"Seen Merle?" Rick appeared in the cell door, his eyes flicking over her as he settled his shoulder against the metal bars. The bright morning sun warmed the entire block behind him, accentuating the stains on his shirt. Lori's eyes narrowed to inspect them – her husband needed some new clothes, badly.
Shaking her head, she looked up from where Judith was nursing, bundled up to her chest. Beth shifted on the bed next to her and quirked her mouth before speaking unsurely, as though she was nervous to share whatever it was that she had to say.
"Carl said he was tearing up mattresses in D-Block," she informed them, her voice low as she glanced past Rick to make sure no one else was listening in. "I don't think he's looking for something to read…"
Lori's eyes widened at the girl's revelation and she turned from her profile to look at her husband, asking him silently if he was going to do anything about the man who had done nothing but cause trouble since his arrival. He scuffled his feet under her imploring gaze and lowered his eyes to the floor.
"Drugs, Rick?" she finally asked. "He is around our son. The cussing and the attitude is enough, I won't have-," she stopped short when he lifted his eyes, narrowing them warningly. Swallowing, Lori turned her attention back to the baby. "I'm just saying that someone needs to keep a better eye out if he is going to be around." She hated the meek waiver in her voice as she spoke, trying to backpedal back to the safe zone that they had established. Moistening her lips she passed Judith over to Beth who positioned the infant onto her shoulder.
Gripping the bunk above her, Lori got to her feet and made her way over to her husband, who was watching her, his jaw set, his body language telling her that he was on the defensive. Reaching out, she brushed his knuckles before capturing his fingers in her own, stepping into his space. "I'm sorry," she sighed, leaning in to rest her forehead against his shoulder, her stomach finding his. "I worry," she admitted, closing her eyes when he released her hand to pull her into a hug.
"I know," Rick pressed a kiss to the spot above her ear before he rested his cheek there, the bristle of his beard catching her hair. "I've got this," he assured her, pulling back to force her to meet his eyes. "Trust me to keep you safe."
Nodding, Lori offered him a tight smile. "I do," she promised, stepping back. "Better go take care of it then."
Rick's fingers brushed over her cheek one more time before he stepped out. Watching him go, Lori released a long breath and turned back to Beth, who had put Judith down on the bed to swaddle her blanket again. The teenager looked up at her as she approached, offering her a gentle smile.
"You two are sweet," she bubbled, plucking Judith's hands out from inside the folds of the blanket.
Lori paused, hesitating before taking a seat at her daughter's head. Reaching out, she smoothed the soft brown wisps of hair that seemed to cover more and more of her scalp everyday. The baby was in the early stages of nodding off, her heavy eyelids barely parted as she gazed up at Beth, her tiny brow furrowed.
"Complicated is the word," Lori divulged, pursing her lips. "If a boy asks you to marry him before you're thirty, run," she joked softly, only half-serious. She loved Rick, there was a time when she had questioned if even that much was true, but she knew now without a doubt in her mind that she did. But it didn't make it any easier, especially after everything they'd been through.
Beth breathed a small laugh, lifting one shoulder, her head tilting. "I don't think that I will have to worry about that," she chirped, her eyes belying her disappointment that lingered just below the surface of her good-nature.
Frowning, Lori caught the end of the girl's ponytail and tugged, drawing her attention upwards, away from the dozing baby. "One day it will catch you by surprise. Look at Maggie and Glenn," she pointed out, twisting golden strands around her fingertips. "They found love under the most desperate circumstances – when we were all on the verge of giving up."
Beth smiled, this time more genuinely, her eyes fixed on the ringlet that Lori was creating in her hair. "Yeah… maybe my prince charming will stumble out of the woods any day now."
Dropping the girl's hair, Lori reached for Judith, but was stopped by Beth's hand on hers. "Daddy wants to read scripture," she released Lori's hand and picked up the baby. "I'll drop her off with Carol so you can get some rest." Getting to her feet she lifted the baby with her.
Lori nodded in agreement, fixing Judith's blanket. "Bring her back if she's a hassle," she requested, watching Beth's retreating form.
The sun burned her eyes as she slipped out through the heavy steel door and onto the chain link enclosed overpass. The spring morning was almost magical as the quiet of the prison yard enclosed around her and she left the cold interior of the prison behind. She was grateful for the security their new home provided, at least for the moment, but cement walls and floors, and its bolted institutional furniture was no sight for sore eyes. She was, frankly, sick of looking at it.
