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Shane Walsh wasn’t convinced.  “So what?  Say we do, we jus’ run off.  What’s in it for me except for the extra ass I gotta cover?”

“The chance to do something for someone else.”

“Yeah.”

“And a door that swings both ways,” Andrea Harrison emphasized.  “Put a gun in my hand, I'll cover your ass too.”

The Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 1 “What Lies Ahead”

 


 

Exit Stage Left

 

Petals fall / Easy when I'm with you now / Such a chaotic start
But I'm hopeful for the future now / And I thank the universe for this gift
                                                                                                        You and me / You've got me                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Petals fall / Petals fall / Petals fall

Trouble calls easy when I'm with you now / There's danger in your smile
There's pleasure in right now / Now do we make this better / Will we ever?
Don't wanna leave, baby never, no / I need you in my arms
Don't make me wish it / Can't you see that you've got me?

 Anna Wise featuring Xavier Omär - “Easy”

 

“I shoulda left with you when I had the chance.” 

Ten words that would change both Shane’s and Andrea’s lives forever, but they didn’t know it yet.  After he said them, he walked away from Andrea, wanting to be alone.  It was better to get away and be on his own, since everyone thought he was crazy.  They wouldn’t listen to him about Randall being a serious threat and as Hershel had bluntly put it, they wanted him to keep his mouth shut. 

He had once been the respected leader of the Atlanta group.  They had followed him and he had protected them—until Rick returned.  Then everything changed.  Instead of being the main decision maker, Rick now held that role.  Shane had been unofficially relegated to second-in-command with Rick taking the lead.  Rather than work together, the two best friends clashed, resulting in the group taking sides on whom they felt was best to lead them.  No vote had been taken and there had been no open discussion about it.  Rick being their leader was an unspoken agreement within the group.  It had evolved that way and now Shane found himself standing in the ashes of who he used to be. 

Gone was the leader who had assembled the rag-tag group of survivors in Atlanta.  In his place stood a belligerent outcast that was pushing himself closer off the edge of sanity, while the group he had once led watched without offering him a hand to pull him back.  None of them cared if he fell over, completely lost and gone forever.  Being in the group was like dying a slow and painful death: terrifying and lonely.  No one knew what he was going through, and worst of all…no one cared.   

One person cared.  Andrea.  He appreciated Andrea reaching out to him and now he wished he had left with her before they had found Hershel’s farm.  When they had been at the church, she suggested they leave together and he had blown her off.  Instead, he waited around, hoping that he could take care of the baby Lori would bring into this world.  Regardless of what Rick wished and Lori wanted, that baby was his.  He was going to be a father and he took it very seriously.  There was also Carl to think about.  He had grown to love the younger Grimes as his own son.  Shane couldn’t stand the thought of leaving Carl with his family.  Especially since Rick was prioritizing Randall’s life as worthy of saving—instead of putting Carl’s and Lori’s safety first.  It was infuriating and Shane didn’t want to think about it anymore.  Better to get the hell away from everyone—including Andrea.

Andrea heard the regret in Shane’s voice.  She had just finished telling him that he was right about his decisions, but that his presentation needed work.  He came across as aggressive and forceful, and was sarcastic at times.  None of it worked in his favor and he only succeeded in isolating himself more.  The group heard his demanding tone and not his legit concerns.  Shane had never learned the adage: it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.  Andrea hoped she had gotten through to him, but as he walked further away, she realized she would lose him and he would lose himself if this destructive cycle continued. 

She made a decision right then and there.  That was half of the battle.  The other half was finding out if Shane felt the same way.  Andrea believed he would since she was the only one who sought him out, made an effort to understand him, and show him that she “got” him.  No one else bothered to do that—definitely not Rick or Lori.  Knowing that she had a small window of time, Andrea quickly caught up with him.  As she approached him, she was reminded of the first time she went after Shane in the cemetery and offered to leave with him.  She hoped he would be more receptive this time around.

“What’s stopping you?”

Shane stopped in his tracks and turned around to face her.  “Come again?”                               

“What’s stopping you from leaving?”

He looked at her, puzzled, uncertain of what to make of her question.  Then he scowled, clearly annoyed.  “You sayin’ you’d be glad if I left—jus’ like the rest of ‘em.  Thanks a lot, Andrea.  Jus’ when I thought someone here had my back.”

Andrea sighed, exasperated.  “That’s not how I meant it, Shane.”

“Then what’d you mean?”

He sounded impatient and she tried not to mirror it.  “I meant what’s keeping you here?  If you want to leave, then leave.”  She paused as she thought about what she was about to say.  She hoped he knew she meant it.  “I’ll go with you.  You just said you should’ve left with me when you had the chance—I’m giving you an out, Shane—because I want to leave too.”

Shane rubbed his head, a constant habit born from his anxiety.  “You wanna leave—an’ put all this behind you?”  He gestured to Hershel’s home and then the wide expanse of farmland. 

 “If it means I’ll have peace of mind being separate from this group, then yes, I’m willing to leave.  You just said that you and I are the odd ones out.  The outsiders.”

“Always have been.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

He looked off to the distance, imagining them far from the Greene farm. On the road.  With a new group?  No, he didn’t want that.  He just wanted to put distance between himself and Rick.  He couldn’t believe how much their friendship had changed and it was the last thing he thought would ever happen, but the outbreak changed everything.  It had changed him and he accepted that, but no one else was on board with him…except Andrea.

Andrea watched Shane, knowing he was internally debating her proposal.  She prepared herself for another rejection, although she didn’t see why he would refuse a second time.  Then again, he didn’t outright refuse it the first time—she told him to think about it, but neither of them brought it up again until now.  She offered him friendship and understanding, which he desperately needed, although he would never admit it.  He was on a crash course and she knew what that was like from her recent experiences.  After losing her younger sister, Amy, she walked around depressed, feeling constant loneliness in the group and pressure to live for Dale’s sake.  After Shane gave her shooting lessons, she found her niche and a reason to live again.  She could be a contributing member which was great.  He had empowered her when she needed it most and she didn’t want him falling to the wayside.  She almost had and he had lifted her up when she needed it most.  Now she was doing the same for him, whether he realized it or not.  Just when she thought he’d turn down her offer again, he looked at her, a sly expression on his face.

“Let’s do it—meet me outside sometime in the next twenty-four hours.”

She tried not to let on that she was glad he agreed to leave with her.  Instead, she followed along with planning their departure.  “Too obvious.”

“Alright, so how you wanna do it?”

“We can always sneak out at night when everyone’s sleeping,” Andrea suggested.

Shane shook his head.  “Nah, I wanna get far while the sun’s still up.”  He thought about it some more and then the solution came to him.  “How ‘bout you offer to do a run—an’ I’ll be your back-up?”

A smile lit up Andrea’s face as she realized what he was suggesting.  “We drive off and never come back?”

“Exactly.”

oOo

Several days later, the group had brunch in Hershel’s home.  Carol and Lori had helped prepare a meal for everyone.  After everyone finished eating their meal, they trickled out of the dining room and went to tend to chores around the Greene Farm.  The only ones left at the table were Rick and Hershel—and Andrea and Shane.  Both pairs sat at opposite ends of the table involved in their own conversations. 

“Have you thought of anything else we can do about that kid?”  Hershel asked.  “I don’t want him on my land or near my girls.”

Rick sighed.  The group was still going in circles about how to solve the Randall problem.  He could try dropping him off far from the farm again—he and Shane had attempted to do so the other day and it was unsuccessful as they had gotten into a fist fight and returned to the farm with Randall.  Shane had tried shooting Randall twice and both times Rick had stopped him.  He had also thrown a wrench at Rick, which neither man had forgotten.  Rick tried to shove that memory to the back of his mind.  Shane’s increasing aggressiveness was making him more dangerous and unpredictable.

He thought about executing the kid, but then Dale had an issue with murder as a solution.  The kid could join the group, but nobody wanted that.  Rick shook his head, frustrated.  He had no solid answers.  Then he glanced at Shane and Andrea.  Shane had been outspoken about what he wanted to do about Randall.  Rick figured he’d broach the topic with him again.

“I know we’ve discussed this before, Shane, but do you have other ideas about dealin’ with Randall?”

Andrea and Shane paused in the middle of their conversation.  They both shot quizzical glances at Rick and Hershel, shocked they were being included.

“I had my ideas an’ you stopped me.  You wouldn’t be stuck right now if you let me take that shot.”

“I asked if you had other ideas.  We’re not talkin’ ‘bout what happened last time.”

Shane shrugged.  “Can’t help you there.  I still say you should shoot him between the eyes or hang him, throw his carcass out—”

“That’s cold-blooded murder,” Hershel interrupted.  “Maybe you can go about your day without a care in the world after taking a life, but the rest of us aren’t you and want to sleep peacefully at night.”

Rick noticed Shane looked away when Hershel implied that he could murder another person with no remorse.  He remembered confronting Shane about what happened at the school with Otis and he knew Shane did not take murder lightly.  Rick promised himself to never reveal the truth to Hershel or anyone else.  He had kept Shane’s secret.  Either Hershel instinctively knew the truth or he had found another way to express his intense dislike of Shane—aside from telling him to shut his mouth.

Shane turned to his best friend.  “There you have it, Rick.  I’m ‘cold’ ‘cause I wanna end the life of someone who can endanger everyone’s lives on this farm.  If that kid brings his gang back here, then we’ll find out fast who’s right an’ who’s wrong here.”  He directed the rest of his comments at Hershel.  “An’ it won’t be my problem ‘cause the blood won’t be on my hands, Hershel.  It’ll be on yours, Rick’s, an’ everyone else who wants to give that kid tickets to the Greene Carnival.” 

A faint smile lit up Andrea’s face at Shane’s response.  “He’s right,’ she said.  “Randall’s a death wish waiting to happen and you’re making it too easy for him.  This kid shot at you, but you’re giving him extra special treatment that he doesn’t deserve.  I’m with Shane on this, you should put that kid out of his misery.  Our safety comes first.”

“At least one person has common sense aroun’ here an’ ain’t livin’ in Fantasy Land.”  He offered Andrea a wide grin.

Hershel usually had a calm demeanor.   Now he looked irate as he glared at Shane.  He was about to respond when Rick held up his hand, stopping him before he could release a tirade or kick him out the house. 

“Give him some corn-on-the-cob, chocolate chip cookies, an’ a unicorn stuffed animal to take home!”  Shane added.  “An’ make sure you have enough cotton candy for his lil friends.” 

“That’s enough, Shane,” Rick said.  “You made your point, loud an’ clear.  Andrea…”  He shook his head, unsure of what to say to her.  She felt the same way because now she shrugged and turned away from him. 

“I know I did!  Do what ya’ll want with the kid!”  Shane scoffed.  “Nobody cares ‘bout anythin’ I think ‘round here.”

Rick was stunned and then his anger pushed him forward.  “I jus’ asked for your ideas.”  He pushed away from the table and stood up.

“An’ I jus’ got done tellin’ you what you should do an’ that you don’t care for my ideas when I give ‘em to you.”  Shane stood up, mirroring Rick.  “I jus’ said both those things to you, but you hear what you wanna hear.”

He ignored Shane’s last statements and focused on what he wasn’t directly saying.  “So you’re checkin’ out?”

Rick would’ve sworn Andrea and Shane exchanged a knowing glance in response to his question.  He didn’t like it and he wasn’t sure what to make of it.

“Maybe I am.  You, Hershel, an’ whoever—do what ya’ll want with the kid.  Tar an’ feather him.  Play hop-scotch with him.  Whatever ya’ll do, it ain’t my problem.”  He turned back to Andrea.  “Let’s go shoot some targets.  You been gettin’ better.”

“Thanks to you, Instructor Walsh.”  Andrea smiled as she stood up. 

Without another word to Rick and Hershel, Shane and Andrea left the dining room.

Rick looked at Hershel, puzzled by Shane’s abrupt behavior.  Hershel shrugged.  He had no answers for Rick, although he wished he did.  He also had no more patience for Shane’s lousy attitude.  It didn’t bother him that Shane didn’t offer any reasonable suggestions of how to address the Randall issue.  Hershel respected Rick a whole lot more than he did Shane and he felt confident that whatever Rick ultimately chose, it would work out for the best. 

oOo

Two hours later, Rick was about to go in his tent to speak with Lori about his conversation with Hershel, when he saw Andrea approaching him.  Shane was with her.  Wherever Andrea was these days, Shane was nearby.  The reverse was also true: where Shane was found, Andrea was also found.  So when Andrea made her request and Shane offered to back her up, Rick didn’t think anything of it.  He noticed that the two had been getting closer lately.  Maybe it was a good thing because it meant Shane’s focus was finally off Lori.  New woman, new mindset, Rick thought.

“Rick, I was thinking of going into town to do a run.  I know Glenn usually does it, but I’d like to do it again.”

Rick glanced at Shane, as though questioning him: did you put Andrea up to this?

Shane’s face revealed nothing. 

“I’d get some time off the farm, we can also refresh ourselves,” she said, gesturing towards Shane. 

“So why not take it easy for the rest of the day if you need to refresh yourself?”                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Rick didn’t want to reveal his suspicions.  Andrea offering to help out was great, but something seemed odd about her request and he couldn’t figure it out.  Maybe it had to do with earlier when he asked Shane if he was checking out.  Shane’s response was maybe I am… Rick shook his head.  He was overthinking it.

“I’ll go with her as back-up,” Shane offered.  “It’ll give her a chance to improve her shootin’ skills.  She’s gettin’ really good.  Can’t stop now.”           

Rick was taken back again.  It was strange how all of a sudden Shane wanted to engage in other activities.  Then he tried to see it in a different way: it was for the best.  Instead of storming around Hershel’s farm and blowing up at everyone, Shane could redirect his energy in a constructive way.  On that note, Rick decided to support them in what they wanted to do.  Besides, they’d come back in a few hours.  Any suspicions he had about them would be dissolved when he saw them tonight for dinner.

“Alright, jus’ one thing—” He ducked into his tent and quickly came out with edged weapons.  They were the same ones that Carl had found on the highway.  “I know you wanna practice shooting an’ perfectin’ your aim, Andrea, but you gotta save your bullets too.  You don’t have a never-ending supply.  Take your pick.”       

Andrea chose the Fixation Bowie and Shane picked the SOG seal knife.          

“Great picks,” Rick said with approval.  He forced himself to smile.  “You can stab walkers in the head, put ‘em down like that.  Save your bullets for when you really need ‘em.”    

Shane glanced at him and for an instant, Rick thought he looked…regretful?  Just as quickly the emotion left his face and he gave Rick a brotherly hug.       

“Thanks, man.  We’ll put these to good use.”      

Rick nodded.  “You gonna take the Hyundai?”       

“Yep, runs really well.  Got plenty of gas to go for miles,” Shane said.  He was tempted to add “far away from here”, but made sure to control himself.      

“I’ll let the others know you guys are goin’ out there.  Maybe they’ll want you to pick up some supplies.”

“Sounds good.”           

Rick nodded and then headed towards the area where the group stayed.  When they were certain Rick was far enough not to hear them, Shane and Andrea looked at each other with a mix of fear and anticipation.  This had gone smoother than expected.  Now it was just a matter of leaving the farm and they’d be on their way.  They already had to stall their plans after Rick had asked Shane to join him in dropping off Randall.  Today was the day.  Nothing would stop them this time.   

“I’m gonna see what everyone needs,” Andrea whispered.  “We have to act like we’re doing an actual supply run for the group.”          

“You right ‘bout that.  I’ll check on our wheels…let’s be out of here in—” He glanced at his watch, “a quarter after.  That should be enough time.”        

Andrea went to go check on everyone to see what they needed while Shane started towards the Hyundai.

oOo

Shane was checking the trunk, making sure all their belongings were there when he heard someone step behind him.  They had packed everything into the vehicle during the night when everyone was asleep.  Sensing the presence behind him, but not knowing who it was, Shane shut the trunk and turned around.  He groaned inwardly when he saw Dale standing there, holding his rifle and watching him.  Deciding it would be best to remain cordial for what would be their last confrontation, Shane swallowed his annoyance and greeted him.

“What’s up, Dale?”       

“I heard about your supply run.”

“Did you now?  That’s cool.”  

Dale’s serious expression never wavered.  “I know what happens when anyone goes on a supply run with you.”     

“What’s that?  Tell me, cause I’d love to know!”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

He leaned against the vehicle, taking a relaxed stance.  Keep your cool, Shane, he thought.  It would be too easy for him to go off on Dale, but he needed to remain level-headed.  This was the last time he’d have to deal with “Mr. Moral Authority”.  After today, he would never have to hear him get on his soapbox about humanity ever again.  The older man would be a forgotten memory.

“They end up dead like Otis or—”

“Or what?”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Shane tried not to react emotionally, but he had already found a point past Dale to focus on.  Whenever anyone brought up Otis, he turned away, not wanting to continue the conversation.  Even now, he still felt awful for killing Otis.  Although he justified it in his mind that he took a life to save a life—Carl’s—it didn’t erase the ongoing guilt that only he knew about.

Not once to mince words, Dale dived right in.  “I’ll get straight to the point.  You and Andrea slept with each other when you were supposed to be looking for Sophia.”

“That’s incredibly perceptive of you, Dale!  Who woulda thought you’d pick up on that?” 

Inside he was rolling with laughter.  Then he let it out much to Dale’s disapproval.  It felt good to laugh, when just moments ago he was wracked with guilt about Otis.  Yeah, he had sex with Andrea—he wasn’t ashamed to say it was the best sex he had had in a long time—even better than all those times when he had snuck away from the group to have wild sex with Lori in the woods.  The day he had sex with Andrea was spontaneous and passionate.  Andrea wanted it too and didn’t toss him aside afterwards like Lori did when Rick returned.  On the contrary, she had initiated it and enjoyed it.  She didn’t treat him like her dirty little secret.  It made him want to see her more, which in turn, made her want to know him more.  A devilish grin almost showed on his face when he imagined having his way with her again in the Hyundai.  Now that we’re gettin’ away from here…he didn’t finish the thought as he forced himself to be serious. 

“Look, sex or no sex, me an’ Andrea did go lookin’ for Sophia an’ found nothin’.  So that’s—”

“Lay off Andrea,” Dale cut in, ignoring Shane’s glare.  “She’s not just any woman you can use up and dispose of.” 

“You think I’m usin’ her?”

“I know you are.”

“You tryin’ to protect her, but you comin’ off more as cock-blockin’.  Ain’t no problem if she wanted to give it to me willingly, an’ if I wanted to give it to her.”

“She doesn’t see the problem, but I do,” Dale said, refusing to back down.

Shane smirked.  “Way I see it, you jus’ mad that you ain’t gettin’ any play.”

Without another word, he left Dale standing, speechless, as he went to turn on the Hyundai.

oOo

Andrea reviewed the list of items.  She had just left the front lawn where she had met with Glenn, Daryl, Carol, and T-Dog.  Glenn asked for canned foods, Daryl said he didn’t need anything,  Carol hoped Andrea would find cough drops, and T-Dog wanted any men’s hygiene products that she could scavenge.  She started towards Hershel’s home when she saw Dale approaching her.  She sighed, hoping they would part on good terms.  Of course, Dale had no idea she and Shane planned to leave the group.  It was still important to her that their last impressions of each other were positive.  She had been angry at Dale for robbing her of her choice in the CDC, but he had been a friend to her, even if he was overprotective and unconsciously acting as her father figure.

“What’s wrong, Dale?”

“I can’t believe you’re going out there with him.”  He looked over his shoulder, glaring in Shane’s direction.

“You mean Shane?”

“Of course I meant Shane.  Who else?”

Andrea sighed, not hiding her annoyance.  “I’m a grown woman and can make my own choices of who I hang out with.”

“You need to watch yourself with him, Andrea.  He doesn’t have good intentions.”

Andrea looked past Dale and watched as Shane inspected the Hyundai, making sure it was safe.  She hoped her tone didn’t sound too harsh when she responded.  “I appreciate you looking out for me, but I need my space.  Is that too much to ask for?”

He didn’t respond; instead, he stared past her, not wanting to acknowledge what she told him.

She knew that asking for her independence was a lot to ask for when it came to Dale.  She decided to change the topic.  “We’re leaving soon.  Do you need anything?”  She glanced again at Shane as he opened the passenger side’s door.

Dale finally answered and met her eyes.  “I don’t need anything, Andrea.  I just want you to be safe, that’s all.”

Before she could reply, Dale walked away, his shoulders slumped over as though defeated.  Andrea watched as he walked towards the barn.  She was tempted to go after him, but decided it was better not to.  It would make things harder for him if she kept talking to him.  She knew he would miss her the most once she and Shane left.  For some reason though, she wasn’t sure if she would miss him as much.

oOo

Andrea found Lori in the kitchen of Hershel’s home.  Lori was chopping carrots and had put a pot of water on the stove to boil.  Andrea watched her for some time, feeling strange knowing that this was the same place she had argued with her.  If Lori knew she was present, she didn’t let on.  Andrea finally pushed herself to speak up.

“Me and Shane are going on a run.  Do you need anything?”

Lori stopped what she was doing and looked up at Andrea, a questioning look in her eyes. 

“You’re going with Shane?” 

You’re the one that left him hanging when Rick came back, Andrea thought, feeling annoyed.  She made sure not to state it aloud.  She didn’t like Lori’s tone: it sounded strained like she had forced herself to ask the question, but didn’t want to know the answer.  Andrea hated that.  Why ask the question if you don’t want to know the answer?  Lori also looked….shocked?  Upset?  Angry that Shane was going out with her?  Or regretful that she had thrown Shane away so that Andrea could take him for herself?  Andrea shrugged inwardly.  She didn’t care how Lori felt or viewed her connection with Shane.  Nor would it bother her if Lori knew that she had slept with him.  She had noticed how Lori treated Shane differently when Rick joined the group and she hadn’t forgotten overhearing their conversation at the church.  Shane had told Lori he was leaving the group.  It was that very conversation that led to what they planned on doing.

“Yeah, I am,” Andrea finally answered.  “Do you need anything?”

Lori resumed cutting the carrots, keeping her gaze focused on her work.  “No, I don’t.”

Andrea nodded and turned to leave.  She knew she wasn’t welcome in the Greene home anymore after leaving Beth alone during her suicide watch, but she still had to pretend like she was going on a run and ask Lori if she needed supplies.  Thankfully, their exchange was short.  Andrea wanted to keep it that way, especially given how Lori sounded when she asked if she was going with Shane—envious and upset all at once.

She remembered her last confrontation with Lori.  She had left Beth alone and Hershel’s youngest daughter tried to kill herself by cutting her wrists.  Andrea felt the choice should be Beth’s and Lori felt she was wrong to leave the troubled teenager alone.  Their argument had spiraled downward quickly and went in the direction of gender roles and how they viewed each other as contributing or not doing anything to help out.  In the end, Andrea threw it in Lori’s face that she had Shane on the side without mentioning his name.  They hadn’t spoken since then until now.  At least, they didn’t get into another vicious argument this time.

Andrea left the house and went to see if the Greene family needed supplies.

oOo

Shane turned the ignition key and grinned when he heard the familiar sound of the Hyundai warming up.  In less than an hour, he and Andrea would finally leave the farm.  He had to look like he was getting ready to do a run, so he turned on the car.  He was so caught up that he didn’t hear the knocking on the driver’s side window.  It was only when he turned to leave the car that he saw Lori standing outside.  Shane shook his head.  What does Lori want now?  He turned off the vehicle and grabbed the keys.  Lori stepped aside as Shane got out of the vehicle.  They stood across from each other, silent, waiting for the other to initiate the conversation.  Finally, Lori had enough of the tension and broke it with her accusation:

“You’re going on a run with her?”

Shane stared at Lori, wondering why she was asking him about Andrea.  He decided to act like he had no idea who or what she was talking about.

“Who?”

“You know who—Andrea.”

“What ‘bout it?”

Lori folded her arms across her chest, frustrated that Shane was acting like he didn’t know what was going on.  He knew damn well what she was talking about.

“Yeah, me an’ her are goin’ on a run.  What’s it matter to you?”

“She asked me if I needed anything.”

“Okay, so what’s the big deal?”  Shane shrugged.  “Was kind of her to ask you.”

“You’re with her…aren’t you?”  Lori didn’t know what she felt anymore.  She wanted both Rick and Shane, but it was impossible.  In order to focus on Rick, she had to push away Shane.  It still felt strange to see Shane with another woman when not too long ago, she had been with him.  They had been together until Rick came back.  “You’re sleeping with her…”

Shane made a face as though she had told him to eat his own intestines.  “Who I sleep with ain’t none of your business, Lori.  Besides, your husband is back!” 

He made sure to mock her tone of voice when she had first lashed out at him when Rick returned: My husband is back!  He is alive!  Those seven words kept repeating themselves in his mind.  It overrode his memory of her telling him to stay the night he came back from the school.  He didn’t want to remember that time because he had fallen for the myth that she wanted him to stay because she truly cared for him.  He knew now that she was thankful to him for getting the supplies that saved Carl’s life.  She appreciated what he had done although she had an inkling of what had really happened at the school—but she didn’t love him…not in the way he loved her. 

“Have you forgotten that you have a baby on the way—that I’m carrying your child?”

Shane grew silent and rubbed his head as anxiety settled in.  If there was one thing keeping him on the farm, it was his unborn child.  He also stayed for Lori and Carl.  He remembered Andrea asking him what changed his mind about leaving and glancing at Rick, Lori, and Carl…  His jaw tightened. There was no way he’d allow Lori to guilt him now.  Not after what she had told him.  He decided to bring it up, not caring how it made her feel.  He was tired of her mind games—intentional or not—and he was fed up with her pushing him away only to pull him back when it benefitted her.

“I ain’t forget for one minute, but obviously, you forgot what you told me…unless you got selective memory.”  

He found it revolting that she’d use his unborn child as a means to convince or manipulate him to not be with Andrea—especially after she made it known that she didn’t want him involved in raising the baby.  In Shane’s mind, Lori words and actions didn’t match up.  She also didn’t want him speaking to Carl, but then got angry when Shane pushed Carl away to create distance.  He was tired of her mixed signals and it was one reason why he decided to move on with Andrea.  

“Shane—”

“‘Even if it’s yours, it ain’t gonna be yours’.   Remember that?  ‘Cause I sure do.”

“I didn’t mean it.”  Lori shook her head.  “I’ve been worried this whole time—”

“You ain’t worried ‘bout nothin’.”  Shane cut her off, not wanting to hear the rest.  “An’ you know exactly how you meant it.  You want Rick to be the Daddy, so let him be the Daddy.”

Lori glanced at the ground, avoiding his cold stare.  “I never wanted there to be all this hate between us.”

“That makes two of us, Lori.  Rick’s here now, so go back to bein’ his wife an’ leave me the hell alone.” 

Lori’s eyes widened, completely surprised by his angry tone.  She stood there for some time and he stared back at her.  Minutes of silence passed before she turned around and slowly walked back to Hershel’s home.  He watched her, noticing how her head hung between her shoulders and the way she shuffled.  He could tell she was trying to hold back her tears. 

Before going inside, she turned back once to face him and he turned his attention to the Hyundai, popping open the hood.  Moments later when he looked in the direction of the house, the door shut behind Lori and he was relieved that she was out of his sight.  He loved her, but he couldn’t take being around her anymore.  He needed to get away with Andrea and put distance between himself and Lori.  Hopefully, Lori’s absence in his life wouldn’t make him want her more.  He just wanted to forget about her, although he felt guilty for leaving his unborn baby.  Maybe Rick would assume the role of father, since he had told Shane that the baby was his.  With that thought in mind, Shane tried to put the entire situation out of his mind and opened the door on the passenger side so that he’d be ready for Andrea when she returned.

oOo

“I think we have everything we need,” Hershel told Andrea.  “I appreciate you checking in with me.”

Andrea had found Hershel placing farm equipment in the building and decided to approach him.  Beth was sleeping while Patricia watched over her.  Jimmy was grooming horses in their stalls.  She had run into Maggie on the way to the barn.  Maggie had glared at her, but said nothing.  Based on her cold reaction, Andrea knew Maggie was still angry with her for leaving Beth alone to harm herself.  Andrea thought of apologizing to her, but Maggie swept past her before she could say anything.  That left Hershel and she wondered if he knew about the situation with Beth.  Based on how he acted towards her, Andrea figured Hershel didn’t know or that he chose not to hold it against her.

“Alright, Shane and I will be back before the end of the day.  I’ll still keep an eye out for you or your daughters just in case.  Same for Patricia and Jimmy,” she offered.

Hershel nodded and started towards his home.  She walked beside him. 

“That’s kind of you, Andrea.”  He stopped when he saw Shane checking the engine of the Hyundai.  “I hope your ride’s okay,” Hershel said as he pointed ahead of him.

Andrea looked and saw the engine’s hood propped up.  Shane was tinkering with the engine and didn’t see Carl approaching him with Rick nearby.  “I’m sure it is.  See you in a bit.”

She started towards the Hyundai and smiled as she watched Shane.  She wondered if something was really wrong with the vehicle or if he was just stalling.  Probably the latter.  The entire time, her heart pounded with excitement.  She had made her rounds to everyone.  All that needed to be done now was for her to get in the passenger seat, Shane in the driver’s seat, and they’d be on their way.

oOo

“Shane?”

Shane turned around to see Carl standing behind him.  He did one last quick check and shut the hood.  Everything was working fine; he just wanted to make sure.  He was waiting for Andrea to get back and was surprised to see Carl.  Rick stood several yards behind him watching their exchange.

“What’s up, Carl?”

Carl looked behind at his father.  Rick gestured for him to continue.   “He wanted to send you off.”   When Carl still hesitated, Rick came forward and gently nudged him.  “Go ahead, you know Shane doesn’t bite.”

Shane laughed.  “Nope, I don’t bite anyone—I ain’t a walker.” 

At this, Carl’s face broke out into a smile.

“Can I get you anythin’ while I’m out there?”

Carl didn’t hesitate.  “A picture frame.”

“A picture frame?  That may be hard to find.” 

Carl dug in his pocket and took out a photo that was folded in half.  He handed it to Shane.  Shane took it and opened it.  Right away, guilt swarmed in his heart.  It was a photo of Carl when he had graduated from preschool.  Carl was seated at the head of a table, grinning and holding up a certificate that read “It’s Graduation Day!”  His full name, Carl Grimes, was in the center written in calligraphy handwriting.  Rick and Lori stood on either side of him, framing Carl, and Shane was crouched down at his level, pointing at the camera.  Everyone was smiling and appeared genuinely happy.  The picture had been taken in Carl’s favorite restaurant, Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room.  Shane swallowed, trying to hold back emotions that threatened to burst forth.  He quickly gave him back the photo.  Knowing he wasn’t returning, he didn’t want to take Carl’s memory away from him. 

“Mom took it when we left.”  Carl looked at the picture and then at Shane.  “It’s my favorite picture of all of us.”

Shane nodded.  “I’ll scavenge for you the best picture frame I can find.  How’s that sound?”

“Great!  Thank you, Shane!” 

Carl hugged him and Shane ruffled his hair.  Above Carl, Shane met Rick’s eyes and he wondered if Rick knew the truth.  Rick’s expression was neutral as he watched them.  In an effort to avoid Rick, Shane turned his attention to Carl.

“While I’m out, I need you to do two things for me.”

“What’s that?”

“Be good an’ listen to your parents.  Always do what they tell you to do.  Got that?”

“That’s three.”

“Fine, three.  Do all of the above, you hear?”    

Carl stared at Shane, confused.  Shane now wondered if Carl knew what was really going on.  Kids had an uncanny ability to read the adults around them.  The longer he stared, the more sadness gripped Shane’s heart.  He would never see Carl again after today.  Out of everyone there, he’d miss Carl the most.  He hoped that everything he had taught his best friend’s son had stayed with him and that he would use his survival skills if necessary.  He was certain that Carl would move on and forget him.  He hoped so because he couldn’t stand the guilt that was gnawing at his conscience.  He figured he’d feel better about his decision once he left the farm and Rick and Carl were out of his sight. 

“I will.”  Carl nodded. 

Shane was about to say something else when Andrea came over.  Inwardly, he breathed a sigh of relief for her timing.  He couldn’t stay here much longer.  Not with knowing that Carl hoped he’d find a picture frame to immortalize one of his favorite memories.  It was a memory of times gone by, when everything was fine between him, Rick, and Lori.  He would never get that time back.

“We got our list,” Andrea said, holding up a paper with the group’s names and items they had requested.   “Time for us to head out.”

“Add picture frame to the list,” Shane said, smiling at Carl.  Carl smiled back.

Rick nodded as he watched Andrea get in on the passenger side.  Then he faced Shane.  For some strange reason that he couldn’t explain, he felt that he should talk Shane out of doing this supply run.  He was worried about something happening to him out there.  It seemed ridiculous, but it wasn’t completely unfounded.  Rick knew what had happened the last time Shane went on a run.  Unlike Dale, he wouldn’t throw it in Shane’s face and he was the only one who knew what happened that night at the school.  He just didn’t want to risk losing Shane or Andrea.  He thought he should tell his best friend this, but he didn’t.  Rick didn’t want to come off as overly dramatic or anxious.  This was just a normal supply run.  There was nothing to be worried about.

“See you later, brother,” Rick said.  Shane nodded and started towards the driver’s side.  Rick watched him, resisting the urge to stop him. 

Shane opened the door and then turned back to Rick.  He let himself get one last look because after today, he would never see Rick again.  Rick Grimes was his best friend and brother; they had attended high school together, grew up and joined the sheriff’s department of King County.  Now he was leaving him behind and for the first time an inkling of regret ran through him.  He squashed it when he saw Andrea waiting patiently for him.  There was no reason to go back on his plans or to feel sorry for what he was about to do.  He was making the right choice.  He was doing what he needed to do to keep Andrea and himself alive.  He had kept Lori and Carl alive all this time, he had tried to get Rick out of the hospital, and Rick had survived.  The Grimes family would be fine without him. 

And he would be fine without them. 

Goodbye, brother.  The words almost spilled out of his mouth, but he stopped them in time.  “Be back soon.” 

Shane got in the driver’s side and slammed the door.  He knew he didn’t call Rick by his name or “brother” aloud because he needed to detach himself completely.  This was a permanent separation and nothing would reverse it.  He started driving towards the farm’s gates and peered at the rearview mirror.  Rick and Carl stood back, watching them leave.  Shane glanced at the road and then at the mirror again in time to see Rick escort Carl into Hershel’s home.  Then they were both gone.  Shane exhaled and beside him Andrea cheered.

“We finally did it, Shane!”

“Sure did.”  His voice was flat.

Noticing his serious demeanor, Andrea sat back against the seat and watched as Shane drove.  Before long, the farm was behind them and they were now on a long dirt road.  It wasn’t until they were a good distance away that Shane offered Andrea an uneasy smile.  She returned the slightly sad expression and they continued onward in silence.  He looked down when he saw her fingers creep towards his right thigh. 

“You jus’ can’t wait, huh?”  Shane sounded amused. 

“I can.”  A coy smile flashed across Andrea’s face.  “Just glad that we’re finally out of there.”

“Me too, darlin’.”

oOo

Hours had passed since they had left the Greene farm.  The Hyundai was pulled over to the side on a deserted dirt road, similar to the one they had driven on earlier. There were wide open fields on both sides.  They had passed by several stray walkers and he had made sure they were in an isolated area.  Now that they had left the farm, everyone was out of sight, out of mind.

It was just the two of them, the Hyundai, their supplies, and the entire world.

Andrea made it known that she wanted him, right then and there.  Shane wanted her too, but she jumped ahead of him—which was incredibly alluring.  It was just like the day they had went looking for Sophia and ended up in a housing development that was infested with walkers.  He had put her to the test that day to see if she could shoot under stress, if she could handle herself.  She showed him that day that she could handle herself—and handle him.  Today was just like that day, except they didn’t have to worry about returning to the farm and dealing with Dale’s (or anyone else’s) suspicions about what they had been doing together.  

Their future lay ahead of them.  There was no rush, no urgency to get to where they were going. 

Before her fingers reached the bulge between his thighs, his mind was painting images of her body pressing up against his body.  His tongue flicked over his upper lip when he turned to her.  She bit her lower lip and stared at him, desire glazing her eyes.  He knew what that look meant from their last experience.  He had just finished parking the Hyundai, when she climbed on top of him.  She wasted no time unbuttoning and yanking his cargo pants halfway down so that she could release him and at the same time he pulled her blouse over her head and threw it over the seat.  It was a race between them to see who could undress whom first.  He didn’t mind losing because he won either way.  He loved being with a woman who knew what she wanted and took control.  There was nothing more attractive to him than a woman who didn’t hesitate to get physical and who was confident in her beauty and sexuality.

He unzipped her jeans and she helped him by shimmying out of them.  With a flick of his fingers, he moved her panties to the side.  He didn’t care if they were still on her—he had plenty of experience and knew what to do.  When she raised herself and slid down on him at the same instant he thrusted his hips, he felt like he was on another planet and in an entirely different universe altogether.  Entering her warm body left him unable to communicate unless he counted occasional expletives and guttural groaning.  His skin burned when her fingernails engraved her name on his skin.  He crashed into her again, releasing all his pent up stress from earlier.  Her hair brushed across his face when she leaned into him, her forehead pressing against his.  Over the rhythmic sound of their skin slapping, he heard her moaning his name.

One time with her hadn’t been enough: he was addicted to her touch and he shouldn’t have waited until they left the farm to be with her again.  Now they were making up for lost time.  He wasn’t ashamed that his desires were entirely carnal.  He cared about her more than he wanted to admit, but it was better (and safer) for him to focus on their physical connection.  Mistaking lust for love had been his mistake with Lori.  He had believed that Lori loved him just as he loved her—that what they had was real—only for her to act like it meant nothing, and at worst, didn’t exist.  He knew he would only be deceiving himself if he allowed himself to believe that the woman—whose legs were spread for him now—sincerely cared about him.  Maybe her feelings were true, but he had learned that love wasn’t worth the heartache. 

Exposing his heart had led to it being torn apart and he wouldn’t be a fool again…

The second time was even better than the first time.  Tremors overtook her and sweat glistened on her skin.  The Hyundai was already hot, outside was humid, but with every thrust he gave, her body temperature skyrocketed so that the closed in space was sweltering.  Feeling him throb deep inside her made her wonder if there could be more between them.  In her mind, she didn’t just let him inside her body—she granted him access to her heart.  While she caressed the back of his neck and his hands roamed the contours of her hips, one hope remained: that he would be hers.  When she had first approached him in the cemetery, she told him they were the third wheels, the odd ones out.  She made it known she wasn’t looking to go steady—after he sarcastically asked her if they were “gonna hold hands an’ sail off into the sunset”.  That was before their shooting lessons and their first tryst, before she offered him understanding when the entire group treated him like an outcast. 

Things were different now… 

They were in the middle of nowhere and it was only her and him.  For the first time, she admitted to herself that she truly needed him.  If it weren’t for him teaching her how to shoot and protect herself, she’d still be buried by her grief over Amy’s death.  After they went to sleep tonight, she wanted to wake up knowing that whatever they had now would blossom into something more beautiful and fulfilling in the future.  She was imagining him agreeing they move their connection to the next level, when he distracted her by pulling back a handful of her blonde hair, exposing her neck.  She gasped when his lips brushed softly and then sucked roughly on the skin of her neck.  He was going to brand her with his lips and make her his woman.  When he was done, a reddish mark lay exposed on her neck.  She wouldn’t mind if he left red marks like that all over her body.  She’d gladly let him brand her thighs, breasts, stomach, arms, legs...  She’d let him lick, kiss, suck wherever he wanted.  She was his, but the question lingered in her mind: was he hers?

Time and space were their servants.  He knew she was exhilarated.  They were free and out on their own.  He felt the same way: he couldn’t get enough of her and now she was all his.  They didn’t have to answer to anyone anymore.  They were making the most of their newfound freedom, starting with this intimate moment.  She was as thrilled as he was and now they were reaching a crescendo.  He was ready to release when she was and they did so at the same time. 

Andrea didn’t dismount from him right away.  She lay her head on his shoulder and he let himself enjoy the sensation of their sweaty bodies rubbing together.  Their heavy breathing soon harmonized. After some time, Shane shifted in the driver’s seat when he felt her arms encircle his shoulders.  He looked past her and stared at the open expanse of land.  The vision of the world in front of them was incredible.  

“So you gonna ride with me no matter what?”  His hands rested on her outer thighs while she still straddled him.

“The question is…are you gonna ride with me, come hell or high water?”  Her smile was self-assured.  Seductive. 

Before he could confront her on the way she answered his question with a question, her lips crushed down on his and he reciprocated with the same force.  He adored the faint strawberry taste on her lips.  When she pulled away from him, he felt disappointed.  He was about to tell her bring those lips back when she stared into his dark eyes.

“Does that answer your question?” 

“Mmm-hmm.”  Shane’s hands caressed her outer thighs, going up and down slowly. 

She picked at the silver necklace hanging around his neck.  “What does this mean?  The number ‘22’?”

He chuckled.  “The number of women I slept with before the world went to hell.”

Andrea dropped the necklace and her smile vanished.

“I was jokin’, darlin’!  I used to play football in high school, 22’s my jersey number.”

She wasn’t convinced as she cast him a look that was both startled and afraid.  She was starting to regret what she had just done.  What if she was just another sexual conquest to him?  As though he had read her mind, he explained himself.

“I was a womanizer back in the day, Andrea.  The more women in my bed, the better.  That ain’t who I am anymore.  You ain’t gotta worry ‘bout that.”  When he saw she was still downcast, Shane ran his fingers all over her stomach, tickling her.  She broke into peals of laughter.  “That’s more like it.”

Andrea calmed down and became serious again.  “Do you think they’ll miss us?”  She wondered if that explained why he looked sad when they had first drove off.

“Hell no.”  He shook his head, remembering watching the Greene farm shrink in the rearview mirror.  “Glad we finally got out of there.” 

Shane really meant it.  He was overcome with relief that there was distance between him and Rick.  Although a part of him already missed his brother, this was the best thing he could’ve done for himself.  He couldn’t stay on that farm much longer at the rate he was spiraling downward.  It wouldn’t be the first or last time that he realized that in urging him to leave the farm, Andrea had saved his life—and hers too.  They had left the place where they had been pariahs.  Now they were on their own and could decide their destiny.  He sat back against the seat as Andrea dismounted from him, pulled up her pants, and sat in the passenger seat.  She reached over to the backseat and picked up her blouse to put on.  As he zipped his pants and then put on his shirt, he thought about where they’d go.  Andrea read his mind.

“So where’re we going?”

Shane turned the ignition key and the Hyundai rumbled. 

“Let’s head up to Maryland.  Find us a place to settle down an’ live out the rest of our lives.”

“A road trip?”  Andrea grinned.  “Fine by me.”

Shane pulled out and started driving on the dirt road.  As he drove, he glanced at Andrea who watched the scenery flash by on her side.  He could see her reflection in the glass and knew she was just as glad and relieved as he was.  Somehow, they’d make their own way as they traveled up north.  There was no need to look back on what could’ve been if they had stayed with Rick’s group.  They had wanted to leave for a long time and their time had come.

Shane and Andrea had finally left the farm—and there was no turning back.

Chapter Text

 No Vacancy

Love is a bird, she needs to fly
Let all the hurt inside of you die
You're frozen
When your heart's not open

Madonna "Frozen"

The sun started to make its daily ascent into the sky. Shane took that as his cue. Turning the key in the ignition, he let the Hyundai warm up for a few minutes before driving off. The night before, he and Andrea had agreed to stop at a highway underpass. Since they were close to a highway, Shane figured they could take that route to see if it brought them closer to Maryland. He'd do that in the morning and Andrea was in agreement with that plan. She had slept half the night while he kept watch and then they traded places. He slept while she acted as a lookout. Not an hour ago, she had fallen asleep again, leaving Shane in the position of watching her. Shane let her sleep since she appeared peaceful. He didn't want to disturb her, but he also decided it was best for them to move on. He kept his eyes on the road and glanced at Andrea who stirred. She had been laying back against the front passenger seat and now slowly got herself into an upright position.

"Where are we?" She asked in between yawns.

"Further up from where we started, long gone from Hershel's farm."

"You think they'll miss us?" Andrea didn't know why she asked it again. Maybe she missed the group, although she was certain they had already forgotten about her and Shane.

"Doubt it."

Shane kept his focus on the road. It was a long expansive stretch. He meant to find the entrance to the highway, but this would do for now. There were several cars littered on the side of the road and he thought about stopping to see if they could find anything useful: food, water, clothes, and weapons. Then he thought better of it and continued to drive as the sun rose higher in the sky.

"Maybe Dale does."

Shane scoffed. "Dale misses you, but he sure as hell ain't missin' me. His wish came true, so I'm sure he's happy."

"He wanted you gone?"

"Yep, that same day we returned from our lil sexcapade—he said he knows what kind of man I am, that I have enough gas in my ride to leave the group."

Andrea was silent as she contemplated what Shane had revealed. "He thought he was protecting me." She stared out the window on her side, noticing the abandoned cars. It reminded her of the highway that the group had gotten stuck on when they experienced their first herd of walkers.

"He came off as cock-blockin'. Anyway, we'll jus' fade from their memories, that's what Lori wants."

Andrea turned to him, a quizzical expression on her face. "What's with you and Lori anyway?"

Shane didn't want to answer the question and found a way around it. "I'll speak on that topic another day."

"Fair enough…I have an idea." A self-assured smile flashed across Andrea's face.

"What's that?" Shane glanced at her, wondering what she had up her sleeve.

"Let's talk about something mundane. What's your favorite breakfast?"

Shane laughed. "I thought you were gonna ask me my favorite sex position."

"Get your mind out of the gutter, Shane."

"Alright, fine. My favorite is buttermilk pancakes, slather 'em with butter an' pour syrup all over. Throw in some beef sausages an' milk."

"Milk?"

"Yeah, to make it all go down. Yours?"

"I miss having eggs and bacon—not runny, but browned eggs and crispy bacon with a tall glass of cold orange juice."

"I'll make it for you one of these days."

Andrea smirked. "You know how to cook?"

"Darlin', you're talkin' to the best cook there is!"

"I'm gonna hold you to that."

oOo

It was late afternoon when Shane pulled over near an open field. He had spotted wisps of smoke erupting from the Hyundai during the past hour. Andrea had seen it too and agreed it was best for him to stop and find out what was wrong. He popped open the hood and smoke billowed out. Stepping back away from the smoke, Shane thought he saw two tents in the distance, but decided he couldn't worry about that right now. He had to find out what was wrong with the Hyundai as it was his and Andrea's ticket to Maryland. If he was unable to fix it, then they'd have to figure out another way.

As he checked out the engine, Andrea came over to him. "Why's it overheating?" She noticed two men and a woman cross the field and approach them. "Maybe they can help us out."

"Could be the coolant." He looked over his shoulder at the people Andrea pointed to. He squinted and thought he recognized one of the men. "Ain't that Morales?"

"Oh my God…it is!" Andrea waved as the group of three came closer.

Minutes later, Morales met up with Andrea and Shane. He was accompanied by a young couple in their late 20s.

"Long time, no see," Morales said, smiling. "Good to see you both, what brings you out here? You're not with Rick's group anymore?"

Shane didn't return the smile. "Wanted to enjoy the great outdoors." He didn't bother to answer Morales' second question and Morales didn't seem to notice.

"You don't seem to be enjoying it. What's going on with your ride?"

"Overheated an' tryin' to figure out what happened. Probably the coolant."

Morales checked out the engine where smoke still blew out. "We'll take it back to camp and see what we can do. This is Sam and his girlfriend, Ana. Miranda found Ana camping out on her own and Sam found us just last week. Sam helped us when our car broke down on the way to Alabama, so luck's on your side today."

Shane gave a curt nod, but Andrea was more open with her gratitude.

"Thanks, Morales. How's Miranda and the kids doing?"

"She's good. Right now, she's back at the camp with Eliza and Louis; they'll be happy to see you."

While Andrea caught up with Morales, Shane focused on the Hyundai and the couple that came over to help.

"Put the car in neutral and we'll push from behind," Sam instructed. "Ana will get in the driver's seat and steer."

Shane followed Sam's directions and soon after, he joined Sam in pushing the Hyundai to the camp. Morales and Andrea joined them to help move the vehicle faster. Once at the camp, Sam started working on the Hyundai, checking all the fluids and inner mechanics. While Sam examined the Hyundai, Ana went to check their supplies to see if they had extra coolant. Andrea met with Morales' wife, Miranda, and greeted their children, Louis and Eliza, who came right over. They recognized Andrea from their days in the Atlanta camp. Shane hung back with Morales, watching as Andrea knelt down to hug the kids.

"So what's the deal with you and Andrea?" Morales asked. He and Shane stood under a tree that provided much needed shade. He had just finished telling Shane that he thought the Hyundai overheated due to the hot weather. "Are you two together?"

Shane didn't answer right away. He looked on as Andrea talked with Morales' family. "We ain't an item."

Morales chuckled. "You hesitated for a minute there! But you like her, right?"

"She's cute, can hold her own…" Shane's voice was devoid of emotion. He almost said he really liked having sex with her. It was true, but he didn't want to come off disrespectful and it wasn't Morales' business.

"You say you're not with her, but your face says it all. You're in love. Believe me, I know—I was the same way with Miranda. Everyone saw it before I did."

"Yeah? Why's that?" Shane asked, but he didn't really want to know.

"Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we can never love again after getting our heart smashed to pieces, but there's always someone new—someone better. Before Miranda, there was Lynette." Morales sighed. "After Lynette, I didn't want anyone else, but then Miranda came out of the blue. She felt something first, way before I did. It took me time, but I got there. Now I'm there, eight years, a marriage, and two kids later."

Shane was about to contradict him and was relieved when Sam came over to them. He didn't want to discuss Andrea with anyone. Whatever his feelings were, be it platonic or romantic, no one needed to know. Not Andrea, and not even himself…

"She's ready to go," Sam said. "Ana found some extra coolant in our supplies." Ana joined him and he put his arm around her shoulder, squeezing affectionately. "Just let her rest for a few hours before driving her again."

"Thanks for the work-up on her," Shane replied. "I'd pay you if I could."

"Nah, not even necessary."

Miranda joined them now and went to stand with Morales. The couple kissed briefly. "The kids are getting hungry, so I'll start cooking us a meal." She turned to Andrea. "You and Shane are welcome to join us for dinner and spend the night. We have plenty of room." She gestured at the two tents set up on the grass.

"That would be great." Andrea agreed.

Her eyes darted from Sam and Ana and then to Morales and Miranda. She sensed Shane standing next to her, but nothing in his or her body language indicated that they were a couple. Suddenly, she felt as she always did on the farm with Rick's group and she wondered if Shane felt it too: they were the odd ones out. Only this time, it had nothing to do with how they viewed survival in the new world, but more so, they were the single people in a group of couples. She imagined Shane wrapping his arm around her waist as a sign that they were exclusive. It was a girlish fantasy and she quickly dismissed it so that she wouldn't dwell on it, but she knew it wouldn't be the first or last time she envisioned them together. She was glad when Miranda gestured for her to join in making a meal for the group. It gave her an opportunity to escape the discomfort of being the only single woman there. As Andrea walked away with Miranda, she heard Shane talking with Morales and Sam.

"You got a look-out for the evenin'?"

Sam and Morales exchanged an uneasy glance. There was a long silence as though each man wanted the other to answer Shane's question.

"Don't really need one," Sam finally said. "We've been camping out here for five days and there's been no walkers for miles around." Ana nodded, backing up what he said.

Shane's eyes narrowed. "You're beggin' to be the main course on a walker's menu." He turned to Morales. "An' you of all people should know better after what happened to Amy—"

"Leave Amy out of this!"Andrea's voice rang out.

Shane looked around and saw Andrea rushing towards him. "I'm jus' givin' a reminder 'bout why they need lookouts."

"Leave my sister out of this!"

Shane sent her a sideways glance, even as she approached him in a hurried manner. Turning back to Sam, he shook his head in mock disapproval. Sam's and Morales' lackadaisical approach when it came to protecting themselves and the people they loved was annoying to say the least. It reminded him of Rick and Hershel being soft on Randall. Shane wondered why intelligent men like Rick, Hershel, and now Sam and Morales took their safety for granted. By the time Andrea reached them, he had more to say and he didn't care how he came off or how they took it. He was telling the truth, and sure, the truth would hurt, but a walker devouring them and their loved ones alive would be far worse.

"You oughta advertise yourself as a free meal for walkers. Be charitable an' give an arm! A foot! A lung!"

Miranda's face had paled. She was shocked and her children didn't understand the gravitas of the conversation the men were having. Eliza and Louis were bewildered by the sudden change between the adults. First, it was friendly, and now it was antagonistic. Sam and Morales said nothing, although the death stares they aimed at Shane communicated their anger.

"I appreciate what you did for my ride, but you got shit for brains if you think you can stay out here with your women an' family an' not protect them—an' you ain't gonna tell me 'bout Andrea!"

"That's enough!" Andrea stood in front of Shane now, acting as a barrier between him and Sam.

Morales stood next to Sam, the only one in his corner. Andrea turned to them, silently pleading with them not to hold Shane's tirade against him. She didn't know what Morales thought of Shane now, although when they were in their first camp, both men got along fine. Now was different as Morales sent Shane a cold glare. Then he turned to Andrea.

"Get him out of here—he's upsetting my wife and children," Morales said, gesturing towards Miranda and their children who stayed by her side. "You're welcome to stay and have dinner with us, Andrea, but he isn't."

"Say that to my face, Morales—you ain't gotta hide behind Andrea to speak your mind."

Andrea turned to Morales, knowing she had to speak up. "He doesn't mean it, he—"

It was too late as Morales stormed off with Sam. Together, they joined Miranda to help prepare a meal. Andrea watched them go and glanced at Miranda who shook her head. She had wanted to join Miranda, but thanks to Shane's outburst, it seemed like she was being cast aside. Andrea didn't know how else to interpret Miranda's body language. She turned to Shane now, who smirked.

"Ain't my fault they're livin' in Dream World."

"You're out of line," Andrea said, grabbing Shane's arm. "I told you—it's all in your presentation."

Shane wrenched himself out of her grip. "Be my guest if you wanna be an appetizer for walkers. As for me, I wanna survive."

He went back to the Hyundai and let himself in the driver's seat. Before Andrea could catch up to him, he slammed the door. Andrea reached for the door handle and Shane locked the door, preventing her from opening it from the outside. He opened the window on his side, low enough so that Andrea could hear him, but high enough so that he kept her outside.

"Open the door, Shane!"

He unlocked it, but didn't leave. "I'm stayin' in here so I can get the hell out when shit hits the fan."

Andrea sighed, frustrated. Shane remained in the Hyundai, watching her as though entertained that she was outside and he was inside. She looked over her shoulder and saw Morales starting a fire with Sam.

"They fixed it for us," Andrea said, gesturing at the Hyundai. "The least you could do is be nice."

"I'm nice, but I ain't stupid, Andrea."

"Nice?! You're being a dick for no reason!"

"Stay with them so you can be walker dinner." Shane reclined the driver's seat, trying to make himself comfortable. "Sorry 'bout name-droppin' Amy."

"You could've said that in a different way so that they actually heard your message."

Andrea would've addressed his apology about bringing up Amy, but she was too angry to even broach the topic with him. Another time. She was reminded of how he had used Amy as a way to rile her up when giving her shooting lessons. Back then, she had stormed off, furious that he'd bring up her sister as a way to help her improve her focus. He had done it again—this time with Morales and Sam. It would've been too easy to tell him off for "name-droppin' Amy", but she chose not to.

"How? 'you gotta be safe an' watch your back at all times. Anythin' can happen so don't let your guard down'."

"That's much better. See, that wasn't so hard."

"Too much thinkin' involved."

"Thinking before you talk would change things for you, Shane."

Shane crossed his arms on his chest and closed his eyes, pretending to be tired. "In what way."

"People would be willing to hear you out."

"I ain't tip-toein' to get folks to listen to me. Either they hear or me they don't—an' it ain't my problem if they don't."

"Then you'll find yourself alone." Andrea turned her back on him, deciding if he wasn't willing to come around or even compromise, then she'd leave him there. His stubborn attitude was grating her nerves. She heard the driver's window sliding down.

"You thinkin' of leavin' me?"

He sounded worried and Andrea didn't know why. She couldn't be bothered to find out why he came off fearful of her abandoning him. Shane struck her as someone who enjoyed being a loner. When they had been at the farm, she had told him he pushed everyone away, but now she wondered if he preferred it that way. She didn't turn around to face him, even when she heard him open the door.

"No, but when you carry on like this you alienate yourself…you just don't see it."

"Look, Andrea… I ain't askin' to be lectured 'bout my interpersonal skil—"

Andrea left Shane sitting by himself in the Hyundai.

oOo

An hour later, after spending time with Morales and his family, as well as Sam and Ana, Andrea decided to try again with Shane. Despite what had happened earlier, Shane still had to eat so she made a plate for him after she finished her meal. Morales didn't mind that she brought food to Shane; he just didn't want him around. She returned to the Hyundai and was surprised to find it empty. Searching the area, she found him sitting under a tree nearby. He was cleaning his Mossberg 590. She sat beside him and placed the covered plate of food on the grass in front of him. Shane didn't acknowledge her or the food. The silence hung above them and she decided to start the conversation since it was obvious Shane wouldn't engage first.

"We said we're partners, so I'm not gonna leave you by yourself." Andrea made sure her tone was kind, yet firm. She wasn't looking to have another argument with him.

Shane was quiet as he continued cleaning the Mossberg 590. After several moments, he finally responded. "I'm sorry 'bout before—I jus' hate bein' aroun' delusional folks who won't listen to the truth when it's right in front of their eyes."

"I get that, but you can't force it down their throats either." When Shane didn't answer she opted to change the subject. "I've got something for you," she said, removing the cover from the plate of beans and canned peaches.

Shane nodded, but didn't touch it. Instead, he continued cleaning his shotgun. Andrea watched him and noticed the pensive expression on his face.

"What's wrong? You look upset."

"Jus' thinkin' 'bout Lori an' Ca—"

"You're thinking about Lori?!"

Shane looked up when he heard the odd note in Andrea's voice.

"I'm out here with you and you're thinking of her?!"

"Not jus' Lori, but Carl too. I want them to be safe."

Andrea didn't know what she felt more of: anger, hurt, or betrayal. After all this time, you're still focused on a woman who couldn't care less about you, she thought. "She's not even thinking of you and you're thinking of her." She hated how her voice cracked because it revealed everything that she wasn't ready to share. "I'm out here with you—not her. She never would've done this with you."

"She did when everythin' first started."

Andrea was livid—he defended Lori although she had treated him like trash! She picked up the plate and turned it over, spilling the beans and peaches on the grass. Without a second thought, she tossed the paper plate over her shoulder.

"What the hell, Andrea?!" Shane threw down the cloth he had been using to clean his gun. "Why'd you do that for?"

"Go back to her since your heart is back at that farm." Her tone was venomous.

"I ain't goin' back there. No reason to do so. I'm jus' hopin' they're safe with Rick."

"I'm sure they're doing just fine."

"I can't help but be worried for them." Shane glanced at the discarded food and then at Andrea who wiped her eyes. He didn't see any tears, but her eyes were glassy.

"You're not worried for me or my safety? Does that mean anything to you? Do I mean anything to you?!"

"Of course, I worry for your safety!" He shook his head in disbelief that she would question him. "It matters to me jus' like you do, but you can handle yourself."

"So in order for you to think of me, I have to be a damsel in distress, always needing to be rescued—like her?"

"I wish you'd stop this bullshit." Impatience made its way into Shane's voice and he placed his shotgun down on the grass. "I'm out here with you, ain't I?"

"Physically, you are." Andrea held his eyes and then turned away. She couldn't stand to look at him, knowing that he was thinking of another woman. A woman whom she had previous conflicts with. "Mentally, you're back at the Greene farm."

"My heart ain't at the farm."

"Then where is it? Because it sure as hell isn't here."

"It's where it's gonna stay—under lock an' key." Shane picked up his shotgun and snatched the cloth that he had been using to clean it with. Without a second glance at Andrea, he started to dissemble it.

"Why?"

"Why what?!"

"Why's it under lock and key?"

"So that no one plays with it again like a yo-yo—back an' forth. One time was more than enough."

"Like how she did you?"

Shane refused to look at her, but if he had, she would've seen his dark eyes smoldering with fury. "I ain't answerin' that."

"I figured as much."

"We ain't holdin' hands an' ridin' off into the sunset—remember that? Back at the cemetery?"

"And I told you I wasn't looking to go steady." She also remembered that he behaved like a total jerk about the whole thing at the time. She didn't mention that though.

Shane put the Mossberg 590 on the grass again and stared at her, angry and inquiring all at once. "So why're you gettin' mad 'bout Lori when all I said was I worried for her an' Carl's safety?"

"Because…"

Although she felt ashamed for her petty behavior of spilling his food on the grass, there were other emotions she was fighting against. She didn't want to openly admit it, but she was starting to fall for him. She had always felt something for Shane from the day he showed her how to clean and disassemble her gun while they rode in Dale's RV. He had christened the gun her father gave her as "Sweet Piece" and since that time, he had taken her out for shooting lessons. It helped her to gain confidence and made her feel she could contribute to the group. It also gave her a reason to live after Amy's death. She felt alive when she was with Shane—as opposed to feeling ignored and uncared for by the rest of Rick's group. She was grateful for him and that gratitude was slowly morphing into love. If not love, a strong yearning to be with him on a romantic level.

"'Cause what, Andrea?"

"I thought you wanted to go back there." She could've told him everything she was thinking and feeling, but chose not to. Now was not the time.

"I don't wanna go back there. I jus' wish I knew Rick was doin' what needs to be done to keep Lori an' Carl safe. Out here with you, I have no way of knowin' that."

"I won't hold you back, Shane. If you need to know, then we can do a U-Turn and drive back there."

"Ain't no need to go back, I'm with you an' that's how it's gonna be. Stop worryin' so damn much." Shane's dark eyes held hers. "We're stayin' put an' soon enough we'll be on our way—not to that damn farm, but to Maryland."

Andrea nodded. Now she felt guilty for overreacting—but was it overreacting? What if Shane liked her and she had feelings for another man? Wouldn't Shane be upset too? That scenario played itself in her mind like a movie. She was certain Shane wouldn't like it at all…but he thought it was okay to still dwell on Lori. In fact, knowing Shane and his hot-headed nature, he would be furious and jealous if another man made moves on her. Maybe if she found out how he felt about her…about the possibility of them…

"I'll get you another plate of food." Andrea wasn't ready to openly share her feelings. The least she could do was offer him a kind gesture.

"Don't bother. I ain't hungry anyway."

Andrea watched Shane continue to clean the Mossberg 590. She wondered if he really wasn't hungry or if he was being prideful. Probably the latter. She thought about the situation between Shane and Lori and remembered how their relationship had changed once Rick returned. Hearing them argue outside of the church had confirmed for Andrea what she already knew: they had been together and when Rick showed up unexpectedly at the camp, their relationship had ended—on bad terms. Shane had loved and lost Lori. Andrea was certain that it hurt like hell for Shane to lose her. Watching her be with another man was hard—even though that man was her husband and his best friend. Andrea thought Shane was lonely too, even if would never admit it to himself or her. She got it, but it didn't mean she had to like it. Especially since Shane wasn't alone. If he was able to look past himself, he'd see Andrea in front of him. Andrea wished he saw her, but she knew he didn't. He saw Lori, the woman he had lost and would never gain back.

Andrea was just there…

oOo

The sun was setting and it was getting cold outside. Shane and Andrea huddled together in the backseat of the Hyundai, trying to keep warm. Shane had napped after cleaning his shotgun, leaving Andrea to keep watch. She knew it was only a matter of time before Morales came around, but she was still shocked when she heard the knocking on the window. Andrea opened the door on her side and stepped out of the car.

"What's up?"

"Just wanted to see if you and Shane wanted to join us. We finally got that fire going."

Andrea whipped around when she heard the car door open behind her.

"You didn't want me near your family, now you wanna sing Kumbaya aroun' a campfire? Hell no!"

Morales looked past Andrea and glared at Shane. "Guess I got my answer. I was willing to start over, but…" He shook his head. "See you tomorrow?"

Andrea nodded and watched as Morales returned to the two tents. Based on his gait, she could tell he was frustrated. She turned back to Shane who got back in the Hyundai and slammed the door. Andrea joined him and her face was twisted in anger.

"What the hell is your problem, Shane?"

"We left Hershel's farm an' ran into Morales who forgets how to survive out here."

"We already went through this—"

"No, we ain't. We didn't leave one group to join another. Thought that's why we hightailed it—neither of us fit in."

Andrea picked at the front seat in front of her. "No one said anything about joining them."

"Seems like you wanna do that."

"It's temporary, not forever."

Shane scoffed. "Thank God for small favors. It's night an' there's no way in hell I'm leavin' our wheels."

"So then take watch for the night. I'm exhausted." Andrea wasn't tired, not physically anyway. She was mentally worn out from going back and forth with him all day.

Shane didn't seem aware of this based on his response. "You need your beauty rest, darlin'. Catch some Z's an' you'll be as good as new."

oOo

The last thing Andrea remembered before the ear-piercing screams was that she laid her head against the backseat, while Shane decided to sit up front. She bolted awake when the woman's shrill screams pulled her out of her sleep. She raced out of the Hyundai and saw a herd of staggering walkers milling around where Morales had set up camp. The screams were louder now and shouts of fear joined in, a horrifying chorus of terror filling the night air.

"We have to help them!" She pointed at the tents frantically and felt Shane yank her by the back of her shirt.

"Get inside, Andrea!"

She rushed back in the Hyundai and shut the door just in time. A walker dressed in a police uniform banged on the window, frustrated that its food source had escaped. The only thing separating Andrea from the walker was the window. Shane started the Hyundai and gestured wildly in front of him. He was shouting something at her, but above the pounding of her heart, she didn't hear him. Andrea saw three walkers all dressed in police uniforms approaching them. It was as though an entire police precinct had turned into walkers. Without Shane saying anything, she knew what she had to do. Andrea pressed the button on her side to lower the window down and stuck herself halfway out and took aim at the walkers. She could do this—he had trained her well. Shane started backing up and Andrea took aim at the walkers who had spread out to surround the Hyundai. One by one, shots rang out as she fired at all three of them. In no time, the walkers collapsed to the ground.

Shane whistled, amazed at Andrea's shooting skills. "You're one helluva dead shot; those rotters never stood a chance." He steered around the field trying to find the road. He found it and pressed down on the gas pedal, determined to put distance between himself and Morales' camp that was now overrun with walkers.

"We can't leave them behind, Shane! Go back!"

Shane glanced at the rearview mirror and saw red-orange flames flying up from one of the tents. "It's an inferno back there. Better for us to leave now."

"Just circle back once—please!"

Sighing in annoyance, Shane reluctantly turned around and drove back to the camp. He drove in circles while making sure to stay clear of the walkers. The herd wasn't as large as he had first thought, but there was more than enough for him to know that he didn't want to hang around. If they stayed around too long, the walkers would be attracted to the noise of the Hyundai. Still, he did what Andrea asked, knowing that she wanted to try. Overturned chairs, scattered bags and clothes, and empty cans strewn the area. There were tire tracks in the field that belonged to another vehicle, but nothing else to go on. Morales and his family were nowhere to be found. Neither were Sam and Ana.

"They're not here…" Her voice was shaky. "Where are they?"

Shane shrugged. "Maybe they got out in time." He pointed at the car tracks. "See that? They escaped."

"We don't know that."

"If they had listened—"

"Not now, Shane! Don't even start!"

He sent her a weary look and then focused on the road up ahead. He was going to drive towards it when he decided to do one more look around. If it would make Andrea feel like they had done their best to find Morales and his family, and Sam and Ana, then he would do it. When the second search yielded no results, Andrea silently nodded and Shane took that his cue to start driving on the road again. They would drive up north as Rick had suggested once that lower temperatures meant there would be less walkers. The sun was coming up now and Shane was glad so that he could see where he was driving.

"It reminds me of Amy…the attack on the camp."

Shane glanced at her, his expression had softened. "I didn't think what happened would remind you..." He didn't know what else to say.

Andrea said nothing. In her mind, Shane should've understood since he was there when a swarm of walkers had invaded the Atlanta camp. As though reading her mind, he asked about Amy.

"Were you close with her?"

"No…not as much as I should've been. There was a twelve year difference between us and I was too focused on my own life to spend time with her." Andrea swallowed the lump in her throat, trying not to let grief overtake her. "I regret it every day."

Shane kept his focus on the road, but something inside him stirred inside. He knew it was guilt for having tossed out Amy's name earlier. He meant well, but it had come across callous and insensitive of Andrea's loss. Andrea rarely spoke about Amy and Shane thought she wanted to keep her grief to herself. He knew some people grieved privately. Maybe that's how Andrea handled it.

"I'm sorry for bringin' her name up. I meant—"

"I know what you meant." Andrea's tone was flat. "You wanted them to be safe and not take senseless risks. Otherwise someone might end up dead."

"Yeah, that's what I was tryin' to tell them. It didn't come out that way."

The sun continued to rise in the sky, lighting up the area around them.

"It's all in your presentation." Andrea decided not to press the matter further. Shane knew he could've handled the situation better and that was enough in itself. She changed the topic, deciding she wanted to learn more about him. "Tell me about your family."

Shane shook his head. "Grandma Jean raised me. My parents were always bickerin', so I spent more time with her growin' up. I was fourteen when my parents divorced an' I went to live with her. Not much else."

Andrea watched him drive, noticing his facial expression was as flat as her tone. He gave no indication that the topic was off-limits, just that there was nothing more to add. Sitting against the passenger seat, she took out the gun she had used to kill the walkers. It was the gun her father had gave her. Shane liked to call it "Sweet Piece". As she turned it over in her hands, she remembered Shane disassembling it. Those memories, along with Shane giving her shooting lessons, replayed in her mind over and over again.

Then she thought of Morales and his family. Were they okay? Did they have guns to protect themselves? What about Ana and Sam? Did they get out in time? What about the kids? Sighing, she decided not to torture herself with the unknown. She hoped they were safe, although there was no indication that they were alive or dead. Deciding to put last night out of her mind, Andrea dozed off as Shane drove in silence.

oOo

After parking outside by an abandoned warehouse, Shane wasted no time in climbing over to the backseat, leaving Andrea by herself in the front. Andrea stared at the sun as it traveled downwards to the horizon. Orange and golden streaks ran across the blood red sky. The sunset was a beautiful sight to watch, but Andrea's mind was elsewhere. She had put to rest her worry for Morales and his family, as well as Sam and Ana.

Now she focused on her and Shane and the conversation they had about Lori. She wasn't upset that he was worried for the Grimes family—safety was always Shane's number one priority. She was more annoyed that he hadn't gotten over Lori after all this time. What he had told her in the cemetery kept repeating itself in her mind. It didn't help that he reminded her of it while back at the camp. We ain't holdin' hands an' ridin' off into the sunset. Her thoughts were interrupted when Shane's fingers found their way to her shoulders and neck. His voice was husky as he massaged her.

"Come in the back, Andrea. There's plenty of space."

Andrea glanced at him in the rearview mirror and he met her eyes. Flashing a cocky grin, it was obvious to her that Shane had no idea what was brewing. She thought about ignoring him or smacking his hands off. Against her better judgement, she got out of the passenger side and joined him in the backseat. She was glad to be inside the Hyundai; it was cold outside and the wind blowing around made it colder—but she wasn't glad to be near him. The temperature outside matched what she felt inside. The moment she got in next to him, she wanted to go back to the front.

"Why you so quiet?" Shane asked as he played with the buttons on her blouse.

"Stop it." Andrea shoved his hands away. She backed up against the window, putting distance between them.

Shane did likewise; the entire time he kept his dark eyes focused on her. "You gonna tell me what's wrong? 'Cause I'm no mindreader."

Andrea said nothing in response.

"You mad 'bout Morales?"

"No."

"Then what is it? You been missin' me, huh?"

She wanted to slap the mischievous grin off his face. "Why'd you ask me to come back here?"

"So we could play tic-tac-toe, darlin'." Shane chuckled as he got up and sat closer to her. "C'mon, you know you love it when we're goin' at it." He started rubbing her thighs and stopped when he met her icy glare. "You mad 'bout somethin', but I don't know what."

"Who am I to you?"

Shane laughed as though Andrea had asked him to go skinny-dipping with her. "That's a silly-ass question, Andrea. You're my friend."

"With benefits?" She hoped he heard the edge in her voice. Based on his nonchalant response, she could tell he wasn't fazed at all.

"Sort of."

Her frustration was eating away at her and she didn't want to be near him now. She got up and returned to the front passenger seat, leaving Shane by himself in the backseat. Andrea thought he called out to her, but maybe that was her imagination. She slammed the door shut and sat back in the seat, arms folded across her chest. In the future, she would sleep with him again and wonder why she was allowing herself to be a source of sexual pleasure for him if his emotions weren't present for her. Now that she thought about it, he probably thought of Lori the day they left the farm…he must've imagined her as Lori whenever he touched, kissed, or had sex with her. The thought of being a fill-in for Lori made her sick to her stomach.

"You ain't answer my question, but I answered yours. S'okay. Whenever you ready to be straight up with me, we'll talk. Until then, I'm gonna catch some Z's." Shane made himself comfortable in the backseat, getting ready to rest for the night.

Andrea looked over her shoulder at Shane who now laid on his back in the seat. "We're going nowhere fast."

"We'll get to Maryland, jus' you wait an' see. Gonna get us some Maryland crab cakes!"

"I was talking about us, Shane."

That hit him. He raised himself into a sitting position. "'Us'? There ain't no 'us'. We're friends, we ride together. Sometimes we screw aroun' together. That's it." He shrugged as though this was common sense to him and didn't understand why it was a misunderstanding for her. "We discussed this already—today an' back at the cemetery when you first asked to ride with me. Don't know why this is an ongoin' issue." He laid back down again.

Something in his tone suggested the conversation was over. She wanted to press the point, but it was obvious where he stood. Just as it was clear that nothing would change between them. They would be friends-with-benefits/fuck buddies for however long she permitted it go on. Andrea reclined the seat backwards and placed the gun her father had gave her on the dashboard. Her mind was on repeat and replayed when Shane showed her how to disassemble and clean it. What was happening between them that day? Or more so, what had started inside her that day when it came to Shane? Even before that brief moment in the RV, they had exchanged a long look after he beat up Ed at the quarry. It was just before Shane had walked off, leaving Carol in tears while Andrea, Amy, and Jacqui tried to comfort her.

Andrea closed her eyes and reopened them. Night had fallen and Shane was already asleep. They hadn't even worked out who was going to stay awake and who would sleep. That wasn't important though. What mattered more was what she wanted to share with him. Andrea had come close to revealing her true feelings. She wanted to be open with him, but what was the point of putting her heart on the line—if his heart was already occupied by another woman?

Chapter Text

 In Memoriam

Feels like I'm falling, into a world
Into a world I can't control
I hear it calling Down in my soul
Gripping my bones
It won't let go

Ruelle - "Bad Dream"

The rumbling of Daryl's motorcycle was the telltale sign that he had returned. Rick was inside Hershel's home helping the group prepare for dinner when he heard it. He had searched all day and it was only an hour ago when Lori suggested he take a break and clear his mind by helping the Greene family prepare dinner. He set down the pitcher of sweet tea on the table and rushed out the front door to greet Daryl. Before Rick could ask anything, Daryl shook his head. Rick didn't want to, but he had to face the current the situation because ignoring it wouldn't change anything.

"Ain't nothin' out there, Rick."

Rick stared at him in disbelief. Daryl was excellent at tracking. Out of everyone in the group, he remained the most persistent in finding Sophia. Even though he didn't find her, Rick and Carol valued his tracking skills. Most of the group underestimated Daryl, but he had expertise in areas that none of them had experience in: tracking, hunting, and surviving.

"No tracks?" Rick asked to be sure.

"Nothin'." Daryl shook his head again. "I went aroun' several times to be sure."

He knew this wasn't the answer Rick wanted to hear, but it was the truth: there were no signs of Shane and Andrea. He had rode through the area surrounding the farm which yielded no clues. He even thought it'd be a good idea to check the area of the woods where he had tried to find Sophia. Every single day, Daryl had been out there from dawn to dusk. Sometimes he'd go out early, hours before anyone in the group woke up just to get a head start. The rest of the group was also searching, but they weren't doing it to the extent that he was. He wished he could give Rick information, even a sliver of hope that they were alive. Shane and Andrea had left to go on a supply run two weeks ago and had never returned. The harsh truth was he had no answers.

No one did.

Rick stared out at the open field while Daryl went inside the house. He wanted to stop Daryl, ask him where he searched, suggest he go further out—but that seemed unfair to have him continue, especially now that it was becoming futile. Rick was stuck between bewilderment and anxiety that after all this time, they still hadn't been found. There was no hint of where they might be. Wherever Shane and Andrea had gone—that is, if they were still alive—would forever remain a mystery to Rick and the group. He wondered what the rest of the group thought.

During the two weeks of their disappearance, no one had spoken aloud about it except to offer assistance in searching for them. The strangest thing was that Shane's absence seemed beneficial to the group—or so Rick thought. He never wanted to admit aloud to anyone that not having Shane around made it easier for him. There was less arguing and more cooperation in the group. Guilt had gnawed at his conscience the first time that thought ran through his mind. Several days later, Dale commented on how peaceful everything was now that Shane was gone. Rick felt less guilty, but he also noticed that Dale did not express the same sentiments about Andrea. Instead, Dale talked nonstop about how he had found her and Amy, how meaningful it was to have the two sisters in his life. Based on how Dale spoke, it sounded like only Andrea was missing.

Now that Daryl had returned to the farm and realizing that Shane and Andrea had been gone for two weeks, Rick knew it was time to broach the subject with everyone. Doing so would force him to face the truth—that they were dead, had turned—or had ran away from the group. The two were definite possibilities given the world they lived in now. The third he didn't like to think about, especially since he felt he should've convinced Shane not to do the supply run. So he focused on the first two and dismissed the third possibility.

Rick entered the dining room and saw that Daryl had already sat down next to Carol. Lori was on the other side of Carol. Carl sat next to his mother. There was an empty seat next to Carl and Rick decided he would sit by his son. T-Dog and Dale sat next to each other and across from the Grimes family. Maggie was together with Glenn and Jimmy stayed near Beth. Patricia took a seat at the head of the table and Hershel sat at the opposite end. When Hershel saw everyone was settled, he offered to pray.

Everyone bowed their heads in reverence as Hershel recited a prayer of gratitude for everyone's safety and for the food that had been prepared with loving hands. Rick wanted to show respect for Hershel and honor his faith, but he felt skeptical of everything. Hershel had once told him that it was an act of God that he had been able to find his son and wife. This was after being shot in the line of duty, falling into a coma, waking up and finding the world he knew was gone forever. Against the odds, be it due to God's grace as Hershel believed, luck or good fortune, Rick had found Carl and Lori. He wished that the God that Hershel believed in would act now and bring back Shane and Andrea.

"Amen," Hershel finished.

Rick looked up and saw Hershel staring at him. He didn't look cross or offended that Rick hadn't joined in the prayer. Instead, Hershel's concern was more apparent and Rick knew by what he said next that he wanted him to be open with the entire group.

"Rick's got something to share with all of us. It's concerning Andrea and Shane." Hershel passed the bowl of collard greens to Beth.

Everyone looked expectantly at Rick. When Lori passed him the bowl of chicken and dumplings, he handed it to Patricia. Everything looked appetizing and smelled delicious, but he wasn't hungry.

"I thought you should all know…" He lost his words for a moment and he was thankful that everyone was distracted by eating dinner. He just had to say it straight. "You should all know that I'm endin' the search for Andrea and Shane. Everyone has helped a lot in the past two weeks. Daryl has tried trackin' them down an' they're nowhere to be found."

He waited to see what they would say and how they would react. Lori was the first to openly show her emotions as she dropped her fork on her plate. Rick figured she either felt shock or guilt (and probably a combination of both) given her affair with Shane which resulted in her current pregnancy. Carl stared at his plate, not saying anything. Rick could tell he was very sad since he had a good relationship with Shane. Shane had been like an uncle to Carl, a friend and a confidant. Daryl looked exhausted and Carol kept her focus on her food as a way to avoid expressing her true feelings. It was bad enough that Shane's and Andrea's disappearance had happened not too long after finding out the truth about Sophia. Sophia's disappearance, the ongoing search to find her, and then finding out she had become the undead was still reeling in her mind. She didn't want to remember images of her daughter stumbling out of the barn, dead and decomposing—and she didn't want Andrea and Shane to suffer the same fate.

Glenn glanced at Rick and then Daryl, puzzled as to how Rick had come to this decision. Beside him, Maggie's expression was blank—she had no ties to Shane or Andrea; in fact, she didn't like either of them. Rick knew it and he also knew she wouldn't voice that aloud. Patricia seemed confused about how to react, whereas Jimmy and Beth seemed indifferent since they barely knew them. Hershel folded his hands on lap. He looked thoughtful and Rick imagined that he was regretful that things had ended on a bad note between him and Shane. T-Dog was curious and waited to hear more. Dale was the only one who outwardly expressed any anger.

"I'm not surprised they didn't return," Dale said, as he snatched the saltshaker from the middle of the table and sprinkled salt on his food. When he was done, he slammed it down on the table, completely uncharacteristic of him, as he was known to be calm.

Rick wasn't sure whether he should find out what Dale meant when he decided to explain his reasons for abandoning the search.

"Since they haven't returned, they might've been killed out there—by walkers or a human threat. They might've turned by now." Rick sighed. "I didn't want to give up the search for them, jus' as I didn't want to give up on findin' Sophia."

"But you are—you're giving up on finding Andrea," Dale shot back.

Rick blinked. He was shocked that Dale directed his anger at him. He wondered if everyone else felt the same way: were they upset that he was stopping the search? Were some of them more concerned for Andrea than they were for Shane? Did Shane have anyone in his corner? Apparently he did…

"I think you should try to find them, Dad. Shane was always there for our family and we should be there for him too," Carl offered.

Rick nodded at the same moment that Dale shook his head. Deciding it'd be best to get it out in the open whatever Dale was feeling, Rick challenged him—and the rest of the group.

"What do you think was goin' on between them?" He made sure not to sound accusatory.

Before Dale could answer, Lori looked away, while Glenn and Maggie glanced at each other and then back at Rick, unsure of what to say. T-Dog tried to enjoy his dinner and Daryl did the same thing: he distracted himself by devouring his meal. He had been out all day and had worked up an appetite.

Carol shrugged. "I've seen them spending more time together."

Rick was taken back. "Do you think they're a couple?"

"I'm not sure, but it's possible. They seemed to have more fun being together than looking for my Sophia." Carol stopped herself from saying more. She remembered when Shane and Andrea had returned from searching for Sophia and how she had spotted hickeys on the younger woman's neck. It was obvious that they had done way more than investigate the surrounding area. Carol never called attention to it, not even after she took Andrea aside to get cleaned up.

Dale was fed up with all the secrecy and tossed his fork and spoon on the plate. "I'm not one to beat around the bush, so I'll say it: Shane and Andrea were sleeping with each other when they were supposed to be looking for Sophia."

Rick noticed Lori staring at the wall, as though wanting to escape the conversation.

"What?!" T-Dog had been torn out of his thoughts. "That's out of left field, Dale."

"No, it isn't. They've been with each other—I don't know how long, but—"

"Even if they're shackin' up, it ain't our business," Daryl threw in.

Beth, Jimmy, and Patricia remained silent, but listened in on the conversation. Maggie whispered something in Glenn's ear and he nodded.

"You don't have to," Glenn said.

Maggie looked relieved. "Thank you, Glenn."

The rest of the group focused on them now, puzzled by what their exchange meant. Seeing everyone's eyes focused on them, Glenn sighed and revealed what he and Maggie had just shared.

"Maggie asked not to get involved in this and I told her she doesn't have to—that's all."

Hershel glanced at his older daughter and then back at Dale. "Is there a reason why Andrea and Shane being together bothers you?" He exchanged a questioning look with Rick, who shrugged in response. Apparently, Rick was also surprised by Dale's assessment.

Dale sighed, frustrated. "It's obvious and plain as day: he's using her. That's what he's doing." He didn't sound like himself and his words came out more hurriedly. "He's manipulating her for his own selfish reasons. I warned her about him…" He took off his bucket hat and placed it on the table. "I tried to make her see what's in front of her—that Shane is a dishonest and dangerous man, but she didn't listen."

"Don't say that about Shane!" Carl shouted. "He's—"

"CARL! You will not raise your voice at your elders," Rick reprimanded him. Carl turned away from his father and Rick made his son face him.  He firmly held Carl's shoulders and looked him straight in the eye.  "Do you understand?"

Carl said nothing, but he refused to look at his father and glared across the table at Dale.  Dale sat back with his jaw dropped open. He wasn't sure how to respond to Carl, but he was glad Rick took the lead to address his son's behavior.

"What did your father say?" Lori joined in, backing up her husband.

Carl pushed away from the table and ran out of the dining room. Lori's faced flushed red with embarrassment and she knew what she had to do when she saw Rick nodding at her. Without a word to the rest of the astonished group, Lori left the dining room to go find Carl and talk to him. As she left, she heard snippets of the conversation.

"Why would Shane use Andrea?" Daryl asked, curious.

"Because that's the kind of man he is." Even from the living room, Lori heard angry tremors in Dale's voice. "That's who he is—he convinced her to leave and now she's out there doing God knows what with him."

"I noticed somethin' different 'bout Andrea…"

Lori noticed that Daryl sounded reflective and she wondered what he was about to reveal. She stayed outside of the dining room to eavesdrop.

"What's that?" Rick asked.

"After Amy an' the CDC, she was down an' out—"

"I could've told you that myself," Dale threw in. "She was depressed."

"But that changed, even before she accidentally shot me. She was comin' out of it an' doin' more 'round the farm."

"Shane gave her shootin' lessons an' she turned out to be a natural," Rick confirmed. "Are you sayin' her an' Shane were—"

"She was better off than before." Daryl said. "Ain't nothin' to do with Shane."

"Andrea did change after Shane gave her shooting lessons," T-Dog insisted. "He gave her private lessons, right?"

Dale snorted. "Yeah, private lessons…"

"Shane's got nothin' to do with Andrea turnin' around'," Daryl said again.

"Then why do you think she changed?" T-Dog asked.

"She had it in her all along."

Daryl wasn't about to wave the white flag in this argument. Lori could tell Daryl didn't want to credit Shane for Andrea's emotional turnaround. Daryl didn't like Shane just as she didn't like Andrea, but even she had to admit that the change was apparent. Andrea had went from grieving for Amy and isolating herself to contributing to the group and learning how to shoot a gun with incredible accuracy. At one time, she had screamed at the sight of walkers. Before she had left, she had stayed on guard for walkers, so that she was more than ready to shoot rounds in their heads. It was like seeing two different women.

