A/N: this story turns one year old on 4.14.14, it is my intent to mark it complete by that time, there are only one or two more chapters remaining I think, so I appreciate your patience over this past year - I for one am looking forward to the completion of it so I can try some other stories that have been wandering around my head, including some Carick (can't fight it) - as a reminder, especially as his chapter winds down, this is, at the heart of it, a Caryl story (I cannot emphasis this enough) - I love you all

The Walking Dead and identifiable characters, places, and events are not mine - no infringement is intended or implied - my stories are written out of love and a need to create and are solely for entertainment purposes

"I don't understand ya." Carol stopped short just inside the doorway to her cabin, the canvas door slapping down behind her. "Ya know he's up ta somethin' and there ya go off with him. I sure as hell ain't savin' no damsel that puts herself in distress."

Carol stared in his direction for a moment, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the lesser light of her personal space. "What are you doing here?"

"Come ta talk ta ya." His eyes shifted down, focusing on her feet.

"You mean talk at me?" Carol asked, walking past him to sit on her bed. She pulled her boots and socks off and curled her toes against the floorboards. "No one asked you to go on a rescue mission. You're following me around like a puppy on your own." She swung her feet up on the bed and pulled her knees up, wrapping her arms around them.

"Do ya want me ta leave?" Daryl shifted uncomfortably. As he did so his crossbow slipped from his shoulder and he adjusted it with irritation.

"No. You will when you are done with what you need to say, you always do." She cast him an irritated glance but didn't much care. She wanted to be alone with her thoughts quite honestly, but she didn't want to scare him off. He was jumpy enough as it was. Indicating a spot next to her on the bed, she said, "Sit, or go brace yourself against the wall, or pace the floor, whatever makes you the most comfortable."

Carol rested her chin on her knees and watched him. They seemed so far now from where they had been just two days ago. A lot had changed, but she felt like most of that had been her. Daryl was like a tide, all crashing force and turmoil, but consistent, and predictable.

"Don't have nothin' ta say, Carol. Only that ya should know better, and I've said my peace already on that." He adverted his eyes from hers and focused on his thumb, pulling at a bit of loose skin like he was performing surgery. He looked to where she had patted the bed next to her, and considered a moment before sitting on the farthest edge away from her, leaning his crossbow against the foot of the bed.

His body language was anything but comfortable. But he sat. And he messed with his thumb. And he said nothing.

Carol glanced first at him, then towards the door, then back to Daryl. She had options now. Shane had made that clear. At least to her it had been clear. She swung her feet off the bed, and when they hit the ground she paused a moment, considering her boots, then shaking her head. She didn't need them. It was still warm enough, the ground would feel good. Standing from the bed, she touched his shoulder and without another word left the dark closeness of her tent.

When her first bare foot it the ground, she smiled at the texture of the dirt, powdery and surprisingly cool despite the warmth of the day. Maybe the clay underneath kept it that way. She spotted Shane across the circle of cabins just finishing with Rick. They were nodding and Rick was starting off in the opposite direction. She drew close, feeling a boldness rising in her that was both unfamiliar and exciting.

Drawing near enough to touch his forearm, Carol place her hand there, speaking his name softly. When he turned to face her there was an amused smile on his lips. "Back so soon?"

"Can I have a word with you?" She didn't release his arm, merely tugged it a bit until he started to follow her.

"Where we goin', Carol? You find something you want me to kill?" He laughed a bit as she dragged him along, slipping into the space between his cabin and the next. The space was narrow, and cooler than the outer circle, more shaded by the trees. She stopped them then, turning so that her back was pressed against one of the trees that had grown in the space.

Guiding his hand to her waist, she placed her free hand at his neck, clasping it firmly and pulling him down into a kiss. He did not hesitate or question her. Just reacted as she'd much expected him to. As she slipped her tongue into his mouth and tentatively ran it along his teeth, he responded by grasping her firmer by the waist and pulling her flush against him. His kisses were far more demanding than hers. She closed her eyes and could feel his lips at her throat and neck, as if demanding high repayment of a long held debt.

Suddenly the contact was broken and her eyes flew open only to catch his own staring at her. "You sure you want this?" It was all he asked, but he remained paused, waiting on the breath for her to answer.

"I do, just not here, not in the open. It isn't you..." she trailed off.

"Dixon, right, I understand. We don't need your boyfriend seeing and getting all upset now, do we?" Shane was humored but there was also an edge to his voice. As if maybe that mattered more than he was letting on. "Come on then." He grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the back of his cabin. "This alright? Or would you rather go inside?"

Carol laughed at him, as if the idea of staying out in the open was just fine with him. "Inside would be better."

Shane gave an exaggerated sigh. "Okay, hang tight here, alright?" Shane disappeared around around the side of the cabin and she rested her back against the structure, taking a deep breath. Shortly she felt hands on her shoulders. Instead of jumping, she tilted her head up and met his brown eyes. He'd pulled aside the canvas and was hanging through the opening, his hands reaching out for her. "Here, this way he won't see you sneaking in to see me." Shane smiled at her clearly humored that any of this was even happening. She sensed if he had it his way, they would just do it all out in the open. He didn't care, she could tell. It was both refreshing and unsettling at the same time.

Shane helped her up to the window ledge, then swung her legs toward him, wrapping them around his back as he placed one hand at her waist and the other firmly at her back between her shoulder blades. She could feel the canvas window flap at her back and shifted forward, moving closer to him. His lips hungrily sought hers as he let his hand slip beneath her tank and run up along her side. Returning his kiss she sighed into his mouth at the sudden touch against her bare skin.

Carol hooked her arms around him, gripping at his shoulders from the back. He'd pulled her away from the window ledge now, supporting her weight on his hips as he moved her toward the bed. She didn't protest, merely nodded before he could even ask her if it was okay. Breaking the kiss momentarily, he asked, "You sure?" Responding by returning to the kiss and fumbling with the top button of his shirt, Carol just let it be for what it was. She wanted this, had wanted this. And this was not what Daryl was going to be able to give her by any stretch of her imagination.

She wanted to ask him just what he was hiding in the woods and why, but none of that mattered, not with his lips and hands moving as they were. Not when she could feel him straining against the fabric of his cargo pants. Nothing at all mattered to her in this moment but feeling something. Something new. Something raw. Just something.

Why was it so easy to come to this place in such a short time with Shane? Because it was Shane. Two months with Daryl and he could barely bring himself to touch her. Twenty four hours in Shane's sites and it was all he could do not to. It was where the men were at a stark distance from each other. And Carol felt much in the middle. Driven by her own whims it now seemed. Because if she was honest, she wanted both. The bold, sureness of Shane, and the quiet, observance of Daryl. Why couldn't she have both?

Or maybe she needed neither.