A Rival's Claim by Fik Freak
RetiredSummary:

After an unexpected encounter, Michonne and Rick find themselves as rivals on opposite sides of a polarizing court case. Will their uncompromising opinions keep them from what they both really want?

This is an AU/no ZA Richonne story, that is Rated M (Content is only suitable for mature adults. May contain explicit language and adult themes)


Categories: Primetime Television Characters: Michonne
Classification: Alternate Universe
Genre: Drama, Romance
Story Status: Active
Pairings: None
Warnings: Adult Situations, Work in Progress
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 16 Completed: Yes Word count: 173753 Read: 11089 Published: October 26 2017 Updated: April 29 2018

1. Chapter 1 by Fik Freak

2. Chapter 2 by Fik Freak

3. Chapter 3 by Fik Freak

4. Chapter 4 by Fik Freak

5. Chapter 5 by Fik Freak

6. Chapter 6 by Fik Freak

7. Chapter 7 by Fik Freak

8. Chapter 8 by Fik Freak

9. Chapter 9 by Fik Freak

10. Chapter 10 by Fik Freak

11. Chapter 11 by Fik Freak

12. Chapter 12 by Fik Freak

13. Chapter 13 by Fik Freak

14. Chapter 14 by Fik Freak

15. Chapter 15 by Fik Freak

16. Chapter 16 by Fik Freak

Chapter 1 by Fik Freak

Chapter 1 – Rick


"So, your mom says you're a sheriff. Is that right? You're not just trying to impress me?"


"No. I'm really the sheriff of King County."


"So, you're the good guy who keeps us safe from all the bad guys, huh?" She flirts, sassily tilting her head, and giving her thin lips a small pout. Nice.


"Yeah, I guess. I try anyway." I smile back, giving her what my ex-wife used to call my million-dollar smile. I don't want to come off as trying too hard, but, I think I like this girl. So why not flirt back? It's time for me to give my own life and happiness some effort. It's time. Hell, it's been time. And my body agrees, as the stirring of a once familiar warmth blooms at the feeling of her fingers lightly flitting across my chest. Standing by the open doors leading to the patio of my parents' house, a cool chill slowly ushers in through the screen to send a few strands of her long hair dancing across her pretty face. I raise my hand to move the hair away, not wanting it to obstruct her features from me.


Blushing at my actions, she closes her eyes for a moment. "Nice. Well you definitely look like a good guy to me, Rick." Jessie coos over the sound of the festive music and fellow partygoers. Smoothing her slim fingers down and over the buttons of my tan colored uniform shirt, her green eyes are focused on mine, her intent made clear.


"Is that right?" Looking down my nose at her, my blood continuing to warm in my veins, I have to admit that my mother has chosen well.


Jessie is definitely my type, even reminds me of my ex-wife a little bit. Thin, modest breasts, pretty. She's blonde, where Lori was a brunette, but there are enough similarities that it is both unnerving and comforting. She's plain, one might say, but I don't need anything too striking or sexy. I'm a fairly plain and laid back man. That's how I would describe myself, and that's pretty much how I would describe my taste in women as well. Jessie appears to be fitting that bill.


This is my first time meeting Jessie, though my mother has told me a lot about her since she met her at the senior center, where she teaches a pottery class that my mother recently signed up for. When she mentioned in one of the classes that she was a recent divorcee my mother pounced on that, and invited her and her kids to their New Year's Eve party. Though I'm not really dressed for the occasion, unless you count my sheriff's uniform as party wear, Jessie is wearing a knee length sweater dress with little owls on it and boots, and it's cute on her. Not provocative, or eye catching, but…cute.


Despite the fact that our conversation so far has not gotten any deeper than her constant discussion of her ex-husband, her kids, and her odd fixation with owls, I can see myself dating her. There are no sweaty hands, racing heartbeats, or nervously spoken words to fill awkward silence. No, it's a relaxed kind of thing, familiar. Effortless, where I don't have to try too hard, or wonder if she likes me, if she's interested. My mind is almost convinced it's a conversation I've had before. If I close my eyes, I could easily be talking to my ex-wife. Like I said, she's a lot like Lori, and even though that marriage ended badly, I can't say that the familiarity isn't comforting. I like that it's not stretching me too far out of my comfort zone, because at this point I just need a kick start to get my life back on track.


Ending my marriage was…difficult, but inevitable. When I came home early that Thursday afternoon nearly a year ago, feeling under the weather, possibly coming down with the flu, I had no idea what I would find. Entering my house, dropping my keys on the hook on the wall coming from the garage, the stillness in the house was strange. Lori's car was in the garage, but she was nowhere to be found. Not until I kicked off my boots by the door as she routinely requested, did I take note that another pair of men's boots were accompanying mine, right along with her favorite gold flats. Initially I thought nothing of it, wondering if maybe they had previously been left over our house by the owner, and I hadn't noticed. I ignored the strange niggling feeling the sight of those boots stirred in my belly, and ambled further into the house, heading for the comfort of my bed, hoping to get some rest.


As my feet carried me further down the long hall leading to our bedroom an eerie chill continued to unfurl across my skin, especially when I noticed that the door was pulled closed, and soft country music was filtering from behind it. Pushing through the door, I was at first relieved to find the bed empty. That relief was short lived, as I turned my head towards our bathroom, and found my wife, teetering on the edge of the vanity, having sex with another man. Finding my wife with another man was a harsh and bitter pill to swallow, made only worse by him being a friend and one-time colleague.


There was no yelling, screaming, fighting. At least not on my part. It was almost as if I was relieved, that a weight had finally been removed from my tired shoulders. It was no secret that Lori and I had been arguing a lot lately. She wanted me to make more money, to spend more time with her, to be someone else. She simply wanted more, and at the end of the day that translated as she wanted someone else, because the truth is, I am the same man that I have always been. The same as when we met in high school. The same as when I proposed to her at graduation. Maybe that's the problem? My parents have always said we got married too young, before we even knew who we were going to be. Well, I knew who I was then, and I still do. Maybe Lori is the one who just figured that out.


For some reason, Lori was upset though. I suppose she was mad that she had been caught sneaking. My mind couldn't reconcile her response though. I honestly don't understand what she had to be angry about. Over the many years that she and I had been together, I gave her absolutely everything I had to give. If anyone should be mad it was me. I wasn't though, not yet. For me, there was more of a sense of loss and disappointment. Losing the life I had been building, the family I had loved, the woman I trusted. Disappointed that my wife didn't just tell me she wanted a divorce. Instead she cheated on me, in our home, probably in our bed, with someone I was very close to.


For a long time, as I walked away from the house that no longer represented a proud investment, a place for my family to grow and flourish in, I was mired in those feelings of disappointment and distrustfulness. Then, as those feelings continued to fester, to grow, I also got angry. Angry that at 38 years old, I had to start all over. I let her have the house, the new car, the furniture. Almost everything. In the divorce settlement the only things I wanted to take with me were my son, my retirement and savings, and my truck. She acquiesced on all of it, probably out of guilt more than anything else, except for on Carl. She would budge on me having full custody, so she's the custodial parent, but I have him every weekend. With my schedule, and being the newly elected sheriff, it works.


Lori left me with the resulting negativity, but also with something else. The memory of how I felt that day, when I found her being fucked in our bathroom. Bouncing around inside of me was a question that I had no answer for, how do I forget…forgive and move on? Standing on the ruins of my marriage, my body could function, I could do my job, I could parent my son, but I couldn't see how it would ever be possible to open the cage surrounding my heart again. So, I haven't. And I know that my parents have been worried about me, as have my friends, but what they don't understand is that when I caught my wife with another man, something inside of me snapped. I'm convinced that my heart is irreparably broken, but after six months, and this setup by mother, I'm willing to at least try to reopen the part of me that was recently closed for business.


"Mom, can we leave this lame party now?" Jessie's son interrupts, seemingly appearing from thin air. Shoving his knitted hat down on his head in a huff, he has obviously had enough of the festivities.


"Hey, Ron, we just got here." She replies, a hint of a plea in her voice, and hurriedly removing her hands from my chest. Drawing back as though she was caught doing something she shouldn't.


"I'm ready to go. This party is stupid. Nothing but old folks and people I don't even know here."


"Well what happened to make it stupid when we have only been here for a little while?" Jessie asks confused, and maybe a little panicky given the rapid fire pacing of her questions towards her oldest son.


"You know I didn't even want to come, but you wanted to hookup with some guy, so here we are. Can we just go already?" Ron spits, assaulting his mother with the confession of her intentions.


"Um. Rick, can you give me a moment to talk to my son? Just a minute?"


"Sure. I'm gonna go grab a drink." Giving her a small smile, I laugh a little internally at her being busted by her own son, but also grimace at how much of a little shit move it was for him to do that to her in front of me. My son Carl is probably around Ron's age, but if I can say nothing else about Carl, I can say that he has never embarrassed me like that. Perhaps the drama surrounding the divorce, and his mother's affair with my best friend, has caused him to mature and understand relationships well above what his 15-year-old self should. I suppose it doesn't matter, but as I catch a glimpse of him, animatedly laughing and talking to a young black kid about his age, I'm just thankful that the whole ordeal doesn't seem to have scarred him in the same way that Jessie's divorce has done to her sons.


From what I understand her youngest son has gone the opposite way from Ron. Instead of taking all of his adolescent frustration out on her, and idolizing his abusive, asshole of a father, Sam has developed a fear of abandonment, and a probably unhealthy attachment to his mother. I feel sorry for the predicament her family is in, struggling with the fallout of an abusive situation and divorce. Again, though my own divorce was difficult, from what I understand from some of the deputies who have had to respond to domestic violence calls at her house over the years, the only family that has had it worse is the Peletiers. Which isn't saying much because Ed Peletier has made it his business to treat his wife Carol as his own personal punching bag. I've pulled him off of her, and arrested him more times than I can count, and if Jessie endured even half of that she has my sympathies.


Finding myself standing in front of the bar my parents have setup on the patio of their backyard, I ask my friend Abe who's tending bar tonight for a beer.


"Sure thing, Rick. Hey, so any news on that police brutality case Spencer is involved in? I hear there's video footage." Abe asks, probing about a case that has just recently been the buzz around my small town.


"Not that I can share."


"Rick, we put our hairy balls out there for others everyday. But Spencer is a weak motherfucker, he wouldn't have the hairy balls to do something this. The guy can barely shoot straight, let alone hit someone squarely. I don't know about this one." Taking a swig of his own beer, Abe poses a question that I have tried not to think about ever since I got wind of it. I've only been the sheriff for a few months, having won the position in a special election when the sitting sheriff died. But, it seems that from day one I have been presented with nothing but one shit storm after another. These charges against Spencer are one example among the many. Apparently corruption and brutality have been running rampant in the King County Sheriff's department, and I guess I'm the cleanup man.


"Excuse me, guys. Can I please have a bourbon and Coke?" Slinking up to the bar, wearing an emerald green dress, is the most beautiful, stunning, sexy woman I have ever laid eyes on.


"You can have whatever you want, lady."


"There you are. I turned my back for a minute and you got away from me."


"Uh, I'm sorry, what was your name again?" She asks, not even bothering to turn towards the approaching man, that I recognize as one of my parents' neighbors. I'm standing directly behind her, admiring the way her dress comes up around her neck, like her sinful body was poured into it. Stopping mid-thigh, gracefully hugging her body, the sweater material cups and caresses every inch of her lean figure, fitting like a second skin. Dipping at the tight cinch of her waist, flaring out over her wide hips, exposing her toned arms. She is a sight. It's the magnificence of heaven, and the naughtiness of hell in one tight little package.


"You forgot already? That's ok. It's Joe. I had to catch up with you and introduce myself pretty quickly. Soon as you got here I had to put my claim on you. Couldn't let some other guy snatch you up!" The guy named Joe says, his dark eyes leeringly traveling up and down her body, never once focusing on her face.


"Joe, I think-"


Having seen enough, and not liking the way this guy has accosted her, I decide to step in. Placing my hand lightly on her shoulder and placing a small kiss to her temple, I insert myself into their conversation. "Honey, is this guy bothering you? I've been looking for you all night."


"Hold on, is this…"


"Hi, I'm her boyfriend Rick. Nice to meet you." Offering Joe my hand, I nod his way and grace him with a smug smirk, a challenging twist of my lips that begs for him to make a move. My hand is still resting on her shoulder and I can feel the tension in her muscles as she rolls her shoulders back. I suppose she's a little thrown by my touch, but I notice that she doesn't pull away. I don't want her to feel like I'm in the same boat as this creep, so I reluctantly withdraw my hand, missing the heat of her under my palm already.


Slowly, as if wondering at the removal of my hand, her eyes focus on her shoulder, then flit higher to make contact with my own. God help me, she's beautiful. With a rimming of dark liner around her eyes, the dramatic tilt of them is overemphasized, giving them a seductive allure that captures my full attention. Her lashes are lush and long, dusting the tops of her cheeks as she blinks at me. A hint of confusion clouds the chocolate swirl of her eyes, and the quirk of her sexy scarlet lips. Full. Sultry.


Briefly, we are both trapped in the beam of our connected stares, and for the life of me I can't look away. I physically can't, until this bewitching woman breaks the spell, with the husky timbre of her voice.


"Rick, yes. This is my boyfriend Rick." She utters, fumbling over the words. Except she pronounces my name with such clipped precision, moving those lips to hit the K hard. Her lips end the word slightly parted as the sound caresses the fullness of her bottom lip. I can't help but get momentarily lost in the thought of how to get her to say it again.


"Hm. Well, sorry if I almost nabbed your lady, friend. You see a fine woman like that prancing into a party and you just know you have to put your claim on that before another guy does. Am I right?"


Stiffening her spine, she juts her hip out, balancing her weight on one heeled foot. "Excuse me, gentlemen, I need to freshen up. Rick. Joe."


Swiveling her head between us, my mystery woman blesses me with one last glimpse of her beautiful face before she walks off, taking her drink with her. Hips swaying, her heels click across the patio towards my parents' house, and in that minute I know I have to follow her.


"Abe, I'll catch up with you later." Gulping down the last of my beer, I set the bottle back down on the bar, and set my sights on the alluring, departing figure.


Catching up with her standing in the kitchen I walk up to her, intent on finally getting a name, and at least her phone number. "You're welcome." Removing my hat from my head, I place it on the island in front of her, and lean my hips against the counter.


"For?" She asks, her lips once again drawing my attention with the puckered poise of them as she forms the single syllable.


"Saving you from Joe the Claimer." I nod my head back toward the patio doors behind her.


"Do I look like I need your help, Sheriff?" Sipping from the glass of the dark liquid, her eyes raise to mine, and now I'm stuck again. Captured.


"Uh. No, actually you look like-"


"Hey, Ma!"


"Hey, Andre, what's up? Are you ready to go?" Her attention is now diverted by a newcomer to the kitchen, followed closely by my own son, Carl.


"Who is this?" The young man, dark skin, tall, lean, bearing a striking resemblance to the angel in front of me, juts his chin in my direction, his eyes scanning me from head to toe, seemingly taking special note of how close I am to his mother, and my Sheriff's uniform. Taking the measure of me. Protectively sizing me up. Her son. A serious faced young man, the same one Carl was chatting with earlier, with thick dark eyebrows, drawn to a scowl as they hover over the black spectacles perched on his wide nose. In a suit and tie, his demeanor betrays the youth in his scrutinizing features.


"Andre, don't be rude. This is Rick. Rick, this is my son, Andre."


"Nice to meet you, Andre. Do you and Carl know each other?" Offering my hand and a smile to him, I'm attempting to soothe his apparent irritation at finding me with his mother. Taking a hold of my hand, he delivers a firm handshake, one that again betrays the maturity of his chronological age.


"No. I intervened when he was about to get into a fight with some punk named Ron over a girl." Andre tosses a pleased smirk to his side, where Carl stands, a sheepish grin of his own covering his face.


"What?"


"It's not a big deal, Dad. Some guy named Ron was here and said I was talking to his girlfriend Enid. I didn't know she was his girlfriend. She lives in Mom's new neighborhood. I guess Enid and Ron go to some private school together, but she never said he was her boyfriend, so I didn't think it was a problem. But, he walks up to me, pushes me, so I shove him back on his butt. He jumps up and tries to cause a scene, yelling at Enid and I, then Andre steps in and verbally dismantles him. Like, uses words I don't even know. Ron probably didn't know 'em either, but he walked away."


"I didn't really do much, I just let Ron know that I had witnessed the whole thing, and because he accosted Carl first, he would be considered the aggressor, and therefore his adverse actions set precedent for Carl to be the aggrieved party in their dispute."


"See!" Carl excitedly exclaims, jerking his thumb Andre's way.


"Uh, well, you're probably right, Andre. Thanks for that." I stammer, taken aback by not only his correct assessment, but his legal knowledge and vocabulary.


"No problem. So, Ma, I was gonna stay with Nana and Pops if that's ok. Uncle Noah will be coming over tomorrow, and I wanna hang out with him if that's ok. He's got some fascinating new books he's going to lend me."


"Sure. If your grandparents say it's ok. I'll pick you up tomorrow evening."


"Yeah they said it's ok. Just wanted me to clear it with you."


"And, I was gonna stay the night too, Dad. His grandparents live next door, and they said I could hang out with Dre if it was cool with you."


"Sure. Call me when you're ready to get picked up tomorrow."


"Cool. So, hey I'm Carl by the way." My son grins, wide, toothy, offering his hand to my mystery lady. "You and my dad know each other too?" He asks, clearly taken by her beauty. Like father, like son.


"No-"


"Yes, we do. Well we also just met."


"Cool. Andre said you guys don't live here, that you live in the city?"


"Yep."


"That's so cool. Probably so much more to do there than in King County. This place is the sticks. We don't even have a book store here." Carl frowns.


"Well maybe one day you can come hang out with us in the city. There is a wicked comic book store about fifteen minutes from our house. It's owned by a black lady, a friend of my mother's. They even have a glass case with an actual Catwoman costume."


"Really? Michelle Pfieffer? Micheal Keaton, Catwoman?"


"Eartha Kitt." Andre responds with a grin, and an up and down wiggle of his thick eyebrows.


Apparently confused, not knowing who Eartha Kitt is, Carl's brows knit over his blue eyes, his frown deepening.


"What? Man, you don't know Eartha Kitt? Old school Batman, post-Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt? Santa Baby?"


"Huh?"


"Don't worry about it, Carl, Andre can explain later. You guys have fun!" She laughs, accepting a brief hug from her son who towers over her tiny frame. Her laugh though, it's throaty and airy, a dulcet twinkle that instantly sets my cock to unexpectedly stirring in my pants. Shifting my stance, I'm once again leaning my hip on the counter, hoping to disguise any evidence of arousal my polyester uniform pants might give away.


"Happy New Year, Ma. I hope you still have fun partying with Uncle Aaron later." Her son offers as he releases her from his young. His parting words, the mention of an 'Uncle Aaron', catches my attention.


Watching as our sons depart, a small smile still laces her lips, and I wonder if it's because of her love for her son, or the thought of this 'Uncle Aaron'? It's an unexplainable agitation, the thought of some other guy making her smile. I push it down, not even sure why it's there.


"He seems very mature, how old is your son?"


"Andre is 15. Seems like he's going on 50 sometimes though."


"Does he always wear a suit and tie?"


"Ha! No. He's become a little obsessed with Malcolm X recently." Shaking her head in amusement, her long dreads, swept over to one side, tickle the glowing skin of her shoulders.


"How does he know about Malcolm X?"


"He read his autobiography earlier this year, and has been studying about him, men like him, ever since. He wants to be a lawyer someday."


"Wow. The most I can get Carl to read is comic books. And I'm sure he has no clue what he wants to be when he grows up." I chuckle, slightly embarrassed for my son, and apparently my own deficiency in the parenting department.


"He seems like a nice kid. He'll be fine." She scoffs, placing her hand on my arm, dismissing any concern she may have picked up on from me. Realizing that her hand was still resting on my arm, she slowly pulls back and gathers her drink and her clutch purse from the island. "Well, there goes my night. I thought Andre and I would be spending New Year's Eve together at a friend's party in town a little later, but guess I got dismissed for a new friend and grandparents. Nice meeting you, Rick. I'm going to say goodnight to my parents, and the hosts." She tosses at me as she begins to walk away.


Not ready to lose out on my chance to spend more time with her, feeling like fate has stepped in and made a way for me to claim a bit more of her time, I reach out to take a hold of her hand. The softness I find in her palm is a stark contrast to the rough callouses that line my own hand, and I can't help but to run my thumb over the back of her hand. Of course my mind wanders for a second, thinking that the rest of her must be equally soft, and setting my sights on finding out.


"Mystery lady, what do you say you and I get out of here, and ring in the new year? Together."


Looking down at her hand wrapped in mine, her gaze rests there a moment. And I can see the rise and fall of her full breasts as she's taking a second to gather herself. At first I'm sure she is going to yank her hand away and dismiss my offer. But she doesn't, and after a beat, a few softly spoken words break the stiff silence between us. "Sheriff, are you detaining me?"


"If you'll let me." I answer, bending my knees to angle my gaze to try and catch a glimpse of her pretty face that is still focused on our joined hands. But her eyes still elude me, and the only thing I can see is a nearly imperceptible twitch at the corner of her red lips.


"Am I under arrest? Are you going to use your handcuffs?"


"If you like that sort of thing." I laugh, serious as hell, and hoping that she is.




"Please excuse the mess. I went to the party straight from work, and didn't expect any company other than Carl, who isn't really company ya know. He lives here with me on the weekends."


"I see."


"So, uh, how did you come to be at that party tonight? I haven't seen either of you around before."


"My parents recently purchased a home in Alexandria Estates, next door to the hosts. They invited my parents to their party, and Andre and I tagged along before we were supposed to go to a party with some friends of mine in the city."


"Andre was your date for New Year's Eve?"


"The only date I've had since the divorce." She shrugs, standing in the entry foyer, seemingly unsure of her next move.


"Ah, so you're divorced also. Me too. For a little over six months now." I divulge, fumbling around my small house to try and straighten up, picking up shoes and carelessly tossed about comic books.


"Yes. My ex and I have been divorced for a year now. My parents and my little brother have been a big help, especially when my ex took a job in New York recently. It's been tough for Andre without his dad not being so close anymore. It's more difficult to hop a plan to New York to see him, than to catch the Marta across town." She muses almost sadly, her features growing tense, a frown settling itself on her lips. Gracefully taking a seat on my now decluttered couch, one long leg crossed over the other, a tired sigh betrays her and attempts to darken her mood.


With impeccably poor timing, my cell phone rings. Checking out the illuminated screen I see that it's Jessie. It's been a long while since I've dated, but I'm pretty certain that it would be bad if I don't answer since it might look like I have something to hide. And if I do answer, well, I don't want to talk to Jessie while I'm trying to set a mood to get to know my mystery woman better. Vacillating between both options, she makes the choice for me.


"You should probably answer that, Sheriff. Could be important right?"


"I'll be right back, just gonna take this. Help yourself to anything in the kitchen. Make yourself comfortable." Hurrying into my bedroom, I rush and answer the call, already knowing that my nervously rambled directions to her may have ruined the night. I hope she's still on my couch when I return. "Hello." I answer, exasperation coloring the tone of my voice.


"Rick, hi it's Jessie. I'm sorry I had to rush away from the party, but I did return after I dropped my kids off at home. You weren't there though. Your mother said you left."


"I did. Carl was going to hang with a friend for the night so I headed home."


"Oh! Would you like some company? We still have time before midnight. Maybe we can still ring in the new year together?" She offers, a hint of a plea in the delivery of her words, and it turns me off. I can't blame her for being interested though, as I was certainly feeding into it earlier, showing a good amount of interest myself. Until I laid my eyes on my mystery lady, and an unrecognizable and brash confidence, an unreasonable desire, refocused my attention.


"Not tonight. Maybe another night. I'll get back to you, ok? Have a good night, Jessie." Eager to get her off the phone, I hurry through my explanation, and if I'm being honest, a politely worded brush off. It's not my intent to hurt her feelings. Every move I have made since meeting my mystery lady is so very unlike me, but I have to take my shot with the dazzling woman on my couch. She's so clearly out of my league, but how could I turn down a once in a lifetime opportunity for a regular guy like me to spend time with a woman who looks like that?


Brushing off the slight weight of guilt I feel for Jessie, I hurry into the restroom that's adjoined to my bedroom and check myself in the mirror. Combing the wiry, errant strands of my newly trimmed hair down, and gargling some mouthwash, I give my lean form an up and down once over, and decide that at 38 years old this is as good as it gets.


My ex-wife Lori and I were married for 16 years, and dated for a few years before that. I can hardly remember how to do this, or what I looked like before her. I didn't have this greying beard, or the white strands woven through my hair then. The lines at the corner of my eyes. And, I don't remember this feeling. The butterflies flapping their wings in my chest like they are now, announcing the nervous anticipation of maybe getting something I desperately want. Desperate? Yeah, I think that's what this feeling is. At least it is akin to desperation. This sweaty hopefulness I feel at the prospect of spending time with the beautiful woman in my living room. Maybe getting to taste those lips. Touch her skin again. Capture another whiff of her sweet scent.


When she agreed to follow me home I almost passed out in disbelief. I may have seemed confident when I asked her, but truthfully I thought my heart was going to beat a bruising path through my chest. That is until she finally gave me the gift of her eyes, and told me to lead the way.


Instead of joining me in my truck she followed me home in her Range Rover, and if I was smarter, smoother, able to think a little faster on my feet, I would have called in the license plate number on her car to get her name. But, I'm rusty at this, and now I still don't know her name. At least she's here, and through the tatters of my nerves, I resolve to make her mine. Even if it's only for a short while, a brief stolen moment that a regular guy like me isn't supposed to have. I'm going to grab a hold of this bit of happiness, in a year that has been otherwise filled with arguments, and court cases. No, this moment is just for me. A little taste of heaven to start the new year.


Exiting my room, leaving my phone and any thoughts of Jessie, as well as my nerves behind, I find my new lady friend draped across my couch. In a relaxed lounge she has definitely made herself at home. Having removed her tall heels, and unpinned her hair, now framing the softness of her round face, her legs are tucked beneath her, as she leans into the arm of the couch, a glass of bourbon in one hand, scrolling through her phone with the other. In a hushed voice she lightly mumbles something to the person on speakerphone, a man, and then quickly ends her call as I approach.


"Sorry, that was my assistant. Now I'm all yours, Sheriff." Turning off her phone, she tosses it to the coffee table in front of her


"Your assistant? You must be a big deal to have an assistant."


"Nope. Just very busy. And I need help to keep things together. I like order."


"I like you. And I see you have made yourself right at home on my couch." I nod to her, smiling at how natural she looks there, here, in my space.


"It's a comfy couch, Rick. Come join me." Patting the spot next to her I do just that.


"Tell me about yourself." Settling into the couch, I'm trying to slow things down in my mind, to control my body and my thoughts. My hands want to reach for her, bring her to me, hold her tight little body close. My brain is conjuring all manner of naughty ways to pleasure her, to make her mine. Mine? Where does that thought keep coming from? Not mine. Not yet. Mine? Shaking away the thought I realize that she's speaking and I need to refocus.


"What's there to know, Rick? I mean… is that really why you brought me here? To talk about myself, or to do this." Crawling the length of the couch, from her end to mine, she embodies every bit of elegance her demeanor exudes, with lithe, graceful limbs and movements. Now that she's close, kneeling on the couch next to me, her face in mine, I can finally appreciate how stunning she actually is. It's completely disarming. Laser focused on her, trying to take her all in, I'm caught off guard when she suddenly, gently, places her succulent lips on mine.


Instantly her actions set me on fire, and my body begins to function on auto-pilot. One hand wraps itself around the back of her neck, grasping a hold of her hair. So soft, thick, like lush cotton wrapped in my palm. My other hand reaches for her, hiking up the skirt of her dress and pulling her on to my lap, to straddle my hips. Shocked by my sudden action, her palms are now flat on my chest, roaming over my pectorals. She's so light, but the press of her heated, gyrating body against mine is arousing, causing me to increase the crush of her to me. She doesn't seem to mind though. Instead she sucks my lips into her mouth, licking and lapping, finally thrusting her tongue between my lips. And she tastes so good. Better than I expected. The slight sweetness of the bourbon is still lacing her lips and tongue, heightening the intoxication I'm feeling at having her in my arms, kissing her.


"Mmm, Rick. I need you to unzip me."


"Huh?" I mumble against her mouth.


"Don't you want to see what's under this dress, Sheriff?" She asks, pulling away from me, and daintily backing off of my lap. Like a trained ballerina, with a fluid skill unlike any woman I have ever known, she stands and turns her back to me, then sets herself back atop my thighs. "Unzip me."


With a tilt of her head forward, she grabs a hold of her swinging locs, and twirls them into an elegant topknot, exposing more of her neck to me. Finding the zipper, I slowly ease it down the length of her back. I'm taking my time; the anticipation is killing me. It's like a kid opening gifts on Christmas, I want to see what's under the wrapping. But, I don't rush like I really want to. No, I torture myself, stealing peeks of her decadent ebony skin as it's unveiled to me in a painstakingly slow reveal. The drop of the zipper ends at the dip of her spine, right above the swell of her ass.


Once again she stands, and begins to pull the dress from her shoulders. Peeling the form fitting cloth from her body, my hungry gaze consumes every newly unwrapped inch of her. Again, she's beautiful. Definitely the most beautiful woman I've ever seen in real life, and because of that I want to participate in her peep show. I don't want to just watch, I need to feel the rise and fall of her dark velvet curves underneath my palms. Resolved to do just that, I stand up behind her, and place my hands over hers to help continue to lower the garment from her body.


Stepping out and away from the green material, now in only a black thong, she turns to me, and I'm speechless. What does one say to a goddess? I'm awestruck, and in the darkness of my living room, bathed in only the glow of my gaze, she appears almost unreal, a specter, a heavenly ghost, or manifestation of all my dreams. If I'm honest I'm a little intimidated by her right now. Standing on her tip toes, using her slender fingers to unbutton my uniform shirt, and gifting my chest with soft kisses as she goes, she's perfection personified. This woman is the epitome of sexy, obviously the mold from which all womanhood was made. And despite the tingle of arousal dancing over my skin from her touch, her kiss, I'm worried that I won't measure up, and she will be disappointed.


It's been months, almost a year since I've had sex, since I've been touched in a sexual way by a woman. But she is no mere woman, and I'm afraid that once I taste her, my soul will be hers. I'm afraid that what I have to give will be mediocre compared to what I'm sure she's about to throw down.


With a few softly uttered words, and a blinking sweep of her lashes, she saves me. "Rick, I've never…I've never done anything like this before." Pulling her lips into her mouth, she pushes my shirt off of my body, and bashfully looks down to the floor. "It's been a long time for me." With her fingers now toying with her lips, uncertainty and honesty in the shaking tremble of her light voice, she captures me in her gaze once more. "I hope I'm enough. That it's good for you."


Her admission is breaking my heart as it connects with a part deep inside of me that feels the same way about myself, and I can't believe what I'm hearing. I know who left me in pieces, but what fool tried to break her? What kind of a man disregarded her heart and left her unsure of herself, so…untethered to reality? How could she not be enough for anyone?


Launching myself at her, I snatch her fingers from her kiss swollen lips, and proceed to kiss and lick away her doubt. I want to swallow its poison to keep her safe and happy, satisfied. In this pleasurable frenzy my hands are all over her body, grabbing a handful of her fat ass and lifting her from the floor and up to me.


"Rick!" she mumbles, in a startled gasp, but returns my fervor in equal measure and wraps her legs around my waist, her arms around my neck. She's holding on to me, to this heightened awareness of each other zinging and electrifying the air around us.


I still can't vocalize what's happening, how I feel, how she's making me feel. But I want her to know, I have to show her. Leaving the living room, I walk into my bedroom with her wrapped tightly around my shirtless torso. Laying her on the bed, I spread her out in front of me, and finally I find my words.


"You're amazing."


That's all I have, and it seems to unlock even more of her inhibitions. Lifting her bottom, she wiggles out of her thong, and tosses it towards me. Catching it in my hands I take a long sniff, hypnotized by the sexy smell of her pussy on the garment. With her legs now bent at the knee, set wide apart, I can now bear witness to how much she wants me. How ready she is. Her mound is covered in curls, slick and perfumed with the glistening wetness of her arousal. Throwing her panties to the floor, hands now on my hips I decide I want just a little taste of her first. Just a nip. Something to take the edge off of the painful hardness of my erection so that I can last inside of her for more than 5 minutes, and give her the experience she deserves.


Dragging her to the edge of the bed, I kneel in front of her and ease my tongue out to take a long swipe of her drenched folds. Heavenly. She tastes divine, and smells even better. The tickle of her pubic hair on my lips and nose arouse my sense and cause me to drive my full face into her womanhood, baptizing me in her waters.


"Mmmm…why do you taste so good?" I ask, sucking and licking, biting and nipping at her lips and hole. It's a rhetorical question. There can't be an actual answer as to why. I'm sure it's one of the great mysteries of this world. And I don't really care. The beast in me just wants to feed, to feast on my prey. Soft handfuls of her plump ass are gripped in my hands as I lift her closer to my hungry mouth.


She begins to writhe and wiggle, jutting her hips forward, smashing herself against my face, threatening to smother me with her goodness. It's a sweet death that I would be happy to accept. Leaning up, she grasps my head, tugging on my hair with her slender fingers. She's panting now, inching out a few words of praise in between deep breaths that end on a long, high pitched wail, announcing her orgasm. Elevating my eyes to watch her ride the wave, I watch as her upper body falls weakly back to the bed, and a sweet tension tightens her limbs as she summarily traps me between the softness of her toned thighs.


Waiting, watching from the cozy huddle of her warm thighs, I ease her down from her climax, offering a few languid swipes of her tight bud and folds, sipping at the last of her silky essence. Eventually her muscles contract, and she releases me from the prison of her thighs, even though I have no desire to be free of her.


Yielding to her liberation, I fall back to the floor and catch myself on my hands. Rising to my feet, I'm desperately eager to get my pants and boots off. To swim in the depths of my new favorite place on earth. My hands move in a flash, an excited flurry, spurred on by the sight of her. Eyes tightly shut, her dusky form… fleshy, soft, toned, lean, is stretching and contracting across my white sheets, drenching it with her unforgettable scent. Remnants of her orgasm are pulsing through her, and she's still moaning, smiling. Because of the pleasure I have given her. I did that.


Now completely naked, I advance on her, with the same scent now in my beard, dimming my thoughts. I have only one goal, one singular purpose. To fuck her. To get a sample of the ecstasy she's currently experiencing. With my hips cradled between her thighs, my lips find themselves latched to the blackberry tips of her soft chocolate breasts. Plush, and plump in my mouth, I'm licking and sucking, feeling her nipple harden against my tongue. With my left hand, I thrust my middle and ring finger into her wetness, and feel the gyrations of her heat bucking and riding my hand. And I can feel her getting wetter, opening her petals to blossom around me, showing me that she's ready for me.


Withdrawing my hand from inside of her, I allow my fingers to graze and tickle the firm, sensitive pearl resting at the hood of her womahood. Keening and moaning from my attention, she licks her tongue out to moisten her lips, but it captures my focus and instead it feels like a taunting tease, a challenge. Accepting her challenge, I rise and capture those naughty lips, and sip from the sugary sweetness of her mouth.


Closing my eyes, I offer her a satisfied moan of my own. Unbearable stiffness has my dick pressing and prodding into her toned abdomen. I need her now. To ease my suffering.


Reaching between us, I take a hold of my cock, lining it up with her entrance, and begin a slow, measured descent into her. My God. I'm stricken by how tight she is. How slick and juicy she is. How perfect for my length, and the slight curve of my dick she is. And my dick wants more. To tunnel, to pillage, to take and claim all of this goodness for myself. No, my head doesn't want to hurt or scare her with the ferocity of my need for her. With the intolerable and inexplicable need to possess every inch of her. It makes no sense. We are strangers. She doesn't belong to me. And I still don't even know her name.


Clutching and threading through the curls of my hair, she lifts her pelvis to bang upwards against mine. I sink. I fall. Grinding and thrusting into her, I've got two handfuls of her plump ass gripped tightly in my hands, massaging the globes as I drill into her. Like magnets, obeying an undeniable attraction to be together, we find a rhythm that has me sweating and panting, grinning at the euphoria at play on her face, and the harsh grunts escaping my own mouth.


"What's your name, beautiful?" I ask into the sweaty dampness found in the crook of neck, needing to cement this moment, to perfect this intoxicating connection.


Perfectly pinned beneath me, crushing her breasts to my chest, she utters, "Mi… oh god. Mi…"


"Tell me…"


"Rick! Harder…"


Following her direction, I push her thighs upwards, bending them against her bouncing breasts. Bruisingly banging my hips against the back of her thighs, I lick at my lips and try to stave off the creeping orgasm crawling up my spine. The drag of her womanhood, glove tight over my cock, threatens to undo me before she cums. She's too warm, too wet, too tight. This woman is too much everything, but I'm determined to show her that I can be too. I slow the quick, hard thrusts, and bring it down to a teasing in and out, with a slow wind to make sure I hit her walls.


With her lips slightly parted, she thanks my efforts as my name escapes once more before her pussy tightens in a series of spasms, then rains down the evidence of her climax on me. Drenching my balls, her ass, the comforter beneath her. Eyes tightly shut, her bottom lip trapped between her teeth, she's trembling with pleasure. The sight of her, sweaty, satisfied, pulls my own climax from where it's been hibernating for months, and now ends in a haze of blinding rapture. A rumbling groan blurts from me, and my body stiffens. The rush of my semen from my body into hers disables my cool, leaving me a sweaty, groaning, grinning, fool. Damn.


Losing my strength, limbs weak, I ease over to her side. Throwing one arm over my sweaty face, and the other on her thigh, I'm trying to catch my breath. Everything is blurred, fuzzy. My head is clouded, thoughts a dense fog in my head.


Seconds, minutes, maybe hours pass. The hum of the heat roaring through the vent in my bedroom, ushers in a new layer of indulgent calm, that warms our sticky and sweaty bodies. Turning to my side I pull her into me, to hug her close, and snuggle into the sleep that's threatening to drag me under. Throwing my leg over her body, I bring her even closer, cuddling her in the wrap of arms and legs. As my heavy lids begin their final descent, and a drained exhale blows from my lips and across her hairline, bulking my chest, serene tranquility carries me off to sleep.


"I should go." She whispers across my chest.


"Huh?" I rumble from the edge of REM sleep.


Again, that same soft, airy voice, now with a slight rasp, emits from below my chin, where she's carefully tucked away in my hold. "I should go."


"Hm? No!" Post-orgasm malaise has set in and my movements are sluggish and lazy, but my fuzzy brain makes sense of what she's saying, and sends out a distress signal. "Please. Stay with me." I plead. But, she's already trying to inch out of my hold, away from me, towards the edge of the bed. Nervously, my reflexes kick in and I try to hold on to her, but sensing the stiffness setting in her muscles in response, I reluctantly release her.


Now that she's free, her movements hold a sense of urgency, and she pulls herself upright, to sit on the side of the bed. Stopping, as though she may be reconsidering her initial inclination to leave, she remains where she is.


Wondering if this is my opportunity to change her mind, I scramble to the other side, hoping to move quick enough to halt her retreat.


Meeting her suddenly rising figure, I take a hold of her hand, and raise it to my lips. Dropping a series of soft pecks to her fingers, her palm, her wrist, working my way up her arm, I'm begging with my lips, my eyes. Watching my movements, her warm fudge eyes soften, even though she rolls them in false exasperation, a tiny, amused laugh following.


"I would think you would want me to go now. Isn't that how one-night stands work?" She snarks, twisting her lips in disbelief.


"Who says this is a one-night stand?" I return, alarmed that this kind of elation may be impermanent.


"Isn't it? You still don't even know my name."


"I know how you make me feel. That you felt safe enough to come home with me." Sheepishly looking down at my dick, still sticky with her essence, I'm ashamed to realize that we did not use protection. "That we both felt comfortable enough with each other that I forgot to use protection, and you didn't mention it. I've never done that with anyone but my ex-wife. I don't think I even have any condoms."


"I can't have anymore kids anyway… and I was just caught up in the moment. No big deal." She attempts to nonchalantly shrug off the monumental act of us sharing our bodies without a barrier between us. But I can see in the uneasy dance of her eyes away from my face, and the loose hang of her arms to her side, that her words are a cover for her truth.


"I'm sorry anyway. I should have asked. I got carried away. But, I still want you to stay. What do you have to lose by giving me a little more time to learn your name?"


"Why?"


"Why not?" Traveling my kisses up her arm, across her clavicle and collarbone, I land on her neck. Appreciating the scent of her, a rich perfume I've never smelled before. It's a decadent floral, with soft undertones of her own unique smell. But now it's mixed with something else. Me. I like it. "Stay." I beg one more time, a plaintive whine in the bass of my deep voice. "Let's not be alone on New Year's Eve, ok? Belong to me…at least for tonight." I flirt, sincerity and honest affection for her in my wide smile. "I want to take care of you, beautiful." And I mean it. I'm hooked. My words may be coming off to her as the pleas of a sex starved man, and well they are, but there is something else there. Something I don't want to even admit to myself, but, I mean what I said.


"It's 2 AM now, Rick, it's New Year's Day now." She answers, her eyes intent on the red glare of the clock on my night stand.


"Even better. Start the year with me, beautiful."


My words must have hit a nerve with her, because her eyes immediately snap to mine, looking, searching for something. The truth maybe. She doesn't have to look hard though, because it's there in the smitten grin on my face. I mean every word.


"Ok. I'll stay."




She did stay. For how long I don't know. After another round of love making, where she rode me hard, fast, snatching her pleasure from me, I all but passed out. My mystery woman gifted me with an orgasm so strong and ferocious, I caught a Charlie horse in my calf, and barely remember anything after that.


No, she didn't stay as long as I wanted her to. In the morning I rolled over, seeking the warmth of her presence, hoping for a kiss. Planning in my sleep laden brain to get up and make her breakfast, maybe catch a shower together. Instead I was met with a King County Sheriff's Office post it note on her pillow.


I had a great time Sheriff. Thanks for taking care of me, and not allowing me to be alone on NYE.


- M

Chapter 2 by Fik Freak

Chapter 2 – Michonne

"Eric is pissed with you, Michonne. You and Andre actually. He had a whole night planned. Milton said we missed a really good party. We had a sitter and everything. Had suits to wear instead of the sweats we've been wallowing in."

"Damn. I'm pissed I missed that. You were always so handsome in a suit." I chuckle, remembering that going to my assistant Milton's New Year's Eve party was technically my idea, and that the guys were reluctant to not only dress up, but to also leave their baby with a sitter that wasn't me. "I got… caught up in something. And Andre spent the night at my folks' house, and was hanging out with a new friend. How mad is Eric? 1-10?"

"Oh he's big mad. Like 10+10 mad. You know we needed this fun night out. Being new parents has not been an easy transition for us." Aaron reminds me. My best friend and his husband have been struggling since adopting their daughter Liana. He's right, I knew that. But how could I have turned down the sheriff's offer last night?

When I followed my parents into the party, and they excused themselves to find the hosts, I noticed him almost immediately standing by the patio doors as he was being introduced to a short, blonde woman. At first I wasn't sure what was going on, was she under arrest? Dressed in a cop's uniform, he stood over her, and the scene didn't make sense. As a lawyer, I'm always on guard when I see law enforcement interacting with the public. It's a bad habit from my days as a public defender.

Eventually, as their conversation moved on, I saw that no, she wasn't under arrest. Their banter became less stilted, more jovial, flirtatious, though his stance remained authoritative, his chest bulked in a purely masculine way. He reached for her face, to swipe away some of her hair. She touched her hands to his chest. At that point I decided to stop torturing myself and walk away.

An unreasonable feeling of jealousy had overcome me as I watched the tall, handsome cop hold on to his brown hat in one hand, tapping it against his thigh, while he shoved his other through his short brunette hair, keeping his curls off his face. When he casually turned my way, scratching at his salt and pepper beard and scanning the crowd, I caught a glimpse of the stark clearness of his squinting blue eyes, and it was more than I could bear. How lucky they were to be together in that moment. Sharing a cozy romantic closeness that had become foreign to my lonely sensibilities. So handsome and perfectly matched that it hurt.

She was so obviously smitten with him, probably drawn to the power exuded by his confident, erect stance, one long bowed leg balancing the weight of his form on his dusty cowboy boots. Or maybe it was the protective way his head remained on a swivel, keeping one eye out for danger, and another keenly on her pretty face.

He was equally into her, most likely enticed by the submissive way she lowered her eyes before answering his questions, tossing her long blonde hair over her shoulders. The feminine brush of her fingers across his chest, and the coquettish smile of her pink lips. Or perhaps he was most intrigued by her non-threatening way of giggling at everything he said, seemingly deferring to his authority.

Witnessing their connection created a hollow sickness in my belly. A recognition that I had that once. That I belonged to someone who thought the the sun rose and set in my eyes, who looked at me like that cop looked at the pretty blonde. There was a time when that pretty blonde was me. And my heart danced and bathed in the love and adoration of my then husband's love, making me feel every bit as giddy and joyous as that woman across the room seemed to be right now. She wasn't experiencing the empty shame I felt right now, standing around at a New Year's Eve party alone.

For probably ten minutes I watched as they held a conversation, turning away whenever he would make his sweeps of the crowd with his eyes, not wanting to get busted staring. Disgusted with myself I walked outside to try and find my son, who had taken off as soon as we got there. When I stepped out onto the patio, illuminated by the moon's bluish grey glow, and the miniature white lights strung up high, crisscrossing over the patio, I located my son. Off to the side, near a table decked out with all manner of snacks and sweets, my son Andre was standing and seemingly making friends with a young white kid, laughing and smiling. Content that he had found someone his age to hang out with, something that I was doubtful of when my parents suggested Andre and I head to the neighbors' party with them, I continued a slow stroll across the patio.

Instantly, I was accosted by a grungy looking older gentlemen, who tried his very best to start up a conversation that I tuned out before he even got started. Excusing myself from the ramble of his words, and the grabby hands he tried to place on my own hands and arms, I recognized the cop from earlier standing at the outside bar, and made my way in that direction. I couldn't help myself. While I have a healthy suspicion of most cops, there was an aura about him that attracted me like a moth to a flame. He exuded an air of earnest protectiveness that had always drawn me to powerful men. My ex included.

Prancing in his direction, a surge of confidence guided my steps, and added an extra swing to my curvy hips. I looked good. I knew that, and despite whatever issues I now have as a result of my divorce, a certainty in the existence of my good looks has never been a problem for me. It was other parts of me that often gave me pause and reason to question.

Pushing up to the bar, I gained the attention of the bartender and requested a drink. Resting my hip against the wood, my back to him as I waited on my drink, I sensed the heat of his stare on me, instantly lighting an electric awareness of him. And when he spoke up as the guy from outside came to accost me once more, telling him that he was my boyfriend, it took everything in me to keep my face stoic and not jump on him. He smelled so good. The only sufficient description I have for it, is that it reminded me of a time when I went to a cabin in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, with my ex and some friends for a couples' weekend. He smelled like that time in my life. Like the cozy, heated comfort of that cabin. Like the cool outdoorsy wind, the rugged earth. Like pine needles, wood, and the smoke wafting from the fireplace. God help me, he leaned in, his large hand on my shoulder, and dropped a chaste peck to my temple, and I knew right then, in that very moment, as I rolled my shoulders in a backwards wave to stave off the lust rising in my core…if this man wanted me, he could have me. No question. Even when he suddenly removed his hand in response to my movements, maybe assuming that I was not pleased with his touch. No, I was very pleased, too pleased with the kiss and touch of this stranger. And that's why I had to look at him, to see if I still had any of the allure I once held over men, and could garner his full attention. To see if I could have him. Just a taste.

It's all very unlike me. I'm not impulsive or impetuous. I haven't even been with anyone since Mike and I divorced. So what it was about this man that made me suddenly want to overheat with wanton desire, I have no clue. I just know that in that moment in time, I wanted to be the center of his world. I wanted him to make me feel special and giddy like he had the blonde. I wanted to know what it would feel like to be claimed by him, if only for one night.

So that's what I did, and I don't regret it. I followed him home, where Rick proceeded to make love to me with every inch of his body. Tasting my womanhood, and kissing my lips, my breasts. Touching my sensitive skin with the whisper soft crawl of his calloused fingers, leaving goosebumps in their wake. Inhaling my scent as he nuzzled my neck, groaning in appreciation, as he pinned me with his chest pressed closely to mine, abrading my nipples with the soft gruff of his chest hair. Urging my grateful moans to escape my parted lips. And most importantly, seeing me. Through me really. Through the carefully constructed façade of a put together woman, to the real me. The unvarnished vulnerability that is Michonne Alexander-Anthony. A disregarded woman, lonely for the touch of a meaningful human connection. And he gave me that.

Even though he is divorced as well, he didn't seem as scared or scarred as I was, though my bourbon emboldened actions may have led him to inaccurately come to this assumption. No. My sheriff, Rick, was gentle yet firm, sexy and self-assured, a dangerous arsenal that he used to bury my doubts, and arouse my senses. Inciting a wanton carelessness that I have never exhibited when I was not a married woman. So much so that it simply never crossed my mind to even ask him for a condom. He made me feel so alive as he quietly commanded my body, and heightened my exhilaration, using his own to sate both of our carnal needs. And to unexpectedly keep me there, with him, all night. On a sexy promise to belong to him, for him to take care of me, at least for one night, I nearly melted into a puddle, and acquiesced.

Holding me close, crushing my body under the lithe sinew of muscles, veins, and heated golden skin, covered in fine dark hair, I accepted his invitation to remain with him, sequestered behind the security of his arms, casually commanding me to stay close to him. I slept so good, deep and hard, that I forgot where I was when I woke at my usual 5:30 the next morning with his arm still clutching me close, draped over my breasts. For a brief moment I forgot that I was divorced and that the real Michonne now spent her nights alone, with only her snoring son down the hall in his messy room, and a tempestuous cat precariously perched on the pillow beside her. And I didn't want to leave him. This beautiful man, with his loud gruff snores easing over his soft pink lips and into my neck. The toes of his long feet toying with my own, often brushing over my ankle to pull me in even closer.

Realizing that I should go, that in the light of day I would be forced to account for my wild actions from the night before, I chickened out of the certain confrontation with my truth. It was sure to come, as surely as the sun would rise. So I left. I carefully drug myself from his tight grasp, doused with the cold splash of the air without him covering me, and shimmied back into my dress. Slinking out of his house this morning, sans panties that I couldn't locate anyway, I didn't regret a thing. I also know that because I have no answer for my uncharacteristic behavior last night, I don't really want to confess it, or attempt to explain it. Not even to the only man I love more than my daddy and Andre, Aaron.

"I'm so very sorry, Aaron. I will make it up to you guys. How about you leave Liana with me for a weekend? Andre and I can watch her. It might teach your godson some responsibility."

"What? Michonne, you said that when you bought him a fish and he never fed it, then it died from hunger. You also said that when you and Mike got that dog, who got fat from Andre over feeding it and not walking him, then ended up with diabetes. A dog with diabetes, Michonne. You said it again when you got that cat. Well you still have the cat, but I hate the cat, and I don't want my daughter to go down in the 'Andre is not ready to be a caregiver' hall of shame."

"Listen, Aaron, he was 5 when we got the fish, and only 7 when we got the dog. He was barely bathing and taking care of himself then. Mike and I were just trying to teach him about taking care of anything then. He wouldn't be like that now and you know it. He adores his god-sister. Come on, dude, let me make it up to you guys. And hey, don't talk shit about my cat."

"Fine. This weekend I'm going to allow you to watch your god-daughter, and to buy us tickets to that new play 'Eclipsed'. I heard it's pretty amazing."

"Allow me?"

"Yes. Allow you. So what did you get caught up in that had you stand up your very best friend in the whole world? It wasn't Mike was it?"

"No. Why would you even say that?" I quickly ask, not wanting Aaron to get agitated at the idea of my ex. We had an amicable divorce, but Aaron still hates him for the emotional abandonment that started way before we even uttered the words divorce.

Like I confessed to the sheriff last night, I can't have any more kids, and that has always been a sore spot in Mike's and my marriage. If I'm being honest I knew after my last miscarriage two years ago, that it was the beginning of the end for us, but I tried to save what we had. I did it for Andre, and for myself. Andre deserved his parents together, and needed his father. So, I dedicated myself to doing what I do best, I attempted to fix it. I tried it all. I exercised everyday and changed to a strict vegan diet, trying to make my body a perfectly clean vessel, in fruitless hope that it might fix whatever was wrong with me. I invested in tons of La Perla lingerie, pole and chair dancing classes, watching porn to pick up new tips. On one occasion I even talked Mike into making it to one marriage counseling appointment before I realized as he grudgingly stuttered through a few minimal answers to the therapist's questions, what Mike probably knew all along, something with me, with us was irreparably broken.

He couldn't hide it. There was so much rampant desperation to every movement I was making at the time, every word I spoke, every decision I made. Every thing about me was geared towards serving at the pleasure of Mike. Failure just didn't seem like a viable option for me, it never has been. I'm a lawyer, I'm competitive, and I don't lose. But, Mike had probably already resigned himself to our fate, quietly withdrawing from me. Towards the end he couldn't even look me in the eyes, and his handsome face, that I was so fond of, was always contorted into a disappointed frown. His touch so cold and stilted. His words terse and abrupt.

We didn't start out that way though. The memory of a young Michonne, a freshman, and Mike, a graduating senior meeting at Howard University, falling in love and ready to take on the world, still makes my eyes water, and my heart soar. Mike was dramatically handsome. Standing on long legs, so very tall. Dark fudge eyes so bright, seductive. A full wide nose, and lips, set on a face so attractive, and regal, he looked like royalty. Together we made a striking pair with our matching beautiful plum colored skin, and expressive features. Though he was not my first, he was the man who set me on fire and taught me everything good about my body, about sex. We were so in love then, so optimistic about our future together, that a surprise pregnancy near the end of my senior year was a gift that was met with elation, hope. We immediately got married at a chapel near Georgetown, where Mike had just finished his last year of graduate school, with only the preacher and his secretary as witnesses.

Andre was born that same year. He was premature, and the traumatic birth, which included 12 hours of labor, and resulted in 2 weeks in the NICU, and uterine scarring that seems to have deemed me a one child parent. And for me that was ok. Over the many years of our lives together, I was content to dote on Andre, to nourish his body and his mind, and watch him grow into the self-assured, intelligent, slightly irresponsible, and fairly messy young man he is now. For Mike, it signaled that something about our union was not quite right. God had somehow punished him for something by not blessing him with more kids. And so it began.

As one of eight kids, the thought of only having one child was incomprehensible to Michael Kendall Anthony. And as the son of a preacher, he was not interested in pursuing any kind of medical intervention that might help us diagnose the cause for our secondary infertility, including the two miscarriages we suffered. As a result, after nearly thirteen years of only Mike, Andre, and myself, Mike began to pull away from me. From Andre too. Spending more time flying back and forth to New Jersey to help his parents with their church, and managing their multiple rental properties. Working late in the office of his accounting firm, instead of coming home to his family. I suppose when he was no longer confronted with having to walk through our large home and not hear the pitter patter of many little feet, it was easier for him to cope. But for Andre and I, it meant that we created a little world of our own, one that did not include Mike, and we moved on.

We got used to it.

My divorce has irreparably broken me though. Gifted me with so much doubt, and fear. Simply put, being alone again, starting over…it scares the hell out of me, and I find myself wondering if it wouldn't have been better to just stick it out with Mike. Maybe we could have figured it out…if I had fought harder, if my body would have cooperated. For the last year I have questioned every move I've ever made in my life, every decision that has led me here. But, Aaron, my bestie since high school, has helped me see the truth. It's that same fear that is keeping me trapped, stuck in place and not moving ahead. It kept me in a marriage with a man who didn't want me. Who no longer saw me. Yeah I was married. Had a big house in Buckhead, with a son, nice cars, and fancy things. But, I no longer had love, affection, friendship.

Turning into the driveway of my new, smaller home, and into the garage, I pause for a moment, wondering again if I should tell Aaron about the sheriff. Just the thought of him, and what I did last night has my palms sweating on the steering wheel, and my lady parts tingling in my wrinkled green dress. I want to tell him, simply because I know he will never believe that I had a one-night stand. That I left that beautiful man asleep in his bed. That I barely got out of there without waking him as I fruitlessly searched his bedroom for my thong, but not finding it, decided to just be thankful I found my dress and shoes, and left.

A larger part of me wants to keep this little secret for myself. To keep the memory of the pleasure we shared, locked away inside of me, to pull out when I'm feeling lonely. Which is pretty damn often actually.

"Well if it wasn't a Mike thing, what kind of thing was it? You fall asleep at your parents' house or something?"

Internally vacillating, still unsure of whether I should say something or not, I ultimately decide not to tell him, at least right now, and utter a slow answer to his question.

"Yeah, something like that."

"Party pooper. Well you should stop by later today and have a New Year's drink with us anyway. I'm sure you could use it before you head over to your parents'. That way I can tell you about the cast of characters Milton said were at his party last night. I shit you not, he said there was a guy there who called himself the governor."

Still smarting with a bit of a hangover from the three glasses of bourbon I consumed last night, I wince at the thought of drinking again, but offer him a slight cackle at the odd nickname. "Maybe, I'll stop in later. But not to drink."

"Alright then, I'll see you later."

"Later."

Hanging up the phone, I ease my sore body from my truck, and slowly amble into the quiet serenity of my deserted house, to face a new year alone.


"There was a man here looking for you."

"Hm?" I ask, mumbling with my mouth stuffed with my mother's customary New Year's Day fare of black eyed peas and cornbread.

"George and Amanda's son, the cop. He was at the party last night. I assume you met since he was over here nice and early looking for you. Even though he never mentioned you by name. He asked about Andre's mother, so I suppose you met when you agreed to the boys' sleepover. He asked for your phone number, which I did not give him by the way, because I don't know why he would need it." My father huffed, looking at me over the rim of his wire framed glasses, scrutinizing my response to his words.

Not even wanting to touch on the reason that Rick would have been looking for me, I answer my dad's question with a question to throw him off. "Wait. The guy who was at the party last night, dressed in a cop's uniform, is your neighbor's son?"

"Yeah. He said he wanted to speak to you about something. Fairly nice young man, recently divorced. You've actually met him before; you were probably too young to remember though. We came out here to visit them once. You know his father George and I served in the military together, and they invited us out to their new house to swim and hang out for the day. You were about 3, he was probably 6 or so. You played in his kiddie pool. Tore off your pull-up and ran naked through their yard." My dad chuckles, a hard deep laugh, shaking the barrel of his wide chest. Seated with my family at the table in my parents' dining room, we've been quickly gobbling up our food as fast as we can in order to catch the football playoff and bowl games on TV, that are scheduled to begin shortly.

"I most certainly do not remember that." I groan at the embarrassing memory, but internally tickled and wondering if Rick remembers. Probably not. Even if he did, he would have no way of knowing that I was the little naked girl who streaked across his backyard. I'm sure my parts look very different now.

"Arthur, she wouldn't have any way of remembering that. It was cute though. You know there was a brief moment where Amanda and I kind of hoped you and Rick would date and get married. It was foolish though. We lived too far away then, and didn't keep in touch that often. But it might have been nice." Wistfully my mother drops that little nugget into the air, and it quite literally catches me off guard. I can't even find an answer for it, so I don't even try. I just continue to eat.

"My dad made sure that didn't happen. Right, Mom?" Andre smirks, still feeling the unnecessary need to somehow protect his father and the memory of my long dissolved marriage.

"Mmhm. Yep." I nod, not wanting to even think about Mike right now.

"He turned out very handsome, George and Amanda's son. Don't you think so, Michonne? Amanda introduced him to a nice girl last night. She hopes they hit it off. You know speaking of being setup…"

"Huh?"

"Mom and Dad are setting you up, sis. Surprise! Dad dug up some dude to help you get rid of those cobwebs." Noah laughs, pointing at me from the other end of the table where he's seated next to Andre, who's also laughing, though I'm sure he has no idea why. They are 5 years apart in age, and sometimes he acts more juvenile than Andre does.

"I don't need to be fixed up with anyone. I can find my own date."

"And yet, here you are…alone." Noah snarks, the only one amused by his teasing.

"Hush, Noah. You just never know, Michonne. Your father met him hitting balls at the golf range last week. He's handsome. Accomplished. He's the new DA for King County. Unmarried, no kids. What's his name again, Arthur?"

"His name is Shane, and he'll be here in a bit. So, I expect all of the Alexanders, and the little Anthony down there at the end of the table to be on their best behavior. Understand?"

"Dad, I-"

"Don't worry, Michonne. He's just coming over to watch some football. And if you hit it off, great. If not, no sweat. But, you need to get back out there. I wanna see my munchkin smile again. Ok?" My father nods in my direction, a wide smile lighting his face, and animating the lines at the corner of his eyes.

"Ok." I confirm. Though I don't feel ok about it. I may have bluffed my way through a one night stand with Rick, there was no emotional investment required there. Not really. Our bodies connected, and yes it felt exciting and natural to be with him, but…he doesn't even know my name. That fact may be shameful for some, but for me it served as protection. My divorce taught me how to protect my heart, to survive. To my parents this lonely path I'm walking may not be living, but it's a lot less painful than where I've been.

Wiping my hands across on the napkin in my lap, I scan the faces of my family, the smiles and smirks, the frown twisting my son's lips and dipping his thick eyebrows over his glasses, much like it did last night when he discovered me in the kitchen with Rick. I can tell from here that he's not happy about the idea of me dating. Not at all. I always get the distinct impression that he thinks that his father and I will eventually get back together. Sorry, kiddo, that will never happen.

Silently communicating with my son from down the table, our family dinner that is quickly wrapping up, is interrupted by the chiming of the doorbell. Suddenly frozen in my seat, I mentally begin preparing myself for how I'm going to dispatch of what I'm sure is going to be a short lived, and improperly matched acquaintance.

"Mr. Alexander, sir, it's good to see you again. Thank you for inviting me over. I brought a bottle of wine, that Malbec you suggested. And some beer for the house." A loud voice booms from the entry foyer, with a very clear southern inflection, catching my ear in the dining room.

"It's good that you could make it, Shane. Come on in and meet the family. Thanks for the drinks. Michonne will love this wine."

Rooted to my seat in a grumpy slouch, I don't even bother getting up to greet this guy, certain that regardless of whoever walks through that door, and unless it is Idris Elba, nothing will come of this setup. But, as a man about my father's height, nearly six feet, with swaths of wavy dark hair brushed back from his forehead on the top, and tapered a bit on the back and sides, walks around the corner from the foyer and into the dining room, I'm considering changing my mind. Maybe.

"Shane, this is my baby girl, my daughter Michonne. Munchkin, this is Shane Walsh. He's the DA around here, and he's got a damn good golf swing. You two come meet me in the TV room after you get yourselves acquainted." My dad commands, sneaking off down the hall, and leaving Shane standing in the doorway, alone with me.

"Hi, Michonne, or is it Munchkin?" He laughs, then thrusts his large hand out towards me. "Either way, it's nice to meet you."

"Nice. You can call me Michonne." Standing to greet him and accepting his hand in mine, I try to shake his in welcome, but instead he lifts my hand to his lips and delivers a firm kiss to my knuckles. "Thank you." Schooling a small grin that is trying its hardest to take over my face in response to his antics, I withdraw my hand from his.

"My pleasure. You're just as lovely as your father said you were. Stunning even."

"Again, thank you. You're quite the charmer."

"I try. Your father tells me you are a lawyer also?" He asks, in a wide legged stance, his blue jeans hugging his thighs, and his hoodie pulled snug across his expansive chest as he crosses his arms. Impressive.

"I am by trade, but it's not really what I do anymore. I created an app, that I kind of got rich off of. It allows you to speak to it from your smartphone or tablet, kind of like Siri, and tell it what your legal scenario or issue is, and tells you what your legal rights are in that situation. It's called 'Know My Rights'. So I manage that, and I still take pro-bono cases here and there to stay sharp."

"That's you? I've heard of it." He nods, seemingly impressed. "Brilliant, beautiful…" Dancing his eyes in an admiring sweep up and down my body, lingering on my chest, then my hips, he stops and sucks in a deep breath, his lips pulled into his mouth. "You've got all the Bs covered don't you?"

"Which other Bs might you be talking about, Mr. Walsh?"

"You gonna make me call out your other…ahem, bountiful assets in your parents' house?" He angles himself towards me and asks, his lips just a breath away from my own. I suck in a sharp breath at the brash audacity of his compliments, and then I smile. Again. Because my new year has been going off with a bang. Over the last 24 hours I have had more attention from the opposite sex than I had all last year, and I kind of like it. It feels like I might be reconnecting with a part of myself that has been submerged under being a wife and mother, a lawyer for so long, that now she's itching to come out and play. Why not let her have a little fun?

Staring into the abyss of his eyes for a moment, I have to admit that my father has done well. They are dark, nearly black, deep set and slightly slanted on the ends, resting under thick arched brows, as dusky as the inky waves of his hair. A large nose dominates his face, with a hint of scruff from his beard peeking through on his jaw and chin. He is not pretty at all. Nothing like my sexy, pretty boy, sheriff, who is all hard angles, and lean muscle, with his sharp aquiline nose, bearded cheeks, piercing blue eyes, and high forehead. In contrast, Shane is the epitome of rough masculinity, with his thick, stocky build packaged in a wine colored hoodie, displaying his support for the Crimson Tide.

It seems as though he's trying to downplay his rough edges that bleed through the polish of his upstanding DA veneer. But to me, it's easy to identify. His wolfish grin does not soften him at all. Instead it only plays on the dichotomy of his polished, DA persona, against the clearly more mischievous set of his roguish mouth. I'm…intrigued.

"Roll tide, huh?"

"Buckeyes, huh?"

"Well my father went there." I shrug, tugging at my form fitting scarlet and grey, Ohio State University jersey.

"Shit, girl, the way you're filling out that jersey you're making me wanna go there too!" He rasps, leaning his body in to conspiratorially whisper in my ear. Drawing back to see the affect of his words, satisfaction sets on his wicked lips, seeing how his words have created a clear smile on my own.

"We shouldn't hang out here alone for too long, or my mother might start planning our wedding."

"I'm free next Saturday if you are."

"Ah…"

"Kidding. But, maybe we can go out next Saturday, just a date. I have a friend's wedding to go to, and I would love to have you on my arm for it."

"Sure, why not. We can exchange info and then you can text me the details so I can get it on my calendar."

"Should be fun."

Walking into the TV room with Shane close behind, my family is already gathered around the television, ready for some football.

"Glad you two could join us. Looks like you're getting along just fine already. Come on in and have a seat, Shane, so I can introduce you to the rest of the family. Munchkin, don't hog our guest all to yourself."

"Dad-"

"I don't mind, Mr. Alexander. Munchkin here can hog me all she wants."

"You can not call me that. Only my daddy calls me that." I offer as I begin to walk away from him, and towards the couch, looking to get a seat next to my son.

Waiting a beat, probably watching me prance and sway in my skinny jeans towards the couch, I can hear him mumble quietly under his breath. "How about if I let you call me daddy? Can I call you Munchkin then?"


"So, you like that guy or something?"

"What guy?"

"Honestly, I don't know, Mom. Pick one. Seems a lot of guys have their eyes on you lately."

"Andre Miles Anthony, what are you talking about? You know how to use your words, say exactly what you mean. But watch how you speak to me."

"Sorry. I just… Yesterday you were talking to Carl's dad, and it seemed like you you were into him. Then he showed up this morning asking for my mom, trying to get your phone number from Nana and Pops. They didn't give it to him, but I did cause he's cool. He hung out and talked to me and Carl for a little bit before they left. But this guy…I don't know. It's like he's too…aggressive or something. Why did sit next to you so close on the couch? He had his arm around your shoulders and stuff. It made me uncomfortable."

"I see. So, is it that you don't want me to date at all, or you don't want me to date Shane? It sounds like you're ok with Rick, so I'm a little confused here."

"I don't know… If I had my way you wouldn't need to date at all because you and Dad would still be together. We could be a family again. I know he took that job in New York, and you guys are divorced but, you guys could have worked it out eventually. Maybe?"

Silence engulfs the car at the declaration of Andre's thoughts, and the loaded but hopeful question he eventually poses. A question that holds all the whimsical wants of an adolescent who yearns for his life to be simple again. Not hopping on a plane just to have a little time with his dad. Not watching as his mother tries to salvage the ashes of her forgotten confidence and power. For things to be like they once were, when things were much simpler.

Each of us now seem lost in the weight of my son's spoken thoughts. How do I explain to my son that yes, I like both of these men? Yes, I enjoyed the attention, and that I'm not sorry for it. I have nothing to apologize for. Part of me wants to rail at the adolescent selfishness of his concerns. Why is it so unthinkable that a man would desire me, and that I could actually find a way to move on and find love again? Another part of me, the part of me that still sees the chubby, cherubic baby that used to gaze lovingly up at me as he fed from my breast. The boy who has relied on me through every moment of his life, to guide him through his physical and emotional development. Just like he does right now.

Briefly, as I watch the black asphalt of the road and its yellow hash marks disappear under the tires of my truck, the light from the lampposts illuminates the handsome face of my son pressed against the passenger side window, and I pull back from unloading on him my initial inclination to return his questions with a barrage of my own. No, those questions are not for him, they are for me to ask and answer for myself. I know this. He's not concerned with my self-doubt, he's worried about the continuous movement of his world, quaking underneath his oversized feet. My boy is questioning his life's stability.

In recognition of the youth and immaturity coloring his innocent wonderings, I rub my hand through the tight, kinky curls on his head. It's time for a haircut. It's something his father would have had scheduled, and they would not have missed their bi-weekly excursion to the barber. Now, it's another expectation that his mother has to somehow remember to seamlessly meet.

"Andre, honey. Your father and I…we are never going to get back together. I know that scares you. I know that hurts you. But, I will remind you what your father and I told you when we announced our divorce, this has nothing to do with you. It's about us not being able to remember why were together anymore. We simply didn't have the same love between us, and that's ok. We grew apart. But, we will always have you, and you will always have us, and our love. Me dating someone else, your father probably dating someone else, none of that changes the fact that we will always be family, and that we love you."

"I know, Mom. I know you love me. I just… it's weird watching these guys who don't look or act anything like Dad, interested in you. And, I know what they want, Mom. I'm young, but I've had the talk with Dad about guys and girls. They only want one thing, and I don't ever want to see you hurt again, Mom. Not like before. I remember."

"Well, Andre, you don't need to worry about that. I realize that you are turning into a man yourself, and that you have some awareness of what goes on with a man and woman. I'm not stupid. Remember, I'm the one who caught you and Cyndie on my couch one afternoon when you thought I was at work."

"Mom-"

"That's my job, Andre, to be in your business. To monitor your relationships, and to protect you from making foolish choices. I appreciate that you want to protect me also, but, I've got this. I think." I chuckle, wanting to lighten the tenor of the conversation as I can feel the prickly sting of tears threatening to gloss over my eyes. At this time in my life, I honestly can't handle getting dragged back into the emotional pit I had to crawl out of after my divorce. I won't survive it again.

"I've got your back, Mom. And I hear you. I guess you're telling me to fall back, and I will, but that Shane guy? I don't know about him. Mr. Grimes though, he's more your speed."

"Oh yeah? What makes you say that?" I ask, curious at my son's assessment of the sheriff.

"Well like I said, he talked to me, and to Carl. And he didn't talk down to us like we're little kids or anything. He was direct about wanting your phone number and why, he said he wants to get to know you. The Shane guy didn't even speak to me more than to say hi. I just get a bad vibe from him is all."

Thinking over Andre's words, I have to admit that he usually reads people very well. Andre has always had a perceptive awareness about people. Aaron says it's like he can see the negative or positive energy in folks, and given some past events I have to agree.

When Andre was 2 and I had begun law school, Mike and I hired a nanny to help take care of Andre. She was a young woman from Brazil, who was at UGA getting her Bachelor's in Early Child Education. On paper, and when we interviewed her she was perfect. But on her very first day in our home, she was a disaster. Andre did not take to her, as he cried and wailed when Mike and I tried to leave the house. And Mike noted that he found her in our home office when he came home, going through the desk and filing cabinet drawers. Basically, she lasted one day, and had we paid attention to the way that Andre would push away from her when she reached for him, or how he cried when we left for the day, we could have avoided her altogether.

While I'm giving Andre's words some thought my phone rings. Accepting the call on the in car phone system, my assistant's voice filters through the air.

"Hello."

"Michonne, hi. I hate to call you so late in the evening, but I needed to let you know that I booked an early morning appointment for you in the office with a Glen Rhee. It's about a pro bono case that I think you would be interested in. I vetted him, and went through the details with him the other day, but since you have been on vacation I didn't want to disturb you."

"Ok. What's this case about?"

"Mr. Rhee says that he was in King County visiting his girlfriend, a Maggie Greene, last summer. He was leaving her apartment one night, heading back into the city, when he was pulled over a few blocks away from her apartment by the Sheriff's Department. He says that the deputy, a Spencer Monroe, would not tell him why he pulled him over, but told him to step out of the car after obtaining his driver's license and insurance information. Mr. Rhee stepped out of the car, and the deputy remarked that he smelled of marijuana, then proceeded to search his car. He says that he never gave consent, and when he reminded the deputy of this, stating that he knows that the deputy must have consent or a warrant, the deputy told him he has probable cause. When Mr. Rhee continued to protest, the deputy accosted him, telling him that he was under arrest, and hit him with his club numerous times. Mr. Rhee suffered cracked ribs, a broken arm, and multiple bruises and contusions."

"Why isn't this a criminal case, Milton?"

"Apparently the old DA, who retired in the fall, did not believe that there was sufficient evidence to prove misconduct on the deputy's part. There is dashcam footage, but it is grainy and hard to make out what's happening. Given that, no charges were filed. The deputy was on paid leave for a month, but he is back on the job."

"Interesting. So, Mr. Rhee is looking to go after the deputy for a civil claim instead. Smart. Ok, thanks for the heads up, Milton. I will be in the office around 8 tomorrow morning. What time is my appointment with Mr. Rhee?"

"9."

"Alright. I will see you when I get in."


Damn, love or lust
Damn, all of us

Give me a run for my money
There is nobody, no one to outrun me
(Another world premier!)
So give me a run for my money
Sipping bubbly, feeling lovely, living lovely
Just love me
I wanna be with you, ayy, I wanna be with
I wanna be with you, ayy, I wanna be with
I wanna be with you

I love this song. Kendrick Lamar is a genius, and right now his words are my own. No, I'm not in love right now, but my conversation in the car with Andre has me thinking about love. About the sudden prospects that have presented themselves, and what to make of them. About how open to the idea I may actually be. Could I see myself in love again? I honestly don't know, and I'm not sure how I could cross that chasm to ever lay myself bare enough to get over the gulf between me love. My love for Mike was so certain and absolute, it burned with the whitest flame of purity. But now I'm left with only the grimy soot and burns from that same fire.

Sipping down the velvety smooth texture of the Argentinian Malbec Shane brought to my parents' house, I drop my head back on the edge of the bathtub. Rolling my tongue through the dark liquid, appreciating the dry seductive bite of the wine, I close my eyes. I'm brain weary at this point. Tired of thinking and over thinking. Rick. Shane. Rick. Shane. For some reason both men are clouding my thoughts, and preventing me from catching this last chance of relaxation before heading back to work tomorrow. Attacking my own thoughts and opinions on each, looking for a weakness in my own arguments and rationale, then parrying to deflect and save myself from even heading down that path. Any thoughts regarding either man are wholly premature at this juncture. But I can't stop my brain from wandering…and remembering.

After Andre went up for bed, I sat in my office for a bit, preparing myself for work tomorrow, and going over a few questions I wanted to be sure to ask of Mr. Rhee in the morning. Right before I left my office and turned out the light, my phone buzzed with a text. It was Shane sending over the details for our date next weekend.

Shane: What address can I pick you up at?

Michonne: How about we meet at the wedding? You said it's in King County, so it wouldn't make any sense for you to drive all the way out here and turn right back around. Then bring me home again. 

Shane: Maybe I wasn't going to take you back home. You might find me so charming that you want to stay around for a little while. 

Michonne: Not on a first date I wouldn't

Shane: You've never had that strong of a connection with someone on a first date? What does it matter if it's the first date or the tenth?

Michonne: …

I guess he kind of had me there. I did just have my very first one night stand last night, and yet, nothing felt awkward or shameful about it. Every thing with Rick felt organic, like our bodies had known each other before. Rick somehow knew where to touch, to kiss, to bite. But thinking over Andre's words makes me a lot more wary with Shane than I evidently was with Rick.

Shane: You still there? 

Michonne: Yeah. I will meet you there. Just text me the address. 

Shane: Hey, I didn't mean anything by that…I just really wanna get to know you better. I'm a nice guy, you'll see. 

At the same time that I was preparing my thumbs to respond, my phone began to vibrate in my hands. An unknown number lit up the screen.

"Hello."

"Hi, can I speak to Mi-Mishawn please?" It was him. My sheriff. Like the savory, yet aromatic sweetness of the bourbon I drank at his house last night, Rick's deep gravelly voice permeated the air with the sound of it coming through my phone's speaker.

"May I ask who is calling?" I ask, not wanting him to know that I couldn't forget the rumble of his rough southern brogue for all of my days.

"Yeah, this is Rick. It's you isn't it, mystery lady?"

"Guilty."

"Of running away. Yes, you are."

"I didn't run. I casually walked. And it's Mi-chonne."

"It's beautiful, just like you. And you didn't have to walk away. I wanted to fix you breakfast, spend some more time together." Blowing out a breath, his deep voice seems to drop even lower. "I was disappointed to wake up without you in my arms, but I understand."

"I'm sure you say that to all the girls."

"Nah. You're the only girl."

"Somehow I think the blonde from that party would beg to differ." I toss back, his returning silence an obvious hint that I have caught him off guard.

"You saw that, huh? That was the first time I ever met that woman. I was setup by my mother."

"I understand, Rick, it's ok. You can be with whoever you want. You don't belong to me, Sheriff."

"What if I want to?" A slight laugh pushes from his mouth, and a pause ensues. "I can still smell you on my sheets. The pillows… My beard. I remember how you tasted on my tongue, how soft your little body was in my hands. Michonne, if you think I'm going to let you go so easy… you're wrong."

Speechless, without the proper words, again, I let his words hang in the air between us as Kendrick Lamar raps in the background.