"Andrea's got her head in the clouds and it has everything to do with Shane!" Dale argued. "He's manipulated her!"

"If them bein' together put them in a better mindset, then that can't be a bad thing," Rick said and Lori thought her husband's tone sounded perplexed. He couldn't tell if he should acknowledge the growing bond between Andrea and Shane. Or if he wasn't sure if it was right to ignore how Shane empowered Andrea when he taught her how to shoot a gun.

Dale sounded exasperated now. "It is bad if he's using her!"

Lori decided she had heard enough and she went further into the home to find Carl while trying not to get distracted when she heard the cacophony of voices respond to Dale's allegations against Shane. It was just as well. Part of her was glad that Carl had acted out because it gave her a chance to leave the room. She couldn't stand the idea of Shane running away from the group to be with Andrea. It made her question if he truly loved her as he always said he did—or if she was just a notch under his belt. Shane's womanizing behavior wasn't a secret. She had known him as a ladies man who flitted from one woman to the next, never settling down to be in a serious relationship.

However, after believing that her husband was dead—since that's what Shane had told her—she had experienced a new side of Shane. A side of him that she was sure shocked him as well. Shane being a paternal figure and a surrogate husband was much more than she had ever expected from him. His replacing Rick, even if it was for a short time, kept her and Carl pushing forward to keep surviving. It made her feel safe, when before their first intimate moment, the only emotion consuming her was terror at how their world had vanished. Shane getting her and Carl to safety had always meant everything to her and it paved the way for them to have a relationship. Loving each other gave them a much needed escape from the ongoing crisis of a world turned inside out. For a short time, they experienced normalcy when they kissed each other…held each other…made love with each other….

Lori shook her head, not wanting to think on it further. What they had was over now and Shane had started a relationship with Andrea. Whether they had eloped because they wanted to leave the group, or they had been killed out there, Lori didn't know. One thing was for certain: there was nothing that she nor Dale—nor the rest of the group—could do about it.

oOo

Two weeks later and the group still hadn't located Andrea and Shane. After the dinner where Dale made it known what he felt about their disappearance, Rick decided to try again. Lori encouraged him not to give up, to keep trying. Daryl, as well as T-Dog and Glenn, made it their business to comb the entire farm and the perimeter again…and ended up with the same results. Rick appreciated their efforts, but now it was a month since they had left for their supply run.

He was done.

If they hadn't showed up by now, he doubted they ever would. So tonight, when dinner was finished, he decided to accept the fact that they were gone. He needed to openly mourn them and express grief, but what he had in mind, he would need Hershel's permission to carry out. Rick waited until everyone had left the dining room and it was only him and Hershel. Privacy was a must for this conversation and he knew Hershel would've appreciated this gesture. Hershel seemed to know what Rick wanted as he initiated the conversation first.

"Something on your mind, Rick?"

Rick stood up and met Hershel at the head of the table. He took a seat next to the older man and reviewed in his mind what he wanted to ask him.

"You know it's been almost a month since Shane an' Andrea left to go on their supply run…" His voice trailed off.

"Has it been a month already? Seems like a lot longer."

"It does. We've looked everywhere an' can't find them, Hershel. I have no idea what happened to them out there. I try not to think of the possibilities."

Hershel looked thoughtful. "I understand. What would you like to do?"

Rick didn't respond right away. The usual dark thoughts entered his mind: Shane and Andrea had been bitten or killed by walkers. They had turned and were doomed to roam the earth as the undead. Or they had been ganged up on by Randall's group and were shot to death. Maybe the Hyundai ran out of gas and they were stranded out there…None of the ideas made sense and Rick knew he was catastrophizing the situation, but he couldn't help it. With no answers to go on, nor a hint of their whereabouts, he always imagined the worst. He mustered up the courage to make his request known to Hershel.

"If it's not too much trouble…can we have a memorial service for them? I'll understand if you prefer not to," Rick quickly added, knowing the tension between Hershel and Shane had worsened over time.

Hershel didn't respond at first and Rick thought he wouldn't permit it. He knew Hershel never liked Shane after he had busted open the barn and led the group to massacre all the walkers inside—especially since those walkers were once living people in the Greene family.

"I think it's a good idea. I had no use for Shane while he was here, but I never had a problem with Andrea. Right now though, what I think of him is neither here nor there. If giving them a memorial service will help put your mind at ease and give you a sense of peace and closure, then go forward with it."

Rick sighed inwardly, relieved by Hershel's compassionate response. "Thank you. This whole thing feels like an ongoing nightmare. I wake up from that coma to find the world has gone to hell. My wife and son are alive, thanks to my best friend. He saved them, you know. Shane got them to safety…" Rick's voice trailed off.

Hershel raised his hand halfway as if communicating: say no more. "If it's important to you, Rick, then it's important to me. We'll do it."

oOo

Two days later, the group stood in a semi-circle with Rick and Hershel. They were in front of the Greene home where two piles of stones had been put together. Everyone had taken turns putting a stone in both piles. One had been made for Shane and the other for Andrea. They were close to the pile made for Otis' memorial. Rick wasn't certain that putting Shane's memorial next to Otis' was the right thing to do, given that it was Shane who had killed him, but he said nothing when Hershel suggested it. Exposing Shane now that he was gone would only cause Hershel and Patricia unnecessary heartache and unrelenting grief. He also wanted to honor Shane today and not desecrate his memory—even though he had done things that most would consider morally wrong. Rick watched as Hershel started the service.

"We've come together today to honor our two friends, Shane and Andrea. They are gone from our presence, but they will always be close to our hearts. I want to invite you all to share memories you have." Hershel glanced at the group. When no one stepped up, he gestured towards Rick to begin.

Rick stepped forward and hoped his words were heartfelt. "We'll start with Andrea…I didn't know her very long—but I did know she was a brave woman. She was finding her place in the group when she…"

His voice trailed off and now he looked at everyone, although he wanted to avoid their puzzled expressions. Why did he go there? He almost said the word "vanished" or the phrase "went missing". Or even worse was the possibility that he didn't want to think about: when she ran off with Shane. Rick believed they were dead, but sometimes he liked to imagine that Shane and Andrea were still alive. It helped him to cope, but then it would come crashing down around him. Especially because then it would lead to questions that had no answers: why did they run off together? Whose idea was it? Had they been together the entire time? Then his mind settled on death as the only real answer. There was no way they were still alive—they were dead or the undead. Putting the thoughts out of his mind, he forced himself to continue.

"Andrea was findin' her place in the group. My favorite memory of her was when she held a gun in my face the first time we met." At this, the group broke out in laughter. Rick scanned their faces and was glad to see Dale smile. "I met her when Glenn, T-Dog, Morales, Jacqui, an' Merle were doin' a run an' we got each other out. Guts an' all. She loved her sister. Amy was everythin' to her an' we all know she took her younger sister's death very hard."

Rick stopped. Although he had mentioned Amy with no problem, saying the names of Jacqui, Morales, and Merle aloud felt strange. Jacqui was dead although it felt like he had met her yesterday. Lori still spoke of her gentle demeanor. Morales and his family had left the group to find their relatives in Alabama. Rick often wondered what became of them. Merle was…Rick glanced at Daryl who was focused on the grass in front of him. As though noticing Rick staring at him, Daryl looked up and shrugged as if to say "it is what it is." They had went back for Merle, along with T-Dog and Glenn, and only found bloody handcuffs and his severed hand. Merle was out there—he was alive, but no one knew where. He was ashamed now that he didn't know what else to say about Andrea. It seemed to be the right moment as Dale approached Rick.

"I'll do the rest," Dale whispered to Rick as the group looked on. Rick was about to protest when Dale placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "It would mean a lot if I can speak about Andrea."

Rick stepped back to where Hershel stood, allowing Dale to take the center stage.

Dale took a deep breath before starting. He glanced at Glenn and T-Dog—his two closest friends in the group. Just as he considered Amy and Andrea to be his daughters, he loved Glenn and T-Dog as his sons although he had never told them so. He spoke slowly, making sure his words were clear.

"Today, I'm grieving two daughters. Many of you don't know this, but my wife suffered a miscarriage, so I never had any children of my own until I met Amy and Andrea. When I found them, we clicked instantly, formed a little family. I've taken others under my wing." He nodded at Glenn and T-Dog. "But those two…those two were my heart and soul and now…" Dale felt himself getting choked up and forced himself to continue. "It's not an exaggeration to say that my heart is broken. I loved Andrea like she was my own daughter. Things didn't end well for us. I convinced her to get out of the CDC—I thought I was doing it for her, but she was right…I was really doing it for me. I didn't want to be alone in this world and Andrea…she gave me life. She gave me happiness that I thought I'd never experience again."

Dale didn't meet anyone's eyes when he mentioned the CDC. He missed when Maggie and Hershel exchanged a questioning glance. Everyone else simply listened.

"She wanted to end it there…she wasn't the same after Amy's death. She was very depressed. Each day was a struggle for her."

Beth had been scuffing her sneaker in the dirt when she looked up at Dale. She remembered Andrea telling her about making room for the pain. Knowing that at least one person understood why she didn't want to live anymore made Beth feel less alone. Maggie didn't get it; she was wrapped up in her new relationship with Glenn. Lori was having a baby even though the world had went to hell. Andrea understood…she got it. Beth wished she was still around to talk to.

"I didn't want to let her go—it wasn't her time." Dale turned to the pile of stones that had been laid out for Andrea. He placed one hand on it and with the other, he took off his bucket hat. "I just want her to be at peace, wherever she is." He stood there for a moment before putting his bucket hat on and rejoining the group.

Hershel came forward again after Dale went back to standing next to T-Dog. He looked around at the group to make sure it was okay for him to continue. Glenn looked like he was about to step forward, but then remained at Maggie's side. Without further indication from anyone that they wanted to speak to the group about Andrea, Hershel knew it was time to remember Shane.

"We will now speak about Shane."

Rick stepped forward and as he did so, he noticed Carl leave Lori. Watching his son closely, he noticed Carl look at him with an expression that was both angry and sad. On one hand, Carl was glaring at his father. At the same time, his eyes appeared glassy as though he was on the verge of tears. When he finally got to where his father stood, Carl turned to the group. It was only then that Rick noticed he was carrying a small piece of rope.

"Shane was a good man." This he directed at Dale. Dale didn't say anything; he simply watched Carl's demonstration. "He taught me many things like how to tie knots." Carl held up the rope and made a loop at one end. He passed the other end of the rope through the loop. Adjusting the knot, he pulled both sides of open rope and then held it up. "This is a figure eight knot."

The group nodded in response, although no one spoke aloud.

"Shane helped me and my Mom when everything got crazy and I'm gonna miss him." Carl wiped his eyes and then walked back to where his mother stood.

Rick waited. He was glad to see Carl had good memories of Shane. When no one else came forward, he knew this was the time to eulogize the man he loved as his best friend and brother. He reached in his pocket for his notes. He remembered asking Hershel for pen and paper after Hershel reassured him that he could hold the memorial service. There was so much to share about Shane, but Rick wasn't sure where to begin. He had written a list of memories he had of his best friend:

Shane was a prankster in his high school years
Shane was a ladies man
Shane was like an uncle to Carl

Deciding it would be best to speak from the heart, Rick put his notes away and let his instincts guide him. He hoped what he shared would be heard and appreciated by everyone, even by those who disliked Shane—mainly Dale, Hershel, and Daryl.

"I was gonna share with you 'bout Shane an' how we've been best friends since high school—how he used to play pranks on the principal." Rick forced himself to smile and was relieved to see a warm expression on Carol's face. Everyone else appeared blank—except Lori's who appeared downcast. She stared at the grass while holding Carl. "I wanted to tell you how we joined the police force together an' became sheriff deputies…but somehow that all seemed shallow. I thought 'bout this an' decided that's not important. What's important is that you know this: the Shane you saw—the argumentative an' belligerent man you came to know—that's not Shane. That's not the Shane I knew for years an' that's not the Shane I want you to remember."

Rick scanned their faces now. Lori wiped a tear away and then nodded at him, giving her approval for how he presented Shane to the group. Rick tried not to think about if Lori was tearing up because Shane truly was the father of her unborn baby. He turned his focus to everyone else and noticed Glenn staring at the ground while Maggie squeezed his hand. Beth, Jimmy, and Patricia looked on, staying in the moment. Daryl listened and T-Dog was attentive. Carol's faint smile was still present. Turning to Hershel, Rick was glad to see the thoughtful expression on his face as if giving Shane a second chance.

Dale was the only one not moved by Rick's eulogy. Rick thought he looked distant, as though he'd rather be elsewhere. It was surprising because Dale was usually warm and friendly, but the two men didn't get along. Even so, he tried not to let it bother him. In Rick's mind, if Dale couldn't let go of his anger towards Shane, that was his problem. Rick already grieved the fact that he had no idea what happened to Shane—and that he might never find out. That was the most difficult part to acknowledge and accept. He wouldn't allow one man's grudge keep him from feeling sadness or expressing love for his brother and best friend.

"Shane could be a hothead, but his heart was in the right place. Safety was always his number one priority. He led this group before I did. That's worth rememberin'. Shane didn't have many people in his life, not much family, so he always considered me his brother an' I…" Rick paused, trying not to get choked up. "I considered him my brother. It's because of him that Lori an' Carl are alive—the two most important people to me." He glanced in their direction: Lori gently squeezed Carl's shoulders and Carl looked back at his father. "My best friend…my brother…he risked his life to save my son an' wife when he could've left Atlanta on his own, but he didn't…an' he tried to get me out too…" Rick didn't know what to add to that. He didn't know the details, but he knew from what Shane told him that he had tried getting him out of the hospital. "Whatever he did to piss you off or rub you the wrong way—put that aside. My son had it right." At this, Rick smiled at Carl and he felt his heart soften when his son returned the same warm expression. "Shane was a good man."

There was nothing more to say. When no one else stepped up, he knew the memorial service was over. Not wanting to look at anyone, he kept his eyes focused on the ground. He knew he could've shamed or expose Shane for the affair he had with Lori, the murder of Otis, and how dropping off Randall led to a vicious fight between them, but it wouldn't feel right saying all those things. Rick's father had taught him that you don't desecrate the dead. If he's dead…Rick didn't finish that last thought as he heard Hershel officially conclude the memorial service. When he looked up again, the group was already dispersing. As he watched them go their own separate ways, Rick thought of one thing: he hoped that the memorial service humanized Andrea and Shane. Both were disliked by most of the group and bonded over the fact that they were outsiders—loners.

"Rick?"

Dale approached him now. Rick was good at reading people's facing expressions and from the looks of it, Dale was holding a lot back and wanted to share all—whatever "all" was. He had looked upset during Shane's part of the service, so Rick figured he'd find out what was really on the older man's mind.

"Is everythin' okay?"

"Everything's not okay…there's something you should know about Shane."

Rick wrung his wrists. Dale's tone made him feel uneasy, but he decided to hear him out. "What is it?"

Dale looked directly at him and observed Rick's worry. He then sighed in a sad manner. "It's nothing."

"Are you sure?" Now Rick was thrown off. He glanced again at Lori and Carl and was tempted to ask them to stand with him, but something told him not to. Dale wanted to speak with him on a one-to-one basis.

"It's better that you remember him as your best friend and brother…keep those memories."

Rick watched him walk toward the barn, wondering what Dale wanted to tell him. Without it being said aloud, he knew he would never find out what Dale intended to expose about Shane…and he decided he was okay with that. Rick had told the truth to the entire group: Shane was his best friend and brother. He loved him with everything he had and he knew Shane felt the same way towards him. He intended to remember him that way and didn't need Dale's permission to do so.

oOo

Everything was quiet on the Greene farm—until Rick was hit with three major revelations two days later.

First, Daryl informed him that he had spotted a small group of walkers near the woods that surrounded the farm. He had put them all down, but he was concerned that it meant there was a larger herd nearby. The direction the herd was coming from wasn't fully clear, but Daryl knew something had to be done. Rick decided they would fortify the farm from walkers and outside threats. The second came from Hershel, when he reminded Rick that the Randall issue still hadn't been resolved. Shane's and Andrea's disappearance had distracted everyone and the only ones who dealt with Randall during that time were Jimmy and Patricia when they'd go every other day to feed him. Third, Lori revealed to Rick a little too late what Shane had told her at the church…

"He told you he was gonna leave—an' you waited until now to tell me this?!"

Rick stared angrily at Lori. They were standing in Hershel's kitchen where she had found him. Lori met her husband's furious glare and then turned away.

"When were you gonna say somethin', Lori?"

She looked up at him and brushed the hair out of her face. "I don't—"

"Why did he want to leave?"

Even when she shrugged, he didn't believe her.

"He said it would be better…"

"Better for who? Better for you? Me? Him?"

There was no adequate way to answer that question and after a long painful silence, she finally responded. "I'm sorry, Rick."

"Are you? 'Cause I don't think you are." His frustration with her was at an all-time high and he didn't care how cold he sounded. Their communication had been bad before the outbreak and now it was worse. "Is there anything else 'bout Shane that I need to know?"

Lori looked up, her eyes glimmering. She opened her mouth to speak and then bit her lower lip. Her strange behavior gave Rick the impression that she wanted to share something and immediately clammed up. It reminded him of Dale after the memorial service, wanting to tell him something about Shane, but then deciding to let Rick "keep those memories". Memories of Shane being a loving brother, a protective friend…What secrets were Dale and Lori keeping from him? For a brief second, she looked as though she was trembling and then shook her head. He didn't think she was afraid of him, but more so, fearful that whatever she'd reveal about Shane would push him over the edge.

Whatever it was, Rick didn't want to know.

Part of him wanted to cling to the idea that Shane had simply ran away with Andrea—that they had eloped and were in the Hyundai having raunchy backbreaking sex—he hadn't forgotten Shane's skirt-chasing behavior. At the same time, he found it more comforting to believe that Shane was dead. The idea of his best friend and brother abandoning him, his family, and the group, was too upsetting to think about. It made Rick feel foolish for not stopping Shane when he offered to accompany Andrea for a supply run—especially because he had an inkling that they were going to run away. He also wasn't sure if he wanted or needed to believe that Shane was deceased. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more he knew the truth:

They went out there to get supplies an' they're not comin' back. They can't return to the farm even if they wanted to because they're dead. Repeating these thoughts in his mind helped to solidify these facts so that he wouldn't question it anymore. Since he wasn't going to question it, he decided not to think about it. He had way more important things to consider now, such as how the rest of the group was fortifying the farm to keep it safe. Rick wanted to check in with Daryl, T-Dog, and Glenn as they had been assigned the task of setting up strong fences. Jimmy and Maggie had offered to help out and had went to another location on the farm. Dale was with Hershel, tending to tasks. Carol and Patricia were preparing dinner for everyone and Beth was lying down. That left Carl—

"Where's Carl?" Rick shot the question at his wife.

Lori took out the pitcher of sweet tea from the refrigerator. She set it on the counter and turned to Rick. "He went upstairs when I last saw him. Didn't he want to help you set up fences around the farm?"

Rick nodded. "He did and I told him no. He needs to stay put in the home or sit with Beth. Those were his choices an' he didn't like it."

"I spoke to him about listening to you, but he just wants to help, Rick. Can't you—"

"Where is he?" He didn't want to get into it with her. He was still seething from the information she had gave him. When she still didn't answer, he shook his head, refusing to hide his annoyance. "I'd like to think after everythin' that's happened between us—even with Shane, the baby… that things would be different, but it's more of the same, Lori."

Before Lori could respond, Rick left the kitchen and exited Hershel's home to find his son.

oOo

Carl stomped on the gravel path and kicked dirt and pebbles into the air. He had asked his father if he could help fortify the farm with Daryl, T-Dog, and Glenn. They were building fences to put as a barrier to keep the farm safe from outside threats—both the living and the dead. His father told him he couldn't help out and when he had went to his mother, she told him to listen to his father. He was sick and tired of being treated like a baby and had left the Greene home to wander around the premises.

He was coming up along the shed where Randall was being held captive. He wondered when the group planned to get rid of Randall. Shane had wanted to do so, but his father, caught between what Shane wanted and what the group wanted, still hadn't made a decision. After Shane and Andrea disappeared, Randall had been forgotten about. Carl started towards the shed and then stopped. What if he went to see Randall by himself? Check and see how the prisoner was faring? What would his father say? Carl shrugged. He didn't care what his father said. It's not like he could ground him or send him up to his room as punishment. Thanks to the outbreak, those days were over.

As he approached the shed's doors, he sighed in annoyance when he saw the padlock. Carl remembered T-Dog had placed it there under his father's orders. There had to be a way to get in. Carl crept towards the door and tried to see inside. When he squinted, he was able to make out Randall, still chained up, blindfolded, and gagged. Randall leaned against the wall of the shed. He appeared to be sleeping. Carl wondered… if he were to knock on the shed's door, would Randall wake up? Carl raised a clenched fist to the doors and then had a better idea of how he could get inside without anyone knowing.

oOo

Rick had walked by the shed ten minutes ago and he was on his way to checking on Daryl's, T-Dog's, and Glenn's progress, when some weird inkling told him to see Randall. Deciding to backtrack to the shed, Rick placed his hand on his Colt Python. He rarely used it on the farm since Hershel didn't want anyone using guns, but after the capture of Randall, he had eased up. As Rick neared the shed, he thought he heard chains clinking and frantic whispering. He was going to barge inside and decided to be less obvious. Placing his ear against the door, he listened in shock as Randall and Carl spoke to each other.

"Your Dad's a good man, I can tell." There was an undeniable smirk on Randall's face. Rick couldn't see it, but he heard it in his voice. "He's not like that friend of his with the bad temper."

"Shane doesn't have a bad temper." Rick wasn't surprised that Carl defended Shane, especially after witnessing how he spoke of him at the memorial service. "He knows what needs to be done to keep us safe."

"Heh, safe." Randall's chuckle was dry. "He almost killed me."

Carl said something in response, but Rick couldn't make it out. He listened more to see what direction the conversation would go in.

"If you could get me some water or something to eat, I'd really appreciate it."

"What do you want to eat?"

Rick peered in. Carl stepped towards Randall, who now stood upright, but he was still held back by the handcuffs and shackles. He was wondering how Carl got inside since the doors were locked when he realized his son must've gotten in through the rafters…the ladder on the side of the shed was the telltale clue.

"Anything would be good. A ham sandwich, cookies…" He shrugged. "Maybe an apple? Whatever you can get."

Carl nodded. "Okay, I'll come right back." He started heading to the back of the shed.

Randall attempted to move towards him, causing the chains to rattle. "Can I come with you?"

Rick thought Randall sounded pitiful. He was begging to be set free just as he had tried pleading with Rick and Shane that he was a normal kid and not like the gang he followed. He watched his son to see what he'd do: he knew Carl had a soft spot. Sure enough, Carl turned back to Randall. He hesitated, unsure of what he should do: release Randall or just go into the house to get him a sandwich. Not wanting to waste any more time, Randall tried to plead his case.

"Please—I'm just tired of being chained up like this. My wrists hurt. My ankles…everything, really. If I could just come with you, it—"

Randall never finished because Rick decided he had heard enough. The gunshot from Rick's Colt Python was so loud in the small space that it caused Carl to slam his hands over his ears. Before he knew what was happening, he looked up in time to see his father storm into the shed.

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TELLIN' MY SON?!"

"DAD!" Carl's eyes had magnified—he knew he was in trouble before his father could say anything to him. He looked over at Randall, who had now dropped to his knees and pressed himself against the wall, terrified of what Rick would do.

Rick shot his son a furious glare while keeping his Colt Python aimed at Randall. He was so focused on the cowering chained man in front of him that he didn't hear Daryl and Glenn shouting his name from outside the shed. Nor did he respond when T-Dog banged open the shed doors so hard that they hit the adjacent walls. No, he was focused on resolving the Randall problem—once and for all. Shane had been right: the kid was manipulative and dangerous. His attempt to trick Carl into freeing him was solid evidence of this. Rick couldn't remember the last time he felt this angry—probably when he and Shane had fought—after Shane claimed he couldn't keep Lori and Carl safe.

Shane was gone now…

The skin on Rick's neck prickled as uncharacteristic rage coursed through him. He knew his jumbled emotions were on the verge of exploding not just because of Randall's manipulative behavior that could've harmed his son, but because of Shane's and Andrea's disappearance.

"What. Are. You. Tellin'. My. Son." The words dragged through Rick's clenched teeth. He walked up to a shaking Randall, who tried curling himself into a protective ball. When Randall didn't answer, Rick kicked his stomach. Ignoring his cry of pain, Rick tore into him again. "ANSWER THE DAMN QUESTION!"

"I—I was as-askin'—" Randall stammered and then stopped when he saw T-Dog, Daryl, and Glenn surround Rick.

"Rick, we can't do this right now—" Glenn tried to get his attention.

T-Dog pointed outside. "A herd's comin' this way—we gotta leave!"

"This ain't the time." Daryl tried to pull Rick away, but Rick shoved him off.

Carl looked from Daryl, T-Dog, and Glenn, to his father who still had his Colt Python aimed directly at Randall. His heart skipped several beats when he realized that his father hadn't heard anything that was just said. And above the warnings, Carl heard the familiar sound of growling and scraping nearby…in fact, it sounded like it was right outside the shed.

"I'm done with your bullshit." Without hesitation, Rick pulled the trigger and Randall fell against the wall, his bloodied head hanging between his shoulders.

Carl stared at his father with his mouth wide open. No words or sounds came out. He was badly shaken from what he had just witnessed. He didn't have enough time to process his shock from Randall's sudden on-the-spot execution as two badly decayed walkers staggered into the shed. He pointed behind him and was relieved when T-Dog shot the shorter walker while Daryl fired a bolt from his crossbow into the tall walker's head. Both undead bodies collapsed to the ground. Rick whipped around, torn from his recent action against Randall and now faced with the reality of the here-and-now.

"We gotta get out of here, Rick," Glenn tried again and was relieved when he saw Rick listening. "There's a herd heading our way!"

Without a word to Glenn, Rick snatched Carl's wrist and raced outside of the shed. Sure enough, a group of walkers were shambling towards them. As he looked around him, Rick saw more walkers staggering onto the farm from the surrounding woods. They were coming from all directions. He heard T-Dog, Glenn, and Daryl join him. Did the gunshots draw them out? As though reading his mind, T-Dog answered Rick's question.

"We had half of the farm fortified when we ran into a huge herd. There was too many of them, Rick, so we left and came here to get everyone out."

Rick nodded. He couldn't believe what T-Dog was saying although the evidence was right in front of him. They had to leave the farm as soon as possible and fast! As the walkers' scratchy growling grew louder and the stench of human decay invaded his nostrils, Rick wondered if he'd ever get used to the horrendous smell of rotten meat and feces that was human decomposition. Before he had more time to think about it, his law enforcement instincts kicked in.

"Glenn—find Jimmy and Maggie. T-Dog—get Dale and Hershel. Daryl—bring Carol, Patricia, and Beth. Carl an' me will get Lori. Everyone meet up in the front of Hershel's home—we'll get in Dale's RV an' whatever cars are aroun' on the property an' leave once we're all together."

Before Rick had finished giving his orders, T-Dog rushed in the direction of the barn and Glenn and Daryl raced to the house. Rick had a feeling that Lori was still in Hershel's home so he decided to get Dale's RV ready so that everyone could leave the farm. The growling was closer and Rick didn't look behind him as he snatched Carl's wrist and sprinted up the dirt path. For some reason, Hershel's home appeared far, although they were only a few hundred yards away. As they got closer to the house, Rick thought he saw Lori walk onto the porch, just as Glenn and Daryl ran up the stairs and pushed through the front door.

Lori watched them, bewildered by their hurrying around. She came down the stairs to meet Rick and find out what was happening. Daryl and Glenn had breezed past her, but hadn't told her anything. She squinted into the distance and saw a group of walkers staggering beyond Rick and Carl…As it hit her what was happening—that the farm was about to get overrun—she found herself paralyzed with fear. She knew she had to get out of there—they all did. Where was everyone? She heard Rick shouting her name.

"LORI!"

Rick's lungs burned and Carl squirmed in his grip, but he wouldn't let go of his son until he was in front of his wife. After what seemed like an entire day, Rick finally made it. He glanced over his shoulder and saw more walkers had joined the herd that had followed them from the shed.

"GO!" He stopped to catch his breath and then pointed at the house. "Get everyone out of the house—now! Grab whatever you can an' come straight to Dale's RV!"

Without a word, Lori ran back inside the house. As she did, Rick grabbed Carl again and they ran into Dale's RV that was parked at the side of Hershel's home. Rick started looking everywhere for the key to the RV when Carl shouted at his father.

"Dad! Dale's coming!"

Rick breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Hershel and Dale trailing behind T-Dog. They didn't seem aware of the urgency of the situation until T-Dog shouted something and then Hershel and Dale turned around to see an advancing herd. That did it and all three men scrambled into the RV.

"What in the world's going on?" Hershel asked. Beside him, T-Dog bent over, heaving and struggling to catch his breath.

Rick pointed through the windshield and heard Dale whistle sharply. But Dale didn't stand idle for long. He grabbed the keys from the dashboard, ready to get everyone on the road. Just as he jammed the key into the ignition and the RV roared to life, Lori ran out of the house with Beth. Both women wasted no time boarding the RV.

Daryl followed close behind with Carol and Patricia. Once they were safe inside the RV, he ran to where the group had camped outside on Hershel's property. It seemed like yesterday when Otis had accidentally shot Carl, leading the group to find the Greene farm. He didn't waste time thinking about it—there was no time as he ran to his motorcycle. All the while, the herd advanced closer to Hershel's home. Daryl didn't look behind him—he kept moving and was relieved when he saw his motorcycle. Jumping on the motorcycle, he gunned the engine and circled back to the RV. Everyone should be ready to leave. Daryl was ready to ride out, but Glenn was missing. Daryl drove around again when Otis' blue Ford F-100 came screeching to a halt beside Dale's RV and at the same instant, Glenn bounded out of the house and looked all around to find out where everyone had gone. Maggie stuck her head out of the passenger window.

"GET IN, GLENN!"

Glenn climbed into the flatbed and made it just in time as a walker swiped at his leg. His back slammed against the flatbed when Jimmy pressed on the gas. As he forced himself to sit up, it was only then that he noticed the Greene home shrinking in the distance as they drove away from the farm. He heard the buzzing of Daryl's motorcycle ride past them and smiled when he saw Daryl's winged leather vest. Glenn sighed in relief, thankful that they had all escaped the farm alive. A flood of walkers attempted to follow Daryl, but he pressed on the gas and drove further away. Some staggered along, their gait quicker, if they were newly dead. Other walkers were slower in their movements as they were more decomposed.

Glenn tried to wrap his mind around what had just happened. He was working with Daryl and T-Dog to fortify the farm when a herd came out of nowhere. Rick executed Randall impromptu and the explosive sound of the gunshot attracted more walkers. Reflecting on Rick now, Glenn chuckled nervously when he saw Dale's RV following right behind. From where he sat on the flatbed, Glenn could see the serious expression Dale's face as he drove fast to ensure he'd keep up with Jimmy. Rick stood behind Dale, directing him. Then he went to sit on the passenger side, or at least, that's how it appeared from Glenn's vantage point. He was just grateful they had all escaped the Greene farm.

In Dale's RV, Rick sat in the passenger seat and stared outside at the scenery flying by. He let Carl sit with his mother. Lori was appreciative and had shared a brief kiss with Rick. Carol sat alone in the back, while Patricia helped Beth lie down. Hershel rotated between all of them, offering his support through kind words and prayers. Which was fine, because Rick believed he needed a prayer now. He didn't consider himself to be religious or a man of faith, but he was comforted by Hershel's calm demeanor since chaos had erupted in the past hour, throwing them out of their safety zone.

Rick knew he needed a prayer for peace for the group, for direction of where they should go next, and a prayer for protection. Not just a prayer of protection for the group, but for Shane and Andrea. He didn't want to think of them, but as Dale drove away from the Greene farm, he couldn't help it. He had looked out of the side view mirror moments ago and caught a glimpse of Shane's and Andrea's memorial markers. Maybe there wasn't a need to put up grave markers for them—he felt both surprised and glad that this thought crossed his mind. Trying to accept the reality that they were dead, while also holding onto the hope that they were still alive, pulled at every fiber of his being. Although Rick knew he would never find out the truth about what happened to them, one fact remained steadfast his heart: no matter where they were, dead or alive, he hoped that Shane and Andrea had found—or would find—the peace they both longed for…

 

Chapter Text

Two's Company, Three's a Crowd

If I told you that I loved you
You'd maybe think there's something wrong
I'm not a man of too many faces
The mask I wear is one

Sting "Shape of my Heart"

Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months.

Shane and Andrea had lost track of how much time had passed since leaving Hershel's farm. There was that brief stint when they ran into Morales, but since that time, they haven't seen another living person. Society was dead and sometimes it felt they were the only two alive, although they knew there were other survivors. During their travels, they had been fortunate to find cars to siphon gas from, but he knew she was getting tired of being on the road, especially since most of that time spent out there was in the dead of winter. It was getting warmer now, but the bouncing around was becoming monotonous. Staying in various places for short spaces of time—a movie theater, a grocery market, a skating rink, and a coffee shop—had helped them to rest and scavenge for supplies. Before long they were out on the road again and it was never-ending. Now they had hit a dead end. Several feet in front of them was a barricade made from stacks of tires, fences, and wooden crates. Beyond the barricade was a group of buildings. It looked like a small town.

"What's this?" Andrea asked when Shane stopped the Hyundai. She scanned the barricade and was shocked to see two men come towards the vehicle. One held a rifle and the other held a shotgun.

"Who knows, but we're 'bout to find out." Shane got out of the car and pointed his Glock 17 at the two men. "Where the hell are we?!"

The two men exchanged an amused glance. "Stand down." That was the man who wore a bandana on his forehead.

"You first."

Surprisingly the two men lowered their weapons. They both raised their hands in the air and looked at each other as though trying to decide what to do. One said something and the other nodded in response.

"What're they doing?" Andrea tried not to let fear enter her voice.

Shane was about to respond when the black man spoke to them. Beside him, the younger white man with the bandana smirked.

"Welcome to Woodbury."

oOo

Soon after being discovered outside of the gates by the two sentry guards—Shumpert and Crowley—Andrea and Shane had been escorted by a quiet man named Milton. They found out that they were in a community called Woodbury. The entire time Milton brought them to the building, he had made little conversation. It felt awkward, but they adjusted quickly. Now Andrea and Shane sat in a large meeting room across from the supposed leader of the community as he explained how they created their safe haven after the outbreak started.

"This is our 'Town Hall' where we have community meetings. As you can see, we've cleared it out."

Andrea and Shane exchanged a curious glance. They couldn't believe that any semblance of order existed in the world now. It was refreshing to see since they thought they'd seen the last of civilization.

"I'm sorry, forgive my rudeness. This whole time I've been rambling about Woodbury and I didn't even introduce myself." He flashed a warm smile. "The name's Philip Blake, but folks around here call me 'The Governor'. People look to me for leadership, so I became unofficially in charge here. They gave me the moniker. I use it, but 'Philip' is who I really am. And your names?"

"Andrea." She smiled back at Philip and caught his eye. "Thank you for allowing us in here."

His expression brightened. "Pleasure's all mine. And your traveling companion?"

"Shane." He spat out his name as though he had been forced to say it.

Shane kept his arms folded across his chest. Philip's calm expression never wavered and he remained unfazed by the newcomer's closed off demeanor.

"I get it," he said, nodding. "I'm sure you both have seen a lot out there. Now that you're here, you don't have to worry about the biters. We have running water, food, and shelter. You'll be safe here in Woodbury."

"Sounds like a dream come true," Andrea said. "I'm glad we found this place."

"I'm glad you did too. So…" Philip scanned their hands, noting there were no wedding rings. Well, her hand bore no ring, and he wasn't sure about him. Odd couple…but were they a couple? "Are you two married? Together?"

Shane and Andrea exchanged an uneasy glance. They didn't have a label for themselves. Partners was the most sensible term, but even that had a tinge of romantic connotation.

As though reading Philip's mind, Shane spoke up. "We're partners." He wrapped his arm around Andrea's shoulders and pulled her close to him.

"We've been traveling together out there for some time now…" Andrea said, her voice trailing off.

She didn't want to openly say it, but she felt thrilled and relieved all at once. They didn't have to be out there anymore—they could live here! She felt Shane squeezing her shoulder tighter and wondered why he was acting so defensive. This place was safe, Philip or "The Governor" seemed like a decent man to let them into his community when he barely knew them. There was a long awkward silence now and she smiled at The Governor again. She noticed he returned the warm gesture.

Shane stared at him with an expression that was almost a glare, but not quite.

"So where are you guys from?" Philip attempted to break the tense silence.

At that same moment, two men walked into the meeting room, interrupting the conversation. One man was of Latino background, tall muscular build, and wore a baseball cap backwards. The other man was impossible to overlook. His right hand had been amputated and he wore a substitute appendage with a bayonet at the end. Philip gestured towards them.

"This guys are my right-hand men. Merle Dixon's my lieutenant and Cesar Martinez's is second-in-command. Merle's Merle and Martinez prefers to go by his last name." He noticed the shocked stares exchanged between Merle and Andrea and Shane.

"Look what the cat dragged in!" Merle said, grinning. "The hotheaded cop an' Blondie. Two people I never wanted to see again in my lifetime."

Philip looked both confused and astounded. "You know each other?!"

No one answered his question.

"Hey, douchebag. Where've you been hidin'?"

Merle glared at Shane. "I don't answer to folks who don't use my name."

"Merle." Shane used the same edgy tone when he had introduced himself to Philip.

"That's more like it. How's my baby brother doin'?"

"He's doin'."

Merle shook his head. "Still the same asshole cop from the camp." He turned to Andrea and made obnoxious kissing noises at her. Next to him, Martinez chuckled. "Long time no see, Sugar Tits."

Andrea glared at him and turned to Philip, surprised that he knew Merle.

"Where are you guys from?" Philip asked a second time. "It seems you three know each other."

"Andrea's buddy left me cuffed to a roof. That's how I got this," Merle said, holding up his prosthetic hand-blade.

Andrea realized that Merle didn't know Shane and Rick were best friends and when he last saw her, it was around the same time they met Rick Grimes. "We were with a group in Atla—" She started, but Shane cut her off.

"We wanted to do our own thing an' came across your place."

"You're in luck because you found the best place possible to live in, especially given these trying times." Philip smiled again. Shane didn't return the smile. He paused now, noting Shane's coldness and uncertain of what to make of it.

Shane's glare remained focused on Merle, who smirked at him. Martinez appeared indifferent as he observed the group.

"You got an eye problem, Deputy Walsh?" Merle asked. "You seem to love eyeballin' me an' The Governor."

Andrea quickly covered for Shane. "He's tired, we've been on the road for months."

Philip nodded. "I can give you guys a full tank of gas. Your Hyundai is parked down the street. I'd also like to offer you two a good night's sleep, so that you can decide in the morning if you want to stay here or continue on your way."

Before Shane could disagree, Andrea jumped ahead of him. "We'll stay."

"Terrific! I'll have Milton show you where you both can stay for the night, and if it works out that you want to stay permanently, then consider it your new living quarters. I'll have Milton escort you."

oOo

It had been an hour since Milton had brought them to their new apartment. It was small and perfect for two people. The furnishings were decent: a full-size bed and a dresser in the bedroom. A couch, and a coffee table were in the living room, a kitchenette with a small table and two chairs, and a tiny bathroom with a shower stall. They had small amounts of everything they needed: food and water in the fridge, cookware, towels in the bathroom, and some other items for daily living. There were toiletries and two towels. It wasn't a lot, but it was more than enough for Andrea. She was thrilled with their new shelter. Shane didn't appear impressed. He sat in the bedroom and watched her take off her shoes and blouse.

"What're you doin'?"

"Taking a shower for the first time in months."

She stepped over to him and ran her fingers through his hair. He pulled away from her touch.

"Stop it."

"What's wrong?" She frowned, unsure of why he had snapped at her. "I was just noticing your hair grew back. It's thick and curly again."

"That means I need to shave it off again."

"Leave it, I like it."

She left to go turn on the shower. Shane watched her, but remained sitting on the bed for the moment.

oOo

Andrea didn't turn around when she heard the shower door open and close. The hot water hitting her body was a luxury she hadn't experienced in a long time. She wanted to enjoy the time by herself, lost in her thoughts while doing what used to be an ordinary everyday activity. With Shane standing behind her in the shower stall, her alone time was cut short. Had this occurred when they had first left the farm, she would've whipped around to face him, eager for his hands to roam all over her body. Now she stood facing the wall, not wanting to see him and her heart tightening in her chest when he rubbed soap over her back, her stomach, her hips… She let him do it anyway and tried to keep from shivering when his fingers lingered between her legs. Inevitably, her body betrayed her as she knew it would because he was impossible to resist. Warmth flooded between her legs and tingling spread throughout her body…but her heart remained enclosed in ice.

She didn't remember how they left the shower stall—if he scooped her up in his arms, if he placed her on the bed…Maybe she walked out of the shower stall by herself. Or maybe she simply wanted to be elsewhere. All she knew was it didn't take long for her to end up on her back with him on top of her. Isn't this how it always is? She knew the answer to her question, but that didn't bother her. What disturbed her was that the question had crossed her mind in the first place. His warm kisses were icicles stabbing her skin and his hands that were once like a wildfire tearing through her body now felt like cold clay. Still, she spread her legs for him and didn't react when he glided into her body. It was mechanical for her and she wondered if it was that way for him. She didn't moan or gasp; instead she stared at the ceiling wanting it to be over sooner than later. Above her, she heard him groaning with pleasure as he used her body for his release.

She had always loved the way his fingers entangled in her hair, but this time she stiffened when his fingertips grazed her scalp. She didn't wrap her legs around his hips to draw him in as she usually did. She wouldn't whisper his name in his ear, writhe in ecstasy, or give any indication that she was getting any satisfaction from his performance. Because that's all this was—a performance to make him feel like he was in charge and she had no say—except to enjoy it and ask for repeated encores.

Their exchange before she went to take a shower and his arrival in the shower stall showcased the reality of their connection. Andrea would reach out for Shane and he'd pull away. He'd reach out for her and she'd accept it. It was always on his terms and she was tired of it. She was done with "moving nowhere fast" as she had told him the night Morales' camp got overrun. Physically, he was easy to be acquainted with. Her favorite spots were stored in his tactile memory. If she was tired, he knew how to arouse her so that she was wide awake and ready to go. Emotionally, he was barren, leaving her wanting more although he had nothing to give. Every time he entered her, he took a piece of her soul that she could never gain back and she never received his heart in return. Time had changed nothing between them. She thought it would be different, that things would change and he would see her as someone he could trust and develop a relationship with. The more their bodies intertwined, the further apart they became. She remembered last week when she had interlocked her fingers with his after laying beside him in the Hyundai's backseat. He had quickly removed his hand from hers, making it clear that they weren't together.

And if they weren't together, why did he send Philip Blake that murderous glare when the Woodbury leader asked if they were a couple? That did it. She wanted to confront him about it, but she didn't even want to talk to him—much less have sex with him. His name was on the tip of her tongue to tell him to stop when suddenly Shane withdrew and rolled off her. He lay next to her, breathing hard and when he attempted to place an arm around her, she inched away from him—similar to what he had done the week before.

"You ain't feelin' this."

Andrea would've curled up on her side of the bed to face him, but she decided she was fine with him knowing that she didn't enjoy their intimacy tonight."It was alright." She grabbed the sheet and covered their bodies with it.

"It ain't alright."  His voice tried not to betray anger, but it was present. "Your mind was elsewhere the entire time."

Just like your heart? A wry smile flashed across Andrea's face, but Shane missed it. She was glad she didn't ask the question aloud. Instead, she thought of how she wanted to approach the topic. He should understand what she wanted and needed…what they both needed to survive… She also admitted to herself that Shane was right: she was indifferent and surprisingly, he had noticed. It shocked her since he tended to focus on having his needs met through her regardless of how she felt.

"My mind was full of questions and no answers."

Shane scoffed. "So ask an' you may get the answer you want—or don't want."

"Why were you glaring at Philip Blake?"

Shane stared at her for a long while before answering. "You mean to tell me that you ain't feelin' us tonight because of another man?!"

"No, I—"

"That's like me stoppin' us to talk 'bout Lori."

Andrea's face reddened out of anger at the mention of Lori. She turned away now, ashamed that she had brought this up at the worst time. He touched her shoulder, urging her to turn around to face him. She did so and it took everything she had to look him straight in his eyes.

"What's this 'bout, Drea?"

"'Drea'?"

"That's my lil nickname for you. I used to call Lori 'Lor' for short."

"So now you're talking about another woman?" Andrea remembered the shared hostility between her and Lori Grimes.

"You were actin' frigid 'bout a man, an' now you mad at me for tellin' you I shortened your name the same way I did for another woman?! That's straight up bullshit!" Shane turned his back on her now, refusing to engage with her.

"Why did you give Philip the evil eye when we met him today? We just got here and I'd like to stay here for a little while—maybe for good."

He still wouldn't face her.

"I'm not doing this with you, Shane. If we're gonna have this conversation, then you better face me."

Shane turned around so that they were at eye level with each other. "Spill your guts an' don't be messy 'bout it."

"You were practically glaring at him the entire time he welcomed us. I'm sure he noticed it. Merle did."

"What's your point, Drea? An' to hell with that douchebag redneck."

"My point is I don't want to risk losing what we found here…stability, shelter, food—running water for us to take a shower—"

"Together," he finished for her, although that wasn't the direction she was going in and he knew it.

"I thought you didn't see us as being together, Shane," Andrea pointed out. "We're not going steady and we're not riding off into the sunset together, remember?"

"No argument there."

"What are we then? If we're not in a relationship, then why are you jealous?"

Shane abruptly leaned over the bed and grabbed his boxers and t-shirt off the floor. He got dressed without a word. Then he found Andrea's bra and panties on the floor and tossed them to her.

"Put 'em on," he growled.

Andrea stared at him, dumbfounded by this angry behavior. "What the hell is your problem? I asked you a simple question and you have yet to answer it."

"I said put 'em on."

Saying nothing, she did as he asked—or demanded. Looking around for something else to displace his anger, he bunched up the sheet that Andrea had found and threw it aside. He sat up in the bed so that he was facing her now.

"You wanna know why I was lookin' at him weird today? It's 'cause I don't trust him. He's fake as hell an' all that sweet-talk was to disarm you. Maybe you didn't notice, but he was focused on you the entire time. I was in his way—he didn't like that too much. Actin' like I was cock-blockin' when he jus' met you."

Andrea studied Shane as the pieces fell into place. "You think he's going to pursue me." She could sense his fear of her leaving him—it had come up before at the camp.

"He already is, Drea. I'm a man an' know these things."

"My name is Andrea."

"Alright, An-dre-a," he said her name with deliberate slowness, dipping his head enunciating each syllable. "He wants you for himself an' tried to impress you with his 'I'm the Governor of Woodbury' shtick, an' it worked. By the end of it, you had goo-goo eyes for him. Governor…" Shane scoffed. "I'll call him Guvnah."

"So what if he wants me? What's it to you?"

"You're mine." Shane hit the bed with an open palm. "I jus' made you mine. Now he'll smell another man on—"

"What the hell, Shane?!" She was horrified now. He had went from being protective to possessive in less than a minute.

"We're in this together; that's what I thought you wanted when we left the group. Ain't that what you said?"

"We're in this together, but we're not together."

"We got each other's backs, look out for each other like friends do. You said you we'd be partners—"

"Partners—not fuck buddies."

Shane chuckled. "That wasn't an issue when we hooked up the first time. Way I remember it, you rubbed me the right way an' it went from there. Why's it a pro—"

Andrea slapped him mid-sentence, her suppressed anger about their "friends with benefits" arrangement had finally exploded. It had started at the camp where they had run into Morales and his family and had grew as time went on. She had never expressed her frustration until tonight. She was always good about hiding it, but his vitriol toward The Governor brought it out. His overblown reaction to a kind man offering them shelter infuriated her, considering they had been out there for months constantly on the go. Still, she never imagined she'd ever hit him. She gasped, realizing what she had done and now afraid of how he would react. Shane was a very strong man. If he wanted to, he could easily beat her until she was unconscious. He could kill her. She didn't know as much about him as she thought and when he spoke again, his voice was dangerously calm as he rubbed his cheek where she had smacked him.

"I'm not gonna retaliate an' hit you back if that's what you're afraid of. I don't hit women. Love screwin' their brains out like I did yours jus' now, but hit? Hell no."

Andrea stared down at the bed in disbelief that she had been having passionate (passionless?) sex with this man for the past several months—even though she wanted a more real connection with him. The thought of him harming her terrified her. Even when Shane made it clear that he wouldn't strike her back, she felt doubtful. Now she was mad at herself for acting impulsively and she knew Shane had every right to be angry with her.

"I've never hit a woman in my whole life an' not 'bout to start," he repeated as though reading her mind. "Even when they piss me the hell off like Lori. You pissin' me off right now, but I'm gonna break it down to you: anyone who needs to put a title on themselves like 'Guvnah' is tryin' to lord power over others. I don't trust him. Period. He ain't gonna boss me around, an' I won't let him do it to you."

Andrea opened her mouth to tell him that no man would ever be the boss of her. Not Dale Horvath, not Shane Walsh, and definitely not Philip Blake. He saw that she wanted to respond and held up his pointer finger, indicating for her to wait until he finished speaking.

"Now if you still wanna say I'm jealous, then be my guest. I've been jealous of other men before. Not gonna lie 'bout that. I was jealous of Rick—but I ain't jealous of Philip, Guvnah, Blake, or whatever bullshit nickname he has for himself. I don't trust him, an' it'd be best if you keep your eyes wide open instead of fallin' head over heels jus' 'cause he offered you food, a roof over your head, clothes, an' runnin' water. He offered me the same, an' you don't see stars in my eyes."

Andrea was silent as she contemplated what he told her. He was being protective of her—he was making it clear that he had her back and wouldn't let anyone manipulate or harm her. Just as she considered the positives of what Shane was doing, memories of Dale warning her against him flashed through her mind. Anger rushed through her now and she could barely contain it. Before she thought about the impact they would have, the words rushed out of her mouth:

"Let me make one thing clear, Shane. I joined with you to partner with you. I'm not a little girl, I don't need a babysitter, and I sure as hell am not a damsel in distress. You have my back and I have yours too. So do us both a favor: don't pull a Dale on me."

Shane rubbed his head as he stared at the floor. Andrea thought she threw him completely off guard with that last statement, especially given the past tension between both him and Dale. Then his dark eyes met her green ones and she wasn't sure if she felt sorry for hurting him. Or sorry for the restrained anger that came out in his comeback.

"Fair enough, Andrea. Lemme make one thing clear to you as well. I ain't your man, your boyfriend, or your husband." He spat out the word with venom, recalling when Philip Blake had assumed the two newcomers were married. "We partnered up an' we can still be partners. I have your back, you have mine. You wanna do somethin' nice? Don't pull a Lori on me."

He locked eyes with her. She couldn't tear her gaze away from him. He had an intense stare; it was intimidating especially since she didn't know what he was thinking. Andrea was the first to look away. When she did, Shane got up and closed the bedroom door, pitching them in darkness.

They didn't speak to each other for the rest of the night.

oOo

By the time Andrea woke up, it was half past noon. She was exhausted as she couldn't sleep after arguing with Shane. She decided to take a shower, not realizing he was already gone. As the hot water hit her, she wondered again why Shane had acted the way he did. It wasn't like she was jumping into bed with Philip (or "The Governor"—she wasn't sure which name to use when she thought of him). She was just relieved to not be fearing for her life every second. Especially after losing Amy, having a secure place to live was a priority. Although Shane wanted to wait until they got to Maryland, she open to settling down in a permanent shelter sooner than later—especially if the opportunity presented itself. She figured she'd talk with him later about it.

She finished her shower and wrapped herself in a towel. Upon entering the bedroom to get dressed, she was surprised to see he was gone. Andrea felt guilty for the brief relief that washed over her. She didn't want to be around Shane if he was going to cause problems—especially after what happened at Morales' camp. She had an inkling that he would be their undoing at this new community. Then she saw the note on the bed. It was written in sloppy handwriting as though the person had been in a rush.

Andrea, I'm scoping out the town. See you later today. Hope you've cooled off by then. I already have. –Shane

There was an arrow pointing to the other side of the page. Andrea smiled when she read the rest of the note.

P. S. You don't have to worry about me 'pulling a Dale' on you. I want a woman who will be my partner, not a girl I have to father. So far, you fit the bill. –S.

Deciding that she forgave Shane for last night—because he apparently had forgiven her, Andrea got dressed quickly and left the apartment. She looked forward to whatever the day had in store for her.

oOo

Shane walked around Woodbury, checking out the community. It was quaint with shops that had been boarded up, although a few were open. He passed by the community center and the "Town Hall" where he and Andrea had met Philip Blake. There were several apartment buildings. He watched as everyone milled around without a care in the world. They were untouched by the fact that outside the walls decaying corpses roamed around devouring the living. He wondered if they knew how to survive out there. He kept walking around to see if there was anything he should be suspicious of. As he did, he noticed the stares he was getting from other Woodbury citizens, but he didn't care. He wasn't going to part with his Mossberg 590 or Glock 17. He carried the former over his shoulder and the latter was tucked in his cargo pants. He needed to be prepared for anything, so he shrugged off the angry looks that men sent his way and ignored the shocked expressions from women who were too scared to confront him.

He continued down the street and saw the sentry guards at the gate. Shumpert and Crowley stood guard. He could pick them off like flies if he wanted to, but he wouldn't do that. Right now, he had to make sure Woodbury was a safe haven for him and Andrea. Although the community appeared safe, Shane wasn't convinced that Philip Blake (or "The Governor" as he called himself) was someone they could trust. He came off too glib, slick. He didn't like Philip Blake from the moment they first met and he felt troubled that Andrea was already enamored with him.

He especially didn't like how they had only been in Woodbury for less than a day and already they were arguing. Shane knew that wasn't a good sign, so he left her the message to try to get them back on good terms again. He was aware that he could be stubborn, but he didn't want an argument to carry over into the next day. He thought about the note he had left for her and hoped she had found and read it.

At that exact moment, he felt the intense stare of someone watching him. Shane turned around and scanned the area. No one there. He walked around some more and felt the same stare. He turned around again and then glanced across the street. A slim black woman with shoulder-length locs stood in place, watching him. She was of short stature, almost Andrea's height, and she had a solid build as though she exercised regularly. He decided to find out what her issue was. As he got closer to her, he noticed she didn't back off. She wasn't intimidated by him.

"What's your problem?"

She didn't answer him; instead she focused on his Mossberg 590.

"Let's pay multiple choice. A, you're havin' a bad day. B, you like what you're lookin' at. C, you got restin' bitch face. Or D, all of the above."

She still didn't respond and he noticed she was staring at his shotgun. If he didn't know any better, he'd say she looked infuriated.

He grinned and held it out to her. "You like it?" He took it back, chuckling. "You can't have it."

She studied it and then met his eyes. Her eyes had narrowed: she was seething with anger although she didn't utter a single word. Then she turned around and walked away in the opposite direction. There was no way a woman would stare at him, his gun, and then not answer his questions. He decided to follow her.

oOo

"Good afternoon, Andrea." Philip greeted her with a broad smile.

She had been walking around Woodbury when she ran into him. He was outside by one of the main buildings talking with a group of people when he noticed her. He excused himself from the group and came over to her.

"How was your rest last night?"

Andrea hesitated before answering. "It was good…you know it's difficult to sleep the first night at a new place."

"I know what you mean. I'm sure you'll adjust to living here in no time."

She decided to use his first name. "Thank you, Philip."

"My pleasure. While you're out here, I can introduce you to some folks." He took her hand and led her to the group of people he had been speaking with. "Everyone, I'd like you to meet our newest member, Andrea."

It was a small group of five people, two men and three women from diverse racial backgrounds and ages. However, what they all had in common was the bright way in which they welcomed her. They smiled and shook her hand as they introduced themselves. Mr. Jacobson, Eric, Karen, and Alicia. Andrea was pleasantly surprised as she never expected to experience generosity after the outbreak. In Rick's group, she was an outsider and she doubted anyone cared about her. The only ones being Dale and Shane.

"Welcome to Woodbury," an elderly woman in the group said.

"This is Mrs. McLeod," Philip said. "She's the matriarch of Woodbury, keeps watch of everyone. She knows everything there is to know about living here."

"It's very nice to meet you," Andrea said, shaking her hand.

"I'll be back in a little while," Philip said. "I'll take Andrea for a walk around the area and when I get back we can discuss more details about the upcoming barbeque."

As they started making their way throughout the town, she couldn't help but feel surprised. Life in Woodbury was both ordinary and extraordinary. A barbeque seemed like such a luxury these days, a true rarity. In Woodbury, they talked about it like it was no big deal. Either the townsfolk weren't impacted by the outbreak or they were and chose to live the best lives possible. She mentioned this aloud.

"We try to keep a semblance of normalcy here, Andrea. This way the people don't have to be reminded of what's out there, of what and whom they lost from the time everything started."

"I can appreciate that, I'm sure the others do."

Philip nodded. "I hope you like what we're doing here, building community; restarting civilization. You can say we still hold onto our dreams although life has become a nightmare."

"It definitely has…"

Her voice trailed off and in her mind flashed an image of Amy reanimating before her very eyes. She shook her head, refusing to let the image take hold of her mind. If she didn't, she would feel depressed all day and she didn't want that for herself. Right now, she wanted to enjoy this new beginning in a new place. She had plenty of time (or so, she hoped) to process her grief.

"What did you do with your last group? I could use you and Shane in some capacity, so that you're both productive."

Andrea thought before answering. "I used to stand guard, make sure our group was safe from walkers."

Philip nodded, clearly impressed. "We can always use those skills. Safety is my number one priority and you'd be working on behalf of the Woodbury community. Maybe it'll motivate you both to stay here. How does that sound?"

"That would be great, Philip. Shane was in law enforcement before everything fell apart. I was a civil rights attorney. He taught me how to shoot and I've gotten really good."

"Have you now?" He flashed a warm smile—that same smile was starting to weave its way into her heart.

"Yeah, I can show you sometime." She smiled back.

"You can work the gate as a sentry guard. You know, the place where you both came in from?"

Andrea nodded. She wondered if she was being too open with him, since she hadn't even known him for a full day yet, and then decided to be completely transparent. Philip was easy to talk to, friendly, and charming. Charming. That exact word described him best.

"So you and Shane are…" Philip let his sentence hang in the air, unfinished. He waited to see what she would say.

Andrea shrugged and gave him an uneasy smile. "We're together…but not together. Does that make sense?" She knew it sounded strange and now she realized it was difficult to accurately describe what she and Shane had. This was especially true since she knew she felt one way, but he felt differently.

"No, not exactly. How can you both be together, but not together?"

"I guess you can say Shane and I are close friends. Partners."

"Ahhh, I see." Philip nodded as though he understood. His face revealed no emotion as he took in what she told him.

They walked past several stores that were boarded up. A handful were open, but they were far and few between. She marveled at everything, appreciating how normal and every day the community appeared. Just then, a Woodbury citizen ran over to Philip, asking to speak with him.

"Sure thing, David. What can I do for you today?"

What can I do for you today? Andrea's heart melted. From his openness to wanting to help his people, to showing genuine concern for all, and a willingness to serve others—not only was she impressed by his character, but she had to admit: he wasn't too bad on the eyes. Okay, he was handsome. He had a way of speaking smoothly with confidence that put her at ease and his smile was real. Another Woodbury citizen came over to them with the same concern that David had just expressed.

"There's a man walking around with a shotgun. We don't know if it's loaded."

Philip looked surprised as his eyebrows furrowed together, trying to figure out who was walking around Woodbury with a firearm in plain sight.

"Did he threaten anyone, Haley?"

"No." Haley appeared to be in her twenties and carried a compound bow. "But he's getting everyone upset and nervous."

"Did anyone approach him?"

"People are too scared to say anything to him. It's that new guy who came here."

Andrea's eyes widened when she realized Haley was talking about Shane.

Philip nodded as he planned how to address the situation. "He can't have that gun out while he's here."

"I'll talk to him," Andrea volunteered. "I know him, he won't hurt anyone."

"I don't know that—no offense," he quickly added. "It's my town and I have to lay down the rules." He offered a slight smile. "I'm sure you understand."

Andrea watched as he got directions from Haley. He then took off to where Shane had been spotted. She followed after him, hoping to diffuse the situation if needed.

oOo

"'Michonne', huh? Nice name; sounds French."

Her serious expression hadn't changed, but she had opened up. A little. They walked on the opposite side of the street now, having reached the entrance gates and made a turnaround. Woodbury was smaller than Shane originally thought.

"Ain't you gonna ask me my name, Michonne?"

She was quiet before answering. It was as though she wanted to do it on her own without being prompted. "What's your name?"

"There we go. Shane."

Michonne nodded and then looked around, checking to makes sure no one was in earshot. "Your shotgun, it's a—"

"Mossberg 590, from my days as a deputy sheriff."

"He didn't ask you to give it up? The man who runs this place allowed you to keep it?"

"Philip Blake?"

They walked past several apartment buildings. Past more Woodbury citizens who kept sending glares his way. Shane ignored them.

"He calls himself 'The Governor'," Michonne said under her breath, wanting to make sure no one was around while they had their conversation.

Shane scoffed. "He ain't no Guvnah an' if he wants me to call him that, then he best call me King Shane."

Michonne didn't smile. "He made me give up my weapon."

"What'd you have? An AK-47?"

"A katana."

Shane whistled, impressed by what Michonne had revealed. "You're a samurai?!"

"I wouldn't call myself that, but I know how to use it. Took time to hone my skills."

"I'm sure you're a pro. So how'd you end up here?"

"I got tired of being out there."

He fully understood that. It was the main reason why Andrea (because it was more her call than his) had accepted the invitation to stay in Woodbury.

"Before here, how'd you survive? Were you in a group?"

"Was," Michonne replied. "Place got overrun."

She became quiet. Shane had a feeling there was more to her story than she let on. Michonne was putting up walls and she'd allow him in, but only so much. He accepted that and decided not to push it. Besides, he didn't sense she was a bad person or someone with a hidden sinister character. No, that (dis) honor belonged to "The Guvnah". Michonne was real.

"So it was jus' you an' your katana?"

"No. I had walkers with me. Cut their arms and jaws off, chained them up and used them as camouflage."

He had to admit that Michonne's survival instincts impressed him. He couldn't say that about many people. He remembered when Rick and Hershel attempted to bring walkers to the barn before he stopped them. This was different. They were going to house the walkers in the barn and Michonne was using them to survive.

"That's badass!" He thought that was the best way to describe his admiration of her survival tactics.

Michonne responded to his compliment by smiling in a wry manner. She continued walking side by side with him. "It worked. Walkers couldn't smell me. They smelled the walkers—they smelled death."

"That's a great idea. I wish I had known that when…" Shane's voice trailed off as he thought of that night at the school with Otis. He shook his head, trying to clear his mind. He didn't want to go there. He decided to let Michonne do the talking.

"When I first got here, it seemed alright. Now I feel like I'm locked up and I don't trust the man who runs this place. I thought you were one of his guards…his henchmen."

"Hell no. I ain't any of those things for him. I wouldn't make you give up your weapon 'cause I hate it when anyone tries to take the gun out of my hand. Where'd he take your katana?"

"I don't know, but when I get it, I'm leaving here. If walkers get in, I have no way to defend myself."

"You right 'bout that. We gotta find your katana is an' get it back to you."

Shane and Michonne continued walking and suddenly stopped when they saw Andrea and Philip approaching them.

"Who's that?" Michonne asked. She knew who Philip was, but not the blonde woman next to him.

"That's my partner, Andrea. The other one is that stupid punk tryin' to make moves on her."

"What?!" Michonne was shocked, but she didn't have a chance to ask Shane what he meant as Andrea and Philip were right in front of them now.

"Good afternoon, Shane. Michonne." Philip nodded politely to them.

Andrea watched as he handled the situation. She decided she would step in if necessary.

"Listen, I know it's rough out there, you probably faced death at every waking mo—"

"Cut the bullshit an' get to the point," Shane said, cutting him off.

"You can't carry your shotgun with you around town out in the open the way you're doing. You have to turn it in."

Shane glanced at Andrea and then at Philip. He ignored her pleading look that read "please do as he says".

"Like hell I will. I'm gonna carry her aroun' if I want."

"You're frightening people here and I won't allow that." Philip was calm despite the pushback he received. "You can give it up willingly or it'll be confiscated."

"Folks should be more scared of what's out there—more than what I'm totin' aroun'. Even if I give her up, I still got this one." Shane pointed at his Glock 17 tucked in his pants. "You gonna go down my pants to get it?!"

" Shane!"

Shane glanced at Andrea and saw her shake her head in disapproval. He said nothing to her. Well, he had plenty he wanted to say, but that could wait. Beside him, Michonne watched everything. She didn't step in or get involved. Shane was under the impression that she was a sharp observer.

"If you can't follow the rules here, then you can't stay." Philip's tone remained firm.

"Problem solved. Michonne, it was nice knowin' you. Andrea, we leavin' tonight. Let's go."

He turned around started down the street. Philip and Michonne watched as Andrea left them to catch up with Shane. She ran in front of him, stopping him from going further.

"Give it to him, Shane! We're not leaving here."

"Nope."

"Don't do this. We can't go back out there."

"You can't, but I can." He walked around her and continued forward.

"If you wanna go, then go, 'cause I'm staying." Andrea folded her arms across her chest. "I won't let you ruin a good thing."

He turned around slowly and stared at her in disbelief. "You ain't comin' with me?"

Andrea looked back at Philip and then at Shane. "Why are you doing this?"

"No, the question is why're you doin' this?" Shane started towards Philip. He walked past Andrea, leaving her to stand by herself.  "Philip, lemme ask you somethin'—if I call you Guvnah, will you call me King?" He looked over his shoulder, noting the annoyed look on Andrea's face. "I see you like makin' moves on my Queen. You best watch yourself."

Philip stood in place, not moving or responding to Shane's words.

Michonne shook her head and walked off in the opposite direction to get away from the drama that was unfolding in front of her. She figured she'd run into Shane again and at that time, they could talk more. She was glad to see that someone else in town didn't trust Philip Blake. Right now, it was better for her to leave. As she did, she heard Philip call out to Andrea. She glanced over her shoulder and then forced herself to continue onward. What she saw was bad and would only get worse. She didn't want to be around for it.

"See you tonight for dinner?"

Andrea nodded in silence.

Shane was in the middle and he looked from Philip to Andrea and back to Philip again. He couldn't believe what he had heard. There was no way in hell this Guvnah told him not to carry his shotgun, threatened to take it from him, and then invited his partner to dinner—and right in front of him! He needed to put an end to whatever was starting between Philip and Andrea—and defend his own honor at the same time.

"She ain't seein' you for nothin' tonight." He quickly went back to Andrea and grabbed her arm. "You an' me need to talk."

Andrea wrestled her arm out of his grip. "Don't touch me." She was embarrassed now and wanted to run away. She started in the direction of their apartment and Shane followed close behind.

Shane and Andrea had their backs turned…so they didn't see the knowing smirk spread across Philip's face…

oOo

Hours had passed since the street confrontation. Andrea sat on the couch looking straight ahead while Shane paced back and forth in the living room. He had been going on for the past half hour about Philip Blake wanting him to give up his guns. Andrea was tired of it, although she knew Shane wouldn't stop anytime soon.

"Why the hell should I give up Shockwave? See how I carry Lock 'Em Up? In my pants, he's not gonna reach down there for him. I'm carryin' my guns aroun' 'cause I need to be prepared."

"We're safe here, no walkers can get in." Didn't he see the gates surrounding Woodbury?

"We don't know that. Say one of 'em get in here—say five of 'em do or ten, fifteen—twenty? We're gonna need our guns, our knives—everythin' we have to get rid of 'em. Where's yours since he wants me to give up mine? Where's Sweet Piece?"

Andrea's eyes flicked to his and then averted to another point in their apartment. Shane caught on right away.

"You ain't give up yours, but you expect me to give up mine?! I bet he didn't even ask you! No, Andrea. It don't work that way." Shane eyed her up and down. "Lemme ask you somethin'—you said you don't like rollin' over when Hershel told us to give up our guns on the farm—remember that?"

She didn't answer right away—she knew he was right, although she hated to admit it. "Yeah, I do, but this is different."

"Damn right, it's different! Hershel told us to lay down our guns—he ain't take them from us!"

Andrea shrugged, nonchalant.

Shane snatched his Mossberg 590 from the couch. "I'm gonna hide it after you go to sleep, so you won't know where she is, an' so that you don't get any bright ideas of turnin' her in."

"I wouldn't do that to you," Andrea said, her anger rising. "Why don't you trust me? Where the hell is this coming from?!"

"How do I know that? Strollin' aroun' town with him—an' what the hell is this 'bout dinner?! You jus' met this guy an' already he wants you at his place?!" He sat down next to her and she got up and sat on the opposite end, putting distance between them.

"He invited me over for dinner. It's not a big deal."

Andrea hoped her tone was neutral. She looked down, feeling ashamed that Philip had asked her, or more so, she felt guilty for wanting to spend time with him and not Shane. At the same time, the guilt was slowly eroding the longer the conversation went on.

"I thought you an' me were meetin' up. I wrote that in the note to you. Didn't you read it?"

"I read it, but at the rate we're going, I don't even want to be in the same room as you."

"Where do you wanna be? In his bedroom as his personal piece of ass?" Shane might've stopped there, had he seen the horrified expression on Andrea's face. He didn't though and continued talking without considering how his words affected her. "If he cooked you dinner…" He scoffed and shook his head, "…then you're on his menu for dessert."

Andrea's head snapped in his direction. She couldn't believe what he had said—and that he was laughing about it! He acted like he was a famous comedian telling the funniest jokes on stage. She was so angry that her entire body was shaking. She was tempted to lash out at him—hit him just as she did last night. Was it last night? They had only been in Woodbury for two days, but it seemed like forever. All they had done since they arrived was fight nonstop. She stared at Shane who seemed oblivious to how painful his words were. She struggled to find the right words—the fact that none came readily to her was an indication of how hurt she felt. When she finally spoke, she couldn't hear her own voice.

"You're unbelievable…you know that, right?"

Shane shrugged, unfazed by her reaction. Then to his surprise, Andrea got up and headed for the door. Without looking behind her, she left the apartment. As she slammed the door behind her, she wondered for the first time if leaving Hershel's farm with Shane was a mistake.

oOo

Andrea tried to concentrate on the dinner that Philip had prepared for them: spaghetti and garden salad. She appreciated that he made the effort for her, but her heart wasn't there and he sensed it. He had asked her to share dinner with him at his apartment before they had found Shane and Michonne. It was a modest apartment, nothing fancy, although it had more rooms than the one she shared with Shane.

Philip watched Andrea carefully, noting her quiet demeanor. She appeared to be thinking of something…or someone. He remembered her and Shane arguing when he told him to turn in his shotgun—and the way he had grabbed her. Shane was the source of her stress, so he decided to find out more information. Pry a little more…

"Who is he to you? I know I keep asking and you can tell me to stop. I'm just wondering about your connection to him."

Andrea put down her fork. She had been twisting her fork in the spaghetti, but it never left her plate. She decided it was time to stop pretending she had an appetite. "Who?" She knew whom he referred to, but didn't want to answer that question.

"Shane, the man you came here with. Is he your boyfriend?" Philip paused when he saw Andrea staring down at her plate of food. She had barely touched it. "I'm sorry…I'm getting too personal."

"We're just friends."

"Seems like you're both on different pages. He sees you and him as being a couple and you just see it as a friendship."

"I don't think he sees it that way," she paused, thinking of what she was about to say. "I know he doesn't."

Philip blinked. "Are you sure about that?"

Andrea played with the salad on her plate, not responding to Philip. For the longest time, she had wanted to be more than friends. Shane had brushed her off so many times that she had decided to put that hope out of her mind. It was still there, but she refused to continue dreaming a dream that wouldn't happen. Even so, she had to settle things with Shane before they got worse. She was still reeling from what he had implied before she left. For the first time, she hated him. Hate was a strong word, but it was the most adequate word that described what she felt towards him now, especially after what had occurred earlier. She hated the way he grabbed her in front of Philip and Michonne, she hated that he was mad that another man was in the picture when this entire time he kept thinking of Lori, she hated that he was starting to control her, and she hated his twisted sense of humor.

"I hate him." I hate everything about him.

"You hate him?!" Philip sounded shocked. "I'm sure you don't mean that."

Andrea suddenly looked up and met Philip's eyes. His expression was a combination of shock and curiosity and it was then that she realized she had accidentally slipped the words out. She didn't want to say them aloud; they were meant to be her private thoughts, but now it was out there. She knew she shouldn't continue, but she wanted to get it off her chest. Carrying those negative feelings was starting to take a toll on her, so she figured it was better to let it out than keep it inside.

"I hate that he's treating me like he owns me—we're supposed to be partners on the same level."

Philip nodded sympathetically. "I hope you and him can work things out, so that you guys stay here."

"We will, Philip. He just has to get used being here…and I have to accept that he's never gonna come around."

Without asking her to confirm what she meant, Philip made his intentions clear. "His loss is my gain, Andrea."

She looked at him, trying to figure out what to say to that. If she didn't know any better, she'd think he was expressing interest in her. She had to admit she felt the same way on a small level with him, but it was best not to delve into that. Not yet. She said nothing, although his concern was drawing her in. The silence between them was awkward, but it didn't last long as Philip clapped his hands together as an idea came to him.

"Forget dinner. I have two things for you: key lime pie and a proposal." He flashed a charming smile. "Which do you want first?"

Andrea smiled, feeling her anger towards Shane melt away. There was something to be said about Philip and the way he managed to turn her around in a matter of seconds.

"How about together? You can tell me the proposal over the key lime pie?"

"Sounds perfect." He left and returned with the key lime pie. Slicing a piece for her first, he shared his proposal with her. "What if I offered you a job here? Same for him, but let's focus on you first." He gave her the plate and then cut a slice for himself.

"Thank you," Andrea said, as she dug into the pie. It brought back memories of her and Amy going out for lunch and sharing a key lime pie together. She also liked the taste of lime, but the memories of Amy meant a lot more to her. She found she was liking Woodbury more and more…and she was liking Philip more and more... "What kind of job did you have in mind?"

"You mentioned you're a sharpshooter, so why don't we put your skills to use as a sentry guard. You can work a shift with Haley at the gate. When do you want to start?"

"Tomorrow!" She laughed now and he laughed along with her. "I'm sorry, do I seem too eager?"

Philip shook his head. "Not at all. You're fitting right into Woodbury…or is it that Woodbury's growing on you?" He snapped his fingers as another idea came to him. "I know you need to blow off some steam, so why don't I take you to the fights?"

"'The fights'?" Andrea's eyebrows furrowed together. She was uncertain about his suggestion. What were "the fights"?

"I'll show you."

Clasping her hand in his, Philip led Andrea out of his apartment and into the community. She was surprised to see most of the community's residents up and about. They were walking in the same direction as them.

"Everyone goes to the fights," he said gesturing to the Woodbury citizens walking down the street. "We do this two or three times a week, just for fun."

Deciding not to question it, Andrea squeezed Philip's hand as he led her to the makeshift arena. For the first time since arriving at Woodbury, she felt happy. Truly happy and not under stress or pressure. She hoped she could maintain this feeling for as long as possible…

oOo

Andrea returned to her apartment an hour after the fights had ended. As she made her way to the second floor, she thought about what she had seen. A makeshift arena had been developed for the Woodbury citizens to sit and watch while the two participants—Merle and Martinez—battled it out gladiator style. The two men had been surrounded by six walkers that were chained down. At first, Andrea had thought the whole scene was barbaric and she told this to Philip. After he explained that the walkers' teeth had been removed and that there was no chance of them biting anyone, Andrea was able to enjoy the fight. It helped to know that it was staged. No one got seriously hurt and true to his word, the Woodbury citizens blew off steam as they yelled and cheered. Andrea had joined in and enjoyed herself, much to her surprise.

At the end, Philip had walked her halfway home and surprised her when he gave her a single rose. It seemed he had conjured up the rose from thin air—she didn't see him walk out of his apartment with one. She was going to thank him for a wonderful night when he lifted her face to his and kissed her. It was quick and sweet—and it made her smile. She was still smiling when she opened the door to the apartment and found Shane sitting by himself on the couch. She flicked on the lights and saw his dark eyes were wild and panicky.

"I was waitin' for you."

"What for?"

"For when you'd come back. Where were you?"

"None of your business."

"You are my business."

Andrea ignored him as she searched the apartment to find a place to put the rose. She went inside the kitchenette and put the rose in a tall glass. After filling it with water, she came back to where Shane was sitting on the couch.

"He gave you that?" He squinted at the rose. "I can give you better."

She looked down at the rose, remembering her shock when Philip had gave it to her. When was the last time Shane had gave her a rose? Or made any romantic gestures? The answer—never.

"You're jealous that another man gave me a rose, but you don't see me carrying on about how you walked around Woodbury all day with another woman."

"Her name is Michonne an' you ain't see me go by her apartment after knowin' her for three hours."

"She actually has a name?" Andrea didn't hide the sarcasm in her voice.

"Yeah, she has a name unlike that pretty boy who calls himself 'The Guvnah'. She's a real woman unlike that pretend man. What'd you have for dinner? Ramen noodles?"

"We ate—wait for it—food! And dessert was good," she threw in. "Is there anything else you want to know?"

Shane didn't hesitate. "Did you fuck him?"

He had the damn nerve to ask something so personal in such a crass manner! She knew she shouldn't be surprised—Shane had no filter. The shock wore off and gave way to anger. She was about to tell him no, she didn't have sex with him. They had shared a brief kiss. A simple sweet kiss and nothing more—although now she wished she had done more. Then she decided to approach it a different way.

"What if I did? After all, I was his dessert, right?" There were tremors in her voice as the anger she felt from before hit her full force now.

Shane stared at the floor, ashamed. "I was wrong for sayin' that. I'm sorry, Drea…an' I'm sorry for the way I grabbed you earlier...I was out of line." He rubbed his head, uncertain of himself.

Andrea didn't acknowledge his apology because she didn't she accept it. She decided to twist the knife a little more. "What if I am sleeping with him? What're you gonna do about it?"

He looked up at her now, his eyes widening. The first time she had answered his question with a question, it had went right over his head. Now her words sunk in and he couldn't speak for a few seconds. Then the words tumbled out: "You…you were with him?!"

"I said if. IF."

He was still silent and then he quickly squashed the anxiety that almost kept him from pressing forward. "Soon as I help Michonne get back her katana, we gonna get gone from this craziness."

"There's no 'we', not in the way you think. What's this about Michonne and a katana?"

"I don't know when we're leavin', but we are." He talked over her and didn't hear what she said. "We're gettin' the hell out of this place—far away from this woman-stealer-weapon-hoarder."

She set the glass with the rose down on the coffee table. She didn't realize she had slammed it down in anger. "What about what I want, Shane? Does that even matter to you?"

"Yeah, it matters to me, but you don't know who you're dealin' with."

"Then enlighten me."

"He's a charmer; that's not good, Drea."

"Funny you say that because I find him to be charming."

Shane threw her an exasperated look. "Someone who's tryin' to charm you has somethin' up their sleeve. They ain't honest. Like in that play Into the Woods when Prince Charmin' tells Cinderella: I was raised to be charmin', not sincere."

"Since when do you go watch plays or musicals?"

Into the Woods also happened to be Amy's favorite play, but Andrea didn't mention that. She tried not to let grief about Amy wash over her. Why was everything in Woodbury bringing up memories of Amy? Her grief was relentless, it kept hitting her when she least expected it. She wished her grief would go on vacation. Leave her alone for at least a week. Instead, her grief was a workaholic and never took time off. It made her want to scream. For an instant, Andrea thought of opening the window to do exactly that and then decided against it. She needed to focus on this conversation.

"Some chick I had dated wanted to go see it an' I wanted to get laid so I endured it—don't look at me like that. I'm bein' real with you unlike Mr. Charmer with his agenda."

Now they were back on track again. "And what's his agenda? Aside from offering me a place to stay, a job—"

"A job—what job?!"

"So I can contribute. He said he'd get you one, too. I told him you worked in law enforcement."

Shane bolted from the couch and stood eye to eye with Andrea now. "Keep my name out of your mouth when you talkin' with him! He's tryin' to get you to plant roots here—that ain't happenin'! You came with me an' you leavin' with me before the week is out. End of story." He went over to the coffee table and snatched the glass holding the rose.

Andrea's eyes widened when she realized what he planned. "Shane! No—what're you doing?!" She ran to the window just as he opened it and chucked the rose outside along with the glass. She flinched when she heard the glass hit the ground outside.

Shane shut the window and turned to her. "That takes care of that. You sad? Tell him to get you another one if it means that much to you."

She glared at him now and it took everything to restrain herself from hitting him. "You're twisted."

"I ain't twisted. Be thankful it was a stupid rose that got thrown out. Next time it'll be him that gets tossed out of a window."

Andrea didn't say anything as she backed away. He stood in place, watching as she put space between them. She had to get away from him. It was getting to the point where what she had said earlier was true: she couldn't stand to be in the same room with him. She couldn't believe those thoughts ran through her mind, but she couldn't ignore or avoid them. The longer she argued with Shane, the more repelled she felt by him. This last action frightened her more than she cared to admit. She finally understood what the rest of the group felt at Hershel's farm and why they viewed Shane as irrational and dangerous. She decided to try a direction that had worked in the past when it concerned his poor communication skills.

"Do you remember when I told you that your presentation needs work?"

"What 'bout it?"

All the painful and embarrassing things Shane had said and did to her today came rushing to the forefront of Andrea's mind. "You haven't learned a damn thing. Do you hear yourself at all?"

"I hear the sound of my voice." He looked as though he was trying to hold back a laugh and then it burst forth.

"I'm not laughing, Shane. I'm gonna lay it down where I stand."

"Go right on ahead, darlin'." Shane smirked. "Speak your mind."

"This entire time you've talked about me like you own me, as though I'm your property. 'You belong to me'. You said shitty things to me today—degrading things—things I'd never thought I'd hear coming out of the mouth of someone who claims to be my partner and friend, the man who would always back me up, catch me if I fall."

"I'm tryin' to stop you from fallin'—never mind catchin'. You jus' don't see it."

"It's hard to see it when my so-called friend refers to me as someone's 'piece of ass' or 'dessert'."

He sighed. "I'm said I'm sorry. What else do you want me to do?"

"I know exactly what I want you to do. I want you to keep your mouth shut."

A long aching silence expanded between them as they stared each other down.

"You sound like Hershel now…" he muttered and shook his head, disagreeing with her. "You ain't right, Drea. That man wants you for himself for some twisted reason."

"'That man' you speak of has treated me with more respect and decency in the last twelve hours, more than you have today, Shane. He's offering me—and you—shelter, safety, clothing, and running water. He even wants to offer us jobs so that we can be productive."

"That's bullshit!" Shane swung a clenched fist in the air, dismissing what she said. He paced up and down and came right back to her. "I'm the one who covers you, who's got your back no matter what! I protect you an' keep you safe! That's me—that ain't him!" He didn't realize he sounded as though he was back on Hershel's farm, telling Dale and Lori on separate occasions that he kept Carl and the group safe.

"We are safe in here, that's what I keep telling you, but you talk over me—you don't listen to anyone except yourself!"

"'Cause you got no common sense—"

"SHUT UP!" Andrea finally exploded, fed up with his talking down to her, his acting like she couldn't protect herself. She was shocked by her outburst and he was too because he backed off. "You're the one with no sense! You still carry Lori with you—it's why you won't let me get close to you. Then when another man shows interest in me, that's when you want me for yourself?!"

"Don't go there 'bout Lori." His tone was a cross between quiet rage and recent heartbreak. He recoiled slightly, upset that Andrea had brought up Lori.

"Why not? She's the reason why you keep me out of your heart—we both know it's true, Shane."

He found some other point in the apartment to focus on. She couldn't tell if he was tuning her out or didn't want to admit she was right.

"I want—"

"Who cares what you want?! You don't care about what I want!"

"Shut up an' lemme finish my thoughts, Andrea!"

Andrea blinked. She knew she shouldn't be shocked that he told her to shut up. After all, she had just told him those very same words.

"I was sayin' I want you as my partner. We protect each other, I got your back; you have mine. "

"That's nice, now we're 'partners'." Andrea let out a dry laugh. "My 'partner' grabs me by the arm in front of everyone, talks down to me, treats me like I'm an object he owns. My 'partner' doesn't value my worth until someone else sees it."

Shane stared at her, uncertain of what to make of her reaction. "Don't know why you find that funny. I thought that's what we agreed on—an' I don't treat you that way."

"Ever since we've been here you have treated me that way." Her green eyes narrowed. "Don't tell me you treat me like I'm special to you."

"You came here with me an' that's all that matters."

He stepped towards her and she stepped back from him.

"And you think that makes me yours? You obviously need a reminder of what you told me the first night we got here: you're not my man, my husband, or my boyfriend—you're none of those things to me." Andrea's voice hardened. "You don't get to pretend you are when it's convenient for you." She pointed at him as she continued backing away from him. She already had it in her mind to leave as soon as their arguing was over. "You're not allowed to get mad when I spend time with another man when you made it clear that I'm not your woman, your wife, or your girlfriend. It doesn't work like that, Shane."

Shane was silent for a long while and when he spoke again, Andrea wondered what he really felt about her and the possibility of them being more than partners and friends.

"I never said I didn't wanna be with you."

"You never said you wanted to be with me either."

Another long silence passed between them. They stared at each other, both shocked that they were arguing like this. The last time Andrea argued with Shane this badly was when he brought up Amy while giving her shooting lessons. They had bumped heads during their brief time with the last group, but it wasn't as awful as now. Andrea was about to break the silence when Shane did.

"I'm here with you—that should mean somethin' to you 'cause it does to me."

"I mean something to you, Shane? You actually care?" Her sarcasm was unmistakable.

"I don't always say it, but I do care 'bout you—more than you know."

"You said your heart's under lock and key. You said there's no 'us' and that we ride together, sometimes screw around together—but that's it."

Shane couldn't say anything to that. He had said those words to her.

"You can keep your heart locked up. I'm going for the man who's interested in me."

"That fake-ass pretty boy who calls himself 'The Guvnah'? He ain't nobody; he jus' wears a mask that's pleasin' to you." He turned away from her and started towards the window.

"He respects me. You don't give a shit about me except for when I'm shooting walkers or spreading my legs for you."

Shane whipped around to face Andrea who remained impassive. He stared at her and she glared back at him. Slowly, he made his way back to the couch. The entire time he was unable to mask his shock and hurt. When he sat down, he avoided looking at her.

