Y'all, I'm supposed to be working on a sequel to one of my other fics, but when you talk about Christmas-themed Bethyl with your friends, inspiration strikes. I hope you like this little O/S, and thanks as always to Stacey for beta-ing my stuff n' thangs.
Not a single thing on the farm was cooperating with Daryl Dixon that grey December day. A fine drizzle steadily blanketed acres and acres of Hershel—now Beth Greene's land. The cattle were restless, intermittent rumbles of thunder spooked Beth's horse Nelly, and even his faithful old pick-up got stuck in a rut of soupy Georgia clay. As he pulled up to the Greene farmhouse, he was too cold, wet, and mud-splattered to notice the cheery, warm light spilling from the front windows. He didn't notice the dirty boot prints he tracked across a doormat with Santa Claus' jolly face on it or the garland and twinkle lights framing the front door. He certainly didn't notice a sprig of green and white dangling above his head from a shiny red ribbon.
Daryl muttered under his breath as he looked down. He stamped his feet to loosen the mud caked onto his boots, and considered just shucking them off and leaving them to dry on the covered porch. Before he could make up his mind, the door swung open, flooding the entryway with light. A rush of warmth permeated his damp clothes as a slight, blonde form flew at him, catching him—and his lips—off guard. Beth's arms snaked around his neck as she moved to press her body closer to his. Daryl could feel himself thaw ever so slightly, placing his hands on Beth's narrow hips to gently push them further into the house, muddy boots and all.
When Beth finally pulled away from him, Daryl looked down at the creamy expanse of skin peeking out of the neckline of her shirt, now wet and clinging to the slim lines of her torso. "'s that for?"
"Just hung up the mistletoe," Beth glanced past him, grinning cheekily, "Had to test it out."
"Hmm, good thing it wasn't the mailman," Daryl rumbled.
"Ha. Ol' Dale doesn't cause a ruckus swearin' to high heaven when he comes to the door. Told ya to leave everythin' be once ya fed the animals this morning," Beth murmured, taking in Daryl's sodden appearance. She reached a hand up to brush away a few strands of hair plastered to his skin before rising up to kiss him again.
Beth turned and retreated up the stairs to their bedroom, and as Daryl began to peel off his wet jacket, only then did he turn his attention to the living room. It looked like the Grinch had returned all of Christmas in Whoville to the Greene farmhouse. A fire blazed in the fireplace. Two stockings hung from the mantle. By the slightly faded and crumpled appearance of one, the other was obviously brand new.
His hunter and tracker senses zeroed in on his surroundings. The framed family portraits that normally adorned the mantle were rearranged to make room for a nativity scene. The whole house smelled of… home. Well, how home should smell. Not like chewing tobacco, stale cigarette smoke, and spilled wine. No, the rich aroma of dinner bubbling away on the stove, sugar, and cinnamon hung in the air. It mingled with the fragrance of a Christmas tree towering above the room. Beth had outdone herself with lights and garlands, and an antique angel tree topper presided over them all.
Daryl felt an all-too-familiar lurch in his stomach when he realized it was yet another experience he owed solely to Beth. When Hershel Greene hired him as a temporary farm hand to help as his health declined, Daryl never imagined what was truly in store for him. He'd been in it to make some cash to help bail out Merle, but three years later, and he now helped Beth run the whole place. Hershel passed on as much knowledge as he could to Daryl. He saw potential in him where no one else in his life ever had. When the old farmer realized how hard Daryl was willing to work, his lack of experience was the least of his problems.
Hershel had given him a job, a vocation, the Greenes had made him family and friend with the tight-knit community of their small town, and Beth… Beth had given him a reason to live.
Vaguely, he heard Beth bound down the steps, coming to his side to offer him one of their big fluffy bath towels to help him dry off.
"It took me bout thirty minutes this morning to realize that you wouldn't be back till nightfall. So while you were out bein' stubborn, I hauled out all the Christmas decorations. It's the first time since Daddy that I wanted to go all out," Beth explained returning to the coffee table littered with ornaments waiting to be placed on the tree.
