I'll get back to my regular updates Monday. I wrote this for Halohunter89 last night because she was feeling down and we can't be having any of that. She's family and you can't have family being down on Christmas. Hope the rest of you enjoy and I wish you all a great big fat awesome day, whether you celebrate this Holiday or not. Much love and be safe and thanks for reading!

"Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, Daryl Dixon was bored outta his goddamn mind."

Carol looked up from the book in her lap and laughed as Daryl flopped gracelessly onto the couch, slouching like a child, his face a mask of displeasure. She dog eared the book to save her place and closed it. "You were invited to the festivities. No one made you stay home."

He snorted, picking at a loose thread on his shirt. "So were you and I didn't see you jumpin' at the chance to mingle."

"And I'm not the one moping around distorting Christmas poems. That's all you. Go to the woods and kill something," she said, waving him away as he stood up.

He shook his head. "To cold. Animals are hiding and walkers are too easy. And I ain't mopin'."

She pulled her legs up into the chair. "Well, why didn't you go with everyone else?"

He lifted one shoulder in a shrug, his hair falling into his face. "Ain't in a festive mood."

"It's Christmas Eve," she reminded him, like he didn't already know.

He sighed dramtically and stalked to the window, pulling the curtain back and looking out at the falling snow. "Wasn't in the mood for a crowd I guess. What made you wanna stay home?"

She opened the book and started where she had left off. "I wanted some alone time. Read a book. Contemplate the meaning of life. Enjoy the quiet." Her eyes swiftly took in the words on the page.

"What are you readin'?" He asked, suddenly right behind her, reading over her shoulder.

She closed the book quickly, her face flushing. "Nothing. Just a book. Go tinker with an engine or something!" She didn't know why she was embarrassed. Maybe because it was one of those stupid romance novels and it had her feeling all... romantic.

Suddenly he reached around and snatched the book out of her hand. She stood up, rounding on him and making a grab for the book but he held it out of reach and turned his back on her. She flushed when she heard him chuckle. "Burning Passion?" He held it up, like she didn't already know what the stupid book was called.

"Are you making fun of me?" She asked, hands on her hips and glaring daggers at him.

His face sobered and he met her eyes but then the asshole nodded and then laughed again. He opened up the book to the page she had been on. "He gazed longingly into my eyes and I knew then how badly he wanted me again," he read, grinning like a sixteen year old that needed smacked.

"Daryl I swear to God, give it back. Shouldn't you be alone somewhere sulking or something!" She tried to grab it again but he spun once more, dodging her. What in the hell had gotten into him anyway?

"Do women really get into this kinda shit?" He asked, finally handing it back.

She snatched it from him, glaring. "I was bored. It was lying around and so I started reading it. Trust me, I know it's complete fiction. Men don't have a romantic bone in their body. If you ever decided to actually bother courting someone you'd probably bring them a deer leg with a bow on it or bend them over a motorcycle in a dirty garage. It's just a book!"

One eyebrow shot up. "Courting? Did you really just say courting?"

"Shut up! You're bored so you're trying to amuse yourself by being mean and annoying. Go to bed or something!"

She flounced down onto the couch and opened the book in defiance, grumbling under her breath and trying to ignore him. No such luck. He sat down right next to her, leaning in so he could read. A few long moments of ignoring him passed and finally she felt his eyes on her. She refused to look at him, pursing her lips angrily.

"I wouldn't bring you a deer leg. That's stupid," he said, like he'd been mulling that over for the last few pages.

He opened up a hell of a door with that one. "I never said that you'd bring me a deer leg. I said you'd bring a deer leg to someone you wanted to be in a relationship with." Now she looked at him and was rewarded with watching the blood rushing to his face until the tips of his ears were on fire.

"Shut up. You know what I meant," he growled, scooting over like he just realized how close he'd been sitting to her.

She marked her place again and tossed the book onto the table. "No, I find it extremely interesting that you would say you wouldn't bring me a deer leg. Like I was the first person that came to mind when I said something about courting."

He scowled.

She pulled her legs up and grinned. "I think it's sweet. How long have you had a crush on me?"

He stood up and glared down at her, still flushing. "You're a dick," he growled before he stomped out of the room and into the kitchen. "Just for that, you can kiss your present goodbye," he called over his shoulder.

She frowned. Present? She didn't have any presents under the tree. She'd been curious just the other day and took a look. Not that she minded. It was a Holiday they were celebrating for the kids and she hadn't been expecting anything. She followed him. "What present?"