Give me a run for my money
There is nobody, no one to outrun me
So give me a run for my money
Sipping bubbly, feeling lovely, living lovely
Just love me
I wanna be with you, ayy, I wanna be with
I wanna be with you, ayy, I wanna be with
I wanna be with you

Words. I always talk to Andre about their power. To sway, convince, persuade. They don't call incantations spells, and putting together the letters to form a word, spelling for nothing, and right now I feel like Rick Grimes is once again putting a spell on me. It's not like he hasn't already bewitched me once, with his bright blue eyes, his wicked tongue, and that glorious cock of his. Behind the lids of my eyes I can almost see him, as though he's in the bathroom with me. His manhood long, erect, arching up high and nearly touching his belly button. The sight of it's length causing my mouth to water with want, an overwhelming desire to feel its heft and girth filling my mouth, my pussy. I should have tasted him too, so that I could also recall his flavor on my tongue.

The candles around the tub shroud the room in a seductive sepia toned glow, with only the skirting of the tiny flames, flickering in the shadows on the wall.

"When can I see you again?"

"Rick, I don't know if this is a good idea."

"It is."

"What if it's not? You didn't even know my name until my son told you."

"That doesn't matter. I've already touched and tasted the sweetest parts of you, Michonne. Let me get to know the rest of you. Then we can decide if this is a good idea or not. I promise you won't be disappointed."

Under the bubbles, skimming the tops of the heated water, floating across my perky aroused nipples, my core is aching at the promise in his words. Sliding my hand down my neck, over the rise of my heaving breasts, and down the slope of my belly, my fingers tickle my swelling bud. Rick did this to me. His words. The bold assurance of his vow. A light graze is all I can withstand before I'm sinking further under the water, my thighs spreading as I drop my fingers lower.

"Last night was good, Sheriff."

"It was great. You were great. I've never met a woman like you."

Massaging my petals, they are slick, sticky. The bath water isn't the cause. It's…him.

"I wish you were here right now, Rick." I mutter, any thought of Shane completely erased from my brain. In this moment, Rick is the only man that exists.

"Is that what you want? I'll be wherever you want me to be. I wanna take care of you, Michonne. That's my word."

"Mmmm…" I moan. Massaging away the ache of need, want, I almost tell him to come to me. To put out this fire that's causing a molten lava slip of my essence across my fingers. But doubt shows its gnarly head and pulls me back. Can this one night stand actually survive the glaring light of day? Could it go the distance? "Soon. In a few more days."

"A few more days?"

"I'll call you."

"You've ruined me, Michonne. I've got to see you again. Soon." He commands on a laugh.

"In a few more days, Sheriff. Good night."

Chapter 3 by Fik Freak

Chapter 3 – Rick

Tuesday…

Rick: Good morning, beautiful.

Michonne: Hey Rick, good morning

Rick: Have a good day

Michonne: You too…and lock up lots of bad guys!

Rick: I got you…


Wednesday…

Rick: What's your favorite color?

Michonne: I don't know…red?

Rick: Yeah, you would look amazing in red…

Michonne: I do look pretty amazing in red. Wearing red today

Rick: I wanna see

Michonne: …

Michonne: (texts picture in a red silk blouse and black pencil skirt)

Rick: I knew it that made my day, beautiful


Thursday…

Rick: How old were you when you had your first kiss?

Michonne: Uh…

Rick: I kissed a girl the first time when I was 15. Late bloomer

Michonne: oh yeah? I was like 11 when I kissed a boy for the first time

Rick: My mother would have called you fast

Michonne: Mine too. Good thing she never knew about it LOL! What would you have called me?

Rick: Mine


Friday…

Michonne: tell me a secret about you, that no one else knows.

Rick: I've never been in love

Michonne: You didn't love your wife? I loved my ex…terribly

Rick: I loved her…I wasn't in love with her. Big difference

Michonne: What is it? The difference?

Rick: Maybe one day I can show you. What's your secret?

Michonne: …

Michonne: when is your birthday?

Rick: September 14th. Yours?

Michonne: February 14th. You're a Virgo…figures. Loyal, practical, smart, tenacious…sound familiar?

Rick: Is that supposed to be me, my little valentine's baby?

Michonne: If the shoe fits…

Rick: Ok, I found yours. You're an Aquarius…independent, spontaneous, intelligent…sound familiar?

Michonne: Hush, Sheriff! Call me later...


"Hey, beautiful."

"Rick, hi. What's up?"

"This sleepover Carl and Andre have cooked up, I just want to make sure that it's still ok, and the logistics of the whole thing."

"Oh, ok. I worked from home today, so you can drop him off whenever you are ready. I'll text you my address. And I will bring him back to King County tomorrow when I go see my parents. Does that work?"

"Yeah. Sounds good. It will be nice to see you again, Michonne. Not just a texted picture."

"Um…yeah."

"Why do you sound nervous? You don't want to see me?" I ask on a light laugh, picking up on the jittery wobble in her soft voice. The idea that she might not does make me nervous, a little unsure of myself. We've been texting all week, and I have to admit that every one of those messages has made me fall for her just a little bit more.

"No, that's not it at all, Rick." She promises on a firm assertion, clearing away the heavy uncertainty that was attempting to cloud my brain. "It's just that, um, I didn't expect this to be a thing. You and me. I did something kind of crazy and spontaneous that one time, and…" Michonne trails off, hoping that what she has said is sufficient to explain what she can't seem to vocalize.

"Hey, it's ok, I understand."

"No, I don't think you do. It's not that I don't-"

"Michonne, hey sweetheart." A man's voice interrupts.

"Hey, Aaron, come on in." Her voice lightens, and takes on an airy, chipper tone as she welcomes some guy. Aaron. I remember hearing this guy's name before, and my blood begins to boil in my veins. "Rick, I'm sorry, I have to go. When you drop Carl off tonight, we can talk. Ok?"

"Sure. That's fine. I look forward to it."

"Me too. Bye."

Sitting on the couch in my living room I drop my phone to my side, and sit back, grasping for a relieved breath. A deep one that quivers over my lips, bulks and sinks my chest with the effort to calm myself. This woman is doing something to me.

Ever since I met her on New Year's Eve, she has been on my mind. The tiny details of her are trapped in my brain. Her intoxicatingly sweet scent in my nose, and days later still a faint lingering dash on my sheets. The provocative tang of her womanhood seems to still be sticky on my lips. The ghost of her supple skin still soft and smooth in my greedy palms, while I was buried deep inside of her silk. Inviting moans, purred seductively in my ears. The sight of her dusky hued skin, damp and glistening with sweat, writhing in pleasure across my white sheets. Damn.

For the last few days I have dreamt of her every night. Reached for her body that should have still been warm in my bed. Instead her sudden appearance, and even more sudden disappearance from my life, has left a stinging bereft feeling, and I don't like it. She blessed me with the gift of her, then surreptitiously stole it back. Now I'm desperate.

That next morning when I went to my parents' house to get Carl, I was hoping to find her at her parents' home. She wasn't, but when her son gave me her phone number and her name I was just as scattered with emotion as if she was. Though I tried to hide it behind the same face I use at work, my professional sheriff's face, from her father's questioning stare, and her son's youthful scrutiny, my mental state was a messy tangle. Eager excitement to finally know her name and how to get in touch with her, was at war with a slight anger that she had not stuck around that next morning, and that I was uncharacteristically turned on by the chase that was about to commence. A carnal craving to find her and deliver a few swats to her round bottom as punishment, uncharacteristically stimulated me and kept my longing for her dancing on the knife's edge of an odd and potentially dangerous fixation on her.

Dragging my hand down my face, attempting to cool my lustful thoughts of Michonne, I drop my head back on the cushion of the couch and school my breathing, directing my body to relax.

"Hey, Dad, what did Andre's mom say? Is it still cool for me to spend the night?" Carl excitedly asks, his energy and anticipation of hanging out with his new friend causing him to bounce on the balls of his large, sneakered feet.

"Yeah. Get your things together. We'll take off in about twenty minutes. I'd like to get you dropped off over there and get back before the freezing rain they're calling for gets started."

"Cool! Let me get my stuff. But, Dad, do you mind if I ask you a question?"

"Sure, you can always ask me a question, Carl. What's up?"

"You like Andre's mom?"

"Yeah, she's a nice lady. Why do you ask?"

"No, Dad, I mean…like-like her."

"Why do you ask, Carl?"

"I don't know. Just the way you were looking at her at Grandma and Grandpa's house the other night. Kind of an up and down look at her, you know, her body. And you asked Andre for her name and number. So, I was just wondering if you wanted to date her or something?"

"Why don't you have a seat here for a minute, Carl. I guess we haven't needed to have this talk before." Gesturing towards the chair next to the couch, I sit up, elbows on my thighs, hands hanging in a light clasp.

"Oh god, Dad. Not the birds and the bees, we already talked about that. If you're gonna tell me about sex with Andre's mom I'm gonna puke, ok?"

"What? No! Why would you think I was going to talk to you about that? What we did-"

"What you did? You had sex with Andre's mom? When?"

"I didn't say that. Hold on, let's back up here." I throw up my hands up in a halting motion, attempting to calm the elevated alarms going off on Carl's face, and in the raise of his pubescent voice, already rasping from high to low. "I do like her, very much. I would like to get to know her better. I know that's new for me, cause I haven't been with anyone since your mother and I divorced, but I think it's time for me to get on with my life now. Your mother has, and I want to as well. Do you understand that?"

"Andre's not going to like this, Dad. He seems to think his parents might get back together eventually. He seems pretty confident of it." Carl shakes his head, and overly long brunette hair swishes across his forehead, almost masking his eyes from me.

"Hm. That's interesting, and confusing, but that's not really for me to worry about, I'll leave that to his mother I guess. What about you, though, Carl? What do you think about me dating Andre's mom?" I ask, honestly interested, seeing as this is unchartered territory for us. Carl has never known me to be with any woman other than his mother. And while he seems to be adjusting well to his life with divorced parents, the actuality of me moving on with another woman might not sit well with him at all.

"I don't know. I like her. She seems really nice, and smart. Different, though."

"How so?" Now my interest is piqued. What does my son think of her being different, and what's the difference he's thinking of?

"Different from…Mom. From that Jessie lady Grandma was trying to hook you up with. From us."

"Is that a bad thing?"

"No… I guess I didn't think she would be your type. But, you always tell me to consider the person, and what they do, not what they look like. So, it doesn't matter to me, but to someone else it might."

"Ya know, Carl, beautiful women come in all shapes, sizes, colors, whatever. I think Andre's mom, Michonne, is gorgeous. And yeah, maybe her color is what caught my eye at first. It made her stand out, that's not a bad thing. It's only bad if the only reason I like her is because of her skin, or her features. But it's not. She's funny, intelligent, and I really like her. At this point I only care what you think about me moving on, not what anyone else might think about what she looks like, it's irrelevant and none of my business."

Bashfully dropping his eyes away from my face, darting them about the room, as though he's struggling with what to say next, Carl finally settles them back on me. "I know what Mom did, Dad. I'm not stupid. I'm 15, I remember when you guys would argue. When she used to call him. When you found out whatever happened between her and him, and stopped coming home. I heard the phone calls Mom would make to Granny Kate and Aunt Marcie. I heard her telling them in those same phone calls what she did. I also know that the baby she's carrying isn't yours. She's angry at herself for what she did, she's sorry, but it's done, I get it…why you divorced. I think, you deserve to be happy."

"She told you that?"

"No. But I watch, I listen. I also know he doesn't come over anymore. They're not together."

"Yeah, well, what your mother does or doesn't do isn't my concern any longer." Uncomfortable speaking to Carl about the drama between his mother and I, I rub my thumb across my forehead, sensing the tension of a headache approaching. "I'm sorry you've had to hear about all of that ugliness, that kind of grown up stuff, but I'm glad that there are no secrets and we can all move on. If things could have been different between your mom and I, I would have been happy with that. For you, if nothing else. But, they aren't. I appreciate you being good with me moving on."

"No problem, Dad. Just remember all of this come my birthday, and next Christmas."

"Sure, ok," I laugh, truly grateful yet again for the maturity and understanding of my son. "Go get your stuff so we can go."


"What's up, man! Come on in. Hello, Mr. Grimes."

"Hey, Andre. You can call me Rick if you want."

"That's ok, my parents prefer that I give elders their respect by not calling them by their first names unless we're close." Andre answers in a polite but dry tone, a smile that surely does not reach his bespectacled eyes on his lips.

"Ah, ok. Suit yourself. Is your mother around?"

"Yeah she's in the kitchen. You can wait here, I'll get her." Andre briefly sizes me up again, his eyes so much like his mother's, roaming over my face. Searching for something. Trying to figure me out, I suppose. My intentions. Presumably finding me as acceptable as when he gave me his mother's name and phone number, he turns on his heel, and heads to where I assume the kitchen is.

"It's all good, Dad. Don't be nervous." Carl whispers and pats me on the back, a reassuring smile on his face, standing next to me like a dutiful wingman. "He'll warm up to you eventually. He gave you her name and number after all."

Standing in the foyer I tap my sweaty hand nervously against my leg, waiting to lay my eyes on her again, and nod my head, agreeing with Carl's assessment. And of course she doesn't disappoint, as she's just as stunning as she was when I last saw her, asleep in my bed. But the baby held tightly in her arms, and the guy following her and Andre from the kitchen is definitely a surprise I did not expect.

"What's with you and all things King County lately? This new case, the guy?"

"Hush, Aaron!"

"I'm serious."

Rounding the corner, a chorus of laughter spilling out into the hall to announce her arrival, I catch the twinkling tones of her voice. And then I see her. Tight black leggings cover her lengthy legs, and a cropped pink workout shirt barely covers her torso, drooping off her left shoulder, while exposing her well defined abdomen. With her hair piled high on top of her head in a bun, she is the picture of relaxed beauty as she throws her head back on a loud chuckle, turning to playfully swat at the bearded guy walking closely behind her.

Holding a little baby girl tightly to her chest, she is the epitome of what every artist has attempted to capture in a depiction of motherhood. Bouncing the bundle of pink and purple blankets, swaddling the kicking and squirming baby, Michonne has the brightest smile I've yet to see on her face. Nuzzling into the neck of the baby, she fusses over her, pulling the hood of her snowsuit and blankets over her head, and whispering a few softly spoken words to her.

Playing out like a movie in front of me, I'm stuck to my spot in the foyer, a mesmerized set to my features, a tilt of my head. She looks so natural, calm, and at ease in this moment. This moment that feels so organic, it's like I can see the future in this snapshot, this frame of time. Her future. The essence of her joy. And I am immediately reminded of her quietly mumbled confession of not being able to have any more children, and it's a shame. That memory colors this vivid picture of motherhood, of her aura, with melancholy brushstrokes of blue sadness, layered with the sharp glow of reds and oranges, bursting from her form. I have no clue how, or why I am able to see her this way, the basic truth of who she is, but there is a magnetic pull of my own energy to hers because of it. I can't fight it, and it's stirring something akin to the most powerful of base human urges inside of me. To claim. To protect. To love.

Relax Rick. Relax.

With Andre to her right, his gaze bounces in anticipation between my own shocked stare, Michonne, the baby, and her friend. Aaron. Coming to a halt in front of Carl and I, Michonne's smile never falters, even as my own has dropped my lips into a confused frown. The guy who accompanied her and Andre down the hall stops next to her, hip to hip, his arm casually thrown over her shoulders, as though he is asserting his rights over her, and this baby.

I'm boiling. Overheating. I'm certain that from the shearling collar of my brown suede coat, there is steam bubbling out and up into the atmosphere, clear evidence of how disappointed and foolishly angry I am at the sight of her with this guy, this baby. His hands on her. Her laughing at his words. Him so effortlessly making her smile. They look like a family, the four of them together. While Carl and I appear as interlopers, outside viewers of their idyllic family dynamic, blessed with insight to a world where we don't belong.

Relax Rick. Relax.

"Hi, Rick, Carl. I'm glad you could make it. Has it started raining or snowing yet?" She looks up, that beautiful smile of hers still gracing her full lips, her head tilted back to help her make eye contact with me. It's a stunning moment, almost spiritual, like when God's hand pushes the clouds away to bless you with the warmth of the sun. That's exactly how gone I am for this woman that I barely know. Her words soothe the savage beast, and instantly I can feel some relief from the tension of her unexpected company stiffening my bones.

"Uh no, but it's coming." Latching on to her smile and the depth of her brown eyes, I drop my hands into my pockets to prevent them from throwing this guy's arm from her shoulders, and reaching for her, pulling her into my body.

"Mom, Carl and I are going to head to the basement, then maybe walk over to Cyndie's for a bit. That ok?"

"Sure, I'm good with that if Rick is."

"Yeah, I guess so. Cyndie live close by?"

"Cyndie is Andre's girlfriend. She only lives a few houses down the street, so they should be fine walking. As long as they have on coats, they don't really need to worry about the storm."

Taking off further into the house, Carl waves back towards me, then follows behind Andre through a door headed down to a lower level of the house.

"Well I do have to worry about the storm, so I'm gonna get going. Eric is going to lose it if Liana and I get stuck over here."

"I guess that means I have to give her back to you huh?"

"Yes, sweetheart, you do. But, I am going to take you up on that offer to babysit Sunday night, don't forget." Leaning down to her, he presses a kiss to her lips, and it's as though my brain has short circuited in its haste to scramble away from the succor of her smile, and back behind the clouds of discontent.

"Fair enough." She answers, that light twinkle still in her voice, and returns his kiss with one of her own, then hands him the baby. Maybe recognizing the uncomfortable shuffle of my boots, and my silence, a tiny laugh leaves her mouth. "I'm so sorry. My manners suck so tough right now. Rick, this is my best friend in the world, Aaron. Aaron, this is Carl's father Rick. He lives in King County."

Carl's father? Is that all? I brush it off though, because the cheerful relief at knowing who this guy is to her, shifts my mood a little, and allows me to regain some semblance of cool poise.

"Nice to meet you, Aaron." I nod, shaking his hand, no longer wanting to rip the arm attached to it from his body, but still curious at their obvious closeness. Not to mention the way he's also sizing me up, much the same way Andre did, but with a more mature awareness, perhaps of my own intentions.

"Same. What is it with you and King County lately?" He looks to her, a puzzled smirk angling his eyebrows between his eyes. Shaking his head, he turns back to me. "Anyway, you're a hell of a dad driving 40 minutes to drop your son off for a sleepover. Michonne do you remember when my father wouldn't even drive me around the corner to your house?"

"Well, in his defense he thought that you were coming over to make out, so I think I see his point."

"True. But, if you remember we did have that one time-"

"Alright, Aaron, I will see you on Sunday. Be safe, and tell Eric I said hello." Cutting him off, she helps him situate the bundled baby girl into a car seat next to the front door.

Watching Aaron and his daughter depart, the sadness that was imperceptible before makes a brief return to her face. With the rambunctious utterings of Carl and Andre, wafting up from the basement, she closes the door and resets her face into a placid smile.

"Thanks for letting Carl hang out. He's been talking about it all week."

"Oh yeah, no problem, Andre always has friends over. I would rather they be here where I can keep my eye on them, and I know they aren't getting into any real trouble."

"Smart." I agree, my hands still in my pockets, curling into themselves, itching to touch her.

"Would you like to stick around for a little bit? The storm is coming, and I'm just about to order some pizzas for the boys. Maybe watch a movie? I could use the company, and then we can talk some."

"Alright. Sure."

"Good. Please remove your boots and follow me, Sheriff."

Reaching down, I tug each of my cowboy boots off, hang up my coat on the rack next to the door, and follow Michonne back towards the rest of her house.

Much larger than my own modest three-bedroom ranch, her house is easily three times the size. From the entry foyer I can see the dining room and a front sitting room, but moving deeper in to the modern contemporary home, I can tell that the foyer does nothing to give away the full richness of her home. With a large kitchen, decked out in stainless steel, and granite to the left, and a wide TV room to the right, my senses are assaulted by the scent of warm vanilla and sugar cookies. Nostrils flaring, the scent is cozy, and coupled with the roaring fire blazing in the fireplace underneath the large TV, it's all evoking a feeling of home. Welcome. Family.

"Come on in, have a seat." Plopping down on the large, deep seated, sectional sofa, Michonne pats the cushion next to her, inviting me to relax with her. "It's really nice to see you again. You look good, Sheriff. Nice shirt." She compliments, her dark eyes scanning me from my wool socks, jean clad legs, and up and over my torso hidden beneath a cream colored, long sleeve Henley style shirt.

"Thanks. You look good as well."

"Thank you. I was going to workout downstairs when Aaron showed up with my god-daughter Liana."

"She's a pretty baby."

"Oh isn't she? Aaron and his husband just adopted her a few months ago, and I don't know if it's good that she feeds my baby addiction, because I never want her to leave. I just adore her. I love babies."

"Yeah, me too. I always wanted a lot more kids than I got, but such is life I suppose." Easing back, I lean into the welcoming cushions of the couch, my arm riding the back behind her shoulders. "So, Aaron huh?"

"What do you mean?"

"That guy's your best friend? He's gay?" I ask, a hint of disbelief in the tone of my voice, and the curling quirk of my eyebrow. I hate to be so blunt with my questioning, but my head won't stop pounding until I'm certain that I understand their relationship. She said he has a husband, but he also just kissed her on the lips, and clearly feels a protective ownership over her. So what gives?

"My very best friend. And yes, Rick, he's gay."

"You guys are very close it seems."

"Oh yeah, we have been since we met. He's the only man I love outside of my daddy and Andre." She wistfully answers. "Little known secret, Aaron was my first, and I was his."

"What? Is he the guy you kissed at 11? I thought you just said he's gay!"

"No that's not him. The guy I kissed at 11 was named Jamie Beavers. And yes, Aaron is gay. Now. But, when we were in high school he wasn't exactly sure, and we were both curious. It was a completely awkward encounter, believe me. We were two kids just trying to figure out our bodies and our feelings. We loved each other, just not romantically. It's all good now. I adore his husband Eric."

"Hm. I don't know how I should feel about that."

"There's no way for you to feel about it I guess. We don't sleep together now, Rick."

"Is it wrong for me not to want to share you with anyone else? At least not that way."

"Uh…I…"

"Let me rephrase myself. I'm not going to share you with anyone else."

"Rick, we're friends, you and I. I like you. Let's not ruin that."

"I don't know what that means, but I meant what I said."

A subtle hint of confusion drops her features into a small frown, but she quickly recovers, and reaches onto the coffee table in front of her to gather her phone. "Make yourself comfortable. I'll go order the pizzas, and grab some drinks. If I remember you are a bourbon man, is that correct?"

"Yeah, but I'll take whatever you got. I probably shouldn't drink if I'm going to drive back to King County tonight."

"You sure?" She cocks her head to the right, and gives me a seductive grin that pulls her full lips up with a slight curve that sends a tingle up my spine.

"I'll have one drink, after pizza. I haven't eaten since breakfast."

"You shouldn't skip meals, Sheriff, gotta take care of yourself."

"I agree. You should do the same. Or let me help you with that."

"Smooth, Grimes. Very smooth." She compliments, giving me her back as she walks behind me and towards the kitchen.


"You really don't like ET? Who doesn't like ET? It's not a scary movie, Michonne."

"I know that, Rick, but there was something about him that wasn't right. He's an alien for God's sake. Why did those kids think he was harmless? Did you see those crazy big eyes? Yuck! Totally scared the shit out of me."

"But you said you still won't watch it now though? How old are you?"

"37. I won't watch it all. Little dude still creeps me out. You don't have a movie that you were creeped out by when you were little, that still kinda scares you?"

"No. Wait, I hated Aliens that was gross. The way the little one popped out of her stomach was crazy. When my mom was pregnant with my little brother Jeff I was pretty certain he was gonna pop out like that alien, but his birth didn't turn out near as exciting."

"Ugh. See, that's why I don't watch scary movies, at all. Even if I had someone to watch them with. Mike used to try and get me to, but I would spend most of the movie in his lap, hiding my eyes in his neck. Scared to death!"

"Mike your ex-husband?"

"Yeah."

"You miss him?"

"Honestly? Sometimes I do. Andre is growing up. He's got his own friends, a girlfriend. And, he'll be gone soon, and it will just be me. Alone. More so than I am now. Than I was towards the end." Her voice breaks over the soft whisper of her last few words.

"The end of what?"

"The end of my marriage. Probably the last year or so, I knew it was coming to an end. It was a gut thing, you know. Mike wanted something I simply could not give him, and that created an irreparable rift between us. Days would go by and he wouldn't kiss me. We would share the same bed every night, and he wouldn't reach for me, our bodies wouldn't even touch. Hell, his back would be to me all night. He forgot about me, about wanting me. About what I needed, how I was feeling. I was alone then. I'm alone now, and it still scares me that this is just the way it's always going to be."

"Doesn't have to be. No need to be scared with me sitting right here, Michonne. I'm with you right now."

"Nothing scares you huh, Sheriff?" She sniffs, honest question in her low voice.

"Honestly, you scare me a little." I confess, needing to help assuage some of her fear, by sharing my own.

"Me? Why would I scare you? You're taller than me, stronger…" Her words trail off, her small hand tightly wrapped around the bicep of my left arm. Legs pulled up to her chest, she's tucked underneath my arm, and with her head resting on my shoulder, as it has been most of the night, she raises her wide, dark eyes to mine, full of a need to understand.

The ice storm came right after the pizza, and not long after, the boys returned from Andre's girlfriend's house. Michonne convinced me that it wasn't safe for me to drive back to King County in the middle of the storm, and offered me her guest room for the night. I obviously decided to stay the night.

Three pieces of pizza, and a bowl of popcorn later, I'm still in disbelief of how perfectly this night has turned out. Michonne and I have been on her couch, snuggled closely, watching movies all night, and now at 2 AM, we've finally finished our last one, Dirty Dancing. As her guest she allowed me to pick first, and the only movie I could find on Netflix that I thought we both might enjoy was a western that I have seen many times, but was new to her. 'Unforgiven'. The next movie, was a superhero one that we both agreed we could have lived without seeing, though she seemed to enjoy the eye candy of the actor playing Superman. Dirty Dancing, the last movie, was her choice, and though I've never seen it before, I suppose I could see the appeal of it to young girls and women. And as she noted that it was her favorite movie ever, I liked that it kind of let me see more of her, who she really is. Sheltered girl, ready for someone to see the woman she's become. The romanticism of being deflowered by the older, tough guy.

Clearing my throat, tongue a little loose from the four glasses of bourbon I've consumed, I focus on her face, while my hand massages slow circles on her back. I'm stalling, taking a moment to gather my thoughts through the clouds of thick cotton obstructing my ability to fully focus and not sound like a dork.

"You're unreal. Everything about you is so special. When I tell you that I've never known a woman like you, I mean it. You're smart, and funny, and gorgeous beyond belief, and…I have been hoping ever since we met that I could measure up. I know I'm not probably what you're used to-"

"What would that be, Rick?"

"I don't know, Michonne." Looking around at the splendor of her home, I'm working up the nerve to get to the heart of my self-doubt when it comes to her. "I'm a white sheriff, from a little country town 40 miles from Atlanta. You're a sophisticated, and intelligent black attorney from Atlanta. What am I doing here?" I laugh, eyes still set on her pretty features, truthfully in awe that we are here together right now. "But, I can't stop the urgent feeling that we are destined to be together. That me and you, is a good thing, even if I'm afraid that at any moment you're going to realize that you're more woman than I can handle, and I'm less of a man than you deserve."

"Don't say that, Rick. You're perfect. You are. We've been sitting here all night, and it does feel normal to be doing this with you, and I barely know you. But I didn't feel any hesitation or trepidation in inviting you into my home, sharing my time with you, offering for you to stay the night. I have to be honest though, I see how you look at me, how you're looking at me right now, and… it's me, Rick. It's why I left that morning after we slept together. I'm not at all who, or what you think I am." Michonne shakes her head as though she's attempting to break free any illusions she may have about the magic of what's building between us.

Quiet, the only sound that can be heard is her cat, Teeny, purring, and curling itself around my legs, the same as it has been doing all night.

"Tell me. Who are you, Michonne? If you think I'm biased, you tell me who you think you are."

"Sex, Rick, sex makes you biased. We shared an intimate night together, and it was wonderful, and delicious, and nasty, and I could completely lose myself in that. With you. But, once the effects of great sex wears off, you would see the truth, and I don't think I can survive that again. It's dangerous and painful, and I don't know that I can pick up the pieces of myself and move on. I've done it before, and God help me, it hurts to break apart like that, and I don't want to endure that again. I don't. I can't understand why you would want that either." She shrugs, and makes a weak attempt to pull away from me, but I don't let her. I keep my arm stiff, maintaining the closeness that she is adamant on escaping.

"Michonne, isn't what we've been doing, existing alone, more painful? What's dangerous about this feeling growing between us? I want to know you, make you feel good, keep you from being alone. What kind of harm can come from that?" Using my index finger to tilt her face up towards my own, I'm stricken by the play of agonizing emotions animating her lovely features.

Finally finding the strength to pull away, she snatches her body from my grasp, and hoists herself up. Standing, she wordlessly walks away from me, and into the kitchen. I can hear her footsteps behind the TV room, as she aimlessly pads across the hardwood floors of her kitchen. I blow out an exasperated breath. Having received no answers to my questions, a heavy knot has me tied up inside, and anchored in confusion.

I've been adrift for a long time. Much longer than the moment I found Lori with another man, or when the ink dried on my divorce papers. No, it was way before then. I can't pinpoint when exactly, but just like Michonne said, it was a gut feeling, an inkling. It was in the way we no longer reached for each other when in the same room. When our words no longer held the sweetness of how much we missed each other, loved each other, were happy to see each other. It was me falling asleep on the couch, her in the bed, and not even getting the feeling that something was wrong with that. It was her spending weeks at a time at her parents' house in South Carolina, or with her sister Marcie, all under the guise of needing 'me' time. Most importantly, it was the minute I realized that none of that meant anything to me, I simply no longer cared to return her angry pleas for more of something that I could not give. And that's when I knew my marriage was over. That the love we supposedly built a family on, had withered away and seeped through our fingers.

For awhile, I was satisfied with being alone. The disintegration of my marriage allowed me to comfortably be quiet in solitude with my own thoughts, feelings, and it afforded me the opportunity to think about what it was that I really wanted, needed. I wasn't compelled to speak, I had nothing to say. My emotions towards my ex-wife had been anesthetized by the droll creep of time and silent acrimony. But, and I have to be honest here, until my mother posed the idea of hooking me up with Jessie, I had not even considered being with another woman. The normal sexual urges of a man were there, but I had gotten so used to Lori putting me off, that restraint had become my best friend. But there I was with Jessie, feeling something that had been latent, buried, coming alive, opening me up to the possibility. And when I laid eyes on Michonne, it sprung forth, stirring, bubbling, like water bursting from a spring. And now? Now that I've tasted her, felt her grow wetter and tighter around me, been on the receiving end of that smile, I'm not going back. Period.

Rising from the couch, I find Michonne in the kitchen, leaning over the island with a glass of red wine in her hands. Walking up behind her, I angle my face into the crook of her neck, and I breathe her in. Her body trembles slightly, and she drops her head, her chin to her chest.

"I can't be the woman you think I am, Rick, the one you want. I tried that before, and failed. Miserably." She swallows, and it seems as though the effort it takes for her to do so exhausts her, weakens her spirit to admit such a thing. "We've been talking and texting all week, and now here you are, shiny and bright, watching stupid Dirty Dancing with me, and I see you. You say that you see me, but I see you too, Sheriff."

"What do you see, Michonne, hm? I'm just a man, who sees what he wants. I'm not perfect. I'm a mess. And maybe so are you, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't explore this, together. I told you before, let me take care of you. Give us both a chance to fix what's broken, at least to try."

"Rick, this isn't the love story you think it's going to be. I can already tell. I see hope in your eyes, I hear it in your voice, read it in your texts. You want to be free to love again, and I just don't know that I can give you that."

"I'll take what you can give."

"What if in the end it's not enough for you? I've been there, done that. Haven't we both been through enough already? Let's try just being friends first." Drinking down the last of her wine, she places the glass on the counter and turns to me, a hopeful expectancy on her face. She thinks this is a good idea. It's not.

"What?"

"Rick, hear me out." Placing her palms flat on my chest, the simplicity of her touch calms my wildly beating heart. "That way we won't expect too much from each other. We can explore this friendship without the pressure of romance. Disappointment hurts, and this way, we can protect each other from romantic complications. If we have no expectations other than to be friends, we can still enjoy each other."

"I don't even understand what that means or how that works."

"It just means that we can make up our own rules for this…friend."

"Friend?" I frown at her, my face twisted in displeasure.

"Special friend?" She smirks with a tilt of her head, as she continues to rub over my chest. The heat from her palms, combined with the alcohol I've consumed, is making me pliant and amenable to something that I know is a bad idea. I don't want just this piece of her. I want all of her. But, she must be able to sense how malleable I am to her wants in this moment, because she loops her hands behind my head and pulls me down to her. Reaching down to meet her offered lips, I gently kiss her. Though there is a quiet rage floating through my veins at the thought of only being her 'friend', I stall it out, and command my movements to be gentle.

Itching to get her fully into my arms, I grab her by the swell of her rounded hips and pull her into me, letting her feel the bulk and heft of my need for her. Moaning, Michonne sags her form into mine, grinding against my cock, her body is soft and willing in my hands. Sucking her lips, I spear my slippery tongue inside of her mouth, tasting the bitter grapes of the wine on her tongue.

"Take me upstairs, Rick." She mumbles against my lips, her breath sweet and moist.

"The kids are in the house. Is that a good idea?"

"They're asleep in the basement. We just have to be quiet."

"Think you can do that?" I tease, remembering how vocal she was the last time we were together.

"Let's find out, Sheriff." Taking my hand, she leads me up the stairs. Watching the swing of her hips and ass in her tight leggings, the hard set of my dick in my pants sends a sharp ache through me. I have to close my eyes. The sight is threatening to set me off before I even get a chance to get inside of her. I can't let it happen because I remember the spiritual experience I had with her before. Dreamt of it every night. Wished for the blessing of it with every waking breath. Of having another chance to receive succor at the altar of her heavenly form.

Realizing that her cat has followed us upstairs, Michonne makes a little clicking sound, and the cat stops at the doors of her bedroom. Apparently satisfied that her owner does not need her company this evening.

Walking through the double doors of her bedroom suite, I release her hand for a moment, just long enough to set the lock, ensuring that we are not disturbed. Standing over by a built in bookcase on the other side of the large suite, where an expensive looking white chaise rests, draped over with a lavender colored fur blanket of some sort, Michonne's back is to me. Taking her time, she lights a few candles. Their flicker, and the aroma of spiced vanilla that already permeates the atmosphere of her home, perfumes the air of her room.

Moving away from the candles, her back still to me as she works on something else, the scratch of a record player's needle transmits the melody of an unfamiliar song, and continues to set the mood in the darkened room. It's an upbeat, but sexy song, with fluid grooves, definitely funkier than anything I listen to.

Of course Michonne has a record player, I think to myself. I should expect nothing but pleasant surprises from her at this point, and unexpectedly, as staid as I usually prefer my life, her astonishing swagger is definitely a welcome shock. Turning back towards me, I'm gifted with the beauty of her face again, and it causes me to suck in a sharp breath. Popping her fingers to the rhythmic beat of the mellow horns and guitar, she raises her hands above her head, her body a liquid wave of undulating breasts, hips, and thighs as she prances in a sexy two step towards me.

Blowing out a deep breath, I'm trying to steel myself against the beast that's rising in my chest, commanding me to continue the chase that started the minute I sampled her exquisite sweetness, and persisted the moment I learned this heavenly being's name. She doesn't know it, but she's mine.

A wicked, beautiful angel, her steps lead her to me as the song switches to the soft spoken falsetto of a male singer, belting out the sexually laced lyrics of my head, my heart.

"I guess it never was
The way I thought it was
I say this only just because
You never came to love
I guess it wasn't so
Guess that's how the story goes
You didn't dig my flow
You didn't dig my flow…"

A naughty twinkle lights her dusky flirtatious eyes, as she reaches to lift my shirt from my body.

"I like you, Rick. A lot. Go with this, Sheriff. Let's enjoy each other and make our own rules."

Before I can say another word, her warm hands are rubbing over my abs, fingernails scratching through the hair leading into my pants. I don't move. I watch. The voyeur in me delighting in the eager and hurried grasp of her fingers' movements to unbuckle my belt and jeans, to get to what she really wants.

"But you're still welcome
(You're welcome babe, you're welcome to me)
Welcome
(Anytime you want, I'll always be free)
Anytime you want some
(You're welcome babe, you're welcome to me)
Make yourself at home cause you're welcome
Welcome…"

Dropping her hand down past the waistband of my jeans and underwear, she releases a delighted gasp at the hardness of my cock. Greedily, her fingers dance through the thatch of thick pubic hair, finally curling around the base of my cock and balls. Withdrawing me from the strict confines of my jeans, the paradox of the cool air of the room dusting along the sensitive tip, against the heat of her palm, arouses me, and stiffens me even further. Excitement flairs and sparks in her eyes like the quivering beam of the candles, bathing the room in a shadowed sepia cast.

In a fluid movement, so easy and seamless, Michonne releases me from her hold, then removes her cropped top. Expecting to find a bra of some sort, my gaze finds only her full, rounded breasts, perky and high, nipples turgid and tilted upwards. My mouth waters, but my slightly parted lips are dry, parched from the draft of the in and out pace of my breaths. Licking them, I keep my eyes focused on her as she slowly falls to her knees.

Relax Rick. Relax, the beast demands, recognizing that she has wittingly, or maybe not, postured herself in a classically submissive pose, and it's driving me wild. Insane with lust, she's tapped into a latent desire that has been starved all of my life, and is now threatening to erupt from my chest. To pin her, and fuck her with a torrent of explosive bangs and thrusts. But the genteel and dignified slope of her spine, a demure jut of her chin, giving her form a noble and statuesque appearance, calms me enough to appreciate the manner in which she has presented herself to me. With her legs folded underneath her bottom, hands placed in a refined lounge across her toned thighs, a timid downcast of her eyes sweeps her eyelashes across the rose of her dark plum cheeks.

"Tonight will make one week
Tonight's the anniversary
And if you don't talk to me
Tomorrow will never be…"

"I wanted to taste you. Before." Licking the full expanse of her kiss swollen lips, then retreating her tongue with a small pop, she lifts her eyes to mine and asks, her voice a small drift. "May I?"

Speaking directly to the beast, and his carnal desire to partake of every part of her that she's offering, I caress the side of her face, cupping her cheek. My thumb swipes over the rise of her lips, pushing between the slightly parted seam to the moist heat of her mouth. Suctioning her jaws, Michonne pulls my thumb deeper into her mouth, and laves the length with her tongue. A preview of what's to come that threatens to boil me alive from the inside out.

Dragging my thumb away from her enticing lips, she groans at the separation and it nearly pains me to see the wetness it has left on her parted lips, her mouth no longer filled with me. My chest swells with the effort to maintain control, my need so ravenous. Instead, perhaps sensing the threads of my control unraveling, she utters again, even softer this time than the last.

"May I?"

Before the question can fully leave her lips, I fist the length of my dick and drag the head across the damp moisture my thumb left on her lips. It's all the permission she needs, and with her hands still placidly crossed in her lap, she slowly sucks my dick into her mouth, and claims my soul.

"You're so beautiful, Michonne. Look at you with my cock in your pretty mouth."

"Mmmm…" she utters, the vibration causing a subtle tingle to liven the veins in my dick, as my girth strains and stretches the corners of her mouth. Swallowing and sucking, the back of her throat is doing something wicked to the head of my dick, and I throw my head back, no longer able to withstand the sight of her having taken almost the entirety of my nearly 8 inches into her mouth. I won't last. Her mouth is too good, she's too good. My need to defile her too wicked.

Pulling from her mouth, shock widens her soulful eyes, but she doesn't speak, only maintains a pleasant tilt of her naughty lips, a quiet stillness in her repose. She's teasing me, waiting for me to take what's she willfully offering. Poking the beast that dominates my dormant nature. He wants free, he wants to play, but I've never let him loose before. I tried on my honeymoon with Lori, but she whined and complained at my aggression, turned off by me only partially unleashing my restrained passion. And I never tried to tap into that part of myself for her again, the rejection cutting me too deep.

But I recognize something different in Michonne. She's hungry for that connection, the link of my unfulfilled beast to hers. I saw hints of it our first night together, the way she allowed me to control our pleasure the first time, and the way she impatiently snatched it back the second time, her unbridled command of our joining driving us both towards an end so satisfying that she is all I have been able to think of since.

It's an unspoken affinity for something a little rougher than a mere grazing of bodies, a little deeper than just a surface kiss of our lips. No. It's about an end to the soul's quiet, loneliness. A kinship built on a path to shared pleasure.

I accept her challenge to sate both of our needs, and gingerly wrap my hands around each of her arms, lifting her to me. Kisses, soft, wet, needy. I place them on every inch of her skin, then end on a sucking bite of her throat, the strands of a few of her loose dreads wrapped tightly in one of my hands, while my other caresses the beating pulse just below my lips.

"Harder, Rick."

"Fuck!" I mumble against her swanlike neck, suckling my lips with a little more pressure against her soft skin, causing her to whimper with pleasure.

"I'm so wet. Please, Rick…please."

Rolling my hand from the soft squeeze of her neck, down through the valley of her plump breasts, across her flat abdomen, I find the apex of her thighs absolutely drenched with need.

"Is that for me?" I ask, rubbing through the slick and fleshy petals of her womanhood. Nodding her head slightly, against the grip my hand still has on her soft hair, she moans at the command of my hand, and my long middle finger diving into her depths. "Fuck, Michonne, you got this wet for me? All for me?"

"Yes."

"And tight? You stay this tight waiting for me?"

"Yes."

Her admission is fucking with my cool, and I've had enough of the tease. Removing my fingers from her, she whimpers at the separation. Sticky, covered in her, I lift my fingers to her mouth. Inching her pink tongue from between her lips, she licks at the sticky fluid. I join her, lapping my tongue at the fluid as well, tangling my tongue with hers. The tangy spice heightens my senses and refocuses my thoughts.

"How do you want it, Michonne? Hm? Tell me. I'll give it to you however you want." Releasing my grip from her, now free of my tight hold, she swivels her body around, giving me the gift of her dipped spine, bent over the bed and blooming at the round jiggle of her ass. Resting on her forearms, she widens her thighs, pressing her knees deeper into the mattress. Immediately my heart begins pounding, feverish and brutal against my chest. Fearful that I might devour her with the ferocity of my ravenous desire, I take a moment to worship at her altar, and soothe the beast.

Bending over her, caging her body between my outstretched arms, I accept the kiss she offers from her lips, her head twisted my way. I then proceed to kiss and lick down her spine, thanking her for the opportunity to defeat lonely solitude in her arms.

Standing behind her, I rub my hands over the globes of her bottom, massaging the firm flesh, smacking at the skin. The tiny promised punishment for running out on me last week, to which she groans in pleasure, a naughty smirk dancing on her lips. She knows.

Grabbing my cock, I rub the head over her clit, up and through the damp lips, coating myself with her. Closing my eyes, I press at her entrance, and delight at the welcome slip that immediately engulfs me. It's like I'm falling. Deep. Deep. Dipping my hips, bending my knees, she's so slick and sleek, that I can't stop myself from tumbling within, even with the slightly snug resistance of her taut walls. Oh god.

And that's it. I'm hers. She owns my soul now, as she doesn't wait for me to gather my wits about me. No. Michonne, my greedy little vixen, begins a bounce and pop of her hips, meeting each of my long strokes with a punishing strike of her own. Wrapping my hands around her tiny waist, I'm attempting to keep up with her languorous rhythm, by instructing her pussy how to receive the melodic in and out of my return thrusts. In between her moans of ecstasy, she quickens the pace again, greedy, hungry for me. Banging her voluptuous ass against my pelvis, she's claiming me for her own, erasing the memory of any other woman who has ever touched me. There is now only her. The graphic sounds of her wet pussy, sloshing and slipping over my dick. Her pleas and acknowledgment of how marvelous I'm making her feel.

"Didn't you dig the way I rubbed you back girl 
Wasn't it cool when first I kissed your lips 
Was it enough to penetrate your dark world 
Or were you embarrassed about the way you freaked 
Well I wanna hold you 
I wanna know you baby 
If it's alright…"

When she raises herself on her hands, and looks back at me with unbridled passion, acceptance, as though the bruising push of my hips, and the long tunnel of my dick inside of her has reached the truth of her, I'm ready to explode. Animating her lips, her voice struggles over her pants, and rasps from her throat.

"Harder, Rick! Harder!"

That look of pure happiness and satisfaction on her sweaty face is going to be my undoing. I find the world in her gaze, and realize that nothing else matters but this. But her. And I'm unhinged. The beast is unhinged. Removing my right hand from her waist, I crawl it up her damp skin, raising her torso until her back is flush against my chest. Throwing her arms over her head, and back, her fingers are feathering through the curls of my hair, nails scratching a tingling course over my scalp.

This new position curves her pussy, and I bend my knees to now thrust up, jutting my hips harder against her ass. Tapping up against the very bottom of her canal. Michonne is squealing and squirming in my hold, as I lap and kiss at her cheek, ending on a slight bite and a rapid staccato ram against her g-spot.

"Is that what you wanted, baby? Hm? That how you like it?"

"Mmmm…"

"Answer me."

"Ye- ye-ye…"

"You're everything, Michonne. You know that. This is everything."

"Mmmmm…"

"You belong to me now. You know that?" I ask, a familiar quiver in my spine threatening to take me under.

"Mmmmm…"

"Say it. Say you belong to me."

"Mmmm…"

"I belong to you, Michonne."

"Rick… Fuck!" She yells, her muscles tightening, taut, tense. I swallow the cries of her orgasm, latching my lips to hers, as her arousal rains down my cock, dampening the tight space where we're joined. The strict squeeze of her pussy over my dick, transmits a signal to my body, stealing the most gratifying climax of my life from my depths. With my arm tightly wrapped around her waist, and the other still holding her torso to me, a final few punishing thrusts pull my seed from the head of dick, showering her insides with my cum.

Withdrawing from her, an unappealing action that causes a frown to mar my sweat drenched face, sends a drip of our comingled cum to scatter across the sable hued skin of her ass and thighs. Throwing my head back, I'm trying to catch my breath. I don't release her from my arms. I don't know if I can.

Not until now, standing at the edge of her bed with her supple body in my arms, and her head resting backwards on my chest, do I realize that the song has changed many times. From the more upbeat, funkier fare, to a now more seductive and sexy ballad, seemingly conceptualizing the erotic experience we've just shared.

"Gonna take you in the room suga' 
Lock you up and love for days 
We're gonna be rockin' baby 
'Til the cops come knockin'…"

Leaning down I kiss her cheek. Softer, more reverent than before. "I didn't hurt you did I?"

"No. I liked it. It's… how I like it sometimes, Rick."

"Good." I rasp, my voice rumbling from my chest. Clearing my throat, I smile against her cheek, and continue to press small kisses on her. "Can I get you something? Water?" I ask, dropping a kiss to her shoulder.

"Yeah. You have to be careful not to make too much noise though. Don't wake the boys."

"Got it. Be right back." I tap her hip, and release her from my possessive hug.

Michonne limply releases a long breath, then turns to me. Pulling my head down to hers, her hand behind my neck, she kisses me so easy, sharing the sweetness of her breath, I almost forget how ferocious our recent bout of lovemaking was.

"Hurry back."

Nodding at her, agreeing to her request, I watch as she backs away and heads into the darkness of her adjoining bathroom. Searching the room's shadows for my underwear, I find them carelessly discarded in a corner. I pull them up my wobbly legs, and head out of her bedroom, finding her cat still faithfully posted in a lounging ball of fur by her door. Barely sparing me a look, the cat halfway opens one eye, then quickly drops it back, presumably disinterested with my movements.

Downstairs in the kitchen, I'm quietly moving about, opening and closing each of the cherry wood cabinets looking for glasses. Finding only fancy etched ones, almost resembling the intricately cut tumblers my father favors for his scotch, I look in the refrigerator and find a few unopened bottles of Fiji water. Grabbing them, satisfied with my find, I close the door and I'm confronted with the sleep laden face of my son, hair tousled and in his eyes.

"Uh…Carl…"

"I was asleep on the couch, and was just looking for a drink, Dad."

"Uh, me too. Why are you up here instead of the basement?"

"Andre snores really loud. I woke him up and he said his mom wouldn't mind if I sleep on the couch up here. What are you doing in the kitchen, Dad? Where is your shirt?"

"Uh…it's…upstairs."

"You're sleeping upstairs?"

"Yes? Yes. In a room upstairs."

"With Andre's mom?" He asks, eyes widening in question, his features no longer hampered by the remnants of sleep.

"Uh, Carl… We'll talk in the morning. Later. Not now."

"Yeah. Ok, Dad. Later." Eyeing me, he takes one of the bottles of water from my hand, and heads back to the TV room couch.

Oh shit.

Chapter 4 by Fik Freak

Chapter 4 – Michonne

"What took you so long?" I ask, raising my arms above my head and lengthening my legs in a lethargic attempt to enjoy the stretch of my worn out limbs, and the cool graze of the sheets over my heated body.

"A little problem."

"With?"

"I think we overshot my ability to keep quiet and not wake the boys. Well Carl anyway." Leaning over me, he places a water bottle on the nightstand within my reach, and gives me a wink and a fleetingly quick peck of his plush lips to my own, accompanied by a brush of his bristly beard and mustache.

"Hm." I utter, then turn my head to admire his well-toned, muscled body sauntering back to the other side of the bed. His boxers are hanging low across his hips, flirting dangerously close to exposing the full expanse of his dark pubic hair hinted at by a dusting that begins on the wide planes of his chest, and down his abs, forming a happy trail towards one of my favorite parts of him. One of many it seems.

"Good plan though."

"It was a great plan." I agree, hoping the subtle whisper of my voice doesn't betray my growing fondness for his body, or that my anxiety is fostering a secret internal freak-out trying to figure all of the scenarios for how him getting busted downstairs must have played out, and what Carl might tell Andre. Seemingly unbothered by what occurred, and what it might set in motion, Rick removes his boxers and eases back into the bed, and under the covers, pushing his warm body into mine. With his chest flush against my back, he throws his arm and leg over me, effectively cocooning me in his hold. Immediately his actions relax my brain's frantic racing, and I settle in after a few kisses to my neck, his beard again lightly tickling my sensitive skin. Shivering at the sensation, I have to admit that I unexpectedly love the arousing feel of it skimming over my various body parts, having always assumed it would be an itchy experience. The reality is quite the contrary, and I huddle back into him, nestling my ass cozily into the dip of his groin.

Mike would never grow a beard, noting that it was not a professional look, and preferred to remain clean shaven at all times. Even Aaron seems to prefer keeping his own scruff at bay, despite how handsome Eric and I have expressed that it is on him.

"We might want to figure out what we are going to officially tell them about us though. Carl will be fine, but you might need to talk to Andre."

"About?"

"A suspicion I have that he thinks you and your ex might have a shot at getting back together."

"Not in this lifetime we don't. But, yeah you're right. I had a little chat with him the other night about that. Maybe his dad should talk to him as well. I don't know what else I could say to convince him that it's not going to happen."

"Maybe he should. It might help, a man to man thing, ya know. If you don't mind me asking, what is it that makes him think it's possible? Was your divorce amicable?"

"I guess it's because Mike and I…we were good until we weren't. Does that make sense?"

"Not exactly."

Wiggling from the restriction of his hug, I maneuver my body around so that I am facing him, and can see his face as I attempt to explain in as few words as possible, the most difficult time of my life to this man, who is by all accounts still a stranger. As I turn, our heads sharing the same pillow, I'm struck by how reminiscent this is of the way Mike and I used to be in bed together, in the time before things began to irreparably fall apart. After making love, we would just rest together, sharing whatever silly or serious thing that came to our minds. And we would laugh, and smile, touch, kiss some more, often falling back into each other's arms for more love making, even though the evidence from our last round was still sticky on my thighs.

The memory of those happy times flashes, and a sharp pang of loss and sadness is followed by the warm glow of the remembrance of how good things were with us. How much I loved Mike. Love him still. It's so jarring that I forget to school my tongue and I easily confess to the truth.

"I still love him."

"You still love your ex-husband?" Rick asks, his voice elevated with alarm. No longer languid and loose, he raises his head from the pillow, his thick greying eyebrows lifted high on his forehead.

"I do. Andre knows that. It would be impossible for him not to. People discount kids all the time because of their age, but they watch, listen, they understand what's going on. They may not have the context or life experience to really figure out the entirety of a situation, but they get it. Andre has such good intuition about people. I know he can tell that if his father didn't want out of our marriage, we would still be together, because I never stopped loving him. It doesn't burn as bright, fierce, or desperate as it once did, but yeah. Andre also knows that his father has caused me a great deal of pain because of that, and he wants me to be happy, and to protect me at the same time. I think that's why he gave you my phone number. He's fighting with a lot of warring emotions, and I don't fault him for that. It's a huge emotional burden for a young man. But, I want him to have the space and the freedom to come to his own conclusions on this. It's only been a year, so I don't push him. I've barely pushed myself. Don't you still love your ex? I know you weren't in love with her, but you must still have love between you."

"No. No, I don't. She gave me Carl, I love her for that. But that's it. I'm not exactly sure why your marriage ended, but mine was over before I found my wife with another man."

"Oh. As far as I know there was no one else between Mike and I. He just gave up on us. In his mind we were supposed to be this big family, with tons of kids, just like his folks. And I think when we couldn't be the family his parents and siblings expected, he gave up. I didn't, not willfully. Mike pushed me aside to go find what he felt like he was missing. He stopped loving me, not the other way around."

"You continue to surprise me, Michonne. Again, I don't know exactly how to respond to that. Seems to be a pattern between us doesn't it?" He chuckles, seemingly relaxing a little as he rests his head on his upturned palm, his elbow pitching into the pillow. Uncertainty is still obvious in the sharp angles of his furrowed brow, and the dark flash of his blue eyes, like a sparkling sapphire, and I know my answer doesn't entirely sit well with him. He's wrestling with my confession, how it pushes against my obvious physical and budding emotional attraction, attachment, to him.

My admission regarding my continued love for Mike is the truth though, as ridiculous as it sounds, and me vocalizing it to Rick comes from the part of me that wants to save this beautiful man from the discontent he is certain to find in my arms. Just like Mike.

"I get that your feelings for your ex didn't just die because his did, but if he doesn't appreciate what he had, why even bother giving him the energy of your love? You're too amazing for that kind of a waste. It's enough." He scoffs, fresh agitation in his words as he drops his head heavily on to our shared pillow, a dismissive wave of his hand slicing through the air across his throat. And in this moment, as he defends me from my ex's dismissal and my own unresolved feelings, I feel myself descending further under his commanding spell. With his piercing eyes challenging and pinning me in their stare, daring me to disagree, I lick my dry lips, and take a deep breath, stilling myself against the dizzying effects of him. Of Rick.

Needing to respond to this emboldened connection between us, the authoritative certainty of his words, the seductive beauty of his face, I swallow down the lump forming in my throat. What did Whoopi say to Demi Moore in Ghost? Girl, you in trouble? That's me. Rick Grimes is getting me into a lot of trouble, and despite the fact that I am keenly aware of this, and how detrimental this attraction could be for my limping self-confidence, and his wide open emotions, my body is already growing warm again. For him.

Needing him to understand and to re-focus my desires away from how alive and desirable this man makes me feel, I try to get back on track with our conversation, though I find myself still squirming under his gaze. "It all feels so complicated in my head, Rick, I know it's even worse for Andre. He and his dad are very close. But he knows, and he saw the tears, heard me cry. It has been rough for both of us." I utter, my voice straining and falling over the last sentence as frustrated tears begin welling in my eyes, now threatening to spill across my cheeks. "I would stop loving that man today if I could just turn it off. It's not as easy as you make it sound."

"Hey, come here. I'm sorry." He unnecessarily apologizes, and reaches his long fingers over to me, wiping away the slightest hint of wetness from the rims of my eyes. "I'm sorry that your marriage didn't work. Only because it does hurt, believe me I know. And it tears you up inside, makes you question yourself all the time. It's like a thief that invades your quiet peace and steals your joy, while tossing and tumbling everything around, leaving you a jumbled mess. I appreciate you being honest with me. That's all I ask."

"I will. I don't want to hurt you at all, Rick. I won't." I declare, and that's also the truth. I could never forgive myself for causing this sweetheart of a man even the littlest bit of pain. It may seem that my decision for us to remain friends is destined to do just that, but I know the truth. Mike and I started this same way, a kismet type of meeting that blossomed into a natural friendship, and waltzed into explosive sex and marriage. But look where we are now. Isn't the very definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome?

"I'll always be honest with you too. I promise that you don't have to be afraid of me, or of being with me. If you aren't ready for something serious right now, then I will try to be patient. We can take this as slow as you need. Just as long as you know, I'm ready. I'm not going anywhere."

"You might want to rethink that, Rick."

"Nah. I'm good right where I'm at. Can't you feel how special this can be…me and you, reordering things, our lives, together?"

"Things always start out that way don't they, Rick? Didn't your own marriage start that way? I doubt it started with a discussion about divorce."

"You're right, it didn't. It started with two very young people, still in high school. One of whom didn't really know what he was getting in a wife, and one who really wanted something completely different, but was too ready to get married to just say so. But why would I let what happened in the past stop me from trying to be happy now?"

I didn't have an answer for that question, so I didn't give him one. I didn't even try. Instead, I took the brief moment of silence between us to think about what he's saying. Maybe he's right, but I can't shake the feeling that I've been here before.

Rick must have realized that I was conflicted with how to answer him, so he made an attempt to lighten the mood. "Anyway, change of subject, what was your friend Aaron talking about you and King County? Some guy?"

"Oh, just a case I recently took that's all." I hesitate a bit, and I hope that Rick doesn't pick up on the shake in my voice as I do so. He caught me off guard by asking me about what Aaron said. At this time, I really can't talk to him about it, and honestly it's the basis for why I'm even more reluctant to attempt to pursue something real with Rick. Based off of my initial assessment of Glenn Rhee's case, I may have to depose Rick, and Shane for that matter. While neither of them were in their current positions when the events of the case took place, they may both be good witnesses that can help me gather information prior to taking this case further. I may not work cases on the regular anymore, but I do know that it might present a conflict of interest to be in a relationship with one or two of the deponents.

I have been reminding myself of this all day, ever since I got some additional background information on the King County DA's office, and the Sheriff's office from my investigator, Paul Rovia. The old DA, Gregory Jessup, was a spineless asshole who chose not to pursue criminal charges against the officer that assaulted Glenn, Spencer Monroe. Instead he noted that despite that footage from the cruiser's camera, there was not enough to move forward. Which, according to some records that Paul dug up, but that were buried by the previous Sheriff, Philip Blake, who recently passed away, is fairly common.

In this small sleepy farming town, set aside and away from the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle of Atlanta, things are not at all what they seem, and they haven't been for a long time. That's why Rick and Shane are so important for Glenn's case. Shane is important because he was the assistant DA under Jessup, and Rick because he is fondly known as the best deputy King County has ever known. Even the mayor, Spencer Monroe's mother, Deanna Monroe, who seems to pride herself on transparency, as odd as this sordid web all seems, has had only positive feedback on Rick. What were the words she used? Trustworthy. Moral. Protective of those he cares for. Always willing to do the right thing. If I'm going to get justice for my client, I think I need Rick and Shane on my side to help me unravel the lies, and get to the secrets that protected Spencer from justice.

It's a moral quandary, and all of this together means I never should have invited Rick to stay for pizza and movies. What I should have done was politely let him know that we could be friends, without the benefits, and left it at that. I didn't do that though. Nope. I saw my handsome, blue eyed, sheriff standing tall and erect on his long bowed legs, clad in a snug pair of Wranglers, and I folded. How could I not? With one leg jutted out a little in front of the other, and his hands shoved down into the pockets of his brown suede coat, chestnut curls brushed back from his face, he was the epitome of sexy. Burnished by the cool, blustery winds whipping through the air outside, his face was flushed a crimson hue across his forehead and nose, and with his eyes on me, sizing me up, setting me on fire the same way mine were doing to him, I could not resist him. And god help me, it triggered a memory of him kissing me, holding me, fucking me. Scandalous memories that would not allow me to let him walk away. I couldn't then, and I can't imagine mustering the willpower to do so now.

"What's the case about? If it's involving someone in KC I'm sure I know about it, or I know them."

"Attorney client privilege, Sheriff. I can't really share with you."

"I see."

The manner in which Rick's eyes are still focused on me, always on me, giving me his full attention, indicates that he does in fact see. But also, underneath that acknowledgement is something else. As much work as we both put in to feed on each other, and satisfy the lurking urge to simply be together, he should be worn out. Exhausted. But I only see his intent glare brimming with heat and an earnest promise of forever. My heart can't handle the enticing tug of what's found there, and instead force my eyes to the curling and tugging of his lips up at the corner, the threat of a full on smile always there. The only other movements he makes are to scratch at the salt and pepper beard gracing his face, framing his soft pink lips. Inching closer to him, I crush my breasts against his chest, and my fingers take on a life of their own. The pads begin rubbing through the thick hair, nails gently scratching at his chiseled cheeks and chin.

Like my kitty Teeny does when she's curled in my lap, and I've stroked her just the way she likes, Rick drops his eyelids, drawing my attention to the dramatically long sweep of his lashes, and starts to hum. It's a satisfied rumble from the deepest register of his chest. It's guttural and erotic. It's sexy and arousing, and though he lifts his arm to offer up more of himself and pull me in closer, as if there were any room to do so, he abstains. Leaving the choice up to me as to whether or not we should forge ahead.

My heart and soul could find peaceful respite with this man. But for how long? What about when he realizes that I'm not the woman who can fulfill all of the optimistic hopes that lie unfulfilled in his hopeful heart? Would he turn away from me, leaving me to pick up the pieces on my own? I doubt it, but how can I risk even forcing him to confront such a decision? It would change him forever, and that's not fair.

I'm conflicted. This man is the living breathing example of eternity. He's a keeper. Rick is every shiny, happy, thing I ever wanted. It's only been a week, I know this. But for some reason, I can see him. The flashes of brilliant golds and yellows, emanating from his being, signifying the lionhearted truth of his protective nature, his vitality and vigor. Streaking through are the deep pinks of romance, riding along with the strong willpower and aggression of dark red. All of it just confirms my initial feeling about him, the ones that prompted me to throw caution to the wind a week ago, and follow him home.

Rick Grimes is the kind of man who would march to his own death before he hurt you. Who would charge in, heart first, to give you the world. His firm assertive words promise me this, and his aggressive command of my body confirms it. It makes me want to risk everything and follow him into the fire of the passion between us, and pray that we don't get burned. But… I remember Mike. I remember this new case, and instead of plummeting into the hearth of Rick's low rumbling hums of satisfaction, I breathe out a reluctant sigh, and withdraw and roll away.

With my back now to him, I offer into the charged air between us. "We should get some sleep. Andre wakes at 6 am every morning to meditate and do yoga with me, and then I'm sure everyone will want breakfast."

"Ok. You gonna keep running from me, and sleep over there hugging the edge of the bed all night? Or you gonna come back over here?" Rick asks, then as though he has had an epiphany of some sort he snaps his finger. "Oh wait…you like when I chase don't you, Michonne?"

"I don't know what you mean. This is the side I always sleep on, Rick." I lightly laugh, hoping that my answer assuages his rather astute observation.

"Yeah ok." He drags out in that sexy southern rasp of his, an amused tone clearly in his disbelieving voice. And before I know it his large hands are curling around my waist, almost enclosing me completely in his dominating grasp. I'm returned to his arms again, wrapped in the secure cinch of his hold, one arm lazily thrown across my breasts, his hand resting protectively just above my heart. Just like when we spent the night together at his house on New Year's Eve, his leg is thrown over mine, and his long foot strums across my own in a paced rhythm that lulls me off to the edge of sleep. But before I'm on a journey through my dreams, exploring the pleasantries of a lifetime with this man, a singular thought crosses my mind, already tiring of the mental gymnastics required to fight off his charms.

What did Whoopi say to Demi in 'Ghost'? Girl, you in trouble.


"Thanks for letting me use the shower. That rain showerhead thing is real nice."

"No problem."

"And the clothes. I assume they are your ex-husband's?"

"They are."

"Do I want to know why you still have them?" Rick asks, leaning his hip against the kitchen counter as he fiddles with the Keurig in a futile attempt to make himself a cup of coffee.

Reaching over to help him out, I turn the coffee maker on, and wait for it to heat up, then proceed to demonstrate how to make coffee. Once his cup is ready, I look to him and provide him with a brief answer to his question. "Mike left them here the last time he visited Andre."

"He stays here when he visits? Is that a good idea, Michonne?"

"It is what it is, Rick." Turning away from him, back towards the stove, I continue to flip pancakes and fry turkey bacon. "Are you hungry?"

"Yeah, I appreciate you allowing me to stay the night, and feeding me. You've definitely worked up my appetite."

"Of course." I utter, a warm blush rising in my cheeks at his innuendo regarding his appetite.

"And other things."

"What other things might you be thinking of, Sheriff?" I question on a tease, his words providing even more of a reminder of the fun he and I had last night, and once this morning.

"Do you need a reminder? I'm happy to provide it."

Standing close behind me, the scent of the mango soap and coconut shampoo from my shower, is wafting off of his body in heated waves. As he leans into me, he places an almost chaste kiss to my cheek. But, as seems to be the norm for Rick and I, the soft peck turns more amorous when he turns me to face him and lifts my face to his. Rick begins to taste my lips, beginning on a series of slow and easy kisses, and furthering with his tongue spearing between my lips, and into my mouth. A gruff groan raises from his throat as his arm snakes around my waist, holding me tightly to his chest, hidden behind a snug fitting white t-shirt that Mike left behind.

My left hand begins a slow crawl up and over his pecs, when we are summarily interrupted by the sound of Andre and Carl barreling down the stairs and into the kitchen. Rick is reluctant to move away, but I quickly dash away from him like a scared rabbit. Throwing open the refrigerator I stand in the light of it's cool air, attempting to put a damper on my kiss swollen lips and throbbing core. Rick's doing it again, keeping me under his spell with his possessive kisses.

"Hey, Ma. Breakfast smells good." Andre compliments, finding me still standing in the open door of the refrigerator, not really looking for anything, but groaning as I look down and take notice of the transparent set of my hard nipples against my tank top.

"Mmhm."

"Is it time to eat, Ms. Anthony?" Carl asks, taking a seat at the kitchen island, an eager smile on his face.

"Yep, it is." I finally find the strength to retreat from the safety of the refrigerator door hiding me and the evidence of my reaction to Rick's kiss. Seemingly saved by the bell, I can hear my cell phone in my office down the hall ringing. "Let me go grab that. You guys go ahead and get started on breakfast. I'll be right back."

Hustling away from the eyes of the boys, and Rick, who has taken it upon himself to set the table and move the food over, I hurry down the hall. Finally, away from the perceptive snoop of my son's gaze, and Rick's fiery blues, I plop down into my office chair and slide my finger across the screen of my phone.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Michonne, it's me Shane."

A small grimace covers my face, as I have almost completely forgotten about him, and our date tonight. Talk about bad timing.

"Hello, how are you?"

"I'm alright. Just wanted to confirm our date this evening, and give you the address to the reception hall for my friend's wedding. We're still on right?"

"Yeah."

"Good! I'm really looking forward to getting to know you better, Michonne. You know, I've been thinking a lot about you since we met at your folks' house, and I think this thing with us could really work out."

"Really?"

"Sure, why not? We have a lot in common. We're both smart, good sense of humor. You're beautiful, and I ain't too bad my damn self. So, what do you think, Munchkin?"

"I told you not to call me that!"

"Right, but I do a lot of shit I'm not supposed to do. You might like that though…"

"I see that you like being a bad boy, huh?"

"I can show you better than I can tell you, Munchkin. And something tells me you will definitely like that. Listen, I gotta run, I'll see you at 5. Wear something sexy for me."

Hanging up the phone I can't help but smile at Shane's playful banter. It's not as intense as what Rick has to offer, and the carefree bark of his laughter is always unexpected and delightful. Not that Rick's isn't, but I always feel like I'm in it so deep with Rick. Shane on the other hand is like a new toy, an impish and light-hearted distraction. Before I get a chance to think about it too much, my stomach growls and I'm reminded that I have not eaten breakfast yet, and I better hurry before it's all gone. Walking back down the hall towards the kitchen, I catch the tail end of a conversation that quickly sets me on edge, and snatches away the smile my chat with Shane left on my lips.

"Your mother is an amazing cook. Those were the best banana pancakes I've ever had. She cook like this all the time?" 

"She makes them every weekend, but it's usually just us. And yeah, everything she cooks is delicious."

"Well you're a lucky kid then, my mother was not as good of a cook."

"I am lucky to have her. She's an excellent mother, and she's a great woman. You're lucky that you have the pleasure to know her."

"I agree with you, Andre. Your mother is a special woman. I'm honored that she has given me the time of day. I hope you're ok with that."

"Can I be honest with you, Mr. Grimes?"

"I prefer it, Andre. And call me, Rick."

"Rick... Uh, Carl told me that you like my mother…a lot. While he's upstairs taking a shower, and my mom is taking her phone call I just wanted to let you know it's cool… Rick. She deserves to have a nice guy like you want to be friends with her. My dad put her through a tough time, and even though I would really like for them to be back together that's selfish. And…and…he doesn't deserve her. But, I get a good sense about you. That's why I gave you her phone number. You didn't seem intimidated by my Uncle Aaron being here either. I was curious to see how you would react to them being so close. My dad hated it."

"Is that right?"

"Yeah. He didn't understand why they were like that. But, when my dad left, My Uncle Aaron and me, we kept my mother together, we protect her. I think you're a good dude, Rick. I won't get in the way of you and my mom. It's cool."

"I sense a but coming here?"

"But, I will warn you-"

"Not to hurt her?"

"Well yeah, definitely not that. But also my dad, my Uncle Aaron...totally not the guys for you to be worried about."

"What does that mean?"

"It's not really my place to say, but I can tell you that you aren't the only man who sees how special my moms is. I got my money on you though, she likes you. She told me."

"That's comforting."

"Hey…may the best man win." Andre offers in parting, then passes me on his way heading away from the kitchen and up the stairs. "Oh, hey Mom. We left you some pancakes."


"I feel like I'm out with a movie star or something. You should have warned me, I'm an old man, my heart might not be able to take all of…. this." Stepping back, and using his hands to gesture up and down my form, Shane is obviously pleased with my dress choice. "Did the paparazzi follow you here, superstar?" Shane asks, an awed tone in his voice as he leans in and places a kiss on my neck. Not my cheek. My neck. The sweetness of it catches me off guard, and all I can do is jump a little, squeal at the wet softness of his lips, and…smile. It's a happy, delighted smile. But also one laced with a little guilt as I swivel my head around the reception hall, checking to see if anyone has taken notice of Shane's impromptu display of affection.

I remind myself underneath the heat of his hand around my waist, and his firm chest leaning into me…This man does not belong to me, and I do not belong to him. It's a friends with benefits mantra that Aaron and I worked out when I finally confessed some of the Rick stuff to him after he called me ten times this afternoon. When Rick left after lunch, taking Carl back with him, and dropping Andre at my parents' house, I called Aaron back, finally taking a moment to answer all of his missed calls. Apparently he has figured me out, kind of.

"So, you and Carl's father huh? You into country sheriffs now, Michonne?"

"Huh?"

"Don't huh me. You must be forgetting that I know you better than any man on this planet, sweetheart. You are basically my common law my wife. Probably. Maybe not…but, pretty damn close. So, spill the beans before I drag myself back out into this blizzard to get the truth out of you!"

"What? Aaron you can be so damn dramatic sometimes. It's not snowing. There was some freezing rain last night, and now it's almost sixty degrees outside. How the hell does that equal a blizzard?"

"Listen, you better spill the damn beans, Michonne. Don't make me start counting."

"Aaron, can we not please?"

"Nope. 1, 2, 3…"

"Ok, damn! I hate when you start channeling Claire Huxtable!"

"Yes! Now get to it. What's going on? I could see he was giving you the serious eyefuck last night, and you little hussy, you were giving it right back. Sticking your chest out, not even wearing a bra. You knew that man was coming over. I put it all together last night while I was telling Eric about it."

"So you mean Eric put it together for you, and you're taking the credit?"

"We are married, so we are one. His conclusions are mine. Now spill!"

"You are so pushy. Geez. I met him on New Year's Eve, at that party my parents' neighbors threw. Those are his parents. And, really that's all. Andre and Carl became fast friends, so he brought him for a sleepover. The weather was bad, I let him stay over. End of story."

"No it's not. Why was he giving you the eyefuck of the gods then? Hm? No one stares at someone like that unless they have seen them naked or they want to. So, did you have sex with the sheriff, Michonne? And don't lie, I can tell when you lie."

"It's none of your business. And listen, I need to get dressed for this date with Shane."

"Oh shit. I forgot about the parental hookup. You're still gonna go out with the DA, even after probably hooking up with the sheriff? What's with you and King County?"

"I said I would. Plus, it's kinda fun, you know. Having options."

"Agreed. It's the main reason I keep you and Eric around. When my husband is getting on my nerves I just come be with my wife. It's the best threesome I've ever been apart of."

"Ew! Don't say it like that. You make it sound so dirty!"

"Whatever. You know you're the non-sexual female love of my life. Anyway, while you are trying to play the dating game, and juggle these men, you just remember that you don't belong to them, and they don't belong to you. You are an independent woman, and you can enjoy their company on your own terms. Right?"

"Right…?"

"No, say it like you mean it!"

"Right."

"Right. Good girl, call me when you get back from your date with the DA. This is getting good! You have gone from famine to feast, and I'm loving every bit of it. Good for you!"

"Hush. I'm sure you've been on plenty of dates with women in dresses before, Shane." I gush, feeling the warm glow of a blush coloring my dark skin. And if I'm being honest, I do look good. I'm wearing a knee length dress, burgundy wine colored, with a blousy vintage like top. It's sleeveless to show off my toned arms, has a v shaped neckline, giving a little boost to my C cup cleavage, and a flirty flower on the shoulder to give it a feminine touch to balance the sexy vampishness of the tight fitted skirt. In a pair of matching six-inch peep toe heels, and my dreads falling in large curls around my face, with a matching burgundy lip to boot, I think the look is everything I needed it to be for this first date, at a wedding of all places. Lady like, sexy, festive.

"None of them have ever looked as gorgeous as you do right now. Not one." He asserts, and lifts my hand to his lips to place a round of kisses to my knuckles.

"Whatever."

"No, I'm serious. I joke a lot, but you're exquisite, Michonne. Thank you for coming to this reception with me. I would have hated to do this alone."

"You look very handsome yourself. And thanks for inviting me. I love weddings. Even when I don't know who's getting married." I joke, poking a little fun at me being here among all of these strangers. Shane included.

"Thank you. I wanted to impress you. I got the feeling you weren't too excited about my Alabama hoodie the night we met. Had to step my game up."

"Hated the hoodie, but I liked what I saw nonetheless. You simply can't account for good taste in college football teams sometimes. I didn't hold it against you. Tell me a little about the folks whose wedding I'm crashing." I ask as he maintains his hold of my hand and leads me towards the inner doors that will take us into the actual reception.

"You're not a crasher, you're my plus one. Abe is a buddy of mine, known him for years. We were deputies together for awhile, until I left for law school, and went to work in the DA's office. His wife Sasha was a fire fighter in Miami. That's where she's from. They met six months ago while he and a friend were on vacation down there, and they ran off and got married in Jamaica a few days after that. This is just the reception for us poor schmucks who didn't follow their last minute command to fly out to witness the nuptials."

"Sounds romantic. I love the idea of a destination wedding. A little spontaneous, impromptu, but the heart wants what it wants."

"I guess. I can't imagine wanting to give your life to someone else so quickly. Not completely my style, but Abe gives her whatever she wants, and he wanted her. Right then and there. When I get married, I want my queen to have the very best of everything too, so I get it. But since I probably won't ever get married I guess I don't have to worry about that."

"Why do you say that? That you probably won't ever get married." I ask, as Shane touches the small of my back to direct me to find the table we are assigned to.

"You want the honest answer, or the first date answer?"

"Honest."

"I just don't think monogamy is realistic. You're divorced, you should know what I'm talking about."

"I'm not divorced because of another woman, Shane. At least not that I know of."

"You never know. I think that we should be allowed to enjoy the company of who we're with, and when, or if that enjoyment runs out, then it should be ok to move on. No drama. But if it lasts, then it lasts. No drama either way."

"Wow. I guess I should have expected that. Men." I shake my head, a little disappointed at his opinion, but also relieved that spending time with him is probably not as serious as it is to spend time with Rick.

"What? You said you wanted honest. Listen, if you know where a person is coming from, who they really are and what they are capable of, then you're never disappointed. I would never want to disappoint the woman in my life. That's why I try to be honest. If you wanted to see another guy instead of me, I can't stop you. I wouldn't like it, mind you, but if I can't satisfy you on my own then that just means I need to step my game up so another guy doesn't have the chance. A little healthy competition never hurt anyone."

"You say that now."

"True. I've never had a woman like you who would make me rethink that. You might be right. I look forward to finding out." Locating our table, he pulls my chair out for me. As I take a seat, and Shane stands behind to push my chair in, his fingers dance a soft, whisper like sweep up my arms, leaving behind a subtle shiver and a trail of goosebumps.

"Would you like a drink?"

"Sure."

"Red wine, right? Malbec?"

"You remembered."

"Everything about you. I'll be right back." He promises on a wink, then turns to head towards the bar.

Watching Shane walk away, I allow my eyes to take a lingering sweep of his wide back, and firm thighs without his unnerving gaze on me. There's something in the truthful smoothness of his words, the focused depth of his dark eyes, the confident strut of his walk. The bulk and heft of his thick build. It's a wolfish, predatory hunger. A yearning greed that he is used to easily sating. And even behind the expensive coal grey, shark skin, Tom Ford three-piece suit that hangs so effortlessly on his muscled frame, there is a hint of the seductive hunter waiting to be unleashed. Shane Walsh is definitely a man who is accustomed to getting what he wants, and I don't know how to manage the desire to feast that's banked there. It's unvarnished and transparent, but also temporary. He wants me to see it, to respond to it. For a woman who was permanently tied to a man for years, then spent the last year with nothing but her trusty vibrator for orgasms, and her gay best friend for snuggles, it's definitely a heady experience to be on the receiving end of it and try to decipher the meaning of it all.

