When running from the walkers is a daily occurrence, preserving fond memories is not very high on the agenda. The fact is, most experiences were anything but fond since the dead started living. To Michonne, this just made keeping the good ones that much more important.
That's why finding the camera had been a pleasant surprise.
They had been in Alexandria for exactly one day. The first day in years where Michonne had not seen even one walker, and it felt good- really damn good. Deanna had given them two houses -more like miniature mansions- to call home. The first day had been for rest, but the second day was for exploring. That's how Michonne had found herself in the attic, looking through these cardboard treasure chests. Not for food or supplies, but for fun.
It was mostly memorabilia, nicknacks that had belonged to the pre-apocalyptic owners, no doubt. Michonne vaguely wondered, as she twirled the tassel of an aged graduation cap, how long these people had made it. Maybe by some miracle they were still alive. But miracles were rare these days. She set aside the cap to continue looking though the box, and one object in particular caught her eye. Her calloused hands pulled a bulky object from the mess, and a childish excitement bubbled in her chest.
The old polaroid was in great condition. The black plastic did not have a single scratch, and only a few flecks of dust. Michonne found the film compartment rather easy, and a toothy grin parted her lips when she saw that it was full. The excitement burst forth in a short laugh, and she wasted no time making her way back downstairs.
She found Rick in the living room. His back was to her, and his one arm leaned against the window pane as he soaked in the surrounding neighborhood. Michonne could see his feet shifting, a telltale sign that he was uneasy. That was enough to make her smile shrink. A small sigh escaped her lips.
"You can relax you know." Rick spun to face her, obviously put off that he hadn't noticed an approaching presence. There were very few people who could take the former sheriff by surprise these days, but Michonne was one of them. "I know you're skeptical, but we're safe here."
"We don't know that yet." He answered simply, both hands now on his hips as he gazed at the ground before finally making eye contact.
Michonne was very aware. After all, Woodbury had seemed like a sanctuary too. But Alexandria was not another Woodbury. It couldn't be. So she tilted her head a bit and fixed him with her soft gaze, the one reserved exclusively for Rick Grimes.
"We are, you need to trust me. I have a good feeling about this place." He wanted to believe her. She could see it. Before Terminus, he would have.
"I do trust you. You know I do. More than I trust myself at times. But this place… It's too good."
"That doesn't have to be a bad thing, Rick." There was a prolonged silence before the man's head began to nod.
"Yeah. Yeah I know." Something was still bothering him, but this was his way of telling him he did not want to talk about it anymore. He knew where she stood, and now he had seen the place for himself. All that was left was for him to come to terms with the fact that they had found something good. Something good that could last.
"Watcha got?" The silence was broken with his southern drawl. Michonne had completely forgotten about the vintage camera in her hands, but her smile returned at the reminder.
"Little beauty was sittin' in a box in the attic. It still has some film, so I thought I would hang on to it." She strode over to the man and offered the camera to him, and he took it without hesitation. His sunburnt hands turned the device over, and Michonne couldn't help but notice his eyes were more weary than usual. The corner of his lips upturned ever so slightly, and a a slight hum betrayed his quiet reflection. "Hm?" The syllable slid out of her throat to bring him back. Rick froze for a moment, then gestured to the object in his hands.
"Lori… Lori used to have one of these. Back when we were dating." He explained softly, "Used to take pictures of everything. Only got worse when Carl came around." A low chuckle made its way into his words, and Michonne couldn't help but smile with him. The photograph she had saved from the Walker infested diner came to mind. The picture of Lori, Rick, and Carl, grinning with an innocence no one could have anymore. Michonne would have loved to meet her. Any woman who could give birth to kids as sweet as Carl and Judith must have been pretty amazing. Rick continued, "Even after we got a digital, she just loved these old things. There was this one time when-"
The front door creaked open, and both survivors instinctively reached for their weapons.
"Dad? You in here?" There was a visible relaxation at the sound of Carl's voice.
"In here." Rick answered, handing the old camera back to Michonne. The teenager rounded the corner into the living room, baby Judith in her rightful place in his arms.
"Judy was asking for you." The boy said as he made his way to his father. Judith babbled happily at the sight of her daddy, and reached her chubby arms out to grab for him. Rick happily obliged.
"That so?" He cooed, taking his daughter and rubbing their noses together in an eskimo kiss. Michonne observed the three for a moment, Judith lightly slapping Rick's cheeks in search of the scruffy beard she was so fond of tugging on, Rick grabbing and kissing her little fingers, Carl tickling his sister's back and looking at her with all the pride in the world. It was everything a family should be. A moment to be preserved.
