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A Breath of Hope

Chapter Eleven

With the sun falling below the horizon and the moon lazily making its way up over the mountaintops to settle in for the long night, it is not completely dark outside but it's getting there.

The group is relaxing in the living room, not planning or strategizing, or even worrying about things to come. They are just enjoying each other's company after their brief time apart. The lights will work off the generator out back, but they have several candles lit to conserve their precious energy. Rick's arm rests across Maggie's shoulders with their hands linked as she leans against him on the love seat. Stretched out on the couch with an arm dangling over the edge, Daryl strokes the soft fur of the dog lying directly beneath him. Bailey had taken a special interest in the redneck. She loved everyone from the start, as labs are wont to do, but she had become Daryl's shadow since the moment they met, as if they were some kind of kindred spirits. While watching Beth and Carl play with Judy on the floor in the center of the room, the hunter and the retriever both pick their heads up simultaneously, hearing something that the others have yet to notice.

"What is it Daryl?" Rick asks when he sees the tension in his friend's shoulders as he leans forward on the couch.

"Someone's comin'."

"Stay here," Rick advises Maggie as he gets to his feet quickly and darts to the side of the window that faces out through the front porch. He takes the gun from its holster while Daryl loads an arrow into his crossbow and positions himself at the other living room window. Rick peers around the curtain at the edge of the glass pane and sees three figures walking next to something very large. "What is that?" He whispers to his partner.

As the figures get closer, the large object morphs into a horse carrying a rider with long dreadlocks. "It's them!" Daryl practically screeches, uncharacteristically excited.

"Thank God!" Rick releases the breath he'd been holding and turns back to the others, grinning like a kid on Christmas morning. "It's Michonne. With three others. Come on."

They all follow Daryl out the front door to greet their waylaid friends. There are hugs all around but Rick notices one that outshines all the rest – Daryl and Carol are holding onto each other much longer than anyone else.

As the minutes turn into hours and exhaustion takes hold with Carol setting off a relay of yawns among the reunited survivors, Beth asks, "So what'll the room situation be with everyone here now?"

"Michonne and Ty can have the master bedroom," Rick begins, knowing that it would be too difficult for Maggie or Beth to sleep in Hershel's old room. "Judy and I will stay with Maggie in her room," he continues, looking at Maggie for approval and smiling with relief when she nods her head happily in assurance. "Carol can stay with Beth, Carl can have the fourth bedroom upstairs and Daryl and Sasha can have the two bedrooms down here."

"Can I sleep downstairs dad?"

"Ah, sure, Sasha will take the room upstairs then." He looks at the bronze skinned woman for acceptance and receives a nod and a smile of agreement. Carl's face lights up and Rick knows his son is excited to be bunking near his idol.

"Good, he can protect me." The hunter winks at the teenager though his ascetic expression never changes.

"Is that alright with everyone?" Rick asks the group, not wanting to sound like the dictator that he'd once become for a short time a while back.

Words of agreement float about the room but Beth and Carol look at each other, reading each other's thoughts. Beth raises her eyebrows in a silent plea and Carol nods her head. "Rick," the older woman begins, with her index finger clamped inside Judith's pudgy hand as the baby rests comfortably in her father's strong arms. "We wouldn't mind keeping Judy with us if you and Maggie wanted some privacy."

"Thanks, Carol, but that's okay." At the disappointed looks on the two women's faces, he realizes that Carol wasn't just offering to be polite – they really wanted Judith to stay with them, and he doesn't have the heart to turn them down. In fact, it would work out rather nicely to give him some time alone with Maggie. "But we can switch off every few nights," he adds quickly, "if you wouldn't mind."

"Great. We'll just keep her tonight then since the playpen is already set up in my bedroom." Beth reaches for the little girl who goes to her willingly. "Say goodnight to daddy, princess."

"Goodnight, sweetheart. Daddy loves you very much." He kisses the top of her head and then her small hand as she grabs his whiskered cheek.