Crossing my legs at the blitz of a plethora of nuanced feelings and stimulus washing over me, I wince from the slight hint of tension in my well used muscles, and I'm quickly reminded of another. The man who has completely turned me inside out. Rick. I get the sense that he is every bit the hunter that Shane is, but his aggressiveness is limited, focused. Like a true star, I often find myself as the leading lady in his gaze, captured in perpetuity in the enticing blink of his blues. It's as though in the sharply fixated squint of his eyes, he's trying to memorize every inch of me. Trying to impress the same permanence upon me in the reverent, yet assertive touch of his hands, his arms. The aggressive command of my body, prodding and stretching me to reach higher, to snatch the gifted pleasure he so willingly offers.

Lost in thoughts of my sexy sheriff, it's as though my mind has conjured his voice, his presence, as I look up to find him heading directly towards me. His bowed legs, and lean form in a dark blue suit and tie, and polished black wingtips, my sheriff seems to have come out of nowhere to deliver himself to me.

"Michonne? What are you doing here?" He asks, obviously delighted to see me. Reaching his hand out to me, he lifts me from my chair, and wraps his arms around my waist.

"Uh, I'm a guest?"

"Bride I assume? You and Abe didn't seem familiar with each other at the party the other night."

"Uh… I'm the guest of a guest."

"Really? Who?" Leaning back to look into my face, on a tilt of his head, he's searching for an answer that I don't think he really wants.

"A friend that was introduced to me by my parents."

"Is that right? Who is this friend? Another special friend? Like me?"

"No, not exactly?" Unsure of how to proceed, and feeling the tight cinch of his anxious hands around my waist at the questions he's posed, I try to lead our awkward encounter in a different direction. "You look very handsome. You clean up well, Sheriff." I pat my hands over his hard chest, honestly appreciating the crisp white shirt, and the dark blue of his suit, and the way it makes his eyes pop.

"Thank you. As usual, you are the most stunning woman in the room. I saw you as soon as I walked in." Roving his hands around my waist, gravitating dangerously close to my ass, I grab a hold of his arms and hold them to his sides in an attempt to maintain a little distance between us.

"Thanks. You and the groom are friends?"

"Yeah." He drawls, the word dying on his lips as it peters out into deafening silence. "You didn't mention to me that you had a date tonight. You could have."

Blowing out a breath, I search my brain for the right words, but they don't come. Instead we are interrupted by the chirping voice of a woman that I immediately recognize as the blonde from his parents' New Year's Eve party. No longer in the owl emblazoned sweater dress and boots, she's now in a form fitting, sleeveless sheath dress, in a rosy blush color that highlights the pinkish undertones of her pearly skin.

"I thought I saw you walk in. What a small world, right?" Buzzing with an excited energy that is initially confounding to me, given that Rick keeps trying to reclaim my waist with his wandering hands, she seems completely oblivious to the situation she has walked right in to.

"Hey, Jessie. Well, King County is pretty small. Abe and I went to high school together, and he's a deputy on my staff."

"Oh, how nice! And this is?" she asks, pointing towards me, but her infatuated stare is still on Rick, and I have to admit, I don't like it. Not one bit. It's that same unreasonable jealousy that I felt watching them together across the room at the party before. But now? Now that I know what this man can do, has done to me, It's even stronger. More virulent. A poisonous toxicant that's threatening to turn me a murderous green with envy.

"This is Michonne. She's a friend. A special friend. Right, Michonne?" Rick smirks, his eyes still squinting, focused, questioning, teasing.

"Yes." I utter, looking away from the heat of his stare, and the chipper bounce of Jessie's wide eyes from Rick to me and back to Rick, settling on the object of her affection.

"Nice! So, Rick, where are you sitting? Is this your table? I'm over there at the singles table if you want to join me."

"Sure. Why not. I will see you around, Michonne. Have fun on your date." He releases his strong hold on me and backs away. On a parting nod, he gives me his back. Instantly the blonde, Jessie, is on him, grabbing at his arm, and latching herself to his side. No. I don't like this one bit, and I'm instantly questioning what in the world I was thinking to even imagine that I could have a friends with benefits relationship with Rick. It's a bad idea. A terrible one. I'm not built this way, and even with Aaron's mantra floating in the backdrop of my mind, the hair on the back of my neck is standing on end at the sight of him retreating to a table on the other end of the reception hall. In a corner that is not as well lit as the rest of the room, with only the sepia flicker of the candle from their table to give them light, I can only make out the outline of Rick's back to me, and Jessie's creamy shoulders on display next to him. Right next to him. Too close to him.

In the midst of fighting every urge to march over there and sit on his lap, or lay a kiss on him, marking him as mine, Shane's form enters my line of sight, blocking Rick from me.

"They didn't have your Malbec, but I hope this red cabernet will suffice."

"Hm?"

"Wine. You wanted wine."

"Yes, yeah. Thank you."

"You're welcome. I saw a guy over here. The King County sheriff. Rick Grimes. You know him?" Shane asks, lifting his thick dark brows in question.

"Yes. Sort of. Yes." I nod, swallowing the lumpy boulder that has taken residence in my throat. "Do you know him?" I ask back, knowing that he must given my investigator's research.

"Yeah, I do. Went to high school together. We were partners, deputies, for awhile, until I left for law school. Just like Abe. Kind of fell out of touch with him after I took the DA's job a few months back though. How do you know him? I mean, you looked…familiar with each other."

"His parents live next door to mine."

"Oh yeah. I noticed that the other night."

"Mmhm." Absentmindedly I answer him, but my I'm scattered, I'm all over the place. Gulping at my wine, appreciating the bitter dryness of it easing down my throat, cooling my temper, I instantly catch the sight of Rick and Jessie on the dance floor. Pressed obscenely close to him, her arms resting on his shoulders, I can feel the creep of raging jealousy again. I don't like this at all, and I decide that I'm not going to let him get to me. "Would you like to dance?"

"Absolutely." Wiggling his fingers towards me, I grab a hold of his offered hand, and set down my wine on the table. Following him onto the dance floor, a loud voice that I assume is Abe's, comes over the speaker system announcing that the next song is a dedication to his bride. Recognizing the soothing guitar of Elvis Presley's 'Can't Help Falling in Love', I allow Shane to steady me in his arms.

"Wise men say only fools rush in
But I can't help falling in love with you
Shall I stay?
Would it be a sin
If I can't help falling in love with you?"

"It's a silly song right? But I could see it." Shane offers, commanding a rhythmic sway of our bodies back and forth, with mine pressed tightly to his.

"What's that, Shane, what can you see?"

Looking down his slightly crooked nose at me, he doesn't immediately answer, instead he begins a low hum of the lyrics to the song, his own voice a decent match to Elvis's smooth mix of a tenor and a baritone.

"I like it though. How hopeful it is." He finally responds, halting his hum. Moving on with the song, he abandons the hum, and begins to instead sing the words softly into my ear.

"Like a river flows surely to the sea
Darling so it goes
Some things are meant to be
Take my hand, take my whole life too
For I can't help falling in love with you…"

Clearing my throat, I'm a little thrown by the beauty of the lyrics and his voice, so clear and breathy against my ear. On a jumble of the minty freshness of his breath, and the woody accord of cedar and patchouli in his cologne, I'm falling deeper into his embrace. He's creating a little world for us, building a wall around our area on the dance floor, and I'm nearly lost in his arms.

"It's a pretty song. Very sweet of Abe to dedicate it to his wife."

"He's a lucky man to have found someone so special. It's rare. Women like you are rare, Michonne. I'm very glad that you are here with me. You've been on my mind all week." Brushing his fingers in a feather lite sweep over my cheek, my lips, and down my throat, a rush of tingles and butterflies flurry in my belly.

Finding myself at a loss for words, a familiar occurrence over the last week or so, I release a long breath, blowing into his hard chest, needing the comforting assurance that Shane is currently offering. Turning my head to rest the furious firing of my brain's neurons, considering the quandary presented in my life in such a short period of time, an answer seems to just casually present itself. Rick.

Even though he's still dancing with Jessie, her holding tighter to him than the loose hold he has on her, he's looking at me. And Shane. The dichotomy of fire and ice found in his eyes simultaneously warms me to him, while chilling me with the cool daggers his blues are shooting towards Shane. Jumping from the sight of Shane's hands resting atop the swell of my ass, to my face, it's as though he's asking a silent question, wondering what the hell I'm doing here with Shane.

No longer able to withstand the unanswerable question in his eyes, I pull away from Shane, excusing myself to head to the restroom.

Not even certain of the direction, I push through the first door I come to, and find myself alone in an empty hall. Welcomed by the dark and the quiet, I lean up against the wall, needing a moment alone to think. But I can't get even that as Rick bursts through the same doors I just came through. Only need three long strides to reach me, he's immediately in my space, crowding me.

His face in mine, our lips simply a breath away, he asks in a tortured voice, gravely and gruff, it rumbles over his vocal cords. "What's going on here? Hm? With him."

"Rick, I-"

"I told you how I feel. That I can't-" Releasing an exasperated breath he begins a wild pace back and forth in front of me, thrusting his hands back through his neatly coifed hair, disturbing his curls. "I won't, Michonne. I won't share you with him, or with anyone. And I won't play this game."

"I don't need your permission to do anything, Rick. I wouldn't need to ask you to share me with him. I can decide who I want to share myself with all on my own. Right now I choose Shane."

"What did you say to me?"

"Shouldn't you be back out there with Jessie? I'm sure little miss sunshine will be looking for you any minute." I snark, riling myself up again at the thought of them dancing together, their limbs entangled as they move in sync with the romantic lyrics.

"What are you trying to do to me?" Rubbing his hand in a frustrated swipe down his face, he leans into me again, his hands pressed to the wall above my head, holding the trembling fury in him steady. "Not this guy, Michonne. I know this guy. He's not the one for you."

"I'm not looking for the guy for me, Rick. I told you, I'm not capable of being that woman anymore. I spent so many years trying to keep my husband, trying to be what he wanted, what he needed. To give him this big family. And guess what, Rick? When I couldn't deliver, he left! Years! I gave that motherfucker years. And you want me to take a chance on you? I don't even know you, and I don't have any more years left in me to waste. I have to take care of myself now. I'm sorry. You want a perfect little life? Go back in there with Jessie, and I'll get back to my date with Shane." I shrug, my chest heaving with the effort it took to vomit out all of those dangerous, hurtful feelings. To spew them, and leave them, a dingy mess at his feet.

"I see you, Michonne." He points his finger accusingly at me, as his lips twist into a satisfied smile.

"What the fuck does that mean, Rick? You say that all the time!"

"If I push too hard, you want to pull away even harder. But let's talk truth for a minute, ok?" Standing up straight now, no longer invading my space, he crosses his arms across the width of his chest. "You already belong to me. And you know it. You're like your cat Teeny. You want me to rub and pet you, to give you what you need, to scratch that little naughty, kinky itch. Because you like it. You know I'm the man to give it to you just like you like it. A little rough?" On a little laugh he throws up his hands, then massages his hand through the soft blades of his beard and across his cheeks. Softening his eyes, bringing them down from the stormy and tumultuous grey and blue, to the heated blaze of sapphire I'm more familiar with. Oh god. He tilts his lead, then drops his hands back into his pockets. "So you flirt with me, you slink around in your little outfits, you fuck me like your life depends on it. And I let you, because I like it too. The chase. The way your pussy curves to my dick. How sweet and soft you are underneath that false toughness. I like it too, Michonne. I like you. And this can be something…something permanent and real. Stop running."

"I don't know what you're talking about." Shaking my head, I attempt to dismiss the blaring truth of his words. It's too much. The honesty in his assessment is difficult to come to terms with, and it sends my body launching from the safety of its lean against the wall, and ready to find an escape. A respite from him, the truth. How could he know?

What did Whoopi say to Demi Moore in Ghost? Girl, you in trouble.

"I've already won this game, Michonne. You know it and I know it. You belong to me."

Advancing on me, with one hand flat to my abdomen, he gently backs me up to the wall again, then pins me with the strength of his body. Catching my hands behind my back in the strong hold of one of his, his hard length is pressing into my belly.

"I don't belong to you, and you don't belong to me." I profess, weakly trying to assert my friends with benefits mantra, even as I can feel my body melting, betraying me and reacting to the tight cinch of his secure hold on my hands, and his stiff erection against me, keeping me in place.

"But I do. And so do you." He counters, his sexy plush lips, so soft and pink, pulled into his mouth as he searches my face, waiting for me to confess the truth. "You might think running around with Shane is going to give you what you need, will satisfy you, but I promise you… you can't give away what belongs to me. I won't let you."

"I'm not going to allow myself to be hurt again, Rick. I can't…"

"I would never hurt you, baby. I just want to make you feel good. Take care of you. I already realize that, and I told you that. I'm already in here. And here." He points to my head, then my heart. "And here." He declares, resting his whole hand, fingers splayed, over my pelvis. "Matter of fact, you're wet for me right now, Michonne. I know you are. That's what I do to you. You already see what you do to me. How you command me."

"No, I'm not."

"Check."

Sucking down a deep breath, I already know that he's right. My body has been humming, and vibrating from the dynamic energy building and bursting between us since he found me a few moments ago. But I can't let him win. I can't, so I allow my silence to speak for me, and I break the fixture of our eyes on each other. Sweeping my gaze from side to side, checking the hall for other people, I shake my head, needling the beast that I know is pacing inside of him at my unresponsiveness to his challenge.

"Prove me wrong. Check."

Rolling my eyes, and licking at my lips, now dry from the soft, excited pants easing over them, I can't stop myself from following his commands. I simply can't. And that in of itself should worry me, but it doesn't. It excites the part of me that desires the way he pursues me. That adores the skillful finesse he employs to command my body's response to him. It's all in the bruise of his lips roughly on mine. The pummel of his hips against my ass as he branded me with his coarse, yet satisfying lovemaking. The gratifying squeeze of his large hand on my neck. Just enough to tease and titillate, never to hurt. The punishing sting of the slap of his hand across my ass, accompanied by the rewarding massage of it into my skin. And right now, with the compelling restraint of my hands pulled snugly behind my back, causing my breasts to jut forward, an appealing offering for his beast.

Dragging my right hand from his grip, and lifting the skirt of my dress up my thighs, I reveal the lacy black garters holding up my sheer black stockings, waiting for a response from Rick. And he doesn't disappoint. The fiery torture that animates his features, and lowers his beautiful lips into a jealous frown, delivers a tiny thrill up my spine. Good.

"You wore that for him?" he grinds out, his hold on my left hand, still secure behind my back, growing tighter with the release of each word.

A wave of naughty delight ripples through me at the rigid stiffness of his hold on my hand. "I wore it for me." I declare, a haughty taunt in the raise of my chin.

Driven by the defiance in my response, on a little lick and bite of cheek, Rick refocuses and directs me again, mumbling his repeated command into my cheek. "Check."

Inching my fingers into the sparse lace of my thong, I find the seat already wet. Grazing the pads across the sensitive lips of my pussy, I expectantly find the hair there slick with my arousal. Closing my eyes to his knowing smirk, I realize that Rick is aware of what he already knew to be a fact. I belong to him.

"Come here, baby." Grabbing a hold of my hand from my panties, he removes it slowly, then drops to his knees. Lifting my left thigh high, and hooking it over his shoulder, he brushes my thong aside then proceeds to swipe his tongue in slow languid strokes through the petals of my womanhood.

"Rick…"

"Shhh… You don't want your date to hear you do you?"

"Oh, oh, oh…"

"Second thought, maybe we do." He growls, nipping and biting softly at my clit, causing a zinging burst of pleasure to nearly drop me to my knees, as I teeter on one leg and try to control my vocal outbursts.

"Mmmm…Michonne, baby, you taste so damn good."

Again, I have no words. I simply don't need them as I relax and allow this man to control and command my pleasure, to grace me with the gift of his mouth, and the fiery orgasm that is stomping through my core. It's exquisite, his mastery of my body. The way his tongue tangles and twists over my lips and clit, teasing with sharp piercing probes of my dripping canal with his stiffened tongue.

With a handful of his thick chestnut locks, drizzled through with a few strands of silver, tight in my hand, I'm quietly begging and pleading for a release. A dazzling end to the climax that's needling me, driving me to thrust my pussy onto his face, and to wantonly cry out for more as though we are the only people left in the world. My moans are careless, and give no thought to the fact that we are in a service hallway at his friend's wedding reception. How easily we could be caught. But there it is…the thrill, the danger, the delight at being found with this sexy man on his knees before me, focused only on my pleasure. On me.

"God, you are so fucking wet!" Rick exclaims, then uses his left hand to rub in a succession of quick swipes and taps against my clit. The quiet of the abandoned hallway is no match for the wet smacks of his hand, and the satisfied wail that travels up through my diaphragm, announcing my climax to Rick's eager ears. "Yeah… look at you." He mumbles, stealing a few last minute kisses and sucks of my throbbing clit between his greedy lips.

Removing my thigh from his shoulder, and smoothly steadying me on my feet, Rick raises, wiping his hand over his beard and lips, slicking it down with my cum. Once again standing tall and erect over me, he angles his lips towards mine and places a soft, mild kiss on me, leaving behind the heady scent of my own arousal, sticky and sweet.

"Let's go home."

"Rick, I can't just leave. I'm on a… a date." The words are bitter, distasteful to even allow them safe passage from my lips, making me feel every bit the treacherous traitor.

"Do you want to go back out there together so you can tell him goodbye?"

"What? No! Look at you. He would know immediately."

"I don't have a problem with that."

"It would be rude. I – I'm on a date." I roll my eyes in frustration, not even certain why I'm attempting to hold my ground on this. I just know I don't want to hurt Shane. Not like this. But, my body needs to be with Rick. I need to be with him. Pushing my skirt back down over my thighs and legs, I attempt to get myself back together. To look more like the woman who was just on the dance floor, and less like the woman who just got tongue fucked in a back hallway.

"Not anymore you're not." He shakes his head, not even trying to hear the tiny bit of logic in my conflicted, yet weak protest. "Let's go home."

What did Whoopi say to Demi Moore in Ghost? Girl, you in trouble? That's me. Rick Grimes is getting me into a lot of trouble…

Chapter 5 by Fik Freak

Chapter 5 – Rick

Michonne: Hey

Rick: Hey beautiful lady

Michonne: Have you left yet?

Rick: I'm about to jump in the shower, then head your way

Michonne: Ok. No pressure…I'm just extra excited for tonight…I wish you would tell me what the surprise is though

Rick: You're so impatient…you'll see

Michonne: Give me another hint…otherwise how will I know if I'm dressed appropriately?

Rick: You are always dressed just perfect…I'm the one who's trying to figure out what to wear

Michonne: If you tell me where we're going then I can help you pick something out

Rick: Nah, I got this.

Michonne: Ugh, you're so mean

Rick: You didn't say that the other night… You did call me nasty though…

Michonne: Hush! Why are you bringing up old stuff?

Rick: LOL! I'll be there soon. Just wear something nice for me

What a difference a few days makes. Grinning at my phone, I drop it onto my night stand then take a seat on my bed, thinking of how beautiful Michonne is going to look. She always looks amazing, and I can't wait to see what she wears tonight. I can think of a particular saffron gold colored, cashmere sweater dress that I would like to see her in.

She was hanging up her dry cleaning once when I was over her house, and I noticed it immediately. The color was just so lush and beautiful, striking. I asked her to try it on for me, I just needed to see her in it. Helping her remove the delicate cotton tank top she already had on, and replacing it with the downy soft knit of the dress, it was like turning on a light. Or letting the sun in the room. Pulling it down to snugly fit over her torso, it was breathtaking. Against my sweetheart's burnished chocolate skin, her breasts supple and plump in the low neckline, the sight just really did something to me. I couldn't stop myself from lowering her to the grown where we stood, inside of her walk in closet, and pushing the material up over her breasts to have my way with her.

It happens like that a lot of with us, these spontaneous moments of need. Sometimes it will start with just a quick peek of her eyes, peering at me seductively over a glass of wine, enticing me to reach for her. Or the brush of my fingers against the sensitive skin on the back of her neck, urging her to offer up the sweetness of her heart shaped lips. I'm quickly learning that it's these little things that seem to keep this newly discovered spark of want and need burning brightly between us. It's a powerfully energizing force that I have simply never known, and I'm afraid that I've become slightly addicted. To it. To her. And it's a strong enough addiction that I spend 2-3 nights a week with her. Either she's driving here to see me, or like tonight, I'm on my way to spend the weekend with her, and take her out.

Yanking off my boots, and unbuttoning my shirt I can't seem to wipe the smile off my face. It's a permanent fixture since Michonne came into my life on New Year's Eve. And it's only gotten bigger and brighter since Abe's wedding.

Two weeks ago when I walked into my friend's wedding and saw my Michonne sitting so pretty at a table across the hall, I thought I was having the most pleasant dream. Instead I was confronted by the ugly, nightmarish truth of her unexpected appearance. She was there on a date. With Shane. He had his hands on her, grinning lasciviously into her pretty face, and I could see it. It was plain as day in the greedy sweep of his eyes over her face, her body. He likes her. He wants her for his own. Every lust filled thought I've ever had for her, played out in front of me, as Shane draped his body over hers, resting his hands at the tiny dip of her spine right above her ass. When she laid her head against his chest I could feel the beast inside of me, banging against my chest, ready to rip his offending arms from his body. How dare he touch her? How dare she rest so easily against him?

I close my eyes now at the thought, and a quick flash of him and her together that night plays on the backs of my drooped eyelids, and a heated flush of anger overcomes me, bringing back in vivid detail the discontent I felt that night.

The sound of the beast rattling, attempting to get free and wreak havoc, was booming in my brain. As Jessie and I danced closer to where Michonne and Shane swayed to the music, I could hear that bastard singing to her, and god help me, but I couldn't look away. Cannons fired off in my brain, and nothing else mattered but her. Perhaps sensing the fire in my eyes, she looked to me, her own eyes so soft and confused. When she shot away from him, as though his touch now burned her, I followed in disgust.

That son of a bitch Shane. What was the likelihood of something like that happening? Out of all the men between Atlanta and King County, the devil had somehow found my angel and sought to corrupt her. But there was no way, even amidst her weak protestations and unbelievable professions about us being friends, that I would ever allow him, or any man for that matter, to have her. Never again. Like I told her that night, he's not the guy for her. And even if I didn't suspect that I was falling helplessly in love with her, I still wouldn't want him anywhere near her. Michonne belongs to me.

He and I already have our own muddled history of ups and downs, friendship and betrayal, and that made it extremely difficult for me to manage the feelings I had watching her dance so closely to him. Held so tightly in his arms. Difficult is probably an understatement. I hated it. My blood was boiling in my veins. It's the reason that the instant I saw her rush out of the party and into the hallway, I followed her. It wasn't my plan for us to be intimate there, in such a public place. But I had to remind her, to somehow show her that the strength of what's between us is real. And I don't regret it, because Michonne did come home with me that night, and many more nights since then. Before I took her home and finished what I started in the service hallway, she did go back inside and give Shane a polite good night, that included a hug and a kiss on the cheek, which earned her a few good smacks on the ass from me when we got back to my house.

None of that matters now though, I muse to myself, stripping down out of my Sheriff's uniform and stepping into the steamy heat of the shower. Washing my hair, then rubbing soap over my body, I'm reminded of the more delicate way her fingers always touch my skin. It's always a flit and then a brush, cautious, as though her approach may scare me off. I'm not going anywhere though, and I hope that she can tell that in the greedy way my own hands and fingers are constantly reaching for her, touching her somewhere. In fact, the very idea of not having her in my life sends me into a quiet panic, one that sends my hands quickly flying through the motions of washing my hair and body, so that I can get to her sooner.


"Hey, Pop."

"Rick, it's your father."

"I know that, your name was on the caller ID. That's why I said hey, Pop."

"I forget about that thing always knowing who's calling and when. Don't that creep you out? The way technology is always spying on us?" My father grumbles. Having been in the military for most of his adult life, my father is keenly aware of the government's hold on our whereabouts, on our lives, and that probably doesn't help soothe his agitation when it comes to technology and its advances. Only recently I talked he and my mother into buying their first iPhones. Though he seems to enjoy the way it has made some things in his life easier, he drew the line at setting up his thumbprint to open his phone, noting that it's literally just giving the government what they wanted. I had to remind him, using his own government phobic, conspiracy theories against him, that the government already has his thumb prints anyway. All he could do was grudgingly agree, but also assert that he didn't want to give them too much of anything else. He still uses the phone though.

"No. I wouldn't categorize it as spying."

"That's because you young people don't know any better. Anyway, that's not why I called. Your mother is trying to get a head count for your grandparents' anniversary dinner next month, she said you never responded to her voicemail."

"Oh, yeah I forgot. I've been so busy with work, and things."

"Things? Any of those things the little blonde your mother introduced you to at our party? She was a hell of a looker, son."

"Uh, no. She's definitely not one of the things. Actually, I met someone else at that party. Your neighbors' daughter, Michonne."

"Oh really?" He asks, with a hint of an impressed tone. "You do know you've met her before right?"

"No. I don't remember that. When?" I question, certain that I would have remembered meeting a woman as lovely as her if I had met her before.

"A long time ago. Your mother and I were trying to talk her parents into moving out near us. You know I served with her father, Dennis Alexander, he's a good guy. Best guy I ever had the pleasure of serving with actually. He's a real straight shooter. Toughest SOB I know."

"No I didn't know that either. But wait, when exactly did I meet her before?"

"Oh right, yeah. Well they came out, brought their little girl, swam in the pool. She was a pistol that girl was. Running around charming the pants off your mother and I, then literally ripping her swimsuit and pull up off to dash around naked in the backyard! She's kind of a big deal now. Got rich on a computer thing for your phone. I doubt she still runs around in the backyard naked like that anymore. That's a shame." He utters on a disappointed click of his teeth.

"An app, Pop. And yes, I knew about the app. But, I don't remember meeting her before."

"Yeah well, you were like 4 or 5, hell I don't know, but she was still in a diaper thing, so who knows. But, she's a foxy lady now ain't she? Nice body. Pretty face. Smart, well off. You've done much worse."

"Absolutely true." I agree, knowing he's referring to Lori. My parents were never fond of her, and often made it no secret that we not only married too young, but probably shouldn't have married at all. As a result there was never any love lost between them, as Lori pretty much hated them too.

"So, you've been spending time with her? Like a romantic thing? What happened to the little blonde girl? You're definitely getting your legs back dating two women, aren't you, boy? I'm glad to see it."

"Wait, um, just with Michonne. I'm only dating her now. A romantic thing. Michonne happened to the blonde. The thing with the blonde was dead as soon as I saw Michonne."

"Ah. I guess I could see why. That Michonne is definitely her mother's daughter, you hear what I'm saying?" He says, lowering his voice as though he does not want my mother to hear what he's saying.

"What?" I ask, completely confused by my father's statement. He can't be saying what I think he's saying. Not George Grimes.

"Hey listen, I love your mother, ok? But, I'm not dead. I've got eyes. Dennis's wife, Nia? Yeah, son, oh yeah." He whispers conspiratorially, then releases a low whistle.

"I don't wanna hear this."

"I'm just saying I understand why you would be interested. Her and her mama are some beautiful women. That Michonne might be a little more than you can handle though. That backside is a lot more than a handful and you've only really been with that Lori. You're definitely going to have to step your game up to catch and keep that one. This isn't like last time, Rick."

"Pop, can we please not have this conversation?" I grouse, definitely put off by my father's lecherous words and tone when speaking about Michonne. I know it's harmless, he's just giving me his approval, which I've never gotten for any other woman, which was really only just Lori. But I'm well aware that my dad has always been a handsome man, and as a result women have always been attracted to him. Often not hiding it at all, even in the company of my mother. Now that he's sporting a full head of silver hair, with a matching beard, it's worse. As far as I know he's always been faithful to my mother, but sometimes I wonder with those long deployments how faithful he's actually been.

" Ok, I'm sorry. I'm just saying, I like that you are getting back out there. You know the ladies love us Grimes men. Always have. You're my spitting image, Rick, you've always been a good looking guy, so I have no clue why you settled on Lori. I'm just glad to see you punching above your weight now is all."

"Thanks. I think." Rolling my eyes, I'm not entirely sure how to take his backhanded compliment. On the one hand yeah, I'm aware that I resemble my father. It's an uncanny resemblance, one that most people have noted is almost identical with the only exception being the age difference. On the other hand, the digs at Lori have grown tiresome, and I honestly hate having to be constantly reminded of the mistakes I've made with her.

"Don't be so sensitive, Rick. It's a compliment. So listen, does all of this mean I should put her down as joining you for your grandparents' anniversary dinner?"

"Probably. I will ask her to be sure, but yes, probably."

"I'm proud of you. After that messy business with Lori, the divorce, her getting pregnant by-"

"Thanks, Pop. I gotta go, I'm actually pulling up to Michonne's house right now. Tell Mom I said hi." I answer, hurriedly disconnecting the call from the car's Bluetooth. I'm not interested in rehashing everything that has happened with Lori again, for the millionth time. When everything went down there was a not so subtle 'told you so' in the tone of my parents words every time they spoke about her. But my dad is right about something, I am getting my life back on track, and Michonne is a big reason for that.

Stepping out of my truck and walking up to her door, I pick up off of the passenger's seat, one of many of the surprises I have for her this evening. On her porch, I straighten my clothes out, wanting to impress her. This is our first official date, and it's important to me that I look good. That she feels as proud to be out with me as I always feel to even be around her. To her it may seem that I have everything figured out, but the truth is that the only thing I'm sure about right now is her. Her place in my life. How important she is to me. It's one of the reasons why I wanted to take her out on a date, do the whole thing right. To wine and dine her. Even though we've slept together many times, I want to show her that this thing is not just about sex. It's about building something stronger than sexual attraction. Though I have to admit, our sex is...something quite powerful

Rapping my knuckles against her red front door, I nervously rake my fingers back through my freshly cut hair. She's never seen my hair so short, and my face clean shaven. I'm a little anxious to see what she thinks. Answering the door, she immediately takes my breath away.

"Rick, hi! Oh wow, look at you! And what? Are these for me?" She questions, a tiny squeal of delight in her raised voice, falling from her full lips, brushed with a velvety red gloss.

"Of course they are." Handing her the bouquet of the flowers I picked up on my way here from a florist in King County, I watch as her face lights up when she raises the dark pink blooms to her nose and takes a deep sniff.

"Oh, Rick, they are absolutely beautiful. How did you know I love peonies?"

"Lucky I suppose. I just told the florist I needed the most beautiful flower they had, for the most beautiful woman in the world. He gave me these. They're not as beautiful as you are, but they tried." I laugh, sensing the anxiety from before easing a bit. She hasn't really said much of anything about my look just yet, but the heated spark that lighted in her eyes said enough to bolster my confidence.

"Smooth, Sheriff, very smooth. Come in." Tilting her head towards the inside of the house, she turns away from me, and strolls through the entry foyer, towards the kitchen.

Walking in behind her, removing my suede coat, I admire the tight fit of my favorite dress, the gold sweater dress, gracefully hugging her sexy form. She's added a pair of tall, high heeled brown boots, and accessorized with dangling gold earrings and bangles around her slender wrists. As she walks, the height of the heel on the boots causes her hips and rounded bottom to sway seductively to the click clack of her heels on the hard wood floors. Licking my lips, I briefly tug at my cock, feeling it twitch in the confines of my fitted jeans.

"You look very sharp, Sheriff. That blue sweater brings out your eyes. And I've never...I've never seen your face like that. I like it." Flirting, biting down on her bottom lip, her eyes soften to a warm fudge as they travel from my head, my eyes, my face, and down the length of my body, taking in my attire. Deciding to put my trusty cowboy boots to rest for the night, I'm trying to step up my game a bit. She's noticed.

"Thanks." I nod, wishing I could take all of the credit, and instead internally thanking Andre and Carl for the advice. I'm also laughing a little to myself at the gentle prodding from each of them that while being a real life cowboy is cool, sometimes the ladies want you to mix it up. Last weekend while they were helping me take down the Christmas lights on the outside of Michonne's house, and clean out the gutters, they offered up some helpful feedback on dating in 2017, a concept they both assumed was foreign to an old guy like me. I got the hint, and followed some of their tips for what to wear tonight. I have to admit that these young guys seem to know what they're talking about, as Michonne's amorous gaze seems very pleased with the easy fit of my dark wash jeans, cornflower blue sweater, and lace up boots.

Putting the flowers in a vase and adding water at the sink, Michonne looks up to me again, gifting me with another bright smile. "I really love the flowers, Rick. I haven't gotten flowers in… gosh I can't remember how long it's been. It was very sweet of you." She blushes. Placing the vase, now filled with the bouquet of flowers, on the counter, she tilts her head, and drops her dark eyes bashfully, then raises them back to mine as though she is unsure of what else to say. That's odd. Michonne is never at a loss for words. "It still catches me off guard you know? When you do little things like this, give me nice things. Do nice things. The Christmas lights, the gutters, filling my truck up with gas every Sunday. I'm not used to it. I don't always know how to respond I guess, but I hope you know that I'm grateful."

"You deserve the best of everything in the world, Michonne. And I'm the man to it to you."

"Oh yeah?"

"Absolutely." Standing in front of her, backing her up to the counter, I lean down, angling my lips over hers, but not yet kissing her. I have to stop to suck in a much needed breath. She's stealing my cool, but I don't care. Her coquettish flirting and unassuming thankfulness are turning me on. On top of that Michonne is simply the most stunning woman I have ever known, and with my gaze dancing over her lovely features, I'm instantly hypnotized by the way her slightly parted lips quiver in hopeful anticipation of my kiss. Full and heart shaped, they are one of the many things I love about this woman. Hands behind my back, rubbing my thumbs and index fingers over each other, I'm practicing a modicum of restraint. My fingers are itching to touch her, but I don't know where to start. Her wide hips? Her fat bottom? Her tiny waist? Her full breasts, heaving with each breath? Or the column of her slender neck, now lightly thumping with the rush of blood, causing the delicate racing of her pulse? I can't pick just one, so I wrap my arms around her shoulders and pull her full body into mine, kissing her cheeks with slow pecks at first. Then, as the she raises her own arms to wrap them around my waist, my tongue spears through the slick gloss on her lips, tasting the sweetness of her mouth.

"Rick…" she moans into the kiss, her hands dancing across my back. "Rick…" she mumbles against my lips, pulling back from my kiss. "Andre is here with his girlfriend, and her sister. They're in the basement. Let's not accidentally give them a show, ok?"

"Got it. Sorry. You and this dress distracted me."

"You like?"

"I love."

Frozen for a moment, we both are stuck at the loaded possibility of my words. I could clean it up, save face and clarify that I only meant that I love the dress. But I think we would both know I was lying. I meant what I said. I always do. I'm falling in love with her. She's not ready to hear it, and I'm not certain that I'm ready to admit it. Not just yet. Hasn't this wild love affair turned her upside down enough already? My sweet lady is a little skittish, and still unsure of this thing between us. And like a young doe, caught in the cross hairs of a hunter's scope, I don't want her to continue with her pattern of pulling away when I push. So I don't say I word to further charge the dynamically charged air between us. Instead I offer up a wide smile, and then part on a little kiss on the tip of her nose.

An uncertain smile still laces her lips though, as if any minute I might fully confess my love for her. But, we don't have to worry about it too much though, as Andre and his entourage arrive upstairs.

"Hey, Rick!" Andre greets me, dapping me up as he calls it, with a quick clap, grasp, and bump of our hands, and offering me a genuine smile. We're past the curious scrutiny I was used to finding behind his bespectacled face. Having given me his blessing, and tipping me off to the presence of Shane, Andre and I have an agreement that we both want the same thing for his mother. We want her to be happy, and though it's taking a lot of work to freeze the ice around her heart, I'm the man for the job. I think he can see in my actions, and not just in my words, that this is how a man should treat a woman, and he's pleased to see his mother on the receiving end of such treatment. It's new for both Andre and Michonne, but it's good to know that an old cowboy like me can still romance a woman, and teach the youngster a thing or two.

"How's it going, Andre?"

"Very good. Uh, I don't think you've met her before, but this is my girlfriend Cyndie. And this is her sister Macy. Ladies, this is my mother's boyfriend Rick."

Not missing a beat, despite Andre unexpectedly proclaiming me Michonne's boyfriend, I shake each of the girls' hands, quickly seeing why Andre is so smitten with his pretty girlfriend, and why Carl is always trying to get over here to hang out with her sister.

"Nice meeting you girls. What have you all got planned for tonight?"

"Gonna go catch a movie. My mom is gonna drop us off in a few."

"What do you and my mom have planned?" Andre asks, genuinely curious as I didn't tell him or Carl what I had planned for tonight. Neither of those guys can hold water, so there was no way I was going to risk them spoiling it for me.

"A fun evening. It's a bit of a surprise though, so I can't say just yet." I wink over at Michonne, taking note of the delighted twinkle still dancing in her eyes. "So, we're gonna hit the road now. You all have a fun, and safe evening."

"Thanks, Rick! Have fun, Mom." Andre pats me on the back, and gives his mom a big hug. Under his breath I hear him whisper to her, "He's a good guy, Ma. Enjoy it." And I can't help but smile myself at his encouraging approval.


"Dinner was so good. I have lived in Atlanta for most of my life, and I have never even heard of that restaurant. How did you find it?"

"A friend of mine named Morgan, and his wife Jenny own it. It's a farm to table thing they started. They own a farm in King County, so all of the meat and vegetables come from there. Obviously not the fish, but all of the main stuff comes from their farm. They just opened about a month ago. Since she's such a great cook, and folks in KC are always asking for her recipes, or for her to make a pie for any occasion, they got the idea to have this kind of small restaurant with only four tables. They only open on the weekends, and Jenny sets the menu with two dishes each weekend. She does all the cooking. They're doing really well so far."

"Well that explains why everything tasted so fresh and delicious. She's an awesome cook, I loved everything about it. The cozy setting, just everything. It was like a dinner party with a few friends. And oh my gosh I'm stuffed! Look at my little fat belly." Rubbing her hands over her stomach, my eyes dash away from my focus on the road ahead, and fall to her stomach. I can't see anything other than the toned flatness that I'm accustomed to. But I can't help wondering what she would look like with a rounded belly. Not from food though. She is always so adamant that she can't have anymore kids, but it doesn't stop me from wondering, fantasizing really, if it's true. I definitely would like more kids, and could absolutely see having them with her. In my head and my heart, I've already decided that she is the woman for me. But she's going to take more convincing. Which I completely understand. I was a little shy and hesitant when we first met, not really certain that I could measure up for her. It's not even a thought anymore, as I'm convinced that she and I were made for each other.

"I don't see anything, but I think you would look amazing with a little baby bump."

"A baby bump? Where did you get that from? I meant a big belly from all of the delicious food I just ate."

"Yeah I hear you, but I'm talking real babies, not food babies."

"Why?" She asks, a hint of irritation coloring her question. "I already told you I can't have any more kids, Rick. That's kind of a done deal by now. Mike and I tried for a long time. I've come to terms with it."

"A doctor told you that? That you can't have anymore kids?"

"No. We tried though, and I suffered through two miscarriages in the process. So we gave up. I got on the pill to regulate my periods, and decrease the cramps I got when I did have periods. I think it's pretty clear that there's something wrong with me."

"There's nothing wrong with you. Sounds like you came to your own conclusion, and that it's still possible to me. But what do I know? I'm just a sheriff." I scoff, shrugging my shoulders to dismiss her negative assessment of herself.

"Where is this coming from?"

"Nowhere. Just having discussion, right? If you could have another baby, would you?"

"Slow down there, Sheriff. You're heading down a road that neither of us should even be thinking of. We've barely been going out for a month yet. It's all a bit premature to be talking babies right?"

"No. A week, a month, a year. Time is an arbitrary, man made concept. I don't have to know a person for a prescribed period of time to know how I feel. I'm a grown man, Michonne, I know how I feel. I know what I feel. Hell, Andre already said I'm your boyfriend. Maybe it's you who needs to catch up?"

"Maybe you and Andre are the ones who need to slow down?" She laughs, though I can see in the darkness of the car that she's clearly sporting a wide smile, amused and intrigued by the openness of my feelings for her. I'm too old to play games. I know what I want. I want her.

"So, what else do you have planned, Sheriff? I got my favorite flowers, a delicious intimate dinner, I don't know how you can top this date. It's been pretty awesome so far."

Reaching over to her lap for her hand, I lace our fingers together over her thigh. "I've got one more surprise. It's a good one."

"How do you know it's a good one?"

"Oh I know you're gonna like this. Matter of fact, we're here."

"Lula's Jazz Club? What do you know about this little club, Rick?" Shock and surprise is evident in the tone of her voice, and the way her head swivels back and forth between me and the front of the club.

"Luck I suppose."

"This is a nice out of the way spot. I didn't know how luck could have led you here." She offers, clearly skeptical of my brief and vague answer.

"No jazz tonight. Something else special." Raising our joined hands to my lips, I leave a few kisses on her knuckles. "Let's go."

Jumping out, I head around the car, an excited bounce in my springy step, and open her door for her. Exiting the car, the light from the parking lot is illuminating her figure. I take special note of how her dress has inched up high on the firm softness of her thighs, and is tastefully displaying her heavy breasts. The stretch of the dark gold dress against the burnished chocolate of her dusky breasts is mouthwatering, and I make a silent promise to myself to make sure I bury my face there first tonight…as soon as I get her home.

At the door I present our tickets for the night, and check our coats. I can tell the idea of a secret surprise is one that she's not entirely familiar with as she keeps up with her barrage of questions. Again, how do I know about this place? How did I get tickets? Who is playing tonight? How much did all of this cost? It's cute, and once again confirms for me that her ex-husband did not take nearly as good care of her as he was supposed to. How is it possible that such an exquisite woman is not used to romantic surprises? Flowers, dinner. Whatever she wants, she should get, and deserves even more. It's shameful, and I make a quiet promise to myself as I clench and unclench my fingers into and out of a fist, that if I ever get the chance, I'm gonna thank the son of a bitch who did this to her with my fist. Grudgingly, I do have to admit that if it wasn't for how awful he treated her, I never would have had the chance to treat her right.

Brushing away those thoughts as Michonne and I find a spot in the moderately sized crowd of about 100 people. We're not far back from the slightly elevated stage, but near the center of the standing room only venue, where we will have an excellent view of the performer. With the lights suddenly drop, and only the stage lights remain, providing any hint of illumination, I hold my lady in front of me, keeping her secure in my hold. As a sheriff I'm always on guard, though tonight a relaxed enjoyment has me ready to just bask in the pleasure of spending this romantic evening with her.

Turning her head towards me, Michonne whispers up to me, and I have to lower my head to hear what she's saying. With her hand raised to the back of my head, she holds my ear to her lips. "This is very romantic, Sheriff. Thank you. I don't care who comes out to sing, this is one of the best nights of my life, and I owe it all to you."

"I owe all of this to you. More to come, sweetheart. I promise." I pledge, and give her a searing kiss to her lips. One that sparks from the electricity arching between our lips, and zinging in a current through my body. Like a magnet my body is drawn to hers, and I'm cozy my groin into her ass. Michonne pushes back into me, willingly receiving my affections.

As I'm leaning over her, kissing shoulder and neck, we have somehow missed that the band has taken their places on the stage, and the blare of a series of seductive notes burst from the speakers. Drums, high hat, guitar, keyboard. Then the voices of the background singers, lined up on stools in front of the drums and near the guitarist, begin a hushed chorus of voices. Soft lighting focuses on the stage, and with a myriad of candles on each side of the stage, a sexy and romantic scene is set.

Joining the melodic stream of background voices, in a soulful and smokey tenor, the lead singer's voice joins the chorus.

"Shhhhhh
It's on the hush, only you and I will know
It's on the hush, only you and I will know

Shhhhhhh
It's on the hush, only you and I will know
I'm not gonna tell yo' mamma…"

The spotlight shines on the lead singer, a tall black man with a low faded haircut, dressed in a white button up, opened at the throat, an undone bowtie, and black slacks. He caresses his hands down the microphone stand, gliding them back up to grasp the microphone, holding it lightly as a lover would, and an ecstatic gasp flows over the lips of my lady that almost makes me jealous. Almost.

"Oh my god, Rick! Oh my god! How did you know Maxwell was here? How did you get tickets? How?" Turning to me, placing her hands on my chest, she's giving me her full attention, despite the fact that the singer is picking up steam right in front of her. "How did you know?"

"Lucky I suppose."

"How do you keep…doing this? You're too perfect right? It's like you hatched from an egg or something." She sighs, her eyes wandering over my face. The shallow lighting hides much of her beauty from me, but her eyes are wide, shining with curiosity, and the depth of their darkness reveals how much this gesture means to her. It's all the thanks I need, though I don't complain when she thrusts her fingers in my hair, cradling my face on either side, and brings my lips to hers for a soul enlivening kiss.

"It's on the hush, only you and I will know
Hang a little while longer
It's on the hush, only you and I will know
I'm not gonna tell yo' daddy baby…"

Closing my eyes, enjoying the wetness of her mouth, her tongue licking my own, her lips and teeth nipping and sucking my own, my erection stiffens against her belly. On a drawn out groan, I grab her around her waist with one hand, the other wrapped at the nape of her neck, and hold her tightly in front of me. Uncaring of the crowd around us, I want her to feel the steely set of my dick. What she does to me.

Holding her still, her lips fastened to mine, she draws back on a tortured groan, and drops her eyes in a nearly bashful, submissive sweep. "How do you always know, Rick? Hm? I just… I-" Michonne utters, her voice low and nearly imperceptible. In feather soft caresses against my cheek, her words cut off as they seem to fail her in expressing what's really on her mind.

"I know. I know. Let's enjoy the show. This is all for you, and you deserve every bit of it." I answer, my lips buried into the sweet coconut fragrance of the crowning nest of her cottony soft dreads. Turning her back around to face the stage and enjoy the show, I watch as Michonne begins to sway, a rhythmic swing of her sexy hips. A brush of her ass against my stiff groin.

The singer begins a falsetto riff, does a little two step, then seems to catch sight of my girl, and gifts her with a wink and a wide, appreciative smile. Seemingly focused on the wind of her hips, her hands up over her head as she pops her fingers, he asks into the microphone, his speaking voice a gruffer, and raspier version of his singing falsetto. "Wanna do a little sumthin'?"

His question is met with a raucous reply of "Yes, honey!" and a series of "Whews!" and "Wows!" from the women in the crowd, and a disgruntled couple of "Oh hells..." from the men. I'm just excited to see my baby happy. To watch her relax and enjoy our first date.

I had never heard of Maxwell until that first night at Michonne's house. She played his album, and it seemed to speak to me. So many of his words vocalized what I was feeling in that moment, how it felt to be with her. How my fascination and near obsession with her was growing, taking root in my heart. The next morning, I found the album and tried to find out everything I could about the singer who had somehow put into words and set to music the soundtrack of my new life. For a man who has never been the talkative type, has never really known how to express himself with words, the way this singer seemed able to so eloquently speak to my lover on my behalf was an intensely shocking experience. My ex-wife always accused me of not talking, of being closed mouth. But, now I can only assume that perhaps she never inspired me to say anything because now, with the help of Maxwell, I want to tell Michonne everything.

When I was looking up his music, I somehow came across an advertisement for this show, a limited one-night engagement, billed as an intimate night with Maxwell. But it was sold out, so I instantly put it out of my mind. But after downloading all of his albums to my iPhone, and privately listening to his music, it crossed my mind again, creating a fresh bout of disappointment at my failed attempts at procuring tickets.

But life is funny, and as often happens for guys in law enforcement, Abe happened to have taken a side job doing security for a small venue here in the city that was going to host a pretty big act for one night only. He was gifted with a set of tickets for the show, but since he was going to be working security detail for the singer, and his new wife was out of town to visit her parents, he offered them to me. Abe had no clue about my new obsession with Michonne, or my new fondness for the music of Maxwell, but offered me the tickets as a thank you for moving his shifts around to allow him more time with his new wife. As a firefighter, Sasha was on third shift, being the newbie in the King County Fire Department. So I switched him to third as well. No problem.

It was this small gesture that gifted me with one of the best nights of my life, all seemingly the result of luck. Just like it was luck that she liked the flowers I got her, and the restaurant my friend owns. Just like it was luck that she and I met, and that we find ourselves here. It seems that a little luck, and maybe some Maxwell tickets, is all you need to completely change your life. Maybe it's more akin to fate than something so arbitrary and aimless as luck.

"So if it's cool, I want you
I love you until you're
Black and black and black and blue
Till the police comes through
What, can't hear you
What, you ashamed of me
Come on, got a little secret…"


"Thank you so much, Rick. The show was just…oh my god. It was amazing, right? He was amazing!"

"Yeah, I enjoyed it." I nod my head in agreement, and turn the ignition to start my truck, and get a little heat going. On this late January night, nearing 2 in the morning, there is a slight chill in the air. Swiftly rubbing her hands over her arms, I can tell that Michonne is feeling the bit of the coolness, but her excited ramble of words show that she is still riding the high of the concert.

"Did you? Really? And I don't know, but I think I heard you sing along to some of the words. Is that right?" Michonne asks, scrunching her nose up a bit in question, a sly smile on her full lips.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"What was your favorite song?"

"Maybe 'Fortunate'. That's probably my favorite."

"I knew it! I knew it, Sheriff! You've been listening to Maxwell?"

"What?"

"You like Maxwell's music, Rick?"

Shrugging I decide to give in a little. "You've made me a fan."

"I did? How's that?"

Hesitating a little, I stall for a moment, trying to decide how much to divulge. "You played his album that one night. And…it just stuck with me. That's all. He says all the things I wish I could say to you, but don't always know how."

"That's sweet, Rick. What do you want to say to me?"

Clearing my throat, I'm a little thrown by her question and the earnest and interested way she's staring over at me, her breath nearly paused as she awaits my answer. "A lot of things. Everything. Anyway, I'm just glad it all worked out and that you enjoyed yourself." I change the subject, feeling things quickly getting deeper than I think she's ready for.

"I certainly did, Sheriff. This date is only missing one thing…"

"What's that?" I ask, a little concerned that maybe I've missed something in my careful planning.

"This." Climbing across the bench seat to crawl onto my lap, Michonne straddles me. Hiking the skirt of her dress up high over her ass to reveal the thin wisp of her thong, she instantly presses the heat of her womanhood against me. "Thank you for tonight, Sheriff." Her voice is rumbling from her lowest register, husky, seductive. Lowering her eyes from my own, she focuses on my mouth, as I lick my lips, and delight in the weight of her sexy body perched on my lap. "This will make it perfect." Leaning in, her full, supple breasts crushed against my chest, she thrusts her tongue into my mouth, and kisses me with a hungry suckle of her lips over mine.

The romantic mood of the evening has seemingly set the mood for this, but I am caught off guard by the fact that she doesn't seem to need or want to wait until we get back to her house. No, Michonne has her hands rubbing through my hair, tangling her elegant fingers in my curls. In this secluded area of the parking lot, near the side of the darkened club, only a few cars remain, with just a couple of people still milling about, in and out of the venue. "I want you right now, Rick. Right here. I want you to make love to me."

"Is that right? Make love to you?"

"Yes…"

"Here?"

"Here." She answers, lightly nibbling and biting at my cheeks. Dear god. This woman.

We've had sex many times, but this is the first time she has ever referred to it as making love, and it does something to me. To the beast who awakens. Up until now he has been at rest, content with relinquishing his will to the softer, more romantic tone of the evening. The desire and need in her voice as she pleads for me to give her this thing, my unspoken love…it's going to be my undoing, and I sink my body against the reclined back of my seat, giving us room to move.

On the other hand, I can feel him rankled, riled by the passionate grinding of her curvy body on top of mine, almost teasing, daring me to do as I've done many times before and fuck her. It's what is threatening to unleash the fullness of my own aggressive need for her, because yes, yes I want to fuck her. I want to lay her down, spread her out like a feast before me, and devour her pussy with my tongue, then drill into her tight little pussy and fuck her. Hard. Deep. But right now, with her purring and licking at the shell of my ear, asking me in the sweetest voice to make love to her, she has me conflicted and wound so tight, my breathing labored, easing out in rough pants, that I'm not even sure I could walk and chew gum at the same time.

"Please, Rick." She begs again, now sucking and biting at my neck. I can't answer now. Words fail me. Through the cloud of lust, the beast remains caged, eager and satisfied to simply watch as she unleashes her own naughty, aggressive side. I decide to simply let her have her way with me, taking from me whatever she needs to satisfy her own little beast that needs me to make love to her. I'm the man for the job.

Her pleasure is mine as her nimble fingers fly over the metal of belt and quickly unbuckle it and my dark wash jeans, thrusting her hands into my underwear and unleashing my cock. She directs her hand with a slow pull and tug, beginning at the base, then dragging her hand up to the blunt mushroom tip. Reaching underneath her, my hands clutch and grab at her ass, grasping and squeezing at the smooth, plump cheeks. Holding herself steady over my lap, she leans forward and with her free hand, pulls down the front of her dress, exposing her pretty breasts to me. Rubbing her hand over one, she squeezes it in her palm, offering the overflow of flesh that cannot be contained in her hand, to my eager mouth.

Licking my tongue out, I accept her offering, teasing her dark nipple with my tongue. Using my teeth, I take a little bite, then drag it lightly between, releasing it from my lips with a slight popping sound.

"Mmmmm, Rick… I…I want your dick in my pussy…now…please?"

"Whatever you want, beautiful."

Pulling the seat of her thong away from her dewy center, I can instantly feel the wet heat of her, sticky and damp on the pads of my fingers. Centering my cock to her entrance, Michonne begins a slow, tortuous descent on my dick, swallowing every inch with her greedy little pussy.

"Perfect." She huffs, her head thrown forward on my shoulder. Unmoving, a series of strangled pants escape her lips, warming my neck. "You fill me so…so perfectly, Rick." Withdrawing from her drooped posture, she leans back on my lap, and begins an easy, dramatically slow figure eight, wind of her hips. With both hands, she takes a hold of her breasts, and begins to thrum the nipples with her thumbs.

This goddess, this beautiful, perfect woman, hypnotizes me with the seductive command she has of her body. Waving and rolling, then popping and bouncing, Michonne never, not once releases me from the powerful connection of her heavy lidded eyes. All I can do is hold her waist, squeeze her ass, and hang on.

Angling her body into mine again, she places her hands on my shoulders, then begins to simply bounce, slow, but rough, hard, up and down.

"You're so hard, Rick. You feel so good…and perfect. You like it this pussy, baby? Does it feel good to you? Is that what you want to tell me, Rick?" She asks, tugging and biting at the lobe of my ear. It's obvious that this new slow, tortuous pace she's setting is turning her own, driving her to deliver a slew of naughty pronouncements that send a decadent thrill spiking straight to my dick.

"You know I do love it, Michonne. I love it, baby. I love it." I confess, no longer possessing the control to keep my feelings at bay.

"How much?"

"You have no idea how much." I groan, barely able to form coherent words.

"I need you too, Rick. I love when you fuck me good. And...I love this.. Like this. When you make love..."

"That's what you need from me, baby girl, hm?"

"Yes."

"You like when I make love to you, baby?" Rolling my own hips up in a deep stroke to meet each of her dropping bounces, I can feel her tightening around me, bathing my dick with her wetness. Her right hand is dragging across the fogged up window, leaving behind the streaks of her fingertips, and her left is flirting and skipping over my lips.

"Mmmm…"

"I want you so bad, Michonne. You don't even know what you're doing to me. You can have whatever you want. You like it slow like this?"

"Mmmmm…Rick…you're so big. You fill me up so good, baby..."

"Fuck!"

"So good…"

My hips begin to bang up a little harder, not much, just enough for the force of my thrusts to make her round breasts bounce and jiggle. Taking a hold of them in my hands, I press them together, and bury my face between them, licking and kissing from one nipple to the other. Easing her head down, her pink tongue peeking from between her teeth, she meets my lapping tongue, distracting me with her lips.

"Kiss me, Rick. Please."

"You can have whatever you want. I'm yours."

Giving her my lips, her own curl over mine, sucking them into her mouth. The voraciousness of her kiss is accompanied by another series of soul stealing bounces, and I can sense my impending climax, itching, scratching, ready to burst from my core, and up through my dick. My skin is sensitive, coated with a sheen of sweat that makes me want to tear my stifling clothes away so that it can more easily glide against her. It's the most exquisite mixture of pleasure and an ethereal sensation of floating, leaving my body to experience something so delicious it cannot be contained by this weakened form. But I need her to come first, and I can sense it within her. Her insides are scorching me with hot, wet, suction. She's doing that thing where she squeezes her pussy over my dick, throbbing, stealing from me a full on explosion.

"That's it, baby. I can feel that little pussy getting tighter. You about to come?"

Nodding her head quickly, she leans back again, her hands on my thighs, her back against the steering wheel. Holding her tightly, keeping her pussy snugly fit on my dick, I'm waving my hips up then back, hitting her spot over and over. Deeper. Harder. And with her head thrown back, a high pitched wail erupts in the air. Her pretty features tighten, every muscle in her toned body follows, and she releases a rush of her sticky essence, dripping down my cock and balls. It's all I need, bearing witness to the aroused play of emotions on her face. The knitting of her manicured eyebrows. The parting of her sexy heart shaped lips. Her wet tongue lazily licking across them as she attempts to catch her breath, and descend from the stratospheric heights her orgasm has blasted her in to.

As she raises her lids, and captures me with her wide doe eyes, my own body seizes in ecstasy, an almost painful spasm as I'm spilling my cum onto her womb, clutching the flesh of her rounded hips in my palms. Holding on to her for dear life, almost afraid that the strength of my orgasm may in fact kill me, a rumbling growl bursts from my throat as I push further into her, searching for the deepest part of her I can reach.

Dropping my head back on to the seat, I close my eyes, guarding my heart against the onslaught of emotions she's brought forth. This woman has completely robbed me of everything. My energy. My heart. Everything. Swallowing down a few heavy gulps of air, I open my eyes again, now keenly aware of our surroundings. The windows are dewy, fogged over, and the late hour has caused us to now find ourselves alone, blanketed only by the darkness of this cold Georgia night, and a tiny twinkling of stars.

Stealing my gaze, latching her eyes on to mine once again, Michonne leans down and into me, her naked breasts once again rising and pressed between us.

"Promise me that you will never hurt me." With love so clear in her eyes, Michonne lays herself bare before me.

"Michonne, I promise. It can be good like this forever for us. I promise."

"I won't survive it. I…I can't."

"Don't even think about it. Do you promise not to hurt me?" I ask in return, gifting her in this exchange of our vulnerabilities.

"Of course, Rick. I do. I promise."

Chapter 6 by Fik Freak

Chapter 6 – Michonne

"Michonne, baby…shit. We…oh my god…"

"Mmm…"

"Shiiiiit…"

Eyes closed, admiring the thickness of him, I'm circling my fingers around his cock, and using the saliva leaking from my mouth, to lubricate the glide of my palm over the veins of his reddened column.

"Baby, you're killing me…we need to…ahhhh…" He breathes out a strong gust of air from his mouth, and over the lips of my heated core, as though he is trying to gather himself and redirect his thoughts. That's not what I want though, I want Rick to feel as out of control, crazed with lust as he makes me feel. I continue with my ministrations, eager to get him to cum first. Enjoying the sensations of my mouth and hands on him, he has slowed the prodding thrust of his long fingers inside of me, and the quick flicks of his wicked tongue at my fleshy petals. Instead he now has both of his hands on my ass, squeezing and separating the cheeks, then slapping them together. "You're being a bad girl, Michonne." He groans out, a firm stinging slap to my ass punctuating each word.

"Mmmm…" I utter, my lips rising into a wicked smile as I continue to pump him with my hand, and swallow his cock into my mouth. Over and over and over again, until I can feel his heavy sack in my other hand tighten, his thighs stiffening, and his abs pressed against my breasts ripple with excited pleasure. His pleasure is mine, and the more he graces me with his gruff words of encouragement, and aggressive slaps to my ass, the wetter my mouth gets. The tighter my grip gets. The more I attempt to steel myself against the onslaught of delicious arousal that threatens to overtake me. But, him first. Rick always takes such good care of me, right now I want to take care of him.

Sucking him in as far as he can go, until he's tickling the back of my throat with the tip of his dick, I'm relaxing my gag reflex to try and take in more. But, he's too long, longer than any I've ever had, and it's hard for me to take more, so I keep using my hand to twist and tug along the base to compensate. Waving my tongue, and sucking in my jaws along the curve of him, seems to be driving him crazy, as he is no longer focused on the swift spankings he delivered, and instead is now dragging me backwards on to his face, to ravage me with his lips.

"Oh!" I squeal, on the unexpectedly rough way he's handling me, but thrilled by it just the same. I love this Rick. The aggressive, dominant Rick that likes to take charge of his pleasure and mine. There is something about the way he commands my body, wrests control back into his greedy grasp, that is tantalizing in that all I really have to do is sit back and allow him to have his way with me. That's it. By turning over control, I'm guaranteed to reach an ecstatic peak. For a woman who thrives on being her own master and commander, it is a potent mix of the fear of relinquishing a part of who I am, giving away that kind of power to someone else to do what they will, and the breathtaking yet dangerous sensation of becoming infatuated with the nearly manic excitement of it all. To him.

With his rough, calloused hands gripping tightly around my waist, Rick has pulled me back up his chest, and placed me onto his face, sitting straight up with my thighs on either side of his head. His nose is now buried between my cheeks, his mouth opened wide while his flattened tongue licks a steady, measured path from my clit to my rear hole, with only the humming satisfaction of his deep voice, rasping and rumbling in his chest.

"Taste so fucking good! Mmm…"

"Ah, ah, ah, ah…haaaaa…"

"That's right, grind that little pussy over my mouth!"

It's too much, and yet still not enough. My appetite is poised, ready for his touch, for him, and Rick knows me so well already that he must sense this, because the next thing I feel is the push and press of his wet thumb at the tight knot of my ass, swirling and loosening the ringed muscles. Backing up further, I welcome the erotic sweep of bliss that his intrusion causes, dipping my spine and dropping my head in gluttonous satisfaction.

"Oh god, Rick, oh god!" I shout, the words staggering over my lips, barely audible. Hanging in the air of my heated bedroom. Mingling and mixing with the sultry lyrics and bass heavy music floating from the speakers.

"Let me see you dance
I love to watch you dance
Take you down another level
Get you dancing with the Devil
Take a shot of this
But I'm warning you
I'm on that shit that you can't smell, baby
So, put down your perfume…"

"That little ass is tight."

"Rick…"

"Mmmm…I want you to cum in my mouth, baby. Feed me."

"Ah, ah, ah…"

Immeasurable joy shivers just underneath my skin, warming the flushed dew of sweat making my skin slippery to my own touch, as my fingers skim over my breasts, tugging at my sensitive nipples. With a firm press of his lips to my clit, sucking and pulling at the bundle of nerves, Rick is swiftly sending me over, diving head first into my orgasm. The strength of it pitches me forward on to my hands and knees, my breasts now heaving against his taut abs. Wrapping one arm over my bowed back, his fingers gliding up my spine, Rick uses his other hand to keep me pressed to his mouth, his thumb still massaging my hole as I come down from the high of my climax.

Eyes closed, a few aftershocks of pleasure ease and tingle up my spine, dance along my skin, twitching my muscles in appreciation. Opening them I catch sight of his cock by my face. Bobbing, the head pointed towards me, I take a grasp of it in my hand, tilting it into my mouth. Savoring the heat of his hard flesh sliding against my tongue once again, it doesn't take much for me to get lost in the smell of him, a musk that's all his own, mixed with our comingled sweat, and the scent of sex wafting in the air.

"Your mouth feels amazing… Take more of me." Rick huskily drawls, a sleepy slur to his words indicating that he's close. Jutting his hips forward, he's pistoning deeper into my mouth as he continues to pump into me with his thumb, inviting another orgasm to creep through my core.

"You taste amazing, Rick. You're so long and hard in my mouth, baby. I love it."

"I love you, baby, I do…" he confesses before he inches his tongue from between his lips again, and raises his head to slurp at the juices gathered at the apex of my thighs.

Did he just say what I think he said? Wondering at his admission, my sucking strokes falter a bit, but dismissing such important words uttered at a time like this, I easily pick the cadence back up. It only takes a few more licks and a swirl of my tongue around the blunt tip of his dick, and Rick is tensing, both hands now cinched tight as a vise around my waist. Raising my eyes from the dark thatch of pubic hairs covering his groin, and down the length of his hairy thighs and legs, I take note of the curl of his long toes and steady myself for the impending explosion.

As expected, a heated spurt of cum splashes onto my tongue, accompanied by a series of animalistic grunts and groans, and the spastic tightening of Rick's whole body. Holding his cock tightly in the suction of my mouth, I swallow down every drop of his essence, delighting in the salty tang of it sticky on my tongue.

"Gotdamn, Michonne. I love you so much, baby, shit! Whooooo…" He blows out, dropping his head weakly onto his pillow.

Smiling to myself, a tiny grinning smirk tilting my lips, I can't help but want to latch on to any inkling of truth that may exist in his offered words. Rising from my crouched position, steadying myself to escape to the restroom to hide my delight at his words, Rick doesn't allow me to abscond with my secret grin and instead takes a gentle hold of my arm and pulls me on top of him. His legs are open wide. His left set straight, while the right is bent at the knee. Situating me between them, his cock is pressed to my belly, sticky with cum.

"Where do you think you're going?" He asks, lifting his head from the pillow to drop a kiss to my sweaty temple. Rubbing one hand down my spine to the small of my back, it finds a resting place on his favorite spot, my ass. The other hand caresses the nape of my neck, his thumb brushing back and forth.

"I was going to get cleaned up. We need to leave for Andre's game soon."

"Oh, so now you're worried about getting ready, huh? What about when I was trying to get ready about thirty minutes ago?"

"You took off your clothes, so I thought it meant you were inviting me to take advantage of you."

"Actually I took off my clothes to get in the shower, but you are always invited to take advantage of me. I belong to you, so no shame in partaking of what's yours."

Covering my smile with my trembling fingers again, a niggling tug of my heart strings is begging me to ask him if he meant what he said. Is he truly mine? This man, this handsome, sexy, kind hearted man. My heart needs to know, but my brain is deathly afraid of the answer. Instead of asking, again, somehow knowing me so well after such a short amount of time, Rick brushes my locs away from the shield they have provided my face, and looks down at me with a proud and unvarnished grin of his own.

"I meant it. I do love you, Michonne."

"I didn't say anything."

"I can hear the gears and the wheels spinning in that pretty, big brain of yours. Guessing and second guessing. You know me, sweetheart, I meant what I said. And you don't have to say it back…not if you're not ready. Don't be scared or worried. I said it because it's how I feel, and I want you to know."

"Ok."

"Ok?"

"Ok."

"Good. Let's go shower so we're not late for Andre's game. First time I get an invite and his mama tries his best to make us late. Shameful!" He teases, tickling at my ribs, and kissing me across my forehead and face.

Giggling at the brush of his fingers wiggling against my skin, I can't help but want to return the words that Rick so dearly deserves. I fix my lips to say it, but the words don't come out. They won't allow my voice to speak them, to vocalize the transparent truth of my heart, and I'm not entirely sure why. Is it because deep down I still don't believe this is real? My life experiences have made it so difficult for me to accept happiness, that even now, when I'm looking it in the face, I find it hard to believe. Even though I love him too.

But my lips guard and protect my injured heart from spilling my emotions, and instead they keep them buried, safe and secure where all things wounded, fragile and precious remain. I don't push it; I don't want to force something so important. So I leave it, I wrap my legs around his lean waist and let my man carry me to the restroom in his strong arms so that we can shower and make it my son's game on time.


"Sweet! You guys made it just in time! We gotta get ready to go out on the floor."

"What for, Andre?" I ask, frowning in confusion at my son, decked out in his basketball warm up suit. At about the same height as Rick, Andre is quickly growing into a man every day. Some days I look upon him with pride that we made it this far together, relatively unscathed, happy, healthy, in one piece. And others I'm nearly driven to tears at how the time has escaped through my fingers, it's formless granules leaving behind the years of memories, and a modicum of anxiety for a lonely, childless future that is soon to come. My son will be entering full on manhood soon, and with that he will be thrust into a world of young adulthood that will carry him away from me and into his own life. While I'm filled with pride, there is also an inkling of trepidation for what's next. Brushing away those thoughts, I focus on Andre's words.

"Ma, did you forget it's parents' night? You have to present me when they call my name after warmups."

"I did forget, sorry. Obviously your dad's not here, but I'm ready. Just tell me what to do." Tossing up my hands, I have to fess up that I've been busy and distracted. Things have been easy to forget when I've been wrapped up in Rick's arms so much lately. It's so unlike me to be forgetful, or to let things, important things like this slide from my memory.

"What took you guys so long anyway?" Though his voice is deep, carrying the tones of a man, the plaintive whine reminds me that he is still only 15.

"Uh…"

Saving me from the embarrassment of having to stutter through an excuse for why the sex break Rick and I took derailed our timeliness, Rick steps in and easily offers a truthful explanation, leaving out the sex part. "Your mother's truck needs oil. I saw a leak underneath it when we were about to leave. I didn't have time to fully check it out, but she needs to let it sit until I can take a look and fix it. We had to take a moment to figure that out, delayed us a bit. But we're here now, Dre. It's all good." Rick assures him, placing a hand on his back to soothe his youthful irritation. Somehow he always seems to know how to handle these little moments with Andre, connecting with him in a way that often eludes me. Even with everything my son and I have endured together, it dawns on me in this moment that there are some things I'm simply ill equipped at handling, and that makes me appreciate Rick's presence even more.

"Ok..." He responds with just a hint of disbelief, but tamps down his juvenile irritation in favor of accepting Rick's proclamation that it is indeed all good. "Well, it's time. You guys ready?"

"I'll wait up in the stands for you, Michonne." Rick gestures with his thumb over his back towards the bleachers where the other fans and family members of the players eagerly await the start of the high school basketball game. Andre made the varsity team this year as the starting point guard, and for a sophomore it's a pretty big deal. As such, I never miss a game. Not one. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for his father. Yes, Mike lives in New York now, and that presents a unique issue for these kinds of things. But, he could make a weekend game here or there, if he wanted to. Mike is not the kind of man to miss out on doing anything that he wants to do. Especially if it's important to him. It is an uncomfortable truth that I know very well, and that Andre, having never been on the receiving end of it, is slowly coming to realize.

"No, Rick, it's cool, you can walk me out too. You're kinda like my second dad now right?" Andre proclaims, a little uncertain with his words. But in true Andre form, sticking to his decision, he pats Rick on the back, then gives him a hug. An unexpected hug, that coming from a gangly 15-year-old, who's already just as tall as he is, and seems overwhelmed by the sudden emotional turn of the evening, nearly topples Rick from his cowboy booted feet.

"Alright." Rick nods while Andre releases him from the hug.

Beaming at my guys, joy bursting from my heart while missing the third musketeer, Carl, I see that Rick's face is flushing over a scarlet red, and donning a smile so wide and bright, filled with pride, that he looks as though he might explode. It's a sweet moment, Andre extending what would initially seem to be such an inconsequential thing to Rick. But, it's actually a big deal.

Despite Andre encouraging me to give Rick a chance, there did seem to be the possibility for Andre and Rick to have a roadblock to forming their own friendship and bond. Mike. Andre loves his father fiercely, and regardless of whether or not he's ok with me dating Rick, I assumed he might be hesitant to fully welcome Rick into his world in such a short period of time. But everyday this young man surprises me and warms me over with pride as I see the maturity in him. The growth. He's moving past the scared boy who cried when his parents divorced, and is making an attempt to create space in his life for this man who has stepped in and made his mother immensely happy.

Not without merit on his own, Rick has done his part to foster a bond with Andre also, even past helping me deal with him with a firmer hand when needed. When I once again forgot to take Andre for a haircut, Rick volunteered and just took him. It's the little things like pulling him into the fold with him and Carl. Helping him with learning to drive, teaching him to shave, and most recently talking to him about how to treat a lady. To be careful with her heart, to make her feel as special as she makes him feel. Reciprocity. Not that Mike hasn't done any of these things, I'm certain he has to the extent that he can, but there is something to be said about the consistency of Rick's presence in our lives, serving as a model to his words of advice, that have allowed Andre to gift him with full on acceptance. How could I not love the three of them for extending themselves in this way for me?

Grabbing each of our hands, and leading us towards the hallway that we will enter on to the court from, Andre redirects the moment and takes charge. "Anyway, let's go. They'll announce us in alphabetical order, so they're gonna call me first."

"That was a tough game!"

"It was. Andre's jumper is coming along nicely. Hitting those threes!"

"Oh yeah, he's at the gym practicing at least three nights a week. Between that, Cyndie, and his studies he's keeping busy."

"Well he's coming along." Taking a brief pause, Rosita leans in closer and asks in a hushed voice, "So, I don't want to pry, but…your friend? The guy who came out for parents' night introductions with you and Andre?" she asks, tilting her head towards Rick who is standing by the gym door with her husband Gabriel. Cyndie is their daughter, and we've grown closer as friends since the kids started dating, but Mike and I have known them for years. It was Rosita and Gabriel who talked me into moving into their neighborhood after the divorce. In a conspiratorial whisper she mouths the words, "He's cute." Raising her eyebrows in appreciation and question.

"Rick. Yeah, he is." I laugh, uncertain as to what else to say, maybe even a little uncomfortable with the possible scrutiny of this new love affair by someone who knew Mike. Outside of Aaron, no one really knows about me and Rick. I haven't even told my parents yet. It's not because I'm ashamed of him, but it's really for the same reason I was hesitant to tell Aaron. I want to enjoy him. To enjoy this little happy world we have built around us and our boys, before the world comes knocking at our door, coloring our joy with questions, scrutiny, comparisons to the ones who came before us.

"Rick? I guess that explains why you haven't been available for our weekend shopping excursions and brunch huh? Cyndie told us you had a new friend. Good for you, chica."

"Thanks, he's…pretty amazing."

"And Andre had him come out with him for parents' night? That's big!"

"It is. They get along very well, and Mike isn't here, hasn't been to a game all season. I think Andre is kind of hurt about that. But Andre invited Rick tonight, and I suppose it was for this. It's just too bad Rick's son Carl, the one who who likes your other daughter, couldn't be here too."

"Oh yes, that Carl is a sweet kid. Is that how you guys met? Through the boys?"

"Kind of."

"Good for you. And hey, I get it, ya know. It's Mike's loss, Michonne. Of both you and Andre. You both deserve to have something good in your lives again." She shrugs, dismissing any issues she might have had with Rick's presence. "And you're simply glowing. Like you have this look about you now. Love looks good on you, and it's really nice to see you happy again. It's been a long time coming."

"Yeah, it has."

"You know Gabriel and I were worried that you didn't seem to be moving on, you know getting your mojo back after the divorce. Gabriel even thought about setting you up with his Gareth, but I had to shut that down cause that guy is creepy as hell. But, Rick? Yeah, he seems like a definite step in the right direction."

"He really is. I didn't think I could feel like this again after Mike, and my divorce broke me into so many pieces, but…it's kinda crazy how easy he's made falling in love with him. It's all very unexpected." I admit, thankful for my dark skin to hide what I'm sure would be a bashful blush coloring my face at my pronouncement of being in love. Looking over at Rick, seeing the smile on his face, I get a giddy sensation of sheer joy at the relaxed way he's interacting with Gabriel and a few other dads, fitting in like he's been here all along. In a blue jean button up, dark jeans, his ever present cowboy boots, hair trimmed and brushed back from his face, and a fresh shave, he's the epitome of handsome. He's all mine. And dare I admit it, if only to myself and Rosita, I do love him. I simply do.

Pulling my attention back into the conversation, Rosita asks, "What happened to the guy you said your parents tried to hook you up with?"

Giving it some thought I'm trying to come up with a delicate way to explain that Rick tongue fucked the very thought of Shane out of my mind. That's what happened to the guy my parents tried to hook me up with. But of course that is obviously too vulgar a way to put it to my friend, but it's the honest truth. The way Rick took charge at the wedding, then took me home and punished me with the nastiest, naughtiest sex I've ever had, literally removed any thought of a possible romantic future with Shane. How could I even consider him with Rick searing my lips with his scorching kisses? With his palms hungrily gliding across every inch of my skin, slapping and squeezing my ass in punishment for an innocent parting hug and kiss for Shane? With him laying claim to a part of my body that no man had ever touched before, not even my husband, as he entered me from behind. Fucking me with painstakingly slow and precise strikes, gifting me with an explosively new way to make love.

And after our date, one of the very best nights of my life, all I can think of is Rick. That's it. And so in the most succinct and truthful way I can, I form an answer to Rosita's question.

"Rick happened to him. I haven't spoken to him really since our one and only date."

"Well I think you chose wisely. Rick seems like a keeper."

"I certainly hope so, Rosita. I really do." I admit, catching Rick's attention across the hall, and the smile and flirty wink he throws my way.

"How's your current case going? You were just getting into it when we had brunch a few weeks ago. Is it as bad as you thought it would be?" Rosita redirects my attention back to her with her question.

Dampening the mood a bit, our conversation shifts to a subject that I have been trying with concerted effort to not think about when I'm with Rick. It's hitting a bit too close to home, and I'd rather not consider the negative implications it could have on our blossoming relationship. This thing between us is so new that I've been second guessing myself constantly, which is so unlike me. My shit is always together, especially when it comes to my work. But now, Rick has complicated things, my emotions, and I don't know if this tenuous, fledgling relationship between us could withstand the pressure of this case. I hope it will, but everyday, underneath the thrill of this new love, I have to wonder. Will Rick understand why I have to do what I have to do? Will he forgive me for bringing him in to this? All of these thoughts flutter through my head as I attempt to put together another brief but truthful answer for one of her questions.

"Uh, yeah, it's pretty bad, but I'm hoping after depositions go out this week, and those hearings are held, that we might be able to settle out of court. Otherwise it could get messy. Affect a lot of people."

"Oh that's rough. I'm sure you'll figure it all out. You're an excellent attorney."

"Thanks. I hope so too." I offer, my eyes on Rick again, my fingers nervously twisting in the sleeves of the red and black spirit wear hoodie I'm wearing with Andre's name and number emblazoned on the back.

Recognizing that there is so much more than just my own heart on the line here, I watch Andre bounce on his large feet, strolling down the hall towards Rick and dap him up, accepting a congratulatory pat on the back from him.

