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A Breath of Hope

Chapter Thirteen

"Son of a fucking twat!" Michonne curses at the filthy creature that continues to evade her grasp as it flutters and squawks about the yard. The dark woman also curses Rick Grimes for asking her to do this, as well as her boyfriend who stayed behind to repair the chicken coop at the Greene farm.

"Gotcha!" Maggie comes up with the fourth bird while Michonne tries throwing a towel over the enraged rooster, making it squawk even louder. Rick is standing by a large wire cage, ready to open the latch that already holds three agitated chickens, while the brown and black goat bleats from about twenty feet away.

Carl corners the fifth one against the red barn wall and falls on top of it, earning a peck to the hand before he can grab it securely. He stands up amid a cloud of dust and loses his grip on the bird in a fit of coughing. Michonne finally has her furious friend wrapped tightly inside a large towel and throws it unceremoniously into the cage, glaring at Rick as she does so. He offers a timid thanks, holding back a laugh for fear of her skill with a lethal blade. He knows the only reason she agreed to this was her love of scrambled eggs. Still, the deadly look in her eyes now makes him regret his decision to ask her at all.

Rick looks away to see Carl chasing his runaway bird toward the back corner of the barn. He smiles at the carefree way his son is pursuing the creature, running around in the dirt, laughing and cursing in the same breath like a normal fourteen year old boy until the charming site is quickly replaced by a vision that stops the man's heart. Rick watches as a very tall, very thin coyote steps around the corner of the building to challenge Carl for the food squawking between them. "Carl, don't move!" The beast growls at his son and then dashes toward the bird that has fled in terror from the additional threat. Rick grabs his gun from its holster and instinctively runs to protect his child.

"Hey, that's mine!" Carl picks up a small rock and hurls it at the mangy coyote, now crouched with the lifeless chicken in its jaws about fifteen feet away. The stone hits its mark and the animal lets go of its kill to focus once again on the boy, snarling in fury.

"Dammit, Carl!" Rick stops in front of his son, aiming his Colt Python at the wildly aggressive animal. Saliva drips from its mouth as the coyote crouches low, slowly advancing toward the humans. As the creature dips its shoulders and suddenly springs forward, a shot rings out, ripping a hole in the coyote's chest and echoing through the fields. Heart pounding, Rick looks back at his son, eyes full of fear and fury. "What the hell were you thinking?"

"I was thinking he was stealing our food!"

Rick curses the teenage wisdom of immortality and shoves his son toward the truck. "Let's get out of here before anything else shows up."

"What about my chicken?" Carl runs back to grab the dead bird.

"Fuck the damn chicken!" Rick roars at his incomprehensible son. "Get in the God damned truck!"

Carl tosses the bird in the bed of the truck and climbs into the back of the cab. Maggie has never seen Rick so incensed. She knows it stems more from fear of what could have been, than what actually was. "He's okay, Rick."

"He's a stupid kid, provoking a hungry animal like that. He could've been killed!"

"But he wasn't. He's fine. We're all fine." Maggie lays a settling hand on his arm. "Let's just get the cage in the truck and go home. At least we'll have a good dinner tonight," she says with a grin, trying to relieve some of the wrath emanating from his pores.

They hear the back door open and Carl steps out, head hung low. "I'm sorry dad. I'll help you with the cage." Remorse laces his sincere apology as he reaches down to lay his hands on the thick wire, waiting for his father to grab onto the other side.

Maggie squeezes Rick's arm with a warm smile before climbing into the truck with Michonne, leaving the two boys alone. The man stares at his son for a long moment before grasping onto the crate and heaving it up into the truck. Thunderous rage under control, he puts a hand on his son's shoulder before the teenager can walk away. "Listen, Carl, animals are very unpredictable these days. We're all starving. Next time you come face to face with something like that, you back the hell off. Okay?"

Carl nods his head as he gapes at the ground, teenage stubbornness preventing him from meeting his father's eyes.

Rick pulls his son against his chest for a brief moment, presses his lips to the top of his head and pushes him toward the open door of the truck. "Let's go home."

Michonne elbows Carl in the ribs when he sits back on the bench seat behind Maggie riding shotgun. "Idiot."

