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Its Complicated

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She said yes to Daniel and he didn’t know about Daryl, she wore his ring now and he didn’t know about her past in Georgia. It just never came up really.

Carol had been living in New York for five years now and at the age of twenty-six she had finally gotten her masters in Marketing and found her prince in a three-piece suit.

But there was a problem. A big one in Georgia named Daryl Dixon. They hadn’t spoken in seven years, after the last fight over something she couldn’t even remember now. They said things to each other that they couldn’t take back and she left him. Now, she was going to have to call him because she couldn’t marry Daniel until she and Daryl were divorced.

She had been too busy to file the papers with school and working and she really thought he would file, but he never did. She had made sure he had her address to send them too, her best friend Tara back home had given it to him. Every time she moved, she told Tara to make sure Daryl knew where to send the papers.

They never came.

They had been married for thirteen months before it all went to shit and she had left town in a hurry. It had been good at first like things always were, but they were way too young. They said I do when they were barely out of high school and sure that they could set the world on fire. But the fire between them had consumed them and broken both their hearts.

Well, her heart was broken anyway, she didn’t know about him. She figured he had moved on long ago, there certainly were plenty of women who would line up for him. He was good looking and strong and more than a few people were shocked when he had married the town nerd, but he did.

He’d had no choice, he was madly in love with her, and no one else would do. So they eloped one summer night to Maryland and came back married. They had been so happy then, even Merle got on board with it after a while.

But it didn’t last. Like many first loves don’t.

She was going to have a real wedding this time, at the finest restaurant in Manhattan, Daniel had promised her. The date was set and the deposit paid.

But first she had to sit down with him in Starbucks, on a rainy April day and look him in his gorgeous brown eyes and come clean.

“Daniel.” She stared as he opened his laptop to review his cases for the next day, he had just come from court and they were meeting for coffee before he had to go back.

“Yes Kitten.” He said. He had called her that almost from the beginning and it was so endearing. Daryl had always called her sweetheart, not very original, but at the time it was everything to her.

She smiled at him. How to tell him? He was a reasonable man, surely he would understand, hell, he could represent her. Get this done quick. Then they could forget all about it and get married as planned.

“Daniel, I have something to tell you and…It’s complicated.”

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Daryl rolled over in bed to the sound of the house phone ringing which was weird. No one ever called the house phone, everyone used cell phones now. He couldn’t remember the last time they got a call on that phone. It was part of a bundle with the crooks at the cable company, so they kept it. But the last time they got a call, he was sure it had been months.

He heard Merle stumble out of his room and curse as he stubbed his toe, then he heard him pick up the phone to answer it.

A few minutes later he was busting through Daryl’s door.

“Wake up brother, your wife is on the phone.” Merle cackled as he handed Daryl the old cordless phone.

Daryl sat up in bed and glanced over at the picture that was tacked up on his wall with a thumbtack. It was of him and Carol sitting on the stairs of this very house, where they used to live together. She was sitting on the bottom step and he was behind her holding her against him, they were just seventeen years old. In a years’ time, they would be married and in over another year they would be broken up.

But in that picture they were so happy and so in love.

He swallowed hard and brought the receiver to his ear. He had been waiting, all this time for her to call. But something told him this wasn’t the call he had wanted.

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Merle was in the kitchen drinking coffee and he had poured one for Daryl, assuming he would need one. He also had a pack of smokes and a lighter on the table for him. Finally, Daryl came out of his room, in jeans and a sleeveless flannel shirt and put the phone back on the wall.

He sat down and grabbed a cigarette, lit it and inhaled. Merle didn’t say a word, even as he sipped the coffee and smoked the cigarette down to the filter. Then Daryl reached for the pack again and Merle could take no more.

He looked at Daryl with his eyes wide and a gesture as if to say, “Well?”

“She wants a divorce; says she’s sending papers.”

“Well, hell brother, why are you acting so surprised?”

“I aint signing.”

“Come on Daryl, you two ain't lived together or spoken in years.” Merle said. “You…”

“Don’t mean I still don’t love her.” He said. “Or that she doesn’t still love me.”

“Oh for God’s sake.”

Daryl took a long pull on his cigarette and looked up at the ceiling.

“I told her I wasn’t signing and she’s coming here with some fancy lawyer she’s banging and I’m gonna have to kick his ass.”

Merle huffed and reached for a cigarette now too. Because he knew this was going to be an epic clusterfuck. His brother refused to move on, even though she had been gone for years. Daryl said she’d come back to him one day.

Well she certainly was coming back now wasn’t she.

“She’s my wife Merle.”

Chapter Text

“Come on brother, be reasonable.” Merle pleaded. “She wants to marry someone else.”

Merle stood out in the hot noontime sun, sweating like a pig, and it was all for nothing cause Daryl didn’t listen good and he never had, not when it came to her. Merle remembered the day Daryl called from Maryland and told him he was getting married. Merle threw a fit and told him to come the hell home, he came home alright, with a ring on his finger.

They had been saving for those rings for a year, Merle found out later and they had been planning to run off and get married since they were sixteen. Fucking stupid kids.

Merle never loved anyone like that, not in all his life.

He had been trying to reason with him since Carol called that morning but it was doing no good. The boy was stubborn and he loved her. Merle got that, but it had been years, Daryl had waited for her to come back, convinced that she would. The days turned into years and he still waited, caught in some kind of limbo and now it was about to end, finally for better or worse.

“Don’t care, she married me first.” Daryl replied as he held his hand out for Merle to pass him the wrench for the car he was working on at their shop, which was adjacent to their house. They owned the house and the business outright, but it had been a horrible road to get there.