The house settles with the stillness of the night once everyone has gone off to bed. Michonne and Tyreese are on the front porch keeping first watch while Daryl leans against the kitchen counter with a glass of water. Bailey is at his feet as they listen to Carl's soft snores coming from the boy's new bedroom. Though he'd been living in the house for the past four days, it hadn't really felt like home…until now.

~ / ~

Daryl enjoys the peaceful calm of the early morning as his stealthy feet walk soundlessly up the stairs to the second level. He knocks quietly on the door to Maggie's bedroom. "Rick?" He whispers semi-loudly, face within a hairsbreadth of the doorjamb.

The hunter hears a muffled expletive followed by a breathless, "Yeah."

"Are you up? Wanna go hunt before we take a ride back for your supplies?"

"Give me ten minutes. Ahh…"

Daryl smiles at the muted sounds of lovemaking. "Ten minutes, huh?"

"Fuck off, Dixon!"

He chuckles with every step back down the stairs. What a way to start the day, he thinks to himself. God, it’s good to have them back.

~ / ~

Rick clutches the turquoise sheets in his fists, trying to maintain some control while Maggie drives him out of his mind. The sun is just beginning to brighten the light blue walls of the bedroom, but it is vibrant starbursts that dance behind his eyes.

"Oh, baby," Rick breaths heavily as Maggie's hands and mouth work wonders on him. "Slow down, or you're gonna make me come." His words seem to have the opposite effect on her and instead of slowing down – she bobs her head faster and squeezes her hand tighter. "Christ, honey, I'm gonna come in your mouth!" His whispered declaration goes unanswered as she continues sucking. "Oh, God, you do want me to come in your mouth, don't you?"

"Mmhmm…" She continues driving him senseless.

"Christ." Rick clenches his teeth almost painfully and holds her head in his hands, thrusting slightly into her mouth, not wanting to gag her, but no longer able to keep his hips still. A few moments and several strokes later, his balls constrict and hot seed spills into her warm mouth and down her slender throat.

"Oh my God, I can't believe you just did that." He draws her into his arms and holds her tightly against his chest.

"I can't believe I did that either," she replies with a proud Cheshire grin splitting her face. "I wanted to be your first for something."

"Oh honey, you're my first for everything. Don't you know that?"

"Now you tell me." Maggie rolls her eyes and makes a gagging gesture with her finger. Rick laughs and hugs her harder. "Do you know what the difference is between like and love?" She asks him sweetly.

"No, what?" He answers, still chuckling.

"Spit and swallow," she giggles and kisses his bare chest.

"Hah! You really do love me!" He laughs and presses his mouth against her hair.

"Told ya."

~ / ~

Daryl follows the trail of what could be a good sized deer while Rick just follows Daryl. The ex-sheriff has learned some of the hunter's skills over the last year and a half, but he doesn't see most of the signs that Daryl spots easily.

"So, you and Maggie, huh? That's nice. You deserve each other."

"Thanks. We're happy."

"Yeah, I, uh, heard how happy you were this mornin'." Daryl grins at his partner as he squats down to inspect some leaves.

"Yeah, your timing sucks!"

Bailey trots over to Daryl and sticks her nose under his hand for attention while he is down at her level. "Watch out girl. Gotta teach you how to be a huntin' dog." He massages her silky ears and plants a kiss on her forehead before standing up again.

"So, what about you and Carol?"

"What about us?"

"Well, you obviously care about each other," Rick probes.

"Yeah, we're friends, so what." Daryl shrugs his shoulder as he looks at the ground and walks further up the trail, clearly not comfortable with this line of questioning.

"So maybe it's time you guys got together."

"Ain't never gonna happen."

"Why not? She's crazy about you." Rick steps around a large moss covered rock protruding from the ground.

"She'd be crazy to want me."

