Another Day

A new day for Andrea and Rick does not necessarily put old wounds to rest. Their trek to check the outskirts of Woodbury for their friends is littered with distractions.

Forest beyond Woodbury's western edge


Bloodied, bruised, and caked in dirt, Rick Grimes stares at the horizon heeding the rising sun. His posture reflects his growing resolve, sitting on the ground in front of the shack, knees bent, and elbows resting on his knees. His fingers fold into a tight fist as he hisses a slow release of his breath. His eyes narrow into slits as the familiar sound of groaning captures his attention. Not that he reacts beyond the surface.

His arms unfold and he slowly uncurls from his semi-concealed position. He slowly rises to his feet and shifts back towards the shack. His hand raises and he raps on the door. "We gotta move. Try 'n find the others." His voice cracks. "We got to go back." There. Plain and simple. Daylight has firmed his thoughts.

The door opens shortly after the knocking. Andrea is not in much better shape. Her eyes are still red from both crying and the smoke. Dark circles ring the undersides of her eyes. It doesn't look like she got much rest. The walkers groaning in the background draw her eyes - her time in Woodbury making the sound more unnerving. However, it's Rick she's studying more intensely. She's been thinking things over more clearly, too. "Yeah. We do." She's not about to leave anyone behind. "The herd of walkers is gonna make it difficult."

The mention of the walkers causes Rick's eyebrows to tick upwards slightly, but otherwise the beat-up sheriff has little reaction to the thought of the herd. In a way, he feels like he's running on automatic, with machinations and automated movements that he cannot control. Which could be why his eyes squint at the sound of his own breath— a near growl thanks to the grime that has accumulated in the back of his throat. Andrea is given a simple nod and Rick's weight shifts backwards. He pivots away from Andrea, "The walkers'll be better than 'em Woodbury folks," he says to the horizon rather than Andrea.

At Rick's turn, Andrea frowns. For some reason, she feels as if that's a dig at her. As if her very being in Woodbury makes her accomplice to the events of the previous day. Taking a deep breath, instead of answering with anger, she buries it. Keeping her eyes on him, she remarks, "You don't really look like you're in much shape to take on both walkers and Woodbury." It's not said out of kindness or an insult. She's attempting to state a fact.

Rick's curl grimly upwards. Andrea's uttered fact draws his eyebrows a little higher on his forehead and causes his hands to tuck into the pockets of his dust covered ultra-faded pants. In a way, the former sheriff knows he's in no condition to pursue anyone, but that still small voice that whispers in the wind, beckons him forward. His head turns to the side. Her unmistakable dark hair, white dress, and pale skin is enough to draw goosebumps to his skin as she silently wills him home to her children. But then she's not really there. "I don't have a choice," he drawls. His body stills and he swallows hard. He's not going back without the others. At least not without a fight.

It's hard not to see the disparity of his reactions from a year ago to now. A herd hit the farm, they left and didn't go back to search for her. Now, a herd goes through Woodbury and they'll go through it to search for the others. Her jawline sets. "You don't? What makes this different from the farm?" Finally, she spits it out. They're not in immediate danger, she didn't sleep and is on edge. She feels responsible for Daryl's death and still hasn't forgotten about her abandonment.

The answer is obvious enough to Rick, and, in a way his very penance requires action. His own mind plagues him, riddled with tricks and urgings from dead loved ones. Dead loved ones killed by loved ones. He killed Shane. Judith killed Laurie. His jaw sets a little tighter as he rights himself. "'Cause, for the first time in a long time this group's got somethin' worth livin' for." And then, as a second thought he tacks on, "Before… what we were doin'. That's not livin'. At the end of the day, we're all damned walkers — " his arm gestures towards Woodbury where they'd met the herd. " — dead or live, we're all part of the goddamned walkin' dead until we can figure out how to bloody well live and make a life." His eyes widen. "An' for the first time, this group has a chance at a piece of that. Of a life safe. A real life. Somethin' better than Greene farm. Somethin' safe 'n protected. And I'll be damned if I walk out their chance to live when they invested so much into this piece of the pie." He pauses. "Before there was nothin' but survival. Now we can have life."

