Title: This is the Thing

Pairing: Michonne/Andrea

Rating: K+

Synopsis: Michonne prepares herself for the inevitable.

Bkny's bts: This story takes place after the events of the last fic. Twas inspired by Fink's 'This is the Thing' a few days ago. Still trying to stick to canon or what have you, so….yeah that kinda sucks. Hit me up with your thoughts and/or feels.

Her back pressed against a lumpy couch and her eyes glued to the dully painted ceiling of the glorified prison cell she'd been confined to for the past four days, Michonne listened to the soft spatter of water emanating from the small shower stall in the corner of the faintly lit room. Fully clothed and still as a statue, the lean woman appeared to be lost in abstraction. In actuality she was engrossed in preparation. Tomorrow, she promised herself, would be her last morning in Woodbury.

To prepare, she'd pushed herself to contemplate every possible obstacle that might arise and how best to tackle them. As it stood, she had several stratagems for reclaiming her weapon, dealing with potentially hostile guards, and sneaking out of the fortified town. She did not, however, have a strategy for dealing with the woman humming quietly in the shower.

Caring for another soul had never been a part of her plan when she set out from her overrun neighborhood to take her chances on the run. Yet Michonne was hard-pressed to do anything else once Andrea came in to her life. And now, after nearly a year together, she was faced with the prospect of leaving her companion behind to fend for herself among men she didn't trust. Every fiber of Michonne's being rebelled against the idea.

Still, her survival instinct was too powerful to ignore. She hadn't come as far as she did fighting the dead to lose her life at the hands of the living. After her tense interactions with the governor, Michonne knew her days on earth would be numbered if she remained anywhere within his reach. She swore she and Andrea would leave before he got the chance to act out the malevolence she'd sensed teeming just beneath the surface his amiable facade. What she hadn't figured into the equation was Andrea's reluctance to leave.

Michonne wasn't completely unsympathetic to her friend's desire to stay in Woodbury. From all outward appearances, the town was as much a return to normalcy as anyone seeking it could hope for. It had all the societal trappings they'd both missed for the better part of a year. Their room even came complete with an old record player. Michonne smiled faintly at the memory of Andrea's expression when she discovered that it worked. The smile quickly vanished when she remembered the stack of records that were dropped off by the governor's assistant earlier.

She'd overheard Andrea joking to the town's leader that it had been ten months since she had the pleasure of listening to a decent classical composition. Lo and behold, the governor delivered the exact thing she'd been missing. Michonne quickly recognized the act as his modus operandi. He provided people with the pretense of normalcy, fulfilled their most basic needs, and took away their freedom in exchange.

Despite her background as a former civil rights lawyer, Andrea was no exception. It seemed to Michonne that her friend was too busy clinging to all that the town had to offer to step back and look at it objectively. Indoor plumbing was just one of the many small luxuries the governor provided that she held fast to. As time wore on and unmanned municipal infrastructure began to deteriorate, working showers became as rare as diamonds. Creeks, rivers, and even rain served as substitutes during the warm months of Spring, but they didn't feel nearly as cleansing as a hot shower. Of course, there was more to Andrea's unwillingness to leave than old records and hot showers.

Michonne knew all too well that everyone had their limit, and it was becoming all too clear to her that Andrea had reached hers. After all, it had only been a few days since she'd all but asked to be left to die in a meat locker. Michonne blamed it on illness and stubbornness at the time, but she now she realized just how tired the other woman was. Her illness had been just one manifestation of that exhaustion.

The newly discovered perspective almost made Michonne feel guilty for pushing Andrea so hard during the months they were together. She'd been so determined to keep them both alive that she didn't stop to consider the possibility that her companion would have gladly given up the nomadic life they were living; the life of constant uncertainty. If staying in Woodbury was Andrea's way out of that life, who was she to try and stop her?

Steeling herself for the possibility of leaving Woodbury without the one being on earth connecting her with all but lost notions of love and contentment was an exercise in emotional torture. Nevertheless, Michonne endured. Over and over she imagined what frigid nights would be like without another soft body to keep warm; how the long hot days of summer would seem even longer in the absence of the breezy laugh and cool blue eyes she'd come to take solace in.