Merle passed him the wrench and lit a cigarette, this was going to be bad, he just had a feeling already. He looked over at the house and sighed, life had been just going along before today, predictable, safe, and now a hurricane was brewing and he didn’t know if the house would still be standing after it.

He prepared to batten down the hatches because Carol was blowing back into town and things were not going to be the same ever again. He hoped his brother was ready to get his heart broken all over again, and then maybe he would finally move on with his life.

The house would stand, it was strong, but the people in it, well they were just people, with emotions and hearts, maybe the house would be the only thing left standing after this.

The old man had practically burned the whole thing down when he died in the fire, six months after Carol and Daryl got married. All because he couldn’t lay off the shine and cigarettes, he had passed out, spilled his shine and lit it all up with the cigarette.

They had rebuilt with the insurance money and Carol was gone before it was even finished.

Carol and Daryl had come home from a 311/OAR concert on a Friday night to find the house on fire and Daryl had gone berserk trying to find Merle. Merle was at the bar down the road oblivious to what was going on and macking on some blonde. But for three hours Daryl and Carol watched the house burning thinking Merle was gone. Merle showed up at four am with the blonde on his arm, drunk off his ass, to a hysterically grieving Daryl and a tearful Carol trying to comfort him.

They were safe, but the old man had not been so lucky. It was one of the worst nights of his life, not knowing if Merle was ok. Fuck his old man, he was a douche and always had been.

Secretly Carol wouldn’t miss Trevor, Daryl’s father, he looked at her funny sometimes and she just knew he listened at their door when they were making love. Which they did a lot, every day, up until the day she left.

That was never the problem with them, no matter how angry they were or how bad the fight had been. They could never keep their hands off of each other. But in the end, it wasn’t enough to keep them together.

Over that next few months they rebuilt the house and the garage and tried to rebuild their lives. That had been a hard year for them, for him, for her too. He was preoccupied and quiet, mourning a father he didn’t love and trying to rebuild the life with her that he wanted. So many things happened at one time and they had lost each other along the way.

Both nursing their own wounds and not knowing how to reach out to the other.

Their fights got louder and happened more often and finally, she walked out. She had gone to Tara’s and planned to go back to him the next day, but instead, she got up and jumped on a bus to New York. She never really understood why she had done that, it was a mystery to her, even now.

She wanted to call him a million times, but the miles stretched between them and the time went by until she was sure he had found someone else and had forgotten her.

“Daryl.” Merle said leaning against the car. “If she’s with someone else…”

“Look, Merle.” Daryl stood up and turned to his brother, wiping his face with the old red rag he kept in his back pocket. “You aren’t married to her, I am and I’m not going quietly, fuck that.” He said, his face set almost in stone. “I’m not just going to let her go.”

Merle sighed in resignation, Daryl was a stubborn motherfucker, and Merle knew there was no changing his mind. Carol had been it for him, from the minute he set eyes on her when they were fifteen. Merle had tried to take him out and hook him up with any number of women they came across, over the years but he always said no.

Daryl was waiting on her, for all this time.

“When’s she coming?” Merle asked.

“Said she would be here tomorrow.”

“Well, ain't that just grand.”

Daryl leaned against the car next to him and lit a cigarette, then handed the pack to Merle who did the same.

“Aint it just…” Daryl replied.

They stood there together smoking and watching the birds fly across the blue sky, each lost in their own thoughts.

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“Is he your cousin or anything.” Daniel asked as they drove down the highway in his BMW convertible and Carol turned to him and smacked him in the arm of his three-thousand-dollar suit. Sometimes he was such a snob, and so stuck up.

Daniel had grown up in Tribeca, he was the spoiled son of a very successful surgeon and a sculptor. He was used to getting his own way and he had pursued her until he finally won her over, but he wasn’t perfect and there were things she didn’t like about him, but no deal breakers.

He had a loft in SoHo and had never really gone out of the city except to go to the Hamptons in the summer, where of course his mother had a house, on the beach.

That was where they were getting married in exactly one month. It was all arranged by his mother Claudia, and no one got in Claudia’s way, she was larger than life and a human steamroller. Claudia got what Claudia wanted, every time.

Her art gallery, featuring most of her work and a few others was in the same building as her loft/studio, she was well known in the New York art circle. When she turned fifty she divorced Daniel’s father and took up with a young artist, who made the most ghoulish works. But Claudia was in love and Daniel Senior was free to bang his scrub nurse anytime he wanted to now.

Daniel expected to be married for life, as most children of divorce, he longed for true love and commitment. It had been a whirlwind courtship but he was happy. He had his princess, the girl he wanted for his wife.

“Daniel! This isn’t some movie, stop quoting Sweet Home Alabama.”

“Well, yeah that’s right we are going to Georgia, not to Alabama.” He said with a fake accent and that just annoyed her so much more than she already was.

“It’s not funny.” She huffed at him. “This is where I grew up.”

“Babe, you just made our life a movie and it is so fucking funny.” He lit his cigar and blew the smoke out the window. He knew Carol couldn’t stand the Cuban cigars that his secretary, Maria, got for him, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. He had told her he wasn’t quitting the cigars, and so she dealt with it.

Carol looked out the window at the horizon before them. She was glad to be going home, even if it was just for a short time. She missed the little town she had grown up in, but there was nothing there for her. Her parents had died in a car accident just a month before she and Daryl got married, and Tara had gotten married and moved away years ago.