"And so I just got sacrificed to your idea of what it took to survive?" Andrea shakes her head. "And you've just decided that we can make a life for ourselves now? I thought that's what we were trying on Hershel's farm. I thought that's what we were trying every day. I thought I was part of all of your lives, but I guess it was just everyone surviving. In fact, I thought I'd found a good place at Woodbury. Say what you will about Ph—The Governor, but those people took me in with no cause. They treated my sickness and they gave me a warm bed with food and fresh water and clean clothes. They had a community. I will not forgive them what they did to Daryl, but you can't pretend as if you were any better. You left me to die. You decided who you were willing to risk your life for and I was not one of them."

A bitter chuckle emits from the back of Rick's throat. "Survivin' and livin' aren't the same thing. The farm wasn't safe. Not ultimately. All we could do is run from the dead." He sucks on the inside of his cheek. "But fightin' the livin'. That's different." His eyes narrow. "The danger that man poses to our people is different. It's easy to survive walkers compared to him. Compare me to the Governor if you've got to, but know that I wouldn't draw the lines the way he did. Maybe I look out for the overall group's survival. My son's survival. My daughter's," he virtually chokes on the word daughter, "survival. And at the end of the day, I wouldn't capture someone else's people to torture them. To violate them. Maggie. Glenn." And then simply he begins to stride back towards Woodbury. No point in arguing anymore. Over his shoulder he calls, "'Sides, you want to ditch a man who aimed to go back and look for you in the first place? I'm going back." His strides lengthen.

Andrea has no idea that Judith was born, nor that Lori is dead, but that word is enough to take her aback. "Daughter. Lori had the baby?" There's almost a happy smile a congratulations that would cross her lips, but it's gone in an instant. "No? What about Randall? Didn't you let Daryl beat him to make sure he wasn't a danger to the group? And then you were going to kill him before Dale stopped y—stopped us. Say what you want of the Governor. I thought he was safe. But--" He tortured and killed Daryl. No place is safe any more. "But don't pretend like you wouldn't harm others when your family was on the line." Then, her eyes widen before they quickly narrow. "I don't know what you mean. Nobody came back for me. But, I'm not abandoning anybody. I went to find you all for Daryl. I never meant…I never meant for him to get killed. I tried to help him." Her hand snakes forward in a jerking motion to grab him. "And I'm not saying we don't go back, I'm saying we don't get ourselves killed doin' it."

There's a hint of a smirk, something unspoken that Rick doesn't give a voice. "Yeah. Judith." Pause. "Carl named 'er." And then there's a pregnant pause, as if the sheriff considers something, but Andrea is allowed her piece, her explanation, and her time to just say what she says. Something edges in Rick's eyes, but he once again leaves it unspoken, and instead settles on: "Lori's dead." And that's all there is to say about that, and apparently everything, as Rick takes another step towards Woodbury's walls. The hand at his back does beckon him to stop moving, if only for a moment. "There a back way?"

Rick's words are as good as a backhand. Andrea looks like she was slapped. "Rick…" She trails off, unable to frame the proper words. "I'm sorry. I didn't know." Her righteous anger has melted away. Though it is still in the pit of her stomach, it's no longer bursting forth. Learning of the death of Lori is enough to quell it. The hand does not move from him, but instead of restraining, she attempts to comfort now. "She was a good woman." The second question is ignore for now. She's finally managed to get Rick to stop - if only for a short while - and she's not going to press it.

The words are nearly comical. When she was alive he might've even disputed the thought. Rick hadn't been himself. Not since Shane. Lori hadn't deserved the punishment he'd given. Not for how long he'd given it. "We fight the dead." His eyes stare at the long horizon. "But we are the dead. That's why this prison matters. Why places like Woodbury matter. Findin' a way to live when everyone is dead — I don't even 'member what it is to be really human." He pivots to face Andea, the cold steel of his grey-blue eyes deadening further, "That's what this — all of this is about. Findin' that scrap of humanity I can scrape together to live." He clears his throat, "Don't you see? I need to maintain this family 'cause if I lose them… I truly be like him." Him. The Governor. "Leadin' this group, hell leadin' any group where death is the reality is enough to break anyone. But savin' them — well that preserves" rather than restores "somethin'."

