eyeus: (Rickyl)
Title: Love, Essentially
Fandom: The Walking Dead (TV)
Pairing: Rick / Daryl
Rating: NC-17
Words: 9700 (63500 total)
Summary: To me, you are perfect.

Rick’s confession, made with snow-damp cue cards and every ounce of his devotion, had been perfection itself—except his perfect love belonged to someone else.

But spring’s in full swing now, and it’s the time for new beginnings. The first blooms of new loves. It’s the season for change itself.

Little does Rick know how much his life will change.

A/N: A Love, Actually fusion fic. Inspired mainly by this gifset here, and this scene from the Love, Actually movie.



~


Rick’s content like this, curled around Daryl, letting the dark and quiet recharge his energy as they sleep. So it’s a surprise when Rick wakes to the curious sensation of being kissed awake, light presses of lips dotting the landscape of his neck. His shoulders. Finds that they’ve shifted during the hours asleep and that Rick is the little spoon now, tucked into Daryl’s space, Daryl’s arm slung over his waist, and under Rick’s arm, palm pressed lightly to Rick’s chest.

“Mornin’,” Daryl says, his voice a low, sleepy rumble. There’s a breath of a laugh, as Rick’s pulse quickens in his chest, beating so quickly he’s sure Daryl can feel the mad flutter of it against his palm.

“Mornin’,” Rick mumbles, blinking awake. He turns and strains to check the time on the clock, but Daryl’s already rolled onto one elbow, blocking his view, watching him. Taking in the sight of him, sleep-rumpled and dazed, as he curves his palm around Rick’s cheek, stroking, gentle. Lets them sift through tangled curls.

The sun’s just started peeking in, a soft and crimson glow between the curtains, which means it’s still early. Means it’s not quite morning in the way Rick wants it to be quite yet, and that technically, anything they do now could still be counted as part of the Christmas Eve festivities.

By the silly, pleased little grin Daryl’s sporting, it seems he’s had the same idea.

“How was your sleep?” Rick asks, just to be sure. It wouldn’t do for either of them to fall asleep during their early morning festivities.

Daryl hums, as he nudges his face into Rick’s neck. “Good enough.” Presses a kiss to the base of his neck. Another kiss, higher, beneath the curls nestled just behind his ear. “Been better since you been here.”

The sentiment is so sweet that Rick can’t help but turn fully in Daryl’s arms and nuzzle their noses together, before drawing him in for a kiss that’s soft and leisurely and gentle. They spend long moments like this, just revelling in each other’s warmth and the taste of each other’s mouths, but when Rick moans into Daryl’s mouth from a well-placed shift of his hips, Daryl’s kisses start migrating lower—like he thinks it’s high time he repaid the favour Rick bestowed on him last night.

His soft presses of lips mark a wandering path, from the corner of Rick’s mouth to his jaw. The base of his throat. The jut of Rick’s collarbone, that Daryl graces with a light nip of teeth, before pausing over Rick’s nipple, tongue darting out to taste, warm.

Daryl,” Rick breathes, biting back a gasp as Daryl takes one gently between teeth and nibbles, a straight shot of pleasure to Rick’s groin. He slides fingers into Daryl’s hair, not to guide, but to anchor himself, to this moment, to Daryl. “That’s good,” he whispers, as Daryl turns to lavish his attention on Rick’s other nipple, kneading the one that’s been freed with just the right amount of pressure, his fingers clever, skilful. “That’s…”

He never gets to finish his sentence, because Daryl’s started blazing a path down the line of his belly, his kisses growing hotter, more feverish, the lower he goes. Unbuttons the jeans that Rick hadn’t trusted himself with earlier, urging Rick to raise his hips so Daryl can slide them off.

“Reindeer?” Daryl snorts, raising an brow, as he gets an eyeful of Rick’s boxers.

Rick ducks away, trying to will away the warmth that’s flooded his cheeks. “Yeah, yeah—keep laughin’, they were the most festive pair I had,” he says. Maybe they’re not as safely generic as Daryl’s storm greys, but Rick can attest that his burgundy boxers, with their prancing, spritely reindeer, have character. “It’s Christmas, Daryl, come on,” he says. “People wear things like Santa hats and reindeer antlers.” He waves a hand in the direction of the offending garment. “It’s not that bad. Comparatively.”

Daryl huffs a laugh before stroking the outline of Rick’s cock through the thin cotton, teasing and slow, drawing out the pleasure he could give Rick with each brush of his fingers. But it builds enough pressure to have Rick harden against the fabric, and before long, all thoughts of embarrassing boxers are pushed aside in favour of writhing and gasping beneath Daryl’s touch.

“More,” Rick begs. “More.”

Daryl’s hands are at his hips, tugging Rick’s boxers down and off, and he turns for a moment to drop them to the side, but then he’s there again, his fingers curved around Rick’s cock and it’s so wonderfully freeing that Rick can’t help but whimper at the immense pleasure of it.

“How’s that?” Daryl asks, as he curls his fingers around the shaft, stroking, teasing. Presses his thumb along the slit, gentle.

“Good. Yes,” Rick hisses, as Daryl does something with his thumb that’s just the right balance between pleasure and pain. And suddenly it doesn’t seem fair to Rick, that this pleasure be so one-sided, because he wants to give as much of it to Daryl as Daryl’s giving him. So he nudges and tugs until they’re repositioned along the bed, with Daryl kneeling over him, his cock hanging tantalizingly over Rick’s jaw.

“This all right?” Daryl asks, turning to look at Rick, and when Rick nods his affirmation that yes, this is how he’d like them to be, Daryl returns to mouthing at Rick’s cock, his lips closing sweetly over the head, licking and teasing and wet. His fingers setting an easy rhythm over the shaft, pausing now and then to caress a breezy pattern along Rick’s sac, as much a torment as it is a tease.

It’s only fair that Rick returns the favour, but Rick’s decided that he knows the taste of Daryl’s cock now, of sweat and musk and a sweetness that’s all Daryl’s. That there’s something different he wants to try, but only if it’s all right with Daryl. So he shifts further backward, repositioning Daryl’s knees a little wider on either side of him. Lets his lips kiss a trail along the inside of Daryl’s thighs.

“Rick?” Daryl asks, confused, before Rick presses another reassuring kiss to the left cheek of his ass.