He hopped up onto the counter and shrugged. "No present. You're an asshole."

"You were an asshole first!"

He shook his head. "Now if I give you something you'll just think that I'm tryin' to get into your pants. So you can go without."

She sighed, schooling her face into her most pathetic expression, glancing up at him from under her lashes. "I didn't expect to get anything anyway. It's not a very big deal."

He narrowed his eyes, "Don't you try that guilt trip shit with me. You didn't get me anything either."

She smiled innocently. "Yes I did."

He snorted. "No you didn't or you woulda brought it up before now."

She really hadn't gotten him anything. She felt a little guilty now but she'd been kind of lost in her own world lately and he'd seemed to be lost in his own so it hadn't occurred to her to bother. He wasn't the type anyway. She couldn't think of anything that he needed or wanted, other than freedom, and she couldn't very well give that to him. They were stuck here.

"I'm not very romantic. Even though I read those books," she said, keeping her eyes on his.

He frowned. "What?"

She shrugged she waved him off. "My gift to you wasn't really gonna be anything special anyway."

"What is it?"

She shook her head. "Well, after what I said earlier, it just sounds silly."

"Carol, quit bein' an ass."

"Well, since you're kind of hard to buy for, and it isn't like I could just go to the store and buy you a cross bow or a duck call or whatever else you would be interested in, I was just gonna go ahead and give you the okay to bend me over a bike or something."

His mouth dropped open, the color rushing back to his face before he shook his head, laughing almost nervously. "I should have left you the hell alone."

"Probably. Let's face it, I'm better at this than you. Always have been," she grinned and then winked at him.

He sighed in defeat. "I suppose you're right. I shoulda known better."

She nodded solemnly and watched him as he jumped down from the counter. Oddly enough, he was still blushing. He stopped in front of her and then reached up, pulling something over his head and then handing it to her quickly before stepping away and instantly started chewing on his thumb nail nervously.

It was a silver chain, which she would have loved anyway because it was Daryl and he meant the world to her so she would love anything he gave her, but at the end of the chain, wrapped in copper wire and fixed to one of the small links, was a polished stone that looked like blue quartz. She studied it, biting down on her lip hard to fight back any sappy emotions.

She looked up and smiled. "It's the same shade of blue as your eyes."

He huffed. "Don't get all mushy about it. I found the quartz and wasn't sure what to do with it so I made that."

She slipped it over her head and then held the stone up again. "I take it back," she said, her voice quiet.

"Huh?" He asked gruffly.

"You're one of those rare men that really do know how to make a woman feel extremely special. No deer legs."

He snorted, shaking his head, but she could tell by the look in his eyes that he was glad she liked it.

"I love it," she said.

"You really flopped and didn't get me a damn thing, did you? I bet you feel awful." He grinned suddenly.

She met his level gaze sheepishly, her mind trying to think of anything at all that she could give him and pretend it was an actual gift. She was a horrible friend for not thinking of something. The knowing grin on his face told her that he had expected as much and was glad that he had one upped her. Now he had something to hold over her head. And he would.

She couldn't let him win, even though she knew that it wasn't really a competition. He wasn't walking out of the room without something from her so she surprised both of them when she leaned up and kissed him right on the mouth.

It was supposed to be a friendly kiss. A kiss to let him know that she appreciated the gesture and she appreciated him as a friend. She expected him to be shocked at the gesture and she expected him to stutter and grumble and possibly wipe his mouth off and turn red and storm out. She expected any number of things. Except for what he actually did and what he did was kiss her back, his lips moving over hers, deepening the kiss before she could even think to pull away.

She wasn't so shocked that she didn't know how to respond, even though it had been a really long time since she had been kissed like this and he was a surprisingly good kisser. She found her back pressed against the counter and then suddenly her feet left the floor as his tongue swept into her mouth, gliding against hers in a smooth dance. Her ass hit the counter and his hands slid over her hips.

If she had known that one small kiss on her part would wake up Daryl Dixon's dormant sex drive, she'd have done it ages ago. Her heart was thundering against her ribs as she clung to his shoulders. She felt like a high school girl making out with the bad boy in school. She took a gamble and tentatively worked the top button of his shirt loose. When he didn't seem to object she hurriedly went through the rest. She hadn't even realized exactly how bad she'd wanted to do this until he was right there. Sure, she'd fantasized about it a few times but the truth was, she wasn't very creative. And she had never in a million years thought she would find herself in this situation.

