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Michonne was the first to move. She went to Deanna. Carol blocked her midway and covertly passed her the knife.

Michonne crouched to look Deanna in the eyes. "He's going to turn."

Everyone waited for Deanna to say something.

Deanna stared at Reg. She was waiting for him to wake up. Despite the blood all over his neck, she was waiting for him to wake up. For good measure, she shook him lightly and called his name. "Reg. Reg," she called more sternly.

Michonne looked up at Rick. She silently told him they could wait. He nodded once.

So they waited.

No one said a word.

The cold air seeped through their clothes and their skin and settled in their bones, despite the fire.

When Reg stirred, Rick moved Deanna out of the way.

Reg's nose twitched as he smelled the warm bodies.

Michonne positioned herself on the balls of her feet, her stance wide, and hovered her hand above his chest, ready to block him.

His eyes sprung open, and he lunged up at her with a raspy snarl, and Michonne plunged the knife into his forehead.

"Take care of her; I'll take care of them," Rick said.

"What are you gonna do?" Deanna asked, her voice raw.

Rick took in her wet, flat eyes. "Put them in the cemetery. We can bury Reg tomorrow."

"What about...Pete?" Jessie asked, realizing too late that she probably shouldn't have asked after what he'd just done.

"Let's just put them in the cemetery for now," Rick deflected.

Daryl and Morgan left Aaron to help Rick and Abraham move the bodies.

"I'll take you home," Michonne said to Deanna.

"I can take her home," Tobin declared as he came up to them.

Michonne saw the challenge in his eyes and ignored it.

"I have to tell Spencer," Deanna said to Michonne. "Oh, God."

"Come on," Michonne coaxed, and they left the gathering.

She, along with Tobin, much to her annoyance, walked with Deanna to the gate, where she broke the tragedy to Spencer. Spencer was in a state of shock, unable to grasp how everything could've gone left in the short time since he'd left the meeting. He went to the cemetery to confirm what his mother was saying. On the way there, Michonne pulled Carol aside and asked her to stand at the gate. She gave her the bloody knife.

Jessie was still on the floor where Pete had died when the quartet started for Deanna's house. Michonne broke off from them and kneeled in front of Jessie.

"You need to go home," she said.

"I'm gonna have to tell the boys, too," Jessie said, her pupils too dilated for Michonne's liking. "I have to tell them that...their father's dead. Is he really dead?"

"Yes," Michonne answered quietly.

"I...I did this."

"Jessie-"

"I went to see him. I wasn't supposed to. I mean the whole reason he was sequestered away was to keep him away from me, but I went to see him. I wanted...I wanted him to see that he needs to change. I wanted him to get it. We argued, and he pushed me. I pushed him first, because I was scared. I...I made him angry."

"You need to go home and talk to your kids," Michonne said. "This was not your fault. Come on."

Holding Jessie by the arms, she prompted her to stand, and then she walked her home. Michonne had the distinct feeling that Jessie wasn't the only one who'd visited Pete. While Jessie had made him angry, she knew one person who'd probably wanted to make him angry.

On the porch, Jessie turned to Michonne, eyes wide. Michonne found it unnerving. "Go inside," she encouraged.

"I'm doing this by myself now," Jessie said, her voice so low that Michonne wondered if she was meant to hear it.

"You're not by yourself. You have us. That's the point of a community." The words sounded hollow to Michonne, but it was the best she had right now.

She went to the Monroes' next. She wasn't calm so much as she was operating. The extreme life at the end of the world made her realize that she probably would've made a great first responder.

Tobin opened the door, and if he'd attempted to turn her away, she would've punched him dead in his face.

She wasn't calm. She was operating.

Michonne entered the house and walked through the room that had hosted their welcome party not too long ago.

Deanna and Spencer were holding hands on the couch. She was holding onto him more than he was holding on to her. Michonne wondered if anything festive would ever happen in this house again.

"I'm sorry for your loss," Michonne said as she stood at the entrance of the family room.

"It wasn't that long ago that we were here for Aiden," Deanna said, her eyes on the pristine carpet.

"I'm so sorry." She thought of Sasha and Maggie, and their back to back losses. "I think that you need to let Rick handle what comes after this."

