Blood and Whiskey
Summary: Rick isn't the only one that sees ghosts.
Disclaimer: I don't own it. I don't profit off it. More's the pity!
Silk-spun hair and glinting eyes, with a quiet smile only for him; his pale pink rose waited by the window in the mussed room. His steady blue gaze trailed a small form in a short, pastel dress and bare feet, leaning casually against the sill with an expression bordering on the playful, just as it always had.. Outside rain and dusk settled on the shoulders of Georgia and for once there wasn't a kicking walker in sight. They said nothing for the longest time, then he moved, predator to prey. He towered over her, snaked one hand around her waist and the other her neck, bringing her forward to his mouth.
He shut out the sight of the word, kissing her forehead and inhaling the gentle scent of her hair. She was warm and comforting, like a spell of the spring wrapped around him. How long had it been since he had felt this way? How long since he had visited the past, no matter how far it was from him now?
The forbidden word came unbidden to his ears. He stood back, took her chin in his hand and memorized her face as he had a million times before. "That isn't my name anymore," he chided softly, but he couldn't keep a hint of steel out of his voice.
Her eyes became teasingly petulant. "Would you have me call you Governor?"
The very idea was chilling. The Governor was someone he never wanted her to meet. "Of course not," he hissed, curling his hands around her arms, for a second almost too tight. She said nothing in complaint, neither moved nor reproved him, and he sighed, rubbing the offense away. It had been a careless movement, something he wouldn't give a thought to these days, but some tiny part inside of him was uneasy. In a milder tone he tried to pass it off lightly. "What's in a name anyway?"
Her ruby lips curved up softly. She had this way of looking through him, seeing into the very depths of who he was. There was no anger, no resent in her countenance, only a flicker of sorrow. "Have you forgotten my name?"
Sarah. His sides tensed and his breath caught in his chest. That name he would never forget. It blazed through his thoughts like fire when he let himself go like this, let himself reminisce. "Never," he whispered hard, pressing his forehead to hers. He held her to him again, glaring at a drop of rain as it trailed the window behind his dead wife. It hit the outside of the wooden sill, collected into a small pool before being washed away. Water to water, memories to mind, you never forgot what was yours.
Movement outside the house caught his attention and he stiffened.
Sarah turned to view what had disturbed him. Beyond, just visible in the dark, a walker struggled, pinned beneath an overturned horse trailer. Instinctively, his arms tightened possessively around her. She leaned her fragile frame into his protective embrace and breathed, "Will you let them kill me, Philip?" Will you let this evil destroy my memory? she was really asking.
He shook his head, still entranced by the walker, mildly stirred by the use of his name. "I would never, never have let them… I'll protect you…" he started, only to be stopped by a finger to his lips.
"Shhh," she crooned, drawing his face to hers, intimately close and infinitely far away. "I know." Her eyes were warm, assuring. One of her hands smoothed down his throat, stopping to rest over his heart. "I know I can depend on you to keep me alive." And that was just what he had failed to do, way back when. He made a noise halfway between a snort and a groan, but his wife went on, trusting, as always utterly pliant to his promises. "You always wanted me to depend on you. Never wanted me to lift a finger."
With a knit brow he backed away, sat back into a chair at a desk beside the window and watched her for a long moment as she watched him right back, her expression undaunted by his mood. He poured himself a glass of whiskey from the bottle he had stashed in the drawer and searched her eyes for some sort of rebuke. There was none. "Everything I ever did was for you, to protect you. Maybe if you appreciated that more…" He was starting to let himself slip into that present tense again, a dangerous ground to tread. "It was my job to protect you." My job to keep you by my side.
"I always appreciated you. You know that." She was his own conscience reminding him. It was easy to blame her for leaving that night, because then he didn't have to blame himself. If only he had insisted she wait, or never go at all. If only she had listened to him when he told her not to go!
"Is freedom and death better than being with me?" he wondered aloud, not for the first time. He swallowed the first shot of whiskey down straight. It loosened his tongue, allowed him to feel again. "God, I miss you, Sarah."