Still, it was where she came from, she wasn’t ashamed of her roots, but sometimes he made her feel that way. Sometimes he called her a hick and a rube and she had worked so hard to break free from that stereotype. He wasn’t mean about it, but he found it funny that she had never tasted Caviar until she met him, to him that was scandalous.

They planned to stay for one night, get Daryl to sign the papers and be back in New York for the weekend. Claudia was throwing her a surprise bridal shower on Saturday that Carol had found out about by accident. She had called Daniel’s office the week before and his secretary had let it slip. Maria hadn’t meant to ruin the surprise; she had thought Carol knew about it. They couldn’t tell Claudia, or in any way miss this or spoil the day.

No one said no to Claudia either. Ever.

Chapter Text

They checked into their hotel on Tuesday afternoon and Daniel asked if she wanted him to take her to Daryl’s right away. Carol sighed, he would be working right now and probably thinking she didn’t have the balls to come see him. They were so tired and probably should rest first, but she meant to get this over with as soon as possible.

Carol thought about it for a beat. He wouldn’t expect her to just show up and maybe that would make it go smoother, although she doubted it deep down inside. Daryl had practically told her to come at him when they were on the phone, and he thought she wouldn’t. Maybe catching him off guard him was the way to go. It sounded good.

She was going to show him. She had changed from the scared little girl she used to be. She turned around from the window she had been gazing out and shoved her feet in her boots, stood up, threw her purse over her shoulder and flounced out of the room.

“Yes Daniel.” Carol answered from the hallway. “Let’s go.”

“Well, alright.” He said as he followed her out the door. As he followed her down the stairs he noticed her boots for the first time, a pair of old dusty brown cowboy boots. “Where’d you get those old shit kickers from.”

“My Closet.” She answered not looking back at him.

“Boots? With a skirt Carol?” Daniel said obviously disapproving.

She turned back laughing at her. “You would rather I wear the Manolo’s?”

“Well, no but…”

“Where we’re going, you’re gonna wish you had cowboy boots on instead of those loafers.” She giggled and looked back at him and he frowned at her.

“I doubt that, darling.” He said following her out to the car.

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They pulled down the dirt road that led to the house where she lived with him once and the garage where he worked. The last time she had been here, the house was complete, but the garage wasn’t, now they stood side by side and she smiled, even though she didn’t want to. This had been his dream, a house, and business for them and at one time it had been her dream too.

She saw him working on a car, bent over working his magic on the engine. She had been so proud of him back in the day. In high school, he started her father’s car with a screwdriver when it died and she fell even more in love with him after that for some reason. It had been the coolest thing she had ever seen. She thought that he hung the moon when they were together and no one could have told her differently.

Now he had his dream and she was happy for him. Merle was under the same car working too; she would know his big feet anywhere. Once upon a time, she would have been sitting in her lounge chair in the driveway with them, listening to music and passing the time talking and squirting them with her water gun.

Then Daryl would have gotten the hose or a bucket of water and thrown it on her. Merle would whistle and comment about her wet T-shirt and Daryl would flip him off. The had so much fun together all the time and he had bought her those boots.

She would make them iced tea and bring it out to them as they worked. Carol was lost in memories now as they drove further up the driveway. They had always had so much fun together.

Daryl’s back was to them and her eyes zeroed in on the red rag he always had in his back pocket. That turned her on in a primal way when they were together and she could never explain why. She felt her stomach drop like she was on a roller coaster about to fall. She still felt that familiar pull towards him, like a magnet. She shook the thoughts from her head and closed her eyes.

This wasn’t her life anymore, but part of her broke seeing him again.

Daryl stood and turned when he heard their car approach, but he didn’t realize who it was in the fancy red car until they stopped and she got out. She was wearing a fussy skirt and an even fussier top but his eyes were drawn to the boots she wore. They were the only thing he recognized about her, otherwise, it was some other woman standing before him. Some other woman wearing Carol’s boots.

He wanted to run to her and take her in his arms even as the man she was with took her by the hand and walked with her towards him. She really was marrying someone else, and that knowledge was like a knife through his heart and took his breath away. It made him angry, so very angry because this meeting should have happened long ago.

Before she had a chance to fall in love with someone else. Daryl didn’t know if he wanted to fight this guy or cry really. Something inside him hurt now, looking at her after all this time.

It was all gone, everything they had been to each other, all their dreams for a future was slipping through his hands. The world became darker to him at that moment as the sun glittered off the rock she wore on her left hand. Given to her by another man and replacing the simple gold band he had given her.

He still had his wedding ring on and he shoved his hand in his pocket to pull it off before she saw it because for sure she didn’t have the ring he gave her when they had just turned eighteen. He had turned eighteen on May 4th and Carol on June 9th. They were married on June 13th. But that was a long time ago and a lot of water had flowed under that particular bridge.

She had probably gotten rid of her ring long ago and that made his chest ache.

“Daryl.” She called to him and he nodded curtly, working his hand in his pocket to get the fucking ring off. Merle slid out from under the car and stood up, buying him some time, as if he sensed he needed a buffer at the moment.

“Cookie!” Merle said and he stepped forward and hugged her so tight until Daniel discretely because that was his way, cleared his throat. He was not loud and proud like the two men who stood before him. Daniel was refined and a gentleman, and displeased to be in this dusty driveway, getting his shoes dirty right now. It displeased him that this sweaty, dirty man was hugging his fiancée and calling her Cookie too.

“Merle Dixon.” Merle said holding his hand out and Daniel took it, Merle was impressed by the man’s firm handshake, he was a pretty boy, but knew the value of a firm handshake. The car and their clothes were top of the line, Merle noticed that too. This man oozed success and money and made his dirty brother look like what they both were, Rednecks.