"But, we're not dead yet. There's a difference between us and them." The them being the Walkers. Andrea doesn't seem to disagree that community matters. Instead, she just listens, almost taking a step backward at the ferocity of his conviction and stare when he turns to face her. "Then you have to make sure both you and the family you're protecting survive and stay human." With a shake of her head, she looks over his shoulder in the direction he wishes to go in. "There's no back way in, but they might have made it out in a different spot. Let's circle around to make sure they're not in the woods somewhere before trying to get back in to that place." With that she'll assume the lead, as she apparently knows where they're going.

Rick's eyes narrow some as he falls into step behind Andrea. "It's good," he finally says, his passion abating some before he tacks on, "Daryl wanted to go back for you. Just sayin'." He shrugs. "And we were convinced you were gone. All of us."

The words are almost as much of a slap as learning that Lori died. Daryl wanted to go back for her. And now Daryl has died and she sided on behalf of the town that killed him in their last meeting. Andrea's fists clench, but as she is ahead of Rick, he won't see the few tears that fall down her dirty cheeks. Quickly, she wipes them away and keeps going. "I wasn't," she tells him softly, with conviction.

Silence permeates their walk, punctuated by the occasional crunching step that seems to shatter the world. A world made of only them two. The stirring of walkers the night before leaves an absence of them now, painting the land in further abandonment.

When the trees begin to thin, the road ahead becomes visible, paving its way east and west, cutting across their path. From the vantage point without branches, the dissipating linger of white clouds above Woodbury tells of the evening's dilemma. Now, it's a hell after the fact with a few charred facades visible on the far horizon.

Hell attracts sinners.

A low, disparate chorus of needy moans is audible before rounding nearer the center of the road makes their decaying huddle visible around a car abandoned further up the road. Rather than merely linger, each extends its arms entreatingly at the back window of the vehicle, dead fingers grasping at the glass without comprehension except that it's between them and a meal. Their single-minded dedication finds point every so often when, between the shuddering, clawing, blockage of limbs, a moving limb is visible inside the car. A boot hits up against the passenger window then disappears. A second car must've tried backing up to escape the traffic jam; its rear-end blocks the first car's opposite passenger side doors from opening, creating this death-trap.

Rick's gaze moves from the vehicle and then to Andrea. His eyebrows arch upwards with the unaskable question. They could proceed onward, past the death-trap almost unnoticed, but the sheriff is in the mood to kick some ass. He clutches the weapon he'd been wielding earlier and he uses the back of the gun as a bat of sorts. Swing away.

Despite Rick's mood, Andrea's is more in shock at seeing what has become of Woodbury and the surrounding area. She steps away from Rick's bat, realizing too late what he has planned. "W—" But it is too late. He has committed them and she will not leave him alone against who knows how many of the Walkers will follow the sounds and the slaughter.

With a hhhhhhhhhu of longingly wasted air past decayed lips, the walker furthest from the car labors its head around in time for Rick's gun to cave the top of its skull. He steps over the ribcage with a crack on the way to the next: shirtless, his half-bloated stomach having been torn open prior to re-animation, he has the dangling ends of no longer useful organs swinging like fleshy wind-chimes as he staggers towards what appears to be an easier meal than what's in the car.

From inside, the shuffling of movement stops warily as the occupant must notice the deliberate turning of all but one, the most dedicated, who continues to claw uselessly with dulled fingers at the smeared glass.

Rick casts a glance towards Andrea, "You open the car. I'll take the corpse." The words are gruff and detached. This is a man spent. His eyes are hollow and nearly empty, reflecting exhaustion in his entire countenance. He hates knowing what the world is, even with its obvious reality.

"Rick…" Andrea looks at the hollow and dead eyes of a man she respected highly and realizes that the man she knew is dead. It has taken her this long to come to grips with the fact that while he is standing and talking in front of her, he is gone. All this time she has attempted to fight and to garner some sense of satisfaction or revenge for her betrayal and now she realizes it doesn't matter. There is nothing left to obtain from this man.

And yet. They are together in this. In order for her to survive, Rick must survive and do his part. This is only a momentary pause, but there is a noticeable difference in her countenance. Instead of responding verbally, she just nods once. Steadying herself against the rocking car - she looks to the steamed windows with compassion and worry. Then, a hand on the handle, she quickly pulls and yanks the door open to see who may be inside.