Spencer slowly lifted his eyes to look at her, incredulous. Michonne met his gaze before she refocused on Deanna. "He's done this before. This is his world."

"Are you serious?" Tobin asked.

"You're in shock, and you can take a little time-"

"This is not the time to make a play," Tobin said in surprised disgust.

"I'm not making a play," Michonne countered calmly as she gave him her attention. "Two people are dead tonight, and walkers literally walked right in. I can assure you that everyone in my group is wondering how many others there are and how close they are to us. What are you thinking about? Do you even realize that we need answers to those two questions as soon as possible? I'm not making a play. I'm looking out for us."

She looked at Deanna, who was looking at her now. "Let Rick handle this until things calm down."

"You need to go," Tobin ordered as he stepped in front of her. "Now."

Michonne narrowed her eyes. Did he really think putting some base in his voice was going to make her scurry?

"Think about it, Deanna," Michonne said as she glared at him. "The world doesn't stop to let you mourn. That's not how it is anymore. Now more than ever, you need to keep moving."

With that, she turned from Tobin and left.

She went to speak to Carol. As she approached, she saw Carol walking slowly back and forth in front of the gate, one hand on the knife sheathed on her belt loop, her attention focused on anything and anyone that might appear. It reminded Michonne of when they would take shifts patrolling the perimeter of the prison. She wondered what their lives would be like now if they hadn't lost it. And she grimly wondered how long it would be before they lost Alexandria.

Carol turned her head in Michonne's direction when she felt her approach. "Hey."

"Hey," Michonne greeted. She got right to the point. "Jessie's taking responsibility for Pete losing it just now. Said she went to see him and ended up angering him."

Carol stared at her.

Michonne smiled without humor. "She wasn't the only one who went to see him. And while I believe that she angered him by accident, I also believe that you angered him on purpose."

"Pete reacted the way he did because of who he was," Carol explained. "Had nothing to do with Jessie or me. And he met his natural end."

Michonne knew that that was as much of an admission as she was going to get.

"Speaking of which," Carol continued, "I need to go pick up a dish and do a little clean up before someone walks in that house. Mind covering up here for me?"

Michonne shook her head, so Carol handed her the knife.

"Be careful of the moves you make, Carol," Michonne warned as the reserved woman started to walk away.

Carol turned. "Meaning?"

"Don't force a repeat of what happened."

Carol held her gaze, knowing she was referring to her banishment. She turned and walked away, heading toward the house that once held Pete.

Michonne slowly exhaled and took up Carol's back and forth walk alone the gate. She thought about Father Gabriel. Spencer had said that he'd told him to close the gate. She knew the man to be a jittery coward, but she wondered how the walkers got inside. Had Father Gabriel seen them and run away? Or was he dead somewhere?

She pushed the second possibility away. If he was dead, his body would be inside the gate. Just to be sure, she opened it and stepped outside. She did a quick search of the immediate area and found no remains. For good measure, she attuned her ears and listened for any disturbance to the silence.

Satisfied but still watchful, she headed inside and closed the gate.

Ten minutes later, Abraham joined her.

"A word, Counselor?" he asked as he approached.

Michonne smiled. "What?"

"That was damn impressive. Took Deanna right to the carpet."

"She asked for it. What she did was completely biased against Rick."

"How did you leave her?"

"In shock. They don't know this. They don't know about any of this. I seized the opportunity to suggest she let Rick handle things while she processes what happened. Didn't go over well with Tobin or Spencer, especially Tobin, but it'll be a miracle if she pulls it together by tomorrow. Did you guys get any resistance?"

"Nah. Everyone was still loitering when we came back from putting the bodies in the cemetery. Rick told 'em to go home and get some rest and we'll talk tomorrow. He also told us while we were in the cemetery that he doesn't plan on keeping Pete here."

"Here? Where's he gonna put 'em?"

"Somewhere beyond," Abraham said as he lifted his chin to point at the gate.

"Well, that's...fine with me. We'll see how it goes."

"The universe came together on our behalf," Abraham concluded.

"Something like that," Michonne scoffed as she thought of Carol.

