Disclaimer I do not own the Walking Dead

A/n: This story got it's one hundredth review last chapter. I can't believe it's become so popular. Thank you everyone who read it, reads it, who reviews, who favorites it, who recommends it to others…Thank you!

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: MOMENT

When I woke up, it was still dark out, Merle was still spooned tightly against my back, and the house was quiet. For a moment, I forgot where I was. After having slept in that box truck for so long, waking up in a house, on a bed, in a silk nightgown felt like a dream. An incredible, lovely dream. I smiled into the darkness and carefully pulled away from Merle, earning a quiet grumble in protest.

Stepping away from the bed, I went to the window that had been firmly covered just before bed and pulled the coverings away. The moon was out an bright, lighting the room with its pale, soft glow. I leaned on the windowsill and looked out over the grounds that my window overlooked. It was so peaceful. It was easy to imagine it had always been this way. No walkers, no running from swarms of decaying bodies that threatened to rip the flesh from your bones….Just me, Merle, and the estate. I turned around and looked at him, leaning back against the windowsill.

The moonlight highlighted the sharp angles of his face; the jutting cheekbones, the clean line of his jaw, the delicate ridge of his nose. His eyes, being so deep set, were cast in dark shadows but it didn't look sinister. For Merle, it looked peaceful. His usual frown lines were smoothed, his tense shoulders, soft and rounded for once; even his injured arm wasn't tight and bunched up with worry of banging it on something or hurting it even further.

I walked back over to the bed as quietly as I could and crawled onto it, kneeling in front of Merle. He shifted again, flopping onto his back with a small grunt, and cracked open an eye, glaring at me sleepily. "S'mthin' wrong?" He mumbled, wiping his cheek. I smiled apologetically and shook my head, laying down and resting my head on his chest. Merle chuckled and grinned, sitting up and leaning against the headboard, looking down at me.

"It's too…" I started to say then stopped. I didn't even know what I was trying to say. Too perfect? Too calm? Too safe? All of them sounded so stupid now.

"Yeah." Merle grunted and ran his hand through my hair. He let out a growling sigh and gently tugged me up his body, dipping his head to kiss me firmly. I melted against him, hands pressed firmly against his chest and my head tilted just so, letting him kiss me slowly and reassuringly. After a few, long moments, Merle pulled back and kissed my forehead. "Just gonna be us for a while. 'S gonna take some getting' used to, not havin' them walkers chasin' us." I nodded and rested my cheek against his shoulder. Merle sighed again and rested his stump on my side, his other hand roving down my spine slowly, teasingly. He counted the vertebrae with his fingertips, pressing each one gently. Rubbing his fingers in small circles at the small of my back, Merle hummed. "Silk…" He murmured in my ear. "I like it." I grinned against his shoulder.

That's exactly what I had been hoping he'd say.

Merle lowered his head, kissing my neck lightly, his fingers still tracing circles into my lower back. I shivered a little and Merle moved his hand so his nails were dragging over my skin through the silk. I shivered again and arched, Merle chuckled against my neck and nipped teasingly before pulling back.

"Hate to say this Callie, but I'm bushed. Sleep and then I'll fuck ya until ya can't walk tomorrow." I blushed at the promise and nodded. I was tired too, exhausted really, but with everything that had happened, it felt like we had to be intimate because we could safely. Somewhere between having to put down my father and now, my logic had gone out the window. Since when did having a safe place to stay require sexual acts? Never.

I slid off of Merle and he laid back down, grabbing me and pulling me firmly into him. He wrapped himself around me again and I willingly cuddled into his chest with a happy sigh. Merle was right, it would just take a little getting used to, then we would have time. Time to hopefully be like a normal couple for once. Maybe we could actually go on a date, have a picnic out on the field and then lay together and cloud watch. The mere thought made me smile as I burrowed closer, pulling the blankets up to my shoulders and pressing my face into his chest.

Merle made a noise and moved just a little bit more before settling down for the night it seemed. I stayed up for a little while longer, thinking about all it could be before finally drifting off.

It was bright when I woke up and Merle was gone. I sat up tiredly, my body feeling heavy and uncoordinated as I looked around. His pajamas were tossed in the corner and from the corner of my eye, I could catch movement outside. Standing and scrubbing at my eyes, I walked to the window and saw three men out in the middle of the field, digging. It took my sleep fogged brain a good two minutes to realize that they were prepping the ground for farming. Looking closer I saw Rick, Daryl, and Shane digging while Merle marked the area out with a stick.

