Rick looked at Buck with a bit of surprise as his eyes looked down at the candles. “Gonna help me blow these out or are you just going to eat the frosting?”
"It’s your birthday, you blow them out." He places the plate down on the table before Rick, three candles but the number’s not important. Sitting across from Rick, he smiles, waiting, a little anxious. "Besides, I had other things in mind for the frosting. Go on, make a wish."
Rick let out a small laugh as he held Bucky’s eyes before shaking his head a little. “Don’t ask me what that wish is later, it won’t come true.” He grinned before leaning forward and blowing out the candles, waving at the smoke that danced up from the wicks. “This looks great.’
His posture, the way he turned away, had her slumping further back, barely holding up at this point; merely drowning that cuss in a swift and short sip of the now lukewarm chamomile. She couldn’t quite tell if that alone was what made her stomach start churning once more, or simply that deafening silence that lingered heavily between them after that question. Why did she have to ask that; why did she have to keep poking and prodding at things that should be left unbreached; why did she have to let him in; why did she have to call him in the first place… Why did she even allow him to get close and just— So many whys and regrets and…
And then he went and uttered… that. Was that what she wanted to hear— or more likely, what she didn’t want to hear? Because… what was this— what were they doing? Going back and forth, speaking and contradicting themselves from one moment to the next. Both purposely raising up those barriers between them; or was that just her? Merely making him react in a similar way? She couldn’t be certain for anything anymore. What are they doing?
Against her thoughts and despite all her inhibitions, she huffed out a long breath, letting the words slip with it. “…— Please don’t.” Looking up at him fleetingly; almost making to reach out for him— almost. Instead simply having her hands curl firmer around her cup. She hated the way her tone quivered and broke; hated how it was blatantly obvious how she wasn’t just fine, despite her insisting on it; hated how she couldn’t back her words up; hated how there was that little part of her that would hold out for him, still.
"… What the hell are we doing, Rick?" She added soon after, tone equally small and frail as mere moments before. No use in trying to keep up that facade of being okay now, was it? And at this point it was her the one to turn away, even start moving away towards the couch; simply having the need to sit down for a moment; and avoid him noticing her eyes that had started welling up. God damn it, pull it together, woman.
He wanted to ask that same question. Wanted to give her an answer, give himself the answer but everything that he unearthed was too fleeting and he hated the miniscule reasonings behind it. He could have stopped her from moving towards the couch, looked into her eyes and told her that whatever it was they had to fix it, tell her that no matter what happened in the past they had to work towards something to ease the divider between them.
But he let her move past him and towards the couch. He watched her movements and he wondered about the same question. What they were doing, why they were doing it and how they managed to keep everything fitted so broken inside.
They were broken. Rick knew that they were, he could tell by the tone of her voice and the easy way that he felt in pieces all around her. There was a bit of hopelessness nestled inside of him and he wanted it to go away. He could have wished that things could return to how they had been before she had called him but seeing her again now- that wasn’t the mistake.
"I don’t know." He finally forced out, brows furrowed as he moved towards where she sat. He looked down at her, almost pleading with her to know the exact answer even if he knew that was throwing far too much onto her shoulders.
"You really need to rest…"
Her confidence grew when he returned the kiss. It didn’t matter if things were weird after. She even rationalized that if this was their only moment, this would be enough, and so she took it for all it was worth, allowing it to burn into her memory, every taste and texture that would haunt through her remaining years. This would be the chance she would never regret taking.
Instinctively, her hand rose to wrap the back of his neck, grounding herself in him and touching just above the collar of his shirt. The pads of her fingers brushing the fine hairs there. His lips were welcoming, and she allowed herself to just exist in the moment.
Andrea was unaware of their motion until her back was against the wall. She emitted a small sigh when she connected with the surface and his body came forward to make contact with hers. He was solid and firm and real, and this for some reason meant more than the kiss itself.
