The house smelled like death. Andrea and Michonne had found it standing alone among fields of rotting soybeans, their strong vegetable smell making them gag a little. Inside the house was no better. Michonne had gone in first, leaving her pets outside, her sword at the ready. All she found were corpses in the master bedroom on the second floor. A man, a woman and a child, all with bullet wounds in their heads. She could not begrudge them for taking that way out. In the most lonely hours of the night she'd considered it as well. When Andrea saw them, she couldn't contain a cry of shock. Despite everything, there were apparently some things that were too terrible for her to start to process.
Michonne turned to her. “Be quiet!” She was whispering, but her tone was harsh. There was no guarantee the house was safe. She didn't mean to be so hard, but survival meant that you had to be like that.
She tugged the blankets off of the bed, and covered the bodies.
Once the house was searched, they grabbed everything they could carry. Canned goods, a can opener, a small pot, aspirin, iodine, and some dry goods. Like that they could be set at least for a while. But the house was shelter, and there was no guarantee that they could find anything better, or anything at all.
“We could stay here for the night. It's relatively safe.”
Andrea blanched. “What about the bodies?”
“We can get rid of them.” Andrea was about to say something, but stopped herself.
One by one they took the bodies out, wrapped up in sheets, and laid them by the dying fields. They both paused when it came to carrying out the child, who had been a young, brown haired girl. Michonne could not feel sorrow for this stranger. To do so would be to allow her own to surge up and drown her. The night before had been bad enough, a moment of weakness when she should have been strong. She didn't have time to break down, not when every minute could be her last.
The graves they dug were shallow, but it was all they could manage.
Once they were back in the house, Andrea tested one of the faucets. There was still running water. She scrubbed the dirt from her hands and her face at the kitchen sink, hoping to prevent the smell of death from seeping in. It wasn't working, and the smell was all around her. In a fit of desperation, she and began to open windows.
“What're you doing?” Michonne was digging through one of the closets, looking for some kind of weapon that the blonde could use. She'd abandoned the bag of guns in her panic to get away from the walkers.
“The smell. It's too much.” Andrea was about to rush past Michonne when the other woman grabbed her wrist.
“Stop it.” Her hold was tight, and Andrea stilled. “You need to get a grip. You're not doing yourself, or me, any favors by freaking out.”
Andrea looked down at Michonne's hand. Her sense of indignation told her to snatch it away from her, but something more powerful made her be still. The other woman's hand was hot, and her palm was calloused from carrying her katana.
“I know the smell is bad. I know, alright?” Michonne looked at Andrea's face, her piercing brown eyes meeting the other woman's blue-green ones. “But you need to stay calm. You can't afford to act like this, you're not a little girl goddamn it.”
“I know, ok, I get it!” Andrea's voice shook, pain creeping in through the cracks.
“Then act like it.”
Andrea snatched her wrist away, and stalked to the front of the house. She grabbed the bottom of one of the windows, and tried to push it up. It wouldn't go, and she kept trying, her breathing speeding up. Michonne looked at her, how she was throwing her whole body into trying to get that damn window open. With a sigh, she went to Andrea's side, grabbed the window, and with their combined muscle, the window went up with a creak. Michonne breathed in the fresh air as a breeze pushed it into the house. It wasn't enough to lessen the smell, but it helped.
“You're gonna be ok.” She said, turning to Andrea. Her pale cheeks were flushed pink, standing in stark contrast to her eyes. Despite the panic and fear in the blonde's face, Michonne could see the prettiness of it.
Andrea's face became a rictus of pain, before it collapsed into tears. She fell towards Michonne, grabbing onto her. Her crying took them both by surprise, but Michonne didn't say anything. She was taken aback by this display, but let Andrea hold onto her, her tears staining Michonne's leather vest. She put her arms around the crying woman, not sure what else to do. Andrea's sobs quieted down, but she did not let go. Michonne felt the warmth of her breath against her neck, calming down and returning to normal, but she did not let go. Andrea pulled back to look at the other woman, their faces too close, too intimate, but she did not let go.
Michonne was gripped with panic. Andrea was looking at her like she wanted to be in her arms forever, and that was frightening. She'd inured herself against the despair of knowing no one would touch her ever again, but here was this woman, holding her, holding onto her like she was a life preserver, looking at her with such tenderness. To surrender to this moment meant cracking herself open, and she didn't know if she could afford that, or if she could trust Andrea to understand what it meant.
So she let the other woman go.
“You should open the windows upstairs. That'll make the fresh air circulate. When night falls we'll have to close 'em up again, or the house'll get too cold.”
Andrea nodded, her fingers lingering on the cuffs of Michonne's coat. She hadn't meant to break down so badly, or to upset the other woman with her weakness. She wished Michonne hadn't let go. The scent of her skin had made the awful smell of the house a little more bearable.
“After you do that, we'll make some food.”
“Yeah.” Andrea turned away, and climbed the stairs, leaving Michonne standing by herself in the hallway, her heart beating hard against its shell.