"You're kinda like my other dad now right?" The memory of Andre's words to Rick echo in my head as I watch them. Rick standing proudly next to Andre, as Andre excitedly introduces him to his teammates and his coach. Basking in his attention, and taking in all of the gratuitous compliments that Rick is heaping on him. In this moment, seeing the joy on each of their faces as they move so seamlessly together as a father and a son, I pray with everything in me that this time I can be enough to sustain this feeling, this dynamic. That nothing I have to do for this case, or any personal failures of my own, will ruin this for any of us. Not this time I pray. Never again.


"Shane! Hi." Opening my parents' front door, I am a little startled to find him standing there, his hands pushed down into the pockets of his wool coat.

"So, we meet again. Ya know I thought you certainly must have ascended back to the heavens from whence you came. You just disappeared." he smirks, a hint of sarcasm in his words.

"Uh, hi. Sorry. No, I'm still here. Just busy…preoccupied." I offer in weak apology. Not that I've been busy, but that I suppose I could have been more transparent about what caused it. But, perhaps given my hasty departure at the wedding, while Rick looked on from the doorway, was explanation enough? Did he realize what happened between Rick and I?

"Right. Your parents home?" he responds dryly, seemingly uncaring of the briefly uttered answer I provided.

"No. I've been calling and waiting on them for about an hour. I have no clue where they are actually."

"Ah. Well I just stopped by to bring this club back to your dad. He let me borrow it the other day at the driving range. I was out this way so I figured I would stop by."

"Oh. You are welcome to wait, if you want to come in?"

"Sure, I'll wait for a little bit if you don't mind." Looking down his nose at me, he focuses those seductive dark eyes on me, and I remember with stark clarity our last time together. Not just the way Rick surreptitiously swept me off my feet, but also the way that Shane tried to gift me a revealing piece of himself. In the warm hum of his deep voice, the sway of our bodies together, the kiss of his lips on my neck, and the firm grasp of his hold on my body. Shane may not be the man for me, and it's clear that the feeling between us doesn't compare to the dynamic electricity that always crackles between Rick and I, but there is something, and I do feel an initial inkling of shame at the feeling it stirs in me.

"No, I don't mind." I respond, shaking my head, dismissing any notion of he and I together, but recognizing that whatever it was, I think it's harmless now.

Following me into my parents' home, Shane removes his coat, revealing a well fitting, black V-neck sweater, that stretches over and hugs the plains of his wide chest. Instantly the scent of his cologne, the same scent from before, hits my nostrils. Damn, he smells good.

Taking a seat on the couch across from me in the living room, he drops his eyes to give my body, clad in a black wrap around dress, a head to toe sweep as I settle into my father's La-Z-Boy chair, tucking my legs underneath me.

"What are you doing tonight? You're a little dressed up to be just hanging out all alone at your parents' house on a Saturday night. You look like you should be going out or something."

"I was supposed to meet a friend for dinner, but it got cancelled. A work thing came up. So, I'm just here hanging out at my parents' house, waiting on them to return." I shrug my shoulders, disappointed that the date that Rick and I had planned for tonight got cancelled. He called right when I was about to pull up to his house, letting me know that he got tied up with something at work, and wouldn't be able to make our date tonight. I hate the idea of being alone tonight, as I've gotten used to being with him every weekend. After Andre's game last night, Andre went out with some team mates, and Rick and I headed back to my house for movies and snuggling. That has kind of turned into our thing, and I like the simplicity of it, taking time to just be in each other's presence. It's a part of what I enjoy about Rick. The uncomplicated way things seem to just fit, and fall right into place with him.

With his legs set wide apart, his heavy boots planted into the plush carpet, Shane is leaned forward with his elbows on his thighs as though he is now interested in everything I have to say. "Now what person is fool enough to cancel on you?"

"I don't think it was intentional, Shane. Work is work, can't help that."

"I can't imagine anything being more important than you. Even work."

"If you say so." He grins, leaning back into the cushions of the couch, with his arms spread wide, riding along the back of the cushions, his eyebrows raised in apparent disbelief.

"It's ok. I'll live. I was actually going to just head back home, but my car wouldn't start. I've been having an issue with it leaking oil, and I probably shouldn't have been driving it anyway. But, I did. Now I'm stranded until my dad can help me out."

"I can help you. What you need?"

"Oh no, I'm fine. Either my dad can take a look, or I will probably have it towed to a shop and get a rental in the morning."

"Guess you couldn't depend on your friend who stood you up, huh?"

"He didn't stand me up, he had work."

"Right. Have you eaten?"

"No, I was going to fix myself something. I'm starving actually."

"How about this. Since you're dressed up so nicely, why don't you let me take you to grab some dinner. Make up for the date you ditched me on."

"I didn't ditch you, Shane. I told you I wasn't feeling well."

"Listen, you don't have to apologize or explain to me. I understand."

"What do you understand?" I ask, honestly interested in his assessment of things between us.

"I understand that it must be difficult for you to trust someone again. To date after being married for so long. That's why I didn't want to pressure you into something you might not be ready for. That would be self-serving. What kind of guy would do that? I just want to get to know you, spend some time with you. Let you get to know me with no strings attached. I thought we could both enjoy each other without all of the pain and drama of relationships, and all of those…emotional entanglements."

"Shane-"

"I get it, Michonne. I know why you left me that night. Why you haven't returned a call since." Tilting his head to the side, just a bit. Drinking me in, he's got me in his sights, and I don't know why but I have that familiar feeling with him again. Like he's the wolf, and I'm his prey.

On a hard swallow I attempt to gather myself to say the right words to more truthfully explain. I feel like I owe him that at least. "I-I met someone."

"Is that right?"

"And I'm just trying to see where it goes."

"Seems like this is the season for everyone to move on and find someone."

"Why do you say that?"

"No reason really. I just saw a friend of mine who went through a bad divorce, with a new someone as well. I think you know him, Rick Grimes?"

"Rick Grimes?"

"Yeah, remember him? Parents live next door to yours?"

"Yeah…"

"Saw him in the driveway of Jessie Anderson's house about a half hour ago. Kissing her. She lives in my neighborhood. Nice lady, had an abusive dick for a husband, but Rick is a good guy, and she's his type so I'd say it's a good match. He'll take good care of her."

"Kissing Jessie? You think they're together?" I stutter, then try to heave down a heavy gulp of air. Something to halt the weighty sensation of asphyxiation pressing down on my chest, crushing my lungs. My eyes bounce over his face, anxiously awaiting his answer.

"Well I assume they're together since they were kissing outside of her house at 9 o'clock on a Saturday night, and from the way they were dancing and cuddled up together at the wedding. So…" Raising his eyebrows in a suggestive manner, Shane's lips hold a cruel, smug leer, and I can tell it's because he can see how hard this bit of information is striking a blow against me. He's viciously hit his target, because right now all I can see is red. Red everywhere. My vision is clouded by the crimson covered thoughts raging in my brain, like blood spewing from my wounded heart. Rick is at Jessie's house? He kissed her? What happened to work? He cancelled on me to be with her?

"How do you know she's his type?" I eek out, a glutton for punishment, I need to hear everything that Shane knows. Everything.

"She's kind of like his ex, Lori. Needy. I went to high school with him, remember? Rick likes those down home, country girls. Always has, always will."

"Oh." Looking down at my hands, I'm trying to hold back the tears that bubble, hot and angry, swelling behind my eyelids. But, I've been here before, at the intersection of disappointment and disgust. Anger and sorrow. We're old friends, so I know exactly how to repress these dangerous emotions. How to keep it together behind a mask of cool and fake decorum. All the while falling apart inside. My once fledgling feelings of love for Rick now crumbling like decayed autumn leaves.

"Anyway, what do you say to dinner? I'm hungry, you're hungry. Just two lonely friends enjoying a meal and each other's company. We can do that right? Shane and Michonne part two."

"Part two, huh?" Pulling my lips inside of my mouth, I press them down between my teeth, tamping down the urge to scream.

"I'm sure your friend who cancelled on you would hate the idea of you being hungry and alone tonight." Rising from the couch, Shane reaches out and stretches his hand to me. A lifeline from the anguish of realizing I've been a fool again. Instantly I'm reminded of imagery of the devil, offering you what you think you want with one hand, while hiding the other one full of deception behind his back. I'm no fool, and I can tell that Shane knows. He knows about me and Rick, and he knows what he just told me is not as innocent as he may have tried to make it seem. No. Shane is not innocent at all, but the anger rising in my veins at Rick's own brand of deception animates me to take Shane's offered hand, and allow him to help me to my feet.

"Ok, Mr. Walsh. Where are you taking me?" Blinking away my tears, I give him a wry smile, attempting to muster the nerve to move past the bomb he just dropped and salvage some of my dignity.

"Where do you want to go, pretty lady?" He asks, a self-satisfied smile lifting his lips and lighting up his handsome, dark features.

"Wherever you want to take me."

"Don't tempt me." He licks his lips, then raises my hand to kiss my knuckles. "You're not ready for that yet. Maybe someday, but tonight it's late and the King County Diner is the only thing still open, we can go there. Grab a bite and then see where the night takes us. You in?"

"I'm in."


"You've never had chittlins? Woman, what the hell?"

"Oh my god my mother would rather die than even have them in her house. My father's mother used to make them for Thanksgiving and Christmas when I was little, before she died. And my mother would always like hide them away from the rest of the food when she set the table. So my dad would have to get a secret plate of them that he ate in the kitchen. They smelled so awful, and looked disgusting! Yuck!"

"Nah, you don't even know what you're missing." Shane shakes his head and barks out a peal of laughter that fills the entirety of his car. Sitting in my parents' driveway, we've been talking and laughing like this for the past half hour. Taking me to the little diner in town, we enjoyed a meal consisting of greasy cheeseburgers, fries, milkshakes, and good conversation. So good that he has successfully distracted me from whatever the hell is going on with Rick, and I've only thought of his odd absence a few times during our little date. It honestly makes me wonder how differently things would be if Rick hadn't followed me into the hallway at that wedding. Could I have just as easily fallen in love with Shane instead of Rick? Would I be at this heartbroken place yet again if I had taken that path?

"How the heck did a country boy from King County taste chittlins anyway?"

"I went to the University of Alabama, and my first year there I met this black girl in my calculus class. Tanisha. She was from Huntsville, had the cutest little Alabama accent, little small thing. Tiny, barely five feet tall. Tough though, and smart. Smartest girl I ever knew. Anyway, I think she took one look at my dumb ass and took pity on me. She tutored me in calc, then in statistics, then in chemistry. I was just in awe of her, and followed her from class to class. I was a political science major, I didn't need to take chemistry. But I liked her. And for some strange reason she liked me. Took me home with her once to introduce me to her family, who were not pleased to see my white ass with their daughter. But, before they sent me away they did feed me some chittlins, and I gotta tell you they were good as hell! Made that awful little trip worth it." Reciting the memory, Shane's voice sounds almost wistful as he recalls a time long gone.

"Why did you say it like that?"

"Say what like what?" He mumbles around the piece of chewing gum in his mouth, turning to me as though he got lost and just remembered I was still here.

"That she took pity on you? You're a nice guy, handsome, charismatic. I'm sure lots of girls like you."

"What about you? Do you like me, Michonne?" Blinking at me in the darkness of his car, he fixes me in his sights. I can barely make out his long lashes sweeping over his dark eyes. Half of his face is cast in a beam of light filtering in through the car window. Stock still, serious, he's calm as he awaits my answer.

"I do." It's the truth. Regardless of whatever is going on with me and Rick, I won't lie to Shane. There's simply no need. I do like him. And a small part of me would like to explore what that means, but…

"Why you give me such a hard time then?"

"I don't know, I just... I have to be smart this time, Shane. My husband really did a doozy on me. I'm just trying to not allow it to happen again is all. At least I did try."

"He ever hit you? Your ex?" Grit rasps his deep voice, as his eyes soften and warm, brimming with sympathy as he probably assumes the worst. Given his background in law enforcement I don't blame him.

"No! No. But you know emotional abuse and neglect can be just as bad sometimes." I blow out a breath, not wanting to rehash my miserable history with men. Instead I send the conversation back to Shane, focusing on him. "What happened to your girlfriend? To Tanisha?"

"She died in a car accident our senior year. Drunk driver hit her car. She died immediately, at the scene."

"I'm so sorry. You loved her?"

"I did. And she loved me. She was going to be a doctor and I was going to be a lawyer. We were going to be a flip flopped Cosby Show, despite the fact that her family hated my lily white guts. She chose me, and I loved that girl more than my own life. I finally had love that was all mine. Meant for me. After graduation I came back here, worked as a deputy for awhile, fucked around. Then my parents suggested I go ahead to UGA for law school, try to get back on track. Now I'm back, trying to do just that. Not sure I'm doing too much better than before though to be honest. What do you think? How am I doing?"

"I think you're doing just fine, Shane."

"How am I doing with you? Change your mind about me yet?"

"Shane, I have been made a fool of enough for a lifetime, I'm just like you. I'm trying to get my life back on track too. We're in the same place, you and I. We want the same things I think." Inching my hand across the front seat to his that rests in his lap, I place my hand over his and rub my fingers against his hard knuckles. "I never thought anything bad about you, I just met someone who made me think things could be different for me. But…I was maybe wrong about that too I guess. And now, I'm just…a mess!" The cathartic proclamation of how things really are for me now, humbles my spirit, and breaks my heart at the same time. Releasing and exasperated breath, a few tears fall from my eyes, and I'm instantly ashamed of the rush of emotions so blatantly making themselves known in front of him. Wiping at my eyes with my fingers, I give up and just drop my face into my upturned palm.

"Hey, you don't have to hide your tears from me, Michonne. We all fuck up." Turning his hand upwards to take a hold of my hand that was resting on his, he takes a tight hold of it, squeezing it in quiet assurance.

"This is so stupid. I'm too old for this shit. I'm just so emotional lately. I'm a mess right now, sorry."

"Listen, I'm a mess too. Hell about a little while ago I really fucked up, lost my best friend over a woman. Stupid shit. But crying, it won't fix it for us. Me and you, we're the same, we're tough. We're survivors. Even through the ups and downs, the wins and the losses, we're gonna be ok. I promise you that. Ok?"

"Yeah, ok. I just want something to be good, to be right for once…and to stay that way!" I grumble through my tears, my emotions tumbling from my lips in a confession to this man. This…friend?

"I wanna get it right this time too, Michonne. You feel right. I don't know why, but there is something about you that feels so good, and easy, and right. And I know you have your heart set on someone else right now-"

"I don't even think that's going to be a thing anymore." I drop my eyes to my phone in my lap, noting that I have no calls or texts from Rick. Nothing. Before Shane and I left my parents' house I tried to call him again, and it went straight to his voicemail. I even sent him a quick text to see if he would respond. That was nearly three hours ago, and still nothing.

"Whatever the case may be, I'm here for you. For…whatever. Whenever. No pressure, baby. I want to forget all of the bullshit we've both been through. Make you feel good."

Leaning across the seat towards me, Shane caresses his thumb across the fullness of my bottom lip, following his own movements with his eyes. Lowering his hand, he tilts my chin up, then dips his head to meet my lips with his own with the tiniest brush of a kiss. So soft and quick, it's like a dream, as though I imagined the feeling of the slight press. Then he does it again, this time allowing his lips to linger on mine for a moment longer, sipping at the pants of my unsteady breaths, nervous at the feeling of these foreign lips on mine.

His kiss is nothing like the fiery ravishment of Rick's kisses, which are always so dominating and powerful, erotic, setting my body ablaze with lust, desire. No. Shane's kiss is whisper soft, timid almost, as though I would punish him for even daring to come so close. Or push him away. But I don't. His touch, his kiss is the reassurance and comfort that I need in this moment, when my fragile heart feels weighed down with so much despair. It drives away the familiar depressed feeling of failure that was creeping through my veins, replacing the fleeting joy that had been a constant high just a few brief hours ago. I cling to the tender sweetness of this moment. I regret nothing.

"Shane…"

"Michonne, don't say it. Don't…"

"Thank you. I was just going to say thank you. I needed this. You know Rick is um…"

Gritting his teeth, a grimace changes his handsome face, and he grinds out, "I don't want to talk about him. He always gets what he wants, you know that? His ex-wife was my girlfriend first, back in high school. Then everything after. And now you. But, right now, Michonne… My sweet lady, right now you belong to me. If only for the briefest of moments. Thank you."

And that confirms it. Just like I thought. He knows about me and Rick. Is that why he came to my parents' house tonight? Did he lie about Rick being with Jessie, and kissing her? I should be angry, and maybe deep down I am, but I'm also intrigued. And confused. But maybe so is he. Regardless of his misdeeds, it seems that none of us are innocent on this night.

Possibly realizing that I'm putting some things together, he quickly retreats from me, then calmly exits the car. Heading around to my side, he opens my door for me, and takes my hand in his, then walks me to my parents' front door. It's late, and the chill in the air captures his hurried breaths and turns them into puffs of smoke that waft and die in the space between us.

Catching Shane off guard I lean my body into his, and hug him. A firm embrace that I hope conveys the thankfulness that no words can truly communicate. I did have a good time with him tonight. It was better than spending it alone. Completing the hug, he wraps his arms around me as well, holding me close, warming me with the heat of his body.

Dropping a kiss to the top of my head, he whispers again, "Thank you." Releasing me, he turns and heads back to his car without another word.

Watching him depart, his car leaving plumes of smoke in its wake, my phone finally vibrates in my pocket. At this point I don't even care, and instead of rushing to answer it as I have so many times before, I ignore it, and walk into my parents' house.

That night, instead of wallowing in thoughts of what Rick was doing with Jessie at her house, realizing that I may have inadvertently trusted my heart to the wrong person…again, my fingers trace the lines of my lips where the ghost of Shane's kiss is still powdery soft.

Chapter 7 by Fik Freak

Chapter 7 – Rick


"Michonne, hey sweetheart, good morning." I yawn, stretching my tired limbs as I sit up on the side of the bed.


"Good morning, Rick."


"I tried to call you last night, you must have been sleep?"


"No, I was awake. I wasn't really in the mood to talk at the time, it was late."


"Oh? Ok… I'm uh, I'm really sorry we missed our date. I got a last minute call last night, and then my phone died. It was a long night."


"No worries, work is work. And I'm sorry to hear that it was such a rough night. Everything ok?"


"Yeah, just work stuff."


"Oh. Anything you want to share?"


"Nah, it's not worth it. I missed seeing you last night. I'm so used to having you with me every weekend, it was odd sleeping alone."


"Yep. Odd. I agree." She lightly chuckles in between her brief answers, and the sound of her soft laughter soothes any errant irritation remaining from my memories from last night.


"I need to see you. Do you wanna come over? I'll make you dinner, make up for last night?"


"Sure. I would like that."


"Great. And what's this I heard on my voicemail about your car not starting? You didn't take it to the shop yesterday morning like I suggested?"


"No, I should have but the afternoon got away from me, and I thought I could drive it through the weekend. I was wrong. My dad just took me to take it to his mechanic and to get a rental."


"Ok, good. Hopefully the damage isn't too bad, but it could have messed up your motor."


Sounding tired despite the early morning hour, she blows out a weary breath. "Good riddance then. Mike bought me that truck years ago, it might be nice to start fresh with a new car."


"I agree. If that's what you want to do, I can go with you to look for a new one. I think it's a good idea."


"Yep."


"Hey, you ok? You sound tired."


"I am, but I want to see you too. Give me about an hour or so, then I'll be over."


"I can't wait. See you soon."


"Bye, Rick." Despite her laughter, there is something off about Michonne's voice in that call. I can hear it. She must really be upset with me about having to cancel last night. Shit.


Placing my phone on the night stand, I drop back on to the bed and rub the back of my thumb over my tired, swollen eye, down my bruised cheek, over the bridge of my nose trying to collect my thoughts and process the last 24 hours. Honestly I don't even know where to begin. Do I go back to when I answered Jessie's call when I probably should have just ignored it? Do I replay the fight I had with her ex-husband? Or do I begin where it all went seriously wrong and I let Jessie kiss me?


There is no good place to start. It's all bad, and the calm, soft cadence in Michonne's voice, the fact that she seems so relaxed, stoic, maybe even withdrawn, creates a twisting cramp in my belly that nearly nauseates me with guilt. It's like she knows. How could she know? The thought is irrational, I know, but… I'm not without my faults, I am a man. A man that has chosen a profession to protect and serve, and for the first time in my life, I wish that I had ignored my instincts to fulfill this mandate. Closing my eyes, I cringe at the memory of what led me here.


When Jessie called my cell last night, right when I was about to head home, something told me to simply let it go to voicemail. I had done so many times before, as she seems to not have completely gotten the hint that I'm not interested. To some degree I blame myself because I never explicitly said the words to her, but I had hoped that by not responding favorably to her advances that she understood. But there was something, maybe my sheriff's intuition, that led me to answering her call this time. Thank God I did.


At first I didn't hear anything when I answered. She didn't say anything. Mere seconds trickled on with nothing but deafening silence, and then I heard it. A child's voice in the background yelling for someone to stop. A woman's scream. A sickening thud. A crash. Then nothing. More silence. The hairs on my arm stood straight up, and before I knew it I was in my truck speeding across town, calling in back up to her house.


When I got there I found her front door wide open, her youngest son on the porch, curled into a ball on the porch swing, crying, tears staining the front of his sweatshirt. Rocking back and forth, seemingly unaware of my presence. Carefully, I slowly walked inside, I called Jessie's name and was instantly met with a sight that I won't soon forget. In a corner, with her ex-husband standing over her, pacing back and forth, mumbling to himself, was a sobbing Jessie, holding her oldest son, moaning, wailing like a wounded animal, close to her.


I slowly approached her ex from the back, and with my gun held high, requested that he raise his hands. From there it was a blur as he whirled on me, and attempted to tackle me to the ground. Catching him around his neck I was able to absorb the blow and remain on my feet, but the force of him rushing me catapulted us both back into the far wall. A scuffle ensued, and after a round of blows to his face and mine, I was able to subdue him, and get him in cuffs.


Shortly after, backup and a squad arrived to tend to Jessie and her children, her oldest with a broken, and dislocated arm, wrenched, twisted at a sickening angle that left the limb limp and lifeless at his side. I needed a moment. To think. To process it all.


Jessie and her sons looked upon me with such gratefulness, appreciation, as though I had done something truly heroic. Been a real savior. The mortifying shock and distress of their situation aside, they found thankfulness for me, for what I had done. What any person should have done, but many probably have not.


Recognizing some of the same trauma I have witnessed in the dark brown eyes of Michonne and Andre, echoed in the haunting void of Jessie's, stuns me. Stills me where I stand. And in that moment, with the ambulance and police back up now gone, I feel that surge of protectiveness rushing through me again. The need to safeguard those who are vulnerable. Like Jessie. Like Michonne.


Hearing Jessie try to ramble out over her busted, bloodied lip, false reassurance to her oldest son that his arm would be fine as she got him situated in the ambulance, promising to meet him at the hospital, was incomprehensible. Watching her cradle her youngest son, a boy of probably 10 years old, in her arms like he was a baby, attempting to soothe him out of his catatonic state, nearly broke me. I had seen this type of thing before. I'd pulled Ed Peletier off of his wife after yet another call from a neighbor who heard him attacking her. But for some reason, this time, the trauma felt familiar, relatable.


The cool, practiced way that Jessie ignored her own pain, to see after her sons, reminded me of my lady. Of my Michonne. How he always puts Andre first, never allowing herself a moment of fragility. It froze me with immobilizing anger, prevented me from moving on with completing my paperwork for the incident. From offering sincere guidance on how to move on, and leaving, ending my participation in this tragedy while I could. It's what I needed to do. It's what I should have done. But I kept hearing my sweetheart's voice, seeing the ghost of her past, an eerie specter shading her beautiful face, divulging to me the ugliness of everything on the night of our concert date. Everything. While laying in my arms, she recounted how her husband would speak to her. Tell her she was inadequate. Relay mean jokes or comments his family would say about her, then end it dismissively with a flip 'just kidding'. Tell her she was too sensitive. Questioning why she couldn't do even the basics of having a baby right. Even teenagers could do that. Slowly, steadily eroding her confidence, often paralyzing her in self-doubt, shame.


Clear as day I can see my lady, I don't see Jessie. I don't hear Jessie. I see Michonne. I hear Michonne.


So when out of nowhere, Jessie raises her hands to my face, and pulls me down to her, thanking me for saving her and her son when she was so unsure that I would even answer, let alone come, I didn't move when I should have. I didn't retreat soon enough. No, I allowed her to kiss me on the lips.


It wasn't sudden. Her movements were paced, as though she had planned for this moment her whole life. Lowering her hands, and twisting her slender fingers in my shirt, she locked eyes with me, and with every bit of hope she could muster she spoke from her heart.


"Rick, thanks for being here. For saving me and my boys. No man has ever done that for us. In this house a man, a father, a husband, is a person to be feared. But not you. You showed me tonight that there is something else, there are different kinds of men out there. Right here. Thank you for caring enough to save me, Rick."


Watching her lips, and basking in the heroic glow that covered me from her thankful words, she eased up on her feet, and raised her fingers to the fresh bruises on my face. Skimming them along the painful red swelling, her eyes never left my own. And I can only recall that the feeling in that moment paralyzed me, prevented me from stopping what I could see was coming a mile away.


"You took a beating for me. He hurt you, and you protected me… Let me thank you, properly."


And she did. She kissed me tentatively at first, her lips only pecking at my own. Then as though encouraged by my apparent willingness to participate, or at least to not object, she pressed harder, easing her small body into mine. It wasn't until she began to prod at the seam of my lips with her tongue that I snapped out of my daze and pushed away from her.


"No. I just…I just did my job, Jessie. That's all. I just did my job." 


I can see it all happening in my mind's eye with so much clarity, as though my true self hovered above, watching, passive. While I may not have actively participated, I'm guilty. I allowed her to kiss me. Jumping in my truck I drove off, mad at myself, angry, disgusted with how I had failed Michonne. With how this would certainly hurt her, even when I had promised to never do so. Was I any better than her ex? Had I not taken her trust and abused it just the same? Gotdamn it!


When I arrived at home, and plugged in my phone, realizing that it was dead, I saw her text messages…


Michonne: Rick, hey, checking to see how your work thing is going? Have you eaten? Would you like me to bring you some dinner to hold you over?


I heard her voicemail…


"I hate to bother you, I know you're working. I just…I need to hear your voice is all. Call me back?"


What have I done?


In shame, at this point, all I can do is turn away from my memories of last night, and hope to God that I haven't done irreparable damage to my relationship with Michonne.


But in the back of my mind, the faintest of voices poses the questions… How can I keep this from her? Would she ever forgive me if I told her?


Not wanting to give it more energy, feeling the guilt mounting, threatening to further dampen my mood, I launch my tired body from the bed, reach for my glasses in lieu of my regular contacts, eager to get this day started, and see my girl. To move on.




"I love this movie. The guy with the notecards was so cute. I would have picked him instead of the guy she married."


"Wasn't he kind of creepy though? With the wedding video of only her, and the stalking at her house? That would never work in real life. That's the kind of guy I send one of my deputies to arrest for lurking in the bushes."


"I thought he was a romantic fool in love. He told her that he thought she was perfect. I would have run off and married him instead." Wistfully her voice drops off at the end.


Arriving a few hours ago, wrapped up in her wool coat, and scarf, the frost from the cold day covering her warm body, Michonne has been snuggled with me for the majority of the day. Andre left yesterday morning, and is due back tomorrow from a visit to New York to see his dad, and Carl is spending the weekend camping with Lori's sister's family. Meaning we have had this whole day to ourselves. I made a big breakfast, all of her favorites, the stuff she won't usually eat, but lately devours in large amounts. French toast, sausage, scrambled cheese eggs, coffee. I made it all just the way she likes it. I even ran to the store to make sure I had the confectioner's sugar for her French toast. I wanted everything to be just right for her, and delighted in the way she devoured it.


Even though she's thankful as always, surprised at my thoughtfulness as usual, there is something in the pensive thoughtfulness of how she's communicating with me in brief, measured sentences. There is a reverent, tentativeness in her touch. Perhaps it's because of the frightened startle in her frantic questions around the damage done to my face. The bruises, and scrapes that I waved off as a part of the work thing from last night.


On the other hand, I can't keep myself off of her, urging her to get rid of her layers of cozy sweaters, and jeans in favor of just one of my shirts, swallowing the curves of her lean form behind the loose hanging plaid material. My lips keep finding pieces, parts of her skin to kiss. Her rounded, cherubic cheeks. The hollow at the base of her swanlike throat. I need to connect with her. Subconsciously I'm confessing, asking for forgiveness for something I have yet to find the courage to declare.


Even now, as I lay with my head cradled in her lap, I'm soaking up the soft warmth of her naked thighs against my face, my legs stretched out along the length of the couch. The delicate scratch of her fingers feathering through my hair. I simply can't do it…I need to do it. I have to tell her. How? I can't. I'm a coward. I press my lips tightly together to keep it from falling out. Instead I latch on to the playful sentiments she expresses about the movie we're watching.


"Oh yeah? Is that all it takes to get you down the aisle? Let me get a pen and some paper together, hold that thought." I pretend to raise up from the couch, but she grabs my arm to hold me back.


"Rick! I'm just saying, it was romantic. I think if he had come with those cards before she got married, she would have picked him for sure. I would have."


"I might have to hold you to that."


"Hold me to what?"


"Saying yes if I ask you to marry me with some note cards."


"Very funny."


"I'm not trying to be. I'm serious."


"Sheriff?"


Turning my head to make eye contact with her, pushing my glasses up on my face, I take in the breathtaking beauty of her lips curving in question. Her brows angling in confusion.


"When I was married, I was miserable for a long time, suffering in silence. I smiled and went about my business, doing the same thing everyday. Grinning and bearing it I guess you could say. I put on a front to protect myself from the reality of what my life had become, because I felt like I got what I deserved. I wasn't happy, but I was married, I had my son, my career. It was better than what some people had. I played a role, Michonne, to keep people, to keep myself from seeing the truth. I was a coward who was afraid of starting over, and it took my wife cheating on me with a guy who used to be a friend to set me free. Meeting you, being with you, it has opened me to the possibility of a new life, of being happy, and I don't want to lose that. We have a chance to re-do things, to get it right this time, together."


Something about the way she responds to the movie we're watching, in the contemplative, dreamy way she seems to find happiness in the prospect of the movie couple's theatrical romance, urges me to lay my thoughts out there. They aren't new to me. I've been thinking of marrying her almost since I met her. How could I not? And maybe it's not just her hopeful response to the movie, maybe it's also guilt pushing me…egging me on to lock down this happiness…to move on and gain some secret absolution for my indiscretion.


"Rick, what are you saying?"


"I'm saying that my ex Lori and I were together for a long time before we got married, I thought I knew her, thought I knew what I was getting with her. I didn't. I had no clue. I don't feel that way with you, not at all. I feel like I've known you all my life. Like a piece of my heart has been dormant, just waiting for you to come and unlock it, like it has always belonged to you anyway. So…I wonder if I should try something new. I'm almost 40, Michonne. I don't want to wait around while life passes me by, I don't want to hide from love and happiness any longer."


"You can't be saying what I think you're saying, Rick." Shaking her head, not dismissively, but in disbelief, her eyes scan my face for the truth of my words.


"I'm saying to think about it, Michonne."


"This isn't a movie, Rick. It's not that easy."


"Isn't it? I don't have note cards, but to me, you are perfect. Perfect for me."


"I'm not perfect, Rick. So far from it." A frown turns down her lovely lips, and I catch a shiver at the lack of warmth now found there, in her denying my assessment of her perfection.


"To me you are."


"When you say stuff like that, you have no idea how badly I want to believe you. I need to believe you. I do. I-" She hesitates. She doesn't continue to speak, she only stares at me, I guess trying to figure out how to proceed.


But she's thinking about what I've said, I can tell, the wheels are turning in that pretty head of hers, lighting a twinkle in the depth of her coffee colored eyes. And I recognize that this is hard for her to process. My Michonne may come off as tough and strong all the time, so put together, but I remember what she has told me. I recognize the haunting fragility easing out of her again, rearing its ugly head. I saw it in Jessie last night.


It's in the way she seems slow to believe in my love for her, in the goodness of what's between us. While more easily clinging to negative ideas about our relationship, or our place in each others' lives. So willing to believe the worst of herself. Not only does it fill me with visceral rage, it also makes me want to protect her with my life. To give her the love and affection that she has missed out on while wasting away as that other man's wife. It's a part of what's driving me now. To fix it. To wipe away what he's done. To wipe away what I've done.


She's not the only one I want to cloister away, to protect. Andre suffers as well. With the way he is careful with men around his mother, monitoring, skeptical. What Michonne often characterizes as teenage angst is sometimes him looking for a paternal connection, even if it's as the result of his sometimes snarky comments. I recognized it early on. The way his eyes were always watchful of the way Carl and I interact, lingering with a hint of quiet need for the same kind of connection. It's one of the reasons I try so hard with him. To be firm when needed, but to be loving and accessible more often than not. Overall, I know he supports my relationship with his mother, and when he called me his second dad, I felt my heart bursting with the fullness of such a vulnerable admission from someone so young. And even that must be hard for him. To reconcile his budding friendship with me, my love for his mother, and balance that against his loving devotion to his father. Even when he was the witness to the damage his father did to his mother, I realize that he's still too young to place all of that somewhere, to figure it all out. To make heads or tails of mean words couched behind a father's smile.


Considering all of this I realize that I have to tell her about Jessie. If we're ever going to be able to build, to have a future together, we have to be honest. I have to tell her. Rolling away from her lap, I crouch in front of her, a subconscious kneel to beg forgiveness. Taking a hold of her fingers that rest easily across her thighs, I proceed.


"Michonne, baby, it's me who isn't perfect. I've done something that I hope you can forgive me for."


"We've all done things, Rick. None of us are innocent."


"Perhaps. But I can only speak for myself, and I hope that you will listen to me, really listen to what I'm saying before you respond."


"Ok." Hesitantly she nods, acquiescing to my request to listen.


"Last night when I cancelled our date, I did so to respond to a domestic violence call at Jessie Anderson's house. Do you remember her?"


"The blonde?" She narrows her eyes on me, obviously remembering her. Of course she does.


"Yeah, the blonde. Her ex-husband was at her house. He had assaulted her, and assaulted their oldest son when he tried to step in and save his mother."


"I'm sorry she had that happen to her. Is she ok?" Her voice softens in response.


"She will be I think. But that's not what I need to tell you. When uh, I was about to leave, wrapping things up, she kissed me. And I… I uh… I didn't pull away immediately like I should have. I allowed it. Longer than I should have."


"How did that make you feel, Rick? Kissing her?" tilting her head, she keeps me in her sights. Focused. Boring into me as though she can detect the truth even without my words.


"Wrong. Upset. But, I guess in that moment, while she was thanking me, I got lost in feeling heroic. Like I had actually protected and saved someone in a way that I hadn't been able to for…someone else."


"Someone else like who, Rick?" Michonne asks, tears slowly building in her warm, chocolate eyes.


"For you. It's not an excuse, it doesn't make what I've done right. But, I remembered your words, Michonne. What you told me about him."


"Rick, he never hit me." She dismisses with a wave of her hand, as though physical abuse is all that matters. "And, it's over now. I just want to be whole again. To not feel like I let him chip away bits and pieces of me forever. Mike damaged my love and confidence, carelessly threw it away, stomped all over it to make himself feel better. I know this, I know it! But, I'm not her. I'm no one's victim, Rick. Black women are allowed to be victims anyway…"


"I don't understand. What he did-" I swallow thickly, the words nearly choking me.


"Mike never hit me, Rick." She adamantly presses on, asserting her position. "Things weren't always…that way with us, it just got worse over time, as he got more frustrated with things. He was a good man once. He was a good father. We had love."


"Listen, I don't care about that piece of shit. He had the precious thing, a good woman, a great son. He threw that away. Fuck him! I care about you. And I'm telling you I messed up last night. I don't care if he never laid a hand on you. His words and his treatment hurt you, and I want to kill him. Last night when I was fighting with Jessie's husband, it was like I was fixing things for you. For Andre. Every time that son of a bitch calls, every time you mention his name. When Andre is with him like he is now. I want to kill him. I want to break his gotdamn jaw for every hurtful thing he ever said to you. For every time he didn't come home, didn't call you back, put his family over you, discounted you as a woman, made jokes at your expense. For every time he didn't love you the way you deserved, I want to put a bullet in his brain."


"It's ok, Rick. I'm ok now…at least I'm trying to be. And, you don't have to apologize for anything. I understand. I did something too."


"Doesn't matter." I grit out, closing my eyes at the easy forgiveness she's offering me, ready to return the favor. What could she have done?


"It does. Last night I went to dinner with Shane."


"You did what?" My eyes snap open, my breath escaping in quickening pants.


"Please let me explain." Raising her hands in a stopping motion, as if to halt my growing discontent, she continues. "I… He showed up to my parents' house, and he told me he saw you with her, kissing her. It hurt. It's like my brain short circuited or something. I know I'm stupid. I know."


"No you're not. Don't talk about yourself like that."


"I am stupid, Rick, because I let Shane create doubt in me about you. I thought he may have been deceiving me, but I was so upset that I didn't care. I was stupid and when he dropped me off he kissed me. I let him kiss me."


"Is that all he did? Kiss you?" The question knocks around in my chest, rumbles, then fires from my lips. If he did more…


"That's all I swear. I didn't stop him, though. I'm sorry. A part of me wanted to hurt you. To tank this thing the way I knew it would eventually anyway. I'm sorry."


"I don't know what to say right now. I just…"


"I'm sorry, Rick, I truly am. I understand if you want to call this off…I understand." Covering her face with her hands, soft sobs play out in the room, replacing the hum of the constant chatter from the TV. It's all I can hear, her cries. Her sadness. It dampens my anger like water on a fire, transforming the blazing extremity of my fury to a heated smolder.


Finding my words underneath my passionate temper, I wrap my hand around her neck and pull her to me. Dragging her hands from her face, I kiss away the tears raining over her lips. "Listen to me, we both did something we are not proud of. I'm angry with myself, with Shane, with you. But, I don't want this to ruin us…we can be stronger than this. You and me are meant to last forever. This isn't the end of us. I love you."


Stuttering through the hiccups and sadness that fuel her tears, Michonne confesses from her heart. "And I love you. I didn't want to tell you like this. I wanted it to be some grand gesture, but look what I've done. Maybe it should be the end of us because you deserve better than this. I know your ex cheated on you, Rick. I'm so sorry…"


"Me too. I'm sorry too. I never should have let Jessie kiss me either. It didn't mean anything to me. Did Shane's kiss mean something to you? Are you telling me that you feel something for him?" I ask, anxious at whatever her answer may mean for us moving forward.


"No, not really. I uh, there was a time when I thought maybe he and I could have worked out, but it's you, Rick. I love you. But in some way I think…I felt like I don't deserve to be happy, that maybe sabotaging things now would be better than losing you later. I don't really know, but I can say that I'm sorry I hurt you. I know I promised not to... I couldn't even get that right."


"Stop it. We are both going to make mistakes, I hurt you too, and I'm sorry. I'm not blameless here either. Let's not dwell on it. Let's move on, like last night never happened. Can we do that?" I plead, leaving my words in soft drafts on her lips. "Please?"


"I want to deserve you, Rick. I do."


"You deserve more than me."


"I'm trying… I'm going to try harder to believe in us, that we can move on."


"I want to, Michonne. I want our lives to be in sync from here on out, together, me and you. If that's something you would want?"


"Yeah. Yes, Rick, I want that, I do." Wiping at her eyes with the backs of her fingers, the wetness leaves a damp streak over the rounded apple of her cheeks.


Lifting my head, I kiss those streaks. I kiss her lips. I haven't forgotten what he did. What I did. I tell her it doesn't matter. It does. He touched her. He tricked her. He's tasted my lady, and I can't get it out of my head right now. Raising from my knees I rush my body into hers, and press against her mouth with my lips. The pillowy cushion of her lips greets me, her tongue eagerly licking out to meet my own. I sip from those lips that belong to me. I tangle her tongue around my own, greedily roaming the wet cavern of her mouth, seeking to erase any lingering trace of that bastard.


Laying her on her back, I settle myself between her legs, lifting her right leg to hook it high at the back of the couch. Reaching for the button on my jeans, my eagerness to unclasp them causes my fingers to fumble clumsily.


"Rick, hey, it's ok, baby. Here, let me do it." Brushing my fingers away, Michonne takes charge and easily unbuttons my jeans, and pulls down my zipper. Then pulls me down to her. "I know how to get you out of your pants, Sheriff."


Resting my weight on top of her, soaking up the heat of her body pinned beneath me, I take note of the playful smile now on her face, replacing the melancholy that previously deformed her beauty, and I break out into a wide grin of my own.


"Come here." Removing my glasses from my face, discarding them onto the coffee table, I lift her chin to kiss at her lips again. Dragging my hand lower, over her throat, her breasts, I toss open the unbuttoned halves of my plaid shirt that she's wearing. It dwarfs her tiny frame, and hangs easily over her pink panties. With it open it exposes her full breasts, and flat abdomen to my gaze. Lowering myself, I ease down her body, lacing her breasts, nipples, belly button, stomach and pelvis with a series of reverent, appreciative kisses.


I'm thankful that we could weather this storm together, come out on the other end intact. That the skittishness of her nature, and given both of our indiscretions, doesn't send her in a dizzying launch from my life. An event that would surely kill me. Wrapping my arm tightly around her waist, I use my teeth to pull her panties away from her skin, allowing my tongue to lick at the crease where her pussy meets her thighs. She begins to giggle and squirm on a false attempt to free herself from me. I'm not letting her go. Ever.


On a breathy moan, her fingers lovingly rub over my head, Michonne wonders aloud. "Haven't you had enough of my crazy yet, Rick?"


"Never. Now be still."


"Your tongue is tickling me! You know I'm so sensitive lately."


"I do." I briefly answer, moving in even closer on her, getting to where I really want my lips to rest. Dipping my nose into panties, her womanhood, I take in a deep inhale of the fragrance of her sex. Just as I'm about to lick my tongue out to taste, her phone rings. At first she seems intent on ignoring it, but with a brief glance over to it on the armrest next to her, the screen lighting up and displaying her caller, she reaches for it. With one hand on the back of my head, steadying my tunneling kisses, the other is sliding her thumb across the screen to answer.


"Hey, Peanut! Oh, hi Mike. You're calling from Andre's phone? Is everything ok?"


At just the sound of her ex's name leaving her lips the hopeful and playful sexiness of the mood is dampened, and I relax against her tense thighs. That split second for her to answer his call, dramatically changes everything. Michonne has withdrawn her hand from my hair as though she were busted doing something she shouldn't. Instead her fingers anxiously hover and flitter across her lips as she mumbles one word answers to his questions. Questions that I can hear asked in a smooth, bass heavy voice, clear as day through the speaker on her phone.


Yes, she will pick Andre up from the airport at 7. And no she didn't forget that he will be coming next weekend to take Andre and his friend to see the Falcons in the NFC Championship game for his birthday. Then there is the last question, the one where I can hear Mike ask who is Rick, and why did he accompany his son and ex-wife on parents' night at Andre's basketball game, is the one that really gets my attention, more so than the others. Of even more interest was Michonne's quiet response that Rick's her boyfriend. I'm proud of her, this is the first time she's mentioned me to him, and it's a big step. But her body language is tense. The way I'm attuned to her, I can feel my own body stiffen with tension as well, and I sit up on my knees to give her space to handle her business, absent of my hovering.


My movement registers with her, and she shakes her head no, silently telling me to stay. But it's ok. I gift her with an assuring smile, and pull her nervous fingers from her mouth to place a kiss to the corner of her lips. And there it is, a smile replaces her frown, emboldens her to deal with him.


Getting up from the couch, reaching for my glasses, I can now only hear the deep mumble of his voice asking her more questions, displeasure clear in his raised voice, that she answers with a easier tone than before. Pressing my glasses back on to my face, I'm walking into the kitchen to check on the meatloaf I'm making us for dinner, and take a deep breath to calm my racing thoughts. Shane. Mike. Michonne.


Every day my life seems more complete just knowing that Michonne's in it. It's not an odd feeling, or inorganic in any way. It's quite the contrary. We spend the majority of our time together alone, or with our boys, and everything seems to be falling in place. This new development with Shane, I hate it. I don't enjoy the idea of him toying with her, trying to get at me through her. I know exactly what this is, and I'm going to put a stop to it.


Right now though, today, it's not just Shane I need to deal with, it's also her ex. I despise weak men, that prey on others, the way he traumatized her. People so easily dismiss the effects of emotional abuse. But I have seen the damage it can do. I see it in the men and women who come in asking for protective orders against spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, parents.


Dropping the door to the oven, I take note that the meatloaf is not yet done, then dig into the refrigerator to find a beer. I need something to cool my simmering temper. I can feel it scampering just under my skin, itching to do something. I've been paying attention to Michonne, and like I told her before, I see her. She's a woman who is putting herself and her life back together, her words of love strengthen me. Embolden me to set things right for me and for her, for our future. I will deal with Shane and with Mike.


Sipping down the cool flavor of the hops from the beer, allowing it to put out the flames of the discontent flourishing in my belly the longer she stays on the phone with him, I'm a little startled out of my thoughts by the sound of the doorbell. I can see from my peripheral vision that Michonne's head turns my way, her eyes bouncing in question between me and the front door.


On a reassuring smile, not really wanting to invite her to the irritation probably showcased on my face, I nod her way, and walk steadily to the door. Without even bothering to check who it is first, I pull open the door and find my ex wife, Lori, standing on my step.


"Lori, what are you doing here?"


"Hi to you too, Rick." She dryly offers in response.


"Sorry, I just… Carl is with your sister, so I'm not sure why you're here." I shake my head in disbelief. Her disruptive timing, like Mike's, is impeccable.


"Yes, Rick, I know that. Carl called and said he left his backpack for school tomorrow over here. I'm just here to pick it up if I can." Eying my naked torso, leading to the opening of my jeans and the display of my boxers peeking over the edge, Lori gives me a slow up and down. I'm instantly reminded of my appearance, and quickly reach to button back up. "So, can I come in? It's cold out here."


"Oh yeah, sorry. Let me look in his room for his bag."


"Ok. By the way, who do you know who drives a fancy Mercedes?"


Somehow in the melee of Lori showing up unexpectedly at my door, her protruding pregnant belly conspicuous underneath her wool coat, and her eyes casually traveling the length of my body, then settling on my eyes, I forgot that Michonne was not fully dressed either. As I'm closing the door behind Lori, Michonne comes around the wall separating the living room and the foyer, my shirt hanging on to her lithe frame by just a button.


"Rick, who's at the door?" Michonne asks, her voice trailing off as she catches the sight of Lori and I standing together.


"Uh, it's Lori."


"Oh?"


For an awkward moment there is nothing but a series of questioning stares being levied around the room. From Lori and Michonne to me, and me back to Michonne. Michonne, my beautiful baby, who doesn't realize how effortlessly sexy she looks right now in my shirt, and a pair of my socks pulled up high on her legs, stopping just at her knees. Even with my ex in the room, and the odd vibe popping off between the three of us, my eyes still always find Michonne.


"So, who's your friend, Rick?" Lori nods her head towards Michonne, who is standing to my right.


"This is Michonne. My girlfriend. She's Andre's mother. Uh, the kid that Carl is going to the Falcons game with next week."


"Oh. Oh! Ok! Hi, nice to meet you. I'm Carl's mother Lori, Rick's wife, uh ex-wife. Nice to meet you." Lori offers her hand to Michonne, with a smile, though it doesn't meet her eyes that bounce from Michonne's state of undress to my own.


"Hello, Lori. Nice to meet you as well" she responds, her eyes casually falling, softening on the bump under Lori's coat.


"Carl talks about you and Andre all the time. He really likes you guys."


"He's a sweetheart. Is he enjoying his camping trip?"


"Uh, yeah. Yep."


In our casual state of partial undress, things are quickly becoming awkward in the silence left behind by the few words of small talk.


"Can I, uh, go look in Carl's room for his bag?"


"Oh I'll go look for it. Maybe throw on some pants too huh?" Michonne laughs, breaking the ice with her self-conscious comments.


"You better not put on any pants," I lean down, taking her hand in mine to halt her departure and growl into her ear. A quiet command meant only for her. She rolls her eyes, and once freed from my possessive clutch of her hand, pads down the hall towards Carl's room.


"She's very pretty, Rick. Not what I expected, but just as beautiful as Carl said." Lori offers, a wry smile twisting her thin lips. "I suppose if I was a different woman I would be jealous right now."


"Jealous for what? We're not married anymore, Lori. Remember?"


"I know. Believe me, Rick, I am fully aware of that fact. And that it's my fault. Mostly."


"I won't argue with you when you're right."


"You both love her. I know Carl does. He's itching to be with you guys, with your new little family every chance he gets. And look at you." Gesturing her hand at me. "It's as plain as the nose on your face how you feel about that woman. And I'm sure you are just bulldozing straight ahead, it's just your way. You see something you want, and you get tunnel vision, but you forget about the periphery. Sometimes I miss that about you, how earnest and true you are with your intentions. So unlike some other men."


Growing uncomfortable with the trajectory of this conversation, especially given the weighty nature of things discussed between Michonne and I today, the last thing I need is drama from Lori.


"What are we talking about, Lori? What's going on?"


"You have always been loyal, Rick. Probably still are." Huffing out a soft breath, she locks her soft brown eyes on mine, a recognition of the lengthy history we have together. "I never really said it, but I'm sorry things turned out so shitty with us. We checked out on each other, and neither of us had enough nerve to just call it quits before it got too far down the road. I hope you have enough nerve to follow through with this lady, though…if that's what you want."


"It is."


"I need a favor, Rick."


"What's that?"


"He won't answer my calls anymore. He won't see me. I'm not on your insurance any longer, and the baby will be here soon. I can't work. I need money, things for the baby. He needs to help me."


"What does that have to do with me? That's between you and him. I have my own beef with him right now." Grimacing at the idea of what she seems to be getting at, I set my hands on my hips, irritation growing with every one of her words.


"I understand. I didn't know if there was something you could- would do. I know I fucked up, but I'm at a dead end now. I-" Halting at Michonne's reappearance, Lori plasters a fake smile on her face and accepts Carl's backpack from Michonne's outstretched hand. "Thank you."


"No problem. That boy's room is a mess! It smells like a foot in there. Yuck!"


"Sounds about right for Carl. I will let you both get back to your Sunday. It was nice to meet you, Michonne." Lori offers. Turning to open the door and leave on her own, her departure leaves an odd caul hanging over the room. Just as easily as she was here, she's gone.


"Whose ex do we talk about first? Yours or mine?" I ask, turning to Michonne, frowning at the sight of her now wearing pants.


"I don't know, Sheriff. I would rather not talk about either. But, for the hell of it, why don't you go first. Is that your baby she's carrying?" Tilting her chin my way, she touches her index finger, gently to center of my chest.


Glancing down at her as she vertically grazes that same finger lower, stopping at the button of my jeans. Hooking her finger there, she allows it to linger, her eyes focused steady on my own.


"No."


"You sure?"


"I'm positive. What did Mike want?"


"To ask about you. I'd rather not talk about him."


"Agreed. I'd rather punish you for putting on those pants after I told you not to."


"I'd like to see you try." Keeping her finger hooked in the front of my jeans, she leads me down the hall to my bedroom.




"You wanted to see me, Sheriff?"


"Yeah, Spencer, come on in." I grouse, clearly displeased by his presence and the topic I need to discuss with him.


"Sure thing. By the way, my mother says hello. She said she needs to follow up with you on a few things."


"Yep. I'll give her a call. But, right now I need to talk to you about this civil suit against you from a civilian. Glenn Rhee ring a bell?"


"Uh…yes?"


"Tell me what happened."


"Well…"


"And before you try to blow smoke up my ass let me tell you something, I already read your report, I already watched the dash cam video, and I already read the report from the DA's office. But, I also have a deposition subpoena here from the law office of Anthony & Associates, asking me to testify out of court regarding this law suit. So, you're not gonna bullshit me, Spencer. You're gonna tell me what the fuck happened the night you arrested civilian Glenn Rhee." I demand, slapping the deposition and file older onto the stack of papers already scattered around my messy desk.


Leaning back, my hands in a death grip on the arms of the chair, knuckles turning white, I'm livid. Instantly, my already agitated nerves are further irritated by the sight of Spencer, and the fact that on top of the nearly fatal drama with Michonne from this past weekend, I now have to deal with this. Bright and early this morning, I immediately was met by my secretary with a stack of mail. This stack included a large manila envelope that was delivered by messenger, and included a subpoena deposition. Browsing over the paperwork, I quickly discovered that Spencer's misdeeds have come back to haunt me.


It's just theatrics that I don't need right now. Michonne and I have spoken to each other every day since she left my house on Sunday evening to pickup Andre from the airport, but neither of our schedules have permitted a mid week date, and it's throwing me off. Not seeing her. Not being able to physically touch her. It has caused a slight disquiet in my spirit that I think we need to rectify. It's not even about the Jessie thing, or the Shane thing. Michonne said she forgives me, and I hope that it's true. I have forgiven her as well. I had to. But, there is a serious stirring in my gut, ready to boil over every time I think about how he preyed on her. Him.


And now I have to deal with this shit.


"Sheriff, I don't know where to start." Spencer nervously stutters, his thin lips mumbling out his excuse.


"How about you start at the beginning." A voice commands from just outside of my doorway. I know that voice, and in recognition I roll my eyes, and clench my jaw and my hands into fists as I search for a strand of restraint. It's only 9 AM, and I'm gonna need more coffee for this shit.


"Shane." I drawl out, making sure to include every inch of bitterness and disgust I can muster this early in the morning.


"Rick. Spencer. I assume you are both huddled here in your little office to discuss the subpoenas for deposition?" Shane asks, lifting his dark eyebrows in question, and raising his hand to reveal a manila envelope similar to the one I received. "I'll accept your silence as a yes. So, what the fuck is going on, and why the hell am I being pulled into this mess? I thought this thing was put to bed under Blake?" Shane asks, taking a seat in front of my desk next to Spencer. Crossing his right leg over his left, propping his foot on his knee, he sits back and waits.


"Spencer was just about to answer some of those questions. By the way, how the hell did you know about this meeting? You certainly weren't invited."


"My secretary talks to yours. They're friends. Seems we're always connected in some way huh?"


Watching the terse conversation between Shane and I play out, Spencer's head swivels back and forth. Seemingly shocked by the addition of the uninvited guest to the meeting, he finally stops and gawks at Shane, then turns back to me as if asking for permission to continue.


"Well go on, Spencer. Let's get this shit over with." I answer, with an irritated flip of my hand.


"Well, like my report said. I stopped the suspect after he pulled out the parking lot of the King County Groves apartment complex. It was dark, but I could see that the inside of the vehicle was lit up. I assumed it was from a lighter of some sort. I didn't pull him over for that, I pulled the suspect over because he made a rolling stop leaving the complex instead of a full stop, as required. When I approached the vehicle and he rolled down the window I sensed the smell of marijuana. I asked the suspect for his license and registration, and for him to step out of the car. He made some sarcastic comments about law enforcement being intense. As I was turning to head back to my squad car to run his information I saw him head back into his vehicle as though he was trying to hide something. I told him to freeze and put up his hands. The suspect did not at first, but then withdrew, and stood by the hood of the car as I proceeded to search the vehicle for whatever he was reaching for. The suspect then began yelling at me about needing consent or a warrant. To which I told him to please remain quiet. He did not. He continued yelling, then approached me. I defended myself by using my club. After subduing him, I placed him under arrest and brought him in. End of story."


"End of story? Why did you ask him to step out of the car? That's not standard procedure for a stop." I ask, needing to understand some of the parts of his story that don't make sense.


"The suspect seemed shifty, as though he was high, possibly hiding a weapon of some sort."


"How the hell could you have figured that from just stopping him and him rolling down his window, Deputy Monroe?" Shane asks, probably picking up on some of the less than rational elements of Spencer's recollection.


"I put together the picture of what was going on from my observations, Mr. Walsh. I only had a few moments to react."


"Spencer, why did you search his car without his permission? You did not, according to your story, or your statement, seem to have cause. And why would you use your club? The dash video, though grainy, does not show him making a move to approach you. So what other excuses do you have?" I ask, growing more and more agitated by the moment. His story simply isn't adding up, and it doesn't fully match some of the documentation from his report, to the internal investigations department, or from the DA's office. But somehow this shit got dismissed. I know how that happened. Money, connections. The Monroes have been politicians in King County for years, and for the most part the mayor, Deanna, seems clean. But I know, as sure as I know my own name, that this is fishy. Between the old Sheriff, Philip Blake sweeping it under the rug, and burying the internal report prior to his death, and the old DA, not even bothering to move on it and bring criminal charges before his retirement, on top of the mayor being Spencer's mother, I'm sure this is all some bullshit. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that this has happened here.


"Sheriff?"


"What the fuck really happened, Spencer? I want you to listen to me good, ok? I'm not going to perjure myself for you. So, I suggest you figure this shit out. I'm the sheriff now, so if your story is legit I will protect you, this department will protect you. Something tells me it's not though." Pointing a finger at him, I can feel bile rising in my throat as I hold the file with the pictures of the suspect, Mr. Rhee, in my other hand. Bruises, purple, black, red, cover his fair skin, all over his ribs, and back.


"Well, I don't what the hell this has to do with me. I wasn't the DA at the time, so I'll just have to let this lawyer know that. I hate to agree with the Sheriff on this one, Monroe. You better lawyer up, boy. See what your mama and her money can do for you. I mean, I've been a deputy, I know you only have a moment to figure shit out and protect yourself, figure out how to proceed. And sometimes these junkies have it coming to them. The guy looks like a pot smoking punk. I get it. But I'm trying to run a clean DA's office now. Grimes is right, don't put us in a bad position on this." Shane offers, sucking his teeth to punctuate the finality of his statement.


"I'm going by the book on my testimony, Spencer. I think you need to contact your union rep and your lawyer, this could get messy."


"Yes, sir. I understand." Spencer looks at me as though I've grown another head, completely clueless as to how serious this actually is.


"You can go." I dismiss him with a wave of my hand, ready to be done with him for the day.


Watching him walk out, Spencer holds the door open for Shane as though he expects him to leave out behind him.


"Ah, you can close it, Spencer. I need to talk to the DA about an important matter."


"Ok. Thank you, sir."


Tenting my fingers on my desk, I calm my nerves before I proceed. Sitting back in his chair, Shane's face holds a smug smirk, and it's taking every inch of restraint for me not to launch myself across the desk to kill him.


"Don't talk to her again. Don't go to her parents' house again. I won't repeat myself."


"I'm sorry, Sheriff, are you talking about Michonne? Because I just saw her Saturday night. Can't wait to see her again, so I don't know if that is going to work for me. She'll soon forget about you. It's happened before." He shrugs nonchalantly.


Ignoring his comments, I continue, needing to say my piece, to get my point across before I snap. "She told me about your little date. Let's not pretend this is about her. You really think if she knew what kind of man you really are, a woman like Michonne would even speak to you?"


"How about that kiss she let me get, huh? Wait, it was two kisses. I see why you want me to stay away from her. Those lips… I can't wait to take it even further next time." Stopping to rub his hand over his lips, his smirk transforms into a more sinister sneer. And for a brief moment I feel pity for him. For this hollow shell that no longer resembles the man who was one my best friend. "She's exquisite, Rick, she is. And I can't wait to give it to her. Fuck her like we're having an affair. That's the best sex, Rick. When it's a little dirty, taboo, worried you might get caught, but that's a part of the thrill of it. Yeah, I can't wait for that." He taunts, dropping his lewd comments about Michonne into the air, baiting me.


"Watch your fucking mouth! You're talking about the woman who's gonna be my wife someday. You better tread lightly, motherfucker." I respond. I'm trying to remain calm, but I can feel myself shaking with fury, utilizing every ounce of discipline to abstain from breaking his jaw to shut him up.


"Your wife, huh? Then you and I both know she'll definitely fuck me then. Your wives seem to like that."


Jumping up from my chair, I've lost every semblance of control. I can't stop myself, and I do reach across my desk and grab the lapels of his fancy suit, jerking him to me. He didn't expect it, and sputters at first, but I can tell he doesn't want to appear ruffled by my erratic actions. Grabbing at my hands, he attempts to pull my hands free of his suit jacket, but he can't. My grip is tight, steadfast.


"Listen, I know what you're trying to do here. I've known you a long time, and I'm not interested in your bullshit, Shane. I will fucking end you if you go near her again. You know I will do it. Now get the fuck out of my office." I promise, and toss him away from me, propelling his body back into his chair.


Straightening his jacket, his face turning red, Shane blusters, and huffs, bristling at my command. "You can't tell me what the fuck to do, Rick. If Michonne wants me -"


Walking around my desk, I've had enough. The sound of her name on his lips enrages me past rational thought. Jerking him up out of his seat, I'm wrangling him out of his chair. He's heavier than me, got me by about twenty pounds. But, my anger, adrenaline is driving me, and I gain leverage over him, tossing his body into my office door.


Falling to the ground from the forceful impact of his body hitting the door, Shane tries to scramble to his feet. But I'm on him. Moving quickly, I raise my foot and step on his hand with the heel of my boot, pinning him back down to the floor. Leaning over his body, deligighting in his agonized screams, I wrap my hand around his neck and squeeze. Hard. Feeling the satisfying decrease of his rapid breathing, I squeeze tighter. It's a delightful sight, his eyes bulging, his hands scratching at my own, a futile attempt for me to release him. Just before I sense he will pass out, I loosen my hold, and make eye contact with him. I whisper calmly into his face, close enough so that I'm sure he can hear me loud and clear. "Stay the fuck away from Michonne. Or…next time I will end your miserable life, end this rivalry between us for good. I promise."


Stepping away from him, I straighten myself, and fix my tie. Smoothing my hair back into place, I blow out an exasperated breath. Opening my office door, I watch from the corner of my eye as Shane ambles to his feet, huffing, sputtering to regain his breath. Gathering himself, he remains silent, but if looks could kill I would be dead. His state of dishevelment is pleasing to me, and even though I hope that he listens to me, follows my guidance, I welcome the opportunity to end him just the same. And I'm sure this isn't over. The back and forth between Shane and I began over twenty years ago, and I'm certain this isn't the end. Not yet.


"This ain't over, Rick." He snarls, and turns to leave.


"For your sake you better hope it is, Shane. I meant what I said. And you know I always keep my promises. Matter of fact, I think you need to be worried about tending to the baby you have on the way, and that baby's mother. Don't make shit harder on you than it already is."

Chapter 8 by Fik Freak

Chapter 8 – Michonne

"Rick? Rick, what are you doing here?"

"Hi, sweetheart." Moving my dreads from their scattered disarray in front of my face, Rick delicately leans down and places a kiss to my forehead, then takes a seat on the edge of the bed. "I decided to come tonight instead of tomorrow. I missed you."

"I missed you too. I'm happy to see you. Where's my Carl? Are you going to get him tomorrow for Andre's birthday party?"

"Nah, he came with me tonight. They are out of school tomorrow for some teacher meetings or something like that, so he decided to come on now." He answers, as my cat Teeny saunters her way from her watchful perch at the foot of the bed, to his lap. She loves Rick almost as much as I do, and I have to laugh at how possessive of him she is quickly becoming. Yeah, Teeny, I know the feeling. Petting her from head to tail, she purrs and curls herself into his stomach, now a satisfied ball of fur. Rick doesn't even seem to notice as it's simply become their thing. One day she barely gave him the gift of her green eyes. The next, she was following him around, often finding herself perched on his lap. One morning he woke and she was asleep on his chest. He didn't seem as alarmed as one might think, especially considering that he says he's not particularly fond of cats. It's kind of hilarious because out of all the men in my life, only Andre, my dad, and now Carl and Rick receive this kind of affection from Teeny, who is pretty much a 'leave me alone and I'll leave you alone' kind of cat. Her and Aaron employ this model and keep an amicable distance from each other. Whenever Mike makes an appearance, she is quick to give him an impolite hiss then make herself scarce until he leaves. As my grandmother used to say when I was a young girl, animals and kids are the most intuitive about folks. Guess she was right, because with the exception of Aaron, Teeny seems to be a pretty good judge of character.

"Oh good. I missed seeing him last weekend. I should get up and make sure he gets some dinner. You guys hungry?" Attempting to sit up, I pause for a moment, fighting off a bout of dizziness. With one hand to my forehead, I briefly close my eyes, and still myself to allow the fleeting sensation of faint lightheadedness pass.

"Don't worry about it, we ate before we left KC. Lay back, Michonne." Rubbing my leg, then down to my toes, Rick urges me to recline on the bed, obviously witnessing the distress on my face. Grimacing at the deep breaths I take to still the spinning in my head, I can see the worry creasing the lines on his face as he begins to massage my foot, kneading his thumb into the arch, just the way I like. This guy. "You're in the bed kinda early. It's only 8. Andre said you weren't feeling well?"

"Yeah, I just feel weird. Real tired, like I could barely keep my eyes open any longer. I think maybe it's my period coming, but I don't usually feel like this, ya know? My breasts hurt something awful, I felt nauseous after lunch. Just so blah."

"None of that sounds good. Did you eat anything for dinner? Andre was eating pizza when I got here. Maybe if you ate some of that it messed with your stomach, made you nauseous?"

"Oh god no! I couldn't stand the smell of the pizza when it got here. I wanted a piece until I got a whiff of the grease. I think I just need to rest some. This case I'm working on is draining."

"Hm. Well you lay here for a minute. Then I'll go fix you some tea and something light to eat. Maybe settle your stomach."

"Sure, ok. Thank you, Rick."

"You know, you have gorgeous little feet, woman." Rick muses, as his hands work their magic, rubbing and stroking, applying just the right amount of pressure to the ball of my foot, causing me to keen and moan at the glorious sensation.

"I've never heard that about my feet. You got a little fetish there, Sheriff?"

"Maybe. I've never noticed a woman's feet before. Yours are very nice. Cute little toes and red nails." Dropping a kiss to the bottom of my foot, he glances up at me with a sly, questioning grin to his lips. "All of you is perfect isn't it?"

"Not all of me. I have my faults, just like everyone else. I'm lactose intolerant, I need glasses or contacts because I'm blind as a bat… I've got stuff."

"Minor things." His voice low and deep, gravelly, seductive. He shakes his head as though he is denying the mere thought of any defect on my part, then proceeds to kiss his way from my toes, to my ankle, causing a little thrill of excitement to shiver through me. With my dizziness almost completely forgotten, supplanted by the zing of pleasure emanating from Rick's lips to my foot, I'm eagerly awaiting his next move. "Feel better?"

"Yes." I answer on a breathy moan, seduced away from my ailments. Instantly I'm rolling my eyes at myself. At how quickly this man and his affection for me transforms me into a breathy damsel, my voice only a faint whisper.

"Good. I'll be right back." On a parting peck to the inside of my leg, Rick gifts me with a quick wink, then rises from the bed.

Watching him stroll away I take a moment to admire the look of him. My cowboy with his long, bowed, legs, broad shoulders, wide back, his tan uniform shirt straining across the expanse. Always standing so tall and erect, gracefully carrying the weight of so much on him. It's an odd miracle that you can hardly tell. Given what I have unearthed about his job, what I've learned about him, he should be a ball of tension, stress. But no, he's always a cool breeze. Staunchly supportive, a stalwart port in the storm of my chaotic emotions.

I'm glad he's here. I sorely missed him too, but would never have called to ask him to come earlier than planned. This thing with Rick is getting more and more serious by the day, powering forward, imbedding him into my heart, and I can't help but wonder how we got here so quickly. How is it possible that he and I have only known each other for a month, but it feels like an eternity? Almost seamlessly, we have worked our way into each other's lives. Between the daily calls and texts, and the constant back and forth between the city and King County to see each other, even if only for lunch, for the night, for a quick fix, it's becoming apparent to me that nothing feels right when we're not together in some way. I can meditate all day long, but if I haven't had a recent dose of Rick Grimes, my whole world is off center. My body craves the exhilarating thrill of simply being with him. Basking in the effortless ease of this connection we share. The electrifying, kinetic exchange of energy between us, keeps me energized and in balance now, and it is something that I'm not willing to do without. I won't jeopardize it again. I can't. It has become obvious that he is the cure to what ails me, serving as the soothing balm to my wounded heart, and my damaged confidence.

As of last weekend I'm so certain about his place in my life now, that not only have I divulged it to Aaron, but I also told my mother, who was ecstatic beyond belief. Nia Alexander is the consummate romantic, and the very thought of the two kids who met one time on a summer day around 30 years ago, actually falling in love, is like fairytale catnip for her. It's so appetizing a premise for her, that she hasn't even bothered to ask what happened to Shane. I'm glad. Instead she only made me promise that at the first chance we are free, we will join her and my father for dinner. That should be good. My dad seemed pleased with Shane because he was his choice for me. But, Rick is new, and if I know my dad, he's going to be much more skeptical of him as a result. Hopefully he will see how happy I am and we can forgo the puffed up, hyper-masculine, and protective dramatics Arthur Alexander is known for. Hopefully.

Exertion inching through my limbs again, I'm smiling to myself at the thought of Rick being here in my bed with me tonight instead of 40 minutes away. I nuzzle back down into my pillow and blankets, taking comfort in the warmth and cozy restfulness I find here. Like I told Rick I've been feeling under the weather lately, and it seems to have kicked up even further this last week or so. At first I thought it was my period coming, or because there has been so much going on over the last 4-5 weeks of my life. Meeting Rick. Starting a new relationship. The drama with Shane and Jessie. But, after holding a meeting today with my new client, Glenn Rhee, and his girlfriend Maggie, discussing the upcoming depositions, I began to feel even worse.

Not just from whatever is physically ailing me, but also from the details of this case. It's really beginning to wear me down. The more I find out about King County, the less I like it, and the more I question how a man like Rick can be from there. While I realize that nowhere is perfect, the kind of corruption that is going on in King County, that has been going on for some time now, is appalling. My investigator Paul may have started with just looking in to the Sheriff's office, and the DA's office, but all of it has led to the Mayor's office as well, and given the types of things he has uncovered I'm not surprised that all forms of King County law and government are involved.

Paul found that the Sheriff's office has a long history of not arresting people when they should, unlawfully detaining others, and using unnecessary force as a common practice. The District Attorney's office isn't much better. In a town that is almost laughably small, the DA has seemingly found it feasible to always prosecute those who don't reside within city limits, to never seek prosecution for friends and family, and the judges will often find favorably for whoever is on the giving side of a plentiful bribe. The Mayor, one of a long line of Monroes who has served in that position, appears to be the only one not explicitly a part of the corruption, but given how enmeshed that family is in the fabric of King County, I find it hard to believe. Especially given the fact that her son is the defendant in my current case.

Thankfully, so far nothing negative has come up with the last name Grimes associated with it, and for that I can only breathe the largest sigh of relief. I simply don't know how I would handle that. I've even been too scared to tell him about my role in this case. I don't know how. With depositions coming up late next month, I am hoping that after speaking with my client today, and gaining some new information from his girlfriend, that I might be able to persuade Deputy Spencer to settle this out of court. With the way I have been feeling lately, I don't know if my health can handle the additional stress right now. I need things to settle down, to find some semblance of normalcy again.

Pulling me out of my thoughts a few soft raps on my bedroom door catch my attention.

"Come in."

"Hi, Michonne. Are you decent." Carl asks, peeking his head from around the edge of the door.

"Sure, come on in." I answer, sitting up in bed and pulling the blankets up over my chest. In just a camisole and panties, I don't want to give Carl an eyeful that I'm sure he doesn't want.

"Dad said you're not feeling well, but I wanted to check on you. Do you need anything?"

"Awe, thank you, Carl, but I'm good. Your dad is downstairs fixing me something now. Aren't you sweet though! Come here and give me a hug."

Leaning into me, Carl gives me a warm hug, and instantly I notice his once too long hair is now closely cropped, just a little shorter than his dad's. Making him resemble Rick even more than usual.

"You cut your hair?"

"Ah, yeah… What do you think?" Self consciously he pulls his hand back from our hug and runs it over his shorter locks.

"I think you look as handsome as always. What made you cut it?" I ask, tilting my head a little in question. I think I already know the answer, but I'll let him tell me.

"Thanks. I just wanted to look good, and fit in with Dre's friends a little better."

"Sit down for a minute, Carl. Why do you think you don't fit in already?"

"I just… Ya know, in the city no one is wearing long hair or nothing like that. I kinda feel like it makes me stick out as a hayseed or something. My mom thought it would give me a more mature look too. I don't know…" He shrugs, uncertainty in his hunched posture as his blue eyes focus on his fidgeting hands, twisting over themselves in his lap.

Running my hands over the short feathery strands of his hair, I take a moment to appreciate the connection that Carl and I have that allows him to be so honest and inquisitive with me. We've had moments like this before, where his emotions are open, his thoughts clearly laid out for my commentary. Just like tonight, he often seeks me out for my opinion, my ideas on something. One time he asked me what it is about his dad that made me want to date him, and if I mind that he's white. At first it felt like an odd thing to ask, and after I got over the shock of it, and as he kept going with his questions, he offered that he's trying to determine if a black girl like Macy would really like him or if he even has a chance with her. My response to him, just like it would be to Andre, is that any girl, black, white, or any other color would be lucky to have as handsome, kind, and smart of a guy as him. Period. He seemed to like the positive simplicity of that answer, and has been my right hand guy ever since.

Thinking on it a bit more, I'm in awe at how quickly and easily our little fractured family has come together. To trust each other. Carl is very much like Andre. Intelligent, intuitive. And perhaps that recognition is what has made it so easy for us to get along. When he spends the night here, it's like I have two Andres running around, making jokes, eating up all of the food, playing video games, listening to music too loud, Facetiming girls, trying to setup dates or time to hang out. The similarities are so apparent that sometimes if I close my eyes I can't tell them apart from their voices, and it's eerie.

On the other hand, while Andre is often quick with his sarcastic wit, and sometimes a little too smart assed for his own good, Carl seems to always be carefully thinking over his words before he says them. Taking the measure of his audience to see how they will be received. I suppose given his admission just now, it's all born out of his desire to fit in, to say the right thing to ensure he finds acceptance. To keep things smoothed over, and I wonder if this isn't also a result of him trying to keep things light and easy between his parents.

There is very real tension between Rick and his ex-wife, Lori. It was so obvious that it was palpable, hanging like the ghost of relationships past in the air between them. Given what Rick has told me about Lori, and the demise of their marriage, this is not surprising. Despite the fact that Lori is still very much a presence in Carl's life, I can't help but wonder what that kind of living, breathing strain in a home has done to affect him. I think it's what makes him so strategic with his words and actions. What makes him always so cautious to make sure things are just so. He's looking for reassurance in his interactions with people, a confirmation that at the most inopportune of times, things won't be volatile and fall apart. Not like they have in the past. Sometimes I can see the stress of it on his face, like now, as he worries over me, and over whether or not his new haircut will be a hit with the young and pretty Macy Stokes.

"Carl, look at me." I command, taking a slow and easy grasp of his cheek to turn him my way. With my palms flat to either side of his face, I make sure I have his full attention. "There is nothing for you to worry about, ok? Long hair, short hair, no hair, you are still Carl. And Carl is an amazing young man. What you look like on the outside does not change who you are. Do you understand me? But if you like it, I love it. Ok?"

"Ok. Thanks, Michonne. I appreciate you being so cool to me, and for loving my dad. He really likes you." He grins, and the way it lifts and brightens his face, highlights the maturity of his features, and how much he looks like his father. Showcasing the same smattering of freckles over the bridge of his nose. And of course those blues. But I see her there too, in the angles of his face, and the thin set of his lips.

"I really like him too." Confirming my feelings for Rick, Carl releases a quick breath, as though he was holding it in anticipation of my response.

"Cool. I love my mom, but she really hurt him, so I'm glad that you guys found each other. It's… it's a good fit, right. All of us together. I hope it can always be this way." He offers, widening his smile at me, his face so much like Rick's the way it always seems to be on the verge of amusement.

"Well, Carl, you never know."

"True. But I hope it can. It would be awesome if you and my dad got married, and like we all lived here in the city together. Right?" Excitement raises his adolescent voice, cracking it a bit on the end of his question. There is so much hope wrapped up in his words, and on his young face, that I can't help but want to give him the world right now. But, as an adult, one who has seen optimism get crushed under the cruel boot of reality, I don't want to taint his dreams. Instead, I only offer one word, and a truthful smile, one that I hope conveys all of the love and warmth that Rick and Carl have brought into my life.

"Maybe."

"That's good enough for me. I'll get out of here so you can rest, and before Dad runs me out of here anyway. See you later, and I hope you feel better tomorrow. I think this is gonna be a fun weekend. I'm really excited!" Gifting my cheek with a quick peck, his gangly form rises from the edge of my bed, then hustles it out of the door.

Inching back down into the covers as I watch his departure, I notice that the screen on my phone is brightly lit. When I got home I immediately turned off the ringer to try and get some rest, so no one has been able to reach me. I roll over to check my phone, and see that I have a few missed calls from Mike, including one voicemail, and a text message. I definitely don't have the energy for him right now, and I immediately dismiss his attempts to reach me, tossing my phone face down on to my night stand.

After last weekend, with both Rick and I admitting to our indiscretions, and him divulging how he sees a comparison to my relationship with Mike, and Jessie's with her husband, I am beginning to see Mike very differently. Which I guess, had shame and stubbornness not tainted my rose colored glasses, I should have been doing all along. While Rick didn't harp on it too much, preferring to move past it, and enjoy our time together, I have been doing a little research of my own on it. And what I have found is eye opening, in a sad way.

When I told Rick that I still loved Mike so many weeks ago, I meant it. I do. I did. I loved who he was, not willing to come to terms with the monster he had become. Instead I clung to who he had been to me. The only man who had ever loved me like a man does a woman. We had been together for so long, that even when things turned bad between us, I could only see him as the man who swept me off my feet. As the man who I married, and built a life with. The man who made me a mother. All of those warm and cozy feelings of love drastically overshadowed who he had become. A cruel, emotionally absent, abuser. It was easy for Rick to recognize this when I reluctantly admitted some of the things Mike would say to me. How he wouldn't come home for days, and wouldn't say anything to me. Then would just show up as though nothing had happened. How he would ridicule me when we were alone, or with his family, make jokes about me being beautiful but barren. Even laughing when his own father commented in front of me that the pretty ones are always crazy or broken, and he should have chosen better.