"It ain't like that, Drea, an' you know it." She had stabbed him in the heart with her accusation. Furthermore, Andrea had no inkling of what he felt. "Why the hell would you even say that?"

"Because that's when you're most open with me, when you don't hold back. That, when we're fighting to stay alive like at that camp, and when we argue. Otherwise…"

"Otherwise what?!" His anger was a delayed reaction. He hoped his next words cut her open. He wanted her to hurt, just as she hurt him with her accusations that he was only with her for sex. "You say I'm usin' you, but you jump on it every chance you get. Half the time you're the one startin' it, but I'm the one usin' you?!"

Andrea's lips trembled. He couldn't tell if she was going to spit at him or cry. He told himself he didn't care what she felt, although he knew that wasn't true.

"You never stopped me when I initiated it. I guess it'd be a different story if I was your woman, huh?" Or if I was Lori. Those words almost burst forth and she was glad she exercised self-control. She imagined saying it aloud and pictured Shane losing his temper.

"Listen to yourself." Shane crossed his arms across his chest. "Actin' emotional 'cause I don't call you girlfriend or wifey."

"No, I'm upset that I've tried getting close to you, Shane. I'm good enough for you to sleep with, but not good enough to be your woman."

"Why're you still goin' on 'bout bein' my woman? I told you I ain't here to hold hands with you—I made that clear from the get-go."

"Because I want to be with you—there, I said it!" Andrea threw her arms in the air, frustrated that she had exposed herself and knowing it wouldn't change a damn thing. It was going to happen eventually and now the truth was out. "I want you, but you still hold onto a woman who's far from here—a woman who treated you like shit. When another man shows interest in me and I want to explore it, you get all jealous and possessive."

"It ain't jealousy. He's no good—he took Michonne's weapon an' now he wants to take mine. He ain't—he's not what you think he is." He rubbed his head, anxious and unsure of how to respond to her statement of wanting to be with him. Although he had a feeling it wouldn't come out right, he decided to try. "You're not with me in the way you want, but you still mean somethin' to me."

"What am I to you?"

"I'm sure I've answered this question before, but since you insist…three things, darlin', an' in no particular order. Partner, friend, an' lover." Shane ticked off on his fingers.

"There's no love between us then."

Andrea tried not to let her voice betray her disappointment. More than anything, she wanted to love him. She wanted emotional intimacy with him and not just a quick romp in the bed or Hyundai. Those times were a much needed release for both of them, but she wanted more. Shane was difficult to love, but she was confident that she could love him in a way that no woman ever had. What made him more challenging to connect with were the fortress walls he had built to protect himself while shutting her out.

"There was never love between us; it's 'bout time you get over that."

The moment Shane said the words he knew he was lying more to himself than he was to her. There was so much he loved about Andrea. The way her blonde hair flowed on her shoulders or how she wore it in a ponytail with tendrils framing her face. The sly smirk she gave him when she started gaining confidence in her shooting skills. How soft her skin felt against his whenever they had sex. Andrea had the smoothest skin that felt like silk against his own rough calloused skin. How she respected and listened to him when the group dismissed him at the farm. Her sincere way of understanding him and how it made him feel less lonely. The way she held her own, offered to back him up, partner with him, befriend him when everyone hated him or thought he was crazy—that was the most important aspect that he cherished about her. He voiced none of this now, although later on he would wish he had.

"Then don't get mad at me for wanting to spend time with a man who's emotionally available and wants to be with me." She had flinched inwardly at his last response, but resolved to hide her hurt. She didn't want him to see how terrible she felt from knowing he didn't feel the same way towards her.

Shane didn't mask his annoyance. "He's playin' you, you'll see."

"I see a man in front of me who doesn't appreciate what's in front of him—and who thinks he can control my every move because of his own hang-ups."

"Don't come cryin' to me when you finally see the truth."

Andrea shook her head and a wry smile flashed across her face. "Don't worry, I won't come to you. I'm done arguing with you, Shane—and I'm done with you."

"What?!" His eyes bulged when he heard her last sentence. There was no way—

"When you decide to treat me with decency—as though you actually give a damn about me outside of fucking me in that Hyundai or in that bedroom—when you learn to talk to me like I'm a human being worthy of the same respect I give you—then we'll pick up where we left off." The entire time Andrea spoke, she backed away from him. Her words were slow and deliberate to ensure he heard her message loud and clear. "When you're ready to behave like I'm your partner and your friend—then we'll talk. Until then, don't speak to me. Keep your mouth shut—and stay the hell away from me!"

Before he could stop her, she stormed out of the apartment. Shane heard her running down the flight of stairs. He raced to the window in time to see her bolt outside and hurriedly walk down the street. He thought of going after her, but decided against it, thinking it would make everything worse. Anxiety gripped his heart when he imagined her going to The Governor's apartment, him opening the door, inviting her in to spend the night with him, leading her to his bedroom and—he stopped those thoughts before they could go further. It would torture him more if he imagined Andrea in bed with Philip Blake.

The worst part for Shane were that his words were already haunting him: There was never love between us; it's 'bout time you get over that. She wanted to connect with him on a deeper level—and yet, he kept pushing her away. He wouldn't allow her to get close to him. There was no way he would go through that heartache again of getting close to a woman, only for her to turn around and shun him while she went for another man in front of him. This had happened with Lori and he didn't want history to repeat itself with Andrea.

He wanted Andrea—not just sexually and physically, but emotionally as well. Shane wanted the same thing Andrea wanted, but it was too risky. There was too much to lose and he felt safer keeping her at a distance and only having a physical connection with her. As much as it stabbed him in the heart when she accused him of only being interested in her sexually, the truth was his actions and behavior gave that impression. He was using sex as a barrier between them and they both knew it. She couldn't hurt him if he just saw her as an object to release sexual tension. That was surface level. Beneath the surface, hopes of being with her were dashed whenever he thought of Lori and what had happened between them when Rick returned. Even so, he wanted to hold onto her, but he didn't want her to get too close either. Now he realized that he had pushed her away and he didn't know how to undo it.

Aside from that, Shane hated this arguing and he hated more that she didn't see the truth in front of her. Andrea thought jealousy was his main reason for disliking Philip Blake, but Shane knew something was off about Woodbury's "Governor." He realized that he was starting to look like the crazy one in all this, while Philip Blake/The Governor got off scot-free. He remembered when she told him that he said the right things, but his presentation…Shane knew that his message wasn't heard by her because of how he expressed it. He just hoped Andrea would come around. She'd come back later and they'd work out everything. She had to come around…

oOo

An entire week had passed since that last argument. They didn't speak to each other all seven days. During that time, Shane made attempts to repair what was broken between them, but he soon learned that the damage had been done.

The first morning after the argument, Shane had woke up early and cooked breakfast for her. He had made eggs and bacon exactly the way Andrea liked it. Scrambled and browned as she hated runny eggs. He made sure to make the bacon extra crispy. A tall glass of cold orange juice completed the meal. He remembered her saying how much she wanted to have that for breakfast when they had first left Hershel's farm.

He had never done this for any woman before. He did it once for Lori, but she didn't count since they had to camp outside when the outbreak first started. Before the outbreak, if a woman was still laying in his bed the morning after, he wanted them to leave—not make them breakfast. Andrea was different though and he wanted to solve their conflict before it worsened. He had written a note for her and placed it on her side of the bed so that when she woke up she'd see it and read it. A, I'm sorry about last night, let's talk over breakfast. -S He remembered how he and Rick used to get breakfast together when they started a shift in the morning. Rick had told him it was important to start the day right and Shane had decided he would put his best friend's wisdom into practice—especially if it would help mend the brokenness between him and Andrea.

He had heard her get up and dress herself. While he waited, he thought about what he'd say to her—more so, how he would communicate that he was truly worried about her and that he wasn't just jealous like she thought. The man they had just met wanted Shane to hand over his weapons and invited his partner for dinner—something wasn't right with this picture. He also wanted to tell her that he wouldn't 'pull a Dale' on her, that he'd respect her decisions, no matter how hard it was for him to do so—even when it came to this other man who called himself "The Governor".

He had waited and waited…and watched as she left the apartment without speaking a single word to him. He rushed inside the bedroom and didn't see the note on the bed. He thought she had taken it with her when he spotted a crumpled piece of paper in the small trash bin. Without picking it up, he knew it was the note he had left her. He ended up eating the breakfast he had cooked for her.

That was the first day. It had stretched on with no ending in sight—or it felt like that to Shane. He had wandered around in the community with his Mossberg 590 and Glock 17 as his only companions. Michonne wasn't around that day and he didn't know where to find her, so he had kept to himself. He had returned to the apartment that night and waited for her. Andrea had entered and before he could say anything to her, she removed a pillow and a sheet from the bedroom and put it in the living room. She had slept peacefully on the couch, while he had laid awake all night in the bedroom alone, staring at the ceiling.

He tried again on the second day with the same results. On the third day, he decided to try something new as he was tired of his passive note writing. He brought her breakfast in bed—only for her to knock it out of his hands. While he had picked up pieces of bacon and scrambled eggs off the floor, she had bolted out of bed, got dressed quickly, and rushed out of the apartment before he had finished cleaning up the mess.

By the fourth day, Shane had stopped making her breakfast; he had stopped writing notes for her as he'd only find them in the trash. He had stopped trying to make conversation with her as she'd only look the other way or get up and walk out. That same day, he ran into Andrea and Philip in the community. They had been walking in opposite directions on the same street. He had hoped that she'd let up, make eye contact with him, smile, nod—some small gesture to acknowledge him. Instead, she had walked right by him without uttering a syllable. He was invisible to her. Worse than that: he didn't exist to her. In her eyes, he was as good as dead.

Hours after that incident, he had found a place in Woodbury where he could get gin and tequila. Lucky for him, they had quite a stash, which was surprising given how difficult it was to come by. He brought home several bottles of each drink and drank until he couldn't stand. Getting drunk and passing out on the couch was a pleasant escape and made it so that Andrea had no choice but to sleep in the bedroom. He'd drink all night, pass out drunk, sleep during the day, wake up in the late afternoon, wander around Woodbury or stay cooped up in the apartment and repeat the cycle. Sometimes it changed slightly with the timing, but it was all the same. It was easier for him to get drunk so he could avoid thinking about what was happening to him and Andrea.

And how she and Philip were getting closer…

Andrea, on the other hand, had greatly enjoyed those seven days. If that week had been hell for Shane, then it was heaven for her. She had woke up that first morning and saw the note next to her. Without a second glance, she had tossed it in the trash. She knew he was waiting for her when she got dressed. As far as she was concerned, he could wait all day and night. She had no desire to speak with him. There was nothing more to say. He wanted to act controlling, talk down to her, treat her like an object that he owned, imply that she was incapable of making sound decisions, expect her to be content with sharing her body whenever he wanted sex yet deny her an emotional connection—all this while holding onto Lori Grimes.

She was done.

She had made a new friend named Philip Blake and she wasn't going to keep him waiting. When she had left the apartment, she knew he saw her, but she didn't care. Shane's feelings were unimportant as she decided it was time to put herself first. Their partnership was over. Right now, she just happened to share the same living quarters as him. That's all he was to her now: a roommate and living companion. Nothing more.

Philip had officially introduced her to Haley, the woman whom she would work with at the Woodbury gate. Haley had been a sentry guard for a month and offered to train Andrea. Andrea enjoyed Haley's company and they started a friendship. Using different weapons was often a topic of conversation between the two women—Haley used a compound bow and Andrea had noticed that she wasn't very good with it. She had lousy aim, but she was fun to chat with. Haley had to put down her brother and father before they reanimated and Andrea had shared with her that she put down Amy after she had turned. That had been an interesting conversation. They had talked about their lives now and what their lives were like before the outbreak.

Of course, they also talked about men—how they couldn't live with 'em or without 'em. Although Andrea enjoyed their "girl talk", she wanted to avoid talking about Shane, but he always came up. Haley had asked who he was to Andrea—everyone seemed to ask her that same question. Philip, Haley, Mrs. McLeod, Karen, Martinez, Mr. Jacobson—even Merle asked what she was doing with him. Who is he? Is he your husband? Boyfriend? How long have you known him? Are you and him friends with benefits? She didn't want to associate herself with him anymore, so she described him as a "traveling companion"—exactly how Philip labeled him during their first meeting. There were no undertones of a shared and mutual connection, be it friendship or love, with that label. It was neutral and detached. Exactly as she wanted it now that she was no longer on speaking terms with him—which she eventually told Philip.

She had returned that first night and wanted to keep her distance from Shane, so she took out a pillow and sheet and put it in the living room. She'd sleep there. He had been standing near the window and turned in her direction as she fixed the sheet on the sofa. She had felt him staring at her the entire time. By now, Andrea didn't let the tension between them affect her. Her sleep, like her feelings and decisions, were more important to her than him. She had slept soundly and woke up the next day to see the same note. She threw it out and continued to ignore his attempts to rectify things…

By the fourth day, he had finally gotten the message that she didn't want to speak with him and that nothing he did (including kind gestures like cooking her breakfast) would turn her around. Whenever he tried talking to her, she would leave the apartment. She had even passed him on the street without acknowledging him. She had seen him from a distance away and resolved to pretend that he didn't exist. When she walked by him, she was surprised to find that she felt no guilt about ignoring him—and it had also indicated to Philip that he could move closer to her. That same evening, she had returned from the fights to find Shane passed out on the couch, empty bottles of gin and tequila littered all over the floor. She had been tempted to clean it up, but then she figured it was his mess, so he should clean it himself. She had shared with Philip that she had walked into her apartment and found Shane completely wasted. In fact, she found herself sharing a lot with him. Unlike Shane, Philip was open and invited Andrea to talk to him about anything. He didn't shut down topics or build emotional walls to keep her out. He encouraged her to speak her mind and made sure she felt heard and understood—just like on the first night they had dinner together.

Philip had even invited her to move in with him.

Andrea had turned it down much to his disappointment. She was furious with Shane, but she didn't want to give him another reason to hate Philip if he ever found out about this proposition. After everything that had happened with Shane, she resigned herself to not sleep with Philip. Sleeping with Shane had clouded her judgement and made her believe there was a romantic connection between them when there wasn't. She didn't want to make that same mistake with Philip. He was attractive and poured attention on her, flattered her, and made her feel beautiful and alive, but Andrea knew it was best not to cross that line. She would kiss him here and there, and twice, they had made out on his couch, but she wouldn't go further with him. Once, he had slipped his hand under her blouse. She had put her hand on his, indicating she didn't want to go in that direction. His hand retreated and he apologized if he had crossed a line. He respected her choice and didn't make her feel guilty for it. He treated her as he always had since day one: with respect and adoration.

The rest of the week had been repeat of the same thing—she'd return at night, find Shane slumped on the couch, sometimes a half empty bottle grasped in his hand, one combat boot hanging off his foot and the other missing. They were about to enter their second week of no communication, when Michonne intervened. Although Michonne's actions to intercede were unintentional, it set into motion the events that would lead to her departure from Woodbury as well as Shane's and Andrea's.

One day after that first week, Michonne went to their apartment and found Shane sprawled out on the couch surrounded by over a dozen of empty gin and tequila bottles. The smell of alcohol was strong inside the small living space. Michonne felt she could get intoxicated just from breathing in the fumes. Shaking him awake didn't work, so she grabbed an empty pitcher from the kitchen and filled it with cold water. She returned to the living room and stood watching him. Shane was still asleep, completely unaware that he had an uninvited guest/friend. Michonne threw the water on his face. Shane sat up right away and twisted around to see who was in the apartment with him.

"What the hell, Michonne?!" He glared at her. "What're you doin' here? How'd you get in?!"

"The door was closed, but opened easily when I got here. I bet he never gave you a key; that means anyone, including myself, can get in and out of your apartment at any time. Anyone can trespass."

Shane rubbed his head and sat up now. "I ain't seen you in ages."

"I know, but I saw your friend and learned a lot about this community—including where you live."

"Like how it's run by a woman-stealin' asshole who won't let you keep your katana? We knew that already. Tell me somethin' new—aside from knowin' where I put my head down at night."

Michonne sat down next to him and gestured at the empty bottles. "What's all this?! You've been getting drunk this entire time?"

Shane shrugged and lay back against the couch. His head throbbed painfully like it had been tightened by an iron vise. All he wanted to do was go back to sleep. Being intoxicated and sleeping were the only things he looked forward to these days.

"You need to pull yourself together, Shane, and listen to what I'm about to tell you."

He shot her a sideways glance, but said nothing.

"Your friend, Andrea, is working with The Governor. He's got her out there guarding the gate. She's been doing this for the past week or so, and when she's not there, she's with him all day; she goes to the fights—"

"I know she's with him!" He snapped and then forced himself to tone it down. It wasn't Michonne's fault that he had driven Andrea away and he didn't want to lose his new friend. "I—I know this all already, that's why…" He gestured at the bottles. "What's this 'bout fights?"

"There's an arena they built near a factory. It's small, but it can sit most of the community. They use walkers to surround the fighters. Add an extra thrill, I guess." She frowned, disgusted by what she had witnessed the other night.

Shane shook his head. "I left the funny farm to find another place where whacky folks hoard walkers for fun. So sick of this stupid crap."

"That's the least of all this, Shane."

"You mean there's more good news?! Spill it."

Michonne watched him, trying to anticipate his reaction when she finally revealed the last part. "Merle stole your shotgun today—the Mossberg 590 that you were carrying around when I first met you."

Shane abruptly sat up, his eyes opened wide and he turned to her. "No way in hell…" He bolted out of the couch and went into the bedroom where he had hid the shotgun several days ago.

Michonne shook her head as she followed him. "That's why I had to find you…I've been noticing weird things about this community. No one leaves here—"

"That's gonna change 'cause I'm leavin' this shithole once I get my gun back. What the hell?! They snatched your katana an' my shotgun. Assholes."

She stood in the doorway and watched him turn the bed over, searching for his firearm. "He got in here easily. I saw him slip in and slip out. I told you these doors don't lock. You weren't given a key, neither was I when I first got here. Haven't you ever noticed that?"

Shane put the bed back in place and turned to face her. He never noticed it until Michonne mentioned it: Milton had never gave him or Andrea a key for the apartment. He didn't know how this significant detail had escaped him all this time. And Andrea was so infatuated with Philip that she probably didn't care.

"They took it to the same place where my katana is—The Governor's headquarters."

"You sure 'bout that, Michonne? How do you know?"

"I followed him and got my katana back, but they took it away again."

"What the hell's that 'bout?"

"I'll explain later. Merle went inside a building with your shotgun and came back out with The Governor. The Governor's been going in and out of that place all week, sometimes with Andrea. Anyway, I came over here and found you passed out." She pointed at Shane's Glock 17 tucked in his pants. "I'm glad he didn't reach for that."

Shane grinned and took out his Glock 17. "I wish he had 'cause I woulda shot him on the spot." He tucked the Glock 17 back in his pants again. "So what're we gonna do?"

"You should talk to your friend."

"She ain't gonna listen." He stared at the wall, not wanting to face Michonne. "We ain't on speakin' terms. Been more than a week an' we ain't have one syllable of conversation."

"We need to change that." Michonne usually looked serious, but now she appeared thoughtful. "I'll take you to where she's at and be your back-up."

"I appreciate that, but she ain't gonna listen," he repeated. "I made mistakes with her…I said an' did things I shouldn't have."

"Aren't we all guilty of that at times?"

"Yeah, but now she's with him…I never knew how much a woman meant to me until I saw her with another man…this ain't the first time either…but that time she wasn't mine, she was his..."

Michonne's eyebrows furrowed, puzzled by what he meant. She wasn't certain if he was referring to Andrea or another woman. It sounded like two different women. He was speaking in a vague manner and she sensed he wanted to keep it that way. She didn't offer advice, judge, or validate him—nor did she question him. She simply listened.

"She's really at the gate standin' guard?"

Michonne nodded. "She's been there all week."

Shane decided what he needed to do. "Let's go check it out."

"Before you go anywhere, take a shower, shave your beard, and change your clothes. You've been depressed and not taking care of yourself." He was about to protest and she stopped him. "I know because I've been where you're at. Do this for yourself before we head out there. You'll thank me later."

Shane sighed, but followed Michonne's suggestion. When he finished, he was cleanly shaven, refreshed physically and mentally, and ready to take on whatever lay ahead. Michonne led the way and he followed her.

oOo

Fifteen minutes later, Michonne and Shane reached the gate. The entire time they walked there, she told him more details about what she'd learned about Woodbury: how The Governor stashed away walkers for the fights, the complete control he had over everyone including Merle. She had found where the walkers were located and decapitated several before she had been caught—which resulted in her katana being taken away for the second time.

"He gave you a good scoldin' for that, huh?"

"He did. I told him that people with nothing to hide don't usually feel the need to say so."

Shane laughed for the first time in more than a week. "You definitely right 'bout that. He actually told you he's got nothin' to hide?"

"Yeah, and he didn't like my response to him." She shrugged. "The good thing that came out of it was I found out where he lives. I'm sure my katana and your shotgun are somewhere in his living quarters."

"We gotta steal back our stuff."

Michonne nodded. "We'll plan it out later. Right now, you have to sort things out with your friend." She pointed at Andrea who stood guard and now faced them…

Andrea had spotted them when they were approaching the gate. She was working a shift with Haley, who also watched as Shane and Michonne came closer. She stared at them, not wanting any part of Shane and wondering why he brought Michonne with him. Was he trying to make her jealous by hanging out with another woman?

Michonne noticed that Andrea pulled a younger woman closer to her and whispered in her ear. After that, the younger woman nodded. She thought she saw a smirk on the younger woman's face, whereas Andrea remained emotionless. This didn't sit well with Michonne, but she knew Shane needed to clear the air with Andrea.

"You got this, Shane." She gently pushed him forward, urging him to talk to her.

He glanced over his shoulder and mouthed thank you. Michonne nodded and smiled briefly, before resuming her usual stoic expression. As Shane walked closer to the gate, he noted the M14 rifle Andrea carried. He was about to say something to her when a younger woman with a compound bow came down and approached him directly. He didn't know who she was, but he didn't have a lot of time to wonder as she was right in front of him in mere seconds.

"Can I help you with something?"

"I came to speak to her," he said, pointing at Andrea who watched them.

Haley didn't bother to introduce herself to the man, but she immediately knew who he was. As he and his female companion approached the gate, Andrea let her know that this was the man everyone had aked her about. Shane Walsh. Haley recognized him as the same man who had been carrying the Mossberg 590 over a week ago. At that time, she had told Philip Blake that Shane's presence with the shotgun was frightening many of the Woodbury citizens. Given that prior knowledge and what she had recently learned about him from Andrea, Haley now faced him without an inkling of fear.

"She doesn't want to talk to you."

Shane forced himself to stay calm. "I'd like to hear that from her, thank you very much."

"No, she's made it clear." Haley spoke in a sing-song voice that was funny to her, but obnoxious to Shane. "She's not talking to you—and she doesn't plan on speaking to you anytime soon."

"Again, I wanna hear that from her mouth an' not yours." He could feel his heart beating against his chest as his temper rose.

"Do I need to get someone to escort you out?"

"Is your name Andrea?"

Haley looked past Shane's shoulder and saw Martinez approaching them. She glanced over her shoulder and gave Andrea the thumbs up symbol, thankful that they had teamed up to address the current problem standing in front of them. She backed off and went back to resuming her position next to Andrea as she let Martinez handle the rest. Andrea watched Martinez confront Shane.

"You got a problem?" Martinez asked as he stepped in front of him.

Shane scowled. He glanced at Michonne, who shook her head. She felt disappointed and annoyed for him.

"The problem is you an' I'm gonna solve it." Shane attempted to get around him, but Martinez blocked him.

"Look, she doesn't want to talk to you. You're disturbing the peace with your bullshit."

"Ain't no one disturbin' the peace except you."

"I'm not one to handle domestic disputes—that was your calling before the world went to hell," Martinez said, still grinning, "but right now, you're the one causing the dispute. I'd step off if I were you or—."

"Or what?" Shane challenged. He tried to get around Martinez again; the entire time he kept his eyes locked on Andrea's, who watched everything.

"Or I'll put you down myself." Martinez's tone became menacing as he blocked him again. He raised his FN FAL semi-automatic rifle and aimed it at Shane's chest.

"You gonna shoot me?" Shane walked up so that the barrel was pressed against his chest. "Let's see if you got the balls to do it."

He was doing the same exact thing when Dale had first held a rifle at him in the woods back when he was still on the Greene farm. Dale didn't have the nerve to shoot Shane then and Martinez didn't now. Martinez lowered his gun, but he remained where he was in front of Shane.

Shane scoffed. "Didn't think so."

"You better leave," Martinez warned. "Or next time, you won't be so lucky."

Shane took a couple of steps backwards and watched as Martinez turned to face Andrea and Haley. He noticed that Andrea's cold expression never changed and Haley appeared relieved. Although she still refused to speak with him, this was good enough for today. Now she knew that he wouldn't continue accepting her silent treatment. There was just one more detail…Shane lingered around a little longer and when Martinez turned around, he punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground.

"Oh my God! Haley, get Merle—NOW!" Andrea demanded as Haley rushed down the steps.

Haley sent Shane a scathing glance before sprinting up the street to find Merle.

Shane smiled sweetly at Andrea. She shook her head as she glared at him. He could tell she was angry that he had knocked out Martinez. She had that icy look in her eyes. He didn't care. Let her be angry. If she had come down and spoke to him, then Martinez wouldn't have gotten knocked out in the first place. Feeling confident about what he had done, he now returned to Michonne who appeared neutral about the entire thing.

"Seems we accomplished something today—not exactly what we came to do, but still successful," she remarked.

"We accomplished plenty. Martinez is on the ground like a lil bitch, Andrea's pissed off, an' her bosom buddy has run off cryin' for Merle." Shane grinned as he and Michonne left the gates. For the first time in more than a week, he felt energized. "Now 'bout those fights…"

oOo

That evening, Michonne took Shane to the makeshift arena located in the back of the factory. On the way there, they started plotting how they would break into The Governor's quarters to retrieve their weapons. Discussing their plans gave Shane a sense of hope that he could leave with Andrea in the near future. For Michonne, she felt relief that her time in Woodbury would be cut short once she retrieved her katana.

After arriving at the factory, they remained hidden in an area that wasn't well-lit. They were close enough to see everything. Two bleachers were situated on either side of the arena and packed with cheering Woodbury citizens. Just as Michonne described, walkers were brought in by Woodbury guards and chained to various parts of the arena so that they surrounded the fighters inside. The fighters for that night were none other than Merle and Martinez.

"He got over that punch pretty quickly," Michonne commented on Martinez who circled Merle in the arena.

"He's jus' savin' face." Shane scanned the area, searching for Andrea and The Governor. "Not gonna waste too much time here, Michonne. I can't believe what these people do for entertainment."

"You and me both."

She watched Merle deliver an uppercut punch to Martinez who landed hard on his back. The crowd roared as Martinez got up in time to miss a walker grabbing for his face. Someone released the chains so that the walkers were closer than before.

"Time to take care of business."

Shane took out his Glock 17 and aimed carefully at the walkers in the arena. There were six in all, so this shouldn't take long. He wanted to make sure he didn't kill a living person—not even The Governor who was on his list of people he hated most. He had the first walker in his sights and pulled the trigger—

Deafening screams filled the arena as gunshots rang out. Three walkers surrounding the arena collapsed to the ground with blood pooling around their heads. The Woodbury citizens scattered in all directions, trying to avoid the gunfire. No one knew which direction it came from.

Merle and Martinez stopped fighting and scrambled out of the arena. They found Philip and Andrea. It became apparent that whoever was doing the shooting was not aiming for living human beings—they were aiming for the walkers. There were several more gunshots and the other three walkers hit the ground face first. Like the first three, they were also shot in the head. Now the arena was completely empty as the Woodbury citizens flooded the streets as they ran back to their homes.

"Search the place," Philip ordered. "We're gonna find out who did this and deal with them."

"You think it was one person?" Andrea asked.

"We'll find out."

Merle and Martinez were still searching the area for the culprit when the shooter revealed himself. Shane stepped out where he could be seen. Staring directly at Andrea, he pretended to blow the smoke off his Glock 17 before tucking it in his cargo pants. She watched as he walked out with Michonne, who sent her a hard look. Then they were gone. Before she could say more, she left Philip and went after Shane. She didn't hear Philip calling her back or Merle and Martinez shouting at her to return as soon as possible. No—she needed to confront him first.

oOo

Shane was laying comfortably on the couch when Andrea burst through the door of their apartment.

"WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!"

She stormed over to him. He was kicking off his combat boots, oblivious to how she had rushed inside, yelling at him. One of his boots knocked down two empty bottles and they shattered; the glass skidded across the floor.

"Do I have to ask you again?!"

Shane looked up at Andrea, who stood over him. Her face was reddened and her green eyes were ice cold. She looked like she'd murder him on the spot.

"Is that what I needed to do to get you talkin' to me again, Drea? Kill some walkers? 'Cause if that's the case, I woulda slayed an army of 'em jus' for you."

Andrea didn't respond to his humor. He was at it again with his stupid jokes and sarcasm. At one time, she would've laughed, but now she found him to be infuriating.

"You could've killed someone tonight!"

"But I didn't. Don't know why you so sad 'bout walkers bein' put down. They're easy to replace, you got plenty of supply to choose from."

"This isn't about the walkers and you know it!"

"I know how to aim a gun; I'm a sharpshooter. You learned from the best, but you've forgotten that, haven't you?"

"I'm not answering that question."

"'Cause you know it's true. Anyway, now that we're on speakin' terms again for however long this lasts, I might as well tell you—"

"I don't want to hear shit about Philip."

Shane pounded the couch with a clenched fist. "Damn it, are you gonna let me finish or not?"

Andrea said nothing so he took at his cue to continue.

"Your beloved man has beloved men who steal for him."

"What?!" Andrea's eyebrows furrowed, completely clueless as to what Shane referred to.

"That douchebag hick Merle an' his lil friend, Martinez—"

"You knocked him out today!" She cut in. "You were told to leave and kept carrying on."

"He's fine, Andrea! He was out there fightin' tonight! An' if you had stepped to me, face to face, we coulda worked things out, but no, you wanna get all your lil Woodbury friends involved in our business."

Her eyes dropped to the floor now that he had called her out on sharing with others about their recent conflicts. She had said more than she should, but she didn't see it as a bad thing. She was trying to make friends with the Woodbury residents since she had been at odds with the friend she had come with.

"Now as I was sayin', those two douchebags are in the habit of takin' stuff that's not theirs. Also known as stealin'."

"What are you talking about, Shane?" She didn't hide the contempt in her voice.

"Merle stole my shotgun."

"How do you know? Did you see him steal it?" Andrea searched for a chair to sit on and took one from the small table in the kitchenette.

Shane's eyes narrowed, clearly annoyed. "Michonne saw it—she's my witness. "

Andrea sank into the chair. "I could've convinced Philip to let you keep it."

"Not wasting time waitin' for you to play Ms. Diplomat. I'm gettin' it back, he jus' don't know it yet."

"How're you getting it back?"

"If I tell you, you'll run back an' tell him since you so cozy with him."

"I wouldn't tell him and I'm not 'cozy' with him." She looked away suddenly, as though he could see right through her to know the truth.

"You can't even look me in the eye when sayin' that. S'okay. Reverend Shane sees an' knows all." He sat up and grabbed a bottle of tequila off the floor. He wasted no time in popping it open and chugging it down. He offered some to Andrea, who shook her head.

"What does 'Reverend Shane' see?"

"That Philip Blake also known as 'The Guvnah' as he likes to be called—he loves charmin' your panties off an' you enjoy every second of it. Reverend Shane been told you 'bout those charmers. Wolves in sheep's clothin'. Me an' Michonne see the light. The rest of ya'll are wanderin' in darkness."

Andrea watched as he finished drinking and threw the bottle over her head. It crashed against the wall and she whipped around when she heard it shatter. She turned back to him as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

"That could've hit me."

"But it didn't."

She felt alarmed by his nonchalance and watched wide-eyed as he snatched a second bottle from the floor and opened it with ease.

"Want some?" He grinned as he held it out to her.

"No." She looked repulsed by the thought of sharing a drink with him.

Shane shifted on the couch. "You mad 'bout today with Martinez an' the fights. You'll get over it. You got no choice."

"You're behaving the same way you did on Hershel's farm. Not listening to anyone, doing whatever you want to do."

"I thought you an' me were on the same page when it came to Hershel's farm. That's why we left. Then we hit Woodbury where everyone is plastic an' the leader is a psychopath who knows how to hide his true colors."

"I'm not hearing anything you say about Philip," Andrea repeated.

"Yeah, you playin' 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil'."

They didn't talk for several minutes. Shane drank more while Andrea forced herself to stay seated, although she was tempted to leave him there.

"Can't believe all it took was one man to get between us."

"There's been one woman between us the entire time." Andrea's tone was matter-of-fact, but the truth was she was tired of Shane's double standards. He lashed out at her for being with Philip, but the entire time he was pining away for Lori. When he wasn't doing that, he was hanging out with Michonne.

Shane shot her a hateful glare. "Don't bring Lori into this. I'm sick of you bitchin' 'bout her."

"At least one of us is." She met his glare head-on, unafraid of his reaction. "You need to stop worshipping the ground she walks on."

He gulped the drink and set the bottle down on the floor. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, Shane was silent for a short time. When he spoke again, his voice was completely calm—a clear indicator that he was holding back from letting his rage fully express itself.

"Say one more thing 'bout Lori an' I swear I'm…" But the words never came to him. He was close to threatening to leave her and telling her she'd have to fend herself, but he couldn't say the words because he was afraid she had already chose Philip Blake over him. Rather than finish his open-ended threat, he opted to focus his anger on his new rival. "He's a dumbass…Philip Blake." He spat out the name. "He's fake as the sun is hot. He's a man of many masks. 'Guv-nah', Pretty-Boy, blah-blah-bullshit. Me: what you see is what you get. One mask an' that's me! He ain't nothin' special."

"He's in charge of Woodbury." She ignored his drunken idle threats and his ridiculous accusations against Philip.

"So you think that matters to me?" He finished drinking and this time set the empty bottle down on the floor.

"So I thought things would be different once we left the farm…that you'd be different…and yes, it should matter to you." She noticed he didn't throw the bottle this time…maybe out of respect for her. It was hard to tell.

Shane made a face that indicated he couldn't believe what she was telling him. "You thought I'd be different?! Andrea, you can take me out of Hershel's farm an' put me in Woodbury, the White House, the moon, Mars—anywhere I go; I'll always be me. You can't take Shane Walsh out of Shane Walsh. Nice try."

"Don't I know it," she muttered.

"He's got you believin' his illusions. You an' Michonne matter to me. She's good. I wish I mattered to you like I used to."

He paused to grab another bottle, but it was empty. She wondered if he knew it was empty or if he just didn't care. When he spoke again, she heard his voice crack with unfettered emotion. Or was it the alcohol coursing through his system?

"I thought we was friends, that you'd cover me jus' as I'd cover you. Thought we was gonna be partners. Nope! You run to the first man who looks at you. Always happens this way. Let my guard down, let 'em in. Drop me the moment another man shows up an' then act like I don't exist. Protect Lori, get her an' Carl to safety. Teach you how to use your own gun. Waste time puttin' my heart on the line." He scoffed. "Pairs of boobs. First, Lori, then you. Same woman, different body. Shoulda never looked back after I banged you both. Shoulda treated you both like you treat me. Throw you away like trash. Then we'd be even-steven."

Andrea blinked away her tears. She couldn't tell if they were tears of rage or tears of pain. Shane comparing her to Lori was an emotional beating and her heart was bruised and swollen. Even if he was drunk, she knew he wasn't lying about what he felt. The strangest part was him saying he let his guard down with her. Andrea didn't think that was true, but in Shane's eyes, he had let her in his heart just by being with her. She abruptly got up, leaving the chair in the living room, and went inside the bedroom. When she slammed the door behind her, she hoped it was loud enough to jolt him out of his drunken state. Andrea couldn't stand being around him when he was intoxicated. Leaning against the door, she hoped he didn't get any ideas about following her in there. It was too late as she heard his slurred speech from the other side.

"Still shuttin' me out, huh?"

She refused to answer and winced when he hit the door. After several minutes, she heard him shamble away. Deciding to stay there for the night, she grabbed a pillow and sheet from the bed and laid on the floor to get some sleep. He didn't return and when enough time had passed, she cracked the door open to peek at Shane. He was asleep on the couch, lying face-down with the empty bottle clutched in his right hand. She closed the door and slid down to the floor. Their exchange had left her feeling empty like the numerous bottles strewn across the living room. Andrea thought about everything that had happened since the moment her and Shane had arrived at Woodbury. It wasn't until hours later that slumber finally released her from ruminating about their crumbling friendship…

 

Chapter Text

 

The Mask of Sanity

Holy water cannot help you down
A thousand armies couldn't keep me out
I don't want your money
I don't want your crowd
See I have to burn Your kingdom down

Florence and the Machine - "Seven Devils"

"I'd like to speak with him—just him and I—no one else. Man to man."

"I doubt he'll listen to you. He never listens to me, so…"

"Can't hurt to try."

Andrea nodded. It was the next morning and she had left the apartment before Shane woke up. She went to Philip's apartment to let him know she confronted Shane about what happened last night—that Shane was the culprit behind the arena shooting and he had knocked out Martinez at the gate. Philip took in everything, remained calm, and then proposed his suggestion for him and Shane to sort things out. Andrea admired his ability to handle the escalating situation with dignity and class—unlike Shane who was in-your-face and aggressive. Philip was refined and Shane was rugged. At one time, Andrea had adored Shane's rough exterior, now it irritated her. She found Philip's suavity more attractive.

"Where will I find him?" Philip asked as he placed a bottle of whiskey and two shot glasses in a brown paper bag.

"I'm not sure, but wherever Michonne is, that's where he is."

oOo

"How're things last night for you and her?" Michonne asked as she leaned against the side of the building.

"She's talkin' to me again. That's a good thing, right?" Shane situated himself next to her.

"It's better than before."

They had tried finding a private spot to talk. Shane offered his place, but Michonne didn't like the idea of Andrea walking in on them, even if they were just talking. It would give her the wrong impression. Michonne had offered her place, but Shane declined, knowing that a bedroom, a closed door, and he and Michonne together would be too tempting for him. Although he had ran around with women in the past, he considered Andrea to be his woman now. He didn't want to hurt her even if she was spending more time with The Governor. He also didn't want to treat Michonne like a sex object. He respected her and she respected him. He valued her friendship and wanted to keep it that way.

"Now that we're talkin' again, I'm gonna plan our escape from here. Before the end of this week."

"What about tomorrow?" Michonne suggested.

Shane thought about it. "Ain't they havin' a barbeque?"

"We can get inside his place then. You get your Mossberg; I get my katana, and we'll be good to go. It can work since everyone will be at that event."

"Sounds good to me."

Michonne looked up suddenly. "We'll work out the details later. Can't say anything in front of them." She pointed ahead of her.

Shane looked in the direction Michonne pointed and sighed in exasperation. The Governor and Andrea were several feet away. "What the hell does he want now?"

Michonne shrugged. "Seems we can't go anywhere without being seen."

"'S'alright. When we do what we gotta do…" Shane stopped now that The Governor was in front of him.

The Governor offered a broad smile, but Shane glared at him, refusing to pretend. Andrea glanced at Michonne, who eyed her warily.

"I'd like a word with you, Shane. Just you and I, man to man."

"Return the katana you took from Michonne." Shane glanced at Michonne who glared at The Governor. "While you at it, give back my shotgun."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

Shane studied his expression. The Governor's face revealed nothing and to Shane that meant he was hiding the truth. He glanced at Andrea, wondering how in the world she continued to be fooled by him. It was so obvious that the man loved playing games.

"You know damn well what I'm talkin' about." Shane stepped threateningly towards The Governor so that they stood eyeball to eyeball. "You took hers," he said, gesturing to Michonne, "an' Merle stole mine. You put him up to it."

"If Merle got it, it's because he confiscated it under my orders."

"Then I've nothin' to say to you." Shane turned to Michonne. "Let's get out of here."

"No, Michonne and Andrea are leaving, and you and I are staying right here. I'm not going anywhere until we have this talk."

The Governor stared at them, waiting for them to leave. As though on cue, Andrea and Michonne stepped away and started down the block, leaving Shane and The Governor by themselves. Shane watched them walk away. Michonne turned around and mouthed "we'll finish this later". He nodded in response. Andrea turned around at the same time and glared at Shane before turning away from him again.

"I want to talk to you about Andrea and what you have to change in order for you to stay here."

Shane faced The Governor now. "You can cut to the chase an' talk 'bout Andrea 'cause I ain't stayin' here much longer."

"Andrea…she's not your wife, your girlfriend, or—"

"She's my friend an' my partner—an' she's my lover."

"Sounds like she means a lot to you." A hint of hostility started to peek through The Governor's pleasant veneer. Just as quickly, his demeanor became over-the-top cheery. "I brought whiskey!" He held up the brown paper bag he was carrying with him and took out the bottle. "Andrea told me you like to drink. She said one time she walked in and found you wasted. She's open with me, you know." He smirked, inviting Shane to interpret that last part for himself.

Shane's eyes narrowed. What else had she told him? And what exactly did The Governor mean when he said Andrea was "open"? There were two ways Shane could interpret that. Open emotionally. Or open sexually. What if he meant it both ways? He didn't want to dwell on that thought. The Governor poured him a shot and offered it to him.

"I don't want your stupid-ass whiskey." Shane snatched the shot glass and tossed it over his shoulder. He heard the glass shatter behind him.

The Governor poured himself a shot and downed it in seconds. He glanced past Shane, eyeing the broken glass on the ground. "That's disappointing. I was hoping we could talk like men, drink like men…" His charming smile didn't match his snake-like eyes.

"What the hell do you want an' what're you lookin' for?"

"I thought you'd never ask." He put the whiskey along with the shot glass on the ground near him. "I want you to respect Andrea. Just now you said she's your lover, partner, and friend. Not in that exact order. Lately though, it seems like there's a lot of animosity between you both."

"It's nothin' an' I respect the hell out of her—enough to be dead honest with her even if she don't like it."

"Did you know she hates you?" The Governor appeared to take pleasure from their falling out. "She told me this the first time her and I were together."

Shane stared at him, unable to formulate an adequate response. He hated it because it wasn't like him to be caught off guard. And yet, The Governor had a sneaky way of throwing him off. More questions flooded his mind. She told The Governor she hated him the first time they were together? How many times had they met and what had they done during those times? He tried to get it out of his mind when he had told Andrea that she was a "piece of ass" and "dessert" for The Governor. Especially since The Governor had just said she was "open". The image of Andrea laying on a bed and The Governor positioning himself between her legs infuriated him, but he was more disturbed that she openly stated she hated him. She had shared that bitter sentiment with another man who was moving in on her at the speed of light. She didn't even keep it to herself. He shook his head, not wanting to believe she would say that about him. There was no way Andrea hated him…but then again, her actions communicated clearly what she felt towards him now. Ignoring him and rejecting his attempts to resolve their conflicts, spending every waking moment with The Governor, refusing to speak with him at the gate…

"She's jus' confused. She don't know what she wants."

"You can minimize it if it makes you feel better, but I know I heard right when she said she hates you." The Governor grinned maliciously. "Everything you're doing, every word you say to her, every time you breathe," he laughed now, "you push her away and closer to me. If she ends up with me, it's because of you. Your own fault and nobody else's. Is that what you want?"

Shane knew he was being baited. "Andrea has my heart an' I give a damn 'bout her more than she realizes. She may not think so, but I know so. When we leave here, she'll see everythin' clear as day. She's got her head in the clouds right now, thanks to your lil mind games."

"'We leave'? What makes you think she wants to leave?" The Governor chuckled. "Andrea's very happy here; in fact, I'd say she flourishes here. You on the other hand…" He sneered. "In the end, Shane, it's you who's gonna end up leaving. Not you and her, although that's what you want."

"She's leavin' with me. It's only a matter of time."

The Governor studied his opponent. "I've been quite generous to you."

"I can tell. Puttin' moves on the woman I came here with, hirin' your man to steal my shotgun in broad daylight. Yeah, you're the definition of generous…" Shane spat on the ground between him and The Governor. "More like dangerous."

"I've offered you a roof over your head. I told Andrea I'd be glad to get you a job here. You thank me by punching out one of my lieutenants and shooting biters during the fights which could've ended with someone dead. Anyone else would've kicked you out of their group by now. I've given you chance after chance."

Shane scoffed. "Am I s'posed to be grateful for your leniency?"

"The more trouble you cause here, the more Andrea sees why she should leave you. She already said she hates you," The Governor reminded him.

Shane refused to believe The Governor's blatant lies. At the same time, he felt troubled by Andrea putting distance between them. He had to hide his fear that she had abandoned him by displaying unyielding bravado. Left out in the open, The Governor would take advantage of his anxiety. He was already playing around with Andrea's feelings.

"She ain't leavin' me."

"Sounds like you're trying to convince yourself."

That was true, but Shane refused to admit it.

"You know the saying, don't you? There's more than one way to skin a cat. I like to put my own twist on it: there's more than one way to murder a man."

Shane yanked The Governor by his shirt collar. "You threatenin' me?!" He slammed him against the building. "'Cause if you are, I'll put you down before you can make good on that lil threat. Try me."

The Governor was hardly unaffected. If anything, he seemed more amused. "I simply quoted an idiom and showed you a different way of viewing it." He brushed himself off. "That's the fourth offense you've committed."

Shane laughed. "You keepin' count?"

"You're trying my patience." The Governor remained impassive.

"I hope you run out of it soon."

"When I run out of patience, things will get ugly. Not for me, but for you."

Shane felt both furious and baffled at how this man had wormed his way between him and Andrea, successfully dividing them. More than ever, Shane was convinced that Andrea had fallen for the illusion of Philip Blake, but she had yet to see the truth about The Governor. What would it take for her to see the truth? He was about to respond to The Governor's threat, when The Governor abruptly left him and started down the street to find Andrea and Michonne. Shane watched him walk off while he processed their loaded exchange—and he was convinced more than ever that he and Andrea had to leave Woodbury before it was too late.

oOo

The two women walked down Woodbury's main street, side by side. Neither woman had uttered a word since leaving Shane and The Governor to talk privately. It seemed as both wanted the other to speak up first. Michonne broke the awkward silence.

"Do you really know him?"

Andrea kept walking. "Know who?"

"Philip Blake or 'The Governor' as he likes to call himself."

"I know him pretty well."

"Do you? Or do you know what he puts out there for you to see?"

Andrea stopped while Michonne kept walking down the street. Michonne turned around when she realized Andrea wasn't beside her. Andrea stood there staring at Michonne as though she were insane. Michonne went back to her.

"I asked you a question," she pressed. "Do you really know him? Or do you know what he puts out there for you to see?"

"I hardly know you."

"I could say the same about you."

"This is my first time talking to you and you expect me to answer that?"

"It's a simple question. The fact that you can't answer it says a lot."

Andrea glared at her. "I don't owe you an answer or an explanation. But if you want to ask questions about the men we know—do you know Shane?"

Michonne nodded. "I do."

"And?"

"I know he can read people very well."

"You don't know how he talks to people. He's not the most refined—and that's putting it nicely."

Michonne smiled in a wry manner. "I could've told you that myself. I experienced his eloquent communication skills when we first met."

"And you're still with him?" Andrea wondered if she would take the bait. With him…

Michonne started walking again and Andrea joined her. "I'm not with him in that way. I'm his friend and I know he cares about you." She took a risk with that last statement. She wanted to assess Andrea's reaction and noticed right away how quickly she responded. It was as though Andrea had already written off Shane.

"He doesn't care about me; he only cares about himself. It's his way or the highway—and I'm fine with taking the highway."

"You've been arguing a lot with each other."

Andrea stared straight ahead, refusing to respond.

"He said you didn't speak to each other for an entire week." There was more of course, but Michonne didn't feel the need to tell Andrea what she already knew. Instead, she veered in a different direction. "Sometimes the closest people argue. That's better than indifference. When you're indifferent to each other, you don't care one way or the other. His willingness to argue with you and you arguing with him right back shows passion. Passion is better than indifference."

"I guess it is. We've been arguing because he doesn't want me talking with Philip and he wants to leave this place." The last part about indifference made Andrea feel ashamed that she had ignored Shane for an entire week, but that completely eroded when Michonne spoke next.

"He has valid reasons for both those things."

Andrea decided she had heard enough. She didn't want to continue this conversation with a woman she barely knew, a woman whom Shane had spent more time with now that she and Philip were friends. She wondered again if Shane was trying to make her jealous by befriending Michonne. Instead of entertaining that thought, she went in the direction of defending the man she had befriended, who wooed her, who patiently waited for her to turn to him: Philip Blake.

"I don't care what his reasons are, just as I don't care that you claim Philip took your katana or Shane's shotgun. If I stay here or not, that's my choice. It sure as hell isn't his decision to make." Andrea's tone was snippy. "As for Philip, he's in charge of Woodbury. If he doesn't want you or Shane to carry around weapons, that's his call."

Michonne frowned, uncertain of where this last part had come from, but she responded anyway. "You defend him like you really know him, in and out. Sometimes a person's outsides don't match their insides."

She stopped when she saw Andrea looking ahead of her. Michonne turned around and saw Philip and Shane coming down the street towards them. She had to wrap up this conversation now and decided to leave it the same way she had started it.

"My question is the same as before: do you really know him or do you know what he puts out there for you to see?"

Michonne joined Shane and Andrea went to stand with the man she affectionately knew as "The Governor." She used both his name and title interchangeably. Philip Blake. The Governor. They were one and the same man as far as she was concerned. He was the man she wanted to be with. Her and Shane, their friendship, their partnership—it was over. Nothing he did or said would change that, and sending in Michonne to be speak for him (or so she thought) wouldn't sway her.

"Andrea and I have things to take care of," The Governor said, as he offered a bright smile to Shane and Michonne. "We're planning a barbeque tomorrow. The entire community is invited. Both of you are welcome to join us. We'll let bygones be bygones—but that's your choice to make."

They stared at him, speechless and disgusted. He had stolen their weapons and then had the nerve to invite them to a barbeque. The Governor didn't want for their responses. He simply turned around and walked away with Andrea. When they were further down the street and out of earshot, Michonne turned to Shane. She noticed he kept watching Andrea and she tried to read him.

Shane looked as though Andrea had thrust a knife in his back and The Governor had stabbed him in the heart at the same time. Stifled pain and contained anger radiated from him, but he said nothing. Michonne was under the impression that he was trying to control his rage—she had observed that he had a tendency to be quick-tempered. She could feel what he was feeling without him saying it. She knew enough from her observations of The Governor, her interactions with Shane, and now her recent conversation with Andrea that a bad situation was worsening and was on the verge of erupting. His tone was smoldering when he finally spoke.

"It's time, Michonne."

She nodded in agreement. Now she had to say the word and make sure he confirmed what she was already thinking. It was time for them to take action. They couldn't procrastinate any longer.

"Tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow."

oOo

They had made their plans, considered all the possible outcomes—including the consequences— and decided it was time to go full steam ahead. No matter what happened, Michonne knew she'd escape Woodbury with her katana before the day was over and Shane knew he'd have his Mossberg 590 and leave with Andrea as soon as possible.

"There's a prison not far from here," Michonne said in a low voice, as she walked side by side with Shane towards The Governor's headquarters. "I overheard Merle telling The Governor about it."

"You gonna go there?" Shane whispered back. "Might be overrun—"

"It's not. Merle said there's a group there. They must've cleared it out."

"How you gonna make it out there on your own?"

"Same as I did before."

Shane stopped in his tracks. "You never told me how or maybe you did. Remind me again—let me in on your secret."

Michonne cast him a sideways glance as though assessing if she should really tell him what she had done to survive before. Then she remembered she had told him the first time they met. Just to humor him, she'd re-explain her survival tactics. Maybe Shane would learn from her and use it himself.

"I promise not to tell." When she didn't respond right away, Shane added playfully, "c'mon, it'll be our lil secret, Michonne."

She continued walking. He followed her lead.

"Grab two walkers, chop off their arms and jaws. Throw some chains around them and pull them along."

"You're one ballsy chick!"

A small smile lit her face and quickly faded. "Will you leave here once you find your shotgun?"

"As soon as I scoop up Drea, yeah, then I'll say adios. She came with me, so we're leavin' together." He grew quiet as they continued to walk to The Governor's headquarters.

Shane didn't want to say too much about Andrea. They had another argument this morning when she found him packing their belongings. He had finished his and had started on hers when she caught him in the act of putting her clothing away. They had exchanged words and then he had asked her—sarcastically, of course—if she had somewhere to be—flipping burgers at the barbeque. Her response had been terse and pretty much the same as before: none of your damn business. It had spiraled down from there. He didn't remember all of it because he didn't want to. The fight had ended with Andrea telling him they were no longer friends or partners. He felt like she had kicked him in the balls by her stating they were completely over, but he didn't fully believe her as Andrea had a tendency to say things she didn't mean when she was angry. He also didn't want to imagine the worst scenario: that she meant it. So he decided to put it out of his mind and focus on what lay ahead.

"Just make sure she doesn't hold you back," Michonne said.

"She won't…I'll drag her out by her hair caveman style if she puts up a fight."

Michonne shot Shane a glare.

"I make women jokes all the time. Nothin' personal."

"Long as you can handle men jokes, then we're good."

"Fair enough."

They walked another block and then stopped.

"This is the place," Michonne said, recognizing it.

She looked up and down the block; she wanted to make sure her and Shane weren't obvious. The streets were empty. Most of the Woodbury citizens were at the arena attending the barbeque. The Governor would be there, along with Martinez and Merle.

"I'm not sure what floor it's on—probably the first or the second," Michonne said as she slipped inside and Shane followed her.

"Doesn't matter, long as we get in an' get out."

They tried a door on the first floor and it was locked. Then she remembered seeing The Governor on the second floor, staring down at her the week before. Leering at her as though she were a bug that he wanted to squash.

"It's upstairs."

oOo

Michonne went in first and was surprised that the door opened easily. Didn't The Governor have keys and lock up his place? She thought if anyone would have kept their apartment locked, that it would be him since he definitely had a lot to hide. It didn't matter. She was glad that she and Shane could get in without a problem. It gave her the hope that they would find their weapons and leave. She looked around The Governor's home, although she didn't want to spend more time than necessary. It was furnished as though he had lived there the whole time before the outbreak.

"You see your samurai sword?" Shane asked as he searched for his Mossberg 590 in the dining room.

Michonne didn't answer as her eye caught a silver glint from behind a glass display case. Stepping closer, she instantly recognized her katana. She opened the display case and picked up her katana as a wave of relief washed over her. The weight of the sword felt natural in her hands, as though it had never been taken from her. She also found her shoulder sling.

"I got her."

Michonne explored the apartment some more. There was a desk with several framed pictures. One showed The Governor, a smiling woman, and a young girl of about six years old. All three were holding hands. Michonne picked it up, wondering if this was who The Governor was before the outbreak. A family man with a wife and daughter. Deciding not to give it further thought, she placed the picture down and went to find Shane.

Shane had moved on and was now searching the bedroom. Bedsheets and pillows were strewn all over the floor. He removed drawers from the bureau and dumping the entire contents on the floor. His Mossberg 590 was nowhere to be found. The longer it took to find it with no results, the angrier he became. Where the hell did The Governor hide his shotgun?!

"Shane?"

He looked up and gave her a half smile. "You found Blaze, good for you. She's real lovely." He eyed the katana and gave an approving nod.

"She is." Michonne place her katana in its shoulder sling and then positioned it on herself, so that she could take it out if necessary. When she finished, she saw Shane kneeling down and looking under the bed. "You can't find your shotgun?" She sounded worried.

"No, I've been lookin' all over this room. Son of a bitch is gonna wish he never crossed me." He stood up now and faced her. "Guess this is good-bye then."

"You got me in here to get Blaze back, the most I can do is help you find—you actually name your weapons?"

"Shockwave," Shane said, grinning. "An' yep, I do."

"'Blaze' is a nice name; maybe I'll call her 'Silver Blaze' from now on." Michonne held back a laugh and then she became serious. "This place…I always had a feeling he was hiding more than my katana and your shotgun here."

Shane rubbed his head, feeling anxiety sink in although he tried to stifle it. "Like what?"

She shrugged. "Not sure. It looks too picture perfect, just like the whole town. It comes off fake, artificial—like him. He wears a mask. You and I see through it, others are fooled."

"I know exactly what you mean." Shane's voice sounded muffled and Michonne saw he was now searching through The Governor's closet. "I found Shockwave." He emerged with the Mossberg 590.

Now it was Michonne's turn to compliment Shane's weapon. "Isn't she the beauty?"

"She sure is." Shane saw an ammo sling had been attached to the Mossberg 590. "Looks like they updated Shockwave," he said as he examined the strap. "Wanna investigate?"

"I can spare a few minutes."

"So generous of you." He left the bedroom and started knocking on the locked doors of the apartment. "Nothing here. You see anything weird?"

"There's this door…" Michonne had her ear pressed against a door that led to another room. She took out her katana. "There's something in there. I hear thumping noises."

Shane turned the knob. It wouldn't budge. "Alright, since you won't be nice an' let me in…" He kicked the door. It shifted and he kicked it a second time. This time it swung open.

There was shuffling from inside and the thumping noise came again. Nodding silently at each other, she braced herself with her katana as he positioned himself with the Mossberg 590. Together they entered the room, making sure to remain quiet. It didn't last long as Shane was the first one to react.

"What the hell is this?!"

Michonne's jaw dropped and her eyes widened in shock. She couldn't believe what she was seeing and she knew from Shane's reaction that he couldn't either.

Inside the room, a wall was lined up with fish tanks stacked on each other. Dismembered heads of walkers floated inside the fish tanks. She counted quickly—there must've been at least nine—maybe ten tanks. Some held two heads, others held three—all in various stages of decomposition. The walkers' heads floated in the bluish green water. The innards from their necks hung loosely and their eyes were sunken in. Other heads were so decomposed that the skulls were starting to show through as the skin sloughed off. Some looked like they had been decapitated in the middle of a scream. The rest looked as though they had been killed in their sleep as their eyes were closed. The heads were a mix of men and women, although it was difficult to tell their racial and ethnic identities.

The stench was overwhelming—a combination of vomit, feces, and rotten eggs. How had anyone not smelled the decay emanating from this room? Or apartment? As a sheriff's deputy, Shane had come across many corpses in different states of decomposition. He remembered when he and Rick had been called to an apartment where a boyfriend had choked his girlfriend and left her body in the shower stall. Neighbors had called reporting a bad smell that wouldn't go away. They were sent to the apartment complex and had been hit with the awful smell of a rotting corpse before entering the unit. The smell was unmistakable and he and Rick never forgot it…

"What's this guy do? Sit an' watch 'em float an' rot away for entertainment?" He gestured with his Mossberg 590 at the leather armchair situated in front of the fish tanks.

"Do you think Andrea knew about this?" Michonne asked.

"No way." Shane shook his head. "She wouldn't have tolerated it."

"There's more…" Michonne answered as she pointed at what appeared to be barred entrance to a cage. It was in a corner of the room. She heard the thumping noise again and then saw the latch that would open the cage. She undid the latch and then stepped back next to Shane.

There was slight movement from inside and then what appeared to be a little girl in a red dress, stockings, and black dress shoes, shambled outward. The head was covered with a sack and she stopped short. Muffled growling came from the girl. Michonne gestured at the chain with her katana, noting it was wrapped around the girl's neck.

"Oh my God," Michonne whispered. "This man is sick…he trapped this girl…"

"We don't know if it's a girl." Shane's voice was flat.

"Only one way to find out." She started removing the sack off the girl's head—and backed off quickly when the "girl" made a move to bite her face.

It was a walker…a child walker.

"I ran away from Hershel's funny farm jus' to find another whacko who enjoys hoardin' walkers." Shane aimed with his shotgun when Michonne stopped him.

"Shooting makes noise, I got this." She brought her katana on the girl's head, splitting it open. The walker collapsed at Michonne's feet. She looked down sadly at the dead child and then back at the tanks.

"Who was she?" Shane asked.

"Not sure—I saw a picture of The Governor before I found you in his bedroom. There's a picture of him, a woman, and a little girl." She glanced down again at the girl's corpse, her heart heavy for the life that had ended before its time.

"You sayin' it's his daughter?"

Michonne nodded. "Was."

"Let's take care of the rest of these—things. I'm gonna shoot the tank an' when they land on the ground, you slice 'em up." Before she could respond, Shane shot at two fish tanks and five walker heads tumbled to the floor as the water spilled outward. "There they are, go get 'em."

Michonne made quick work out of the five heads and sliced them down the middle. They had been wriggling when they first hit the floor, now they lay completely still.

"Gonna do all of these," he said, shooting two more tanks.

Water rushed out and six walker heads landed on the floor between them. As before, Michonne put them down. Shane was about to shoot again at another fish tank, when Michonne lowered his shotgun.

"Your shotgun's too loud—Shockwave's gonna draw people here. We gotta get out while we still can."

Shane grinned. "That's the point, I wanna draw him here." Then he saw the pensive expression on her face. "You did more than enough—I know you wanna leave this place."

"You're not coming? I thought you wanted to 'get in and get out'."

"Nope. I'm gonna beat his ass for makin' moves on Drea an' for stealin' my shotgun."

"She's your wife?" Michonne's eyebrows furrowed in confusion. She wasn't sure what Shane's relationship with Andrea was, but now she wondered if they were a married couple. She knew he cared about her, but he had never clarified their connection.

"My partner in crime, but she's more than that."

Michonne was curious now. "Who is she to you?"

Shane stared at the Mossberg 590 in his hands, not making eye contact with Michonne. "You ever meet anyone who reaches out to you when you're losin' yourself? They don't let you keep spiralin' down. It's like you wanna jump off a ten story building 'cause the whole world thinks you're crazy. You're all alone an' you know you've done fucked up shit to survive…but then there's this one person who believes in you, who actually gives a shit if you jump an' convinces you not to go over the edge. They get you to leave the building so that you can start over in your life." He finally looked up at her. "Know anyone like that, Michonne?"

Michonne was quiet as she contemplated what Shane had told her. "I haven't met anyone like that yet…but I hope one day I do."

"I hope you do too…anyway, that's who she is to me…I jus' never told her."

"You should tell her."

Shane nodded. "You right 'bout that…I gotta let her know. Thing is, we came here together an' I ain't leavin' without her. She's comin' with me an' knowin' him, he'll try to convince her to stay".

Michonne smiled. Shane didn't realize it, but she did: he had repeated himself when he mentioned coming to Woodbury with Andrea and that he wouldn't leave without her. She observed that he cared more about Andrea than he let on. He was fiercely protective of her and Michonne viewed that as a positive quality in a man. She just hoped Andrea appreciated it.

"Make sure you throw punches in for me when you beat him down," Michonne said. "I'd take him on myself if I wasn't leaving."

"Oh, I will, I promise you that—an' I know you'd kick his sorry ass to kingdom come."

Michonne was about to respond when she heard shouting from below. She rushed out of the room and looked out the window. The Governor! He pulled the entrance door open and hurried inside the building.

"He's coming inside!"

"Go ahead—I'll be the distraction. They'll be too focused 'bout what's goin' here so that you can make your escape."

She was about to leave when it hit her. "Come with me, you don't have to stay here."

Shane shook his head. "We promised we'd always be there for each other. We been fightin' like hell since we got here an' she pisses me off, but I can't leave her behind. If I leave, he'll harm her an' I can't let that happen." He sighed. "I'm sorry…a promise is a promise."

"She abandoned you. Not the other way around."

When he looked away, Michonne regretted what she said, but she had to be honest with him. She also felt sad that he was staying behind. There was no telling how this was going to end. She instinctively knew things were about to get worse for him and Andrea—far worse. It had to be that way before their situation got better. She wanted to tell him this, but she knew he was intent on staying here. Instead, she asked him a very personal question.

"Do you love her?"

Shane turned back to her, surprised. He opened his mouth to respond when he looked in the direction of the door they had entered from. The thudding of footsteps was coming closer. Knowing she had to leave, Michonne embraced Shane. He held her tightly before letting her go and gently pushed her to leave so that she could escape Woodbury.

"Good luck, Michonne. I know you'll make it out there—an' thank you for everythin'," he added quickly. He wanted her to know he appreciated her friendship.

"You too, Shane." Michonne smiled. "Thank you for helping me get my katana." She turned back in time just as the door to the apartment swung open and The Governor stepped inside.

The Governor walked in and looked around carefully. Milton said Mrs. McLeod had spotted two people entering the building and not long after that gunshots were heard from his upstairs dwelling. "One was the aggressive man Andrea brought here and the other was the black woman who keeps to herself," Mrs. McLeod told Milton and he had passed on the information to The Governor during the barbeque. The Governor tried not to make it look obvious when he left Andrea there with the other Woodbury citizens. He needed to find out what trouble those two were starting—they had caused enough ruckus already. Ever since the day both Michonne and Shane had arrived at the community, he knew they would have to be eliminated.

Michonne had ducked behind a sofa in the living room. She watched as The Governor walked further into the apartment. She noticed he was studying the place, trying to figure out what was missing and what was still there. As he ventured in further, she inched her way around the sofa and then she saw it: her escape! The Governor hadn't closed the door and if she made a dash for it—

He started towards the dining room when he heard the sound of running feet. The Governor spun around in time to see Michonne sprint out of the apartment—with her katana!

"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?!"

He rushed out of his apartment and saw Michonne thunder down the steps and run out of the building in the front. The streets were empty as most of the citizens were still attending the barbeque. Apparently the break-in of his apartment had been well planned. He was about to go after her when he heard rapid gunfire coming from within his apartment, drawing him back in.

Inside the apartment, Shane left the room with the walker heads after shooting three more fish tanks. Seven walker heads had landed on the floor and he left them there. He wasn't going to waste bullets on them. Maybe he'd shove The Governor inside that room and let him get bit by his precious collection of reanimated heads. He left the room and didn't bother to close the door. When he peered outside the window, he saw Michonne making her way to the gates. She walked slow and calm at first, acting normal when suddenly the sentry guards at the gates—Crowley and Shumpert—raced towards her. Shane watched in amazement as Michonne reached over her shoulder and grabbed her katana from its sling. In a flash, she swiped at the two men. Their machine guns clattered to the ground as their dismembered hands flew into the air. There was screaming and cursing as both men fell to the ground, thrashing in pain.

"She's a bad-ass chick," Shane observed.

Michonne bolted for the gates that separated her from the outside world. He watched as she ran up the stairs and jumped on the platform so that she could hop over the top part of the gates. Just as quickly, she was there—and then she was gone. Shane whistled in admiration. Michonne was fast! Relieved that she had made it out safely, now he could finish up here and get Andrea so that they could escape from Woodbury. He stepped away from the window when he heard footsteps behind him and a man's voice curdled with rage.

"Found what you're looking for?"

Shane whipped around to face The Governor. "I sure did, you lyin' thief."

"Are you in the habit of breaking and entering into people's homes?"

"Only when they steal my stuff."

The Governor's responded with a cold smile as he eyed Shane and the Mossberg 590. "I thought you were a deputy sheriff sworn to uphold the law. That's what Andrea told me."

"She told you right." Shane smirked. "Lemme ask you somethin': did she also tell you I have a bad habit of puttin' down walkers that folks like to hoard away? 'Specially when it's their family members that they can't put down?"

A visible shadow passed over The Governor's face and when he spoke again, his voice was barely above a whisper. "What did you say?"

"Your lil daughter-walker was put down by yours truly—go check it out if you don't believe me." He knew Michonne had been the one to put down the girl walker, but she had already escaped and Shane wouldn't turn her in. If Michonne hadn't offered to do it, then Shane would've shot the undead girl in the head in the same way he had put down many of Hershel's barn walkers.

The Governor's glare was murderous as Shane revealed what had happened. He ran to his secret room that Shane and Michonne had found. Shane heard shouting from inside, a mournful wail followed by a string of curses. The Governor rushed back out and took out his Beretta92SB.

"I'm glad you broke into my apartment."

"Really? If you so happy 'bout it, then I woulda done it sooner."

The Governor chuckled. "You saw where your head will end up. I'll make sure you get your own fish tank." The Governor now aimed his Beretta 92SB at him. "Penny's tomb will be yours."

Shane's eyes narrowed at the gun pointed at him—and more so from The Governor's threats. "I got a feelin' we'll be sharin' that tomb together." He tossed his Mossberg 590 aside and tackled The Governor to the ground.

Thrown off by the sudden attack, The Governor's back slammed on the floor and he lost his grip on his Beretta 92SB. Shane kicked the pistol away and leaned down, grabbing The Governor's collar. Wasting no time, he slammed his clenched fist into The Governor's face. The Governor's face swung, blood spewing from his mouth and nose. Shane showed no sign of stopping as his punches became harder and quicker. The Governor stretched his arms outward, reaching out to snatch anything he could use as a weapon against Shane. His eyes caught a tall lamp stand. He grabbed it and swung it on Shane's head. Shane toppled to the floor as The Governor got to his feet, wobbling the entire time. He crashed the lamp's metal stand on Shane's head again.

"Son of a bitch—you killed my Penny—"

Shane's head exploded with pain. He glanced upwards to see a flash of metal before he was hit again—this time square in the face. Blood rushed down his nose and his head pounded. He forced himself to swing his legs at The Governor's legs making him lose his balance and collapse to the floor. Shane rushed over while adrenaline still pumped through him and got behind The Governor.

The Governor's head had hit the floor and he vaguely heard Shane moving behind him. Before he could get to his feet, Shane's arm snaked around his throat in a tight chokehold. He couldn't breathe and his heart hammered against his ribcage as Shane started twisting—as though trying to break his neck. Thinking fast, The Governor punched and clawed at Shane's arm, but he didn't let up—he only squeezed harder. He could feel his strength draining and then he saw it—the Mossberg 590 lay on the floor, forgotten by its owner. He tried to lean forward and reach for it. At that same instant Shane pulled him back and wrapped his legs around The Governor's torso, locking in the rear naked choke. Shane pressed his free hand on back of The Governor's head, making the hold more painful.

"—fillin' up Drea's head with your bullshit—"

The Governor heard Shane growling in his ear and forced himself to concentrate, although he found himself drifting away. He could get out of this—and he had to do it fast before Shane put him out. He brought his shoulders upwards and sank his chin into Shane's arm wrapped around his neck. At the same time, he reached for Shane's wrist behind his head and used his other free arm to do the same thing, pulling Shane's arm over his head. He only had seconds—The Governor locked Shane's arm under his armpit, trapping it. Gritting his teeth, he pulled the choking arm off his neck and twisted Shane's wrist, shifted sideways, and popped his arm over. Shane was now thrown off balance and at The Governor's mercy as the latter grabbed his head with one arm and snaked it around his neck. He turned inward and got on top so that now it was Shane under him. The Governor locked in the hold as Shane squirmed and twisted, trying desperately to break it. The Governor pulled harder, grinning the entire time.

"Time to tap out."

The Governor heard grumbling underneath him. He gave it some more time and was pleasantly surprised to feel Shane's body go limp. He knew he could've kept the hold, but he wanted to have more fun toying with his prey. Chuckling to himself, The Governor released Shane. He grabbed his collar and spat in his face. Furious, Shane spat right back in The Governor's eye. Snarling, The Governor rammed Shane's back against the floor again and then rose to his feet. He saw Shane was still conscious as he slowly turned over and tried to get up. He was on his hands and knees when The Governor kicked his stomach, causing him to crash to the ground. Deciding it was time to tie up his captive, he rushed out to find rope.

It was less than a minute, but it felt like forever to Shane when he saw The Governor's shoes enter his vision. He looked up and saw The Governor had rope in his hands—to choke him with or tie him up. Shane mustered all his strength and with a feral roar, he looped his arms around The Governor's ankles and pulled hard, bringing him down to the ground. The Governor's jaw crashed down on a nearby coffee table, causing his teeth to involuntarily bite his tongue. The taste of metallic blood flooded his mouth. He heard Shane scramble to his feet and forced himself to rise up despite being bathed in cold sweat. He ducked just in time as Shane swung his Mossberg 590 at his head. Shane swung a second time, smashing the side of The Governor's head. The Governor stumbled, but managed to maintain his balance. Shane quickly brought the shotgun over his head and pressed it against The Governor's throat, using the firearm to choke him. He dragged him, still keeping gun at The Governor's throat and tightening it every passing second.

The room spun in The Governor's vision and with a sudden burst of energy, he backed Shane into a wall, crashing him against it several times. Shane's grip weakened and the Mossberg 590 clattered to the floor. Freed from the chokehold, The Governor whipped around and punched him across the face. Shane hit the adjacent wall, but still managed to stay on his feet. The Governor took advantage of the split second he had and grabbed Shane's throat, his fingers clawing into his skin. He showed no emotion when Shane's eyes bulged. Shane's heart smashed against his chest—he couldn't breathe! He felt himself being dragged by the neck and then slammed down—his back hit the floor with so much force he almost blacked out from the sheer pain. The Governor's hands were still wrapped around his throat, choking him out—

There was no way in hell that he was going out like this.

Shane tried prying off The Governor's fingers again, pulling them back. The Governor squeezed tighter in response at his feeble attempts to free himself. He reached for The Governor's throat, but his hands trembled and missed their mark. Feeling blackness closing in around him and his strength draining, Shane struggled to remain conscious. He had one last option and seconds to act. Shane summoned up whatever strength he had left—and jammed his finger into The Governor's eye socket as far as it could go and twisted hard, squeezing his own eyes shut when he felt the soft tissue squish and collapse around his finger.

It felt slimy, jelly like.

The Governor's scream of pain was loud enough to shatter Shane's eardrums. He immediately released his hold on Shane's throat, his hands flew to his bloodied eye socket. Shane pulled his hand back and wiped his hand on the carpet, not wanting any trace of ooziness from the destroyed eyeball. He sat up groggily, coughing and catching his breath. He looked around and saw The Governor was hunched over covering his face—or rather, his empty eye socket. He remained still as though willing himself to calm down when moments ago he had thrashed from pain and shock. Blood leaked through his fingers and Shane turned away not wanting to see the horrifying sight of a man with his eye recently gouged.

He tried to get up and slid back down again. The room ran around him in circles and he sat for a moment and closed his eyes. When he reopened them, the dizziness had subsided. Shane scanned the area where he had just fought The Governor. Where was Shockwave? He saw it lying on the floor several feet away and crawled on his hands and knees to retrieve it. Just when he reached it, a boot stomped on his hand and then kicked away the Mossberg 590. He gritted his teeth and twisted around to see who had prevented him from getting his shotgun when out of nowhere the cold metal of a gun's barrel was pressed against his temple.

"How 'bout we stop bullyin' each other like lil kids in the schoolyard an' start actin' like dignified gentlemen?"

Shane recognized Merle's drawl; it was the older Dixon brother holding him at gunpoint. His vision blurred and he squinted, trying to focus. He could barely make out Andrea. She held her gun at The Governor's head as she held him up by the collar. The Governor was still holding his injured eye socket, but he was calm now. Shane realized they had arrived at the same time and were holding each of them at gunpoint.

"Let him go," Andrea demanded.

"Or what, Sugar-Tits? My finger's itchin' to put a bullet in your boyfriend's head."

Andrea yanked at The Governor's collar, while still keeping her gun trained on him. "Or I finish him off. He just lost an eye—he could stand to lose more—his life."

Merle grinned as he pressed the gun harder against Shane. "Wanna call this a draw?"

"Might as well 'cause Shane's walking out of here alive."

"So's The Governor, Sweetie Pie."

Andrea glanced at Shane, meeting his eyes. She mouthed to him, I got this.

Shane nodded quickly. He felt a mix of shock and relief when he saw her press her gun against The Governor's head. Shock because he never imagined she'd hold The Governor at gunpoint and relief that she was actually acting as his partner: she was backing him up. After all their arguing and fighting, she finally saw the truth. He was glad to see her there, to know that she didn't hate him after all. He realized that The Governor was lying and that he would do and say anything to pit him and Andrea against each other. Then he wondered when she and Merle got into the apartment—he didn't hear them come in and he was certain The Governor didn't either. Their focus had been on exterminating the other so that everything else faded away.

"I'm gonna agree with Blondie on this one, guys. Ain't no sense in continuin' this catfight, 'cause we'll end up blowin' out both your brains at the same time."

Andrea grinned, knowing she had the upper-hand. Although Merle wanted to kill Shane, he wouldn't risk The Governor getting murdered in front of him. Merle wouldn't be able to explain to the Woodbury community that their leader had been killed. She looked down at The Governor and saw that he was suffering from a horrific eye injury—she knew Shane was responsible for it. Risking The Governor's life was enough reason for Merle not to dare pull the trigger. She didn't want to hold a gun at The Governor's head, but at this point, she had to gain leverage. Right now, all she cared about was making sure that she and Shane left Woodbury today. The other stuff—her fighting with Shane, how she had turned against The Governor when she had never intended to—that could be worked out. She would get Shane out of this and they'd leave here as soon as Merle released him.

"Let him go and we'll be on our way," Andrea said. "No one gets killed. Simple enough."

"Simple enough except you're outnumbered," another voice said from behind Andrea.

She was about to turn around to see who it was—she recognized Martinez's voice and just as quickly, a gun was pressed against the back of her head. Her throat closed up and she was unable to turn around.

"Drop your weapon." Martinez demanded. "Now."

Shane and Andrea glanced at each other. Shane slightly shook his head, indicating for her not to give in—stand her ground. Andrea nodded to show she understood and fully agreed with him. No way in hell they were giving up.

"There's three of us against you two. You won't get out of this alive if you keep resisting."

"Fuck you, you horse's ass," Shane mumbled.

"Say that louder, Officer Krupke," Merle demanded, pushing the barrel of the gun harder against his temple.

"Maybe they need a little convincing, Merle," Martinez said, as he cocked back the hammer.

The mechanical click echoed in Andrea's ear and her eyes widened in fright. Shane made a move towards her, but Merle yanked him back by the collar. Martinez grinned sadistically, pleased with the reaction from them.

"We can do this the easy way or the hard way. Easy way, you live to see another day. Hard way, you won't see the light of day again as a living human being. You and your boyfriend will spend the rest of your happy lives as biters."

Knowing she had no other choice, Andrea sighed and put down her gun. She released The Governor and raised her hands in the air.

"See, I knew we could work something out." He motioned for Andrea to kneel down next to Shane. "Get on your knees. Hands on your heads."

They did as they were told while Merle kept his gun trained on both of them.

"Eyes straight ahead," Martinez said. Taking out two pairs of handcuffs, he quickly secured their hands behind their backs. Shane first, then Andrea. "Great, now that we got that out of the way, I'll check on The Gov. Keep your gun trained on them, Merle."

"I'll try to make sure my finger doesn't slip," Merle said as he circled their captives. "Thank you very much, Sheriff Shitstain." He grabbed Shane's Glock 17 from his pants.

Shane and Andrea watched Martinez approach The Governor, who was still on the floor, holding his eye.

"You want Milton to take a look at it?" Martinez asked.

"No." The Governor's edgy tone told Martinez not to press the issue. "Where are they?"

Martinez glanced over his shoulder. Andrea appeared frightened as she breathed rapidly while carefully watching Merle. Shane looked exhausted from his fight against The Governor and bored while waiting in the same position. Merle whistled cheerfully as he kept his semi-automatic pistol trained on them.

"We got 'em cuffed and on their knees. They're not going anywhere until you give the word."

The Governor stood up and wiped his hand on his pants leaving bloody prints. Martinez tried not to openly react when he saw the grotesque eye injury. Merle glanced at The Governor as he approached them and caught sight of it. He decided to act like nothing had happened. Merle knew it would only infuriate The Governor more if he called attention to it. Oblivious to their reactions/non-reactions, The Governor went over to Andrea and Shane. Blood streamed freely from the socket where there was now an empty black hole. He appeared ghastly to them—Andrea turned away, not wanting to see his face, but Shane stared at him, defiant.

"I thought you were a great addition here, Andrea. Sad to say I was wrong."

Andrea fidgeted as panic and fear joined together to close in on her. She had never felt afraid of The Governor until now. Although it had been Shane who fought with The Governor, she didn't know if he planned to punish her for what he had done. She didn't think so at first until he told her he was wrong for thinking she was a "great addition". Now she didn't know what to make of his cold reaction towards her—especially after holding a gun at his head. She had acted on instinct and it backfired because now she and Shane were both captured. To make matters worse, her wrists were hurting. Martinez had cuffed her too tight. The Governor stepped in front of Shane now, temporarily taking his attention off Andrea.

"As for you…" The Governor sent a clenched fist across his face. Blood dribbled from Shane's lips. "Play time's over." He looked over his shoulder, searching for something that wasn't there. "Where's my katana? I saw Michonne run out of here with it."

"I'm sure it can be found, give—" Andrea started when The Governor cut her off.

"I'm talking to your lover."

Merle and Martinez broke out in harsh laughter. Andrea thought they sounded like hyenas.

"Blaze was returned to her rightful owner," Shane said, proudly.

"You stole it; that was a gift from a close friend."

"No, jackass. You stole it from Michonne by forcin' her to turn it in—an' you stole Shockwave."

Now it was The Governor who laughed. For someone who had recently sustained a serious injury, it was shocking to see him express any amusement. "Shockwave? Is that the name for your—"

"My Mossberg 590—the one you had your errand boy, Merle, break in an' steal. Oh, that's right, you confiscated it."

Merle chuckled. "He's jus' mad 'cause he used to be a deputy sheriff an' now he's the one wearin' the cuffs with no fancy-ass shotgun to play with."

"No, douchebag, I'm mad that you're a cowardly piece of rat shit that stole my gun when I was asleep. You ain't had the nerve to take it when I was awake."

Merle stepped in front of Shane now and pointed the gun between his eyes. "I think you talk too much, Officer Asshole." With that, he pistol-whipped Shane across the face. Shane's face swung, spewing out blood. "You have the right to remain silent."

"And he will remain silent if he knows what's good for him," The Governor glared at Shane. "What about you, Martinez? A penny for your thoughts?" A bittersweet smile flashed across The Governor's face at the mention of "Penny", although he had used in a different way.

"We should go after the samurai who sliced off Shumpert's and Crowley's hands. That's who I'm gunning for." Martinez sounded genuinely angry that Michonne had the nerve to deprive both men of their hands on her way out.

"Ah yes, Michonne…where'd she go so fast?" The Governor's flat tone did not match the severity of the situation. "She's in deep shit for breaking and entering in my apartment. You both are."

Shane simply grinned and Andrea looked at him, unsure of what to make of his reaction.

"She's far from here so you'll never find her. Me an' Andrea, we're leavin' here—"

"In body bags if I have my way."

Andrea's breath caught in her throat when she realized what he was implying. The Governor was crazy—he planned on killing them. Rick's group was a thing of the past and the Woodbury community didn't know Andrea and Shane enough to actually care if they mysteriously disappeared. They knew her, but somehow she doubted they would actually express worry if she were reported missing. She wanted to live—there was no way her life was going to end like this.

"No—you can't—"

"Hush, Drea. He's jus' bluffin' to make himself feel good. He needs to take care of his lil injury. How's your eye?"

The Governor's one intact eye narrowed. "It hurts like a bitch named Michonne because an asshole named Shane gouged it out."

"I'm sorry." Shane's voice was syrupy. "I'm sorry I didn't gouge out your other eye."

His head snapped to the side when The Governor threw a sharp backhanded punch across his face. Merle and Martinez snickered in the background. Shane spat a wad of blood at The Governor's feet and continued with his offhanded humor.

"Pirates are in this year. Jus' wear an eye patch an' I promise you women will love it. What chick doesn't love a Guvnah-pirate? Captain One-Eyed Philly!" He laughed now despite the blood streaming from his mouth.

Andrea kept looking from Shane to The Governor, terrified of what lay in store for them. Shane's jokes unsettled her and she worried that he was worsening their situation. She finally looked away not wanting to see The Governor's eye focused intently on her and she avoided Merle's and Martinez's hungry stares. Next to her, Shane called out her name. She didn't hear him until the third time because she was hyperventilating.

"You got nothin' to be scared of, Drea. They ain't gonna break us apart no matter how hard they try. They can't hurt us. At the end, we gonna have the last laugh."

Andrea trembled when she saw the fresh bruises discoloring his face and blood leaking from his lips. Despite his fight with The Governor, Shane appeared unfazed. He offered her a confident grin. She didn't know if he truly felt brave or if he was trying to be strong for her. Even his language spoke of their renewed unity. We. Us. It should've comforted her that he still saw them as a team despite their terrible fallout. It had the opposite effect because guilt had settled in the pit of her stomach and was now eating her from the inside out.

"Take these two to the basement. Put them in adjoining rooms, but keep 'em separated. Give me an hour to take care of this," he pointed at his eye injury, "and I'll tell you what we're gonna do with them."

Merle and Martinez grabbed Shane and Andrea off the floor and started making their way to the building's lowest level. The Governor watched them and then left to address his eye injury. He already knew how he planned to deal with them…

Chapter Text

The Man Behind The Mask

Fine women love losers that treat 'em bad and cheap
I'll treat you like a queen / You rather be a slave
I'll show you I'm a gentleman / But you prefer a caveman

Wale - "The Manipulation"

The basement was musty and dark with little light in the individual holding cells, but it was the perfect place for The Governor to carry out his plan. The only ones who knew about this area were Merle, Martinez, Milton, and The Governor's other henchmen (Crowley and Shumpert). No one else knew about it as it was The Governor's best kept secret—next to his collection of walker heads and formerly reanimated Penny.

The Governor peered through the long rectangular window of one holding cell with his good eye. His other eye was covered with gauze. Andrea sat on the ground, her chest heaving as she took deep breaths. She twisted her body and looked around, searching for an object to pick the handcuffs' lock. There was nothing to pick it with. The Governor watched, amused at seeing her frantically scan the cell for an escape route. He could feel her fear rising the longer she remained there and he couldn't wait to toy with her. He had been playing around with her the entire time and his mind games were about to go into overtime now.

He went to the next holding cell that had the same long rectangular window for viewing. The hysterical laughter Shane exhibited earlier had been replaced with seething anger from the moment he had been separated from Andrea and thrown in his cell. Now he paced back and forth in his usual agitated manner. The Governor grinned when he thought of how Shane would be lucky if he was able to walk an hour from now. Shane suddenly looked up and met The Governor's dark stare. He stormed to the door and kicked it several times.

"OPEN THIS DAMN DOOR—NOW!"

"Why isn't he tied to a chair?" The Governor asked calmly, as though asking a waiter about the restaurant's special of the night.

"We tossed him in like that," Martinez said. He was about to add that it was funny seeing Shane pace back and forth when Shane kicked the door again.

"Wait till I get my hands free—I'll KILL you! YOU'LL BE DEAD BEFORE YOU CAN BLINK!"

"Temper, temper," Merle said, chuckling. "Guy's always been a hothead since our days at the Atlanta camp."

