Chapter 1: Christmas Present
Rick detected wistfulness as Daryl mentioned Christmas - for Jalu2 (gaialux)
Days tended to roll into one so Rick was a little surprised when he heard someone humming Christmas carols. It took a while before he figured out it was just two days to Christmas but he guessed the people in Woodbury must have had it a lot easier than most of the survivors; living in their houses safe behind a manned wall, eating well from the food they scavenged and grew, and checking off the days between festivals. They weren't so lucky now. The Governor's insanity had ended it all and the few that had survived his madness were now huddled in the cells of the prison, taken in by the very people the Governor had sought to destroy.
"Christmas," Daryl snorted derisively. "Ain't seen one of them in years, even before the zombies."
Rick glanced down at the newborn cradled in his arms, suckling on the bottle of milk Daryl had provided. He owed him more than he could ever repay, and even though Daryl sounded like he didn't care much for Christmas Rick had detected a slight wistfulness. Once Judith had drunk herself into a daze he laid her down in the crib in the corner of his cell and covered her with a blanket, pressing a kiss against her baby soft skin before drawing back. She was a good baby and would sleep a couple of hours with a full belly of milk.
Daryl joined him on their bed made from two narrow cots lashed together, neither of them bothering to remove more than a layer of clothing, prepared for the worst at all times, boots always on. It didn't stop them from hands fumbling beneath clothing, touching warm skin, teasing and caressing, with gentle kisses and hard, low sobs as they found a little happiness and pleasure in this cruel new world.
Rick left early the next morning, heading out on a scavenger run with Maggie and Glenn. Most places had been stripped clean but once they had found enough food to cover a few more meals for everyone Rick figured he should think of hearts and souls as well as nourishment for bodies. While Glenn stood guard, he and Maggie climbed into the attic of first one abandoned house and then another, hunting around until Rick found what he wanted. Once they arrived back at the prison he made sure he kept Daryl busy on another run.
When they returned, Rick hung back as Daryl stepped into the prison block that had become their home, seeing his eyes widen at the tinsel wrapped around metal bars, and the fake Christmas tree standing six feet high, decorated in tinsel and snow ornaments. The small pile of gifts at its base, wrapped in whatever was handy, would grow before the night was over, and tomorrow they would enjoy a meager feast.
Maybe it wouldn't be like one of the glorious, gluttonous Christmases of past years, but they would celebrate life, and hope, and love together.
Chapter 2: Slow Walk
They needed a safer place to spend the night than on the open road - For Tommygirl
The heat sapped the energy from Rick, making it hard to keep on putting one foot in front of the other. He knew the others were not faring any better, and probably were worse off than him but he had yet to see anywhere for them to stop that could be defended in case of an attack. He felt Daryl nudge his arm and let his eyes follow the direction Daryl was pointing along the road while still moving.
"Looks like a gas station up ahead," Daryl stated wearily, pointing out the road sign.
Two miles ahead, and it could take them the best part of an hour to walk there at this slow pace. Rick looked up at the sky, checking the position of the sun. He figured they had about two hours to nightfall so this gas station might be the best they found before it was dark.
"Need to check it out first," Daryl added as he glanced back at the others, grimacing, because everyone looked exhausted. Certainly too tired to take on more than a couple of walkers.
"We stop," Rick stated. "Take a rest for half an hour to strengthen up, then we take a look at that gas station."
When Rick veered off to the side of the road and took off his backpack he heard a sigh of relief coming from everyone, and quiet groans as they lowered themselves into the relative shade of the trees at the side of the road. They didn't have a whole lot of water left, passing the single bottle around and each taking only a small, careful swallow. It made Rick feel proud of his people, knowing they looked out for everyone rather than their own needs. He judged the passing of half an hour and laid out the plan to the others before everyone got back on their feet.
They moved in slow, letting the better fighters get ahead of them, and then hung back as Rick and Daryl reached the forecourt. The sign said 'No Gas', which wasn't unusual as there'd been a rush on gas at the beginning, when everything went to hell, with people trying to get out of the populated areas before they were overrun by zombies. After checking around back for any signs of zombies Rick returned to the front and banged on the door, hoping to stir anything trapped inside. Hands slapped against the glass and Daryl opened the door to let them out one at a time, watching dispassionately as Rick or Glenn sent them to true death. When the last had cleared they entered slowly, checking every corner of every room until they were satisfied it was now empty.
Less than an hour later the sun went down. Everyone had already picked a spot to sleep but Rick was still buzzing from the adrenaline. He could feel that same rush coming from Daryl. It wasn't a good rush, formed more from fear than exhilaration, from worrying too much for the people he was protecting. He had claimed a corner of the room with an unhindered view of the door, the weakest point, and shuffled a little as Daryl sank down beside him. Rick could feel Daryl's warmth bleeding through the thin layers of their clothing, relishing it now the heat of the day had given way to the cold of night. Daryl covered them both with the blankets from their packs, and eventually Rick slept, assured that one of the others would stand guard, and waking to find his head propped on Daryl's shoulder.
"Nearly morning," Daryl whispered, and Rick wished they were alone so he could do something about the morning wood they were both sporting but he resigned himself to another celibate day. Maybe today they would be lucky and come across some place safer where they could stay a day or two. Maybe tomorrow morning he'd be able to show Daryl how much he appreciated him in all ways. For now he simply turned his head and kissed him softly. It was almost enough.