“Just wanted to try somethin’,” Rick says. And when Daryl nods, Rick braces his hands along the crease of Daryl’s hips, thumbs kneading skin as he spreads the cheeks wide to expose his hole. Presses his tongue against the small, tight pucker of muscle, and licks inside.

Rick,” Daryl groans. “Wait—god, ah—”

But even if he jerks in Rick’s grasp, startled, he doesn’t say no, and Rick takes it as a sign of encouragement, a sign to keep going, and he licks at Daryl’s entrance, tracing small, teasing circles into skin and muscle, letting the sound of Daryl’s moans wash over him. His little gasps of surprise as Rick presses inside with his tongue, letting it dip inside, then out, the precursor of everything he’d like to do Daryl. The tiny whimper of wonder as Rick curls his tongue, licking into the scent of soap and sweat and a musk that’s completely Daryl’s.

Suddenly, Daryl’s wrapping lips around Rick’s cock in turn, as he makes those very same sounds, the moans and gasps and whimpering sighs, the vibration of each one traveling straight through Rick’s cock to a central control centre of pleasure. Has Rick arching into Daryl’s mouth with a long, breathy moan of his own.

His cock feels fuller and harder than it’s ever been, and it strikes Rick that this is almost a game of sorts, to see who can give the other more pleasure, who can outlast the other, and while Rick won’t say no to a little friendly competition, he can’t think of what else he can do to top what Daryl’s doing to him—until he does.

“Daryl,” says Rick, the sound of his name a small warning for what’s to come.

Daryl doesn’t look up, but he nods, the bob of his head a burst of blinding pleasure as he makes a motion with his tongue on the downstroke, the flat of his tongue pressing hard against the slit of Rick’s cock.

Rick doesn’t come right then and there, but it’s a near thing, and he has to pat Daryl’s thigh, a motion of easy there that Daryl takes to heart, as he slows the motion of his tongue, and takes care to draw out each lick from root to tip. Nuzzles into the nest of curls at the base of Rick’s thighs, taking time to savour the scent of Rick. The taste of him.

It’s as much as a window of opportunity as Rick’s going to get, and he takes the moment to lick into the crease of Daryl’s ass again. Presses his tongue up and in, but this time, adds a finger alongside, gentle, testing the give of Daryl’s muscle, the amount needed for pleasure and how much it can stand before pain.

“Rick,” Daryl pants. He’s let go of Rick’s cock with his mouth and hands. Has to brace himself against the bed with his elbows, Rick’s next push in of his finger drawing a loud and whimpering ah. “God,” Daryl manages between breaths, his moans coming faster and breathier. “Fuck. Ah. Rick, please.”

Rick decides to interpret this as an appeal for more of the same, so with spit-wet fingers, he presses deeper, harder, a liquid slide that has Daryl arching his back and crying out once more. He’s worked his way up to two fingers, knuckle-deep inside him, when Daryl jolts like he’s been shocked.

“Daryl?” Rick asks, worried. “You all right? Didn’t mean to hurt you. Here, I’ll—” He makes to pull his hand away, because damn it, they’re only a few minutes in and already he’s made this more uncomfortable for Daryl than it needs to be. He’d be lucky if Daryl ever let Rick near his ass again.

But then Daryl’s clenching around him, keeping him in place, a motion that has Daryl biting back a gasp, and the sound of it makes Rick want to throw him down, to take him right this instant. So he’s more relieved than he should be when Daryl says, “Ain’t hurt,” his voice a new kind of breathless. “But what you did there—again. Do it again.”

Rick hums against warm skin, obliging, shifting himself further back to better position his fingers. And when he’s worked out a position that’ll accommodate both of them, he curls one palm along Daryl’s hip, and with his other hand, presses inside again, aiming for the same spot that elicited that first lovely spark of reaction from Daryl. Strokes him inside, revelling in velvet-smooth muscle and the cadence of Daryl’s moans, knowing he’s found just what he’s looking for when Daryl cries out, hips jerking against Rick.

“There?” Rick asks, teasing, as he drags his fingertips over the area again. Takes in the lovely tremor of Daryl’s thighs as he gasps and shakes in Rick’s grip. “Like that?”

And of course Daryl wants it there and like that, judging by the clench of his muscle around Rick’s fingers, and the ah’s and nngh’s Daryl’s trying so hard to keep back, but Rick’s having entirely too much fun wringing those delectable little moans from Daryl. So he strokes and pets, alternating between soft, experimental touches, and harder rasps of his fingers against muscle, and even the lightest edge of fingernail, until Daryl’s a moaning, writhing mess.

“Rick,” he whispers. “Please.”

Rick blinks, letting his fingers slip out, and touching a kiss to Daryl’s thigh. “Daryl?” he says, needing confirmation, that he’s interpreted that plea correctly, because Daryl couldn’t be asking for—they haven’t talked about this yet, and—

“Please,” Daryl says again, and Rick knows that’s it. That it’s the last time Daryl will ask, because he’s not one to beg, ever, and the fact that he’s doing that right now means something.

Rick brushes a kiss to the inside of each of Daryl’s thighs, to make sure he knows he’s loved and wanted and adored, before shifting out from under Daryl. Repositions them in the bed, until Rick can cup his cheek with a palm, safe, and look into Daryl’s eyes, to be certain Daryl wants this. That he’s absolutely sure.

Because Rick would be lying if he said he didn’t want this, hadn’t wanted since the day they met, but he’s got to know that Daryl wants this too.

“You’re sure about this,” Rick says, watching for any sign to the contrary in Daryl’s expression. “I just…I don’t…” I don’t want you to feel like you have to, Rick thinks. He’s wanted Daryl for so long, so badly, but the last thing he wants is for Daryl to think he has to do this, to keep Rick.

Daryl must take his hesitation for something else, because he says quickly, “We don’t gotta do that tonight.” His eyes are half-lidded and all kinds of alluring even as he gazes up at Rick. “Not ever, if it ain’t what you want.” He’s wound his arms around Rick’s waist, and the nervous, hopeful clutch of them around Rick makes him hurt for Daryl. He’s got to say something, to correct him of his silly notion that Rick doesn’t want him this way, in every way there is to want.