You'll get over it, she offered herself cold comfort. Somehow, after all Michonne had lost and endured, she knew losing Andrea would hit her harder and deeper than the others. For unlike all that Michonne had known in her previous life, Andrea wasn't just someone she loved, she was a living emblem of hope.

In the first few weeks of the plague, she'd watched the dead tear the living asunder and the living prey upon the living more viciously than the dead until no semblance of humanity was left to be found. In the months that followed she was convinced that any good that may have been left in the world was beyond her reach. And then she met Andrea, who smiled easily and talked freely of all she'd loved and lost. It was almost too good to be true.

"I saved you some hot water."

Michonne turned away from her ruminations to find the focus of them toweling off beside the shower stall. Though she'd seen Andrea in various states of undress, there was something about being in the confines of so-called polite society that made Michonne want to turn away from her nudity. She laid her slender forearm over her eyes in a useless attempt to get some sleep before her final day in Woodbury.

"Well, if you're going to ignore me, you should do it from the bed," Andrea advised as she donned a large t-shirt. "That thing's a bad back waiting to happen."

Michonne heard Andrea approach the couch, inhaled the sweet scent of her newfound body wash, and felt her disappointment as she hovered above. For a long spell, neither of them ventured to speak. It was Andrea's sigh that broke the silence.

"So, are you punishing me by sleeping there or are you punishing yourself?" Andrea questioned in a noticeably agitated tone.

Michonne fought back the urge to look up at the hurt expression she was sure to find staring back down at her.

"Ok, I get, you're upset with me. I-"

"I haven't got time to be upset with you," Michonne said suddenly. It was the truth. Whatever displeasure she felt toward Andrea now, she couldn't afford to dwell on it. Her survival had always depended on her ability to stay focused on the battle rather than unrelenting toll fighting it took.

"And that's why you won't even look at me," Andrea quipped sarcastically.

The bitterness of the other woman's tone shattered Michonne's reserve and moved her to face up to what she desperately wanted to avoid. She abruptly sat up and fixed Andrea with a look unlike any she'd ever seen before. Exasperation and desperation combined in equal measure on Michonne's face to clutch mercilessly at Andrea's heart.

"I want you to give this a chance," Andrea breathed.

"You're wrong about this place," Michonne stated with conviction as she rose to stand. In her boots, she stood a few inches taller than her barefoot friend.

"And what makes you so sure, a few bullet holes?" Andrea questioned defiantly. "Phillip explained-"

Andrea's sentence cut short as she noticed Michonne tense at the mention of the governor's real name.

"This isn't about Woodbury, is it?" Andrea accused as recognition dawned. "This place could be a USDA certified utopia and you still wouldn't want to be here," She continued, aggressively stepping into the small space separating her and Michonne.

"You're wrong," Michonne repeated, her emotionless voice just above a whisper.

"Enlighten me," Andrea shot back. "Tell me this isn't about us." She demanded, seeking out Michonne's starless eyes for some indication that she wasn't completely off base.

"It's not about us," Michonne pronounced in a low voice while meeting Andrea's challenging gaze. Regret swelled inside her as she saw what little hope was left there wither into disappointment.

The entire room felt laden with defeat as both women stood at a loss for how to bridge the widening chasm between them and their increasingly divergent needs.

"I need to know where I stand, Michonne, I don't want to always have to guess," Andrea confided after a length of silence. "I want to not have to look over my shoulder every moment of every second of every minute of every day. I want a life…I want a future." She finished, her voice filled with newfound determination.

"I can't promise you anything," Michonne admitted honestly. No matter how much she cared for Andrea, she knew she couldn't provide her any semblance of the life they once knew, the life she still wanted.

Fighting back tears, Andrea leaned forward and pressed a solemn kiss onto Michonne's cheek. "I know," She murmured against her soft skin before withdrawing.

It felt suspiciously like goodbye. As she watched the blonde retire to bed, Michonne realized that no amount of preparation could brace her for their final parting.