Pushed aside by the bulk of the door, the walker left clawing at the window stumbles, hitting its shoulder irresponsibly against the car before rearing forward again to stupidly run right into the door again. Outstretched arms grapple for Andrea.

Inside, a scuffle of fabric and fast breathing heralds the scrunching up of the occupant. He can't be younger than Rick, with a full-set beard, but the jacketed man huddles near the opposite side of the seat against the potential danger of who's outside the door. "Please," he shouts out, aggravating the walker around the car door, "Please," and it's more level than his hunching might suggest, more firm and almost warm, "there are others depending on me." And she can see now that he's got something tightly tucked against his chest.

There's disdain in Grimes' eyes as the arms claw for Andrea. He body slams the car door against the zombie's arms — CRACK the breaking of bones echoes through the scene, bringing the former sheriff the kill he'd so desired — only to open it again and squarely, thwack the hilt of his gun across the walkers' head. He glances at Andrea when the man speaks. Rick Grimes is walking dead. The walking dead can deal with the walking dead. Leave the living to its own devices.

The walker holds no concern for Andrea. Rick has clearly put that situation under control. While Rick - as ever - is preoccupied with the dead, she takes after the living. "Yes, of course. Quick, quick, we can help you." The blonde woman is quick to outstretch her hands toward the bundle tucked against him. She automatically assumes that it is a baby and she will never refuse helping a child. "We can help you. You just have to hurry, we can help you."

A bundled sweatshirt turned into a swaddle gets pressed into Andrea's hands; in the climate of this world, the utter stranger trusts his possessions to her without a thought. It frees his hands to grab the sides of the seats. As he wrestles his way to sitting and then climbing out of the backseat of the vehicle, the bundle in Andrea's arms doesn't move. She doesn't hold a baby— but evidence of one: formula, blankets, a couple of batteries and a few odd leaves ripped as if fresh from the ground.

"Thank you— " peeling out of the car, the man unfolds to a tall but lanky height; he hasn't fed well recently echoes the hollow in his cheeks. "Truly, thank you. I'd just about decided to make my peace."

With the walkers taken care of, Rick slides backwards. His grey eyes peer about (probably looking for Daryl), and his expression, while cold and calculating, takes on a harder edge. "We gotta keep moving," he drawls out while his thoughts turn towards Woodbury. "Look," he says towards the man they'd just rescued, "git yer things together. You can journey with us. We got people we're lookin' out for."

As Andrea takes the bundle, she looks through it, obviously looking for the baby that the evidence suggests should be there. Confused, she looks to the man as he pulls himself out of the car. "Wh-where is the baby?" she asks. Though she doesn't drop the bundle she was given, she studies the newcomer with a wary expression.

Despite the answer, she nods at Rick's assessment, handing the bundle back. It's not a baby, the man can take care of it himself. "How'd you get trapped in the car?"

A thin hand cradles the swaddle against him, but despite the barrier, his posture keeps an openness about him as he steps towards Rick to engage the other man with a nod of understanding and gratitude. "Our relationships can save us in the darkest times."

Looking towards Andrea acknowledges he's heard her; he carries on, his tone still full of a warmth that feels out of another time. "Even now, it's mine with you, two strangers, that kept me from dust. See, I— try not to laugh at me," a broad grin thins out his face even more; he's truly deprived of nutrition, "thought to hide there but they heard me and cleverness became a tomb."

Even while starting to walk, to oblige Rick's call to keep going, the man slithers his bundle to the other side to offer his bony hand. "Jacob."

The look Rick casts towards Andrea has the stone-cold makings of the ghost of Rick's past. His deadened eyes, tight-set jaw, and grizzly breathing all ask one unuttered question: Is this guy for real? He arches a wry eyebrow but accepts the hand, albeit somewhat reluctantly. He has a baby too. With a ragged sigh, he ticks his head back towards Woodbury. "We gotta move." And before Andrea and Jacob can really process the thought, Sheriff Rick tramps back towards the path they'd been on previously.