“Names Daniel.” Daniel said as he approached Daryl who looked at him like he would commit murder, specifically his murder, then sooner look at him another second.

Carol saw disaster coming a mile away and she was powerless to stop it. It was a freight train veering towards them and it was going to crash.

Her eyes went wide as she observed the exchange between the men.

Daniel held his hand out to him and Daryl rolled his shoulders in that way he had when he was on edge or ready for a fight and as always that made goosebumps break out on her skin even now. It was animalistic and sexy and Daryl refused to shake.

Carol stood there next to Daniel hoping for the best but seeing and knowing it wasn’t going to happen. Daryl was looking for a fight, but she knew Daniel would never take him up on it. Daniel grabbed her hand again and squeezed as if he saw something coming and wanted to keep her close.

This was how it was, he was not going to shake the hand of the man who had been fucking his wife. Fuck that.

“Fuck you, Daniel.” He said and he turned to Carol. “Long time no see.”

Then Daryl grabbed her other hand and pulled her out of Daniel’s grip and kissed her hard right on the lips in front of Merle, Daniel, the birds and anyone else who was lurking around.

“She’s still my wife.” He sneered at Daniel like a dog marking his territory or a man not wanting to give up the woman he loves. Carol was half expecting him to piss on her leg now.

Daniel stood dumbfounded as Carol pulled away from Daryl. It felt good to be in his arms, however brief it had been, but she couldn’t go there. She was here for a purpose and he was fucking with her program.

“Oh for fuck's sake Daryl.” Carol said and Daniel looked like he had never heard such a thing come out of her sweet mouth. She never used language like that.

“Carol!?” Daniel said in shock, looking at her like he didn’t know her at all. He actually looked disgusted with her and Daryl’s lip twitched in satisfaction. Daryl 1, Daniel Zip, he ticked off in his head.

Good for ya motherfucker, cause you don’t know her.

Daryl made eye contact with Daniel then, with a smirk on his face, secretly happy because he had heard her talk that way, often, when they were in bed together. Carol looked at him and rolled her eyes because she knew what he was thinking and he was still the same and maybe, so was she.

“I already told ya, I’m not signing.” Daryl said. “What part of that didn’t you understand?”

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“You married an auto mechanic? I just can’t see it.” Daniel said as if the very words tasted foul and bitter on his tongue. “And what’s with the no sleeves?”

They were driving away with the papers unsigned because Daryl insisted he be allowed to read them first. He wasn’t signing shit, in his words and he was on the clock and refused to stop working. It was total bullshit right now but, Carol left the papers with him and told him she’d be back at six for him to read and sign them. He was part owner of the business, it wasn’t like he couldn’t take a break if he wanted to and she knew he was just being difficult because, well he could.

“He’s so dirty…” Daniel’s voice trailed off.

You have no idea.

Carol smiled as she looked out the window and then stopped herself, she wasn’t supposed to think about that.

“It’s hot and he works outside.” Carol said defensively, she saw nothing wrong with Daryl or how he dressed or made his living. “There’s no air conditioning working on cars you know.”

“Believe me, I know.” Daniel answered. “That’s why I went to college.”

That did not sit well with Carol at all, Daniel was being unnecessary nasty and she wasn’t having it, not one second of it. It was one thing for him to tease her, quite another for him to put down…her husband.

Her husband.

He was still her husband, she had loved him once, with all the passion of a young girl and no one would talk ill of him in front of her. No one.

“He’s every bit as good as you Daniel.” Carol huffed and crossed her arms over her body. “Every bit.”

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Six pm came down on all of them like a nuclear bomb and really no one was surprised. Merle walked over to where Carol and Daniel stood after Daryl stormed into the house when they arrived at six pm sharp. He threw the papers back to her and told her he wasn’t signing, specifically over ‘His dead body’ and ’A cold day in hell.’ Merle, always the peacemaker tried to step in, but it did no good.

Daryl was not having it, at all. He said he didn’t give a rat’s ass who Daniel thought he was, he wasn’t signing and they could just try and get a no fault. Merle was shocked that he even knew how divorces worked, apparently, he had researched it, probably when she had called the day before.

A no-fault, divorce took longer, then if the parties all agreed. Well done little brother, well done.

The divorce would happen anyway, but Merle was sure it would take a while now and by the look on Carol’s face she knew it too. The wedding was not going to happen next month. By not signing and forcing it to go to court, Daryl had just fucked up her wedding plans.

Merle had to hand it to him, he just bought himself some time. For what, that remained to be seen, but the wedding was off now. Baby steps, little brother, Merle smiled as he looked at the screen door that Daryl had just flung shut. Maybe there was hope after all.

Carol looked over at Daniel and he was seething but silent.

Even the mighty Claudia wouldn’t be able to fix it, not this time.

Merle just couldn’t convince him to see reason, no matter what he said.

So he did the next best thing and the only thing he could think of.

“Come on Daniel. Let’s you and I go have a beer or five while these two fight it out like alley cats.” He said putting his arm around Daniel’s shoulders and leading him towards the shop. “Carol, go on inside and tell my brother to stop being a baby, get those papers signed so y' all can go back home and tie the knot. M’kay”

He steered Daniel towards the shop and motioned for Carol to go in the house. She walked up to the steps, steps that used to lead her home and happy place. Now they just felt like any other wood under her feet and she moved slowly, like she was in quicksand. The screen door was still banging against the house but it didn’t match the banging of her heart against her ribs.

