HANDIWORK PART III

Chapter 1

Short little set-up to the ending. Thanks for the reviews and alerts...and the requests for more!

Daryl watched her walk around the side of the yard and towards the new chicken coop. She had a basket in her hand and was swinging it. She looked like a little girl from that distance, except for a couple things. Outstanding things, he smirked. Her hair was up in a pony tail and it was swaying back and forth as she walked. He caught himself smiling and returned to working on the hole in the barbed wire fence that surrounded a pasture beyond the outbuildings in the back of the house.

They hadn't spoken to each other since that afternoon. She would barely look at him and when she did, she would look away quickly. He'd tried to catch her eye at dinner, to motion for her to come outside, but she was pretty much making herself scarce. He was about to give up on her , thinking that he'd blown it and she wasn't going to have anything to do with him ever again. Then he looked up towards her direction and saw her at the door of the coop. She had stopped and turned around, looking right at him.

He put down the pliers and peeled off his gloves, setting them on a stump nearby. He turned and walked as fast as he could towards the coop. He got about halfway there and she turned and went inside, shutting the door behind her. What the fuck, he thought. When he got there, he could hear her talking in a soft voice. She was talking to the chickens as she gathered eggs. Quiet. Reassuring. Thanking the chickens for their eggs and telling them what good girls they were. They were squawking and cackling, but the weren't flapping around, no big commotion, just calm chickens making calm chicken noises.

She opened the door and blinked as she returned to the sunlight, putting her hand up to shade her eyes.

"So, what, you tha' chicken whisperer?" he said, leaning against the wall of the coop, one leg bent and flat.

She chuckled. "Thought you were working on the fence."

"Was."

"What do you want?"

"Nothin'. Thought you wanted somethin'."

"Nope."

"Guess I'll get back ta' my fence." Daryl glanced at her sideways and scratched his chin.

"And I'll get back to these eggs then."

He pushed off with his bent leg and started walking. back to the pasture. Rowan watched him walk away, kicking herself for not saying something. Her eyes followed him as he walked, the legs strong, big strides, the way he swung his arms and moved his shoulders, the way his butt moved under the faded gray work pants with the equally-faded shop rag tucked into the back pocket. She swallowed dryly and her mind wandered to that afternoon, remembering the feel of his hands all over her, remembering how hard it was to fight to stay in control.

Daryl returned to the fence asking himself what the fuck and promptly proceeded to gouge himself on the barbed wire. "Shit" he hissed. He couldn't stop wondering what that look was all about. It was the first sign out of her since that afternoon. He couldn't stop thinking about that afternoon. How she felt, those green eyes, how her hair felt slipping through his fingers. No, he was going to wait for her to make the next move if it killed him. And it was definitely killing him. So was the palm of his hand right now.

XXXXX

After dinner, Daryl went out on the back porch to smoke a cigarette. They were stale and tasted like shit, but, hey, a smoke was a smoke. They were getting hard to come by these days. It had been a couple days after the chicken coop incident and she'd still been pretty much ignoring him. He was rocking in a wooden chair, one leg over the arm, the other flat on the porch floor, his eyes closed, enjoying the quiet an the cigarette. Several of the others were gathered on the bigger front porch, but he preferred this one. He heard the screen door shut quietly, figured it was Glenn or Carl maybe, until he heard the quiet footsteps draw closer and stop. He opened one eye to see who it was and sat right up when he saw it was Rowan.

She smiled slightly. "Don't get up on my account." she said. She had her hair down and was wearing those same black pants and long, loose black tee-shirt. She had a six-pack of beer dangling from her hand, her little finger hooked through one of the plastic loops that held the pack together. She brought it up in front of her and it swung back and forth a little. "Want to walk me to the spring house and cool these down a bit?"

Daryl almost leaped out of his chair. "Yeah. Sure." he said, nodding. "Sounds good." Shit, play it cool, Dixon. He took a last drag on the cigarette and stuck it in a sand-filled coffee can behind one of the large planter-boxes.

They left the porch and walked away from the back of the house, down the path to the small stone house used to keep things cool. The moon was up over the treetops, a half-moon, just enough light to see where they were going. Neither of them said anything. Daryl opened the heavy door and went in first, striking a match and lighting a oil lamp hanging on a hook. The room was bathed in a soft orange glow. Rowan set the beer in the running water that filled a brick-lined trough that cut the floor in two. The water was cold and the room itself was cool and damp. There were a couple benches along the walls and shelves with crocks and jars. She sat down on the longer bench and crossed her arms.

Daryl sat down at the end of the bench, straddling it. He fiddled with the cuticle on his thumb, biting at it.

"Why do I feel like I'm in high school again?" she said quietly.

"Fuckin' hated high school."

"Me too. Always felt like the weird kid, like I never belonged."

"Yeah." he nodded.

"Listen, Dixon, help me out here. I don't know what to say."