"Dixons don't do Christmas," Daryl drew himself up to his full height and crossed his arms over his chest. He couldn't help the words flying out of his mouth. His automatic reflex to the unfamiliar was gruff resistance. Surprisingly Daryl felt more comfortable the previous year when he held a drunk and weeping Beth all night.
"Hmm, too bad, cuz Greenes do," Beth dismissed his intimidation tactics as she sidled past him and scooped up an armful of ornaments.
With Beth all but ignoring him, Daryl bent down to remove his boots. He hiked up his pants to keep any more mud from dragging along the floor on his way to the bathroom upstairs, swearing under his breath the whole way.
The hot spray of the shower eased tension in his shoulders he didn't realize he was holding. He'd known Hershel's enthusiasm for any holiday that brought his family together so he should've known Beth would have the same persistence. That first year, Hershel invited Daryl to celebrate Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's with the Greene family and their friends. He'd quietly and politely turned down every single invitation until he'd run into Beth Greene on New Year's Eve at the gas station. He was picking up a new carton of cigarettes for his supper, and watched as Beth struggled to teeter on her high heels while carrying thirty-pound bags of ice out to Hershel's truck.
Before he knew it, he was rushing to her side, hefting the bags of ice into the bed, and trying to look anywhere but the plunging necklace of a very short, gold party dress. She prattled on so quickly, all rosy cheeks and straight white teeth, Daryl didn't realize he followed her straight back to the farmhouse until she was pressing a cold beer into his hand, and introducing him to Sheriff Rick Grimes. He should've known right then that he'd follow that little blonde firecracker to the ends of the earth if she asked him to. Should've known as soon as he saw her bright blue eyes and infectious laugh fill the room with her bubbly energy that the shadows of his former life would recede till they practically vanished. When that harsh redneck douchebag would rear its ugly head—as he knew it sometimes would—she would still look at him like he'd hung the moon. Beth's patience for Daryl was seemingly infinite, that evening included.
What a difference a hot shower and dry clothes made for Daryl's disposition. When Daryl made his way downstairs, the room looked just as cozy as ever, but instead of immediately rejecting the unfamiliar scene before him, affection for his girl swelled deep inside him. Beth stood atop a step ladder, hanging each fragile ornament on the tree's branches with care. He felt bashful stepping out into the room, wondering how he could say no to anything that brought Beth such joy.
His eyes landed on the large black case that held his crossbow sitting on the coffee table next to shiny glass orbs and glittery figurines waiting to be strung up on the fraser fir. Before he could mention the incongruous addition, Beth looked up at him. Even with the ladder boosting her height, the top of her head was barely level with the angel topper.
"Ya hungry?" Beth asked.
Daryl cleared his throat and shrugged, "I could eat." After he made an ass outta himself, part of him always expected Beth to punish him for it. As if Beth would ever do such a thing.
Instead, Beth climbed down from her ladder and put a hand on his arm as she walked past him. "You're in luck. While you were taking care of business out there, I spent the afternoon making all sorts of food to store away for those days I'm too tired to cook. Three types of soup, chili, pie fillings for when everyone comes over for Christmas. Aaaand, venison stew for dinner tonight with that bread you love."
Large mason jars filled with various shades of liquid covered every square inch of counter space. Beth lifted the lid off a pot left warming on the stove, and the smell of venison, herbs, and spices filled the whole room. She already had two bowls set out on the counter, into which she ladled generous helpings of their dinner.
"You did all this in one day, and all I accomplished was keeping your damn horse from biting me," Daryl shook his head, the fringe of his hair tumbling into his eyes.
"I tend to get lots of things done when I don't have a distraction keeping me warm in bed," Beth smiled with a twinkle in her eye. It was the first time since Hershel passed away that Daryl had seen her so exuberant. He was beginning to think it should be Christmastime in their home all year-round.
"Distraction huh? I recall your hand down my boxers this morning, not the other way around," Daryl accepted the piping hot bowl from Beth's hands.
"Like I said, you keep me warm," Beth joined him at their kitchen table, and immediately took his hand to say grace.