"Good to know," The Governor replied. "We can use that against him."

"So what're we gonna do with them, Gov?" Martinez asked.

The Governor was ready to set his plan in motion. First, he wanted to prepare them. He had asked Milton to feed them bread and water a half hour ago. Andrea took it graciously and Shane put up a fight by spitting the water in Milton's face.  Even in captivity, Shane was difficult to deal with. The Governor wasn't worried though because Merle and Martinez would address the Shane problem, once and for all.

"Get info from Shane about Michonne and the group he and Andrea used to be in."

"That's it?" Merle wasn't impressed. "That's kinda boring. Trust me, ain't nothin' interestin' 'bout that group."

"I wasn't finished. Your job is easy: all you have to do is beat the hell out of him as if he killed your own daughter."

The Governor knew that both Merle and Martinez had no children, but he figured they understood how far he wanted to go. Rage surged through him when he pictured Penny's corpse laid out. Shane would pay dearly for killing his little girl. It didn't matter that Penny's head had been split open and not shot through—which indicated that Michonne had put his daughter down. What mattered was that Shane would be punished to the fullest extent. The rift over Andrea, breaking into The Governor's apartment, and gouging out his eye were enough reasons for Shane to get beaten within an inch of his life. The Governor wouldn't be able to see it, but that didn't bother him because he knew exactly how he wanted everything to unfold. By the end, Shane would be broken and Andrea would be malleable. She would bend and twist to whichever direction The Governor chose for her. The best part was that it would come at Shane's expense. He had one last mandate.

"Make it loud enough so that we hear everything on the other side."

"'We'?" Martinez asked, unsure of where this was going.

"'We' as in me and Andrea. If he refuses to give up information, tell him I'm working things out for her to stay in Woodbury—that'll send him over the edge." The Governor smiled, but it looked more like a menacing sneer. "Use her as emotional leverage while extracting any info you can get from him. While you're doing that, I'm gonna talk to Andrea, soften her up."

"Sway her to your side while we beat him to a pulp," Martinez said, nodding.

The Governor didn't answer. He left them and entered the room where Andrea was imprisoned.

After seeing The Governor shut the door to Andrea's holding cell, the two men exchanged a knowing smirk—they planned to enjoy every minute of beating up Shane. Martinez had wanted to do so from the moment he confronted Shane at the gate. For Merle, this was a long time coming since their mutual hatred started at the Atlanta camp. Wasting no time, they entered the room. Shane stood with his back against the far wall; his eyes darted to both men as he watched them carefully. When Martinez came within several feet of him, Shane shot his leg out to kick his side. Martinez grabbed Shane's leg, locked it in place under his arm, and flipped him over.

"Nice try, jackass," Martinez said. "I love when they resist."

Shane was prone on the floor when Martinez snatched him up by the collar and forced him into a kneeling position.

"Hold him in place." Merle fished in his pocket for some loose change and pulled out a quarter. "Perfect."

Martinez grabbed Shane's hair and pulled his head back, forcing him to face Merle.

"Deputy Walsh, we're gonna play a game." Merle held up the quarter to Shane's face. "It's ver—"

"I ain't playin' your shit games." Shane twisted around, trying to get Martinez off him.

"Interruptin' me before I explain the rules is rude. Where's your manners?" Merle chuckled. "So here's what we're doin'…I'm gonna ask you some questions an' you better answer 'em to my likin'."

"An' if I don't feel like it?"

Merle viciously kicked Shane in the chest and at the same time Martinez let him go. He groaned when his back slammed against the cold floor. Waves of pain crashed on his lower back from where The Governor had choke-slammed him earlier. He couldn't concentrate on the pain—he had to get back on his feet. He was flat on his back and an easy target for Merle, who came over and rested one boot on his throat.

"If you don't feel like it, then I'll feel like slicin' you open." Merle pressed his hand-blade against Shane's face. "The other rule is…Martinez! Heads or tails, man?"

"Heads."

"Alright." Merle got off Shane and stepped back. He flipped the quarter with his intact hand and surprisingly enough, he was able to catch it in the same hand. He looked to see which side it landed on. "Heads—your go!"

Before Shane had recovered from the kick to the chest, Martinez grabbed his shirt, pulling him up off the floor and punched him in the face. The sheer force caused him to crash against the floor again. His head was ringing horribly and this was only the beginning. He barely heard Merle talking above him.

"Heads, Martinez takes a shot at you. Tails, I do the honors." Merle grinned. "Ready for your first question?"

oOo

Andrea winced when she heard the distinct sounds of Shane's body hitting the floor. She recognized Merle's and Martinez's voices when they shouted at him. She was so focused on listening to what was going on in the holding cell next to hers that she barely heard the door to her cell open and close. The Governor came in and she turned away, not wanting to see him.

"Andrea."

He sat right in front of her.

Andrea closed her eyes. She didn't want to face him and see his eye injury (even if it was covered by gauze). That didn't change anything, it seemed to make everything worse because now she felt his fingers caressing her cheek. She shivered when she heard those noises again. It was much louder this time. Her stomach churned when she realized what was happening. She had been furious at Shane during their entire stay at Woodbury, but she never wanted him beat up, maimed, or worse: killed. Tears burned in her eyes, but she was too angry to cry. Besides, Shane wouldn't want her to cry. She had to be strong for both of them.

"I can get you a chair so that you're not on the floor getting your clothes dirty."

She shook her head, refusing to speak with him. Wearing dirty jeans was the furthest thing from her mind.

"Unless this is a silent protest on your part?" He chuckled.

Andrea kept her head down as she counted the cracks in the floor.

"It doesn't have to be this way."

Philip Blake. The Governor. She didn't know who he was anymore. She clenched her teeth, trying not to scream. He was toying with her: his calm voice, the soft caress on her cheek…

"I know you didn't mean to hold a gun at me today. We're good friends and sometimes good friends have misunderstandings."

She cringed every time he touched her face. His spidery fingers were ice cold and felt scaly against her skin.

"We can work this out if you want." He continued to caress her face in a loving manner.

The words spilled out before she could stop them: "I wish I never met you."

"I don't think you really mean that."

"I do." She swallowed nervously, knowing she was treading in dangerous territory.

There was a long silence and Andrea forced herself to look at him. The Governor's single intact eye gleamed with stark hatred.

"Let's start this conversation again. I just told you it doesn't have to be this way and that I know you didn't hold a gun at me because you wanted to. You did it because of him."

His voice had frosted over and she noticed he stopped touching her. She closed her eyes again to avoid facing him. He repeated what he had just told her. When she didn't answer, he pressed forward.

"Open your eyes."

She did as he demanded and at that same moment, she heard Shane being punched repeatedly. It came from the adjoining holding cell. Merle and Martinez weren't discreet and she wondered if they wanted her to hear what they were doing to Shane—if this is what The Governor wanted.

"Make them stop—whatever they're doing to him—tell them to stop." She meant her words to come out louder and for her tone to be adamant, but her nerves got the best of her and she ended up whispering. "This isn't necessary, Philip. You don't need to do this."

"I can't stop them. They have to address what happened today." His tone was nonchalant as though he were discussing what to cook for dinner. "As for that last part, you're wrong. He has to experience the consequences for breaking into my apartment. One of countless offenses he's committed since he's been here."

She hated how he lied so easily. He knew damn well he could stop them. She couldn't believe that she had liked him at one point—that she had actually been attracted to him. She realized that he had been wearing a mask this whole time, or as Shane had put it, "a mask pleasin' to you". She had fallen for an illusion and now they were paying the price. She didn't recognize the man in front of her now—it had to be someone else. She glanced at him quickly, needing to be certain it was Philip Blake who was in front of her. Sure enough, it was him—but it wasn't him.

Her heart battered against her chest as she struggled to see how this new version of Philip was the same Philip she had first met. The Philip she experienced now was malicious while the first version she had met was charming. Charming. The very word she used to describe him to Shane. She knew she wasn't experiencing the light flutter associated with being enamored with someone. No, it was overwhelming terror that caused her heart to bang repeatedly against her ribs. The word floated through her mind: palpitations. She was experiencing heart palpitations as the realization hit her that she never knew Philip Blake. She knew the Philip Blake he wanted everyone to see, but she didn't know the real Philip Blake—until now. Michonne's haunting question echoed in her mind: do you really know him or do you know what he puts out there for you to see?

"Why are you doing this?"

"That's why I came to talk to you. We need to discuss everything if you're to remain here in Woodbury." He easily deflected her question.

"Who said I was staying?" She shifted and tried to find a good spot so that her wrists wouldn't hurt. Handcuffs weren't supposed to be comfortable, but the steel biting into her wrists was painful. "Can you take them off or loosen them a little?"

"No." The Governor shook his head. "I'm sorry, but the cuffs have to stay on for now. Given what's happened today, I'm on edge and not taking chances. I'm sure you understand."

Andrea wished her hands were free, so that she could cover her ears. She couldn't stand to hear his voice now. Only mere hours ago, she enjoyed hearing him speak at the barbeque about his new plans to expand Woodbury. His smooth way with words, his endless charisma, the manner in which he looked straight at her with an intense gaze as though she were the only woman that he wanted and needed. Hearing his voice now worsened the terrible palpitations she was already experiencing. She wanted another sound to drown out his voice, but the only available background noise came from Merle and Martinez beating up Shane. When he spoke again, she wished her hands were free so that she could gouge out his second eye.

"What's being done to him is because of his own recklessness and impulsiveness. You saw what he did to me."

She had seen the blood leaking between The Governor's fingers when he covered his destroyed eye socket. She remembered entering The Governor's apartment only minutes after the brutal fight. The chain of events had been surreal. She had been drinking a cocktail at the barbecue when she noticed Milton whisper in The Governor's ear. Right after that he had politely excused himself. Merle had left when The Governor didn't return and Andrea had followed him. She had ran down the block, raced up the stairs in time to find Merle with his gun trained on Shane. Without thinking about it, she had pulled out her gun on The Governor. She was defending Shane now, but only hours ago they had another ugly fight after she caught him packing away her clothes:

" What are you doing?!"

" Exactly what it looks like." He didn't look up as he shoved her clothes into his shoulder bag. "Gettin' us ready to get the hell out of here."

" I never gave you permission to touch my stuff, Shane." She came further into the bedroom and looked around, astounded to see her clothing scattered everywhere. Shane had emptied all the drawers and his clothing was mixed with hers.

" Don't you have somewhere to be? Flippin' burgers at a barbeque with Mr. Counterfeit?"

" None of your damn business." She snatched her blouse from his hands and threw it over her shoulder. "I don't have to explain myself to you."

Shane sent her a hateful glare and then resumed packing her clothes. "We're leavin' tonight; it's happenin' whether you like it or not."

" You know what? This partnership is over. To hell with this friendship or whatever it was. I'm done!" She stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind her.

Andrea was sure there had been more words exchanged between them. His shocked expression was imprinted in her mind now, although at the time she didn't care that he was upset. She had left Shane there, deciding to enjoy herself at the barbecue and not accompany him and his misery. She had sworn she was done with him, but the instant she ran into The Governor's apartment and saw Merle holding Shane at gunpoint, she acted instinctively. She was angry at him, but she wouldn't let anyone harm him. There had been that incident at the gate with Martinez, but this was different. Her concern for him had been buried under layers of hostility and frustration. Now her loyalty to Shane had to resurrect—it had been killed off when she had spent time with The Governor. All her talk about their friendship and partnership being over had been completely forgotten.

"Forget him and focus on you. Put yourself first, Andrea. If you do, then this won't be so hard. Safety and shelter is what you've wanted all this time. We both know that."

She stared straight ahead, trying not to react to what he was saying. What he said next jolted her. "You like what we have together…" His voice trailed off as he caressed her cheek again.

He was telling the truth—although she hated to admit it. She longed for a safe place to live so that she wouldn't be out there constantly on guard against walkers and other threats. She needed stability. Most of all, she yearned for genuine affection that could lead to a long-lasting connection—which Shane repeatedly denied her— and Philip offered her the entire time she had been in Woodbury. Inviting her over for dinner, taking her to the fights, offering a listening ear…everything he had done to draw her to himself had been deliberate.

"Your friend, partner—whatever you want to call him…he's weighing you down, Andrea. He broke into my apartment today and nearly killed me. Then he had the damn nerve to laugh in my face. All this over a shotgun that I told him not to carry out in the open."

Andrea listened to The Governor create a narrative from his point-of-view of what had occurred. It sounded outrageous; although it was true. At the same time, she knew it wasn't just about Shane's Mossberg 590. She was at the center of their rivalry and she hated it. She thought Lori enjoyed having two men embroiled over her, but she took no satisfaction from it.

"From the first day you arrived here, he saw me as a threat, although I'm the one running this community. I can't have terrorists, criminals, or troublemakers here. I have to ensure the safety of everyone, including myself. Woodbury is a secure community and I intend to keep it that way."

How do you intend to keep Woodbury safe when you're the most dangerous man here? She was tempted to ask him this. She knew he was referring to Shane when he mentioned "terrorists, criminals, or troublemakers". The Governor would never own his madness, although he was very good at projecting it onto others, especially Shane.

"You want a place like Woodbury. A place where you have safety, a bed to sleep in at night. Food and water. Clothes." He paused as he watched her carefully. "But you can't have both. You can't have the shelter of Woodbury while he's around. You have to give up one for the other."

His words sank into her mind. She knew what she wanted—and he knew it too. But was she willing to give up those necessities (that had become luxuries since the outbreak) to stay with Shane? Or did giving up her partnership with him mean she'd have what she wanted: permanent shelter, so that she could live and not just survive. Would the trade-off—whichever she chose—be worth it? More importantly, would she able to sleep at night depending on which decision she made?

"You have a lot of thinking to do." The Governor's voice remained calm the entire time. "Right or wrong?"

She hesitated before she spoke. "…Right."

oOo

"Wrong answer, Officer Walsh." Merle chuckled as he circled around Shane. "Let's get one thing straight—bullshit answers like 'the Emerald City' an' 'the 'North Pole' don't count! If you say 'em again, we'll pull out your teeth with no anesthesia. We clear?"

"Crystal." Shane's voice was muffled as he was lying face down on the floor.

Martinez grabbed a handful of Shane's hair, raising him to his feet. He pulled so hard that Shane swore Martinez intended to rip it out of his scalp. He wanted to shave off his hair so that no one could do what Martinez was doing. He also wanted to hide that scar; it was a horrible reminder of what happened at the school. He tried not to think of Otis now, although for a brief moment he thought he was trapped at the school again.

Reanimated corpses moved fast, especially when there were two delicious living human beings in arm's reach. Shane and Otis tried to focus, but the stench of decomposition was cloying. Shane's leg injury and Otis' exhaustion were slowing them down. Shane tried to suffocate his fear and throw away the guilt that threatened to stop him. A second later and he forced himself to do the unthinkable. He heard Otis' screaming in physical and emotional pain from the gunshot to his leg and Shane's betrayal. They were on the ground fighting when Otis snatched his hair, ripping out a chunk

He took a deep breath, trying to make himself remain in the present. Martinez released his hair and issued a one word command:

"Stand."

Shane felt himself swaying while Merle swaggered in front of him, holding out his hand-blade. He shoved it under Shane's jaw, jolting it upward.

"Where did that samurai slut run off to?" Merle pressed the blade harder, causing a line of blood to form on Shane's skin. "Tell us or your blonde bimbo gets a slice of your face as a souvenir."

"Alright…I'll tell you…" Shane whispered.

Both men exchanged a smug look of satisfaction. Finally, they would get the answer(s) they were looking for.

"Don't keep us waitin', Deputy Dickless," Merle snarled. "We wanna know!"

"I ain't talkin' to you, Inmate Number 666. I was talkin' to him," Shane said, nodding at Martinez.

Martinez stood face to face with Shane who struggled to maintain his balance. "Spit it out, asshole."

"She's…" Shane's voice dropped and his words came out in an inaudible mumble.

Martinez leaned close to Shane, trying to hear him. Wasting no time, Shane bit down on Martinez's ear, grinding his teeth on the cartilage. Martinez's shout of pain was enough for Shane to release him and he busted out laughing even as he staggered sideways. Merle grabbed Shane and slammed his back against the wall. Behind Merle, Shane saw Martinez approaching them while holding his bleeding left ear. Shane head-butted Merle and kicked his right shin. Thrown off, Merle stumbled backwards.

"Ya'll are so intelligent! Where did Guvnah find such brilliant men?"

"You think that's funny?!" Merle regained his balance and punched Shane across the face. Weakened from all the abuse, Shane fell to the floor on his side. "Got more lil jokes for us?" Merle kicked his back, causing Shane to roll over on his stomach. Once again, he was face down on the floor, panting for air. Merle was about to kick him again when Martinez took over.

"I got this." He yanked Shane off the floor, pulling him up by the hair again. "Answer the question or your Barbie doll will only have you as a memory." Martinez nodded to Merle, indicating for him to continue.

"Let's try again: where's that Nubian Queen hidin' at?"

Shane's legs buckled, although Martinez held him up by his hair. Sweat poured down his face and flooded his arms, legs, and groin. He couldn't see out of his right eye and his vision blurred in his left eye. His neck was stiff with cramps. Despite the pain, he was glad he didn't betray Michonne. If anything, he was amused that his ridiculous answers kept Michonne safe so that they couldn't track her down. It was also fun seeing Merle and Martinez grow angrier by the minute. When Merle asked the question again, his tone was more severe.

"Where'd that thievin' cunt go?"

"Sorry, douchebag. I don't know who that is."

Martinez jerked his head back, making him grimace. Just as quickly, Martinez forced him to face Merle, but never loosened his grip.

"You know damn well who it is—or do I have to use that dirty bitch's name?"

"If you wanna be called by your name, then use her name, you dumbass hick. Does that answer your stupid question?"

Merle stepped in front of Shane. "Nope—" A glob of blood and saliva hit him in the eye. He heard Shane laughing as he wiped it away. "You piece of shit cop, I should make you choke on your own blood."

Martinez shook his head. "Flip the quarter, Merle."

Merle flipped the quarter and grinned when he saw how it landed on the floor. "Tails!" He reared back his intact hand and shot it across Shane's jaw.

oOo

Andrea shivered, although she felt trapped in a sauna. Her terror increased by the second, which was only outweighed by the helplessness she felt every time she heard Shane getting beat up by Merle and Martinez. Meanwhile, The Governor twirled strands of her blonde hair with his fingers.

"I'm not staying here." Her voice didn't waver, but her heart still pounded nonstop.

She had made her decision. Given what was happening to Shane, it should've been obvious, but the truth was Andrea had longed for a place like Woodbury, especially after Morales' camp got overrun. It reminded her of Amy's death at the Atlanta camp, although she tried to put that horrible association out of her mind. It hadn't been easy as she knew she had to weigh her wants and needs—and also the promise she had made to Shane. Yes, she wanted safety in Woodbury. No, she wouldn't break her promise—although she knew her actions showed otherwise. She remembered their vicious arguments that led to her shutting him out for an entire week. They weren't friends or partners during those seven days and even after that, she wanted nothing to do with him. Andrea regretted treating Shane so horribly, especially since they had vowed to always be there for each other.

She hoped it wasn't too late to get back what she had thrown away. She couldn't believe what she had said to him earlier and now she wished she could take it all back. Memories of him driving away from the Greene farm flashed through her mind now. Engaging in another passionate tryst. Shane asking her if she was gonna ride with him no matter what and then her asking him the same question.Sealing the deal with a kiss, their promise to each other was real, a mutual agreement between them.  He had finally left Hershel’s farm under the premise that she would fulfill her promise: she would partner with him and cover for him and he would do the same for her.  She needed to defend and protect him now.  She needed to mend the brokenness between them by leaving Woodbury and remaining by his side—and she needed to voice it aloud.

"I'm not staying here with you. I'm leaving with Shane and that's all there is to it."

"Come again?"

"You heard me the first time."

"I heard you, but I don't understand you." When Andrea threw him a look that read "you're full of crap", The Governor elaborated: "I don't understand why you'd want to go back to living in that Hyundai on the road, constantly trying to stay warm and fending off biters. That and the company you kept—he's a selfish hothead. Anyone in their right mind would stay here in Woodbury where they have a warm bed, water, food, clean clothes, safety…"

Andrea tuned him out as he droned on about how great it was to live in Woodbury. He was repeating himself and it was apparent he'd continue trying to convince her to stay. Rather than let her anger at him take over her, she thought back to what happened during the week when she ignored Shane. How she had went to the fights with The Governor, kissing him for hours, but never going further. She thought of their shared dinners and how she felt safe and adored in his arms. All this time, she had been in the claws of a manipulative and heartless sociopath.

Images of Shane flooded her mind, drowning out thoughts of The Governor. She remembered when they sat across from each other in Dale's RV. They were pleasantly surprised at the time, since they hadn't spoken too much before that. Even more surprising was their conversation in the cemetery. She never imagined he'd take her seriously. Other memories flitted through her mind: their talk at Hershel's farm about survival and Shane giving her cloaked guidance: "turn off a switch. The switch. The one that makes you scared or angry, sympathetic, whatever. You don't think. You jus'... you act. 'Cause odds are somebody else is countin' on you." Although she never knew the full meaning of that conversation, she knew Shane was hiding something. That particular conversation had been mysterious and she had never pried further about what he had truly meant, although she had wanted to do so many times.

There were so many good memories of Shane that she had buried when she was angry with him: how he gave her shooting lessons and forced her to gain confidence by using the skills he had taught her when they faced a group of walkers.  Their secret tryst in the Hyundai that she had initiated.  The time when she had found him wandering around Hershel’s farm by himself.  She had joined him and they walked side by side in silence.  He didn’t push her away and it was at that moment that she knew they understood each other.  They were the outsiders in Rick’s group.  The rest of the group treated them like they were insane, but in their own eyes they were the sane ones.  Her favorite memory was when he told her he should’ve left with her when he had the chance.  A sad smile crossed her face and she didn’t care if The Governor saw it.  She tried to hold onto all her good memories of Shane, but it was difficult with The Governor right in front of her.  He leaned close to her and she could feel his hot breath on her cheek.  She wanted to back away, but there was nowhere she could go.  She squirmed when she felt the cuffs chewing the skin on her wrists.

"I said I'm not staying." She was irate—and she was through with playing his ridiculous games. Most importantly, Shane was counting on her. She had to turn off whatever sadness and regret she was feeling about their falling-out. She had to act—not think or feel her way out of this one.

The Governor sighed. "I was afraid you'd say that."

"Too bad."

"You should reconsider…you're a great addition to Woodbury. Remember the other day, when I told you Woodbury's growing on you?"

"I outgrew Woodbury," Andrea snapped. Good. She needed to keep using her anger to fight against whatever The Governor was trying to do to her. Seduce. Manipulate. Coerce.

"Well…" The Governor tilted his head in thought and then looked Andrea directly in her eyes. "Woodbury's not ready to let you go."

oOo

"I don't—know—where she—went—okay? Shit—she went—out—that's all—" Shane struggled to get his words out. It was difficult since Martinez kept kicking him.

Martinez backed away as though giving him time to recuperate. Just as quickly he rushed over and kicked him in the stomach again. Shane rolled on his side and clenched his teeth, refusing to show how much pain he was in, since they clearly enjoyed it.

Merle whistled. "You must love gettin' the shit kicked out of you."

"As much as I love…spending...quality time…with you pricks." His words came out between huffing.

"Next question: where's Rick an' the group hangin' out these days? Daryl's still with 'em?"

Shane pulled himself up off the floor into a sitting position. Dizziness overtook him and he felt like he was on a malfunctioning carousel that couldn't stop. He stared down Merle with his one intact eye. The other eye was swollen shut.

"No…idea. I ain't…" he paused, trying to catch his breath, "…with…them…anymore."

Merle and Martinez exchanged a scornful glance.

"You're a supreme bullshit artist," Martinez said.

"An' you're... a…supreme…asshole," Shane replied slowly, still out of breath.

He strained his arms, trying to pull them apart to break the handcuffs chain when he saw Merle take out the quarter again. He mentally kicked himself for not doing this sooner. If his arms were free, he would've already knocked out Martinez and Merle ten times over. They knew it too, which is why they took full advantage of him being cuffed. It was a miracle that he was still conscious.

"You expect me to believe you?" Merle said, not hiding his contempt. "You mus' think I'm some kind of stupid."

"Actually, I think you're a whole lot of stupid 'cause even if I knew…" He swallowed a wad of blood that was stuck in his throat. He didn't know where this burst of energy had come from, but he would use it while he still had it. "…Even if I knew where they were, I wouldn't tell you…you stupid douchebag."

Shane tried to maneuver himself so that his cuffed hands were front of him. He knew suspects in custody had done it before and that he had to be fast to contort himself. He had barely started when Martinez kicked him in the face. Then they were on him, kicking and punching him all over. Merle boxed him in the ear so hard that he didn't feel anything when Martinez knocked out a tooth. He was only able to taste the difference when blood became the new saliva in his mouth. They snatched him off the floor and forced him to stand. The entire time he struggled not to collapse face first.

oOo

Andrea twisted around when she heard flesh battering flesh. As time went on, the sounds became louder and filled her ears to the point where she couldn't hear The Governor. It was always followed by grunting and groaning which grew fainter every time. She didn't feel the handcuffs biting her skin anymore and her wrists and fingers were numb.

"Sounds terrible, doesn't it? Then again, maybe for you it is. For me, it's music to my ears."

His relaxed demeanor unnerved her. In her mind, it was unnatural to not be effected by what was going on in the next room. And yet, here he was sitting crossed-legged in front of her as though they were having a picnic and having the most casual conversation about life. As though a man wasn't being severely beaten in the next room.

"You warped sack of shit," Andrea whispered. The man she thought she knew was a completely different person. She worked up her nerve to call out. "SHANE—!"

The Governor immediately clamped his hand over her mouth. She tried to bite his hand, but he wouldn't let up. "You'll make it worse for him if you do that."

How could she make things worse than what they already were?

"I know you want this to stop."

Andrea nodded frantically and he removed his hand.

"There's only one way it can end and it rests on you, Andrea."

She glared at him, furious that he transferred the weight of Shane's abuse onto her—as if she was fully responsible for it. As if she had ordered it to happen and could make it stop with a single command.

"Do you remember what you told me about him? His way of controlling your every move? How he made you feel guilty for befriending me?"

Andrea hung her head now, ashamed and angry with herself. Hearing him repeat her words increased her regret for shunning Shane. There was no way to undo the damage. He was throwing everything back in her face—every single thing she had confided to him about her troubled friendship with Shane. Strangely enough, her connection to Shane didn't seem difficult at all—until they came to Woodbury. Even the tension between them when they were with Morales' group didn't seem so bad compared to now.

They had had it out in the past, especially when he had brought up Amy to get her riled up, but he had apologized when he realized he went too far. Shane could be a real dick as she had told him that day. His presentation was lousy and he still hadn't learned to polish his delivery, but his intentions were good. He was extremely protective and loyal. She would rather deal with Shane's short temper and his difficult demeanor—than to have to sift through The Governor's mind games and constantly question his sincerity. She also questioned his sanity.

"Is that what you want?" He continued on, oblivious to her silence. "A man who only wants what's between your legs, but doesn't want a real relationship with you? A man who treats you like you're his property? A man who's a loose cannon and will get you killed out there?"

Andrea looked at the floor as she breathed slowly to keep herself calm. Then she raised her eyes and made it known where her true allegiance lay.

"I'm choosing the hotheaded cop over the crazy psychopath sitting in front of me. At least with Shane, I know who I'm dealing with."

"I'm a 'crazy psychopath' now?" The Governor's eyebrows rose in surprise. "That's interesting."

"It's the truth." Why I didn't I see the truth before? Andrea asked herself. Shane saw it…

"I didn't make you feel worthless by calling you a 'piece of ass'. I'm not the one who shot into a crowd of people. I didn't punch out my lieutenant…" he paused and his voice was a feral growl when he spoke again. "I didn't gouge out my own eye. That was all Shane."

Shane was right about you all along. I should've listened, she thought. "You ordered your guys to beat him beat up."

"You said you hated him," he shot back. "So why do you care what happens to him?"

Andrea's throat felt like she had swallowed a cup of sand. She couldn't believe how he was twisting everything around and using her words against her. Worst of all, Shane was the one receiving the full consequences for her trusting The Governor. She was suffering too, but this was her own making. She had brought this about by telling The Governor things she shouldn't have, by trusting him when he was never trustworthy to begin with. The more she thought about it, the worse she felt. Nausea swept over her and her mouth tasted sour. She was afraid of vomiting everything she had eaten at the barbecue.

"I never wanted this. He—"

"He brought it on himself." The Governor's cold eye raked over her and he looked as though he'd snap her neck any second. Just as quickly, a pleasant smile replaced his murderous stare. "You need to make the right choice for yourself."

"I already did."

"No, you haven't. Not if you're placing his value over yours."

Andrea took a deep breath and prayed for the nausea to go away. Seconds later, it subsided, but when The Governor traced his finger on her lips, the nausea made a full comeback.

"You're so beautiful. I treated you like a queen—the way you deserve to be treated."

"Stop it." Again, her words came out in a strained whisper. She was tempted to bite his finger— but she was afraid he'd go next door and shoot Shane in the head.

"It's like I said before, Andrea…" He ran his calloused fingers through her blonde hair, ignoring how she recoiled when he touched her now. "There's only one way this ends and it rests on you."

oOo

Shane was beginning to drift away when he heard Andrea shout his name. It had been cut off and occurred right after Merle and Martinez double teamed him. Martinez assaulted him with his usual high kicks which sent him crashing on his back. Before he could recuperate, Merle kicked him in the throat. Now he lay curled up on the floor wrapped in excruciating pain. Giving up wasn't an option, although he knew they'd resume attacking him again—quarter or no quarter, question or no question. His throat burned when he breathed and his stomach felt like they had dropped a fifty pound weight on it. When he heard her, he knew he had to respond.

"Drea…" His voice was a mere whisper. He forced himself to call out louder. "DREA!"

Martinez elbowed Merle. "That's our cue!"

Both men advanced towards him again and he wanted to swing out his legs and trip one of them—or both, if possible, just as he had done to The Governor earlier, but his energy was evaporating. He gave it a shot anyway. Martinez was closer now and Shane swung his legs fast. There was a shocked yelp from Martinez as he slammed to the floor face first. When he started raising himself off the ground, Shane pumped his legs back and kicked his face—hard. Blood sprayed from Martinez's nose and Shane grinned when he heard the sickening crunch. Yep, that's my cue to kick your face in, jack-ass.

Shane was about to do the same to Merle. Just as quickly, Merle grabbed Shane's ankle and dragged him to a corner of the room. Shane kicked him with his free leg, but Merle was completely immune to it as he laughed.

"You thought 'cause I have one hand that you could take me out? Think again, dumbass."

He was joined by Martinez whose nose still spurted out blood. Martinez indicated for Merle to stop as he knelt behind Shane and wrapped his arm around his neck. Shane thrashed violently as he struggled for air.

"Maybe today will be your last day on earth," Martinez snarled as he tightened his hold. "What'll your gravestone say?"

"Here lies this pussy-whipped Sheriff Deputy, Shane Walsh," Merle said as sat on Shane's legs to prevent him from kicking. Grinning, he brought his hand-blade close to Shane's uninjured eye. "Man, I'd love to stab you in the eye. Jam my bayonet in your socket an' swish it all around. Governor would love that, but I'd be takin' away his revenge on you. An eye for an eye."

Shane forced himself to shut down the terror threatening to drown him when Merle brought the bayonet within an inch of his eye. He hated being powerless and they were having too much fun torturing him.

Merle lowered his hand-blade and pressed it against Shane's face, cutting open his skin. He dragged the blade downward forming a long thin vertical line. Shane did everything he could not to react, but a growl of pain escaped from him and morphed into an agonized moan. Merle laughed and pressed down harder.

"Ahhh, there we go…I bet your girly will love your new scar—she'll feel like you fought for her. Ain't that right, Martinez?"

"Hell yeah! She gonna think Shane's her knight in shining armor, but then she'll decide The Governor's the man she wants." Martinez nodded towards Merle to keep playing along.

"That's right, boy. Our man's workin' things out with your girl right now for her to stay in Woodbury. After that, he's gonna work her out!" Merle stuck his tongue out suggestively.

They busted out laughing at their sexual innuendo regarding Andrea and The Governor. True to The Governor's prediction, Shane reacted: he tried fighting against Martinez's chokehold and attempted to kick Merle off him. It was impossible; he couldn't budge his legs as Merle's weight pressed down on them. His face reddened as his fury increased and he twisted around, desperate to free himself. His temper was entertaining to both men.

"Gov was right!" Martinez said. "Say your girlfriend's name with The Governor in the same sentence and you get all worked up. This guy needs anger management."

"He should try countin' to ten. Ever do that, Officer Walsh? Count to ten?"

Shane struggled harder while Martinez counted to ten aloud.

A wide grin lit up Merle's face. "I got an idea—why don't we turn that line into an 'A'? Gov was tellin' me Shane likes messin' with other men's wives. I wonder what lil birdie told him 'bout our favorite deputy sheriff bein' an adulterer. It wouldn't be Blondie, would it?"

"Yeah, she loves running her mouth!" Martinez agreed. "Let's make it an 'A' for Andrea."

Merle had his blade pressed against Shane's face, ready to carry out his twisted idea when he stopped. Shane looked straight ahead, his intact eye was glassy and unfocused. He saw right through Merle and stopped trying to free himself from Martinez after what had just been revealed. In a rare moment of sincere compassion, Merle backed off and motioned for Martinez to release Shane.

"Think we'll give you a lil break," Merle said as Martinez released the chokehold and stood up.

Both men stood over Shane as he coughed and caught his breath. "I'm only gonna say this once so you better listen," Merle said. "Your girl ain't yours anymore an' hasn't been since ya'll came here. She belongs to The Governor now."

"Still wanna fight for her—or over her?" Martinez taunted.

Shane rolled over so that he was on his back now and glaring up at Merle and Martinez. "She. Ain't. His." He spat out a glob of blood and saliva on the floor, missing Merle's boot by an inch. "She'll never belong to him!"

Martinez offered a sappy grin. "You're so in love with Andrea that you're mad at her one minute and loving her the next minute!"

"Rot in hell, you piece of shit!" Shane's anger gave him the energy he needed to fight back.

"Look at you, gettin' so protective over Blondie. This brings us to the bonus question!" Merle sounded over-the-top excited. "You gotta tell the truth—'cause we'll know if you're lyin'. Are you ready for your final question, Sheriff Shane?"

"Whenever you are, douchebag."

Merle paused for dramatic effect and then threw out his question: "Is Andrea a good lay? 'Cause you know…" He couldn't hold back a sinister chuckle. "…after Gov's done with her, I wanna get a piece of that pretty ass. Been wantin' to hit it since the first day I saw her at the camp."

"We gotta flip the quarter to see who gets first dibs, cause I'm gettin' in on that," Martinez said. "Can't let you have all the fun."

"Or we can share her at the same time!" Merle chimed in.

Both men busted out laughing and slapped a loud high-five.

"SHUT UP!"

Merle glared at Shane who tried sitting up, but ended up flat on his back. "What you say? You tellin' me to shut my mouth?!"

"We'll shut yours for you," Martinez warned. "Get some needle and thread and sew your lips together."

"You heard me right, douchebag…shut your pie hole! Both of you, shitbags—SHUT THE FUCK UP!"

Shane glared at them with as much hatred as he could muster. It was all he could do at this point. He lay sprawled out on the floor, his chest heaving up and down as he breathed rapidly. His head throbbed as though he hadn't slept for three days straight and his body felt like anvils were tied to his ankles and wrists, weighing him down. Even so, their crudeness about what they wanted to do to Andrea enraged him. He was furious with her for what she had exposed about him, but he would deal with that later. Right now, he needed to focus on protecting her, no matter how angry and betrayed he felt. The entire time he tried not to let fear overtake him—fear that they were telling the truth. He had wondered if Andrea and The Governor were sleeping together, especially after that first night when she came back late. More than anything, he was very afraid for Andrea in case The Governor planned on serving her as a prize to Merle and Martinez. He didn't want those thoughts to enter his mind. If they did, it would agonize him to no end. He used to brag to Rick about his sexual exploits, but this was different because Andrea was different.

Andrea was the first woman—since Lori—that he wanted to protect. He would lay his life down for her if that's what it took. He knew his communication skills were horrid and he hadn't told her directly that he cared about her. He said things that he shouldn't have and acted in ways that came off as controlling. He didn't want to harm or hurt her, and it wasn't until Michonne brought him around that he realized the truth: the thought of losing Andrea terrified him. He didn't want to lose her as he had lost Lori.

He had to be honest with himself and admit that he pushed her away because of being unable to let go of Lori. Shane now wondered if he was unintentionally playing his own version of Lori's games: pull Andrea in, push her away, let Andrea come close and then keep her at a distance. If Andrea sensed it—which he believed she had—then she thought well enough of herself to cut off ties with Shane so that he couldn't keep doing that to her. It's one of the reasons she had gravitated towards Philip Blake/The Governor. She experienced him as being open and emotionally available, whereas Shane resided in his own emotional fortress, keeping her out. Ultimately it led to her getting frustrated and turning away from him.

He wanted—no, he needed Andrea in his life. It didn't matter what the label was. Friends. Lovers. Partners. He believed they had something together and whatever that something was, it was so much better than whatever he had with Lori. He had loved Lori, but there was so much lust and jealousy there, whereas with Andrea, it was compatibility and desire. It was a genuine friendship. With Lori, it was one-sided with him always giving and her always taking. Andrea wanted it to go both ways. She was different and better than Lori in that regard. It was equal between them where they would defend each other. She kept him grounded and wasn't afraid to challenge him. Lately, they had clashed in ways neither of them had ever expected. They had argued like worst enemies and didn't speak to each other for an entire week. None of that mattered now. He would defend and protect her until he couldn't anymore—and he wouldn't tolerate The Governor's top cronies making perverted jokes about her.

"Hello?! Anybody home?" Merle kicked Shane's stomach, trying to elicit a response. "I asked you a question—is Blondie a good lay or what?!"

Shane groaned and when he looked up, he saw them looming over him, waiting expectantly for him to share juicy details about his and Andrea's intimate times together. When he still refused to answer, Martinez kicked him in the ribs. It didn't matter what they did. He would never disrespect or betray her in such a crass way. They would have to wait an eternity before Shane ever said anything demeaning about her. He wanted to punch the smirks off their faces and make them swallow their front teeth.

"I ain't… answerin' that." His breathing came out uneven and he struggled to get his words out.

"I gotta find out for myself, is that what you sayin'?" Merle now stood directly over Shane, leaning in his face. "Me an' Martinez will find out an' compare notes."

"Good deal," Martinez added.

Shane swung his legs upward hard, striking Merle between his legs. "That's for talkin' disgustin'…'bout my Drea… an' for stealin'…my shotgun…you douchebag asshole."

Merle's face reddened and his eyes squinted shut as his face contorted into a blend of sheer pain and embarrassment. He fell on his side, grabbing his crotch and wheezing for air. Shane took advantage and kicked Merle's face. He was aiming for Merle's stomach when Martinez dragged him away by the collar.

"Son of a bitch!" Merle growled, still bent over and cocooned in immense pain. "Fuck him up so much that his personal whore won't recognize him."

Martinez found the quarter several feet away where Merle had thrown it down earlier. Snatching it from the floor, he flipped the quarter and let it land next to Shane. Shane raised his head slightly and spat a gob of blood and saliva on it. He glared at Martinez, unafraid and defiant more than ever.

"Heads." Martinez turned it over. "Tails! Your day keeps getting better and better." He grinned at Shane as he rolled back his sleeves, prepared to follow through on Merle's command. "Time to finish you off, Officer Shithead."

oOo

"We're leaving. Neither of us are staying; I made that clear already."

"And I made it clear that only one of you can stay. The other has to leave."

Andrea bit her lip as she reviewed her options. There were none. As though reading her mind, The Governor repeated his ultimatum.

"If you want to help Shane, you'll make the decision to remain in Woodbury. If not, they'll continue beating him up. Only you can end this, Andrea." The Governor grinned as he tapped the wall that she leaned against. "And I'm sure he's waiting on you to do that."

Andrea found herself trembling with rage and then icy cold fear wrapped itself around her. Was it really her fault this was happening? Was it Shane's?

"He knew the rules here and broke them—he put you in this bad position. You came in here with him and you'll right what he did wrong by staying here and denouncing him."

She was about to reject him again when she heard the unmistakable sound of a body hitting the floor followed by raucous laughter. That was it. She couldn't take it anymore and she didn't want to imagine what Merle and Martinez did to Shane this time. Without her consent, one tear slid down her cheek. She had no choice…she just wanted them to stop hurting him.

"I'll stay..." She loathed herself the entire time she uttered the words. "I'm staying in Woodbury."

The Governor's dark smile didn't reach his eyes. "You've made the right decision."

He reached for her face and kissed her. Andrea tried to turn away from him, but it was too late. The Governor was fast and determined to have his way. She twisted and squirmed unable to stop him and he pressed his lips harder against hers, enjoying her resistance. She pulled away from him as soon as he let her go. She wouldn't look at him and kept her focus on the floor. He was unfazed by her reaction as he stood up.

"I'll let him know what you've decided."

oOo

Merle and Martinez were standing over a defeated Shane like vultures circling a carcass, when The Governor entered the holding cell. They stepped away as he approached them, giving him room to kneel down next to Shane who lay on his back, panting and gasping for air. The Governor grabbed his neck and held him up with one hand, admiring his henchmen's handiwork. Shane was a horrible mess of blood and sweat. Bruises covered his face and body and he stared right through The Governor.

"Excellent work, you've exceeded my expectations. Wait till Andrea lays eyes on her friend-partner-lover." He focused on his rival now. "Still laughing, Shane?" The Governor slapped him across the face. Grinning, he threw Shane on the floor. "I guess I had the last laugh after all."

"You gettin' bitch-slapped like the pussy-whipped bitch you are," Merle taunted. "I bet your Blondie wears the pants too!"

"Did you get any information out of him?"

"He bullshitted us the entire time," Martinez said.

"It's okay; both Michonne and that group will eventually be found." The Governor sent Shane a scathing glare. "First, I've got news for you concerning the star-crossed lovers."

Shane watched The Governor step aside to speak with Martinez and Merle. They appeared sideways since he was laying on his back. He struggled to stay conscious as he felt welcoming blackness creeping up on him every second. He needed to stay awake and alert for whatever else they planned on doing to him and Andrea. Seeing the gauze wrapped around The Governor's eye injury gave him a small sense of victory, but he knew there was more craziness to come. He saw The Governor whispering to them and they nodded in agreement. The Governor returned to him.

"Andrea's decided to remain here in Woodbury. She doesn't want you and she doesn't care what happens to you. She even told me she wishes she never met you."

He tried to shut out The Governor, but already his words were hitting hard. Did Andrea really say all those things?!

"I've told you this before, but you didn't want to believe me."

Shane shivered. His skin was cold from being drenched in his own sweat and he tasted coppery blood every time he swallowed. He forced himself to speak up.

"Hahaha…you liar…very funny."

The Governor remained deadpan. "Would you like to hear it from her yourself?"

Shane turned away, refusing to answer.

"Let's bring her in to tell him," The Governor said. Then he had a better idea. "Get him on his feet—we'll bring him to her."

He went ahead of them to speak to Andrea in her holding cell while Merle and Martinez hauled Shane to his feet.

oOo

Andrea's head jerked up when The Governor stormed in. She had been staring at the floor and taking deep breaths to calm herself. Not that it was working. The Governor's immediate return pitched her right back to a frenzied state where she could hardly breathe.

"You're telling him yourself because he doesn't believe me."

"Tell him what?!" She didn't want to know although she had a sinking feeling of what he meant.

"You need to say it and really mean it, Andrea. If not, Merle and Martinez have another round with him. They can keep going until he stops breathing, so think carefully on what you tell him and how you tell him. If you hesitate, then I won't hesitate to let them finish the job."

Andrea's eyes widened in horror—Shane would suffer more if she said or did anything against The Governor. Her heart had rammed against her ribcage this entire time, but now there were new sensations. Searing pain raked across her chest. Sticky sweat poured down her back and her throat closed up. She felt like she was standing next to an oven turned to the highest temperature. Then she was standing outside in the middle of a blizzard with no coat on. Her body's temperature kept skyrocketing and crashing down. When she looked around her holding cell, she was surprised to see it spinning. She closed her eyes so that dizziness wouldn't overtake her. Was she dying?! How much time did she have left? She felt—no, she knew she was going crazy. She was having a full blown panic attack and he couldn't care less. She heard him speaking to her, calm and composed as ever, as though nothing awful had happened to her or Shane in the past hour.

"Think about your options. Out there with him, you've got a hothead who'll get you and himself killed. Here in Woodbury, you have a community, a chance to be a leader and a chance to live again."

She was talking to herself in her mind, willing herself to stay calm when Merle and Martinez came in dragging Shane between them. Without a word, they mercilessly threw him in front of her. Shane landed hard on the floor, writhing in pain the entire time. Andrea gasped, horrified by his wrecked appearance. Shane had a shiner under his left eye and his right eye was swollen shut. Purplish-black bruises discolored his skin and his lips were puffy. A steady stream of blood leaked from his nose and mouth. His neck was red and blotchy from where The Governor had choked him earlier. Blood trickled out from an open cut on his face that was shaped as a long line. She noticed the blood on Merle's hand-blade and put the scene together. She thought he was unconscious, but then she saw him try to sit up although he was still handcuffed. He ended up face down on the floor. Labored breathing punctuated his words and his voice was gravelly.

"'Drea…he said…you're stayin'…here…but…we…we're leavin'…today…together…"

It took immense effort for Shane to talk and Martinez laughed when he mentioned leaving with her. After everything they just endured, he was still adamant about leaving Woodbury. She knew Martinez laughed because there was no way they could escape now—not in Shane's current state. Merle and Martinez obviously knew of The Governor's plans to keep her there. When she looked at The Governor, he nodded at her, making it clear what she had to do if she didn't want Shane to get more abused than he already was. Andrea was so distressed by everything that it didn't register in her mind how much The Governor had mentally abused her the entire time. Instead, she forced herself to sound angry and harsh just as she did whenever she and Shane argued.

"You heard right—I'm staying and you're leaving. Isn't that what you wanted since the first day we got here?" She pretended to give him a chance to respond and then threw out more bold-faced lies. "I told you I'm done with you, Shane, so take the 'we' out of your vocabulary when you talk to me. It's like you told me that night: 'there ain't no us'."

She hoped he knew this wasn't coming from her. At the same time, the cruel irony of everything punched her in the gut. Shane had always insisted they leave Woodbury while she wanted to stay. Now when she finally wanted to leave, she was forced to tell Shane that she was staying and he was leaving. She met The Governor's eye and he pointed at the holding cell next door. Terrified and guilt ridden, Andrea forced the words out.

"I don't care if I never see you again. The sooner you leave, the better I'll be."

"Where's your man-friend going?" The Governor asked and Andrea thought he sounded victorious.

She swallowed hard before answering. "Out there by himself. He's on his own just as he always wanted."

"And who are you staying with?"

Andrea threw The Governor a frustrated look. Is all this necessary? She wanted to ask. Haven't you done enough already? He was doing all this on purpose to divide them. Shane had warned her about this on their first night in Woodbury; he knew there was something sinister lurking under The Governor's pleasant façade. This entire situation had revealed everything to Andrea. She shook her head, refusing to say what The Governor wanted her to say. He saw her shaking her head and then glanced in the direction of the holding cell Shane had been in. Knowing what he was implying, Andrea had no choice now.

"I'm staying with you."

"I don't think Shane heard you."

"I'm staying with you." She had to make sure her voice didn't shake. "You, Philip Blake. The Gove—"

Andrea was cut off when Merle kicked Shane over so that he was facing her now. She didn't want to see the devastation on his face from this forced betrayal. It was done to save him. There was no other way. Get beaten to death or get evicted out of Woodbury and survive out there on his own. Neither option was ideal, but at least with the latter, he would still be alive. She wanted to tell him this, but she couldn't—not with The Governor standing there controlling everything—and not with him holding Shane's life in his hands.

It was too late.

Shane's swollen lips trembled as he tried to speak. He attempted to sit up as he searched Andrea's face, trying to understand why she betrayed him in such a brutal way. He wanted to say something to her, but no words came out. All he could do was stare at her, completely blindsided by her decision to turn against him when he needed her most. A lump grew in his throat, making it hard for him to swallow. One solitary tear escaped and rolled down his cheek, right over where Merle had cut him open. He slumped back down to the floor, physically broken and emotionally crushed.

Andrea licked her dry lips as heavy regret strangled her psyche. She read from him what he couldn't bring himself to ask: after all this, you still sidin' with him?! In her mind, she heard Shane's heart breaking. It sounded like an iceberg splitting apart. Unable to face him, she turned away and pressed her cheek against the wall. It wasn't enough because now she heard his voice echoing in memories that she wanted to forget: I thought we was friends, that you'd cover me jus' as I'd cover you. Thought we was gonna be partners. Nope! You run to the first man who looks at you.

Before she could stop herself, she erupted in sobs. Her body shook as she finally released her tears. She had tried to remain strong the entire time. She tried to turn off the switch and act, but she couldn't. The pain in Shane's eyes ripped her soul and she couldn't unsee it just like she couldn't unhear what he had said about her running to another man after thinking they would be friends and partners. She had gave Philip Blake the benefit of the doubt and now they were suffering the consequences because of her poor judgment. She had dismissed Shane as being jealous and possessive—and perhaps he was on some level, but he also had sharp instincts due to his career in law enforcement.

None of that mattered to Andrea at the time. She had turned away from Shane because he wouldn't let Lori go and she believed the best in a man who pretended to give her what Shane couldn't: emotional intimacy. The Governor knew what she wanted and exploited it to the highest level. His charm disarmed Andrea and whatever enmity she held against Shane, he used as a weapon to tear them apart. She was shattered from everything. Her only solace came from seeing the blood streaming from Martinez's ear and nose and the bruises on Merle's face when they had first entered the cell—it showed her that Shane put up a fight. Now, it didn't matter. They had been undone from their own brokenness and divided and conquered by The Governor who savored his triumph.

His voice was wooden when he spoke over Andrea's crying.

"Breaking into my place. Robbing from me. Fighting against me. Gouging out my eye. All for nothing. I took your woman, I took your guns, and now I'm kicking you out. First thing tomorrow morning, you'll be thrown out there to fend for yourself." Before Shane or Andrea could respond, The Governor motioned to them. "We'll let them spend their final night together. Gag them, Martinez. Merle will make rounds once an hour."

"Ya'll should be grateful for The Governor's generosity: givin' you two lovebirds a conjugal visit on your last night here." Merle laughed as Martinez gagged them. Drained from all the abuse inflicted upon them, Shane and Andrea made no move to resist. "Now you two can sit together all night an' get starry eyed—but can't speak a damn word to each other! Ain't that poetic justice for an asshole cop an' his gal pal?"

Andrea's tears burned on her cheeks as she closed her eyes and Shane finally allowed unconsciousness to overtake him, when Merle, Martinez, and The Governor left the holding cell, slamming and locking the door behind them.

 

Chapter Text

She Said “Put a gun in my hand…”

                          Cross my heart, hope to die / To my lover, I’d never lie                                   
                                     He said “be true”, I said “I’ll try”/ In the end, it’s him and I                                                     
                         He’s out his head, I’m out my mind / We got that love, the crazy kind                                       
I am his, and he is mine / In the end, it’s him and I

G-Eazy and Halsey “Him and I”

 

The next day in the early afternoon, all the Woodbury citizens were gathered together outside the building where The Governor lived, awaiting the arrival of their leader.  There was chatter about what had happened the night before.  Rumors flew around that the newcomers were being held in custody after one of them—the man—had broken into The Governor’s home to steal his firearms.  To make matters worse, the man had beaten up The Governor, severely injuring him.  Anyone who saw The Governor earlier knew he sported an eye patch because of the incident.  As for the perpetrator…he was dangerous and nobody wanted him to stay in Woodbury.  There was also gossip about a woman who had escaped with a sword, but that rumor sounded so outlandish that most of the Woodbury community laughed it off.  Most…not all.  Shumpert and Crowley were still receiving aid after losing their hands, courtesy of Michonne. 

After some time, he came out to greet them.  There was a smattering of cheering and then it quieted down.  Everyone tried not to stare at the patch over his right eye.  He was still their Governor—whether he had two eyes or one eye.

“The last few days have been hectic for all of us.  I’m here to tell you that the problem has been solved.  As of today, the nuisance is being removed from our community.”

There was a round of applause and The Governor smiled at the group of faces peering at him.  He loved assuring them that he had everything under control.  As far as they knew, The Governor cared about every individual’s well-being and they were none the wiser.  He intended to keep it that way.  Nobody—especially not Shane Walsh—would ruin what he had worked hard to achieve: dominance over an unsuspecting group of people who looked up to him as their leader. 

He went back inside the building and entered a room on the first floor where Martinez and Merle guarded Shane and Andrea.  Both sat on the floor across from each other, still gagged and cuffed.  They had been brought out of the holding cell an hour ago.  The Governor had originally planned to throw out Shane in the morning, but he decided to hold off until the afternoon.  This was for two reasons.  First, he needed to get the word out about what Shane had done against him.  Naturally, it was all slanted in his favor.  The second reason was to play mind games with his two captives: increase their fearful anticipation of what lay ahead. 

Now the time had come and The Governor motioned to Martinez to hand him Andrea.  Pulling her up by the arm, Martinez followed The Governor’s lead and passed Andrea to him as though she were a basket of fruit.  Andrea squirmed as she tried to make eye contact with Shane, but it was too late.  The Governor removed her from the room and took her to a different room down the hallway.  He opened the door and gestured her to walk through.  When she did, he quickly removed Andrea’s gag and unlocked the handcuffs.

“What are you doing?”  Andrea asked after coughing for half a minute.  Her throat and mouth were dry from the gag. 

“Giving you a second chance,” The Governor replied as he closed the door behind him.  He placed the key and cuffs in his pocket for safekeeping.  “I never had an issue with you.  It was your partner, Shane, who caused problems here.  Not you.  I’d like you to stay with us, that is, if you want to.  We spent a lot of time discussing this last night.  I want you to feel free to make your own choice.”

Andrea wrung her wrists.  He was twisting everything to make it seem like he was the good guy, although he had traumatized her and Shane.  She was tempted to tell him that when she thought about the “choices” he gave her last night: choose life in Woodbury or choose Shane’s death.  She had chosen the lesser of two evils.  No matter what she felt now, she had to remain silent because arguing against The Governor would only make matters worse than they already were.  Then another thought occurred to her…maybe she didn’t have to keep quiet…and maybe she didn’t have to argue with him.  Maybe she could beat him at his own game—or try to.  I’m gonna do my damn best to bullshit a bullshitter, she thought as she stared at him.

“You still don’t trust me?”  He sounded annoyed when she didn’t respond right away.

Andrea’s mind leapt with possibilities.  “I trust you, but Shane’s my friend…”  Her voice trailed off and she wondered how The Governor would interpret her response.  

“So now you’re ‘friends’?  Is that what you’re calling yourselves now?  All this time I thought you were lovers.” 

Andrea refused to answer as she stared at the door, wishing she could run out of there.  Staying in that small room with The Governor made her feel trapped.  She knew he was mocking her and Shane, but she couldn’t be impulsive.  Right now, she had to gain control over The Governor and beat him at his own game.

“Your ‘friend’ tried to kill me.  After all my attempts to work with him, he worked against me.  Did you expect me to sit there and let him snuff out my life?”

“Of course not, Philip.”  She cringed inside when she called him by his first name.  Philip Blake, if he was ever real, was a kind gentleman, but now she knew who he truly was.  She swallowed the lump in her throat, remembering clearly how The Governor almost allowed Merle and Martinez to kill Shane. 

The Governor nodded as though he approved of her response.  “I hated seeing you cry last night.”  He rested his hand on her shoulder and squeezed it affectionately.  “I know it was hard hearing him get beat up, but he did that to you.  Everything that happened last night is Shane’s fault.  If he had cooperated and showed he was willing to adjust to living in Woodbury, then last night would’ve never happened.  I had to make sure there’d be no doubt in his mind of who’s in charge here.”

Andrea realized that outsmarting The Governor meant she had to mirror him as much as possible and pretend she was agreeable with his cruelty.  “You put him in his place just as he deserved.  Merle and Martinez really came through.”  She made sure not to recoil in response to his touch.

The Governor’s face was stoic.  “They sure did, but that’s not the only thing we need to discuss…”  He removed his hand.

Andrea met his cold and unblinking stare head on.  “What else is there?”  She hoped she didn’t sound angry.

“You said a lot of untrue things last night.  You called me a psychopath and acted like I had lied to you this entire time.  I’ve always been upfront with you, Andrea.  I have no reason to lie to you.”

That’s the Lie of the Century, Andrea thought as she did her best to maintain a neutral expression.  Had he said something along these lines to her before the barbeque, she would’ve fallen for it—just as she had fell for his other manipulations and lies.  Now she knew better.  She found it eerie how sincere he sounded and now she saw how she had been easily fooled by his con game.  Aside from knowing what she wanted and providing it for her—emotional intimacy and shelter—he also had no qualms about threatening Shane’s life to get what he wanted from her.  It was time to turn the tables on him…

“I was upset when I said those things…”  She summoned all her willpower to act the role of the apologetic friend.  “I’m sorry I hurt you…can we start over?  Pretend that last night never happened?”

The entire time, Andrea was under the impression that he could see through her lies in a way that she couldn’t see his until it was too late.  She was transparent and he was opaque.  Based on what he said next, it gave her a sliver of hope that he had fallen for her lies—which was a small victory, but she had to keep up the charade if she wanted to get her and Shane out of Woodbury.  How she would pull that off, she had no idea, but for now, she’d play the I-don’t-know-what-came-over-me role which he seemed to believe so far.  He gave no reason to indicate that he didn’t. 

“Now that we’ve cleared up that misunderstanding, I have something to give you as a sign of good faith.”  He reached into his pocket and produced her gun—the same one she had aimed at him yesterday.  “You could’ve shot me in the head when you had the chance and you didn’t.  I trust you, Andrea, and I want you to trust me as well.  I know you were acting the way you were because of him.”  

He stared at her as he thought about the risk he was taking by giving back her gun.  As he considered it more, he knew he had nothing to worry about.  There was no way Andrea would act up now—even with a gun in her hand.  She wouldn’t chance messing up, especially not with all of the Woodbury residents present—and with Shane’s life still in his grasp.  Even if she hadn’t been forced to say she was staying in order to keep her “partner” alive, The Governor knew she belonged with him and that she wanted to live in the community.  The truth was obvious: if Shane and Michonne hadn’t broken into his apartment, then she would’ve stayed without question.  She had only acted against him yesterday because of his fight with Shane. 

Before that, he had her hanging on his every word. 

His hold on her was so strong that she was willing to end her friendship with Shane—he knew this was true because she had told him at the barbeque that it was over between them.  Not long after that conversation, she slipped up yesterday by pointing a gun at his head, but she had more than made up for it by abandoning Shane.  The Governor understood that Andrea was emotional, but as long as her emotions were focused on him, everything would go in his favor.  So he wasn’t worried about her brandishing, threatening, or even shooting anyone.  In his mind, he still controlled her every move, even if it seemed like he was giving her freedom by returning her gun to her.

Andrea didn’t notice him staring at her.  She was thrilled to have Sweet Piece again and checked to see if the gun was loaded. 

The Governor shook his head while offering her the same charming smile she had fallen for.  “I gave you blanks.”

“Blanks, but not bullets?”

“You’re still a sharpshooter.”  He easily avoided her question.  “When the time is right, I’ll give you back your ammo.”

Andrea held The Governor’s eyes in a firm glare.  “Not today?”

The Governor’s false smile never left his face and he simply stared at Andrea, refusing to answer her question.  Sighing, she put the safety on and placed the gun in her thigh holster.  She didn’t think she needed to put the safety on, but decided to just in case.  For now, she’d go along with The Governor until the time was right.  At least she had her gun back—that was a start.  Then she decided to test him…to ask him a question and observe his response.  It would tell her everything she needed to know.

“You never asked me to give up my gun.  You wanted Shane to give up his…but not me.  Why is that?”

“Because I knew you would never use it.  That’s why I was surprised when you turned it on me.”

“Still think I won’t turn it on you again?”  She hadn’t meant to say it aloud, but the words were out now.  She quickly offered him a salacious smile, but she could tell from the cold glazed look in his eyes that he wasn’t entertained or easily fooled.

“You won’t if you want Shane to leave here alive.”

Andrea nodded as she understood now: The Governor was still bartering her cooperation in exchange for Shane’s life.  Whatever she did would be risky.  She would have to find another way. There was too much at stake and too many variables that she didn’t know about: did Merle and Martinez know The Governor planned to give back her gun?  Were they under orders to kill Shane if Andrea acted out?

“He can’t stay here.  If I let him stay, it sends a wrong message—that anyone can walk through these gates, shoot into crowds and assault me with no consequences.  I can’t appear weak in front of my people, but I don’t have to look like a cold-hearted killer.”

You still want your sheep to believe you’re leading them, Andrea thought.  She was stumped.  How would she do this?  What if The Governor returning her gun was all a mind game?  Was it to see what she would do with it?  Then it hit her: he thinks I won’t use it because I want Shane to live…but he said I wanted Shane to leave here alive.  The three words stood out in her mind: “leave here alive”.  Did that mean that once Shane was kicked out for good…that she had more of a chance to gain the upper-hand?  She decided to go along with everything.  The solution would come to her, she just had to keep her eyes open for it.

“You’ll look stronger and be more respected if you remove him without a threat of violence.”

“Exactly.”

“So what’s the plan?”  She tried to sound interested although she felt revolted by everything.

“You’ll come outside with me and we’ll ensure that Shane is sent on his way.  Just to show that I’m a decent man—that I’m the better man in all this, I gave him back his guns and his ammo—everything that was taken from him is in the trunk of his Hyundai.”

“You’re giving back what you took from him in the first place?”  The Governor’s taunts to Shane echoed in her mind: I took your guns…I took your woman...  A memory of her telling Merle where to find Shane’s Mossberg 590 flitted through her mind.  She squashed it, not wanting to remember it, but knowing that the truth would come out eventually.  Shane.  She had to concentrate on how to get back to him without getting either of them killed.

“Merle confiscated it after he was warned not to carry firearms.  He broke the rules.  You were there the first time I warned him.” 

“He just wanted to hold onto his gun in case walkers—” 

The Governor’s voice was deadpan when he cut her off.  “He knocked out Martinez and shot walkers at the fights—he could’ve killed someone that night.  Then he broke into my apartment and injured my eye.  It’s permanently damaged thanks to him.  You saw that yesterday when you aimed your gun at me.” 

He didn’t mention Penny or the walker heads—The Governor wanted them to be his best kept secret.  After Martinez and Merle had imprisoned Shane and Andrea in their holding cells, he had left them temporarily to have Dr. Stevens put gauze over his injured eye.  During that time, he also made sure the door to his secret room was locked.  He couldn’t spend too much time on Penny then, but he was able to come back for her in the early morning hours.  He had wrapped his daughter’s body in thick blankets and placed her back in her cage. 

As for the tanks…he’d get to that later today—after Shane was evicted from Woodbury.  He was glad that his secret hadn’t been revealed to anyone and he intended to keep it that way.  His inner circle knew about the walker pits, but he hadn’t shown that to Andrea, so he wasn’t worried about that.  He could’ve thrown Shane in there, but that would’ve been too easy.  Having him kicked out of the community was better since it would be humiliating.  Especially after what Shane had done to him…he would never be able to see out of his eye again and had to wear an eye patch to protect what was left and so that no one saw the hideous injury.   He watched Andrea carefully now, assessing her reaction.

Andrea felt The Governor’s eye burning into her.  Knowing she was being watched, she had to be careful with how she responded to him.  Shane was too kind to you; he should’ve gouged out your other eye.  She caught the words just in time and gave him a different message that he wanted to hear. 

“I shouldn’t have done that to you.  You were just protecting what’s yours.”  Andrea forced herself to take it another level.  She reached out to caress Philip’s face.  “You should’ve gouged out his eye as payback.  He would’ve deserved it.”

“You believe in that Bible verse, ‘an eye for an eye’?”  He asked, holding her hand on his cheek, enjoying her touch.

“Absolutely, since it can be taken literally.”

“I could act on that fair trade, but I’d rather be rid of him.  He’s dangerous, so I’m kicking him out just as I promised him last night.”

Andrea remained stone-faced whenever he mentioned last night.  She never wanted to remember that night for as long as she lived.  It felt like someone had ran an ice cube down her spine.  She was genuinely afraid of him—more so today than yesterday when she and Shane had been captured.  When she had first met him, she thought he was genuine, debonair, handsome…  Philip Blake came off as a natural leader, someone you wanted to follow.  It was no wonder he earned the nickname “The Governor”.

Now was different. 

After last night, she found she was dealing with a man who wore a mask of charisma and kindness, but that’s all it was: a handsome mask.  She had seen a full view of the real Governor yesterday when he pressured her to abandon Shane for a comfortable life in Woodbury.  All while she heard Shane’s beating as the soundtrack.  She found herself trembling just from standing next to him and her mind spun from everything that had happened from the moment her and Shane arrived in Woodbury to now.  The first night they had arrived was the introduction to The Governor’s games and what was happening now—or what would happen in the immediate future—this was the grand finale. 

The Governor continued talking about himself as though he was the most virtuous man. “I was generous to him even after everything he’s done.  If it was anyone else, he would’ve been dead already.”

That second statement rung true for Andrea: one of her greatest fears was that Shane’s hotheaded nature would land him in an early grave.  At the same time, she knew The Governor was trying to manipulate her view of him.  He was painting himself as the victim, who had the strength and graciousness to forgive his enemy.  Even with giving her back Sweet Piece—either The Governor was very stupid or he was trying to control how she responded to him.  If she were to ask Shane, she knew he’d say The Governor was manipulating her.  Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, Andrea thought.  Just then there was knocking on the door.  The Governor left her to go open the door and she saw Milton standing outside. 

“Everyone’s out there waiting for you, Governor,” Milton said as he sent a scathing glare to Andrea. 

“We’ll be out in a moment.” The Governor said and Milton left.  He turned back to Andrea.  “Everyone living here knows what kind of man I am.  They look to me for leadership and I provide that.  I have to show them I mean business—that I will do whatever it takes to keep them safe—including evicting troublemakers like him.  I will do one thing for you, Andrea.”

“What’s that?” 

“I’ll give him a chance to make a public apology in front of the community.”

Andrea blinked.  Shane would never apologize.  She wondered what The Governor’s ulterior motive was and realized it was more manipulation to make himself look good in front of the Woodbury community. 

The Governor interpreted her silence as compliance.  They left the room they had been in and followed Milton, who met them at the entrance.  Upon leaving the building, Andrea was struck on how the day was completely clear.  It was a warm spring day without a cloud in sight.  For some reason, she took that as a good omen.  Meanwhile, The Governor brought her in front of the Woodbury citizens.  She avoided looking into their eyes, afraid she would see hatred and contempt for her—but mostly for Shane.

“Andrea will be remaining in Woodbury.”  He turned to her, watching her reaction.  “She knows she’s welcome to stay here.  Her friend is being forced to leave—right here and right now.”  The Governor’s authoritative voice boomed above the cheering crowd.  “Bring him out, Merle!”

Andrea turned towards the building’s entrance, trying to mentally prepare for what lay ahead.  She still had to figure when would be the best time to act and what she would do.  Moments later, Merle emerged, dragging Shane by the upper left arm while Martinez followed close behind.  Andrea noticed Shane looked angrier today than he did yesterday and he was limping.  Now that they were outside, the purple bruises and reddish laceration on his face from where Merle cut him open appeared worse than when they were locked in the cell together.  She heard Merle taunting him.

“Ready to take your perp walk, Deputy Sheriff Walsh?”

Shane stared straight ahead as Merle pulled him forward.

“You had this comin’ for a long time, pig,” Merle growled as he brought him to where all the Woodbury citizens stood around The Governor and Andrea.  “Thinkin’ you’re above the law ‘cause you was the law at one time.  You ain’t nothin’ but dog shit.  I know it an’ my lil brother knew it too.”

The Governor smiled in Shane’s direction as he put his arm around Andrea’s waist, squeezing her close to him.  Someone who didn’t know them would assume they were an enamored couple displaying affection.  Andrea realized this was exactly what he was aiming for.  Her first instinct was to shove his arm away from her waist, but she remembered she had act the role for her and Shane’s sake. 

No, not act—she had to be The Governor’s lover. 

Andrea held The Governor and allowed her hand to reach his.  They turned to each other at the same time and kissed much to the delight of the Woodbury crowd who applauded.  Her skin crawled when his hands massaged her back, but she allowed her fingers to run through his hair and then rest on his face while they kissed like a newly-wed couple. When they broke their kiss, she turned in Shane’s direction and her heart shriveled inside of her chest.  Shane had seen the entire exchange.  The pained look in his eyes quickly vanished.  He looked away and found some other point to focus on.  She saw his neck vibrate and knew he was swallowing his hurt.  In his mind, she had betrayed him.  She made her choice to be with The Governor and was totally on board with him being kicked out.  Nothing could be further from the truth and she watched as he confronted Shane head on.   

The Governor pulled down Shane’s gag so that it rested against his neck.  The entire time, Shane’s uninjured eye burned into him with unrelenting fury. 

“Today’s a new day, Shane.  You’ve caused a lot of grief in Woodbury, but I’m willing to accept a public apology from you—to myself.”  The Governor gestured at himself.  “To Andrea,” he pointed at her now.  “And to my people.”  The Woodbury citizens murmured in agreement when The Governor indicated his community.  “So what’ll it be?” 

Shane glanced at Andrea and he noticed how she turned away in an effort to avoid seeing his right eye that was swollen shut.  He then looked over at the Woodbury community, who waited expectantly.  Hushed whispers were exchanged.  Everyone watched to see what he would do.  Merle and Martinez hung back, not saying anything.  The Governor presented himself as being patient and open to however Shane chose to respond.  

Shane spat a glob of saliva in his face. 

A chorus of shock and disapproval rose and fell from the Woodbury citizens.  Some booed, while others shouted obscenities, demanding his eviction.  Andrea said nothing and her facial expression remained blank.  Martinez stepped in front of Shane and put the gag back in place.  The Governor never stopped smiling, even as he wiped away the spit. 

“You were given chance after chance to adapt here, but you wanted to do things your way.  As I told Andrea, and as my people know very well, we have no room for terrorists like you.  You belong out there and not among the decent citizens of this town.”  The Governor balled up a tight fist and struck Shane across the face.  He enjoyed taking cheap shots since Shane was restrained and couldn’t fight back. 

Shane didn’t hear Andrea gasp in shock.  His head was ringing and he only heard the obnoxious cheering from the Woodbury citizens.  Pieces of shit sheep, he thought.  He forced himself to look in Andrea’s direction.  When he had witnessed her holding The Governor at gunpoint, he believed she had finally come around and believed him—and that she was loyal to him.  All the arguing, silent treatment, and disagreements fell to the wayside and his heart had swelled with pride that Andrea Harrison was his friend and partner.

That was yesterday.  Today a different narrative unfolded in front of him.

The Governor had his disgusting hands on her—he probably had them all over her—and she liked it!  He knew she did because she didn’t protest when he held her close to him.  The pangs in his heart hurt far worse than the beating he had endured last night.  She stood several feet away from him watching everything.  She didn’t defend him, nor did she say or do anything on his behalf to contradict The Governor.  Her silence meant she agreed with everything The Governor said about him and that she accepted everything he had done—and planned on doing.

To hell with her. 

He’d make it on his own.   He admitted to himself that he was foolish for giving Andrea a chance, especially after how Lori treated him when Rick returned.  Discarded him.  Ignored him.  Blamed him for things beyond his control.  Lied to him about her love for him—and mainly lied to herself about her feelings for him.  Now Andrea was doing the same exact thing: choosing another man over him right in front of his face.  At least Rick was a decent man—The Governor was a psychopath.  Let her have him, he thought, fuming.  She can have her cake an’ fuckin’ choke on it. 

“I gave you back your guns and ammo along with some food and water, so that you can survive out there,” The Governor said.  “For how long, I don’t know, but that’s all you’re getting from me.  You’re lucky you’re getting anything after all the shit you pulled here.”

Shane scowled—he knew The Governor was lying.  He was being thrown out there with no supplies: no guns, knives, food or water.  Nothing.  He twisted around, trying to approach him so that he could kick him in the balls—do something to show he wasn’t going down easily.  It didn’t matter if Andrea was in the way.  Shane kicked at The Governor who stepped back in time to avoid getting hit.  Andrea had stepped away at the same time as him in unison.  Merle yanked Shane in the opposite direction and grinned when he heard thunderous applause from the Woodbury community. 

“Gotta protect our Governor, right?”  Merle received approving cheers in response.  “You’re leavin’ here today an’ that’s all there is to it.  Feel free to fight back as much as you want—jus’ makes this more fun for me.”

Martinez came over.  “Too bad we don’t have shackles for you.”  He patted Shane on the head.  “Silver anklets to match your silver bracelets.”

Shane attempted to kick Martinez and Merle grabbed the chain between the cuffs in time.  “Don’t like that, huh?”  Merle laughed when Shane grimaced.  “You’re bein’ a pain in the ass, but I’m in a good mood, so I’ll try not to lose the handcuff key like T-Dog did for me.”

“Throw him out of here, Merle,” The Governor ordered.  “Martinez, get him on the other side.  I don’t care how much he resists—the cuffs don’t come off until he’s on the other side of the gates.  Knowing him, he’ll pull something the first chance he gets.” 

Andrea watched as Merle and Martinez grabbed Shane’s arms on both sides and escorted him to the gate.  He looked like a prisoner being taken to court.  Milton trailed nearby while some of the Woodbury citizens followed them, yelling and jeering at Shane.  Mrs. McLeod slopped an egg on his face and Haley threw a glass bottle at him.  It shattered at his feet and Shane stepped over the glass, not the least bit effected.  Exiling him in front of the entire community was being done to humiliate him, but Shane kept walking with his head held high and looking forward—even with the slight limp.  She couldn’t get out of her mind that awful look he gave her when The Governor had his arm wrapped around her waist.  She remembered again how he had taunted Shane.  I took your woman, I took your guns, and now I’m kicking you out.  Feeling angry and motivated now, she found another way to continue her charade…as long as it would bring her to closer to Shane.

“Let’s give him a good sendoff, Philip.”  Her tone was haughty.  “I want him on the other side of the gates since he wanted to leave here the moment we arrived.” 

The Governor’s eyebrows rose.  “I like the way your mind works.”

She knew what to say to sweeten the deal.  “After he’s gone for good, I’ll take you up on your offer.”

“My offer?”

“I’m moving in with you, but first I wanna make sure we throw him out for good.”

A triumphant grin splashed across The Governor’s face.  “You’ve made the right choice—the best choice, Andrea.” 

As Andrea continued playing along, ideas took shape in her mind.  The Governor had gave her blanks…and they were the only ones aware of that fact.  Maintaining an icy expression, but smiling deviously inside, Andrea patted her thigh holster.  It was only a matter of time before she used Sweet Piece.  She glanced at The Governor who was focused on the spectacle at the gates.  They slowly approached the group ahead of them.  A crowd of Woodbury citizens lingered around after Merle and Martinez exited with Shane.  The guards closed the gates just when they reached it.  Through a tiny gap in the gates, she saw Merle yank off Shane’s gag and toss it to the ground while Martinez stood in front holding a gun in his face to ensure he wouldn’t fight or resist.  Like Andrea, Shane coughed and quickly regained his composure.  She also noticed that Shane had none of the things that The Governor said he would give him.  No guns.  No ammo.  No food.  No water.  Nothing.  Unless he planned for Milton to bring it out to him?  Shane turned around and based on his shocked expression, she knew he was able to see her through the tiny gap—the same way she saw him. 

“Go back to your boy-toy, ain’t he what you want?  You chose him last night!”

Andrea was taken back, but not completely surprised.  In fact, she understood his anger.  This was the first time since last night that he was confronting her on her supposed alliance with The Governor.  During the night, they hadn’t been able to talk to each other.  It was The Governor’s twisted form of torture to lock them in the same holding cell with emotions running high and resentment festering—and unable to communicate the truth to each other.  Shane had been unconscious for most of the night, but when he finally woke up, he had turned away from her when she tried to make eye contact with him.  He refused to communicate with her, even nonverbally.  Andrea knew he was hurting, but he also didn’t know that she had been forced to make the decision of “staying in Woodbury” in order to keep him alive.  Although she wanted to believe The Governor was bluffing about letting Merle and Martinez beat Shane to death—it was hard to doubt his intentions after seeing Shane bruised and bloodied and unable to fully talk because of how much pain he was in.

Today was a different story and Shane was in full-Shane mode.

“I don’t need you, Andrea—I never did!  I wanted to be alone from the get-go, but then you had to go an’ play tag-along.”

The rage and heartbreak she heard in his voice was real, and yet, she felt furious with him.

You’re the one that said you should’ve left with me when you had the chance!”

“I was wrong ‘bout you—you’re jus’ another Lori.”

Andrea stepped away from the gates.  That stung to her inner core.  She was not Lori Grimes.  She wasn’t a damsel in distress who needed rescuing, nor was she someone who would stand by Shane—even sleep with him—and then pretend nothing happened between them.  She knew they looked ridiculous arguing with fortified gates between them—but she wouldn’t give up, nor would she let him have the last word. 

“You got what you wanted, Shane!  You’re finally out of here—so leave!”  She maintained her bravado at first and then faltered.   “Comparing me to Lori—if that’s what you truly think of me—” She tried to keep the pain out of her voice, but her voice cracked as turbulent emotions rushed through her.  It wasn’t like her to be so overly emotional, but Shane’s words cut into her soul.  “Leave without me!”

He stood there staring at her—okay, more like glaring at her—but he wouldn’t leave.  It suddenly hit Andrea: Shane was lonely—his biggest fear was loneliness.  She now realized that they connected because of her feeling alone in Rick’s group and him feeling lonely.  Two similar but different states of mind, which led to them feeling like outsiders within Rick’s group.  He couldn’t be with Lori and she had no one after her sister’s death.  Shane needed to be needed.  His self-worth depended on what he did for others—protecting them, keeping them safe…  If he wasn’t needed, then he felt worthless.  Andrea wanted to belong; she wanted to feel like she contributed to the group.  If she couldn’t fit in or find her place, then she would go her own way.  They needed to have a purpose and not just exist as empty shells in this world.  They wanted validation, yearned for companionship, and desired love.

“What’re you waitin’ for?  He wants you back home with him between the sheets!”

Andrea sighed, annoyed at Shane’s ridiculous assertions that she had slept with The Governor—which she had not done.  He was standing right beside her and watched silently as they argued.

“If I’m gonna make a choice, then let me make it for myself!” 

“You made your choice already.  You layin’ with that dog an’ got infested with his fleas.  You ain’t never had that problem when you laid with me an’ you know it!”

“Stop pushing me, Shane!”

“Ain’t nobody pushin’ you!”

“Don’t be like Dale who guilted me into staying alive for him!”

Andrea waited for a response…and received silence.

On the other side, Shane stared at the gates as he thought about what she said.  He knew Andrea hated when anyone took her choices away or made her feel guilty for them.  Andrea had an independent spirit and telling her what to do or pressuring her pushed her away.  If he respected her and her choices, then she would respect him.  Although Dale had thwarted her attempt to commit suicide in the CDC which led to their fallout, Shane thought it was the best thing that ever happened.  It was ironic that the one person he clashed with the most had ultimately saved Andrea’s life—and his.  Shane had never viewed the situation like that before and now he was thankful for Dale.  He made sure he sounded genuine because he truly believed in what he said next.

“That’s one thing Dale did right.  He kept you alive.”

Andrea blinked.  Shane sounded real and in his words she heard what he really was trying to communicate to her without saying it directly: you keep me alive, Drea, you keep me goin’.  She figured he would never say those words to her, but the impact was still there.  She knew the reverse was also true:  Shane gave her a reason to live.  He empowered her when she was at the height of her depression after losing Amy—he taught her to defend and protect herself.  She touched the gun in her thigh holster, “Sweet Piece”, remembering their times spent together in Dale’s RV and out in woods surrounding Hershel’s farm.  Her mind dug deep for other memories.  Standing side by side with Shane when they shot the walkers coming out of Hershel’s barn.  Shooting the walkers that surrounded her and Shane at Morales’ camp.  She knew what she had to do now…the idea had solidified into a plan…she just had to wait for the right moment to execute it.

“You can stay here or leave with him.”  The Governor gestured towards Woodbury and then pointed at Shane when he spoke.  “It’s your life and your choice, Andrea, but you know that Woodbury is where you’re meant to be.”  He placed his hand over the small gap in the gate, blocking Andrea from seeing Shane. 

“Where’s his stuff?”  Andrea asked, ignoring what he had just told her.  She noticed that half of the Woodbury citizens had left the area after Merle and Martinez brought Shane outside of the community.  The other half of the community were nearby, but not close enough to hear her and The Governor’s conversation.  She doubted that they realized what was happening.

“What stuff?”

“The guns, ammo—food and water?  You said you were leaving him supplies so that he could survive out there.”

The Governor smiled broadly and said nothing.  His one intact eye gleamed with hatred.

“You lied.”  The realization hit her like a brick in the face.  “You’re not giving him anything…he’ll die out there.”

“Whether he dies in here or out there, what’s the difference?”

His callous words infuriated her.  Andrea turned to the gates again, wishing she was on the other side with Shane. 

“He said he wanted to leave here, that’s what you told me many times.  He never said how he wanted to leave.”  The Governor’s intentions were all too clear.  What he said next solidified for her the height of his cruelty and madness.  “I imagined all the different ways I could murder your friend-partner-lover.”

She was caught off guard by his casual admission.  How do I respond to that?  She thought fast and realized it was best to keep him talking.  To pretend she was interested without giving him any ideas.  “And…?”

“And I refuse to make it easy for him. I love the idea of biters tearing the flesh off his bones and devouring him alive.  It’s the only thing that kept me from performing a coup de grâce on him last night.”

Murder by walkers because you’re too cowardly to pull the trigger yourself.  Or even better, have your lapdogs beat him up.  The words almost escaped Andrea’s mouth.  She made sure to maintain self-control as she didn’t want to give The Governor an excuse to kill Shane.  Instead she stepped closer to the gates.

The Governor noticed she had moved closer to the gates that separated her from Shane.  “Do you want to leave with him?  Because you can if you want.”  He gestured again towards the gates with a self-assured grin as though he already knew what her choice would be: she’d remain in Woodbury and say good-bye to Shane forever.  “Stay here, you have shelter and safety.  Go with him, who knows how long you’ll last out there.”  His voice carried over.

On the other side of the gate, Shane scoffed loud enough for everyone to hear.  “He’s playin’ you as always!”

“And you’re not?”  Andrea asked loudly. 

His response was fast as lightning.  “Have I ever?”

This hit Andrea hard.  Although she had told Shane time and time again about his off-putting mannerisms and aggressive demeanor—she didn’t experience him as being manipulative or even lying to her.  Those were The Governor’s personality traits.  She looked at The Governor and then at the part of the gates that he had blocked from her view, weighing her options.

A part of her wanted to spite both men and go her own way even if it resulted in her demise, but at least it would be death on her own terms—didn’t she want this at the CDC?  Then she felt angry.  Angry that both men were trying to make the decision for her, influence and swing her in one direction or the other.  She wanted to be her own agent.  In charge of herself.  If she went with Shane, it was because she wanted to do so.  The same if she chose to stay at Woodbury with Philip Blake.  She tried to distinguish the Philip she met from The Governor persona, but realized they were one and the same person, the former was the false self; the latter was his true self.  As it was, The Governor made it impossible for her to make a choice yesterday.  It was bad choice vs. worse choice.  Today, he pretended to give her the choice to leave Woodbury, although knowing him, there was a catch.  As for Shane, he made it seem like she wanted to choose The Governor over him.

At the end, it didn’t matter which persona—Philip Blake/The Governor— he was more like now, nor did it matter if Shane was lonely or wanted her companionship.  She needed to make her own decisions for her own reasons.  If she wanted to stay with either man or even go at it alone, it had to be her choice—not theirs.  Her decision would be about her and what she wanted—not because of what they wanted from her.  She stared at the ground, searching for the answer.  Then it came to her as a voice—her voice—rang in her mind:

Put a gun in my hand, I’ll cover your ass too. 

It was time to put her promise into action.  Now she looked up, self-assured and confident as she faced the gates.  She had made her choice and she was ready to take the necessary risk.  Hopefully it wouldn’t come down to having to use force, but if she had to, then heaven help The Governor and Woodbury citizens. 

“You said this was my decision, right?”

The Governor nodded. “You made it last night.”

“I changed my mind.”  Andrea waited and took a deep breath inwardly, hoping for the best and expecting the worst.  It’s now or never, Drea.  “Open the gates.”

“Wait, what?!”  Milton responded first.  He looked from Andrea to The Governor and back to Andrea again.  

“You heard me—open the damn gates!” 

“What if I say ‘no’?”  The Governor smirked.  

Andrea snatched the gun from her thigh holster and fired a warning shot into the air. 

A beat of silence passed as everyone froze in shock.  It didn’t last long.  Pandemonium broke out as the Woodbury citizens ran off in different directions.  It reminded Andrea of the times Amy had fun putting her foot down on ant hills when she was a little girl.  The organized colony would scatter everywhere while Amy laughed.  Someone screamed and there was grunting as they pushed and collided against each other.  Several people had already scrambled away, wanting to get out of the area as fast as possible.  In the midst of the chaos, Andrea seized Haley, the woman she had worked with while on sentry duty.  Haley had lousy aim with a compound bow when trying to kill a walker, so Andrea was certain she wouldn’t be able to put up a fight.  Snaking her left arm around Haley’s neck, she used her right hand to handle the gun, pushing the barrel of her gun against Haley’s temple. 

“Don’t move or you’re dead.”

Haley nodded quickly as Andrea dragged her backwards.  Andrea grinned when she saw the horrified expression on Milton’s face and she couldn’t stop from laughing when she saw the wetness on his pants between his legs.  Good, that got a reaction, she thought.  Then she turned to The Governor who was looking like he would shoot her at any moment.  From the other side of the gates, she heard scuffling and cursing.  It sounded like Merle and Martinez had thrown Shane on the ground.

“Don’t budge an inch.  If you move, you’ll get a gift that you can’t give back: a bullet in the head.”

Andrea recognized Martinez’s voice.  Then she heard Merle’s throaty laughter and a moment later, something tiny and silver flew over the gate.  She didn’t see where it landed.

“Looks like I pulled a T-Dog an’ lost the key.  Oops!”