I stood there, watching them through the window for a while, the sounds of their bickering barely reaching my ears. I leaned on the windowsill and smiled, the smooth, painted grain biting into my arms lightly and the sun warming my face and neck.

"Callie?" A now familiar tone asked from the doorway. I turned around, momentarily forgetting that I was in a thin, silk nightgown, and greeted Jim chipperly. When he blushed darkly and swallowed heavily, I remembered what I was wearing and again dove for something to cover up with. This time, Jim turned his back and cleared his throat awkwardly while I fumbled to pull on a house coat. "Sorry, shoulda knocked."

"No, no, it's fine, really." I belted the house coat shut tightly and told him it was okay for him to turn around. He did and cleared his throat again, the blush still on his nose and ears. "Did you need something?"

"Was told to make sure you were up, 's all." He mumbled in his usual tight jawed way. I nodded and he nodded, shuffling in the doorway.

"Was that all?"

"Yeah," Jim answered immediately, turning and leaving with his head down. I watched him go then walked over and quietly shut the door. I had to figure out something to do with Jim and soon, I don't know how much more of this odd behavior I could take. With a shake of my head, I gathered an outfit for the day and went to the shower which, through some stroke of luck, had hot water. I found out later that the house was powered by a water wheel.

Dressed and clean, hair manageable for once, I went down the stairs to the kitchen where Carol was cooking and baking. She smiled at me, still her sweet self, and told me to help myself. There was so much food but I still wanted to be cautious, so I took a piece of bread and an egg, whipping up an egg in a basket. With it on my plate and a glass of orange juice (fresh orange juice; It tasted like heaven) I grabbed a fork and went to the porch, sitting on the warm deck and watching the men work. I hummed to myself as I ate, savoring every drop of warm, golden yolk and every crunch of the still hot toast. I had really forgotten what it was like to be part of a civilized world where hot breakfast and hot showers were the norm.

Plate emptied, I sat it aside where no one would step on it and sipped my juice slowly. Not once did my eyes leave Merle where he was yelling at Shane to "stop being a dumbass and do it right" while Daryl cackled at him. I smiled and leaned on my knees; I felt light and dizzy, like I was floating in water and I never wanted that feeling to stop. I wasn't heavy any more, I wasn't bogged down with anxiety or fear. Of course, the ranch wasn't strictly safe, there was always a risk, but I knew we could handle it. After everything we've been through, we could handle a stray walker or two.

The day was passed with everyone doing something that needed done; I helped Carol and Glenn organize and label the pantry, everyone else pretty much focused on getting the crops going. Dale took watch on top of the house with his binoculars, watching the perimeter diligently to make sure nothing snuck up on us, and it was quiet. No danger, just work.

When it came time for dinner, the boy's offered to take over for once, giving Carol and Lori a break. As they tried not to destroy the kitchen, we pulled out clothes and started swapping and measuring for ones that would fit best that we could tailor to fit. The clothes in my room stayed in my room, all the others being a little too small for me. Lori and Andrea had a small fight over who got what but that was settled by a quick game of rock, paper, scissors.

"We should have a party." Andrea said while holding up a beautiful, blue dancing dress. "Dancing, food, maybe a little booze. You know, have a good time." That was a good idea, I agreed with her. We could all use a little celebration. There was a chance that we would survive this after all.

"I'll go tell the boys," Lori volunteered but we all knew she wanted to make sure they weren't screwing up the food. The rest of us laughed and started trying to figure out what we'd wear. I found a great, old-fashioned polka dot dress with a crinoline skirt that Carol insisted was perfect. In return, I told her that she had to wear a pillbox hat I found, adorned with peacock feathers. I promised to let her do my hair and we took care of the clothes, still chattering about dancing and dressing up.

It was nice, really nice.

The men got the food on the table without any major disasters and we all sat down. Carl said grace quickly and we dug in; for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, we were all relaxed and having fun, just talking and laughing with each other. Merle kept his stump resting over the back of my chair, shooting Jim a wickedly dark look every so often just to make sure he got the picture. For the most part, Jim kept his eyes down on his plate, not looking at either of us or commenting on anything anyone said. Merle didn't care, of course, he was quite obsessed with staking his claim again. And as if to prove that point, Merle swept me away right after to dinner, pulling me up the stairs eagerly; with a low chuckle, he spun us, pressing me into the wall by our room, kissing my neck and running a hand up my inner thigh. Shivering and biting my lip so I wouldn't moan to loud, I pushed at him. "Merle, not out here."

Without removing his lips from my neck, Merle opened our bedroom door and moved us inside, kicking it shut with his foot.

We tumbled into bed together, never letting go of each other.