With the fire crackling in the background Beth recounted her whole day, and Daryl just sat there, taking spoonfuls of his dinner and watching the way her mouth moved, the way her eyes lit up talking about picking out a tree. How she wished Daryl was with her so he could enjoy one of her favorite parts of the season with her.
Daryl's eyes shifted over to the green monstrosity displayed in all its glory right in smack dab in the middle of their front window, "How the hell'd you haul that thing into the house?"
"Oh, I ran into Carl down at the lot. Remember Rick told us this was Carl's first job? Well Morgan let him come back out here and help me unload the tree. It wasn't all that heavy," Beth took a bite of her food.
"Must not have been," Daryl allowed, though he suspected Beth underestimated how strong she was.
"After dinner, I am putting on some Christmas music, and I am going to finish decorating. I hope you like Bing Crosby," Beth announced.
"You gon' hang my bow up on the tree too with all that sparkly shit?"
"Oh, well I figured while I was putting up 'all that sparkly shit,' you could take care of your bow," Beth suggested, "It's been ages since you went out hunting, and I've decided I know exactly what I want you to get me for Christmas."
Daryl's eyebrows rose, and he waited on bated breath. He might be a grumpy son-of-a-bitch, but even he knew he had to get his girl something decent for Christmas. Glenn made sure to give him shit any chance he got, but that year he'd gone to Maggie for help. Even though she enjoyed teasing him as much as Glenn, unlike her husband, Maggie could actually keep a secret.
"Well let's have it Greene, whatdya want for Christmas then?" Daryl leaned back his chair, feigning detachment. Little did Beth know how hard his heart was hammering in his chest.
"I want you to bring home as many rabbits as you can between now and Christmas. People went crazy for that little rabbit pot pie I brought over to Maggie's for Thanksgiving, I checked the deep freeze this morning and we literally have one piece of rabbit left. I was gonna make them for the party and give smaller ones away for Christmas presents," Beth explained, "You are very important to making this Christmas wish come true."
"That's not really a present for you if you're just gonna give 'em all away," Daryl pointed out.
Beth shrugged, "I don't really need anything. I just love having this house full of our favorite people. That's enough for me."
Well it wasn't enough for Daryl. A part of him deflated a little that Beth didn't expect more from him. She looked at him like he hung the moon, and he couldn't help wanting to feel like he actually deserved that love.
That's probably what had him standing up, moving through the living room and shoving his feet back into his boots. He didn't even hear Beth calling out to him as he walked right out the door. Trudging back out through the rain, Daryl ignored how his boots squelched through the mud, single-minded in getting out to his shop where Beth left him to tinker around with the farm equipment. Beth might have inherited Hershel's green thumb, but she had no interest in the machinery.
Daryl rooted around in the back of one of his tool chests till he found a small velvet pouch. He shoved it deep into his jeans pocket to keep it from getting wet and made his way back into the house. This time he wasn't even thinking about the trail of mud he left in his wake or the bewildered look on Beth's face as she stood to meet him in front of the fireplace. She searched his face like she was looking for a reason for his abrupt trek out into the rain. He wordlessly dug the pouch out from his pocket and placed it in her hand.
"Already got ya somethin' for Christmas," Daryl mumbled.
"Oh?" Beth's face broke out in a grin, "I don't think this little pouch could hold even a single rabbit. What is it?"
All the adrenaline drained from Daryl's body, and he just stood there, clothes beginning to drip onto the floor. His mouth gaped as he struggled to form the right words. Finally he just shrugged, "Hmhmm."
"Don't hmhmm, what's this Daryl Dixon?" Beth asked.
Unable to find his voice, Daryl simply loosened the strings on the pouch, gently shaking the contents out onto her palm. Beth blinked at him dumbly before slowly lowering her eyes to the cool metal against her skin. Shimmering in the firelight, a delicate rose gold band held an emerald-shaped diamond in an east-west setting. Beth worked out on the farm all day, she needed something that wouldn't snag or be too difficult to clean. But when Daryl approached Maggie to ask for her help, he insisted the engagement ring needed to still be pretty, as pretty as Beth. Daryl was sure his ears burned red for a week after he said that to the older Greene sister.