“Daryl,” he tries. “I—”

Daryl cuts in before Rick can continue. “Bein’ with you like this? It’s enough.” He closes his eyes and presses into Rick’s touch, the palm he’s curved against Daryl’s cheek. Like he’s fine with just the pleasure from hands and lips and tongues, and kisses beyond measure. Like he understands if Rick can’t, won’t go all the way with him, because having Rick like this is more than enough, more than Daryl deserves, and Rick’s chest grows tight at the thought. “You don’t gotta…”

Rick presses his thumb against Daryl’s lips, gentle, and silences him with a kiss, one that Daryl surges into, more desperately than he needs to, as if he’s afraid it’s Rick’s concession to not wanting what Daryl wants. And god it’s a kiss Rick could get lost in, one he wants to enjoy forever, but he needs to remedy this imaginary hurt that Daryl’s seemed to work himself into.

"I want to,” Rick breathes into Daryl’s mouth, savouring the warmth of the air between them, and the closeness, from mouth to chest to belly, a press of skin on skin that warms Rick even in all the places they’re not in contact. He tucks his feet beneath Daryl’s calves, and cups both of Daryl’s cheeks with his palms now, balancing himself on his elbows so Daryl can look into his eyes. To see that there’s no lie in the words Rick’s saying. “I want to, so much, because I want you.”

“But you—” Daryl manages, before Rick surprises him into silence with another kiss, this one soft and sweet and lingering, one that leaves Daryl trembling beneath him, and arching up into him in hopes for more.

“I just, I don’t wanna mess it up, is all,” says Rick. “Been waitin’ too long to be with you like this.”

Daryl releases a slow, shivering breath. “How long?” he asks, finally. “How long have you wanted this?” He pauses, before dropping his voice to a whisper and daring, “How long have you wanted me?”

And Rick thinks back to that sunny day in June, when he hadn’t been looking for love, hadn’t held out much hope for finding his one, when Daryl had wandered into his life by happy chance. It feels so long ago now, that it might as well be—

“Forever,” Rick admits simply. “What about you?”

“Forever and a day,” Daryl whispers, his eyes much too bright, and Rick leans in for another kiss, then another, soft presses of lips that speak of the tenderness and devotion that’s grown between them since the beginning.

It’s Rick who has to draw away first, to take a breath. “I’m sorry I made you wait,” he says, returning with a flurry of feather-light kisses to nose and lips and brow, once he’s caught his breath. They could’ve had this for longer, for months, if only Rick had taken the leap earlier.

Daryl sighs. “I’m sorry too,” he says. “I shoulda said somethin’. Done somethin’. Tried harder.”

And Rick’s about to argue that Daryl had done plenty, that it was Rick’s fault he hadn’t wanted to take the signs as Daryl meant them, but before it can devolve into a game of who’s sorrier for what, Daryl captures his mouth in another kiss. “Guess we oughta prove we’re sorry, then. Instead of lyin’ here, flappin’ our gums.”

There’s an easy grin on his face at that, and Rick just laughs, wondering just what he’s done to deserve this man, and this life.

They spend a leisurely moment just kissing and touching, Daryl sliding hands along the line of Rick’s back, exploring each bump and rise and scar with his fingers. Mapping out the terrain of Rick’s body, from the mess of curls at the nape of his neck to his broad shoulders. The long, lean line of his back. Each knob of his spine. The love handles that Rick’s still working on getting rid of, from too many meals of donuts and coffee before he’d met—

Rick’s eyes fly open at the touch, because damn it, he should’ve worked harder to get rid of them before Daryl saw him like this, and he shifts away uncomfortably when Daryl palms them, his hands closing over them, snug. But then Daryl’s soothing a hand over his back, gentle, rubbing warm circles into the base of his spine, as he keeps Rick in place.

“I love you,” he says, keeping hold of Rick like this, not letting Rick hide like he wants to. “I love all of you.” Strokes the hand he’s used to palm one of Rick’s love handles gently along skin, reverent, as if they’re not something to love Rick in spite of, but because of. To adore because they’re part of Rick himself.

The thought of that warms Rick from the inside out, and he nods his acknowledgement of it. Lets Daryl continue his exploration, as he settles back into the cradle of Daryl’s hips, marvelling at the way they fit together, perfect.

Daryl lets his hands wander downward until he’s reached the curve of Rick’s ass. Cups it with both hands, his fingers kneading into flesh, grabbing big, greedy handfuls like he can’t get enough. Just pulls Rick against him, hitching their hips together as they set up a steady rhythm of movement against each other, one that brings their cocks together with pressure and friction enough to make the slide between them incredibly good.

“Rick?” Daryl says softly, the only word to break their easy rhythm, and Rick recognizes the look Daryl’s giving him, the inflection of his voice. He’s looking for permission, and Rick nods again, allowing whatever comes next, because he trusts Daryl completely, and whatever it’s going to be will probably—

Ah,” Rick gasps, jolting a little as Daryl presses the tip of a finger against his entrance, gentle. It takes him a moment to get used to the feeling, but when he’s closed his eyes to simply focus on Daryl, beneath him, just inside him, there’s something immensely satisfying about the experience. If this was how Daryl felt when he—then Rick definitely wouldn’t mind if they—

“Good?” Daryl asks, urging Rick to buck against him with a light twist of his finger, the two of them moaning in unison as their cocks slide together just right.

“G-good,” Rick manages, breathlessly, even if the word’s inadequate to describe the dual pleasures he’s experiencing, his forward motion driving him against Daryl’s cock, hot and hard against his own, and his backward upthrust pushing him further onto Daryl’s finger—fingers now—“Fuck,” Rick cries out, suddenly, “stop.”

Daryl withdraws both fingers, and his small, easy grin falls away instantly. “You all right?” he asks. “Was that too much?” There’s the worried little furrow in his brow again, and Rick leans up to kiss it away, to show Daryl there’s no need for concern.

“Just—” Rick says between small, shivering gasps. “Too good.” He huffs a shaky laugh before pressing their foreheads together. “If we keep goin’ like that, I’m gonna come, and I…” It’s suddenly incredibly hard to meet Daryl’s eyes, and Rick fidgets with the sheets instead. “I was thinkin’ I’d like to do that inside you, instead.”

“Oh,” Daryl blinks. And when Rick dares to look up again, there’s the widest grin on Daryl’s face, one that spreads from ear to ear, and he’s nodding even as he swallows, nervous. “Yeah,” Daryl says. “Yeah.” And when he raises a brow and adds a this time, anyway, Rick feels his heart leap in his chest, because that means they’ll both have a chance at the same pleasure down the road.

For now, he throws himself into the way that they’ve chosen, because it doesn’t matter how they’re together anymore, only that they are.