She didn’t want to do this, she didn’t, she was going to have to force him to sign and say mean things to him so that he would hate her forever and that wasn’t her.

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While Merle and Daniel sat out in the shop getting loaded on beers, Carol followed Daryl into the house. She stepped through the door and looked around the room, there was a picture of them on the mantle of the fireplace and she stopped short in shock.

Carol hadn’t seen that picture in years.

She was laying on the hood of his truck and he was standing next to her, she remembered exactly when that picture was taken.

They had been camping, with their friends and Merle on the Fourth of July weekend long ago, and it had been a great time. Right after the picture was taken he had leaned down and whispered into her ear that he couldn’t wait to throw her up on the hood of that truck after everyone went to sleep and make their own fireworks. And he had done exactly that.

She remembered it as if it was yesterday and she couldn’t breathe. Finally, she composed herself, gulping the air down quickly and set out to find him.

There was no other way, and it was going to be a fight to the death, she just knew it. She came busting through the French doors that led to the rest of the house with a pen in one hand and the papers in the other that she waved around for emphasis when she found him in the kitchen. He was leaning against the counter holding a soda can to his forehead.

“Get those God damn papers out of my face Carol.”

“I need you to sign, I’m getting married next month.”

“To that asshole.” He replied, waving his hand in the general direction of the garage where Merle and Daniel were getting loaded right now.

“Yes.” She put her hands on her hips. “Don’t call him that.”

“Why not, that’s what he is.” He answered. “An asshole in a suit and you make my head hurt.”

Carol just huffed and crossed her arms at her waist. He would have his say and then she would, then he would have no choice but to sign.

“Why you marrying that jerk, he ain't you!” He almost, but not quite yelled.

“How do you know! You haven’t seen me for years.” Carol almost but not quite yelled back.

“I know you.” He pointed to his chest. “I know you, not him!”

“You don’t know me.” Carol replied trying to put the papers in his hand and he just pushed them away.

“Yeah, you keep telling yourself that.” He said locking his eyes onto her.

Carol sighed and blew a loose strand of her hair out of her face. He watched her intently, that had been one of the cutest of her gestures and he wondered if he ever told her how sweet he thought it was. He figured, probably not or she wouldn’t have done it now. Carol just looked out the window towards the garage. Merle had turned on the stereo and ‘Gimme Three Steps’ floated through the open windows. Of course, it was a song about two men fighting over a woman, and this wasn’t going to go easy. Merle thought he was funny and she decided to just ignore that.

She knew Daniel didn’t know the song, he didn’t even know who Lynyrd Skynyrd was. Then Daryl grinned and she lost it.

“He thinks he’s funny?” Carol said exasperated.

Daryl shrugged. “At least it’s the live version.”

“You’re an ass.”

“Same to you.” He said.

Carol looked towards the window and listened to the song, she was going to get Merle for that. It wasn’t funny, at all.

“Bet he hasn’t ever tasted moonshine or jumped off a bridge in the summertime?” He said. “He know that’s you?” Daryl paced back and forth. “He know you’re a country girl, learned to drive a stick in that pickup truck out there?” He turned to her. “He ever go muddin?”

“No.” She replied calmly, trying to convince him or herself, it was all so unclear now to her suddenly. That picture and that memory were making her thoughts all cloudy, Daniel had never thrown her on top of anything. She just realized that she missed that feeling, then she forced the thought away again.

“That’s not me. Not for a long time.” She said flatly.

“It’s who you are, it doesn’t go away.” He answered quickly.

“I made it go away, Daryl.”