"Asswipe," he retorts with a grin.

"Scumbag."

"Dickweed."

The insults continue for three miles while the wiry goat follows the slow moving truck carrying her chickens to their new home.

~ / ~

Five days later, the air is a little cooler following yesterday's thunderstorms and the women are relaxing on the wraparound porch after working on the gardens all day. Beth occupies one chair, bouncing Judith on her knee, while Sasha and Carol sway on the creaky bench swing and Maggie and Michonne rest comfortably on the porch railing, backs against the weathered beams.

"Oh, I don't know about Robert Pattinson, Beth, but you can bet that Sylvester Stallone is just fine living out in the wilderness somewhere. That man can take care of himself." Carol fans herself and nudges Sasha on the bench next to her. "What about you Sash, who can you picture surviving out there?"

"Um, I love Tom Cruise. He can be very wily when he needs to be." Sasha looks over to the yard where the men are finishing up their days work on the trench.

"Wily only gets you so far." Michonne adds her two cents, swinging her leg like a pendulum on the side of the railing. "I'm sure Russell Crowe is still hanging out on his ranch in Australia. He'll slice anything that gets too close."

"And you know that Gerard Butler is still alive and well in Scotland," Maggie says with a big smile. "Nobody would dare mess with King Leonidas."

"Well here comes your real hero now, Maggie. Look, Judy, it's your dirty daddy." Beth holds the baby higher so she can see her father, covered in mud and God knows what else as he approaches the porch.

Rick grabs the railing and pulls himself up, coming up behind Maggie. He leans in to give her a kiss but comes up empty when she jumps off the railing after getting a good look and a strong whiff of him. "Eww, grimey Grimes! Do not touch me with those hands."

"Well, it wasn't my hands I was tryin' to touch you with." He puckers his lips to illustrate his intent.

She laughs at his adorably filthy face. "They aren't much better. Go take a shower and then we'll talk." She holds her hands in front of her to ward him off.

"Good idea. Let's go." He climbs the rest of the way over the railing, muddy boots dripping on the wooden slats of the porch.

"You're not stepping one foot in this house looking like that!" Carol bellows from the swing.

"Leave your clothes here and go on up," Maggie insists, agreeing with Carol.

He pulls his sullied tee shirt over his head and smiles through a layer of dirt, making his teeth look exceptionally white. "Come with me."

"Oh, you need a good twenty minutes with a bar of soap until I come near you."

"Give me ten minutes and then you can do my back." He leans against the railing to remove his boots and socks, and then stands up to unbuckle his belt. "Excuse me ladies." He walks around the corner, out of their line of sight to remove his mucky jeans. He leaves them on the porch and walks around back to enter the house through the kitchen. "Ten minutes, Mags!" He calls through the front screen door as he runs up the stairs in his boxer briefs.

Maggie rolls her eyes but the glint inside them reveals how happy she really is to obey his bold command. She collects his discarded jeans from the side of the house and tosses them on top of his shirt to be dealt with later. She looks up to see Daryl stepping up onto the porch, looking and smelling even worse than Rick. "Just leave your clothes here and then you can go in and take a shower."

"I'll just wash up in the creek." He turns to go and Maggie stops him.

"Wait, Daryl, you can go in through the kitchen. Just leave your clothes outside the back door."

"Don't worry about it. I'll just go over to the creek. No big deal."

Maggie looks at Carol as he walks away. "I can't believe he's still ashamed of his back. After all we've gone through together."

"He's gone through worse." Carol says softly, empathy shimmering in her eyes. "I'll go find some clothes for him to change into."

~ / ~

Maggie smiles as she reaches the second floor and hears the chorus of Bruce Springsteen's "I'll Work For Your Love" coming through the closed bathroom door. She stops in her bedroom for a few necessities and then goes to join Rick, still singing loudly in the shower. She opens the door and enters the steamy room, undressing quickly. Sliding the curtain a few inches, she steps into the back of the shower, coming up behind him as he finishes his song. She wraps her arms around his slick waist and presses her lips to the base of his neck.

"Shit, Sasha, I told you we couldn't do this tonight. Maggie's gonna come in any second!" He cries in a panic stricken voice.