They share a soft kiss, lazy, open-mouthed, wet, then another, and another, before Daryl reaches toward the wooden nightstand by the bed. Rifles through it with his fingers, and fishes out a bottle of lube, which Rick inspects, curious.

“Is it just me, or does this bottle look less than half full?” Rick says. He holds the bottle between forefinger and thumb, peering at it in the moonlight filtering in through the curtains.

Daryl grunts. “Mighta used some to get myself off a couple times,” he says. And when Rick’s jaw drops open, to inform him that one does not simply use half a bottle for just a couple times, Daryl adds hastily, “All right, you caught me. I…” There’s the most becoming crimson flush filling his cheeks as he worries his lower lip between teeth. “I was thinkin’ of you, while I…and maybe it was more than a couple times, so it just went real fast, okay?” He says the last part all in one breath, like if he says it quickly enough, Rick won’t put two and two together and figure out why most of the lube’s gone.

Except Rick does, and it’s something he finds all kinds of adorable, and he has to kiss Daryl again this instant. “Been thinkin’ of me, huh?” he says finally, when they pull apart for air. He nudges their noses together so Daryl can’t look away, and grinds his hips against Daryl’s for a delicious friction that has Daryl clutching at Rick’s arms with a groan. “With more heads than just one?”

Daryl groans again, but Rick’s pretty sure this one’s more from the terrible pun than actual pleasure at their cocks pressed against each other. “Rick,” he says, squeezing Rick’s arm, impatient.

“All right,” Rick says evenly, taking a deep breath in. He’s glad they had this interlude, of silliness and laughter, because as much as he’s wanted this, he’s nervous as hell. But it only takes one glance to remember it’s Daryl beneath him, Daryl who wants Rick just as much. So he tries to remember what he’s learned from all the videos he’s watched, even if they weren’t exactly instructional in that sense. Tucks a pillow beneath Daryl’s hips to make the entry a little easier on both of them.

There’s an unopened box of condoms in the drawer that Daryl’s left half-open in his haste, but when Rick raises a brow at them, Daryl just waves a hand in answer. “From Merle,” he says, which is explanation enough on its own. He rolls his eyes. “His idea of a ‘housewarmin’’ gift.” At the question in Rick’s eyes, though, Daryl adds, softer, “I ain’t never done this before.” His eyes dart away as he looks down at the way he’s spread out on the bed, all for Rick’s eyes only. “Never wanted anyone, like this. Not the way I want you.”

Rick nods. “Me neither,” he says, and at the look they share with each other, they leave the box unopened in the drawer. Rick takes some of what’s left in the bottle of lube and spreads it liberally on his fingers. Presses a finger inside Daryl, easing it in slowly, to start.

“Is that okay?” he asks, because there’s the beginning of a frown on Daryl’s face, and his breaths are coming shorter and faster. He curls fingers over Daryl’s cock, stroking, gentle, each motion meant to distract Daryl from the pain.

“Yeah,” Daryl manages, before a come-hither quirk of Rick’s finger draws a sharp cry out of him. “God—yeah. C’mon,” he says, letting out a shaky breath. “Give me another one.”

Rick works his way up to two, letting them slide inside Daryl, a steady in-and-out that’s meant to work him open, slow. But Daryl’s clenched so tight around his fingers that Rick can’t help but imagine what it’s going to be like, when he’s finally inside Daryl the way he’s wanted to be. He’s knuckle-deep when Daryl shudders and Rick knows he’s found what he’s looking for, repeating what he’d done earlier to draw forth Daryl’s delicious moans and sighs.

On three, Daryl begs.

It’s a litany of Rick, please, need you, fuck me, please. And Rick nearly gives in, because Daryl’s begging so sweetly, a near-incoherent babble with how fast the words are coming, how breathless, but Rick musters every ounce of his willpower and presses back in with four, because he won’t hurt Daryl for this. Won’t rush this for the sake of chasing his own selfish desire.

“Rick,” Daryl pleads now, like Rick’s name is the only word he remembers. Like it’s the only one that matters. “Rick.”

It’s the sound of his name, so wretched and desperate, that breaks him, the rasp of Daryl’s voice vulnerable, naked, and raw, and Rick’s willpower crumbles as he lets himself be swept by the tide, the deluge of want that consumes him.

“All right,” Rick hears himself saying, the sound of it a surrender, though at the sight of Daryl beneath him, cherry-flushed from his cheeks to his cock, where he’s lovely and leaking and wet, it’s not much of a surrender at all. “All right.”

He takes a shaky breath to steady himself, before his need to be inside Daryl now crowds out every other thought. Spreads what’s left of the lube along his cock. Makes sure there’s enough to coat himself properly so things will glide easy, before reaching out and bracing his hands against Daryl’s thighs.

Daryl’s worrying his lip between teeth again, like he’s afraid Rick’s changed his mind, but Rick reassures him with a kiss to each of Daryl’s calves.

“I want you,” Rick says. “I want you so much.”

And when Daryl breathes out again, the soft, shivering sigh melting the tension from his body, Rick lines their hips up, careful. Leans forward, to press into Daryl, finally, relishing the hitch in Daryl’s moan as he does so. The little guh Daryl can’t hold back when Rick has to shift their hips to push deeper. He takes in the way Daryl’s eyes widen and his mouth falls open, for heaving, desperate breaths, just memorizing each detail he can because it’s perfect, it’s what Rick’s wanted, and Daryl’s so—Daryl’s just—

Absolutely, utterly breathtaking.

Rick has to take a moment to catch his breath, because Daryl’s so beautiful like this, his hair matted, sweat-soaked and dark, the blue of his eyes seized entirely by black. His lips are kiss-swollen, full, and redder than the ripest berries Rick’s ever tasted, and he can’t help but slant his body forward, to capture Daryl’s mouth for another kiss. For a taste of him that’s sweeter and filthier than any fruit Rick’s ever known.

Daryl whimpers at the motion, because it drives Rick that much deeper, and Rick swallows the sound of it, the wounded, hurt little cries, with the greediest of kisses. Takes them all into himself, because these sounds Daryl’s making, these shivering sighs and cries and moans, are all for Rick, and Rick alone.

They have to shift their positions to find one that works better, to let Rick keep rocking forward, but then Daryl tilts his hips just a touch and Rick arches his back just so, and Daryl’s soft gasp and wince lets Rick know that he’s bottomed out. That he’s as one with Daryl as he can be.