Daryl is looking down at the trail, but Rick doesn't think he's actually seeing what's in front of him. "Why do you say that?" He hates the self-loathing he hears in Daryl's voice and curses Merle Dixon and his family to the devil for what he put this man through.

"I'm not good enough for her, and it ain't ever gonna happen so just drop it." He looks at Rick with such remorse for the damaged soul that was no fault of his own.

Rick's heart breaks for his brother. He wishes he could convince him that he is worthy of being loved, but there is only one person that can accomplish that. "She has plenty of scars herself, Daryl. They're just not as visible as yours."

"Look, just 'cause yer deliriously happy in love don't mean everyone's gotta be!" The sudden vehemence of Daryl's voice has Bailey stopping in her tracks and slinking to his side.

"I know man, but don't you want to be at least moderately happy?"

"I am happy, dammit! Now leave it be. Yer scaring away the animals."

Rick lets it go, knowing that it's not the furry creatures dwelling in the forest that he's truly scaring.

~ / ~

The reunited family is sitting down to a breakfast of oatmeal, dry cereal, peaches and apples when Carl comes bounding in after learning how to clean and dress the doe that Daryl had killed earlier that morning.

"Hey, Dad, Daryl wants to build a moat!"

"Not a moat!" The redneck corrects, walking in behind the excited teenager. "A trench."

"What's this? A trench around the farm?" Rick asks dubiously, holding his daughter on his lap while trying to get her to eat some disgusting looking gunk from a baby food jar.

"Well, not the whole farm - just the house mainly." He clarifies with a slight mumble to the words, suddenly not sure of his unconventional idea when all eyes are upon him. "I think it could keep the walkers from gettin' too close if we get another herd blowin' through."

"Huh," Rick considers, "that would work if we could make it deep enough and wide enough. But it's an awfully big job."

"I know." Daryl speaks faster after removing the fingernail that he'd started chewing on, excited now at the acceptance of his crazy idea. "But we can get a trencher attachment to hook up to one of Hershel's tractors. We'll still have to dig some to get it big enough, but it will definitely give us a good start."

"My dad had a trencher but Mr. Casey borrowed it." Beth informs them as she slices up an apple. "I remember hearing him complain about not getting it back. It must still be there."

"Where is that?" Rick asks, getting excited about the idea himself now. A deep trench could be just as effective as the high fences were at the prison.

"His farm is about three miles up the road on the other side. Not too far if you wanna go get it." Beth answers. "I'll come with you if you want."

"Can I come too?" Carl quickly jumps on the bandwagon.

"Sure," Rick answers, not sure if his son is more excited about doing something with Beth or with Daryl. "But first, Daryl and I are gonna run back to Bailey Lane to get the supplies we left there before someone else grabs 'em." Besides the much needed food and baby supplies, he really wants to get the pretty green dress that he'd seen Maggie admiring in Mrs. Roberts' closet.

"Can I come with you?"

"Not this time, Carl. I want to leave as much room in the car as possible so we can fit everything. I'm gonna clean out their closets so we'll bring back plenty of clothes too. Why don't you and Tyreese walk around the house and figure out the best places to dig a trench?"

"Yeah!" Carl is quick to answer, happy to be doing something as important, and cool, as working on building a moat – even if it is only a trench. "Beth, you wanna help us?"

Rick exchanges a knowing smile with Maggie who is perched on the counter, rubbing her thumb over the soft fuzz of a Georgia peach. She shakes her head at him slightly, warning him to hold in his laughter.

Notes

Comments

:D

The Viking The Viking
1/22/15

Deffinately not a couple that i had ever given thought to, but you write it very well and I actully really like the story :)

Jbmediazz Jbmediazz
12/14/14

LOVE your story!! Rick and Maggie are one of my favorite pairings, and you certainly do them justice! ;) Keep up the awesome work!

~Ariel

bluecrush611 bluecrush611
12/14/14

I really like this story - keep the updates coming!

LaurenJ LaurenJ
12/7/14