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A Breath of Hope

Chapter Six

Beth spends the days cleaning the entire house and taking care of Judy while Daryl works on mending the damaged fences with some wood that he'd found stacked behind a shed. The river was flowing nicely to keep the walkers away on the eastern border but he needed to reinforce the surrounding fences so they could try to live a relatively peaceful existence. In time he would like to fortify the land with a more solid barricade than wood and nails, but for now they would have to do.

While hammering a warped two by four onto a weathered fencepost, his thoughts drift to his missing family members. It's strange to think of them as family, but at the same time - it feels right. He realizes that maybe 'Family' means more than being connected by blood. It's a connection that makes you willing to sacrifice your own comfort and happiness for the sake of another's. A sacrifice that his real brother had never been willing to make for him.

Before thoughts of Merle can darken his mood, he thinks of Lil Ass-kicker and hopes that Rick will be comfortable in Hershel's room, not even entertaining the possibility that his brother may not make it back to the farm. He just hopes they get there soon.

Turning to reach for another board, Daryl is stunned by the sight before him. Standing about thirty feet away, Nellie is grazing on the high grass between the fence line and the woods on the southern border.

"Well I'll be damned." The hunter smiles, pleased to see an old acquaintance.

With no intention of mounting the beast that had thrown him the last time they were together, Daryl retrieves a rope from Jimmy's pickup truck and slowly advances toward the brown mare. Whether she remembers him or not, she allows him to loop the rope over her twitching ears, probably grateful for human contact after all this time.

He leaves the truck parked in the field to lead the horse back up to the house, looking forward to seeing the expression on Beth's face at the sight of his find. Walking through the green pastures, his long stringy hair blows in the breeze, resembling the dark mane of the horse behind him. They walk along as two animals that were once wild and free, now tamed and happily tethered to others. Daryl steals a glance at the endless sky, nodding his thanks to Hershel.

---------

Maggie is drifting in that hazy place between dreams and reality when the warmth at her back solidifies and envelops her with a feeling of complete security. The hand on her breast adds to the feeling of sanctuary while bringing her fully awake. The warm mouth leaving moist impressions on her neck reminds her how much she is loved. The silky hardness pressing against her backside reminds her how much she needs this man.

She presses back against Rick's morning hard-on while his hand travels down to explore the delta between her legs. She opens up for him, giving full access to his wandering fingers while his cock nestles comfortably between the cleft of her cheeks.

His skilled fingers work deep inside her, exploring her hidden wonders. He curves a long finger to graze over the sweet spot that can send her soaring, his teeth nipping gently into the soft flesh below her ear while his fingers stroke her to climax.

While she is floating down from her release, his solid warmth leaves her body and she is vaguely aware of a ripping sound. A moment later his warmth is once again at her back and she feels a large hand behind her thigh, smoothly guiding it forward to lay her knee on the mattress in front of her.

Gripping her hip, he slips inside her hyper-stimulated sex to the sound of a husky whimper and loses himself completely.

~ / ~

"Good morning." Rick smiles at his son sitting at the kitchen table with a spoonful of cereal floating a few inches from his mouth while the book in his other hand absorbs all of his attention.

"Hey." Carl looks up at the breezy tone of his father's greeting, surprised at the wide grin spread across his bruised face. He swallows the waiting spoonful. "Are you alright?"

"Never better. How was the couch?"

"Okay. Better than the prison cots," he answers hesitantly, eyeing his dad while trying to figure out why he is acting so… happy.

Maggie strolls into the kitchen giving Carl a big smile. "Good morning."

"Hi," he says suspiciously, looking between the two glowing adults.

Maggie walks over to Rick who is standing at the counter pouring himself a bowl of dry cereal. She leans close to him, putting a hand on his lower back. "Hi," she murmurs softly.

"Hi," he whispers back, smiling at her against his shoulder. "You want some?"

"Holy shit!" The spoon Carl was holding clatters to the table.

"Carl!" Rick's parental instincts automatically take over to admonish the foul language, despite it being the end of a civilized world.

"Are you guys like… together now?" Carl asks with a mix of emotions on his young face.

