The fight leaves Michonne as soon as she sees those two, pale feet sticking out from behind the door.
Of course, it’s her. She’s pale and unmoving, barely propped up against the wall, but the walker on the floor is dead. It’s out. And when Michonne presses two fingers, her breath held, to the weak pulse beneath Andrea’s jaw, she’s confident that Andrea will survive this. Her skin is hot and clammy, but Michonne won’t use the word ‘feverish’ yet.
“She’s alive,” she tells the others, still hovering behind her.
“She’s bleeding out,” Rick tells her, but Michonne had already guessed that from the size of the blood puddle outside of the door. “Is she bitten?”
Michonne fingers the fringes of Andrea’s shirt, peeling it away from her neck. She checks her arms, next, and the wrists where the majority of Andrea’s blood seems to be seeping out of her. There are handcuffs around her, still, and the sight makes Michonne bubble with hate. But they’re broken – bent out of shape – and for all the damage they’ve done, Michonne can’t help but hold onto her sense of pride.
Andrea is a fighter, she reminds herself, and tries to take confidence from it as she surveys the waiflike figure on the floor before her.
“I can’t find anything, but we’ve gotta get her out of here, she isn’t gonna last long.”
Rick knows what that means; they’re not getting the Governor tonight.
“Right now, Rick, or she’s not gonna make it.”
He hesitates long enough for Michonne’s stare to harden, then nods, slips his gun away, and bends down to help Michonne with Andrea’s weight. She fits between them with little struggle, and Rick can’t help but survey the room again, wondering how long she’d been kept here, starved, tormented.
He wonders if she’d return this easily with them, if she wasn’t passed out.
They’re back at the prison before supper, Andrea in a cell and Hershel looking over her. Michonne lingers in a chair, but there’s no doubt in Hershel’s mind that she hasn’t taken her eyes off his hands since he started working.
“That’ll have to do,” he says once he’s done, and sits back on the bed with a sigh. Andrea is pale and bruised, blood in her hair and on her clothes, but she’s breathing. “I understand you’re to stay with her through the night, just in case. If any of the walker’s blood got in her open wounds—”
“I know what it means,” Michonne cuts in, not looking at him, and Hershel bows his head and finds his crutches.
It’s a long night, but Michonne endures. And on the cot, in a sweat, Andrea does, too. Her fever breaks early the next morning, while the prison is still dark, and she comes around with all the self-consciousness of a baby.
Once she’s done stretching and whimpering and realising that she’s not in the same position that she’d fallen asleep in, Andrea is bolt upright. She’s so quick that it dizzies her, and by the time Michonne is out of her chair and at her side, she’s slipping back down to the mattress again.
“Easy,” she presses her hand to Andrea’s forehead – warm, not hot – and is relieved to see the clarity in her eyes. “You don’t wanna do yourself anymore damage.”
“You’re at the prison. We found you.”
“You brought me back?”
Michonne’s hand, having strayed from her forehead to stroke through her hair, stills.
“We brought you home,” she tells Andrea, and moves her hands back. “Stay here, I’ll find you something to eat, okay?”
Andrea picks at the food she’s brought, struggling to support the bowl never mind herself. Michonne watches her from her chair, again, until Andrea sets the meagre half-bowl of porridge down and stares at her. There’s silence, thick as fog, but Michonne has become accustomed to breathing even as she’s drowning in it. She meets Andrea’s gaze head-on and waits for the other woman to say what’s on her mind.
“I was trying to help,” she whispers, eventually. “I didn’t want anyone else to die.”
“You almost got yourself killed in the process. Or was that the point? You got some martyr complex going on that I should know about?”
While Michonne has become an expert in endurance, so has Andrea, of another kind. Michonne doesn’t snap often (normally, she just goes silent, and that’s often worse), but Andrea knows to sit back and take it if she wants the argument dealt with quickly. The only fault in this reasoning is that Andrea doesn’t always want the argument aired out, nor is she always capable of not trying to get the last word.