"Very rare thing," Abraham continued, oblivious. "We better make the most of it. I can take over here. Go home. Rick has your sword."

"Thanks." She gave him the knife and headed off. She wanted to stop by the infirmary to fetch Carl and Judith, but she wanted to make sure that she wasn't needed first.

She squared everything, including locating Father Gabriel, and took her sword from Rick. She left him to deal with Morgan and went to pick up her kids.


Rick left Morgan in his secluded dwelling for the night, locking the door behind him. He idly thought that they should change the mattress given the fun he and Michonne had on it the previous night but that would involve giving Deanna a legitimate reason for the change.

Alexandria was quiet again. He'd put out the fire, literally and figuratively. Everyone had retreated to their homes, though he wondered how many of them would actually sleep. He was looking forward to a hot shower himself. His face was sticky with dried blood, and the smell of iron and copper was overwhelming.

As he neared Carol's house on the way to his, he saw her standing on the porch. "You waiting for me?" he asked as he slowed down.

"Yeah. Not bad, huh?" she asked as she stepped down.

"I think the walkers would've gotten the point across. What happened with Pete was unfortunate."

"What happened to Reg was unfortunate," Carol countered.

"But still lucky, right?" Rick subtly challenged.

Carol lifted her brows in a cool concession of his point.

"I realized that I didn't need to scare them. Not them. When Reg stopped breathing, and I looked into Deanna's eyes, I realized that she was the one I needed. To scare, to convince, whatever. She was the one. Everyone else will follow."

"Think you have her?"

Rick shrugged. "We'll see."

"If you don't," she shrugged. "Things worked out once. They can work out again."

Rick wasn't sure to make of that, so he switched the subject a bit. "We disagreed about how to handle this thing toward the end. But thank you for...looking out for us. For always thinking of us."

Carol swallowed thickly. As much as she wished it didn't matter, Rick's words meant alot to her, specifically because she wasn't always sure she was doing the right thing. But it was like a compulsion. First instinct: go through anyone to make sure they're all okay, that they come out alive and standing strong. And because it was like a compulsion, she actually didn't trust herself to be in the right. That was why she didn't put up a fight when Rick kicked her out. She'd made a decision, and she stood by it, had no regrets, but she wasn't sure that she was in tune with all of her emotions anymore. She didn't know if she knew how to regret anymore. Which made her wonder about her level of compassion, and that was when she forcibly shut down all thoughts. She didn't have time to gaze at her navel.

"What you're doing with Michonne, is it real?" she asked.

"Yeah," Rick answered.

"Is it serious?"

"Yes."

"Good. It better be. Because if you fuck it up, I will personally sharpen that sword so she can lop your head off."

Rick smiled and nodded.

"She was great tonight. You should've seen her. Good night." With that, she went inside.

"Good night."


Rick was surprised by how relieved he felt as soon as he stepped inside his house. He glanced at the patched up window on his way to Michonne, who was standing in front of the mantel in her pajamas.

"Carl and I did what we could," Michonne said of the window before returning her attention to her sword, which she'd cleaned and returned to the top of the mantel.

"Why would he think to steal your sword of all things?" Rick wondered.

Michonne absently shook her head. "It was the only weapon readily available. He didn't want to take a chance at the armory."

Rick took in her straight back and reticent tone. He couldn't see her face, but he would bet that she was frowning. "Are you okay?" he asked.

"Tara's awake," she said. "I spoke to her when I went to get Carl and Judith. Told her and Rosita what happened. She has to deal with Noah being gone now."

"I'm glad she's awake. You didn't answer my question."

Michonne faced him and gave him a warm smile. "You stink. And you look terrible. Go shower, and then we'll talk. I only deal with fresh and clean people, remember?"

Rick nodded, smiling, and then he went to do as told.

After his shower, he donned a fresh set of pajamas and checked on Carl and Judith.

When he joined Michonne downstairs, she was curled on the couch. Her pajama shorts exposed her toned legs. He sat on the side opposite the thigh with the old gunshot wound so he could play with it.

"What's the matter? Back to thinking this place isn't gonna work out for us?" he asked.