“All right?” Rick breathes, cupping Daryl’s cheek with his palm. He kisses the corners of Daryl’s mouth, soft, safe, not daring to move otherwise until the furrow of pain’s gone from Daryl’s brow. He’s got to make this as good for Daryl as it is for him.

“Just…” Daryl winds his arms around Rick’s neck, returning kisses as good as he gets, but only manages small fragments of words between breaths. “Need…” Daryl tries. “A minute.” He closes his eyes and sighs. “Fuckin’ hurts.”

Rick has to bite back a laugh, because that’s Daryl, all right. “Take all the time you need,” he says, just glad that Daryl hasn’t thrown Rick off him with an It hurts and I never want to do it again.

It’s another minute, two, of just sharing breathy kisses to lips and noses and cheeks, and hands exploring each other’s bodies, before Daryl finally nods. “You can move,” he says. “But slow.”

Rick hums as he undulates his hips, gentle, taking care to watch for any signs of pain. Like this? he asks through raised eyebrows, and a soft, hesitant kiss. He’s thoroughly encouraged when Daryl gives him a tiny nod, permission to continue with the slow, leisurely rhythm he’s built up between them.

And when Daryl looks like he’s adjusted to Rick’s length inside him, his girth, Rick raises himself on his elbows, slipping arms beneath Daryl’s shoulders as he pulls back. Pushes back in with a thrust that’s got weight and force behind it, and watches as Daryl’s eyes fly open, panicked, a cry startled from him.

“Is that okay?” Rick asks. “I can stop—”

“No,” says Daryl, “don’t you dare. I’ll tell you if I need you to, but don’t.”

So Rick does it again, pulling back each time, before sinking deep into Daryl once more, until his thrusts come deeper and faster, and as Daryl starts begging, harder.

“More,” Daryl breathes, “more.” And Rick’s rewarded when he complies, gripping Daryl’s thighs and settling them in the crooks of his elbows while thrusting up and in, as Daryl cries out, his fingers twisted into the sheets.

It’s not long before Daryl’s biting the back of his hand to keep quiet, clamping fingers over his mouth, the action doing little to stifle the endearing little ah’s and nngh’s that escape, regardless.

“You worried they’ll hear us downstairs?” Rick asks, careful to hold in the laugh that wants to bubble out. In case Daryl thinks Rick’s laughing at him. “The tenants in the basement suite?”

“They’ll hear me,” Daryl snorts, lifting fingers from his mouth to reply, and this time, Rick grins, wolfish, sharp, as he startles another ah from Daryl before he’s finished talking. A lovely high note that earns him the most wrathful glare.

“Let me hear you,” says Rick, too drunk on the sound of Daryl’s pleasure to care. He lets Daryl’s legs slip from his elbows, and twines their hands together, to pin Daryl’s to the bed. “Let me hear you, and I promise you can do the same to me.”

He makes sure to move his hips in a well-aimed thrust, striking what he thinks is Daryl’s prostate head on. Revels in the actual howl Daryl makes as Rick does it again and again, the choked breaths, the tears forming at the corners of Daryl’s eyes, each sign of Daryl’s arousal a pulse of pleasure straight to Rick’s cock.

Daryl catches onto Rick’s game fast, biting down on his lip instead to keep quiet, but Rick won’t let him, coaxing Daryl’s mouth open with his lips, his tongue, for clumsy, off-centre kisses that ensure Daryl has to cry out, has to be heard.

“Fine,” Daryl breathes, when it’s clear Rick won’t let the sound of him go unheard. “You win. But I’m gonna make you regret that promise, just you wait.”

“Mmh,” Rick says, smiling, because he’s looking forward to it, of course.

For now, though, he busies himself with kissing Daryl’s mouth, his neck, tasting every part of him Rick can reach. There’d been a few drops of precome dotting the landscape of Daryl’s belly when they’d started, but now that it’s become a small, steady pool, Rick wants to taste that too. Wants to drag his tongue through the dusting of hair on Daryl’s belly and lap into the sweetness that’s built up between them. So with a little manoeuvring, he lets Daryl’s feet settle on either side of him, pulling out slowly and sliding down so he can nestle between Daryl’s legs. Curls his arms around Daryl’s thighs until they’re resting in the crooks of his elbows and dips his head into the plane of Daryl’s belly, tongue licking a stripe over faint hair, before coming to a stop over his navel.

“Rick?” Daryl asks. It’s an inquiry of what’re you doin’ and why’d you stop, all at once.

Rick only hums and laps into Daryl’s navel where a healthy amount of precome’s pooled up, tasting salt and warmth, and he’s working his way toward the soft nest of curls, licking his way to the base of Daryl’s cock, the shaft, the head, when Daryl’s hand tangles in Rick’s hair and he hears a hissed wait.

“There’s somethin’ I wanna try,” Daryl says, hesitant, but Rick’s already nodding, because this has all been about trying and experimenting and seeing what kinds of things bring pleasure to both of them.

He lets Daryl push him onto his back, even if he misses the taste of Daryl’s cock, wishes he could bring him to completion before finding his own in Daryl, but it’s only fair that Daryl gets what he wants too. So he’s not expecting it at all when Daryl swings a leg over Rick’s hips, straddling him, thighs braced on either side of him as Rick’s cock nudges against his ass.

Daryl? he asks, with his furrowed brow.

Daryl only darts forward for a quick, reassuring kiss, before reaching back to stroke Rick’s cock with a hand, And before Rick can make another sound, can ask what Daryl intends to do, Daryl’s lifted his hips and is sinking down onto Rick, for a lovely, slow slide that has Rick tensing and moaning as Daryl goes.

Fuck,” Rick manages, the most coherent word he can find his repertoire, and Daryl must take it as the compliment it’s meant to be, because he just grins and lifts his hips again, slowly at first, then faster, his movements finding their rhythm until he’s bouncing hard in Rick’s lap and Rick can do nothing but hold on, to Daryl’s hips, his thighs, watching Daryl ride him like he’s some wild bronco at a rodeo. “You feel so good,” he says, between the moans Daryl forces out of him, when he’s finally found words, found something that’s not fuck and good and Daryl, because being with Daryl like this is more than Rick’s ever hoped for, and no one can blame him for being so overwhelmed for a moment. “So good.”