Her hair was pushed behind her ears, he noticed, and resisted the old urge to tug one side down as he used to when she was trying to concentrate. She looked to the side as if reading his mind, her lips curling into a smile. How could she do that? Make him ache with a glance? Even in her last days, no matter the arguments they'd had or the day to day torments they had been through, she had still seen him with those soft and liquid eyes, had still loved him.
"You shouldn't," he warned her, watching for that spark of fear. Yes, as he had told Milton, Penny would be afraid of her father in the form he was in now. And Sarah? He shook his head and drained another glass, willing himself to let go. "You wouldn't if you knew what I was."
"I know what you are," she replied steadily. "I don't have to agree with your choices to love you." And she would, too. That he knew beyond the shadow of a doubt. And that's what made him draw his face away as if he could escape her unconditional gaze. She had always seen through to his soul, had always loved him without judgment or spite, always found that part inside him that fell down to its knees in need of her. She would look for it still, if she were alive, would look inside him and believe Philip was still there waiting for her.
But what if he wasn't?
"Go away, Sarah," he told her tersely, not meeting her eyes. "You're nothing but a ghost." It was getting easier to stop his conscience from eating away at him. It was getting easier to harden himself. Maybe he should forget, should let the walkers kill her. If her memory would leave him alone, if he would leave himself alone…
"A ghost?" she scoffed, kicking at the leg of his chair as if daring him to get up. "Is that why you won't teach me to kill biters?"
The thought of a gun in his dead wife's hands made him go cold. He reached out, took her hands in his and smoothed his fingers along hers. "I won't ever let you get your hands dirty," he told her, looking down as she traced the blood in his, scarlet against her snowy skin. Her memory would never leave him alone.
The door behind him opened and she was gone, the fantasy banished in an instant and that part of himself turned off, maybe for the last time this time. The Governor didn't bother to meet the questioning eyes at first, only continued rubbing his fingers together as if he could still feel her touch. Little shards of glass and blood mixed with whiskey dripped onto the floor.
By the time he looked up Martinez had schooled his expression. Neither he nor Shumpert had said much of anything in the past 48 hours since the attack on the prison, though the atmosphere between the three men had remained just as tense. When they had broken into this abandoned house after ridding it of stray walkers outside, both had left the Governor to his thoughts, content to take orders and keep their mouths shut. Right now Martinez was eyeing his leader's hands, but didn't seem poised to inquire, so the Governor smiled and held his fingers up. "Had a little accident," he said with just a hint of steel behind his deceptively easy veneer, watching, weighing the man's reaction.
Martinez visibly swallowed, but stood his ground. "Right. You want some help with that?"
"I got it," The Governor replied, unwavering and unblinking. He waited a moment, then said, "You wanted something?"
"We found a map." It seemed an afterthought the way he said it, like he had to search for a reason. Nerves, perhaps. The Governor knew he had every right to be nervous. But he would bear watching. Both of them would. The man went on. "Wondered if you wanted to have a look. Make a plan."
The Governor stood up, grabbing the whiskey with his cut up hands, paying no mind to the blood or the pain. "Why don't we leave the planning for tomorrow? Let's have a drink tonight. Unwind."
The suggestion was innocuous enough, but Martinez still looked uncomfortable as he nodded slowly, still eyeing the Governor's bloody hands. What could he do but agree with a madman? "Sure." The Governor didn't miss his glance for a gun at his leader's side, nor miss the uneasiness when he didn't find one. He masked it with oh-so-polished concern. "Let me, ah, get some first aid, okay?"
The Governor had almost forgotten the blood on his hands. "Yeah," he said, surveying the damage again. "Guess you better."
No, he would never let Sarah get her hands dirty. His hands were filthy enough for the both of them, a man and his memories.
A/N: Listening to Llovera from the Breaking Dawn 1 soundtrack, groping blindly through a maniac's mind. :-o