"Kind of. It's not this place; it's...us. I...thought something very stupid. And reality keeps slapping me in the face, asking me what I was thinking. I thought...that if we came here...that if we made a home here...that we'd be safe. It wasn't just about getting us off the road. It wasn't just about food and shelter. It was about life. It was about...this stopping. But this doesn't stop. Noah died. Reg is dead. Walkers got in. We're still dying. I can...never put that sword down.

I don't know what came over me. I didn't even realize I felt this way until I watched that sword slice through Reg, just like that. Blood everywhere. I'm the woman who scoured almost half of Georgia for the Governor, remember?"

"I remember," Rick said.

"So what's wrong with me now? Why do I feel so hopeless? Why the hell did I think this place would be the answer? When did that happen to me?"

"You brought us here," Rick said, "And you thought...you thought that we'd be okay. That we wouldn't lose anymore."

Michonne shook her head at the stupidity of it.

"It's normal," Rick stressed. "You brought us here, so you feel responsible for how it works out."

"Yeah," she admitted.

"You need to shift your thinking. You brought us here to give us our best shot. That's how you have to look at it. You can't take on the responsibility of keeping everybody alive. It will cripple you. Trust me. Food, water, shelter. You give everyone that, and you trust them to make the best of it. To keep themselves alive. That's how I do it."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. It doesn't make the losses any easier. It is easier to get back up. To keep going. After a fashion. It helps when you got a pretty thang willing to help you keep going."

"Did you just call me a pretty thang?" Michonne asked, smiling.

"I did."

"A pretty thang. Hmm. I got me one of those. Real pretty."

"Good. You need to focus on those who are still here," he said seriously. "They still need you."

Michonne nodded.

"Hey. You've given us our best shot. And we will make the best of it. I will," he promised.

She took a deep breath and released it. "I hope I've made it easier. Before I left Deanna, I told her that she should let you handle things for a while until she recovers from Reg's death. This is your wheel house."

"I hope she listens."

Michonne wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head on his chest when he scooped an arm around her shoulders.

Rick kissed her hair. "Are you okay?"

"A little better. I'm thinking about who I was. The woman who wasn't tired. I've never been tired of this. The losses have hurt, but I've ultimately taken them as part of this life. I'm worried that I can't go back to that. That I can't just take it in stride anymore. Sasha said that it worked out for me. For the first time since she said it, I'm thinking that might be a very scary thing. There are stakes."

She released herself from the hug to look at him.

"Your heart is beating outside of your chest," Rick observed astutely.

"You, Carl, and Judith," she confirmed.

"Do you wish there was a way out of it, that...you didn't feel the way you feel? About us? Me?"

"Of course not. It's just scary. It's been a long time since I had this. I just want you all safe. You?"

"I'm not scared yet. Weirdly enough, I feel like things are starting to make sense around here, and it is because those walkers got in. Like you said, this is my wheelhouse. That cookie-cutter party crap: that made me uncomfortable."

Michonne affectionately shook her head.

"I will do everything to keep you safe," he whispered.

"So will I. I love you."

"I love you, too."

She shook her head again and said, "Hershel would be so proud if he could hear me. I've gone from keeping a large distance between myself and the group, to being part of the group, to...feeling responsible. Wanting the best for everyone."

"He would be. I'm proud of you."

"Thank you."

Rick followed Michonne down memory lane for a moment and wondered what Shane of all people would think of him. He was positive that pride was off the table. Shane had been of the opinion that they need to do anything to survive since the beginning, but Rick was sure that if Shane had been here to see him seriously consider conquering Alexandria and all of its weak inhabitants his hatred of him would only increase. At some point, Rick had stopped being able to win where Shane was concerned. At some point, it stopped being about him doing the right thing as Shane saw it. At some point, he was wrong. Period. No matter what. So wrong that the only recourse was for him to be killed.

If Shane could see him now, alive and more or less thriving, he would be livid.

But he had better things to focus on. Much better, richer things.

"Let's go to bed," he coaxed.

Michonne got up to turn off the light, and then she followed Rick up the stairs to their bedroom.

"It's amazing how good you can smell now after smelling like death and decay," she said as she closed the distance between them to hug him from behind.

Smiling, Rick asked, "What do I smell like?"