And I never defended myself. I didn't know how. To try and stay his unpredictable temper I would attempt to navigate our time together away from topics that I thought would set him off. Which rarely worked, because in the end, even the littlest things did. It was always so jarring for him to speak to me, about me, this way, sometimes not just in front of his family, but in front of others. It would freeze me in disbelief, guilt, shame, and after a while it became so common that I no longer had tears to shed. Sometimes it felt like I deserved the punishing words, his avoidance of me, because isn't this the life I wanted. I would be crazy to throw this handsome, successful, black man away. Even though he was mean sometimes, didn't I have it all, the very things that most women would kill for? Handsome husband? Check. Smart, well behaved son? Check. Career. Large house. Fancy cars. Check, check, check. So, I swallowed my pride, those tears, my fears, the pain, and set the same steel in my spine that many black women had before me, and determined that I would just survive somehow. I wasn't the first woman to do it, and I wouldn't be the last.

Despite the fact that my tears dried up, and I had become emotionally numb, my heart still bears the scars of his hurtful jabs. My confidence is still wounded by the digs. By the way he dominated me with his abusive words, and attempted to control me with his abandonment. And as a result I still find myself struggling to believe in the goodness of a man like Rick. It's sickening how Mike's faults color my relationship with him. To the point where I almost willingly threw away the best thing to ever happen to me, simply off the word of a man that I barely know. But not anymore. I've found love again, and I want to do whatever I can to hang on to it. Because yeah, I almost let Shane lead me astray. Almost. And though I do think that underneath his spite, and his clear disdain for Rick, there is or at least once was, something good in him.

Hearing the door to my bedroom reopen, I banish any and all thoughts of Shane, and concentrate on Rick and his handsome form, now sauntering into my bedroom. Carrying a cup of tea in one hand, and a package of saltine crackers, and a half sandwich on a plate on the other, his smile lights up the room.

"You don't have much in the kitchen, but I Googled what to do for nausea on my phone and ginger should work. You don't have any ginger, but you do have peppermint tea, which it said should also help. And these crackers might be good. If you want, I can run out and grab you something else." He offers, placing everything on my night stand.

"No, this is good. Thank you, Rick. You gonna come lay down with me?"

"Nah, not yet. Drink your tea before it gets cold." He mumbles over his shoulder, already leaving the room and heading towards the bathroom. Immediately I can hear a rush of water coming from the bathtub faucet, and the scent of lavender from the bath salts I keep on the edge of the tub.

Coming through the doorway of the bathroom, Rick has already removed his uniform shirt and pants, and only his boxers remain.

"Come on, baby, let's get you in the bath. Help you relax." Tossing the covers back and away from my body, Rick leans down and with one arm behind my back, and the other under the crook of my knees, he picks me up. Holding on to his neck, my arms wrap instantly around him to stave off the slight nausea and dizziness that wells up in me from the movement.

Once we are in the bathroom, Rick slowly lowers me to my feet in front of him and without pause my head drops forward to rest my clammy forehead on his chest. Stilling me, his hands remain anchored on either side of my hips, keeping me steady and close to him, warming me with his body.

After a moment, I can feel the nausea pass and the fog in my head begin to dissipate. On a long, deep sigh against his firm chest, I lift my head and latch on to his eyes. His calm, beautiful eyes. A prismatic blue, soft and focused on me. Always on me. The usual mirth, or adoration isn't there now though. Instead, they are full of worry, slanted into a concerned squint with the lines at the corners crinkled, showing his age. And even though it's not a look that I want to see on his face, it does nothing to diminish the sexy that is Rick Grimes. No, it actually enhances it, the way he cares for me. Loves me. It's an intoxicating feeling, being loved by him. Having him worry over me. Despite his consternation, I smile.

"What's that look, Sheriff? I'm ok. Just not feeling well. It happens."

"I imagine so. I just don't like the idea that you were here alone. I should have been here earlier to take care of you."

"I'm fine, Rick. Andre's here. And thanks to a certain sheriff he's a pretty good driver if I would have needed him to take me to the doctor. I'm good."

"You are good. And yes he is a damn good driver. But you're my lady, and it's my job to take care of you."

"Is that right?"

"That's right."

"How are you going to take care of me, Sheriff?" I flirt, with a quirk of my eyebrow. Feeling that I'm starting to get my bearings a little, I can't help but be drawn to him. Rick is exactly what I need right now. Rubbing the palms of my hands over his chest, I delight in the feathering of his chest hair through my fingers.

"Gonna start with a nice hot bath."

"Uh huh. And then?"

"And then you're going to drink your tea, and eat some food."

"Boring."

"And then you're gonna get back in the bed."

"Now you're speaking my language." Wiggling my eyebrows, I grin at him, hoping this is leading to him putting out the fire that's slowly coming to life inside of me.

"And then you're gonna rest. Now lift your arms so I can get you naked and in the tub."

"Yes, sir." Obediently raising my arms high over my head, I arch my back a bit, pressing my breasts into him.

Taking note of my movements, his eyes latch on to the jutting crush of my naked breasts against him, and with a slow lick of his lips he strains out, "Good girl." Clutching my camisole in his fist, as though trying to find the strength to restrain his urges, he finally throws it into the hamper. Dropping to a crouch, he hooks his fingers at the lace trimmed leg opening of my panties. Leisurely inching them down my legs and over my feet, he lingers and kisses my inner thigh and rubs his hand up the length of my leg, stopping before he gets to his favorite spot. My ass. His face is conflicted, as it's clear that he wants to keep going. To knead my flesh with the full grasp of his strong hands as he has so many times before. He doesn't though. Instead he rises, and directs me to get into the bathtub.

Dropping down into the heated, lavender scented water, the froth from the bubbles tickles my sensitive nibbles as I take a seat. Seeing the desire and concern warring with each other over Rick's handsome face, his eyes ablaze with lust, even while his lips tilt down into a frown, I reach my hand out to him. An offer I hope he won't refuse.

"Join me."

"Nah. That's not a good idea. You don't need sex, you need relaxation."

"You relax me. Come on, Sheriff. You could use it too." I offer, noticing that his eyes are now fixated on the way the white bubbles teasingly cover some of my body, leaving my nipples to ride the very edge of their transparency. He's conflicted, but when he sees me drop and ease my other hand down the curves of my body, and disappear underneath the water, between my thighs, he seems to be thinking it over.

"Hold on." He announces, tossing up a single finger to still my movements as he dashes from the bathroom. In a few brief moments, I can hear him engaging the lock on my bedroom door, and music playing from the record player speakers.

"This ain´t for the ones
That just love for fun
That just love and run
That just hold the gun
This is for
Those that bleed
That want but have no need
This ain´t for the war

This is only…"

It's his favorite artist now, he plays his music often. To communicate with me. To relate with me. To tell me something that he's not certain his own southern tinged words can properly deliver. And more often than not, when he wants to be naughty with me. I welcome the soft, sultry whisper of Maxwell's falsetto as he croons "For Lovers Only", and the return of my sheriff.

Shoving down his boxers to ease them over his lean hips, to drop to his feet, Rick kicks them away, and eagerly struts over to the bathtub where I'm relaxed in quiet repose, waiting for him. Instead of immediately entering the water to join me, he stands at the side of the tub, his cock in his hand, his palm traveling the reddened column of flesh. His eyes laser focused on mine, scanning my face, taking the measure of me. Returning the heated warmth of his blue eyes, I simply can not keep my eyes away from the movement of his hand, the way his cock seems to be growing harder, longer, thicker, right in front of me. I want to taste him. To feel him. This is what will make me feel better. I don't need rest. I only need Rick.

"For lovers only
Lovers only
Strictly for the lovers only
Who are lost and lonely

Ever since the way you looked at me
Love is not a want
Love is now a need…"

"I don't want to hurt you, Michonne, but… god knows I need you right now. My beautiful temptress." The words escape his lips, and drop into the air on a tortured groan as he watches me gingerly fondle my breasts, my fingers carefully tugging and rolling the peaks of my nipples in anticipation of what comes next, mindful of their tenderness.

"Let me give you what you need, Rick." I plead again, needing him to put out the fire building and blazing like a tiny inferno inside of me. Inside of both of us. "Please, baby…"

Without another word he enters the large tub that is big enough to fit three people. Instead of joining me where I sit, he practices more restraint than I thought him capable of, and rests in the heated water on the other side of the tub with his arms outstretched across the edge.

"Rick?" Confusion clouds my features, as I watch him lean back, his eyes still on me. Focused. Feral.

Licking his lips before he answers, he takes his time, his words delivered slowly, measured, careful. The way he always is with me. Well, until he isn't… And that's what I want. That's what I need, for him to unleash the animalistic vigor that often rears its head when we are together. To abandoned the controlled lover, and transform into the wicked beast I know he wants to be. "I need a minute. I don't want to cum too quickly. I'm wound too tight, sweetheart."

"Let me fix that." I answer, rising to join my lover, hungry for the carnal pleasure that lies dormant inside of him. Last weekend after Lori left his house, after both of our admissions of indiscretion, our lovemaking was slow, measured, a beautiful coupling, a sealing of our souls, that only endeared me, bewitched me even more. His touch and kiss delivered with a worshipful caution, as though I might be broken by the true ferocity of his love. Break into a million tiny pieces, and escape his claims of worshipful adoration. As though I might seek to withdraw from him again when it gets tough. Or I might sanction him for committing the same crime I am guilty of. I don't. I won't again. Instead I relish the love he lavished on me, and whispered over my lips, into the crook of my neck. The same love I tried to gift back to him, curving my body into his in an attempt to give as good as I got. To love him with the same wild abandon that he loves me with him.

Water runs down my body in tiny rivulets, caressing the curves, the peaks and valleys of my shape, as Rick's eyes follow them in their vertical skim over my sable skin. Despite the bit of nausea I'm still fighting, my hunger for Rick supersedes all things, and my memory of how good he makes me feel drives me to sate my desire for him. Easing my wet body over his, I look down at the pretty face of my sheriff. His long eyelashes, his pink lips, poised in a sexy pout to receive my kiss. Always so open and ready to receive me. So beautiful. So calm. So in love. With me. I take pleasure in recognizing my own feelings returned to me, so transparent in my sweetheart's features. God I love him.

During our time together it has been difficult to believe in the magic of this connection between us, but as I take a hold of both sides of his face with my hands, and feel the blunt tip of his cock pushing, prodding against my pussy, I find glorious relief in that inalienable truth. I love him. He loves me. It's uncomplicated. It's real. And as I accept the curve of his long length, veiny, strong, tunneling through my heated folds, I place a soft kiss to each of his eyelids in appreciation of this endowment. A true chance to live again.

"Damn, Michonne… damn."

"Rick, baby… Ah, you feel amazing." I ease out, seating myself on his lap and wincing at the stretch, the complete fullness of him penetrating my body, breaching my walls, and occupying my heart. With his arms now wrapped tight as a vise around me, enfolding me into his body, with one hand guiding the back and forth of my hips around my waist, and the other clasped gently across my shoulder, his hand on the back of my neck. Rick bends his legs at the knee and begins to hold me firmly against him, while gently thrusting upwards, causing the water to bob, and wave, disturbed by the erotic current of our lovemaking.

Winding my hips in a circular motion, I'm meeting each of his strong strokes, teasing him with the brush of my drenched walls against the sensitive head of his cock.

"Easy, Michonne…fuck. You're killing me! I told you I don't want to come quick. I want to take my time with you."

"I want you to give it to me good, Rick… Nice and hard, baby. Just how I like it. How you like it." I whisper into his ear, taunting the part of him that's holding on so tightly. I'm punctuating my words with a rough grind of my pussy and my clit into his pelvis. He's buried to the hilt, the magnitude almost punishing in how deeply he's buried inside of me, grazing against the secreted parcel of nerves that will make explode. Still sensing his hesitancy, I continue, "I'm not gonna break. You won't hurt me. I need it." I beg again, speaking directly to the part of my lover that is keeping him from ravaging me the way I can tell he wants to. I need him to unleash the full fury of his lust and love on me…I need it.

"You sure? You're not feeling well." He answers, mumbling the words around the pillowy mound of my breast in his mouth, the stubbled scruff of his re-emerging beard tickling my skin. Shaking his head a little he's protesting a bit, but the way he's fondling my other breast with his fingers, firmly pinching my nipple with a slight punishing sting, raising his eyes to witness the shock of pleasure clenching my features, lets me know he's giving in.

Wincing at the feel of his mouth and hand on my sensitive breasts, I grab a hold of his hair, a clutch of the longer strands near the top, then gently tug back to pull his head away from the cushion of my bosom. With his head now tossed back on the edge of the tub, the jolt of the tug delivers his full attention to me. Leaning my face into his, I lick, I bite at his lips, his cheek, his chin, his neck, all the while our wet bodies glide against each other in a slippery and gratifying dance. Inching my face down I flatten my tongue, and lick against the pulse of his throat. Inching my lips to the side of his neck, I bite down with just the slight edge of my teeth, then deliver a strong suction of my lips. Ending on a graze of his skin between my teeth, pulling away then sucking again, I can feel him swallow and gasp down the most wicked words, the most grateful supplications and words of thankful prayer.

And that's when I've got him. When he can no longer deny my pleas of something a little naughtier, harder, rougher. With his strong hands around my waist he lifts me from his lap, a drastically disturbing the rhythmic lapping of the water around us. The sudden separation causes an instant feeling of emptiness in my core, turning down my lips in frustration, and dipping my eyebrows into a frustrated frown.

Still holding me to him, Rick inches both of our bodies from the water in a series of quick movements, causing some of the fragrant and soapy suds to spill over the edge and on to the floor.

Once we are out of the water, the air a surprising blitz of cool sensations crawling across my feverish skin. His red, flushed with desire, water flattening the hair on his chest and abdomen, running a trail into the dark bush that surrounds his long cock and the meaty drop of his balls.

"Back up, then turn around. I want your hands flat on the wall."

"Rick-"

"Quiet! Do as you're told." He commands in a low growl, his tone offering no playfulness, brooking no argument as he grips his dick in his fist with a lazy up and down pull. Yes.

As I follow his orders, and take a few tentative steps back to the wall, I can feel my arousal peaking, leaking in sticky fat dollops down my thighs, in a wanton anticipation of the onslaught of aggressive passion soon to come. Turning to the wall, gracefully bend at the waist, lifting my ass enticingly for his appraisal.

Advancing on me, Rick assertively presses his cock into me, grazing the head through the cleft of my ass, smacking it against my cheeks. Watching him over my shoulder, I take note of the wicked twist of his beautiful lips, as he grinds out, "You're a bad girl, Michonne. Stubborn. And hardheaded. You don't listen, so now I'm going to have to punish you."

A gasp disturbs my lips as it flits from my diaphragm. Closing my eyes, biting nervously at the inside of my jaw, I'm trembling in anticipation of my well deserved, and ardently desired punishment.

Rick's left hand finds its way around my throat, a gentle clutch, delivering the tiniest whisper of pressure as his thumb swipes against the hollow at the base. First licking at the index finger of his right hand, it then rides a path from the angles of my shoulder blades, over the dip of my spine, to my ass, haughtily jutted into the air. Grabbing a handful of my cheek, he kneads and jiggles my flesh.

His breathing is heavy, labored, as though he is already weary from practicing restraint, from caging his desire. Lifting his index finger to lick at it again, he travels it back along the middle of my ass, and over the pucker of my hole, then further down to my drenched opening and slowly plunges it into my wetness, drenching it with my excitement.

"Did you get this wet for me, Michonne?" He asks as he lazily removes his finger. Then I feel the sting of his palm on my ass. Smack!

"Yes." I stutter, an instant zing of pleasure nearly sending me to my knees, weakening my shaky legs.

"Why?" Smack!

"Ah! Because I belong to you." I huff out, clenching my eyes closed against the onslaught of the delicious mix of the electrifying tingle of his swats, and the erotic thrill it stirs in my core.

"Oh I know. But, are you sure about that? No more questions?" Smack! Smack!

"No. No more questions. I belong to you, Rick." My nails are scraping against the wall, then curl my fingers into my palms, as the words are nearly lost in my throat, but find a way to eek out a response. An affirmation that seems to satisfy him.

"Good." Rubbing his palm in soothing circles over my reddened ass cheek, his left hand finds its way to cup my chin, his thumb playing over my lips. Immediately I wish his thumb was his cock, and I suck it into my wet mouth. "Fuck… You're exquisite, baby. I'll never let you go. Never."

"Never, Rick."

"Turn around, I want to look at your pretty face while I fuck you. I want to hear you scream."

"Yes…"

Swiftly I turn around to face him, to gaze upon the wicked handsomeness of his chiseled cheeks, the straight slope of his nose, his square jaw, mixed in with the beauty of his soft lips, and those eyes. An ocean of blue, swirled with an influx of a stormy grey, signaling how excited he truly is.

"I love you, Rick." I offer, running my thin fingers over each of his features, paying homage to my lover.

"I love you, more." He grunts, then hooks his strong arms around my waist and lifts me high up on the wall. "Open your legs wide, and wrap them around my waist."

Following instructions like a good girl, I'm ready to receive my reward, and wrap my legs around his waist, and my arms around his shoulders. Eye to eye with him, I eagerly attack his lips with my own, slicking my tongue into his mouth. Tangling my tongue with his, I'm caught off guard when he rapidly heaves me down onto his hardness, fully impaling me in the most decadent of ways, causing a leaking rush of excitement to drip on to his groin. Instantly he sets a harsh and bruising pace. Spurred on by the slickness of my womanhood, Rick is pummeling his hips up against mine, our entangled bodies banging roughly against the wall.

"Ah, ah, ah, ah!" I whimper into his lips, sucking in his breaths to sustain through the onslaught of pleasure, the bursts of exhilaration blooming and threatening to explode within me.

"Yeah, that's good, baby. That's good… You take this dick so good."

"Ah, ah, ah… yes, baby, yes…" Scratching at his back, I'm attempting to hold on to conscious thought, but as he raises his thumb to my mouth, inserting it and wetting it on my tongue, then drops it to swirl it against my puckered hole, I simply can not survive the thrill of delight raiding my senses. Thrusting his thumb in concert with his tunneling cock, I'm brimming with him, fullness at every turn, and instantly I'm gone. Buried underneath the luxuriating glow of my orgasm, all I can do is moan a drawn out mewl through my flush of arousal into the crook of his neck.

Within moments, and only a few pumps of his dick later, Rick joins me, floating on a cloud of ecstasy, his semen erupting and washing my womb in its stickiness.

"Mmmm…" Rick growls, low and rough against the side of my face, his lips and teeth biting at my cheek, his curls now sweaty and plastered flat on his forehead. Seconds, minutes pass. Time is of no consequence. It's meaningless in this twinkling instant, when we are joined in a cataclysmic exchange of love, passion. Our souls finding life affirming sustenance in the forceful attraction of the other.

Rick hesitantly opens his eyes, looking upon me with fresh eyes. Clear as water, free from passion or lust, laced only with the luminosity of tender, adoring affection. As though it was the first time he has seen me. Truly.

Sheepishly I have to look away, unable to remain intact, whole under the overpowering ardor of the disarming fix of his stare. I realize that the depth of emotion I witness there must match the love sick cast of my own gaze, seeing through the physical, to the very essence of this man. Recognizing his glowing spirit as my life's compliment.

Stepping back from the wall, Rick reluctantly releases me from his hold, and the pressure of his body pinning me to the wall. Easing me down his body until my feet hit the floor. I'm a bit wobbly, uneasy in the weakness of my legs, like those of a newborn calf, baptized with the gift of birth.

Giggling at my unsteady gait as I head back over towards the tub to wash, I can't help but catch a peek of Rick over my shoulder watching me. Always watching me. Even if we are in a room with hundreds of other people, his eyes always are on me. It's as though I'm the only thing that matters to him, and the very thought of that sends a keening shiver of delight up my spine.

"Let's get cleaned up, Rick."

Chuckling, finally breaking his fixation on me, he follows me into the tub. "We gonna actually bathe this time? You gonna be a good girl now?"

"Maybe. Sit here and let me clean your back and wash your hair."

Settling between my legs, Rick wraps them around his waist again, massaging up and down my calves with his calloused hands as I begin to wash his hair. No words exist between us for a moment, only the lilt of Maxwell still singing into existence the story of us.

Breaking the stillness of the moment, braver than I am, Rick finally speaks. "Sometimes I'm… afraid of how intense I am with you. I want to be gentle with you, handle you softer, like you deserve."

"That's not always what I want, or need."

"I don't want to hurt you. Ever. I would die first, Michonne. The way I feel about you, how much I need you… It's… this thing is scary, consuming…"

"I'm in love with you, Rick. That scares me. But you? You don't scare me, you don't hurt me."

"Hm." He huffs, as though taken by surprise at my admission. "Well then we're both fucked cause I'm in love with you too, Michonne."

"Aren't we a pair, Sheriff?" Wondering at the place we find ourselves, my body still humming, coming down from the high of being properly handled by Rick Grimes, I lighten the moment. "How was work?"

"Rough. Uh, Jessie came in and got a restraining order against her husband. He got out on Monday, and was right back over to her house according to her. Gonna have to find something that will stick to keep that guy away."

"She needs a good lawyer. Not me, but a good one." I grimace, not even wanting to get tangled up in her drama. I have enough of my own, as my mind trails back to the unread texts and unheard voicemails from Mike. While I sympathize with her situation, I also hate the fact that she used it to put her lips on my sheriff. I hope she's smart enough not to attempt it again.

Probably sensing the tension settling in my muscles and my halted movements, Rick offers, "Hey, I'm sorry to bring her up. That wasn't a good idea."

"No problem. Unless you-"

"No I don't." Interrupting, he Rick leans his head back on my chest, still soapy with my coconut mango shampoo. "Let's talk about something else. You ready for Andre's birthday weekend?"

"Yeah. I have to pick up the cake tomorrow morning, and my parents are bringing the car tomorrow as well. The DJ is scheduled, and the caterer is handled, and there's not really much else to do other than watch my baby turn 16."

"Well I'll be here until Monday morning to help make sure you have all the help you need."

"That's sweet of you, Rick. Thank you."

"No problem. When is your ex due in?"

"Ugh. Saturday night, since the game is on Sunday."

"And he's still going to stay here?"

"I was going to tell him not to, but I remember he said hotels were booked for this weekend, so I guess I will still let him stay. Is that ok with you?"

"It's your house, Michonne, you don't have to ask me." He chuckles with a hint of strain. Rick is making light of it, but I can tell the thought makes him unhappy. "But, uh…I'm glad you did ask. It's not a problem though. If I wasn't, I would probably not be cool with it. Sorry, it's the truth."

"No need to be sorry. I appreciate you being honest. And hey, I would not be ok with you letting Lori stay with you if I wasn't there. Hell I don't know if I would be ok even if I was there. It's clear that she's still interested in you."

"What? No she's not."

"Yes she is. Didn't you hear her introduce herself as your wife? She's not slick."

Turning to me, confusion twisting his features, Rick scans my face as if trying to pick out the joke in my words. There is none. "You're serious?"

"As cancer. She was looking at you like you were a steak, and she hadn't eaten in weeks. I don't know whose baby she's carrying, but I'm sure she wishes it was yours."

"Well… you kind of do know whose baby it is."

"What? Rick! You said it's not your baby!" Alarmed at this turn of events, I unwrap my legs from his waist, needing to better understand what's going on.

"Hold on! Not me! Shane! It's Shane's baby." Calming my agitation, his hands are raised in a halting motion. "Shane and I used to be friends. From high school on. Ya know, Lori was his girlfriend first. We were all friends actually. Our senior year they broke up, she caught him with another girl. Which was normal for him, we played baseball, and he was popular. It used to happen a lot, but of course Lori didn't know that. When she found out she was heartbroken, and I was there. I was just there. We slept together once, she thought she was pregnant, so at graduation I proposed. Turned out she wasn't, but we got married anyway. Shane was leaving for school in Alabama, and he didn't seem bothered at all that she and I had hooked up and were a couple."

"Rick, that was sloppy seconds, ew."

"It was stupid, yes. Lori was a sweet girl. Really easy to get along with, and since I was going to play AAA ball as a pitcher here in Georgia, it kind of felt like everything was falling into place for us. She wanted to be a stay at home mother, take care of our family, and I wanted to give her that. But, I hurt my shoulder that summer lifting weights, and my pitching was just never really where it needed to be after that. My pop suggested I enroll in school, apply to become a deputy, and give up on baseball. And I did. I didn't have a choice really. Then Carl came along, and honestly I think Lori never really got over the fact that I didn't end up a famous pitcher. A rich guy. That she was indeed a stay at home mom, but now she was the wife to a small town deputy instead of a ballplayer. When Shane came back from Alabama, he was all kinds of messed up over some girl he was with the died in a bad accident, but we picked our friendship right back up. All three of us. Hell we became partners in the sheriff's office. He even picked back up with his womanizing ways, it was like old times. But I guess his dad got sick of him being the talk of the town, and wanted him to clean it up a little, so he talked him into go to law school in the city, UGA. Again he came back after school, and I thought things would be the same, but they were different. He was the same Shane, but Lori began to look at him differently this time."

"She was jealous."

"Yeah, I think she was jealous. He was the man she wanted me to be. A big shot, making big money. I wasn't that guy. I was happy being a deputy, with my small house, and my family. I wanted more kids, but other than that, it was good. I guess in the end she chose him, and here we are."

"Damn. So he was trying to get with me, and he and Lori are having a baby together? This is some shit. I wonder if my dad knows? You know he's the one who tried to hook Shane and I up. They met playing golf, and he thought Shane and I would be a good match. Guess he was wrong."

"He was very wrong."

"He was."

"The other day when Lori showed up at my house she said he's not answering her calls. She needs money, stuff for her and the baby. I guess they aren't together anymore."

"What did she expect you to do about that?" Rolling my eyes, I'm incredulous at her nerve. How dare she bring Rick into her and Shane's drama? It raises my hackIes a bit, my need to protect Rick from this sordid mess, and escape the small town drama. King County is like a cesspool of bullshit it seems.

"To talk to him. Like I said, we used to be friends, but we have had ups and downs over the years. He was pissed that I was a better ball player, that I had a chance to make a living at that. I think he's still mad about Lori, even though he swore he wasn't. There were a couple of dustups when we were deputies together, some stuff he should have steered cleared of that I simply didn't want any parts of. He's upset that I didn't even have to run a real campaign to be elected sheriff. The mayor kind of put it out there, then it just took off, and I got elected. I didn't want the job, and I didn't run for it. Shane thinks everything has come easy to me. It hasn't but you can't convince him of that. Thinks I'm a golden boy or some shit."

"Wow. I guess that explains a lot. He did say to me that you always get what you want, I- I was trying to tell him about you and me, but he didn't want to hear it. And all the time that he was trying to date me, he had cheated with your ex-wife and got her pregnant. What a piece of shit he is! I'm so embarrassed that I thought he might be a half decent guy."

"Hey, don't be embarrassed. Shane is a charming guy, I get it. He's always been a hit with the ladies. But, I told him to stay away from my lady. And he better."

Ducking my head feeling ashamed, I shake my head in disgust at the whole sordid drama. "I can't say it enough, Rick, I'm so sorry I ever let him get in between us. I am."

"He's not between us because we won't let him. Or Jessie, or Lori. No one. Nothing, can come between us. Right?"

"Right." Grinning at the finality in Rick's and my proclamations, I proceed in rinsing my lover's hair.


"Mom! Rick! You guys awake?"

"Andre? Hold on a sec."

Wrapping myself up in my robe, I cinch the tie around my waist and quickly open the door to see why my son is frantically knocking and calling my name from the other side of my bedroom door. Opening it, I find him standing there with a pensive yet nervous frown on his face as he cleans his glasses on his sweatshirt.

"Andre, what's going on? Is everything ok?"

"No! Yes? No… I don't know."

"What? Slow down and tell me what's going on. Is everything ok or not? And if not, why?" I ask, cocking my head a bit to peer into my son's face. Pushing his glasses back onto his face he blows out an exasperated breath as his eyes dance behind the lenses. Initially avoiding eye contact, he tilts his head back, searching for the answer on the ceiling I suppose.

"Andre Miles Anthony, honey, use your words and tell me what's wrong."

"Dad is here. Downstairs."

"What?"

"He showed up about an hour ago. I tried to come tell you, but he said not to, since we could kind of hear you guys downstairs. Ya know the music, and uh…you and uh…Rick were kind of loud. And Dad said he texted you and left you a voicemail to tell you already, and you would find out when you were no longer preoccupied anyway. So… I'm sorry, please don't be mad!"

"Why would I be mad? This isn't your fault. Your father wasn't supposed to come until Saturday night. I don't know why he's so damn early." Frustrated at Mike's assumption that he can just pop into our lives when he's ready. I do crack a tiny grin in amusement at the thought of him hearing Rick and I having sex. Serves his ass right.

"Well… um so, when I spoke to him the other day, I kind of mentioned that you were throwing a 90s themed house party for me Friday night. He didn't say anything about it then, but maybe he thought he would come for that also?"

"Sounds like your father. Ok, well no worries. Let's go see what the hell is going on with him. Where is Carl by the way?"

"Downstairs keeping Dad company. I had to try and come up here to warn you, so as soon as I heard the music stop, I had Carl distract him so I could rush up here."

"Andre, I appreciate you being so mature and thoughtful, but that wasn't necessary. I can handle your dad. It's all good."

"What about Rick? How's he gonna handle Dad being here?"

"How's Rick gonna handle what?" Rick asks, exiting my bedroom in a pair of sweatpants and a white t-shirt that he left over here a few weeks ago. Among a lot of other things. Actually Rick has two drawers and half of the bathroom vanity now, and it's funny as I watch him scoop and swipe a few curls behind his ears, and I think how easily all of that just came to be. He's got a few spare uniforms hanging in the closet, a pair of sneakers, and it's official that the side of the bed closest to the door is his.

"Uh, my ex is here, downstairs. Early."

"Oh yeah? Well let's go say hello." Dropping a kiss to my cheek, Rick hustles down the stairs, and all Andre and I can do is stare in awe as we listen for any potential fallout. Instead, we only catch Rick's deep southern accent offering a hello, and his name to my ex.

"Well come on, Andre. Let's get this over with."


"So, I apologize, Meesh. I didn't realize you had company. I texted you and left a voicemail to let you know that I was going to try and get a flight today. I hope it's still ok I stay here. You know all of the hotels are booked this weekend because of the game." Mike offers, easing his body back into the comfort of the large cushions on the couch.

"I wasn't feeling well, so I haven't been checking my phone. I saw you called though."

"Sounds like you were feeling ok to me." He dryly comments, his voice flat as his eyes quickly dart over to Rick who's sitting on my left, his arm casually draped across my shoulders.

"I had to come take care of my girl. She's better now. Right, sweetheart?" Rick asks, leaving a peck on my cheek in the process.

"Uh, yep. Feeling a little better now. Still a bit nauseous though. Matter of fact I could use some more tea."

Rising to retrieve the tea, and escape the odd tension hanging over the living room, my head instantly begins swimming again with a tinge of dizziness. I don't know if this is from whatever is making me feel sick, or if this is from sharing an evening with my boyfriend and my ex-husband. It's such an odd thing, it's like being a spectator to one of those daytime soap operas where the tension is always so overly theatrical and dramatic. Right now, this scenario I'm living through isn't far off.

Mike is pissed. I can tell by the curt and snarky way that he's speaking, only addressing me. Rick is cool as a breeze, his fingers twirling my dreads over his fingers one minute, caressing the spot just behind my ear with his thumb the next, his involvement in the conversation a constant, despite Mike's intention to cut him out of it. And poor Carl and Andre have retreated to Cyndie's house, obviously not wanting to get caught in the crossfire of whatever wild west showdown they are expecting to happen.

Dropping back to the couch, a grimace scrunching my face at the way my head feels to be spinning, Rick catches me in his arms.

"Hey, sit back, sweetheart. I'll get you some tea." Wiping his large hand over my forehead, removing the sheen of sweat that has almost instantaneously gathered there, seemingly out of thin air, Rick's eyes focus on my face in concern. His pretty eyes squinting and animating the lines around his eyes. "Matter of fact, I'm gonna run around the corner to Publix and just get some ginger and make you this drink I found for the nausea ok? It'll just take a moment." Kissing me on my lips, Rick fusses over me, settling me on the couch with my feet up, and propping me against the throw pillows.

"You don't have to, Rick. I'm fi-" Heaving, I launch myself from the couch and run to the bathroom. Barely making it, the tea and crackers I consumed after our bath release themselves in a heap into the toilet. Apparently Rick and Mike hurried after me, with Rick catching up to me first. Crouching on the floor behind me, he's holding my dreads back from my face as I continue to lurch and heave the contents of my stomach into the toilet. I hate throwing up. I never do it, thankfully, as I don't get sick very often. The bile burns my throat, and the force of the spasms from my gut incite a bout of fresh tears to well in my eyes, and float down my cheeks in fat drops.

"Meesh, baby, you ok?" I hear Mike question from the doorway of the bathroom.

Rick doesn't even give me a chance to answer as he's lifting me in his strong arms, and taking me back to the couch. Rushing back and forth, he quickly brings me a cool damp towel that he places on my forehead. A cup of water to rinse my mouth. The wastebasket from the bathroom, and a throw blanket from the closet. With my eyes drowsy, and at half mast, I could only partially make out Mike sitting across from me on the other end of the sectional, once again watching Rick take charge and fuss over me. I can only imagine what's going through his head, but decide that whatever it is, I don't care. I just want to rest.


Allowing my eyes to drowsily fall closed for what feels like only a moment, I am startled awake by the intense feeling of nausea flushing over me again, sending me back to the bathroom. Once the vomiting passes, and I'm standing in the mirror, rinsing my mouth, I catch Mike's eyes on mine in the mirror.

"Meesh, you never throw up. Never. The last time I remember you throwing up was while we were in Hawaii and you found out you were pregnant with Andre." Smiling sadly, his eyes flit away from my reflection in the mirror. "Guess we both know that's not possible. Even if you do have a new boyfriend."

Sighing, I see the Mike that I know so well, the one who seemed hidden behind the polite façade he wore while in Rick's presence, has finally emerged.

"Well… thank you for the reminder, Mike. For making sure I never forget all of my faults."

"Just being honest with you. You know, your friend is a little intense right? All of the fussing over you. Rushing around playing nurse. He putting on this show for me or you?" Entering the bathroom, standing close behind me, I can feel the heat of his chest emanating through his sweater and my robe, on to my back. "You should tell him that he doesn't have to try so hard."

"Where is Rick?"

"He ran off to the store after you fell asleep. You were only out for a few minutes."

"Oh." His proximity to me is throwing me off. Mike is much taller than I am, at least a good five inches, but the way he's leaning his body down into mine is causing his warm breath to drift across the side of my face as he speaks in a low, deep register, directly towards my ear.

"This is the guy who was with my wife and son for parents' night, huh?" Sweeping my locks off of my neck, Mike eases around to my side to make eye contact with me, latching his dark chocolate eyes with my own. For a moment I see all of the love we used to have swirling there, mixing it up with some new unreadable sentiment that I'm not used to coming from him. "I have to apologize to you, Meesh. I did you so wrong, baby girl. I did. I'm sorry. There simply aren't enough words to express how sorry."

"I've forgiven you, Mike. The ink has dried on those divorce papers, and it's done. We're done." I offer in acceptance of his apology. Backing away from him, I don't want to put myself in a bad position. Not just because I don't want to give him the wrong idea, but also because I will be damned if I ever hurt Rick again. Never again.

Walking back to the living room, I wrap up in the blanket and reposition myself on the couch where Rick left me.

"Meesh, I've been going to counseling, trying to get my shit together. And, I realize that the reason things crumbled between us is because I realized that it wasn't you, you were never the problem. You and Dre are the best things to ever happen to me."

"Mike, this… let's not do this, ok?"

"Just, please give me a minute. It was me. Always me. I couldn't make you happy anymore. How could I when all I could see of myself was that I couldn't be the man my family expected me to be. I wasn't the husband or father that you and Dre deserved. If anything I made you guys miserable while I was chasing this sense of duty I had to my parents, to my family to be this successful guy with a large family, like my dad, my brothers. When I figured I couldn't be that with you, I- I did seek that elsewhere. But you were everything. This kick ass lawyer, and mother. This sexy ass woman, and gotdamn it, Meesh, you just don't know how badly I missed being with you. But I was a failure, and you reminded me of that. But, I promise, no one has ever turned me on like my baby girl. You owned me, baby, you still do. I just gotta get my head together. I was so hurt that we couldn't grow our family. Angry… I was angry as hell. What we had was so perfect, ya know?"

"It wasn't, Mike. I see that now. It wasn't perfect. Things started good, but you got mean. You hurt me more than I can even verbalize right now without wanting to cry, and I'm not gonna give you anymore of my tears. My pain." Gritting the words out, choking back the tears, I turn my face from him. I can't look at him right now.

"Baby girl, I know. I know. I owe you everything, my life, my heart…everything. I'm such a fool that I thought the grass was greener elsewhere, but Meesh, baby, if I had taken care of you in the first place, tended to my earth, made it a fertile place for love and life to take root and grow, I wouldn't be where I am now…on the other side of the fence, where there is nothing but a patch of weeds and dirt. Watching this other guy with my lady. Teaching my son to drive, getting haircuts. Dre talks about that motherfucker like he's the fucking father of the year."

Rising from the couch, he walks towards me, and it frightens me at first. Not because I think he will physically hurt me. No. It's the look on his face. How afraid but determined he is. His long strides hurried, but paced. Those eyes so intent and focused on me. Crouching in front of me, he grabs my hand in both of his.

"I still love you, Meesh. And, my counselor… it's like he held a mirror up for me to see how my toxic masculinity poisoned things between us. All of the blame I could muster was just delivered at your feet. Instead of protecting you, loving on you when you lost our babies… what did I do? Like a fucking coward I ran to my parents! What kind of man does that?"

"Mike-"

"Let me finish, please…" He groans. The wail in his voice like a wounded animal. Tears are brimming in his eyes, fierce and focused on mine, pleading for the strength to get through whatever else he needs to say. And while I'm flattered that he wants to apologize, it's too little too late. "You needed me. I was supposed to be there for you then, and I wasn't. But I will now. I promise."

"What does that mean, Mike?"

"I'm moving back to Atlanta. For good."

Chapter 9 by Fik Freak

Chapter 9 – Rick

She's pregnant! Pregnant! Michonne! With my baby? My baby! Calm down, Rick. Calm. I need to practice that breathing or meditation thing that Michonne does, because right now? I'm freaking the fuck out, but in the best way. Walking up and down the aisles of the grocery store I'm trying to relax. Over the last week or so Michonne has been complaining of being sensitive emotionally and physically. Her breasts are tender. And now she's throwing up. Can't stand the smell of pizza. She loves pizza! I don't know why neither of us realized this, but it's gotta be that she's pregnant.

When I was at her house looking up home remedies for nausea on Google, and the first article mentioned pregnancy as the cause for the symptoms, it didn't even occur to me that this could be it. Nope. Not an inkling. I literally paid it no mind. I was just frustrated that she wasn't feeling well, and was so focused on helping her that my tunnel vision didn't even allow me to entertain the thought.

But now? Oh yeah, I got it now. I would like to take credit for this epiphany, but nope, not this time. I owe it all to another guy. A serendipitous meeting with a kind, weary looking doctor I happened upon in the produce section, also buying ginger.

"How the hell do you make tea from this?" I wonder aloud to myself, holding up the weird root looking thing. It looks like the picture on my phone's screen, and Google says this is right, but…

"Yeah, dude, that's the right thing. You gotta peel it, then boil it."

"Excuse me?"

"Peel, then boil."

"Boil the skin? Or the insides?"

"This your first baby?" He asks, frowning behind the black rims of his thick glasses. 

"Say again?" I respond, confused by this whole conversation, and the look of this brown tree branch thing that's supposed to be ginger. Turning it over in my hands, I'm not even sure how to peel this thing without also nicking the skin on my own fingers, and in dismay I'm realizing that my once bright idea to help Michonne with a remedy for whatever is causing her sickness, now feels foolish and impossible. 

Blowing out a tired sigh the guy standing next to me in a dark wool coat, dark slacks, wingtips, white shirt, and a dark tie, softens his voice and continues to try and help me out. "I assume you're over here buying organic ginger root for your wife. For nausea, cause she's pregnant?"

"What?"

"It's ok. You must still be in shock. New dads usually are. Hi, I'm Heath." He offers me his hand, and despite the staggering jolt of shock from his assumption, I accept. Giving my hand a quick, firm shake and a practiced smile, as though he's gone through this before, he continues. "I'm a OBGYN over at Emory University Hospital. Uh, so you will peel the ginger, then you can take slices of it, and steep it in your wife's favorite tea. Green is probably best, not black, too much caffeine. Or if she's having multiples and the symptoms are really bad, she can suck on the ginger slices directly, but that's not going to taste very good. Got it?"

Furrowing my brow in confusion, I'm still not fully understanding, and I hate being confused. I have no clue why this guy thinks my "wife" is pregnant just because she's nauseous. I do like the sound of him referring to my Michonne as my wife though. I could definitely get used to that. "So, yeah, that's the main symptom of pregnancy, right? Nausea?" Squinting my eyes in question, I'm attempting to keep my face a placid canvas, a look that I have perfected at work when questioning criminals. It usually works. Makes them think I'm neutral about whatever subject I'm questioning them about, when really I'm probably pissed off that they won't just confess to whatever the hell they did. I hope it's working because I need this guy to clarify a few things before I lose my shit. Pregnant? Pregnant!

"Well yeah, she might have the breast sensitivity too, kind of like when her period is coming, but worse. Didn't her doctor explain any of this to you guys?" He asks patiently, sliding his hands into his coat pockets. 

"Uh…" Deciding to play along, and maybe get a little more free information out of this guy, since he's a doctor, I continue to follow this pregnancy thing with him. "No, it's still very early. Maybe just a few weeks? We're not even certain she's pregnant yet." 

"Oh! Ok, makes sense why you're so confused then. Got it. Well, yeah you might wanna grab a pregnancy test while you're here then, because some of them now can tell like a week or so after implantation if HCG is present, especially if it's multiples. If it's multiples the symptoms and the HCG will be stronger in her system early on. Might explain why she's already showing signs of nausea. For my wife, on our first kids, twins, she could tell within two weeks. Cramping, fatigue, she had a little spotting and thought she was getting her period at first, and was pretty upset. We were trying to get pregnant. But she took one of those early tests, and confirmed it."

"Fatigue huh? Wait a minute, ok…" Putting up my hands in a stopping motion to slow this all down a bit, I try to gather my thoughts and my words into a semblance of coherence, despite the mass clump of confusion and excitement in my brain. Did he say multiples? "My wife, uh, she's been real tired, and thinks she's getting her period, but it's been at least four weeks and nothing… She's throwing up now, cramping, breasts real sore. But, what do you think of this…um… another doctor told her she can't have anymore babies. She's had two miscarriages after our son who is 15." I confide to him, lowering my voice and scanning the mostly empty grocery store for anyone who might be listening. This feels like a delicate conversation to be having in public given the sensitive nature of what I'm sharing, and it seems odd to be doing so with this stranger, but he's shedding light on something that I did consider asking her about. The whole time I've known her, she hasn't had a period. It's been nearly five weeks and nothing. I'm no OBGYN, but I was a married man, and I know to expect 'Aunt Flo' usually once a month. Not wanting to pry, and obviously enjoying all of the sex we have been having without her period's interruption, I haven't said anything. Not that I would care about Michonne being on her period anyway. It wouldn't hamper my desire to have sex with her.

Regardless, I'm eagerly awaiting the good doctor's thoughts on the situation. He seems to be giving what I said some thought, nodding to himself, taking his time, but I need him to hurry up and just tell me if he thinks she's pregnant or if it's even a possibility. Maybe the quiet, steady tenor of my voice betrayed me and falsely communicated to him that I'm calm, but I'm not. Honestly, the more the possibility unfurls in my brain, in my heart, the more I'm freaking the fuck out! Is it possible that Michonne is pregnant? With my baby? My baby!

Giving me that easy-going, gentle smile again, Heath pats me on the back, and finally offers his thoughts in the same professional manner he's been approaching this whole conversation with. "Hey man, listen, medicine is not a perfect science. Doctors would like to think it is. I mean, I have nearly $200,000 in student loans that says it should be, but it's not. Anything is possible. If she still has a uterus, is ovulating…? Anything is possible. I don't want to get your hopes up, especially after hearing about the miscarriages. I'm sorry about that by the way, but you know, the human body is both a miracle of nature and a wonder of cosmic engineering. Its design is a masterpiece of form, function, and fallibility. I have a patient, she's 50, thought she was going through menopause then showed up nearly four months pregnant. I have another patient that only has one fallopian tube, and after nearly ten years of trying to get pregnant, she popped up pregnant. Just remember, that anything can happen, my friend. You think you're retiring from baby days, and poof!" Snapping his fingers, he nods his head at me, confirming the true possibility of what he's suggesting, and immediately it sets my heart to racing. Like Nascar racing. Like hundred miles an hour, turn left, turn left, pedal to the floor, racing. 

"Really?"

"Really. Ya know, if I were you, I would just pick up a test. What's it gonna hurt? And if it's positive, here is my card. Good luck, man. I gotta get this ginger home for my wife. We're expecting our third baby in seven months, and she's feeling kind of like your wife is right now." Clapping me on the back again, and giving me a large smile, a knowing one that shows all of his teeth, he turns away, pushing his cart towards the front of the store while I stand there, dumbfounded. Pregnant? Michonne? With my baby? My baby!

And I still don't believe it. I've been walking the store for nearly thirty minutes, purposely avoiding the aisle that might have the pregnancy tests in it. I just… I don't want to get my hopes up, though I committed everything Heath said to memory. I could recite our whole conversation word for word if needed. And maybe I will need to, in order to discuss this with Michonne, because I know this might be a difficult conversation. I realized on the night of the Maxwell concert we attended, that the idea of pregnancy is a sore spot for her. I get it. I know why it is. I know that asshole she used to be married to didn't have enough empathy in him to treat her with the care and respect she deserves, and now the conversation of babies is a non-starter. But, how can we ignore this potential miracle? How could we simply disregard the possibility that we have created life, together?

The very thought has me sweating. My hands are clenched in a death grip on the shopping cart, knuckles white. Forehead is clammy, perspiration dampening my face. A baby? My baby. My Michonne. It's all swirling around in my head, a cacophony of possibilities filling me with the sweet, sticky happiness of cotton candy confections and dreams. Michonne swollen, beautiful, glowing, carrying our child. The delectable sable cast of her exquisite skin, stretching, it's velvety smoothness glowing, luminous as it fans out over her body to house and protect our most precious creation. The evidence of our love, our passion, our commitment to each other. And now I'm grinning, like an idiot, a fool, so in love with this woman, with the possibility, that I'm floating on air, light and feathery, dropping all manner of random things into my cart.

Big Kat chocolate bars? Let me grab a couple of those. Michonne has been inhaling those. Eggs, bread, milk, sugar? Need it for the French toast I'm going to make her in the morning. Turkey sausage, grab some of that. Andre and his no pork rule. Ranch dressing. Let me get this big bottle so Carl can drown his chicken in it. I don't know how he can even taste the chicken under all the damn ranch dressing. Beer? Nope, not anymore. Gotta keep my senses sharp just in case we've got a baby on the way. Green tea? Yeah, he said green not black. No more caffeine, gotta get rid of the coffee at her house. No more caffeine for the baby. The baby. My baby. Our baby!

Feeling my phone vibrating in my coat pocket, my attention is pulled back from the random aimlessness of my grocery shopping. Reaching into my pocket, I retrieve it, noticing that it's a call from Carl.

"Hey, Carl, what's up?"

"Is the coast clear for Andre and I to come back yet? Is everything cool?"

"Yeah. Why wouldn't it be?"

"Well, with his dad showing up unannounced, and the noise coming from Michonne's room, we thought it might get…awkward?"

"Noises?"

"Yeah, Dad, noises. Loud…ahem… adult noises."

"Ah, got it." Sheepishly I duck my head, even though Carl can't see me, I'm slightly embarrassed that my son heard Michonne and I having sex. We got a little carried away I suppose. I did. She caught me off guard. There was no expectation on my part that we would be having sex tonight with her not feeling well. But, in true Michonne form, she left me speechless when she mounted me with her soft, wet body in the bathtub. I tried to restrain myself, but how could I? She owns me. And she knows it. I can't turn her down, it's simply not possible. And there's no way in hell that I wasn't going to fuck her, and punish her when she asked for it. I don't even own the kind of restraint that would require. Oh well, nothing I can do about it now, though it is amusing to think that her ex probably heard us too. Good. The thought of that spineless, son of a bitch hearing me take care of my lady, and her so vocally enjoying it, pleases me. Instead of feeling ashamed like I just did for a brief moment, I smile, and offer my son a quick apology. "Sorry you guys had to hear that."

"It's not the first time, Dad. Probably won't be the last." Carl groans, and if I know my son, at this minute he's rolling his eyes and flushing a bright crimson red as well. "But, you and Andre's dad are getting along? Everything is cool?"

"It's cool."

"Not the word I was expecting, but ok, Dad." He nervously chuckles. "That's why we got out of there. We were expecting something more dangerous to go down. Sometimes you have a temper."

Laughing a little at their strategic move to make themselves scarce just in case, I have to agree that it was a good idea, and yes, I have been known to have a temper. Not always, but, it's happened. In my younger days when I played ball, and when I was first a deputy, there were instances where aggression was my first response to adversity. It made me a good pitcher. My coaches, and even the recruiters who came to see me play often remarked that it gave me some unique qualities that more passive or neutral pitchers didn't have. When I was on the mound, I simply didn't care what anyone thought of me because I knew I was good. I worked hard, I'd been playing the game since I was five years old, and had my own pitching coach since I was ten. My stats and the amount of attention I got for striking some of the best batters out was my reward for all of the hard work, it's what kept me working harder and harder. For this reason, I was one of the most well known, and most feared pitchers in the state of Georgia.

As a deputy it made me unafraid of confrontation. Hell, I actually thrived in the more intense situations that others might shy away from. And when paired with Shane, it made us a pair that no one wanted to cross. It was that way on the baseball field, and that way in King County. Rick Grimes was real cool, until he wasn't, and you simply did not want to fuck with him. Period. I had become well known as a leader, someone guys respected, and women wanted. I guess Carl has heard enough of the stories from my dad about me hitting batters with 90 mile an hour pitches and not giving a fuck, and from Shane about neither of us ever running from a fight, to know all about my temper. So, yeah, the kid is right.

After Shane left the sheriff's office, and things started crumbling with Lori, I tried to reign all of that in. Be a little more reflective on how all of that could have contributed to my failed marriage. To how my son might see me, and how he might grow up, emulating that kind of behavior himself. Seeing how it can dangerously turn in on a man, toxically poison the purity of families like the Peletiers, the Andersons, the Anthonys… I just don't want that to ever be me. So, I fell back from that a little. Losing my MLB future, my wife, my family, it has humbled me some. Taken down the cocky confidence I once brandished like a weapon in the very basic fiber of my being. He's still there though, just under the surface, waiting. The truth is, sometimes when trouble hits too close to home, when those I love are threatened, that man isn't waiting that far in my rear view either, as Shane learned a few days ago. I'm still a work in progress, but I have noticed that being with Michonne seems to have reinvigorated parts of that dormant man. Some of the more dominant, aggressive, pieces, the need to protective, the confidence.

"Nah, it's all good. No fighting. And actually it might be a good idea for you guys to head back to the house. Michonne's still not feeling well. Started throwing up. I'm at the store now grabbing some things for her to help her feel better. I'll be back in just a bit."

"You left her alone with him?" Carl whispers, as though he doesn't want those around him to hear. Namely Andre. This is an odd situation, so I completely understand his hesitance for his friend to hear him concerned about his parents being alone together. Carl is smart, and he's clearly thought through the dynamic of me dating Andre's mother, his father showing up, hearing us together, and Andre wanting his parents back together, at least he did only a few short weeks ago. It's my hope that he's changed his mind considering how close we have gotten, and how happy he sees that his mother is with me, but it's not incomprehensible that he's not still holding out hope. Given all of this, it's a perfect storm of sorts, and I can sense that Carl is approaching it with precarious forethought because he doesn't want things, this new family we seem to be building with Michonne and Andre, to destructively fall apart. I get it. Carl is as wounded by the events of the last few years as any of the rest of us. He has seen his family eviscerated by adult drama, and I'm keenly aware of the scars he bears as a result. The tinge of fear underlying his maturing teenage voice bear witness to what Carl has survived, and I won't put him through it again. If I learned nothing else over the last year, it's that divorce doesn't just wound the adults. It leaves behind it a trail of broken hearts, and destroyed promises for adults and children alike.

"Carl, I don't want you to worry about this, ok? This is adult stuff that Michonne and I will work out. Everything will be ok. I promise. Ok?" It damn sure better. Especially if she's pregnant. Looking up I realize that I must have been so distracted by my phone call that I have somehow ambled into the very aisle that I was carefully avoiding, and now I'm face to face with a plethora of pregnancy tests. Stumbling over my words as my eyes erratically scan the shelves, I offer in closing, "Uh, so you guys head on home whenever you're ready. I'll be there directly."

"Ok, Dad."

"Ok." I mutter, and hit the end button on my phone's screen. Narrowly focusing my gaze on the rows of glossy, pink and blue boxes, I begin to more intensely scrutinize the words on them and notice the advertising is promising a variation of the very thing my heart is now seeking. I run my fingers over the words emblazoned across each box. Accurate results! Early confirmation! First response! Clearblue Easy with digital results! How the hell am I supposed to choose the right one? My head is spinning again, it's all a bit much for a guy like me. A guy who just a little over a month ago didn't have a whole lot to look forward to. Who never would have imagined that a beauty like Michonne would give me a glance, let alone sleep with me. But now there's the prospect of lasting love, and a second chance at a family. A baby. It's a whirlwind, a raging torrent of emotions and experiences, filling my once staid existence with love and hope. And overwhelming my once dormant senses in such a short amount of time.

Since I met Michonne that is the story of my life. This amazing woman has blown my mind and turned me upside down, and inside out, shaking me up and releasing me in the wonderful world of Michonne. Like Dorothy in Oz, I'm a little imbalanced by this magical turn of events, but I couldn't be more thankful for the possibility offered in this adventure. An excursion, an exciting journey anchored in love.

Thinking of her, and wanting to get back to her, to not allow that asshole any more time alone with her, I grab one of each of the tests, and rush to the front of the store. Scanning each of my items through the self-checkout in record time, I speed back because there's no place like home. To my lady. To my Michonne.


"Yeah, I'm moving back to Atlanta. I think it's the best thing to do. For me, for Andre. For all of us."

"I'm sure Andre will be pleased to have you back here. He definitely misses you."

"He the only one?" Mike asks Michonne. Walking through the front door, I can hear his voice before I see him, and I'm thankful for that because when I do see him, had I not been prepared by his verbal pleas, I might have punched him first and asked questions later. On one knee in front of Michonne, who's laying on the couch in the same spot I left her, Mike has her delicate hand clutched greedily in one of his, while the other is cupping her cheek, his thumb caressing the softness of her skin.

Before she notices me, Michonne jerks away from his touch, flinching as though burned by him daring to touch her, and her eyes light up, a flicker dancing with something I've never seen there before. Anger. Instantly it cools my own temper to know that she and I remain on one accord. No one, nothing gets between us, and as she becomes aware of my presence, her gaze transforms, softens as it lands on me, the twinkle of stardust glittering on the surface of her dark pupils. And it helps me remember the most important thing, she loves me. Not him. Me.

"Everything ok here? Michonne, honey, you feeling any better?" I ask, my own cool eyes never leaving hers, completely dismissing her ex's intruding presence.

"Yeah, baby, I'm good." She confirms in her breathy voice, a smile curving her full, pretty lips as she yanks her hand away from him. "You were gone too long."

Displeasure drops his face into a frown at her coldly taking her hand from him, and no longer gifting him with her attention. Rising, he moves to sit on the end of the couch opposite her, and folds his arms in a petulant pout.

"I picked up a few things." Lifting the bags for her perusal, I pull out the ginger, and show off the other things I bought that we probably didn't need. There are still other bags though, two others that hold all of the pregnancy tests I purchased. Those remain in the back seat of my truck. I should have brought them in with me. I didn't. I chickened out. When I pulled up into the driveway, a little voice in the bag of my head kept at me, guiding me, telling me to be easy. She's skittish still. This is a difficult subject for her. I know! I know! I gave in. I left them behind, and will have to figure out how to broach the subject with her later, ease her into the conversation. But, accosting her with bags of impulse purchases is not the way to approach this with my delicate little bird. I can't risk her fluttering away from me, hurting both of us in the process. Or worse yet, stoking the fires of her discontent, back into the dangerous arms of her feckless ex. No, I need a little more finesse on this one. "I'll fix you some tea, then we can head up for bed."

Walking into the kitchen, I drop my bags on the counter, and within a few moments I can feel the press of Michonne's tiny body to my back, and her toned arms around my midsection. The closeness of her form warms me, knocks the chill from the January wind from my clothes, and engulfs me in her welcoming heat.

"Looks like you got more than a few things?" She whispers as I begin unloading the bags, a questioning lilt at the end of her words. Reaching around me she begins to help as well, and as soon as my eye catches the sight of the blue and pink packaging of one of the tests in her hand, I drop my head because know I'm in trouble. Shit. This is why I don't lie and I don't sneak. I'm terrible at it. While my brother Jeff can lie and be sneaky with a straight face, get away with anything, I start sweating and confessing within minutes of even being suspected of wrongdoing. Guess who got in trouble the most when they were kid?

Now standing next to me on my right side, Michonne raises the box to her face, and seemingly freezes. Glancing over her head to where her ex is still sitting in the living room, distracted with his thumb gliding over the screen of is phone, I take a deep breath, ready to come clean. "Let's go upstairs. I'll explain."

Unblinking, unsmiling, Michonne keeps the box tight in her hand and does a curt about face to turn towards the steps. As her foot hits the first few steps she announces over her shoulder just as Andre and Carl walk back in through the front door. "Rick and I are heading to bed. Mike you can stay in the room at the end of the hall like you usually do. Andre, Carl, I'll see you guys in the morning. Love you. Rick?" Slightly turning her head to find me, she quirks her eyebrow, as though needing to ensure that I'm following her orders. I am. I'm also trying to quickly figure out how I'm going to ease her into this conversation, and wondering how they hell that one test got in the bags that came in the house?

"Coming." I answer, then swivel my head to greet the boys and offer them a few brief hugs, needing to hurry so as not to give Michonne time to come up with her own theories on why I bought the pregnancy test. I'm not saying she's dramatic, but I am saying she has a good imagination. How can she not with all of the movies this woman watches? She told me once that she thought her neighbor across the street was a spy because he comes and goes at odd hours of the night, and is always wearing dark clothes. Last week when I tried to explain to her that I met him one night when I was taking out the trash, and that he's an airline pilot who flies in and out of town at all hours, her only response was an eye roll, and a pat to my knee, as if I was the one who was wrong. In a condescending tone she advised me sweetly, that of course he would say that, that's his cover.

"Rick?" she calls for me again from the top of the stairs, and I can see she is stopped in the doorway to her bedroom, her fingers drumming loudly against the frame of the door.

"Awe man, Rick, what did you do?" Andre whispers, his hand over his lips as though he was trying to hide his communication from his mother's scrutinizing stare from upstairs.

"What makes you think I did anything?"

"I heard how she called your name. You better go before she throws in your middle and last names also, then you're really in trouble."

"That's true. She called me Carl Robert Grimes a few weeks ago when I left my plate in the sink instead of putting it in the dishwasher. Then I got a polite talking to about cleaning up after myself, and how she doesn't work for us. So, yeah, Dad. What did you do?"

"You two mind your business, I'm a grown man. I don't get in trouble."

"Richard!" Michonne sweetly calls again, and yeah, I think I'm in trouble.

"Coming!" Running up the stairs two at a time, to the snickering laughter coming from the boys, the last thing I hear before shutting the bedroom door behind myself, is Mike asking Andre if it's always like this around here.

Sitting calmly on the bed, one long leg daintily crossed over the other, peeking from between the opening of her robe, Michonne is still holding the box in her hand. But instead of the scowl I thought I would find, her sexy lips are pursed into a sly little smile. A smile?

"You think I'm pregnant?"

"Don't you?"

"I told you I can't have anymore babies, Rick. I know you want more kids. I know, baby, and I wish I could give you that. I hate disappointing you, but…"

"You could never disappoint me. But, let's think this through, ok." Counting off on my fingers, I list the symptoms that I discussed with the doctor in the grocery store. "Nausea, throwing up, fatigue, cramping-"

"Rick, baby-" Putting her hands up as if to halt my list recitation, Michonne is sadly shaking her head back and forth, refusing to entertain the very idea of it.

"What's it gonna hurt for us to check?" I shrug, echoing Heath's words spoken to me at the store, and unable to look directly at her any longer. I can't. I don't want her to see the hopefulness that is surely swimming in my own eyes. And I can't bear the pity for me daring to hope, that I'm sure to find in hers. Instead I step across the floor in front of her, back and forth, eyes downcast, watching my feet sink into the carpet, awaiting her answer.

Softly, in an almost inaudible voice, so small, barely there, she offers. "If I take this test, will you let this go?" Reaching out for me now, taking a hold of my hand, she halts my movements and clutches it tightly and squeezes, regaining my attention to her face. Nothing but the warm chocolate of her alluring eyes can be found there. Not pity. Something else. Something loving and kind. It's welling up in the depths of her wide eyes. That something pushes forward, transforming the emotions on her face from anguished pity, to clear, transparent adoration. For me. It's this feeling for me that brings her to her feet, pulling me into the bathroom behind her, to put to rest either way, regardless of her disbelief, the possibility.

Walking in to the small room with the toilet, test in hand, Michonne quietly closes the door behind her, sectioning herself off from my wandering eyes with the soft click of it latching closed. Dropping to the white stool placed in front of her vanity, I lean my head forward, catching it in the palms of both of my upturned hands. And I wait. Briefly I can make out the twinkling of her peeing in the toilet, then a flush. Then nothing.

It's in this span of time, where everything is still, petrified in the moment, that my life becomes so clear to me. My world, every one, everything that means anything to me is here in this house with me. And regardless of the results of this test, the best thing to ever happen to me is waiting, probably petrified, behind that closed door. It's the purest, sincerest thought I can muster right now. It's a sobering premise. That no matter what, this thing between Michonne and I, is enough. The family we've already put together, her, me, Andre, and Carl, is enough. It might have to be, and despite the flood of anticipation and desire that drives me to want to create more love, more life with this woman…she is enough. Now and forever.

Minutes have crawled by, and with my head heavily drooped forward, engulfed in the loud busy traffic of my own rapid thoughts, I have somehow missed that Michonne is standing in front of me. But I feel her, her energy calling, pulling at mine, a magnetic and visceral attraction I've come to recognize as my soul's recognition of its compliment. In tuned to her cosmic vibrations, I look up, ready to face the expected revelation of truth, but unprepared for the actual sight. My chest begins to bulk, and sink, protecting itself against the attack of spasms blasting through my heart as I bear witness to the life transforming sight of my lady.

Tears. Damn. What have I done?

"I'm sorry, sweetheart." Instantly I scramble to try and make it better, to correct any wrong I've done. Why did I push on this when I already know she can't have children? Why? Now I've hurt her, pressed into the flesh of an already open wound.

"Rick…" Frozen, like a deer in headlights, my sweetheart is stock still, an ethereal glow bathing her beautiful face. Fingers, thin, trembling, brush over the rough stubble on my cheeks. Dark eyes, shiny, glistening. Round, wide…so big I can almost see my reflection in her gaze. Dazzling, shiny, fat tears roll, thunder down her face. Over the rise of her soft rounded cheeks. Across the slope of her wide nose. Cascading down the drawn in pucker of her pretty lips. Streaks of wet, dewy emotions, escape, leaving behind the slick trail of her tears. Tears that evidence the evolution of us, our journey. Together.


"It's good to see you guys together."

"Thanks, man."

"No problem. You're good for her. She needs good. She deserves good. More than any woman I have ever known. She's fought so hard for it. For herself, for Andre."

"I agree. I love her."

"She loves you too. She's a tough egg now, harder to crack than before. But she and I talk, and I know how she feels about you."

"I know. She told me too." Grinning, I watch my sweetheart skimming through the crowd of young bodies sporting high top fades, colorful shirts and jeans, baggy pants, and big earrings, grinding, shaking, twisting, moving to the beat of a song that I have never heard before. I've actually never heard of any of these songs, but when you mainly listen to classic rock, and country music that's bound to happen at a 90s themed birthday party where the DJ sticks to mostly rap and R&B. Among the party crowd, I spy Andre, grooving, dancing smoothly, bumping his body to the beat against Cyndie, who is fluidly bumping right back. "I love her more."

"I believe that, Rick, I do. I can see it all over both of you. And Andre looks happy, really happy. Not so serious and watchful as he has been over the last year. This is what I have always wanted for her. After our little, ahem, experiment back in high school, and I realized that I am indeed a gay man, I was a little sad for her. For both of us really."

Bouncing his baby daughter Liana in my arms, my gaze finally leaves Michonne's smiling face, to look over at her best friend Aaron. Over the time that Michonne and I have been going out I haven't had a lot of time to spend to get to know him, dedicating the majority of my time to her and Andre, but from what I do know of him, I like. He seems genuine, and now that I understand the nature of their relationship better, I'm grateful for it. Aaron loves her. He is one of the main reasons that she escaped her marriage in one piece. Andre told me how Aaron would spend multiple nights with them when they moved to this new house, keeping her company, safe, happy. He helped her find the movers, to bring her things to this new house, and pick out new furniture for a fresh start. Kept her consistently moving forward, the memory of her failed marriage buried under her triumphant feet. And on those days and nights when she was lonely, when she couldn't forget, he was there. A true friend, inciting more bouts of laughter than tears, his watchful, caring support and camaraderie helped guide her through a very difficult time. For that I am eternally thankful.

"Why?"

"Because I wouldn't be able to keep her, protect her, forever. Not like that. I would have to let some guy have that spot, and as soon as I did that son of a bitch Mike showed up." Clenching his jaw, the words grind out angrily from the usually calm man, his stoic nature betraying him. "She met him in college, and I could have kicked myself. Ya know we had a little pregnancy scare after that one time together. We were so silly, we didn't use a condom, we basically fumbled through three minutes of the most comical sexual encounter ever. It was too pitiful to even really require a condom if you know what I mean. Kind of over before I really got started."

Shakily I laugh, because it is funny. Yes, I know what he means, given that my own first sexual encounter lasted about an embarassing 10 seconds after I got inside of the girl. But, it's also not. We may be friendly now, but I really don't wanna hear about him having sex with my lady.

Maybe Aaron can sense that my laughter is not genuine because he gives me a quick chuckle of his own, even as he delivers a narrowed eye glare and sneer towards my feet where Teeny is slithering and swaying herself adoringly between the wide stance of my feet. "It was more of a farce than anything, and definitely not sexy, but because of our love for each other it was memorable and special. Anyway, for a tiny speck, a little moment, when she said her period was late I wished she was pregnant."

"Really?"

"Really. That way she could always be mine. In a very real way. Just because I'm not romantically attracted to her doesn't make our love for each other any less real. She always talks about how I saved her, and I take care of her, but she has done that and even more for me. That woman has loved me when I couldn't love myself. When my southern Baptist parents decided that a gay son was unlovable. So, everything I do, everything I feel for her, is in repayment for what she has already done, and how she has loved me."

"She's special like that."

"She says it's 'black girl magic'." Hooking his fingers to add quotations, I'm inclined to agree, and can only laugh, a loud guffaw that nearly wakes the sleeping baby in my arms. Jostling her, and rocking her, she quickly settles back to sleep, nuzzling into the crook of my elbow. "Now I hear this idiot wants to move back to Atlanta and ruin all of the progress she's made."

"Yeah, that's what I hear. I'm not worried though." I say this with the strongest confidence I can muster, raising my voice a little to be heard over the DJ who begins to slow the music down, and speak into the microphone.

"This is a 90s slow jam dedication from Mr. A to Mrs. A." Instantly the lights in the living room, which has been cleared of most of the furniture to create a dance floor, are lowered, and the smooth sounds of a guitar and a female voice croon through the speakers.

"I don't want to be (be without yah be without yah)
I don't want to live (live without yah live without yah)
I don't want to go (go without yah go without yah)
I don't want to be alone…"

As suddenly as the song begins to play, I notice that Mike has Michonne's hand and is fruitlessly trying to lead her to the middle of the room. Even under the sepia cast of the low lights I can see that she is not smiling. But that doesn't deter her clueless ex. He's probably not used to this Michonne. No, he's more familiar with the capitulating woman who tried desperately to please him, willing to do almost anything to keep him. But that woman doesn't exist anymore. I smirk to myself realizing that he'll have to find out the hard way.

"God I hate him. I know it's not a nice thing to say, but I do. I hate him." Aaron grouses, watching Mike continue to try and sweet talk Michonne into dancing with him. Still without success.

"Yeah, me too. But, I'm still not worried."

"How can you be so cool about this. Look at how hard he's trying." Gesturing his hands towards them, Aaron is clearly agitated. Turning red, blustering at the sight of them together. But I don't have even the tiniest speck of concern. Her eyes are on me. She may be somewhat distracted by getting rid of him, but Michonne's eyes find mine, and we share a tiny knowing smile. And that's all it takes to send my heart fluttering, beating against my chest. My pulse racing. She shoves Mike's hand from her arm for the last time, and gives him a push with some kick. Just enough to back him away from her, then she begins walking towards me.

"Hand me my baby, Rick, I think it's time for me and Liana to head on home." Aaron commands, witnessing the intent with which Michonne approaches me. Reluctantly I hand the sweet, sleeping girl over to her father, and with a parting glance, my feet begin to move me towards my lady.

"When we hooked up
We sat down
Made an agreement
We vowed that

That we'd always be together
Do whatever
We said that
No one ever get between us

That we'd never ever leave us
That was a while ago…"

In the living room, Michonne and I meet each other half way, as her ex-husband stands behind her watching, forgotten in the mix of swaying bodies, clearly displeased for how his song dedication worked out. Reaching her hands around my neck, she brings me down to her and kisses me delicately on the lips. Once. Twice.

"This is one of my favorite songs. Dance with me."

"How could I ever say no to you?" I answer, with more truth in that quip than she knows.

Spinning her body around like a graceful ballerina, dangling from the lift of my hand connected to hers, she's backing up into me, her plump bottom now nestled into the curve of my groin. In a pair of baggy, colorful jeans, a tight half top, that exposes her abdomen, her hair in a high ponytail, a choker, and a band aid beneath her left eye, she looks so much younger than her 30 plus years, and it's as though we are transformed from this place. From our 30s and back to our teens. When I was a baseball prodigy, destined for major league greatness. And when she was a brilliant scholar, eager to take on the world armed with her optimism and thirst for change. So pure and untouched, before injured shoulders, and ex spouses taught us a tough lesson about such inexperienced idealism. But I can feel it again, a buoyant elation that's reminiscent of those youthful dreams, washing over us with the promise of something new, just as pure and well within our grasp.

Seductively glancing at me over her shoulder, she wraps my hands around her wide hips, lacing her fingers with mine. Licking at my lips, I can only stare at her, wondering at her movements. In sync with the music, no longer tense from her interaction with Mike, Michonne loosely begins a slow, sexy grind of her own, winding her body in a sensual, figure eight wave against me. All I can do is hold on. I've never danced like this, so I don't know what to do.

She owns me with the wiggle and writhe of her perfect form, nonverbally instructing me on how to remain in sync with her movements. Her sensual motions, so fluid and erotic. I've only seen her move like this while we are in bed, and there is something even more carnal and enticing now, watching her this way, in a room full of people. Her ex-husband included. Especially with the amusing thrill of him glaring, focused on the way she drops low, lower, then winds back up into me.

Damn. I love seeing her like this. Indulging herelf in the happiness of the moment. Twisting back to face me, her arms on my shoulders, she's working me over some more, backing me up to the empty hallway that leads towards the laundry room. With less eyes on us, I'm drawn back to her lips. Angling my face down, closer to hers, I need just a taste of the slick red gloss coloring her juicy lips, making them appear like succulent, sweet, slices of strawberry. I sip from those lips, sucking them smoothly between my own. With my hands around her waist, I no longer remember or care about the music, or the people around us. I can only see her. It happens all the time. This tunnel vision I get when I'm around her, hypnotized and willingly lured into her seductive web.

The song ends, and without words, we continue to kiss. And it takes on a life of its own, growing in fervor and need, my hands squeezing her ass in my hands until she whimpers my name, breaking the spell.

"Rick."

"Hmm?"

"Slow down, baby."

"Hmm?"

"Slow down." Breathless, she finds a thread of restraint and withdraws from my hungry kiss. "Kids around." Panting, a few erratic gasps filter between the modicum of space between our mouths, as she nods back towards the living room.

"Sorry, but your little performance out there…" Tugging on my stiff cock, the restriction of my black jeans is stifling and uncomfortable, and I briefly wonder if we could sneak away upstairs for thirty minutes without anyone noticing.

"I got carried away. Can you believe that asshole dedicated that song to me, and had the nerve to think I would dance with him!"

Sensing that she is gearing up to get upset, hearing the snap in her voice, I pull her back in to me for a hug. "Hey, don't let him get to you, and ruin this. It's a perfect night, right?" I ask, looking over the crowd, and seeing both of our sons dancing closely with two girls. Andre still with Cyndie, and Carl with her sister Macy. We both smile and laugh a little, especially once we both lay eyes on the way Carl seems so out of sorts in his baggy jeans and Timberland boots, his dancing a little jerky, while he and Macy move in a slightly stilted back and forth. Andre on the other hand, the suavest 16-year-old I know, is wearing a black leather vest, a gold chain, with a scarf tied around his head, boots, and a fake nose ring. Apparently he's Tupac. And he's clearly got the same rhythm that his mother has, following right along with the hyped up grooves of the new song that is raunchier than the last. Raising my eyebrows at her at the lyrics, Michone just dips her head and giggles.

"It's our first time together and I'm feeling kinda horny

Conventional methods of makin' love kinda bore

I wanna knock your block off, get my rocks off

Blow your socks off make sure you G spots soft

I'm gonna call you Big Daddy and scream your name

Matter fact I can't wait for your candy rain…"

Even though Andre's birthday party seems to be a success, and pretty perfect in its own right, that's not the only thing I'm talking about when I allude to this night being perfect. We share another smile. A wide, knowing, grin that vibrates the energy between us with light and love. "Right." She agrees, and with a little kiss, she looks up towards the hallway to the front door. Turning the same way, I locate her parents. "Let's get to the best part of the night. Presents and cake!" Rubbing her hands together, she hustles it over to the DJ letting him know that it's time to cut the music.

Skipping the record in a purposeful scratch, the DJ easily mixes the beat into a song he announces as "Dre Day". No lyrics play, just the funky layering of the intro, looped over and over again, as Andre steps to where his mother is standing at the DJ booth. Mike joins them, and for a brief moment it bothers me. I hate to admit it, but it does. Just because of how perfect, and normal they look there together. Andre a perfect mixture of them both, their features and mannerisms so evident in his makeup. The dark sable of his skin, an impeccable reproduction of his parents'. He's got Mike's height, his thick eyebrows, his face and smile. He's got Michonne's lips, and her eyes. It pains my heart, causes a tiny wound, as Carl sidles up next to me, watching me. I guess to see how I'm dealing with this. I hope he doesn't sense the inkling of distress crawling over my skin. It's small, imperceptible. But I can feel it reminding me, showing me in glaring detail that no matter how we cobble together our families, someone else was there first. Mike. Lori.

"You ok, Dad?"

"Yeah, Carl, I'm fine. You having a good time?"

"Awesome time! This is the best party I've ever been to!" He answers enthusiastically.

"Good. You look like you were having a fun time with Macy. She's very pretty."

Blushing, and dipping his head as though he could hide the scarlet flush of his pale skin, Carl can only snort out a quick, "Yeah…"

"You really like her, huh?" I pat him on the back, as Michonne takes the microphone and begins to make an announcement.

"Yeah… I do. I would like for her to be my girlfriend." Carl nods, a crooked grin to his lips. "I wanna spend more time here. In Atlanta. With her, and Andre, and Michonne. I would like that."

"You would?"

"Yeah. I mean, I don't wanna leave Mom or nothing. Just weekends, like I already do with you in KC. But here. Like a family, ya know. Michonne says maybe." Carl nods, and probably more out of habit than anything, he swipes his hand across his face to move back the hair that isn't really there anymore. And now that it is shorter, no longer shrouding him from my scrutiny, I can really witness how his features have matured, taken on a more adult look. When his longer hair hid more of his face, it was hard to tell that his baby fat had begun to thin out, in place of chiseled cheeks, and finer features. Some of them mine. Some of them Lori's. Like Andre, he is a mix of his parents, though it's probably more of me, as he looks a great deal like I did at his age with hair growing in fine, and dark across his top lip, and his chin. And I laugh to myself in recognition that he will probably be hairy like me also.

I am aware that he hit puberty many years ago, but I suppose in the quiet drama of my marriage deteriorating, and the subsequent divorce, Carl's maturation has been assumed, and not so heavily acknowledged as it might have been had his mother and I both been more focused on our son instead of salvaging our own lives. A hint of shame withers me for a moment, droops my shoulders and stills me where I stand, as I think of how much I may have missed simply for not paying close enough attention to my son.

Carl spends his weekends with me, but sometimes I'm so tired from work that we literally just eat and watch television together. Or sometimes we hunt, or fish. But those activities require that there not be a lot of talking. This is something that Lori always accused me of. Doing, but not talking. Not paying attention. Not being present, as though I didn't want to be there. Maybe I didn't. I found solace in silence, retreating into and welcoming the comfort of my own thoughts. But now? My eyes are wide open now, and since Michonne, I can't stop talking and noticing, wanting to be present. Her and Andre talk constantly. About how they feel, about what they notice around them, in the world. About goals. Books, movies, music, current events. They consume, analyze, discuss, and experience the world together. And now Carl does too.