Andrea looked around her, still holding onto Haley.  Most of the Woodbury citizens had ran off, but a few lingered around.  One of them was a middle aged black man who now charged at The Governor and pointed wildly at Andrea.  She recognized him as Mr. Jacobson, one of the first people she had met in Woodbury.

“Kick her out!  We don’t want that crazy bitch staying here!”

The Governor turned to Mr. Jacobson, who demanded that she be exiled from the community.  From the other side of the gates, Merle called out.

“Give us the word, Governor, an’ Andrea’s studmuffin gets his brain blown to bits.  Better yet, bring her out here so she can witness it.”                 

The Governor was being pulled in several directions at once and he hesitated as he figured out which to address first. Andrea took advantage of his stalling and fired at the Woodbury citizens standing several feet away. Nobody knew she was firing with blanks, but their frightened reactions spoke otherwise: Mr. Jacobson took off down the street with the people who had initially lingered around. Karen tried to run off and ended up tripping. She collapsed to the ground, screaming in pain while grabbing her ankle. Andrea didn't feel a shred of regret, although she remembered Shane telling her once that firing blanks at a close range could do damage and had even accidentally killed an actor. Karen must've thought she was firing with real bullets. Attempting to run away only ended with her injuring her ankle. Andrea turned away and didn't hide her smirk. Karen was still alive, exactly as Andrea had intended, but she was down and incapacitated with a twisted or sprained ankle. Good enough.

“Better go check on her, Governor,” Andrea said, sweetly.  “As for Shane, I know you won’t let your guys put him down.  Don’t you want him to get devoured alive by walkers?  Or is it that you don’t want to look like a cold-hearted killer in front of your sheep?” She grinned, amused that she had thrown his words back in his face.  “Gotta keep up appearances.”

Martinez banged on the gates from the other side. “What the hell is goin’ on in there?!  Open the damn gates—NOW!” 

“That’s what I’ve been asking for this whole time, but no one’s listening to me.”  Andrea’s laughter was both cold and nervous as she pulled Haley along with her, keeping the barrel pressed against her temple.  Her only hope was that her actions wouldn’t backfire.  Based on what Merle said next, it confirmed that she would get her way.

“Cut Bonnie loose,” Merle called from the other side.  “If she wants to go out there with Clyde, then let her.  She an’ her fuckfriend—oops, I meant her boyfriend won’t last long.”

“Oh, we will, and you know why?”  She faced The Governor now.  His expression was murderous as though he’d strangle Andrea if she wasn’t holding Haley hostage.  “You’re gonna send Milton back to your office to bring back every single weapon you stole from me and Shane.  You’re gonna give us ammo—not just what you confiscated—” She made sure to lay on the sarcasm and continued, “but also three times the amount that we came with.  After that, he’s gonna bring us food supplies—nonperishables.  I know you’re well stocked.  Peanut butter, bottled water, cereal, jelly, crackers, granola bars, beans, pudding, apple sauce, and throw a can opener in there while you’re at it.  Last, but not least, you’ll give back our Hyundai with a full tank of gas.  Everything better be in the vehicle.”

“No.”  The Governor’s voice was flat. 

“Unless you want Ms. I-Can’t-Shoot-To-Save-My-Life to live to see another day and not become a flesh-eating walker, you will provide everything I’m demanding—because I’m not asking.”  Andrea pulled Haley’s hair back and brought the gun to her neck.  She pressed the barrel against her skin and didn’t budge when she felt Haley trembling.  “I'll shoot her in the throat and she’ll still turn.  I’ll just let her run loose in Woodbury where she’ll have a feast.  Is that what you want…Governor?”

Seething visibly from being caught in a bind, The Governor kept his clenched fists at his sides.  He glanced at Andrea’s hostage with disdain.  If Andrea killed Haley, it would be one less mouth to feed, one less person to worry about in Woodbury.  But if Andrea killed her the way she threatened—she would turn into a walker…and he knew it only took one wandering walker to cause a commotion in the community. 

A voice of reason spoke up, ending the standstill. 

“Just give her what she’s asking for,” Milton said, “she’ll leave with him and Woodbury will be safe again.”

The Governor’s curt nod indicated he agreed with Milton.  He didn’t want to give into Andrea’s demands, but the citizens of Woodbury needed to see that he prioritized their safety—especially after what had just occurred.  He issued a single command.

“Go.”

Milton nodded and took off to the building where The Governor had stashed away Andrea’s and Shane’s weapons.  Turning to Andrea, he eyed her up and down with sheer hatred.

“Holding someone’s life for ransom so you can get what you want?”

Andrea’s green eyes were icy as she glared back at The Governor.  “I learned from the best.”  She looked around her as she waited for Milton to return.  Haley still squirmed in her grip.  “Stop squirming or you get shot in the throat,” Andrea growled.  “Your choice.  Not mine.”

She shoved the barrel against Haley’s throat.  Haley froze, completely terrified.  Andrea hated that it had come down to her threatening to kill someone to get what she wanted and needed, but she accepted it.  It was fair play since that’s exactly what The Governor had done last night.  She had one more condition.

“I let her go once everything has been packed in our car and after Shane double checks all the weapons.  I wouldn’t put it past you to give us guns with no ammo.”

The Governor said nothing and waited impatiently for Milton to return, while ignoring Martinez’s and Merle’s banging on the other side of the gates.

“And one more thing.” Andrea knew she finally had him cornered.

“What.” 

“The key to the cuffs—I know you have a spare.  You’re gonna need it, since Merle wanted to pull a T-Dog on purpose.”

The Governor reached into his pocket and pulled out the handcuffs key.  Without a word, he opened the gates and went to where Shane lay facedown on the ground.  Merle had his foot pressed on Shane’s back.  Andrea followed him while still holding Haley.

“Uncuff him.”  Andrea said through clenched teeth.  “Uncuff him or Haley becomes a biter.  You can use her in the fights if you like.” 

Martinez’s jaw dropped in shock as he backed off of Shane.      

Merle wasn’t one to remain quiet.  “What’re you doin’?!”  He stared incredulously at The Governor and threw a scornful look in Andrea’s direction.  “You gotta be shittin’ me.  This cunt calls the shots now?!” 

“This ‘cunt’ will shoot off your head if you don’t let him go,” Andrea said, staring down Merle.

He sneered at her.  “I’d love to see you try.”

“If you say so.”  Andrea kept her left arm encircled around Haley’s neck as she pointed the gun in Merle’s direction and shot right above his head.

Merle touched his hair where the blank bullet had grazed him.  “You missed, Goldilocks.”  He kicked Shane’s side.  “Better hope she gets me next time, you stupid pig.”

“That was a warning shot.  Next time I won’t miss.” 

“Get off him!”  The Governor ordered.  “Do it now or I’ll shoot you myself!”

Merle finally stepped away, shaking his head the entire time.  “This is crazy—you lettin’ this blonde pussy give orders so that her dick cop can go free.”

The Governor didn’t respond and ignored the looks of shock and anger from Merle and Martinez as he unlocked the handcuffs.  Shane stood up and wrung his wrists while The Governor stepped back and waited with Merle and Martinez.  The three men stared hatefully at Andrea and Shane, who now stood by her side.  Shane remained silent, but Andrea gloated at The Governor the entire time while still holding Haley at gunpoint.  She felt smug and relieved at the same time.  Mission accomplished, she thought.

oOo

 Shane finished checking the last of the firearms.  Altogether, they had six guns now: a Walther P38, a CX4 Storm, an IMI Mirco uzi, and of course what they already had: his Glock 17 “Lock ‘Em Up”, and Mossberg 590 “Shockwave”.  They also had the edged weapons that Rick allowed them to choose when they first left Hershel’s farm.  It had taken almost an hour for him to go through every single firearm, disassemble it, ensure it was functional, and collect the ammo for each one.  During that time, Milton had made four trips back and forth to get all the food Andrea had demanded.  He had also stopped by their apartment at Andrea’s command to pick up hers and Shane’s shoulder bags.  They were the same bags Shane had packed the day before.  Everything was in the Hyundai which had a full tank of gas.  Shane had made sure to check that and also inspected the rest of vehicle to ensure it hadn’t been tampered with.  Surprisingly, the Hyundai was in the shape he had last seen it in. 

“I’m takin’ those too, thank you very much,” Shane said as he snatched Merle’s, Martinez’s and The Governor’s firearms.  He opened the driver’s side door and tossed them in the backseat.  His silence had ended shortly after Milton returned with everything Andrea had demanded.  “You can let her go, Andrea,” he called as he climbed in the driver’s seat.  “We’re good.”

Andrea nodded.  She released Haley, who ran into Woodbury without looking back.  Milton followed after her, deciding his presence was no longer needed.  He also wanted to change his pants after the embarrassing accident he had when Andrea fired her first warning shot. 

“Jus’ so we’re clear, don’t even think of trackin’ us down,” Shane said.  “I’ll take your second eye as my trophy—an’ I’ll confiscate your balls.”

“Leave before I change my mind.”  The Governor’s eye narrowed.  “If I do, neither of you will live to talk about it.”

“You don’t gotta ask me twice.”  Shane turned the ignition key and the Hyundai rumbled to life. 

“Bonnie an’ Clyde till they die,” Merle said, taunted. 

“Maybe they’ll get ambushed,” Martinez added.

“Why don’t you buy us some Bonnie an’ Clyde costumes an’ mail it to us?  We’ll send you a photo postcard with our address.”  Shane put the Hyundai in drive.  “Try not to shed too many tears, Guvnah, you know what they say about partin’ bein’ such sweet sorrow.”

Before any of them could respond, Shane pressed on the gas pedal and started driving away.  Then he stopped, peered through the rearview mirror, and put the vehicle in reverse.

“What’re you doing?” Andrea asked, as she looked over her shoulder. 

Shane didn’t respond as he continued backing up the Hyundai.  Andrea glanced over her shoulder again, trying to figure out why he was going backwards.  Moments later, they were at the front gates of Woodbury again.  The Governor, Merle, and Martinez hadn’t budged.  Putting the vehicle in park, Shane got out and limped towards The Governor, who smirked at him, silently daring him to do his worst.  Andrea realized too late what he intended to do.  She rushed outside to stop Shane and heard the unmistakable sound of The Governor getting punched in the face.

“GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!” Martinez yelled.

Shane didn’t hear him as he punched The Governor again.  The Governor was on the ground, unable to get Shane off him.  Shane took advantage and punched him repeatedly, not stopping even when The Governor’s blood hit him in the face.  He felt Andrea yanking at him, trying to pull him off, and he pushed her away with one free arm.  She fell backwards and hit the ground hard.

“Keep your hands off me.”  Shane’s voice was a feral growl that she barely recognized.

“We should’ve shot your asshole boyfriend in the head when we had the chance,” Merle said as he watched Andrea get on her feet.  “Put him out of his misery.”

Shane punched The Governor one last time and then stood up.  The Governor’s face was smeared with blood.  He turned around ready to leave and then came right back just as Martinez and Merle were helping The Governor to his feet.  Shane viciously slapped The Governor across the face. 

“Who’s gettin’ bitch-slapped now?!” 

He slapped The Governor again and then returned to his Hyundai.  He could’ve slapped or punched Merle and Martinez, but he was finished.  Now he wanted to get the hell out of there and let Woodbury be an awful memory.  Andrea got in the passenger side and he didn’t wait for her to put her seatbelt on before he sped off.  He grinned as he put more distance between himself and Woodbury.  After a few minutes, the trio of men who had captured him and Andrea had disappeared when he glanced again in the rearview mirror.  For Shane, it was great to be out of that hellhole. 

Meanwhile, Andrea looked at Woodbury through the rearview mirror getting smaller until she could no longer see it.  Although she knew she made the right choice to turn against The Governor and risk leaving with Shane, she felt angry with him.  There was confusion mixed in there too as she was glad he had punched the hell out of The Governor, but part of her raged silently.  She knew it’d be awhile before she spoke to Shane and he’d have to deal with it.  For now, she would keep her focus on staring out the window…so that he wouldn’t see the tears flowing down her cheeks

Chapter Text

Baggage Claim

I need a gangsta / To love me better /Than all the others do
To always forgive me / Ride or die with me
That's just what gangsters do

I'm fucked up, I'm black and blue /I'm built for all the abuse
I got secrets that nobody, nobody, nobody knows

"Gangsta" Kehlani "Suicide Squad" Soundtrack

Two hours later, Shane pulled into the parking lot of a shopping center. There were several stores including a pharmacy which was good because they needed medical supplies. He had been in a hurry to leave Woodbury after having "the last word" with The Governor, and it didn't occur to him until afterwards that they should get medical supplies: aspirin, Band-Aids, gauze, ointment, and other items that could come be helpful in case of an emergency. Four abandoned cars were in the parking lot and he figured they could siphon gas from them. They could do a supply run and get extra fuel. Two in one shot, not bad, he thought.

"Let's do a supply run here later on today or tomorrow. Get some med supplies, siphon gas for our ride. First, we'll relax—we been through hell these past few days."

Andrea didn't answer.

"I can go in now if you cover me. Won't take long an' better to do it in daylight."

She still didn't respond and stared outside the window.

He was getting annoyed and he snapped his fingers in front of her face to get a response.

Andrea glanced at him and then went right back to focusing on a point outside. She stared at the florist shop, remembering Amy's favorite flower: California poppies. She thought it was funny that Amy liked a flower named for a different state, but she didn't smile. Shane reached for her and she moved away from him, so that she was closer to the window.

"Why do women like givin' men the silent treatment? Can you answer me that question?" He rubbed his head out of longstanding habit. "Does it make 'em feel powerful? Like they need to feel stronger than men?"

Andrea turned away from him so that he couldn't see her face. He put a hand on her shoulder and she shrugged him off. Then it hit him: Andrea was angry. He had seen her angry before—when she'd actually straight out tell him, but now she was silent. Her aloof behavior threw him off and he wasn't sure how to deal with her silence. He remembered that she had offered to drive when they were further away from Woodbury since one of his eyes was swelled shut. He had ignored her when she kept insisting and smacked her hand away when she reached for his arm. No wonder she was mad. He was acting like an ass when she had offered to help. Shane sat back against the driver's seat and turned off the car, having forgotten that he had kept it running.

"What're you mad 'bout, Andrea?"

When she finally turned to him, her green eyes were ice cold. "We had a good thing going there. A roof over our heads. Food. Clothing. Our own apartment! Warmth. Safety. You ruined it with your alpha male crap!"

Andrea was projecting onto Shane, but she knew he had been right all along. She was furious at Philip Blake/The Governor for his mind games and outraged that she had allowed herself to fall prey into his hands. She didn't have the words to express all these things and more so, she was afraid to verbalize aloud that she had been wrong this whole time. The most excruciating part was admitting to herself that Shane had almost been killed because of her. It was easier to blame Shane than it was to accept the ugly truth about her role in their recent ordeal and admit that Philip had deceived her with his false charms and affected sincerity. She had been an attorney before the outbreak and always prided herself on reading people well. The fact that she had fallen so hard for Philip Blake's duplicitous behavior angered her.

He was quiet as he took in what she said to him. "Then you shoulda stayed. I ain't force you to come with me, so if you wanna go back, then go. Walk yourself back there 'cause I ain't drivin' back."

Andrea shook her head. "I didn't say I wanted to go back. I said we had a good thing there."

"You did, not me. I told you I can make it on my own—an' what did I ruin? Your sappy lil fantasy of him? That's bullshit. I ain't ruin a damn thing an' we had all those things except safety. He stole my gun, so how's that safe?"

"If you had given it up the first time he asked—"

"You gonna blame me an' side with him on this—really?! What 'bout the time Dale took Sweet Piece from you? You sure was pissed 'bout that, but I'm s'posed to be okay with some psycho who almost killed me for takin' back what was mine?!"

"Leave Dale out of this." She wasn't ready to address the rest of what he said although she knew it was true.

"He collected walker heads an' even had a lil girl walker chained up in his apartment. An' you sayin' we were safe there?!"

Andrea shot him a look of disbelief. "Stop making up tall tales to prove your point, Shane."

"I'm NOT! Me an' Michonne found—" He refused to continue. "Forget it!" His anger was rising. The last thing he needed was for his temper to flare up. He drummed his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel trying to maintain control of himself. "I jus' now told you I can make it on my own—I don't need you in my life, so go back to your sleazy Guvnah." He pointed at the passenger side. "There's the door, don't let it hit your pretty-ass on the way out."

Andrea froze as though he had slapped her across the face. "What did you say?!"

"I ain't repeatin' myself; you shoulda been listenin'."

"I would listen to you if you had something worthwhile to say—which you don't." Andrea jumped ahead before he could respond. "'I told you I can make it on my own'. Don't lie to yourself now like you did back there." She turned to him now and he felt as though she were looking right through him. "We both know you don't want to go at it alone. Why else did you stay in Woodbury? You could've left at any time and you didn't."

Shane blinked, shocked at her sharp observation. She had struck a nerve. He decided to deflect, not wanting her to get inside his head. She was already inside his heart, although he didn't want to admit it.

"You don't wanna go at it alone either," he sneered. "You wanna throw my words back in my face?! I can play the same game, darlin'. Why'd you propose leavin' Hershel's farm together?"

Andrea rolled her eyes, annoyed at his question. "Because I thought we'd be a team, partners who back each other up."

"Funny, 'cause I thought the same thing. That we're partners." He decided to put it all out there. "When I needed you, you backed up your Guvnah—not me! You had me lookin' like a fool an' his psycho-ass got off on seein' you choose him over me. You gladly fell in line with any an' everythin' he said and did. That piece of garbage had you wrapped aroun' his finger—an' sometimes I wonder what else."

"Don't go there, Shane." Her voice was edgy. "Nothing happened between us."

"You sure 'bout that? 'Cause he really had you under his spell. I thought he gave you The D an' you were his after that."

"'The D?'"

"The dick, Andrea. C'mon, I don't gotta tell you this. Chicks get laid an' their brains fly out the window."

Anger lit her eyes and her words came out through clenched teeth. "For the last time. I did not sleep with him. I did nothing intimate with him." She was fed up with his unfair accusations and insinuating the worst about her character.

"Yeah, sure."

"All I did was kiss him!"

"Let's be real, you did a helluva lot more."

"As for your sexism that 'chicks get laid an' their brains fly out the window'…That sounds like someone I know, only it's the opposite: this man got The P from someone named Lori Grimes and suddenly his heart was on pause, he couldn't move forwards or backwards." She faced him and didn't stop when she saw him glaring hatefully at her for bringing up Lori. "He was stuck. He kept chasing her although she didn't want him…does that sound familiar to you? Because it does to me."

Shane's hands were balled into tight fists. They were so tight that his knuckles had whitened. He breathed slowly, trying to contain his anger. The longer this conversation went on, the more difficult it was for him. How dare she throw Lori's rejection back in his face! He couldn't stand to be in the Hyundai with her anymore, so he opened the door on his side and popped open the trunk. Grabbing his Mossberg 590, he decided he'd scavenge for supplies by himself. He slammed the trunk door shut and noticed Andrea jolt in response, as though surprised by his expression of anger.

There was growling from behind him and he turned around. Two badly decayed walkers shambled towards him. Without a second thought, he swung his Mossberg 590 with such force that he decapitated both of them. There, that felt better. He watched their bodies collapse to the ground and their heads rolled in the parking lot. Hopefully there weren't any more lurking around. He was about to go into the pharmacy when he thought better of it. He knew what he needed to tell her and that she was waiting to hear it. He got back in the driver's seat and slammed the door. Andrea was slumped against the seat now and didn't bother looking in his direction when he came back in.

"I know what you wanna hear, so here it is: I'm sorry for what I said 'bout you bein' another Lori. I was wrong, Andrea…it was a horrible thing to say." His voice had lowered to a whisper. "It's jus' when I saw you with him…I thought 'here we go again'—losin' another woman that I..." he hesitated, refusing to say the word, and then finished, "…to another man." He felt upset with himself for risking vulnerability, but he had to apologize. Comparing Andrea to Lori was insulting.

Andrea looked at him now, the coldness gone from her demeanor.

"You ain't her…I was angry when I said that."

She studied him for a minute, questioning if she should take the chance to dig up the truth, now that it presented itself. Andrea pushed herself to ask the questions that she wanted answers to.

"I know this is a bad time to ask you this, but why are—or why were you so hooked on her?" She asked him gently, indicating her intention was to understand him, not just pry open half-healed wounds. "What did she do to you that has you so tied to her? Every time I ask you about her, you shut down."

"So?" Shane shrugged.

"So now's a good time to get it out of your system."

Shane refused to answer. He didn't want to be vulnerable again like how he was with Lori. If only he had slept with her and didn't think of her again like he had done with so many other women in his past. But that didn't happen with Lori. For the first time, he actually felt genuine feelings towards a woman that was more than lust. He truly cared about Lori, but she—he shook his head not wanting to delve there. He just hoped that what happened with Lori wouldn't happen with Andrea.

For now, he was content to be partners with Andrea. Partners. Friends. Lovers. Back each other up. Pick each other up. Give and take. That's what he liked about her: he could give and Andrea would take, and then she'd give and he'd take. It was an even exchange. Unlike Lori who was always take, take, take—he gave so much of himself to her and Carl that there was nothing left. When Rick came back, she was quick to forget that he had got her and Carl to safety. She wanted to pretend that all their times together were meaningless. And she wanted to ignore how much it meant for her to escape the terror of living in this terrifying new world by sharing an intimate moment with her husband's best friend…

"Shane?"

"What."

"I asked you—"

"We ain't talkin 'bout this now." He quickly changed the topic. He had apologized—wasn't that enough for her? He decided to move forward and hoped that she'd follow his lead. "I'm doin' a run in this pharmacy to get us some medical supplies. Are you coverin' me or not?"

Andrea sat back and sent him a hard look. "I covered you today, but you're—"

"No—" he cut her off. "I'm the one that covered you. I backed you up plenty by tellin' you not to mess aroun' with him, that he didn't have good intentions." He hit his chest, indicating his self-importance. "I protected you without you gettin' hurt."

Her jaw dropped and just as quickly she lashed out at him. "'Without getting hurt'?! Are you kidding me?!"

Shane sent her a quizzical glance. "Why're you gettin' your panties in a bunch, Andrea? Way I remember it, I was gettin' my ass handed to me by his douchebag buddies while you were in the next holdin' cell decidin' to leave me high an' dry jus' 'cause he offered you shelter an' a warm bed to sleep in. We both know he meant his bed."

"SHUT UP, SHANE!"

He immediately silenced, shocked by her outburst. It wasn't the first time she had exploded on him. Even so, she was surprised that she had let herself get worked up to that point. She looked all around her, wishing she could get out of the car and take a walk. Anything to get away from him for just a short time. But she couldn't do that—not in the world they lived in now. Not when walkers could come out of nowhere and bite her, kill her, devour her…

Rather than focus on the outside, Andrea turned her attention to what was happening inside. She was arguing with Shane, but she wasn't getting through to him. And just now, she lost her temper, especially after what he said about the night before. There was no denying that Shane had been horribly beaten, but he had no idea the extreme duress she had been under hearing it as it happened—all while The Governor pressured her to betray him. She had to tell him what really happened. Especially since he was acting as though everything he did was right—and that she had done absolutely nothing to back him up at any point during their time in Woodbury. Although she got him out of Woodbury alive, she also had to face the truth: she had rejected and abandoned him—and that pain wasn't going to leave him anytime soon.

She had done and said terrible things to him in Woodbury, although she focused more on how he had treated her since the time they had left the farm. Andrea had to be honest with herself and own her part in the conflict. She would do that, but she also wanted him to know that she had tried to make it up to him by doing what she did today—getting them out of Woodbury alive and with a bunch of supplies. She had messed up big time, but she had made up for it as best she could. She didn't know why she wanted him to acknowledge what she had done today as her way of righting her wrongs. She just knew it infuriated her that he wasn't hearing any of it.

Still, Andrea was aware that she had to be careful because when she was angry she said things she couldn't take back. She would let anger take control, her mouth would spill out all sorts of mean things, and before she knew it, she hurt someone. She thought of Dale and how angry she was with him for taking her gun, making her get out of the CDC… Now she wished she could take back all that she had said and apologize to him. But she couldn't—she was out here, partnered with the man that Dale had repeatedly warned her about. Andrea closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she reopened them again, she faced him directly.

"You're wrong about a lot of things, Shane." He was about to interrupt her when she held up her hand. "I'm talking, you're listening now. I was this close," she paused and brought her thumb and index finger very close together in front of his face, "to blowing out his brains when Merle had you cornered at gunpoint. I'm the one who got us twice as much supplies than we originally had. We walked out of there with guns, ammo, and food— more than what we had when we first left the farm. The moment he gave me back my gun, I knew I had the upper hand. All this time, you're ranting about him manipulating me, when I turned the tables on him at the last instant and got us both out of there."

She looked at him, assessing his reaction. He simply stared back at her. She saw he was listening to her, so she continued.

"That nonsense he did with having Martinez bring me out first, wrapping his arm around me—I saw your expression and it killed me that you thought—no, that you believed that I had slept with him, that I was on his side the entire time—that maybe I even loved him. It still hurts like hell that you would assume I did anything with him," Andrea shook her head, "—and all because of your unresolved hurt from what happened between you and Lori."

Shane turned away from her now, refusing to face her. He stared outside the window on his side, the same way she had been doing before.

"That's your baggage and you need to check it. Better yet, you need to claim it, own it, and get rid of it once and for all. I know Lori hurt you—she dropped you the moment Rick came back. I overheard everything that day outside by the church. I felt the same as you. I had to get away from that group or it would be the end of me. It would be the end of you too."

He remained silent.

"When I said put a gun in my hand and I'll cover your ass…" she stopped as she was getting choked up now. "I meant it. I meant every word that I said to you in the cemetery. So I met a guy who I thought was charming and attractive—so what, Shane? So fucking what?! At the end of the day, I'm your partner—not Philip's or anyone else's. Yours! And you're mine."

He nodded, but still wouldn't face her. She knew he didn't believe a word she was saying—and she didn't blame him. The trust between them was beyond broken. It was shattered.

"I left Rick's group with you not knowing what would happen or who we'd run into—but I knew I made the right choice. Another man making advances on me doesn't mean I'd leave you in the dust…I know…" She sighed as she pushed herself to own up to her mistakes. "I know I said and did things that made you feel I had done that to you."

She had to own it because of what had happened in Woodbury: she had ignored him for an entire week; once she had even walked down the block with The Governor and acted like Shane was invisible. This was all she could take and now the tears were streaming down her face. Andrea wasn't usually overly emotional, but their conflict had almost cost both their lives. There weren't enough adequate words for her to tell him how sorry she was and she told him this.

"I wish I could undo every stupid thing I did back there, but I can't. I tried to make up for it today. I just want you to know that I'm not Lori who will toss you aside. She was married, but she could've handled her business with you a lot better than she actually did." She tried to calm herself. "I'm not her. You compared me to her twice…the first time you were drunk and rambling…you said awful things that I don't even want to repeat because I want to forget about it all."

Shane turned to face her again. "Andrea, look—"

"I'm not finished yet!" He had to know the truth. It was the only way. "Do you want to know why I told you I was staying with him last night? Why I made it clear that I would stay in Woodbury and you'd have to leave?! Did you think it was because of all those arguments we had?! That I was trying to stick it to you on purpose?"

"'Cause you hate me."

A painful silence expanded between them. Andrea stared straight ahead and Shane picked at the steering wheel.

"Ain't that what you told him? He loved rubbin' that in my face. 'She hates you, she told me this the first night we met. She don't want you'. He said you wish you never met me."

She closed her eyes, cursing herself for that moment in time when she let those words slip out. I hate him. Three simple words that held enormous destructive power. Three words that gave The Governor permission to do as he pleased to Shane: lure Andrea away from him, steal his gun, order his lieutenants to beat him up, throw him out of Woodbury with no chance of survival…Andrea hated herself right now—more than when she had first said those three words aloud about Shane. The rest were The Governor's lies—especially that one about her wishing she never met Shane. That didn't matter. In the end, Shane was aware of the fact that Andrea had felt hatred towards him and that she had expressed it openly in front of the man who nearly had him killed.

When she didn't respond, he continued, "that's why you said our friendship was over, that we ain't partners anymore…somethin' like that."

Andrea opened her eyes, but she didn't dare turn in his direction. She was furious with him that day and the words had vomited out of her mouth before she could stop them. She had no idea that The Governor would use her words against her and Shane. She was learning more that she couldn't just say whatever she felt when she was angry. It also proved to her that The Governor was a pathological liar. When she had left Shane with Michonne that day, she had asked him how their conversation went. It went well; he's on the right track to adapting to Woodbury. She was about to say something about it, when she heard Shane speak.

"Do you hate me?"

She heard the bend in his voice. He sounded ambivalent; part of him believed she hated him, but another part of him believed she didn't. His tone indicated that he didn't want to ask that question—and he only forced himself to do so because he needed to know the truth. He didn't want the ambivalence, but he also had valid reasons for believing she hated him. Her behavior towards him at Woodbury gave that impression. If the roles were reversed, she'd come to the same conclusion. Even so, she had to make him understand that a brief emotion she felt, regardless of its intensity, didn't mean she wanted him physically harmed.

"I hated when you grabbed my arm and said certain things to me like the 'dessert' comment…I was angry at you, but I don't hate you. I never wanted him to harm you." She forced herself to look at him directly and hoped he would feel differently once all was revealed. "He threatened your life, Shane…and he forced my hand. If I didn't say I was staying and that you're leaving, he'd let Merle and Martinez keep beating you—to death." Tears ran down her cheeks. "I was in the room next to yours and I heard everything. Do you know how awful it is to hear someone you care about getting beat up—and knowing you can't do anything about it?"

Guilt was a thunderstorm and she was caught outside without an umbrella to shield her. It poured down and soaked her. As though that weren't enough she was struck with fear that he would never forgive her—that he would always hold it against her. She would understand and accept it if he did exactly that.

"I messed up—I told him things about us that I shouldn't have—"

"Did you tell him 'bout me an' Lori?"

"What?!" Andrea was surprised, but even so, her heart hammered against her ribs as her guilt magnified. She had said way more to Philip Blake than she should have…

Shane stared through the windshield now, refusing to face her. "It's a yes or no question: did you tell him 'bout me an' Lori?"

"I—"

"Reason I ask is 'cause Merle wanted to turn this," he said, pointing at the red vertical line on his cheek, "into an 'A'. Scarlet letter bullshit. 'A' for adulterer—for fuckin' another man's wife. Martinez thought it would be better as 'A' for Andrea…" Shane shrugged. "You told him that the man who cuffed Merle to a rooftop was my best friend an' that I was bangin' his wife until he showed up alive at our camp."

Andrea's mouth dropped open, but no words came out. Merle's and Martinez' cruelty astounded her, but she was angrier at herself for gossiping about Shane to Philip Blake/The Governor. Why did she ever think that he'd keep it between them? Merle and Martinez were his highest lieutenants, so of course they knew everything he knew… She closed her mouth and nodded. There was no denying or defending what she had done: expose Shane's secrets—or at least, the ones she knew—to the man who wanted Shane dead if it meant he'd have Andrea all to himself. Andrea waited for Shane's furious reaction…but it never came.

"Go on. You said you told him things 'bout us…" He gestured for her to continue.

Andrea's breathing was shaky from frayed nerves, but she forced herself to be vulnerable. "He threw everything back in my face…used it against you…I told him when you were drunk…so that Merle could get your shotgun…" She stared at her hands, pulling her fingers at times. "When he had them beat you…I pled with him to make them stop and that went nowhere. I couldn't do anything to stop it except say that I was staying. That's what he told me. I hated it…and it was all my fault…" Tears were burning in her eyes now. "I hated it because he knew I wanted to be in Woodbury—and I knew I wanted to be there…even though you wanted to leave. I had to choose between what I want for myself and your life. I want to be somewhere safe where I don't have to worry about walkers at every turn—but not at your expense, Shane." A stray tear rolled down her cheek. She composed herself and forced the last part out. "I wanted to be with you and be close to you, and he gave me that—but it was never real. Nothing about him was real. In the end, I wanted you to stay alive. I would've done anything to make sure he didn't kill you. I made a choice, knowing it would hurt you in the short-term…but that you'd live."

Shane was quiet as he contemplated everything she said. He felt like a priest listening to a parishioner confess everything they had done wrong. She had sacrificed what was most important to her so that he could still be alive. He didn't think Merle and Martinez would actually kill him on The Governor's orders, but now that Andrea had shared this…it changed everything. When he spoke again, he wasn't angry, sarcastic, or aggressive. He was subdued, unlike his usual fiery personality.

"You needn't feel guilty for that, Andrea. You did nothin' wrong. It hurt like hell when it looked like you chose him. I get it now since you explained it. I once told Rick that the right choice is the one that keeps us alive. This ain't any different."

His anger had dissolved and now he was tired. Tired and sad for what she had went through. It strained his heart just imagining what it was like to be in her shoes. Now he wished he could undo every ridiculous action and take back every hurtful word. He didn't want her to suffer like that for him. He was grateful she had his back—that she really was his partner in action and not just in name—but this was overwhelming for her and he saw that she needed to know he understood and appreciated her sacrifice. He also accepted that shutting her out and talking down to her had inadvertently pushed her into The Governor's arms. First, he'd focus on what she had done to keep him alive…the rest he would get to soon enough.

"I get it 'cause I've done worse things to keep myself an' others alive. Much worse things…"

He looked away again, unable to face her. In his mind, he heard himself say I'm sorry before he pulled the trigger and shot Otis in the leg. The horrific memories intruded as they often did. They invaded Shane's mind so that he saw the walkers devouring Otis, tearing his limbs, eating him alive while he screamed. He closed his eyes trying to unsee the horrible scene.

Andrea had a puzzled expression on her face. She was about to ask what he meant by those enigmatic words, when she decided she knew how to end this argument between them.

"We promised to be partners when we left the farm. That'd we'd always be there for each other, right?"

"Right."

"I have your back…you have mine…I'll do whatever it takes to prove that to you, to earn back your trust."

Andrea opened the door and before he could stop her, she entered the pharmacy with her gun drawn, her knife still tucked away. She was going to do the supply run by herself. It was dangerous but she had trained under him and she was confident she could handle it.

He thought of following her in there, to back her up, to show her that he cared for her just as much as she cared for him. To demonstrate he wanted to move past this hurdle. But he couldn't bring himself to do it. Sitting in the Hyundai by himself, he now thought about his reactions to seeing Andrea with The Governor, how he refused to look at her. He wished he hadn't jumped to conclusions, but it hurt so damn much, and furthermore, he hated the hurt. He hated that the first thing that sprung to his mind were Rick and Lori. Being publicly kicked out of Woodbury reminded him of when Hershel told him to keep his mouth shut in front of the group. Even so, she was right: he had to let go of this baggage. It was tearing them apart. Shane sighed, thinking of what to do and then he saw the florist shop. Grabbing his Mossberg 590, he exited the Hyundai and decided to do a different kind of supply run.

oOo

Andrea knocked the Hyundai's window on the passenger side. She had managed to get a decent amount of supplies after putting down two walkers. Band-Aids, bandage wrap, aspirin, gauze, soap, ice packs, flashlights, batteries, lighters, healing ointment, and first aid kits. She found some other useful items too. Shane reached over on the passenger side and opened the door. Without saying a word, Andrea threw the backpack of supplies on the front passenger seat. She figured she'd sit in the back to put distance between them. She meant everything she had said before, but the supply run gave her time to consider how she'd handle everything going forward. It was best not to sit near him—just for a short time until they both came down from their earlier conversation. She got in the vehicle and started towards the backseat when Shane picked up the backpack of supplies and started rummaging inside.

"Wow, Andrea…you really went to town, huh?" Shane held up a package of condoms. "Guess you don't trust me enough to handle this sorta thing on my own." He shook his head while trying to stifle a laugh.

Andrea looked at him from the backseat, her expression serious. "I'm not getting pregnant—not like..." She immediately silenced when he looked away in the opposite direction. She didn't know what to make of it, but she knew it was best to drop the topic or make it sound less harsh. "I just want us to be careful."

"I ain't gonna let that happen." He put back the box of condoms and tossed the backpack behind him, so that it landed on the vehicle's floor.

"Why'd you do that for?"

"Sit up front with me. I'm makin' room for you."

Reluctantly, she returned and sat in the front passenger seat. "Are you expecting a thank you?"

He shook his head. "Nope." He leaned down and picked up something from the dashboard. "I got other things on my run, but this…this is for you…I tried to find the right color."

Andrea took the flower from him and a small smile appeared on her face. It was a California poppy, her sister's favorite. The petals were a vibrant red. She remembered telling Shane about Amy and her love of flowers. As she turned it over, she wondered what this all meant.

"I thought you'd like it."

"It reminds me of Amy."

Amy was so peaceful, kind, and caring—Andrea missed her younger sister every day. She hated that she had died a painful death—being killed by walkers. The most difficult part was putting her down. She could feel the cold gun in her hand again just as she saw herself crying over Amy. Or hearing the inhuman growls emitting from Amy/Not Amy as her sister's body reanimated. As the images of her sister flashed through her mind, it occurred to her why Shane gave her the flower. She knew he wasn't one for sappiness or lovey-dovey gestures.

It was a peace offering.

"Thank you." She wiped away a tear. "I have something for you, too. Open your hands."

Shane waited and Andrea reached into her pocket for the electric shaver she had stashed away when she had done the supply run. She had planned to give it to him later, but now was the perfect time.

"You've been wanting to shave off your hair." She placed it in his open palm and he gently closed his hand on hers.

"Thank you." His voice had softened. He released her hands and put the electric shaver to the side. "I'm gonna use this real soon. Before that though…" He took the paper plate from the dashboard. It was filled with peanut butter and crackers. He then handed her a bottled water and opened one for himself. "I fixed us somethin' to eat. We're starvin'!"

Andrea found herself smiling as she made a peanut-butter and cracker sandwich. It felt good to feel happiness. She had experienced so much terror, anger, and sadness during the last several weeks. She was glad that she and Shane were slowly patching up their friendship—his sincerity meant everything to her. Andrea allowed herself to enjoy this new wave of optimism. She swallowed her peanut butter cracker sandwich and started to make another when she noticed Shane wasn't having any.

"Aren't you going to eat with me?"

"Maybe…right now, I'm gonna answer your questions an' put these issues to rest."

Andrea didn't let on that she was surprised, although she was curious about where Shane was going with this. "I'm all ears."

"You wanna know 'bout Lori, so I'll tell you. She treated me like a yo-yo. Pulled me towards her, pushed me away. Pull, push; push, pull. Even with Carl. 'Keep away from Carl'. 'You were so mean to Carl when you snapped at him'. 'Stay Shane' when I first thought of leavin' the group. There was no winnin' with her no matter what."

"Damned if you do, damned if you don't."

"Exactly. I jus' wanted to do right by Rick when I got her an' Carl out of there. I even tried to get Rick out of the hospital, an' that didn't work out too well. Weeks before everythin' went to hell, he had gotten shot when we went after these escaped convicts. He was in a coma when the world went to shit."

"Wow, I didn't know that at all." Andrea was shocked. She had never learned Rick's history before the first day she had met him. She remembered holding a gun at him when his noisy entrance alerted a herd of walkers. She made another peanut butter and cracker sandwich. "What happened?"

"Walkers on one end, military on the other end." Shane gestured with his hands. "An' they were killin' the livin'. We woulda both been killed…I tried to help him, lift him out of the bed. The power went out an' I listened for a heartbeat…" he shook his head. "I thought he was dead…but I also knew it was impossible to get him out of there alive."

"So what happened?"

Shane rubbed his head, feeling anxious when he relived the memory. "So I left him there…I put a stretcher in front of his room to make sure no walkers got inside."

"You did the best you could for him—you did more than what most people would do."

"Thanks, Andrea…that means a lot. She didn't think so."

Andrea rolled her eyes at Lori's reaction. "She's an ungrateful idiot."

"She said I lied to her—as if I had manipulated her the entire time, but she wasn't there. She ain't see the crazy-ass shit I saw when I went to get Rick." Shane stared through the windshield as the sun dipped into the middle of the sky. It was still light outside, but soon night would come. "She wanted no part of me after that…she told me to stay away from Carl an' I love that kid as my own."

Shane was grew quiet and Andrea found it unnerving. She was about to ask if there was more to his situation with Lori, when he continued in a low voice.

"I—I made mistakes with her." Shane sighed. It was a heavy and regretful sigh. "At the CDC…"

"What happened at the CDC?" Andrea sat up and put the plate of food between them. She remembered the icy tension between Lori and Shane after their first night there. At the time she was consumed with grief for Amy. When he didn't respond, she gently pressed him. "Shane…you can tell me."

He turned to her and she thought she saw apprehension flickering in his uninjured eye. The other was still healing slowly. He was afraid that he'd lose her after what he would reveal to her. She nodded, encouraging him to continue. He swallowed nervously and pushed himself to tell her.

"When Rick came back, I lost everythin' that kept me goin'. I love him 'cause he's my brother an' I hated him 'cause he took them back…as stupid as that sounds." Shane stared straight ahead, as he relived it in his mind. "I lost Lori. I lost Carl 'cause she didn't want me speakin' with him anymore. Rick jus' took over the group as if I was never there. Anyway, I got drunk at the CDC 'cause I wanted to be numb. I was tired of feelin' angry an' lonely—watchin' those two together was like gettin' stabbed in the heart over 'an' over again. An' I was sick of her actin' like I had cooked up some grand scheme to leave him there so I could have her to myself. See, I know Lori real well…if I had told her Rick's still alive, she woulda went up there an' gotten herself killed. Carl needed his Mom, since he already lost his Dad…"

"Is that why you were drinking in Woodbury?" Andrea asked, trying to soothe the pangs of guilt that stabbed her heart. There was so much he was revealing, but getting drunk stood out to her. She remembered walking into their apartment once and finding him sprawled on the couch. Passed out, unshaven, same clothing worn four days in a row…

"Yeah, 'cause I didn't want to think of what you an' him were doin' together or how you were blockin' me out. So I found a way to block the world out. I'm glad Michonne found me when she did or I would still be there doin' the same thing."

She swallowed the lump in her throat when she realized what it must've felt like for Shane during the week when they didn't talk. She was also thankful that Michonne helped reign him in. Michonne… Andrea promised herself that if she ever met Michonne again, she would thank her for befriending Shane when he needed it most. "I'm sorry…for what happened to us back there…"

"Sshhh, ssshhh…we'll discuss that later. I appreciate it…let me jus' finish."

She nodded. "Go ahead."

"So with Lori…all I wanted was for her to listen to me like she used to—especially 'bout the hospital. She acted like I left him there on purpose. I didn't—I had her an' Carl in my mind when I got them out of there. Better to get them to safety 'cause that's what Rick would want."

"That makes sense."

"Before Rick returned, she adored me an' I adored her. We never planned to get together, it jus' happened. When I was with her, it felt real—it was real. Everything was fallin' apart aroun' us, an' holdin' her in my arms, bein' close to her…" Shane paused as he remembered the first time he and Lori were intimate together. "It was the best thing. She knew it too. We…I might as well say it: we fucked a lot. I wanted her to want me like how she used to want me—like how I wanted her."

"I know, Shane," Andrea said and she busted out laughing. "All of us in the group knew what you two were up to. I'm not laughing at how you wanted her to want you, but the rest…" She laughed more.

He turned to her now; a mischievous grin was plastered on his face. "Damn, were we that loud?"

"We're all adults. Just like that time we came back from going out to find Sophia…Dale knew what you and I had done."

"Dale, huh? You think he wanted you like that?"

"No, we had more of a father-daughter type of bond…"

"Awww, ain't that sweet?"

"Back to your story."

"I wanted her to listen to me 'bout Rick…she thought I lied to her 'bout everythin'…I wanted back what I had with her…I wanted her to feel what she had felt before…so I grabbed her…tried to make it happen. I…she scratched me..." He turned away again and stared outside of the driver's side. "I was a sheriff's deputy before the world went crazy."

"Yes, I know…" She wondered where he was going with this since it seemed odd for him to remind her of what his career was before the outbreak.

"What I did to her—I didn't walk in there with that on my mind, but I know how it looks…I've thrown men in jail cells for…" His shame for what he had done was enormous and he was afraid to face her because her expression would reveal how she felt about him now. "I left right after she scratched me. I couldn't believe what I had almost done an' she couldn't either. I shoulda never went to see her that night, 'specially since I was drunk an' wantin' her."

"But you didn't mean to…right?"

"It ain't a matter of intentions…it matters what I almost did 'cause she stopped me. She's the woman; it's her word over mine, Andrea."

Andrea was quiet as she thought back to when she saw Shane with scratch marks and how he had brushed it off when Rick had asked him about it. "Sexual assault…rape…that's why you had those scratch marks."

"Yeah...as if I had tried to rape her. I hate myself for that night. I hate how she shitted on me once Rick came back, but I never wanted to harm her…" His voice trailed off and he still avoided looking at Andrea.

When she saw he had completely stopped, she gently prodded him. "Did you own up to it? Apologize to her and try to make things right?"

"I said I made a mistake. I shoulda told her what I'm tellin' you: I'm sorry for what I did. I'm sorry that I lost control of myself an' almost did something so awful…"

He became quiet and reached for the crackers and peanut butter. Andrea let him finish eating before asking her question that burned her mind.

"Does Rick know about it? The CDC?"

Shane shook his head. "No, but he figured out her an' I were together…I knocked her up…"

Andrea's eyes widened and she sat back against the headrest. She had no idea how to respond to that, although the more she thought about it, the more everything made sense. Now she understood why Shane hadn't left the farm right away. She remembered during shooting lessons when she had asked him what made him decide to stay. Shane hadn't answered her question aloud; instead, he had stared into the distance where Rick was with Lori and Carl. She realized when he had sat away from Morales' family at the camp, he wasn't just thinking of Lori's and Carl's safety—he was thinking of his unborn child. When he had brought back Lori to the farm and accidentally let it slip out that she was pregnant…it was because he knew the baby was his…

"That's why you wanted to stay on the farm?" She wouldn't look at him.

"Yeah." He wouldn't look at her.

"Did you tell Rick?"

"He knows 'bout it. It doesn't matter—"

"The hell it does matter! You can't just walk or ride away from that!"

Shane turned to face her now. "What if I wanted to stay? Man up an' take care of my baby, but the mother won't let me? What then, Andrea?"

"She wouldn't let you?!" Andrea wasn't surprised. In her mind, this was Lori Grimes they were talking about and this gave her yet another reason to dislike her.

"She said even if the baby's mine that it ain't gonna be mine, that it's hers an' Rick's…so…" Shane shrugged again. "Ain't nothin' I can do 'bout it…'specially with Rick sayin' the baby is his." He had turned to face the window again. "You learnin' a lot 'bout my baggage today an' I ain't even done yet." He let out a dry laugh.

"There's more?"

Andrea wasn't sure if she wanted to find out what else Shane had kept hidden from her and then decided that she wanted to know him fully. The good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Likewise, she would let him see the best and worst in her and allow him to learn about her highest points and lowest points. By the end, they would know each other better and she hoped that they would be stronger and closer for it.

Shane picked up the electric shaver. "Know why I shaved off my hair the first time?"

Andrea made a half-hearted attempt at humor. It was awkward, but she wanted to ease the growing tension. "Because you like when I caress your bald head." She was surprised when Shane didn't smile back.

"I wanna show you somethin'."

Shane placed the electric shaver on the dashboard and parted his hair to reveal a small scar on his scalp. She had never noticed it before, but now it was obvious since he was pointing it out. His hair had grown back everywhere except that area.

"What happened there?" She sounded worried now.

"Remember what I told you 'bout flippin' the switch, turnin' off your emotions?"

"Yeah…"

He stared through the windshield lost in the memories he was about to expose.

"I killed him."

"What?" She could barely him. His voice had dropped to a whisper.

"I killed him. Dale knew…"

She hoped the shock wasn't present in her voice. "…Otis?"

"At the school…lots of walkers. Went to get the supplies for Carl. Was outnumbered."

He took a deep breath and forced himself to tell the rest in complete sentences and not fragments. No matter how much time had went by, he always felt a fresh wave of intense guilt for what he had done to Otis. He spoke slowly as the memories of that traumatic night overwhelmed him. As Andrea listened, she was under the impression that he was re-living what happened that night.

"We tried to help each other get out alive. We made it outside an' he was slowin' down. I had a leg injury, they were gainin' on us. I told him to go ahead with the supplies. He didn't wanna leave me. One of us had to get those to supplies to Carl or he'd die." Shane stared through the window, keeping his focus on a bird that landed on the hood of the vehicle. "He wasn't gonna make it…so at the last moment…I shot him in the leg…I used him as bait for the walkers. When I grabbed the supplies from him, we got into a fight…he pulled out this." Shane pointed at the spot he had just shown her. "I killed him…I left him there…I shaved my hair off so that it wasn't obvious. I never wanted to kill him, but Rick an' Lori were dependin' on me to bring back those supplies that would save Carl…"

Andrea thought about what he was telling her. For the first time, everything clicked as his words reverberated in her mind. It was like fitting in the last puzzle piece so that she had a complete picture. There ain't nothin' easy about takin' a man's life, no matter how little value it may have. But when you get it done, you have to forget it. I guess I haven't quite got that last part down yet.

"I couldn't tell anyone. Patricia wanted me to speak at his memorial service. I didn't want her to suffer more, so I made him out to be a hero. I was worried 'bout all of us gettin' kicked out if Hershel found out the truth."

"I remember that." She recalled how he tried to avoid talking about Otis, but Patricia had pressed him, wanting to know her husband's final moments. When Shane finally spoke, he had averted his eyes from everyone else's and spoke in a slow awkward manner, completely uncharacteristic of him.

"The only ones who ever asked me 'bout it were Lori an' Dale…well, she said I ain't been the same since that night an' he was always in my face 'bout it. Rick confronted me when we went to get rid of that kid, he said he woulda done the same thing…Rick." Shane shook his head when he thought of his best friend.

"What about him?" Andrea knew she and Rick had clashed for the simple reason that she tended to side more with Shane. Even the situation with Randall, she had agreed with Shane. To her, Rick seemed worried about pleasing Hershel and everyone else, whereas Shane was more focused on doing what was needed to stay safe.

"I was jealous of him back at the camp when he first returned…like I told you before—I loved him an' hated him all at once. I held a gun at his back once—Dale saw me do it. I came to my senses, but it was too late. I felt he had taken everythin' from me, but truth is, none of them were mine to begin with. Lori ain't my wife, Carl ain't my son…"

Andrea noticed Shane was staring out the window again. It dawned on her that whenever a topic pressed Shane's nerves, he'd look away. Holding a gun at Rick's back, his affair with Lori, what happened at the CDC, the night he and Otis went to the school, and returning to the farm by himself because of what he had done. She was under the impression that he couldn't face her—and he couldn't face himself either. She had thought she was lonely in Rick's group, but Shane's admissions showed her that he was far lonelier than she had ever imagined. This was confirmed by his next statement.

"Now you know all my baggage. My affair with Lori—which you already knew, what happened at the CDC, that I have a baby on the way, what really went down that night when Otis an' me went to the school...that was to survive, but it don't change the fact that I killed someone…" He faced her now. "Some folks, like Dale, would say you made a mistake in comin' out here with me. They would tell you I'm a murderer, a rapist—an' what I did at the CDC, I ain't never done that to any woman in my life. God knows I've slept with plenty of women in my time, but I would never force anyone. I never have. I was drunk at the time—that ain't an excuse."

Andrea sighed as she contemplated everything he had revealed to her. Then he asked the question that she dreaded him asking. And the only reason she dreaded it was because she wanted to ask him the same question…about herself.

"So now that you know all there is…you still wanna ride with me?"

She tried to read the expression on his face, but there were so many emotions clouding it. It was hard to decipher what he was feeling. Fear was present, sadness would shift places with anger, and regret was constantly there.

"I think you know the answer to that…but first, let me ask you something."

Shane looked confused, unsure of what direction she was going in. He was about to ask, when she beat him to it.

"Can I join you? Will you let me ride with you?" When Shane didn't answer, which was completely unlike him, she explained. "I think all of us end up doing things we don't want to. We even say things we don't mean. We all have our secrets, Shane."

"Guilty as charged."

She shook her head. "I'm not talking about you, but in answer to your question: yes. Yes, I'll still ride with you…that is, if you let me."

Shane grinned now as though trying to hold back a laugh. "Why wouldn't I?"

"You know why, but you're waiting for me to say it. So here we go." Andrea took a deep breath and spoke slowly. She had made Shane unload his baggage, now it was time for her to do the same. "Back there in Woodbury, I did you wrong. I didn't listen to you when you tried to warn me. I didn't speak to you for an entire week. You were hurting the whole time, but I didn't care…and yes, I told him that I hated you…it was only that one time. I was wrong to feel it and say it—but I never said I wish I never met you. I told him that I wished I never met him when he had us in those cells…he twisted my words."

Andrea wanted to see his reaction, but she was afraid to look at him. She swallowed the lump in her throat and willed herself to keep going. If he was able to reveal the parts of him that he wanted to keep hidden for fear that he would lose her forever—then she could do the same: risk transparency and sit with the anxiety as she shared everything while not knowing the final outcome. Now she felt the same tight apprehension gripping her heart, realizing this is what it must've felt like for him when he exposed his darkest secrets.

"I saw the bottles…I watched as you slept passed out on the couch, before turning in for the night. I walked past you on the street and acted like you didn't exist. You made attempts to work things out and I ignored it all. I saw the note the first day and threw it out. I didn't read the others, I just threw them away. I even knew that you made eggs and bacon the way I like it." She almost laughed, but then became serious again. "I wanted what I wanted. I almost threw away my friendship with you to stay with him—that was before last night though."

The entire time she spoke, she played with her fingers. It was a nervous habit, much in the same way Shane rubbed his head. It was born from anxiety and she did it to try to calm herself.

"When did that change?" His tone was neutral.

"You mean when did I come to my senses? When I saw Merle holding you at gunpoint, when Philip had them beat the hell out of you." She sighed when she remembered it. "It was horrible…I couldn't do anything and he knew it. He acted like I should be happy to stay in Woodbury with him after all that. When he flat out lied about sending you out there with supplies and you had nothing except the clothes on your back…I'm sorry, Shane."

He didn't respond right away as he contemplated her words. She thought he would hold it against her when he proved her wrong.

"Apology accepted. I lost my head when it came to Lori Grimes an' you lost yours when it came to Philip Blake." His expression was thoughtful. "It happens...I don't know why it does, but it does," he said quietly.

She looked down at her hands, still feeling ashamed, although he had validated her experience.

They sat for several minutes not speaking to each other. It was unclear if they were finished or if there was more to share. Andrea thought Shane had finished, although she had more baggage to claim. She was about to break their silence when she saw Shane looking over his shoulder at the backseat. Then he turned to her with that devilish grin on his face that made her heart patter with excitement.

"What're you thinking?"

Shane shook his head. "Nothin'."

"Liar." Andrea smirked. She knew him very well.

"You got me! I was thinkin' we can make good use of those supplies that you scavenged. I was also thinkin' you don't have to ask my permission to ride with me. All our fightin' from before we got to Woodbury an' durin' our time there—water under the bridge, darlin'. We got out of that hellhole thanks to you. I mean it when I say I appreciate you bein' real 'bout everythin'. An' I'm sorry for the way I talked at you an' not to you. You been right this whole time…"

"About?"

"'Bout my presentation. I'm gonna work on it." He looked at her now and it was the most serious she had seen him. "Me shuttin' you out pushed you into his arms. If I had been more open with you an' if I had treated you better, he woulda never been able to charm you to his side…" He shook his head. "I won't make that same mistake again."

Andrea was quiet for a moment. She was astounded and appreciative that he owned his part in their conflict. "Thank you, Shane."

"Thanks for havin' my back." He flashed that grin again. "I was on the other side of the gates an' didn't see what was happenin' but Merle an' Martinez figured it out. All I heard was gunshots an' folks screamin'—an' you makin' demands! I was still angry at you, but proud at the same time. Can you be angry an' proud of someone at the same time?"

Andrea shrugged. "I think so. I was feeling that way when you drove back there and punched the hell out of The Governor."

"What're you talkin' 'bout?" He laughed as though this was the funniest thing he had heard today. "You tried to pull me off him!"

"Because it looked like the time you beat up Ed after he slapped Carol. I thought you weren't gonna stop." Andrea found herself laughing, too. "He deserved it—both guys did. I just wanted to get the hell out of there."

"I was teachin' Gov that what comes aroun' goes aroun'. Same with that bully asshole Ed." Shane's grin faded. "I have one more thing to get off my chest."

"What's that?"

"Your sister hated my guts."

"What?!" Andrea was truly shocked and shook her head. "That's not true."

"It is an' I'll tell you why although you may hate me too afterwards."

"Go on." She was curious as she didn't believe Amy hated Shane. Why would she?

"When you were doin' your supply run with Glenn, Jacqui, T-Dog, Morales, an' Merle…ya'll were late returnin' to camp…that was the day ya'll found Rick."

"So what happened?"

Shane ran his hand over his head in an effort to remain calm. "She was worried when ya'll didn't return. I told her you were trapped—that you were gone, there was nothin' we could do an' that you knew the risks. I thought I was right at the time, but I see now that I wasn't. I'm sorry, Andrea. I was cold, but figured that was the reality we were livin' in."

Andrea thought about it and she wondered if she would have a similar response if the roles were reversed. "Don't worry about it, Shane. Amy was always very sensitive." She shrugged, remembering the conversation she had with Amy about how she had to toss back the fish when she went fishing with their father. "You weren't cold about it. Imagine what the rest of the group thinks became of us. You don't see Rick sending out anyone to find us."

"Maybe he did an' we jus' don't know 'bout it."

"That's true."

"Now it's different—now I'd go find you wherever you are. No way I'd leave you behind."

"Like that crazy scene in Woodbury?"

"I'll do more than that if necessary. I shoulda gouged out his second eye."

Andrea busted out laughing again and Shane laughed too. He became serious again as he looked over his shoulder at the backseat again.

"You really want us back there, don't you?"

Shane nodded.

Andrea sighed, reluctant. "Let's go then…"

oOo

"This ain't what I had in mind, Drea, when I was thinkin' backseat. It was more along the lines of—"

"Make-up sex. Is that all you think about?"

He had reverted back to using his shortened nickname for her and her tone when addressing him was light-hearted. Andrea sat in the backseat while Shane lay on his back and rested his head on her lap as she worked on him. Rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs, band-aids, healing and antibiotic ointments, cool compresses, and the other supplies she had gathered were in the backpack. She rummaged inside until she found what she was looking for.

"I was jokin' around'…but I gotta say the view from here is mighty lovely." He watched as her chest heaved over him when she leaned over. "Make-up sex is the best part after fightin'. Love after war, girl!"

"You're in no shape to do anything except heal." She squeezed ointment on his face and rubbed it where Merle had cut him open. "Close your eyes, Shane."

"This king treatment is the best I ever received." He closed his eyes and allowed her to massage his wounds.

"It's about to get better. Take off your shirt so I can see the damage."

Andrea put the ointment aside and helped him remove his shirt. She tried not to react too strongly when she saw the bruises spread across his abs, chest, and back. They were a range of colors; bluish-purple, reddish-brown, yellowish-green and in various stages of healing.

"What happened?" The moment she asked, she already knew the answer. Merle and Martinez happened, she thought. She took out cool compresses and instant cold packs. "Hold these against your chest, I'm gonna get bandages." She handed one to him.

Shane glanced at the ice pack. "I don't need this."

"Yes, you do. This isn't a debate." Andrea found the bandages she was looking for; now she needed scissors. "What was happening on your end?"

He didn't protest as he pressed an ice pack against his chest. "They wanted to know where Michonne was an' what was goin' on with Rick an' the group. I wouldn't give up info on Michonne; she's the reason I snapped out of my self-pity."

"She's got wisdom up her sleeve," Andrea said thoughtfully, remembering Michonne's observations on passion and indifference.

"She does. Tough an' ballsy, a true friend. She'll make it out there. Anyway, I told them I don't know 'bout Rick's group an' that even if I did know, I ain't tellin'. Merle didn't like that so I got double teamed. Take it from me, Drea. It ain't fun havin' someone pull you up by your hair so that the other person can do a spinnin' heel kick on your face followed up by another kick to the ribs…but hey…whatever gets them off, right?"

Andrea wasn't sure how to respond as she took out a roll of bandages. She still felt guilty when she remembered being kept prisoner in the holding cell while being forced to listen to Shane's beating. The Governor had used twisted methods to get what he wanted from her. She was thankful he didn't make her watch it.

"They were sayin' rotten things 'bout you—'bout what The Governor would do with you an' what they were hopin' to do to you. Pissed me the hell off…I wanted to castrate those sick assholes…" Shane's voice dropped and Andrea had to lean close to hear him. "I defended your honor—I tried to."

Andrea looked at him, her expression thoughtful and sad at the same time. Now she remembered hearing Shane shouting in the other cell. "Thank you for that. That means everything to me."

"You're mine, so ain't nobody gettin' away with talkin' bad or dirty 'bout you. I mean, you're my woman an' I want you—" He stopped himself when he realized what he had said. He had finally said it and there was no going back.

She was at a loss for words. After they had arrived in Woodbury, Shane said Andrea was his. At the time, it angered her that he acted like she was his possession, especially since he made it clear when they had first left the farm that they weren't romantically together. He didn't want to open his heart and Andrea knew he was carrying leftover baggage from his situation with Lori. Now it was different since he had gotten everything Lori-related off his chest. She liked the idea of belonging to Shane as long as it was a mutual: he was hers. The words stumbled out, slow and uncertain. Having been shut down by him before, she braced herself for another rejection.

"If I'm yours…are you mine?" She thought the question sounded strange, but then again, she knew he would understand.

"Yeah…I belong to you an' no one else. That's how I want it, Drea."

They stared at each other for a few moments not saying anything. She wondered if he was going to take her, kiss her, hold her…instead he just stared in awe of her. She was the first to drop her gaze. She was about to continue the conversation when he reached for her face and brought her lower so she was leaning into him. Soundlessly, he kissed her gently on the lips. She kissed him back, making sure not to be too strong about it as he was still healing from his injuries. When she raised, she saw him in a manner that was both confident and shy. She wore the same expression. It was the excitement of acknowledging their elevated relationship status. She thought about the labels The Governor had tossed on them: "lover", "friend", "partner." Shane had used those terms too and so did she. None of it really mattered. As long as she was with Shane, and he was with her, that was the most important thing. She instinctively knew he was on the same wavelength as her.

"If that's how you want it, Shane, then that's how it'll be."

Shane nodded and then continued. "So that's what happened on my end. They made a sick game out of the whole thing, kept askin' 'bout Michonne, Rick…an' they loved seein' me get angry when mentionin' your name an' Guvnah's in the same sentence. Need to stop wearin' my heart on my sleeve…"

"I like when you wear it there for me because I know we're closer."

"That's a good way at lookin' at it."

"Why didn't you make something up about Rick's group or Michonne? They wouldn't know."

Shane shook his head. "I left Rick an' the group 'cause I didn't want to be around them, but I'm not gonna betray them. After everythin' that went down, he's still my brother."

"I'm sure he'd be glad that you feel that way. That makes you a better man than they gave you credit for."

"An' you're a better woman for takin' this journey with me."

Andrea offered him a shy smile. "Glad you think so."

"I know so."

"Okay, lift your arms—you can put down the ice pack." She wrapped the bandages around his chest. As she did, a thought occurred to her. "How come you and Otis didn't use walker guts to escape the school?"

Shane scrunched up his face in disgust. "You mean use the entrails of a walker…" He wasn't sure he heard right. "As camouflage? That's gross as hell!"

"It works, that's how Rick and Glenn first managed to escape."

Sounds similar to what Michonne did to make it out there, he thought. Put smell of walkers near you so that they smell death. "I wish I had known that back then, maybe Otis an' me 'woulda gotten out."

"Don't go backwards, Shane." Andrea taped down the bandages. She pulled out a second roll and started on his abs. "Speaking of backwards, I still have baggage to claim, so it's better we do this now," she said, wrapping the bandages around his chest now.

"Can't be worse than mine."

"That's debatable."

"Try me."

"When you and Rick went to drop off Randall, I got into it with Lori and Maggie the same day."

Shane twisted around to face Andrea. "You serious?!"

"Sit still." She turned him around again. "I'm serious. Lori had taken Beth's knife away and told Maggie what she planned to do. Suicide. She broke down after the barn incident. Remember when we thought we put her mother down and Beth turned her body over?"

"I do. She attacked Beth."

"Yeah and that led to her breakdown."

"Ohhhh." Shane sounded subdued, which came as a surprise to Andrea.

"You didn't know about this?"

Shane shook his head. "I knew we put her mother down, I never knew Beth had that reaction after."

"Well, that's what happened. She was laying in her bed, all depressed, and decided she wanted to end it all. She didn't want to live in this world the way it is now. I don't blame her. I've been where she's at."

"I know you have." His tone remained mellow.

"So Lori must've told Maggie because then they—Maggie and Beth—were arguing like crazy, that's when I told Lori that she shouldn't have taken the knife away from Beth. Beth has to choose to live on her own." She paused and tried not to let hatred enter her voice when she continued. "Lori said I shirk my chores, not washing clothes or helping out on the farm. She had the damn nerve to tell me that I sit up on the RV working on my tan with a shotgun in my lap—just because I'm not doing typical women's work: washing the laundry, cleaning, and cooking."

Shane was quiet as Andrea wrapped the bandages around his abdomen.

"So I told her off. She gets her husband and son back from the dead, has a baby on the way, and even has you on the side—"

Shane sucked his teeth, annoyed, "Why'd you drag me into your catfight with her?"

"Because she acts like she can boss everyone around, Shane! She used Glenn as her errand boy and thought she could talk down to me just because she's married to Rick—"

"What does that have to do with me?"

Andrea sighed, frustrated. "She's an ungrateful…" She hesitated before saying the word she wanted to use to describe Lori and then decided not to. "She's ungrateful, ok? She's selfish. She gets everything she wants and doesn't appreciate anything. I lost my sister and Beth lost her mother. All of us have lost somebody since this whole mess started—haven't you lost someone? Hold these bandages while I find the tape."

"I don't have much family, jus' my Grandma Jean. I'm not sure what happened to her. I went by her place an' she was already gone." Shane pressed down on the bandages.

"Oh…I'm sorry." Andrea found the tape and tore off a piece. "I didn't know…"

"S'okay." He raised his arms as she taped the bandages down. "Go on."

"She had you and didn't appreciate you, Shane. She takes her blessings for granted. If she lost people the way you, me, or Beth did, it'd wake her the hell up. Then again, it might not."

"She thought she lost Rick an' she almost lost Carl."

"But she had you to fall back on." Andrea's eyes narrowed. "She shut up when I brought you up."

Shane said nothing and Andrea wondered what he was thinking. Deep down inside, she felt jealous that Lori had Shane all this time while being married to Rick. She wasn't sure how she felt about admitting that aloud to Shane, although he had shared how he felt jealous of Rick. He probably caught on anyway. It was the most ridiculous and heartbreaking drama she had ever witnessed. Rick returned from the dead and Lori had two alpha males competing for her affection. Andrea had watched from afar as Lori played both men. It was infuriating to watch, but the most frustrating thing was knowing Shane felt strongly for a woman that had coldly dismissed him.

Andrea knew she was the better woman for Shane. She could be his equal, his partner—unlike Lori who wanted Shane to do for her, but not give back anything in return. In her view, sex didn't count as a way to "give back". Andrea felt any woman could spread their legs for Shane and based on what he had said earlier, many women had done so before the world turned upside-down. Sex was easy—she knew that too well from her own experience with him. To truly know Shane, to have his back, to challenge him while still maintaining a relationship with him—that's what she wanted and what he needed. A real partnership that was give and take. A genuine connection where they both saw and accepted the others' strengths and weaknesses and hashed things out to resolve conflicts. Not a parasitic relationship where the host was abandoned once the leech's needs were met.

"That was Lori. What 'bout Maggie?"

"I offered to watch Beth so that could Maggie could get some air. Beth and I talked and I told her the pain doesn't go away, you just make room for it. I left her after that."

She grew quiet and put down the bandages and scissors.

"What do you think happens when there's no more room for the pain?" Shane asked. "When it gets too crowded?"

"I know what happens, but I can only speak for myself…"

Shane shifted around to face her and studied her with his intact eye, waiting to hear her response.

"You end it all or you try to. It's not that you want your life to end. You want the pain to end and the only way to make it stop for good is to find a way to stop breathing. I know that's not the solution," she added quickly as though anticipating that he would lecture her about the adage: suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Andrea looked at Shane, wondering if he had experienced suicidal thoughts, especially after everything he had gone through. She asked him this.

"No…well sorta…but then I had thoughts of endin' the source of the pain…" He shrugged.

"Lori?!" She realized he was hinting at homicidal thoughts.

"No. Rick. Let's jus' say I'm glad we left when we did. I had awful thoughts 'bout him an' that kid Randall. Thoughts I can't even tell you an' that I can't say aloud."

"It's that bad?"

Shane nodded, his expression was solemn. "I wouldn't be here if I was still there. I'm not gonna try to kill you, Drea. Don't let that thought cross your mind."

She shook her head. She hadn't been thinking that at all. "I'm not gonna kill myself."

"You better not…so what happened with you an' Maggie?"

"She was furious that I left Beth alone…Beth locked herself in the bathroom with a broken glass shard and tried to kill herself, but she didn't complete it because of the pain. The pain made her want to live again."

"Is that why you're still here? The pain kept you goin'?"

She realized he was serious. "No. It was Dale."

"Like I said at the gate, that's one thing he did right."

Andrea said nothing as she put away the tape, bandages, and scissors. She searched in the bag for antibiotic ointment. She found rubbing alcohol and a small tube of Bacitracin to put on hers and Shane's wrists. They had suffered abrasions from the handcuffs.

"If she had succeeded in slitting her wrists, the blood would be on my hands…they would've said I killed her."

"It was messed up to leave her alone." For a moment, she looked hurt and he knew she had taken his remark to heart. He squeezed her shoulder affectionately. "Don't take that personal. That's my law enforcement background talkin'. Don't go backwards, Drea."

She made an attempt to smile in response to his encouragement and ended up sighing sadly. "I didn't want to take the choice away from her as Dale did to me."

"I get that, but if you really wanted to kill yourself, you woulda done it by now. Same with Beth. Someone who really wants to do it will find a way to do it. They won't always tell you. I find that the ones who say somethin' really want help. The others do too…Rick an' I ran into a lot of attempted an' completed suicides."

"Completed suicides?"

"We find the person dead—we or their loved ones are too late. We met a couple who wouldn't go down in their own basement 'cause they found their daughter hangin' on a noose she made from her soccer uniform. Can't say I blame them. They said she jus' ended it all, but she probably showed warnin' signs an' maybe they didn't realize it…"

"I see what you mean. I'm sorry you had to witness that."

"I've seen a lot in my line of work. I'm sure you've seen your share of horrors. Back to you, Beth, an' Maggie."

"I wasn't advocating for Beth to kill herself—just that she and she alone should make a decision about her own life and death. It's not Maggie's or Lori's choice to make. They're not in her shoes; they don't know what she's feeling."

"I get you."

"Maggie didn't see it that way. She was so mad that she didn't want me inside the house or near Beth again."

Andrea became quiet. She fiddled with the cotton balls and rubbing alcohol as though avoiding the rest of the conversation. Shane was quick to catch on.

"Forget Maggie, ok? She's the daughter of a delusional man who kept animated corpses in his barn, so don't worry your pretty head 'bout what she thinks."

"She slapped you that day…when you hounded Hershel about Sophia being in the barn."

"I remember that an' I didn't lay a finger on her. Jus' like when you slapped me. I didn't hit you back an' I never will."

"I'm sorry I did that." She wanted to forget that happened. She hoped he would too.

"Water under the bridge, Drea. I'm sorry I acted like a controllin' prick who doesn't respect you."

"Water under the bridge, Shane. Let's see those wrists." She turned to face Shane now and put some rubbing alcohol on his wrists and then hers.

He winced. "Can't we skip this step? It stings like hell."

Andrea giggled as she put back the top on the rubbing alcohol bottle. "Men are such babies. And to think, you wanted to have make-up sex."

"Still do." Shane sat up so that his back was against the passenger door. He watched as she took out the Bacitracin. "Let me see that."

She handed it to him and watched him read the label. "This was better," she said, referring to their real talk about everything.

"Nah, the other is better. Way better." He busted out laughing.

"They're both good, but you can have sex with someone and not have any feelings for them. No emotional attachment."

"Been there done that with plenty of women. Give me your wrists."

Andrea held out her wrists. Shane squeezed the ointment on her skin and gently massaged it over the angry red marks left by the handcuffs. She was surprised to see him handle her injuries so tenderly. She wanted to say something about it, but she didn't want to interrupt his concentration. Then she thought better of it and leaned in to kiss him when he finished. She was glad when he returned the kiss, but disappointed when he pulled away, especially since he had kissed her earlier.

"What's wrong?" She hoped she didn't sound hurt.

"My lips are puffy an' split open…" He didn't look at her as he put the ointment on his wrists. "I'm all messed up."

"So?" She knew he referred to more than the physical mess that she could see on the outside. He meant his past mistakes and poor choices that he regretted.

"So." He looked at her now with a mix of confusion and appreciation written on his face. He wasn't sure why she had kissed him, and yet, he was grateful that she saw past his "mess" to give him a loving gesture. "Thank you…no one's ever done that."

"You're welcome…can I say something about you and Lori?" She couldn't heal his wounds, but she wanted to validate him.

"You can. Jus' remove the 'and' between our names."

She nodded, understanding what he was implying. "What you felt for her…be it love, lust, or both…what you had with her was real—even if she wanted to act like it wasn't."

Shane digested what she said. "Thank you for sayin' that…it helps to know that what I felt wasn't make-believe." He wanted to offer in return something that would hopefully give her closure. "Philip, Guvnah—he was a psycho phony, but it don't take away that you were real with him. You truly liked him. He took advantage of that, but that ain't a reflection on you."

"Thank you for not holding it against me—that I didn't see what he really was until it was too late."

Both were quiet as they contemplated the validation and closure they needed about their pasts, so that they could move forward and have a future together.

"So I guess it's you an' me against the world?" Shane asked, grinning.

"It is…I wouldn't have it any other way." Andrea smiled and then remembered that she and Shane had been debating which was better: physical and sexual intimacy or emotional intimacy. "We got off track. You can have a real connection and sex adds to it, making it better," she said.

"I guess that's true for some folks…since we're on emotional stuff…were you really gonna stay in the CDC an' die there?" He found that he was tired all of a sudden. Everything was catching up to him now and he saw the sun was steadily setting for the day.

She didn't hesitate. "Yes."

"Why?" He sounded genuinely curious as he gave her back the Bacitracin to put away.

"I didn't want to live anymore." Andrea paused as memories of Dale convincing her not to stay in the CDC flashed through her mind. "I lost my sister and I was terrified of going back out there. Opting out the way Jacqui and Dr. Jenner did sounded more reasonable at the time."

Shane gestured for her to lay on him. "I'm glad you didn't opt out. Jus' so we're both clear—that ain't an option when you're with me." He yawned now. After everything that had happened yesterday and today, he would crash soon from physical and emotional exhaustion.

"I'm glad I didn't either." Andrea lay her head on his chest and listened to the soft thudding of his heartbeat. "And I won't entertain those thoughts again."

Shane didn't respond for several minutes. Andrea figured he had fallen asleep and then he said one more thing. She could hear how tired he was, but that didn't stop him from saying what he needed and wanted to say to her. After everything they had been through since the moment they had left the Greene farm, this was the one thing he knew he must impart to her. His words came out slow and in between yawns, but his message was clear.

"Don't be jealous of what I had with Lori. What I mean is…don't feel like you're second to her. You're first to me…an' you ain't her…she'd never do for me what you did today. You…you're my partner in crime. I appreciate you more than you know…jus' not good at expressin' it. I told that so-called 'Guvnah' that you have my heart." He wrapped his arms protectively around her and hugged her close to him. "I'm with you, Drea. Like we said before…I'm yours an' you're mine…I wouldn't have it any other way…"

His voice faded as sleep finally overtook him. Now Andrea felt sleep beckoning her and she welcomed it. Her hand found his and she gently interlocked her fingers with his. He responded by squeezing her hand. At first, she thought it was an automatic reflex, but the faint smile on his face said otherwise. In that brief instant before they fell asleep, both knew things had changed between them forever. Andrea felt cherished and safe in his arms and Shane was glad he finally tore down his walls to allow space for her in his heart.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

In Each Other's Arms

We have both been broken
Bent into painful shapes
We almost let those old fears
Carry over and get in our way
Every struggle just makes our love get stronger
Than it was yesterday

"No One Else" Amel Larrieux

" Terminus—those who—survive. Follow the tracks—all lines intersect.

There are maps—guide you—journey. Sanctuary—Community—all."

The advertisement on the radio was difficult to hear because of the static crackling over the woman's voice and the buzzing as Shane shaved off his hair with the electric razor Andrea had found him.

He was glad she had remembered to scavenge for batteries. The buzzing sound stopped for a few seconds as Shane turned up the radio louder and then he resumed shaving off his hair. He used one hand to remove the loose hair. Thick dark curls fell on his lap. Opening the door on his side, he brushed the hair off onto the ground. Just as quickly, he shut the door and continued shaving, removing any stray hairs. The rearview mirror was the only way for him to check that he was finished. He looked as he did after that night at the school and ran his hand over his cleanly shaven head. This was much better and how he preferred it. His finger lingered over the area on his scalp where Otis had torn out his hair—it was still there, but this time, it didn't haunt him as much as it used to.

"All finished, darlin'. Let's hear what this lady is tellin' us."

In the backseat, Andrea rummaged through her shoulder bag and pulled out a blue knit sweater to wear. She had found it in an abandoned clothing store when they scavenged for supplies a week ago. They were parked along the side of a dirt road under several trees and the temperature had dropped overnight. As she put her hair in a ponytail, she smiled when she remembered the night before when they lay in each other's arms and fell asleep holding each other. It seemed like every intimate moment outdid their last and their time together seemed much longer than it actually was…

Two months had passed since their escape from Woodbury. They had driven by a prison during that time, but Shane didn't want to reside at a place where people he had arrested would most likely be. He had mentioned to Andrea that Michonne had ventured there to see if the rumors were true: a group had cleared it out. From there, they kept driving up north.

During that time, things improved greatly between them. Ever since their partnership had morphed into a romantic relationship, their intimacy had been stronger and lasted longer. He took his time with her and made sure she was satisfied. Before, he had been about himself: he got off, while leaving her to enjoy it, but not savor it. Now it was different and he made sure she was fulfilled. Their desire to please each other was mutual. And the intimacy wasn't always sexual—sometimes it was exactly like last night where they held each other in a tight embrace. This was special as they didn't get to do it often since one would act as the look-out if the other was asleep.

There was also less fighting and more open communication and understanding between them. Without Shane admitting it aloud, Andrea noticed he cherished their emotional connection as much as the physical and sexual aspects of their relationship. There was more real talk and honesty between them, whereas before there had been broken communication and dark secrets. All the changes elevated their relationship and added to their growing bond. Most importantly, they checked in with each other. Andrea had finished tying her shoelaces when Shane checked in with her.

"What you think 'bout what that lady is sayin'?"

"What's that?" Andrea had been lost in her thoughts about their relationship. She leaned forward and kissed Shane's exposed neck.

He chuckled. "That tickles, Drea. For real though, this lady's talkin' 'bout 'community for all' an' 'survival'. Sounds like she's talkin' 'bout that map we saw several days ago."

"Terminus?"

"Yep." Shane tried to get the radio to play the advertisement more clearly. Then it came out: "Terminus—those who arrive survive. Follow the tracks to the point where all lines intersect. There are maps at the crossings to help guide you with your journey. Sanctuary for all. Community for all."

"Sounds too good to be true, but that's just my two cents. If you wanna check it out—"

"I don't—I'm jus' makin' sure we're on the same page."

"No more communities, Shane. Just you and me."

"I love the sound of that. Let's keep it movin'."

Shane put the Hyundai drive and Andrea situated herself in the front passenger side. She knew Shane wanted to keep going north. Their goal to reach Maryland remained the same although they didn't always openly discuss it. She wasn't sure where they were now, but she had a feeling they had left Georgia after escaping Woodbury. Andrea hadn't seen any recent signs indicating they had crossed a state line, but then again, she was sleeping when Shane drove. Other times, he slept while she drove. At times, they stayed awake especially if they were crossing into unfamiliar territory. She reached for Shane's right hand while he steered with his left hand and smiled when he turned to grin at her when she interlocked her fingers with his. They would drive for several more hours and then sleep in the vehicle.

oOo

The roaring fire had died down to a few wispy flames. It was enough to keep them warm and provided light for Shane to watch Andrea sleep during the night. Shane had wanted to stay in the Hyundai in case they needed to drive off if a threat presented itself. Andrea had convinced him to camp outside so they could stargaze together. They had rarely done so ever since leaving the farm. She was tired though and in no time, she fell asleep. Thankfully, they had found a small clearing near a forest to stay for the night—after turning around and driving in the opposite direction when they ran into a huge herd of walkers.

Their system worked well and similar to their driving patterns: when Shane was asleep, Andrea would keep guard. When Andrea was asleep, it was Shane's turn to stay on guard. After they took turns sleeping, they would resume driving again. The hours had flown by and now the sun's rays peaked over the horizon. A new day was starting and he looked down at Andrea, curled up in front of him and still asleep. Some of her hair had fallen over her eyes. He gently brushed it aside and leaned down to kiss her forehead. Andrea didn't stir, but Shane heard it the moment he sat up again—a twig snapped behind him. Shane whipped out his Glock 17 and aimed it at the man standing in front of him.

"Ain't that sweet: two lonely people wanderin' aroun' in the woods, keepin' each other company." The man let out a throaty chuckle. "Two lil lovebirds takin' care of each other."

Shane was face to face with a middle aged man who had scraggly gray hair and a beard. The man brandished a machete and held it directly in Shane's face. The oddest thing was the machete's handle: it was bright red. Not blood red or cherry red, but firetruck red. Just as Shane's fingers wrapped itself around the trigger, he and Andrea were surrounded by six more men. He looked down and saw Andrea turn over. His heart drummed inside his chest. He didn't want Andrea to wake up and find them trapped by a gang of men. One of the men wouldn't stop leering at her and Shane could tell by his smug expression what the man was thinking. Shane glared at him and the man looked away.

"What were you before the world went to hell? A football coach? Construction worker? Personal trainer?"

"Try Deputy Sheriff, you piece of garbage."

The man grinned, amused. "So you used to be a pig, huh? Once a pig, always a pig."

The men laughed and three of them sauntered over to where the Hyundai was parked several feet away. Shane didn't look in their direction when he heard them open the door on the driver's side. He was glad he had the foresight to not leave all their weapons in the Hyundai. The Mossberg 590 was carried with a sling, the Glock 17 was tucked in his pants, and his SOG seal knife rested in a thigh holster. Andrea carried her weapons the same way.

"These wheels will take us far, Joe!" one of the men called out.

Shane quickly glanced in their direction and then at the man who still held the red-handled machete in his face. He figured "Joe" was the leader of the pack. Joe looked to the side and nodded, acknowledging what had been said and immediately redirected his attention to Shane.

"Are we gonna do this all day?" He sounded bored.

"Don't have to." Shane shook his head. "I can shoot you right now."

"I'll bury my machete in your head before you finish pullin' the trigger."

"Stand down."

"You're outnumbered. It'd be better for you an' your lady friend if you took your own advice."

"I ain't advisin'—I'm tellin' you to stand down." Shane kept the man in his sights, waiting for him to back off.

Joe stared at Shane for what felt like an hour. Then he flashed a wide plastic grin. "Alright, you win. How 'bout we join you?" He plopped down on the grass and sat across from Shane. He gestured for the other three men to join them. One man shook his head, while the other didn't respond, but went to stand behind Shane. The third man stayed next to Andrea.

Shane said nothing and still kept his Glock 17 trained on him.

Joe glanced at Shane's Glock 17 and chuckled. "I'm a reasonable man, willin' to compromise. Just know that if you pull that trigger, my men will be your personal firing squad—so let's be friends. That way we can avoid unnecessary bloodshed." Joe's voice was louder now and Andrea woke up. "I forgot to add the condition: we can be friends…after we claim your pretty lady." He pointed at her with his machete.

Andrea's eyes widened when she saw the machete aimed at her. Realizing that she and Shane were completely surrounded, she immediately sat up and positioned herself close to Shane. He heard her and wrapped his free arm around her waist in a protective manner.

"What's going on? Who the hell are these guys?!" Andrea looked from Shane to the man pointing the machete.

Joe's wide smile didn't reach his eyes. "I was jus' kiddin'."

"I ain't laughin' an' she ain't one to be claimed. Not by me or anyone. She's her own woman." Shane glanced at Andrea, noticing her cold stare. He was glad she wasn't intimidated by Joe's nonsense.

Joe turned in Andrea's direction. "Is that true, Miss? That you're jus' a single lady hangin' around with this random guy who used to write speedin' tickets for fun? For yours an' especially his sake, I hope he's tellin' the truth 'cause I hate liars."

The men surrounding them laughed, thoroughly entertained by Shane's assertions.

"What the hell do you want from us?"

"That ain't ladylike, talkin' all mean. Nor did you answer my question, but I'll let that slide for now." Joe held up his machete and the sunlight hit the blade's stainless steel. He turned it in different directions, admiring his weapon. "I wanna share what you got. Seems you've got plenty to spare in your wheels. Way more than you need for two people an' you know what they say—sharin' is carin'."

"Her an' I share 'cause we care for each other. That's the extent of our sharin'."

"You're selfish to not extend sharin' to your guests—an' when're you gonna put away your toy gun?" Joe used his machete to gesture towards Shane.

"You ain't our guests." Shane kept his Glock 17 trained on Joe. "When you lay down your machete."

"When are you gonna leave?" Andrea asked him point-blank.

Joe looked from her to the Hyundai and back to her again. A sly smirk crossed his face and he nodded. Andrea looked behind him and noticed the men lingering near the Hyundai. All their supplies—all the food, clothing, bottled waters, and medicine they had scavenged were in the vehicle. Their supplies from Woodbury had dwindled although they made sure it lasted a long time. Everything they had now were items they had gathered over the past month.

"As soon as you an' your trigger-happy friend give up the goods. We'd like a quarter of what you got. How 'bout half? Or maybe the whole damn thing…"

"We're not sharing anything." Although she didn't waver on the outside; inside, Andrea's heart was slamming against her chest over and over. She had a bad feeling about these men, especially with the way they stayed near the Hyundai and kept glancing at her and Shane. She knew they were being set up. Her throat felt like it had been stuffed with cotton and she swallowed hard, trying to maintain her brave stance.

"The missus told you right," Shane said, backing her up. "We ain't sharin' any damn thing. You got all these men followin' you, so use your resources."