Maggie slaps his ass and holds in her laughter. "So not funny, Grimes." She steps away from him and he whirls around in the limited space, grabbing her hips and pulling her against him.

"Come on, maybe a little funny?" He kisses her neck and nuzzles her ear.

"Why don't I go ask her to come wash your back for you?" she teases as he cups her curvy behind and pushes his growing arousal against her belly.

"Nah, she doesn't do it as good as you. She doesn't get all my nooks and crannies like you do." He takes her hand from where it had been resting on his shoulder and brings it down between their bodies, guiding it to grasp his cock. She strokes his length and he captures her mouth, sliding his wet lips over hers and plunging his warm tongue inside, passion burning as the steam rises in the small room. He reaches down between her long legs to massage the delicate folds, already wet with need. "Did you bring somethin'?"

"Yeah, it's on the sink."

He sticks an arm around the curtain and grabs the condom while Maggie gets herself fully wet under the hot spray. He opens the foil package and hands the rubber to her, tossing the wrapper back into the sink. She rolls it over his shaft and lifts her leg over his hip, trying to line herself up with his erection.

"Hold on to me, honey." He bends slightly to grasp the backs of her thighs as she clutches onto his shoulders, binding her legs around his waist as he lifts her up against the tiled wall. Finding her opening, he glides swiftly, deeply inside her warm body. Fulfilling each other with every thrust, breathless words of love are murmured under the steady spray of hot water until they are both completely spent.

~ / ~

The setting sun turns the sky into a potpourri of blues, reds and ambers as Carol walks toward the stream with a pair of cargo pants, black tee shirt, towel, wash cloth and a bar of soap. She finds Daryl sitting on a large rock, staring at the shadowy reflections of the trees gleaming on the surface of the water. "Here, you might need these." She places the items on another flat rock and sits down next to him.

"Thanks, I was about to go back and get 'em." He continues to stare at the water, unable to meet her eyes.

"You know you don't have to hide from us, Daryl."

"I ain't hidin'," he says defensively.

"Then I'll wait right here while you wash up. I'll keep a lookout for you." She puts her hand above her eyes in a mocking search for danger.

"I ain't hidin', and I certainly don't need ya here," he says calmly as he pokes a stick in the dirt at his feet.

"Whether you need me or not, I'm staying." She bends over to remove her boots and socks. She rolls up her pants and walks a short ways upstream to step into the cool water, upsetting a large frog that had been sitting nearby. "Oh, this feels wonderful!"

"Do you mind?" The annoyance in his tone is lost on her. "I need to get cleaned up here."

"Go ahead, there's plenty of room. Don't worry, I won't peek."

"Damned woman," he mutters as he begins to undress. "Just stay over there!"

"No problem," Carol calls back over her shoulder. A few moments later, she hears the sound of water splashing lightly as he steps into the stream. She keeps her back turned as she walks out onto dry land to remove her jeans and top, and then wades back in wearing only her bra and panties.

Daryl looks up from washing his legs and almost squeezes the soap right out of his hand at the sight before him. Carol is standing in the water up to her thighs, slightly bent at the waist, giving him a clear view of a tramp stamp tattooed on her lower back. He never would have believed it if he hadn't seen it himself. "Nice tat." The words are out of his mouth before he can think and he curses himself for his stupidity. "Uh, sorry. I didn't mean to look," he sputters as he begins to scrub his legs more thoroughly than necessary.

"Well, thank you. It hurt like hell when I got it," she tells him over her shoulder, keeping her promise not to look downstream. "Stupid thing is – I didn't even want it. Ed had made some comment that he liked the tattoo on some girl so I figured it would make him happy if I got one. Turned out, he liked the girl, not so much the tattoo. If you look closely, you'll see the three cigarette burns that he decorated it with." Carol holds her breath, hoping to hear the break in the water as it ripples around his form if he does indeed decide to come closer. After too many moments of silence, she releases her forlorn breath believing he isn't going to come to her. She drops her chin to her chest in disappointment, and then hears the water stirring closely behind her.

Notes

The next chapter is for all of you Caryl shippers out there. I hope you enjoy it.

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