She was lost in him and lost in the small world they’d constructed around them. And she was going to stay here, forever. She didn’t want it to end. She didn’t want to go back to her life. This was the one she wanted. Then suddenly it was over. The veil of enchantment slipped away and they were just two lonely people standing in a garage, chasing the impossible.
He’d taken her hand and it was over.
The grip had pulled her back to the reality of their situation, and she moved her hand from the back of his neck and placed it at his shoulder, pressing firmly, but not wanting to really push him away. She was torn, but in the end, when their lips broke contact, all she could manage was. “We can’t.”
When she pulled back Rick felt something inside of him waste and he, even as he felt the warmth of her breath whisper across his skin, felt cold and uncertain. The burn of her kiss was there and his pulse was racing at the sort of pace that he couldn’t quite grab a hold of.
Her words echoed in his mind and he wanted to agree, he wanted to tell her that she was right. Because she was and he knew that. He knew that whatever had happened here in this moment wasn’t something that could last longer than it had. He had to think of Lori, of Shane, of the possibility that the garage door could open now and everything would spin out of control.
Their lives had been given separate paths and even though that was taken with a bit of bitterness it was all Rick could explain before he grew eager again.
Swallowing down harshly any words that might negate her statement he moved back just slightly and looked into her eyes. He was at a loss for further words even when he tried grasping for them. The fact that she hadn’t said that she didn’t want to would be the one thing that he was going to hold onto.
His eyes lowered and his hand let go of hers as a slow breath escaped him. “I don’t want to go.”
He wanted to be there for Lori. Wanted to be the man that he knew Rick wasn’t capable of being. And that wasn’t something against Rick. No, he knew he could give her what she needed. It had always seemed to him like the two of them had clicked, then when this happened with Rick, things just fell into place. It was like the inevitable was given space to flower.
"I tell you what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna keep being the same people we’ve always been. And once Rick feels a bit better and more like himself, we can tell him together how things are going to be." He reached an arm out to her, but she held her own arm fast with her hand.
"It isn’t some simple answer Shane. I have a husband, and a son. I appreciate everything you’ve done, I really do, and you were there to listen when I had no one, but I can’t do this. It isn’t right to Rick, or Carl. A boy needs his father." Lori dropped her eyes as she said it.
He could feel his jaw clench. She knew how to hurt him. Knew just the right button to push. He wasn’t Carl’s father, and nothing would ever change that. Especially in Lori’s eyes. “I’m not trying to replace Rick as Carl’s father, Lori, I want to make things better for you, and by extension Carl. You deserve better. You deserve what I can give you, what I have been giving…”
Lori’s hand went up to stop him, before she turned and headed back to the house. He didn’t have much choice but to follow her. The conversation wasn’t over, but they wouldn’t be able to finish it around Rick. But maybe that was what she wanted. Quick answers. She didn’t want to be the one making the decision. And somehow she figured that being around Rick would solve their problems. If she didn’t have to face Shane, she didn’t have to face them. Shane nodded to Rick as he entered back into the living room.
He wanted to go out there. He wanted to ask what was going on, what couldn’t be said in front of him. But he wondered if he even had a right to ask about that- he wondered if his time away from the two of them meant that there was hardly any room for him. If he had been edged out because of something he hadn’t been able to control.
He felt bitter suddenly, felt something root within him. Was he supposed to sit here, isolated from what felt like the rest of the world. His body was tired and the effects of his medicine was only now wearing off. There was a small part of him that was almost grateful for Shane to have taken the burden of family from off of his shoulders.
Rick’s eyes looked up at Lori when she came in but she didn’t say anything to him. There was a bit of curiosity at that, the way that she brushed his presence off and allowed him to remain there on his own.
But just then Shane came on inside and Rick’s eyes looked up at him, drawing in a breath and shifted a little on the couch with a short nod of his head. “Yeah, as much as I can be.’ He answered, slow tone in his voice that drawled out.
"Something wrong?" He asked, brows furrowing a little as his gaze drifted towards the room Lori had gone off to and then back to Shane again. "Something you wanna tell me, brother?"