Joe smirked. "What resources?"

Shane looked all around him and then back at Joe. "The guns ya'll are totin'. Don't look at me with that stupid lopsided grin. Put 'em to work, let 'em do supply runs so ya'll get what you need."

"That's not how it works." Joe stood up. "You got things we want—an' we're claimin' it as ours whether you like it or not."

Shane bolted to his feet, his face reddened with rage. "You ain't touchin' our shit!"

"That right there is a lie—I told you I hate liars, but you were too busy listenin' to your yappin'." He motioned to the two men standing near Shane. "Teach him, boys. Teach him all the way."

Before Shane and Andrea knew what was happening, he was yanked backwards by his shirt's collar and punched across the face. His grip loosened on the Glock 17. He whipped around to attack whoever had punched him and got kicked in the stomach—hard. It was like a twenty pound weight had been dropped on his abdomen. Andrea was pulled off the ground. He heard her shouting his name and then there was scuffling. The other man who had attacked him now yanked her up by the hair and forced her to stand, the same way Martinez had done to him in Woodbury. He heard punches exchanged followed by a yelp of pain that was quickly cut off. When Shane looked up, Andrea's head hung down, blood seeping from her lips. One of the men wiped his face where she had punched him. The skin around his left eye was red and irritated—Andrea didn't deliver prissy punches, hers were meant to cause damage. Shane could tell Andrea had wanted to do more to defend herself: her arms hung limply at her sides, but her fists were still clenched tightly.

"Don't ever put your hands on me again, you stupid bitch!" The man's arm snaked around Andrea's waist. "Next time it'll be worse," he snarled in her ear.

At the sight of Andrea bleeding, Shane swiftly tackled the man to the ground. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Andrea fall backwards, hitting the ground, still woozy from being punched so hard. Despite the pain, his adrenaline and rage was on overdrive. If there was one thing Shane hated, it was men who abused women. He snatched the man's collar to hold him in place and slammed his face over and over. He had done it to Ed when he hit Carol and now he would give this lowlife the same treatment. In between punches, Shane saw the man trying to block the blows which only infuriated him more and fed him energy to keep pounding the man's face. Blood stained his knuckles and he didn't even hear himself when he heaped threats.

"Put your hands on my woman again an' I'll rip off your balls, asshole!"

The man's head lolled to the side and Shane landed one final punch on the man's nose before getting up and checking on Andrea. He pulled her up, trying to steady her. She was wobbly on her feet and her heart was starting to calm down when she saw their Hyundai burst forward. They watched in shock as they realized that they had been distracted on purpose. The two men who had taken down Shane were crowded in the Hyundai along with their friends. Joe drove the vehicle while another man stuck his head out of the window and shouted at them.

"CLAIMED!"

"Claimed, my ass," Shane growled, aiming his Glock 17. "CLAIM THIS!"

He shot at the tires of the Hyundai and the back window. Andrea flinched when she heard a cacophony of glass shattering, squealing tires, and a metallic smash when the Hyundai crashed into a tree. They didn't wait around to see if Joe or any of his men would crawl out of the vehicle, alive, injured, or intact. Nor would they risk trying to get their vehicle even though it had all their supplies.

Shane grabbed Andrea's arm and they ran into the forest.

Men's shouting and the thunder of gunshots filled the air. They heard Joe yelling and cursing as he and his men chased after them. They kept running and dodging around trees, trying not to trip on overgrown roots and weeds. One fall was all it would take to slow them down so that Joe's gang caught up to them. They ran until they reached the top of a grassy hill that overlooked the forest floor. Andrea stopped to catch her breath and Shane looked over his shoulder. It seemed they had lost Joe's gang. He quickly found out that Joe wasn't far behind when a gunshot boomed behind them. Still holding Andrea's arm, Shane led the way and carefully got them down to the bottom. There was a small ravine and they hid there. Above them, Joe yelled at them to show themselves.

"COME OUT AN' WE'LL FINISH WHAT WE STARTED!"

Without meaning to, Andrea let out a cry of fright. Shane clamped his hand over her mouth. They listened as the men walked over them.

"Let the cannibal corpses get 'em." Joe called out. After several minutes, there was silence.

When Shane was certain Joe's group was gone, he released Andrea and she turned to face him. Before he could say anything, she looped her arms around his waist and hugged him tightly. He held her close to him as they calmed down. After some time, she let him go.

"You okay?" Shane asked. "That was a close one."

Andrea nodded as she leaned against the wall of the ravine, catching her breath. Her lungs burned from running so fast and being out of breath. When she touched her jaw, it felt puffy and swollen. She didn't hold it tightly because it throbbed painfully. Processing the violence she had experienced from Joe's group added to the heart-hammering stress. She pushed the thoughts away, hoping to forget about the awful situation. She didn't have enough time to figure out how she was going to erase the horrific memory of what happened because she heard the familiar growling of walkers. Wasting no time, she snatched her fixation bowie knife from her thigh holster and jammed it into the walker that had wandered over. She watched as the walker sank down to the mud.

Shane looked around and saw two more walkers shambling over to them. He waited until they were closer before using his SOG seal knife to put them down. They collapsed on top of the first one. Just as the walkers hit the ground, they heard scraping and groaning nearby. Andrea inched herself outwards to see where it was coming from and immediately joined Shane again. Without a word, she dropped to the ground and rolled the first walker onto its back. She stabbed the walker and dragged the fixation bowie knife downward, opening the chest as though she planned to dissect it.

"What're you doin'?" Shane sounded confused as he watched her plunge her hands into the corpse.

"Doing what Rick and Glenn did in Atlanta." Andrea scrunched up her nose as she pulled out the viscera with her bare hands and smeared it all over her clothes.

"I ain't doin' that." He backed away.

"You don't have a choice—there's a herd heading in our direction and this is the only way out." Andrea cut open the second and third walker. Before Shane could protest, she spread blood and guts all over his clothes. "Let's go."

Andrea held out her hand and Shane took it as they stepped out together. The hoard of walkers was approaching fast. They stumbled forward, several of them hitting trees in the forest and others stepping around. They were a hundred feet away and getting closer the entire time they shuffled towards them.

"Come on," Andrea whispered, trying to prod him forward.

She took one step and her hand slipped out of Shane's. The blood had made their grip slippery. Andrea interlocked his fingers with his so that their grip was tighter and they wouldn't be separated. She tried again and turned to Shane who stood frozen in place.

"We ain't gonna make it." He stared straight ahead at the advancing herd. "Go on without me."

Andrea looked at Shane, trying to figure out why his survival instincts had died. Just moments ago, he was beating up Joe's men and racing through the forest with her. They had ran for their lives and made it out together. Now he wouldn't budge. Then it hit her: Shane was having flashbacks of the night him and Otis were at the school. Whether he was paralyzed involuntarily or purposely not moving, she didn't know, but she knew that if they didn't start walking, they would both get devoured alive by the oncoming herd.

"I'm not losing you today, Shane." The walkers' groaning flooded her ears, forcing her to move. She took another step and was overwhelmed with relief when he took a step with her. "Follow my lead."

They started walking just in time as the herd was upon them. The undead were in front of them, behind them, and next to them. The stench of feces and rotten eggs—decomposition—made Andrea nauseous, but she forced herself to continue on for Shane's sake. She noticed that he walked slowly, almost hesitating at every step, but at least he was moving alongside her. They imitated the slow unsteady gait of the walkers for what seemed like an eternity. After some time, the herd moved on ahead, oblivious to the living imitators amongst them. Shane and Andrea watched as the hoard of walkers continued onward, doomed to walk the earth until they were put down by the living or had decomposed completely, whichever came first.

Andrea turned around, making sure there were no stray walkers around. They were surrounded by silence which was only punctuated by birds calling out to each other and the wind sweeping through the forest. When she faced Shane again, he embraced her in a strong hug. She hugged him back, forgetting that they had human entrails and blood all over them. He didn't seem to care as he didn't let her go. To her surprise, she felt his body trembling in her arms. Then she heard him whisper in her ear.

"Drea…" He paused, uncertain of how she would respond and then pushed himself to express the words he had been longing to say to her. "I love you…I think you love me."

Andrea squeezed him tightly. "I always have, Shane."

As they stood together in the forest, holding each other, but not speaking, Andrea was struck on what she had just learned about Shane. It wasn't his declaration of love, although Shane telling her he loved her meant so much to her that she didn't have the right words to express how she felt. She thought her response was inadequate although it was the truth: she had always loved him—she just wanted to be sure that he felt the same way about her. Still, this wasn't what shocked her into silence. It was his personal demons that weighed on her heart. He had never dealt with the trauma and guilt of what he had done to Otis. He had told her about it, but telling her wasn't the same as forgiving one's self and it didn't absolve him from what he had done. She was about to ask him about it when he released her.

"Let's find water to wash this stuff off," Shane said.

Andrea nodded. She took his hand in hers as they walked through the forest. While they searched for a river or stream, she decided to bring it up.

"You never forgave yourself for what you did to Otis?"

He said nothing and continued walking.

"Shane? I asked—"

"I heard you the first time." He sounded sad, not angry.

"Why haven't you forgiven yourself?"

Shane stopped in his tracks and released her hand. He turned to her and she gasped when she saw the haunted expression in his eyes. He was physically present with her, but not emotionally present. He was still at the school the night he had shot Otis.

"Can you do undo takin' another person's life? Can you un-kill them?"

Andrea stared at the trees beyond Shane and then faced him. She shook her head. "No…you can't."

"Then you can't forgive yourself."

Shane resumed walking, unaware that Andrea stood in place, watching him go on alone. The image of Shane walking through the forest by himself represented who he had become after that night at the school: a loner. When Andrea started walking again, she made a note to herself to talk to him more about this. Although Shane might shut down the topic as he had done with other subjects that he didn't feel comfortable delving into (such as his past relationship with Lori), she still wanted to convince him to forgive himself. He had eventually opened up and let go of his past relationship with Lori, so Andrea believed he would be able to forgive himself for killing Otis.

oOo

It was late afternoon when they came across a stream. Shane led Andrea by the hand into the water. Together, they helped each other wipe off the guts from their clothes. They stayed near the bank of the stream as they followed the currents. When they got out of the stream, they were soaked head to toe, but it was better to be drenched in water than covered in human entrails. Andrea noticed wild flowers growing on the land and the fish swimming in the stream. Seeing the fish reminded her of Amy and how her father had taught them how to catch fish, including setting up the rod. She was about to tell Shane that she could catch fish for them to eat when he pointed ahead at a waterfall.

"Look at that," he said.

It was the first time he had spoken to Andrea after telling her that she couldn't forgive yourself if she killed someone. The entire time they had walked through the forest, he had remained silent. She didn't know when she'd bring up the subject of forgiving himself for killing Otis. Maybe if she went along with where he was at now, she'd have her chance.

"You tunin' me out?"

"Huh?"

Shane grinned. "I'm talkin' to you 'bout checkin' out the waterfall an' your head's in the clouds."

"They're not in the clouds, Shane."

"No? So let's go see what's there. Maybe a cave or somethin' where we can spend the night. I'm tired as hell. We ain't got our wheels or our supplies, thanks to those assholes."

"I can catch fish for us to eat."

"I'd love that—I'd eat anythin' right 'bout now."

"Let's see the waterfall first."

Shane grasped Andrea's hand as he led her to the waterfall. As they got closer, Andrea was amazed at how calming it was to hear the waterfall as it poured down into the stream. She looked down at Shane's hand, noticing how his fingers interlocked with hers. A word flashed through her mind: interdependent. He wouldn't be able to survive without her and she wouldn't be able to survive without him. They needed each other, she was certain he knew it even if he didn't say it aloud.

A short time later, they reached the waterfall. Shane stared up at it, mesmerized at how the sunlight caused the water to sparkle. Andrea allowed him to lead her behind the waterfall. Sure enough, there was a cave and it was sufficient enough that they could spend the night—or several nights there if they chose. They climbed on the rocks and sat in silence for several minutes. Andrea tried to make herself comfortable and leaned against the rocky interior of the cave. From where she sat, she could see the water pouring down in a solid sheet. She was distracted when she heard Shane taking off his combat boots. She turned in his direction and watched as he shook them to get all the water out.

"I was gonna take off my clothes too; they're soppin' wet."

"We can build a fire to dry them off." Andrea offered.

"True, we could, but right now, I want you with me."

He scooped her up in his arms and positioned her so that she was straddling his lap with her legs wrapped around him. She shivered as her body temperature dropped. It didn't help that her clothing was still soaked from earlier. Shane enveloped her in his arms, holding her close to his body to keep her warm. She felt both exposed and safe at the same time and wondered if he felt the same way. Based on what he said next, it confirmed for her that he did.

"You're my woman an' my best friend. You mean everythin' to me, Drea…you know that, right?" He caressed the bruise on her jaw where she had been punched. The skin was a sickly blackish-blue color. "Do I mean everythin' to you?"

"You don't have to ask me that." Andrea stared into his dark eyes that sought her validation. "You know the answer already." She smiled when his fingers gently massaged her jaw. "I'll tell you anyway: you're my favorite person."

Shane let out a self-assured chuckle. "Your 'favorite person'? Is that the same as havin' a favorite color?"

"Kind of. You want to use your favorite color for your clothes, your home, your car—you let your favorite color become one with you. I had a guidance counselor in middle school whose favorite color was purple. Everything she wore was purple. Shoes, pants, skirts, blouses, hats, nail polish, and jewelry. Her office furniture was purple, she had purple notepads, paperclips, pens, and stick-it notes."

"She sounds obsessed."

"No, she was passionate. It's the same thing as having a favorite person. That person permeates your life. They get in your thoughts and emotions. Your body, your soul, your heart, your mind…everything. They become part of you."

"I like that. I permeated your life?"

Now Andrea laughed. "Yes, you did! Or more so, you're permeating my life. Present tense."

A half-smile lit Shane's face and then faded. "You sound really happy…not sure why."

"What do you mean?"

Shane looked at her strangely. "They punched the hell out of you, Andrea. I was afraid they were gonna do worse than that. You ask me 'bout Otis, but you said nothin' 'bout what those assholes did."

Andrea turned away from him now, wanting to avoid him. Wanting to find out why he still harbored guilt about what he had done to Otis seemed easier to talk about, than what had happened to her. She had never been punched by a man before and when it happened today, it reminded her of Ed abusing Carol in front of her, Amy, and Jacqui. She wanted to avoid the topic altogether and block out the attack in her mind—but she couldn't fully block it out because her heart slammed against her chest ever since the incident happened.

Even when she was trying to get Shane through the herd of walkers, her heart was still pounding in her ears like a war drum. Helping him walk through his own trauma temporarily distracted her from dealing with her own, but now that he was asking her directly, everything flooded back, overwhelming her. The red hot pain when she had been yanked up by her hair—she thought her scalp would rip off. The surprise when the man's fist had landed square in her face—she was afraid he had knocked out her teeth or broke her nose. Everything was happening so fast at the time that she couldn't tell. Oddly enough, she remembered praying, although she wasn't sure what she believed in anymore. She had prayed that the worst they would do was punch her in the face—that they wouldn't go further…She couldn't complete her thoughts—she didn't want to—even though Shane had mentioned it in a roundabout way.

Talking about the violent assault would bring back that choking fear that she didn't want to confront. She wanted to change the subject or at least, move forward, but she knew Shane was serious because he called her "Andrea" and not just "Drea". His tone showed concern for her emotional state after such a terrifying attack.

"Look at me, darlin'." He gently turned her to face him. "I would never let anyone harm you. Not even close—I almost killed them."

Andrea looked perplexed now. "So why didn't you?" She wondered if him not killing Joe or any of the men had anything to do with how he felt about killing Otis.

"Not sure. I know I can turn off the switch an' do it, but I didn't. Guess I thought it'd be better for us to get the hell out of there an' not give them more ammunition to hunt us down. We already gave 'em plenty when I shot our wheels." He looked around the cave they were in and then focused on Andrea again. "One day they're gonna fuck with the wrong people an' Joe's gonna get his jugular ripped out."

"I'd love to see that."

"You an' me both."

They were quiet for some time. Andrea didn't know what to say to break the silence. It was Shane who broke it.

"Those assholes made us have a crappy beginnin' of the day, but that don't mean we can't have a good endin'."

"I guess you're right…" She felt uncertain about what he was saying, but she went along with it. She was tempted to tell him that being punched in the face and then watching him get punched and kicked as a distraction so that Joe and his gang could steal their Hyundai and supplies—calling it a "bad day" minimized the gravitas of what had occurred. Or maybe he was like her and wanted to continue onward and not let it bother him.

Her hand automatically went to his head to run her fingers through his dark curls only to stop short. How had she forgotten that he had shaved off his hair this morning? Was it this morning? So much had happened to them in a matter of hours. It was hard to believe it was still the same day. She also thought he had a tougher demeanor without his hair. She had meant to tell him that this morning after he had finished shaving it off. She didn't know why she thought it and chalked it up to how different he acted after that night at the school. Shane was hardened after that night, but now she knew the reason why.

"It'll grow back. Right now, that's how I want it." He tilted his head, indicating he wanted to keep it bald. "An' this is how I want us."

"How do you…?"

She lost her words and a deep moan escaped her lips when she felt him gently kissing her neck. Every time his lips met her skin, a tingling sensation followed. His hands slipped under her sweater as he began slowly massaging her back. She arched her back and allowed her chest to press against his as she held him tighter. As his lips made a cool trail around her collarbone, she was dimly aware of the gnawing hunger in her stomach. That could wait. She had other needs that were being tended to by him. She was trying to make herself enjoy what he was doing when he stopped and a puzzled expression flashed across his face. He felt conflicted about continuing and what he said next confirmed this:

"This don't feel right after what happened today."

Andrea stared at him, not wanting to respond.

"Don't do this now." When she still didn't answer, he sighed and ran his hand over his head, trying not to let anxiety get the best of him.

"Don't do what?" She finally asked.

"Don't shut down on me."

"I'm not—you're the one who stopped."

"'Cause this ain't right. I don't feel right doin' this an' I don't know how you feel 'bout it."

She shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant. "I feel okay."

"But you ain't speakin' 'bout what they did," he repeated.

"Because I want to forget it happened, Shane. You can continue." She hugged him. "I was afraid when it happened, but…" She lost her words. Soon her entire body was trembling and she wished she could shut down the fear that was taking over her. "After they punched me, I …" She shook her head not wanting to finish that thought. It didn't happen so it didn't make sense to imagine the worst scenario, but as a woman, that fear was always in the back of her mind. Ever since the outbreak, society was broken more than ever and it brought out the absolute worst in some people.

"What is it? Tell me."

Andrea closed her eyes. "I was scared out of my mind!" She hoped she didn't sound angry with him—she wasn't. She was mad at them. When she opened her eyes, she looked down, as though feeling ashamed of her own fears.

Without her saying so, Shane caught on. "I'm sorry...I…"

He wanted to say more to her, but he wasn't sure what would make her feel better. The more he thought about it, the more he realized nothing he said would help. All he could do was be present with her. He knew that as a man, he didn't carry the same fears that she did that involved sexual assault and rape. It didn't mean that it couldn't happen to him. Joe's group were predators and he was certain they'd rape and kill anyone who got in their way—women, children, and possibly men. From the instant they had surrounded him and Andrea, Shane knew they were calculating who they would target first. The violent attack on Andrea was terrifying enough; and he understood now that her fear was of the physical violence escalating to sexual violence.

Another long silence passed.

"I feel safe with you." Her voice cracked as sadness finally broke through. Against her will, a single tear made its way down her cheek. She smiled weakly when Shane gently wiped it away. "I feel okay with you and me…"

"Are you sure? We don't have to do anythin' that you don't want to."

"I want us to be happy," she whispered.

"I would be happy jus' holdin' you, Drea, if that's what you want."

She didn't respond for a while and he was about to ask again when she nodded.

"You can hold me…but if I tell you it's okay to go on, will you…?" She didn't even know how to phrase her request or finish her sentence, but he understood. She was grateful that he got her without her speaking her thoughts aloud.

"I will, but only if it's what you want."

She closed her eyes when his muscular arms encircled her, squeezing her close to him. When she remembered being yanked to her feet and punched in the face, Andrea's body felt encased in ice. Now with Shane holding her, she felt like she was basking in the sun on a warm summer day. She loved when he held her like that. It made her feel like he was there to protect her, that he would do anything to shield her from harm. She knew she could defend herself and he knew it too, but it didn't mean that she wanted to push him away from wanting to keep her safe. They sat like that for quite some time, embracing each other. The only sounds in the cave were their gentle breathing and the calming rhythm of the waterfall. After some time, she gathered her nerve and whispered in his ear.

"Go ahead...you can…"

She wanted him because she loved him. Most of all, she wouldn't give those disgusting predators power over her. She wouldn't allow them to steal her joy and happiness that she was alive.

"Are you sure?" He whispered back.

She took a deep breath. "Yes."

Slowly, he began massaging her back again. Even when he stopped briefly to remove her sweater (which she helped him with by raising her arms), he didn't rush anything. He took his time, allowing her to relax. He hypnotized her with his fingers that knew how much pressure to apply and where on her body she felt the most pleasure. She closed her eyes, allowing herself to fall into a trance as she gripped his shoulders. Her body had been tense before, but now she relaxed under his touch, knowing he intended to continue until their bodies were fully satiated.

"Tell me what you want an' it's yours…you're in control, got it?" His whisper was soothing and his message was comforting.

"Okay…" She was grateful that he gave her the power.

Although she would've been content to simply let him hold her, the truth was she wanted him just as much as he wanted her. She felt safe in his arms as though the entire world could fall apart around them and they would still have each other. Most of all, she wanted to forget the terror they had experienced earlier. She knew he felt the same way. As he had told her, just because a day started off bad didn't mean it had to end that way. While it was certainly true that what had happened to them was much more than a "bad day", she realized that telling him her fears helped her to deal with it better. What he was doing now was proof to her of how much loved and respected her. He was secure in himself to hand over the power…and even share the power. They had each other and they would love each other, allowing today's earlier events to fall to the wayside…

oOo

Night had fallen and the sky was black with glittering stars. Crickets and birds made natural music. In the cave, Andrea and Shane lay curled up together near the small fire that he had started several hours ago. Their clothing was dry and they were warm and cozy. Andrea had caught six fish in the stream. They had split the bounty and cooked the fish on sticks. It was a small meal, but enough for tonight. Andrea planned to catch more fish tomorrow. Right now, she was tired and wanted to sleep, but she couldn't. She kept hearing Shane's words echoing in her mind: Can you do undo takin' another person's life? Can you un-kill them? Then you can't forgive yourself. Andrea knew she wouldn't be able to rest until she confronted him about it.

"We need to talk." She slowly pulled away from him as she had been resting her head against his chest. She wanted to face him for this conversation.

"'Bout what?" His tone was a mix of curiosity and concern.

"Otis."

"No." Shane looked in the opposite direction, refusing to face her. "We ain't talkin' 'bout that."

"Why not?" She was tempted to ask him why it was easier for him to be sexually intimate with her, but not emotionally intimate. Even though Shane had opened up about nearly everything, he still had moments where he shut down. "Earlier today, you confronted me for not talking about what happened with those jerks. I told you what I felt and now you're shutting down on me?"

"Why do we have to discuss it?!" He whipped around suddenly, causing her to recoil. "I already told you 'bout him after we left Woodbury. Stop playin' psychologist with me, Drea."

"I'm not!"

"Then why the hell you bringin' him up? I wanna forget it happened, okay?" Shane looked around him, searching for a spot in the cave where he could go off by himself. The space was cramped and there wasn't anywhere he could go unless it was under the waterfall and up the stream.

"But you can't forget…you haven't gotten that last part down yet." She repeated his words, hoping it would jog the memory of when he told her in a cloaked manner that he had killed Otis.

Shane said nothing, but his right hand opened and closed rapidly, indicating he was agitated.

"I'm only bringing it up because I want you to forgive yourself, Shane. You owe it to yourself to let go of your past."

"I let it go—you're the one bringin' it up, slammin' it in my face!"

"I thought we could talk about anything together." She wanted to add that it was unfair that she could be vulnerable with him, but that he refused to be the same way with her.

"We can, but not 'bout Otis." His voice dropped. "Ain't nothin' gonna change what I did."

"We both know that, but it's not—"

"Don't know why it matters to you," he cut her off. "Unless you're afraid I'm gonna do to you what I did to him."

"I don't think that at all." Andrea sighed. She didn't expect Shane to react this way. She wasn't even putting him down or judging him for what he had done—she was urging him to forgive himself. What was so bad about that? "And I'm not slamming it in your face."

Shane stared at the flames. "Why're we even havin' this conversation?"

"Because it still bothers you. You almost let yourself get killed by that herd. You wouldn't move." She had to tell him her fears. Maybe then it would sink in why she felt concerned for him. "What happens if we run into a herd again? Are you gonna stand there and let them kill you?"

"I couldn't move, Drea." He looked at her now, his expression revealed exhaustion. "I wanted to, but I couldn't. It was playin' again in my mind."

"What parts?"

"All of it. Goin' to the school, gettin' chased down by the herd in the hallways, Otis an' me helpin' each other until the end when I…" He shook his head. "It never goes away. When I sleep, I see it happenin' again. When I wake up, I think of what I shoulda did—take the backpack from him an' let him go on, give him a chance to get out of there. No shot to the leg, jus' a clean chance to get away without makin' him walker bait. He woulda still got killed an' I woulda made it out with supplies for Carl."

"You can't torture yourself with the 'what-if's and you don't know if that would've worked. You made a split-second life-or-death decision for you and Carl." Although Andrea thought her words were helpful, she knew they weren't sinking in.

Shane didn't appear to hear what she had said. "I was back at the school today."

"I know you were." Andrea took his hand and scooted over so that she was close to him again. Shane didn't protest when she closed the gap between them.

"Every day I am, really. I don't like bringin' it up 'cause talkin' 'bout it won't change what happened."

"You don't think it's possible to go forward?" She leaned her head on his shoulder and he gently stroked her hair.

"Even when I try, I'm still back there."

Andrea thought before she spoke again. She wanted to give him understanding, even though their situations were different. "I was like that with Amy for a long time, I couldn't go forwards or backwards. I was stuck. I blamed myself for her death."

Shane stared at her hand in his hand, noting how small and dainty it was. The same hand could aim and shoot a sniper rifle with amazing accuracy. "Ain't your fault, Drea."

"Yeah, but I still have regrets about not being there for her." She shrugged. "I always thought I had more time. I was away in college when she had birthday parties. Even on her last birthday, I didn't give her gift in time."

"What was it?"

"A mermaid pendant. She loved fantasy: mermaids, dragons, unicorns, fairies…" Andrea picked up a stick and threw it in the fire. She watched as the reddish-orange flames consumed the stick.

"Didn't you put it on her before you buried her?"

Andrea turned to Shane, surprised at what he had asked her. "You remember that?"

"I remember everythin', darlin'." A slight smirk played across Shane's face, but quickly faded. "You didn't do wrong by Amy."

"Yeah, but what does it say about me when I gave her the birthday gift when she's dead. By then it was too late. I hated myself for a long time after that. It's why I didn't want to stay with the group. They moved on like nothing had happened and I was stuck in my grief and guilt."

"That's why you wanted to stay in the CDC?"

She nodded. "I didn't want to go back out there and always live in fear, but there was more to it. I wanted to join Amy. I felt like I owed it to her."

"I don't think she'd want you to kill yourself on account of her."

Andrea had been staring into the flames and then smiled sadly when she faced Shane again. "You're right, she wouldn't. I don't think Otis would want you to carry guilt from that night either."

Shane shook his head. "Ain't the same." He looked around for a stick or rock to throw in the fire, but found none. "I took his life 'cause I wanted to save a life—not mine, but Carl's. I wanted Carl to live, but in order to do it, I had to save myself…" His voice trailed off. He was quiet for several moments and then spoke again. "I wanted to save Carl."

"You killed a man out of love for another person."

"When you put it like that…yeah, that's what I did."

"Who did you love?"

"Carl…I did it 'cause I love Carl. I love Rick, an' I loved…" He hesitated, not wanting to say Lori's name aloud even though those feelings were dead now.

"It's okay, you can say it." She noticed his love for Carl and Rick was in the present tense which indicated to her that Shane still cared deeply for them. She didn't want him to censor himself when it came to Lori. "It's alright, Shane."

"I loved her." He made sure to emphasis the past tense.

They sat in silence for several minutes. Andrea snuggled closer to Shane and he wrapped his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close to him. They watched the flames flicker and the dark shadows shift and twist in the cave from the fire's light.

"Love is never a bad thing," she whispered.

"It ain't, but it sure makes you do crazy things."

"It also makes you do beautiful things."

"I guess so."

This wasn't the conversation he expected to have with Andrea. Although he was defensive at first, he slowly warmed up to talking about Otis again when it was clear that Andrea was struggling with Amy's death. It made him feel less alone to know that Andrea had walked a lonely road, trying to accept the loss of her sister. The circumstances were very different, but the grief and guilt they experienced was intense and that similarity was enough in itself for Shane to let down his guard and hear her out based on what she said next.

"I have an idea."

"Go ahead an' share."

"Why don't we do a memorial service for Amy and Otis? We can make a site for them with their names, put flowers, and say what we need to say to them. I can speak to Amy and you can speak to Otis."

Shane tried to imagine speaking a eulogy for Otis and then remembered Hershel had done one and how Patricia had asked him about her husband's final moments. This would be different though. It was only him and Andrea. Dale wouldn't be there casting him suspicious looks, nor would a tearful Patricia ask about what really happened that night. Most of all, Andrea had mentioned they could talk to Amy and Otis, not about them. He thought this was something Rick would do when Lori died. Go to her grave and talk to her. Shane knew he would do the same thing if he ever lost Andrea.

"It's for us, not them. Otis and Amy are okay. We're the ones who need to heal."

He was going to turn the idea down, but something about it sounded liberating. "Let's do it."

Andrea smiled and titled her face up slightly to meet Shane's. They shared a passionate kiss and fell asleep shortly after putting out the fire.

oOo

Shane and Andrea spent the next four days gathering items for the memorial service. Andrea picked wildflowers by the side of the stream. She had found different kinds of flowers in many colors: red, purple, orange, yellow, and white. Afterwards, she looked for sticks to create makeshift crosses and made small pieces of rope from plant roots. She managed to tie the sticks into two small crosses. Meanwhile, Shane searched for solid material that he could use for the memorials. He found a tree laying on its side with its roots exposed and was able to cut out two large pieces of jagged wood. He started carving Amy's name first and took great care to make sure her name was exactly as Andrea wanted it: small letters encased in a rectangle. When it was time to carve Otis' memorial, Shane took twice as long to complete it. He wanted Otis' name to stand out, so he carved large block letters.

Two days later, after they had time to rest, they decided it was time to have the memorial service. They climbed up the hill, so that they were overlooking the waterfall and found a place between two trees where the sun shone down. Shane watched as Andrea placed Amy's memorial on the ground with the cross standing behind it. She then decorated it with some of the wildflowers she had found, making a large circle around the cross and memorial so that it resembled a crown.

"Your turn," Andrea said, giving the rest of the wildflowers to Shane.

Shane glanced at Amy's memorial and positioned Otis' memorial in a similar manner. He placed the cross next to the memorial and then put the wildflowers on the other side. Then he waited for Andrea to begin as he hoped she would. Although Shane had rehearsed in his mind what he wanted to say, he was afraid he'd forget or stumble with his words.

"Ladies first," he said with a half-smile. He gestured to Andrea to initiate the service.

Andrea glanced at him and then at her sister's memorial that he had made. She was grateful he had decided to participate. She thought he wouldn't do so when she had first suggested it. She viewed it as a way to celebrate Amy's and Otis' lives. It was also to move forward, so that they wouldn't be held back by grief and guilt anymore. With the gentle soothing sound of the waterfall in the background, she was ready to begin the memorial service.

"Amy…my beautiful younger sister by twelve years…my only sister," Andrea started and she took a deep breath before continuing. "I always thought we would have more time together. When I was twenty-two years old and you were turning ten, you wanted me to go to your birthday party and I didn't come. I called, but that's not the same as being there with you in person." She stopped when she found it hard to swallow. She was familiar with this sensation; it came from grief that she hadn't processed and regrets that she hadn't released. She hoped after today that she wouldn't experience that weird feeling of a golf ball stuck inside her throat. "Every day I think of you, I remember you." She exhaled slowly. "I wish I had been there for you. I wish we had connected better. I used to think it was the age difference that got in the way, but it wasn't. It was me who got in the way because I was too focused on my own life to make time for you. I want you to know that I will always love you." She stepped forward and knelt down next to the memorial bearing Amy's name and ran her hand along the top edge. "I hope you have peace now wherever you are."

She stayed kneeling for some time before getting up and standing next to Shane again. Tears burned her eyes and she didn't wipe them away as they rolled down her cheeks.

"Your turn," she whispered, turning to Shane. When he didn't move right away, she squeezed his shoulder, reassuring him that he could do this—he could talk to the man whose life he had robbed. "Go on, Shane. Remember, there's no right or wrong way to do this."

Shane nodded and stepped towards Otis' memorial. As he did so, his mind flashed back to the hoard of walkers gaining on them and the moment he had pulled the trigger after telling him "I'm sorry". He closed his eyes and reopened them: he was here with Andrea—not at the school. He was here to talk to Otis and he hoped after he was done that Otis' spirit would be able to rest peacefully.

"I wanna say that…" Shane hesitated, hoping that his words made sense. He started over again. "I wanna say that I'm sorry I have to do this for you. If you was still alive, then none of this would be necessary…"

He paused and felt his hand reach for his head and then he stopped, letting his arm drop to his side. The night he shaved off his hair flashed through his mind as he remembered wanting to get rid of the evidence from that fight. His heart banged against his chest and he stepped away, not wanting to continue. No matter what Andrea said, he would never forgive himself for what he had done. A nice memorial service wouldn't change anything and he was afraid Otis was glaring at him with pure hatred from wherever he was now.

"I can't do this." He started to turn around when he felt her reach for his hand.

"Yes, you can." She squeezed his hand. "I know you can. Try again." She released him and gently turned Shane so that he was facing Otis' memorial, cross, and flowers.

Shane swallowed nervously and forced the words out. "I'm sorry for what I did to you, Otis. You was—you are a good man—an honorable man who tried to do right by Carl. What you did to Carl was an accident. What I did to you was…" He couldn't say it and he didn't want to. He knew what he had done, but openly acknowledging it now would drown him in unbearable guilt. "I'm sorry…I was hopin' to get us both back to Hershel's farm. You helped me that night an' I helped you. We had each other's backs. The plan was always to get us outta there alive. I didn't mean for it to end the way it did. I never wanted to kill you."

He finally said it, but it didn't make him feel free. He thought about explaining his mindset, of telling Otis that he should've went on without him, just as he had told him to that night. It didn't seem right to bring that up, so he kept it to himself.

"Ain't no day goes by when I don't think of what I did to you. It shoulda been me in your place. If I could do it again, I'd make sure we'd get back to the farm. I was afraid of Carl dyin', but you died that night at my hands. I hope you know that I'm sorry for what happened that night…an' I hope you can forgive me…" he let out a sigh, "wherever you are."

Shane shivered as a light wind blew through the trees. He wondered if Andrea felt it too. He could tell she did because she looked all around her, trying to figure out where the wind had come from. As quickly as it had come, the wind died down. They turned to face each other. During the memorial service, Andrea had allowed herself to cry freely and Shane had struggled to contain his emotions, but a tear had escaped. He smoothed out a stray tear that made its way down her cheek and she caressed his face. They embraced each other, grateful for the peace they both gave each other by honoring those who had died. It was much needed closure for them to accept the losses of Amy and Otis and the circumstances in which they had happened—and to release themselves from residue guilt.

After some time had passed, Shane and Andrea left the area. As they ventured into the forest, hand-in-hand, and ready to move onward with their journey, the sun shined brightly on the memorial site set up for Amy and Otis, illuminating the special place meant to remember and honor their lives.

Chapter Text

 In Sickness and In Health  

We can go against the whole world
Even our friends turn on us / Even our family turns on us
That's alright / Cause as long as we got each other baby
Then we can make it baby / Through whatever

Musiq Soulchild – "You and Me"

 

Shane watched as Andrea keeled over in the grass and vomited.

He knelt down beside her and reached out to hold her, but she pushed him away and retched again. She had been vomiting for the past three days and showed no signs of stopping. He didn't know what started this recent bout of sickness. They had hoped to find another stream like the one they had found two weeks ago when they ran from Joe's gang. This way she could get water in her system, but sources of water were scant.

They also needed a ride—a car, minivan, motorcycle, a school bus—anything would do at this point. They had made it to the outskirts of a forest and were now on a long winding road with wild fields on both sides. The vehicles they had passed by were either out of gas, destroyed beyond repair, or there were too many walkers in the area to get through and they'd end up doing an about-face to venture in the opposite direction. So far, they had been able to use a handful of the vehicles for temporary shelter at night, but they were in too much disrepair to be used for driving.

Their bad luck streak seemed to go on forever and he hoped it would end soon. Thankfully, they had experienced some good fortune. Throughout their travels, they had found a camping bag, a hunting knife, two small pistols along with a box of ammunition, an unopened package of cookies, two bottled waters that they took sips from, a jar of peanuts, canned ravioli, and saltine crackers. They shared the food and ate sparingly to make it last, but now Andrea couldn't hold anything down. He stopped and took out the bottled water from the camping bag. They had already went through the first bottle.

"Finish it," he said, holding it out to her.

Andrea shook her head. "No, you drink it."

Shane sent her a tired look. He didn't understand why Andrea was being so stubborn. She had even insisted she could carry the camping bag when they had first found it. He didn't want Andrea carrying anything as she was having difficulty walking. She stumbled along and twice he had caught her in time from falling. Earlier, he had offered to carry her, but she had refused and now she was turning down the water.

"I want you to leave me here, okay? I can't go on like this." Her voice was hoarse and he didn't think he heard her right.

"What'd you say?" Shane glanced around at the field around them. It was large with tall grass swaying in the wind. It reminded him of the field where he had seen the lone walker when he and Rick tried to drop off Randall.

"Leave me here…please, Shane. Like how we did Jim." She inched away from him, not wanting to risk vomiting on him.

He gently held her by the shoulders and turned her so that she faced him. "That ain't happenin', so you can jus' stop with that nonsense talk 'bout abandonin' you." An uneasy grin flashed across his face. "You got some nerve, tellin' me to leave you. You thought I'd stay with you only when all is well? That ain't how it works."

"It's not abandonment." Andrea wiped her tears away, although she wasn't sad. For some reason, every time she vomited, her eyes would get red and irritated.

"Then what is it?"

"It's surviving…I'm dragging you down." Andrea shuddered when she her stomach performed cartwheels. A wave of nausea crashed over her. She held up her pointer finger, indicating for Shane to give her a moment as she turned away from him and vomited again.

Shane rubbed his head, feeling anxiety creep up on him. He hated seeing her so sick. "Sorry, but I ain't gonna honor that request."

"Why?" Tears emerged from her eyes again and this time sadness engulfed her. "Why can't you just go?"

"'Cause our partnership is for life. In sickness an' in health, Drea. You an' me are together for the long haul, so if you pukin', I stand by your side. If I was pukin' in the grass, wouldn't you be there for me?"

Andrea nodded and stopped. The simple gesture caused her head to feel like she had spun around for ten minutes nonstop. The immense dizziness worsened with each passing moment. She closed her eyes. When she reopened them, the world still spun around her. She couldn't take this anymore and she winced when she felt a sour aftertaste invade her throat and mouth.

"Loyalty's a two way street."

"It is..." Her voice was hoarse as she felt gravity pulling her down. She was laying on her side, her cheek pressed against the ground and wheezing when she felt Shane lift her up.

"Put your arm 'round my neck—there you go."

Andrea laid her head on his chest. "Where're we going now?"

"Maryland, remember?" Shane held her in his arms and continued walking. He carried her as though she were as light as a balloon. "Not givin' up on that."

"We're so far from there."

"No, we ain't." He looked at her and noticed she had closed her eyes again. "Good, get some rest, darlin'. You need it."

oOo

Shane carried her for some time. He realized they had more good fortune than he had first thought: there were no walkers on the road or in the fields. He hadn't seen one from the moment he carried Andrea in his arms. He was grateful for that because he didn't want to risk either of their lives if he came across one walker or a herd of them. He didn't know how much time had passed when he saw the RV down the road.

"Holy shit." Shane's voice was low, but it was loud enough to wake up Andrea.

She lifted her head groggily. "What happened?"

Shane motioned with his head. "That's what happened."

Andrea looked in the direction he had gestured and smiled weakly when she saw the RV. "Dale led us to it."

"I bet that's the truth."

A short time later, they reached the RV. Shane gently put Andrea down.

"You gonna be okay?" He asked as he watched her struggle to maintain her balance.

"Yes, I can stand. I don't feel dizzy anymore."

"Good." Shane reached for SOG seal knife he kept strapped to his thigh and investigated the outside of the RV. He came back around to Andrea, who managed to remain standing while he looked around. "Outside is clear. I'm goin' in."

"I got you," Andrea said, taking out her Fixation bowie knife. She held it up for Shane to see as if showing proof that she could protect him.

"You sure you can cover me? It's okay if you can't."

"I said I got you." She didn't mean to sound irritable.

He watched her for a few seconds and then turned to open the door. It didn't give at first. Shane pulled harder and the door opened making a loud creaking noise. Before he realized what was happening, two walkers stumbled out and collapsed on him. His back hit the ground with both walkers snarling and growling. One walker, a woman with brown hair whose bones pressed through the rotted skin, was dangerously close to his face. Just as her jaws dropped open to bite Shane's neck, Andrea plunged her knife into the female walker's head. The walker became still and Andrea kicked it off Shane. The other walker, a bald male, was far more decomposed than the first one. Some of the skin hung off his face and arms. Shane reached over and stabbed it in the head. When the walker stopped moving, he shoved it off him. Breathing deeply, he slowly got to his feet to face Andrea.

"That was a close one. Thanks, Drea."

She didn't answer, but watched him for a few seconds, squinting at him. Why are there two Shanes? She tried to focus and he blurred in front of her. Before she could respond, she felt her legs crumbling as they gave way beneath her. Shane sounded far away when she heard him calling her name. She hit the ground and heard no more. Putting down one walker had taken all of Andrea's energy and now her vision darkened as she blacked out.

Shane rushed to Andrea, but it was too late. She was on the ground, completely out of it. Looking back at the RV and then at Andrea, Shane knew he had to be fast. He went back to the RV and banged loudly from the outside to see if it would draw out more walkers. Nothing happened. Now he had to go inside it and ensure it was clear—or clear it out. Holding out his SOG seal knife, Shane raced inside the RV. It was far more spacious than Dale's. He searched up and down the vehicle, looked underneath the table, and checked out the bathroom and closets. Nothing. The RV was safe. Now he just had to make sure it could drive. Before doing that, he went back out to Andrea. She was laying on her side with her Fixation bowie knife still clutched in her hand. Shane knelt down and lifted her up. He started carrying her towards the RV when she slowly woke up.

"I'm so sorry…" she murmured. "I couldn't…"

"Sorry for what?" Shane had reached the outside of the RV. "We take care of each other."

Andrea nodded. "I can get in by myself. Just cover me in case I fall again."

Shane looked doubtful for a moment and then decided to do what she asked. He set Andrea on her feet when they were next to the RV and followed close behind as she went to the door. Slowly, Andrea staggered into the RV and plopped down on the first seat she could find. Shane closed the door and got in the driver's seat. As he searched the dashboard, his eyes widened when he saw the keys in the ignition. This was the good luck that they needed. He turned it once and nothing happened. He turned it again and this time he heard the soft rumble of the engine.

Shane turned around to see Andrea laying on the couch, watching him.

"God's smiling down on us." He grinned widely. "Let's see where this takes us."

oOo

The RV took them further than they anticipated. It was also useful as a shelter as later that same day a thunderstorm passed through. The rain pattered on the RV and lightning flashed followed by crashing thunder. During that time, Shane stopped driving and went to be with Andrea. He found her laying on her side, sleeping peacefully. For some reason, she tended to take that position. Rather than wake her up because she needed her rest, Shane searched the RV for supplies. He found a box of bottled waters, Tylenol, a box of cereal, powdered milk, a jar of pickles, two cans of cranberry sauce, and baked beans. The food was important, but they also needed weapons for protection. Shane didn't find any, but this would do for now and he put them together with the supplies they had found. He went to sleep next to Andrea after securing the doors closed with knots made from spare rope he had discovered in one of the closets. Two days later, they ran into their greatest find. It was the least unexpected and most needed:

A house.

When Shane first saw it, he couldn't believe it. It had to be a figment of his imagination, but there it was: a two story house with a porch. They had passed by houses in the past, but they always had walkers shambling around. This house appeared walker-free from the outside. He pulled the RV to the front of the house and turned around to see Andrea had woken up. She had slept on and off for days.

"Is that what I think it is?" She looked like she had stepped into a dreamland.

Shane nodded. "Sure is…I'm gonna check it out. You feelin' up to it?"

"Yeah, I feel much better than before."

"Alright, let's do it."

They got out of the RV and approached the house slowly. Together, they walked the perimeter to clear any walkers that might be around. There were none. They walked up the steps and found a piece of green construction paper with crude handwriting written in black marker duct taped to the door. Andrea read the cryptic message aloud:

"Our house is your house now."

"I guess it is, Drea. Time to check out this place, get rid of any stray walkers that won't leave. On the count of three…"

Andrea took out her pistol at the same time that Shane took out his Glock 17.

Shane opened the door and it gave way easily. He stepped into the foyer and Andrea followed in after him, closing the door. The house appeared in disarray with a turned over table, furniture out of place, and spilled cereal. The air was thick with dust. Papers were littered everywhere. Whoever had owned the house had abandoned it sometime ago.

"How 'bout you take the upstairs an' I take this floor an' the basement?"

Andrea nodded. "I can handle it."

"Once you get done, you meet me right here where we're standin'."

They separated as they went to check out the house. Andrea walked upstairs, making sure to hold onto the railing. She still felt sluggish, but she didn't want to leave Shane to scope out the entire house on his own. It would've been unfair and they accomplished more when they worked together. She was grateful that he didn't leave her even though she had begged him to. Weighing him down was the last thing she wanted to do to him. His reaction was the opposite of what she had expected, but now that she thought about it, she shouldn't have been surprised. Shane was loyal to her just as she was loyal to him. She knew she wouldn't leave him out there if he had asked.

She had reached the top of the stairs and saw there were two rooms. Unsure of which one to go in first, Andrea decided to check out the room on the right side since the door was already open partway. Keeping her gun trained, she slowly stepped into the room and scanned the area. The first thing that caught her attention were the drawings on the wall. She could tell they had been made by a child. There was a drawing of four stick figures with smiling faces: a man, a woman, a girl, and a boy. All were smiling and the writing below read "MY FAMILY!" There were several drawings similar to this one. Andrea saw the small bed, the drawer, and stuffed animals scattered all over the floor. She wondered if the little girl had left with her family, if they were on the road, if they were still alive…

Andrea decided not to give it further thought. As she stepped inside the other room, she marveled at the posters decorating the walls. Whoever had inhabited the room loved superheroes and comic books. Posters of Batman, Superman, The Avengers, Spider-Man, X-Men, Black Panther, The Flash, the Fantastic Four, and Justice League were everywhere in the room so that no wall was left uncovered. There was a large poster of The Punisher and that one stood out from all the rest. She looked around and saw the bed was in disarray with clothing all over as if the child had woken up late, dressed quickly, and had to run out of the home to catch the school bus. Being in that room reminded her of Amy since her younger sister had decorated her room with posters of her favorite mythical creatures. Andrea was about to leave when she saw a pile of sneakers in the corner. She bent down and took out the shoelaces from each sneaker. Maybe Shane could put them to good use. She didn't know how, but she figured she'd show him anyway.

Andrea left the room and started down the stairs. For a moment, the stairs appeared to shift side-to-side. She closed her eyes, willing the dizziness to go away as it had before. She was on the second to last step when she missed her footing.

In the basement, Shane heard a loud thumping noise from above. He had just put down the last walker. There were four walkers altogether: two adults and two children. He realized it must've been parents with their children. The cause of death was unknown, but Shane had a hunch that the man had killed his family and then himself. It was strange that this had happened in the basement, but he had seen stranger things in his line of work as a deputy sheriff. The younger walkers reminded him of the girl walker he and Michonne had found in The Governor's apartment. He glanced around the area and then rushed upstairs to find Andrea laying on the floor with shoelaces clutched in her right hand. Shane knelt down and lifted her up. He had checked out the master bedroom before going down to the basement and there had been nothing there. Later on, he would burn the family of corpses. Now he had to take care of Andrea.

"Ain't leavin' you alone again," Shane muttered as he laid her down on the queen-size bed. He watched her for a little while and then decided what he needed to do.

oOo

When Andrea woke up, she was surprised to find herself in a bathtub with white foamy bubbles up to her neck. The water was not too hot and not too cold. The temperature was just right. A faint scent of lavender filled the room. She shifted in the tub, enjoying the warm water soaking her body. When she looked around, she saw Shane sitting on the floor of the bathroom watching her. There was a small stand next to him. On top was a wine glass filled with a golden caramel colored beverage. At first, she thought it was champagne, but she didn't see any bubbles. She started to reach for it when Shane handed it to her. She took a sip and then held the wine glass away, staring at it.

"What's this? It's not champagne."

Shane laughed. "It's apple juice. That was the best I could find."

"It tastes weird."

"It ain't expired. I made sure to check."

Andrea put the glass down. Maybe she was sicker than she realized and her taste buds were effected. She put that thought aside and focused on Shane. The last thing she remembered was checking out the two children's bedrooms on the second floor, coming downstairs to meet him, and then falling. She had no memory of anything after that and found it heartwarming to wake up in the bathtub. She was about to ask Shane about it when he beat her to it.

"I drew you a bath. Your skin was cool an' clammy, like you runnin' a fever."

Andrea was worried. "Was I out of it for a long time?"

Shane smiled. "Long enough for me to let you rest for a bit, burn the family of corpses I found downstairs, an' prepare you a bubble bath. There was some stuff in the cabinets." He pointed above him.

"Thank you." She looked around the bathroom, noticing the ocean imagery. The tiles were a pale blue. There were pictures of seashells, anchors, and of course, a mermaid. Amy crossed her mind and she sighed.

"You okay?" Shane sounded concerned.

"I'm much better now."

"Not sure 'bout that. You gotta rest more. Now that we got this place, you can sleep as much as you want."

"Were you watching me all this this time?"

"Yeah, an' I know that sounds creepy as hell, but you fell last time I left you alone. So I decided I'd watch you the whole time to make sure you don't get any ideas 'bout gettin' up from the tub. Ain't chancin' you slipping an' breakin' your neck."

Despite her exhaustion, Andrea found the strength to smile. What Shane had done for her was special and heartfelt. These past few days, she had experienced how much he cared for her. Shane had carried her, refused to abandon her, drew a bath for her—she couldn't remember the last time she had a bubble bath. It had been before the outbreak when she worked as an attorney. Coming home from a stressful day at court, she always loved taking long bubble baths with a glass of wine nearby. She never thought she'd have that experience again and wanted to savor it for as long as possible.

"If I promise you I'll stay put, will you feel safe leaving me here?"

Shane's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Maybe."

"I'll be fine, I promise."

He stood up. "Alright, I'm gonna get you a towel an' some pajamas."

"You don't have to worry about me getting up." Andrea allowed herself to lay back in the tub and relax. "I'm enjoying this so much."

"You'd enjoy it more if I was in there with you!" Shane smirked and then left the bathroom.

She put her hand over her mouth, trying not to laugh. Of course, he would say something along those lines. In the past, it would've annoyed her. Now that they had grown closer and understood each other better, she found it endearing. She couldn't deny that she was touched by the way he doted on her. In fact, she was about to find out that he wasn't finished yet. Andrea had lifted one of her legs out of the water when Shane returned with a towel, pajamas, and underwear. He held up the last piece.

"I'll look more later on; I picked out the first things I found."

Andrea set her leg down in the water again. "It's fine. Thank you, Shane." She smiled up at him and thought he looked taller from where she sat in the bathtub. "I'll come out in a few minutes, just need a little more time."

"We ain't goin' anywhere, Drea, so take all the time you need."

After some time, Andrea indicated she was ready. Shane helped her drain the bathtub and washed her down with the shower head. It felt strange to stand up and she leaned on him for support. Holding her up with one arm to keep her from falling, Shane reached for the towel he had put on the sink and wrapped it around Andrea. After drying her off, he helped her dress in the night clothes he had found. They weren't the most flattering—they were gray oversized cotton pants and top, but she had to admit, she felt comfortable in them. He helped her leave the bathroom and walked her down the hall to the bedroom. Before entering the room, the first thing she noticed was the large purple bedsheet spread out on the bed.

"You like it? I picked it out earlier. Other one was some nasty moss green color."

For some reason, Andrea couldn't help it—she busted out laughing and Shane looked at her strangely. When she calmed down, she explained why she found it funny.

"It's been so long since we had this normal stuff. When was the last time we worried about the color of bedsheets?"

Shane was solemn, much to her surprise. "Never." She looked quizzical and he elaborated. "We never had our own place, Drea. This is our first place—it's ours now. Everythin' in here, all the food, clothing, towels, medicine in the cabinets, pots, pans, lil things, big things...it all belongs to us now. We don't have to go out anymore."

He was right. Andrea allowed that reality to settle in. They had finally found shelter. She hadn't seen the house as much as Shane had, but based on what he said, they had everything they needed—and so much more. She knew in her mind it was a cliché, but it was completely accurate: the house was a dream come true. She never imagined they would find permanent shelter and she had a feeling Shane thought the same thing. The one thing they had, had been snatched away from them—the Hyundai with all their supplies. Now they had a house full of everything they needed and an RV in case they had to go out again to scavenge. From the looks of it though, they could stay here for a long time without want or need.

"You're right, it's our home now."

"Uh-huh, an' now I gotta carry you over the threshold!"

Before Andrea could protest, Shane lifted her up in his arms and carried her into the bedroom.

"This isn't the threshold, Shane, it's the bedroom!" She laughed harder than before and was glad to hear him laughing along with her.

"I know an' this is the perfect place to be."

He gently laid her diagonally on the sheet. She was in the middle of the bed and was unsure of what Shane planned on doing. He put her arms at her sides and then brought the corner of the sheet nearest her feet and placed it over her legs and feet. Andrea watched as he folded the left corner of the sheet over her and then tucked it underneath her while also turning her towards him. Shane went to the other side of the bed and brought the right cover of the sheet over her and tucked it under her just he had done the other side. The sheet nearest her head he tucked around her front. Only Andrea's head, face, and hair could be seen. She looked around when she saw Shane go behind her. He lifted the back of her head and placed a pillow underneath. When he was finished, he stepped back and admired his handiwork.

"My Drea-burrito looks good." He grinned.

"You swaddled me?"

"Yep, now you'll sleep cozy tonight."

Andrea tried to remain serious when she looked at him. He looked back at her, his expression nonchalant, or so it appeared. The silence between them lasted a few seconds before they found themselves laughing again. Similar to the normalcy of choosing bedsheets, she couldn't remember when she had laughed so much in her life.

"I can't believe you swaddled me—where'd you learn to do this?"

"Lori an' Rick when they first brought Carl home." Shane joined her on the bed and tried to lay next to her. "I tried swaddlin' him too once, but it didn't come out right. I guess practice makes perfect."

"I'm glad you mastered the art of the swaddle."

"You an' me both, darlin'. Gonna move you a bit." He moved Andrea down so that he had room to lay beside her. Now they were both next to each other with plenty of space.

"Aren't you going to take a shower?" Andrea tried to turn, but Shane had wrapped her snugly.

"Tomorrow. Right now, I'm keepin' my eye on you."

"I'll be fine, Deputy Walsh." When Shane sent her a serious glance she tried another direction, one that she knew would garner a different reaction. "When I get better, we should have a date night."

Shane sat up in the bed. "Date night?"

"Yeah, we should go on a date—in our house."

Shane shook his head, amused. "So we gonna look out the window an' watch the birds, instead of goin' to the movies. Eat pretzels an' cereal for dinner, instead of dine at a five star restaurant. What happens after?"

"You decide."

"Don't leave that to me, Drea, 'cause you know where I'll go." He chuckled.

"Fine, we both decide."

"I like the sound of that—an' I'm gonna set up the date."

Andrea blinked. If Shane wanted to take charge…then she'd let him take charge.

"Alright, you best catch some shut eye an' I'll do the same."

She nodded in agreement and yawned. What a day it had been! "Thank you for being there…" She closed her eyes, willing for sleep to come take her away.

"Always, darlin'." Shane leaned over to kiss her. When he laid back down again, slumber overcame him.

In no time at all, both Andrea and Shane were fast asleep, comfortable and safe in their new home.

oOo

Two weeks later, Shane was sitting in the dining room with a hammer, nail, a batch of tin cans, thin string, rope, and a pile of rocks he had found when walking around the perimeter of the house. He wanted to work on making their new home secure and remembered seeing a boundary of hanging tin cans around several tents when he and Andrea were out there. They hadn't scavenged the area for supplies because the familiar sound of walkers' growling was enough to keep them at bay. The hanging tin cans had caught his attention though and now he would make his own secure boundary with them. He put a tin can on its side and poised the nail on the side so that he could hammer a hole.

"Mind if I join you?"

Shane looked up as Andrea sat across from him at the table. She was wearing a bright orange terrycloth robe. Like the pajamas he had found her, the robe was too big on her, but that didn't seem to bother her. She had gotten over whatever had made her sick and he was glad to see her up and about.

"Pull over a seat, Drea."

"What're you making?" She picked up one of the tin cans.

"Something to help us know when we got intruders, dead or alive. I'm gonna tie these tin cans together after I hammer holes in their sides. They gonna be put outside."

"I'll put the string through the holes," Andrea said as she picked up the string and examined it.

Shane nodded as he hammered a hole into the tin can. He held it away from him. Pleased with his progress, he hammered a hole on the other side. "Here you go, first tin can to put string through." He passed it to Andrea as though they were on an assembly line.

As Andrea put a string through the hole, she worked up her nerve to ask Shane a question that had been bubbling in her mind for the past several months. "Do you miss him?"

Shane placed down the hammer and tin can he was about to work on. "Miss who?" His expression was a cross between confusion and annoyance, as though he didn't know why she asked and didn't want to discuss it. "You mean Rick?"

"Yeah, I was just wondering…" Her voice trailed off. She thought it would've been better to keep the question to herself although it was too late.

"I think of him every day." He focused on hammering two holes into the tin can. "I'm sure he an' Carl are kickin' ass out there."

"I'm sorry I asked."

"Don't be sorry. I'll always love my brother. You miss Dale?"

"Sometimes."

"'Sometimes'?"

"Let's just say I know you better than he does. He would be shocked to know that you took care of me when I was sick."

"He really thought that badly of me, huh?" Shane chuckled and then answered his own question. "I knew he always did…but I gave him reason to." He hammered holes into two more cans and passed them to Andrea. "I don't regret leavin' with you if that's what you're wonderin'. Best decision I made—an' I'd do it again if you asked me to."

Andrea nodded. She wanted to repeat the same words to Shane, but she wondered if it would come off insincere. She opted for another way to express her thoughts. "I'm glad we're together. It's the best thing we did."

Shane grinned as he finished and reached for a third can. "You an' me both."

They didn't speak for some time and focused on getting the cans ready to be placed outside. An hour later they hung the stringed cans outside on the staircase from railing to railing so that they would have to step over it when leaving the house. Shane assessed the rest of the property. They would need more cans if they wanted to stay alert for intruders. This was enough for today—it was a start. Now, he just wanted to relax and take Andrea up on her offer.

"So…'bout that date night?"

oOo

They both agreed it would be fun to surprise each other. Andrea chose to dress up in the bedroom upstairs, leaving the master bedroom downstairs for Shane. This way she could make a grand entrance by walking down the staircase and he'd be ready to receive her. Right after coming inside from putting up the cans, they had split up to get prepared for the evening. Shane had found a navy blue suit in the master bedroom which fit him snugly, while Andrea had discovered a purple summer dress. Shane finished first and completed the part of the date that he wanted to keep secret. An hour later, he heard from her. "I'm ready, Shane." Her voice had a sing-song tone. He couldn't keep the glee out of his voice. "I'm waitin', Andrea."

He was about to laugh because the idea of having a "date" inside their new home still struck him as comical. Shane ended up swallowing his laughter when he heard Andrea walk downstairs to meet him—and when he saw her.

Andrea was stunning. The purple summer dress was sleeveless and flowed to her ankles. The dress flattered her curves without being too tight. She had found a pair of white sandals that were a size too big, but she wore them gracefully. Shane's eyes were glued to her hair—she had cut it into a bob style. Now it made sense as to why she had asked for scissors after they finished assembling the cans outside. It was different and some parts were uneven, but he liked it all the same. Her blonde hair that had cascaded past her shoulders was now down to her chin. She caught him staring at her hair.

"Do you like it?" She had reached the bottom of the staircase and stood in front of him.

"You look very pretty." He ran his fingers through her hair. "More than pretty—you always look beautiful, Drea."

Andrea's cheeks flushed red. "Thank you." She folded down his collar. "You look handsome yourself." When she looked down, she couldn't stop the giggle that erupted from her. "You sure love those combat boots."

Shane looked down and tapped his foot. "The guy's shoes were too small, so gotta go with my trusty boots." He took her by the hand. "You gotta close your eyes."

"Ok…are you leading me outside?"

"Nah, even better. Bet you'll never guess what's in store for you."

Andrea shrugged and kept her eyes closed as she allowed Shane to lead her. Soon, he let go of her hand and she heard the sound of a chair moving. Then she felt Shane's hands on her shoulders gently guiding her to sit down. She heard him walk away, pull a chair out, and then sit down across from her.

"You can open 'em now."

She gasped when she beheld the sight in front of her. If they were living in the world from yesterday, what was before her would seem like a cheap dinner date. It was a different world now and you did whatever you could to put together to make a nice dinner for two. What she saw was simple, yet elegant, and Andrea appreciated the effort Shane had put into their date. Four votive candles were lit and spread across the table. A bowl of green beans and a side dish of cranberry sauce were placed evenly between them. There was a small plate of marshmallows and pretzels. Andrea figured that was the dessert plate. Two cans of Coke and Sprite were placed next to their plates, napkins, and eating utensils. Three purple flowers sat in a cup of water near the candles as a table decoration. She looked up at him, a warm smile lit her face. Shane looked startled as though worried about her reaction and then relived that she liked what was in front of her.

"I wanted to give you a candlelight dinner. It ain't fancy or anythin'…" Shane shrugged. "I tried my best."

"You succeeded. Thank you, Shane."

Andrea's heart pattered as the warmth from the candles filled the room. It was the entire set-up and the tone Shane had set for them to have their date night that truly touched her. She couldn't believe they had the good fortune to find a safe shelter and now they were celebrating their new home—and each other. That's what this was really about. She had asked Shane to go on a date with her—even if it was inside their new home—because she wanted to feel like things were the way they used to be before the outbreak. She wanted to have time for her and Shane to just be together and she was glad he understood what she wanted when she had first suggested they go on a date. "Eat up before it gets cold." Shane picked up the bowl of green beans and passed it to her. He then passed her the cranberry sauce. Andrea took it and served herself. She placed it down and then looked at Shane as he had begun eating already. She ate heartily and then opened the can of Coke.

"Did you ever imagine we'd make this far?" She asked after setting down her can of Coke.

Shane had started opening the can of Sprite and put it next to his plate. "Not sure to be honest; I jus' wanted to get away."

"I know you did; I did too."

"I don't think I woulda made it this far without you." Shane allowed himself to get lost in her green eyes. "Scratch that. You bein' here with me is everythin'. Sure, I could go on my own, but I need a partner an' you fit the bill."

Andrea bit down on her lower lip when she gazed into his dark eyes. Hearing those words meant everything to her. For a long time after they had left the farm, Shane had locked his heart away. Over time, he had opened up more to her, especially after the craziness and torture at Woodbury. Andrea also found comfort in Shane. They could depend on each other, share with each other—and she was starting to think they couldn't live without each other…

"It's funny how it all started…" Andrea's voice trailed off. She reached for the marshmallows.

"You mean with me showin' you how to clean an' disassemble Sweet Piece? Chasin' me down in the cemetery? When you eavesdropped on me an' Lori arguin' outside the church?"

She laughed when she remembered telling Shane about the gun her father gave her. "You still call her 'Sweet Piece'."

Shane chomped on a pretzel. "Always will."

"If it makes you happy, but no, I mean before all that."

He moved over closer to her. "What're you talkin' 'bout?"

Andrea stared at him for some time, waiting to see if he'd figure it out. "Come on, you know Shane!"

"Ain't got a clue. Jus' spill it."

She sighed, slightly disappointed that he didn't know what she was talking about. "The day you beat the hell out of Ed down at the quarry." "What 'bout it? Carol was cryin', but she knew he needed to be put in his place."

"When you got off him and you stared at me before storming off."

Shane scoffed. "That's 'cause you was starin' at me real hard—like you never seen an asshole get treated like a punchin' bag."

Andrea's laughter took her by surprise, but then she became serious. "I knew right then you were the one I wanted to follow—that you would do anything to keep your loved ones safe."

"I appreciate that—but lookin' back on that incident, I was already pissed off. Lori—she had cut me off from Carl moments before an' that's when I saw Ed pushin' Carol an' all of you aroun'. Asshole wanted to throw his weight aroun' you ladies. I guess it was perfect timin'."

"I'd say so. I just knew you and Rick were light years apart from how you both handled things."

Shane grinned. "Rick ain't bad, he jus' wants to be liked by everyone—but I'm still glad you chose me."

Andrea reached across the table to touch his hand. "I'm glad you chose me too…I know it wasn't—"

Shane moved his seat so that he was right next to her. "Forget yesterday, Drea. Live in the here an' now."

He reached for her face and kissed her gently, allowing himself to enjoy her soft lips pressing against his. Ever since she had come downstairs, he had wanted to kiss her on her lips…and all over… She let her fingers run through his hair that had started to grow back. She thought he intended to keep kissing her when he broke away.

"Our date's not over yet." Shane smirked. "I gotta take you dancin'."

Andrea's eyebrows furrowed together. "Dancing?"

"Yep, let's go outside. It's s'posed to be a clear night."

Before she could protest, he took her hand and led her outside of the house so that they were at the front lawn. The sun had set for the day and would return tomorrow. Silver stars glittered across the smooth navy blue night sky accompanied by a full white moon. A light warm breeze blew around them. He turned to face her and rested his hands on her waist. She followed his cue and wrapped her arms around his shoulders and neck.

"Bet you thought I didn't take you serious 'bout this 'date night', huh?"

"I didn't know what to expect—I'm being honest," she added.

Shane guided her as they danced and she followed in step. "I ain't never been the romantic type. It's different with you though…I don't know what it is."

"It's love…" She was going to say more when he dipped her backwards. "Did you dance like this at Rick's wedding?"

"Nah, I was too busy messin' with the bridesmaids!" As he brought her up again, he stared upwards at the night sky. "Couldn't have asked for a better night. Look at all the stars, Drea."

She looked up and marveled at countless stars sprinkled above them. There wasn't a cloud in sight.

"I love it…and I love you." Her voice was a seductive whisper.

He turned to her to see a shy smile playing across his face in contrast with her last bold statement. "I know I love you…I tried to hide it an' squash it, but…" He couldn't finish his sentence because he didn't know what to say. "Thank you for not givin' up on me when I was impossible to deal with."

"For better or for worse, right?" She leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the lips.

"An' everythin' in between, all the good an' bad." Shane glanced over his shoulder at their new home. "Time for the late night festivities."

Andrea held out her hand and Shane took it, leading her to the final part of their date. She wasn't surprised when he led her to the master bedroom, but she was shocked at the many votive candles scattered throughout, setting a calm ambience in the large space. The purple sheets had been changed to a set of pale blue ones and the pillows had been fluffed. Without a word, Shane lifted Andrea and placed her on the bed. She sprawled out and leaned back against the pillows, watching as he shed the suit jacket, while kicking off his boots.

Their eyes locked when he joined her on the bed. He reached for her legs, holding them on his shoulder, and her summer dress slid down to her upper thighs. Her chest heaved as she watched him marvel at her legs. Although he had seen and touched her body many times—and she had seen and touched his many times—it was always the first time. Everything was new, an exciting experience to enjoy. He was amazed at how smooth her legs were when he ran his hand over her skin. Her body tingled when his lips left a trail of warm kisses over the curve of her calves.

"I could kiss you all over…all day…all night…" He murmured in between kissing and rubbing her legs.

He lifted her leg over his head while still kneading her skin and quickly advanced on her. With his waist scissored between her legs, he was closer to uniting her body with his own. She shifted and spread her legs wider, allowing him to nestle between them. He was on top of her now, his body bearing down on hers and he concentrated on planting kisses on her neck. They found each other's hands at the same moment and interwove their fingers together. His movements were quicker than she anticipated and she strained underneath him to get comfortable. He stopped, allowing her to ease herself. She nodded when she was ready and he started kissing her neck again as though there had been no interruptions. Slowly, he made his way to her lips. His heavy breathing tickled her exposed skin and she reveled in all the attention he was pouring on her.

She waited for him to slip off her panties or for him to unzip his pants…but he never did. He didn't push for it and neither did she. The fact that they didn't have to fully undress to enjoy each other was comforting for her. It was an unspoken statement of how their relationship had grown. Just being together and enjoying each other's company was more than enough. Then she remembered something she had wanted to tell him during the entire date.

"Shane…?" She didn't want to stop him as having their bodies meld together felt natural, even with their clothes on—but she had to tell him before she forgot.

"Hmm?" His voice was so low she barely heard him.

"What if we stayed here forever?" She whispered in his ear. "Live our lives and grow old. We don't have to go to Maryland."

He pulled back and sat up facing her. Her hands started to creep up his shirt, wanting to run her hands over his taut chest, and then stopped. She wasn't sure what to make of his expression. Was it sadness? Fear? Surprise? Happiness? It seemed like an uncanny combination of all four emotions.

"Is that what you want, Drea?"

"I want what's best for both of us. We have everything here and we have each other. What more do we need?"

He didn't say anything for a moment as his eyes searched the room as though looking for an answer on the walls or in the candles' flames. Then he focused on her.

"If you're good here, then I'm good too."

Shane resumed his position between her legs. Except this time, he lay his head down on her chest. As he thought about her question and his response, he allowed himself to be soothed by listening to her heartbeat. Andrea cradled him and ruffled his hair before allowing her hand to rest on his back. They held each other and enjoyed the silence of mutual understanding. There wasn't more to say or do. Soon after, they fell asleep in a warm embrace.

oOo

Shane told himself that he should've known it was only a matter of time before history repeated itself. Or rather, before their good luck streak ended. They had lived for months in the home without incident. They were safe, had plenty of supplies, slept late, made love, ate meals together, exercised to stay in shape, and lived a quiet life. Shane had finished making his tin can barrier and Andrea cultivated a tiny garden after finding some seed packets in the basement. Life was great until poor health revisited Andrea again which threw Shane completely off. Andrea's sickness was similar to when they had first discovered the house. He didn't know what caused her dizziness and vomiting. She didn't know either and the more she tried to lay down and get some sleep to rid herself of the sickness, the more debilitated she became. It got so bad that she couldn't get out of bed and when he tried to draw a bath for her as he done so many months ago, she refused to let him carry her to the bathroom. Given all that they had been through, it was hard to believe that so many months had gone by. Shane thought it was more than a year since they had left Hershel's farm, but he didn't know. Now with Andrea being sick again, time was at a standstill. He had stayed awake all night by her side. It was mid-morning now and he saw her attempting to sit up in bed.

"Lie down, Drea. Don't get up."

"I need to move around."

"Sit down before you hurt yourself."

She shook her head. "I need to get up."

"No, you don't." He pressed the back of his hand on her head to feel for a temperature.

"What is it? What's wrong?" She laid back down on the bed, breathing hard and fast. Trying to sit up had made her exert more energy than she had. Her eyes were bloodshot and sweat shined on her forehead.

"Your skin's on fire, darlin', this ain't good at all."

"So let me take a cold shower to bring down the temperature." Andrea started to rise from the bed again when Shane gently pushed her back down.

"Don't get up if you don't have to. Let me see what medicine we have."

Before she could protest, Shane raced out of the bedroom and went straight to the bathroom. He opened the cabinets, ready to give her some Tylenol, or find a washcloth that he could use as a cold compress—and found nothing. There was one half filled bottle of Pepto-Bismol and all the washcloths were still soaking in the sink. He had placed the washcloths in hot soapy water after using them to give Andrea a bed bath. She had also used the Pepto-Bismol when she had an upset stomach that lasted for weeks. A bottle of Tylenol sat on the shelf. Shane opened it and saw two pills. There was a bag of cough drops and a deodorant bar. That's it. His fingers ran through his hair as he tried not to get worked up. Surely there had to be more supplies he could give her to help her feel better.

Shane rushed to the kitchen and opened all the cabinets. Just like the medicine cabinet, they were running on empty. There were three cans left—potatoes, beets, and mixed vegetables. Shane stepped back, shocked at how little supplies they had. How much had they used during their time there? When they had first arrived, the house had been filled with what seemed like a never-ending supply of food, medicine, clothing—everything they needed to survive. They had been frugal and made sure to share all their food—one can per meal and never more than that. Now they were down to their very last and he realized they had lived off of everything. They had become too comfortable in the house to the extent that they hadn't done supply runs in a long time. It hadn't been necessary, not with everything at their fingertips.

He dragged himself back to the bedroom, dreading telling Andrea what he had discovered. First, he found his Glock 17 to take out there with him. He just hoped that after all this time of living in a quiet safe shelter that he wasn't rusty when it came to dealing with walkers. When he entered the bedroom, he saw her sprawled out and half covered with the same purple sheet he had originally swaddled her in. She was curled up in fetal position and held a pillow in her arms. Shane thought she looked comfortable, but the slight tremors in Andrea's hands revealed that she wasn't sleeping peacefully. He wondered if he should tell her that they had almost no supplies left, that he had to go out there and scavenge for food and medicine. More so for her than himself. He approached the bed and was about to sit down beside her when her eyes shot open.

"Where are you going?" Her voice sounded hoarse.

"Out there." He pointed at the window.

It took great effort for Andrea to turn in the direction that he was pointing. When she finally did, she glanced at him with a watery expression in her eyes. "Why?"

"We have no more meds an' almost no food..." He watched as she processed this information. He could tell she was as shocked as he felt when he had first discovered how low they were on everything. "I have to go out there an' get you meds to help you feel better an' food for you to eat."

He expected she would understand—why wouldn't she? Andrea had always been part of the group that did supply runs during their days at the Atlanta camp. Back then, the group made sure to get as many supplies whenever possible. When he was the leader, Shane felt it was better to have more than less, since going on a run was a life-or-death task in itself. So he was shocked and a little angry when he saw Andrea shaking her head.

"I don't want you to leave. What if something happens to you while you're out there?"

"Ain't nothin' gonna happen. You can hold your own."

She had an unexpected burst of energy and sounded like her usual self when she was healthy. "Anything can happen, Shane. Stay here."

"Anythin' can happen to you if I don't get you those meds." Shane sighed, frustrated. He couldn't believe they were arguing about this. "I can't stay here while you feelin' sick as hell—not when we got nothin' to help you feel better."

Andrea looked at him and noticed that he was already prepared to go out there. Along with his Glock 17, Shane carried a backpack on him. She knew he'd use that to store the supplies to bring back to their home. Although she felt awful—her stomach was rolling around, her head felt weighted down by an iron anvil, and her neck cramped up anytime she moved—she couldn't let him go out there by himself. She attempted to swing her legs over the bed and had to hold into the bedframe to remain steady.

"If you're going out there, then I'm going with you." She slipped her feet into her sneakers and bent down to tie them. Dizziness swarmed around her and she held her head.

"You gotta stay here, Drea." Shane searched the bedroom for weapons that Andrea could keep with her while he was out. He found her Fixation bowie and put it next to her. "Hold onto this. I'll find Sweet Piece."

"I'm coming with you, let me get myself ready."

"No—I need you to stay put."

"Why?" Andrea sounded genuinely astounded that Shane wanted her to stay in the house. "We always go out together."

"Not this time."

"I'm going." Now she was determined and Shane saw her start tying her sneakers.

"Jus' stay here, I'll be right back."

"I'm gonna help—"

"You'll get in my way!"

He had reached his boiling point and the instant the words burst from him, he wished he could take them back. The pained look on Andrea's face said it all. She had often told him that he was right about his decisions, but that his presentation needed work. Over time, he had gotten better with his presentation, but now he had a relapse. He simply meant that it would be too much for him to go out there scavenging while also keeping an eye out on her to make sure no walkers or other threats endangered her. It was a huge risk bringing her out there when she was already compromised.

"I'm a burden to you…" She went into a coughing fit. When it ended, she sent him a hateful look that made his blood curdle. "That's what you think of me?" Andrea picked up the Fixation bowie knife that he had put near her to protect herself and threw it at the wall.

"That's not what I meant." Shane resisted the urge to rub his head. He clenched his fists and kept them at his sides to make himself stay calm. "Jus'—"

"Then how'd you mean it?" Her blue eyes were icy as she stared him down.

"You know I don't wanna leave you."

"Really? Seems like you can't wait to get out of here." Andrea didn't bother to take off her sneakers. She turned her back on him and lay back on the bed, refusing to look at him. "I thought you didn't want to leave me alone—all this time."

"Ain't much options, Drea. I don't wanna leave you here by yourself, but I can't risk you gettin' hurt out there."

"I can handle myself!" She meant to say it in a louder voice, but it came out muffled.

"I know you can, but right now, you need to stay here. I'm comin' right back—I promise."

She didn't answer. Shane went by her side of the bed to see what was going on. He wasn't surprised to see her laying with her eyes closed. Her breathing was calm as she had started to drift off to sleep again. Shane picked up the Fixation bowie and placed it on the pillow beside her. He was going to leave her there resting when he thought better of it. Making sure to remain quiet, Shane squeezed her hand gently as though reassuring her that he meant what he said: he'd be right back. It was the wrong thing to do because Andrea grasped his hand in hers. When he tried to leave, she clutched his hand tighter. Doing so made it impossible for him to leave.

Shane stayed there for another hour watching her go from resting to sleeping. The second time he tried to leave, he gently removed his hand out of hers. Andrea was exhausted and didn't stir when he placed her arm by her side. Nor did she move when he leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. He watched her for a little longer and decided he would make his move now before she woke up and found him gone.

oOo

Shane drove the RV down the road. He had passed by a row of abandoned houses minutes ago and was going to scavenge for food and medicine until a herd of walkers emerged from the backyard of one home. Although it was a small group, he didn't want to chance running into a much larger herd. It was better to play it safe.

He drove for a short time before pulling into a large parking lot that was half full with abandoned cars. The fact that he was able to find a shopping center not too far from the house was truly a blessing. He was wracked with guilt for leaving Andrea by herself, but he knew he would feel worse if he didn't get her the food and medicine she needed. Looking back, he should've been more vigilant about keeping track of their supplies. This way he wouldn't be caught off guard, especially during an emergency. His consolation was that he'd be in and out of there in no time.

As he got out of the RV, he double-checked his knife in the thigh holster and the Glock 17 tucked in pants. Before leaving the house, he made sure he had plenty of ammunition. There was no way he'd run out of bullets if he ran into a herd. He thought of the herd he had just seen and memories of going to the school to get Carl the medical supplies replayed in his mind like a movie. He saw him and Otis throwing flares at the walkers, getting the supplies, running through the school—Shane shook his head. He had gave Otis an honorable memorial service and resolved to not carry guilt anymore. Shane left the past behind—as he had often urged Andrea to do—and focused on the here and now.

So far, it was quiet. He listened carefully for the sound of scraping and growling that would indicate walkers in the vicinity. There was nothing. Shane kicked open the door and rushed inside the supermarket. Taking off the backpack, Shane opened it and started making his way up and down the aisles. He knew what to look for: non-perishable items. Peanut butter, crackers, cereal bars, and all things canned: soups, fruits, and vegetables. The backpack was half-full. Next on his list was medical supplies. Aspirin, Tylenol, Vicks VapoRub, cough syrup, band-aids, soap, gauze, and sanitizing wipes. He wondered if Andrea needed stronger medication than aspirin, but this would have to do for now. The backpack was full of supplies that should last them at least a month. Shane decided he'd come back in two weeks just so that he and Andrea were better prepared.

Making his way to the front door, Shane felt relieved. He had gotten the supplies with no problem. No crawling corpses waiting for a live meal and no living people trying to take his supplies. Now he just needed to get back in the RV and drive back home to Andrea. Shane raced out of the supermarket and started toward the RV when he stopped short.

There were four walkers hanging around the RV's door, hitting it loudly.

Where the hell did they come from? He looked around and saw two stray walkers making their way across the parking lot. They were attracted to the noise from the four walkers hitting the RV. It was only six walkers, but that six meant there could be sixteen more hanging around the abandoned cars. Shane quietly made his way to the RV. When he was several feet away, he reached for his Glock 17. The walkers didn't seem to notice him and kept slapping at the RV as though expecting a living person to come out. Wasting no time, Shane shot all four walkers in the head. All four undead collapsed on each other. The explosive gunshots caught the attention of the other two walkers. They turned towards Shane, growling and carnivorous. Before they could take two more steps, Shane put them down.

That takes care of that, he thought. Shane made his way to the RV and saw the four permanently dead walkers blocking the tires. He cursed under his breath. Now he had to move them out of the way so that when he drove away, they wouldn't catch on the tires and mess up the traction. He snatched one walker by its ankles and dragged it away. He came back and did the same with the next two. The sound of footsteps pricked his ears at the same moment that he started to move the last walker. Shane whipped around with his Glock 17 aimed—and saw no one. "Not behind you, but in front of you." Explosive pain slammed across his face. Woozy and disoriented, the ground rushed up to meet him and then he was yanked backwards—someone was trying to pull off his backpack. Not just trying—but actually succeeded in getting it off his back. Rage raced through Shane and he fought against the ringing in his head as he pushed himself up from the ground. Whoever had the nerve to kick him in the face was about to become his personal punching bag. He got to his feet and fired a warning shot in the air.

"Woah, easy now. I'm not here to cause any trouble. I just want some of what you have."

"You ain't takin' my shit—get your own!"

Shane focused on his would-be assailant who now placed down the backpack and raised his hands in the air. The man wore a leather trench coat with a grey knit hat. He didn't know why the clothes caught his attention or why his facial features—a long beard and goatee—stood out to him. "The name's Paul Rovia, but my friends call me 'Jesus'." He shrugged. "Take your pick."

"Lemme ask you somethin'." Shane held him in his sights. "If I shoot you right now, will you resurrect in three days?"

Jesus offered an impish grin. "One way to find out, right?"

Shane glared back at him. "I ain't—"

He never finished his sentence as Jesus raced behind him, grabbed his arm, and twisted it behind his back. Thrown off by the sudden attack, Shane accidentally fired the Glock 17. Behind him, Jesus tried to take him down, but Shane maintained his footing and used his free arm to elbow Jesus in the face. He heard Jesus stagger backwards and used the free moment to pistol whip him. Jesus looked as though he were about to collapse—his head was bowed and his gait was unsteady. Shane approached him when Jesus sent another high kick to his face. Shane crashed to the ground. Wiping his face, he saw blood on his hand and looked up in time to see Jesus who now had the backpack of supplies. The moment he saw Jesus' holding the backpack, the fight in him died. He didn't know why the adrenaline he was running on suddenly evaporated and he was slammed with a numbing powerlessness. He was still furious, but he needed to be smart and not rash about this.

"Give it back." Shane kept his Glock 17 aimed on Jesus. "I won't shoot you, although I really wanna pump you full of lead for stealin' what's mine."

"Yours? I don't see your name on it." Jesus turned the backpack upside down and all the supplies tumbled out, hitting the ground. He knelt down and turned over a can of peaches, searching for a name. "That's funny, this doesn't have your name on it either…" He held up a bottle of aspirin. "What about this? Hey—what's your name?"

"Shane Walsh." He barely heard himself speak. There was no way he could go back to Andrea empty-handed. He didn't even want to imagine her waking up only to find him gone.

"Well, Shane Walsh…thank you for saving me the trouble of finding food and meds." Jesus' tone was smug. "My people could use all the supplies they can get."

"Your people ain't my priority."

"Who's your priority then?"

"Someone who needs those meds and needs to eat so that she feels better. She's sick as hell an' we have nothin' left…" Had this been any other time in his life, pleading would've made him feel moronic. It was so unlike him, but he was doing this for Andrea and not for himself. That alone was all the motivation he needed.

Jesus looked at Shane, a forlorn expression on his face. It was a mix of pity and laughter. Then he pointed past Shane. "Not in front of you, but behind you."

Shane turned around in time to see a walker stumble towards him. He shot the walker point blank in the head and watched it collapse at his feet. When he looked up, Jesus had that same expression that looked as though he were trying to decide if he should laugh with or at Shane. Shane raised the Glock 17 so that it was pressed right between Jesus' eyes. Jesus's eyes focused on the barrel of the gun. The cold metal pressed against his skin and he met Shane's deadly glare.

"One last time: return my shit to me. Now."

"I just saved your life and you still don't trust me?" Shane pulled back the hammer. "Does that answer your stupid question?"

The mechanical click echoed in Jesus' ears. He pointed down at the food and medicine items scattered on the ground. "Okay…okay."

Without a word, he returned everything to the backpack. The entire time, Shane aimed the Glock 17 at him. If he made one wrong move, Shane would shoot him on the spot. When he was finished, he held the backpack out to Shane, who snatched it from him. Jesus waited to see what Shane would do. Shane still kept his Glock 17 trained on him. Jesus sighed, as though reluctant.

"I can help you," he said, quietly.

"How? By stealin' the items my woman needs to live to see another day?" Shane held up the backpack. "You mus' think I'm Boo-Boo the Fool." He went over to the RV and opened the door.

Jesus followed him. "I think you're a good man to come out here on your own—a desperate man too."

"Don't butter me up—jus' get gone an' make sure we never cross paths again."

"My community has a doctor who can help your friend." Jesus' expression was serious. "You said she was sick, right?"

Shane was now in the driver's seat and had turned on the RV. He saw Jesus standing outside and wondered why in the world he was still talking. Still…Jesus said he could help out… "I'm takin' care of her."

"How about you both come to The Hilltop and let our doctor check her out."

"What the hell's 'The Hilltop'?!" In his mind, he was asking himself, why the hell am I still listenin' to you?

"Hilltop Colony is my community. We call it 'The Hilltop'. I come out to scavenge for supplies and scout for new recruits."

"I ain't interested."

Jesus chuckled. "Obviously you are, otherwise you would've left already."

Shane sent him a scathing glare, but said nothing.

