The first time they make love after he finds her again, it’s like Lori’s a stranger. It haunts Rick, the way she tenses underneath him when all he needs is to feel her.
He risked everything to find her, and if she won’t touch him, then Rick figures his life might as well be over anyway.
“Tell me we’re okay,” Rick whispers to her by the lake the next morning.
He knows from the way her eyes dart from side to side that Lori is shocked and trying to make sense of her thoughts. She’s never heard him speak like this before; he acknowledges. There are all the weeks, months, and years he’s been keeping her in the dark. Rick doesn’t talk about his emotions. Doesn’t confide in his wife about how stressful it is being a cop. Doesn’t tell her about the things he’s seen and done.
In this new world, the old rules no longer apply. Rick sees Lori with fresh eyes now, and silently vows to be a better husband, a better man.
If only she’d come back to him.
When night falls, Rick marvels at the way Lori’s silky soft skin is illuminated by the moonlight, practically the only thing he can see in their dim tent.
He thinks she’s never looked more beautiful.
“What are you starin’ at?” She asks, a faint smile on her lips.
“Never seen you like this before.”
“Without my legs shaved, you mean?”
“Lori…” He puts his hand on her shoulder.
“What?” She swats his hand away playfully.
“Aren’t I allowed to look at my wife?”
She is silent. The distance between them seems to grow.
“Nearly dyin’ changes a man.” Rick exhales sharply.
“Maybe all this has changed me too.”
Rick wonders then if he’s lost her altogether, if their marriage is unsalvageable. His heart aches.
“Has it changed the way you feel about me?” He asks shakily. “Because the thought of losing you and Carl again…”
“You didn’t lose us.” She is choking back tears. “You found us, against all the odds.”
“Yeah,” he whispers, reaching out to stroke her face. “And I’d do it again. Wouldn’t let the walkers stop me.”
“We can make this work,” she says, sniffing loudly. “I know we can.” It is as though she is trying to convince herself, he notes.
But they will make things work. They have to.
Lori presses a kiss to Rick’s lips, delicate and searching. They grope for each other in the darkness, and Rick feels the kind of excitement he did around her when they were horny teenagers, exploring each other’s bodies for the first time.
“Is this okay?” He asks her, pulling at the hem of her shirt. It’s weird, asking someone he’s been married to all these years if he can undress her.
“It’s fine,” she replies, cupping his face in her hands, pressing their noses together. “We both need this. Guess I just hadn’t realized how much.”
He smiles against her skin, his stubble grazing the crook of her neck.
“Go nice and slow,” Lori says, taking her shirt off.
She is wearing nothing underneath. Rick aches for her. As he covers her body with his body, Rick realizes he’s never felt so alive.
Everything is as new as day; the taste of her skin as he plants kisses just above her collarbone, the way she writhes underneath him. They’re both a good few pounds lighter now, but Lori’s willowy figure still mesmerizes Rick, shiny brunette locks cascading onto her shoulders.
He can’t remember the last time he touched her like this, savoring every inch of her body. He hadn’t fully understood how much he craved it.
“Go down on me,” she says huskily, voice heavy with need.
“Thought we were takin’ it slow.” Rick stops, catches his breath, and kisses her stomach.
“Now you’re just teasin’.”
Her thighs part. She is heavenly, Rick thinks. He flicks his tongue against her, feels her pulsing in response, hears Lori moaning something incoherent. He hopes it’s his name.
Rick takes her then, because if he doesn’t do it now, then it’s going to be too late. He pushes himself deep inside her, and she wraps her legs around his back. He clasps at her bare shoulder with clammy fingers, clinging on as if they’d been separated for a lifetime and not just a few weeks.
She is hot and wet and tight, and his thrusts are agonizingly slow. He can’t remember the last time they made love like this, so intimately, so drawn out. It is blissful.
In the faint light, Rick can make out the tears cascading down Lori’s face.
“What’s wrong?” He’s still rubbing her shoulder.
“Nothin’.” Lori shakes her head, wiping away the tears. She attempts to speak, but stops, as though she’s having an internal argument with herself.
“Lori, please.” Rick starts to pull out, but she stops him.
“No,” she says. “I want you. I need you. I nearly lost you.”
“I’m here, Lori.” He moves against her, her utter need for him spurring him on. “I’m here.”
They come together, and Rick is swept with a such a sudden burst of pleasure that he almost shrieks. Lori is warm and pliant underneath him, her doe like eyes fixed on his. She strokes the tight muscles on his chest as he collapses against her, and he is spent, both physically and emotionally.
His voice deserts him. There are no declarations of love or sweet nothings whispered in either of their ears.
Lori still feels like a stranger, and Rick has no idea why.