A Breath of Hope
Shedding his jacket and gun belt, Rick sits down on the waiting room couch to take off his dusty boots.After clearing the small medical building, the comfortable furniture of the dental office was a key factor on exactly where they would be spending the night.Following a raid of the adjacent podiatrist, chiropractor and optometrist offices, they settle in to the spacious dental practice after filling their bags with a decent supply of sample-sized, over-the-counter pain medication, and enough toothpaste and toothbrushes to last them a while.
While Carl and Bailey have taken up residence in the last operatory room down the hall, Rick stretches out on the couch and reaches a hand out to Maggie. "Come here."
After tucking her gun and knife into a pocket of her backpack, Maggie sits on the couch in front of Rick to remove her boots. He rubs her back soothingly while waiting for her to finish. After a few moments, she lifts her bare feet to snuggle with his and lays down facing away from him, her back to his front. She uses his arm as a pillow while he uses his rolled up jacket to support his own head. He clamps his free arm around her waist and cups her breast, more out of a comfortable habit than to start anything frisky.
"Do you think Carl will be comfortable in that chair all night?" Maggie asks him.
"Sure, unless he lets Bailey sleep on it with him."
"Don't you think he'd be happier on the floor in here with us?"
"He'll be fine, honey. And wasn't it your idea to give him some independence? He's just down the hall, and he's got Bailey to watch over him. And I'll watch over you." He presses his lips to the back of her head and she squeezes his arm tighter against her. "I know it's not the Ritz Carlton, but I promise to keep you safe."
"I don't need a fancy hotel, just you."
"You're a cheap date."
"Mmhmm. Where would you have taken me on our first date if we'd met before The Turn?"
"The first date would have been dinner at The Landmark and maybe a show in Atlanta."
"Ooo, I've heard of that place. Hard to get into and very expensive."
"Yes, which is why our second date would have been to McDonalds and a walk around the lake. That's all I could have afforded after the first date."
"That would have been just fine." She smiles and turns her head to kiss the bicep beneath her cheek. "And our third date?"
"Ah, the third date is the one that seals the deal. If you're willing to go out with me again after the second date, I'd splurge and take you to a diner. Then after making you fall madly in love with me over a BLT, you'd bring me back to your house to meet your father."
"Oh, I think I would have kept you to myself for a while longer before I let him chase you away."
"What? He liked me just fine when I first met him," Rick says dubiously.
"Only 'cause he felt terrible about what happened to Carl. But don't feel bad, he liked you a lot faster than he liked most people after the world ended."
After a few moments of silence, a touch of emotion brings a huskiness to Rick’s voice. "Maggie, do you think he would mind you and I being together now?"
She turns her body to look at his face and puts her hand against his whiskered cheek. "No. He loved you and he knew how we felt about each other before either one of us even admitted it to ourselves. He gave us his blessing."
"Really, he and I talked about it a few weeks ago." She smiles around the lump in her throat, remembering that day.
Rick smiles briefly with fond memories of the old man. "I miss him."
"So do I. But I know he's still with us, watching over us all the time."
"Well, hopefully not all the time," Rick responds with a devilish grin before he kisses her goodnight.
~ / ~
Maggie wakes in the last of the pre-dawn hour with Rick pressed firmly against her back. She wiggles her butt against his groin and waits for a response, gaging whether or not he's awake yet.
"Mmmm," he moans against her hair.
"Are you up?"
"Am now." He mumbles as his hand squeezes her breast while his morning woody presses into the ass that is responsible for waking him up.
"Will it always be like this with us, Rick?" She whispers in the soft morning light. "I mean, I want you all the time, like I can't get enough of you."
"I don't know, honey. All I can say is that I've never felt anything like this before. Not ever. And yeah, I want you all the time, too." He kisses her neck and licks the shell of her ear, sending goose bumps down her arm while his hand moves from her chest to the apex of her thighs. He feels her moist heat through the fabric of her yoga pants and he gets even harder, wanting to engulf himself in that fire. Knowing they are short on time, he snakes his hand into the waistband of her pants, then inside her panties. He sinks his fingers into her masterfully while his tongue does wicked things in and around her ear.
"Oh, God," she pants as her hand closes over his on top of the fabric that he wishes she wasn't wearing.
He sucks on the sensitive spot behind her ear and fingers the tight cluster of nerves just inside her entrance, sending her over the edge. She grabs his denim clad thigh, pulling it roughly against her and then reaches back between them to grasp his erection, which is straining against his now uncomfortably tight jeans.
"No time, baby." He removes his hand from her pants to stop her from stroking him.
"But what are we gonna do about this." She gently squeezes his shaft through the confining denim and elicits a guttural moan.
"Nothin'." He pulls her hand away from his crotch and folds it against her chest. "Just ignore it - it'll go down in a day or two."
"Aww, honey," she chuckles. "I promise I'll l make it up to you." She kisses his hand and tucks it under her chin.
Less than two minutes later, Bailey comes loping down the hallway with a wide awake Carl not far behind.
"We have to get out of here. I can't take another day in this place." Carol paces the floor irritably, pulling at the collar of her shirt as if the action will allow more air to enter her lungs.
"I told you we shouldn't have stopped here. Nothing good ever comes out of this place." Michonne rubs the horse's thick neck, trying to keep it calm after spending two days tethered to a pole in the back of the small warehouse while the herd mills about aimlessly on the street outside.
"Like I said, I think our best bet would be to let me climb out the upstairs window, get onto the roof and jump down to move the damn thing that's blocking the back door," Sasha states from her position on the couch.