"You don't have to do this alone—you've been on your own for a long time, right?" Jesus asked to confirm.

"I ain't answerin' that. What's this 'bout a doctor?!" He had to ask, even though he didn't want to. By now, he was certain Andrea would get better if a doctor examined her.

"If your friend is sick, he can help her out."

"Is this some bullshit trap you set up for strangers on the road? Act like you gonna help 'em out an' then kill 'em? Take what's theirs?"

Jesus shook his head. "There's no catch, no prank, and no set-up. You're a good man—you've had several chances to kill me and you didn't. Bring me to your friend and I'll let you know if our doctor can help her. If not, I'll leave and you'll never see my face again. I'll 'get gone an' make sure we never cross paths again'."

Shane stared at the steering wheel and then glanced at Jesus. As he calculated the possible risks of trusting a complete stranger who attacked him and tried to run off with his supplies, Andrea flashed through his mind. Andrea shivering and vomiting, Andrea trying to leave the house with him so that she could back him up, Andrea healthy again… He made up his mind. If he was going to bring Jesus back to the house, he would do it his way. Shane reached in his pocket and his hand closed around the twine he had used earlier to lock the house's doors from the outside to ensure no one got inside. His instincts had told him he would find another use for them today…Shane came out of the RV and stood with Jesus face to face.

"No bullshit."

"No bullshit," Jesus agreed.

"If I find out this Hilltop is a pack of lies, I'm shootin' you in the stomach so you can bleed the hell out. Die a slow an' painful death."

"That's cruel," Jesus said, but he didn't look the least bit scared. "You're an asshole—you know that, right?"

"I never pretended to be somethin' I wasn't."

"Fair enough."

"Hold out your wrists," Shane demanded.

Jesus did as he was told and said nothing the entire time Shane bound his wrists.

oOo

Shane parked the RV outside of the house. Jesus sat in the passenger seat. His hands were still bound in front of him. Shane had tied his waist to the seat and blindfolded him. Although he wanted to believe Jesus knew a doctor that could help Andrea—Shane was still skeptical. The entire ride back, Jesus tried to make conversation with him and Shane gave the silent treatment. It didn't deter Jesus at all. In fact, it encouraged him to talk more. Shane was glad to finally be back at the home—so he could get away from Jesus and check on Andrea.

"Stay right where you are."

Jesus grinned. "Sure thing, I'll just hang out here."

Shane exited from the RV and slammed the door. He undid the knots he had tied earlier and went inside the home. As he made his way to the master bedroom, he imagined what he'd tell Andrea. Of course, the good news that he found food and medicine. He entered the master bedroom quietly, so as not to disturb her. As he approached the bed, he saw her buried under blankets. He could tell from the outline of her body that she was laying on her side. Only her head and blonde hair could be seen on the pillow. Her hair had grown back to a longer length. The blonde tresses went past her shoulders and he had teased her about it before she got sick. In retaliation, she told him he needed to shave the nest off his face. Shane touched his beard and chuckled at the memory of them teasing each other and then quickly sobered up. He wondered if he should let her sleep longer and then remembered Jesus said he knew a doctor—Andrea needed to see a doctor. Shane sat down beside her and gently caressed her face. Andrea blinked and turned over.

"Drea…wake up."

"Huh…?"

"I'm back."

Andrea shifted again and then her eyes fluttered open. "Shane?"

As she became fully awake, her body trembled. From anger, sadness, or from being overwhelmed with sickness, Shane couldn't tell, but he figured it was all three.

"You…you left…? What if you hadn't come back?" Coughs punctuated her questions.

"But I did come back, I'm here now." Shane set the backpack on the bed and opened it up. He took out a can of diced tomatoes for her to see. "I got us food." He searched inside the bag again and produced the cough syrup. "An' I got meds for you."

Andrea struggled to sit up. Shane reached over to help her and she pushed him away.

Shane backed off, confused by her reaction. "What the hell's your problem?"

"You left…I told you…I asked you not to leave! What if you had been killed out there?!" She broke into a nonstop fit of coughing.

Shane stared at her, not understanding what Andrea expected him to do. If he didn't act today, her condition would worsen. They ran the risk of starving. The seeds Andrea planted yielded some food, but Shane wanted canned foods in the home. More important than food was having medicine. Aspirin to address her headaches and stomachaches. Cough syrup to help ease her coughing. Andrea was still railing against him and Shane said nothing. If he was feeling like himself, he would've talked over her, but he had no energy. Sitting up with her all night and his run-in with Jesus had taken its toll. "Anything could've happened to you and I'd never know. Don't you ge— who's that?!" Andrea pointed past him and backed up against the bedframe, trying to protect herself.

Shane turned around to see who had caught her attention and grabbed his Glock 17. "How the hell did you get loose?!" He bounded off the bed and approached the man whom Andrea pointed at.

Jesus tossed the twine on the floor. "Knots untie, doors unlock. It's not as difficult as it sounds."

"Who are you?" Andrea asked as she wiped the sweat beading on her forehead.

"I was about to ask you the same question." Jesus smile evaporated when he saw Andrea's strength crumble as she tried unsuccessfully to sit up on her own. As soon as she made it halfway up, she tumbled down again. "Shane wasn't kidding—you're in bad shape."

Shane looked from Jesus to Andrea, trying to decide who and what to address first: Jesus out of his bonds or Andrea who was now curled up in the bed. He would've had to untie Jesus eventually. So that made his decision clear: he went back to Andrea. What little energy she spent in yelling at Shane had completely vanished. Her face had reddened and her body was covered in cold sweat. Jesus watched Shane wrap Andrea in a purple sheet.

"Stay with me, Drea…we're gonna get you what you need. Jesus knows a doctor who can help you."

"Just one thing," Jesus said. "Once we leave here, we won't be coming back."

"What?!" Shane was irate—Jesus had failed to bring up this little detail. "You ain't say anythin' 'bout us havin' to stay there!"

"We like to retain new people to keep our community growing strong. Andrea will still see a doctor."

Andrea barely moved, but the slight movement in her head indicated to Shane that she was agreeable to seeing a doctor. She didn't register anything else Jesus had mentioned. Shane glared hatefully at Jesus and then turned his attention to Andrea. He was caught in a bind—stay in the home while Andrea's condition worsened or take a leap of faith and go with Jesus to his community so that she got better...even if it meant leaving the house for good.

"I'll drive us since you'll probably sit her in the back of the RV."

"I'm sittin' up front with you to ensure you don't drop us off a cliff." Shane made up his mind and tucked his Glock 17 in the front of his pants.

"Why would I do that?" It was hard to tell if Jesus was amused or genuinely annoyed. "I have nothing to gain by killing a sick woman and her hotheaded man."

"I ain't stupid an' I ain't takin' chances. Take us exactly how I jus' said or you'll have to walk your crazy ass back to this 'Hilltop Colony'."

Jesus glanced from Shane to Andrea, and back to Shane again. He shook his head, but then offered a wide grin. "I can do it—I've walked long trips before."

"I don't wanna hear 'bout your stupid trips. Are we goin' or not?" Shane shot the question, but even before Jesus answered, he was already lifting Andrea out of the bed.

"Of course, I'm a man of my word." Jesus nodded.

"More doin' less talkin'."

"Sure, just one more question."

Shane rubbed his head, trying to ease his frustration. "What is it?" They didn't have time to waste. Andrea looked far worse now than before he had left to scavenge for supplies. The more time they stayed here talking about stupid nonsense, the less time Andrea had to see the doctor—and this was all dependent on trusting the man they had just met.

"Who is she to you?"

"Why the hell does it matter?! She needs help!" He held Andrea close to him now and maneuvered her so that she was comfortable. Her arm was draped around his shoulders and she buried her head in his chest.

"Is she your friend? Girlfriend? Best friend? Wife—"

"She's EVERYTHIN' to me!"

"Shane," Andrea whispered. Her face was pressed against Shane's chest, so her voice was muffled—but her message was clear. "Remember what I told you…your presentation." Although her last two words were coherent, she was already starting to nod off.

Shane took a deep breath in an attempt to remain calm. "Okay…I'm gonna try."

Jesus watched their exchange and nodded in approval. "Let's go."

Shane followed Jesus outside of the home while carrying Andrea in his arms. When they got to the RV, Shane allowed Jesus to help Andrea board first. As Jesus turned on the RV, Shane guided Andrea to lay down on a bed and bent down to kiss her. Andrea was exhausted and didn't have the energy to kiss him back. Shane pulled away and brushed the hair out of her face. It was limp and lacked its usual healthy appearance.

"You know I love you, Drea…that I'd do anythin' for you."

Andrea nodded and winced. "I know."

Her voice was hoarse and Shane decided to leave her alone so she could rest. He hoped he was making the right decision. The house had been the first place they had ongoing stability. Now they were leaving for the unknown and Shane tried not to overthink it. This trip to The Hilltop was about getting Andrea the help she needed. Once he got her situated, he went back to the front of the RV and sat down in the passenger's side. He took out his Glock 17 and aimed it at Jesus—even as Jesus drove away from the house. "I love road trips, don't you?" Jesus said, attempting humor. "When was the last time you were on one? I mean, not counting the recent one you and Andrea took."

"Shut up an' drive!"

Jesus laughed as he drove down the road and passed by the same row of houses that Shane had seen earlier. He whistled when he saw the large herd congregating on the front lawn of two houses. Then he turned to Shane.

"You got some serious anger management issues."

"YOU GONNA HAVE BULLET-IN-YOUR-HEAD ISSUES IF YOU DON'T SHUT THE HELL UP AN' DRIVE!

" SHANE!"

Even from the back of the RV, Andrea's tone was stern and carried over to where Shane sat. Shane looked over his shoulder and saw Andrea sitting up and glaring at him. She lay back down again, trying to sleep. Shane slumped in the passenger seat, humbled by her admonition. She didn't have to say anything more. Just her calling him out by his name was enough. He still kept his Glock 17 out, but now he focused on the road ahead. Jesus cast him a sideways glance and chuckled quietly as he drove.

"She doesn't play games." He was jovial at first, but then he turned serious. "I'll make sure she sees the best doctors we have—Harlan Carson and Emmett Carson."

"They're brothers?" Shane made sure not to yell; he simply asked the question. For Andrea's sake, he would do the best he could to remain calm.

"Yeah and both are great. Glad we have them, they'll help Andrea. She's gonna be okay."

Shane was about to express gratitude and decided to wait until he saw actual results. Talk was cheap as the saying went. He'd wait until he saw that Jesus' actions matched his words insofar as helping Andrea and him. He simply nodded, while still keeping his Glock 17 trained on Jesus. Jesus seemed to understand where Shane was coming from and rest of the drive to The Hilltop was silent.

 

Chapter Text

 

"Better to be the predator than the prey"

They always come in the night
They come to steal what's mine

Future Royalty - "Take What's Mine"

"When will Shawn and Angela integrate with the rest of the community?"

"When they're good and ready and not before then." Jesus stood in the infirmary's doorway, watching "Shawn" and "Angela" and trying not to let impatience enter his voice. He knew Gregory, The Hilltop's leader, always had a negative reaction whenever he brought anyone into the community from the outside. That had never deterred him and it wouldn't now.

"You have a habit of picking up stragglers." Gregory gestured at "Shawn" and "Angela" as though they were trash that needed to be disposed of.

"As long as I see people out there that need our help, I'll bring them back here."

"Yeah…Jesus saves."

"That joke's old. You need to come up with something new."

There was a brief silence before Gregory and Jesus resumed talking. "I hope they don't take advantage of our kindness."

"They're not like that."

"Look at how many resources they've already used! We have an entire community—"

"That's enough, Gregory."

Shane sat in a cot in The Hilltop's infirmary next to Andrea's bed. He held her hand in his hand and interlocked his fingers with hers. When a slight smile flashed across her face, it gave him a fleeting sense of peace. Fleeting because her smile disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. Her skin felt cold and clammy against his. He had hoped by now that Andrea would've been released, but Doctor Harlan Carson didn't want to chance it. Shane planned to stay with her no matter how long it took for her to be released—leaving her was not an option.

The infirmary was a small room with one bed that Andrea lay in. A folding table had been turned into an examination table, there was a crate with doctor's supplies including a stethoscope, and a desk with bottles of medicine was situated near the window. The quarters were cramped, but it would do for now. He needed to endure this new place—and endure the discussion that was being held about him and Andrea. They were being discussed as though they weren't present. It was beyond irksome and the longer he listened to the conversation, the more painful his headache became. It felt like nails being stabbed into his skull. The best thing he could do was ignore Gregory, who made no attempt to hide the conversation. Jesus was more discreet, but Shane still questioned his motives. Hadn't Jesus told him the community was developing and growing? It didn't matter. Better to focus on Andrea, who slept in a makeshift hospital bed. She was the only reason they were there.

Four days had passed since the time he had met Jesus. It seemed like four weeks. Jesus had kept his word and brought them to The Hilltop. The first place she had been taken to was the infirmary to address her symptoms and she had been there since. Although Shane had been permitted to stay in his trailer while Andrea recuperated, he refused to leave her side. He hadn't even seen the new home that had been offered to them. That didn't sit well with the group's leader, a sleazy middle-aged man named Gregory, but Shane didn't care. He didn't like Gregory from the moment Jesus introduced them to each other. Gregory had brushed him off as though he were some wayward nuisance that was going to sit there and take up space. Much to Gregory's annoyance, Jesus had advocated for Shane and Andrea to stay. Jesus was sincere, but Gregory was sneaky. Of course, he was at it again. Shane knew it was too good to be true that The Hilltop leader had been quiet for a full minute.

"It's what they did before you found them—take other folks' resources. Leech off them and then go looking for their next victim. Parasitic! I want them out of here!"

Shane had heard enough. He was doing his best to be mindful of his presentation and ignore Gregory, but when he saw how Andrea shifted in the bed, he knew she heard the hateful comments coming from The Hilltop leader. Gregory wasn't secretive about his dislike for the two "parasitic" visitors. When she opened her eyes, fear and regret stared back at him. Shane wanted to hold Andrea close to him and tell her she had nothing to be afraid of, nor had she done anything wrong. She had gotten very sick. It wasn't her fault and he had met Jesus who offered to get them help. They had been at The Hilltop for less than a week and they were already being kicked out. Better to remove themselves than to be exiled. Shane gently let go of Andrea's hand and stood up to face Jesus and Gregory.

"Look, I appreciate you bringin' my Drea here—"

Gregory scrunched up his face in disapproval and his tone was scornful. "'My Drea'? Is that your pet name for her? I thought her name was 'Angela'."

Shane looked from Gregory to Jesus. He ignored the former and addressed the latter. "Is he always a big dick or is he havin' a good day?"

"He's being a dick as always," Jesus agreed, nodding. "Don't take it personal; he's like that with everyone."

"His bullshit is gettin' under my woman's skin."

"Tell her to get used to it!" Gregory shot at him.

Shane stared at Gregory while talking directly to Jesus. "If he doesn't shut the hell up, I'm gonna knock this shithead's teeth right out of his stupid face."

Gregory huffed and paced back and forth, never taking his gray eyes off Shane. Shane thought he looked like a caged weasel.

"I'll take Drea out of here. She don't need this aggravation."

"Good riddance!" Gregory called across the room.

Shane used all his willpower to not retaliate and knelt down beside Andrea's bed. She hadn't been able to go back to sleep again and she still had that same questioning look in her eyes. He was about to tell her his plans about leaving the infirmary so that he could start packing their belongings when Jesus intervened.

"You don't have to go back out there." Jesus blocked the entrance, preventing Shane from leaving. "You have a roof over your head, medicine, food, clothes—"

"Shawn doesn't have any of that," Gregory said. "He hasn't earned his place here, Jesus! He and his wife, Angela, just take, take, and take!"

It occurred to Shane that Gregory might be trying to antagonize him on purpose so that he would explosively react. It would give Gregory an excuse to kick out him and Andrea. He knew Gregory was cowardly, but he was in charge, whether he liked it or not. Acting in a hotheaded manner was a risk he couldn't chance. It would only hurt Andrea if he took her out too soon or if they were tossed out there before she was feeling better. Better for her to be feeling one-hundred percent than to be thrown out while she was still vomiting, having ongoing headaches, a fever… Shane thought quickly: he would do whatever was needed in order for Andrea to continue receiving care. He decided to show Jesus that he appreciated him taking a chance on them.

"He's a shady asshole," Shane said, nodding at Gregory who stood nearby glaring at him. "But you did right by me an' Drea an' I don't take that lightly. If there's a way that I can earn my keep aroun' here, let me know."

Jesus nodded. "I appreciate that, but you don't have—"

"I do an' I want to."

Jesus went to the room's window and glanced outside. They were on the second floor of the mansion known as the Barrigton House. Jesus had explained to Shane that the Hilltop Colony was originally just the mansion, which was a barn and blacksmith's shop. The family who owned the house gave it to the state of Virginia in the 1930s and from there it was turned into a museum. After the outbreak, many survivors found refuge there and a farming community was started. From where he stood, he was able to see one side wall that had been erected a week before he found Andrea and Shane. In the front yard, a group of Hilltop residents worked on another part of the wall. Jesus gestured for Shane to come to the window and pointed outside.

"The residents are working on the perimeter wall. You can help them out—they always could use an extra set of hands."

"Sounds good." Shane nodded. He looked outside and saw chickens and livestock in the area surrounding the mansion.

"That's the best way to earn your keep here."

"How long have ya'll been workin' on it?"

"A little over a month. We've been clearing out the surrounding forests and using the wood as material for the walls. We also got some materials from an old power company."

"I'll help you finish it." Jesus was about to respond when Shane made sure to complete his offer. "It's my way of thankin' you for takin' care of Drea. After that, her an' I will leave."

"The sooner the better!" Gregory shouted.

Shane glanced at Gregory, his expression a mix of exhaustion and humor. "He never quits, does he?"

Jesus laughed. "He doesn't and he'll always be here, but you don't have to deal with him, just me. I'm your main contact person. I'll make sure you guys get your trailer back as soon as Andrea feels better."

"Thank you."

"You got it."

Shane gave a half smile. It was hard to muster that expression, but he was relieved that he and Andrea had safety and shelter. He returned to the cot that was situated by Andrea's bed and took her hand in his again. Watching her return to sleeping calmly gave him hope that everything was going to work out. He was so focused on watching her sleep that he didn't hear when Gregory reprimanded Jesus for making a decision without his consent. The decision being that Shane and Andrea were welcome to stay at The Hilltop for as long as they wanted…

oOo

Two weeks later, Andrea was released from The Hilltop's infirmary and went to live with Shane in the RV they had arrived in. Dr. Carson urged her to return in case she ever needed a medical check-up. So far, Andrea didn't feel the need to see him again as she felt much better. She had just left their RV and started making her way to the Barrington House when Jesus joined her. Shane told her the name of the community was Hilltop Colony and that the mansion was situated on an actual hilltop. Some of the residents, including Gregory and Jesus, resided in the Barrington House. Other residents, like her and Shane, remained in the RV's lined up outside of the mansion. Jesus guided her to where Shane was helping to build the last part of the perimeter wall. Other Hilltop residents were cutting wood, tying sections of the gate together, and working fast to ensure the community's safety. She was amazed at how much of the large wood-post fences had already been completed.

"He's a hard worker, gets the job done…" Jesus commented, pointing at Shane who was sawing wood on a table. "Gregory was just doing what he usually does, pushing buttons for no reason."

Andrea looked in the direction Jesus pointed. "Shane is Shane and when he says he's gonna do something, he does it."

She decided not to comment on Gregory. He didn't deserve to rent space in her mind, free of charge, as far as she was concerned. Her focus was on Shane. He had told her that he agreed to help build the perimeter fence as a way to give back to The Hilltop, and to express his gratitude for Jesus getting her the medical care she needed. When she was feeling better, he had relayed what had transpired that led them to the Hilltop Colony. Andrea had vague memories of Shane lifting her out of the bed and bringing her to their RV. She remembered Jesus showing up in their home and not knowing who he was until Shane explained how they ran into each other when he went out scavenging for food and medication. The funniest part was how Jesus got his name: to his friends, he resembled the Western version of Jesus Christ. Jesus didn't mind being called this name, although he had told Andrea that his real name was Paul Rovia.

"What were you both before this?"

"I was a civil rights attorney and Shane was a sheriff's deputy."

"No wonder he's such a hard-ass!" Jesus laughed and then became serious again. "I studied martial arts. I'm also proficient in escaping if you remember."

"I definitely didn't forget that."

Andrea shook her head, amused, when she remembered Jesus standing in the doorway of the bedroom, throwing twine on the floor. She made eye contact with Shane, who had looked up briefly from his work. He offered a curt nod in response and went back to sawing more wood.

"He has his moments and that's putting it nicely, but his heart's in the right place." She explained how Shane gave her training in using firearms and how his methods, although they were helpful, were also off-putting.

"Who is he to you? He got pissed when I asked him the first time."

A wry smile flashed across Andrea's face as she remembered Shane yelling at Jesus in the house before he brought her to the RV. "You've asked him this before."

Jesus nodded. "That's true, I did. When I first met you both, you were sick and Shane answered the question—or rather, he shouted it."

"So then you know the answer, but I'll tell you anyway." She thought about everything her and Shane had been through since the time they left the farm. "He's my best friend, my lover, my partner…" Andrea's focus was on Shane again and Jesus was amazed at the adoration radiating from her when she spoke about him. "He's my everything and the reason I'm still alive."

"You both keep each other alive."

"That sums it up. I'd be a goner if it weren't for him and he'd be lost without me. We went through hell to get to this point."

"I'm hoping it'll be smooth sailing from now on, especially since you're both staying here."

"I'm sure it will." A question was burning in Andrea's mind ever since she had left the infirmary. "Where are we?"

"Not too far from the city of Alexandria."

"We're in Virginia?!" Andrea was shocked and she wondered if Shane knew their location.

"You've been on the road for quite some time." Jesus' tone was thoughtful. "I bet you didn't realize how far north you were. Where did you guys travel from?"

"Atlanta…" Her voice trailed off when she remembered the day they had left the farm. It seemed like eons ago.

"Down south?"

She nodded. To find out they were close to their destination was exciting. Maybe Shane would want to get back on the road and continue driving to Maryland. Or perhaps he'd want to stay at The Hilltop, although he had mentioned leaving after he finished helping them construct the massive perimeter wall.

"Thank you fo—" Andrea stopped mid-sentence when she saw Shane gesturing her to come over to where he was. "I'll go see what he wants." She couldn't wait to tell him that they were close to Maryland and left Jesus to go to where Shane had placed his saw on the table.

Jesus watched her join Shane and then turned to go back to the Barrington House. Gregory had told him earlier that he wanted to have a sit-down dinner with the entire community in attendance once the final wall was erected. Shane was working with the other residents on the final perimeter wall. They expected to be finished within a week, so Jesus figured the dinner would take place in the near future.

oOo

The Hilltop's celebratory dinner was scheduled in the mansion's massive dining room the day after the final perimeter wall was put up. Shane worked with The Hilltop residents to set up the tables and chairs while Andrea assisted Craig, another Hilltop resident, with bringing out the food. When everything was set up, they sat together at the end of the table. Jesus came over to sit across from them. Gregory stood up at the head of the table and gave an opening speech about all the hard work that Hilltop residents had done to bring safety to the community by setting up the perimeter walls. Shane sent Gregory a sideways glance while Andrea stared at the food, hungry and eager to eat.

"Not bad, right?" Jesus passed a bowl of carrots to Shane.

"Don't know why he's the leader," Shane said, gesturing at Gregory who now sat down ready to eat the meal that had been prepared. Most of the meal had been made from the fruits and vegetables being grown on the Hilltop land. Of course, he had served himself first. "You should be in charge."

Jesus scoffed. "Whoever wears the crown also wears blame when things go wrong."

"That's very true," Andrea said.

"You should remember that, Shane. It's a blessing that Rick took over so that you didn't have to deal with that pressure."

"You used to be the leader of a group?" Jesus was amazed. "When was this?"

"In the beginnin' when everythin' first started," Shane said. "Me an' Drea were at a camp at Atla—"

He stopped when he heard the knocking. The dining room was on the first floor and although the table was crowded with chattering Hilltop residents, the knocking came again, louder than the first time. This time it sounded like "Shave and a Haircut (Two Bits)". A hush slowly fell over the group and Jesus turned as he saw Gregory get up and head for the front door.

"Excuse me," Jesus said, pushing away from the table. "I'll find out what's going on."

Shane and Andrea watched as Jesus left the dining room. It was silent for a few seconds and then there was a loud banging noise. Someone had barged into the mansion and had pushed open the front doors so hard that it hit the walls. There was the sound of rushed footsteps. A haunting whistling tune filled the air and then a deep voice rang out:

"Who's the fucking leader here?"

Shane and Andrea glanced at each other and then observed the rest of The Hilltop residents. They were dumbfounded by what was going on and listened as Jesus and Gregory spoke with the uninvited guests in a hurried manner. It was hard to hear what was being said. Shane started towards the entrance of the dining room just as Andrea got up and joined him. He heard several Hilltop residents push away from the table and that's when the conversation between Jesus, Gregory, and the uninvited guest(s) grew louder.

"The answer is no—and I don't know how you got through the front gates!" Gregory, as usual, had no tact.

"Let's try this again—we want half your shit: half your crops, half your livestock, half your supplies, and half of whatever the hell you've got stashed in your House on a Hill."

A throaty chuckle erupted from one of the men. "Don't waste your breath, Simon. We're gonna leave here today with something even if it's Gregory's fucking head on a silver platter."

"We'll give you a trailer with a quarter of our food and supplies, but that's it."

Shane recognized Jesus' familiar assertive tone. He started towards the front of the mansion and stopped when he saw the two men sparring with Jesus and Gregory. One man had dark hair and sported a black leather jacket, but that wasn't what caught Shane's attention. A baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire rested on the man's shoulder. The man held the bat firmly in his grip and then brought it face to face against Gregory. Gregory stared at the baseball bat, afraid that the man intended to smash his head with it. Shane hated Gregory, but even so, he was tempted to go out there and confront the man who wielded the baseball bat. He didn't give it further thought and was about to approach them when Andrea grabbed his wrist, pulling him back. Shane whipped around to confront her when he saw her pointing ahead of him.

"Don't," she whispered.

Shane looked just in time as a dozen men charged through The Hilltop's front doors and quickly enclosed Jesus and Gregory (in addition to the two men who were already there) in a large circle. Every single man held a weapon: axes, shotguns, mallets, hammers, shovels, and sledgehammers. The circle of men closed in on Gregory and Jesus. Gregory kept looking over his shoulder while Jesus maintained a stoic expression with his arms folded across his chest in defiance. Undaunted by the group surrounding them, Jesus repeated his ultimatum.

"A quarter and that's it."

"I don't want fucking one-fourth of what you have—"

"We want half—even if it means we have to shake your people down to get what we want." That was the tall balding man with the handlebar mustache. Just then, the same man looked in the direction where Andrea, Shane, and the rest of The Hilltop residents were gathered and watching everything. "Negan, look what we have here: leverage."

The man wearing the black leather jacket turned and pointed his baseball bat at the group. "We got ourselves a fucking smorgasbord of victims for Lucille to dine on. Pick one and the unlucky fucker will meet her in person—unless they all want to do a meet and greet!" He laughed loudly as he swung the bat in the air.

In no time at all, the group of men ushered everyone outside of the mansion. It happened so fast that Andrea and Shane lost each other in the commotion. Andrea looked all over for Shane, but by the time she saw him, she was forced to kneel between Craig and Doctor Harlan Carson. Doctor Emmett Carson was sitting on the other side of his brother. Above the racket of The Hilltop residents being pushed and shoved, she heard the man in the black leather jacket speaking to them. The entire time, her eyes were focused on the barbed wire baseball bat that he carried with him. Her heart slammed in her ears and she caught snippets of what he was telling them—"Saviors," "take half of your fucking supplies," "this is your new life now". None of it made sense, although she knew in time that it would. She caught a glimpse of Gregory and Jesus kneeling at the end of the line. Shane was right, Jesus should be the leader—that thought rang through her mind when watching Jesus comfort one of the younger Hilltop residents, Rory. She remembered Rory gave her a tour of The Hilltop after she had left the infirmary. He was a soft-spoken teenager who had been one of the community's first residents.

A high-pitched scream pierced Andrea's ears.

Two of the men dragged Rory from the line-up and threw him on the ground. Before she could make out who the two men were, suddenly Rory was surrounded by the entire group of men carrying weapons. Her jaw dropped in horror when the men tossed their weapons to the ground—and pummeled Rory using their clenched fists. Legs flew in the air and arms shot out. Through the haze of men, she could see Rory curling himself into a ball, trying to protect himself. She heard Rory groaning in pain as he was kicked and punched repeatedly. She thought they'd stop after seeing his blood smear the ground, but they kept going. It was hard to see Rory between all the men around him, but she noticed that at some point, he stopped moving. The gang beating lasted until a shrill whistle from the man carrying the baseball bat signaled them to stop. The group of men cleared and grabbed their weapons from the ground.

Rory lay sprawled out on the ground. Dead.

Andrea's lips trembled and she forced herself to maintain a blank façade, but it was difficult to do so. She didn't hear the man talking above her—she was glued to the crumpled body. Even from where she sat in the line-up, she could see Rory's frozen eyes staring straight ahead. All around her were the gasps and hushed murmurings of everyone weeping and sobbing.

"It's important that you understand how serious we are, right off the bat." The man with the handlebar mustache said as he strolled in front of the crying Hilltop residents. "Next week, we'll be back for half of your supplies—not a quarter." He stared down at Jesus who stared back at him. "Are we clear?"

"No, we ain't clear."

An unnatural silence fell over the Hilltop residents. Andrea looked on her left side and saw Shane stand up. Just as quickly, two of the men involved in Rory's deadly beating got on either side of him and grabbed his arms and the back of his sweatshirt. Tears streamed down Andrea's face as she watched both men force Shane to kneel. Shane kept struggling to free himself from their grip and he was making it worse for himself because the man with the baseball bat had already started towards him. The entire situation was a vivid nightmare that she knew she was happening in real life. She wished she was asleep so that she could wake up and find herself in Shane's arms, but just like facing The Governor was a horrible reality, so was Rory's murder and this unexpected hostile takeover of The Hilltop.

"Who the fuck told you to stand up?" The man with the baseball bat chortled.

"I did an' I ain't askin' for your permission—get the hell off me!" He attempted to fight the men off him and they held on tighter.

"You better get down on your fucking knees like everyone else or Lucille will feast on you." He held the barbed wire bat in front of Shane's face. "She has an appetite for stubborn assholes like yourself."

"Lucille? Is that your bitch's name?" Shane glared at the barbed wire baseball bat. "Damn, she's an ugly twat."

"SHANE—STOP BEING A HOTHEAD!" Tears choked Andrea's voice and she didn't care how she sounded, although she was afraid that her words come out garbled and even more terrified that he'd end up getting himself killed. "DO AS HE SAYS!"

The man scoffed. "Your name's 'Shane'?"

"No, my name's Lou Seal, like your dumbass baseball bat—the one that you pretend has a pussy."

"Don't listen to him," Andrea pleaded as she forced herself to make eye contact with the man who looked like he'd bash in Shane's head any second. "He's just…" Her words left her at the worst possible time.

The man glared at Andrea and then at Shane. "I like that fire in your eyes…I'd make good use out of it…and she has a thing for you, doesn't she?" He gestured at Andrea with the baseball bat.

Shane shrugged. "She's my woman—at least I have a real one."

The man looked again from Shane to Andrea. He cast a sideways glance at Jesus and Gregory and then grinned at the man he had come with—the man with the handlebar moustache, who nodded with approval as though he knew what was to follow. Without a word, he approached Rory's corpse. Before anyone knew what was happening, he raised the baseball bat—and brought it down hard, smashing Rory's head. He did it again and the cracking sound of Rory's skull fracturing overwhelmed The Hilltop residents. Someone screamed and another person wept. Even Shane stopped struggling when he witnessed the blatant cruelty on display. Then he turned to the group while holding out the barbed wire baseball bat named "Lucille".

"Lucille prefers live bait and I gotta hand it to her: she's fucking right on the money about that." He stood over the broken Hilltop residents and then a wide grin spread across his face. "We want half your shit by the end of the week. If I don't like what you give me, you end up with another fucking grave to dig up. Right now, it's only him." He pointed Lucille at the dead Rory who lay sprawled out on the ground with a crushed skull. "Let that be a fucking lesson to all of you." He eyed Shane now, who was forced to kneel from the two men on either side of him. "We're not here to fuck around. We're here to save you. The Saviors will make damn sure no walker comes within a foot of this residence—and in return, you give me half your shit—not a fucking quarter, not a fucking eighth—but fucking half. Are we fucking clear?"

He reached the end of the line and stuck his hand out to shake Gregory's. All the while, he held the bloodied baseball bat on his shoulder. Gregory stared at Rory's blood dripping on the ground before the man with the handlebar moustache came over.

“I think this asshole shit his pants," he laughed. "What's your name?"

"Gregory."

"Simon." Simon gestured to the man carrying the baseball bat as though he were a celebrity about to be interviewed for prime-time television. "You answer to Negan now." He then pointed at the kneeling Hilltop residents. "All of you do! Let's wrap this up, shall we? We've made our point."

"I hope so, Simon. I fucking hate repeating myself." Negan leaned over to tell something to Simon and then turned to Gregory. "Who's the most fucking valuable person here?"

Gregory's eyebrows furrowed, not understanding the question. "What?! What do you mean—"

"Got anyone worthwhile in your group that I can take back to The Sanctuary? Anyone worth their weight in fucking gold?"

Andrea noticed that Gregory looked uncertain and then it clicked in his mind. "We have two doctors."

Negan and Simon exchanged a sly smirk. "Donate one," Negan said.

"No—" Gregory started and quickly picked up the hint when Simon stepped towards him threateningly. "Okay, okay…may I?"

Negan gestured with the bloodied Lucille for Gregory to step out of line and show him the way. Wordless and with everyone's eyes glued to him, Gregory went down the line with Negan following close behind. The entire time Negan whistled an eerie tune—the same one heard earlier by the Hilltop residents. Shane saw Gregory stop right where Andrea was kneeling. Furious and having forgotten what could possibly happen to him if he acted out of line, he tried to stand up again only to be forced back down into the kneeling position.

"You can have him…he's one of our doctors."

Shane tried to see where Gregory was pointing and saw Doctor Emmett Carson stand up. Simon yanked him by his collar so that he stood with Negan now. His brother, Doctor Harlan Carson, watched silently.

"Thank you so much for your generosity," Simon said. He threw his arm around Doctor Emmett Carson, as though they were best friends. The doctor didn't appear as thrilled, but Simon didn't care. "You're gonna love The Sanctuary."

While Simon chatted with the Doctor Caron in a one-sided conversation, Negan held Lucille out to the group and pointed at everyone so that they saw the baseball bat stained with Rory's blood. As he did so, the group he called "The Saviors" assembled behind him. Although they were sitting apart from each other, both Shane's and Andrea's blood ran cold when Negan finally issued his official good-bye.

"Welcome to your new lives, you miserable fucks."

oOo

A week and a half later, Andrea and Shane found themselves doing the unthinkable: they helped load a truck of supplies that would return to the Saviors' headquarters, The Sanctuary. They weren't alone in this endeavor. Every Hilltop resident had been ordered by Gregory to give up half of everything they owned: clothing, food, and other valuable supplies. No one was exempt, not even Gregory and Jesus. This was the second time the Saviors had arrived, uninvited, to take The Hilltop's supplies. Craig's brother, Ethan, sat in the driver's seat, waiting to leave. Simon watched as everyone gave up their supplies. Shane finished putting a second box in the truck and stepped back to watch with Andrea as Simon bossed everyone around, both Saviors and Hilltop residents alike. Simon had announced in the beginning that he was there to ensure they "didn't shit on Negan like last time". Because Negan was unsatisfied with the first supply run, the Saviors came back less than a week later to seize more items. Moments later, Simon boarded the truck along with the Saviors and the provided supplies.

Andrea watched Ethan drive away. Grasping Shane's hand limply in hers, they silently returned to their trailer. Andrea pulled out the mattress in their RV and laid down. Shane lay beside her on his side and wrapped her in his arms, while she kept her back against his chest. Spooning was their favorite cuddling position. It gave them a sense of closeness and also kept them warm. They had almost fell asleep when they heard a soft knocking on the door. Andrea started to get up when Shane gently eased her back down on the mattress. He wanted her to rest as he knew she was mentally exhausted from witnessing Rory's violent death, Negan's threats, and now being forced to give up half their supplies. Shane was surprised to see Jesus waiting outside of the RV's door with a bag of food. Shane gestured for Jesus to come inside.

"We didn't give them as much as they wanted the first time, so they came back sooner than we expected." Jesus took out a loaf of bread and half a block of cheddar cheese. "This is for you guys, try to make it last throughout the week." He gave it to Shane.

"Thanks," Shane said. Ordinarily, he would've been incensed and pushed Jesus to fight the Saviors. It's what he would've done if Rick was the leader and some bully group demanded their supplies, but he had other ideas brewing in his mind—none that he wanted Jesus to know about.

"We'll make do; Drea an' I have done so before."

Jesus smiled sadly. "I'm sorry for the meager portions. We're trying to ensure the entire colony survives, now that our supplies have been cut in half. The other half went to the Saviors and they're gonna demand more."

Andrea joined them and was surprised at the awkward silence. She thought Shane would've said more about half the supplies being given away, but he didn't.

"They took Craig," Jesus said abruptly. "He delivered food for them the first time and never returned. It's why we're sending his brother, Ethan, to deliver the food."

"They took him prisoner?" Andrea asked.

"We don't know."

"You gonna fight them?" Shane couldn't hold back anymore.

"Fight them with what?" Jesus let out a sardonic laugh. "We have no weapons unless we throw carrots and potatoes at them."

"It's a start." Shane tried to use humor, but this time, Jesus didn't laugh. "When're they comin' back?"

"They said a week from today."

Shane was quiet and tempted to respond to this information, but decided it was best not to. He held up the food Jesus had gave him and Andrea. "Thanks for the bread an' cheese, we'll make it last."

"No problem. If you need anything else, let me know." Jesus left the RV, closing the door behind him.

When Jesus was out of earshot, Shane let out a deep breath. He had been wanting to have this conversation with Andrea ever since Negan and Simon first arrived with the Saviors. Reviewing their options was necessary, especially now that they were under Negan's boot and at the mercy of the Saviors. Shane always thought it was stupid that the Saviors offered to protect the Hilltop from walkers in exchange for the Hilltop giving up half their supplies. The Hilltop had a large perimeter wall. Although it didn't stop Negan and his group from getting in, it certainly kept walkers from overrunning the community.

"We need to talk, Andrea."

She shrugged and went to sit on the mattress. "There's not much to discuss."

Shane joined her on the mattress, sitting across from her. "There's a lot to discuss." He broke the bread into two pieces and handed one to her.

"I'm not hungry."

Shane stared at the bread he had offered her and put it down on the mattress. "Alright…I hope you give me feedback on this 'cause your silence ain't helpin' matters."

"What's on your mind?" Her voice remained deadpan.

"It's time for us to leave here. I've fulfilled my part to help with the wall."

"Leave and go where?"

"We should go to that sanctuary Negan talked 'bout an' join the Saviors."

Andrea's head jerked up and her green eyes were wide with fright. "What?! Why would you even suggest that?"

"I was thinkin'—"

"No, Shane! That's backstabbing Jesus after he helped us."

"It ain't backstabbin' at all."

"Yes, it is—and there's no way I'm joining a gang of killers."

"You see all this here?" Shane gestured around the RV. "Soon we won't have any of it. Why? 'Cause they're gonna come back an' take more supplies. We'll be left with nothin'."

When Andrea looked at Shane, he saw the weariness in her eyes. She was tired of jumping from place to place. He understood stability was important to her, but it couldn't be found here. They thought The Hilltop was safe until Negan showed up…

"Where we gonna go? Back on the road again? We have no transportation, no supplies."

"We have each other, Shane." Andrea felt like she was pleading with him and she hated it. "I have you and you have me; long as we have each other, we'll be fine."

"We need more than ourselves."

"No, we don't."

A long silence passed between them. Shane picked up the piece of bread. "How long you think this'll last, Drea? A couple days? Not weeks an' not months."

Andrea looked at him, but said nothing. Her eyes flickered to the bread and block of cheese that Jesus had gave them. Pangs of hunger stabbed her stomach, but she refused to eat. She wanted to make the food last longer than Shane or Jesus thought it would…but she was so hungry. They had gotten by on scraps. Saltine crackers. Canned beans. Pudding cups. She heard Shane trying to convince her again.

"If they're takin' our stuff, then they're takin' from other communities. I bet they have everythin' they need."

"Because they took it by force. They're brutal and I don't want any part of their bullying and killing."

"You right 'bout that. They're brutal…"

She thought the conversation was over, that he agreed and understood how she felt. Based on what he said next, she realized that the conversation was far from over.

"It's like that sayin': if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

"I'm not joining a group of murderers to become like them!" She was adamant about this and for the first time in a long while, Dale crossed her mind. What would Dale think of the Saviors and Negan's bullish behavior? What would he think of Shane after all this time? She wished she could ask for his advice. Dale always had sound advice to give. He had wisdom due to his age—wisdom that she had taken for granted.

"Ain't 'bout becomin' like them."

"Then what the hell is it?"

"Better to be the predator than the prey—better to be on their side, than the side that's losing out, an' gettin' their supplies snatched away. We'll be safer on their side, we won't be prey."

Andrea folded her arms across her chest as Shane continued. She couldn't believe what was coming out of his mouth, what he was thinking and proposing.

"Joining a group of killers to avoid being killed isn't what I had in mind when I left the farm with you."

"If we join the killers, it means we won't get killed, Andrea."

"After what Negan did—he bashed in Rory's head for no reason other than to show he had control! And you're suggesting we join this crazy group?!" Her voice was rising and she knew she was on the verge of losing her temper.

"Rory was dead when Negan swung that bat on his head."

Andrea tried to reign herself in, but it was impossible. Shane's nonchalant manner when he recalled Rory's brutal murder alarmed her. "Were you listening to him that day? He would've preferred to do it when Rory was alive— that's what he does! It's wrong!"

Shane rubbed his head as a headache descended on him. Arguing with Andrea never got anywhere. Still, he knew he had to convince her to leave The Hilltop and join him so he could find out more about Negan and the Saviors.

"It's 'bout survival. Ain't nothin' to do with wrong or right, jus' doin' what it takes to live. Are you with me or not?"

No matter what the outcome of this argument, she knew there was no way she'd join the Saviors. She didn't want to lose Shane, but she had to take a stand.

"No…I can't." Andrea avoided looking at him. She didn't want to see betrayal and anger in his dark eyes, or whatever else might be brewing. "I can't go with you…"

Her mind was reeling. How was it that in a matter of hours, their entire world around the came to a screeching halt? Furthermore, why did Shane think joining a gang of killers guaranteed their safety, when they could turn on him in a heartbeat? As if reading her mind, he answered her question—partially.

"The right choice is the one that keeps us alive, Andrea."

She met him head-on. "There's no proof that joining him will keep us alive or safe."

"There's no proof that staying here keeps us alive or safe," he shot back.

Their eyes met in a silent clash. Andrea waited to see if Shane would continue trying to convince her—or if he'd remind her of their promise to ride together no matter what. Or even "pull a Dale"—which in her mind would be similar to how Dale persuaded her to leave the CDC. Much to her surprise, he didn't "pull a Dale". He "pulled a Shane"—he didn't try to convince her to leave with him; instead, he decided he'd go on his own.

"I guess this is where we part ways."

His voice was so low that she thought she heard him wrong. "What?!"

Shane reached out to caress her face. She held his hand to her cheek, appreciating his warm gesture, but felt overwhelmed and confused by his cold pronouncement. "Do what you feel is best, Drea. If you feel stayin' here is best for you, then do that."

"You're leaving me?"

He shook his head. "I ain't leavin' you—I'm leavin' here—The Hilltop. I ain't draggin' you to the Saviors against your will."

Andrea shoved his hand away and glared at him. "No, but you're being manipulative. You're threatening to end what we have here in order to join that group." She was surprised to see him recoil from her words.

"I ain't bein' manipulative." Shane knew his tone sounded defensive, but her labeling him as "manipulative" hit a nerve. It reminded him of when Lori accused him of lying to her about Rick being dead in the hospital when he truly thought that was the case. Right now, Shane believed that joining the Saviors—however horrible they were—was the most sound answer to staying alive. "I'm thinkin' of our best interest an' right now, The Hilltop ain't it."

"But tagging along with a gang of killers led by a sociopath is in our best interest, Shane?"

He looked away from her and found another point in the trailer to focus on. There was nothing more to say. He wasn't going to convince her and she wasn't going to convince him. Shane stood up at the same time that Andrea did.

"We can leave here and find our own place. We don't have to join them, it's not the only option we have." She stepped towards him and he stepped away from her—similar to what she had done to him when they were in Woodbury.

"It is to me. When they come for their supplies next week, I'm leavin' with them."

He started towards the front of the trailer, so that he could leave for a short time to mull over his decision. Being in there with Andrea, especially since she didn't support this move, would be a distraction. Shane didn't openly say it, but he was saddened that she wouldn't come with him. A part of him understood her stance, but the other part of him thought it was best that they leave The Hilltop. He had never intended to stay and had only done so out of respect and gratitude for Jesus getting Andrea the help she needed. Now that it turned out they weren't safe here, it was time to move on—even if that meant joining ranks with Negan and the Saviors. Shane had his hand on the door, ready to leave, when he sensed Andrea's presence behind him. Her hand rested on his shoulder, but he didn't turn around.

"I'll go with you."

oOo

The following week came fast, as though in a rush to arrive. Shane did not speak again about his plan to join the Saviors and Andrea didn't ask him. It went unspoken that they agreed to leave The Hilltop together. He didn't ask her what changed her mind and she never gave an explanation. They simply stayed in their RV and shared the bread and cheese. When they were around other Hilltop residents, they kept to themselves. Before they knew it, a week had passed and the Saviors arrived to take more of The Hilltops's supplies.

Andrea brought a crate of potatoes while Shane carried a rocking chair taken from the mansion. As they were placing the items in the truck, Simon stepped away to talk with Gregory.

"You got some tequila for your buddy?"

Gregory shook his head and offered a queasy smile. "I got a load of gin."

"Nah, gin tastes like turpentine. Tequila is where it's at!" Simon pointed at the mansion. "Take me to your pantry so I can find out what goodies you're hiding."

They watched Simon head over to the Barrington House with Gregory. Other Saviors were scattered around The Hilltop, supervising the residents who were busy placing the supplies in boxes. None of them were nearby. Shane quickly jumped into the back of the truck and pulled up Andrea. Making sure to stay silent, they found a spot behind a pile of boxes already filled with vegetables.

"We're sneaking in?" Andrea whispered. "I thought you wanted to meet with them first."

"Nah, this is better." Shane reached inside his cargo pants for his Glock 17. "You got Sweet Piece?"

Andrea unbuttoned her jacket and pulled out the gun from her blouse. Shane nodded and she buttoned her jacket again. They waited in silence as the Saviors filled the truck with more supplies: chairs, portable fans, blankets, and other much needed items. As Andrea watched from behind a stack of crates, she realized Shane was right: it was only a matter of time before the Saviors bled The Hilltop dry. The Hilltop still had a lot of supplies, but they had less and less as the weeks rolled on.

Two more boxes were brought into the truck. Shane looked over Andrea's shoulder and saw Jesus back away from the truck with an expression that was a cross between sadness and surprise. Shane nodded and Jesus nodded in return. Shane tried not to let pangs of guilt overwhelm him. Jesus had been a good friend to him and Andrea, even if it had been for a short time. Moments later, Jesus was gone and Simon stood in his place. Shane ducked to avoid being seen. He didn't expect Simon to return so fast. They heard banging from outside the truck and Simon called out to the group of Saviors he had arrived with.

"She's ready to go. Take her back to the homestead!"

The truck left The Hilltop and they were on their way to The Sanctuary. The ride seemed long, probably because Shane and Andrea were tired of crouching after ten minutes. After what felt like two hours, they arrived at The Sanctuary. Through the plastic strip curtain, they caught glimpses of a large industrial factory, a chain link fence, and walkers tied to stakes. Some of the walkers were still alive as they growled and reached with their arms to grab air. It seemed grotesque, but they knew it was only a matter of time before they found out what they were actually seeing. The truck came to a halt and Simon and several Saviors disembarked. There were other Saviors waiting outside, ready to unload the truck. After some loud back and forth banter, they started emptying the truck of its contents.

Andrea's heart slammed against her chest as the Saviors removed more boxes. It hadn't occurred to her until now that Shane didn't have a concrete plan of how he'd approach Negan, Simon, or any of the Saviors. He just wanted to join them under the rationale that it meant they wouldn't be targets if they were on the side that was doing the targeting. Now that Andrea thought about it, this move was unlike Shane. He usually considered his choices more carefully, although he would tell her he was the opposite: act first, think later. She was about to ask him what his plan was when he got up from behind the boxes and pulled out his Glock 17. Unbuttoning her jacket, she reached for her gun and followed him. No sooner had they reached the edge of the truck when a flood of mechanical clicks filled the air.

A crowd of Saviors were waiting outside of the truck—all aiming pistols, semi-automatics, rifles, and shotguns in their direction.

Simon came through the crowd of Saviors, a wide grin spread across his face. "Looks like we've got stowaways. Let's give our guests the standard Savior welcome!" His grin morphed into a hostile sneer. "Guns on the ground, hands on your heads, get on your knees—both of you!"

Shane put his Glock 17 beside him and Andrea did likewise. As he got down on his knees and raised his hands to his head, he turned to Andrea. Although he still believed he had made the right choice in convincing Andrea to sneak to The Sanctuary, he couldn't minimize the terror she was feeling. She was trembling with fright and he knew he could only say one thing to reassure her that they were in this together.

"Drea, I lov—"

Two Saviors, a man with long brown hair, and a woman with dark hair and blonde highlights, blindfolded them and yanked them out of the truck. Andrea tried to maintain her balance and felt something sticky wrap around her arms, pinning them at her sides. She couldn't see Shane anymore and now she was being forced to walk somewhere. Whoever was dragging her along was going too fast. She almost tripped and was pulled up by her shirt collar. The woman beside her issued a one word command:

"Move."

Above the drumming in her ears, she heard Simon issue out a single order:

"Take them to our welcome center, Jared. Arat will get Negan and I'll meet him down there."

 

Chapter Text

An Offer They Can’t Refuse

                                                            Welcome to your life                                                                 
                                                              There's no turning back                                                                        
                                                              Even while we sleep                                                                              
                                                    We will find you                                                                  
                                                          Acting on your best behavior                                                               
                                                    Turn your back on Mother Nature                                                     
                                                  Everybody wants to rule the world                                                        

Lorde “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” [Cover of Tears for Fears 1985 version]

 

Andrea had no idea where they had taken her and Shane. 

A thick blindfold covered her eyes and an oily rag was stuffed in her mouth.  Being unable to talk to Shane or see her surroundings caused her fear to skyrocket, although she tried doing mind tricks to remain calm.  Counting backwards from one hundred.  Listing women’s and men’s names from A-Z.  Remembering the good times she had with Amy, although those memories were sparse.  Imagining her and Shane making love in the house they had left behind for The Hilltop.  None of it worked because she was here—wherever here was.  The Saviors had left them sitting on the ground, tied back to back, and it was becoming more obvious with every passing moment that their captors had no intention of releasing them.

They hadn’t been given the nicest accommodations.  Andrea imagined that they were imprisoned in a basement or a boiler room because of the faint gasoline and mildew smell that invaded her nose.  It made her feel nauseous and now her head was spinning with a headache.  The floor was freezing cold.  She could feel the chill through her jeans.  The duct tape that pinned her arms to her sides was uncomfortable, but even worse was the rope wrapped tightly around her waist.  She had to stop herself from fidgeting because if she didn’t, it would tighten on Shane’s end.  She only knew this because he had tried freeing himself earlier and all his shifting around caused the rope to rub against her skin.  Even her ankles were tied together and she was certain Shane’s ankles were tied too.  It prevented them from getting up and running off.

They couldn’t talk to each other and they couldn’t see each other.  She wanted to tear off the duct tape, untie the ropes, free Shane, and run out of wherever they had been taken—The Sanctuary?  Whenever she heard the word “sanctuary”, Andrea thought of safety and comfort.  This place was the opposite—more like a prison.  So if they were in a prison, where were the other inmates?  Where was the warden? 

Thoughts tumbled through her mind.  Images she didn’t want to see flashed in her mind.  The man with the leather jacket and his barbed wire baseball bat.  His friend with the handlebar moustache.  Rory’s bashed in head.  The screaming from The Hilltop residents when they saw what was left of Rory.  How the leaders of The Hilltop—Jesus and Gregory—had been forced to give up their supplies.  The last argument she had with Shane about sneaking here.  That got her going.  Why the hell did Shane think this was a good idea?  Her heart sounded like a gong in her ears.  Deep breaths, Andrea, don’t panic

Andrea’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors were out of synch.  She trembled violently and felt afraid of her own terror being visible to their captors.  Her hands were jittery and she flinched when her fingertips scraped against the ground.  Where are we?!  She decided not to focus on that anymore because she wasn’t going to find out anytime soon.  Instead, it was better to think about the few positives in their precarious situation.  They were still alive.  The other mercy was that their hands were free as opposed to being bound behind their backs.  Even so, her hands wouldn’t stop shaking and she would do anything to keep still.  She twisted her wrists, trying to move her hands and her heart skipped a beat when his skin rubbed against hers.  Her open palms brushed against his fingers again and her mindset changed in a nanosecond.  As though he could read her mind, he instantly interlocked his fingers with hers.  Shane squeezed firmly, silently telling her not to worry, that they were in this together.  Whatever happened from hereon, he had her back.   And she had his—she squeezed his hand reassuring him that they would get out of this together.

Together…

They had been together for some time now, although it wasn’t always that way.  Andrea remembered the first time she suggested they leave the group, after overhearing Lori questioning Shane about his plans to disappear without telling Rick.  She decided it would be best to go with him.  Start over some place new, without the baggage of Amy’s death and her foiled suicide attempt at the CDC hanging over her head.  Shane’s response had been rude and dismissive.  We gonna sail out into the sunset?  We gonna hold hands?  She wasn’t looking for a relationship with him at the time, at least not consciously.  She simply wanted to get away from the group.  It was one thing to be alone because she chose to.  It was quite another thing to feel alone within a crowd.  Back then, Shane regarded her with scorn for wanting to leave together or her assertion that they were the “third wheel”.  He even made it clear that he didn’t want to worry about keeping her safe and that entering into a romantic relationship with her was not in the cards.

What started out as a connection of convenience and non-stop conflict, blossomed into a real give-and-take relationship that was mutually beneficial.  From fighting over where they stayed, who they were friends with outside of each other, to sharing their pasts and revealing every dark secret and painful regret—Shane and Andrea had found in each other the friendship and love they always wanted and needed.  Given his past experience with multiple women, Andrea was surprised to find how much Shane truly honored her by protecting her and how he even took the time to nurse her back to health.  She knew she could fend for herself, but she had left with Shane because they would be there for each other.  Instead of it being Lori taking from Shane and Dale wanting Andrea to live for him, now they could be together in a relationship that was healthier than their previous ones.  Like their first sexual encounter, their bond was rough, spontaneous, and passionate.  Shane was the only man she’d known in her life whom she could get angry with, hash it out, but still want to be with.  She didn’t want to give up on him, and she knew he didn’t want to give up on her, or what they had together.  They couldn’t now…they only had each other…

Just as Andrea finished reminiscing about their shared history, she heard a door open and slam shut.  She twisted around trying to place the location of the banging noise.  It had come from above.  Then she heard loud footsteps.  Based on the rhythm of the steps, she could tell it was more than one person.  It was getting louder every moment—whoever it was, or whoever they were—they were coming straight for her and Shane.  Then she heard whistling—the same eerie whistling she had heard when The Hilltop had been invaded by the man with the barbed wire baseball bat and his bully followers.

“Check this out, Simon!  Are they fucking saccharine sweet or what?”

“Or what.”  Simon sounded unimpressed. 

Andrea’s blindfold and gag were yanked off and when she looked up, the man with the leather jacket loomed above her.  He was gesturing at their joined hands and interlocked fingers with the barbed wire baseball bat.  She instinctively pressed against Shane, trying to avoid contact with the bat.  The barbed wire made it look more threatening.  Next to him, the other man towered over her.  He was tall and balding and had a handlebar moustache. 

“Look what we have here—two fucking enthusiastic wannabe-Saviors.  I love it when pitiful rejects invite themselves over.  It’s fucking rude, but ballsy as hell!”

“They snuck into the van after our last Hilltop trip wanting to make early introductions, but we took care of that and introduced ourselves first.”

“Did you get everything we wanted?  We had a grocery list that was almost a fucking mile long.”

“Everything and then some!”  Simon sounded pleased with himself.

“Those stupid fuckers better be on point this time.  Otherwise, I’ll go there and personally introduce one of them to Lucille.”

“That won’t be necessary since we’ve got loads of supplies this time—just didn’t expect these two stowaways.  I had Jared and Arat bring them right here to the welcome center.”

“Fucking fantastic!”  Negan turned his attention to Andrea, grinning widely.  “What’s your name?”

“Andrea…” Her voice was shaky, although she meant to sound confident.  She looked around her and saw her and Shane were being held prisoner in a large room with no windows.  There was a staircase nearby which gave her the impression they were in a basement.  She remembered being dragged down a flight of stairs.

“Andrea what?  Don’t you have a fucking last name?”

“Harrison…Andrea Harrison.”  

He stared at her and she stared back at him, refusing to be intimidated.  After several seconds, he circled around to Shane.   

“I see you dragged along your lesser half…he looks familiar.  Take his gag out, Simon, and remove his blindfold.  I wanna look directly in the eyes of the man who thinks his dick is God’s gift to women.”

Simon bent down and yanked out Shane’s gag and pulled off his blindfold.  Andrea tried to look over her shoulder, but found her neck and torso cramping up from being tied up for so long.

“What’s your fucking name, asshole?”

“It ain’t ‘asshole’ for starters, shithead.”

Andrea’s heart sank when she heard Shane.  No matter how many times she told him about his presentation, he still remained obstinate and outspoken—and at the worst times!  He had gotten better at it, especially when he didn’t curse out Gregory at The Hilltop; but sometimes (like now) she wanted to yell at him to keep his mouth shut if he couldn’t be tactful.  Why was it so hard for him to be diplomatic?  This guy was no joke and Shane needed to take him seriously.  What was his name again?  Negan?  She knew not to give Negan sass or a lousy attitude—not when he was holding that barbed wire baseball bat directly in her face.  Based on what Negan said next, she immediately knew he was holding the bat right in front of Shane.

“Take my unsolicited advice, Mr. No-Name.  Watch your fucking tone.  You’re on my turf now and what I say fucking goes.  Lucille’s hungry although she just fed on some dumb fuck who wouldn’t kneel.  If you don’t want to be her dessert, then you better answer my questions.  Are we clear or do I have to fucking repeat myself?”

His sharp tone made Andrea’s skin break out in goosebumps.  She squeezed Shane’s hand in hers, signaling him to tone it down.  Please, Shane—for both our sakes.  Thankfully, he correctly interpreted her nonverbal communication as a cue to not put Negan or “Lucille” to the test.  She breathed a sigh of relief, even when he answered Negan’s question through clenched teeth.

“The name’s Shane Walsh.” 

“See, that wasn’t so fucking hard, now was it?  I’m Negan and this is Simon.  This ravishing beauty right here—this is Lucille.  She’s the love of my life!”

Andrea pictured Negan holding Lucille at Shane’s eye level.  She tried not to shudder at the thought of it—she didn’t want Shane’s head getting bashed in right now or at any time.  She just wanted to survive this place.

“Pleased to meet all of you, especially your lovely lady.”

Shane’s sarcasm amused Negan and annoyed Simon.  At least they were having a conversation.  She wondered what else Negan planned to ask Shane when he returned to her side.  Andrea made sure to keep still.  Having Shane’s hand joined with hers gave her a feeling of protection, even though they were unable to do anything in their own defense.  Still, her eyes never left the barbed wire baseball bat.

“So you’re doing P for P?”

“‘P for P’?”  She had no idea what he was talking about.  “I don’t understand—”

“Pussy for protection.  You give it up and he keeps you safe in return.”  Negan chuckled and Simon joined him.  “Don’t look at me like I’m fucking crazy, Ms. Harrison.  You do what you gotta do, right?”

“Yes, you gotta survive.”  Andrea obeyed her gut instincts and pretended to follow along with his crude humor, rather than contradict him.  Then she thought better of it—she could be firm while still being respectful.  “That’s not the arrangement we have, but we’re together.”

Negan grinned and knelt down so that he was eye level with her.  “Like a fucking fairy-tale or some Shakespeare shit.  Romeo and Juliet, right?”

Simon was standing on Shane’s side and he laughed loudly.  “Yeah, I bet they’re willing to die for each other.”

“From now on, you’ll both be ‘Romeo’ and ‘Juliet’.  The world’s a fucking hot mess and you found each other.  That’s so sweet and now I’m gonna end up with a fucking cavity.”  He stood up and went around to Shane’s side, all humor had instantly vanished from his demeanor.  “I remember you now—you’re that same fucking asshole who wanted to put on a show of how your dick was bigger than mine!  Two of my guys had to force you to kneel.”

“Yeah, they did.”  Shane sounded matter-of-fact. 

“What if I had Lucilled you that day?  You would’ve left Juliet all alone in the world.”

“But you didn’t.”

Negan nodded.  “Touché.  So what brings your sorry-asses to The Sanctuary?  Found out The Hilltop ain’t all it’s cracked up to be?  That it’s a shithole in need of our protection?”

Shane and Andrea were silent. 

“Ah, I get it!”  Negan chuckled.  “You didn’t know about the services we provide.  Let me tell you—the Saviors are fucking great at what they do!  And you know what that is?!”

Shane shrugged and Andrea shook her head.  Simon stood back as Negan circled the couple again.  This time he gestured with Lucille more wildly as though using the inanimate object to emphasize his points. 

“We save people!  This world’s collapsed on itself as you both know and folks are scared shitless of the wasted fuckers.  We kill every last one of those rotting fucks so that they don’t have to live afraid or drive themselves crazy.  So that they can have peace of mind.  In return for our service, we demand half of their supplies.  Keeps ‘em safe and keeps us livin’ the good life.”

“Now you know our namesake,” Simon added.  He stood off to the side, watching Negan.  “So the question is, do you want in or out?”

“That’s the fucking million dollar question for today.  The Saviors—”

“We ain’t come all this way to eat your ice cream.  We wanna get in the inner circle of your group,” Shane demanded.  Andrea squeezed his hand tightly, silently urging him again to watch his tone and presentation.  “Make us lieutenants an’ we’ll be good to go.”

No words were exchanged for several seconds.  Shane couldn’t see it because they weren’t standing on his side, but Andrea could see they were entertained by Shane’s boldness.  Negan’s and Simon’s raucous laughter broke the heavy uncomfortable silence.

“You’ve got basketball-sized balls and your blonde friend has beach-ball sized lady nuts for coming along with you.”  Negan came over to Shane’s side.  He sounded impressed and then he pointed Lucille directly in Shane’s face.  “I don’t know whether you’re brave as hell or if you’re dumb as shit for coming in the way you did.”

“I’d say both, but more the latter than the former,” Simon interjected.

“I agree, Simon.  Shane a.k.a. Romeo has a lot of fucking guts coming here and making all these demands.”  Negan’s dark eyes were empty and cold.  “It doesn’t work that way, so let me spell it out for you—you got three fucking choices.  Are you ready to hear them?”

“I’m all ears.”

“First, let’s get one thing straight.  There will be no fucking insubordination allowed at any time.  From the moment you intruded here, you became my property.”

“Wait—” Andrea tried to interrupt, but Simon came to her side and put his finger on his lips, indicating for her to remain silent.

“Time to listen,” he said in the most serious tone.

Negan continued as though Andrea hadn’t mumbled a syllable. 

“I’m gonna put you both through the fucking ringer for trespassing.  You don’t get to make big-ass demands without proving yourself first!  Before I even consider you for the position of lieutenant, Shane a.k.a. Romeo, your first position will be to get on your knees.”  Negan paused, allowing that tidbit to sink in.

“He’s not asking you to—” Simon started, but Negan cut him off.

“I’m talking about genuflecting, so get your mind out of the fucking gutter.”  This was directed at Shane and not at Simon.  “The same goes for Andrea a.k.a. Juliet.  Everyone here—including Simon—takes a knee.  Let me make myself clear: I’m an equal opportunity son-of-a-bitch.”  He pointed Lucille above Shane’s head indicating Andrea tied behind him.  “I don’t fucking discriminate.  You earn your way up the ladder—no one fucking barges through the front door demanding sanctuary in my Sanctuary.”  He focused again on Shane.  “I don’t give a fuck if your nutsack is heavier than mine, if your balls are on fire, or if your dick spits out venom—you don’t waltz into my domain making tall demands.  Am I fucking clear?”

“You’re clear,” Shane spat. 

“You both get three fucking choices and that’s it.  No fucking more and no fucking less.  Are you both ready?”

“Yes.”  Andrea was the first to answer.

“Someone’s ahead of the game,” Negan said, smiling as he walked over to Andrea’s side.  “Wanna tell your man to get on board?”

She nodded quickly.  “Shane…please.”  Her fingers tightened on his and she was relieved when he responded in turn.

“I’m jus’ waitin’ on him to spill his guts.”

Negan smirked as he started to circle Shane and Andrea again.   “So…I’m a gentleman and usually I’m all about ladies first, but because Shane was so fucking eager to come here, let’s start with him first, shall we?”

When neither Shane nor Andrea responded, Simon spoke up.  “You’ve got a captive audience, Negan, so go ahead and let ‘em know the deal.”

“You can live with the workers and have a fucking boring monotonous life.  Not fucking fun at all.  You work for points, but you’re gonna wish you were dead.  Or you can work for me and live like a king!  Fucking easy street is where it’s at!  The choices are pretty damn obvious, right?”  Negan stopped in front of Shane, waiting to hear his response.

“I thought you said we got three choices,” Shane muttered as he glared at how Lucille was being held directly in his face. 

“I’ll get there, Romeo.  Don’t rush me.  Juliet, onto you.”  Negan chuckled and came over to Andrea’s side.  “Your choices…since you’re a lady…well, let’s just say there’s a teeny-tiny bit difference between what I offer him versus what I offer you.”

“These are offers?”  Andrea asked.  It felt weird to have it phrased that way.

“Hell yes!  I’m very good at giving people choices and I’m fair as a fucking judge sentencing a mass-murderer to the electric chair, right Simon?”

“Yes, you are and then some!”  Simon hung back, watching everything.

“You can be part of the Savior army.  They go out and snatch a shitload of supplies from other communities—which makes it possible to keep up our fancy lifestyle.  The other option though,” Negan tried to stifle a malicious laugh and was unsuccessful.  “The other is more appealing—to me, that is, but this is your choice to make, Juliet.  Ready?”

Andrea waited and tried to breathe calmly.  She couldn’t show fear although she was worried that it was written all over her face.

“You can accept my hand in marriage and become my wife.  Doing so means you get to live an easy-peasy life in the harem with my other wives—”

“What?!”   Andrea hadn’t meant for the outburst to happen, but it had erupted from her the moment Negan said “wives” and “harem”.  She had been staring at the wall in an effort to distract herself from looking at Lucille.  Negan’s last words hit her hard.  Behind her, Shane fidgeted as he twisted around, trying to free himself.

“You ain’t touchin’ her!”  He leaned forward, which caused the ropes to burn on Andrea’s waist.  “That ain’t a choice—go mess aroun’ with your other wives ‘cause she ain’t yours!”

“Shane—stop it!”  Andrea barely heard her own voice.  She wanted to run out of there.  She didn’t know what part of the building they were in; she remembered seeing the factory when they were in the truck.  If it was possible to cut themselves loose and find the nearest escape she would do it.

“Relax, Juliet.  Romeo wants to know your final choice ‘cause it’s his final choice too.”  Negan now pointed at the ceiling using Lucille, indicating upstairs.  “If neither of you prove useful to me while breathing, I can always let Lucille get a taste of both of you.  I’m sure you’ve seen the walkers outlining the perimeter.  Pretty fucking cool, huh?  If you both act out of line—‘cause as I said earlier, I’m all about the sexes being equal, and all that feel-good shit—Lucille is too!  You both can work out there.  End up on spikes and work for me as a dead man and a dead woman.  Either way, I get good use out of you—dead or alive.”

Shane and Andrea were silent now as they contemplated what Negan was telling them.  Without saying it aloud, they both remembered seeing two men chain up a decaying walker to the perimeter fence.  Some of the walkers still hadn’t been put down and were being used as a live deterrent to keep out intruders.  There had been other guys out there wearing jumpsuits with letters on them.  Now they realized those were Negan’s prisoners who were forced to work in the yard.  Part of the labor included chaining walkers to the fence. 

Negan and Simon towered over Shane and Andrea as they first had when they entered the room. 

“You won’t leave here willingly unless I fucking say so,” Negan’s tone was sinister now, but then just as quickly, he became excited again.  “We’re gonna give you both five minutes.  That’s enough fucking time to make the most important decision of your life.  Simon and I will be back and by then, you let us know you’ve decided—or we’ll make it for you in case you’re too fucking indecisive.”

Negan roared with laughter as he and Simon left the room and slammed the door behind them.  A long silence passed between Andrea and Shane.  Their breathing punctuated the strange quiet hanging over them.  Shane was still buried in his thoughts when Andrea was the first to break out of it.

“You brought us here on a suicide mission, Shane.  There’s no way we’re leaving here alive.”  She tried to keep the anger out of her voice, but now that her fear had dissipated, it was replaced by a fury she couldn’t fully suppress.

“We gonna make it here.  You know what your choice is already an’ I know what mine is.”

“What is it?” Andrea snapped. 

She shifted, trying to keep comfortable.  Hopefully when Negan and Simon returned, they would cut them loose.  The ropes were digging into her skin and her legs had fallen asleep from being in the same position.  She wanted to be free from the duct tape and ropes—and free from this room.  Every time she looked around, it felt like the gray walls were closing in on her and Shane.  The air was musty and thick with dust.  She hated the entire situation and wanted to scream at Shane for his idea to sneak into The Sanctuary—it may very well become their final resting place.

“The one that keeps us al—”

“NO!”  Andrea closed her eyes and reopened them, trying to find some peace in the madness surrounding them.  She didn’t mean to shout.  “What’s your choice gonna be?”

“I’ll find my place, darlin’.   You don’t gotta worry ‘bout me.”

She almost didn’t hear him since he spoke in a softer tone, completely unlike himself.  Shane must’ve picked up on the mounting horror emanating from her and she wondered if he regretted suggesting they join the Saviors.  Still, she was disturbed by the options presented to her.

“I’m not going in that harem.”

“You don’t have to, Drea.  You’re a sharpshooter, so show off your skills.”

“I got those skills from you.”  She didn’t know why she sounded bitter.  Shane teaching her how to shoot a gun with accurate aim was one of the best things he ever did for her.

“That ain’t true.  You’re a natural, you jus’ needed to have your talent drawn out.  Go out there an’ show him what you got.  Be one of those tough chicks who can hold their own against a man.”

She was grateful that he thought highly of her and “hold her own against a man”, but she was too distracted by Negan’s proposal of marriage.  “I bet those women weren’t given a choice to be in that harem—and I doubt they’re sleeping with him of their own free will.  That’s rape.”

“You right.  That was some ridiculous bullshit he was talkin’ ‘bout.”

Andrea blinked.  She was surprised he agreed with her.  Then she opted for asking him something to try to lighten the mood.  It was so tense and she needed some humor.  She figured he did too.

“Did you ever want that for yourself?”

“Want what?  A harem full of women?”

“Yeah—I remember you had quite the history.”

His fingers lessened their hold on hers and she felt space between their hands.  It was as though he was recoiling from her sharp words, although he couldn’t step back.  Then she felt his hands squeeze hers again.

“I love women, but they don’t know how to turn off the lights.”  He started laughing and she joined him.

“I always turn off the lights!”

“Sometimes you do, Drea.”

“No—all the time!” 

“If I had a harem full of women, they’d run up the light bill an’ I ain’t dealin’ with that stress.”

“Oh please, men don’t put the toilet seat down.”

“I always have an’ you know it!  When was the last time you fell in the toilet ‘cause I kept the seat up?”

They busted out laughing.  Just as quickly as the hilarity erupted from them, now it died down.  The brief humor was a respite from their grim situation and now the dark reality of their future was settling in.  Andrea squeezed Shane’s hand tightly and he did the same to hers.

“I’m scared, Shane.”

“I know, darlin’.”

“What if we don’t make it…what if this is it for us?”

Shane took a deep breath and let it out.  He sat up against her, trying to straighten his posture.  “Nah, it ain’t gonna be like that ‘cause you got the skills.”

“Because you taught me.”

“I taught you, but you ran with it.  You’re a natural, Drea.”

They were going in circles now, but she didn’t point that out to him.  Instead, she decided to acknowledge his confidence in her and find out what he wanted to do.  “Thank you…what about you?”

“Me, I got leadership experience—even if my presentation is lackin’.  But I’m gonna aim high an’ you should too.”

“You sound so confident.”

“You gotta be.  C’mon now!  You ain’t gonna be his tenth wife or a walker on a stick.  To hell with that.  An’ I’m not gonna be workin’ for points or a dead body bakin’ in the sun.”

“Don’t say that,” Andrea whispered.  The idea of Shane being dead with her left alive and alone in the world frightened her more than she cared to admit.  She wondered if he felt the same way about her. 

“We got each other, okay?  It’s you an’ me—”

Negan and Simon burst through the door, effectively ending their conversation.  It hadn’t been five minutes yet, but Shane and Andrea knew not to bring up that up.  It was decision time now.  They both looked towards the doorway at the same time.  Negan and Simon had already reached the bottom of the staircase and approached them.

“So, have you come up with the most earth-fucking-shattering decision that will change your lives forever?”

Shane and Andrea nodded in unison.

Negan and Simon exchanged a knowing smirk.  “Fucking fantastic!  Let’s start with you, Juliet.  Ladies first!”

Andrea straightened her posture as much as she could and looked Negan straight in the eye.  “I’m gonna tell you my answer, but first I have a question.”

Negan held Lucille on his shoulder and brought it down so that it was scraping across the floor.  “Go right ahead, my curiosity’s fucking piqued.”

“The harem—did those women choose that life?  Or do they have to stay there?”

Negan stepped back and for the first time since meeting Shane and Andrea, his expression was solemn and his tone was serious.  “That’s their choice, Juliet, no one’s forced to go into my harem.  My wives chose it because they like having everything at their fingertips.  And in case you were wondering, the fucking despicable crime of rape earns the violator the death penalty.  I don’t tolerate it, not for one fucking minute.”

“Where do you get your wives from?”  She knew she was pushing it, but she wanted to know.           

“Nope.”  Negan held out Lucille to Andrea.  “You said you had a question and I answered it.  We’re not doing fucking round two.”

Andrea nodded slowly.  She was beginning to understand that Negan was all about control.  Even though he claimed his wives chose that lifestyle—and she had inwardly cringed at the plural ‘wives’—it still didn’t sit right with her.  She would never betray Shane by forming a physical or sexual relationship with another man.  Not even if her life depended on it.  If Shane’s life depended on it—she shook her head when she thought of The Governor.  This time was different.  Negan made it clear from the get-go what he was about.  He didn’t pretend to be kind and charming like Philip Blake.  She was glad he was genuine about who he was as she didn’t think she could handle mind games a second time, but all the same, his brutal nature was terrifying.

“It’s decision time, Juliet.  What’ll it be?”

She didn’t hesitate.  “I’ll join your army.”  Shane pushed against her, causing her to lean forward.   Shane was urging her to advocate for herself and exhibit confidence.  “I’m a sharp-shooter.  I hit my targets every time I see them.”

Negan’s eyebrows rose and he glanced at Simon who leaned against the wall.  “You hear that, Simon?  We got our own bad-ass version of Annie Oakley!” 

“I gotta see it to believe it,” Simon answered. 

“I’m damn good.  Trust me, you want me in your army and not in your harem where my skills will be wasted.”  Now she spoke more confidently.  Shane squeezing her hand confirmed he supported her boldness.

“As thrilled as I am to have you in my army, Juliet, I would’ve loved to have you as my wife just to see—”

“She ain’t yours!”  Shane interrupted as he yanked his hands out of Andrea’s and twisted around, trying to free himself again.  “She’s my woman an’ you ain’t throwin’ her in that shitty harem!”

Negan looked annoyed now.  “Don’t be rude, Romeo!  We are having a conversation.”

“Where’s your manners?”  Simon chuckled. 

“Gag him, Simon.  I’m tired of hearing him run his fucking mouth.  It’s like he has oral diarrhea.”

Andrea shook her head and started to beg on Shane’s behalf.  “You don’t have to do that, he’s just being protective!”

It was too late as Simon already stuffed the oily rag in Shane’s mouth.  From her side, she could hear him heaving as his breathing was cut off from having the gag shoved in. 

“Haven’t you ever heard of ‘wait your turn’?”  Simon stepped back and grinned.   

“Obviously fucking not.  He pissed off the wrong person and they carved up his face to teach him a fucking lesson to keep his big mouth shut.”  Negan turned back to Andrea.  “Is your boyfriend always in the habit of whipping out his dick at the worst time?”

Andrea swallowed hard and stared at the floor.  She did everything she could to remain still, even while Shane squirmed behind her.  When were they going to be released from this prison?  She imagined being an animated corpse chained to the perimeter fence and then she pictured Shane next to her, fettered to the same fence for the rest of his undead life.  This was never the plan when they left the farm.  Why didn’t I convince him to just head for Maryland?  Forget Negan, forget The Hilltop—we just go on our way?  It was too late to ask those questions because they were stuck here now.

“Juliet, I asked you a fucking question…” Negan spoke slowly in a detached manner that made Andrea’s blood freeze in her veins.  “And when I ask you a fucking question, I expect a fucking answer.”

“I’m sorry.”  She didn’t know what else to say.

“Don’t be ridiculous!”  His tone was jovial now, but the sinister undercurrent was still there.  “Let’s try this one more time.  Does your boyfriend always whip out his dick at the worst time?  If he knows what’s good for him, then he’ll speak when spoken to.”

“He just…”  How was she supposed to answer his question?  “He’s honest.”  It wasn’t the best save, but it was better than acknowledging that Shane was a hothead.    

“I appreciate honesty, but he needs to fucking learn that he can’t vomit up the first fucking thing that flashes across his brain.”  Negan left Andrea and went to Shane’s side, holding out Lucille.  “Are you gonna show some fucking respect or still piss tears about how I want your better half as my wife?”

Shane’s glare was murderous.  Negan chuckled, amused that Shane couldn’t respond to him.

“You can’t answer my question if you got that disgusting rag shoved in your mouth!”  He knelt down beside Shane and yanked the gag out.  “Now, I’m gonna give you a second chance.  Fuck up one more time and you go straight to the fence as a walker—and I’m sure you didn’t come all this way here just for it to end like that.  So fucking dumb, right?  That would be a fucking miserable life.  You ready for this second chance, Romeo?”

Shane simply nodded.

“What skills do you bring to The Sanctuary?  Another words, why the fuck should I make you lieutenant?  You get caught breaking and entering, you don’t know when to shut the fuck up, and it’s obvious that you don’t play nicely with others.”

Andrea sighed inwardly when she heard Shane’s response.  His tone was edgy, but not overly aggressive.

“I was leader of a group when everythin’ first started.”

Negan’s eyebrows rose and he gestured for Simon to come over as though needing a second witness to verify what Shane was saying.   Andrea wondered what to expect insofar as Shane telling Simon and Negan about their group in Atlanta.

“Why aren’t you the leader anymore?”  Simon asked. 

“Someone else took it over.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Simon shook his head and let out a laugh of disbelief.  “And you expect us to believe that horseshit?”

Andrea turned her head in their direction as much as she could.  “It’s true; he was leading the group that we were a part of.  We had a camp outside of Atlanta.”

“What Andrea said: I was the leader an’ made sure we survived.  Taught ‘em how—”

Negan held up his hand.  “I’m not in the mood to hear fucking sob stories about why you left the group with your tail between your legs.  That’s fucking pathetic.”

Shane remained silent and allowed Andrea to interlock her fingers with his.  Any other time, he would’ve argued his point, but this was an entirely new situation.  Right now, he and Andrea were prisoners and they had been given few choices about their future.  If he pushed too hard, they might not live to see their future.  So he opted for not reacting to what Negan just said. 

Negan was oblivious to Shane’s quiet demeanor.  He circled the couple and started whistling again.  Then he abruptly stopped.  “Simon, I know exactly what we’re gonna do about our fucking intruders.  Untie them and then call Paula.”

Simon took out a switchblade from his back pocket and slashed through the ropes and duct tape that bound them.  As soon as Shane and Andrea were free, they situated themselves next to each other and quickly joined hands.  Negan sneered when he saw their fingers interlocked together.   

“Do you always fucking hold hands?”

Shane or Andrea didn’t bother to answer.  In the background, Simon radioed for Paula while Negan started to explain what lay in store for them.

“I don’t like that you both slithered your way into my fucking house just so you could fucking mooch off me, but you have potential to be bad-ass Saviors.  Juliet, you claim your Annie Oakley incarnated.  Romeo, you’re stubborn as hell, but I can mold you into what I want you to be—and don’t look at me like I shitted in your strawberry milkshake because it’s gonna happen.  Your only other option is to end up working for me as a dead man on the fence.  I’m sure you don’t want that—especially if you and Juliet want to live happily ever after.”

“What are we gonna do?”  Andrea asked, knowing full well she didn’t want to know the answer, but at the same time, she wanted to prepare her and Shane.

“You and Romeo have one week to prove your fucking worth.  From there, I’ll decide if you’ll be at the top of the food chain or at the bottom of a shallow grave.”

Andrea barely had time to register the significance of what Negan had said when the door opened and a red-headed woman with a drab expression walked came down the stairs to join them.  She kneeled in front of Negan and then rose to her feet.

“Thank you for coming out on such short notice, Paula.  We can always count on you,” Simon greeted her.  “These are our Saviors-in-training.  Andrea claims she’s a sharpshooter.”

Paula stepped in front of Andrea and eyed her up and down.  “This one here?  She doesn’t look like she could walk a straight line, even if you paid her to.”

Andrea looked up at the female Savior and immediately knew she disliked her.  Paula already demeaned her, her aura was hostile, and her eyes—Andrea turned away from her the emotionless stare.  She thought the woman’s eyes resembled a hungry predator.  She didn’t have time to waste on wondering what would happen in the near future with her and Paula, or what Negan had planned, because Negan was already making “introductions”. 

“What’s your name?”  Negan pointed Lucille at Paula.

“Negan.”

Negan turned to Simon, still holding out Lucille.  “What’s your name?”

“Negan.”

“What’s your name?”

He faced Andrea, while aiming Lucille at her and she didn’t hesitate to answer his question.  “Negan.”

Negan smiled, clearly impressed by Andrea’s answer.  “You’re a fucking fast learner, Juliet.  Let’s see if Romeo’s on the same page.”  He raised Lucille, so that the barbed wire baseball was an inch away from Shane’s face.  “What’s your name?”

“Shane.”

Negan took a step back and whistled, pretending to be impressed.  “That’s what you think, Romeo.  You’re a slow learner, but mark my fucking words—you will fucking learn.”  He nodded at Simon, who went to stand behind Shane now.  “You and Juliet are a fucking force to be reckoned with, so we’re gonna shake things up—just for fun!  Let’s find out what happens when you’re both flying solo.”  A beat of silence passed and he gave the signal to Simon and Paula.  “Time to put these star-crossed lovers to the test!”

Andrea was about to respond when Negan viciously kicked Shane in the stomach.  Thrown off by the attack, Shane released Andrea involuntarily.  They had no time to process what just occurred. Everything was happening too fast.  Andrea felt her collar yanked back. 

Paula pulled her off the floor.  “Stand,” she commanded.

Andrea stumbled awkwardly and found herself being pushed up the stairs and towards the door.  Struggling to look back at Shane didn’t help because Paula forced her to face forward.  Then she was shoved through the doorway and that was the last she saw of Shane. 

Meanwhile, Shane tried to figure out what to do next.  Being kicked out of the blue had distracted him long enough time for Andrea to be removed and he glanced over his shoulder in time to see the door close behind her and Paula.  When he turned back to Simon and Negan, he saw them standing above him, grinning coldly.  He started to get to his feet when a cloth was pressed against his face.  Forced to breathe in the ether fumes, Shane found himself growing drowsy so that Negan’s and Simon’s cruel laughter faded away and soon he heard nothing…

Chapter Text

 

Project Romeo and Juliet: Phase One

Through hell's gates
The ground shakes
And valor wakes
And so it begins

Ruelle "Take It All"

When Shane woke up, he realized he was locked in a tiny cell. It was dark and the walls were close together. He had just enough room to sit with his legs stretched out. He thought he was in a storage closet. Then it hit him that he was in here by himself. Where did they take Andrea?! His heart somersaulted in his chest when he realized he had no idea where she was. The last thing he remembered was a female Savior named Paula forcing her out of the room they had been held captive in. Negan had separated them and he didn't know why. All he knew was that he didn't want to be apart from her and he knew she felt the same way.

"DREA!" He knocked on the walls, hoping she was in a cell next to his—similar to how The Governor imprisoned them separately. Maybe she would hear him and respond. "ANDREA!"

Still nothing.

He was about to call out her name again when the door to his cell was thrown open. Shane shielded his eyes from the bright light that flooded his vision. The door slammed shut. Someone came in and stood over him.

"Romeo ain't seeing Juliet until I fucking say so. Until he proves himself worthy, Romeo's on his own."

Shane bristled when he heard the gleeful tone in Negan's voice. "Where is she?! What'd you do with her?!"

Negan leaned against the wall and held out Lucille in front of him. "Look at this, Lucille! Big tough Shane's not so big and tough after all. Right now, we'll call him 'Romeo'. It fits him better, don't you agree?" He chuckled as he resumed his usual position of carrying Lucille on his shoulder.

"Answer the question!" Shane rose from the floor and just as quickly was forced against the wall when Negan held Lucille directly in his face.

"You better sit the fuck down before I put you down! Lucille will feast on you before your girlfriend's name slips out your mouth again."

"Fuck your bitch-ass bat," Shane growled as he sank to the floor, never taking his eyes off the female named baseball bat. "I'm gonna ask again—where's Andrea?!"

"I ASK THE FUCKING QUESTIONS THAT YOU FUCKING ANSWER! AND YOU WILL NOT USE LUCILLE'S NAME IN VAIN!" In an instant, Negan lowered his voice, although his tone remained hostile. "Do we have an understanding?"

