Title: cleave unto (for this cause shall a man leave)

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: T/PG-13

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not.

Summary: This was what she had left: an estranged husband who couldn't stand the sight of her, and a son who wouldn't listen to a single word she said. 1000 words.

Spoilers: The Walking Dead, tag for 3.02 "Sick"

Notes: I've had trouble getting a handle Lori's character; she's never been my favorite ... but "Sick" lit a lightbulb for me. This was my reaction: one possible perspective on what she might be thinking. Full spoilers for the episode.

Rick's words seemed to echo in Lori's ears as her husband walked away from her.

We're awful grateful for what you did.

We. We're grateful. Was that a royal 'we', or a committee 'we'? With a careful, arm's-length touch to her shoulder, like he'd known how it would sound, but could barely bring himself to soften the blow.

He couldn't let her think he was grateful. Couldn't even look at her as he fumbled through the words. The same thing he'd done earlier, when she'd tried to tell him she would support whatever decision he made to ensure their safety: breaking eye contact the minute the conversation crossed the line from public to personal. She'd been trying, maybe too little too late, to cross the gulf that had opened between them... and he'd refused to accept or even acknowledge the effort.

Lori swiped the back of a hand over her cheek, brushing a tear away. So she'd reacted poorly when he'd told her what had happened to Shane- he was the one who'd been walling himself off, ever since. That little half-smile he'd aimed out over the yard when she'd joked about splitting their assets had been the most warmth he'd shown her in weeks. That touch to her shoulder, the only voluntary, spontaneous contact they'd shared in even longer than that.

Why had he even come out there in the first place, if he just was going to stand there when he had to know damn well how hard she was trying? Was what she'd done really that unforgivable?

She'd watched him clasp hands with Hershel over the man's sickbed, caught by the emotion both men had shown in that moment, and felt suddenly, unbearably alone. Who would have thought back when they'd first met the stubborn old farmer that he would ever look to her husband with so much warmth? Rick was a good man at heart; she'd never tried to deny that, she'd only doubted he cared more for her than he did for being a cop. But the job he'd taken up since Atlanta was even more important than Sheriff, and yet he still managed to connect with everyone but her. Not that he was especially social, even on the best of days- but they all knew how far he'd go for them, and they'd settled into a dysfunctional family around him in return. One that still included Lori- but not as 'First Lady'. Not anymore.

Realizing that, she'd just... really needed a little fresh air. She hadn't expected anyone to follow, much less Rick himself; so she'd taken that as a sign she still had reason to hope. But she should have known better, shouldn't she? What use was faith when every little spark of brightness was only a herald of more pain to come?

She shouldn't have pressed him. She should have just stopped after saying it was a good day, and held tight to the fact that he'd come after her at all. But it had been like throwing crumbs to a starving woman: Lori hadn't been able to resist begging for more.

It wasn't as though she had anyone else, now. The others worked with her, were solicitous of her, asked how she was feeling- but none of them ever smiled at her like Glenn smiled at Maggie, or Maggie at Beth, or even Carol at Daryl. Or simply just 'had her back', the way Daryl had done with Rick ever since they'd left the farm.

Taking Shane's place at Rick's side. As if so many years of friendship and history could be replaced, just like that.

Another tear escaped, and a shuddery sob rose in Lori's chest. She stifled it quickly, pressing the back of her hand to her mouth; God forbid any of the others should hear it. She knew what they'd be thinking: 'honey, I'm sorry, but you brought this down on your own head'. Even her own son sided with his dad now, as if she were the only one to blame for what had happened to their family. Not Shane for turning on Rick, or Rick for having Shane's blood on his hands.

She just didn't understand. Was it really so selfish to want to be loved? What did they expect her to've done to stop things from going so wrong? She'd only touched Shane after she'd thought her husband was dead- and when he'd come back, she'd tried to do the right thing by letting Shane go.

Should she just have kept carrying on with Rick's best friend? Rejected Rick instead, after he'd risen from his deathbed to find her? Should she, what, have asked him if he'd be willing to share, while he was looking at her like she was the most precious thing on the planet? Should she not have warned him when Shane went crazy, and just let Shane have his way?

Lori squashed down that guilty thought with another stifled sob, trying not to imagine what life would've been like if any of those things had happened. Because they hadn't. Shane was gone. And this was what she had left: an estranged husband who couldn't stand the sight of her, and a son who wouldn't listen to a single word she said. What was she supposed to do about any of that? Was it even possible to fit the pieces back together, with the whole world still collapsing around them?

Maybe there's nothing to talk about, anymore.

The yard below the walkway held no answers: just a bunch of rotting corpses, strewn across the unforgiving pavement. Lori might as well be one of them if it wasn't for the baby, tethering her to the group for its sake if not her own.

She stared through the bodies until she could breathe evenly again, then wiped her face with the tail of her shirt and went inside. There was only one thing she could do.

Keep taking things one day at a time.