The playful grin on Beth's face melted into a perfectly round, "Oh." All the air left her lungs in a whoosh, and tears began to prick at the corners of her bright blue eyes.
She didn't answer him. Instead, she turned to the Christmas tree and pulled out a flat rectangular box wrapped in bright red paper and tied up with a green bow. Beth cleared her throat, wanting so badly to keep herself from dissolving into a puddle of tears. "Well Mr. Dixon, if we're exchanging our presents early, you should get to open yours too."
"Beth?" Daryl rasped softly. She merely nudged him with the box until he accepted it. He took a seat on the brick hearth, Beth stacking her chin on his shoulder as he peeled away the wrapping paper.
A set of papers lay inside the box. Just skimming the top paragraph of the legal document, a lump formed in his throat, and Daryl jerked away to face Beth.
"It's half yours. The land, the buildings, the machinery, the animals—even Nelly," Beth said, face flushed from the heat of the fire.
Daryl stared at her for a few long moments before placing a large hand over her fist, peeling her fingers open to reveal his ring. "What about you?"
"Me? I think you should know by now that I've only ever been yours. All of me. Ring or no ring," Beth reached up, and for a second time that night, brushed the wet hair out of his face.
"I didn't get down on my knee or nothin'," Daryl murmured, taking the ring and sliding it onto the finger Maggie instructed him was the 'right' one.
Beth leaned in, pressing her lips to his in response. Wrapping his arm around Beth's back, Daryl hauled her up onto his lap, deepening the kiss until they were both breathless. When they pulled apart, Beth laid her head back into the crook of Daryl's neck.
"Ya didn't have to get down on one knee, or even get me a ring, or marry me. You know that right?" Beth asked, holding her hand out to admire the sparkling stone on her finger.
Daryl merely squeezed Beth's waist, pulling her in closer. No, he didn't need to do any of that, but with her? With each passing day, he found he wanted it. He wanted so much more than he ever thought Dixons deserved, and it was all because Beth gave him hope for a future.
"That's your ma's diamond," Daryl changed the subject, still unsure how to articulate these feelings, "Went to Maggie and told her I wanted to get you a ring. She said your dad knew I'd come to her when I was ready."
It was Beth's turn to be at a loss for words, which never. happened. ever. Eventually Beth whispered, "Well it's perfect." A few tears slipped down her cheeks, and she hastily tried to wipe them away.
Sensing Beth's longing for her parents to share in this happy event, Daryl steered the conversation to a lighter topic, "I told Maggie I wanted to get you a ring, and I wanted you to be able to wear it all the time, even if you were elbow deep in manure."
Beth giggled, "Sounds about right."
"If you're wearin' my ring, you're gonna put up with a lotta shit," Daryl half-joked, earning a light swat to the cheek.
Beth slid off his lap, standing and reaching a hand out to him, "Oh, ya mean like trackin' dirt and mud all over our house? Come on, let's change into some dry clothes so we can finish up down here."
"Pfft, what else you got left t'do woman? You draggin' Santa himself down from the North Pole to sit in your livin' room for the rest of the month?" Daryl took her hand and let her pull him to his feet. He followed behind his fiancee, retracing his steps back to the front door so he could toe off his boots.
"Just the rest of the ornaments… and a little advent calendar… plus some tinsel I bought at the Christmas tree lot today… and I have the Christmas themed towels and soap dispenser to put in the guest bathroom… and hmm, I did wanna take out all my Christmas themed table linens and—oh don't you worry bout me, you just focus on gettin' your bow fit as a fiddle. I'm still expectin' you to bring home a whole mess a'rabbits."
"Mmhmm," Daryl climbed the stairs, admiring the view just above him.
"Y'know, I just realized somethin'," Beth halted in her tracks, turning to look down at Daryl, "You and I both asked Maggie to keep our Christmas presents a secret, and we're the ones who ended up spillin' the beans."
"Pack everything up, we're canceling Christmas. Maybe by the new year, Maggie will stop givin' us shit about it." Daryl shook his head, "Maybe we should head outta town too, just to be safe."
"Gon' have to be till Easter at least."