“Don’t patronise me,” she sighs back, closing her eyes to the migraine that’s already threatening to ruin her day. “I’m not expecting you to understand.”
“Why’s that? Because no one’s intentions are as honest-to-god pure as yours?”
Andrea opens her eyes, her head snapping forward and away from the wall she’d had it pressed back against.
“No, Michonne, because you’ve never been a part of a group like I have. Because, before it was you and me, it was just you. Just you out there on your own. You were fighting for your own survival, day-to-day, whereas I am trying to—”
“Do the best for the good of humanity?” Michonne stands up from her chair with a noise of offended amusement. “That’s a good one. Opened your legs to the enemy for the good of the group, right?”
“To serve some higher purpose?”
“Do you hear how ridiculous you sound?”
“Oh, I hear it, alright.” Michonne steps into the bunk-beds, one hand gripping the metal of the top cot. She leans down until her face is level with Andrea’s. “Do you hear how ridiculous you sound? What greater good was there that would’ve benefited from you being walker-bait?
“No, you listen to me, because I’m only gonna say this the once. There is no greater good, Andrea. There is no for the good of humanity. This is all that’s left, just this,” she throws a hand out to the jail cell, “and in this world, you either live on the day-to-day, or you die.”
Andrea stares back defiantly, but she does not speak. Michonne’s nostrils flare with her sigh before she pulls herself back, saying, “You’re good to no one, dead, and that’s how you’re gonna end up if you go back to Woodbury. You can’t reason with the Governor, he doesn’t want to hear it. Not even from you.”
Something flickers across Andrea’s gaze, and Michonne is given the impression that she needn’t have told her that last part – that Andrea already knows. Well, good. That’s one less thing she’ll have to worry about, then.
Her piece said, Michonne releases her hold on the top bunk bed and steps back.
“I’m going to relieve Glenn of his shift. You should eat that.”
She nods once down to the bowl of porridge, then leaves.
When Andrea sees her again, it’s mid-morning.
There were members of the group asleep when she’d arrived, and they welcome her in with the dawn. She’s given a bottle of warm milk and a baby to feed, and by the time Carol comes to take Judith from her, her shirt shoulder has a sour-smelling puke stain on it and there’s a headache rattling around her brain.
It’s the warmest welcome Andrea can remember receiving.
She finds Michonne at the top of the tower, on look-out. After Rick is satisfied that she’s neither about to become a walker, nor fall back into unconsciousness, he sends her up with a ration of food and a flask of water. The latter Michonne takes from her first, sips from sparingly, and attaches the strap over her shoulder. She goes back to her post as though Andrea isn’t still lingering there, bowl in hand.
“So,” she says, exaggerates it like she used to, but Michonne isn’t in the mood today. She doesn’t turn around and deadpan Andrea, nor does she raise an eyebrow and repeat, ‘so?’ She’s quieter than the dead; there’s something comforting about that, when she’s not mad at Andrea.
Changing tactics, Andrea sets the bowl down on a desk and tries, “I tried to leave.” Michonne doesn’t look to her, and so Andrea moves around to stand by her side. “I got as far as the tree line over there,” she points the area out, “and the Governor caught up with me. I almost screamed – thought someone here might hear it, and if not, then there was a chance that the walkers would take us both out, and he’d no longer be a problem for you all here.”
Michonne does turn to her, then, and her expression is deadpan. Andrea smiles a little at that.
“Sorry. I don’t have a martyr complex.” She tips her head towards Michonne and smirks, but the other woman does little other than turn her gaze back to the lower fields. “I was thinking of you, though. And the others, too. You were right about Woodbury, and I should have trusted you from the beginning.”
“Then neither of us would be here.”
“That’s true. And the Governor might still have found them here and decided to fix the problem.”
Michonne can’t help herself – her gaze slides across to Andrea, and lingers there when she sees the guilt-stricken look on her face. She wants to say something that will remedy that, maybe, but not yet. She’s still angry.