"I smell peppermint, tea tree oil, and lavender."

"That's the shampoo," he said lazily as he swayed with her.

"I like it."

Rick turned in her embrace. He was very proud of her. He's seen Michonne as a partner since she found him and Carl. His partner in survival, his partner in the nonstop fight, his partner in keeping the kids safe. Now she was his partner in life. And leadership.

He pulled her tank top to tug her toward the bed. "I'm wonderin' if there are any other exclusive perks in the fresh and clean club. Maybe for one specific member." He put one knee on the bed and climbed on backward without letting go of her top.

Michonne followed him. "Iono, Rick. Your membership in the club isn't permanent. Hygiene is very important to me and Judith, and you tend to look all types of rageddy, like it's not a problem."

Rick widened his eyes in offense and attacked her ribcage, his fingers moving over it like he was playing the piano.

Michonne yelped loudly and then gasped. "Oh shit," she whispered, putting a hand over her mouth as she sat on her calves.

"Are you trying to wake up the baby?" Rick asked quietly as if he wasn't complicit.

Michonne gave him a slow blink. "As I was saying, before I was rudely assaulted, you're in the club for tonight. As club leader, I am...open...to being convinced to consider you for future membership."

"You're open, are you? You don't know open yet. And just wait until Judy becomes a toddler. We'll see how important hygiene is to her then. You gon' be in this club all by yourself."

"You're doing a whole lot of talkin' about the wrong thing, Richard," Michonne said breezily as she flopped on her pillow.

"And I can't wait to stroke that smugness out of you, Michonne."

Michonne peaked her eyebrows, very interested in his declaration.

He stroke her meticulously, like he was on a mission and he had to be thorough with every move he made. His moans in her ear increased her arousal and hardened her clit. She rutted against him and bit his shoulder and trembled all over when he begged her to do it again and to do it harder. She came when he returned the favor, the sensation starting in her belly before rolling out in fat waves that made her legs lock around his waist.

She caught her breath while he sucked on her sensitive nipples, and then she rolled them over to put herself on top and slid down his body. She grinned wolfishly when she saw her thick, white lube on his dick, evidence of how much he turned her on. She stroke him up once to get rid of much of it, and then she took him in her mouth. She massaged his balls until they were heavy with promise.

With soft flicks of her tongue, she slowly licked her way down from his scrotum to his perineum. An excited tremor coursed through Rick from the feel of her wet tongue in such an intimate place. His legs lifted, he held her head in place, grinning when he felt her smile. His grin gave way to a satisfied moan when she delicately sucked the sensitive skin.

When he came in her mouth moments later, it was more than he'd given her last time, and Michonne made a silent promise to thrill him in that cherished place in the future.

"You have an automatic entrance to the club next time," she said, sated, as they lay naked and wrapped up in each other afterward. "But only for next time," she said as she traced down his nose.

"You're a difficult woman, Michonne," he said sleepily.

"And you love working for it, Rick."

His toothy grin told her that he wasn't going to deny it. She leaned forward and kissed him. "We should probably put some clothes on in case we wake up to pitchforks outside of our house in the morning."

"You're kidding," Rick said, his eyes still closed from the kiss. He wasn't planning on opening them again until daybreak, so he wasn't for the getting dressed business.

"I'm serious," Michonne said. "People tend to think they've got things figured out after a night's sleep. They may be in shock tonight, but that doesn't guarantee they'll be that way in the morning. I know Tobin, for one, still isn't feeling us."

"You don't seriously want us to get dressed," Rick said, eyes closed.

"Unless you're willing to have a confrontation butt naked..."

Rick threw his leg over hers and settled into his pillow.

"You are freaking ridiculous. Get off me," Michonne laughed.

He only opened his eyes to watch her laugh. Once he released her, she got off the bed to retrieve their pajamas.

After they were dressed, she made herself the little spoon to his big spoon. "I'm happy you asked me to move in," she said as she caressed the hand that played with her stomach.

"Took you a while to get it," he said.

"Took you a while to get to the point," she immediately bit back.

His laughter rumbled against her back.

"I'm happy you said yes. To everything."

"Me too."

The End