It’s like Daryl’s found his groove, his hands braced on Rick’s shoulders as he takes control from where he is, from how deep Rick can push inside him to the pace of their lovemaking—and it strikes Rick that, yes, that’s what this is, and he looks into Daryl’s eyes, thinking I want this, want you, want forever, knowing he won’t give this up for anything else.

And at Daryl’s sudden, sharp cry, Rick realizes he’s gripped Daryl’s hips bruisingly tight, pushing into him hard from below, stepping up their rhythm into a frenzied pace, and he can’t hold back now, because it’d been so good, hadn’t realized how close he was, and Daryl’s mouth is so sweetly red, so inviting, that Rick reaches out for him, throwing his arms around Daryl’s neck and tugging him in for kiss after kiss after kiss as he keeps thrusting hard from below, making sure he angles himself just right for Daryl’s benefit.

“Rick, wait. Wait,” Daryl gasps, his nails raking trails of raw heat into Rick’s shoulders where his fingers have clawed into flesh. “I can’t—”

And Rick tries, he really does, to listen, to wait as Daryl’s asked, but a cry’s torn from Rick’s throat a second later, and he pulls Daryl in, sinking teeth into his neck, shuddering and shaking as he spills deep inside Daryl, hot and wet and hard. “Daryl,” he sobs. “Daryl.”

Above him, Daryl’s shaking apart himself, and there’s a sudden heat on Rick’s belly, his chest, his jaw, before Daryl collapses him on him, boneless, like the strength’s just left his limbs all at once.

They spend a moment catching their breath, waiting until their harsh, heaving panting gives way to the softer breaths of bliss and wonder and hopefulness, and Rick tangles fingers into Daryl’s hair, to bring him in for a kiss, catching Daryl’s gaze in his hooded eyes and keeping it.

“What were you tryin’ to say, earlier?” Rick asks, making his apology through kisses to nose and lips that he couldn’t wait as Daryl had asked. He catches Daryl’s lower lip between his teeth, and nibbles, teasing.

“Nothin’,” says Daryl. “Just that I wasn’t gonna last much longer. Seems to me though, neither were you,” he adds, thoughtful, and Rick can’t help but laugh.

And maybe it’s not appropriate, what he desperately wants to say, because he’s heard how you’re not supposed to say stupid stuff like this after sex—that it’s only the hormones talking, that it’s your body on a high—but Rick’s pretty sure of what he’s feeling, and the last thing it is, is stupid.

“I love you,” he says, cupping Daryl’s cheeks in his hands, making sure Daryl’s looking at him, and hearing his words, so he can know the depth of feeling, the weight of truth behind them. Brushes away a lock of hair that’s fallen over Daryl’s brow, and tucks it behind his ear. He braces himself for the me too, or the yeah that he’s sure will come, or the other words that’ll mean Daryl doesn’t feel as much or as deeply, even if he knows that’s an irrational fear.

Because it’s obvious to Rick now, how much Daryl does, from every action he takes and every move he makes, in which he’s always, always keeping Rick in mind first.

Daryl blinks at the sentiment, like he’s still not used to it. There’s a twitch of a smile at Daryl’s mouth, before he realizes there’s no need to hide his happiness around Rick, and it turns into a grin, full and lovely and wide as he hums and drops a clumsy kiss to Rick’s nose.

“I love you too,” says Daryl, surprising a tiny gasp from Rick as he leans in to take Rick’s mouth for the wettest, filthiest kiss, his tongue pressed so deep it feels like it’s in Rick’s throat. Daryl winces as Rick slips out of him, but Rick’s there with a hand to soothe his back, rubbing circles softly into the base of his spine. “You know I do. But damn, we sure made a mess.” He’s still grinning as he says it, though, and Rick can’t feel too bad as Daryl reaches for a rag in the nightstand to clean them off, only laughs and squirms away when Daryl’s touch upon skin feels almost like he’s being tickled.

“Stop,” Rick giggles, “stop.” But he’s dodging Daryl every which way as he talks that it ends up sounding more like staaahp, and when they tire themselves out—or rather, Daryl just throws the balled-up rag at him and tells him to clean himself up if he’s going to be like this—they curl together on the bed, just like they always have, Rick’s hips and knees and toes against Daryl’s, perfect in their alignment.

“You know,” says Daryl, winding his fingers through the hand Rick’s thrown over his waist, “I always wondered if you knew you were doin’ it.”

“Doin’ what?” asks Rick. He shuffles closer to hear Daryl’s answer, and Daryl’s hand tightens around his, like a stealthy, slow-springing trap.

“This cuddlin’ thing. Whenever we shared a bed.”

Oh. Rick stills instantly. Oh, shit. Maybe it hadn’t been the first time, but Daryl must have been awake some of the instances after, and god, Rick feels his face flush hotter than an over-fuelled barbeque. He makes to move away, but Daryl must have seen this coming, because he tugs Rick back by the hand, like he won’t let him go anywhere, now that he’s got him.

“I was thinkin’ that maybe we coulda gotten here a lot sooner, if I. If I’d just tried.” Daryl turns in Rick’s arms now. “Just like I’m doin’ now. If I’d just turned around and…” He swallows hard, and Rick knows from that that Daryl’s blamed himself too, for how long they took to get here. To know what they are to each other.

“We’re here now,” Rick says gently. “That’s all that matters.”

Daryl’s eyes dart away for a moment, before he swallows again, and this time he slants their mouths together for a kiss, one that’s softer and sweeter than the ones they’d shared earlier. “Yeah,” he says finally, smiling against Rick’s mouth. “You’re right.”

Rick’s awake for minutes longer after Daryl’s drifted off to sleep, just thinking about the things they’ve said and shared and talked about, all in the last few hours. And maybe it’s true that neither of them dared, for the longest time, to take the plunge, to say the words, because they’d both been afraid, but they’d done everything else in their power to show it, which is fine, because they’d gotten there in the end.

He’s starting to realize from this that love isn’t always in the grand, sweeping gestures, and dramatic confessions in the rain or snow, or whatever the hell’s popular on television these days. That it can manifest itself in little things, in little touches and kindnesses, all the ways they’d shown each other over the months how they felt, whether it was through an extra toothbrush or shirt, the sharing of a bed, or even a customized cake. Rick’s only sorry he was too blind to see Daryl’s gestures for what they were, too worried about how he was going to make the grandest gesture.

And Daryl—Daryl had seen, but hadn’t wanted to acknowledge, in case it wasn’t what Rick meant. Because it’d hurt a whole lot less, if Daryl decided it’d been a whole lot of nothing, in the end.