When she started pushing his shirt down his shoulders he let go of her long enough to let it slide off. Once his shirt was shoved away she couldn't resist touching him, her hands gliding over the muscles of his chest, mapping out the wide expanse of his shoulders. And throughout it all he never stopped kissing her.

She was wearing flannel pajamas with a button up top and he was suddenly returning the favor, working the buttons down frantically. When he pushed it away he growled into her mouth when he discovered she was wearing a tee shirt underneath.

Finally he broke the kiss long enough to whip the shirt over her head, and then stared at her because now she was wearing a tank top. "Seriously? It's like one of those fuckin' gag gifts you keep unwrappin' just to find more damn paper underneath!"

She grinned, sliding off the counter. "You know, in that book, the man would have taken his time and appreciate the package for a little while first anyway."

He snorted, pushing her back against the counter with his body until she was trapped. "The man in your book was a dumb ass. I've admired the package for years."

Her mouth popped open at that but he didn't give her any time to come up with a witty response. Again his lips were dominating hers and she could actually appreciate where he was coming from. She was in a bit of a hurry herself, so she dove right in, working his belt open, and then his pants. He took the hint quickly, pushing hers down her hips and she barely had time to even step out of them before he was lifting her up onto the counter again.

Something occurred to her then and she pressed her hands against his chest, pushing slightly. It was enough to have him freezing, breaking the kiss and looking down at her questioningly with an almost fearful look in his eyes. "You wanna stop?" He asked, sounding slightly out of breath.

She swallowed hard and then shook her head. "I don't. I just want to know if this is gonna be one of those wham bam thank you ma'am sort of of things or... You know."

He rolled his eyes. "You read too much."

"I need to know."

He glanced towards the doorway before meeting her eyes again. "What do you want this to be?"

She shook her head. "I don't want you to think that I'm only doing this to return the favor. I don't think I can do that. I should have said that earlier."

He shook his head. "You know me better than that."

She nodded. "I like to think that I do."

"Look, I ain't one of your goddamn savvy book hero types, alright. Maybe the only romantic gesture I can manage is to get you naked in a kitchen. I ain't gonna hold your goddamn hand all the time. I ain't gonna say the right things too often. If you're in a bad mood I'll most likely leave instead of deal with you with kid gloves and sometimes you might piss me off and I'll say shit that ain't too nice. No bouquets of flowers or any of that sticky sweet bullshit. I'm gonna fuck up all the time. But I love you and I think you know it and you've known it for a long fuckin' time and I shouldn't have to stand here and spill all this shit while your pants are on the floor and I'm about to bust out of mine cause it kind of sucks. Is that what you want to hear?"

She was staring at him, her mouth hanging open but she quickly closed it and nodded, grinning broadly. "That is definitely close enough," she managed, her voice barely a whisper.

He gave her one stiff nod and then his lips met the skin right below her ear. His rough hands ran up her thighs, leaving her skin flushed. He pulled her closer to the edge of the counter and his teeth grazed her earlobe. Her hands slid down his stomach, dipping into the front of his pants until her fingers were gliding over the length of him. His breath hitched next to her ear before he grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand away. "You sure about this?" He asked, his voice low and rough.

She nodded, unsure if she could even formulate words at the moment. He wasted no more time, pulling her closer and then she felt him moving into her, felt her body yield to the size of him. Her legs locked around his waist as he filled her, not stopping until he was seated deep inside. He whispered a few curses as her breath rushed out of her. He seemed to take a moment to focus, letting his forehead fall lightly against hers before he started moving. She couldn't remember ever feeling anything so good, his body moving against hers, and before she could make a sound his lips were on hers and he was driving her to the edge faster than she thought possible.

It seemed as though he knew exactly what to do to heighten her pleasure and the only thing she could do was anchor herself to him, holding him as close as she could, wishing she could somehow get even closer. Her nails bit into his shoulder as he tore his mouth away from hers, his forehead dropping to her shoulder. "Fuck," he growled, almost angrily as his body tensed.

Knowing that he was close had her tightening around him, her body pulling him in deeper and deeper and then she felt the first wave hit her, she cried out in surprise, his mouth came back to hers, cutting off her sounds as the heat of his release, the tension in his body as he pulsed within her, sent her plummeting. She gasped, her eyes, that she hadn't realized were closed snapping open, meeting his as she shuddered against him. She bit down hard on her lip to keep her mouth shut. His dark blue gaze was sharp and intense, somehow making it so much better, because she saw the raw pleasure mirrored in that gaze.