“You know, you were right about something,” she says, and feels Andrea’s gaze like a handprint against her cheek. “You really don’t know anything about me.” She sees the exact second Andrea flinches back and tries not to revel in it – just for a little while. “It wasn’t always just me, on my own. I had people, once.”
She wants to look Andrea in the eye as she’s saying this, but she doesn’t think she can do that and manage not to cry. Her voice is already so tight, so barely controlled, and her throat barely allowing the passage of air. Her hands are tight fists by her sides, the curve of the binoculars leaving an imprint in one of her palms.
“I know what you were doing, going back there. I know there’s still a part of you that’s Civil Rights Lawyer. The rules that used to apply – they don’t mean anything in this world. You can’t be everybody’s hero – you can’t save everybody.”
There’s a pause of silence in which she feels Andrea stepping into her side.
“I know,” the other woman finally says, and lowers her head. “But I still wanted to try.”
Michonne turns to look at her side-on, and finally releases a short sigh. She tips her body into Andrea’s and her eyes soften when the other woman looks up, surprised and hopeful. She thinks she might love this woman for all the good she wishes she could do, but she can’t escape the simple fact that that kind of goodness in this world is foolish. Andrea won’t survive with it, but Michonne hates to think of what she’d be without it.
(Like her, a quiet thought supplies.)
“What did you bring?” she asks, cutting her gaze across to the bowl on the desk, and Andrea smiles properly this time and steps away.
“I’m – not entirely sure.” She pokes at the food with a spoon before handing it over. “But you should eat it. How long are you up here for?”
“Want me to take over for a couple hours?”
“You’re supposed to be resting,” Michonne reminds her, and sees frustration flash across Andrea’s face for a second.
“I’ve been resting.” She picks at a bandage on her wrist and shrugs. Michonne doesn’t look entirely impressed, but she also doesn’t tell her to go back inside, and so Andrea puts on her most pleading smile and asks, “You want some company?”
Michonne’s sigh is exaggerated, and she doesn’t quite manage to hide her smile as she kicks a chair towards her, and so Andrea takes it with a grin. She sits there in silence while Michonne eats, keeping a vague watch on the grounds below.
The last of the morning light is rising out of the tower, and Andrea leans back until it’s on her face, closes her eyes, and tries to forget the panic that has held her limbs tight for weeks.
“Woodbury was a veneer.”
Michonne looks up at the unexpected statement, and that’s apparently all the invitation Andrea needs to continue with her train of thought.
“It looked utopic on the surface. It was too good. The people there were still civilians; they still had jobs and hobbies. The only walkers they saw had had their teeth pulled.” She looks at Michonne with a mix of horror and disgust. “They thought the Governor was protecting them, but all he was doing was keeping them from protecting themselves. How could somebody be so cruel?”
She asks it like she genuinely wants an answer, but Michonne hasn’t anything to say.
“How could somebody do that to them – let them think that they’re safe? That a few big walls and guns can protect them? How could he let them think that that kind of life still existed?”
Michonne doesn’t want to defend this man – she won’t, and doubts she can, not to Andrea – but she’d seen the people at Woodbury for herself. Those people hadn’t cared that they couldn’t leave. They didn’t want to.
“Because people still want to believe that,” she tells Andrea. She doesn’t say the you had, too that comes to mind, but the thought passes between them, anyway.
“Those people didn’t know how to protect themselves. The Governor gave them guns and they came running back with them at the first sign of trouble.”
Not that she’s really that unhappy about that; she’d been given the full story of the attack at breakfast, and seen the size of the crowd that had moved into the prison. She’d seen familiar faces, some with knowing looks in their eyes, others with pity.
“We’ll change that,” Michonne says, and Andrea just smiles and accepts it.
It’s all she can do.
Andrea takes the cell with Michonne – follows Michonne back there after dark, but she’s given (and turns down) a second choice. The prison is no longer overrun with empty space, and she has little desire to sleep alone.
Michonne has no complaints, but does tell her, “The bottom bunk’s mine. We had to put you in that one last night ‘cause you were out.”