Rick spares a moment to wonder just how long Daryl’s been trying to tell him the same damn thing, marvelling at how Daryl had stayed for so long despite all this, but he decides that’s not a thought worth dwelling on anymore, because Daryl’s here, in his arms, and that’s more than Rick could have ever hoped for.

He lets his feelings show through new ways now, the ways he’s always wanted, through little kisses to the nape of Daryl’s neck. His fingers curled gentle around Daryl’s wrist, to feel the steady thrum of his pulse. Wonders, hopes, and imagines how many more ways he’ll find, in the days to come. The seasons. The years.

It’s with this thought, and the feeling of Daryl warm and snug against him, that Rick finally finds a peaceful rest of his own.

~


The time draws nearer to noon before either of them wakes again, and even if the sunlight’s muted by the frost on the windows, there’s enough of it to shine through the curtains, bathing everything in a soft, cornsilk glow.

This time, it’s Rick who’s in charge of kissing your lover awake duties, and he takes to his task with all the enthusiasm of a kid in a candy store, nosing his way through Daryl’s hair to get at his neck. Graces the soft spot behind his ear with a number of concentric kisses, before moving on to the nape of his neck, vulnerable now that his curls have been nudged away. The dip of his back between his shoulder blades.

Daryl makes a lovely little snuffling noise and snuggles deeper into the blankets, like he’s trying to get away, but Rick follows him down into the covers, because Daryl’s never getting away again—not now, not ever, and especially not on Christmas Day.

It’s not long before Daryl gives in, finally stops curling and tunnelling his way through the blankets, putting a stop to their little game of blanket tag. Lets Rick nuzzle into him, arms wrapped around Daryl’s waist.

Rick takes the opportunity to tuck his chin into Daryl’s neck and rub, because the faintest shadow of a beard’s already starting to come in, and the scrape of his jaw against smooth skin fires the feeling of mine in Rick’s chest like nothing else.

Only, Daryl knocks him away sleepily, murmuring something about how beard burn is actually at the bottom of his Christmas wishlist.

Rick nudges into his space again, careful this time, and he’s about to ask Daryl what was at the top, but by the way Daryl lowers the covers, just for a second, and turns to peek over them at Rick, it’s obvious.

“Oh. You too,” Rick says, with a grin that’s every kind of goofy, as a blossom of warmth unfurls in his chest. “At the top of mine.”

Leave me alone then, Daryl says through his cocooning into the sheets. Or you ain’t never gonna cross that item off.

“Daryl,” Rick breathes, because apparently Daryl’s grumpiness isn’t enough to dampen his Christmas spirit. “Daryl.” Makes sure the smoothest part of his jaw’s the only point of contact with Daryl instead, because he could spend all morning just nuzzling into him. Pulls himself away from the temptation of that by shifting onto Daryl’s other side, until he can look into Daryl’s eyes, and wraps his arms around Daryl’s cocooned form, blankets and all. “Merry Christmas,” he says, his own eyes bright with excitement. “For real, this time.”

Neither of them are counting the bleary-eyed wake up from earlier as waking up on Christmas morning, so this is what’ll pass for Christmas, here in this little room.

“All right, all right, I’m up,” says Daryl, yawning, like he’s given up on trying to get more sleep. Rubs away the speck of grit at the corner of his eye. “Did Santa come while we were asleep?” he asks, with a sleepy half-smile.

No, but you sure did last night, Rick wants to say, before deciding it’s a joke in poor taste. “He didn’t,” Rick says, unable to stop his grin from shining through anyway. “But if we swing by my place, you might find he’s left a little somethin’ for you there.”

Daryl actually giggles at that, and Rick’s about to attribute this to him being soft and vulnerable, his guard down completely in the mornings, when Daryl elbows him aside on his way to get to the closet.

No, not vulnerable at all.

“Where’re you goin’?” asks Rick, sorry to see Daryl leave the comfort of their blanket nest so soon. He tries to tug Daryl back in, his living dynamo of heat, but Daryl’s insistent about getting something from out of the closet, even if his feet keep tangling in the blankets, or Rick’s limbs, which may or may not be entirely intentional on Rick’s part.

“Got somethin’ for you,” Daryl says, turning back from his arduous journey to explain. “Was gonna give it to you today, when I came over to help make dinner. You know, before…” There’s a touch of shyness in his expression and a telltale flush creeping over his cheeks. The tips of his ears. And when it reaches the tip of his nose, Rick can’t help but draw him in and kiss him, again and again, for how it’s all kinds of adorable.

Stop,” Daryl says, trying to fend off Rick’s kisses, though he doesn’t try very hard, even letting two or three make it through. “Keep this up, and you ain’t never gonna know what your gift is.”

“You mean you got me somethin’ besides you?” Rick grins, lazy and soft.

That only serves to intensify the blush that’s flaring across Daryl’s cheeks, and this time Rick kisses the twin spots of color, cherry-bright despite the cold of the room, because he can do that now. He can show how much he wants and loves and adores Daryl, without being afraid.

When Daryl finally catches on to what Rick’s doing with the blankets—namely, trapping him inside them like he would a small animal, or a lover he’s not ready to let go of—Daryl winds his arms around Rick’s neck, and draws him in, distracting him with the sweetest kiss, one that’s all soft, clinging lips and just the tiniest scrape of teeth.

Then he promptly heaves the covers back, in one fluid motion, leaving Rick blinking in the cold, and huddling by himself on the bed, with a resentful little pout.

“I’ll be back,” Daryl promises, and maybe he’s feeling merciful today, because he pulls the covers back up to Rick’s chest when he leaves. Touches lips to his own hand and presses it to Rick’s hair, the kind of indirect kiss Rick’s given to Daryl so often before.

Rick mumbles a muffled agreement, and since Daryl’s out of the bed now, he decides to take the opportunity to ogle him in broad daylight. He’s imagined it, of course—the way Daryl looks buck naked—but until now, he’s never seen it in such detail, and Rick takes a moment to admire the taut line of Daryl’s ass. The bruises of his fingerprints pressed purple into Daryl’s skin, eager and keen and possessive. The free and easy swing of his cock, that Rick had in his mouth only short hours ago, and maybe inside him too, soon, if he has anything to say about it. And the scars on his back, remnants of a harder life than Rick ever wanted for Daryl, that make something in Rick’s chest hurt. But he vows to himself that when Daryl’s ready, Rick will kiss each and every one of them, to make them his, to mark off all the cruelties and hardships Daryl’s gone through that have made him the man he is today. Leave the demons emblazoned in ink along Daryl’s back the only demons he’ll ever have to suffer again.

