'We had a beautiful, magic love affair'
After the death of Lori, Rick didn't think he would ever love again and after the death of Judith, he didn't think he would ever be able to. Their deaths destroyed him and tore him down until he was only a shell of his former self.
Andrea changed that. She put back together what he thought was unfixable. She healed what he thought was irreparable. Her love saved him and he fell hard until he was completely and irrevocably in love with the feisty sharpshooter.
After he found her in Woodbury things changed for him. She was different. He could see it clearly, like headlights through a dark road and though it was subtle, it was there. At the time he hadn't known what had happened in that room but he still remembers the way he found her; exhausted, bloodied and clutching onto the pliers as she waited for the Governor's inevitable return.
When the door opened and Andrea saw it was Rick on the other side and not her attempted murderer, relief had washed over her like she was being bathed in light. The memory was fuzzy after that but she was told that the exhaustion had gotten the best of her and she had collapsed.
She awoke in a prison cell the next day to find Rick sitting at the end of the bed. They locked eyes and there was something that stirred in both of them that couldn't quite be explained.
That's when things began to change between them.
It was just small things at first.
Rick would give her an extra blanket for her cell claiming hers was the coldest in the prison, but knowing really it was just an excuse to check in on her.
Andrea offered to double her watch shifts claiming that she didn't mind, but knowing Rick needed the rest.
And then it was bigger things.
When the door of Andrea's cell stuck and wouldn't budge, memories of being trapped in the torture chamber came flooding in. She had been frantic, overcome with the post-traumatic stress she didn't know she had and banged on the cell door, screaming for someone to open the damn thing before she shot it down herself.
It took Rick, Daryl, Glenn and Tyreese using every weapon known to man to pry the door off of its hinges. As soon as it came free she was out of the cell and in Rick's awaiting arms.
"The door stays off," he told the others with a terse jaw and no one questioned him.
He stayed with her until she fell asleep for the following three nights.
As time went on they added to the prison, clearing out other cell blocks and taking in more survivors. They used the field for crops and one afternoon after Glenn and Maggie had come back from scouting another wing of the prison, they presented the group with basketballs they had found in one of the storerooms.
Out in the courtyard the next morning it was the men against the women.
Rick couldn't make a shot to save his life, much to the men's dismay and the women's amusement.
"Is that all you got, grandma?" Andrea shouted over at him with a smile that reached her eyes.
Lost in the twinkle of her blue-green orbs, Michonne sideswiped the ball from Rick, earning a groan from Glenn and a rumbling laugh from Hershel on the sidelines.
Unsurprisingly, the women won.
He kissed her for the first time that night. Just a peck on the cheek, something small, but it wasn't the usual for the pair.
Andrea stared at him with a curious look while he merely shrugged in return.
"Is that all you got?" She asked him softly, mirroring her earlier words from the basketball game.
She had grabbed him then, her hands encasing his face as she kissed him hard and forcefully that he barely had time to respond before she was pulling away with a wide grin.
Copying his earlier action, she gave him a shrug before she walked away back to the cell block.
He watched her as she went.
After two weeks of stealing glances and kisses in just about every corner of the prison, he cornered her in her cell.
She had been getting ready for bed, combing out her blonde locks with her fingers. He stared at her and as she noticed his presence, she smiled.
They made love that night, falling asleep in each other's arms.
The day she was born was like this surreal, beautiful moment. He didn't have the words to explain it but the moment he looked into her small eyes, that was it, he was wrapped around her little finger.
They named her Henrietta, Henrietta Amelia Grimes. Henrietta after Rick's father Henry, and Amelia after Andrea's sister Amy.
Every day she grew was a blessing. Like her parents, Etta was a little spitfire. With bright green eyes and blonde hair, she was the image of Andrea. But her smile was distinctively Rick's. At three years old she was the picture of perfect.
It was a beautiful day in Georgia and out of the sixty or so survivors at the prison, some twenty of them were out enjoying the sun. Some were playing basketball, others were sitting around talking as a few of the kids played tag.
Andrea was up in the watchtower on one side of the prison while Rick was on the other, working on reinforcing the fencing with Daryl.
In the middle, in the field, sat Etta who was playing with the dandelions, blowing at them and giggling.
Andrea watched her with a smile and over by the fencing Rick stopped his work to admire his daughter.
But even the most perfect of days could be destroyed.
Just like that, chaos erupted. People were running and screaming and a large pack of walkers were spotted rolling in from the east side of the prison, having broken down the fences.
"No," muttered Rick as he dove off to the right in a sprint.
"Walkers!" Andrea yelled as she came to an immediate stand.
In the centre of the field Etta looked up slowly, confused at the panic that surrounded her. She was born into a post-apocalyptic world, she knew of the monsters that inhabited it. But never before had there been a breach at the prison. Never before had she seen people running with such panic.
"Etta!" Rick yelled, waving his arms at her to come to where he was. "Come here, now!" He demanded.
