Disclaimer: I don't own AMC's The Walking Dead or any of its characters, wishful thinking aside.
Authors Note #1: I kind of got blindsided by this little snippet when it popped into my brain and refused to leave last night. It touches on the events of the past two episodes (3x04 - 3x05) and the promo for the coming episode. It is basically meant to fit in between "Say the Word" and the coming episode.
Warnings: Religious discussion, religious questioning, religious imagery, religious allusions, adult language, and some serious season three spoilers.
He hadn't talked to his mother's god since he'd gotten old enough to realize that the lessons life sees fit to teach you are neither easy nor kind. That life is more likely to chew you up and spit you out whole than it is to grant you a favor. That it takes from those who have nothing, only to turn around and spare that of the rich and greedy. Punishing the good and rewarding the evil. Piling poison on top of an already gaping wound until it spoiled the flesh underneath. Rotting good people from the inside out as the unworthy and the undeserving got away Scott-free.
Lord knows he'd tried to justify it, to make sense of it through childish logic and stubborn pride. To try and see the meaning in a God that didn't seem to do much of anything at all. And to understand what his mama saw and felt every time she'd knelt down in front of that cross and prayed.
All else considered, even as a child he'd come to the realization that that kind of reasoning left little room for a benevolent, all knowing deity that was supposed to love it's children more than it did itself. Learning how the world worked through the lessons that life and his mother's god had seen fit to teach him. Through that of an empty belly and the cold grave stone in the church yard that marked where the pastor had given some long, flowery speech and lowered their mama six feet deep in the hard, Georgian soil.
He'd seen people waste their lives talking to a so-called "almighty father" long before the world had seen fit to end on them - hoping and praying for their own personal miracle instead of knucklin' down and getting their hands dirty. Hell, he'd seen mothers praying for dead children, while ignoring the ones they had left, and fathers that tithed too much at Sunday service and sweated by the bucket load. Too busy trying to assuage their guilty consciences while their mistresses sat pretty in expensive city condos and outfits that probably cost more than his yearly salary down at Sal's garage to realize that they were completely missing the point of redemption.
He'd seen a lot of people court the concept of religion. His mama and her pastor, his great aunt Amelia, the Wilson family down the road, and all those stern, stiffly dressed people in the photo albums his mother used to show him. People she'd called family even though he'd never met a single one of them. He'd even seen soldiers in uniform sidle into the old church on Main Street before they were due to be shipped off overseas, using the armed forces as their one way ticket out of a back roads farming town that was already long past its prime.
They were often little more than boys. Boys masquerading as men in uniforms they'd yet to earn, looking uncomfortable and awkward as they sweated bullets in the searing Georgian sun. Sweaty hands clutching their deployment papers as tightly as an infant grasping at its mother's apron strings, completely oblivious to the giggling teenage girls that gawped out their mother's living room windows, watching with unbridled interest as the soldier of the moment tucked their cap underneath their arm and ducked through the heavy oak doors when they figured no one was looking. Dead set on squaring things up with the man upstairs before they took off halfway across the world in the name of world peace and fighting terrorism. Only to come back in a seven by three stainless steel box draped with a fancy American flag and a solemn-faced honor guard.
One can only assume, considering the outcome, that their prayers for safe keeping and protection, like so many before them, had gone unanswered.
He'd always figured that if there was a god, it didn't care much about what was going on down here. And that was before the infection. To be honest, the bastard sounded like every absent father figure he'd ever had the misfortune of pinning his hopes on, so in the end he supposed that the likeness actually fit. - But who knew, maybe god was just a sadistic little asswipe with a magnifying glass and an ant farm. Either way it didn't make much difference. He'd never been one to let other people dictate the terms of his life and he certainly wasn't about to start now.
Who cared that the world had gone and ended on them? It was all just the same shit, but on a different day as far as he was concerned. The only thing that had really changed was them, living or dead it made no difference. The world was exactly the same as it'd always been. There were just less people around that were aware of it. The planet didn't need them to survive. It's pretty much the other way around actually.
But then again, he figured that was the difference between him and other people. Destiny was for people who believed that their lives were ultimately controlled by something or someone other than themselves. Fate was for people that knew differently. Fate is what you make. It's a path that you and only you can control, an amalgamation of a million different choices that when woven together make up the founding constructs of your life.
Either way you wanted to look at it, it seemed like god and prayer were the order of the day lately. People were either prayin' to a deaf god or cursing his name. Even the others had been known to dwell on it every now and again. For example, there had been a span of months in deep winter where things had gotten particularly bad. Days where they'd all gone to bed tired. Nursing hollow bellies and bodies wracked through with the type of chill that went bone deep and refused to leave. And nights where flimsy boundaries like personal space and propriety were breached in favor of making it through the night. Where they'd ended up sleeping together in a pile, all jutting hips and adventurous limbs, until everyone was tangled together with everyone else - hoping to hell that when morning dawned, it would bring with it a vestige of that searing Georgian sun they'd all cursed during the summer.
It was during that span of weeks, weeks where things had gone from bad to worse that he'd stumbled on Hershel, Maggie, and once even Rick yelling out their frustrations to an unsympathetic winter sky. Cursing and pleading to deity that was either cruel, sadistic or had long since given up caring.
But not Carol… In fact, he hadn't heard her talk about the man upstairs since the day after Sophia and the barn close to a year ago now. Not once. He hadn't been there the day she'd gotten rid of her necklace. The one with the plain silver cross she'd always used to play with whenever she was thinking about something. Running it back and forth across her lower lip, as those delicate finger nails had curled around the cheap metal chain.
It'd been simply there one day and gone the next. But it wasn't for lack of trying. She stuck around pretty close these days – and the truth was that he did the same. It was just one of the many unspoken things that had formed between them in the intervening months. Now it just seemed natural, like it was second nature or some sort of addiction that he just couldn't seem to break.
It seemed like he did a lot of that these days. …Watching. Not necessarily watching out for her, but just watching. It was a hell of a lot more than old J.C had ever done at any rate. Besides that, it felt right somehow. …Easy. It fit together between them like something good – like something subtle and unobtrusive, but deeply rooted and irrepressible. Like a stubborn, half dead sapling stretching out towards a dying stream, too far gone to cut its losses but too desperate not to try.
So, he didn't pray to his mother's god when he fingered her scarf. He didn't pray or kneel down like his mama used to as he'd rubbed the familiar material between his fingers. All too aware of the way the blood-splattered fabric rasped across his blistered callouses as he threaded the thin cotton through his dirty fingers. Breathing her in as her scent rose up in the close space, fanning out around him until all he could smell, all he could taste was her.
He didn't pray then, and he reckoned he never would. Praying meant he needed someone else's help dealing with his own god damned problems. Praying meant that he wasn't strong enough to handle whatever life saw fit to throw at him alone. It meant facing the prospect that she might not be coming around the corner at any moment. Tired, dirty, and exhausted, but alive. It meant admitting that she might really be gone. Gone like his momma and Merle, gone like every person he'd ever let himself give a damn about in his entire fuckin' life.
Praying meant admitting that he had a weakness. …And that his weakness had a name.
But later, much later, when the baby had finally dropped off to sleep, safe and snug in the crook of his arm. He couldn't deny that he hadn't looked over at Carol's things and thought about it.
A/N #1: Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think! Reviews and constructive critiquing are love!
"Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart." ― Mahatma Gandhi