The group spent two nights huddled together in the living room of the house that Deanna had given them.
It felt more like squatting, really. No one ventured to the second floor, except for when Rick and Daryl had done a sweep in search of anything suspicious. Outside of that one venture, they kept to the first floor and slept together in the living room, in fear, in preparation, in trepidation.
Well, some of them slept. Rick, Michonne, Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham had a little trouble the first night.
But the second night, Rick declared that they could start looking for their own houses. They were staying.
The morning after, Michonne stood on the porch of the squatter home, quietly enthralled by what was across the street. Across the street was house. To the right of the house was another house. And to the left of the house was another house. Across the street was a row of houses. With a paved street separating that row and her row.
"It's not Washington," Rick said behind her.
Michonne turned to him with a serene smile. "We don't know what we would've found in Washington."
When Rick raised his eyebrows next to her, she explained, "What I mean is, I doubt we would've found this, a community of old. I pictured a government building in Washington, sure, but I figured we'd be sleeping on the floor, or...I don't know, something that was close to what we're used to. That was good enough for me. But this," she trailed off, shaking her head.
"Woodbury looked like this," Rick said.
"No, it didn't," Michonne said, her good humor fading for a moment. "Woodbury didn't look like this. Worse, Woodbury didn't feel like this. Deanna interviewed all of us. That makes sense. We do the same thing before we let someone in. Deanna sent someone to scout us. The Governor, he did something completely different. He presented an all are welcome front, and that didn't make sense."
"I'm sure this place has secrets," Michonne continued. "You can't build a community in this world as it is now without having put some things in the closet. Hell, you can't survive in this world as it is now without some things in your closet," she said contemplatively. "But right now, I just want to stand on this porch," she said, turning her attention back to the row of houses across the street.
"For seventeen minutes," Rick added.
When Michonne looked at him, she found the hint of a smile playing on his lips. He was teasing her.
"I've been out here for seventeen minutes?" she asked.
"Yeah. I figured I had to come out and see what was so interesting," he said. It was a bit of a lie, but he'd get to the real reason he came to see her in a second.
Michonne shrugged, smiling.
They were silent a moment as Michonne admired the houses and Rick rehearsed how he was going to approach the topic of his interest.
"You're still not sure about this place, are you?" Michonne asked as she turned her attention to him.
"Not completely. But I've seen enough to give it a shot. Are you?"
Michonne blinked and looked across the street. "We always have to consider the human element, right? Such as it is right now, I mean. I've read Deanna, but I haven't closed the book. I'm still watching."
"Good," Rick said, relieved. He'd been having a hard time picturing Michonne buying into the idea of this place so quickly and so soon. Because that was what they were faced with so far: an idea. They wouldn't know the true Alexandria for a couple of days. With the group's combined experiences and skills, all they needed was a couple of days to figure out the true face of Alexandria.
But in the meantime….
"You're all set to go house hunting?" Rick asked.
"I've been standing on this porch for seventeen minutes, probably twenty now, and the first night I spent twenty minutes brushing my teeth. I don't know if I'm ready for the big responsibility of house shopping," she joked.
"Probably spend an hour in every room of every house," he said.
Michonne took the jab in kind.
"But it'd be good if you had someone with you, you know?" he said as an itch appeared on his elbow. He took care of it. Another itch appeared behind his neck. He sensed a problem developing. He ignored his neck and placed his hands on his hips instead. His hands naturally went to his hips whenever he felt confident. This time, however, he did it in hopes that the confidence would follow the hands on hips.
"Someone who would pull you along when you stayed in a room too long?" he continued.
Michonne smiled and faced the street.
Well, that didn't accomplish anything. She thought he was still teasing her.
"You're gonna live alone?" he asked.
It was as if he hadn't rehearsed. Lord help him if he could remember what he'd rehearsed. And his left ear was itching now.
"I don't think it's a good idea for us to be alone," Michonne said. Rick turned his body to face her fully, so Michonne did the same, resting her weight on her left leg. "We should be in groups, just in case, and for each other's sake, too. I don't think Sasha went to sleep 'til close to dawn last night. This is new, and we're adjusting. You'll be with Carl and Judith, of course; Carol with Daryl, probably next door, for the kids' protection. Abraham will be with Rosita and Eugene, Glenn and Maggie, and maybe the good Father; and me, Noah, Tara, and Sasha."