"Hey." She called for their attention. Three sets of clear blue eyes landed on her, and before Rick could object Michonne peered through the viewer and snapped a picture of the happy family. The boys staggered back slightly, Carl rubbing his face and Rick blinking rapidly to clear the spots from his eyes. Judy, however, was very amused, and clapped and giggled at the flashing light.
"What was that?" Carl squinted as he regained his vision.
"Hmm…" Michonne hummed as she tugged the shot from the slot, shaking it gently. The spots finally danced out of his eyes, and Carl made his way to look over Michonne's shoulder, eyes now narrowed in curiosity.
"Is that a camera?"
"So you took a picture? Can I see?"
"Patience, child." The woman teased. She continued shaking the film, beginning to see the faint outline of the image.
"Child…?" Carl huffed, but Michonne's smirk only widened.
"Just wait a minute, Carl. It's old, it'll take some time for the picture to show up." Rick reached over and lightly squeezed the back of Carl's neck before making eye contact with Michonne. The adults grinned at each other, the nagging fear of everything slowly leaving the back of their minds.
After another minute, Michonne glanced at the picture once more, and studied it more closely upon seeing it was now fully developed. A snort tore from her throat, before full out laughter overtook her.
"What? What is it?" Carl was doing a terrible job of hiding his excitement as he craned his neck for a view. The samurai cackled some more before holding out the shot.
"If this isn't art, I don't know what is!" Michonne managed to choke between laughter. A snort of laughter made it's way from Rick followed by a groan from Carl.
The black and white picture had caught the three off guard, and it showed in their faces. Ricks cheeks were squished together between Judith's tiny hands, and he was facing the camera head on giving a clear view of the "fishy face". Not exactly a face to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies. Judith's eyes were wide as saucers, looking as though she had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar, and Carl had been caught mid-blink with his mouth agape. Everyone looked ridiculous, and it was fantastic.
"Can we not…?" Carl begged with his hands covering his face.
"Oh hush," Michonne wiped a tear from her eye, "You look quite dashing. I have perfect timing."
Rick still had a smile on his face when he plucked the photo from his friend's hand to give his daughter a better look.
"What'dya think, honey? Seal of approval?" Judith chewed on her finger as she studied the photograph. But something was missing. A tiny finger extended towards Michonne.
The merriment was sapped from the room in that moment, replaced with a somber air. Michonne felt tears of a different kind forming, but she fought them back as she brought a finger up to point at herself. "…Me?"
Judith clapped. "Ma! Ma!"
Michonne's lip quavered involuntarily, but she inhaled deeply and glanced to Carl, who looked from his sister to her, small smile on his face despite his sad eyes. He nodded slightly, and Michonne felt her heart jump to her throat. She looked to Rick now. Rick did not meet her eyes, but kept his gaze fixed solely on the photograph. There was a tense few seconds before…
"It does seem a little empty, doesn't it?" Rick's quiet voice cracked, but only for a moment, and he finally met her dark eyes. So much could be spoken with just the eyes. Another moment passed and Michonne's lips quirk into a small, humbled smile. "You wouldn't mind taking another would you?"
Michonne shook her head as another laugh found its way from her chest as she gazed at these three people who had become so incredibly important to her. There was this overwhelming, warm sensation that flooded between her ribs, and she could feel it echoing: You're home. She was home. She would deny it if anyone were to ask, but the Grimes family… they were her home, more so than anyone else in the group. A luxury she never thought she would be able to afford again. Rick squeezed her hand, and her heart skipped a beat.
"Okay then, everyone squish in! My arms are only so long." Michonne Inhaled deeply in an attempt to keep this emotion in her chest. She turned the camera in her hand and knelt so she was in front of her family.
"Are we really taking a selfie right now?" Carl complained, but the laughter in his voice betrayed his unimpressed facade.
"You bet we are, now get in here!" Michonne tugged the teens arm and brought him to her side, while Rick leaned over her shoulder and Judith took hold of one of her dread-locks. "Okay, y'all, smile like you mean it!" The camera flashed again, and took the picture.
The only picture to get the Judith Grimes Seal of Approval.
A/N: Just a short little drabble I wrote inspired by an interaction between queenoktavia and myself on tumblr. Not the best but i've been weighed down with school stuff but bleh. But the idea just wouldn't leave my head until i wrote it out so here you go!