no he wouldn't, because there would never be an 'again'….

Daryl pointed, ignoring the sudden painful itch in his fingers along with the freakish growth of his sharp nails, and gestured to the Python in Rick's uncertain grasp.

"Come on, then. Don't let me live like this. Just be done with it."

There was one bed.

He hadn't noticed that tiny important fact before. How the fuck had he not noticed?

"You are not sleeping on the damn floor, Daryl."

"It don't bother me; I'm fine."

"It bothers me. We've all been sharing sleeping space for months now. What's the problem?"

Daryl craned his head up from his place on the hotel room floor, found Carol peering over the edge of the bed at him. She blinked slowly in the candlelight, her eyes narrowing in a way that said she was suspicious of him, her lips quirking just enough to say that she was also kind of messing with him.

He huffed, inhaled the scent of the old creek water she'd used to wash up with not an hour earlier.

"Don't have a problem, you're the one with the damn problem. Why ya want me up there so bad?"

The moment the question left his mouth he regretted it, as Carol's lips parted to show off a toothy grin.


She chuckled. Shifted her eyes in smartass kind of way that he once would have never expected from her. Her head disappeared from his field of view as Carol laid back down flat, and Daryl followed suit, skull thudding against the wood beneath the thin, filthy carpet.

Silence passed between them then, and after a few quiet moments he considered reaching up to the bedside table and snuffing out the light.

And then she whispered (and to his ears it sounded as clear as a damn bullhorn):

"I'm not trying to seduce you, for God's sake. You know that. Please just get in the bed."

He sat in the old farmer's kitchen, staring at the half-empty glass of water and wondering how, in this literal Hell on Earth, Rick could make such a dumbass decision as to let a turned Wolf live.

He shook his head to the empty room, defeated.

He was alive, could think for himself, and somehow that was enough for Rick. It didn't matter to the man that Daryl had outright admitted to feeling….off-kilter, as if at any moment he could snap and just start…

Eating everything.

No, it didn't matter. There was hope, Rick said.

Daryl made him feel "hopeful".

"What a load of shit."

Engines roared to his ears, growing closer to the house. A glance out the kitchen window found Rick, Hershel (the batshit old farmer that somehow got Rick's trust in a matter of seconds) and who Daryl guessed to be his family, standing in the drive watching as the familiar vehicles of the others came rumbling their way.

Daryl blinked, eyes instantly focusing on a face through one of the windshields, and if not for the identity of said face he probably would have bothered to question how the hell he could see her so clearly from that far away….

She jerked when he landed on the bed far heavier than he'd intended.

"Sorry. Go back to sleep."

The candle was being smothered by its own wax when she rolled over slightly to look at him, and he felt his skin prickle and shift when she offered him a pleased but sleepy smile.

He rolled away from her, licked his thumb, and snuffed out the flame.