Andre may be a smart ass, but he is a very intelligent one who can easily maneuver through critical thinking and expression. It amazes me. Though I'm proud that I have built a fatherly connection with Andre around certain things, I am learning so much from him and Michonne on how to be present. How to be in the moment with the people I love, sharing myself, who I really am, the things I'm passionate about. And, for Carl and I, this is eye opening. And like Carl, yes I want this more often. This invigorating way to truly experience life and loved ones. I want to be here, as a family. To be present.

So, now I watch, I listen, I talk. And standing in this spot watching my adolescent son, crushing on a girl, just like his old man is, I know with certainty that what Michonne and I are building here, together, is right. How could it not be? At every turn, despite roadblocks, obstacles, there is confirmation that this is different. This is right, and it's where I want to be.

"Yeah, Carl, maybe." I grin, echoing Michonne's response and knowing in my heart I'm already strategizing on how to turn that noncommittal maybe, into a firmly committed yes. Especially given the circumstances.

Our attention is snatched back to the front of the room where Michonne is talking into the mic, just in time to see that her parents have joined her, and are handing over the keys to a car to Andre. This is the first time I have actually seen her parents, and knew that they are her parents, and I have to agree with my father's assessment, her mother Nia is very pretty. Not pretty. She's beautiful, and is definitely built very well. Her and Michonne favor each other so much it's uncanny, and I'm very pleased to know that this is my lady's future. With the same smooth dark skin, a flawless and creamy shade of brown, the color of rich, fertile earth, and the same full lips, together they are a sight. A matching pair of feminine perfection. Her father on the other hand is a very tall, lighter brown skinned man, with a large presence. Big hands hang at the end of large well muscled arms, and a barrel chest. At first glance his stature is intimidating, but the proud smile on his face, and the twinkle in his eyes, showcases the softness he has for his family.

"Nana, Pops, and I are giving you this car. Not just because it's your birthday, but because you have earned it by showing us that you are a responsible, mature young man. You get straight As, and you juggle that very well with your extra curricular activities. I'm very proud to see you becoming such a wonderful young man, Andre. Happy 16th birthday, sweetheart!" With tears in her eyes, a common sight as of late, she hugs Andre tightly to her. Then Mike joins in, and takes the mic from her hand.

"On this joyous occasion, I want to give a gift of my own. Not to my son though, his gift is tomorrow when we go to the Falcons game. But, to his mother. Michonne, today isn't just Dre's day, it's our day too. It's the day we became parents, when you gifted me with my son. We became a family on this day 16 years ago, and I want to thank you. I got you a little something. Well, like what Dre got… a big something! Come outside and see."

From there things seem to move quickly, with Andre rushing outside to see the new car he got, and Mike leading Michonne outside as well. Making eye contact with me on her way out through the front door, with me not too far behind, Michonne gasps at what she sees in her driveway. Among the numerous other cars from the partygoers, is a brand new, shiny black Range Rover, adorned with a large red bow.

"Mike… this is-"

"I know, I know, it's expensive, but you deserve it. I want you to have it. I know the one I bought you years ago is giving you trouble, so I'm replacing it with this new one. It's all paid for cash, the title is in the glove box."

With her hand to her forehead, as though a headache is coming, Michonne rolls her eyes at his presumptiveness, and turns again to find me. I'm standing within arm's reach, so that's what she does. She reaches for me, and I for her, sensing her distress. Grabbing a hold to her hand, I give it a squeeze, letting her know I'm here for her.

"Mike, it's a nice, very generous gift. But, you shouldn't have, and we will need to talk about this. Later. I don't want to embarrass Andre right now, but this is not good."

"What?"

"It's not a good idea. We'll talk later." She firmly states, then leads me over to where Andre and Carl, as well as his grandparents and a bunch of his friends are checking out his own new ride, a fairly new Honda Civic. Mike has followed us, and I'm wondering how this is all going to go down, especially since Michonne has let me know that once her parents found out about Mike and his behavior, they have not had a kind word to say since. This ought to be good.

"Michonne, hey don't walk away from me, what the hell are you talking about this is not good? Do you know how much that damn truck cost me? It's brand new. $78,000. You need to show $78,000 worth of gratitude." Mike spits, stalking up behind us, his words rushing out in a confrontational manner. I'm not even here for that.

Backing him up from her with my outstretched hand, I meet his charge head on. "Mike, you need to relax. Calm your tone and how you speak to Michonne, ok? Don't cause a scene at Andre's party. Don't do this. It won't end well."

"Man, don't come at me like that. Just because you're some small town cop and shit. Don't do that. Stay outta family business."

"You heard what he said, Michael. You need to keep a civil tongue with my daughter." Mr. Alexander speaks up, crossing his burly arms over his chest, clearly unimpressed by his ex-son in law.

"It's ok, Rick, Dad. Mike, it's a bad idea. All of this is. I know what you're trying to do. Moving back to Atlanta, the extravagant gifts for Andre, for me. It's too little too late. I don't want to embarrass you here in front of everyone, I'm not like you, I don't want to hurt you. But, all of this is really ridiculous."

"Babe, listen, why don't you and me go and talk without all of these folks around. You got your parents over here, your white boy, you can't think with all this interference. Me and you can work this out without the peanut gallery, ok? We just need some time to talk, and be alone." The last bit he directs to me, eyeballing me, then turning back to Michonne. Lowering his voice, perhaps taking note that his actions are drawing the attention of others, namely his son, he leans into her. "Me and you, baby, we can put this back together. Better than before. I bought this truck as a gift, a gesture of my feelings for you. Like I said last night, I know what I did wrong, and I can fix all of that now. Just give me a chance. There's nothing this guy can do for you that I can't. You know that. You know I love you."

"You should go. This is so…ARGH! This is so gotdamn crazy, Mike!" Michonne yells, tossing her head back and laughing, her hands covering her face, then raking through the strands of the ponytail of her thick dreads. It's like a dam has broken within her, and she can no longer hold back the swell of her feelings, rushing forward to overwhelm her.

Placing my hand on Michonne's shoulder, it's hard for me not to want rescue her, to swoop in and make this situation right for her. Right now, she doesn't need the stress, but I'm learning my girl and I know that despite what Mike might think, she is strong and capable, and she is empowered enough to save herself, to fix her own problems. She doesn't need me, or her father to fight her battles for her, though I would, gladly. Because she shouldn't have to do this kind of shit on her own, but that's not the real world, and I can't always be there. So, instead of stepping in and punching Mike in his face, the way my fists are itching to do, I try to restrain myself and let her handle this. At least until she gives me a signal that she needs me to step in, or if Mike crosses a line. I will gladly rearrange this son of a bitch's face then. I'm actually looking forward to it.

"Mom! Ma! Is everything ok over here?" Andre excitedly inquires and hurries over from the driver's side of his car, now standing between his parents. A posture he does not seem unfamiliar with. Stepping in, taking up for his mother. Soon Carl joins as well, his face shuddering at seeing her in distress. Taking note of the rising tension between Michonne, Mike, and myself her mother and father begin to usher the crowd back into the house.

"Come on kids, nothing to see here. How about we do some more dancing, and get ready to cut that big ol cake in there!" She hollers, as her husband ushers the group of teenagers back into the house, leaving the rest of us behind in a small group huddled by the curb in front of Andre's new car.

"Dad, what's going on?" Andre questions, looking into the face of the man he resembles, still waiting for someone to tell him something. Looking his father over, then bouncing back to his mother, there is a struggle. He loves them both. Respects them both. But, when his glare lands on his father again, I can also tell he knows. He can see him. What he's done to her. What he's doing now.

"Dre, I'm moving back to Atlanta. We're gonna be a family again. Me, you, and your mother. I was just trying to tell your mother how this is gonna work if she'd just stop trying to be so bitchy and listen."

"The fuck you say?" I utter, feeling the word erupt from my lips before I have a chance to censor them, "You need to watch what you say to her and about her."

"Mind your business, dude. I'm not gonna say it again. This isn't about you, this is about me and my family. You don't belong here." He points his finger at me. I should break it, and the rest of his hand off and shove it up his ass. Breathe, Rick, just breathe I remind myself, narrowing my eyes on him, as my hands involuntarily ball into fists, and my anger rises, cresting to its peak.

Pushing at his chest, Michonne advances, charging at her ex. "Wait! Mike, you're out of line. You don't belong here. That's what I'm telling you. Rick is my boyfriend. He's my family, and he's here because I love him, and I chose him. He's the reason that I can smile again. That I remembered that regardless of every negative thing you said to me, I am smart and sexy, and beautiful, and desired. And he loves all of me, every perfection and every flaw. And I love him right back." Hearing Michonne say the words out loud, in front of him and our kids takes me by surprise. She's usually fairly reserved with her words, saving these declarations for times when we are alone. But not right now. Not given everything. I can't help but grin, even amid the discord of what Mike is attempting. I smile.

Blowing out a breath, and beginning to pace back and forth I get the feeling that Michonne is just getting warmed up, and has a lot she wants to say to Mike. Matter of fact, I know that after years of repressing how she really feels, all the pain, the uncertainty, tip toeing around his feelings and forgetting her own, she's got a lot to say. She doesn't disappoint as she begins to unload on him. "I have no idea where you are getting these delusions about us getting back together, but that's what they are. Delusions. I'm in a good place, now. I'm happier than I've ever been. Part of that is because of Rick. He's given me back so much of myself, every bit you tried to take from me. Rick helped me really see how special and powerful I am. That I've been that all along, but it's you, Mike. You're the disappointment. The toxic one. The bitchy one. The broken but beautiful one. I'm fine. I'm whole again, no thanks to you."

"You can't be serious, Michonne!" Frowning, his eyes wildly scan her face, searching for the woman he used to know.

"I am. You can't hurt or control me anymore, Mike. Do you know why? Because I'm not interested in what you or anyone else thinks of me, I'm not going to break my neck to please you, when you don't even respect me. You can not buy my love, or forgiveness. I can't be bothered to care anymore. I can't. After all of those years of love I gave you, the best things you ever did were giving me Andre, and walking away."

"What the fu-"

"Mike, you can't be this stupid, man. She already told you she's not interested. If you can't accept that then you should leave." Nostrils flaring, stepping in front of Michonne, I ease her behind me, back safely towards Andre and Carl. I need her out of harm's way because my temper is fuming, and I'm done talking.

"Dude, you need to back the fuck up!"

"I don't think you know who the fuck you're talking to. This is the last time I'm going to give you a chance to leave. I don't want you here upsetting her in her condition." Rubbing my fingers against each other, I'm trying to tamp down the burning sensation in them to ball up into fists and just kick Mike's ass. I should bomb on him first. One good crack should be enough.

"What condition? Ma, are you ok?" Frantic at the catching of that one word, Andre quickly snaps his attention to his mother.

So, I wasn't supposed to mention that just yet. I said too much.

"Rick… I thought we were gonna wait for awhile?" She groans, a crooked smile belying any hint of irritation that my loose lips have caused, and cracking through.

"Sorry. But you don't need the shit this asshole is shoveling."

"Wait! What condition? What the fuck is this guy talking about, Michonne?" Mike yells, his wild eyes bouncing behind me to try and speak directly to Michonne.

"Ma?" Andre asks again, a worried tremble to his voice.

"Michonne?" Carl utters, his own concern bubbling forward in the shaky pronouncement of her name.

"Nothing is wrong, boys, let's just all settle down and go in the house. I'll explain later. But, there's nothing wrong. Ok?" Michonne calms the boys, her hands cupping each of their faces lovingly. "Things are great actually. They're just right." She promises, taking both of their hands. She then does an about face and heads back into the house, leaving her dumbfounded ex alone on the curb.

Staring Mike down, I leave him on a final few words. "Get your shit and go."


"Oh I used to love this song! It's my favorite. Come on, Rick, baby dance with me. Don't be so stiff!"

"I'm trying!" I laugh, knowing there is no way I can dance as well as she does, or keep up with the rhythmic gyrations of her hips, seemingly hitting the drop of the bass just right every time. The music just doesn't move through me the same way it does for her. I'm not a great dancer with my two left feet, but my Michonne is. And tonight she's feeling good. She just had some tea, a little salad for dinner, and a tiny piece of birthday cake. No nausea right now, though she did throw up this morning. She's laughing and teasing me, attempting with no luck to teach me to dance to a mix of 90s hits that the DJ from Andre's party made for her, while we wait for the boys to get back from the football game. Despite their reservations, Michonne encouraged them to go. Andre drove his new car, and they met Mike at the stadium. With him angrily getting his things and leaving last night, it was best that he not come back today.

"You're the only one for me
You're the only one I need
Can't nobody make me feel
The way you're makin' me feel
And girl you know this love is real…"

On a cloud, seemingly weightless and free of worry, in a silky grey nightgown that hits every sleek curve and skims very high on her thick thighs, trimmed in black lace, Michonne two steps back and forth in front of me, then swings her hips, while mouthing the lyrics to yet another of her 'favorite songs'.

"I'll spend the night with you
If you promise you will do
All the things to make me scream
And you know just what I mean
Cuz tonight you taste like ice cream…"

Strolling away, spinning, then bopping her shoulders side to side while inching up closer to me again, she lightly flings her arms around my neck then places her head against my chest. I wrap her up in my arms, my palms cupping the teardrop plumpness of her ass. With my head tilted down towards hers, I listen to her pretty voice as she's singing the words to the song.

"I wanna make you fall in love
Make you touch the stars above
Bring it low and be my friend
I'll come back again and again
And again and again and again…"

"Whew, ok, I'm tired now." She mutters on a breathless huff. "That kinda wore me out."

"Well you've been bopping around all day. Drug me to the mall, and out for dinner. You should be."

"It's your baby in there making me tired. Not shopping and eating."

"Yes it is." I smirk, knowing that she's right.

"Five tests later it's still hard to believe."

"I was convinced after the first one."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm excited to go to this doctor of yours who diagnosed me in the produce section of Publix. Hear the heartbeat."

"Me too."

"And…I hope…" Sagging a little further into my chest, gifting me with more of the weight of her tired body, she sighs, "we can make it successfully to the end."

"Don't be scared, Michonne."

"I am, though, a little. I'm trying to be brave, but… I've been here before, Rick."

"Not with me you haven't. We got this."

"Just-" Getting choked up, she cuts off her own words on a heavy swallow, followed by a lengthy pause. "Just need to make it past that third month ya know. Then we can breathe, and tell everyone. But, we can't until then. Ok? Not even the boys."

"Ok. We'll make it. Whatever the doctor tells us to do, we'll do it, and we'll make it. Together." I proclaim with all of the confidence and certainty I have, because I believe we will. Together.

Chapter 10 by Fik Freak

Chapter 10 – Michonne

"My mom wants to go to lunch with you tomorrow. In the city. That ok?"

"We're supposed to go back to see the doctor tomorrow." I remind him, sneering as I mention it and smarting a little at the fact that my 'advanced maternal age' qualifies me as a high risk pregnancy, which means I have to go to the doctor more frequently than another mother may have to. Throw into that my history of miscarriages, and I'm pretty much going to live at the doctor's office over the next eight months.

"Well, maybe you can make time beforehand? She's been bugging me to meet you, I've just been keeping you all to myself. I can't hold her off much longer. She's going to think something strange is going on and just push harder. She's nosy as hell, so I'll just apologize in advance."

"My mother is too. Her and my father kept eyeballing me at Andre's party, I'm sure to get me to explain us in more depth than a general introduction. I understand and I'll try. I have to check with Milton to make sure I don't have any morning meetings that might conflict, but I will try to make it work."

"Thank you. It might be fun. For all of her nosiness, my mother is very sweet. She's always wanted a daughter, but she hated the ground Lori walked on. They just never hit off, but I think you two will. She's a lot like your mother, just in a smaller, whiter package."

"I'm sure it will be fun." I laugh, imagining the picture he's drawing of his mother. She's already got positive points in my book just for her general dislike of Lori, as we seem to be in agreement on that. Narrowing my eyes on the wide plains of Rick's back, I'm taking note of the raised scratches I accidentally striped across his pale skin with my nails last night. Sometimes Rick causes me to get carried away. Sometimes. Most of the time.

"Ouch, shit! That hurt. Why are you torturing me tonight? What did I do to you?" he hisses, then angrily grumbles.

"You gotta be still, Rick."

"I will be still, but it feels like you're pinching the hell outta my skin back there."

"I'm trying to get all of the puss out. I don't understand how you got such a big pimple on your back. And did you know you have hair on your back? It's not a lot but, it's…hair."

"No. But, I'm a hairy man, so that sounds possible. Ow! Shit!" Rick gripes again, this time wailing like a wounded bear as I press my fingers around the swollen edges of the reddened pimple on the back of his shoulders. A tiny smile graces my lips at the flow of puss that begins to ooze. Ah…success. Rolling the rounded muscles that cap his shoulders forward, he leans away from me, trying to escape my grasp.

"Are you going to yell and curse every time I apply pressure? It's distracting and I can't bust the pimple fully if you keep acting like this. There's more puss that needs to come out." Shaking my head, I'm trying to patronize him, maybe shame him a little at his reaction. I barely even touched the pimple before he started hollering. Squeezing at his waist with my thighs, I'm attempting to hold him steady in front of me.

"I think you enjoy this a little too much. How do I even know there's really a pimple back there anyway? You're always picking, and grooming me like we're spider monkeys or something. And wiggling your pussy on my back isn't helping me sit still at all."

"Get your mind out of the gutter, Sheriff. And listen, you walk around without a shirt on, how could I miss this big red pimple? It should hurt. Anyway, you need to sit still and let me bust it. Ok? And, it's called social grooming. Primates, humans, lots of living beings do it. I wouldn't do it if I didn't love you, Rick." Sweetening my tone to a sing songy voice, I place a couple of kisses to his shoulders, his neck and cheeks. Nipping at the lobe of his ear, I get his attention, as he turns his head my way and playfully rolls his eyes at me, lips pursed.

Shaking his head in disbelief he asks, "How the hell do you know that it's called social grooming? Why do you know that? Where did you come from, woman?"

"I don't know. I just know it."

"Well, you're lucky I love you too. Otherwise I would not allow you to trap me between your strong ass thighs and torture me like this. Busting pimples, plucking my eyebrows. I like when you wash my hair though. That's ok." Rick scoffs, massaging the soft flesh of my naked thighs around his waist.

"I had to pluck your eyebrows to make sure you had two of them, Rick. They were growing together in the middle. Leave it up to you, then you would have been looking like Oscar the Grouch." I tease, admiring my handiwork on his eyebrows, even as they are angled into an angry frown, wrinkling his forehead. At least there are two of them now.

"Whatever. You lured me over here with your sexy little nightgown, promising me kisses and other thangs. Then you attacked me with your tweezers and your little pinching fingers. I better still get my kisses too! And not those little pecks on the cheek either."

"Wait wait wait? I lured you?"

"Yep."

"Then I attacked you?"

"Absolutely."

"You're saying all of this under oath, Sheriff."

"I stand behind my testimony, Counselor."

"Hm. Ok. I'm going to remember that. I'm just trying to help you out. It's not my fault if your last wife didn't take good care of you. I take my job very serious I'll have you know."

"My last wife?"

"Mmhm."

"Wife?"

Catching his hint at me alluding to myself as his wife, I don't take the bait from Rick. I don't even respond, though my lips twitch at the corners, hinting at a smile, acknowledging my slip up to myself. Instead I claw my fingers through his hair, rubbing through the lengthy curls on the top, then nudge him forward a little so that I can continue trying to pop this pimple on his back.

It doesn't escape Rick that I don't speak to his comments, and as usual he doesn't allow me to hide from myself, my insecurities, my desires. My own words. Instead he calls me out on it. "You not gonna say anything about that, huh?"

Narrowing my eyes on the pimple again, not really focusing on what I'm doing, I still don't speak. Distracting myself from the conversation is more like it. I simply grunt a reply to him. I don't know what to say. It was a slip of the tongue. A slip that unexpectedly expressed how I really feel about this new dynamic between us. It is like we're married. And while there was no real fanfare or announcement to go along with it, our fated love has guided us like puzzle pieces to fit together. Everything has simply fallen into place, creating a domestic picture of family life that neither of us expected. It's honestly a marvel that we have come so far, so quickly, together.

After going to see his recommended doctor, Heath, and confirming my pregnancy two weeks ago, we have been more attached at the hip than before. Rick is clearly all in, as am I. I would like to say our closeness is annoying, cloistering, suffocating, overwhelming. But it's actually nice. For the last half of my marriage to Mike he pretty much ignored me. I wasn't included in his day to day activities, I wasn't considered in his decisions. I was informed. I was made aware after the fact. He left in the morning, and sometimes I didn't see or hear from him until he slithered into bed at night. At the end of our marriage he rarely even did that, frequently sleeping in the guest room instead of in the bed with me. Given that, I find that I rather enjoy waking up to Rick each morning. His heavy leg thrown over mine, or spooned into the crook of my own. His arm holding me close, with his hand casually shielding my imperceptible bump. His face nestled into the back of my head, his snoring huffs of breath dampened by the cottony tufts of my locs. With him, I always feel protected. Safe. Desired. Like Rick is exactly where he wants to be, with the person he wants to be with. And no one is going to take that from him. The glaring differences between my relationship with Mike and this one with Rick are so drastic that it takes everything in me not to drown myself in infamous disgrace at ever having loved someone who didn't show me even close to the amount of respect and affection that Rick has displayed in a few short weeks. It's shameful.

Our weekend visits have stretched into the weekday, and if I'm here at his place, I might hang around until he pops back for lunch. Which I usually prepare for him, often making his favorite Dagwood style sandwiches, piled high with lunchmeat and cheese. Sometimes I'm his lunch, and that's all he needs to sate his appetite. Those are my favorite days. The last time I took him lunch at his office, instead of eating the kale and salmon salad I prepared for him, he laid me across his desk, and I was his feast. If I'm home in Atlanta, we'll text each other throughout the day with stories of work frustrations, or with simple interest in how the other's day is going. Rick is usually checking to see if I'm still nauseous. I'm almost always answering yes.

Everything has just been so effortless that I have to guard myself from darker thoughts that might hound me, reminding me that things were once this way with Mike as well. Threatening with its powerful claws to drag me back into the dark abyss of self doubt. Gathering all of the positive feelings that being with Rick has engendered within me, I have to fight against devolving into that kind of thinking. Old habits die hard though, and even with us being together the majority of the time, my heart sometimes grows heavy at the idea that all of this is an illusion. It's not real, and the other shoe is soon to drop. How could such happiness have always been a very possible reality, when I've allowed myself to suffer so much, for so long without it? Every day I wage a conscious fight against these feelings. Every. Day.

There was a time where I wanted to keep tussling against my innate proclivity to love Rick. When I foolishly thought I could survive on just a part of him, and not all of him. But, now I know that's not possible. Not anymore. I've experienced what if feels like to be loved, for real. I'm not going to lose it. I'm not going to let the fear of the unknown stop me from enjoying it. This joy is mine, and I'm claiming it and keeping it close. I'm growing, and every day I feel stronger. This is what love does for you.

When Aaron and I were out yesterday looking for clothes for Liana, he reminded me to never look back. That even though Mike is back in Atlanta, to not awaken the memories of his wicked ambivalence, his particular brand of neglect and emotional torment. Like the excellent best friend that he is, Aaron's perceptive gaze has caught sight of and acknowledged the difference in me. My behavior. My look. The difference that the powerful love of a good man has caused in me. The constant smile to my lips, often following an outlook that is decidedly more optimistic than before. The light spring of my step, and the radiant glimmer of happiness and love, livening my clear skin with what he has deemed 'a heavenly glow'.

Aaron doesn't know that I'm pregnant yet, and it's killing me not to tell him, though I suspect he knows something given how many times I had to stop at the restroom because I wasn't feeling well. Rick said I should just tell him. I can't. Not yet. I have six more weeks to go and then we can tell everyone. Six more weeks is all it will take for me to get further than I have since Andre. Six more weeks will make this pregnancy even more real. To solidify this new life with Rick. Six more weeks is a mantra, a prayer that constantly stains my lips. Its utterance offered to the divine at every turn. Let this be real. Bless me with the fruition of this dream. Six more weeks.

"Well, you are kinda like my husband."

"Kinda?"

"Kinda."

"I will be. For real one day." Rick affirms, grunting as I proceed with successfully draining the pimple. Satisfied with the deflation of the puffy bump, no longer distended with puss, I dab it with a cotton ball, and unwrap my legs from his waist. "Now you're free."

"Torture complete. Thank you." Rick grouses, scooting to the edge, and jumping up from the bed, escaping before I find some other grooming activity for him. Nose hairs. I should get my little scissors to trim his nose hairs.

"Where are you going?"

"Getting a snack from the kitchen before you find some other way to torture me. You want something?"

"No. I'm good."

"Alright. Be right back."

Watching his bowlegged strut carry him from his bedroom, the muscles bunching in the cheeks of his little booty underneath the stretch of his blue boxer briefs, a tingle of excitement flourishes through me. I love him. I love Rick. I hope he knows that. I feel so silly, giddy, woozy at the capricious nature of my feeling for this man so quickly after meeting him. It's more potent than the good sex. It's more compelling than just how he treats me. It's more magical and inexplicable than me just being pregnant by him. Which is simply a miracle in of itself. It's an all encompassing and quixotic brew of passion, lust, obsession. A passive, uncontrollable plummet into the essence of another person. It's the unexplainable bonding of my soul to his. Scary. Exhilarating. Frightening. Intimidating. Breathtaking. Rick.

Resting back on the pile of pillows propped against the headboard, I hear Andre's self assigned ringtone, Kanye West's 'Power' blaring from my phone, looping over and over again, pulling my attention to it. As the words sound off I always wonder at how fitting these bars are for Andre. How self-aware of him to choose them for himself.

"I'm living' in that 21st century
Doing something mean to it
Do it better than anybody you ever seen do it
Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it
I guess every superhero need his theme music…"

"Hello, Andre."

"Hey, Ma. Where are you?"

"I'm at Rick's. Where are you?"

"Grandma and Grandpa's. How are you feeling? Your stomach bug or whatever getting better?"

"Ah, sure." I stammer, remembering that Rick and I told Carl and Andre that I was suffering from a stomach bug. Hopefully the nausea subsides soon. Otherwise it's going to become even harder to keep convincing them of the lie. Which neither Rick nor I am very good at anyway. A two-week long stomach bug is hard to sell. A three month long one is impossible. Those two are very perceptive, and like Aaron, they may not know I'm pregnant for sure, but I know they suspect something. My two detectives have been eyeballing my every step, every low whispered utterance between Rick and I. I think they are on to us too, and it's one of the reasons that I have also been dodging my parents and my brother Noah. Maybe we really aren't fooling anyone but ourselves?

"Good. Good."

"Are you having a nice time with your father and your grandparents?"

With a slight, pensive strain to his voice, Andre answers. "Yeah, I guess. What are you and Rick doing? Did him and Carl go camping without me?"

"No. They were going to. Carl wanted to take Macy with them, but it's too rainy, and cold, so Rick postponed. That way you guys can all still go together another time."

"Cool! I was kinda upset about not getting to go, but Grandma and Grandpa wanted me to come to this church anniversary thing with Dad. Is Rick mad I cancelled on him?"

"No. I don't think so. He wants you to have time with your dad, and your other family. I think he understands."

"I don't want him to be mad at me. Things are weird with Dad living around the corner now, and just being around more. Ya know? I don't want Rick to think I like Dad more than him or nothing. But I do love Dad cause he's my dad. And I missed him not being around so much. But Rick is cool, and he gets me. He understands and listens to what I'm saying. How I feel. Dad doesn't always do that. Sometimes he wants me to just listen and obey and I want to make him proud, but… I don't know. I- I don't want to hurt either of them." Clearly conflicted, Andre is, as I suspected, trying to figure out how to incorporate all of these emerging feelings that present themselves with this new dynamic. While the formulation of our new little family is exciting, it is also a little frustrating trying to incorporate the old and the new. I'm not going to lie; it was so much easier when Mike was in New York. Out of sight out of mind. When he wasn't here, Andre felt his absence deeply. Now that he's here, he is experiencing his constant presence in a different way. He's not a naive 13-year-old who idolizes his father anymore, and he can see things much clearer now. He can see Mike much clearer now.

When he wasn't here, a living, breathing, constant reminder of everything that was, it was easier for both of us to breathe freely. It was easier for me depart the crumbling chrysalis of my old life, and emerge, with my son in tow, charting a course for a whole new trajectory in life.

But, Mike is back now, and there is agitation all around from the adjustment. In the two weeks since he decided to announce that he was moving back to Atlanta, so much has transpired, that it feels like lately I have been living this otherworldly compressed version of real life, where I experience the milestones of life in the briefest span of time. My son turned 16. My ex husband returned with a rejuvenated desire to bring his family back together. And I found out I'm pregnant by my boyfriend of only five weeks. It's a lot to balance, and while Andre is communicating and working through the difficulties, I'm fending off Mike's unwanted advances, and Rick is trying to be amenable, Mike is not making it easy.

Why would he? Mike has never been known for his ability to indulge or acknowledge the needs of others, so I suppose it is unrealistic to expect him to start now. Despite me telling him that there is no chance for a reconciliation between us, he is not giving up. Apparently he bought a condo around the corner from me last month, but neglected to inform me of that until two weeks ago. He is back in his Atlanta office again, which makes it easy for him to pop up at my house uninvited. He calls frequently at all times of the day and night, and regardless of the fact that Rick is a constant presence, he never speaks to him directly. Never. I would block number if I could, but there is always the possibility that he's got a legitimate thing to discuss concerning Andre.

Rick is not happy about Mike being back. Even though he handled the dramatics of Andre's party well, allowing me to take the lead, it's easy to ascertain from the snarling grimace he gets on his face at even the mention of Mike's name, or even an unnamed reference to him, that he would rather crush his fist through his face than deal with his undesirable presence.

"I don't think either of them are going to be hurt by you spending time with the other. Don't worry about adult drama, Andre. You worry too much for such a young man. Leave that to the old folks, ok?"

"You always say that, Ma. I'm just… I like Rick. I know Dad doesn't. He wants you guys to get back together, and before you had Rick I did too. I thought it would be easier if things could go back to how they were. But now it's different. I know you love Rick, and I know he loves you. You guys don't make it a secret. At all. And he and Carl make it like I have this new bigger family, and I like that. It's not all… I don't know, weird like when you were with Dad before. Everyone is so happy now. Well, everyone but Dad. He's pretty miserable about you and Rick. He doesn't make it a secret either. He says stuff sometimes, to like try and find out about you guys, and stuff."

Curious, definitely caught off guard by Mike unconscionably using Andre to find out more about Rick and I, I sit up in the bed, holding my phone tightly to my ear. I don't want to miss a thing, so that when I give Mike an earful about this I have my story straight. "Like what?"

"I don't know, Ma. Just…stuff. I don't want you to be mad at Dad anymore."

"Andre Miles Anthony…"

"He just asks how long you've been with him. Where you met him. If he's the only guy you're seeing. If I like him. If I think you really like him. I don't know. I don't wanna talk about it." Andre huffs, his voice rising, cracking over the last few words as though he's becoming even more agitated at having to talk about it.

"Well, you tell your father that if he wants to know about me and Rick, he can ask me directly. Ok? Otherwise you don't need to get into that with him."

"Ok."

For a brief moment there is silence, and then I hear shuffling on the other end of the phone, then a familiar voice in the background.

"Is that your mother? Let me speak to her. Michonne?"

Heavily sighing, releasing a breath, I roll my eyes in exasperation that he has interrupted my call with Andre. Blocking his number wouldn't even help. Dryly I respond in the clipped, succinct manner I have reserved just for him, "Mike."

"Hey, babe. How you feeling?"

"Fine."

"Good. I was worried about you."

"No need."

"I know you hate feeling sick. You're like a baby when you don't feel well. Pouting and whatnot."

"I'm fine, and being taken care of."

"Rick, huh? If you say so. Look, Dre and I will be back in town tomorrow, and I just wanted to be sure you were feeling ok. If you're not, he can stay at the condo with me until you're better. I have furniture now, so it's all good." He utters on a slightly nervous chuckle, laced with a hint of genuine concern. The tiniest bit. I don't buy it.

"No, I'm good. Andre isn't a child really anymore. He doesn't require a lot of supervision. And Rick is usually home with us. So, it's not a big deal."

"That's what I hear. That he's always around." Mike grouses, a biting snark to his comments. "Anyway, you're right. Andre's turning into a man now. Hell, he made dinner for both of us one night. Shocked the hell out of me!"

"Yeah. He's growing up very fast."

"Too fast for me. I miss him being that little wild child who used to dress up like Superman and run around the house jumping off stuff, thinking he could fly! Remember that time he jumped from the top step in our old house and thought he would fly down?"

Not wanting to go down memory lane with Mike, a device he has been using lately to try and remind me of the good times we had together, I almost don't answer him at all. Yeah, we had some good times. But, we also had some awful ones, and those are the ones that I do not need a reminder of. They still live and breathe, taking up permanent residence in the part of my brain that stores painfully repressed memories. Despite not wanting to encourage him in any way, this is a cute memory of my now overgrown son. "The child tumbled all the way to the bottom, then jumped up to do it again! He's always been fearless."

"Something was wrong with that boy and his hard head!"

"Yeah. His head is still hard sometimes."

"For sure. We did a good job there, Michonne. He's a good boy."

"He's turning into a great man, Mike. We did great there."

"Thank you for him. You did the hard work with him. I just watched. I was a shit husband and father, right?"

"Yes. Yes, you were."

"I've… I've fucked up so much with you and Dre. I feel like a broken record, but you have to know, Michonne, that I want to make it right. I need to do that before it's too late. I know you have your little friend now, but all I want is a chance to fix what I did wrong with you two. How I hurt you both is unforgivable."

"It is. That's why you should let this go."

"I realized we're going to look up and in two years Dre is going to be gone. You and Dre are all I have, and when he leaves for college, that's the end of us for real then. I'm not ready to let go forever, Michonne. We were in love once. Remember that feeling? Do you remember Hawaii? Hm? How happy we were? The passion we had for each other?" Pleading, the words tumble in a mass, unknotting and unfurling through the phone, laying themselves in supplication at my feet.

Groaning, uncomfortable with him putting me in the position to hurt him once again, I close my eyes to the straining pressure forming in my head. "Mike, listen, I already told you, I'm with Rick. I know you want to fix things, and I'm a little shocked that you even think you can. But, honestly it's way too late for you and I. Focus on the time you have with Andre."

"I need you to forgive me for how awful I was to you. You were the best thing to ever happen to me. The love of my life. My heart is sincere, Michonne. I'm not perfect. I fuck up, I get it wrong. I did at Dre's party. You might think your white boy is perfect, but he's not. He can fuck up too. He will. When he does, I'll be here for you. I'm a better man now. I'll be better for you. I promise."

"I've forgiven you, but that doesn't mean I forgot. This conversation is over, Mike, I don't want to have to keep explaining this to you. I need you to let this go."

Like a robot that is programmed to keep talking, never fully computing your commands, Mike keeps going despite my protest. "You know there was a time when we were so in love we couldn't keep our hands off each other. Hawaii, Michonne. That bikini. Me and you in that little cabana on the beach?"

Feeling my face flush, run warm at the memory of what Mike and I did on the beach in Hawaii. The wanton carelessness we felt. How we abandoned our inhibitions and immersed ourselves into each other. We were different people then. It was before the rigors of life intruded on us, melted us down and reshaped us into something harder. Coarser. I decide to cut this call off, not wanting to entertain this stroll down memory lane any longer. "I'm gonna go now, Mike. I'll be home when Andre returns tomorrow. Good night." Blowing out, releasing the breath I didn't realize I was holding, I turn off my phone, and toss it on to the night stand next to Rick's.

Entering back into the bedroom, a glass of water in one hand, and a bowl in the other, Rick's eyes wander my face in concern. Searching out the source of my scowling facial expression. "Who was that?"

"Huh?"

"On the phone?"

"Oh, it was Andre. Then Mike."

"Ah, calling from Andre's phone again?"

"Something like that." I confess, peering up at him from my relaxed position on the bed.

"Andre having a good time?"

"Yes, he is. He'll be home tomorrow."

"What did Mike want?" Rick asks, settling back onto his side of the bed with his bowl of bright red strawberries, sprinkled with a few tiny white granules of sugar.

"Nothing important."

"Hm." Setting the bowl on his night stand, Rick turns to me, his face an eerie calm, despite the frustrated furrow of his brows. "I wanna talk to you about something. Come here." Offering me his hand, he pulls me over to straddle him and settle onto his lap. "I love you."

"I know. I love you too."

"This is permanent for me. Me and you. I hope you know that."

"I do."

"I'm a man. I'm going to always love you, and take care of you. Of our family. You are everything I've ever wanted, and I'm not going to let anyone or anything get in the way of us being together. Even Mike."

"What's wrong, Rick?"

His face brightens some. The semblance of his familiar smirking smile tugs at his lips. "At Andre's party your father pulled me aside while you were straightening up with your mother. We had a good talk."

"What? You didn't tell me that? Oh god, I hope he didn't threaten you or say anything embarrassing."

"No, he didn't. He's a father who loves his munchkin very much, and wants to see her whole, and happy. He and I are similar in that way. I appreciate that he approached me to express that, to see where my intentions are. I had no problem telling him just like I have told you many times before, like I just told you, and plan on telling you every day for the rest of our lives. Also, I made him a promise."

"A promise?"

"That I won't fuck this up! I made that promise, and I will follow through. You with me?"

"Of course."

"Good, because we are going to have to figure some things out. Soon."

"Like?"

"Mike. Housing. The kids. Work."

"You're right."

"Every time he calls, he comes by, all of it… it's a battle for me not to kick his ass. I'm trying."

"You are. I know. It's hard. I know, and I love you even more for how you've handled things." I lean my body into Rick's, and lay on his chest, nuzzling into his warmth, and trying to soothe over his irritation. Running my fingers over his pecs, circling the rise of his pink nipple I tell him about Andre's concerns. "Andre is worried that you might be upset that he's been spending so much time with his dad now that Mike is back in Atlanta."

With his arms crossed over my shoulders, his long fingers span the expanse of my back in a calming caress. "I hope you told him I'm not mad. Disappointed sometimes. Like when he had to cancel on the camping trip. But, I want what's best for Andre. Sometimes that's going to be Mike and not me. I get that. It pisses me off. Makes me upset that Mike is even his real father, that I have to even share Andre with him. He's such a good kid, that deserves better than what Mike has given him. I want to give him that, and it does frustrate me that I'm not always able."

"Real talk? I feel that way sometimes too. About Lori. It's selfish and crazy, but when Carl goes home and he's not with us, I feel a little jealous that he goes back to be with his real mom. I'm just his dad's girlfriend, but I love that boy like he's mine. You go back to KC, and Andre and I are in the city, and it's like our little family is broken up. It's silly to feel that way isn't' it?"

"Nah, I don't think so. After Andre's party Lori called me complaining about how late he was out Sunday night for the football game. About his new girlfriend Macy, and who asked her if he could have a girlfriend. Hell he didn't ask me either. But, she gets pissed that he spends his weekends with me in the city at your house instead of in KC, and it all just feels like an unnecessary hassle. In a perfect world there would be no Mikes and Loris to contend with because we would have found each other first, and gotten this right the first damn time. But that's not where we are now. The reality is that Carl and I want to be with you and Andre, and with you being pregnant I really don't like leaving you in the city, and I don't like when you leave me here."

"Would you ever consider staying in the city with me? Permanently? Is that something you would want?"

A long pause, a silence between us engulfs the room and for a moment I wince, beating myself up at even throwing the idea of him uprooting his life here to move to the city with me. Is it selfish? Am I too in love to be reasonable anymore? Maybe. I tried to stop this. To keep myself from loving him. From being so immersed in this experience with Rick, but the magnetic attraction, it was all an unexpected blitz that I couldn't stop. A runaway train of ecstatic emotions. It's a lot, and in reality, I know I shouldn't blame him for not yet answering such a loaded question. Rick taking his time to put me out of my misery with a response tells me everything I need to know, and the ensuing shame of pushing for what I want is causing me to shield my emotions and I try to pull away from him, but don't get far.

"Nevermind. It was a stupid thing for me to ask. You've lived here all your life. You're the sheriff for god's sake. Sorry, we have just been steamrolling straight ahead, and this is a big step you might not be ready for. Forget I said anything." Hurriedly wiping at my eyes, polishing away the tears that seem to water so easily these days, I turn my face away from his prying gaze.

His strong arms don't allow my retreat. If anything they grow increasingly tighter around me, as his right hand inches from it's lazy grasp at the back of my neck, to ease into the drape of my dreads flowing over the planes of my back. Leaning his face to the side to make eye contact with me, Rick searches my face.

"Yeah. I would."

"You don't have to say that if you don't mean it, Rick. I just threw it out there. Stupid."

"Nah, not stupid. You're right. Our family should be together."

"But?"

"I guess I imagined it all a little differently. Not me moving in with you necessarily, but us moving into our home, together. More traditional I guess."

"Nothing about us has been traditional. We slept together before you even knew my name, the same day we met."

Chuckling at the memory of how we came to be, Rick tosses his head back, his chest rumbling with his laughter.

"True. We've written our own story, our own way, haven't we? In my mind, I want to give you everything just right. This isn't the first time for either of us, and I want everything to be as perfect as it can be."

"Nothing is perfect, Rick."

"You're close."

"You always say that."

"It's true."

"But you don't want to live with me."

"I didn't say that. You are a woman who has the means to do whatever she wants to do, without me. You don't need me. Not really. That first night we met, I could hardly believe you spoke to me, let alone came back here to my house with me. Look at you, Michonne. You're gorgeous. You're intelligent. And you're wealthy. When I say you're perfect, I mean it. So perfect that sometimes I wonder, what the hell does she need me for?"

"I need you. More than you know."

"You still don't know, do you? How powerful you are all by yourself. I've never met a woman with so much going for herself, who is so ruefully unaware. You are everything any man could ask for. You are everything any woman could hope to be." Grasping my face in between the strong hold of his hands, Rick centers his pensive gaze on me, his lips pressed hungrily to mine. Foreheads touching, noses kissing, his eyes bore into me, darting over my face, seeing past the physical. "Sometimes I think about it, and I don't know how I fit into that. Your ex is pretty well off. Whether I like to admit it or not, you guys fit in a way that I'm not sure I can ever compete with. And it kills me. But I don't have a choice but to love you. Of course I want to live with you and make this permanent. I want that, Carl wants that. Every night you're not with me, or I don't see you, everything in the world feels wrong. I need you in a way that is beyond fatal. My life is forever yours because you made me brave enough to love again. Yes, I want to live with you. There's nothing in this world I want more than you and this family. We just have to figure out how."

"What do you mean how? You make it sound so complicated, Rick. It doesn't have to be. We're already pregnant, I already chose you. There is nothing for you to prove to me. Mike doesn't matter. Money doesn't matter. You are what matters. Me and you. The boys. This pregnancy."

"I- I just need to be able to do for you, for our family. That's all. Let me figure some things out to make this right for all of us. I've been planning, thinking on it. Give me a little more time. Ok?" Creased into a stern glower, the lines around his eyes crinkled, he's rejecting how easy I believe this all can be. Rick is fighting a battle with something that I know isn't easy for him. He's showing vulnerability.

My macho sheriff may have no trouble extolling the virtues of his love for me. But, like a lot of men, he sometimes struggles with feelings that might show any sign of weakness or inadequacy. In his own words his love for me and the kids makes him stronger. Drives him to do better, to be better. To work harder. But this is something entirely different. It's about me having more money than him. Me being used to a more lavish lifestyle. Jokingly he's commented on it before. Last week when we went to the car dealer and traded in my old Range Rover for a brand new Audi Q7, I thought he was going to pass out right then and there as he looked at the price tag on the window and noted that I could buy three of his pick-up trucks for just this one car. I had hoped that my response that if he wanted to do that we could, would have allayed any potential feelings of financial inadequacy, but I suppose that's not the case.

Personally I think Mike's reemergence in our lives doesn't help either. Mike throws his money around, and peacocks about as a way of hiding who he really is. Hence the new car he tried to offer me. Rick doesn't need to act out in that way because he's rich in character, and I know that, but sometimes I wonder if he does. His remarks right now lead me to believe that he's still not convinced.

Nodding my head, I decide to give him what he needs in this moment. "Ok, Rick. I'll follow your lead."

Relief flushes over him, softens the glassy ice of his cool blue eyes, and with that he pulls me in to cradle me against his chest again. "I'll figure this out. I know you're tired of going back and forth between here and your house. I'll fix this." He promises, his hand massaging the back of my neck in tranquilizing strokes.

"I can work from anywhere, Rick. Here or the city. And you're right, I am tired. Not just from the back and forth for us, but from this case I'm working. After it I'm going to take a break. Heath said I need as little stress as possible, so when it's done, I'm going to be done for a little while. Maybe that will help us figure it all out?"

"If you want to. You know, I've already told you I can help you with this case. Since it's a KC thing-"

"I can't." I interrupt, not wanting to get too deep into any discussions about Mr. Rhee's case. So far I have been successful at skirting it at every turn, even though Rick has alluded more than once to me being able to trust that he wouldn't try to deter or manipulate anything. But, with the depositions quickly approaching next week, I grow more and more nervous each day with the prospect of him finding out everything.

"Wait a second, Michonne, just listen. If me helping can ease the strain on you, in your delicate position, then why not let me? You can trust me, and we agreed that the most important thing right now is to make it past the next six weeks successfully. I understand that things in a small town have to be handled a certain way because of the culture of things. I know folks, I have a position that might be helpful because everything isn't always so cut and dry, black and white. Especially in a place like KC."

"Rick, justice is justice. Right is right. I need to make sure that my client gets justice regardless of small town politics or culture."

"Don't say it like that. I don't mean that small towns don't have to follow the law or nothing like that, hell I'm the sheriff. But KC is not like Atlanta, Michonne. Everything can't be handled with a heavy hand. Sometimes you get more with sugar than with vinegar. I might be able to help you with that is all I'm saying."

"It's not a good idea for us to be having this conversation. Just know that when it's over, I'm going to follow Heath's orders and take it easy. Six weeks, Rick. Six more weeks, ok?"

"Yeah. Six weeks."

For a moment there is nothing left to say. It's all been said, at least the words we can allow. In his lap, the steady cadence of his breaths in and out match mine, and I wonder at how often we find ourselves in synch like this. Without conscious thought. It just happens. With my head turned towards his night stand, my eyes catch the forgotten bowl of strawberries. Instantly, as though there is nothing more important in the world, hunger strikes.

"Can I have a few of your strawberries?" Anticipating the sweet juice crushing and exploding in my mouth, my attention is now miles away from our discussion.

"Michonne, didn't I ask you if you wanted something from the kitchen?" Tilting his head to the side, Rick stares at me a moment, consideration on his face as though he might deny my request. He won't. He never does. He has already confessed to me numerous times that he's too in love with me to ever tell me no.

"Yes, but I didn't want anything until you showed up with the strawberries prepared just how I like them with a little sugar. And you know I'm pregnant so my appetite is big. It's your fault really."

Scoffing at my claim, he chuckles, shaking his head. "Oh no! Don't you dare blame it on being pregnant. You always do this, eating off my plate, stealing my food."

"Are you gonna share or are you gonna keep judging me?" He reaches for the bowl and pretends to put up a fight, holding it away from my hungry stare, but I know better.

Finally giving in, like I knew he would, he dips his fingers into the bowl. Rick lifts one of the sweetened berries to my lips. I open my mouth to accept it on to my tongue, savoring the cool rush of luscious candied sweetness. Chewing, the ripe juice from the fruit streams onto my tongue. I know I just had dinner not even an hour ago, but since I've been pregnant I can always eat. Always. Even if I might not be able to keep it all down, my desire to eat is bordering on insane. At this point I think I'm giving Carl and Andre a run for their adolescent money in terms of who can eat the most. It's going to be a long nine months.

Lowering his clear azure gaze to my lips, Rick is smirking, enticed, maybe even a little turned on by how much I'm enjoying the sweet treat. "You want some more?"

Nodding, I watch as he plucks another berry, the biggest of the bunch and holds it up to my lips. Brushing its ripe red flesh against my puckered lips, back and forth, Rick swallows thickly. Watching as I wrap my lips around the offered fruit, and bite down, a guttural groan erupts from him as a thin trail of juice escapes over the crest of my lips, and down my chin. Leaning forward, he licks the evidence of my snacking from my chin, and up to my lips. Slowly, he eases my lips apart, sweeping his tongue through the candied taste of strawberries in my mouth. Hungrily sucking, smacking, our kiss deepens, and setting the bowl on the night stand, Rick roughly drags me forward on his lap by the tight clutch his large hands have on my thighs. And then I can feel it. The hard steel of his dick pressing against the dampening folds of my womanhood through his underwear.

With a thick handful of my long locs in his hand, Rick grasps tightly and gently whisks my head back, separating our lips. Gasping at his gruff handling, my chest and the smooth satin of my nightgown heaves, breasts bumping against the wall of his hard chest. Licking at my bottom lip again, he sucks it into his mouth, nipping at the plump flesh. Continuing to travel his lips over me, licking at my pulse, Rick mumbles into the hollow of my throat.

"You're even sweeter than the strawberries. How is that possible?"

"I don't know."

"I'm done talking."

Inching himself down, slumping until he's laid flat on the bed, Rick hoists me higher to settle the apex of my thighs onto the warmth of his mouth. Nibbling at my folds, he grabs a tight hold of my ass, kneading the plump cushions in his palms. Flattening his tongue, I can feel it separate the lips of my pussy as he licks a languorous path from my hole to my clit. Again. Again. The lazy laps lull me into a quiet frenzy as erotic pleasure steadily builds in my core. With my hands holding tightly to the strands of his hair wildly strewn over his pillow, my eyes are rolling underneath my closed lids, the carnal combination of his wandering hands, and his hungry mouth now applying tiny popping sucks to my clit. Heating me to the point of an explosion. Snugly holding me still over his mouth with one hand pressed to the small of my back, and the other still gripping my ass, Rick slurps down my leaking essence. The sound echoes in the room, a vulgar slosh that would make me blush if I weren't so drunk from the way he's masterfully inching his tongue further and further into my pussy. Alternating between a wicked flick back to my clit, then returning to my hole. I can't prevent my hips from shoving my pussy down onto his face, muffling his satisfied hums with my womanhood, wanting to bathe him with my scent.

With a strong orgasm already wrenching through me, stiffening my limbs at the cresting wave of excitement, my head droops forward until I can see the crystal of Rick's eyes focusing up at me from between my thighs. Gently removing me from suffocating his mouth and nose, Rick expertly flips me until I'm shielded underneath him, his arms creating a barrier between the both of us and the world that would intrude on this moment.

"Better than strawberries." His grinning pink lips and beard are wet, sticky with the evidence of my satisfaction. Breath perfumed with the fragrance of me. My arms are wrapped around his waist, pulling his heavy weight down in between my thighs, his dick pressed to the puffy lips of my pussy. Penetration. I need it. That first forceful dip. The powerful plunge, insistent, until our very souls are connected. Desire pushes my hips up into him, begging for his fat cock to fill me and satisfy the need that only he can meet. To push through the tight clench of my canal, to nudge and tickle against the sensitive cluster deep within me. The piece of me that only Rick has ever explored, untouched until the day I met him.

"Rick, please, baby." I whisper, I beg using my bent legs to leverage my position and thrust up into him. Biting at the angled jut of his masculine jaw, covered in a thick swath of salt and pepper hair. Edging down to his neck, I lick and suck along the column, even as I maintain the murmur of my ardent pleas for completion.

"Please what, Michonne?" Biting down on his bottom lip, his eyes narrow, alight with lust, ignited with passionate fire at the sound of me needy, begging for him to fuck me and put me out of my misery.

"Mmm…Rick…"

"Please what, Michonne?"

"Please fuck me, baby?"

"I love to hear how much you want me." Fisting the rigid thickness of his dick, he angles it between my sticky lips, tapping lightly at my clit. And then there's the blunt strain of pressure nudging against the cloistered tightness of my hole. Pushing, prodding, plunging his way through me. Rick digs and winds his hips, his descent crucial, until we are fully connected, and there is nowhere left for him to go. "And you're so wet. That pussy is so slippery, shit…"

With his back bowed, Rick sets to working me into a tightly coiled frenzy. The fluid wave undulating from his powerful hips, masterfully guides his cock in and out, over and over again, sliding, abrading the throbbing veins of his cock against my canal. Setting a learned pace as old and treasured as life itself. Grunts, curses, pants, ease from the lips of my lover, followed by the hallowed compliments of how good he feels. How good I make him feel. How perfect this is, this sticky, nasty, romantic coupling of two people who love each other with their whole being. And I do. It covers me in a luminous glow that urges me to press my softly curved body into the unyielding muscle of his chest that crushes me in a dominating pin to the bed.

Strong, powerful, massive in the mirage of impenetrability it poses, Rick's face is red, contorted into a glistening mold of purely masculine beauty, tortured by the voluminous weight of our love. It's the sweetest misery, an untainted tribulation that motivates and drives him to be guided by his basest instincts to protect and love. Me. Our boys. These babies. To provide for those he loves. It's not archaic, it's an expression of his love, and without any further question, I set my mind to fully accept it. To accept every part of him as mine to love.

Pressing my hands to his chest I urge him to roll over on to his back. Following my lead, Rick flops over to his back, his legs askew. Settled on my knees between his legs, I lower my face to his groin, then proceed to kiss and lick my way across the damp skin, tickling my lips with the wet hairs that are splayed about, plastered to his skin. In the center of the wild mass of dark curls, anchored at the juncture of his thighs is his long cock. Admiring its rounded head pointing in a tilted curve up towards his belly, I fist his husky girth and proceed to suck the weight of his balls into my mouth.

"Fuck…" Rick blows out, the word stretching to create a repetitive series of melodiously chanted curses, strung together as though it was one long word. Sucking then laving my tongue across the bulbous heft of the ridged sack, I pump and twist my fist, applying constant pressure on the upward pull and graze of my thumb over the head. "Babe, oh shit!" Rick hisses, his eyes fixated on the hugging kiss of my full lips no longer tugging at the fullness of his balls, and now focused on the stalk of his cock. Swallowing as much of him as I can before I feel him pressing against the back of my throat, I ease my gag reflex, and widen my jaws.

Tugging the tendrils of my errant dreads, wild and draped around my face, Rick gathers them into his fist, using them to guide my slurping mouth over him. My mouth waters, leaking in vertical streams down his sensitive flesh, gathering in pools of saliva in my hand, lubricating the pumping of my palm moving in concert with my lips.

"Baby… whew, Michonne, Michonne… what the fuck!"

Popping his length from my mouth I rise back to my knees, ready to mount him and ride his cock to a satisfying completion. Releasing his grip on my hair, Rick's eyes are laser focused on the breathless pants escaping my pouted lips. Reaching out to me, he wipes his long fingers worshipfully over my lips, a reverent swipe of the wetness glimmering on my mouth.

Rick has no plans in allowing me on top. Instead he gently tackles my body to the bed, landing me with a soft drop on to my back.

Elevated above me, resting on his knees as he attempts to catch his breath, Rick looks down at me along the pointed slope of his nose. "What was that?"

"I love when you fuck my mouth."

Momentarily closing his eyes, I can see how affected he is by my naughty words. A shiver courses through me, a commensurate sensation to accompany his response.

"Michonne, the shit you say sometimes. That mouth…"

"You love it."

"I do. Come here." Dragging me further beneath him, Rick proceeds to gift me with an orgasm so complete that I tumble effortlessly into a slumber that carries me into the next morning, with only a slight memory. A recall of something fuzzy around the edges, witnessed only from the weary split of my eyelids. An image of Rick, propped against the headboard, glasses on, leaned over his laptop. Focused and pecking away at the keyboard. I'm not certain if it was real or imagined. A mirage conjured by my tired mind. A manifestation of the worry and drive that often animates him from his sleep to do something. To take a late walk. To read. To sometimes simply watch me as I sleep. Under the influence of the babies that steal every ounce of energy I have like little precious thieves, pulling me down, submerging me in quiet slumber, I close my eyes again. Floating on dreams of a future filled with love, and little brown babies, I don't move once I feel the heat of his return. Stilling his thoughts, wrapping me in his love, holding me snugly under the cloak of his body until I have no choice but to ride out my dreams until dawn, and the new day intrudes on our solitude.


"Hello, Mrs. Grimes."

"Hello, dear. Call me Amanda."

"Uh, ok. Mom? I didn't know you were coming as well."

"Well I wanted to do some shopping, and when Amanda mentioned she would be seeing you this morning I figured I would tag along."

"Ah."

"And look at you, Michonne. Oh my you are as stunning as my son said you are. You and your mama, both of you. You know, I'm really looking forward to getting to know you better now that you and my son are dating." Rick's mom exclaims, a beaming smile on her face as she adoringly cups my cheek with her right hand, then follows my mother through the front door of my house, the hard heels of her Tory Burch flats clicking against my wood floors.

I suppose I should have expected this. The mothers. After all of the guests left Andre's party last weekend, my parents had to leave too, and didn't have time to stay and ask me 21 questions about my relationship with Rick, and what went down with Mike. But I know they have been itching to do so, and honestly I'm surprised that either of them have waited this long. I suppose learning that my father already had a chat with Rick is what has held them back so long, and for that I'm grateful.

What I didn't expect was for her to bring Rick's mother into this, but I probably should have expected that as well. Nia Alexander is a bit of a gossip. Not in a malicious way. She's just very into what everyone has going on. My brother Noah and I can barely make a move without her being on top of it, asking questions, probing for information. My father says she just likes to be in the know, to keep track of all the pieces on the board, and as a stay at home mother that was always her job. To keep the family running, to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be at the right time, and to always have a handle on what was going on. She was great at it, and while some might disparage the fact that she is a military veteran, and a college educated woman, with a bachelor's degree in economics, who decided to stay home and raise her family, she takes great pride in it. Especially given that she ran our home, our family, like it was a Fortune 500 company.

Perhaps it is a result of her always being the new kid when she was growing up. Needing to understand the lay of the land to strategize how best to fit her charismatic personality into the current structure of things. A military brat in her own right, she mastered that skill. Her well organized, no nonsense, social butterfly persona is a hallmark characteristic of Nia Alexander's personality. My father said that's what drew him to her in the first place.

When they met she was an 18-year-old girl from Detroit, newly stationed in Germany. With sable dark skin, a tall curvy body, and a gregarious, outgoing personality, she was well known on the base in Stuttgart. As my father tells it she was popular and friendly with the locals, and with their fellow servicemembers. There is something about her, a bubbly, effervescence that exudes from her like fresh water from a spring. Refreshing. Enticing. He was a 26-year-old officer from Georgia, and though he said his best friend saw her first, and asked her out before he did, it was my father with his down home southern charm, and handsome smile that drew her in. And they've been together ever since. Her raising the family, and him raising hell.

Bringing my thoughts back around, I release a deep sigh as I remember that yes, she is a gossip. And the fact that I am dating again probably has her pretty head, covered in perfectly coifed, and carefully dyed black hair, ready to explode. And from the giddy way Rick's mother winked my way and bopped into my house, gliding through the door on her own tiny ray of sunshine, I would say she's pretty much ready to burst as well.

"I'm excited to get to know you better as well, but I can't do a day of shopping and lunch. Not today. Rick only mentioned breakfast as I actually have an um, an appointment at 1. It's a really important one." I answer, not wanting to completely divulge the nature of my appointment, but wanting to emphasize that I can't miss it.

"Can't you move it, sweetie? We came all this way. Just push it to later in the day? You and Noah are so far away from me now, it's like you've abandoned your mother. When do I get to see you?" Attempting to guilt me, my mother heads straight for the kitchen to inspect the refrigerator. She always does this. Has been doing it since I left for college. It's her way to make sure I have enough food and don't need anything. I don't know why she still does this, seeing as I am pretty wealthy at this point, and there's nothing that I could possibly need her to buy for me, but I suppose old habits are hard to break. Am I going to be like this when Andre graduates and leaves? When Carl is living on his own? When these babies move out?

Thinking of the babies, nestled deep inside of my womb, growing, hopefully getting stronger, a tiny smile creeps onto my lips, and my hand absentmindedly brushes against my stomach.

"No, Mom, sorry I can't."

"Well how about at least we stick to doing brunch then? If you hurry you can get dressed and we can go right now. We're going to Southern Art & Bourbon Bar. Sweetheart, they have the very best grilled honey peaches. Probably just as sweet as you are!" The way Mrs. Grimes speaks, pronounces her words, over emphasizing and prolonging her vowels, is cute. Saying 'yew' for 'you', and 'way-uhl' for 'well'. It brings to mind a character from a show that my mother used to watch when I was little. Rick's mother reminds me of Julia Sugarbaker from 'Designing Women'. I wonder if he's ever seen it? I will have to find it on the internet and see if he realizes that they must have patterned her after his mother with her malaise dripped southern graces, and demeanor.

"And bourbon." My mother laughs, pointing towards Rick's mother with a sly grin. My mother may be from Detroit, but she is now a southern woman through and through. And Nia Alexander knows and loves her bourbon.

"Of course the bourbon, Nia. That's the main reason we go there!" Rick's mother laughs, while winking at my mother and pointing back at her. Amanda Grimes is a small woman, very small. Probably not even a full five feet tall, and a hundred ten pounds soaking wet. But what she lacks in size, she makes up for with what appears to be a bubbly sweet personality. With sea green eyes, caramel brown hair flattened into a bob, and straight white teeth, she doesn't look that much like Rick. Not really. Until you get to the wry playfulness of her lips, and then you can see it. It's a tilted, crooked smile that always seems ready to break out into a full on grin at the moment's notice. It's a sprite like frivolity, that on Rick plays as masculine mischievousness, but on his mother brings to mind a certain impish quality, like a fairy.

"Well of course, Amanda! My Michonne appreciates a good bourbon as well, don't you, sweetie?"

"Usually yes I do, but I'm uh, dieting."

"Dieting? Honey, how does not drinking bourbon fit into that? And as thin as you are, what are you dieting for? You've got a perfect shape on you. Nice full bosom. Good child bearing hips. And of course, your mother's good looks and round bottom. I can see why my Rick likes you so much. You're a big step up from Lori." She sniffs, assessing my physical features, while also effortlessly showcasing her dislike for Rick's ex.

Before I can even answer her, or fully wonder what Rick has told her about me, she quickly schools her face as though she just realized how distasteful the thought of Lori is, and wrinkles her nose at me, giving me that grin that makes me think of her son again. I want to roll my eyes at her, the same way I do at him, simply because it always disarms me, makes me feel giddy, like a young girl. But I remember myself, my manners, and I don't. And I like her. I like her energy, and I agree with Rick's assessment. She is very much like my mother. Instead I try to redirect the conversation away from why I might not want to partake in a drink today. Or for the next 8 months.

"The peaches sound like they would fit in my diet though."

"Honey grilled peaches?" My mother questions, squinting her eyes, laser focusing them on me. Setting me in her sights. I know this look. She's trying to see if I'm telling her the truth, and oh my god, I have to look away. I am a terrible liar, and if I let her needle me with that look too long I will break. And I can't. Not yet. Just gotta make it to the third month. Six more weeks.

"Yes. Well, fruit…is good. It's allowed."

"It's settled then. We'll go to brunch, and have you back here in time for your appointment at 1. Go on up and get changed, Michonne, we'll wait right here for you." With a wave and snap of her manicured fingers, my mother dismisses me with orders to get dressed.

As I'm walking up the stairs I can faintly hear my mother and Mrs. Grimes happily chirping away, their voices a low hum of conspiratorial whispering.

"They would make the most beautiful babies together, Nia! Just gotta get them down that aisle, then I can get my hands on some little caramel babies!"

"I know, Amanda, I know. We called it when they were kids. It's a shame it took them so long to find each other."

"True. Rick had to get rid of that money grubbing, Lori."

"And Michonne had to finally wise up about that scoundrel Michael! It's about time they get this right."

"Indeed. They just needed to meet each other again, and look what happened."

"Well, you almost ruined it with that blonde girl. I have barely forgiven you for that, Amanda."

"Come on now, Nia, I was just trying to get him to date someone! What about Arthur, hm? Setting her up with Shane Walsh? If y'all had bothered to ask we could have told you that boy thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow. Cockiest man I've ever met, and I've met my husband." Sniffing and clapping her hands to signal finality Amanda continues. "It's time to rest the mule on this, and let's just look forward to what's happening now. Agreed?"

"Agreed."


"I had a really good time, and the food was excellent! Thanks for taking me out."

"Of course. It's nice to get to see you. You're such a big shot, and you're always so busy with your new boyfriend." My mother teases, sounding much more like a teenaged girl than a middle aged woman.

"Mom!"

"Don't harass her, Nia. I've only seen Rick once since they started dating. He hasn't even returned my calls to confirm you two will be attending his grandparents' anniversary dinner. You will be attending, right?"

"Um, I guess? I don't really know. We haven't talked about it. There's been a lot going on lately. I'll ask him."

"Perfect. It's next weekend. Everyone is going to just love you. You are such an improvement over his ex-wife. Now that was a huge mistake. The only good thing we got out of that union was my sweet Carl."

"That's the weekend of my birthday."

"You're a Valentine's baby? How romantic! I hope my son is going to do something very special for you. He better."

"What happened to the diet you were supposed to be on, Michonne?" My mother asks, situating herself in the wingback chair across from the couch. Crossing one long leg over the other, she lifts her chin and eyebrows at the same time, enhancing her look of interest at whatever my answer to her question might be.

"Hm?"

"Well you had the honey grilled peaches, the shrimp fried deviled eggs, and the bourbon apple pie French toast, and eggs. You had a very good appetite for being on a diet, sugar."

Dropping my purse on the couch, I stop in my tracks at my mother's recollection of my brunch order. I did eat all of that. I did. And it was so good, I couldn't stop myself. Completely forgetting about my little white lie about being on a diet and not wanting to drink. I'm terrible at this. But just as I'm about to try and explain away my sudden forgetfulness around my supposed diet, Rick follows behind us, entering the house through the garage. I gave him a garage door opener for his truck two weeks ago, and of course now is the perfect time for him to use it, right in front of our mothers.

"Michonne! You ready to head to the doctor? I told the guys I was leaving early, and that idiot Leon Bassett had the nerve to ask if he could leave early too. I should fire his ass for even asking." Rounding the corner, his face reddened, either from the cool weather outside, his recollection of his least favorite deputy Leon, or at finding our mothers seated on the living room couch as he spouts off about taking me to the doctor. Good job, Rick. "Mom?"

"Hello, Richard." Waving her fingers at him in welcome, she instantly turns to give my mother a knowing look. Probably sharing a smirk at the fact that he has his own access to my house.

"Mrs. Alexander, hello. This is a surprise. Michonne, I didn't know both of our mothers were coming here, when you have that appointment in thirty minutes. I thought you and my mother were just doing breakfast. Much earlier in the day."

"We both surprised your lady and took her to brunch instead, Richard." His mother offers, her drawled words syrupy sweet, and that shared grin of theirs now directed towards him.

"Oh, ok. Speaking of food, I stopped by that stand on the way from KC and got you some of those boiled peanuts you like." Handing me a bag of my new favorite snack, I immediately dig my hand in and grab a handful, then begin to crack them open.

"Yes! Thank you! These are so good."

"Honey, you just ate. You hungry again?" Rick's mother asks, a concerned frown angling her brows.

"Uh-"

"Michonne, you have never liked boiled peanuts." My mother offers, disbelief and concern now clearly coloring her words.

"What? Babe, you love these things. She's probably inhaling a bag a day!" Rick laughs, shaking his head, dismissing my mother's claim of dislike.

Narrowing her eyes on me even further, she's quiet for a moment, but her gaze is laser focused. Scrutinizing.

"There's something going on here. I can't put my finger on just what it is. But there's something." Pointing her manicured index finger between Rick and I, her cool façade is a mask for what I'm sure are the calculations buzzing through her head. "Now what is this about a doctor's appointment, Rick? And why did you have to leave work early to take her? Ya know my Andre did say something about you not feeling well, Michonne. Throwing up? What's going on here? Someone needs to spill the beans. Fast." She sucks her teeth, and I know what that means. She means business, and one of us had better give her an answer. Now.

"Um, it's not a big deal." I stammer, stepping up to try and control this before Rick caves. He's never been grilled by my mother before, and given how easy he cracks, I think I'm better suited to try and manage this. Though honestly I'm probably not much better at manufacturing lies. Think! Think! My mother is already sniffing out the chinks in the poorly constructed armor of our half truths, and like a shark who smells blood in the water, she's gonna move in soon if I can't neutralize her suspicions.

"Then why did Rick have to drive forty minutes to escort you to the doctor? You've managed to get around just fine previously."

"Richard, is there something you both need to tell us? You know you're not good at keeping secrets, dear. Hell we knew all about what Lori had done before you could say a word. It's your handsome face dear. You don't have a liar's face." Mrs. Grimes nods his way with a tight smile, seemingly trying to coax the truth from him.

Sucking his lips into his mouth, trapping them between his teeth, his hands riding his lean hips. Rick is trying not to say anything, but the sweat beading on his forehead, and the blush coloring his face are giving his anxiety away.

Turning to me, he takes a hold of my elbow and turns me away from our mothers for a chat, absent their knowing stares. "I'm not a good liar, Michonne, you know this. Should we just tell 'em?"

"Oh my god, Rick! You fold so easy!" Groaning and dropping my face into my upturned palm, I suck my teeth in the same manner that my mother does, but more in disappointment at how quickly he's ready to give full disclosure. I should have known he wasn't going to last a full three months. He couldn't last thirty seconds before dropping an untimely hint about my 'condition' in front of Andre, Carl, and even Mike.

"We can't keep it a secret forever, Michonne." Nervously his eyes dart over his shoulder at our mothers, now huddled together on the couch, their faces mirroring each other's, both filled with concern, and intrigue.

"Six more weeks, Rick." I whisper to him, my hand over my mouth to shield it from the prying, lip reading eyes of our mothers.

"They're asking questions now. Hell, Andre already told your mother you've been throwing up." With his head tilted down towards mine, he drops a kiss to my pouting lips and catches my eyes with his. "We may as well just tell 'em. Aren't you happy about this?"

"I am, you know I am." Sighing, as though the weight of the world instead of a simple pregnancy announcement is weighing on my shoulders, I can feel my breathing begin to quicken in a panicky flush of fear, and tears begin to well in my eyes. Telling other people makes this real. It will make the potential threat of losing my babies, of miscarrying again very real. Remembering the pity and sadness that clouded my mother's coffee brown eyes the last time I lost a baby, I'm not sure that even with the strength of Rick supporting me through it, that I could survive reliving that nightmare again.

"We don't have to tell them, but it might be good for you to not hold it all in. This is a joyous thing for so many people. Maybe just tell them, and swear them to secrecy for the next six weeks?"

"Is your mother as bad at keeping secrets as you are?"

"No!" Softly leaving his lips, his buoyant laughter that accompanies his answer lightens my mood. "She's actually really good at it. My dad still doesn't know it was me that crashed his Cadillac when I was fifteen. He still thinks it was stolen by some backwoods hoodlums going for a joyride."

"My mom can keep a secret too. It's not that I don't want everyone to know, I just need…"

"I know. But this is more support for you, for us. Let's throw these nosy ladies a bone. Ok? I've got your back, I'm right here."

"Ok," Groaning, I turn back towards our mothers. With Rick standing close behind me, his arms wrapped around my waist, giving me the support I need to face the worried stares of our mothers, I pull out my phone. Swiping over the numerous pictures I find the one that makes my heart flutter every time I look at it. "Mom, Mrs. Grimes, Rick and I have something to tell you, but you have to promise not to breathe a word of it to anyone for six weeks. No one. Not Dad, Mr. Grimes, Auntie Tina, Carl, or Andre. No one."

"We know what no one means, Michonne. Y'all need to just say what it is because you're scaring me."

"Don't be scared, Mrs. Alexander. This is good news." Rick promises from behind me, then lowers his chin to my shoulder, gifting me with an encouraging kiss to my neck.

"You're getting married?!" His mother squeals as though she just had an epiphany, at the same time my mother seems to have put all of the pieces of the puzzle together as well. On top of the words spoken by Mrs. Grimes she blurts out at the top of her lungs. "You're pregnant!"

Turning my phone to face them, I showcase the source of my secret. It's the picture of the ultrasound I snapped with my phone. The fuzzy black and white proof of our babies.

"You're having a baby?" Mrs. Grimes asks. Her eyes widen in gleeful surprise, as my own mother's face holds a mix of both shock and concern. Slightly shadowed by the painful result of these kinds of announcements in the past.

"Babies." Rick offers, upping the ante for his mother. "We're having twins."

Chapter 11 by Fik Freak

Chapter 11 – Rick

"You take care of your lady, Richard. You hear me?"

"Yes, Mom, I hear you. I will."

"She's such a sweet thing. And I'm so excited. You know I've been wanting more grandbabies for a long time. I just thought it wasn't going to happen for me. Maybe I was only meant to have my Carl. And that's enough, he's the best grandson I could have asked for."

"I know, Mom."

"But, now? Twins! And I'm gonna claim that Andre too, cause he's such a sweetheart. And smart to boot! Hot damn, I can't wait to rub this in your Aunt Regina's face! Oh and guess who else is having a baby? Hershel's daughter Maggie! The babies can all be friends! Wait til I tell him. You know he's always just loved you and Jeff. Kinda thought Jeff and Maggie might hit it off, but she's got an Asian fella as her boyfriend now, so Jeff is gonna have to find his own girlfriend." Rambling on and on, waving her hands expressively, my mother continues to ramp up her thrilled emotions around the pregnancy announcement. It's a dizzying twister of words that I'm fairly used to when she gets excited, but right now given the complexity of Michonne's pregnancy, and her general skittishness about it, I need my mother to bring it down a notch before Michonne comes out of the house.

"Mom, calm down." Placing my hand on hers, slowly easing them back to her sides, I give her a polite smile and still my voice. My father always says trying to calm her down is like herding cats, and I see what he means. She gets going and before it's all said and done she can have gone in so many different directions you won't know what she's talking about. That's a little too much for today. "Mom, you can't tell anyone yet. Mrs. Alexander can't tell anyone, and you can't either remember. I think you can hold out six weeks. Ok?"

"Alright. Why do we have to wait though? You already have the ultrasound pictures; you know she's pregnant. What am I missing here? Cause Hershel has already told half of KC about his grandbaby that's on the way. He's even got his own set of ultrasound pictures. I know cause I saw em when your father and I were at the Piggly Wiggly the other day and we ran into him over by the meat counter. He was getting a brisket for a dinner he was having with Maggie's fellas' parents. Kind of a meet and greet, welcome to the family sort of thing. We don't have to do that cause of course we know the Alexanders already, but when you bring Michonne to your grandparents' dinner this weekend she can meet the rest of the family. Get acquainted."

"Mom-"

"But I'm still wondering why all the secrecy? And again, Richard, where are my ultrasound pictures, and what am I missing here?" Quirking her eyebrow at me, and pursing her lips, tapping her little foot, she's waiting on me to sort through all of what she said and provide her with an answer.

Coming up behind me, catching me somewhat by surprise, Michonne's mother pats me on the back as if to say she's got this. "Amanda, what you're missing is that my daughter has a history of miscarriages. Her last two pregnancies with her ex-husband did not end well. I know the prospect of twins is something to celebrate, but, let's give it time." Michonne's mother offers, joining my mother and I as we stand out by her Buick.

"Oh, Nia, I didn't know that. I'm so sorry." My mother reaches out to Michonne's and places both her hands around one of hers, honest sorrow softening her green eyes. As a woman who was unable to have more children after my brother and I, I'm sure she has a particular soft spot for Michonne's predicament. "Rick, is this… are these babies going to make it? Is this something we should be worried about? I don't like what I'm hearing."

"She's seeing a new doctor, that's actually where we are heading to now. He's optimistic, but cautious. We are taking it one day at a time until we get the clear at six weeks."

"Well see there, Nia. Cautious optimism is good."

"It is good. It's great, but the only way to help Michonne right now is to be supportive, but realistic. I want these babies as much as the both of you do, but you didn't see her light get dimmer and dimmer with each of those miscarriages. My baby girl was sitting up in a hospital bed, alone, in pain. After the last one she was so withdrawn and closed off. Could barely function to take care of herself or Andre. That son of a bitch she was married to couldn't even put his own selfishness aside long enough to properly take care of his family when they needed him. My baby girl deserves so much better. And she's going to get it. Rick, you better take care of my baby. Do you understand me?" Worry and sadness shadow her beautiful face, a few frown lines actually showing around the corners of her mouth. It's a sight I have yet to witness, and its familiarity to the downcast pull of my lady's face when she is upset or sad, is simply uncanny.

"Yes. Absolutely. I know she's… worried. But, I just don't want to feed that. I'm worried too if I'm being honest. Every minute of every day." Rubbing my hand across my forehead I can sense a bit of straining tension forming there, along with a hollow sickness in my chest just thinking about Michonne alone in a hospital room. Crying. Hurting. Emotionally and physically depleted from the loss of yet another baby. I steal a moment to catch my breath, blowing out a long huff, turning my head heavenward in a gesture that will hopefully prevent the tears I can sense gathering in my eyes. "Worrying's not going to help, though. I'll take care of my family, Mrs. Alexander. I love Michonne, and this family is my priority. I will do my best. I promise." Making eye contact with the woman who so clearly resembles the woman that I love, I deliver a promise to her that I have already silently made to myself every single day since I fell in love with Michonne. Every. Day.

"You better." She sniffs, then transforms her face into a brilliant smile, that seems to completely set me at ease and lighten up the moment.

"Don't worry, Nia, Richard will do as he says. He'll take care of her, and in eight months we'll have two little miracles!"

"I hope it's that easy, Amanda, I really do. There is a lot happening, very quickly for my daughter. Michonne's body is older-"

"And Michonne can hear all of you, so you don't have to stand out in front of my house trying to unsuccessfully whisper about me." Exiting the garage, Michonne buttons her charcoal colored, wool coat over her body, and strolls lightly over to where we are standing by my mother's car. With a wide grin, as dazzling as her mother's, and that carries a hint of censure, but also understanding, she bumps my hip and stands next to me. Hanging my arm around her shoulders, I pull her underneath me, and into my side, dropping a kiss to her temple.

Darting her eyes to each of our mothers she addresses them in a calm tone. "Mom, Mrs. Grimes, we are both doing everything that we can to get a good outcome. I appreciate your concern. But, I don't think this is going to be like last time. I feel like I'm stronger, better. Physically and emotionally."

"You are, sweetheart, you really are."