"No!" Tyreese stands up to argue his point for what feels like the hundredth time in two days. "Even if you make it to the roof, and even if you don't break a leg when you jump down, you still may not be able to move whatever it is that's blocking the back door. It could be a bus for all we know."
"It's a chance I'm gonna have to take if we want to get out of here. We're out of food and have very little water left and those biters aren't gonna be going anywhere unless something attracts them back through the tire barricade," Sasha continues her debate in hushed tones.
"I'll do it," Michonne speaks up behind Ty.
"Do what?" The big man turns to face his lover. "Climb to the roof? No way, 'Chonne."
"No. I'm going out the front door, riding Flame. We'll run for the tires and lead the walkers out of here. I'll get them at least a mile in that direction while you guys run the other way, climbing over the barricade at the other end of town. I'll swing back around and hightail it north to meet you a mile up. Carol, let me see that map."
Carol spreads the Georgia road map over an oak dining room table with a ticket price of $875.
"Here." Sasha points to the entrance of a state park not too far from Woodbury. "We'll meet there."
"You really think this will work?" Carol asks nervously, yet hopeful. "Will he be able to run fast after being cooped up like this?"
"Oh yeah." Michonne walks back to her horse. "You can't wait to run, can you boy?" She strokes his large head and he pushes his nose into her shoulder. "Come on, let's get you ready."
"Babe, I don't know about this." Michonne turns toward the hand squeezing her shoulder. "There's so many of them out there." Ty's worried look gives her a brief feeling of unease, but doesn't sway her decision.
"It's our only choice. I'll be alright." She gives him a quick kiss and walks over to retrieve Flame's saddle from the back of a leather recliner.
"Alright, let's get our stuff together so we can be ready to make a run for it." Sasha announces, taking leadership of their small group.
While Tyreese is still trying to think of a better plan, Michonne gives him a hug and a passionate kiss before securing her foot in the stirrup. He helps her up with a hand on her hip, though he knows she really doesn't need assistance. "I love you," he says, almost as an afterthought.
"I love you, too," she says quietly looking down at him before using her thighs and heels to steer the horse toward the front doors.While Carol peers through the glass to assess the situation, Sasha jogs up to help with the doors, more than ready to make their escape.
"Okay Michonne, it's not too bad if you stick to the side here and then go toward the tires once you pass the library," Carol informs their heroine in a muted whisper. "Are you ready?"
"Yeah, you just get out there as soon as it's clear."
"Good luck." Sasha looks at Michonne and then at her brother standing somberly behind Carol.
"Okay, open 'em up." Her long dreadlocks fall over her shoulders as she leans forward, close to the horse's neck, and crosses the threshold into chaos.
The doors close quickly behind her and Carol gasps as they watch the horse and rider trot into the center of the street, instead of down the side like she had instructed. "What the hell is she doing?"
They can only watch and pray as Michonne's katana slices through the air to sever the heads of several walkers as she saunters through the streets of the infested Woodbury.
"Oh, God. She's taking out as many as she can before she runs. Come on, baby, get out of there," Ty pleads in a whisper of helpless panic.
When the horde begins to gather too closely for her liking, Michonne turns to bolt for the fallen barricade at the southern end of town. One reanimated cadaver gets a grip on her boot, almost unseating her before Flame breaks away from the terrifying creatures. He runs hell-bent for the gate until Michonne can slow him down to navigate through the enormous tires. Once they are free of the enclosed settlement, she slows him down again to make sure the walkers are following them out.
Carol watches the last of the walkers stagger around the tires and into the open road outside the border of the late Governor's Woodbury. "Okay, let's go."
Sasha opens the other door as Carol steps out into the street, filling her lungs with fresh, if moderately humid air. She follows Carol's lead with her brother bringing up the rear. Ty looks over his shoulder after every few steps, torn between wanting to see Michonne, and not wanting to see her this close still. He has faith that she knows what she is doing and has kept a safe distance between herself and the horde. He has to believe that.
They reach the barricade at the north end of town and work together to get the fallen ladder perched up against the large bus. Climbing up quickly, they gain the roof in no time and pull the ladder up to position it on the other side, giving them access to the littered ground below, and finally – freedom.
~ / ~
"Where the hell is she?" Tyreese asks no one in particular for the fourth time in half as many minutes. "I thought she'd have come up behind us by now. It shouldn't be taking her this long."
"She probably took them farther than she originally planned. She'll be back Ty, don't worry. That woman can take care of herself." Sasha tries to console her brother, despite the fact that she’s a little worried herself.
"She's right, if anyone can survive alone out here – it's Michonne. Let's just get to the park and we'll wait there 'til she shows up. It's not too much further." Carol points to a brown sign that says, 'Highland State Park Next Left'.
Ten minutes later, they come around a bend in the road and see a large rustic sign welcoming visitors to the parkland. To the right of the sign, they see a big brown horse grazing on the high grass while his rider relaxes on the rock wall behind him.
Tyreese nearly knocks Carol over as he runs past the two women to hold the warrior that he loves.
"How did you get here without passing us?" Sasha asks when she and Carol finally reach the rock wall.
"I took a shortcut through the park." Michonne shrugs a shoulder. "Nice hiking trails. 'Bout time you guys got here."
Carol rolls her eyes at her friends' matter-of-fact attitude after they spent the last hour worried sick about her.
"If we hurry, we may get to the farm before dark," Michonne continues. "Who wants to ride first?"