“He know what we used to do in that truck, huh, in this house?” He roared. “He know about all the plans we made?”

~~~~~~~~I was scared and fearing for my life, I was shaking like a leaf on a tree, cause he was lean and mean and big and bad, lord pointing that gun at me.~~~~~~~

He was pacing faster now, but then he stopped and the look on his face told her he was going to bring it up and she silently pleaded with him not to. She begged him with her eyes, please. Not that. She didn’t want to talk about that. She felt the air getting sucked out of her lungs as if it had happened yesterday. The pain was fresh again, fresh and raw.

“He know about the baby?” His eyes were soft now. They had lost a baby during that terrible time too, Carol had been three months pregnant and woke up in a puddle of blood one morning after the house was rebuilt. Daryl had rushed her to the hospital, but it had been too late.

That had been the last straw between them, the garage was half rebuilt by them then and she was gone.

Now she wanted to cry. “He doesn’t know.” She said softly, trying so hard not to cry and losing the battle because her emotions we riding the crazy train right now.

“No one knows except you and me.” She whispered.

“You love him?” He asked quietly and she didn’t answer, which enraged him. He was fighting for his life here and she wouldn’t speak. “You tell me that you love him, tell me!!!”

She was silent. If love was security and predictability, then yes, she loved him. But she knew it wasn’t, somewhere back in her memories, she knew what love was, she had it once. Real love? Well, that was the all-consuming can’t live without you passion that she and Daryl had, that was love to her. She didn’t have that with Daniel and she never would.

Sometimes he wasn’t even nice to her, boarding just over the line of what was the right way to talk to the woman you loved.

She looked at Daryl, knowing that he would never treat her that way, like she wasn’t worthy and he was doing her a favor by being with her. Sometimes she felt that way now.

There was no way that she could tell Daryl that she loved someone else. She was still in love with him.

Chapter Text

“Say it! Say that you love him and I’ll sign your fucking papers.” He said softly in the silence of the kitchen, the only sound was the clock ticking on the wall.

She shook her head as tears welled in her eyes, Daryl leaned back against the wall and ran his hand through his hair. At least they were talking now. I had been a long time coming and no matter what happened, they both needed to get it out.

“Jesus Carol.” He looked over at her with tears welling in his eyes now. “My father died, my house burned down, our house, lost the business, the baby. It was an awful year.”

His voice cracked as the memories came flooding back, so many mistakes, so much time had gone by. So many things that they should have said long ago to each other.

Could she forgive him? Could he forgive her?

For the first time he had verbalized it, really said how he felt out loud to her and it felt good not to hold in anymore. He felt free like a weight came off of his shoulders, they should have talked this way long ago. It wasn’t his fault and it wasn’t hers. It just happened.

Carol had been so broken inside over the baby, in mental and physical pain and unable to help him. Her own pain too great to bear and she didn’t see his. He had refused to talk about it then, preferring to be quiet in his own thoughts and she thought he hated her.

She had misunderstood his silence. But he wasn’t silent now.

“I know I should have talked to you about it all Carol, but I couldn’t, you know how Travis was, ‘Got to be a man, feelings are for pussies.’ I just kept hearing his voice in my head…”

She suddenly knew now why she got on that bus seven years ago and threw it all away, and she felt dizzy at the realization. It hit her in the face like a blast of heat on a scorching hot day.

She couldn’t face him and know that she had failed him, failed them, by losing their baby after all they had already been through. She remembered how she cried on that bus all the way to New York, hoping the new place would ease the loss of her child. The loss of him she was so sure had already happened.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t think…” She stepped forward. “You were hurting too…”

“I was coming home that night to apologize and tell ya I would go to marriage counseling.” He said and then his voice got quiet. “I would have done anything for us, but you just left, dipped out when the going got too tough.”

“I thought you were mad at me for losing the baby…” She swallowed a gulp of air that stuck in her throat and burned there. “I thought…”

She had dipped out, he was right, and he had wanted to fight for them. She knew that now, and he was still fighting for them now.

“Could never be mad at you, not even now.” He said not taking his eyes from her, he thought carefully about his next words. “I’ll never love anyone else, Carol.”

He stepped closer to her and she was speechless. It had all been a huge mistake, she thought he didn’t love her anymore. All those years ago she had looked into his eyes and saw sadness and despair, but he had always loved her.

“I went anyway. To counseling.” He said quietly. “I knew I fucked up, I thought you would call, and I didn’t know where you were.”

She brought her hand up to her mouth and her eyes grew soft. “Oh my god...” And the tears started. He hated when she cried, he always had. He was a strong woman and he knew she didn’t cry easily. She had held him together the night of the fire when he was out of his mind and he wanted to do the same for her.

He wanted to take her into his arms and make the tears and the years apart go away. He wanted to make everything all better for them.

“Forget it, ya here now.” He said. “Whatever happened, happened, but we’re still here.”

Daryl closed the distance between them and she backed up into the opposite wall. He was all in her space and making her heart pound like he always did. He looked her dead in the eye and his eyes were so beautiful to her still. She had struggled to forget those eyes, for such a long time.

She had dreams about him sometimes, his eyes and everything else about him, even as Daniel had slept right next to her.

Now she couldn’t look away from them, or from him. He was all she could think of now, all she wanted for the rest of her days.

He hugged her tight and dried her tears then he brought his face closer to hers and kissed her. The kiss was soft at first but then he felt her respond and that was all the encouragement he needed. He pushed her lips apart with his and gave her the dirtiest kiss that she had ever had.

And she kissed him back and knew she would never kiss anyone else ever again.

Then their hands were all over each other in a frenzy and he was pushing her towards his bedroom. She went willingly, bringing her hands up to his hair and holding on for dear life. He kissed her like she was the last drink of water on a 100-degree day and he was dying of thirst.

He had been dying for a long time; he was starved for her. And she for him, even though she had tried to deny it and make a life with someone else.

They made it through the door and he slammed it, pressing her against it hard. This was going down and he didn’t give fuck all if her boyfriend or Merle walked in right now.

And I’m telling you, son, well it ain't no fun staring straight down a forty-four.