"Yes, they can," Andrea tells Jacob with a distant tone in her voice. "But, the baby," she urges again, worried about whatever baby it is that may be relying on the formula and other supplies that he has wrapped up in that blanket. "Is there actually a baby?"

At the look from Rick, she shakes her head and shrugs. She has no idea who this man or if he is actually for real. But, she can't just leave him here amidst the walkers and so close to Woodbury. "Come on," she tells the rescued man with not a little bit of impatience. "We gotta move," she echoes Rick, but she doesn't exclude Jacob in their movement. If he comes, he comes. Andrea starts jogging after Rick.

Abruptly finding himself being left behind, Jacob falters a second and then springs almost comically into action, stumbling into a long-legged trot that eventually catches up to these new people. "I'm sorry, I," he pants, slightly out of breath, "didn't get either of your names. It seems only right, to thank you properly."

Rick's irritation is palpable as his weighty swagger draws him further down the road. The notion of a baby has his head shaking. The stranger still didn't answer the question, so when he asks for their names, Grimes lets the distance close between them. His fingers remain clasped around the gun at his hip, and his head turns just a stitch. "What about the baby?" he asks gruffly.

Andrea is just a few steps behind Rick as they attempt to move down the road. Her eyes scan Jacob's and then Rick's face, finally landing on the hand going to the gun at his hip. "Andrea," she tells Jacob softly, attempting to diffuse the situation. "My name's Andrea. This is Rick." Now that they're close together, the blonde woman still moves forward - attempting to keep the pace up. "Maybe we should have this conversation some place safer," she offers.

"Andrea. Rick." Each said in Jacob's personable fashion, individual, for them, as he clasps his hands together in front of him and bows his head in delicate apology, "Forgive me. You did ask." He flags a few paces, fumbling to keep the bundle of caregiver's things together in his arms. Intermittent echoes of their footsteps, branches breaking under their weight, have him casting looks around. "Here," he speeds up to meet Rick's shoulder, pointing off of its slope to their northeast— leaving the Woodbury limits, "Up there. We have a space. You can rest, and meet this tiny miracle."

Rick squints at Jacob's directions before casting a glance towards Andrea with an air of this is your problem before continuing on his path towards Woodbury. "We've got a place. And we're not lookin' for rest." His head turns back towards his path and actually picks up the pace. "You met the Governor?" It's not idle chatter. "Our people got taken."

"Rick," Andrea reaches out to put a gentle hand on his arm to slow his process for just a moment. To think this through. "Maybe the others got out. There's a bunch of those walkers coming for us. If he's got more people, maybe they could help. Just the three of us going in there isn't going to do anybody any good." She looks behind her to Jacob and then further behind that to where the walkers are steadily gaining with their moaning approach.

Jacob's seemingly indefatigable optimism flags but minimally in the wake of Rick's disregard. Hurriedly, he hops forward with a crackling of sticks to acknowledge, "Uhh… Governor? Governor of— ? I'm sorry, I don't think I do. And I'm sorry to hear about your… people. Do you mean to say they were kidnapped?" He brushes a quick gesture against his chest before shifting the luggage he carries. "There's little more important to me than the safety of others, as fall under His flock. I mean, every second that I imagine little Judith out there, nearly on her own— it's pins and needles to the heart, you know?"

Rick continues on his path despite Andrea's thoughts about the needed extra bodies. His steps become ever purposeful, ever aggressive, and ever on-task until one word stops him. Like an invisible wall has been placed in front of him, Grimes stops dead in his tracks. Slowly, he peers over his shoulder, "Judith?" His eyes squint. "She the baby?" His jaw tightens.

Judith. The name is familiar to Andrea. She gives a sidelong glance to Rick and then returns her attention to Jacob. "Yes. Kidnapped. By the Governor of Woodbury. It's right there." A hand gestures toward the flaming settlement beyond the Walkers. Shouldn't Judith be at the prison? With the others? She was under the impression that the place was still safe.

"We were just lookin' for them when we came upon you in that car. We all got separated."

Struck between looking between them and casting a harried glance over his shoulder at the plume of half-rising smoke off the horizon, Jacob nearly walks straight into Rick. A series of side-steps reroutes him. He glances again; this time to chart their stalkers, the decayed once-people trailing after them like puppies.