Taking a deep breath of fresh air, she swept the yard with her eyes, massaging her tender abdomen in slow careful circles. As much as she wanted to sleep, she was in enough pain that it hurt to lay down as much as it did to be on her feet. She tried to keep it to herself but she knew that Hershel, Beth, and Carol were well enough aware.
She just hoped they could keep it to themselves as far as her husband was concerned. Across the yard, she heard one of the doors squeak and then close. Squinting in the sunlight, she spotted her husband crossing the blacktop, his chin lowered, his brow pinched. He looked stressed, which wasn't a surprise under the circumstances, but it did seem to be more than that. He was keeping something from her, maybe all of them, and she had the sneaking suspicion it has something to do with his meeting with the Governor. He hadn't said much about it the day before, but she'd noticed an uncomfortable tension between Rick and Hershel during supper, and then he'd been quiet and less talkative than usual when they'd finally gotten themselves to bed.
She felt her brow knit as she watched him crouch down near a pile of office clutter and begin sifting through the debris before finally picking up a blue electrical cord. He began sorting the tangled heap of wire, wrapping it around his wrist. Curious, she leaned in closer to watch him as she pinched his brown, trembling and distressed, his face reddening under the pressure of his thoughts.
Finally he looked up at her, and she shifted, wondering if she should go down to him. She knew he would be upset if she did, after the attack from Woodbury, so she stayed put, gripping the chain link that separated them. Lori frowned when he quickly looked away, pinching his nose bridge again, just for a moment before returning his gaze to her, cautious, tentative. Taking a deep breath, she tried to keep her features neutral and unconcerned as she internally worked herself up. Something was wrong and it wasn't something he was willing to share with her.
She watched him mutter to himself, his lips barely moving before he glanced up one more time and unwound the cord from his arm. He discarded it to the ground and got to his feet before moving stiffly away, leaving her afraid in his wake.
Carol looked to Lori as Rick excused himself from the group, leaving them to process the options that he had laid out for them; whether to stay and fight the Governor, or cut their losses and leave. The woman beside her had her eyes fixed on the floor as she learned forward, perched on the edge of the bench. Carol wondered for the briefest of moments if the strong brunette had finally been pushed beyond her endurance, as she looked like she was about to pass out or vomit, or both. But then she lifted her chin, her mouth set into a determined line, and Carol almost shook her head; Lori was one hell of a woman.
"Do you think he means for us to decide now?" she asked, turning to peer at her daughter, her teeth catching her bottom lip as she inspected the sleeping baby in Carol's arms.
Glenn moved toward the table to stand next to Beth, his fingers threaded through Maggie's. "I think we should stay. We've been out there before. There's nothing better than this."
Carol opened her mouth to agree, but was cut off my Hershel who suggested it would be better to leave. Ever the optimist, the old man insisted that if they could find a safe haven once, they would be able to do it again somewhere else.
Turning her attention away from the debate, Carol turned to Lori again. "What do you think?" she asked, eyeing the other woman's hands as she twisted her wedding band around her left ring finger, the loose gold band glittering in the sunlight.
"I think that I don't understand how we could keep a thing like this from me," she sighed, dropping her hands to brace her palms on the bench, shifting uncomfortably.
Carol felt the corners of her mouth turn up. "Whether he did or he didn't," she shook her head, "it doesn't matter in the grand scheme. I'm sure it wasn't personal."
Nodding, Lori turned back to the baby again, her own face warming into a smile. "She looks like a little doll in that," she observed, nodding to the yellow crotchet dress with matching booties and blanket.
"It was in the bag Daryl brought back that night," Carol told her, silently agreeing that Judith looked particularly adorable in the outfit. Patting the baby's diaper covered bottom she sighed. "I hope he's okay out there," she muttered, considering the man who she found herself feeling more and more connected to. "Maybe we should go out after him."
Lori moved closer to her until their elbows and thighs touched, her arm falling over Carol's own shoulders, pulling her into a hug. "I'm sure he's already with Merle, and that they're just fine. Those Dixon's are the toughest son's of bi-," she cut herself off with a small laugh and glanced between her two children. "They'll be back in time for supper."
The confidence in Lori's tone was enough to ease her worries for the moment and she leaned into her friend, pulling Judith closer into their hug. "I think we should stay right here," she said decidedly, glancing up at the heated debate that the others were having at the table.