Eunice became aware of her expression when she spoke and softened it. “You have nothing to be sorry for darling. You’re just doing your job, and as far as I understand, I’m doing mine. I just am not sure at the moment who is pulling those strings on my end.” She took a drink of her coffee and set it back down, curling her fingers around the cup.
"I’ll be quite frank with you, Deputy, this is the sort of thing that would fall under the the regional field office in Atlanta, and although I do work out of Atlanta, I travel around the country doing more specialized case work. I was called off of an assignment in Chicago suddenly to handle something that to me seems rather routine for a regional agent, and I have to ask myself why.” And she had been, all the way back from Chicago. It was why she’d been trying to see more than the simple facts at the crime scene earlier.
"Because to me, form the outside of this, it would be like if they called you off this murder case, and told you to go get a kitten out of a tree, if you get my meaning. It doesn’t mean that kitten isn’t important to someone, but it isn’t a matter of community safety either." Eunice closed her eyes momentarily, pinching at the bridge of her nose. "And I’ll be straight honest with you Deputy, I hate cats."
Rick drew in a breath at her words. He hadn’t known the details of this special agents sudden appearance. All he knew was that he had felt slightly insulted when the Chief had insisted that he take another partner with him on this and insisted on making it seem like he needed some kind of help from someone else. Now that he knew how it felt almost unnecessary to her he couldn’t understand why it had been a point to have been made.
"I understand." He replied with a nod of his head, jaw tensing a little in contemplation as he wondered over the details and the possibilities that might be hanging off the edge, that they just weren’t seeing. There had to be something, somewhere, hidden away from obvious gaze and obvious places. There was evidence everywhere, that’s what people tended to say.
"Well, let’s hope that there’s something at the morgue then." He stated, with a release of his breath as he kept his eyes leveled on Eunice. Honestly he was getting nervous, if they didn’t find anything soon then he was going to be in slow running towards that Sheriff’s seat. A wave of selfishness echoed in him when he thought on that but he really couldn’t help it.
Instinctively, his hand tightened around his gun, as if it were a security blanket. And it was, in a way. It was the only thing that he could assure his own safety with — and the safety of his father. His mouth slightly ajar, allowed in deep breaths, quiet but laced with anxiety. Going to this new place, one they didn’t know, and had no idea what was inside, scared him. There could be anything laden within these walls; people, walkers. People and walkers…dogs, scientists, anything. Carl just didn’t like not knowing.
They hadn’t a choice, that he knew as their footsteps descended, albeit as silently as their feet would allow. Seeing his father’s hand outstretched with the list, made his brow furrow. It was just the list — something simple, but something so important. He looked it over, young eyes only recognizing room numbers, the names of the medicines looked like mumbo-jumbo to him.
Room after room they passed, and Carl wondered if they were at the right place at all. They had to be, and the doubt was forcibly shoved aside for a stake in confidence in their mission; in his father.
“You think it’s all in one room?” He asked as he looked over the list. Among the Methos, and the Nitocin-whatevers, he only seemed to notice one number. Maybe it’d be lucky if they all were in the same place, if everything was as Hershel said, it would be easier than Carl thought. His confidence sprung forward in light of the thought, looking down the hall as a mere hall not a death trap full of terrors and unknown beasts waiting around it’s edge.
Though as he looked, there seemed to be two distinct numbers, 102 and 245, numbers so far apart, he wondered if they’d even be on the same floor. Resigning to deal with that once they found 102, he looked at the door numbers, and knew it’d have to be around the corner.
”First room is 102, we need a lot of stuff in there.” Stressing the importance of the room, he nodded towards the darkened corner, ears primed and listening for the slightest shift in the quiet. When all he heard was the prolonged silence and the muffled inhales of their breaths, he peaked around the corner, using his size and the darkness to his advantage. If there were people, they’d be looking higher, for someone taller.
His eyes narrowed as he caught sight of the number, 102. A sense of victory and accomplishment surging forward even if they hadn’t completed the mission yet. Though his face fell when he saw the light flooding through the open door. “It looks clear, but the door’s open. The one we need.”