Standing, the three year old looked around unaware of the dangers that surrounded her.
"Rick, watch her," Andrea shouted across as she began her descent down the watchtower.
Rick couldn't remember ever running so fast. With Daryl on his tail they pounded the pavement in an effort to get to their destination, but they were still a fair bit away from where the event was unfolding.
Panicked, Andrea's heart was pounding as she raced down the steps and burst out the door of the watchtower. She took to the field without hesitation, screaming at her daughter to run to her while at the same time raising her Ladysmith and taking out any walker that got within distance of her toddler.
"Now, Etta!" Rick yelled for what felt like the one hundredth time. But his screams fell upon deaf ears as his daughter stood still, small eyes searching around her in complete and utter confusion.
Everything was blurring together, the sounds were fading into the background.
And they were running and running and running.
But they just couldn't seem to make it there in time.
Rick reached Etta just as a walker came up behind her. He grabbed her, lifting her into his arms as he took out the walker with a single gunshot to its head.
Andrea came up behind him seconds later.
"Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god," she repeated, over and over, a mantra of panic through her laboured breathing. "Is she okay?"
Both parents looked over the small child and found a wound on the back of her shoulder. It was small, but it was definitely a flesh wound, definitely a bite.
Andrea covered her mouth with her hands as a sob ripped through her throat. By the time she took Etta from Rick's arms the fever had burned her out.
She was dead.
She fell to the ground clutching her daughter in her arms with screams so loud that Rick couldn't seem to hear anything else. He stood back, motionless, his eyes looking as dead as the three year old in Andrea's arms.
Rick reached for his holster, his fingers brushing over the python that sat there. His face broke for just a moment at the realisation of what he had to do and a pained sob bubbled in his throat.
It was a blur after that but he can remember Daryl and Michonne pulling a screaming Andrea away from Etta's limp body as a gunshot rang out and he put a bullet between her eyes.
They were never the same after that.
Rick blamed himself, told himself that if he had run faster, that if he had gotten there in time…
Andrea recoiled into herself like she had when Amy died. The once vibrant and playful blonde turned almost comatose. She was no different from the dead, just a shambling body walking aimlessly.
Rick swore that he could still hear her laugh sometimes. That cute, high-pitched giggle. He heard it one day and followed it into the tombs.
There were voices everywhere, he could barely make out two feet in front of him from the tears that burned his eyes.
No, please don't leave me.
I'm coming with you.
We can't leave, I'm pregnant.
This was you, not me!
Come here, now!
He inhaled deeply, his head pounding. He could hear Etta's giggling laugh and followed it as it lead him deeper into the tombs.
One step, two steps, three…
He never did reach his destination. He followed the gunshot back to the cell block where he found Andrea's unresponsive body with a self-inflicted bullet wound to the temple.
He buried her next to Etta. Etta, whose grave sat next to Judith's, whose grave sat next to Lori's.
He heard her laugh again some nights later and while everyone was sleeping and Tyreese was on watch, he followed it again. He let the innocent sound lead him into the darkest of places and when he found where it was that it led him, he sank down onto his knees.
The boiler room.
The room where Lori had died, where Judith had been born.
The room they had been in when Andrea's water had broken during a mapping of the prison as they planned on expanding, where Etta had been delivered after they realised they didn't have the time to get back to the cell block.
The room that contained so much life and so much death.
"No, no, no, no, no."
He repeated the word over and over. He pinched the bridge of his nose and when his sobs died down and everything went quiet he removed his gun from its holster and placed it against his face. He pressed it to his temple, exhaled, and then sat back.
Etta's laugh echoed in his ears, Andrea's cries followed, and then he heard the gunshot.
His eyes were blank as he placed the barrel of the gun into his mouth and he screamed in anguish as he pulled the trigger.
Just like that, everything went black.
And then it was white.
His eyes blinked open slowly, a blur of green through slit lids. A laugh invaded his eardrums, that laugh, her laugh.
Rick opened his eyes to see Etta in the field playing with the dandelions. She was giggling and pulling them apart, blowing and making wishes in such a carefree and happy state.
This time he wasn't running towards her in panic, she was running towards him with a smile so wide his heart rose in his chest. Grinning with the dandelion stems wrapped in her small fist, she raced towards her father happily.
With outstretched arms Etta reached Rick and he scooped her into his embrace with a wide smile. Out of instinct his eyes cast downwards to her shoulder where he saw there was no bite, no torn clothing, no blood.
Etta laughed loudly and raised her arms in the air freely and without worry as Rick came to a slow halt from the little run it took to get to her.
The smile never left his face and to his left he saw Andrea watching them with a peaceful smile of her own.
This time he finally got to her, and he was never letting her go again.
'What a sad, beautiful, tragic love affair'
Inspired by the Taylor Swift song 'Sad Beautiful Tragic' and Fringe (hence why the daughter's name is Henri(Etta), I couldn't bring myself to change it).