“Daryl, we can’t do this now, here!” She breathed out in between kisses, but he kept kissing her, plundering her mouth with his tongue. He wasn’t taking no for an answer, but he wasn’t taking her unless she said yes.

“Yes we can.” He whispered into her ear. “We’re married.”

That made her giggle against his cheek and he kissed her again with even more determination and more tongue. She dropped the papers and the pen on the floor and it clattered along the hardwood and went under the bed.

His kisses lit a fire deep inside of her that she thought was snuffed out forever. It was ignited and burning out of control as his hands roamed over her body. She was his and she always had been.

“Just say yes baby.” He said against the skin of her neck and she nodded in surrender.

Then his lips traveled down her neck and she was unbuckling his pants before she knew what she was doing, in a total fever of need that she never had with anyone else. He wrapped his arms around her thighs and picked her up, holding her against the wall. He pulled his shirt over his head so he could get closer still to her, skin to skin, he needed it like air.

Her nails raked down his back as her hands traveled over his hard body and she was finally home, where she belonged.

Carol was dizzy with feeling and emotion as she felt him hiking her skirt up and pulling her panties off and then he was inside her. There was no going back and they both let out a moan of total bliss. He could feel her boots against his ass and his jeans weren’t even halfway down his legs. This was going to be quick, but worth the shitstorm it was going to start.

“Oh God sweetheart, I missed you so much.” He moaned against her neck, and she felt his teeth as he bit her flesh softly and she arched into him more.

“Mmmmmmmmmm.” Was all she could manage as she felt his hips rolling against hers in that rhythm that was always theirs. He plunged his hands into her hair and breathed in her scent, that was so familiar and welcome to him. “I fucking love you.” She breathed out.

“I knew it.” He said pulling her legs up more and pushing her against the wall. “I knew it.”

She wrapped her legs around him tighter and he let out a groan as he kissed her again, then his lips were on her neck and sucking hard.

“Say your mine, mine forever.”

“I’m yours.” She breathed out as he pushed against her faster, rocking the door against the hinges. “Forever.”

“Say you love me again.” The sound of the door banging on the hinges sounded like the house was going to fall down around them and they didn’t notice it at all, both so lost to each other.

“I love you.”

“Only me.” He gasped out, pulling her hips against his as she yanked his hair and scratched her nails over his skin making him moan out loud.

“Only you.” She said trying to wiggle against him, chasing the fire that was consuming her right down to her soul. “Only you.”

“Tell me he never made you feel like this.” He didn’t even care if it wasn’t true, he just needed her to say it. They would figure it all out later.

“Only you make me feel this way.” She gasped.

He kissed her hard, reclaiming her and he wasn’t done yet. He reached over to her fancy, fussy blouse and ripped it open and slid his hand into her bra making her body light up even more than it was already.

“Tell me again.” He pulled her close against him, skin to skin, finally.

“Never anyone else but you.” And that was the truth. “Only you make me feel this way, it’s always been you.”

Between the magic he was working with his hand, the feel of his skin on hers and the rest of him, she felt the pressure starting to build fast and he knew it was coming. He knew her, just like he had said and how she worked, like no one else did.

“Now cum.” He demanded. “Cum all over my dick Carol.”

Daryl set out to push all her buttons and his words drove her body towards what he wanted and she felt it. She felt it deep in her core and in her soul, he was bringing her where she wanted to be. His hand moved over her nipple like he had been doing it forever and then he followed that with his lips all the while still pounding her against the door.

He had been right when he snickered earlier at the other man’s disgust at her dropping the F-Bomb. He had something with her that he had never had. The total mind numbing, screaming, yelling, cursing passion that spread like a wildfire between them and would never be put out again.

“Do it, fucking do it.”

“Fuck, Daryl.” She moaned as her head banged against the door lightly and her eyes rolled back in her head from his words and body, his lips and hands on her. “Fuck me, ohmygod yes.”

Then it was happening and she couldn’t stop it. It was like the tidal wave that was their life together before it all went wrong and she cried out and pulled him close against her. He slammed against her as her body pulled his over the edge right after her.

“God dammit.” He swore as he came harder than he had in years. “Goddammit, fuck, fuck, mother fucking ahhhhhh.”

The stayed that way for a few minutes, trying to catch their breath, holding each other and then he let her down and held her. She lay her head on his shoulder and pulled him against her. They both half expected Merle and Daniel to come banging on the door, there was no way they didn’t hear, the window in Daryl’s room had been open and their property was like an echo chamber. They knew that from past experiences when they had thought they were alone and found out too late Merle or the old man had been outside and heard them.

The music wouldn’t have drowned it all out.

“I didn’t say anything to you just now that wasn’t true.” She said and he hugged her tighter.

“I know.” He said. “But I needed to hear it.”

Chapter Text

“Where’s your ring.” Daryl asked as they sat at the kitchen table drinking iced tea and trying to figure out their lives now. Daryl had given her a t-shirt to put on because her fancy blouse was on the floor of his bedroom now, destroyed. They had shared a cigarette while he burned the divorce papers in the kitchen sink, and now they sat opposite each other, talking for the first time like adults.

They looked like they had been through the apocalypse. The music played still out in the garage, ‘Simple Man’ was on now and she had always liked that song.

Oh take your time, don’t live to fast, troubles will come and they will pass. You’ll find a woman and you’ll find love, and don’t forget son there’s someone up above. And be a simple kind of man, oh be something you love and understand.

The sun had gone down and it was twilight, Carol still wondered why Daniel and Merle didn’t come looking for them, they had been in the house well over an hour now.

They also hadn’t been quiet, there had been yelling and noise coming from the house as they almost knocked the door right off its hinges. The house was just right next door to the garage, surely they had heard something, probably everything.

She refused to regret it, no matter how it had happened. It wouldn’t be her first choice to do it this way without letting Daniel know it was over first, but it was what it was and Carol was done feeling bad about who she was.

This was a turn of events that they hadn’t expected, but it was the right turn for them. They belonged together, and they knew it deep down all along.

“What?” She looked at him perplexed.

“Your wedding ring, did you hock it?” He asked.

“What? No!” She reached into her shirt and pulled out a chain, on it sat the ring he gave her. His eyes went wide at the fact she still had it and wore it around her neck. His heart liked to beat out of his chest at the thought of it. He hadn’t noticed in the bedroom, he had been preoccupied, but it had been there around her neck and his in his pants pocket the whole time.

