Hey Carylers!

Here's a short prompt submission for the latest USS CARYL fanfiction/fanart challenge on tumblr.

Prompt: The Walking Dead show is officially over, write me the ending scene - just before the credits roll.

(Caryl-centric liberties taken)

Enjoy, and I disclaim as always!

She found him on the hill, jutting rocks overlooking the half-frozen lake. Snow crunched beneath her new ("new") boots and gave way just slightly as she did her best to trudge up to him.

She wasn't used to this.

And it would probably take a few insanely harsh winters to become so.

Her outer coat, thick and lined with faux fur, flapped against the strong winds of the north.

They had gotten so far.

This was it.

Carol felt so much older, now.

It had only been four years, but God, it felt like forty.

She didn't want to look back. Didn't want to think about what they'd gone through to get here, didn't want to actually count the number of people she'd watched die since the dead began walking. Didn't want to remember the moans, the screams, the blood or the tears.

She just wanted to move forward. Live with what they had now, and make the most of it.

Live for as long as they had left and try their damndest to be happy.

He shifted when she finally approached, all clumsy noise and heavy breathing.

His dark hair, peppered with flecks of grey, speckled with flakes of fresh, light snowfall, blew about his face with a gust of wind.

Daryl huffed at her.

"I gotta teach you how to walk in snow. Ain't gonna bag us a damn hare much less a moose up here with you makin' all that racket."

Pursing her lips she stomped her feet into the snow, drew close enough to ram her shoulder into his. He snorted when they made contact.

She laughed and reached out to wrap her arms about his shoulders.

As was his ritual, Daryl ceased all movement for a moment, brain processing Carol's intent and body preparing itself for the proper response. She was used to it, the hesitance.

And then he moved, both arms rising to wrap around her waist.

He tugged, pressed her against the thick leather of his jacket and held her there.

Carol smiled at him before letting her eyes wander down the hill, her attention refocusing on what had brought Daryl to its edge in the first place.

At the lake's shore their new home sat waiting, an abandoned hunting lodge in need of massive repair. It was sturdy, though, and it would be enough to keep them safe.

Striding along the water's frozen edge two figures strolled, and Carol smiled, bittersweet.

Rick pulled little Judy along, pointing up at the dusky sky as blue and orange and purple wisps of ethereal light danced above their heads. The girl laughed loudly, hopping and jumping in joy. Even from their considerable distance away Carol could swear she saw Rick smile, the first in several months.

Carl's death was almost too much.

Just short of Rick's final end, just short of decimating every ounce of his livelihood.

But things were different now.

They were safer now.

They would struggle, like they always did. But the struggles would be different.

And they would be ready.

Warm gloved hands tightened around her middle. Carol sighed and leaned back into Daryl's touch. The steady rise and fall of his chest told her she could be ready for anything, and would meet it all head-on without fear.

Six years ago she wouldn't have been ready. Six years ago she could have lied down and died.

And for a moment or two she had thought about it, God help her.

They had all simply needed to find a reason to fight for their lives.

She found hers one night after the destruction of the farm, in the ember-lit gaze of the man that held her strong. He had dared her to live. To fight. To become something she thought she couldn't be.

She wondered if he knew how much she loved him for it.

His head shifted. Carol glanced back, found him gazing upward at the northern lights swirling high above. A quiet settled as the wind died, and she could hear him sigh, content.

Turning in his grasp she pressed forward to plant a kiss at the corner of his mouth, ignored the momentary seize of his body at her action before his muscles relaxed again and he lowered his eyes to meet hers.

She grinned, didn't give him a chance to return her gesture.

Pulled back out of his bear-hug and tugged at his hand, motioning to the ground beneath their feet.

"Come on, then, darlin'. Show me how to be a stealthy snow-hunter."

She laughed when he rolled his eyes and smiled.