"Right. Right," Rick nodded.
Michonne nodded. Rick didn't say anything more, so she faced the street.
"What if we changed that a little bit?" Rick asked, tilting his head to the left.
Michonne faced him again.
"Noah, Tara, and Sasha can be together. You can be with me, Carl, and Judith. Or me, Carl, and Judith can be with you. It's an idea, right? I mean it condenses us. That way Daryl and Carol don't have to be next door; you'll be in the house."
Michonne frowned. "I'm fine with my idea. Matter of fact my group can be on the other side of your house. Hopefully it works out that way. It'd be more protection for the kids. Not that Noah himself isn't a kid. He probably only has three or four years on Carl, same age as Beth was."
"Right," Rick said, nodding.
Michonne turned to the street.
Rick inhaled loudly as he, too, faced the street. He moved closer to the column in front of him and leaned his left hand against it, his right hand still on his hip. "Yeah, Jesse offered to show me some houses."
When Michonne looked at him, he explained, "She's the one who gave me the haircut."
"Oh," Michonne said, smiling and stretching the word out. "She's the one."
"Is she the realtor here?" Michonne asked, half joking.
"That's what she was before this happened, before she got married, actually."
Michonne nodded. "Then she might be showing all of us."
"I'm sure Aaron will help."
Rick straightened his posture and ran his hand down the column. "Michonne, do you really want to live with Noah, Tara, and Sasha?" he asked, placing the hand back on his hip and facing her.
"They don't strike me as hard to live with," she joked.
"What about me and the kids?"
Michonne raised her brows, taken aback by the question. Was he asking who was going to take care of him and the kids?
"I mean we're not hard to live with either," Rick continued, not realizing how Michonne had initially taken the question. "Heck, we did it for a short while. Sure, it was just Carl then, but Judith ain't half bad; she does what she's supposed to do."
"Rick, what are you asking me?" Michonne asked, annoyed with the fact that she couldn't figure out where his head was.
"I'm askin'," Rick said, taking a step toward her, "If you're so inclined, and if it ain't too much trouble, and if you wouldn't rather live alone, or with Noah, Tara, and Sasha; I'm asking….."
Michonne raised her brows.
Rick's heart sped up so fast that he got an instant headache. What was he going to do if she said no?
"Michonne." His heart was beating so damn fast, and his headache was just a little worse now. "I want you….to live with me and the kids. I can't-I can't imagine it another way. I can't think of it another way. I can't….have you in another house or houses away. I just….I want you there. I want you with us. But if that's not what you want, then it's fine. Part of this is supposed to be us getting back to what's normal, you know settling down, getting our own lives, carving out our own….."
He was running out of words. He was trying, but he was running out of words.
"So you ramble after you've barely slept in a very nice house, is that what you do, Rick?" Michonne teased.
Rick didn't respond, not a smile, not a word. He needed to know what he was going to do. He wanted to be off this porch.
Michonne stepped closer to him and grabbed one of the hands on his hips. She squeezed reassuringly, but Rick didn't feel the sentiment, not even when she smiled.
"You want me to move in with you," Michonne said.
Rick nodded, his head feeling heavier than it had the other times he'd nodded. "Yes," he confirmed. "But it doesn't have to happen."
"It'll happen," Michonne said lightly.
Rick parted his lips in response, not daring to accept what she'd said too quickly.
"Why not?" Michonne asked, shrugging. "As long as it's okay with Carl."
"I'm still the boy's father, last I checked. He'll be fine. It's you. He'll be fine."
Michonne smiled. Rick squeezed her hand, and when he did he moved his hand further into hers so that her holding his hand morphed into them kind of holding each other's hand. His squeeze was warm and very familiar, and Michonne's stomach cartwheeled.
She blinked, her smile faltering a little. His smile stayed in place, and he was staring into her eyes, and his eyes were kind of-
Michonne pulled her hand out of his and faced the street, taking a deep breath. That was a little difficult: taking a deep breath. It was difficult when she was short of breath.
She looked down the street to her right, but what she was thinking about was the fact that she'd just agreed to live with Rick. And his kids. In a nice house. With a paved street in front of it.
Rick was looking forward to it.