After his truly disquieting chat with Carl, Rick made his way down to the kitchen and sat heavily on one of the chairs. For a moment, he stared at the small bottle of Jack Daniels on the counter, wanting to drink badly but deciding against it.

It would be too easy to try to blot out the pain that stemmed from his inability to help his son, which recalled the pain of his failure to protect Lori and Judith and so many others.

Like he told Andrea, so many people he cared for or died…and he didn't want to lose her. A cold dread settled in his stomach at that thought.

He had to push her away. He had to.

When what he wanted was to lean his cheek into her palm, to draw her close and kiss her she kissed him on the couch. It had been exhilarating, the feel of her warm lips on his and, for the span of a few minutes, he felt…something that scared him.

After it became clear how unforgiving this world was, Rick had tried to close himself off emotionally. Sure, he loved his son and cared for his friends, but he tried to convince himself that he would never again want more.

Andrea was right when she called bullshit.

He wanted her, had grown to love her as a friend and quite possibly more. She'd been right in saying they had a chance of making things work, that they were uniquely compatible.

They truly were, in so many ways.

The she backed off earlier, he was sure the conversation was far from over…and, in a way, he was glad.

Maybe….

A soft knock on the door drew him from his dark musings and he rose, knowing who he'd find.

Andrea stepped in as soon as he opened the door and rounded on him as he shut it.

"You're not the only one afraid of losing the people you care about!" She said, emphatically quiet in deference to Carl upstairs. "I'm terrified, I think that's part of what keeps us human."

Her cheeks were flushed with cold and her eyes flashed in the darkness. She looked beautiful, and as soon as that thought crossed his mind, Rick felt his fear try to rise up, try to force him to keep her at arms length.

"I know," he said instead, voice sounding course with stress and emotion. "I know."

His ready agreement seem to take the wind out of her and the defensive set of her shoulders eased slightly. "Oh," she replied, clearly expecting more of a fight. Looking a bit confused, she asked, "Are you still stuck on that 'everyone I care about dies' thing? Cuz that applies to most people here. Including me. So, if that's what you're afraid of, you might consider that our mutual bad luck could cancel each other's out."

Rick choked out an aborted laugh at that and crossed the small room to collapse onto the couch. Joining him, Andrea gave him a serious look, then stated, "You look kinds wrung out."

Heaving a sigh, he ran his hand over his face and said, "Carl is…he's calling his missing eye a hole and is understandably angry about the whole situation."

She nodded. "He's been through a lot."

With a nod, Rick said, "Yeah, I mean I know no one's has easy, but you'd think we be able to let the kids hang onto their innocence…at least some of it."

"I think that's why Sophia pretends Glenn and Maggie are her parents. So she can act like things are better than they are."

He'd come to the same conclusion himself. "That would be nice."

"Yeah," she agreed, sinking back into the cushions beside him and allowing herself to lean into him.

Instinctively, Rick froze, they gave himself a mental shake and let his left arm wrap around her shoulders, pulling her close.

Andrea turned to face him, blinking her big, blue eyes and he said, "You do know that I'm probably more than half crazy, right?"

"Who isn't?" She said simply and the tip of her tongue darted out, wetting her full bottom lip.

The last time they'd sat here, she'd initiated the kiss, after which he drawn away.

Any step now was in his court.

He wished he still had both his hands, as he'd like to cradle her face, stroke her jaw as he drew her closer, but, with his left hand occupied, that wasn't really an option.

Andrea didn't seem to mind though as he dropped kisses along her cheek bone before finding her lips with his own. Once there, she became a more active participant, grasping his shoulders and swinging a leg over to straddle his thighs when he pulled her against him.

In this position, he could wrap his right arm around her body, freeing his left hand to slide up her back and bury itself in her hair.

Even through their clothes, he could feel her warm body against his, the gentle curves where he was all angles.

Breaking the kiss, Rick buried his face against her neck, breathing in her scent, a clean mix of soap and the essential musk of her skin. She reacted to this with a breathy sigh and raked her fingers through his hair.

When he was younger, Rick's friends had always teased about being a romantic he'd never really grown out of that phase. He never had a problem with taking things slowly…but that was before. Either of them could die tomorrow.

Awkwardly, he leaned back to look at Andrea and cradled her face gently. "Andrea," he began struggling to put things into words, "will you stay?"

She looked at him with soft eyes and smiled. "Yes."

Yes.

One word, so simple, but enough to change Ricks world again, this time for the better.


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