"And Rick's right. My new doctor, Heath Morrow, is one of the best in the city. Very experienced in multiples and high risk pregnancies. I've shared my medical history with him. He knows about the past miscarriages, and the uterine scarring, said it's called Asherman's Syndrome. He also already figured out what Dr. Tucker never seemed to determine which is that me not expelling the placenta from Andre's birth, and the surgeons having to remove it surgically, is what caused the scarring. Told us it could have been removed with a high success rate. Dr. Tucker never even mentioned that to me. Maybe he was too old to know about this stuff, or who knows. Now, I'm informed, I've done research on my own, and listened to Heath, and I feel empowered. I am pregnant, with twins, and I'm fighting against every instinct to allow fear to consume me. It won't. Not this time. It's powerful, and painful, but I don't feel like I have to do all of this alone. Rick has been with me every step. I trust him with my life, and the life of our babies. Whatever happens, I'm not alone this time, and that means everything."

"You're never alone, baby. We've got this. However it turns out, we've got each other." I declare, hoping to add some finality to the discussion, ending it on a positive note.


I meant what I said to Michonne and our mothers earlier today, and I mean it now as I squint my eyes and push my glasses further up on my nose, trying my very best to make out the images on the ultrasound. With my other hand, I'm gripping tightly to Michonne's that rests in a tense fist at her side.

"So, what we see here is one gestational sac, and there right next to it is the other. See that? They're just kind of hanging out, growing, getting stronger. Your babies are developing right on schedule, I like everything I see here. Just like two weeks ago, everything still looks good with them."

"It's hard for me to make out what exactly is going on here. I can see the sacs, but they kind of look like…I don't know what they look like. Not babies just yet though." I absentmindedly mutter out loud, more to myself than to anyone else.

"Well it's still very early on, Rick. Your babies are about the size of a blueberry, and see that there, that's the spinal column for Baby A. And that there, these are the umbilical cords for each baby. Everything looks perfectly normal, guys. Normal babies." Heath directs our attention, pointing out different features on the ultrasound screen, as he moves the hand that is not guiding the wand inside of Michonne to capture the grainy image of our babies.

Heath keeps using the word normal. Is that normal? I feel like he's trying to calm us, to soothe the apparent concern etched across our faces. The power of his words is definitely conveying his confidence that everything with the babies is good. Normal. His caring, patient smile, and the measured rhythm of how he speaks is helping. He has a kind face, and a calming nature about himself. I can see why he's so in demand, and he's so good at what he does. Like everything else lately, I did a little research on Heath too and checked out some reviews online about him. Everyone seems to have been right about him. Thankfully he comes highly recommended and he didn't turn out to just be a nice guy I met in the produce section of Publix.

My shoulders droop in a relaxed release of the weight that I carry each day, each minute. The heavy burden of worry and concern. While it feels good to let it roll away from my body in billowing waves, I also welcome it. The crush of it reminds me of my purpose. This is my family. This is my woman, who is carrying my children, and my heart. My life belongs to them. With that comes my protection, my love, everything that I am. I am invigorated by this renewed sense of purpose. Even when I'm exhausted, like I am right now.

Removing my glasses for a moment I rub at my eyes. They're growing dry with the itchy sensation of me being tired, still in need of sleep. Michonne had me so wound up last night, that I wore her out, and myself in the process. While she instantly fell asleep, falling into a calm soundless slumber as she rolled to her side and curled into a satisfied ball, I stayed awake. Reading. Filling out paperwork. Not finally calling it a night until nearly three in the morning, knowing that I have to rise at five in order to get dressed, and back to KC in time for work. I'm exhausted, but relieved, proud.

Despite how I feel, I know that this is all a lot for Michonne, so I look to her, taking a moment to gauge how she's feeling, taking all of this in. I see that she's also smiling. A demurer, more secretly satisfied smile than my proud Cheshire grin. It's a smile nonetheless, and instantly I sense the feeling that often enjoins itself to her outward displays of joy.

This thing, this feeing washes over me when I see her like this. Happy. Whole. It's a warm flush. So foreign to the old me. It's become predictable now, following every time she smiles. This fantastical flutter of a bird's wings brushing against the rigid cage of the binding frame of my chest, seeking the freedom of flight. The freedom that can only be found in her smile, in her arms. It emboldens me to drown the insecurities that would hide my emotions, my love away, keep it sequestered and protected. My heart won't abide by that any longer. Instead, as I watch her, with tears softening the warm deep chocolate of her eyes, I internally whisper a prayer of thanks for her. For the babies. For all of this.

"That's good to hear, doc. I just wanna be sure everything is moving along the way it's supposed to. That we're ok."

"Well, it certainly looks that way for now. Experiencing any bleeding, or pain, Michonne?" Heath turns his head to center his focus on her. She's the real patient. I'm just the anxious dad, boyfriend, lover, patiently perched at her side. The dutiful witness to the miracles blossoming inside of her.

"No. I'm fine." She quickly dismisses, shaking her head and waving a hand as though the very thought of her not being fine is inconceivable. I have to school my face because my shock at her words is threatening to take over my face. This pisses me off. She does this all of the time. Saying she's fine when she's not. Discounting her own well being, as though her truly being fine is not important. It is to me. It's the most important thing to me.

"No, she's not fine. Half the time she's so tired she can barely make it a few hours without a nap. Then she's still throwing up everything that she eats. Even things that she has always hated. Smells, any smell almost makes her sick."

"Rick, you make it sound so dramatic. I'm ok, and all of this is normal right, doctor?"

"Well, you are having twins, so that does amplify the experience in a way. The eating, and sleeping are perfectly normal. It takes a lot of energy to grow one baby. Two babies is a tall order. Has the ginger not helped at all with the nausea?"

"Some. I will suck on the ginger and that does seem to help me keep down some food."

"If the nausea persists to the level where you are becoming dehydrated, or you are losing weight, we will have to take other measures. You have to provide your babies, and your own body with the sustenance to make it through this process. We could maybe consider an anti-nausea medication like Zofran if this continues throughout the pregnancy."

"I was reading about that, the throwing up. It's called…" Snapping my fingers attempting to recall off the top of my head the name of the disorder that I read about. "Hyperemesis. And that the drug you just mentioned can be helpful, and doesn't have any side effects, or birth defects associated with it. Can she get some of that?"

"Wow, Rick, you've been doing your homework I see. Yes, if this continues, Michonne may be experiencing hyperemesis, and Zofran might be an option. For now, though, we wait. This all might drastically improve in five to six weeks' time. Michonne, you may remember that the second trimester is much different. You get some energy back. Sex drive increases."

"The energy would be a benefit for her. The sex drive never left."

"Rick!"

"I'm just saying. He's not a stranger anymore, he knows you pretty well by now." Nervously my eyes switch from Michonne's face, to Heath's, then down to where his hand was just steadily holding the wand in place inside of her to capture the babies' images. It made me slightly uncomfortable the first time we came to see him. After he used the small handheld machine and wand to hear the heartbeats, I thought that was the height of his intrusion. I was wrong. I know that Carl is only 15, but I have somehow forgotten in all of those years how this goes. I went to appointments with Lori, I remember that. But for some reason I do not remember how familiar the doctor has to become with the patient.

Michonne got a little kick out of my discomfort at our last appointment, taking note of how my eyes widened when Heath donned a set of latex gloves and used his hand and fingers to internally check her cervix. It would be a lie to say that my initial thought wasn't to yank his hand away from my lady. It was. Only Michonne holding on to me, and maintaining eye contact throughout the exam kept me from at least questioning his every movement.

Despite the precariousness of this pregnancy, I am terribly excited. All of my information gathering is not just to support Michonne, but also to allow me to get some sense of real involvement in this experience. When Lori was pregnant with Carl she was as mean as a rattlesnake, and didn't seem to truly want me to be as enmeshed in the process as Michonne does. I went to appointments because I was interested, but for the most part Lori acted as though my presence wasn't entirely welcomed. I didn't even get to witness his birth. Carl came right along while I was out on a call at work, and by the time I got the notification that Lori was at the hospital, my son had already been welcomed into the world by Lori's family.

That kind of separation, the breadth and space that surrounded everything between Lori and I is not something I want to emulate again. I want to be apart of this. I want to feel my babies kick, watch them grow as Michonne's belly expands. I want to watch them being born. Everything. Hell, Michonne said even that asshole Mike had the pleasure of being there when Andre was born. No, this is my do over. My chance to get my life right, and finally have all of the things I've always wanted.

Bringing my attention back from my mind's stroll down memory lane, Heath offers more advice. "Sleep or rest when you're tired, eat healthy when you're hungry. Listen to your body, Michonne. Minimal stress, ok? I mean that maybe more than anything. Sometimes we discount the affect of stress on our bodies, but we are like machines. Too much pressure bearing down on us can be dangerous. So, let Rick help as much as possible. He seems prepared for it, and it's a good way for him to stay involved in what's going on throughout the next 8 months." Heath nods his head towards me, and offers some words of wisdom that I wholly agree with.

From the corner of my eye I can see that Michonne is staring at me, a slightly surprised look of wonder on her face as well, as though she is also somewhat surprised by my preparedness and level of engagement. Impressed might be the word, and it feels good to do that. To give her something to be proud of me for. Usually it's the other way around, and I find that I like this feeling coming from her. Not to say that she doesn't make me feel good about myself all the time, because she does. Honestly, she makes me feel like I can do anything. But Michonne is so put together, intelligent, and is used to moving in a world full of professionals, men with big money, that outside of the emotional pitfalls she has a habit of falling prey to, which are not even her own fault, she's pretty flawless. And not that it's a competition with her or anyone else, but it's good to be able to meet her on her level sometimes.

This is one of those times. For someone on the outside, my heightened need to understand and be prepared may seem a bit excessive. The reading, the research, the questions. But, for me, it's what I need to do. It's the best way for me to feel like I'm doing something to help get Michonne and our babies safely through this pregnancy. On the outside I have been attempting to show nothing but support and optimism to her. She needs that. I can sense it in the anxiety that laces every word she haltingly utters when discussing the pregnancy. The way she refuses to buy anything for the babies, even though I have a secret stash of onesies that I found at a small general store that sells her favorite boiled peanuts.

The onesies have a picture of little brown nuts being cracked out of their shells, their tiny arms and hands raised high, a look of cherubic exuberance stenciled on their made up faces. Noticing them on a rack next to the checkout counter, I chuckled at their cuteness at first, my quick eye check not fully registering the image. But upon a second glance, the presentation finally clicked with me and I let loose a fuller, more robust laugh. A full on hearty one that infectiously caused the woman behind the counter to begin nervously laughing as well. It was that moment, on that second look, that I recognized that the smooth toasty color of the peanuts is probably what our babies are going to look like. I couldn't not buy a few of them. Ever since then, in my mind, they are our little peanuts.

Lately I find that I have been hesitant to share things with her that I think might stress her, or cause her some angst. I haven't shared my general store epiphany, my stash of onesies, my extensive pregnancy research, the fact that I have been walking around with a diamond engagement ring in my pocket, or that I have been desperately attempting to figure out this housing situation, or how to deal with Mike.

Yeah, I'm sitting on my very own chamber of secrets it seems, and the only things that keep me from cracking, is my love for her and these babies. My family. Michonne is strong, resilient. But, she's also delicate, physically, emotionally. There is so much that I want to discuss with her, that I need to confess, but I can't. Not yet. She needs more time. Five to six more weeks. That's all I need. That's all her and the babies need before this all becomes more real. Before one of the greatest sources of pride in my life can become this fully realized thing.

Six weeks. So much is hanging in the balance for this arbitrary speck of time. So many decisions to make. Lives will change. Mine. Hers. Six weeks.

"I'm ready for whatever. I'll take care of her, Heath. I've got this, Michonne. I've got this." My eyes dance hurriedly away from Michonne's perceptive gaze and back to the ultrasound monitor to once again look upon my babies.


"What are you over here reading? You're always doing that lately. Staring at your computer with your glasses on. It's all very sexy, Sheriff. This studious thing you have going on."

"Oh yeah? You like the glasses?" I answer, slightly distracted by what I'm reading on my screen. Until I'm not. In this moment I finally become aware of everything outside of my computer. The music that's playing on the home speaker system. Maxwell's 'Fistful of Tears'.

"Feel just like a weight has lifted
How can I repay you, help me understand
Currency a fistful of tears I can afford
Fight of your life is not the cost
Time will reveal, yeah
All along you're the one who's losing…"

The playing of the music is not out of place at all. There is often music playing in Michonne's house. Hers. Andre's. Carl's. I prefer hers to theirs, but I am surprised that's she playing it on the house speakers. Usually it's confined to her room, or only on throughout the house if the boys aren't here, but she's in a different mood today. It is her birthday.

The boys and I have been all over it too. Making her breakfast in bed. Sending her to the day spa for pampering and relaxation. And now, as I finger the cool metal of the ring in my trouser pockets, and recall the details of what I was just looking at on my computer, I have one more gift…well two gifts, left.

Sliding in between where I'm sitting on the barstool at the kitchen island, and the counter, Michonne easily maneuvers herself between my legs, closing my laptop in the process. In a slinky, form fitting black dress, one that hugs and caresses every inch of her sexy body, even the tiny swell of her flat stomach, she positions herself with her hands on her rounded hips. A curious tilt to her head is causing the long curtain of her dreads to fall in a cascade to one side. Immediately my eyes fall from the long sweep of her eyelashes, to the pout of the scarlet red of her lips, over her pert breasts, to her belly. Still so tiny and flat, it's easy for her to keep our secret for now. But soon? Soon I hope to see her blossoming with life. What we created together. Full, swollen, beautiful, creating more striations, badges of a life well lived across her hips.

Making a sucking, tsk sound with her tongue against her teeth, she shakes her head at my appreciative appraisal of her, and my maneuver of answering her question with a question. She hates when I do it. It's my way of changing the subject. I'm sure she knows that by now.

Wrapping her arms around my neck, she leans into me, and instantly I can feel my dick getting hard in my dark blue slacks, from the weight of her pressed seductively against me, and the powdery scent of her Donna Karan perfume in my nostrils. Licking my tongue over my lips, I'm trying not to allow her to pull my focus too far away from what I was reading and working on, calculating payments for. From the way she's slinking and grinding against me, that is probably going to be a losing fight.

"It's my birthday, Rick."

"I know."

"I'm 38 today."

"The most beautiful 38-year-old woman ever."

"Really? Beautiful?" She purrs, her lips against the shell of my ear. Nipping. Tugging.

"Exquisite." Releasing a slow breath, I inch my hands up over her waist, and roll them behind her, one pressed flat to the small of her back. Pulling her closer to me, her breasts are now crushed to my face, cushioning my lips as her own hands now wander a path over the crisp threads of my new sky blue, button up shirt, purchased specifically for this night. For her birthday. Michonne says she likes when I wear blue because it brings out my eyes. Whatever she wants she gets, and I can tell she's pleased as I lift my eyes to hers. I find love there, amongst the deep coffee swirl of carnal lust, and passion.

I watch her reaction. The way her full red lips are now parted. Just a touch. Her brilliant white teeth, catching the bottom lip at its plushest point.

With my other hand I roam down over her round ass and down the back of her thighs, slowly, the gentlest of touches, until I get to the hem of her dress. Then under. Gripping the bottom of her dress with my fingertips, I move it away from her body, and slide my hand up, up, higher, in between the cushioned flesh of her thick thighs, covered in black thigh high stockings, the lace trim of them along with the garters, further piquing my interest. The pinnacle of her heated womanhood, covered only in the thinnest lace, barely covering her plush, hairless lips. I cup her there, delighting in the feel of her almost riding my hand, grinding in a small swivel as my thumb lightly brushes against her mound.

"What's this?" I ask, pushing the material of her thong aside to get a closer feel of her velvety skin. Creamy. Smooth.

"For you." She utters on a tortured groan. She wants more. Needs more.

"For me? It's your birthday."

"For both of us then."

"I see. What can I do for you, Michonne? Hm? What else do you need me to give you, sweetheart? You already have all of me."

"Rick…"

"Hm? Tell me so I can give it to you." Raising my eyebrows in question, I want to hear her ask for what she wants. It's always my pleasure to give it to her.

"Rick?"

I don't answer her plea, my name dripping from her lips in that way she has. Throaty, husky, sweet as though it has been dipped in honey. It's the way she whispers my name in a clipped and succinct tone, the one she normally uses to get what she wants from me.

Right now I need to feel just a little more of her. My eyelids drop for a moment, desire spiking at the breathy moan that escapes her in response to my possessive touch.

I know my woman. She's tough and strong, a warrior. A true survivor of life. But she's also soft, and warm, and sensitive. And she likes to be handled by me. Sometimes she wants to assert her dominance, and I like that, the way she can command me. Bend and mold me to fulfill her desires. I'm always willing, so entranced by everything that is her, that my body, my mind, my heart, will tolerate nothing but my full compliance with her commands. But, there are times, when a part of me needs her to behave. To let my firm hand guide her to ultimate pleasure. Michonne can tell. She responds to it so nicely. Just like she is now.

It's that subtle moan of my name, falling from her lips. The arch of her back. A demure lowering of her eyes, as though this naughty vixen is shy, or bashful. It's the allure of the dichotomy of her personality. The yin and yang of the sexy and the shy. The dominant and the submissive. It's a wonder that either of us ever has time for anything other than sex. Which is why right now, even though my body is humming for her. The beast inside, vibrating with need, urging me to bend her over the counter and raise her dress…

"Michonne, you are absolutely stunning. Your beauty is distracting." I offer her praise, words of devotion that my divine lady more than deserves. "And while I would love nothing more than to punish you right now for teasing me, the boys are in the house, and we have to leave."

"We have time, and they are in the basement."

"We do not. You always do this when we have somewhere to be."

"You look so handsome though. I love to see you all dressed up like this." She caresses my chest with her fingers, gliding them over my pecs. Her touch feather soft, titillating in its brush over the hairs inching from the opening at the throat of my shirt.

"Well you know, I can clean up too. I may be just a small town sheriff, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve. I know I have to try and look like I belong with you, step my game up. You're way too pretty and sophisticated to be my lady."

"Rick."

"It's true. I always wonder what you're doing with me anyway."

"Stop. I don't want either of us to talk like that anymore, to even think about our relationship, about ourselves like that anymore. I wasn't ready for you when we first met, and I was foolish to push you away. But I am ready now. There's nothing left but enjoying what we have growing between us. Let's not fantasize about failure. Instead, let's put everything into winning. Into our family." Moving my hand from her back, she travels it around her waist to land it solidly against her belly. My palm flat against her curved tummy.

"Hm."

Cupping the side of my face with her other hand, I have to fight my instinct to wallow in self doubt, and cling too readily to her touch. I do adore the feel of her hands on my face though, so I grant myself a brief moment to accept the soft graze of her fingertips over my freshly shaven skin, and the assertive certainty of her words. Even as I lovingly keep my hand pressed to her stomach, receiving a much needed jolt of energy just from the connection.

It's her birthday, but right now my lady can sense something about me, about what I need. It's more than sex. I can't verbalize it to her when I don't fully understand it myself. It's a feeling. A visceral reaction to the state of things. My growing love for her. This deep seated, profound obsession with her. Our babies. Their survival. Her ex. The pressure of needing to do something. To react. There was a time when the old Rick would have never questioned himself on how to make things happen. No, that Rick lived on the overwhelming need to tap into the aggression. Lean into my competitive nature. But life, experience, has neutered some of that, made me uncertain of myself. What's the best thing to do? How do I proceed? Can I do better by her than Mike did? Love is one thing, but money is another. I've never cared so much about everything in my life.

There was a time when I loved Lori, but even things with her kind of felt like a competition. It was also about me beating Shane in some respects. Me winning at having the most popular girl in KC as my wife. I didn't have my MLB career, but I had that. Then I had a son. Then I had a job that I was naturally good at, and with that came the respect of those around me. And I cared about Lori, I loved my son, and my job. But it was all so easy. With little effort or desire all of those things fell into place, and while the loss of it all was hurtful, it didn't break me.

This thing with Michonne is intense love that honestly feels like it's been inside of me all along. Waiting for her. The part of my soul that anchors me to hers has always known her. The beginning of me and her is the true beginning of me, and as a result I want everything to be perfect for her, for both of us this time around. Failure is not possible. I care so deeply, that every moment I'm awake, I'm sleep, I'm thinking of how to ensure this all works out. It has to. It's why I'm always on my computer reading, researching, studying, trying to figure things out, trying to make myself and this outcome better than before. It's what I do. It's how I got so good at baseball. Study to show thyself approved, as my grandpa would say.

When my lover says to me not to fantasize about failure, I nearly gasp because… how does she know?

"Without realizing it, you have completely stolen my heart. Every breath, every beat of my heart is for you. We both have so much history that we have to battle, but when I'm with you, there is no fight. There's no need to fight, or struggle. I don't want to do that anymore. I don't have to. Neither do you. It's just you and me, Sheriff. The boys, these babies. This is the life we deserve, baby. It is, and we have to believe that."

"Ok, Michonne. Ok." I nod my head, in awe of the eloquence of her words, how easily she speaks to my heart. Puckering my lips, I lift my face a bit to seek her kiss, which she kindly provides on a warm, wet press of her lips to mine. "I love you."

"I love you more." Pulling back, she proceeds to wipe her lipstick from my lips with her fingers. She could leave it for all I care. Let the world see I've had the pleasure of tasting her lips.

Creeping up behind where Michonne and I are in the kitchen, Carl and Andre barrel down the stairs. They have perfect timing, as I've just removed my hand from between her thighs and lowered her dress.

"Are we leaving now? We've been dressed for awhile." Says Carl, his characteristic toss of his hair back and off of his forehead.

"We've been waiting on you forever, Mom." Andre pouts, running his own hand forward over his hair.

"Oh no is this Maxwell again?" Carl asks, his face twisting in discomfort.

"Ma, why do we have to listen to this old folks' music?" Andre asks, as I notice how he and Carl are standing next to each other like a set of matching salt and pepper shakers. Both sporting khaki pants and white button up shirts, I don't know if they dressed like this on purpose, or if it was just a coincidence that they are resembling bookends. Either way, it's funny to see them this way, one speaking right after the other like twins finishing each other's sentences and thoughts.

"I don't care how long you've been waiting on me. Yes, this is Maxwell. And no this isn't old folks' music." Michonne answers, pointing her finger at Andre then at Carl, then heads back towards the stairs. "I'm going to grab my purse."

Watching her hips swing as she walks away, I mutter absentmindedly to the boys, "It's good music." I respond, somewhat offended seeing as I like Maxwell, and I wouldn't necessarily consider myself old.

"Well maybe it's not new or young folks' music, but it's slow and boring, and we know what it means when we hear Maxwell playing." Carl remarks. Turning towards each other, Andre and Carl give each other a knowing look.

"Should we drive to the party on our own? Give you two some 'adult time'?" Making air quotation marks with his fingers, Andre makes a statement that confirms even further that the boys are on to us. Oh well.

"You can drive separate if you want, but I want both of you to know that when you love a woman, really love her, you will wait however long you have to wait. You don't complain. You just wait. And, there is nothing wrong with wanting to spend 'adult time' with her. Or listening to good music to set the tone for that. As much time as you two spend sniffing after Cyndie and Macy you should know that by now. Also, there is nothing romantic about the music you guys listen to. You can't romance a woman listening to the Amigos."

"Migos." They both say in unison.

"That's what I said. The Amigos."

"No, Rick, the Migos."

"Whoever they are, you boys will learn that there is nothing romantic about yelling 'skirt skirt' in the middle of a song." I scoff, frowning as I remember the numerous songs with the annoying utterance that I have heard them playing.

"Yeah, ok, Dad. That's why Andre is going to drive. You guys can make goo goo eyes and whisper to each other while Andre and I take his car and listen to the Amigos."

"Right. We'll see you guys later."

Rushing to the door, the boys file out, one after the other, grumbling to each other about our habit of oversharing.


"You're leaving now?"

"Yes, Mom, it's time. We have other plans for Michonne's birthday still. Remember?"

"Oooh, that's right! How romantic and exciting!" she winks knowingly at me, and I hope that Michonne didn't catch that. Did I say that she's good at keeping secrets? Did I lie?

"Amanda, leave them alone. They have other things to do than hanging out with a bunch of geriatrics." My dad teases, smacking my mother on the butt and inserting himself into the conversation, and hopefully keeping my mother from spoiling the surprise. Scotch in hand, he's cutting quite the figure as Michonne noted upon our arrival. Adding, as she widened her eyes in surprise at how much he and I resemble, that he is the epitome of the phrase 'silver fox'. I suppose she's right, I don't know. "Let these youngsters get on with the business of their celebrations this weekend."

"George, I was just wondering out loud about them leaving so soon."

"Mmhm."

"You know what would be nice, if you guys joined us down in Miami next month.
Remember I was telling you about it, Michonne? We're gonna go down with your parents, dear."

"Yes I remember, it should be lovely for you guys." Smiling patiently at my mother, Michonne is so polite as she pretty much tells my mother no. I should be taking notes.

"George, remember when we went to Miami last year? How much fun we had?"

"Oh yeah. South Beach. Lots to see on South Beach."

"You old pervert, I wasn't talking about South Beach." Whacking my dad across his arm, my mother giggles like she's sixteen. Smirking, a twinkle in her mischievous green eyes, she continues. "Though your father is right, they have a nude beach down there that was quite liberating and eye opening. Michonne, you've got the body for a nude beach, sweetheart. Perfect! For now…" Winking at Michonne with her last comment, I can feel my face flushing red at the lewd subtext coming from my mother, and what feels like her itching to reveal our secret. Oh lord, George and Amanda have been drinking.

"What do you mean for now?" Frowning, his dark eyebrows furrowed over the blue eyes that we share, a crinkle at the corners, my father has picked up on the thinly veiled bit my mother dropped at the end.

"Uh, nothing, George. You've had too much to drink. Hey, before you guys leave, I want to introduce Michonne to your cousin Tanya. She's got that fancy furniture boutique down in Savannah. Just in case you all might need some new furniture in the coming months." Taking a hold of Michonne's arm, she pulls her away from where we are gathered in the dining room. Michonne looks back at me probably wondering how we missed our opportunity to finally make a run for it.

"What is your mother babbling on about tonight? She's had one too many Southern Comfort and Cokes if you ask me. Woman could never hold her liquor. I kind of like that though. Makes her feisty!"

"Pop, that's…ok. I didn't need to hear that."

"I'm just saying." He shrugs. Taking a slow sip from his tumbler of scotch, he watches my mother and Michonne retreat somewhere into the crowd of my grandparents' anniversary party. "Still gonna do it tonight?"

"Yeah. I want to keep it intimate. Not a lot of folks."

"Understood. You nervous? Anything I can do?"

"No, Pop, I've got this." Rubbing my hand across the back of my neck, I can feel the stress building up in my muscles at just the thought of things. The only thing that gives me a bit of relief is the thought of what I hope to finally accomplish tonight. A dream fulfilled.

"You know, you don't have to do everything on your own. You can ask for help. Arthur and I want to help you kids. Not just with tonight either. With anything."

"We're not kids, Pop. Michonne just turned 38, I'll be 39 this year. I've got this."

"Yes, I know you do, but I admire what you are trying to do, and if there is anything I or Arthur can do to make it just a little bit easier for you two to have everything, we want to do it. What man wouldn't want that for his son? How you're going after this new life. That's the Rick I raised. Not that guy who just gave up and settled for Lori. Your personal legend has always been so much bigger than KC, son."

"Pop-"

"Listen to me, Rick. You've done fine for yourself. You have. I've always been proud of you. Whether you made it to the MLB or not. But, when you got hurt, a light in your eyes died. Your fire, boy! Fire!" Pressing his finger to my chest, he taps it against me to punctuate each word. "You are one tough son of a bitch. When that girl stepped out on you with Shane, we saw that coming. Your mama and I did. She always played you two against each other. Running to you when she had problems with him. You always trying to play the good guy and comforting her. Believing that fake baby story that she got you down the aisle with. Then her running to him when he got back here and you and her were married. What kind of woman does that? It was all a bunch of bullshit!"

"Pop!"

"Let me finish, Richard! It wasn't all BS. You got Carl out of it, and I couldn't love that boy more than I do. He is a Grimes man and ain't nothing better than that. Look at me!" Stepping back, he tosses his hands up in a wide open gesture, inviting me to do just as he commanded. Smug ass. All of my life my father has been a ham. A funny, charismatic, and outgoing guy, with good looks to boot. He's never known a stranger, and if he did they weren't strangers for long. While we may share physical features, I'm a lot more like my grandpa Robert. Easygoing, slow to anger, but quick to fight. Competitive. Respectful. Popular, but enjoyed my own company just as well. And like both men, a man who loves women. The idea of women. The feeling, the touch, the look of them. I think my parents assume I didn't get around much before Lori. I didn't as much as Shane, but I had my share.

I used that Grimes charm many times to get what I wanted. Hell I had to gather as much of it as I could that first night I met Michonne. But, when I hear my father speak about my personal legend, about me losing my fire. I know what he's talking about, and it makes me somewhat ashamed.

So much of my self worth had been tied up in defining who I was as a ballplayer. A star, that having Lori felt like the completion of that. When I didn't make it, and she still stuck with me, I felt like I was still getting a piece of who I was. I was still winning. Like my dad said, I guess I did in some ways, I got Carl out of that deal. But in the process, I lost something too, and in recognition of that it's apparent to me that Michonne isn't the only one putting herself back together.

"Then look at yourself, Rick. Ain't no man better than you. Remember that. We all lose at some point or another, and sometimes it's for the best."

"What do you mean?"

"I loved a woman once. Before I came home and met your mother. When I was stationed in Germany, when Arthur and I first met. We were best friends. Just turned 26, both of us. Knocking the socks off those German women, and those pretty military girls. Hell, there was something about getting them to let loose and be wild. Unbuttoning from all the rules and rigor of being in the military. It was the yin and yang, ya know. Duality. Then I met this one girl. Pretty thing from Detroit. Oh man, she had the legs of your Michonne. Same figure. Same sexy ass smile. Personality." Sniffing, he takes another drink, and drops his hand into his pants pocket, seemingly lost in his memories. "She was beautiful. I had seen her around Stuttgart a few times. Always so popular and smart, hanging out with her friends. I'd fallen in love with her from afar, you see. She lit up a room. Could toss out commands, and cut a man down with just a word or a look, then warm him right back up with that smile. How could I not fall for her? One day, I'm at the commissary and I see her, and I figure it's now or never, George. So, I turned that Grimes charm all the fucking way up! But she turned her smile on me and gotdamn it, boy, all of my cool dried up. I froze, but, hell I asked her out anyway. Then here comes Arthur Alexander, bringing up the rear. That was it for me. I wasn't even on her radar anymore."

"Wait… Arthur Alexander? Michonne's dad?"

"Yep. I don't know what it was about him, but when they saw each other it was something there I didn't have. But you have it, Rick. Michonne looks at you how her mama has always looked at Arthur. How me and your mama look at each other."

"What the hell?"

"My point is, I wanted Nia for myself, but she wasn't for me. I wasn't for her. Lori wasn't really for you. Michonne's ex wasn't really for her. You and Michonne are for each other. That's what is destined. Fate has made sure of that. So don't stress yourself out. This shit ain't hard. Do right by her, love on her, give her your full self. That's all you gotta do, boy. She already loves you, and those stars and hearts in your eyes tell me you already love her too."

"I do. I love her desperately. This time around is different. It's stronger and more powerful than anything I've ever felt before. The stakes are high this time, Pop. I can't lose. It's why I'm scrambling, pushing myself in different directions all at once. I have to win this time. I have to."

"I sense that. Winning is good. But you should enjoy yourself too. Don't get so caught up on the destination, that you forget to relax and enjoy the journey. For some reason despite all that love swirling around you like cupid done shot you in the ass, you seem convinced that you can lose. You won't. Don't even think about failure."

Hearing my father echo the same words that Michonne uttered to me earlier in the day, fill me with a certain sense of reinvigorated purpose. Hope. And with that, I snatch a deep breath, and set my sights on success. On finally getting exactly what I want.

"Rick, hear me when I say this. This isn't like before. Michonne isn't Lori. This time in your life isn't like before. You may not have become a famous pitcher. But to that woman over there, the one patiently listening to all ten thousand words and thoughts your mother is spamming her with? She hasn't taken her eyes off of you all night. Whatever stuff and thangs you've got going on, know this. The only thing that matters is that she is your destiny. Don't do anything that might jeopardize that. Ok?"

"I got it under control, Pop."

"Good. Now let's get this plan rolling, and rescue your lady and from your mama before she goes deaf from all that damn talking your mother is doing. I love that woman, but she talks so much!"


Last week…

"What do you think, Mr. Grimes? Is this what you are looking for?"

"I think so. I'll take it."

"Excellent! The sellers are very motivated, and I think they will accept your offer. The property is owned by a group of siblings that do not live in Georgia, and want to sell it now that their parents are dead. They grew up here, but when their parents got old, and they left home, it became a burden to their elderly parents. But, I know this family, they speak very highly of growing up here, and want to see it restored. It's in bad shape now, but love and and hard work can rehab it and make it beautiful again. Things break, but they can still grow."

Nabila's words resonate with me. My head down, walking over the dark earth, I take note of the browns and greens mixing together, creating a pattern of worn down paths, patches and edges still fighting to grow, survive. Pushing against the ravages of life and time that would see its demise. Broken but still growing, the crisp grass and frosted dirt crunch under the step of my boots, and with the morning sun warming my cool cheeks, it seems as though fate has once again stepped in to deliver a sign of its grace on my life. 

"Rick, as soon as you told me what you were looking for I thought of this place. My sister Nabila has been trying to sell it for almost a year now. No one wants to put in the work."

"I'm not afraid of hard work, Morgan. This is exactly what we need. A fresh start."

"Yep. It fits all of the requirements you had."

"And it's right on time. I have to get things moving. Her ex bought a condo right around the corner from her. The guy pops in all the damn time. Ignores me like I'm the one who doesn't belong there. I don't have a choice but to share Andre with him, but I'll be damned if I make it easy for him to worm his way back in with Michonne. I'm not taking chances anymore. I let another man break up my family once, won't happen again. I'll kill Mike before I let anything like that happen again. This time… the stakes are too high. I have to put my everything into making sure this works out."

"I understand, Rick. We've been friends for a long time. We go back to high school baseball. Duane and Carl have known each other since they were babies. Gone to the same schools all their lives. Jenny and I were really upset for you when things went south with Lori. And we saw you putting so much into this relationship with Michonne when you came to our restaurant, when we all went hiking. I firmly believe that everything in life is just a circle. There is always a return. It might ebb and flow, you experience the back and forth. But, you will get out of this what you put into it. You put love and caring into her, you will continue to get that back. I believe that. You have to let her all the way in though, Rick. You can't do all of this by yourself."

"I can't do that, Morgan, not yet. Some things I have to do on my own for her. I have to show her that I can take care of her and the babies. This is my do over, my chance to live a different life!"

"Babies? She's pregnant?"

"Damn. I can't hold water. Shit! You can't say anything to Jenny or anyone. We got a few more weeks until she's out of her first trimester, then we should be in the clear. We'll tell everyone then. Right now… it's precarious. Tenuous. She's scared to lose another life, and the very thought of just waiting for everything to work itself out is gutting me. So, I'm doing something."

Walking beside me as I aimlessly continue to tour the property, Morgan's words touch a sensitive spot in me. "All life is precious, Rick, I understand why you are working so hard for her and your family. I get it. But, you have to trust that sometimes things do work themselves out. And you have to trust Michonne. That all of the things you are doing, she might want to be apart of that. Maybe she can help too-"

"I don't want her to help, Morgan! I'm the man of this family! I will protect her and my kids. I will make a way for this family to grow, and survive. You don't understand what he put her through. I have to prove to her that I can do more than just give her babies and love her. There is more to me than that. Yes, all life is precious. The lives of my babies, my sons, my lady? All precious. I would die for them. But, things are not so easy as those four words. It's more difficult than just the three words 'I love you'. I can give them that easy. My love is undying. The words flow from heart effortlessly. But I have to also BE something so much better than myself. There is a man out there who wants to take everything that I am so close to finally having for myself. I won't let that happen."

"Ok, Rick. But do you think not telling Michonne about what Jessie is helping you with, about the house, your finances, the things you're working on in KC is going to help you do that?"

"She can't have stress right now. It's up to me to just fix things and make it easy for her. That's what I'm doing. She'll understand why I didn't involve her in all of this later. She'll understand." Nodding to myself I hope that I'm right. 

"Alright then. I'm your friend and I needed to tell you my thoughts. Give it to you plain. Either way I'm here for you. I always tell you the truth, Rick."

"I know. I appreciate it." Looking away, into the distance where Morgan's cousin Nabila is on the phone, presumably working out the details with the seller, I need to lessen the weight of things between Morgan and I. This man has been my friend for so long, before and after my friendship with Shane, that I decide to inject a little humor into this tense moment. "By the way when we went hiking and you were looking for the last protein bar and Michonne said she didn't eat it? She did. She's been eating like crazy lately, and I didn't want to tell on her then."

"Oh I know she did. She snacked like a hungry squirrel the whole day!" He releases a hearty laugh, followed by his signature grin. Patting me on the back, he gestures towards his cousin who is heading back our way with a wide smile of her own.

"The sellers accepted your offer, Mr. Grimes."

"Perfect. How soon do you think I can take possession?"

Present…

Driving back towards Atlanta, one hand on the steering wheel, I turn and guide my truck up a dirt path, lined with tall American Sweetgum trees. Their egg shaped crowns, colored yellowish brown, provide an almost secreted trail back towards the main grounds of the property, shielding it from the prying eyes of the world whizzing by on the busy street. A haven that can only be found if one dares to explore the road less traveled, an excursion that requires intent, tenacity, will.

"Rick, where are we going? I thought we were heading back towards the city?" Clasping tightly to my other hand, both of hers surrounding it in a needy clutch, protectively resting in her lap, Michonne's dark eyes find me in the midnight of the car. Only the moon's bluish glow illuminates her, creating shadowy panels that allow me to view her beautiful face in flickers, as though watching her in an old black and white movie.

"I want to show you something." Reassuringly I squeeze her hands, and I quickly turn my head her way to steal a look at her again, hoping to see more of her face as we pull away from the shadows of the tree covered driveway, and on to the circular path in front of the bright yellow house. Bringing my truck to a stop, I reluctantly remove my hand from hers and shift to park. My eyes never leave her face though. Gazing at the structure in front of us, with its failing roof, falling shutters, and peeling paint, Michonne is still. So still I wonder if she's breathing. "Do you trust me, Michonne?"

"Of course, Rick. With my life. I've never loved and trusted a man more." Snapping her attention back to me, her features show no emotion. There is no smile curving her full lips. No tilted squint at the corner of her eyes, signaling amusement. Only the depth of truth shining brightly in her irises. Only the honesty of her admission is banked there.

"Then come with me." I exit the truck, and eagerly head over to her side. Opening her door, I help ease her down from the cabin, and steady her on her heels. The gravel underneath our feet is not so stable for the tall, spiky shoes that cradle her tiny feet. With her arm linked with mine I carefully lead her up the pathway to the house, up the stairs to the front door. Only when I produce a key to the front door, unlocking it and throwing open the door, does her face reveal even the smallest hint of surprise.

"This is a beautiful old house, Rick, but why do you have a key?"

"I own this house. We own this house."

"We do?"

"We do."

"I- Ok. It needs a lot of work, but…I can see the potential. I just didn't realize we had purchased a house." Michonne wonders aloud, her voice trailing off as she walks further into the house, her precarious footsteps disturbing the dust that has settled, unbothered over time. The hardwood floors creak and whine as I add the weight of my own footsteps, shadowing behind hers as I follow her, watching, waiting for more of her reactions. "This kitchen is big. And I love the bay windows here. Is this all original wood work?"

"It is."

"I love it, Rick. It's quite a surprise. A lovely one." Glancing at me over her shoulder, she gives me the gift of her genuinely excited smile. Brimming, wide, it takes over her face, animating her features, instead of drooping them in concern. It's what I had hoped for, but not exactly what I was expecting.

Hurriedly she makes her way through all of the rooms on the first floor. The study, the bathroom, the living room. Then her curiosity sends her to the stairs to further explore. Once her foot hits the first step she stops, and looks for me, finding me right behind her, ready to continue right along with her, anxious to discover the house through her eyes.

Upstairs she goes in and out of the bedrooms, making note of a few things here and there that she thinks would be good to add, need to be fixed, or taken away. Her positive response zaps over to me, and my own inspiration is stoked, feeding off of the kinetics of our connection.

Once in the master bedroom, the last room at the end of a long hallway, I halt in the doorway and wait for her. I watch her. She frowns at the small closet and attached bathroom that is shared with all of the other bedrooms on this floor. Her smile returns at the floor to ceiling windows along the back of the house, and the French doors that lead out onto a balcony. When she opens the doors, and walks out onto the balcony that is my cue.

Easing up behind her, I wrap my arms around her waist, and hold her close. So close I can smell the mint of the gum she's chewing, and the scent of her perfumed skin. Kissing at her neck, I pull her back from the railing some, not ready for her to discover my surprise down below just yet.

"It's exactly 20 minutes from Andre's school in Atlanta, and 20 minutes from KC. It's got five bedrooms, but only two baths. There are five overgrown acres, and all of them belong to us. The house is rough, and old. It's been damaged over time. Left behind and forgotten. I can fix that. We can fix that. Anyone else would have looked at this house and would have seen a wreck. But, not me. And not you. Michonne, you are so special that your first words were that it was beautiful. It's a reflection of who you are, your own beauty. In the ruins, the weeds, the dilapidated wood, you saw beauty. And that's how I know."

"What do you know, Rick?"

"That the universe sent you to me. It brought us together. You have healed me in so many ways, given my life renewed purpose. Given me the chance to be loved again. A love that is more powerful and profound than anything I have ever experienced in my life. Nothing has ever felt like this… I've never known this kind of joy just from thinking about a person, seeing them.

I can't tell you what you mean to me, how your love makes me want to be present with you, with our boys, our babies. Forever." Turning Michonne to face me, I get down on my knee and present her with the ring that has been in my pocket for the past few weeks.

On a platinum band, a single princess cut solitaire, rests in a raised Tiffany style setting. Taking a hold of her hand I lift the ring and slide it down on to her slender finger. Tears stream a steady path from her eyes, and while usually the sight of them would send me into distress, I know these tears are different. There is no anguish that signals their departure from her beautiful eyes. Only happiness.

"I'm not as good with my words as you are, so I'll be plain. It's all I know how to do. I'm a plain man, and I never thought I needed much. The world, experience made me believe that I could survive on…deserved so little. Now I know better. You are the best of everything in this world, and I can't live or breathe without you. Michonne Marie Alexander, please give me the opportunity to try and make you as happy as you have made me. To try everyday for the rest of my life to give you the love and respect that you deserve. Please say that you will marry me."

"Rick…of course. Of course I will!" Placing her hands to either side of my face, she leans into me and dots my face with a flurry of kisses. She kisses my eyes, my nose, my cheeks, my forehead, my chin, my lips. Her trembling lips are salty with the trace remnants of her tears. I savor the taste of her, sucking at her lips, devouring her with my own kiss.

She said yes. Yes! Michonne said she will be my wife!

Our kiss turns more passionate, and before I know it she has nearly toppled me on to my ass, with Michonne now almost entirely in my lap. We're holding each other so tightly, passion growing, getting hotter between us. But then, a brief thought passes through my love drowned senses, reminding me of something else. Something very important.

"Michonne, baby?"

"Mmm yes, Rick, your dick is so hard, baby. Let's go out to the truck. I want to make love to you right now." She mumbles against my lips, her hand greedily massaging my length through my pants.

Before things go too far, and my willpower fails me, I brush her hand away from the zipper of my pants, "Michonne, wait. Wait."

"We don't have to wait. We can do it right here. Please, baby." Moaning, her heated mouth finds the sensitive skin just below my ear. Licking and sucking, I'm growing more and more excited, and it's making it almost too hard for me to stop her from having her way with me. In fact, with every moan and gyration of her body against mine, the idea to just make love her now becomes more and more enticing by the second.

Fighting against the cloud of lust almost blanking out my coherence, I try one last time. "Baby, Michonne, listen one more surprise. Last one, then it's just me and you. Ok?"

Huffing, she allows me to gather both of her hands in one of mine, and raise both of us from the balcony floor. Guiding her back downstairs, I take her back outside to where my truck is sitting. Removing my tie from around my neck, I step up behind Michonne, her arms petulantly crossed over her chest.

"Do you trust me, Michonne?"

"Yes, Rick. I still trust you. How can I not?"

"Good. One more surprise, but you have to let me put my tie over your eyes first."

"You wanna try something a little kinky? Here?" Widening her eyes at the thought of it, Michonne gasps in excitement at the idea of being blindfolded. I will have to remember that for later.

"No. Not yet. Here." Gently I wrap my tie over her eyes, securing it loosely. "Come with me."

Walking around to the back of the house, I see that everyone is in place, and instantly my heart begins to pound in my chest. My hands begin to sweat. But I don't falter. I don't miss a beat, as I lead my lady to where a small group of our friends and family are gathered, each of them with the exception of a few, holding candles, illuminating this moment with the light of their love and support for us. Seeing that everything is in place, I nod towards Morgan, to begin the music from the speaker.

Just as Etta James' 'At Last' begins to play, the violin introducing the beloved song, I freeze a moment. I don't move. Emotion is choking me, causing my hands to tremble. Not because I'm afraid of what's about to happen, or anything like that. But because of the outpouring of love for Michonne and I that I'm witnessing right now.

Hearing the music, Michonne's impatient hands and fingers begin removing my tie from her eyes on their own. Her eyes scan the crowd, hurrying from face to face, recognizing everyone and taking it all in as tears once again rush forward.

Stepping out from the crowd, Michonne's parents walk up to her. Handing her daughter a bouquet of peonies, woven together with a white ribbon, Mrs. Alexander kisses Michonne on the cheek and hugs her. Following behind her mother, Michonne's father kisses his daughter on the cheek as well. As they are getting situated, my beloved's face a series of emotions ranging from surprised, to confused, to happy and excited, I walk towards the center of the circle, taking my place in front of Gabriel, but next to Carl and Andre, I accept the large white paper board cards from Morgan.

After a moment, Michonne, now linked arm in arm with her father, turns towards me in the center of the wide circle. Her joyous grin catches my eye, and I'm instantly lost. Again. This woman already owns my heart, so how is it possible that I can still feel so giddy? How is it that every time she looks at me like this it still feels like the first time?

I'm getting caught up in her again, and I've forgotten that everyone is waiting on me. Until Carl and Andre gratefully remind me.

"Dad. Dad! The cards!"

"Go on, Rick! My mom's waiting."

Shaking my head as everyone around us laughs I remember what I'm supposed to be doing, and raise the cards, holding the first one up to my chest, just underneath my face. In my slanted handwriting, scrawled in bold black markered, block letters is the following…

'TO ME YOU ARE PERFECT'

'MY HEART WILL LOVE YOU'

'UNTIL WE BOTH LOOK LIKE THIS'

The fourth card is a picture of two mummies, laid side by side. This makes her laugh, a twinkle that flies on the lightly rustling wind, that helps cool the sweat now gathered on my face.

'SINCE IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY, AND VALENTINE'S DAY, HOW ABOUT WE ALSO MAKE THIS OUR WEDDING DAY?'

'SAY YES'

Upon reading the last card, Michonne just stares at me, her left hand over her lips as though she cannot believe what I'm suggesting. She has finally figured out what this is all about, and instantly releases her arm from her father's, and runs the short distance to me, jumping into my arms. I drop the cards to the ground just in time to catch her. Hugging, holding my lady close to me, closer than ever, I can hear the faintest word repeated over and over, just under the sound of her sobs.

"Yes, yes, yes… I say yes."

Chapter 12 by Fik Freak

Chapter 12 – Michonne


"This is scary, right? I know. I'm sorry to put you on the spot, ambush you like this. You don't have to to do this today if you're not ready. I'm just… I don't wait for my happiness any longer. But if-"


"Yes! I want to marry you right now, Rick! I do!" I mumble into his neck as Rick cradles me in his arms, his chin resting atop my head, and tears continue to fall from my eyes.


Laughing lightly, I can feel and hear the jubilant rumble in his chest. "I wasn't sure with all the crying."


"This is all so beautiful… thoughtful, unexpected. The house, the ring, the cards. You. I love it. I love you. I want to be your wife, Rick. Right now." I affirm again, hoping to solidify my commitment to this wedding, despite the waterfall of tears streaking my mascara down my cheeks. Nodding, I lift my eyes to his. Clouded over with the sparkle of fresh tears of his own, his blues appear darker in the glow of the moon's light, bathing the entirety of his handsome face.


"Hey, not to be a dick or anything, but it's like only sixty degrees out here. And it's getting late, sooo…"


"Shut up, Noah! Your big sister is getting married tonight. Try to be supportive for another thirty minutes at least." Slapping my brother on the back of the head with his large hands, my father gets him to stop his grumbling then turns to Rick and I, narrowing his almond shaped eyes on us. "You two are getting married tonight, right?"


"Yes, Dad. We are. Right now." Grabbing Rick's hand in mine, I turn him around towards where Gabriel is standing behind us. "Let's go, Gabriel. Marry us. Right now."


"Michonne, you sure this is what you want?" Rick asks with a last ditch modicum of uncertainty, which instantly breaks my heart. I did that. With my fickle, possibly over cautious nature concerning the babies, and how we originally came to be. I made this wonderful man believe that there was even the smallest inkling of unrest in my heart in regards to him. There is not, and I could kick myself for making him think otherwise. Looking down at me, his face holds all the love and hope that I pray is reflected right back to him from my own face.


"You and me, Rick? Reordering our lives together? I want that, baby. I do."


Blowing out a relieved breath, his angular cheekbones lifting to showcase a grin that lights up his handsome face. Rick leans down to place a soft kiss to my lips, and as he does so the light windy breeze of the cool night air picks up the fragrance of his cologne, swaddling me in the masculine scent of my lover. "Ok then, Michonne. Let's get married."


"Finally." Grumbles Noah as he, and everyone else encloses the tight circle around us, their candles in hand, creating a ring of light that illuminates this moment with a certain magic.


Rolling my eyes at my little brother, I'm not even mad. I can't be. Not today. I don't know how this man keeps doing this to me. Surprising me. Making me fall more in love with him every second that passes, every breath that leaves my body. But he does. God help me, he does. Looking around the clearing behind the house that he somehow purchased without me finding out, I take note of all of the faces, family, friends. My parents and his. Our sons in their matching khaki pants and white shirts, oddly resembling a set of waiters or valets, both sporting excited smiles. Our friends, Gabriel and Rosita, Morgan and Jenny, Aaron and Eric, with little Liana in tow, and Abe and his new wife Sasha already displaying a rounded baby bump of her own through her coat. My petulant little brother Noah.


Thankful for each of them, I know right now, without a doubt, no worry or concern still weighing heavy on my heart, with everything in me, that this is right. I can feel it. Some might consider this a rash decision, one that shouldn't be made so quickly. Hell I've only known Rick a little over a month. But in that time, I have experienced more joy than in my entire life. Why wouldn't I want this to last forever?


Holding tightly to each other, our hands are still clasped in each others' clutches as though this feeling of ecstatic joyfulness might carry one of us away from the other, floating high on the night's sky. Anxious and excited I nod to Gabriel to proceed. "Go ahead, Gabriel. Let's get started!"


"Oh yes! Ok. This is all very exciting isn't it? The start of something fresh and new. A surprise for one's heart when you feel that the world has already shown you all of its surprises, and they weren't all so good. But this? This is good, and I'm so pleased that you both have allowed me the opportunity to play a role in this day. I've known Michonne for years, and you have been a wonderful friend to my wife and I. And Rick, though we've only just met you, we are pleased to welcome you into our lives as well because we can see the magic your love as reawakened in our dear friend. For loving her so thoroughly, we love you. With that said, I can see on your faces how eager you are for me to stop being long winded and to get on with it. So here goes. Michonne, Rick has stated that he has a few words he wants to say before you exchange vows. Go on, Rick." Gesturing his hand towards Rick, Gabriel beams a bright, encouraging smile his way.


"Thanks, Gabriel." Rick gives him a short nod and returns Gabriel's smile with a thankful one of his own, then settles his eyes back on me. Standing so tall and erect, more beautiful than should be allowed for any man, my lover stares into my eyes and clears his throat. Locking me in place with the piercing beauty of his pale blue eyes, Rick raises his large, warm hands to my face, cupping my cheeks and offers me the truth of his heart. "Michonne, I'm not as good with words as others may be, but I know my heart. I am a grown up. A man that has lived. Experienced the highs and lows. Happiness, disappointment. And, I know what I want. I want you. It's not because you are the most stunning woman I've ever met. It's not because your intelligence awes and stuns me. It's not because you're an amazing lawyer, businesswoman, mother, cook, lover, everything. While you embody all of those things, it's because through your love, you gave me life and purpose. It's so simple, yet so breathtaking and overwhelming. Your passion for life, and the way you love so fully, with your whole being, it's everything that I've never had before. Being in love with you is an experience unlike anything else in this world, and there is nothing I can do to repay that but to try my best, everyday, to do the same for you. To completely give you my whole heart, to love you even better than you love me. To make sure that you always know and feel how special and loved, adored you truly are. My vow is that my heart, my life, me, Richard Michael Grimes belongs to you, Michonne Marie Alexander. Forever."


Tears stain my eyes, filtering the rugged, red tinged blush of Rick's face. His visage now coming across as some romantic impressionist painting. A blend of short, quick strokes that together present a tapestry, an image of a man in love. It's all over him. In his words, the way he's holding my face in his trembling hands as though his life depends on communicating to me, reaching me through the soft sobs that fall from my lips. And now, stunned into silence, my teeth trapping my lips to keep me from falling apart, I can not find my own words. All I have is tears, a waterfall of emotions that I hope translate how deeply Rick's promise touches me. Humbles me with his devotion, his use of the words that so keenly enliven my being. Love. Life.


Instead of seeing the joy through my silence and tears, Rick must be sensing distress, and snatches me up. Lifting me from the ground again, and into the welcoming comfort of his strong arms, my dangling over his boots. He's cradling my head, and lacing my neck and cheeks with soft shushing words, as though he's attempting to calm a baby. And I am like a baby right now. Blubbering and crying, melting into his affections, keening from his protective touch. My heart nearly arresting with the strength of how much this man loves and cares for me. And with that realization I find my own power again, and a semblance of control. Because this feeling? This warm rush of heady, weightless bliss? I need him to feel the same high. I need Rick to join me on this cloud. Nirvana.


Lightly pushing at his arms, I wiggle from his hold, urging him to no longer float and hover my body so closely to his, but to set me back on solid ground. Let me get my bearings. Acquiescing to my non-verbal commands, Rick sets me down, a slightly confused frown furrowing his brow at the sound of my laughter now breaking through my dwindling sobs, still the only sound to be heard over the low hum of nature going about the business of sustaining life all around us. Everyone is watching, seemingly holding their collective breaths. Probably wondering if I've completely lost it. I have.


Grabbing his face in my own hands, the same way he held mine, I'm bringing his head down towards mine and speak directly to the soul of my lover. "Rick, I see you. All of you." I run my fingers gently over his features. His thick, bristly, brown and grey eyebrows, the straight spikes of his sandy eyelashes. Across the chiseled planes of his face, his plush pink lips. It would be easy to dismiss him as masculine. But he's so much more than that. My Rick is a mixture of hard and soft, old and new. His blues dart from my own eyes to my lips, searching, trying to understand, to decipher the code of who I am. There is no need for him to try anymore, as I seek to make it all transparent and plain. "And you see me. That is everything. It is everything. You saw the me that I tried to hide and protect for so long, because I was hurt and scared. Rick, you gave me your love and the courage to feel safe enough to be whole again. To live. To love. How could I not fall in love with you? It's so easy to do, and I promise to continue doing it until the end of time. You always say I'm perfect, but the truth is that we're perfect for each other. How else could we have created life, lives," I laugh, a hitch catching the last word, almost dampening the sound of it in my throat. Rick's encouraging smile, that sexy and mischievous grin that I adore, catches my eye as a shocked gasp and a few rounds of 'What!?' are heard in those gathered around us. I drop my right hand from his face and take a hold of his in mine, placing it on my stomach. "New lives that were supposed to be impossible. Me and you, Rick, our love has done the impossible. Together, we did that. I, Michonne Marie Grimes, do vow to walk this path with you, and our boys, and our babies. To love you, and protect the magic of this life with you, Richard Michael Grimes."


"You can't hold water can you?" Groaning at me spilling our secret, Rick's smile grows wider, brighter. His Adam's apple bobs in his throat, as he tries to swallow down some of the emotion nearly choking his words, stifling their escape into the atmosphere.


"I'm not afraid of whatever comes next, Rick. I don't want to be that way anymore. Whatever happens with the babies, we can survive this together, as a family."


"We will." With his arm hooked around my head, Rick pulls me in to a hug and drops kisses to the top of my head. We stay this way for a moment, completely forgetting the world still spinning around us, the people circling us, Gabriel patiently waiting to proceed.


"Ahem… Well that was… Wow! The pitiful vows I have pale in comparison to that. So let's just make it brief shall we? Rick, do you take Michonne? Michonne, do you take Rick?" Gabriel offers, chuckling somewhat nervously, maybe more stunned than anything.


"I do. Of course I do."


"I do, too. I absolutely do." I breathe out into the strong firmness of Rick's chest, relief releasing the pressure of this emotion filled moment.


"Then I now pronounce you husband and wife. Rick, you may kiss your bride." Stepping back from us, as though he's expecting this to get heated, Gabriel moves away and quickly blends into the crowd of whooping, celebratory voices, and clapping hands.


Raising my face to his, I pucker my lips, awaiting Rick's kiss. My husband doesn't disappoint, as he instantly devours me. Rick's tongue sweeps into my mouth as he bends my body back, dipping me over his arm, and my eyes instantly close. Threading my fingers through his freshly trimmed hair, I'm lost in his kiss. Nothing matters in this moment. Only my husband, this love, this feeling.


Bringing me back up, I blink away the stars in my eyes as we are bombarded by the boys first, followed closely by our parents and friends.


"Ok, so wait just a gotdamn minute. Did I hear Michonne mention babies? What's that about?" Rick's father George asks, his eyes bouncing between Rick's face and mine.


"Exactly the question I have. How the hell are you already pregnant, Michonne? What did you do to my munchkin, Rick?" My father claps his hand over Rick's shoulder, and narrows his gaze on his face, awaiting an answer to his question.


"Wait a minute, Ma. That's what all that Maxwell, and adult noises is about, huh? You're pregnant…by Rick?" Andre looks between Rick and I, then over to Carl who also seems to have put it all together in his mind. And as though they are also an odd set of twins, they both groan at the same time. "Ew!"




 


2 weeks later


"Maybe we just take this wall out altogether and make one big room for the babies? They are going to need a nursery, and then a play room, but by the time they need the play room, Carl and Andre will be gone. Awe…that just…that just hit me real quick, Rick. Awe!" Uncharacteristically, at least for the old me, water begins to cloud my vision as a fresh batch of tears unleash themselves on my unsteady emotions.


"Babe, stay focused. Don't start crying again, ok? Don't think about Carl and Andre leaving, that's years from now." Rick gestures with one hand, while cradling me around the shoulders with the other.


Shuffling his heavy booted feet uncomfortably across the hard wood floor, edging towards the bedroom door, Eugene mumbles in his deep, flat tone. "I can give you both a moment to address your emotions while I take some measurements on the master bedroom extension. Allow you to mitigate your tearing situation satisfactorily outside of my presence." Departing the room in a dash, he's obviously disconcerted by me breaking out into panicky tears. Again. Since the wedding two weeks ago, I have been throwing all of my time into renovating the house, and trying to figure out how to tie up one other loose end. The one frayed edge that threatens to unravel our happiness if I don't do something about it.


Right now though, we are doing a walk through of the house with the architect, Eugene, that I just hired to sketch out the remodel of the house, and manage the rehab project. He may be a little weird, and not that warm and fuzzy with the interpersonal skills, but he does come highly recommended by Eric, whose parents had him design a house for them a few years back. Given the scale and cost of what I want, a good architect is the the right start for us to bring out the full potential of our new home. While it's a gorgeous old house, with what Eugene keeps calling 'good bones', there is a lot that needs to get done to it before the babies come. A thought which made me cry about twenty minutes ago when he mentioned that a renovation project this big might take almost a full seven to eight months, which made me upset because that would be pushing it very close to my delivery.


Of course then, just like now, Rick had to help refocus my energy so that we could get through the rest of the walk through, without Eugene freezing then running at every sign of my crocodile tears. Getting very close to our twelve-week benchmark, I'm just about entering week ten, and though the nausea is now rounding towards manageable, I still find myself getting weepy. Generally speaking, Rick is usually fairly amused by my bouts of tearfulness, but for some reason everything related to the rehab of our 'love shack' as I've deemed it, seems to cause him a bit of undue stress.


Part of me understands why. It's about the money. This is going to be an expensive endeavor. Probably more expensive than whatever Rick paid for it to begin with, an amount that he will not share with me. He won't even get into the financials of how he was able to make this happen on a sheriff's salary, especially given the fact that he still has house, and pays alimony and child support to his ex. On the other hand, the moment we became husband and wife I gave him full disclosure about my finances, and let him know that despite the enormity of my wealth, what's mine is his. It's all ours, and there is more than enough to handle everything, which is why I went ahead and commissioned Eugene's services. I know that Rick figured he and some friends could slowly work on the house here and there, get it rehabbed on his own, but that would take too long. Longer than the seven to eight months that Eugene is quoting. All of which brings me back around to my second round of tears within the hour.


"Rick, we're so old already. What are we doing starting over with two babies? Hm? Two! We already have two on the way out the door, and somehow you knocked me up with two more." Tossing up two fingers, I'm emphasizing my point to him. Trying to anyway, because all Rick is doing is holding me in his arms and gently rocking me back and forth.


"Chemistry, babe, we have excellent chemistry. How could I not get you pregnant? Look at you. So sexy and beautiful. Gimme a kiss, Mrs. Grimes."


Loving the sound of him calling by my new name, I pout my lips and lean into his kiss which quickly turns heated until we are interrupted again by the sound of Eugene clearing his throat in the doorway.


"Uh, Mr. and Mrs., I think I have everything I need to finish the drawing. I can have it complete by the end of the week, then if you find it suitable for your needs and aesthetics, once you pay the first installment I can get the construction company out to begin work by the end of March." He offers in that stilted and stiff manner of his. "What say you?"


Shifting away from Rick a little, I'm all business now that we are ready to talk money. "That'll be fine, Eugene. You can just email the final plans over to us, and we'll take care of the payment in full. Of course, that is provided that you stick to the outlined schedule, and complete the job within the time frame that you have quoted, and will be contracted for."


"I appreciate that, ma'am. Payment in full is greatly preferred, and makes it easier to keep things moving hunky dory. In fact, I can have Dwight and his team out here to begin demo as soon as you're ready." Turning on his heel, he leaves, the sounds of him clumsily clomping down the hall, then the stairs, immediately followed by the slamming of the front door.


Finally alone, I turn back to Rick and notice that the softened, amorous look from just before is now replaced by a hint of a scowl. "Hey, what's wrong? You don't think he'll do a good job? I know he's kinda weird, but he comes highly recommended."


"Nah, not that. I'm sure he'll do fine. I just-" Using his thumb to scratch at the frown lines forming on his forehead, Rick's eyes survey what is going to be the babies' bedroom, taking in everything. The old, worn out wallpaper, peeling and curling around the edges near the baseboards. Without any further words, he takes my hand and walks across the hall to the master bedroom, the heels of his boots clicking across the floors along with the long strides of his bowed legs. Stopping once we reach the middle of the room, Rick places his hands at rest on his lean hips. His right index finger begins a steady tap by the trim of his blue jeans pocket. Sighing, he drops his head then peers up at me through the long sweep of his thick eyelashes. "Why don't you let me handle the renovations like I originally planned, Michonne? Let me make your dreams come true, sweetheart. I got this."


"You've already done that, sweetheart. Now, I want to do this for you, Rick. Wouldn't you rather spend your free time doing something other than working on the house?" Scrunching my nose at the stale stench of time and neglect blanketing the musty room, I levy my gaze on him, not wanting to walk into a dangerous minefield with this conversation. It's about the money again.


"I may not look it, but I'm handy. And you know Abe and Morgan offered to help out. We built the deck on the back of my old house I had with Lori, and no one ever fell through. It's still standing I think."


"Oh yeah, I'm sure it is. And I know you guys would do a good job. You're amazing at everything, Rick. But why not let me just pay this guy to get it done. You already bought the house. Let me fix it up for us. I can afford it, Rick, money isn't an issue for us."


"Yeah I know that. I guess I just imagined me doing it for you is all. With my own hands, ya know?"


"You already do so much for me with these brilliant hands, Mr. Grimes."


Quirking an eyebrow and tilting his head, Rick centers his gaze on me. With that crooked, mischievous grin he's known for, his voice deepens to a lower register. "Is that right?"


Nodding my head, I slowly approach him, sensing the change in the tenor of our conversation, just from the tone he's using with me, and that smile. That naughty, dangerous weapon of his that sensually displays his wicked lips, surrounded by the re-emergence of his thick beard. It's the same smile that usually leads to me being somewhere flat on my back, with his face between my legs. Two weeks ago he looked at me like that in this very room, right on the balcony directly to my right, and not thirty minutes later I was his wife. That turned out well, as I did indeed end that night flat on my back with Rick lapping up the messy and sticky remains of red velvet cake that his mother made for our nuptials, and that he used my pussy from which to eat it. But I can't imagine that sexy grin of his leading to that right now, despite the low hum and throb of my core, hungry for his touch.


As we stand alone in this small empty bedroom, a master only in name, with its cherry hardwood floors still dusty, bearing the worn in vestiges of time, I look upon my husband and acknowledge that yeah…even on these dusty hardwood floors, my man can get it.


His hair is growing out a little. Chestnut locks curling in thick wisps around his nape and ears, dusting the edge of his coat's shearling collar, but still combed away from his high forehead. His square jaw and bearded, chiseled cheeks, with the casual flecks of gray interspersed with the chocolate brown bristles, along with the straight slope of his hawkish nose create a picture of manly sexiness that I would have never expected to find so appealing. I like all kinds of men, but I have historically been most attracted to men who look like Mike. Tall and dark was previously my thing. Not until I met Rick, and even Shane to some degree, have I ever really entertained this different look. Rosita said Rick is like the Marlboro man without the cigarettes, and I agree. Rick is every bit the cowboy, preferring cowboy boots and jeans, to wingtips and slacks. There is something to be said for the quiet, authoritative, aggression that seeps from his pores, but does nothing to tamp down the adoring softness of those blue eyes, and the lines radiating from the corners, a byproduct of that assessing squint of his. My adolescent dalliance with Aaron notwithstanding, this fondness for a man like Rick is fresh and new, and feels like I've gotten my cherry popped all over again.


Rick must be reading my mind as his eyes follow my sweeping gaze, drinking him in as my nipples grow taut and turgid against my bra cups, because the next thing I know he's on me. Hands eagerly shoving the lapels of my wool coat hastily away from my body, as I return the favor and push his brown suede coat off his square, Titan's shoulders. Dropping our coats to the floor, our lips land squarely on each other. Kissing, consuming the minty breath of my husband, I run my fingers throw the feathery salt and pepper curls that I love so much. Rick pulls me closer, picking me up from the floor, and urging me to wrap my legs around his waist.


Walking towards our favorite part of this room, the balcony, Rick carries me effortlessly in his strong arms, never breaking our kiss. The French doors are already open, filtering in the warmth of the sun, and a lazy March breeze, perfumed with the scent of the sweetgum trees that dot the property, hiding it away from the rest of the world. Our own little world, is how my mother described it on my wedding night.


Resting the arch of my back against the railing, Rick has my body slightly bowed, breasts perked out, crushed into his hard chest. My husband is consuming me, overloading my senses with the smell of his woodsy cologne, the wet glide of his tongue and the heated suck of his lips. Heaving a series of panted breaths, I haltingly drag my lips away from his, and take a moment to appreciate the blessings of my new life. How the universe has shown me so much favor, a drastic difference from just a few short months ago when I was so sure that my future was not nearly as bright as it is now.


"Rick, baby?"


"Hm?" Rick mumbles from where he's dutifully pressing his lips to the hollow of my throat, licking a path down between where he's kneading a handful of my swollen breasts in my t-shirt. His long fingers are tangled in my free swinging hair with the other hand. Wrapping a handful in his fist, he easily tugs my head back. Stroking my throat and chest with long licks, he moves his left hand to the button of my jeans, and begins to fidget with the closure and zipper.


"You serious right now? You want to have sex out here on the balcony?"


Dipping his hand into my now open jeans, and into my panties, Rick's fingers are now bathing in the slickness of my arousal, rubbing over the puffy lips of my pussy. "I'm always serious about sex with you, babe." Biting down on my neck, the growl in his tone as his teeth clamp down on my sensitive flesh causes me to arch further into him, and grind down into his exploring palm. "We're gonna christen the house, babe."


"Right now? In the middle of the day?"


"Yeah. I wanna fuck my wife in our new house." He pants out over my breasts that he's now freed from the confines of the lace cups of my bra. Tugging at the pebbled peaks with his teeth and lips, his eyes remain focused on my face. Witnessing the effect he's having on me, he gives me a wicked grin with his lips around the mound of my breast. With the hormones from my pregnancy coursing through me, making my breasts swollen and sensitive, Rick knows this makes me crazy with lust. Even the lightest touch or kiss of my breasts can almost make me orgasm with little effort. He's so damned bad, he knows exactly what he's doing. "Your titties are so pretty, babe. Nipples like chocolate kisses."


"Oh god…"


"Yeah?" Running his thumb over the throbbing pulse of my clit, while two of his fingers tunnel in and out of my pussy, he's working me into a passionate frenzy. Taking me to the very edge of an orgasm, it's tingling crawl bursting over the goose bumps of my sweat glistened skin.


"Mmm…"


"You like that. I know you do."


"Yes…"


"I know. Ease into it, sweetheart. I feel you cumming all over my hand. Go ahead."


Hissing at the gratifying flush of my orgasm overwhelming me with pleasure, I roll my head back, accepting this gift from my husband stiffening every muscle in my body as the mid-day sun warms my flesh.


"You're so beautiful like this, babe. So sexy." Rick mumbles. Withdrawing his fingers, he watches for a moment as I descend from the cloud his affections have elevated me to. As I come around, and unhook my leg from his waist, I witness the piercing storm of desire still swirling in my husband's eyes. He's not done with me yet. Good. Wiping his hand down over his lips, then unbuckling his jeans, with a short click of his tongue against his teeth, he fists his dick then commands me. "Turn around."


Without even a hitch in my movements, I obey my husband's wishes, preparing for him to take me even higher as I know what's coming next. And I'm ready.


"I want you to pull your panties down, slowly, Michonne."


My panties are already askew from his hand's skillful mastery. Hooking my thumbs on either side of the garment, right where the lace trim of the silky cloth skims my hips, I begin to follow Rick's direction, latching on to his fiery stare over my shoulder. I push them and my jeans down over my ass and thick thighs painstakingly slow, so slow that the anticipation of what comes next, and the blazing heat of his wanton glare, threaten to burn me alive.


"Slow, Michonne. That's nice, babe." Complimenting how well I'm following his direction, Rick leans into me, rubbing his palm over my ass, and pushing his cock into the cleft between the cheeks. Finally reaching my ankles, I'm bent over at the waist. Excited tension is curling in the pit of my belly, holding my muscles still, taut as I wait. "Place your hands on the railing."


Rising, I again follow my husband's command, and wrap my fingers around the smooth, painted wood of the intricate railing that surrounds the balcony. Biting down on my bottom lip, I briefly close my eyes, settling into the erotic tension of the moment, as I feel my lover's hands smooth themselves up and down the curve of my back. Up. Down. Rick's fingers dancing over the dip of my spine just above my ass.


"Your skin is amazing, babe. How it drapes over this little arch in your back. So soft. Almost like silk." He praises as I feel the push of his cock, bluntly breaching the slippery entrance of my womanhood. "Fuck…" he swallows thickly, the curse word dropping from his lips in a gritty, sandpapered rasp that somehow arouses me even more than the thrust of his pelvis bumping against my ass.


On a series of moderately paced, winding thrusts, Rick is forcefully pulling my hips back to meet his cock, grinding and pummeling my sensitive pussy into a slick, wet mess that sloshes and leaks onto my thighs.


"Ah, ah, ah, uh… Rick!"


"Louder! I want to hear you scream louder."


"Rick! Rick! Oh god…"


"You're wet as fuck, Michonne! Shit!"


Leaning over my body, his chest flush against my back, Rick places his hands on top of mine, intertwining our fingers against the railing. The gleam of our wedding rings, the stunning princess cut solitaire and matching band, made of a carat's worth of diamonds on my finger, and the same style band encrusted with diamonds for Rick, catches my eye. A smile graces my lips as I think of the symbolism of these expensive gifts, exchanged as a sign of our love and commitment for each other. In that moment, I can feel Rick nestling his head and lips into the crook of the back of my neck. The strands of his beard softly abrading my skin.


Pistoning his hips back and forth, delivering a fluid wave of pleasure with the glide of his cock deeper and deeper, Rick grunts a stream of vulgar praise and pronouncements. Turning to meet his hungry kisses, I lick out my tongue, which is promptly met by Rick's. I suck his long tongue into my mouth, sensing the return of the unfurling claw of ecstasy, preparing to drag me into the depths of another glorious orgasm.


"Babe, I'm so fucking close. I'm gonna nut in this pretty pussy, Michonne!" he promises, pulling my hands from our woven clutch on the railing, and into a clasp behind my back, his fist holding them both tightly in place. With his other hand now playing against the hardened nub of my clit, wetly smacking at the bundle of nerves, Rick's powerful strokes lull me into a pleasure filled daze.


"Yes, yes, yes…" the chanting affirmation is all the permission my husband needs as his speed increases, and with crushing power, the drill of his cock, throbbing against the nerves of my sensitive walls, pushes me over. There is nothing but the drastic feeling of falling apart in my lover's arms. Slackened limbs, covered in sweat, strain and stiffen with the heated flush of my climax as I push my ass back into Rick, desire driving me to swallow as much of his cock into my pussy as I can.


Rick's hips begin to slow down now, and with just a few more hard thrusts, banging my body forward to punctuate each, he finally succumbs to the lustful crescendo that releases a squirting spray of his cum onto my womb.


Sated, weak, our breaths are labored, but somehow, as seems to be the case lately, in synch. My heart is banging against my chest as tiny spasmic aftershocks fire off, causing me to throb and clench over and over around Rick's length. Easing his dick from my womanhood, with a few short twitches, a comingled splash of our essence drips stickily to join the already damp dewiness on my thighs.


Chuckling as he clears his throat, Rick pulls back and tucks his cock back into his boxers and jeans. "We made a mess. Hold on, lemme see what I can use to clean you up."


"Yeah, I can feel it dripping down my thighs."


"It does make for a very pretty picture though. You bent over like that, my cum thick and white on your pussy and thighs."


"Rick!"


"Wait, wait! Don't move! Don't move!" Just as he says that I hear the click of his phone's camera, obviously capturing the image he seems so hypnotized by.


"You're so nasty! I'm gonna just use my panties to clean it off."


"Ok, be still, I'll get it." Balling up the lace into his hands, Rick uses it to swipe away the evidence of our coupling, just as we both catch the sound of tires coming to a halt, crunching the gravel on the side of the house where the driveway ends, accompanied by voices. Finishing up, he drops one parting kiss on my ass cheek, then taps my hip. Rick shoves my panties into his pants pocket. "All done." Tilting his head and leaning over the railing in a futile attempt to try and see who has arrived, he asks as I'm pulling up my jeans and lowering my t-shirt, "We expecting someone else?"


"No. Eugene was it."


"Hm. Let's go see who it is." Grabbing a hold of my hand, Rick briefly stops to pick up our coats and my purse from the floor with his other hand, before leading me down the steps just as we lay eyes on his ex-wife, Lori, unexpectedly coming through the front door. Carl follows behind her, a sheepish frown on his quickly reddening, adolescent face.


"See, Carl, that was them we heard when we pulled up. I recognized your father's truck out front." Lori offers over her shoulder in Carl's direction, who quickly mouths the word 'sorry' our way as we step off the last of the rickety stairs.


Mouthing 'it's ok' in response, I give my sweet step-son a bright smile, knowing that whatever Lori is up to, it's not Carl's fault.


"What are you doing here, Lori?"


"I wanted to see your new house. I figured you would never actually invite me over.


According to your mother, who made sure to mention it to my mother at their Bridge club last week, obviously after she'd been drinking, you bought a big new house for your new wife. None of which you even bothered to mention to me. So, Carl reluctantly told me where the house is, and here I am."


"Here you are. Ok, you've seen it, what do you want?"


"Nothing really. I just find it interesting that you wouldn't increase your child support, dropped me from your insurance, and wouldn't help me out until I straighten things out with Shane. But, you had enough for this big house. And, had the nerve to get married without telling me about it." Pursing her lips together, thinning them into a press across her angular face, Lori crosses her arms over her thin chest and waits for Rick to answer her.


Lori. I don't have a problem with her, not really. She's manipulative, entitled, and has a breathtakingly shocking lack of self-awareness. But a problem? Not for me. And she's not going to be for my husband any longer. Not wanting to step on his toes, I decide not to address Lori just yet. Instead I step around Rick to head over to Carl, giving my step-son a big hug.


Rick blows out an exasperated breath in lieu of providing a response to her completely out of line tirade. Instead, his gaze softens on Carl and I sharing a warm embrace.


Lori's eyes follow my every step as well, darkening their narrowed gaze as Carl and I begin to chat. "Hey, kiddo. How's it going?"


"Ok. I didn't mean to cause trouble. She's been asking me about you guys and the house ever since she heard about it from Grandma. I was hoping you guys wouldn't be here and she could just see it and move on."


"That's ok, Carl. You don't have to apologize for the misbehavior of adults."


"Misbehavior?" Gawking at my word usage, Lori fully turns my way, as though she is now ready to target her ire my way. But I'm ready for her vitriol and tantrums. And unlike Rick I don't have any fond memories that might lessen the sting of my sharp tongue.