"Don't say nothing."

"Feel like I should say something. Jesus. After that? We don't even hardly speak for a week?"

He shrugged. "Guess neither a' us knew what ta' say." He looked at her. She was hugging her knees, balanced on the bench facing him now. Some of her hair was spilling over her shoulders, it looked almost black in the light from the lamp, only tiny flickers of copper in the strands when she moved.

"Did you plan it?" she asked.

"Nope."

"Did you intend to leave it that way?"

"What way?"

She grimaced. "You know. Leave so...all of a sudden?"

"You didn't want me ta' leave?"

She put her head down on her knees and looked away from him. "I dunno." She was struggling to find the right words. What she really wanted to do was not talk at all, just knock him off that bench and jump him right there on the cold floor. She shook her head and looked up at him. "I...how. How did you get me to do that?"

"Don't remember twisting yer' arm none." he looked around the room, avoiding her eyes now, eyes that when he'd looked at them a second ago seemed to dance in the flickering lamp-light. He couldn't look at them now.

"That's what I mean. I've never done anything like...that. Never."

"So? Things 're changed now. Maybe yer' changed."

"What, I've become a post-apocalyptic slut?" she rolled her eyes.

"Ain't no slut."

"Felt like it. Jesus, you said maybe ten words and I was...I just..."

"Ya' sorry?"

"Didn't say that. I'm just, shocked, at myself, I guess."

"Would 'ya do it again?"

"Call your bluff? I know better now." she smiled.

"''s not what I mean." Daryl grinned.

"Those beers cold yet?" she said, standing up quickly, moving away from the bench, changing the subject. Rowan was starting to get that feeling again. Last time she had it, she ended up in her underwear. This time, she knew it would go further." She bent over and picked the six-pack out of the water, letting them drip for a bit rather than shaking them off. Daryl watched her walk away and then bend over . She wasn't the only one getting that feeling again and like Rowan, he didn't think they would do anything but pick up where they left off.

She walked back to the bench and handed him a can, sitting down.

"Din't answer my question." he said, popping the top and taking a long sip.

"Don't want to." she said, taking a sip of her own and looking straight ahead.

"I'll take that as a yes then." he smiled, wiping a bit of the cool liquid off his lip. She didn't respond., she just looked down at her feet and continued to take sips of her beer. Daryl smirked to himself, drinking quickly. He thought of something Merle had once told him. By her third beer, you'll know why ya' wanna' fuck her. Looks like we got some drinkin' to do, Ro, he thought to himself.

They continued to drink, mostly in silence, Daryl quickly passing out the second beer before she was finished with the first, urging her to keep up. By the time it was done, they were both a bit more talkative.

"So why did you leave?" she said, causing Daryl to nearly choke. Right to the point.

"Didn't think ya' were ready. " That was the most honest thing he'd said in a long time.

"Oh." she dangled her feet back and forth, her soles of her flats making a skidding noise on the worn stone floor. "I see." she said. "And just when do you think I will be?"

Daryl gulped, trying again not to choke. Holy shit. Merle was wrong. "Ah, maybe when ya' finish that beer in yer' hand?"

She giggled and tipped the can up, draining it. "Nope. Gonna' have to work a little harder than that, Dixon."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. But I did especially like the hair-brushin'. That was pretty hot."

"You're fuckin' tellin' me." he smirked. Daryl sat his second empty beer can on the end of the bench and walked to the spring for the last two. This time when he sat back down on the bench, he was next to Rowan. Close. "You gettin' cold?" he asked.

"You know, I am." she said, crossing her arms over her chest as she drank, blocking his view of what made him think she was cold in the first place. He popped the top of the third beer and took a long, long drink, letting his head fall backwards. Half of the beer was gone.

"Let's go." he said, standing up. He pulled her off the bench and up to him by her wrist, pulling it slowly behind him, dragging her towards him. He had to stoop down to reach her, leaning in, his lips just inches from her neck. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, inhaling something that was a cross between cinnamon and bourbon and smoke. Heavy and mysterious. Sensual. It was not the same as that afternoon in her room. This scent wasn't clean at all. This was the veiled suggestion of something done behind closed doors. With the lights out. "Damn, girl." he whispered. "What is that?"

"Sin." she said slowly. Daryl dropped her wrist and put his free arm around her waist, pulling her to him, burying himself in her hair.

"'s 'at a promise or a threat?" he murmured, dropping the half-empty beer with a splattering thunk and moving his other hand to her jaw, his thumb running roughly along her the bottom of her cheek. He pulled himself from her hair and looked at her, her green eyes glowing, smoldering. He dragged his thumb along her bottom lip and licked his own. Daryl felt like he was going to explode.

"Depends." she said, allowing herself to get lost in the steely blue eyes that were now absolutely on fire. "You bluffin' this time?" she said, her voice all but dripping with anticipation.