“Gonna have to call you an eye doctor,” Daryl says, a package balanced in his hands as he slips back into bed. He sounds deeply concerned, his brow furrowed, which in itself, is worrying, because he only does that when he’s seriously bothered.

“Why’s that?” Rick asks. “Got somethin’ in my eye?”

“No,” Daryl says, snorting a laugh. “’Cause it looks like you need help puttin’ ‘em back in your head.”

Rick only laughs in turn, because there’s nothing wrong with Daryl catching him staring. In fact, he’s pleased, if the sudden flush of color in Daryl’s cheeks is anything to go by. He’s about to pull Daryl in for another kiss, because god he can’t get enough, when Daryl shoves Rick’s present into his hands.

It’s wrapped with garish green paper, the roll of which Rick can still see propped up in the corner of the room, and there’s a ragged piece patched onto it, as if Daryl ran out of paper on that side during the wrapping. Still, it’s the thought that counts, and Rick breathes in, appreciative, as he drifts fingers over the wrapped paper. He hadn’t expected anything from Daryl, because just his company is gift enough, but this—this is—

“Go on, then,” Daryl says. “It’s Christmas Day, what else you waitin’ for?”

And that’s all the permission Rick needs, as he presses an impulsive little thank you to Daryl’s lips and gets down to carefully tearing away the paper.

“Saw this, and I thought of you,” Daryl says, fingers picking at a loose thread in the sheets. “Thought maybe we could watch ‘em together,” he adds, when Rick reveals a boxed set of Robert Mitchum’s westerns that he’s never seen.

“Think I’d like that,” says Rick, smile so wide it hurts, because he appreciates the gesture and the thought that Daryl put into choosing it. Kisses Daryl again, and as he does so, thinks of the special bolts he’d bought for Daryl.

They’re ones to fit his crossbow, with lightweight, carbon shafts, and an increased wall thickness for durability; Rick had seen the way Daryl yanked his bolts from their quarry to reuse time and time again, and had stressed durability to the people at the hunting shop until one of them had rolled his eyes, slapped down a set and said Here you go.

He’d had a few other ideas too, like the boot rack he’d seen at the department store, or the hook meant to house a motorcycle helmet and gloves, but the one Rick had finally chosen, like Daryl’s gift, had been for an activity they could enjoy together.

“We’ll have to get a move on to my place,” Rick says, “if you want your gift.” He wonders when they won’t have to make the distinction between mine and yours anymore. But it’s early days yet, and Rick won’t risk what they’ve got right now for the sake of something more.

Daryl must see the look in his eyes, because he takes Rick’s hand, threading their fingers together, safe. “Want more than that,” he says simply. “So I guess we got a lot to talk about. How we’re gonna do this.” And Rick’s heart leaps anew in his chest, as he nods a yeah, absolutely into Daryl’s neck, because Daryl gets him, really gets him. “But first we gotta eat,” Daryl adds, “because I am goddamned hungry.”

Rick falls back against the pillows, laughing, because they’ve got plenty packed away at his place, including pecan pie and spiced apple pudding, and the rack of ribs they’ll probably burn since they’ll be too busy kissing. But he’s already making a plan to surprise Daryl with Christmas brunch, to make up for the dinner they missed making last night. And they’ve got a few hours in between, to work on whetting their appetites for Christmas dinner, but Rick can think of a few ideas—most of them involving the bed. Or the couch. Or the kitchen tab—

“Yeah,” Rick says, clearing his throat, and his mind, because Daryl’s already started to narrow his eyes at him, a look that clearly disapproves of his priorities. “We’ll have to eat first,” he says, assuring. “And then we’ll have to choose another movie for today, since we jumped the gun a little on It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Daryl hums, even as he toys with the curls by Rick’s ear. “Got any ideas?”

“How about Wings of Desire?” Rick suggests. It’s oddly fitting, he thinks.

“That the one about the angel wantin’ to leave Heaven and become human?” Daryl says. “’Cause of the one he loved?” He furrows his brow, like he doesn’t quite get it. “Ain’t much of a Christmas movie.”

“No,” says Rick, the smile on his face soft and adoring, as he gazes up at Daryl. “But I think it’s an us movie.” He glances over at the angel wing vest hanging on Daryl’s closet door, and when Daryl follows Rick’s gaze over, he laughs.

“You’re givin’ me too much credit,” Daryl says, shaking his head, like it’s the most ludicrous thing he’s ever heard. “I didn’t fall from Heaven or nothin’.”

Rick just keeps on smiling, the edges of it lazy and warm as he reaches up to stroke fingers through Daryl’s hair in turn. “Sure you did.”

Daryl rolls his eyes and snorts, but there’s a smile there, one that’s working its way into a full-on beam, like the light that’s always pulled Rick through, in good times and bad. And all Rick can think is Lucky for me that you did, that day on the sidewalk.

Lucky me
.

They spend long moments just basking in the glow of the early afternoon sun, a cheery pastel-brightness along the walls of the room. Just stroke and touch with feather-light fingertips, taking comfort in each other and the warmth of their bodies pressed together.

When you wanna head out? Daryl asks eventually, the question in his eyes. The change in the pattern he’s stroking along Rick’s chest.

Rick’s eyes drift open from where they’ve been half-lidded, drowsing in the light and Daryl’s warmth. “Later,” he says. “Just wanna spend a little longer here with you, for now.” He rolls into the remnant heat of the sheets, tugging Daryl in with him. “Maybe do some other things too,” he adds, waggling his eyebrows. “But first some cuddlin’. And some snugglin’.”

Daryl blushes at cuddling and snuggling, rather than what came before it, which Rick finds wholly endearing and rewards him with a gamut of feathery kisses to his nose for. But Daryl nods an all right into Rick’s shoulder, to his suggestions. Lets Rick wind arms around his neck to draw Daryl close in the bed once more.

“Cuddlin’,” Daryl all but demands, when they’re safely ensconced in the warmth of the sheets again.

And together, on this quiet Christmas day, as Rick hums his agreement and slips his arms and legs into the spaces between them, they do just that.


(tbc - Chapter 16)
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