“Put it on. Take his ring off, you ain't marrying him.” He said. “Put my ring back on.”

“I know.” She said, taking off the engagement ring and replacing it with her wedding band. It felt good on her finger, light and perfect. Not heavy and weighted with regulations like the diamond she had just taken off.

“And you’re staying here, or I’ll go to New York, whatever you want, but we ain't ever going to be apart again. You got that.” He said. “We wasted so much time already.”

“I want to stay here; my company has a branch in Atlanta. I’ll transfer.” She said, knowing exactly what she wanted now, without question. “Or I’ll find something else.”

He reached in his front pocket and took out his own ring and she watched as he slid it back on his finger. She held her hand up to his and they both looked at them, with the rings back on where they belonged. Then he took her hand in his and kissed it.

“I take you Carol as my wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, in good times and in bad times, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, to love and to cherish, for as long as we both shall live.”

She repeated the vows back to him, they were the same vows they took on that warm June night so long ago. Her heart felt light again, the way she felt that night. Like her whole life was ahead of her and her best friend was beside her. She looked up at him and he was smiling, for the first time since she had been there.

Then he kissed her to seal the vow again and this time it wouldn’t be broken. They would grow old together.

Boy don’t you worry, you’ll find yourself, follow your heart and nothing else.

“I love you so much, Carol.” He said, but she knew he had something else to say. “But I gotta tell you something.”

“I love you too, just say it.” She said to him. “I think I know what it is. It’s really ok.”

His shoulders relaxed, but he never let go of her hand as he started to speak.

“I ain't been, you know, a choir boy since you been gone, Merle doesn’t even know, but it was always you.” He said. “It will always be you.”

She nodded her head and was relieved actually, silly as it seemed.

“I don’t have to cut anybody do I?” He laughed as she said that because his girl was back. This was his Carol, the country girl. That imposter in the fancy clothes was gone now.

“No. There hasn’t been anyone for a long time, but I wanted you to know. Since we’re starting over.”

“Any kids?” She raised her eyebrows once, another cute mannerism that he adored.

“No.” He laughed more at that idea, even though it was a reasonable question.

She looked at him for a second and all they could hear was the ticking of the clock and the wind through the trees outside.

“Maybe we could…try again.” She said and he smiled at her, his heart so full of love for her at that moment that he was sure it was going to burst.

“I want to.”

“Me too.” She replied and squeezed his hand and she was never letting go of his hand again, it fit hers perfectly in a way that Daniel’s never did and she was so grateful she didn’t find that out too late.

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Carol felt like she was doing the walk of shame, but without the shame. Merle knew for sure, he grinned at her like he had been expecting just what had happened. Maybe he knew more about them than they did, she didn’t know. What she did know was that she wasn’t embarrassed to be married to a mechanic, never had been and she intended to stay just that.

She wasn’t leaving him again, not for anything. Daniel knew she could tell from his face, but there was something off about him. He was drunk and looked guilty, which was funny since he wasn’t the one that was wearing another man’s shirt right now. He had every right to be mad at her, they had come down here to end one part of her life and start another, not for it to turn out this way. She didn’t want to hurt him too, but this was how it was now. She was Daryl’s wife and staying with him.

But he wasn’t mad and he didn’t look hurt, she could tell, he almost looked relieved. Relieved and guilty. Merle was making a face of shock that Daryl and Carol saw right through, they knew him all too well.

“Don’t look so scandalized.” Daryl huffed at Merle as he came towards him. Merle let out a whistle and moved Daryl’s shirt collar, revealing the scratches she had left on his chest.

“That’s gonna leave a mark.” He cackled as Daryl moved out of his reach and covered his chest again. Then Merle looked at the huge hickey on Carol’s neck. “And Cookie, ya got yourself a little love bite there.”

“Knock it off ya jackass.” Daryl said as he adjusted his shirt better.

They stood there in silence, no one knowing exactly what to say. The air was thick now because everyone knew what had just happened and the next steps were still unknown. No one spoke for almost a minute.

“Well, ain't this something.” Merle said. “But legit, no worries kids, Danny boy here just told me a little somthin somethin.” Merle said, his voice not betraying the fact that he had five beers with Daniel in the time Daryl and Carol were working out their differences in the house. Merle Dixon could hold his liquor, that was for sure. He was as sober as a judge. “Go ahead Danny, you tell her.”

Daniel looked her straight in the eye and began a sentence that she never saw coming. He most certainly could not hold his liquor and his voice showed that right away.

“I bang my secretary every Tuesday night when you think I’m out playing pool with my brother.” He slurred and then looked up at her with the puppy dog eyes that always got her before.

He could always get her to forgive him anything by giving her that look, things that she shouldn’t have forgiven. “I swear we use condoms so don’t you worry kitten; I forgive you…”

Carol started to laugh, a huge belly laugh that Daniel had never heard before and he didn’t understand what was so funny. He thought she was going to be furious and he was kicking himself for letting it slip already, but he knew how to do damage control. He could forgive her one indiscretion, even if it was vulgar that it had happened practically under his nose. But just one.

Carol would understand, she would be his wife, to be put on a pedestal by him and adored, but he would never be faithful. He never had been, even as he was chasing her, wooing her and buying her a ring. This was a good thing, he thought, now he had something to hold over her. This would keep her in line.

There was love, and there was sex.

The two were very separate for him, like his father before him, he looked for a pretty wife to have his children and look good on his arm, but he planned to have other women. He had thought Carol would tow the line, in exchange for the life he would give her.

Daniel would give her a queen’s life.

He wasn’t a drinker and clearly was one of those people that talked too much when he drank, he still couldn’t believe he had told a stranger all of that, but it was going to be ok now. Even though he blabbed to Merle about Maria, it was going to be ok, because Carol had just screwed up too.

“You forgive me?” Carol said incredulously with another huge laugh.

“Yes, so come on. Let’s go home.”

“No, that’s not going to happen.” Carol said as Daryl folded his arms across his chest and eyed Daniel with a snarl.

Then she handed him his ring and took Daryl’s hand in hers, where it belonged.

The End