Those furthest back have become distracted by the more appealing, animated picture that the flaming Woodbury makes. They break off as an uncoordinated one.

"Woodbury?" Jacob half-gasps, both assured and disturbed, "Then I was— I was on the right path. He mentioned the place. Yes. Judith. The baby. And her elderly, one-legged caretaker. Can you imagine? In this trying time. I could find no better proof of the Lord's mission carrying on than in Him bringing Judith and Hershel to me in their time of need."

Rick's head snaps towards Andrea, but he doesn't move. No further steps are taken. No distance is closed. Silence hangs in the air as the names Judith and Hershel are uttered. The ghosts of a forgotten past somewhere long behind them linger over Rick's mind. The faint echo of Lori claws into his thoughts — accusatory. The sheriff's throat feels dry. Other names roll over his thoughts; names of those who should have been in Hershel and Judith's company. Beth. Glenn. Carl. "Did they have anyone else with them?" his voice cracks around the words, parched from the reality that something happened when they had left the prison. No, when he had left it. His hands clench at his sides. The dilemma is very real: something happened to their makeshift home and he wasn't there to defend it.

Hershel… that is a name that she hasn't thought of in awhile. Not since the fall of the farm. Though, he certainly wasn't one legged when she knew him. Andrea gives Rick a sidelong glance at his cracked words. It seems even if she is unsure of the connection, the former sheriff is.

"You were headed to Woodbury for supplies?" she asks, suggesting the bundle of things he was protecting in the car. "I'd steer clear of that place."

A distinct shine makes Jacob's eyes keen as he looks with rapt contemplation between them. "Uhh," he murmurs, shifting the items in his arms without quite comprehending; still on the rapidly developing thought brought on by Rick's reaction. "Yes," his hand slides over the bundle as he winces, "No. That is… the elder wouldn't say much of what he meant to do, but it seemed clear to me that this 'Woodbury' had been important. I thought, surely, I must be able to aid him or God never would've brought me to him…" his idle rambling, born of slight distraction while his brain formulates a second layer of decision-making drifts, deepens— strengthens—

"You— " around the bundle he's now almost dropped, the religious man wags a finger at Rick then at Andrea, on whom he lingers, "It was all for you— you know these people— your people!" He doesn't seem to notice that his voice has risen in volume. "Praise!" he means to reach the Heavens, but something less than an angel answers with a needy groan.

Blue-grey eyes train on the groan emitting from a not yet seen source. The gears in his head turn and Rick allows his fingers to trail to the weapon holstered at his hip. For a moment he wishes for his sheriff's hat— the hat always served as a reminder of what needed to be done. His hand presses to his forehead. "Try to contain— " but Rick doesn't finish the thought. Shushing those that have no understanding of this world seems fruitless. His head turns towards Andrea, "Woodbury is gonna have to wait." With a pregnant pause he finally allows his gaze to drift towards the stranger. He takes a step towards him, and allows his hands to move from the gun towards the man's shoulders in an effort to level his attention. This is an imminently important question and determines their next move: "They didn't have anyone else with them? Beth? Glenn? A kid in a sheriff's hat named Carl?"

Something focuses in Jacob's eyes at the hand— the laundry list of names— but it isn't recognition. In respect for Rick's gravitas, he stills, fingers only squeezing the supplies meant for the man's infant daughter. With the shudder of foliage nearing them, he assures calmly into Rick's gaze, "If it's meant to be, God will provide." But there was no one else.

It's not that Andrea does not appreciate this miracle of meetings for what it is. Instead, her attention is drawn to the ever present and louder growing moans meaning that trouble is about to come upon them. Woodbury was already a risky gambit what with the herd and the fire. When Rick looks to her, she's already giving a penetrating glance toward the smoke and snarl of cars and Walkers that stand between them and their intended destination. Leaving the others much like she was left behind at the farm. It's a choice to be made, but with a baby on the line? She'll follow. Though she doesn't respond to his words for a long moment, it's a resolute nod.

Decision made, she looks back toward Jacob. "We better talk about this on the move, guys. Sooner we get to Judith and Hershel, the sooner we can figure out our next step. And I don't wanna have to deal with more of the Walkers than we absolutely gotta."

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