Rick takes Maggie's hand in both of his. "Yes, we are." He stops breathing for the few moments it takes his son to process the information.

"Wow. It's weird… but I guess it's kinda cool. Wow." He looks at the couple and shakes his head. "Patrick always thought there was something going on with you guys, but I never believed him."

"Well, we were just friends all this time. We didn't realize it was something more than that until now," Maggie explains. "So, you're okay with this? With us…dating?" she asks, holding onto Rick's hands tight enough to make him wince, and hoping with all her heart that his son is accepting of their relationship. She knows Carl's happiness means everything to Rick, but she can't go back to being just friends with him after their night together. Not after everything they'd said… and did.

"Yeah. It's fine. I'm just glad it's you and not your sister – Beth is mine. Oh God!" Carl buries his bright red face in his hands, mortified that he'd confessed that out loud.

Maggie does a decent job of containing her laughter but Rick is a lost cause. He lets out a loud hoot followed by a few snorts until he has himself under control.

"It's alright buddy," Rick soothes, his voice wavering under the pressure of trying to hold back the laughter that desperately wants to escape. "We all know how you feel about Beth," he admits calmly, joyously relieved that Carl isn't upset about his new relationship with Maggie.

"Just kill me now, please," Carl mumbles into his hands.

The horrified angst in his young son's voice is music to Rick's ears. The sound of normal teenage humiliation trumps cold, calculated survival any day.

"Don't worry, Carl." Maggie puts a comforting hand on the boys shoulder. "In a few years when you're a little older, she'll be ready for you. Just hang in there," she says, not believing it to be true but hoping to restore his dignity regardless. "In the meantime, why don't you and I raid some houses on this block while your dad tries to steal us a car?" Maggie smiles brightly at Rick, the irony not lost on the ex-sheriff.

~ / ~

Several hours later, Rick is sitting on the porch steps awaiting their return. He is still tired and knows his body needs more sleep, but he also knows that he wouldn't be able to shut his eyes until his family is safely back with him. A warm breeze dances through the trees as he absently twists the gold band on his left ring finger. Thinking of a different family unit from another lifetime, he slips the ring off his finger, letting the memories it holds inside its precious metal be forever sealed as he puts the band inside his pocket. Looking up to the billowing clouds overhead, he says goodbye to a very dear friend.

Another ten minutes tick by before he spots Maggie and Carl coming out of a house at the other end of the street. They are each sporting a backpack and Carl is carrying a large red duffel bag while Maggie is hauling a small black suitcase. It looks like they were pretty successful on their run. He wishes he could say the same about his mission.

As they near the house, he gets up to give them a hand. "Wow, you guys did alright, huh?" He meets them in the middle of the driveway and reaches his left hand out to take the suitcase from Maggie. The weight of it surprises him and he raises his eyebrows at her, questioning its contents.

"We found quite of bit of canned food and juice boxes." She smiles radiantly at him. She hadn't really given it much thought before, but she finds herself unbelievably happy at seeing the white strip of skin at the top of his ring finger.

He smiles back, perceiving the reason for her joy. He nods his head, silently affirming the magnitude of his gesture. I am yours.

"I call the mandarin oranges and Twizzlers!" Carl exclaims, lugging his load up the walkway to the front door, oblivious to the poignant exchange going on in the driveway behind him.

"I told him the blueberry Pop-tarts were yours." She swallows the lump in her throat and leans in to give Rick a tender kiss on the lips. Thank you.

"Mmm, Thanks for that."

"You're welcome," she replies sweetly, taking a good look at his handsome face and noticing the fatigue that is clouding his usually bright eyes. "You look exhausted. Why don't you go take a nap while Carl and I get this stuff organized?"

"Yeah, I'm going up now." He heads toward the front porch while trying unsuccessfully to stifle a jaw breaking yawn. "You guys can relax too and I'll help you go through it all later."

Maggie falls in step beside him."There's more in that last house I want to go back for tomorrow. Some camping gear including a water filtration thing. That may come in handy since it looks like we'll be walking to the farm," she says, stating the obvious by the lack of a vehicle in their driveway. "I guess you didn't have any luck finding a car we could use, huh?"