“But you want it back,” Andrea smirks, and stuffs her gun under the pillow on the top bunk. “Fine. But I want another pillow – you have three down there.”
Michonne throws the pillow towards her face, but Andrea plucks it out of the air in time.
She’s still smirking to herself as she climbs up onto the top bunk. Michonne had given her one of the bottom pillows – she can tell, because it still smells like the other woman. She presses her face into it and takes a deep breath – even sighs it out, and hears Michonne’s answering breath from below.
She doesn’t know if she’s safe here, if any of them are, but she can’t deny that the group they have has a habit of making you optimistic. It also doesn’t help that her body is exhausted and still healing, but when Andrea buries her face in her pillow that night and tries to sleep, nothing comes.
Her body aches and the bunk bed squeaks every time she rolls over too hard, and Andrea’s quickly losing patience. She considers getting up and going on watch – doing something productive – but that idea soon kills her motivation. She’s tired, she just can’t get comfortable enough to sleep.
It can’t be the bed, she reasons, because she’s slept on worse since the world went to shit. It’s not that she doesn’t feel safe, because even if she hasn’t any right to, deep down, right here, she does. The cot she’s in is cold and empty, and Andrea knows she doesn’t have the privilege to force someone into sharing one with her, but she’s feeling selfish enough to try.
She sits up in bed and the entire structure squeaks with it. If Michonne had ever managed to fall asleep through her tossing and turning, she has a feeling that she’s now wide awake. There’s a soft sigh from the bottom bunk when Andrea swings her legs over the top railing, but Michonne remains quiet until Andrea has scaled the bunk beds and is sitting on the edge of her mattress.
Michonne doesn’t speak at first. She rolls onto her back and watches Andrea in the dark. She can make out her features, but barely, and feels the bed shudder when she shivers with the cold. When it becomes clear that Andrea isn’t looking for a conversation, Michonne scoots right back against the wall and sighs.
“Get in,” she whispers, and knows that Andrea’s smiling when she steals under the blanket with her.
There’s barely room for them, but they make do on their sides. Michonne sets her hand on Andrea’s hip, and Andrea takes it and drags her arm around her, tucks her hand under her chin with both of her own.
It’s the end of the world and the last of the human race is going to shit, but of course Michonne gets stuck with a roommate who’s a cuddler. She tries to tell herself she’d be annoyed, if she was in any worse a mood, but she knows it’s a lie.
Tucking her fingers through the hand that she’s captured, Andrea whispers, “Goodnight, Mich.”
Michonne presses her forehead to the back of her neck and tries not to let Andrea’s stray curls annoy her.
“Go to sleep.”
In the morning, Maggie finds them like that and announces breakfast. Andrea tries to bet that everyone will be gossiping about them by noon. Michonne tells her by breakfast.
If their sleeping arrangements have been the topic of any discussion, the group gives nothing away. Until Maggie leans over as Carol and Carl take the dishes and tells Michonne, “I can take your shift today – you know, if you, uh, have other stuff to do.” She sends a look between the pair of them that Michonne tries to ignore, but Andrea is already fighting back a laugh.
“Thank you,” she says, and places a hand on Michonne’s thigh, well in-view of Maggie’s sight. “It’s so difficult to get a little privacy around here.”
Maggie just lets out a sighed, “tell me about it.”
Andrea moves her hand once she’s gone, and Michonne sends her a look that’s far too easy for her to shrug off as she stands from the table.
“They’re all gonna think we’re dating,” Michonne says, like a warning, but Andrea just grins and raises her eyebrows.
“You gonna give them reason to believe that we are?”
Michonne doesn’t know if that’s an invitation.
(Andrea barely waits twenty four hours before making her intentions clear.
“You said it yourself – we’re dying out here. No time to hesitate. When something feels right, it feels right.”
“I don’t remember saying that—”
“I’m pretty sure you did.”
She presses her lips to Michonne’s, and this time, Michonne doesn’t push her back to argue.)