He hadn’t thought about that. That it could be in separate rooms or the same one, it seemed far apart and impossible that their ‘mission’ of sorts would be that easy and he wondered if maybe he’d gotten a break. Brows furrowed as he listened into the silence, letting it fold over him, allowing him to wonder just what it was that could be possibly waiting for them.
Stopping the same time that Carl did, gazing down the corner that they were faced with, he felt something hitch in his chest and he knew that it was fear. A dark sort of fear that told him that this whole thing could be for naught. What happened if by the time they got back to the prison everyone was too far gone to save?
Was anyone too far gone?
Seeing how Carl stepped ahead, how he gripped his gun, how he managed to remain so observant Rick felt a tightening in his conscience. His kid gloves that he used to deal with his son was becoming unnecessary. Soon enough he was going to have to watch him become a man, take on the same responsibilities that Rick had. But he kept pushing at the thought, forcing it back further and further until finally he just didn’t have to accept it. The time was coming though and he could feel its nearness.
The door being open caught his gaze and his own grip tightened around his gun, taking in a deep breath. He nodded down to Carl, took an uncertain step forward and looked back at his boy. “Stay close.” he whispered. barely audibly.
He approached the open door where the numbers they needed were marked. His eyes adjusted to the light and he didn’t allow himself to look back. He relied on sound, on noise, on feeling and instinct. If something was inside that room they were going to hear it first before they saw it. That was the one jump that they had on these walkers, they weren’t methodical and quiet, you could out think them- if you were thinking right.
His step inside the opened room was cautious and unsteady. Death felt like it was breathing down his neck and forming a cold outbreak of sweat along his skin. They were close, hanging between the lines of both life and death and Rick was afraid that somewhere along the way one side was going to win over the other.
Stopping the moment a noise sounded from inside, his hand reached out to still Carl’s further movements. Stress pounded down inside of him. Something was in there but it couldn’t matter because they had to get inside.
♔Although Rick’s stance was a bit unbalanced, Loki was able to keep himself upright with his partner’s help. They were both moving slow now, much to their disadvantage. Rick’s leg threatened to give out on him with every step and Loki’s entire body seemed to suffer the weight of gravity ten fold. Every time he stumbled, it was a struggle to keep from just falling down onto the dirt beneath his feet and stay there.
He kept reminding himself that he needed to get up, he needed to keep going. He’d lived through more traumatizing things than this. He’d be damned if a few fucked up mortals would be the end of him. He’d rather die in the jaws of the dead than the living. Granted, living through much more serious trauma also went along with having a godly form. Loki, however, remained convinced that half of survival was will power and the last thing he was going to do was give up.
"Thanks…" he muttered as they finally came to a stop. It seemed like they had been walking for hours, though it had only been a few short moments. Loki leaned against the tree’s wide trunk, knowing fully well that without it, he would probably be on his side.
Emeralds remained transfixed on his friend and he watched Rick dig for the bag within the dirt. For moments, he wondered if Rick had forgotten the exact location, as he seemed to be turning up empty handed, but after several long moments—and the search party within Terminus no doubt making their exit from the city—Rick produced a bag full of what Loki hoped to be heavy ammunition. There would, at the very least, be a sense of relief and protection with a proper weapon in his grasp.
Not that his aim would be great with one eye nearly swollen shut.
"All right. I agree, we do need to get going. I can hear those bastards coming…" Now the situation had become personal. Now they wanted Rick and Loki, not only for a food supply, but because they’d caused death amongst their group. Loki didn’t feel remorse for this. Unfortunately they currently lived in a kill or be killed world and to keep himself—and others—safe, his hand had been forced.
"Any idea where we might be able to meet up with the rest of your group? Our best chance is in numbers."
