A Rival's Claim by Fik Freak
FeaturedSummary:

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: 9 Completed: No Word count: 92666 Read: 4044 Published: October 26 2017 Updated: January 09 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

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.

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