"Yes, Lori, misbehavior. I'm not sure what it is that gives you the unmitigated gall to use your son like this, and to try to use my husband to help you clean up the mess that you made of your own life. I can't fathom the amount of nerve you must be harboring in that head of yours. But what I can tell you is that there is nothing here for you. Yes, my husband bought this house for us, for our growing family," I rub my hand in smooth circles over my barely there tummy, and smile as I watch her eyes dart from there to my face, looking for confirmation of the truth. "And for our boys. But without a court order saying that Rick has to give you more money for Carl's child support, which you will never get, or that he needs to cover your insurance, which you also won't get, then you need to figure out how to solve your own financial issues. Don't bring your drama here anymore. We're not interested."


"Rick, are you going to let her talk to me like this? I've known you for more than half of your life! You just met this woman!"


"She's my wife, Lori, and she's right. Listen, Michonne can't have the stress right now, ok? And there is nothing I can do to help you with Shane. You need to take him to court or something. This simply isn't my problem."


"I see. I hope you see how he's treating me, because this could easily be you one day. You and me are the same, Michonne. Rick likes women like us. Women who need him to 'fix' things, to save them. He'll do everything to give you the world, until you make a mistake. Don't ever let him see that you're not perfect. Because then you'll see, he's also an unforgiving asshole. Yeah I messed up, fell in love with a man who could never love me the way I loved him, and now the world wants to punish me for the rest of my life because of it. I didn't win any wife or mother of the year awards, but I tried! And dammit, I'm entitled to some consideration here. You loved me once, we were married. I gave you a son."


"Lori, stop this! You cheated on me with my best friend! When does this end? You made your choice, and I'm not punishing you for it. I moved on, and I'm not going to stand for you coming here and trying to start shit with my wife."


"Mom, let's go. Ok?" Carl pleads, trying as expected, to be the one to settle things, to placate his mother and arbitrate between her and Rick.


Walking towards the door, and opening it for her, I gesture my hand in a sweeping motion, inviting her to leave. "Yes, Lori, it's time for you to go."


"Fine. I'm leaving, but I hope you heard what I said, Michonne. You're just Rick's new project. Regardless of how this all looks, I do hope it all works out for you. That you get to stay in the light of his favor, because when he turns his back on you, and leaves you in the dark, it's a cold place to be. But, he's done it before. He'll do it again. There's nothing special about you that wasn't special about me at one time." Flouncing away, and down the path to her car, Lori makes her dramatic exit. Carl follows behind, dragging his feet, and waving a hasty goodbye over his shoulder.


Her car's departure, leaving a cloud of dust from the tires' squealing over the gravel in the driveway, marks the end of Lori's most recent theatrical turn as the angry ex-wife.


"I should explain."


"What's there to explain, Rick?" I ask, my back to him, still looking out of the front door. My thoughts are racing, scrambling to make some sense, find the logic in what Lori said. Is there something to it? Could she be right about Rick? Am I just another damsel in distress, waiting for the big bad sheriff to save me? That's not how I've ever seen myself, or this thing with Rick, but… Have I been blinded by the majesty of this whirlwind romance? Scoffing at her attempt to create a wedge of questioning discernment between my husband and I, I straighten my spine, resolving to not give Lori what she's looking for. I've been here before. I let Shane play my insecurities against Rick. Not again.


"Michonne? Did you hear me?" Feeling the weight of Rick's hand on my shoulder, I allow myself a sideways glance to take note of his presence, his close proximity. I can even still smell my scent on him, his scent on me. But there is something else there now, and I can't quite tell what it is. Fear. Fear that I consumed the twisted lies that Lori is feeding me, bloating my gut with distrust. "Michonne, baby. She's wrong. Ok? You're not like her. This isn't like with Lori. You know that right?"


"I know that. We have to be honest with each other though, Rick. Even if it hurts. Promise me. If you ever decide that this is no longer what you want, you tell me. Don't be a coward and leave me twisting in the wind. Be the man that Mike couldn't be, and just say it."


"Babe, there's nothing to say. I didn't save you, you saved me. The vows I said to you on our wedding day, that's the truth. Not this bullshit that Lori is spewing."


"I believe you, Rick. I'm just telling you. I won't hold it against you if you're honest with me. Isn't that what you wanted from Lori? For her to just be honest and tell you that she was in love with Shane. That's what I wanted from Mike. All those nights he didn't come home, or when he did come home, but couldn't muster the nerve to come to my bed. To look me in the eye and just tell me it was over." I grit out, emotion choking me. But not tears. No, this time it's the dangerous grip of anger seizing me. Fresh, hot anger, bubbling and rising from the black cauldron of pain that I try so hard to keep secreted away from the happiness of my new life.


"I love you, Michonne. This is it for me. Me and you. That's the truth. That my truth."


"Rick, we've both survived so much, and we're here. Maybe because of what we've both been through, or in spite of it, I don't know. What matters is what we do with this. We can find a way to have the life we want, but only if we do this. The truth is what is going to make or break us, Rick. I can't survive another marriage of lies."


"I know that, Michonne. Me either. No lies, baby."


"Ok." As I say it, agreeing that lies will be the death of us, I resolve to tell him about the case, and to recuse myself. I'm not going to self-sabotage my marriage by keeping this from him any longer. I can't. "I need to get back to the city and make a few calls. Some work stuff. Can we go now?"


"Yeah. Let me go make sure everything is locked up and secured. I'll meet you in the truck."




 


"So this guy who's coming in, Shane Walsh, why is he so important to this case?"


"Because he's the new DA in King County, served as the ADA under the last one. The one who did not pursue criminal charges against Deputy Monroe. But also because he was a sheriff's deputy there for awhile. When Paul came back with some research on the town, his name came up plenty of times." Pointing towards a manila folder that holds the grand amount of research and information that my investigator Paul was able to dig up, I can feel tension riding my muscles at the thought of seeing him again.


"Got it. And the other guy, Rick Grimes, that's your new husband right?"


"Right."


"Anything else I should know about this case before we get started?" Andrea asks, as she thumbs through the papers in the folder, writing notes in the margins of her legal pad.


"I dated Shane Walsh. Briefly. One kiss, no sex."


Shock colors her face, and raises her blonde eyebrows over her dramatic blue eyes. "Really? Is he hot?"


"Yes. Very."


"Oooh. Explain."


"Tall, dark eyes, dark hair, nice build. Great kisser. A little aggressive. But trouble. Big trouble."


Smacking her lips, she closes the folder and taps her manicured finger on the cover. "Sounds right up my alley actually. And he was friends and partners with your husband?"


"Yep."


"Girl, you can't make up good dirt like this."


"I know. It's crazy as hell. He's also the guy that my husband's ex-wife cheated on him with, but apparently she was Shane's girlfriend first when they were in high school. Oh, and she's pregnant by him now." In a stream of consciousness confession, I let Andrea in on the rest of the unseemly details surrounding Rick, Shane, and Lori.


"By your husband!?"


"No! By Shane. And he doesn't want anything to do with her."


"Damn! What fresh hillbilly hell is this?" Rolling her eyes, and scoffing in disgust, Andrea doesn't seem as interested in how hot Shane might be any longer.


"Girl, stop. I told you he's trouble. But, not my Rick. Rick is… Rick is different. He's good."


"Well I guess so. Look at all those stars in your eyes just saying his name. Geez, Michonne, you got it bad, girl. Rick and Michonne sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes, marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage!" Andrea sings, teasing me but not knowing just how right she is. "You know, I should give you guys a name like, uh Brad and Angelina, Brangelina right?"


"What?"


"Oh wait! I got!" Snapping her fingers, she smirks at me. "Richonne!"


"What? Oh god no! We're not famous, and even though that name is cute, we don't need a merged name. I'm still Michonne, he's still Rick. You'll see, I'll properly introduce you after we get through today."


"Fine. Let's get this over with so I can meet this sexy bit of trouble, and your new husband. And, you do know how to keep things interesting, Michonne. Always have."


"Not on purpose. Believe me." Tossing my hair over my shoulder, I rub my hand over my growing stomach, and grimace at the growing hunger pains unfurling there. I just had breakfast an hour ago, but Rick's babies have an appetite that is truly voracious. Eyeing Andrea's cheese Danish, I wonder if I have enough time to run to the break room and grab a donut.


"Well, either way I appreciate you giving me this case. This is much more interesting than what I had on my plate. This has a 'In the Heat of the Night', small town intrigue feel to it."


"Andrea, I'm just glad you were free to take it. I really want justice for Glenn, he deserves it, and I can't jeopardize that with my own conflict of interest."


"I understand."


And I know she does. Andrea and I go back a long way. We met as associates at our first jobs right out of law school. She got mixed up in an affair with a senior partner whose wife, Lucille, found out and tried to literally murder her. After all of that drama, Andrea moved away from Atlanta and went into private practice. But, she's been back in the city for years now, and it feels good to have my old colleague around. Even if I am going to be hanging up the practice of law for awhile.


I decided yesterday morning, as I watched my husband wearily rise before 5 AM, and quickly scarf down the breakfast I prepared for him, so that he could get back to King County on time for work, that I was done working. We haven't fully figured out the housing just yet, especially with the new house about to be completely gutted and rehabbed. So Rick spends most nights in the city with me, but last night he decided to stay in KC. It was unsettling, and it only served to further bolster my desire to semi-retire.


Thanks to my app, a generous divorce settlement from Mike, and smart investing, I don't need to work. And I don't intend to. I'm going to enjoy this second chance at life, and I'm going to be staying home with my babies. Like I mentioned to Rick the other day, Carl and Andre only have two years left with us before they leave for college, and I want that time to be special. For us to be together as much as possible. There is so much I still have to discover about my step-son, and so much I still need to teach my other son. We all simply need more time. And since I don't know any other way to make that happen, I'm going to be a stay at home mom for awhile and see how that works.


At best, I figure I'll be driven crazy by feedings, potty training, and diapers, but will get to spend more time with my family at best. At worst I'll be driven back to work. Either way it could be worse, I could have none of that, which is where I thought I would be. When Mike and I first had Andre we were so young, and hungry for careers that we missed out on a lot with him. I don't want to sacrifice that this time around, and I'm not going to. Things for Rick and I are going to be different. They have to be.


Sitting back in my chair, I cross my legs and take a sip of my peppermint tea, grateful that Rick called this morning and reminded me to grab some on my way into the office. His presence was sorely missed, even as I was mulling over how to proceed with today's depositions without ruining my marriage. This is all such a delicate situation that I simply have not been able to identify a way to tell him prior to today, without jeopardizing Glenn's case in some way. My heart kept telling me that I needed to tell him, prepare him, but my mind kept shutting that down. I know how this goes. I can't show bias or favoritism to him by filling him in, or break attorney client privilege. And while I know Rick doesn't have anything to do with the case exactly, I know how he feels about these kinds of things. I can hear him now telling me how police work isn't always black and white. There isn't always a clear cut right or wrong. We don't agree there, and our polarizing opinions on a situation like this one could easily do some serious damage to my marriage, outside of the conflict of interest and privilege issue.


So like a coward I didn't say anything. Not yet. My plan is to have Milton let me know when Rick gets here, and quickly try to prep him before hand. And since I've turned the case over to Andrea officially as of today, it wouldn't be a total conflict of interest. Not totally. My own personal interests, my marriage, could negatively impact and dilute my ability to be earnest and vigilant on my client's behalf. I need to step away from this for all of our sakes. At least that's what I tell myself as I continue to mull this over, when the door to the conference room opens, and in walks Shane.


Shane Walsh. My god he's even more handsome than the last time I saw him, and all that does is confirm to me what my Granny used to say about the devil appearing as more beauty than beast. And that's how he gets you.


Popping up from her seat, Andrea quickly stands and offers her outstretched hand to greet him. "Mr. Walsh, thank you for coming. I'm Andrea Turner, the attorney representing Mr. Rhee in his civil case against Deputy Monroe."


"Nice to meet you. And who do we have here? Well, it's nice to see you again, Munchkin. I mean Mrs. Anthony. Or is it Grimes now? Yeah I think I heard that somewhere. Congrats!" Thrusting his hand out towards me, Shane locks his gaze on me, his eyes dropping to take in the snug fit of how my breasts push against my silk blouse. I haven't worn this shirt in over a year, and I didn't realize until it was too late how tight it now is across my breasts.


"Mr. Walsh. You can call me, Mrs. Grimes."


"Whatever. It's nice to see you either way. You look good, as always. I've missed you. Wanted to explain some things to you, but that husband of yours. He's got a bit of a violent temper. I don't know if he told about the little run in he and I had. He attacked me, warned me off of you."


"What?"


"Didn't know about that, huh? Broke my nose. Did even worse to Jessie Anderson's husband, though it's about time the whole town stopped ignoring that mess and handled him."


Shaking my head, whirling from everything that Shane just divulged, I'm quickly trying to redirect this conversation and take control of the direction. "That's not what we're here to discuss, Mr. Walsh. I think we should focus on this deposition and leave our personal lives out of this." Why am I stuttering? It's the way he's looking at me. That wolfish grin and hungry glare of his, picking me apart as though he can see right through my clothes. And what did Rick say to him? And he broke his nose?


"Fair enough. We can catch up later. Don't tell Rick." Winking he takes a seat directly in front of me, and eases back into his chair.


Stepping in, Andrea wrests Shane's attention back towards her, as she presses the record button on the video camera. "I hope you don't mind, Mr. Walsh, I'm going to record this to help ensure accuracy, and preserve your testimony for court records. I'm sure as a DA you are familiar with that practice."


"Of course."


"I understand that you are acting as your own representation. Is that right?"


"That's right."


"Alright, let's proceed. Please be sure to listen to the questions carefully, and answer them clearly and precisely. I would like to remind you that you are under oath and false statements made under oath could result in civil and criminal penalties."


"I'm aware."


"Good. Today we are discussing a case regarding the Plaintiff, Glenn Rhee, whose first cause of action is for the violation of his rights, secured by the rights guaranteed under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution to be free from gratuitous and excessive force and free from retaliation for reporting incidents of misconduct to a policing agency. As a direct and proximate result of this abuse, Plaintiff sustained damages in an amount to be determined at trial should we get there. The Plaintiff's second cause of action is for intentional assault and battery in violation of the laws of the State of Georgia. Basically, the Plaintiff asserts that in the course of a traffic stop, that the Defendant, Deputy Spencer Monroe, not only illegally searched the Plaintiff's vehicle, but also utilized excessive force against him, and assaulted him, causing him to sustain numerous physical and emotional damages. This deposition serves as a part of the discovery portion of this civil lawsuit. Do you understand?"


"Yes."


"Good. When you were a sheriff's deputy in the King County Sheriff's department during 2008, you received numerous complaints regarding your alleged use of unnecessary force, police harassment, and abuse. Is that correct?"


"If that's what my records reflect."


"Do you know the reason why you were never suspended or fired for any of those complaints?"


"Nothing to them. No merit. Unsubstantiated claims mostly. Criminals don't like to be caught and arrested, so they complain." He shrugs dismissively, even as his gaze wanders from Andrea as he answers the question, then back to settle on me, causing me to squirm a bit in my chair.


"What about the last complaint you received prior to leaving the force? A complaint filed by a Daryl Dixon, asserting excessive force whereby you applied an illegal choke hold to subdue Mr. Dixon. Do you recall this situation, Mr. Walsh?"


Clasping his hands together on the table, Shane leans his upper body on the table, then slightly turns his body my way. In a tone more serious than the one he has been using, he responds to Andrea's most recent question. "I do. My partner at the time, Rick Grimes, might recall it as well." Locking eyes with me, Shane offers this tidbit, but I keep my face stoic. I won't allow him to play me again.


Nervously, Andrea stutters for a moment, clearly caught off guard by Shane name dropping my husband. She briefly looks over to me to gauge my reaction. Not offering one, she shrugs off her initial shock and continues with her line of questioning. "Why do you think you were not fired or suspended for this? According to our research, the Sheriff's department settled for an undisclosed amount with Mr. Dixon in order to prevent him from filing formal charges against the county."


"I don't know. It wasn't really commonplace to terminate deputies for that kind of stuff back then under that sheriff. Though miraculously, I was encouraged to resign. I guess I wasn't in with the right crowd. Everyone knows being friendly with the Monroes can mean the difference between having to leave a job you love, and being named the next sheriff. It's all about who you know, and who knows you. Hell, Pete Anderson has been beating his wife for years, and everyone knows it. Deanna Monroe knows it. But, he is one of the top surgeons in the state. And where does he practice out of? King County General."


"We can come back to that bit regarding the Monroes later, but I would like to first delve further into the facts of the complaint that led to your eventual resignation."


Huffing, releasing an exasperated breath as though Andrea's unwillingness to be redirected at his urging ruffles his feathers a bit, Shane leans back in his chair and caught by my partner and I, selling in a school zone. They attempted to flee. Rick and I weren't having that. Everyone in King County knew us. We didn't tolerate a lot of the stuff you see going on now. It wasn't about being politically correct, or respecting the feelings of bad guys. When the perps ran, we pursued. Rick handcuffed Merle to one of the poles on the jungle gym on the playground, and unfortunately Daryl was a little trickier to apprehend and subdue. He tried to run, I had to take him down. As any good law enforcement officer can tell you, it's not always black and white out there. Sometimes you do what you have to do. Like I said, ask 'Officer Friendly', I mean Rick." Shane laughs, and it's the return of that same knowing smirk I've seen before from him. Reminding me of the night he told me about Rick kissing Jessie.


"Mr. Walsh, are you saying there are no limits to the violent tactics a deputy can use when he's on duty?"


"I'm saying that violence is apart of what law enforcement officers do. It's a part of who they are. Protecting and serving, keeping the public safe comes at a cost."


"Is it common that deputies are not reprimanded or dismissed for this kind of misconduct?"


"Who said it's misconduct? Define that for me, please." Shane responds, agitation seemingly growing by the frustrated scowl dipping his thick eyebrows between his eyes.


Disturbed by what I would consider a frightening indictment of not only his own dangerous sentiments regarding his time as a deputy, but also of the character of the man I love, I can no longer tolerate Shane's smug demeanor and decide to help settle his rancorous response. "I don't think it's beneficial to play word games, Mr. Walsh. I believe that as an attorney you are well aware that as a peace keeper in the state of Georgia, a sheriff's deputy using undue force can be considered in violation of Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code, which is a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871. Meaning that undue acts of violence in the course of peace keeping can be constituted as a civil rights violation and therefore are examples of misconduct. Would you say that the King County Sheriff's Department is known for a pattern of civil rights violations that go unpunished?"


"I'm not saying any of that, Mrs. Grimes. Anyway, it sounds like you ladies already know everything. Not sure what you needed to call me in here for. I don't know anything about Deputy Monroe's case, nor a pattern of any wrongdoing. So, see, you're so smart you already know more than I do."


"I don't think we do. Why don't you go ahead and elaborate on the role that the Monroe family plays in King County now. Deanna Monroe is the mayor. Her son, Spencer Monroe is the defendant in this case. Do the Monroes have a history of colluding with government officials to mask prosecutorial and police misconduct, Mr. Walsh?"


"I don't know."


"But you seemed to allude to that in your testimony just a little bit ago."


"I don't recall saying that explicitly, Mrs. Grimes."


Just as I'm about to continue with my takeover of the questioning, to attempt to further discover anything that could help Glenn, the conference room phone begins to buzz, indicating that a call is coming in from an internal phone line. Hitting the button to connect the call, the voice of my assistant Milton filters through the room.


"Michonne, Rick Grimes is here in the lobby for his deposition. Should I send him over to the conference room?"


"No, Milton, please escort him to my office. I will join him shortly." Clicking the button to disconnect the call, I turn to Shane and Andrea. "Please excuse me. Ms. Turner will continue with the deposition." Rising from my chair, I tug my pencil skirt down from where it has gathered around my thighs. Much like my blouse, it's fitting tighter than I expected, and I grimace at the fact that all of my clothes are beginning to fit this way. Placing my hand over the tiny swell of my stomach, mindful of the growing reason why I will soon need a new wardrobe, I begin to swiftly walk towards the conference room door.


Before I can leave, Shane jumps up from his chair and halts my progress by placing his large body in my path. "Can we talk privately before you go?" Grazing his hand slowly down my arm to my left hand, Shane takes a hold of it, and brings it his face. Positioning my fingers so that he can inspect my wedding rings, he drops his eyes momentarily, then releases a heavy sigh as he kisses my knuckles.


Withdrawing my hand from his, my eyes dart over to where Andrea is watching our interaction, her eyes wide with as though she's viewing one of her favorite soap operas. Rolling my eyes as the is dramatic turn, I cross my arms over my chest and huff. "I don't think we have anything to talk about, Shane."


"I just want to apologize for how I acted before. The whole Jessie and Rick thing. I didn't lie-"


"But you didn't provide any honest context either did you, Shane?" I whisper, not wanting to really get into this in front of Andrea, or draw any further attention to the conference room with it's see through glass walls.


"I really liked you, Michonne. When I saw that I had lost to him again, I just didn't handle it well. But I didn't lie then, he kissed her. And I'm not lying now. It was wrong for me not clarify that, but… You and I could have had something." Lowering his voice as well, which only deepens the throaty grind of his rough tenor, Shane angles his face closer to mine. Rubbing his hand backwards over his head, a move that signals his increasing frustration, he continues. "Listen, KC isn't like Atlanta, and yes a lot of things go on there that wouldn't fly here. Rick will confirm that. We spent many days and nights hitting those streets to keep folks safe, and yes, it sometimes came at a price. Guys like Daryl Dixon paid that price, that's what they deserved. Rick would agree with that too. And the Monroes keep a tight hold on things to ensure that it stays that way. That's all I can say. I have a job to keep."


"And apparently a baby on the way." Widening my eyes and pursing my lips, I communicate to Shane that yes I know about Lori and the baby.


"He told you."


"He told me."


"Did he tell you she was my girl first? That he's the one who took her from me. Just like he did with you."


"This is the second time I've had someone try to draw parallels between Lori and I. We're nothing alike, Shane. This thing between you and Rick, I don't know what to say except that I've made my choice. We're married, and I'm pregnant. So there's nothing left for us to discuss. I liked you too, but you showed me exactly who you are, Shane, and Rick didn't have to do anything to get me to see that I didn't like what I saw. Now if you'll excuse me."


Sidestepping him, I steady myself on my towering heels and toss open the conference room door. As I leave the room, a familiar knot of tension forms in my stomach, and given what I have just learned from Shane, and the fact that my husband has no idea what is about to happen, I know this feeling has nothing to do with the babies housed there. Rounding the corner to my office, I see Rick standing in front of my desk, clad in his brown and tan uniform. With his sheriff's hat in one hand, and a picture of Andre in a black frame in his other, I'm momentarily frozen. The picture is this year's school one, so I know that Rick recognizes who it is.


Pushing the handle on the heavy glass door, I enter my office and wait for Rick to turn around. A moment passes, and he still hasn't turned to acknowledge me, which is very much unlike him. We can usually sense the other's presence instantly, and of course Rick never lets me enter a room without that grin of his welcoming me. But not this time. I'm only received by the stiff expanse of his broad back as he maintains his stance turned away from me. Then he speaks, and it's like my heart stops simply from the sound of the tortured grit in his tone.


"So, you're Anthony & Associates?"

Chapter 13 by Fik Freak

Chapter 13 – Rick

 

“Do you dream often, Morgan?”

 

“Do I have dreams? You mean like goals?”

 

“Nah, at night. Dreams. Nightmares really.” I mutter, absentmindedly scratching at the scruff on my neck and chin. I need a shower and to shave, maybe just a shape up on the beard because Michonne likes it full, but not scraggly. Change my clothes. Kiss my wife.

 

“Hm. I can’t remember the last time I had one of those. You have a nightmare about something, Rick?”

 

“Something like that.”

 

“About?”

 

Squinting behind the lenses of my sunglasses, the warmth of the sun is cascading through the car’s windows, warming my stiff bones. I’m thinking about whether or not I really want to resurrect the nightmare that has been dogging me since I woke up this morning.  Brooding, and not really ready to be truthful with my friend, I sidestep honesty, “I don’t know.”

 

“You don’t know what your dream was about? You forgot it?”

 

“Something like that. It just left me with a bad feeling about stuff. Things.”

 

“I assume you told your wife about those things, Rick? Is that what your nightmares are about? Stuff and things?”

 

Morgan’s voice is its usual patient and kind tenor, though my own carries more irritation and indignation at the persistence of his questions. We’ve gone round and round about this before and it’s starting to grate on me. “No! I haven’t told her. Not entirely, not yet.”

 

Tsking in a manner I’ve heard Michonne’s father do before when dealing with her brother Noah, Morgan’s obviously becoming impatient with my lack of full disclosure with my wife. “What does that mean?”

 

An exasperated breath escapes my lips involuntarily, before I get a chance to think about it, and that my good friend probably doesn’t deserve my ire. But I am frustrated. I’m tired. Agitated. “Well, Morgan, it means she knows I’m going to sell the house.”

 

“Does she know who you’re selling it to? That she’s already living there? In your house.” Morgan asks, inquisitively probing for the truth in my evasive response.

 

“In my old house, Morgan. I don’t live there anymore.”

 

Pointedly digging in his heels, apparently ready for this early morning back and forth, Morgan is prepared with his quick comeback. “You did last night.”

 

“That’s because she said her husband called and threatened her, and she was afraid. I just checked in on her, slept outside in my cruiser, and left first thing this morning. I’m a sheriff, I’m doing my job.”

 

“If you really believe that, why don’t you tell your wife the full truth, Rick?” Morgan inquires falling back on his usual calm, evenly paced tone, heavily laced with a heaping dose of southern charm that rivals my own. The characteristic concern he has been carrying around for me lately is still a subtle inflection in his line of questioning.

 

“She can’t have the stress and the worry right now. I can’t tell her just yet. In a few weeks, the house will be fully sold to Jessie, and I can put the money back in my savings that I used on the new house. Then there will be nothing really to tell. And Jessie’s paying rent so that is taking care of the mortgage for now. I’ve got this. Trust me.”

 

“What about after that? What about the next obstacle? And the next?”

 

“What do you mean the next obstacle? That’s it.”

 

“No it’s not. A marriage with someone is about trusting that together you will weather every storm as a team. Do you trust your wife, Rick? Do you trust that she can handle this thing, and the next? You have to trust that your relationship and your bond is strong enough for this. Otherwise you won’t make it when it gets really tough.”

 

“Of course I trust her. What kind of thing is that to say? This is not a matter of trust. I don’t know how she’s going to react to this is all. I can’t risk her not taking it well and it causing her stress.”

 

“You don’t think you know her well enough to gauge something like that?”

 

“I know her well, Morgan. That’s why I married her.”

 

“If you say so. But honestly tell me this. If you found out that your wife spent last night with another man, maybe another man like Shane who is clearly interested in her, and she was renting her house to him, and using that money as well as all of her savings to buy a house that you knew nothing about, you’d be ok with that? You would believe that her not telling you isn’t a sign of mistrust? I’m sorry, man, that just doesn’t clear with me.” Scoffing in disbelief, Morgan furthers his position, and if he and I weren’t such good friends I might have just hung up the phone. I’m still considering it.

 

Mainly because he might be on to something, and the premise is causing me to squirm in my seat at the prodding of the truth. I do trust Michonne. With my life. But can I say that I actually know her well enough to know how these kinds of decisions might affect her? Maybe not. And that’s why I don’t want to tell her anything. It’s the unpredictability of it all.

 

“Listen, Morgan, I know you mean well, but I don’t take chances with Michonne. The twins. It’s all very delicate right now. I just need a little more time with her. Can you lay off of me about this now?”

 

“Sure. I’m just trying to help you the way you have helped me so many times. When my Jenny left me, you helped me get her back. You helped me out of my depression, and to get my shit together. I almost lost everything, my temper was out of control, I was drinking, gambling, getting in bar fights, lying to my wife about all of it. All of that almost caused me to lose her and my boy. But, you helped me see how all of the lies and bullshit were going to cost me the best thing to ever happen to me. Hell, Rick, I’m just repaying the favor.”

 

“And I appreciate that, man, but… I need more time. That’s all. This will all be over soon, and until then I’m gonna play this my way. Matter of fact, I gotta run, I’m pulling up to the house now and I forgot some paperwork I received from Spencer’s attorney for this deposition I have today. I’ll talk to you later.” Hitting the end button, I turn into the driveway of Michonne’s house, then hit the garage opener to raise the door. Noticing that my wife’s car is missing, but Andre’s is not, I’m curious as to what exactly is going on. Mike’s truck is out front as well, and immediately I get the eerie feeling that this day is only going to get worse, and it’s only nine o’clock.

 

Actually it’s been a rough 24 hours period. It started last night when I got a call from one of my deputies letting me know that they received a call from my house, from Jessie Anderson, looking for me specifically. Something about her husband finding her. While I wasn’t immediately interested in whatever was going on with Jessie, and was more than happy to stay on the couch snuggled with my wife watching ‘The Flash’, while Andre reclined on the other end of the sectional texting and mumbling about how fine Iris is. But, after two more text messages from the deputy on duty to my work phone regarding the incident, I decided to head back to KC to see what was going on.

 

I didn’t want to lie to my wife, and at first it was like my body was preventatively attempting to stop it from falling from my lips. My throat almost closed up and choked down the lie about me needing to respond to an emergency at the station, and to get some rest for an early morning meeting, I would just stay the night at my house instead of driving back to the city. Even after the half truth struggled its way to the surface, Michonne’s tiny whimpers at me reluctantly dislodging her tangled limbs from around my own, nearly stalled me out, rooting me where I stood. Looking down at her beautiful face, playful displeasure scrunching her rounded features, and heart shaped lips into an animated frown, I almost just confessed it all. Everything. But I couldn’t let the wobbly house of cards fall apart just yet. I needed more time to fix this foundation, to make it steady, so that when it was all said and done, even the strongest disturbance wouldn’t matter. 12 weeks would come. The house would sell. I would get the money to put back in my life savings, and all would be as it should.

 

Nothing is ever as easy as it seems it should be, and as soon as I got to my house I knew I had made the wrong call. Jessie answered the door and none of the theatrics that I would have expected had an abused woman’s husband been threatening her, was present. Pete’s release from county had come. I knew about it. It was something I was quite vocally opposed to, and discussed the negative implications of it with Mayor Monroe. It was obvious to me and anyone else who dared to pay attention that his quick release was heavily influenced by his status in the community, and his relationships with those in charge.

 

The disregard of the law and true protection of the public that has gone on in KC for years, is something that I have been trying to address during my short tenure as sheriff. I haven’t seen great strides, but I am proud that I have been able to get Deana to see the error in how some things have been handled around here. One of which has to do with her own son, which is why I stopped into Michonne’s this morning for my paperwork before my deposition hearing.

 

As my thoughts travel back to last night, and the problematic situation I backed myself in to, I have to concede that there is no one to blame for any of this but myself. The way Jessie ended up in my house seemed so innocent at first. It was almost like it was just another indicator that fate was working things out in my favor again.

 

Lori’s and my divorce left me with my savings in tact, but not the house, which I let her keep free and clear. It was a small modest cottage and was completely paid for. But after the divorce I had to buy another house for myself, and to accommodate Carl’s weekend stays. With alimony and child support added to the mix, my sheriff’s salary doesn’t quite stretch as far as it seemed like it should. Confronted with the problem of what to do about Michonne and I living together, I knew the best solution would be to get rid of my house. It was too small, and with two near grown boys, and twins on the way, we needed space for our growing family. And I didn’t want to just move into Michonne’s house. I wanted a place that was truly ours. Something that wasn’t in either KC or Atlanta, but in between both locations, and far enough away from both of our pasts. A symbol of the fresh start that our family was embarking on. Of course that would require money. A lot of money.

 

Michonne is a classy woman. A woman of means. A woman that is used to nice things. We may have only been together a short time, but I know this to be true. I’ve seen the price tags from her shopping sprees at Saks. I’ve heard the compliments from my mother on Michonne’s $1200 Gucci purse. I know about the private prep school that Andre attends.

 

It’s a drastic difference from the modest life I’ve lived, and the public school that Carl goes to. Though I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done for myself and for my family, I feel like I have to do better for Michonne. Not just because she’s used to it, but because she deserves it. Because this thing between us feels serendipitous and magical, given how unlikely it is that a woman like her would ever settle for a guy like me.

 

So, when my admin brought a new listing of foreclosure orders that the deputies would need to act on, and Jessie Anderson’s home was on that list, it seemed like the universe was telling me something. Pete was still in lockup, and her and her kids needed somewhere to go, so I reached out to her. My brain did give me a moment of pause. It did. But, again this felt like a sign. I had a house I needed to hurry and get rid of, and she needed a house immediately. Fate right?

 

I called Jessie who seemed very happy to hear from me, and she said that her parents were going to help her get away from Pete, and that buying my house would be perfect. But, I needed the money now. I couldn’t wait weeks for her to apply for and obtain a mortgage loan. And she understood that, so we compromised. Most of my clothes were already at Michonne’s, so I allowed Jessie and her kids to stay at my house immediately, provided she could pay rent until she was able to obtain a mortgage with her parents’ help. Her parents paid for two months’ rent on her behalf, and that solved my immediate concerns for my own mortgage. With plans for my house to be sold, I began looking for a new one for Michonne and I, realizing that I would have to use the only other cash I had, my savings as a down payment.  

 

Yes, I could have discussed this with Michonne. Yes, I could have done so many things differently. Standing on my own porch, staring down at Jessie, that all became painfully clear.

 

Regardless of how undisturbed Jessie appeared when I arrived, I stepped in the house and took the time to listen to her complaints. No Pete hadn’t actually shown up at the house, but he did call and say he would kill her for leaving him if he found her. I could understand why she was shaken by him contacting her, and the threats he levied her way. I understood that. What I didn’t understand was why she didn’t allow one of my deputies that was on duty to assist her. It wasn’t until she commented that I was her savior, and that I had come to her rescue so many times before that she wasn’t sure who else would take as good care of her as I did, that I had to physically, not just figuratively take a step back. From her. From this situation.

 

Warning bells, loud and clear, began going off in my head, and I listened. I knew better. I’m pushing it. I know that now. Women who have never been shown kindness from men are easy to latch on to men who finally exhibit it. And that’s what she’s doing. Me helping her out with the house, in combination with me arresting her husband, and the ill-fated hookup with her that my mother tried to foist on me a few months back, all draw a picture that I’m not proud of.

 

I can see why Jessie has this all wrong. This is partially my doing. Hell it may be entirely my fault honestly, and I guess that feeling of guilt is what kept me from literally telling her to her face how wrong she is, and going home to my wife. Instead I explained to her that while Pete was legally wrong for threatening to kill her, he hadn’t shown up, and we had no reason to believe that he even knew where she was. I told her that I am a married man now, and it would be improper for me to stay in the house with her. Instead I let her know that I would have one of my deputies posted for the night just in case.

 

The shocked frown that deepened across her pretty petite features began to grow, traveling from the downturn of her thin pink lips, to the crease of lines across her forehead. Her body’s posture, at first flirty and light, a hand lightly playing in the silky strands of her golden blonde hair, quickly transitioned to a tension filled, ramrod straight posture with her hands on her hips. Though it did nothing to diminish how attractive she truly is, it definitely served as a warning alert to the escalation of her emotions that came next. Jessie’s tears showcased how upset she to find out that I had married Michonne.

 

My refusal to be enraptured by her scheming seemed to send her into overdrive with her outlandish moans and hysterics. Pretending as though she was feeling faint, she took a seat on the couch in the front room, falling upon the couch in a graceful collapse. A regretful sigh escaped me and it occurred to me that not only is she playing me, but that she honestly thought this would work. That she would use her ex as an excuse to get me here, and then what? Seduce me? Giving it thought I realized that she never even bothered to mention anything about the kids who were apparently not even there. And she didn’t appear distressed by the thought of Pete finding her any longer, instead it was now crying that somehow focused on me. Wringing her hands, she told me how good of a man I am. That of course I had found another wife. But she wondered all the same about what I thought of her. Asking me if I ever thought of her.

 

The swing of the pendulum from battered wife, to whatever this fixation on me was, disturbed me. I wanted to go home to Michonne, where I belonged, or at least not be here with Jessie. This wasn’t right. But, when she began to squeak out pleas for me to stay with her in between her hiccupping tears, I relented in some respect, just wanting to put an end to this production. I decided to stick to doing my job as best I could, and to take up post outside of the house in my cruiser where I stayed for the first time in my newly married life, without my wife.

 

Without even waiting for a response, I hurried back out my car and radioed back to the station that I resolved the call, and would post outside for the night. This way there would be documentation of what occurred to cover any further machinations that might pop up into Jessie’s mind. More trouble from her, given the tenuous nature of things with the house, is not what I need right now.

 

Slumping down into my seat, things felt odd, disconcerting. Darkness, the somber shroud of a starless night blanketed me. Hid me from whatever it was I had gotten myself in to. An unwelcome coldness settled into my bones without the press of Michonne’s supple body pressed into mine. Her fat bottom up against my groin. Her lithe limbs kicking the heavy comforter from our bodies one moment, then flipping herself to burrow into my chest, tucking her head beneath my chin. Her steady, rhythmic snores tickling across my chest, and lulling me into a soundless slumber, accompanied by her sleepy lullaby of white noise. Instead of my wife’s cozy, familiar presence all I had to cling to was the discomfort of my squad car’s stiffly reclined seat, my own racing thoughts, and finally a nightmare that started off as unassuming as these things often do.

 

Michonne was there, as she usually is, but in this dream she is not real. She’s a painting of her real self. Like one of those old Catholic paintings of Mary holding Jesus. Michonne is nude, her only her umber skin glistening with a bronzed sheen covers her. She’s posed with her eyes downcast, seemingly averting her gaze from my own. Instead of one divine child, there are two pale babies in her arms, each suckling from her breasts. The likeness in the painting is so realistic and lifelike that in my dream I try to touch her. But instead of the creamy softness of her real skin, it’s only the flat canvas. And then from the eyes of the painting Michonne, tears of blood begin to rain down. Constant, silent weeping. It’s a stream that creates a thick coagulated veil of scarlet red that eventually floods the painting and obscures her and the babies from my vision. That’s when I woke up a sweaty mess. Startled by the realness of the dream, its semblance to all things considered by my mind to be authentic, my pulse begins racing. My heart nearly tearing from my chest in a drumming pound of destabilizing fear. Terror unlike any I’ve ever known. Anxiety caused me to thrash about, ripping at my own clothes, yelling my wife’s name.

 

When I finally fully came to and realized I was asleep in the driveway of my own home, and remembered why I was there and not with her, the sorrow muddying my emotions was at inconsolable heights. Not until I called her to tell her I love her, and to remember to make herself some tea before she headed out for work, did my pulse finally begin to lessen its dramatic quickening. The soft dulcet twinkling of her voice brought me back from the horror of my nightmare, calming me like a soothing balm to a wound.

 

As I turned on my car, and directed it back towards Atlanta, so many thoughts came to me. Clarity was fighting, jockeying for the spotlight in my brain. An attempt to offer some semblance of levity. Something to anchor me, a lighthouse to find my way home.

 

My mother is Catholic. Comes from an Irish family, and as such when my brother Jeff and I were younger she made us go to church. Sunday school. Catechism. The seven sacraments, and the signs of God’s Grace. I remember sitting in church one Sunday, studying a photo of the Virgin Mary and Jesus on one of the stained glass windows, and listening to the Priest talk about how the Madonna is a sign of hope. That we could call on her when we feel lost.

 

Watching the rapidly greening landscape of Georgia whizz past my car windows, the world greeting me anew despite the anguish of my bloody nightmare, I tap my fingers on the steering wheel to the sounds of Ray Lamontagne’s ‘Trouble’, and wonder if my dream of Michonne and my babies as the Madonna is a sign of hope. But if that is hope, what does the blood signify? What’s it all mean? Is it a sign that telling her my truth, revealing my insecurities regarding my finances, how unworthy I am of her, will be the end of the hopefulness this new life offers?

 

Trouble
Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble
Trouble been doggin' my soul since the day I was born
Worry
Worry, worry, worry, worry

Worry just will not seem to leave my mind alone…”

 

The growing need to confess everything to Michonne about the house, about how Jessie buying my house is helping me afford the new house, continued to dig into me, allowing me little rest from the nagging of my conscience. She might be disappointed, but at least I could be honest that my intentions have always been to show her what I can do for her, to prove that I am the man who loves her, adores her, a man that deserves her. Whatever faults I may have, whatever deficiencies in my character I may succumb to, my love for Michonne is the unwavering thing that animates every fiber of my being to make a life with her. The counterpoint of stubbornness is overbearing, and often tamps down my drive to be honest with her, with a more powerful one that rigidly rejects my deep seated need for transparency with the woman I love.

 

I've been saved
By a woman
I've been saved
By a woman
I've been saved
By a woman…”

 

It wasn’t that I didn’t have the will or the courage to tell her, it wasn’t the lack of something within me. It was too much of something else. Pride. Pride wouldn’t let me forget how easily Mike bought my wife a $78,000 car. Or how effortlessly he bought a new condo, and furnished it, just to move back to Atlanta to try and be near her. Mike, and to an extreme degree, Michonne, have a relationship with money that I simply don’t have. Often I submerge the niggling tick in the back of my head that tells me that I don’t belong in her world, that I can’t compete. But sometimes…like when she showed me all of her finances after the wedding, the truth is hard to deal with. The zeros on her bank statements kept going, adding up to a dizzying amount that I couldn’t match on my sheriff’s salary if I worked every day for the rest of my life.

 

Once I knew Michonne was pregnant with my babies, twins, and how fragile she is, it hit me like an epiphany. A blinding truth that it was up to me, with whatever means I had, to make things right for my family. And that’s what I’m doing, hell or high water, by whatever means necessary. Regardless of what Morgan thinks, it’s so much more than a matter of simply trusting that she can handle the truth about the house. It’s also can she handle the truth about me?

 

She good to me now
She give me love and affection
She good tell me now
She give me love and affection
I said I love her
Yes I love her
I said I love her
I said I love
She good to me now
She's good to me
She's good to me…”

 

Now, as I walk into the house that has quickly become my home, and I find Mike seated at a bar stool in the kitchen, I roll my eyes at his intrusion. The familiar kick of displeasure to my gut that cloaks every interaction I have ever had with him. It’s a mixture of what I know about his history with Michonne, and what I have witnessed so far.

 

“What are you doing here?” I grunt towards Mike, not even bothering to use his name or look his way. I hate this guy. I hate that he still has so much access to Andre and Michonne. Realizing that it’s one of those thorns in life I have to make peace with, I steel my temper against the snarky response I’m certain he has waiting.

 

“Well I had breakfast with my son and ex-wife this morning, kind of like the old days. Now my son and I are heading to my office for a bring your kid to work day. I guess they don’t have those out in Bumfuck, Georgia.” Mike takes a sip of his coffee, and shrugs nonchalantly as though he hasn’t just insulted me and everyone else in KC.

 

Already on edge, I take a deep breath and attempt to control my rising temper, and simply grunt out a non-committal response. Why would Michonne be having breakfast with him? Did she tell him about us being married yet? About the babies?

 

Setting down his coffee mug, my favorite mug, the one I usually drink from, his often present smirk ghosts his lips, and he settles his dark brown gaze on me. As though speaking to a friend instead of the exact opposite, Mike blinks a few times then gives me an uncharacteristic smile, and folds his hands in front of him on the island. “You know, Rick, I have to give it to you, you’re working this thing with Michonne like it’s your job. I respect that, I get it. It’s where I failed her before. Where I failed my son. But, what you don’t understand is, that woman is in my blood, my bones. There will never be another woman for me. I see that now. Her and Dre are all I have left now.”

 

“Listen, Mike, I’m not in the mood for this shit this morning, ok? I think it’s really too late for all of that.”

 

“Yeah, in some ways it is. But, this morning as she and I were sitting here, sharing breakfast together, I saw what my pride blinded me to. Michonne is this beautiful, glowing, smart woman. She’s tough. She’s better than me. I didn’t see that before. She was right here in front of me all that time. But do you know what I mean when I say I couldn’t see her? I couldn’t recognize her. I didn’t trust her with my faults. Had the wrong folks, my family in my ear, other women in my sights. That’s all on me.”

 

“I know what you mean, but there’s no reason for you to be looking to see her now.”

 

With a far off stare, as though he can still see the visage of my wife moving around the kitchen, gathering her things, making her tea, her heels clicking across the hardwood floors, a softer, almost whimsical tone of admiration takes over his voice. “My love for her has not diminished one bit, Rick. This morning she was so beautiful in this tight pencil skirt, snug blouse fitting across her breasts. Heels lifting that booty just right. You know what I mean, Rick? I’m sure even you know what I mean about that booty. She’s gaining a little weight, but it’s making her even sexier to me. Yeah. I see her now. It’s like I had blinders on before, but with everything I’m dealing with…” He sighs, followed by an immediate drop of his lips into a sad frown.  Mike’s gaze falls to his hands, threaded together on the island in front of him, then looks back up to me and gives a tiny laugh, apparently completely unaware of the steam coming from my ears, or the way I’m sure my face is reddening at hearing him talk about my wife like this. Heat and anger is unfurling in my chest, warming my ears, banging a staccato beat in my head. It’s like he’s talking to me, but not really. More to himself than anything. “She was a little frustrated about this case she’s working, a real tough one. Some hillbilly cop beat up a civilian. She’s stressed. I had to tell my girl she’s got it, whatever it is. Build her up you know? I didn’t do that before.”

 

“Mike, you need to stop. Right now.” Gritty, raspy, the initial warning rumbles from my chest and out, hanging in the air between us. Why would she discuss this case with him, but not with me? Hillbilly cop? Is he talking about Spencer’s case? Could it be…? Turning away momentarily to try and arrange my thoughts in some order that makes sense, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been blindsided by a truth that was probably right in front of me all along.

 

“What?” Tilting his head in confusion, almost as though he has finally remembered who I am, and that I’m standing right here, he squints his eyes at me.

 

Standing up straight, erect, steel in my spine, hands fidgeting at my sides, I center my focus on him because I don’t want him to misunderstand me. “Stop talking about my wife. Now. I won’t warn you again.”

 

“Ha! Your wife? That’s premature isn’t’ it?”

 

My wife. Michonne and I have been married for two weeks now.”

 

Jerking his head back in disbelief, he responds on a small laugh. “Really?”

 

“Really.”

 

Tossing up his hands in a dismissive wave, he offers his quick assessment of my declaration. “Hm. She didn’t mention it to me. Maybe you should be worried about that.”

 

“Nah, I’m not worried about that at all, I think you’ve heard why I’m not worried before.”

 

“Cowboy, you don’t know shit about Michonne do you? Sex isn’t love. She and I have a history of sex, but also love, marriage, family-”

 

“Michonne is my wife, and she’s pregnant with my babies.”

 

“What? Bullshit! Michonne can’t have anymore babies. We tried.” The delighted smile finally begins to slip from his face, betray the practiced cool he usually seems to employ when interacting with me, which is not very often. The disbelief banked in his glaring stare is more satisfying than I ever imagined it would be.

 

Narrowing my eyes on him, and leaning back on the counter, my arms folded across my chest, I continue despite his outburst. “Maybe she couldn’t get pregnant with your babies.”

 

“I don’t believe you.”

 

“Ya know, Mike, I am worried about you. You’re not nearly as smart as you think you are. You keep coming in here trying to push your way back into Michonne’s life, and she’s been pretty clear that she doesn’t want that. She’s moved on from the way you abused her, mistreated her-”

 

“I never hit her!” Slamming the palm of his hand flat against the island, then clenching it into an angry fist, he yells his own version of the truth. But I know better. I’ve seen the emotional scars he left behind, that zig zag across her psyche.

 

Snarling, baring my teeth at the very idea that he would ever lay a threatening hand on her, words laced with venom fall from my mouth. Pointing at him accusingly I confront him with the truth. “You abused her with your words and your actions, and that is harmful, and dangerous, and just as bad as if you had. And if I ever even had the inkling that you had ever touched her in a threatening way, I would kill you and happily spend the rest of my life in jail for the pleasure of ending you.”

 

Jumping up from his stool, advancing on me as though he’s ready for a fight, Mike’s voice is a booming thunder of anguish. “I love her! I love her! I would never ever hurt her-”

 

“You don’t love her! You love how she made you feel. How she loved you. How talking down to her, abandoning her, made you feel powerful. But you were a coward who didn’t deserve her anyway.” I spit, growing angrier and angrier by the minute.

 

“You don’t know anything about me, about Michonne’s and my relationship. That woman was…my dream. I was selfish, stupid, careless, but don’t you ever say I didn’t love her. Michonne was the embodiment of everything that was ever good in my life. I wanted to see that love between us, the manifestation of that love, a family, grow with her. I needed that. And it broke my heart when she couldn’t do that. When we…” blowing out a shallow breath that trembles over his lips, Mike’s chest is heaving against the green wool sweater he’s donning. Turning the torrent of his enraged features towards the ceiling then back to me, he shakes his head as though his thoughts torment him too deeply to agree to free them from his mouth. “I… I did abandon her, and I did sleep around. I did that! And I live with the truth of that treachery every single day. I’m constantly tortured by it.” Pointing his own accusing finger at himself, into his chest, Mike finally confesses his own brand of treachery.

 

“Then like I said, you never deserved her anyway.” Shrugging my shoulders, and raising my chin, I callously dismiss the wounded man behind his words. I don’t care. His pain is nothing in comparison to what he did to her. “And it doesn’t matter now. She’s my wife. She’s pregnant with my babies. I just bought her a house. So all of that love you think you had for her, you can just throw it away with everything else from that old life you had with her. She’s mine now.”

 

Standing up straight, moving out of my lean against the counter, I turn on the heel of my boots, headed towards the stairs.

 

“You’ll lose her too. Eventually she will see past this whole knight in shining armor act, and she will see you for exactly who and what you are, just like she did with me. The truth is that she’s a goddess, Rick. And neither one of us mortals deserve her. But I came damn close. Closer than you, because she may be married to you and pregnant by you…now, but there is no amount of sex and running around after her that is ever going to allow you the place in her world that I had. We share a son, we share an experience as black people that you can’t relate to, and I have the money to give her the world. I need this time with her, cowboy. You can’t possibly ever be enough for her. And you know I’m right.”

 

Halting at the words from this man, a man who continues to persistently confess his undying love to my wife, speaking to life many of the same issues I have wrestled with regarding my place in her life, I grip the banister in my clutches, just before I swivel around and catch Mike’s jaw with my fist.

 

The momentum of me turning into the punch sends me lunging into Mike, catching him in the abdomen with the force of my shoulder driving him to the hard wood floors. Mike is taller than I am, but in that moment, when all I can hear is the echo of his words dismissing my worth, my right to a place in Michonne’s life, his physical stature doesn’t matter. I’m a ball of rage, anger, coated in the sickly stench of self-consciousness.

 

Suddenly, after landing another blow to Mike’s face, and catching a few from him as well, I feel someone’s hand on my shoulder, yanking me backwards. Despite the lust of the fight, mixed with the adrenaline, and the satisfaction at finally getting to deliver to Mike some payback for everything he has ever put Michonne through, I allow myself to be pulled away from him. Pulled up, standing over Mike, I whirl around and recognize the force pulling me back into the realm of self-control. It’s Andre. Instantly I regret this move. This bit of savagery, a loss of my wits. Disappointed with myself, I begin to pace away from them, as Andre tries to help his father up from the floor.

 

Thrashing my hands wildly through my hair, licking at the speck of blood dotted on my busted bottom lip, I’m trying to bring my emotions down from the rafters. What have I done? I fell for his trap, I let my feelings get the best of me. Shit.

 

“Rick, hey. You, ok?” Andre rushes to where I have retreated to my corner, a raging bull considering one more round with the matador.

 

“Yeah. I’m fine. You ok?” I ask, my eyes scanning over him from head to toe, checking for signs of distress. Andre is my son too, and the idea that he might be injured emotionally or physically by this makes me cringe with disappointment in the way I reacted.

 

“Yeah.”

 

Marching over to the foyer where Andre and I are convened, Mike approaches with an invigorated pace to his movements. Twisting his neck as though he’s loosening up for round two, his fists are clenching and tightening at his side. Bring it. The thirst to continue this fight begins to well up again, lighting a recurring snarl across my lips.

 

“Dad! No! This has to stop. Stop!” Putting his body between his father and I, Andre keeps his back to me, and softens his voice. “Dad. Dad, listen to me, please. Tell him. Please.” Taking on a nearly plaintive plea, Andre’s words seem to halt his father’s rage in some way, as the steely focus of Mike’s eyes ebbs from where he’s latched on to me, and dart over and land on the face of his son. “Tell him what’s going on, Dad. I don’t want you guys to fight. I love you both. You both mean a lot to me, and I need you to explain it to him.” With his hand to the center of his father’s chest, Andre displays more maturity and poise than either Mike or I, men twice his age.

 

A blanket of shame covers me, and condenses my guilt into a heavy weight, freezing me to the spot where I stand. Hands on my hips, I wait. Silent. Only the huffs and heaves of heavy masculine breaths are heard as we all seem to be preparing ourselves for what’s next.

 

“Ok, Dre.” Nodding towards his son, taking a hold of his arm and pulling him into his body for a hug, Mike has had the wind taken out of his sails by the words of the young man we both call son. The son who looks so much like him, stands so close to his size. The son who also bears a striking resemblance to the woman we both love.

 

Embracing Andre in a strong hold, Mike turns his attention to me. “I’m not as stupid as you think, Rick. I love Michonne still. I do. But, I admit that I was smug, and selfish, and mean, and I abused and hurt her, and it would seem that life is paying me back for that. Tenfold.”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“I’m dying.”

 

“What?”

 

“I have six months, maybe a year left.”

 

“I don’t believe you. This is pathetic-”

 

“It’s true, Rick. My dad is telling the truth.” Swiveling around towards me, outside of the tight hold of his father’s arms, Andre addresses me and it nearly breaks my heart. Tears glisten, glassy and clear in his eyes, then stream in steady lines, crossing the planes of his young face.

 

“Testicular cancer. I had it before, when Michonne and I were married. We were trying to have another baby. Michonne had some issues with scarring from Dre’s birth, and we had two miscarriages, so I wanted to get checked out as well. The doctors found a lump during a testicular biopsy. It was only a stage one germ cell, so instead of having my testicle removed, I opted for low level radiation therapy every two to three weeks. I would leave Atlanta, go home to Jersey, stay with my folks, then come back. Some nights I was weak, still tired from the after affects, I would sleep on the couch, or not come home at all. I thought I was shielding my wife and son from having to see me weak, having to deal with something that I could take care of on my own. But, I didn’t do that. Instead I abandoned them. When the doctors said I would survive, the lump was gone, and they couldn’t detect that the cancer had spread, I divorced her. My father had convinced me that God had given me my life back, and that I should start over brand new. Without the love of my life. I was a coward.” As though telling his truth defeats him, Mike deflates, withers against his son, the heft of honesty bearing down on him.

 

“Yes you were a coward. Michonne loved you so much, saw you as someone so much better than what you really are. That woman suffered right along with you, regardless of why you left her. The fact is that you did. Do you think she wouldn’t have been able to fight through that with you? That she wouldn’t want to? Did you actually think it was better for her to think that you just checked out of your marriage? Made her doubt herself.” Disgust colors my words, and I have to catch myself from lunging at him again. I don’t care that he’s a man with few days of life left. I care that he made a choice that has hurt two of the people I care most about in this world.

 

“I didn’t really think it through I guess. We divorced, and I did try to move on. I had already been spending time with some other women from my father’s church. Women he would slyly comment were looking for good husbands. I got caught up in the fantasy of a do-over. A few months ago I went back to the doctor for a checkup, to ensure that I am still cancer free, and this time, I’m not. It’s a recurrence, and it is too far gone and has spread. The survival rate is normally quite high, but apparently not for me.”

 

“Rick, my dad has made mistakes, but he’s trying to make up for them now.”

 

“He’s right. I came back here because I wanted the rest of my life to be lived with my family. With my wife and son. See, Rick, I told you I’m not as stupid as you think. I’m just a lovesick fool, who finally figured out what really matters. That’s why I’ve been pushing so hard. I need this time with her.”

 

At this point I honestly don’t know what else to say. There are no words sufficient to capture the warring emotions and thoughts banging around inside of me. Instead of trying to find the right words, I decide to simply leave. Stopping to give Andre a hug, I head back out into the garage where my car is parked. For a moment I’m still, absorbing the shock of what I’ve just heard. My bruised hands rest on the steering wheel, tapping out a steady rhythm as I try to focus my thoughts. Finding that I’m still unable to put together what this means, that Mike’s situation is deeper, more nuanced than I originally thought, I am suddenly reminded by the alarm on my phone that I have somewhere to be in thirty minutes.

 

XXXXXX

 

Stepping off the elevator I’m met immediately by a bespectacled, nebbish man, a little shorter than I am. His sandy hair is perfectly coiffed in that side swept manner that all men who work in an office seem to have. It matches the stoic somberness of his charcoal colored suit.

 

“Good afternoon. How can I assist you?” He asks, looking up at me through the lenses of his thick framed glasses.

 

“Hello. I’m Sheriff Rick Grimes. I’m here for a deposition.”

 

Nodding, and with a pleasant, but wooden smile, “Of course. Sheriff, can you please follow me this way, sir?” Standing from where he’s seated behind his tall wood desk, with the name Anthony & Associates in slanted nickel letters adorning the wall behind him, he sweeps his hand in the direction of an all glass barrier that leads to a hallway. Following him, I’m led past a series of offices and conference rooms. At the end of the hall, is a large corner office, also with see through glass walls. With a slight bowing gesture, my guide opens the office door and asks me to wait here.

 

This is not what I expected for a deposition. I have taken part in my fair share over the time I’ve been in law enforcement, and they usually take place in a conference room of some sort. This is different.

 

Still amped up and agitated from the series of events over the last 24 hours, I don’t immediately take a seat. I’m tired from a lack of sleep. I’m on edge because of Jessie’s antics, and the secrets I’m keeping from my wife. And I’m confused about how to handle the information Mike laid in my lap. More than anything, I’m off center from a night without my wife. It’s all a bit much for me right now, as I’m also irritated that I have been summoned to clean up Spencer’s mess. While Deanna and I have an agreement on how to handle the situation, I’m nonetheless upset by the fact that I have to play a role in this at all.

 

Running my thumb across my eyes, fingers massaging my forehead, hoping to relieve some of the tension banked there, I take stock of my surroundings in an attempt to calm my nerves. There is what appears to be a very expensive charcoal colored, leather couch on on side of the room, where there is also a conference style table and chairs setup. Numerous equally expensive looking pieces of art, and a large glass desk, back up to a wall of books. The total look of this office reeks of big money and power, and for a moment it reminds me of Michonne’s office at home. Especially with the African art pieces and the voluminous amount of books, as well as the vase of fresh peonies resting on a side table by the couch. And that feels like a clue. A hint to something that is making itself transparent, but that I haven’t completely sorted yet.

 

Ambling around, pacing across the office floors, I take out my phone as thoughts of my wife begin to surface. I need something to anchor my emotions. To help me survive this cyclone of events keeping me off center. First I pull up my photos and browse through the series of pictures, taking particular note at how the tone and number of them has changed. A few months ago the pics I had were few and far between. One of Carl and I from a fishing trip last summer where we caught a pretty good size fish. One of a video game that Carl texted to me because he wanted it for his birthday. Nothing remarkable. Not until I got to the photo I took of Michonne asleep in my bed, the very first night I met her. She probably would have killed me if she knew I took it, but even as she laid next to me, peacefully slumbering in my arms, with her face resting softly against my arm, cradling her head, I knew. I knew this woman was special, and that I had to have her. I had to.

 

I suppose also though, that I could sense how fleeting that moment might have been. She had tried to leave earlier that night already, and it took a little begging to get her to stay. I guess I just wanted to keep as much of that brief time with her alive for as long as I could. She was so sexy and beautiful. My need for her immeasurable, and unexplainable. Who would have known that I would have many more nights with her like this? Chuckling at the thought and the variety of pictures of her that grace my photos library, I continue to browse through the album. Candid pics of her gazing out of the car window as the world passes by. Curled up in her bedroom’s window seat with Teeny, reading a book. The top of her head as she lies on my chest resting. A side profile, capturing the alluring slope of her neck, and the pleasure of her laughing at a TV show as she sits on the couch beside me. Cooking, leaning over the counter telling Carl and Andre something. And my favorite three end the slideshow of images. One of the grainy black and white ultrasound, showcasing the two pods that house my babies, carelessly floating about. One of a mingling of our essence, pearlescent and white, creamy, strewn across the juncture of my wife’s womanhood. And lastly, a full on shot of Michonne, lying underneath me. Completely nude. Her breasts full and high. My hand, pale in comparison, laid flat against the soft swell of her stomach. All treasured memories of my new life, stolen from the passage of time, now securely housed in the palm of my hand.

 

A grin, something so much greater than a mere smile, befalls my lips, and my heart begins to race. I missed her desperately last night, and I’m not keen on the idea of letting another moment or night go by without her with me.

 

As the thought passes through my mind, and my thumb continues to swipe across my phone’s screen, replaying the joy of the last few months like a silent movie, I decide to call her. I know she’s busy today, but the niggling idea in the back of my mind about her possibly being in on this deposition, and the similarity of the taste of the person that this office belongs to, animates my fingers to dial her number, which I memorized the moment Andre gave it to me months ago.

 

Letting it ring a few times, the call quickly bounces to her voicemail, and instead of leaving a message I just hang up. As I’m hanging up I find that my aimless wandering has led to me standing in front of the large glass desk, adorned with a wide array of papers, books, and a few picture frames. Curiosity catching the best of me, I take a hold of one of the heavy silver frames, and I’m instantly greeted by the grinning smile of my stepson. Andre Anthony.

 

Anthony.

 

Anthony.

 

Anthony & Associates?

 

Anthony & Associates.

 

But Michonne’s last name was Alexander…

 

Then, like the opening of a window on a spring day, there is an electric charge in the air. A light wafting of her floral scented perfume. An introduction of new energy laced with the subtlety of of the fragrance of Moroccan jasmine and bergamot. Michonne.

 

“So, you’re Anthony & Associates?”

 

“I am. I started the firm while Mike and I were married. I haven’t worked here fully in years though.”

 

Still not turning around to greet her, my hand won’t let go of the death grip it has on the picture frame. I can’t. The vise grip of tension squeezing my brain won’t let me as the realizations, my sudden epiphany that’s putting this all together, all begin to rush from my mouth in a stream of consciousness series of utterances. “You’re the attorney suing Spencer. You sent me the deposition. This is the case you won’t discuss with me.”

 

“Rick-”

 

“Right? This is the case you wouldn’t discuss with me! But, you talked to Mike about it this morning?”

 

“What are you talking about. Can we sit for a second and talk?” Closing my eyes to her touch, her delicate fingers land on the nape of my neck and begin a soft stroke of the curls there. Taming my slowly churning temper. “Rick, baby, let me explain.”

 

“I just need a second.”

 

“Let me explain. Please?”

 

“Michonne! Just a second, ok? I’m trying to process all of this.”

 

“Will you at least look at me? Give me a chance to explain?” Her words are as soft and pliant as her cloudy perfume, bending me, molding me to her will. And I can’t fight her. I can’t be angry at her when I see her, how exquisite and sexy she is. Make up on. Lips brushed in my favorite red color. The expensive silk of her cream colored blouse, hugging her petite frame, dipping and cinching tightly across her breasts. Her black skirt pulling across her tiny bump, barely concealing the little rise of her tummy. Then spreading across the wide set of her sexy ass and hips. My God, Mike was right, which angers me to think that he would share the same passionate need for her. That he has had the pleasure of her in this way, for much longer than I have. It’s unreasonable I know this. My jaw clenches and my teeth grind as the thoughts unfurl and create their own field of possibilities. Did she ever scream for him like she does for me? Beg for him to fuck her harder? Does he remember the sensation of her silky pussy clenching and dragging? Her smooth, sable skin gliding across his own matching umber cast. Did she prefer that to my paler tone?

 

Shaking my head in an attempt to drive away the coarse irritation of Mike’s words, his recall of Michonne’s beauty that morning, grating on me, even as I know that she’s mine, and he is no longer a threat. He’s a man living on borrowed time, wishing for a reprieve in the arms of my wife. An absolution or forgiveness of his sins that may never come. It doesn’t matter. I can close my eyes to it, blink away the memory of it, her with him. Him with her. Him still loving her. But it doesn’t change the way that I feel, because it doesn’t change the way things are.

 

Rage is warring with my own arousal for her, a resolute desire to bend her over her desk, lift that tight skirt, and have my way with her sexy ass. We have connected sexually so many times that I can almost see it in front of me, feel her beneath me. My hands on her full hips gripped in my greedy palms. Her teetering on the tips of her toes. My hand fisted in her hair, pulling her head back so that I can taste her lips as I drive my cock in between the puffy, slippery folds of her dusky pussy lips. A handful of her rounded breasts in my hand…

 

Damn. My wife is so beautiful. So much more than pretty. So much more…that it pains me. It hurts to think that there might ever be something foul brewing, clogging the air between us with its pungent sting. Lies. Mistrust. My head can’t fathom it. My heart won’t survive it.

 

This woman owns me. The instant she breached the safeguards strategically placed around my heart after my divorce, I belonged to her. And for that reason, and numerous others, I watch as her hand brushes over my shoulder, down my arm, and to my hand, that she clutches in her own and leads me to the couch. My temper is waning as she commands me, pliant and willing in her hands, aroused by her touch and my own lustful visions of passionately having my way with her right here, as I have so many times before in my own office.  

 

Sitting on the couch next to me, Michonne crosses one elegant leg over the other, her body turned towards me. Looking down I observe her calm demeanor, and notice that she’s wearing a very high pair of heels. Pointed at the toe. Stilettos I think she calls them. Red bottoms. They hug the arch of her tiny feet, poise them in a very seductive manner that reminds me of our wedding night, and the way she balanced on tip toe in these very same shoes as she was bent over her bedroom dresser as I fucked her.  

 

She was exquisite then. She’s just as devastating and commanding right now, and despite the fact that I’m upset, her hold on me physically and emotionally still has me aroused by the sight of her.

 

“Rick, I don’t want to argue with you.”

 

“I don’t want to argue with you either. I just want to know why you couldn’t tell me about this, but you told Mike. I’m your husband, Michonne, not him. Do you trust him more than you trust me or something? You think because I’m white, or I’m a sheriff that I couldn’t understand? What?”

 

Pursing her lips at my questions, as though the thought of what I’ve asked is distasteful to even utter, she “No, it’s none of that. Glenn’s case is very important to me, Rick. It’s imperative that the outcome is favorable for him. I simply couldn’t risk anything going wrong. That includes me breaking privilege, or any type of conflict of interest.”

 

“But you told Mike?”

 

“No. What makes you think that?”

 

“I saw him at the house a little bit ago. Couldn’t wait to tell me about the case you shared with him.”

 

“He was at the house this morning eating breakfast with Andre while I was on the phone with the new lawyer handling Glenn’s case. He must have overheard me. I promise, I would never trust Mike. Especially not with something so precious. If I could have told you, Rick, I would have.”

 

“You sure about that?” I ask, wanting to better understand her motives, but still upset that we are here.

 

“I’ve been a lawyer for a long time. In that time, I’ve seen cases get dismissed on technicalities like this. Listen to me, Rick, Glenn, the victim in this case? He was using my app to try and protect himself. I owe him. I owe every person of color who has ever been victimized by a system that doesn’t see them as citizens, as human-”

 

“Wait a minute! Are you trying to say that you think that all law enforcement is like Spencer? That I’m like Spencer? Is that what you think of me?”

 

“That’s not-”

 

“The love birds. How nice to see you both here, together.” I look away momentarily from Michonne at the sound of his voice. Shane. Somehow this just keeps getting better and better.

 

Darting her panicked eyes from me to Shane, then back again, Michonne releases a deep sigh. “Shane, this is my private office. If you need something Andrea or Milton can assist you.” She points her finger at him then away as though ushering him from the doorway.

 

“I just saw you both in here and decided to say goodbye.”

 

“You were deposed too, right?”

 

“Yep. And I must say your wife here was very gentle. I appreciate that. And I gave her some food for thought. Let her know a little bit more about the real Rick Grimes.”

 

“What the the hell is that supposed to mean?” Standing from the couch, I tilt my head, wondering at what Shane is talking about.

 

“You’ll find out.” He levies my way a terse comment before turning his eyes and a leering smile on Michonne. “As usual it was a pleasure, Michonne.” Bowing towards her, he gives her a sweeping browse, then leaves.

 

As though I haven’t already been in one fight today, I’m two secondss away from getting in another. Before I have a chance to, or to discuss anything else with Michonne, the guy from the front desk appears in her doorway right behind Shane. “Andrea is ready for you both to proceed with the depositions, Ms. Alexander.”

 

“Grimes. Her name is Mrs. Grimes.” I indignantly offer to him, and with a brief glance back toward my wife, I nearly miss bumping into him as I briskly stalk past to exit her office.

 

XXXXXXXX

 

“Thank you for coming in today, Sheriff. This shouldn’t take long. I’m Andrea Turner, the attorney representing Mr. Rhee in this civil suit against Deputy Spencer Monroe, who I understand is on your staff.”

 

“He is.”

 

“Ok. Today we are-” this blonde lady begins, and unfortunately my temper and patience are at their very end. There is no reserve of professional decorum that will permit me to participate in this charade any longer. I’ve played enough poker to know that when you have the winning hand, there is no need to bluff. So I don’t.

 

It’s rude, and as soon as I cut this lady off I can see the tension spread across my wife’s lovely features, tightening the frown lines around her mouth and eyes. “Ms. Turner I don’t think you need to go through all of that. We are all aware why we are here today. So I’m going to get directly to the point. I was notified by Deputy Monroe’s attorney that he will be offering a settlement to Mr. Rhee, that should be delivered to you and Ms. Alexander today.” My eyes momentarily dart to Michonne when she tersely sniffs at my use of her maiden name.

 

“Oh, ok.” The woman who introduced herself as Andrea responds, shock clouding her features, and bucking her blue eyes as they quickly move from me to Michonne, then back to Michonne, silently asking how to proceed.

 

Again, my impatience urges me to surge ahead regardless of how my news has shaken things up. I need to get this over with. “There is an unfortunate history of unlawful misconduct and corruption among the government and law enforcement gatekeepers in King County. It is not a new occurrence. Its tentacles run deep into the very soil that the town is built upon. But with my election to Sheriff, and Mayor Monroe’s ascension to public office, following in the footsteps of her deceased husband’s family, change has come. Mayor Monroe backed me as Sheriff for this sole reason. I am not proud to note that even though I have always tried to do the right thing according to the charge of responsibility given to me by the citizens of King County, I have not always behaved in the most honorable manner. My failings are my own, and every day I work to rectify that.”

 

Glancing down at my notes, and the paperwork that I’m clutching in my sweaty hands, I take a moment to gather myself. My eyelids fall, shielding my soul from the piercing gaze of my wife, the only person in the world whose opinion matters. Whose dark stare, flat and devoid of the warmth I am accustomed to, filets my already open wounds. There is nowhere for me to hide now, and this look of censure is the very thing I have been hoping to avoid with all of my maneuvers regarding the house. My heart may falter in my head’s belief that the whole truth is too heavy a burden to unload, but the judgmental look she’s levying on me right now, as the cool, stagnant air, manufactured by the cold machinery that enlivens this office building, gives the sweat beading on my forehead a sickly sheen, and confirms that my inclination to not tell her everything about my finances was correct.

 

Pulling my lips into my mouth, I drag my hand over my face to try and rid it of the guilty cast that is surely evident. Clearing my throat, I prepare myself to continue despite the pleading warmth and softness of my wife’s wide chocolate brown eyes pulling me to gravitate back to her. It’s easy to do. To allow our magnetic connection to keep us linked. Right now I need to get this out though. “While I am of the mind that law enforcement and public service are not as black and white as some may believe, there is right and there is wrong. Had anyone spoken to my department in the vein of transparency and information sharing, instead of private investigations, your office would have known that I was digging into the situation concerning Deputy Spencer and Mr. Rhee. And I would have shared that this all stems from not just an abuse of power, and abhorrent privilege, but also from jealousy.”

 

“Jealousy?” Quirking one blonde brow, Andrea again looks between Michonne and I as though this story is getting more intriguing than she expected. It is I suppose.

 

“Jealousy. Deputy Spencer and Mr. Rhee’s fiancée, Maggie Greene, used to date. She broke up with Deputy Spencer when she met Mr. Rhee. Deputy Spencer was not as over their relationship as Ms. Greene was. He had been watching her, keeping an eye on her as he puts it. Stalking her as she puts it. Given what I have found out about Deputy Spencer’s activities, including the amount of time he spent watching her, stalking is the apt description. The night of the altercation with Mr. Rhee, Deputy Spencer had been watching Ms. Greene’s apartment, and saw Mr. Rhee leave. He pulled him over and confronted him on purpose. He admits freely to what the camera footage suggests, he did overstep the reach of his authority, and he did assault Mr. Rhee. With encouragement from his family, he is turning himself in today.”

 

“Well, I suppose that there isn’t really much else to cover then. Once the settlement offer is received I can confer with my client. Thank you for coming in, Sheriff.” Andrea proclaims, still seemingly awed by the truth of the full story.

 

“You’re welcome.” Respectfully nodding at both Andrea and Michonne, I rise and beat a hasty path back towards the elevators.

 

Instantly I can hear the hurried click of my wife’s footsteps behind me. Her pace is no match for my long determined stride, and I reach the elevators before her, catching a glimpse of her right before the doors close.

 

Once I reach my car, and pull away from the parking garage of the fancy downtown office building, with its smoky glass windows, concealing the business of the movers and shakers like my wife who work inside, I feel every ounce of the weight that rests heavily on my chest, my heart. An inconvenient and truth is making itself transparent, and its as ugly and painful as I had feared. As my dream last night prophesied. There is a chasm between us. Perhaps a mountain too high, a valley too low…littered with deceitful machinations that bear the hefty brunt of reality. Michonne doesn’t trust me. And maybe…just maybe I don’t trust her either.

 

Chapter 14 by Fik Freak

Chapter 14 – Michonne

 

“Simple, sweetheart, you were wrong.”

 

“I know that, Aaron. I didn’t call you to tell me what I already know. I called for advice on how to fix this.” I huff, slightly miffed at Aaron’s unhelpful feedback. I’m aware of what I’ve done. It’s how to fix it that is alluding me at the moment.

 

“I don’t know how to tell you to fix it with anything but honesty. Come clean. Tell Rick why the secrecy around the case.”

 

“Already did that. Kind of.”

 

“Well, he needs to understand that you couldn’t tell him. Not that you didn’t want to. Did you mention that?”

 

“Kind of.”

 

“What the hell with ‘kind of’, Michonne? What aren’t you telling me?”

 

Sighing, I close my eyes for a moment as I’m cracking a little under the pressure of Aaron’s intense questioning. But I need this, I need him to grill me so that I can prepare myself for Rick. Rick’s scrutiny is going to hurt more than anything Aaron could send my way, simply because of how I feel about Rick. I love Aaron. He’s my best friend. Rick though? Rick is the love of my life, and the fact that I have hurt him, done something that he can’t understand, that he may not be able to forgive? That wounds me and scares me in a way that I can’t really vocalize. I can’t fathom it, and it’s partially why I have trouble confessing my bit of duplicity. “I could have told him something. Not everything, but something. Attorney client privilege means that the communications between my client and I are confidential. I can’t share them. But, it doesn’t necessarily have to be confidential. Not everything about the case, especially once it is filed in court, which is public record. I could have told Rick about the existence of the case, and that I was representing Mr. Rhee. Technically I could have told him something.”

 

“What? Then why didn’t you?” Aaron asks, his voice elevated, blaring through the phone’s speaker, holding the kind of appalled alarm that makes me wince at the sting of censure.

 

“Don’t yell at me…”

 

“I’m not yelling, I’m… Yeah I’m yelling! If you could have told him something, why didn’t you? This doesn’t make any sense. That man loves you so desperately he was gonna kill me for even mentioning that we slept together twenty years ago, Michonne! Twenty years ago!”

 

“I know! I know…”

 

“He’s right then. You don’t trust him.”

 

“Maybe. I don’t know. Kind of… not entirely.”

 

“Kind of! This is crazy, Michonne. I’m… I don’t understand you right now.” Aaron mumbles that last part, and given our history, I can almost picture him on the other line, shaking his head in disappointment, fingers pinching the bridge of his nose to alleviate the tension building in his head. It’s how he always reacts when he’s upset, or when he can’t use logic to solve a problem. Aaron is a man that is ruled by logic, by what makes sense. This? This doesn’t make sense, and I get why he’s fed up with me right now.

 

“Aaron, I know that Rick loves me. And I know I love him. But how do I know that if I had told him about the case, that I was involved in something that touched so close to home for him, that he would stick around? I mean, I had my husband deposed! How do I know he would choose me over his career, his life’s work? His own deputy? He’s spent years building a career, fostering a comradery with his guys. I’m just some woman he just met and fell in lust with. He loves me now, but that love is built on lust. Infatuation.”

 

“Right, yeah I know it’s all new with you guys, and you don’t have a long history together, but... But, if you had at least notified him of your role in it, he could have at least prepared himself. What you did amounted to a last minute ambush to alleviate your own guilt. You didn’t do that for him, you did that for you. And frankly, I’m kind of pissed too. I like Rick. He’s so much better for you than Mike ever was. Hell, if I have to let you have a husband that isn’t me, Rick is as good as it’s going to get. Why would you sabotage the best thing to ever happen to you other than meeting me?”

 

“I didn’t mean to…” I whine, faltering under the pressure of his probably truthful assessment and judgment of my actions.

 

“How would you feel if Rick had kept something like this from you? Something that could make you look so foolish and out of touch with your spouse. Would you be able to easily forgive him? To understand his perspective? You need to think about that, Michonne. If the shoe was on the other foot, how would you react? I doubt you would be so understanding, so you have to meet him where he is. You have to be willing to get why he’s mad, explain yourself, and just hope that when you tell your husband why you don’t trust him, that he understands. And you need to fix that too. You need to either decide that this marriage is worth saving, building trust, and love. Saving your family. Or you need to walk away, you can’t half do this, and the woman I know wouldn’t anyway. Your instincts are good, but you faltered a little, you have it in you to do better. So do better.”

 

Groaning at the truth in Aaron’s brusque, but insightful words, I have to admit that what Aaron’s saying is hard to hear, but it’s what I need. “You’re right. I… I want to argue cause I hate when you’re right, but, Aaron, you’re right.”

 

“I know I am