Even as he began a slow pace away from the spot Rick began to unzip the bag, searching through it for his Colt and finding it, holstered it around his waist. He looked to Loki, wondering which he would prefer, there were a couple of rifles in there, sawed off shotgun and quite a bit of ammunition that he’d found along the way. As well as guns he’d gotten off of Joe’s and his men’s bodies.
"You’re right." he answered, trying to fight the strain in his voice as he continued walking. The pain was heavy in his body, clawing down on his strength where he should be disregarding it. They needed to press on if they were going to get out of here anytime soon, needed to find the others just like Loki said. "They should be a short walk from here, a bit further out." Especially since they weren’t injured.
Rick could hear the scatter of gathered men at his back and he had to remind himself that they were going to get out of this. They hadn’t come this far only to fall apart with death. But if the time came Rick was willing to throw his own life on the line if it meant protecting his son.
"Think you can make it?" He questioned, brows furrowed beneath the harsh ray of the sun. He gathered the bag and handed it over to Loki even as they walked. It would be better if Loki had a weapon of his own especially if the residents of Terminus came rushing out here.
Rick didn’t need him dying on him.
Reaching for his Colt Rick cocked back the trigger, keeping it leveled at his side as he continued walking, gaze determined and senses aware. They weren’t going to sneak up on them, and if they did Rick was going to make sure that they were going to go down fighting.
Rick’s eyes found Loki and he could see the shock written there on the man’s features. Carl, just a kid, had survived longer than most people would in this darkness. Yet here they were. Here he was. “14.” He replied before a gaze was given to his boy. “Yeah, must be. Don’t rightly know how he does it but he’s the strongest person I know.”
♔ Loki met Rick’s gaze for a moment, smirking at him in turn. Loki, unfortunately, wasn’t bluffing, but Rick seemed to think he could be, and he had to assume that he was, in turn, bluffing as well. Unless it was a double bluff? Or a triple bluff? Sneaky group of individuals. No one Loki fit so well. “I don’t know. Carl and Michonne are awfully quiet. They might be holding out on us, you know. Don’t get cocky, boys.”
Rick looked over at Carl and then again at Michonne, skeptically as he pondered what Loki said. “You’re right. They do seem awfully quiet, think we need to be working together on this one. ” He smirked a little and looked back at his cards, allowing a laugh to come from him. “Now you’ve made me have an awful feeling about this.”
Michonne stopped massaging him when he looked at her. She nodded in response to his question and moved to kiss his shoulder gently.
"I’m ready for him to know," she said quietly. "I love Carl, and it doesn’t seem fair to keep this from him. And I need to know what he thinks of us."
She kissed his cheek and went back to massaging his back, wanting him to relax. Telling Carl could get stressful if he reacted badly.
Rick let out a slow breath, contemplating the cons and the hopes that weighed on something as heavy as making this decision. Carl hadn’t been in any trouble these past few months and Michonne was someone he obviously accepted and cared about.
The thought ached in him and he wondered just what Carl was going to say. By no means was Rick attempting to replace Lori in his or his son’s life but things happen, life happens and so does love.
Swallowing down harshly he gave a small nod. “Alright. We’ll tell him.”
Michonne listened to him and smiled, remembering everything he said. She wanted to know about him, and even the basic things were important.
"My birthday is February fourteenth, my favorite color is violet, and my favorite food is shrimp scampi." She thought about the taste of her favorite food, and it made her stomach churn. Apparently, the baby didn’t like the thought of shrimp.
Michonne looked at him and decided she was going to ask the question that she’d had since the night they spent together.
"What made you agree to sleep with me?" She asked. "You could have just left."
Her question dwelled on his mind and he wondered what she would think about the answer that he was willing to give. It was a hard one because it might make her deem the night useless and end up feeling more hurt than anything.
Softly he sighed and pushed his hand back through his hair with a hesitant look in his eyes.
"Well I’d just gotten through a divorce and things were hard- stressful even. Seeing you, have you rely on me even was a lot to take in. A lot to be surprised at."
He leaned forward hoping this didn’t make him sound worse than he thought it did. “It was a reprieve, Michonne.”