They hadn't so much chosen to stay at the funeral home, as they simply hadn't left. The days had been growing shorter and much colder as winter approached and neither of them had really had a strong desire to sleep on frozen ground again when they had this place all to themselves. At least, until the other inhabitants returned.
They had waited for those people to return with a certain anxiety for the first week and by the end of the second one, they'd come to the conclusion that whoever had stockpiled all those jars of peanut butter and pigs feet must have died. The funeral home became their home, and they - mostly Beth - even began changing things around and making the place more theirs as they grabbed different things they liked during their scavenging runs. It really felt like they build something here, just the two of them, as if they were alone in their own little world. Everyday it seemed, they learned something more about each other and with every new detail, they found new ways to make the other smile.
When the first frost appeared on the grass, Beth told him how much she'd always loved Christmas and just how hard it had been not to even acknowledge it last year while they were moving from place to place after loosing the farm. Back in the days, that confession would have made him scoff, possibly berate her too for being a silly little girl, but now, all he wanted was to find a way to make this better, to bring Christmas back for her.
Christmas to him had always been just a reminder that his family wasn't like everybody else's. He'd never had wrapped gifts from Santa waiting for him when he woke up on Christmas morning, never had an actual Christmas tree either. The one time he'd asked his father about celebrating the holiday, he'd gotten the belt and hadn't been able to sleep on his back for weeks. He'd been seven or eight at the time. But, this wasn't about him. This was about Beth, and she was the last person he had left in this world and he would do just about anything for her.
With that in mind, over the next few days he'd woken up early, before the sun rose and before Beth woke up and he'd gone back to the few houses around, grabbing any and all things that could be considered Christmasy, from decorations to wrapping paper - two of the three rolls he'd found said Happy Birthday on them, but it was the thought that counted right? - to a few extra items he thought Beth might like as gifts. There was an almost brand-new diary, from which he'd torn out the first few pages that someone had written on, as well as two nice smelling candles and a small, silver necklace with a snowflake on the end, which seemed appropriate for the holiday. That last one had required taking out three walkers that ventured into that house after the last time they'd been there, but it was all worth it.
While Beth got dinner ready that night, he'd put up the decoration as quietly as he could and he had to admit, he was quite pleased with result. Gift wrapping, as it turned out, was not his forte, especially since he'd only been able to find one roll of tape, which happened to be duct tape. As agile as his fingers could be when handle his crossbow or his knife, somehow they were completely useless when it came to simple task of wrapping an item in colorful paper. He finally got it done though, placing the presents on top of the piano.
"Are you okay?" She asked him, halfway through dinner, her big blue eyes filled with concern. "You've barely eaten anything."
Truth was, he was too nervous to really eat, worrying that his attempt at Christmas would be good enough, or that she wouldn't like the things he'd gotten for her. Or maybe this was something she would have wanted to share with someone else, and not him. Still, he told he was fine, and tried to force down some green beans which seemed to reassure her. When they were, it meant it was finally time to show her what he'd been working so hard on.
"I uhh... I've got a- a surprise for you," he mumbled as he guided her out of the small kitchen. She was smiling up at him, a little incredulously, but her eyes sparkling in a way that filled him with confidence. Clearing his throat, he added with more assurance: "Close your eyes."
He placed a large hand over her eyes, just in case she tried to peek and walked her into the viewing room which now served as their living room. Honestly, with the candles all around and the decorations everywhere, no one could have ever suspected that this place had once been used to display the dead... well, except for the casket, of course.
"Alright, on three, you can open your eyes. One. Two." He paused for a second, taking a deep breath to calm his nerves. "Three!"
The look on her face was absolutely worth all the efforts. If her eyes had been sparkling before, now they were actually shining as she took in every little detail of the room, her mouth hanging open for a long moment before she hide it with a delicate hand. She tried to speak but couldn't, instead she turned those big, teary blue eyes to him before wrapping her arms around his middle, burying her face in his chest. His own arms closed around her as if of their own accord as she squeezed him tight. Definitely all worth it.
"Thank you," she whispered, as she pulled back, wiping up her eyes with the back of her hand. "That's the nicest thing someone's done for me. This is beautiful, Daryl."
"You gonna open your presents?" He asked, trying to sound casual while inside he was dying to see if she would like them.
Much to his surprise, she shook her head and he found himself frowning. Why didn't she want to open them? Had he done something wrong? She probably guessed what he was thinking from expression as she explained how they did Christmas at the farm; every year on Christmas Eve, her parents would put down gifts under the tree and those were from them and the next morning, they would come down to find more that were all signed From Santa and it was only then that they would open everything. "...so, if it's okay with you, I'll open them in the morning."
He was a bit disappointed, of course, since he'd been looking forward to this for a few days now, but still he nodded, reminding himself that this was about her and not him. He spent the rest of the evening listening to her tell stories from Christmas pasts at Greene farm and to her singing carols at the piano.
He awoke bright and early the next day, truly like a kid on Christmas morning and as he walked into the viewing room, something was different. There were more packages on the piano than the night before and wrapped better. He blinked at them for a second, quite confused before approaching them carefully, like they might a trap or something. Right there, on the paper, written in lovely cursive letters it read: To Daryl, From Santa.
"It took him a long time to find you, but it seems Santa finally got you some gifts." Beth's voice made him jump a little. A moment later, she was standing next him, her little hand coming to rest in his as she watched him with a smile on her lips. "Merry Christmas, Daryl."
"Merry Christmas, Beth."