When it was over he didn't move right away. His hands slid slowly up the back of her shirt, fingertips tracing her spine and causing her to squirm against him. She pulled his face back down to hers and this time when he kissed her it was slow and almost lazy, and sweeter than she ever thought him capable of. Her body was humming, almost vibrating, having been denied release like this for so long.

The moment, of course, couldn't last forever but it was cut even shorter by the sound of the front door opening up and voices drifting towards them.

"Oh God," she hissed, pushing at his chest.

He cursed and then moved quickly, hurrying to fix his pants as she hopped down from the counter. He had to grip her arm when her legs wobbled slightly. He was grinning like a jackass, a smug look on his face. He bent down, shoving her pajama bottoms into her hands as he hurriedly shoved his arms through his shirt. Jesus, if they were caught then no one would eat in this kitchen again. She shoved her own arms through the sleeves of her top but didn't bother buttoning it. That wouldn't look too suspicious since she was wearing a tank top. Her T-shirt was on the counter so she tossed it into a chair as he hopped up on the counter, where she had just been. She looked up just in time to see Abe and Rick walk in, both smiling.

They stopped when they entered the kitchen, first looking at her and then both turning their eyes to Daryl. He was chewing his thumb nail again, his eyes steadily meeting theirs. Abe grinned at them. "You two missed all the good stuff," he said, his voice slurring slightly.

Daryl shrugged. "Somehow I doubt that."

Carol looked at him, eyes wide.

"Seriously, you two couldn't have had as much fun as we did. Deanna got wasted and fell off the porch. I swear to Christ I never thought that uptight..." Abe's voice trailed off as he looked between them.

"What?" Carol asked, grabbing a water just to have something to busy her hands. She didn't realize that she was actually parched until she took a few long drinks.

"Have you two been fighting?" Abe asked.

Daryl grabbed the water from her and took a few long drinks himself, his eyes meeting hers. She looked at Abe then. "Of course not. It's Christmas Eve. We wouldn't be fighting on Christmas Eve."

Abe, obviously too drunk to be very observant just shrugged and grabbed his own drink, staggering out of the kitchen.

"You two have a good time tonight?" Rick asked, his face almost disbelieving.

Carol shrugged. "It was another night."

Rick tried to hide a knowing smile. Carol wanted to die. He knew they'd done it. Hopefully he would think that it was in her room and not in the kitchen where she cooked their meals. "Well, I'm beat. Goodnight."

Carol nodded. "Night."

When he was out of the room Daryl hopped back down, gripping her hand and pulling her towards the doorway. "You're bad at playing it cool."

She snorted, hitting the light switch on her way out. "You weren't even trying," she whispered, letting him lead her to her room, managing to turn off more lights on her way.

When he had her door shut he rounded on her, backing her towards the bed and causing her to laugh softly before he started pushing her shirt off her shoulders. By the time she reached the bed she was completely undressed and he was getting their quickly.

~H~

She was nearly asleep, curled into his side with what she assumed was the worlds goofiest, loopiest grin on her face. She felt like her world had been flipped onto it's head. Just yesterday her mind had drifted back to harder, far bloodier times, and she had barely managed to fight back the depression that had felt like it was going to crush her.

But right now she felt light. She felt like somehow, he had swooped in in just one night and was now helping her shoulder the burden of this harder world. She hoped that feeling stayed. Knowing how he felt about her changed things. It changed almost everything.

"You got a lot more stamina than any man in any of those novels," she muttered, her voice laced with sleep.

He laughed lightly. "Maybe it's genetics."

She raised her head, her eyes heavy. "Genetics?"

He nodded. His eyes still closed but his lips turning up. "Genetics. A Dixon gift."

She laughed then, her head dropping to his chest as his fingers trailed over her spine. "This has turned out to be a pretty good Christmas. I didn't expect that."

"Me neither," he grumbled, sounding like he was on the brink of sleep himself.

"I love you," she said, remembering suddenly that he had said it but she hadn't said it back.

His eyes stayed closed but he grinned. "I kinda already guessed."

She finally closed her eyes, the smile still in place, and drifted off to sleep. For the first time in a long time, she didn't dream about blood or loss. She dreamed about a future that held a lot more peace than she'd known, even before the world ended.