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Rick had told them that the weather always turned to something gray and wet around the time of his birthday. The apocalypse had made them lose track of of the day— but when it rained for what felt like 2 weeks straight the subject had come up. Maggie and Glenn had run to town and managed to gather supplies for this pathetic attempt at a party. There was booze, of course. Carol had really wanted to try to make something like a cake but eggs were hard to come by. The ex-cop didn’t mind the lack of confections; he was just happy to have his new family together, inside, and apparently happy. Glenn had conveniently forgotten his vow to never drink again (though it quickly became clear that his girlfriend could outdrink him) and Hershel didn’t set his jaw to his usual frown at the presence of drinking. 

The prison echoed with laughter and a hilarious off-key chorus of Happy Birthday. A few gifts were exchanged (strange objects found throughout the prison: ammo, a book— plus some loot from the town) and the party settled into a comfortable and warm gathering. They still had their drinks, many of them had red cheeks or ears, and Rick had just finished telling a story about one of his previous birthdays that had people laughing and trying to shush each other all the same. Judith wasn’t the heaviest of sleepers and Hershel was keeping an eye on her, but there was always the worry about waking the little one up. Even with the shushing (ineffective with the giggling of some of the girls) the party remained lighthearted. They hadn’t dropped their guards or laid back like this in a while. It was healing to the soul— to be able to laugh like this. 

“Daryl hasn’t given his gift yet.” It was Glenn who pointed this out, sending the redneck a knowing look. Before he and Maggie left for town earlier  Daryl had pulled him aside with shifty eyes and a hushed tone. Glenn had been really confused at first, Daryl avoiding his actual reason before Glenn flat out asked him if he wanted them to pick up something specific while they were gone. The combination of Daryl’s list made no sense and was frustratingly vague (a jar with a lid, rubbing alcohol, two chains), but he had earned an honest thanks when they returned before Daryl stuffed himself up at his perch for several hours with the contents. Glenn knew for a fact that the man had something to give to Rick, and he was curious to know just what it was

Daryl and Rick had been side by side most of the night— which was normal, now. Seating arrangements were never officially made, people just knew that Daryl sat next to Rick, with Carl on the other side. At the mentioning of a possible gift from Daryl, Rick perked up expectantly (excitedly?) and grinned.

“Really? You didn’t have to go through the trouble…” It was Carol who smiled at this; Rick would always say something along these lines before Daryl shot him down. They had fallen into several patterns that she could at least recognize— but the guys themselves seemed oblivious, as always.

“Naw, it weren’t no trouble.” Being on the spot made Daryl fidget slightly. “Sides, y’gotta wait fer it; it ain’t done dryin’.” Brows shot up all around and a new sense of curiosity settled in. Glenn groaned; he had waited all day to find out what this thing was and now Daryl was going to push it off till later? There was an explosion of various questions— all of which Daryl turned down. It was a secret. It weren’t no one else’s business and now he had announced that he would be giving it to Rick in private sometime later— just because everyone was giving him such a hard time about it. Even if Daryl was being more playful than actually cranky, Glenn complained, Carl begged, Carol smiled, and Beth asked if he could at least give Rick hints to what it was— because obviously it wasn’t fair to leave Rick hanging. And if he couldn’t give him the gift now, he should at least give him something. 

With the alcohol, the happy atmosphere— their tight circle they were settled in, and the chanting of ‘gift, gift, gift!’ Daryl just couldn’t even help himself. He motioned for the others to calm down with his hands (a skill he had picked up from Rick) before moving to loop one of his arms around the ex-cops shoulders. Maybe it was the heat of the moment. Maybe it was the fact that Rick had traveled to his section of the cell block several times during the past few weeks during the night. Maybe it was the things they whispered to each other. The extra long glances. The fact that he knew Rick was a little more wary than he was about displaying the affections they had for each other. He just did it. 

“Alrigh’, alrigh’. Pucker up, buttercup.” If it was the nickname or what was obviously going to happen that made Rick’s ears even more red, he didn’t know. The Birthday Kiss, as it would be called later, was given. A cheer rang out, glasses were raised. And the party continued— though it seemed like Daryl and Rick were sitting closer together. Laughing a bit more. A weight had been lifted.

In the morning with his head ringing Glenn saw Rick smiling fondly at something in his hand, but didn’t ask. Later he noticed the chain at his hip, a rabbit’s foot swaying at the end. After the initial confusion and disgust (as it occurred to him what Daryl had to do in order to make it) he smiled; it made perfect sense. How very like Daryl. There was probably more to it— like some kind of underlying meaning or inside joke, but he knew it wasn’t for him to know. At least not yet. 

Maybe by Rick’s next birthday.