"No, I'll check the other end of the neighborhood tomorrow," he replies with a frown laced with regret.

"We tried a couple of cars too after finding the keys inside the houses. They were all empty though."

"Yeah, I think somebody went through this neighborhood siphoning all the gas already. Hopefully we'll have better luck tomorrow."

Maggie follows him into the house and locks the door behind them.

~ / ~

Rick emerges from the bedroom almost two hours later. Not entirely refreshed and ready to run a marathon, but upright and eager nonetheless. The veil of haze inside his head is dissipating with each step he takes down the hall. He walks into the living room to find Maggie sitting on the couch, Carl cross-legged on the floor and the makings of a Monopoly game being set up on the coffee table between them.

Maggie spots him from the corner of her eye as he steps out from the hallway. "Hey sleepyhead. You're just in time for the next game."

Rick grabs a chair from the dining room and places it next to the coffee table on Maggie's right. "I see you two have been busy," he states, nodding at the selection of board games stacked on the floor under an open bag of outdated Twizzlers.

"Here, you can be the hat." Carl places the small pewter token in front of his father. "Unless you want to be the thimble instead. I'm the car and Maggie's the dog. And watch out, Maggie, 'cause Dad plays cutthroat. Doesn't matter if it's checkers or Monopoly. He never let me win, even when I was little."

"Hey, I'm not that bad!" Rick leans closer to Carl to level him with a glare that is both threatening and pleading. "Come on, help me out here. I don't want to ruin the perfect image that Maggie has of me."

"Hah!" The exclamation bursts from Maggie's mouth before she can even think to hold it back. "Oh, sweetheart, you are far from perfect. You are bow-legged, stubborn as a mule, and going gray before my eyes."

"Well shit, why don't you tell me how you really feel?" Rick sits back in his chair dolefully.

"But…" she continues, climbing onto his lap and cradling his face between her hands. "You have the kindest heart, the most beautiful eyes, and an incredibly smart brain which I would follow to the ends of the earth." She punctuates the words with a kiss, rubbing her thumbs over the gray whiskers threaded through his brown beard. "And you have a very nice ass," she adds in a whisper against his lips.

"Eww! Can we please get back to the game now, thank you!" An exasperated Carl breaks the tender moment, forcing Maggie to return to her position on the couch. She deals out $1500 of play money to each of them while Carl sets up the Chance and Community Chest cards.

"Wouldn't it be fun to play with real money now? I mean, it's all just as useless as the play money these days anyway," Maggie declares.

"Do you think we'll ever need money again, Dad?"

"Not in my lifetime, no I don't think so. Maybe in my great-grandkids lifetime."

"You're talking about my grandkids, right?" The smirk on Carl's face holds heaps of amusement at the thought of himself as a grandfather.

"How will we get things back to the way they used to be?" The young teen questions with hopeful eyes contradicting the anxiety in his voice.

"Well, once the scientists figure out a cure for this virus, the first thing you'll need to do is get the power grids up and running. Hopefully there are enough engineers surviving out there to get that going." Rick tries his best to answer the question matter-of-factly, without trying to freak out his son. "I'd start with the hydropower plants because the reservoirs are still there and they don't take a lot of manpower to maintain. Get the fuel companies producing again so the cars can be used. I think one of the biggest tasks is gonna be just cleanin' everything up."

"It sounds like a lot of work."

"Yup, it'll take years." Rick nods his head while fingering the tiny pewter hat in his hand. If only things could be as simple as a Monopoly game.

"Daryl says that the police departments are gonna be the most important things to bring back," Carl says, breaking into his thoughts.

"Really? He told you that?" Rick doesn't know if he's more surprised at the fact that Daryl talked to Carl about such profound matters, or that the redneck actually believes in the necessity of law enforcement.

"No, not exactly. I heard him say it to Carol. She thinks that hospitals and schools are going to be the most important things to fix."

"Well, they are both very important, that's true. I just hope whatever type of government you bring back does a better job of running what's left of this country. Alright, let's play."


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