I'm not sure what the distance between King's County and Atlanta is meant to be on the show, but considering Rick was able to ride there on horseback, AND get stuck in a tank AND and a department store for a while, AND travel out to the base camp at the quarry all in one day, I'm guessing it's not far... Then again sometimes it takes like an hour to walk from Woodbury to the prison, and sometimes it takes a whole day. ;)

Chapter 3.

Andrea pushed through a set of saloon doors, and was instantly blasted with country music, pouring from a jukebox in the darkened corner by the restrooms. Scanning the patrons – were those men actually wearing cowboy hats? And not ironically? – , she spotted Rick slumped over the bar, staring morosely into the depths of his glass.

He glanced up at her briefly when her shadow fell over him. "Sit down," he told her, raising his empty glass to signal to the bartender that he was ready for a refill. "Have a drink. I'm buying."

His condition had deteriorated since she spoke to him on the phone. A few more glasses and he wouldn't even be able to stand up on his own. "Don't you think maybe you've had enough?" she asked him gently.

"There's not enough whiskey in the world to make me forget what I just heard," he argued stubbornly, lowering his glass once he had the bartender's attention, and she felt her heart go out to him.

"One drink," she conceded, shrugging out of her suit jacket and climbing onto the stool next to his, "but then I'm taking you home."

He eyed her sidelong. "That's kind of forward of you, don't you think?" he asked, flashing her an impish grin.

She knew he was being funny, but she forced her face into a stern expression. "To your home."

The bartender came over to top up his drink, and she ordered a glass of sauvignon.

"That's if Shane hasn't already moved in," Rick said once the man was out of earshot again.

Andrea thought back to what he had told her on the phone. "Your best friend, huh? That must be rough."

"Losing your job is rough. Finding out that your wife is cheating on you is rough. This is…"

"Excruciating," she finished for him. She tried to imagine the same thing happening with Michonne, and to her relief, realised that she couldn't. "Are you sure there isn't anyone I can call? Mom? Dad? Brother? Sister?" Her voice broke on the last word, but fortunately he was too busy drowning his own sorrows to take note of hers.

"Shane and Lori are the only family I have besides Carl."

She remembered seeing that name on the divorce papers, in the section on minor children. "That's your little boy?" she asked, hoping to get him off the subject of his wife's affair and onto a more pleasant topic.

"Yeah, only he's not such a little boy anymore. More like twelve, going on twenty." He regarded her with interest for the first time since her arrival. "What about you? You got any kids?"

She shook her head.

"Husband? Boyfriend?"

"Nope," she admitted, sipping her drink. "It's just me."

"That explains what you're doing sitting in a bar at ten o'clock on a work night, comforting a complete stranger," he teased her.

She decided to take this as an opening. "Why did you call me, Rick?" she asked, fidgeting with the stem of her wineglass. "I'm not your girlfriend. I'm not even really your friend."

He shrugged. "You're the only one who knows about Lori," he said simply.

"I guess that's as good a reason as any," she agreed, swallowing the dregs of her wine.

She pushed the empty glass aside, and reached over, placing her hand on top of his where it rested on the bar. "I know it doesn't feel like it now, Rick, but you'll get through this," she said, squeezing his fingers.

He looked up at her, his eyes suddenly lucid. "How can you be so sure?"

"Because you have to. Your son is counting on you."

"This is yours?" Rick asked, watching Andrea unlock a sensible silver Prius. He had sobered up a little, enough to walk to the car unaided. "It's nice."

She thought wistfully of sleek black Mercedes she had owned back in Florida. "You should have seen the one I had before," she told him. "Now that was a nice car."

"So why did you get rid of it?"

Her mind was filled with a flash of blinding light, followed by the screech of metal as it folded in on itself.

She shoved the nightmarish memory aside, pretending not to have heard him as she slid into the driver's seat. "Where do you live?"

He gave her his address and she programmed it carefully into her GPS.

They drove the few blocks in silence, him with his eyes closed, leaning his head against the window, while she concentrated on following the sat nav's directions.

"Is this it?" she asked, pulling up in front of a pretty blue and white house with a wide porch, and a neatly trimmed lawn. It was exactly the kind of house she pictured a hard-working blue-collar family man like him living in; the very antithesis of her own expensive yet soulless city apartment.

"Yeah." He retrieved a thick wad of bills out of his pocket. "Here," he said, pressing them into her palm.

She looked from her hand, back up to him. "What's this?"

"Your consultation fee."

She had almost forgotten the circumstances of their first meeting. "I don't want your money, Rick," she told him, returning it to him.

"Then what do you want?" he asked, pocketing them again. It wasn't an accusation, but a genuine question.

Her face grew hot as she considered her answer. The truth was, she had no idea. Yes, he had made the first move by calling her, but she was under no obligation to show up like she did.

"I just wanted to make sure you got home safely," she answered finally. She glanced towards the house, where his wife was no doubt waiting up for him. "Are you going to be all right?"

"I have to be. Isn't that what you said?" He glanced over at her with a small, strained smile.

"Come by my office tomorrow around two and we can talk about your case," she offered. "If you're not too hung-over, that is."

She reached across the console and gave his hand another light squeeze. "I won't let you lose your son."

This time, his smile was genuine. "Thank you."

For a moment they just studied each other in silence, neither of them sure what else to say.

That was, until he cleared his throat. "Goodnight, Andrea," he told her, climbing out of the car abruptly, and seconds later he was gone.

"I thought you said he was just a client?" Michonne repeated the next morning when Andrea related her adventure over coffee in the firm's tiny kitchen.

"He is a client, Michonne," Andrea assured her defensively. Her friend's reaction was making her wish she hadn't said anything.

"Do you always meet your clients in bars? Because I sure don't."

"He needed someone to talk to, so we talked. It's not like I slept with him," Andrea insisted, even though thinking back to that fleeting moment in the car where something might have happened if Rick hadn't taken his leave, she couldn't help wondering if she hadn't already crossed some invisible line. She knew she should pass the case over to Michonne, and yet something stopped her.

"Anyway, aren't you the one who's always telling me I need to get out more?"

"You know that's not what I meant," Michonne complained. "How much do you really know about this guy anyway? For all you know, he could be a rapist or a serial killer or something."

Andrea laughed at the idea of Rick harming anyone when he couldn't even seem to find it in himself to be genuinely angry at his wife. "He's not a serial killer, Mich. He's just a guy who's going through a hard time. And I'm helping him with it, that's all."

"It's a slippery slope, Andrea," Michonne warned her. "I just don't want to see you get hurt."

"I'll be careful, Mich, I promise," Andrea assured her. She grinned. "I won't go out to any more bars with him."

But Michonne was still frowning. "That's not what I'm worried about."