Shane gave a curt nod, although every part of him wanted to resist.

"Good!" Negan offered a toothy grin, pleased that he had successfully asserted his authority. He quickly assessed Shane and shook his head in mock sympathy. "Your emotions are your weakness, Romeo. You think you're tough as hell, but you're not. Sure, I'll give you teensy-tiny credit. That was a ballsy move sneaking into one of my trucks with your daring girlfriend…but that's all I'll give you. The rest of that you-better-respect-me-'cause-I'm-Shane-Walsh bullshit…" He scoffed. "I don't know what shitty groups allowed you to stroll around swinging your dick, but that ain't flying here. The sooner you accept that, the better off you'll be."

Shane said nothing.

"You're easy to read like a fucking preschool book. Like Dick and Jane. Wanna hear your story?"

"No."

"Shane and Andrea. Yes, I'll use your actual names for your storybook, and no, I'm not fucking around." Negan wasn't deterred by Shane's refusal to hearing the truth about himself. "See Shane. See Andrea. Shane and Andrea are friends. They're also lovers. They travel together and kill walkers." Now he sounded menacing. "They also like sneaking into places where they don't belong. Shane and Andrea snuck into The Sanctuary. Negan is in charge of The Sanctuary. Shane and Andrea want to be friends with Negan. Negan carries a barbed wire baseball bat named Lucille. Andrea remains calm. She knows how to get what she wants. Watch Andrea follow directions. See Andrea call herself 'Negan'. Negan likes Andrea. Negan wants to help Shane. Shane is angry and afraid because he's not with Andrea." He uttered the final sentence with deliberate slowness to ensure it got under Shane's skin. "Watch. Shane. Lose. His. Fucking. Shit. Over. Andrea."

Shane breathed slowly in an effort to maintain self-control. It unnerved him how Negan was already using his love for Andrea against him.

"Let's talk real. Man to man." Negan laughed when Shane shrugged. "Are you a slave to the sex? Was her pussy that good?"

Shane jumped to his feet and stopped short when Negan held out Lucille threateningly.

"Sit your hotheaded ass down right now!" He kept Lucille out even after Shane sat down. "That's the second time I've told you to sit down in five minutes—do not make me have to say it a fucking third time! Three strikes and you're out…I'll let Andrea say good-bye to your mangled carcass before you're chained to the fence as a walker."

Shane tried to sit still, although he was seething with rage.

"I don't think you were listening to me out there, so I'm gonna repeat myself. Out of the kindness of my warped and twisted heart, I'm giving you one week to prove your worth. One. Full. Fucking. Week. Seven days. One hundred sixty-eight hours. Ten thousand, eighty minutes. Six hundred four thousand, eight hundred seconds." The entire time he tapped Lucille on Shane's shoulders. The barbed wire got stuck in Shane's coat. When Negan pulled it back, thread was entangled in the barbed wire. "My every wish is your fucking command. If you don't like it, then your only option is to end up as a walker on a stick—still useful to me as a rotting corpse."

"You made your point," Shane spat.

Negan saw signs that Shane was still defiant. "Get rid of that fucking scowl and check your tone!" A broad smile flashed across his face. "Maybe you like the idea of Juliet being a widow. Don't worry, if that happens she won't be alone in this world for long." He tilted his head as though imagining the scenario in his mind. "Tell me, Romeo…do you like the idea of Juliet living in my beautiful harem with my other wives? She'll be safe and protected—and she'll spread her legs for me whenever I want her to."

Shane abandoned his self-control—not that he had much to begin with. "You can go fuck yourself 'cause she'll NEVER be your wife!"

Negan swung Lucille at Shane's head. Shane ducked in time and heard Lucille bang against the wall right above him. Shane glanced at the door and bolted to his feet, ready to make a run for it. He didn't want to stay around for one more minute and he didn't care if he looked like a coward. Better to run away with his life intact than to stay here and sacrifice his dignity to earn Negan's approval. Negan was a manipulative psychopath who enjoyed holding Andrea over Shane's head—which he had almost crushed. An' I thought The Guvnah was bat-shit crazy, he thought, this guy's a hundred times worse. He took one step and stopped when he felt something sharp clawing into his skin. He looked down in horror and saw that Negan had pressed Lucille under his chin. He had done it lightly, but with more force, he could break Shane's jaw or rip the skin off his face.

"Don't move a fucking inch if you know what's good for you," Negan snarled as he slowly removed Lucille.

Shane grimaced and rubbed his chin. There was sticky blood where the barbed wire had cut open his skin. Without a sound, he slumped to the floor, overwhelmed with a blend of fright and fury. He didn't know which one he felt more of, but he hated that he felt both.

"The only thing stopping Lucille from having her fucking way with you is that you're oozing with enormous potential. You got a lot of boiling rage that I'd love to put to good use. Do not waste my precious time—or you'll regret the day you snuck your sneaky-ass here—and so will Juliet." Negan crouched down so that he was eye level with Shane. "I'd hate for her to suffer because of your fucking stupidity."

Shane kept his hand glued to his chin. He stared at Negan and then at the baseball bat that had almost crushed his skull. Fuck you an' your stupid leather jacket…an' fuck your dumb bitch Lucille. He was surprised that he didn't utter those words aloud. It must've been Andrea's influence because any other time, the words would've flew out of his mouth, regardless of the consequences. Andrea had worked very hard to get it in his head that his presentation needed work and that he should think before he talked. Andrea was also his best friend and the woman he loved more than he loved himself. He needed to get past whatever Negan threw at him to get back to her. They had been separated for only a few hours; maybe a day, he wasn't sure anymore. He just knew he missed her and wanted her. He needed her and she wasn't there because Negan thought it'd be a great idea to separate them.

"You need a shitload of practice in following directions, so I'm gonna give it to you." Negan rose to his full height so that he was standing over Shane as a clear display that he was the alpha male in the cell. "Here's your first command and you better get it fucking right: you will kneel every time I enter a space you're in. No exceptions!"

Shane glanced at the cell's door again, imagining escaping this new hell. He wanted to get out of here, find Andrea, and run far away from The Sanctuary. For the first time ever, he regretted leaving the farm, leaving the group…and leaving Rick. He was grateful for Andrea standing by his side all this time, but he hated that he dragged them into this horrifying situation. There was no way he could undo his choices that led up to this very moment. He hated how Rick had made him feel like a subordinate that should shut up and do as he's told, but he knew Rick would never humiliate him the way Negan was doing now.

Negan tapped Lucille on the wall, impatient. "The longer you put this off, the longer your trial period will be. Why a week? Why not an entire fucking month to see if you can get it through your thick skull who's in charge here?!"

Shane knew he would hate doing it, but he had no choice. Gritting his teeth and trying his hardest not to let his anger show on his face, he got on one knee in front of Negan.

"I'll make a Savior out of you yet!" Negan grinned, satisfied to see Shane submit to him. "One last thing…who are you?"

Shane recalled when Simon and Paula had answered "Negan." Andrea had answered the same way. Negan. Now he was asked the same question and he refused to give in to Negan's mind games.

"Shane. Walsh."

"We'll fix that…even if I have to beat the fucking fuck out of you." He swung Lucille in Shane's direction and stopped just before reaching his face. Shane didn't budge as he knew Negan was looking for a frightened reaction. Negan chortled and Shane remained emotionless. "You don't scare easy…well, this time you didn't. I spent more than enough time playing Getting-To-Know-You. Were you always a stubborn asshole?"

"All my life."

"That's gonna change real soon." Negan glanced at his watch. "Time for me to check on that femme fatale. Before I go, allow me to finish that story. Only you know how it ends." As he spoke, he walked backwards, still facing Shane and holding Lucille on his shoulder. "Shane needs to be broken down. He needs to be trained. Shane will learn to listen and obey commands. Negan likes to train Shane." Negan opened the door and sent his parting shot. "And Shane will learn to like being trained—if he wants to live to see Andrea again."

Shane was still on one knee when Negan locked him in the cell, his sinister laughter echoing in Shane's mind long after he had left.

oOo

Paula entered The Sanctuary's armory with her newest recruit: Andrea. The armory was a large storage room in the basement with wall-to-wall shelves. Every shelf held an array of firearms. Handguns, pistols, submachine guns, rifles, shotguns, assault and automatic rifles were organized by their model and make. Another part of the room was stocked with ammunition.

"Found your ideal gun, yet?" Paula asked.

"No, but I'll know her when I see her."

"Hurry up and pick one before Negan gets here."

Andrea continued to walk up and down the aisles, picking up different guns and setting them down again. She brushed off Paula's sour attitude and concentrated on finding the perfect firearm. Andrea sensed that Paula wasn't overjoyed with the task of assessing her skills. Rather than worry about trying to get on Paula's good side, she concentrated on checking out the guns. She imagined that brides-to-be felt this way when searching for their perfect wedding dress. Just as brides knew the right dress when they saw it and tried it on, Andrea would know right away which firearm was the best fit for her.

"Sweet Piece" was great, but she needed to prove herself with a much larger and more powerful gun. She had never seen so many guns in her entire life. Rick's group barely had a fraction of what Negan and the Saviors owned. She remembered his bag of guns and realized that if Negan ever found Rick's group—that is, if they were still alive—he would take it for himself. Just as he took half of The Hilltop's supplies. She was wondering about Rick's group when the door opened and two women entered. One appeared to be an overweight middle-aged woman smoking a cigarette and the other was a younger woman with shoulder length dark hair.

"I've got two people I want you to meet, Andrea," Paula said. "We'll be spending lots of time together."

Andrea looked up as the two women joined Paula. She snatched the sniper rifle that had caught her attention at the same moment the women had entered the armory. There was probably another gun in the armory that fit her better, but this one felt just right. She decided to keep it.

"She a good fit for you, honey?" The older woman asked, after taking a drag on her cigarette.

Andrea forced herself to smile. The older woman seemed kind and offered her a genuine smile in return.

"I'd say so," Andrea answered.

"You look perfect holding her," the younger woman added. "Like she's meant for you."

"Thank you." She looked up, deciding she would have more time with the sniper rifle later. She could test it, get used to the feel of it, and practice using the scope. "I'm Andrea."

"Molly." She dropped her cigarette to the floor and stomped it out.

"Michelle, but you can call me 'Chelle' for short. Everyone does."

"Gotcha. You can call me D—" She stopped herself in time. "Drea" was Shane's nickname for her. It wouldn't feel right hearing others use it. It was something special between them that reminded her of him and she needed to hold onto it, especially now that Negan had separated them. She didn't know when she'd hear Shane call her "Drea" again and she looked forward to the day she heard his voice again. "Andrea works just fine."

"Whatever works for you works for us," Molly said.

Andrea tried to appear nonchalant. Inside, she was worried about Shane and wondered where he was. He was constantly on her mind and she tried to distract herself in the armory. She wished he was there with her. He would've offered insight on which gun was the best fit for her, although she was confident in her choice. She imagined him making different comments. You goin' with that? Get yourself a real piece. That ain't shit. She's a beauty. She wanted to ask Paula if she knew what was going on with Shane, but she could tell by Paula's demeanor that she wouldn't tell her anything.

"Will I be going out with both of you or just Paula?"

Molly and Michelle were about to respond when the armory's door opened and shut loudly. Without a word, they lowered themselves to the floor and genuflected on one knee. Andrea wasn't sure what was going on and then she heard the whistling at the same moment that she saw Paula kneel. It was the same whistling she had heard earlier when her and Shane were held prisoner. Although she was no longer there, the whistling gave Andrea the sense of being trapped. Swallowing her fear, she immediately kneeled. Seconds later, Negan was standing in front of them.

"Someone here's fast as lightning on a crazy fucking summer day. It wouldn't happen to be that pretty blonde stowaway, would it?"

Andrea stared at the floor. She knew he was referring to her.

"Look me in the eye when I'm talking to you." His command was authoritarian.

She did as she was told and looked at Negan directly, while trying not to be distracted by Lucille. Was she imagining things or were there flecks of blood in the barbed wire?

"I'm impressed. Not only do you have beach ball sized lady nuts for sneaking in here with your boyfriend, but you know what's expected of you without me having to break it down to you!"

Andrea remained silent, unsure of how to respond and if she should respond at all.

"We thank people when they compliment us."

She forced the words out. "Thank you."

"You're welcome!" Negan said in a syrupy tone. "You're about to graduate with your PhD and your man is still in fucking pre-school. You're light years ahead of him."

Finally, she might get some answers. "Where's Shane?"

Negan shook his head, but the malicious grin on his face revealed his amusement. "I ask the questions around here." He pointed Lucille at Andrea. "You answer them. Understood?"

Andrea nodded and tried to remain calm when she glanced again at the traces of blood on the barbed wire. That's Shane's blood. She felt terrified for him, but she knew she couldn't show or express her fear. It wouldn't help the situation and it would only reveal how vulnerable she was without him, which she didn't want. She wished she could be near him so that they could get through this together, but Negan was adamant about them being separated during their trial periods.

Negan had seen her glance at Lucille. "Romeo will be fine as long as he reads a fucking page out of Juliet's best-seller."

"Which is?" The question slipped out of her mouth before she could stop herself and he had just made it clear that he would ask the questions—not her.

Negan stared at her for some time before answering. "Your man is used to doing whatever he fucking pleases. Ain't happening here. You, on the other hand, you know the deal." He gestured to Andrea with Lucille.

Without him elaborating, Andrea knew he meant he approved of her kneeling for him. She didn't know what it was about genuflecting on one knee that he loved so much. Then it hit her: submission. He wants us to submit to him…Shane had been forced to kneel the first time. Andrea knew he didn't like submitting to anyone. She didn't want to think of what had recently happened when Negan met with Shane since there was blood on Lucille—and she knew not to ask. Negan broke her out of her thoughts.

"On your feet, ladies."

All four women rose to their feet at the same time.

"Take her out tomorrow, Paula. Right now, I need to meet with you and Simon to discuss how we're going to break in Romeo and Juliet."

Paula nodded and joined Negan.

"In the meantime, Juliet, start practicing your aim because tomorrow you're on."

Without another word, Negan and Paula left the armory. Andrea watched them leave and then turned to Michelle and Molly. She had a feeling she would get along with them. They were open to having her there and seemed friendly. Or at least, friendlier than Paula.

"We'll take you out right now so that you can practice," Michelle said.

"You're gonna do fine, honey," Molly added. "Just takes time getting used to being here. Once you're on Negan's good side, the rest is a walk in the park."

Andrea forced herself to smile to show gratitude for their warmth. "Thanks."

She followed them out of the armory. Uncertain of what to say to Michelle and Molly, she kept quiet. The entire time, she stared at the sniper rifle in her hands, hoping that Shane would've approved if he were there to see what she had chosen as her signature firearm.

oOo

Shane was sleeping on the floor when the door to his cell burst open, waking him up. Shielding himself from the light that flooded the tiny cell, he was able to make out Simon's tall figure. Simon walked in, carrying a tray of food.

"Wakey wakey, eggs and pancakey!" Simon said cheerfully as he placed the tray on the floor.

Shane stared at the food. The "eggs and pancakey" looked delicious, but he refused to touch it.

Simon was indifferent to Shane's reaction. He wasn't there to ensure Shane ate. He was there to break Shane into his new life as a Savior. Negan had met with him and Paula yesterday to review how they would supervise and assess Shane and Andrea. Under no circumstances were "Romeo and Juliet" permitted to be near each other. If they were placed together it was only because Negan allowed it. Negan had also made it clear that Shane would be more difficult and that Andrea was already ahead of the game insofar as making a good impression. Simon's job was to push Shane along and he knew exactly how he'd accomplish this.

"Good morning, Shitface."

Shane glared at Simon, refusing to greet him. Simon picked up on it already: the "fucking rebellious attitude" Negan had mentioned.

"The word for today is 'submission'. Do you know what that means?"

Shane sat up against the wall, still silent.

"Allow me to define it for you. Submission is the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person." Simon laughed. "In its verb form, the words are submit, submitted, and submitting. Got it straight from the dictionary!"

Shane shrugged, indifferent. "Glad you know how to read."

"Glad you know how to talk." Simon crouched down so that he was eye level with Shane. "Negan told me all about your eagerness to learn about living in The Sanctuary. How you're so enthusiastic to become a Savior that you can hardly contain yourself."

"I'm thrilled beyond words."

Shane's sarcasm didn't faze Simon because he knew he could serve it right back. "You must be since you snuck in here. Didn't even come through the front door, nor were you given an invitation."

Shane found himself trying to hold back his temper. Simon was grating his nerves and it was early in the morning. Was it the morning? He assumed so because Simon brought him breakfast food. He didn't feel like engaging with Simon, but what he wanted didn't matter which Simon made clear when he spoke next.

"Let's cut the bullshit and get straight to it." Simon preferred it that way and he could tell Shane didn't want small talk. "If you think for one second that you'll be handed a title like 'lieutenant' because you're Shane Walsh, you better wake up from that ridiculous daydream and face reality."

"You here to help me 'face reality'?"

"I'm here to tell you that the harder you fight it, the worse it will be for you. Welcome to your new life of submitting to Negan. You're not in charge of you anymore, you don't even belong to Andrea. You belong to Negan now and you better get used to it. That's your new life in The Sanctuary and there's no turning back."

Shane acted as though Simon hadn't said anything. "Where's Andrea?"

"She's above ground and that's all you need to know."

"What's she doin'?"

"She's doing what you should be doing: proving your worth to Negan. You only get one shot, so I'd make the most of it if I were you. Oh, and that kneeling thing…" Simon smirked when he remembered two Saviors forcing Shane to kneel at The Hilltop. "We all take a knee for Negan, regardless of ranking: janitor, wife, prisoner, worker, or lieutenant. When he enters a room, when he walks by, when he stops in to see what's going on: you get on your knee, you genuflect—you don't piss and moan about it."

"What's your point?" Shane was irritated.

"My point?" Simon laughed as he eyed Shane, scornfully. "My point is if you want Negan to like you, trust you, promote you—then you better swallow your pride and shit it out of your system. Being stubborn will be your downfall. If that's how you want it, then you'll be out there with the prisoners for the rest of your life. Or you'll be another roamer that we use in our compounds to deter intruders—like yourself and your little girlfriend."

Simon abruptly got up and left the cell. He was gone for a few seconds as he stepped out of the cell to grab a bag which he threw at Shane.

"Put this on and be ready in ten minutes. Your first task is out in the yard today with the other prisoners." A broad grin lit up Simon's face. He noticed Shane still hadn't touched the food. "I'd eat every crumb if I were you. Your next break is hours from now…five or six hours. Seven or eight if you continue to behave like a bullheaded asshole. Remember: the word for today is submission: to submit one's self to a superior authority. To yield, consent…you know the rest. Ten minutes."

Simon left Shane and locked the door behind him.

oOo

"Show us what you got," Paula ordered.

Andrea was on the third level of The Sanctuary, which overlooked the yard where the prisoners worked with the walkers. She watched as two prisoners pushed a walker against the gate while a third prisoner wrapped a chain around the walker's waist, binding the animated corpse to the gate. There were a bunch of walkers in various stages of decay, some tied to stakes and others impaled. The prisoners wore the same tan outfit with letters spray-painted on their sweaters while the Saviors guarded them with shotguns.

She turned to Paula, waiting to see if she would get clearer directions. Show us what you got seemed too open-ended. Her sniper rifle was loaded and ready to be fired at a moment's notice. Molly and Michelle had picked her up from the workers' floor an hour ago and explained what to expect today as far as being tested for her shooting skills. Andrea knew she could handle it, although she was exhausted since she had gotten little sleep the night before. She couldn't stop thinking about Shane, where Negan was keeping him, if he was safe, when she would see him again…

"I'm gonna give you some targets and you pick them off one by one. Miss one and you're done."

"That's harsh, Paula," Michelle said, turning to Molly, who nodded in agreement as she lit a cigarette.

Paula's face was hard like granite. "She told Negan she's a sharpshooter, so now she gets to prove herself and we get to find out if she's telling the truth or lying her ass off."

Andrea glanced at Michelle. She wanted to reassure the younger woman that she was fine. She was a markswoman, she knew she would hit all her targets. She planned to put into practice everything Shane had taught her that day when he took her out by herself to improve her shooting skills. She'd shut down her emotions and focus. It was the only way she'd be able to get through this. If she allowed her fear for Shane get to her, she'd miss her targets and mess up her chances of being a Savior. The threat of being thrown in the harem loomed above her, but she was confident she wouldn't end up there.

"Those two workers near the entrance." Paula pointed below. "Bust a cap—one or both of them, I don't care."

Andrea hesitated. She thought she would be shooting objects—not people.

"Not what you expected?" Paula asked and Andrea heard the disdain in her voice. She wondered if Paula talked and sounded this way to everyone. "Let me guess, you thought you'd be shooting apples off Molly's head or tin cans out of Michelle's hand."

"I…"

She was speechless. She had never killed a human being before. She had put down her own sister, but that was different because Amy had turned. She had shot in Karen's direction in Woodbury which caused the woman to twist or sprain her ankle—but she didn't kill her. Even holding Haley at gunpoint didn't result in Haley's death—Andrea had done it to manipulate The Governor into freeing Shane and getting supplies, but that was it. No one had died. She remembered how Shane could barely look at her when he told her the truth about what happened to Otis. He remembered what she told him about what it was like to kill another human being: There ain't nothin' easy 'bout takin' a man's life, no matter how little value it may have. But when you get it done, you have to forget it. I guess I haven't quite got that last part down yet. Once Andrea killed her targets, would she be able to forget it or would it always haunt her?

"I used to be like you, Andrea, but once my kill list hit the double digits, I stopped caring. I stopped feeling bad." Paula shrugged.

Andrea stared at her, shocked by her words. How many people had Paula killed and for what reasons? She knew she would never know the answer, but it frightened her that she was standing next to a woman who by society's standards would be considered a serial killer. Or as society used to be before it all fell apart. Shane had been wracked with guilt for killing Otis and Andrea had done her best to help him forgive himself. What would killing over ten people do to a person's psyche?

"I have to report to Negan what you do or don't do. So you might as well get it over and done with—just kill them already. They're stupid prisoners, no one cares if they live or die."

Andrea didn't want to end up in the harem or on Negan's bad side. With fear as her motivation, she took careful aim and fired. Seconds later, two men collapsed in the yard. There was a flurry of movement below as the prisoners looked around, trying to see where the shooting had come from. Someone pointed above at Andrea. Wasting no time, she fired again and the worker pointing up at her fell backwards. Dead. Swallowing the rising bile in her throat, Andrea turned away from the yard and faced the three women. She didn't know why she had committed her last kill, but it was too late to go back.

Molly coughed. "You ain't playin', honey. Those guys never stood a chance."

"She's playing for keeps," Michelle said. She looked over her shoulder as one Savior gestured for several prisoners to pick up their recently deceased comrades. "I bet you Jared's gonna make them go on the gate."

"Ain't he out there with Gavin pickin' up supplies from King What's-His-Name? The one with the tiger." Molly took a drag from her cigarette.

"You mean Ezekiel?"

"Yeah, him."

"He's not, or it's his day off."

Paula ignored the conversation between Michelle and Molly and glared at Andrea. She was the only one not impressed. "That was too easy for you—you need a bigger challenge. Let's go higher up."

She walked inside The Sanctuary followed by Molly. Michelle shrugged, bewildered by Paula's response. Andrea looked on and shook her head. She wouldn't let Paula's condescending demeanor get the best of her. It seemed Michelle wanted to tell her something, but Andrea walked past her, determined to not be distracted and stay focused. Soon, they were on the roof. As Andrea readied her sniper rifle, a middle-aged man joined them.

"What're you up to, Paula?"

"Taking out the new meat, seeing what she's made of." Paula never took her eyes off Andrea. "You should be working, Donnie. "Then again, stick around. Andrea may have something to teach you."

"I don't need a woman teachin' me how to shoot a gun," Donnie sneered. "Not when I've been shootin' all my life."

"There's always room for improvement." Turning to Andrea, Paula pointed down at the yard again. The prisoners—probably due to the demanding Saviors—had resumed working again. "Get that one right there. Make sure you don't miss or you'll end up shooting your own boyfriend in the head."

Andrea squinted as she looked down. Even from high up, she could see who Paula was referring to: Shane. He wore the same tan outfit as the other prisoners with the letter "S" in the front. She watched as he took a bucket off a walker's head and backed away just in time as the walker's arms flailed at him. Her fingers trembled as they gripped the sniper rifle and curled around the trigger. Shane was very close to the walker and if she missed by an inch she would end up killing him. What made it worse was that he was out there in the first place. Shane was a prisoner reduced to the working in the yard, while she was high up in The Sanctuary showing off her skills. Didn't Negan say they'd end up in the yard if they "fucked up royally"? If so, what was he doing out there? Then she remembered that Negan said Shane would start at the bottom and work his way up since Shane had demanded to be made lieutenant.

"Are you gonna shoot today? 'Cause we're not coming back here tomorrow. There's no do-overs." The hatred in Paula's voice was unmistakable. "It's now or never."

"Knock it off!" Michelle sounded annoyed, although she had been quiet the whole time. "Take your time, Andrea, you got this."

Andrea nodded and forced herself to calm down. She heard Shane's voice in her head: you're too damn emotional. You need to shut it down! Take all that guilt, take that fear, that being pissed off—take it out! Shane's words were exactly what she needed to hear because her emotions were overwhelming her. She always felt guilty for getting sick in the house. The fact that Shane had left her by herself to scavenge for medication when he ended up meeting Jesus, which led to their brief stay at The Hilltop and now The Sanctuary. The chain of events was her fault. Any paralyzing fear she experienced now was all because of her. She knew Shane didn't blame her, but it was a burden she carried.

All the guilt and fear gave way to anger. She was furious that Negan had separated her from Shane and that he was forced to start out as a lowly prisoner. Paula had said the men below in the yard were "stupid prisoners" and "no one cares if they live or die." A tidal wave of rage swept over Andrea now—Shane was not stupid and she definitely cared if he lived or died. She took a deep breath, knowing she had to shut down her emotions as he had told her. It wouldn't help her or Shane if her feelings distracted her. Instead, she allowed the anger to drive her now as her fingers found their form and she focused on her target.

The walker's arms were still flailing and reaching out to grab any prisoner or Savior that came within reach when Andrea pulled the trigger. In an instant, the walker's arms fell to his sides and the body became completely still now that it had died a second death. Andrea set down the sniper rifle just as Shane looked up in her direction. She didn't know if he could tell it was her. She was just relieved that she didn't kill him. Next to her, Paula nodded in approval.

"Not bad…we got more tests for you. We're gonna give you different guns, see if you know how to operate each one—disassemble it, put it back together."

Andrea said nothing as she followed Paula. Molly squeezed her shoulder and Michelle offered her a confident smile. For the first time since sneaking to The Sanctuary, Andrea allowed herself to feel relief that she was making a good impression with the Saviors and that meant she could live there on her terms—and not Negan's.

oOo

Shane didn't look up when he heard Simon open the door to his cell. He was exhausted beyond his limit. His body ached after working for sixteen hours in the yard with the other prisoners. There had been a water break every four hours for five minutes. At the eighth hour mark, the prisoners had a ten minute lunch break. After that, it was back to work in the sweltering heat, trying to manage the walkers that were tied to poles and chained to the gates. The Saviors were constantly bringing in new walkers for him and the other prisoners to put on the gates. One of them—Jared—went out of his way to be obnoxious to the prisoners. Shane had forced himself to focus. His job was monotonous: continue building the perimeter using the walkers so that the structure surrounded the entire The Sanctuary.

He had lost track of time. There was one day where he had been kept inside to work as a janitor and clean up the living quarters of the workers and higher-ranked Saviors. The rest of the days he was outside. He was doing the lowest work in The Sanctuary. Since he said he wanted to be a lieutenant, Negan made good on his promise that Shane would "start at the bottom and work his way up". The days were a blur to him. All he remembered was the constant kneeling and waking up to music turned up to the highest decibel. Simon said he used Paul Weller's "You Do Something to Me" as an alarm clock, but Shane thought he chose the song to torment him about Andrea. In the evenings, he played "Lovin' You" by Minnie Riperton to lull Shane to sleep, but all it did was keep him wide awake. Everything being done to him was torturous, but the worst of it was not being allowed to see Andrea, nor was he given any information about her wellbeing, except that she was "above ground".

Andrea…He had been right next to the walker she shot. He remembered looking up and seeing four women and one man at the top level of The Sanctuary. His heart swelled with pride. She truly was a sharpshooter. He had taught her the skills and she ran with it. Seeing Andrea gave him a sliver of happiness that was short-lived as he had been forced to continue working right after the walker had been put down.

Aside from Jared's obnoxiousness and Simon playing Paul Weller and Minnie Riperton on repeat, he wished they would allow him to shower. He smelled awful from working all day with the other prisoners and walkers—a gruesome combination of sweat, dirt, and decomposition. The prisoner garb Simon had gave him was the only thing he had worn for the last several days. All the prisoners wore the same dirty tan sweat pants and sweater. Shane had noticed they all had letters. His had the letter S and Simon was quick to tell him what it meant: "I know you think it stands for 'Shane'. It means Shitface. Shitface is how I know you until you earn my respect and Negan's."

Earn my respect and Negan's…Shane remembered the first day he had been brought outside. He had made sure to avoid getting bit by the hungry walkers. Being chained up didn't reduce their appetites for human flesh. He hadn't been out there for an hour when Negan came into the yard carrying Lucille. Everyone—the prisoners and Saviors in charge—had gotten down on one knee at the same time. Shane was surprised that he kneeled alongside them. Negan stopped right in front of him on purpose and flashed a self-assured smirk that Shane missed since he was staring straight ahead. He then left and everyone went back to work.

Shane was full of doubt. Was he trying to prove his loyalty to Negan or was he doing everything possible to get back to Andrea? It felt like both. He forced himself to accept that the only way he'd be with Andrea again was if he showed his loyalty to Negan in a way that satisfied the Saviors' leader. At first, he thought Negan would keep Andrea away from him the first day. However, as time passed and he had no idea what she was doing and how she was faring, he knew the truth. He wouldn't see Andrea until Negan allowed him to.

Simon came over and stood over him. Shane listened while keeping his eyes closed.

"I'm only gonna say this once, so whether you hear it or not is up to you. Negan wants to give you a new assignment. You're being promoted, Shitface. Keep this up and you just might become a high-ranking Savior."

Shane fell asleep before Simon left the cell.

oOo

Andrea followed Paula into the Saviors' meeting room, carrying the sniper rifle she had chosen by her side. It was only them as Michelle and Molly were informed that this was an important meeting between Paula, Andrea, and Negan. Upon arriving, they saw Negan standing at the head of the long table. Paula and Andrea genuflected in unison until Negan gave a curt nod, indicating they could rise. As Andrea took a seat at the table, she noted the marks at the end where Negan sat. She didn't ask about them, although she had an inkling that Lucille had been slammed against the table numerous times, leaving visible marks. Paula sat across from her. Both women waited for Negan to start.

"Good morning, ladies. Juliet, care to share what you think of your evaluation before Paula reviews you?"

Andrea glanced at Paula and then at Negan. Although she knew she had hit every target and every mark accurately, she decided to minimize her success. That way, if Paula gave a similar report, she wouldn't look out of place. Being assessed by Paula hadn't been the most fun endeavor and Andrea was grateful that Molly and Michelle had been present. She didn't feel comfortable with Paula yet and she wondered if she ever would.

"I think I did okay."

"You think you did 'okay'?" Negan repeated. He propped his legs on the table and placed Lucille on the table in front of him. "That fucking sucks. I was hoping to hear you think you did outstanding. Some over-the-top superlative."

Andrea stared at the table, not saying anything.

"Paula, what's your assessment of Juliet's skill level? Is she a sharpshooter or a shitshooter?"

Andrea's eyes flickered nervously between Negan and Paula. She didn't know what to expect.

"Andrea wasn't lying when she told you she's a deadshot."

Negan leaned forward, interested in Paula's assessment. "Tell me more."

"She's the definition of a sharpshooter. She's excellent with a sniper rifle and even gives the men a run for their money. I told Donnie he should take shooting lessons from Andrea and he didn't like that. We took her to the highest level and she hit her targets every time." Paula nodded at Andrea. "I want her to remain with my squad."

Andrea sighed inwardly. She knew she shouldn't take Paula's detached demeanor personally. Paula's verbal acknowledgement of her skills was the first time she complimented Andrea.

"Well, fuck me! You weren't exaggerating about your shooting accuracy." Negan reached for Lucille. "You really got beach ball sized lady nuts!" When he saw the blank expression on Andrea's face, he continued. "Geez, Juliet—smile a little!"

Andrea smiled halfheartedly as she placed her sniper rifle on the table. She was relieved, but she found that she couldn't accept full credit, nor was she excited. Shane had taught her how to shoot a gun. It was because of him that she had able to have a choice of her place in The Sanctuary amongst the Saviors. Aside from that, Negan's adulation and Paula's praise, she wanted to share the good news with the man she loved, but she didn't know where he was and she knew not to ask.

"Paula, you can continue doing perimeter duty at our outposts with Michelle and Molly. There's something I want to show Juliet."

Paula nodded. "I'll show you where we're stationed tomorrow, Andrea."

"Sounds good." Andrea hoped she sounded happy because she didn't feel it.

Paula left the meeting room so that it was just Negan and Andrea.

"Fucking fantastic, Juliet. Now that you've earned your right to be here, you're getting your own place. That's a privilege that only a few enjoy here."

"My own place?" Andrea asked, unsure of what he meant. During her trial period, she had slept on a cot in a crowded room with other workers. Two bedsheets hanging from clotheslines gave her a semblance of privacy.

"High-ranking Saviors such as yourself get their own space." Negan stood up and Andrea followed his lead. "Surprised as hell, huh?"

oOo

A short time later, after walking through what seemed like a never-ending maze of dark hallways and long corridors, Negan stopped in front of a door. He gestured to Andrea.

"Ladies first!"

Andrea opened the door and stepped inside. She was shocked that Negan had been telling the truth. While he brought her deeper into The Sanctuary, she had wondered where she'd end up. Now she was here to see that he had designated a living space just for her. It was a large apartment that included a bed, refrigerator, and other basic furnishings.

"Well?" Negan stood in the doorway, waiting to hear her thoughts.

"It's great—thank you. It just seems a bit much for one person," she said as she walked further inside.

"It's for two people. When your fuck buddy, partner-in-crime, whatever the hell you call him—when he learns his place, then you'll have a roommate. Until then, this place is all yours."

"Will that be soon?" She kicked herself mentally for asking the question, but she missed Shane and the thought of spending the night (or several nights) on her own made her feel lonely.

"That's up to him." Negan's voice was deadpan. "You have the rest of the day off since you'll be out there with Paula tomorrow. You can chill out, sleep, decorate the place,—whatever the fuck you want. Since you're new, I review you a month to two months from now. I always make sure my new recruits are performing at their highest level."

Andrea put down her sniper rifle on the bureau. When she didn't hear Negan leave, she turned around to see him still standing in the doorway.

"Before I leave, I have just one question for you. It's a very important question, one that I sure as hell don't take lightly and neither should you."

Andrea waited, her heart cartwheeling in her chest. She didn't know if it would be related to Shane.

"Who are you?"

That question. Again. She already knew the answer. "Negan…I'm Negan."

Negan nodded with approval. There was a crackling noise and Andrea turned to see where it came from. She watched as Negan took out his walkie-talkie from his pocket. Simon's voice came through, updating Negan on Shane. She tried to make out what was being said, but it wasn't clear.

"Bring him to the meeting room. I'll be there in five minutes." Negan grinned at Andrea. "Our star-crossed lovers are becoming loyal Saviors. Project Romeo and Juliet, Phase One, is complete. Time for Phase Two." He switched off the walkie-talkie.

"What's 'Phase Two'?" The question slipped out before she thought about it. Did he mean Shane?

"You're smart, gorgeous, and a spectacular sharpshooter. Romeo's a lucky man. Long as you don't fuck up, you're here to stay."

Of course, he didn't answer her question. Without another word, Negan left Andrea standing alone in the apartment, wondering if she'd ever see Shane again.

Chapter Text

 

Project Romeo and Juliet: Phase Two

I wanted you to know I love the way you laugh
I wanna hold you high and steal your pain away
I keep your photograph, I know it serves me well

Seether featuring Amy Lee "Broken"

Negan sat in his usual spot at the head of the table and waited for Simon to bring in Shane. He took out a cloth and began wiping Lucille. Upon entering the meeting room, Simon kneeled and Shane did the same.

"On your feet, gentlemen."

Simon quickly resumed his seat at the table next to Negan, having sat there before. Shane wandered over to the far end of the table, putting distance between himself and Negan. He chose to sit further away, not because he was afraid of Negan, but more so, he wanted to ensure he didn't do anything rash that he would regret later. He watched as Negan cleaned Lucille. The entire time, he imagined what he would do with the baseball bat if he ever got his hands on it…

"I hear you're doing exceptionally well, Romeo. You threw me for a loop during your first days here. It took every fucking ounce of willpower to not allow Lucille have her way with you. Now you're turning out to be quite the acquisition."

"You heard right." Shane didn't like Negan's wording "acquisition"—as though he were a piece of property. He knew not to respond to it.

"I'd like to reward you for your efforts by bringing you to my harem. I have a fine-ass selection of wives to choose from."

Shane glanced at Negan and then Simon. Both men had weird expressions on their faces as though they had planned this out. He remembered Andrea's fear of being forced to live in Negan's harem, although he presented it to her as a choice she could make on her own. Right away, he knew Negan was testing him to see if he would sleep with one of his wives. It was so obvious and downright ridiculous. Shane didn't know what Negan got out of his stupid mind games.

"Nah, I'm good." He shook his head. "Andrea's the only woman for me."

"But you haven't banged Juliet since you've been here. All this fucking time and not one fucking minute spent fucking your better half. Don't you wanna get lucky during happy hour at the pussy bar?" Negan continued wiping the bottom half of Lucille in a suggestive up and down motion. "I should've thrown some lotion or Vaseline in your cell, Romeo."

Simon and Negan busted out laughing at his crude joke. Shane didn't laugh or smile. He's still on that Romeo an' Juliet bullshit? He knew better than to voice that thought aloud. Although she wasn't with him at this moment, Andrea's influence helped him to keep his emotions in check, especially with being mindful of his presentation. He focused on what Negan had asked him.

"I don't mess with other men's wives."

Simon looked from Shane to Negan and back to Shane again. "You're loyal to your woman. As much as you're a royal pain in the ass, Shitface, I must say that's commendable."

Shane ignored him. A compliment from Simon was worthless, especially since he kept calling him "Shitface". He didn't know which irked him more: Simon calling him "Shitface" to belittle him or Negan's nickname of "Romeo" to taunt him about his and Andrea's love. They think we're fakin' it to save our asses. He and Andrea knew their bond was real and that's all that mattered.

"You don't mess with other men's wives?" Negan had a knowing expression on his face as he threw the cloth aside. "Ever or anymore? First implies, you never have. The second…" he chuckled, "whose wife did you fuck?"

Shane tried to maintain a blank expression. He didn't know how Negan had a knack for reading him so well that he could spot his weaknesses and use them against him. When he had first snuck into The Sanctuary, his connection to Andrea was obvious and easy for Negan to exploit. This question about other men's wives…Shane didn't want to answer it. Memories of him and Lori came rushing back; most of them were unpleasant. They were memories he had pushed to the back of his mind, after he had opened up to Andrea about Lori. Andrea was different though, she was his best friend, lover, and partner for life. Lori, on the other hand…

"When I ask you a fucking question, you answer it."

Shane's eyes dropped to the table. Regret and guilt for betraying Rick overwhelmed him now. "My best friend's wife."

Negan slammed Lucille on the table. "You fucked your best friend's wife?!"

Shane forced himself to respond, although he wanted to drop the topic. "Yeah."

He kept his focus on the table, refusing to look at Negan and Simon. His shame was too enormous to put into words for what he had done with Lori when he thought Rick was dead. For a long time, he justified it in his mind that he believed his best friend was dead, that he and Lori needed each other during a frightening time when the world died and went to hell. Even though his feelings for Lori were genuine and even though he thought Rick was truly gone—it was still a betrayal. Furthermore, if Rick was taking care of his baby—

"You really are a shitface, Shitface." Simon mused, interrupting his thoughts. "Making a cuckold of your best friend."

Negan was more vicious than Simon.

"Your best friend is kinder than me…I would've ironed half your fucking face, so that every time you looked in the mirror you'd be reminded that your dick doesn't belong in my wife—and she wouldn't look at you the same way. Fuck that—she'd never look at you again!"

Shane swallowed nervously and raged at himself for revealing his fear. Kneeling on command, forced to do the lowest work in The Sanctuary, and feeling terrified as the new normal—he wasn't himself anymore. He didn't want to ask what "ironed half your fucking face" meant although an image of Negan putting a hot clothing iron to his face popped up in his mind. At a later time he would find out that Negan meant it exactly how he imagined it. Shane was certain that having his face ironed was far worse than Rick wanting to break his jaw and make him swallow his teeth. Negan didn't seem to notice Shane's reaction and pressed for more information.

"How the fuck did this fuckery even happen? Inquiring minds want to know." Negan gestured at himself and Simon, who smirked. "Give up the juicy details!"

Shane made sure his voice was toneless. "He was in a coma when the world went to shit. I got his wife an' kid to safety. We thought he was dead, got close, an' things happened…that's it." Ain't no need to say more than that.

"Damn, I wanted to hear how often you bumped uglies—I am so disappointed!" Negan's tone was so obnoxiously cheerful that Shane didn't believe he was disappointed. He suddenly became serious which threw Shane off. "Life happens like that. You don't plan for crazy-ass shit to go down the way they do. Big fucking props to you for helping his wife and son get to safety. You said you thought he was dead. Is he alive, your best friend?"

He didn't know how to answer that question. Rick was alive when he and Andrea left the farm, but now he had no idea. "I don't know. He returned to our camp alive…" Shane hoped he wouldn't have to reveal that it was Rick who took over the group. He thought Negan would continue to push the topic and was thankful when he didn't.

"To get back to our meeting here…Simon relayed you're doing fucking amazing, so I have a reward for you, Romeo. I bet you wanna know what it is."

"Sure, let's hear it." Shane shrugged. What could be worse than slaving away sixteen hours a day in the baking sun, while chaining animated rotting corpses to fences?

"You've been promoted! Instead of fucking around with the walkers at the gate with the rest of the prisoners, your new task is to capture escaped Saviors and drag the traitorous assholes back to The Sanctuary. What'd you think about that?"

What choice did he have? "I think it sounds spectacular."

"Fucking fantastic! I'll see you tomorrow morning, bright and early."

oOo

Shane finished eating his breakfast, which was surprisingly a filling and delicious meal. Shortly after Simon took Shane's empty tray, Negan showed up, swaggering as always and carrying Lucille. Shane genuflected on one knee. He hated that it was becoming second nature to do it, although he knew he had to in order to survive The Sanctuary.

" See, I knew Romeo had it in him to be submissive and obedient."

He gestured for Shane to rise to his feet. Shane stood up and leaned against the wall, awaiting further instructions. He noticed the door to his cell was left ajar. That had never happened before…

" Make sure you treat her like a lady." Negan held out Lucille to Shane. "You earned the right to see Juliet for a whopping five minutes today. You should be jumping for fucking joy, although it will be a supervised visit. I'm supervising it, and no, you're not at the level to get conjugal visits with her."

Shane took the baseball bat, uncertain at first. What if Negan was testing him? As he felt the weight of Lucille in his hands, Negan reached into his leather jacket for a walkie-talkie. While Negan called Simon, Shane studied the barbed wire wrapped around the baseball bat. He clenched the bat, feeling the polished wood rub against his fingers. Maybe if… Shane shook his head. If he acted out what he was thinking, he and Andrea would face huge consequences. The other possibility was that they could escape this miserable place. He knew he shouldn't, but the temptation was there and Negan had handed him Lucille…

I'll take my chances.

Shane swung the bat hard, smashing it against Negan's left knee.

" WHAT THE FUCK?!" Negan's animalistic shout was louder than he expected.

Wasting no time, Shane bounded out of the cell with Lucille. He didn't look behind him. If he had, he would've seen Negan on the floor with his back pressed against the wall, while holding his bloody left kneecap. He heard Negan shouting into his walkie-talkie:

" HE ESCAPED HIS FUCKING CELL! CONTACT ALL REINFORCEMENTS! NOW!"

He didn't wait around to hear more, although he thought he heard Negan laughing and the word "bait" as he raced down the hallway. As he hurried around trying to find an exit, two Saviors busted out of a room and ran straight for him. They were the same two Saviors who taunted him in the yard when he worked with the other prisoners—Jared and Gary. Swinging Lucille wildly, Shane hit Jared right in the gut. Jared keeled over in pain, but that didn't stop Gary. Shane made sure Lucille landed directly on the Gary's head. It wasn't enough to kill him, but it knocked him out as he collapsed to the ground. Now he had to get the hell out of here before he was captured. The Sanctuary was a huge maze of corridors, doors, rooms—and an exit! The sign has large red letters: EXIT.

Shane pushed open the door and rushed out. He looked around quickly, trying to get his bearings. He had only been in parts of The Sanctuary. Was he in the back? A side area? His heart was plowing through his chest as he tried to figure out where he was. His breath kept catching in his throat, but he ignored it. He needed to escape The Sanctuary for good—but he refused to leave without Andrea. He'd find her—they'd run like hell and never look back. Up ahead he saw a blonde woman with her back turned. Shane ran to her, relieved that he had found her.

" DREA!" He stopped to catch his breath and reached for her shoulder. "Drea, let's get out—"

The woman turned around revealing herself to be Laura, a female Savior.

" SHIT!" He backed away while still looking over his shoulder. He was running out of time. Where the hell was Andrea?!

Before Shane could turn around, he was grabbed and thrown to the ground. Lucille flew out of his hands and landed several feet away. His attackers pinned his arms behind his back. He twisted and thrashed, fighting to free himself. The more he did, the tighter he was held down by several men. Then he heard the whistling. He was released for a moment and when he looked up, he saw everyone genuflecting as the source of the whistling came closer.

Negan limped towards them, whistling calmly. A large purple cloth was wrapped around his left knee. Blood had already soaked through it, but Negan didn't seem to notice or care. Simon was with him, carrying a Polaroid camera. Shane watched as a fat young man picked up Lucille and handed her back to Negan. At the same moment, the men resumed holding him down on the ground.

" I can always count on you to treat Lucille with respect, Fat Joey." Negan was in front of him now. "Get him on his fucking knees where he belongs."

As the gang of Saviors forced Shane to his knees, he overheard Simon updating Negan.

" He injured Gary and Jared with Lucille, but they're alright. I'll have Arat bring out Andrea."

" Good. I want her out here this fucking instant."

Negan slowly approached Shane and glared at him the entire time. Two Saviors held him in place. It was just like that night at The Hilltop when the Saviors first invaded. Negan crouched down so that he was eye level with Shane.

" You're the asshole who snuck onto MY property—who fucking trespassed! You have the balls to demand I make you lieutenant—and when I trust you to hold Lucille—you use her as a weapon against me. You should get the iron on BOTH sides of your FUCKING FACE after the shit you pulled today!"

Negan looked over his shoulder when he heard his name being called. He turned back to Shane, a wide grin plastered on his face. Shane saw Simon approaching them. Next to him, Arat dragged a struggling and bewildered Andrea. It started to hit Shane what was going to happen and he tried to stand up, but was promptly held in place by both Saviors on either side of him.

" Get her on her knees right next to her boyfriend, Arat," Negan demanded.

Arat pushed Andrea to the ground. Andrea broke the fall with her hands and quickly got in a kneeling position. She looked confused as she had no idea why she had been brought out here. Negan came forward, holding out an already bloodied Lucille. Andrea's eyes widened when she saw Negan's injured knee.

" What happened?!" Andrea's voice shook and she looked from Shane to Negan, searching for answers. "What did you do?!"

Shane knew she knew before he could explain anything.

" I'll tell you what fucking happened—your man thought it was fucking funny that he smashed my knee with my Lucille!"

Andrea shook her head. She tried to formulate her words, but nothing came out.

" He's forced my hand to do something I don't wanna do, but I have to. I'm truly sorry you have to suffer for his impulsive bullshit, Andrea." Negan focused on Shane now. "I was gonna iron your face and have Andrea watch as your skin burns up, but I have something better that will leave a lasting impression. You thought I was fucking around when I told you Andrea would suffer for your stupidity. You're about to find out how fucking serious I really am." Negan raised Lucille over his head. "Enjoy your last look at each other 'cause this is it."

Shane and Andrea turned to face each other just as Negan slammed Lucille down on Andrea's head.

Everything was happening too fast and too slow at the same time. One second, Shane was looking into Andrea's terrified eyes as tears streamed down her face. She was mouthing something to him and he didn't know what she was saying. The next second Lucille crashed down on Andrea's head and she collapsed to the ground. Shane heard someone crying and moaning at the same time. Whoever it was, was suffering the most excruciating pain. It sounded like Andrea's and his voice blended together, but he didn't know for certain. Andrea forced herself to sit up and he wanted to grab her and hold her close to him, but he was frozen with shock.

" Shane…I…love…you…always…"

" You're one tough-ass chick." Negan shook his head, as though disappointed that it had come down to this. "I wanted you to become a full-fledged Savior, but Shane fucked up royally and now you're paying for it. Your man brought this on: he's the one that killed you."

Negan slammed Lucille on Andrea's head a second time…and this time she stayed down. Paralyzed, Shane watched as Negan destroyed the woman he loved. Every time he brought Lucille down, more blood spilled from Andrea. Shane wanted to put his hands over his ears so that he didn't have to keep hearing the thumping noise of Lucille hitting what was left of Andrea's head. After a few times, it turned into a sickening squishing noise.

He didn't realize his face was soaked from crying so hard—and he was never one to cry. Sharp and uneven gasps erupted from him. The woman who he trusted with his darkest secrets, who backed him up when he was cornered, who loved him at his best and worst times, who had encouraged him to forgive himself for killing Otis—she lay in front of him, arms sprawled out, her once beautiful face now mashed to the ground. Her blonde hair lay under a lumps of gray matter, and bone fragments swam in a pool of blood. Her hands twitched with sputtering life and then became completely still. Only then did Shane inch towards her.

" Let's not keep Andrea waiting."

He looked up in time to see Negan towering over him with Lucille raised high above his head. The baseball bat was soaked with Andrea's blood and a ripped piece of her skin was entangled in the barbed wire. The last thing he saw was Lucille flying straight down on him—

Shane bolted awake, his chest heaving. He shivered and realized he was soaked in cold sweat. His heart was beating so hard that it felt like it would punch holes through his chest. Shane took deep breaths, trying to calm himself. Reaching out with his hands, he was thankful that he touched the cold floor and not sticky blood. He twisted around, searching the area around him. Everything was pitch black—he was locked in his cell. He wasn't outside of The Sanctuary. There were no Saviors. Simon and Arat weren't standing nearby, laughing at the gruesome scene. Negan and Lucille were nowhere to be found.

Andrea wasn't next to him, sprawled out, mangled, and dead.

The door to his cell opened and Simon brought him his usual tray of food for breakfast. "Wakey, wakey! You're starting your new assignment today!" He put the tray next to Shane and then fished in his pocket for an object. "Here you go." He placed a Polaroid facedown next to the tray. "Someone to keep you company."

Shane stared at the food and then at the photograph laying facedown.

"Check it out." Simon pointed at the photo. "She's a beauty."

Shane didn't move. He remembered a Savior had taken a picture of Negan's victim at The Hilltop. The Savior had snapped a picture of Rory lying dead on the ground with his head bashed in—an unrecognizable mess of blood, bone, and brain. It was an awful memory and he didn't realize until now that he had blocked it from his mind. What if Lucille swung both ways? Shane knew Negan killed men, but his uncertainty about if Negan slaughtered or spared women weighed on him. He didn't want to turn that photo over and see Andrea's destroyed remains—especially not after that terrifying nightmare.

"Have a peek, Shitface. If you don't, she'll be disappointed."

Shane found his courage and flipped the photo over…revealing a picture of Andrea aiming a sniper rifle. The person taking the picture had captured her in the moment. She was looking through the scope, concentrating on shooting her target. Her hands grasped the firearm with her finger curled around the trigger. She was serious, determined, focused…and she was beautiful. Her confidence radiated from the photo. Shane realized he had never told Andrea how beautiful she was. Memories of their time spent in the house, their date night—hadn't he told her she was beautiful? He knew he had once described her as "very pretty", but those words didn't do Andrea justice. Any woman could be "very pretty". Beautiful encompassed all of Andrea, her outer and inner beauty, her attractiveness and her confidence… He promised himself that when they saw each other again, he would tell her. He looked up just as Simon slammed the door, pitching him into darkness. It didn't matter.

His ray of light was that beautiful woman in the picture.

oOo

The following day, Shane found himself walking around the surrounding woods outside of The Sanctuary. It was his second trip for his new assignment. Like the previous time, he was provided a large messenger bag that carried two bottled waters, a ham sandwich, a bag of potato chips—his only meal for today. Simon told him he had to make the food last. He had also been given rope, a Glock 19, several rounds of ammunition, a combat knife, and a leg strap to place it in. Negan said it was enough weapons for him to use for the "One-Man-Hunting-Party". Shane thought he looked ridiculous carrying a messenger bag, but Negan said he had to wear it because it made him look "fucking official".

Negan. The name made Shane's blood boil.

While explaining the new assignment, Negan had Shane hold Lucille. Shane remembered wondering what he would do if he had Lucille in his hands. Now he knew he would never use it against Negan. No way in hell…not if Drea will suffer. When Negan took Lucille from him, he didn't even realize it. He was still reeling from that nightmare that revealed if he went against Negan, he would be risking Andrea's life. She would "suffer for his stupidity" which Negan had already warned him about. So Shane had plenty of motivation to push him to do this next task.

Yesterday, Negan gave him photos of some of the escaped Saviors for his first assignment. A middle aged man named Peter, a younger black man named Jerome, and a blonde teenager named Ben. All he had to do was bring back one of them. If Shane captured all three men, then all the better. Negan also preferred for Shane to bring them back alive, but if they were dead, they could go in the yard. It had been easier than he expected. Shane figured the only reason they didn't resist was due to physical exhaustion, hunger, and thirst. Between all three men, they had used up all their supplies which they had stolen from The Sanctuary. Still, they tried ganging up on him and the only thing that stopped them was Shane firing in Ben's direction. He didn't kill the teenager, but he scared the hell out of him. From there, Peter and Jerome had turned themselves in, allowing Ben to escape. It was a little too easy and Shane wondered if it was a set-up.

Today was his second assignment. He had to capture a Savior named Walter. He searched carefully to see if there was anything unusual in the area around him: footprints, overturned dirt, bushes, marks left by humans, clothes…There was nothing. He had to find something though. Shane dreaded returning to The Sanctuary empty-handed. He had no idea if Negan would hurt Andrea if he failed. When he had turned in the two men out of three on the first day, Negan didn't indicate that Andrea would be punished for him not capturing all three men. Still, Andrea's safety was his priority. He wanted to ensure nothing happened to her—which was hard because he hadn't seen her for days. Shane forced himself to concentrate as he walked further into the woods.

Then he saw it: a sliver of blue behind a tree. Shane drew his Glock 19 and approached slowly.

"Hands in the air—now!"

A man of Latino background emerged. Shane recognized him as Walter—the same man in the photograph that Simon had showed him this morning. He was the same height as Shane, but appeared to be stocky and had long hair pulled up in a ponytail. Walter eyed him suspiciously while keeping his hands in the air.

"Turn around," Shane commanded.

"Don't make me go back there—I wouldn't make you go back there if you were me and I were you."

"You ain't me an' I ain't you. Get on the ground an' keep your hands on your head!"

"I thought you wanted them in the air," Walter said as he kneeled and placed his hands on his head. "Make up your damn mind."

"SHUT UP!"

Shane shoved his Glock 19 in his cargo pants and got behind the man. He reached into his bag to get rope to bind Walter's wrists when suddenly he was grabbed and flipped over. He had barely registered what happened he felt his own rope being pulled against his throat. His hands flung to his throat, trying to pull off the rope.

"I'm not going back there, asshole. You're not gonna make me follow their stupid-ass rules. I'm done with kneeling and working for points."

Shane hardly heard him as his vision darkened. Visions of him and Andrea flashed through his mind: leaving the farm together, him teaching her how to shoot, her urging him to get through a herd of walkers, her soft kisses, her confident smile, her laughter…If he died today, he would never see her again. That was all he needed to push himself. He grabbed Walter's leg, but Walter kicked his hands off. Just when he thought his air supply would be forever cut off, he was released. Shane hit the ground face-first and he grumbled in pain when Walter's heel dug into his back.

"This is how it should be—Negan on the ground while I stand above him." Walter stepped off and knelt down so that he could taunt Shane. "The only way you'll bring me back is as a dead man."

"I'll be sure…to honor your request." Shane gasped for air and swallowed the blood collecting in his mouth.

Walter ripped his messenger bag from him and rummaged through it. "I'll be taking that off your hands. Thanks for lunch." He reached over Shane again and grabbed his combat knife and Glock 19. "Nice gun, I'll save the bullets for the dead." He stood up, pointing Shane's gun at him. "I'm gonna be nice—leave now and I won't kill you. Follow me again and you won't live to see the stars tonight."

Still on the ground, Shane heard retreating footsteps. Dizziness overtook him and he pushed himself to bring down Walter. He slowly got to his feet and leaned against a nearby tree, coughing the entire time. He couldn't believe he had been surprise attacked so easily. Lack of sleep, constant anxiety about Andrea's safety, and mental exhaustion had taken its toll on him. He was worn down. Any other day, Shane knew he would've taken down Walter easily. He searched around the area again—Walter was gone. He was about to start searching in a different area when he was slammed to the ground on his back.

"You rushing to go to heaven, huh?" Walter straddled Shane and brought out the combat knife. "You got people waiting for you up there?"

The names Otis and Amy flashed through Shane's mind and fight-or-flight kicked in. Using his weight, he tried to throw Walter off balance and at the same exact moment Walter brought the knife down. Shane dodged away in time just as the knife stabbed the dirt right next to his face. He grabbed Walter's hair to reverse the momentum and the two men rolled on the ground. Walter ended up on top again and aimed directly for Shane's neck. Shane grabbed Walter's arm—the one holding the knife. With all his strength, Shane held it away from him, although Walter drove it closer to his face. Just when Shane thought he had him, Walter wrenched his arm free and slashed in the air right above Shane's face. Shane's first instinct was to block the attack and searing pain dragged across his hands. He hardly felt the blood seep out from the defense wounds. Walter grinned and leaned in his face.

"You son of a bitch—I should slit your throat and laugh as you choke on your own blood!"

You talk too much, dumbass. With that thought in mind, Shane head-butted Walter as hard as he could. Walter hadn't been expecting that. He groaned in pain and dropped the knife on the ground. Shane grabbed the knife and slashed it across Walter's throat. After that, everything seemed to slow down. Shane saw Walter reach for his throat as blood streamed down his neck and chest. As his life ebbed away, he collapsed on top of Shane.

After what felt like an hour, Shane pushed Walter off him and watched as the man bled out. Taking deep breaths, he willed himself to calm down. Walter's blood was all over his pants and shirt, but at least it was Walter's and not his. He glanced at his palms that were cut open. Shane ripped off a piece of Walter's shirt and wrapped it around his right hand to stop the bleeding. His left hand wasn't as deeply cut. The Glock 19 was nearby and he snatched it off the ground. Looking over Walter's dead body, he reached for his messenger bag and took out the rope. He quickly bound Walter's ankles and started dragging the body back to The Sanctuary. Shane couldn't remember the last time he had carried or pulled along a dead body. It was extremely heavy and he wished Negan would let him use a car for these manhunts. He was halfway there when he heard the familiar growling of walkers. Shane looked around, but there were no walkers around. He heard it again and then turned back to Walter. He didn't realize he had released the rope as his mouth gaped open in shock:

Dead Walter growled and reached with his hands to grab at air.

How the hell did he turn?! The question rang in his mind. Walter hadn't been bitten or scratched. It hit Shane: you didn't have to be bit or scratched to turn into a walker. The revelation froze him in his tracks. After some time, Shane forced himself to pick up the rope and continue his trek. Maybe Negan would put Walter on the fence—or he'd expect Shane to do it.

The rest of the day appeared hazy in Shane's mind. He recalled reaching The Sanctuary and seeing Negan and Simon outside. As he approached them, Shane thought he saw Rick, Lori, and Hershel come out of the house and meet him in the yard. Maggie, Glenn, and T-Dog followed close behind them. They were expecting him and Otis to return with the supplies. Shane shook his head—he wasn't at the farm anymore and Otis was long gone. When Negan came over to him, Shane thought it was Rick again. He wanted to tell his best friend what really happened at the school—that he didn't want to murder a man by leaving him out there as walker bait to save himself and Carl—but that if he died, then Carl would die. He couldn't let Carl die. He couldn't leave Andrea alone in this world. So he killed a man to avoid being killed himself and so that he could live for those he loved. He said nothing when Negan shouted at him that he was getting a "big fucking red X" for bringing back a dead man. He vaguely felt Simon yank his arm outward and hold it in place while Negan used a marker to write something on his wrist.

Then he heard himself yelling at Negan, demanding he be allowed to see Andrea. For an instant, he thought Negan would be merciful, even reasonable, just this one time. He even gave off the pretense of understanding Shane's emotional pain that came from being deprived of seeing the woman he loved—but it was short-lived. Negan looked compassionate, but his face quickly turned into a menacing sneer:

"Abso-fucking-lutely—NOT!"

Shane didn't remember if he had thrown the messenger bag in Negan's or Simon's face, but seconds later, he saw the sky and he didn't know if he had collapsed or if Simon had knocked him down. He made other requests/demands—to see the stars and could he take a shower because this man's blood was all over him. Simon or Negan pulled him up off the ground and hosed him down. That was his "shower". Negan granted him an act of kindness by letting him see Doctor Carson—whom he recognized from The Hilltop. The good doctor asked no questions as he cleaned Shane's wounds and bandaged his hands. Then Negan surprised Shane by having another prisoner chain "Walter the Walker" to the fence. Later that night, while still soaked from his "shower" and shivering from the cold, he was permitted to sit outside for ten minutes. Simon was timing him, but he didn't care.

As he stared up at the glittering stars set against the black sky, Shane was certain of one thing: he was glad he never acted on his homicidal thoughts. Before leaving the farm with Andrea, he had thought about murdering Rick and now he was disgusted with himself. The first time was in the camp and the second time was when they were dealing with Randall. After their fight, Rick told him that he'd have to do better than a wrench—that Shane would have to kill Randall first to get to him. At the time, killing Randall to lure Rick to his death had entered in his mind, but the truth was he would never be able to kill his best friend.

It would've ended with Rick killing him.

With that thought in mind, Shane was glad he had left the farm with Andrea. He never wanted to kill anyone—not Rick, not Otis, and not Walter. Otis was dead only because Carl's life was more important to him. One of them had to get out of there to ensure Carl lived, so Shane sacrificed Otis knowing the man wouldn't have made it—and never knowing how much killing the man would haunt him. Walter was dead because he would've succeeded in killing Shane—if Shane hadn't killed him first. Shane couldn't let that happen. He had Andrea to think about, to love, to protect…Shane pulled out the photo of Andrea. It had water damage, but he didn't care. It was still Andrea in the photo. He stared at her, wishing she was next to him so that they could gaze at the night sky together. She had asked him to do that one time and he had laughed at her, but now he treasured that memory. He treasured everything about Andrea. She wasn't here by his side, but this would do for now. He was just thankful he got to see the stars tonight because it meant he would see Andrea again when this horrible trial period was over.

oOo

The next morning, Andrea couldn't stop throwing up.

She had woken up drowning in nausea and alerted Paula that she wouldn't be out there today. At first, she thought she had ate something that didn't agree with her, but she knew the truth: killing three prisoners in cold blood made her sick to her stomach—literally. Andrea had never killed anyone and she never thought she'd have to. That all changed now that she was a Savior. What was the point of that test? To see if she was truly a sharpshooter—or to find out if she could kill on command? Andrea believed it was the latter and she couldn't sleep last night.

She had vivid nightmares of the three prisoners she had killed chasing her down. The three nameless men morphed into The Governor, Merle, and Martinez. Just before they reached her, she woke up and rushed to find a bag to vomit in. She thought that was it, but the sour aftertaste flooded her mouth right after and she threw up again. After sitting for several minutes on the floor and heaving for air, she forced herself to stand up and get something in her system. She found a bottled water and gulped half of it down and poured the rest on her face. That helped the nausea die down. She cleaned up and changed her clothes.

Deciding to rest for the remainder of the day, Andrea went to lay on the bed. That's when she heard knocking on the door that resembled "Shave and a Haircut (Two Bits)". She didn't answer right away and kept staring at the bed, rubbing her hand on the empty space, picturing Shane lying next to her. She couldn't enjoy the fact that she had escaped being part of Negan's harem. She was relieved, but she would feel safer if Shane was with her, if he was holding her in his arms. Imagining him wasn't the same as actually seeing him or experiencing him. The knocking came again, louder and more insistent. Sighing, Andrea forced herself to get up and open the door.

Negan was on the other side, holding Lucille.

Andrea immediately dropped to the ground and genuflected. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Negan walk into the apartment. When a moment had passed, she stood up and faced him. There was a long awkward silence between them. Andrea tried to read the expression on Negan's face, but he was opaque. She didn't know why he had come to her apartment, although she hoped he had good news about Shane. The moment Negan spoke, she knew he didn't stop by to give her any information about Shane. Why did the Saviors insist on not telling her anything about him?

"Juliet, you're fucking impressive and skilled beyond reason, but it's come to my attention that you broke a rule."

"A rule?!" Andrea felt her face contort in surprise. What the hell's he talking about? "What rule?"

"You know what you did, I'm not gonna repeat it. I hate when anyone breaks the rules here and I'm not fucking lenient about it, not one bit. For you, I'll make an exception: there's one way you can make amends."

Andrea was speechless. She wasn't aware she had broken any rules and she didn't like the direction Negan was going. How would she make amends for a rule she didn't even know she had broken? As far as she knew, his main rule was that she kneel or genuflect anytime he showed up—which she always did.

"You can marry me and become my lawfully wedded wife or you can leave the Saviors."

She stared at him, mystified and horrified at the same time. She hoped what she felt didn't show on her face. There was no way she'd ever marry Negan—she would die first before being sent to that harem. The thought of being locked in a building with other women and sitting around doing nothing unless Negan demanded she please him sexually made her want to vomit again. She didn't want to be there and there was nothing he could do to coerce her or sweet-talk her into it. When he spoke the words "lawfully wedded wife", her mind translated it as "you'll be my wife and I get to fuck you whenever I want". Negan didn't see what he was doing as rape, but Andrea saw it that way.

"I'm not leaving without Shane."

Negan's eyebrows rose and Andrea couldn't tell if he was angry or shocked. Probably both.

"I don't get you two. Romeo thinks his dick is made of solid gold and you think you have diamonds up your pussy. Let me make myself clearer than clear: you don't get to make fucking demands here, Juliet. You either become my wife or you leave. Romeo doesn't factor into this."

Andrea was quiet for some time before she finally answered. "I thought it was a choice to marry you."

"It's still a choice. I gave you two just like I did on your first day."

"Those are lousy choices."

"Tough tits, life's fucking unfair or is that news to you?"

Andrea looked around the apartment. She had hoped to share the space with Shane, but it wasn't going to happen and she was having trouble processing that fact. Still, she'd rather be out there than in here—especially if staying meant backstabbing Shane. She made her decision.

"I'll leave. I'll be out of here in less than an hour."

Negan held out Lucille in front of Andrea. She made sure she kept her eyes on his, refusing to allow him to intimidate her with Lucille. Anytime Negan held out the baseball bat, she knew he meant it in a threatening manner.

"You sure this is what you want, Juliet? It's a fucking ugly world out there."

No, what's really fucking ugly is the thought of betraying Shane and becoming your sex toy, Andrea wanted to say, but she kept her mouth shut. "That's what I want."

A malicious grin flashed across Negan's face, but Andrea didn't see it as she had her back turned when she started packing her belongings.

oOo

Shane was outside of The Sanctuary with his usual messenger bag that carried his lunch and weapons. Today was an unusual assignment—he was tracking down a woman. Negan seemed to enjoy relaying this information. When Shane asked for a photograph of the woman, since he'd been given pictures on previous assignments, Negan had a weird smirk on his face. Simon had the same strange expression and then both men laughed at Shane while still refusing to answer his question. It was infuriating and Shane had a hunch about it, but he quickly dismissed it and focused on the task. He didn't like this assignment and he wasn't sure how this would go. The idea of hunting a woman made him feel uncomfortable. It would badly frighten the woman if he ended up chasing her and he hoped it wouldn't come down to that.

After walking for a half hour, he reached a long stretch of road. Further ahead of him, he saw someone walking. It appeared to be a woman walking with her head down. As he got closer, he saw she had blonde hair and carried a sniper rifle slung over her back. Was it actually her? Not wanting to scare the woman, he quickly sprinted to catch up with her. He was halfway there when his thoughts were confirmed. He stopped in his tracks and called out to her.

"Andrea?!"

He watched as she reached for her sniper rifle and whipped around to face whoever had called her name. Her instincts were sharp and he had to admit he was impressed. Upon making eye contact with him, she lowered her rifle.

"Shane?" Her jaw dropped and no words came out of her mouth although she wanted to respond. She stared at Shane, completely shocked. "I can't believe it's you!" She ran up to him and threw her arms around him, hugging him close to her. "I've missed you so much. Nobody would tell me what was going on with you."

"I've missed you too." He allowed himself to enjoy the way she felt in his arms. It felt so good to hold her again, and yet, anger rushed through him now. He couldn't believe Negan had sent him to capture Andrea. He had a picture of her too. No wonder Negan and Simon stifled their laughter when they explained today's assignment.

They released the hug, but remained close together.

"What're you doin' out here?"

"What am I doing out here? What are you doing out here?"

Shane shook his head with a wry smile. "I asked first." He looked her up and down and his eyes landed on the sniper rifle she carried. "Wow, that's some piece you got there."

"I'm glad you like it…I knew you would approve." Andrea held the sniper rifle out to him and he took it. As he examined it, she explained what brought her outside of The Sanctuary. "Negan said I broke a rule. He gave me an ultimatum: either remain there as his wife or leave the Saviors. It threw me off—I thought I passed all his stupid tests and he wouldn't tell me what rule I broke. So I left. I'm not going in that harem."

Shane's head jerked up. "That's what he told you?!"

"Yeah." She nodded. "I told him I wouldn't leave without you. Since that wasn't an option, I had to leave. I hate it out here, but I didn't want to leave you, Shane."

He looked at her now and handed back her sniper rifle.

"So why are you out here?"

Shane didn't answer until Andrea asked a second time.

"'Cause I have to bring you back there. That's what I've been doin'—huntin' down fugitive Saviors."

They stared at each other, unable to comprehend the situation Negan arranged. Their brief reunion that had started with happiness had now darkened into a grim scenario. Andrea's shock turned to anger and Shane's mind raced to see if there were other options. There were none. He'd have to do the unthinkable and force Andrea to go back to The Sanctuary. He realized Negan was testing him to see where his loyalties lay. If Shane remained loyal to Andrea by running off with her, the costs would be high. He didn't know how, but he knew it would be bad for them. If he brought back Andrea against her will, it would be a sign that he was loyal to Negan. He and Andrea would be safe. More importantly, they would stay alive.

"You're dragging me back there?!" Her tone was sheer disbelief. Incredulous.

"Ain't no other choice." Shane knew he had to break down what was really happening. "It's all mind games, Drea, don't you get it?"

"No, I don't get it. Now that we're out here, we can run off and put distance between ourselves and that hellhole."

"We can't. It ain't as simple as you think."

She shrugged as though it didn't matter. He reached into his messenger bag and felt around for the rope. His fingers closed around it and he hesitated, not wanting to do what he was about to do—but knowing he had to.

"Hold out your wrists."

Andrea obeyed—and was shocked when Shane snatched rope out of his bag and started tying her wrists together. She stared at him and the ropes, trying to understand what had happened to make him do this. "What are you doing?!"

Shane didn't look up as he concentrated on knotting the rope. "Keepin' you alive—keepin' us both alive."

"How the hell does bringing me back to Negan keep us alive?"

"If we leave and get caught together, we will never be together."

"But you don't know that. You can't—"

She was cut off as he grabbed her upper arm and pulled her forward alongside him. Andrea twisted, trying to break his hold, but Shane didn't budge. He had plenty of law enforcement experience dealing with criminals resisting arrest or who struggled even after they were already in police custody. That's how he tried to view this situation, but it wasn't working. Guilt swarmed around his heart, telling him he was hurting the woman he loved. His rational side told him this was the only way he could ensure they lived.

"Darlin', we gotta stick together an' this is the only way how. If I let you escape an' we both get caught, it'll be the end of you an' me."

"I hate this," Andrea said, twisting again. Shane tightened his grip on her arm and she gasped in pain. He had never manhandled her before. "I was being loyal to you by leaving instead of becoming his wife."

"And I'm bein' loyal to you by bringin' you back so he doesn't throw you in his harem." Shane stopped in the road. "I'm helpin' you not get there. May not look like it, but that's what it is."

"What if I had done this to you? Tie you up and bring you back to Woodbury?"

"Then that Guvnah woulda killed me as he had wanted to all along an' take you for himself. That ain't what's happenin' here."

"Then what's happening?" She hoped her sarcasm made his ears bleed.

"He wants to use us…you're a sharpshooter an' me, I can lead. So we use him back an' get what we need to survive. A roof over our heads, food, water, you know the rest."

Shane resumed walking with Andrea. For a short time, she seemed to go along with it, but minutes later, she pulled away from him again. Rather than squeeze her arm tighter or continue to drag Andrea against her will, Shane stopped.

"I'd rather you be happy an' free out here, than be unhappy an' imprisoned in there."

He untied the rope binding her wrists, trying not to openly reveal his frustration. When he finished, he threw the rope to the ground. Without a second look at her, he turned in the direction of The Sanctuary and started walking by himself. Andrea wrung her wrists and watched him leave. He wasn't too far off when she called out to him.

"What about you?"

He didn't turn around. "Don't worry 'bout me…jus' go."

"What if I run away and you return without me?" She was worried now, although she was furious just moments ago.

"Then I get forty lashes from his cat o' nine tails."

"That's not funny, Shane."

He turned around to face her. "What you want me to do? Cry or crack up?"

Andrea sighed as she picked up the rope and made her way to him, closing the gap between them. "I want us to be together."

"You think I don't?"

"I want us to be together in there—I can't stand sleeping by myself in that place." She met his dark eyes now and noticed how exhausted he was. She hadn't noticed his haggard appearance before. Shane looked as though he hadn't slept for three days straight. "I worry about you all the time. No one answers my questions when I ask where you are or what's happening with you." She sighed. "Where are they keeping you?"

"In a cell." His voice betrayed no emotion. "You?"

"He gave me an apartment for two…for us."

Shane looked around the area, as though expecting Simon or Jared to jump out at any moment. Or worse yet, to hear Negan's creepy whistling before he showed up with Lucille.

"That's why I need to pass these tests. So I can be with you again, Drea." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a photo. "I look at the woman in this picture every day I wake up an' every night before I go to sleep. I'd toss mountains in the ocean to get back to her. She's the most beautiful woman I ever met. She's the woman I love an' the reason I'm still alive."

Andrea took the picture, not the least bit interested, but as an effort to humor Shane. When she saw the image in the photo, her throat closed up and she had no words. She couldn't speak and her eyes watered. She tried to hold back her tears, but one left on its own and slid down her cheek.

She was staring at a picture of herself.

Someone took photo of her while she was using her sniper rifle. It had to be Simon as he had shown up during her trial period. There was some water damage, but the image of her was still very clear. She gave the photo back to Shane and he placed it back in his pocket. Without a word, Andrea passed him the rope and held out her wrists. Shane looked at her, silently asking her permission to do what he needed to do to ensure their survival. She nodded even when she saw the regret in his eyes. She knew he hated doing this to her. This time, Andrea said nothing as she let Shane bind her wrists. The ropes weren't too tight, but firm enough so that Negan wouldn't question it.

"I'm sorry," he said and she knew he meant it. "It can't be too loose or he'll suspect I'm bein' easy on you."

"It's okay." She leaned towards him and kissed him briefly.

Shane's smile didn't reach his eyes. "I don't want us gettin' in trouble. Save it for later when we can do more than jus' kiss."

Andrea nodded. As Shane finished tying the ropes, she noticed black circular marks around his wrists. They looked like they had been made with a permanent marker. On his right wrist were two check symbols and two X's on his left wrist. One X was large and red. She knew right away that Shane hadn't done that to himself. Someone had marked his wrists, but what did it mean?

"What's that on your wrists?" She walked side by side with him now. He held her upper arm, but in a more gentle way. "The check signs and 'X's?"

"Negan's recordkeeping. The check sign shows the times I managed to capture an escapee an' drag 'em back to The Sanctuary alive. The 'X' is when I failed." He paused before continuing on. "Not jus' failed…I killed him, Drea."

Andrea eyes widened. She felt like throwing up again and took deep breaths.

"I slit his throat 'cause he was gonna slit mine. He turned, so I put him down. I guess it's like a virus 'cause he wasn't bit or scratched."

"And he just turned?" Although she sounded skeptical, she believed him. She had always wondered if the reason why the dead became walkers was due to a virus. After meeting Dr. Jenner in the CDC, that seemed to be the case.

"Yeah, he turned, but I brought him back…" His words were slow and his tone hollow. "Negan could use him on the fence. He wanted that one guy alive. I failed an' was given one more person to capture. Turned out to be you."

She remained silent and she knew he knew what she was thinking and feeling.

"I didn't wanna do it, but I had to—you scared of me, huh?"

Andrea shook her head, not wanting to admit she was afraid of him. She felt guilty for feeling fear because she knew he wouldn't harm her. Aside from that, she had killed three men while he was out in the yard and put down a walker he was right next to at the time. He didn't express he was afraid of her, so there was no reason for her to be scared of him. She looked up and saw The Sanctuary. It towered over them, a monstrous dark tower of misery. She thought she was further out when Shane found her, but it turned out she had been close by the entire time. Negan and Simon came over to them.

"Fucking fantastic! You captured our pretty stowaway-turned-runaway," Negan said, grinning at Andrea.

She glared at him, angry at him for his mind games and furious that Shane had been forced to do unthinkable things to stay alive. The brief fear she had felt when Shane told her he had killed someone had completely melted away. She hoped this was the last time Shane was forced to chase after anyone, risking his death or the murder of another person. She was certain he felt the same way—especially after what Negan said next.

"Throw him in his fucking cell, Simon, so that he can sit there and think about what happens when you run away like a disloyal asshole."

Stunned, Andrea watched as Simon pulled Shane off her and dragged him inside. Shane twisted around, trying to see her, but Simon forced him to face forward. She was tempted to run after them and push Simon off him, but she couldn't do that, not with her hands tied together. She saw Negan gesture her to come near him. She shook her head and he sighed as he came over to her.

"I was gonna cut these ropes off you. Romeo's a fucking animal for treating you this way." Negan put Lucille down on the ground and took out a Swiss Army knife. He sliced through the ropes and they fell to the ground. "How about joining me, Lucille, and Simon for dinner? You'll be the guest of honor."

"You sent him after me," Andrea growled, refusing to answer his question. "And his name is Shane."

She glanced at Lucille laying on the ground and for a split second, she felt tempted to snatch her up and smash her on Negan's head. Negan was on the same wavelength as her because he grabbed Lucille off the ground and held her out, warding off Andrea.

"I gotta watch out for you." Negan chuckled, but his face was deathly serious. "Out of you both, you're the deadlier one. I bet you were a fucking black widow in your past life."

Andrea ignored his taunts. "You told him I ran away…you fed him a big fat lie to get me back here."

"What I tell Shane a.k.a. Romeo is none of your concern, Andrea a.k.a. Juliet. Just as what I tell you isn't his business."

His calm tone and flat expression terrified her. Maybe it was because The Governor had played that role before: charismatic and calm on the outside with a dark soul underneath. Then again, Negan had never hid the truth about himself from her or anyone. She knew exactly what he was about when he came to The Hilltop and had killed Rory in front of everyone.

"I'm gonna ask you one more time and it's a 'yes' or 'no' question. Not a fucking rhetorical question and not 'answer a question with a bullshit question'. I'm inviting you to dinner as my guest of honor. Will you join me?"

Andrea swallowed her pride, much in the same way Shane had to after bringing back the Savior-turned-walker. "Yes."

"Good."

Andrea watched as Negan strolled away with Lucille resting on his shoulder and whistling the entire time.

oOo

Shane sat in his cell, staring at the photo of Andrea. A plate of spaghetti was next to him, untouched. He knew he should eat it, but he refused to. He was only hurting himself, but he didn't care. He was spent from everything that happened today and fed up with Negan's mind games. Hours ago, he had went on his last assignment to capture a female escapee Savior that turned out to be Andrea. Forcing her to return to The Sanctuary made him feel terrible. Even though Andrea went along with it in the end, he still hated that he brought her back, especially knowing that she was afraid to be there. When he returned with her, Negan turned the tables on him and made it out like Shane was the one who ran away and needed to be punished.

His "punishment" came hours later in the form of having to cook dinner for Negan. Simon gave him a helpful hint: Negan loved spaghetti. So Shane cooked a huge batch while Simon watched him the entire time. It made him angry because he wanted to spit in Negan's food, but he couldn't do it with Simon around. As soon as Shane came out to the meeting room with the first plate, he realized right away that this was another ridiculous mind game designed by Negan to see who he would serve first: the Saviors' leader or Andrea. They sat across the table from each other. There was a second chair next to Negan where Lucille was placed upright, as though the baseball bat could eat a meal. Saying nothing, Shane put down the first plate in front of Negan. He went back and brought out Andrea's plate and then put the plate in front of Lucille. Because Negan prized Lucille above all else, she had to come before Andrea, who was served third. Simon was served last.

Shane had watched everyone eat. Andrea tried to make eye contact with him, but Negan kept distracting her with talks about how "fucking awesome" it was to have a sharpshooter like her and that he always knew she had it in her to join the Saviors. Simon finished first and shoved Shane back in his cell. A moment later, the plate of spaghetti was placed inside the cell with him. Simon told him Lucille wasn't hungry, so Shane could have her leftovers. Shane punched the wall in anguish from the sheer stupidity of it all. He was so angry that he didn't notice the blood coating his knuckles. Simon stuck his head in to tell him he better eat because tomorrow was his "physical examination"—whatever the hell that meant.

He was about to lay on his side so that he could get some sleep, when he heard someone knocking on the door. Someone called his name, it sounded like a woman. Despite his exhaustion, he thought it might be Andrea. It couldn't be her though. Negan had her out there, eating spaghetti and singing loud praises for her sharpshooting skills. It was probably Negan's mind games—again. The knocking was louder and then he heard his name.

"Shane? It's me…it's Andrea."

He forced himself to his feet and staggered towards the door when he heard a loud tapping noise. It sounded like "Shave and a Haircut (Two Bits)". The door flung open and Negan stood on the other side, gripping Lucille. Shane instantly genuflected and stared at the floor.

"Stop being fucking rude—you have a visitor!"

Shane looked up in time to see Andrea standing behind Negan. He rose to his feet and Negan shut the door, locking it. He was surrounded by blackness again and sank down to the ground. He hoped Andrea was still on the other side. There was a little space underneath the door, enough for him to fit his fingers through. He slipped them underneath, hoping to reach Andrea, although he couldn't see her. Just knowing she was there made him feel better.

On the other side of the door, Andrea knelt down on the ground. Negan had told her during dinner that she would be allowed to speak to Shane for five minutes. It seemed generous on his part—except for the fact that Shane was locked in his cell and Andrea was outside. She looked down and saw Shane's fingers underneath the door where there was an inch of space. Andrea tried to interlock her fingers with his or at least touch them so that he knew she was there for him.

"You have one more test and then we can be together again." She pressed her ear against the door, trying to make out what he was saying, but his voice was muffled. She spoke again, hoping she heard him. "I love you….I always have." She squeezed his fingers, affectionately. "You got this. Tomorrow is yours."

Negan and Simon stood nearby and watched as Andrea touched Shane's fingers from underneath the door.

Negan shook his head, chuckling. "Romeo and Juliet—crazy-ass lovebirds, right?"

"I've never seen so much amazing acting right before my eyes. They deserve Academy Awards," Simon answered. "I'll tell the guys to be ready for tomorrow." He left Negan to watch Andrea talk to Shane. Simon admitted to himself that he found the two "crazy-ass lovebirds" to be the most entertaining thing since taking over The Hilltop.

oOo

It was early afternoon and the sun shined over The Sanctuary. "Tomorrow" had come and today was Shane's "physical examination". Andrea couldn't sleep the night before. After leaving Shane in his cell, she had went straight to her apartment and stayed awake all night, wondering what this "physical examination" consisted of. Negan had promised her that if Shane passed, he would be with her again—he wouldn't have to return to the dark claustrophobic cell. She planned to hold him to that promise.

"We're gonna sit back and enjoy the show," Paula announced to the group of women as they went to the fourth level that overlooked The Sanctuary's courtyard. It was located in the rear of the building and was a large flat area of asphalt, surrounded by grass and rubble.

Andrea noticed Michelle and Molly exchange a sly glance. They knew what Paula referred to. She thought of the women whom she had gotten to know during the week. Paula was the ringleader and seemed to enjoy killing for the sake of it. Michelle came off as a hardened woman, but she was actually soft and demure. Molly was the mother hen. Andrea could tell Paula and Michelle (or "Chelle" as she liked to be called) looked up to her.

For some reason, her mind went back to the women she and Amy had first met when the outbreak started—Jacqui, Carol, and Lori. She didn't think of them often and maybe they crossed her mind because they were so different from Michelle, Paula, and Molly. She wondered how things would be if Jacqui hadn't stayed and died in the CDC with Dr. Jenner. She hoped Carol became stronger after all she had been through with Ed's abuse and finding out the truth about her daughter, Sophia—dead and a walker in Hershel's barn. As for Lori…Andrea didn't want to give her much thought, especially knowing how difficult it was for Shane to let her go. She didn't wish bad things on her, but she didn't care for her either. She remembered Lori trying to comfort her after Amy's death. Andrea smiled grimly. Her sister's death was devastating, but she was glad that she remembered Lori's kindness to her that one time, even if it was brief.

Time to be in the present, Andrea thought. "'The show'?" She asked. She was unsure of what Paula meant, but it didn't sound good.

Paula pointed at the courtyard. Andrea looked and saw two rows of men, standing across from each other. There were five men on each side. Simon and Negan stood at the end. Shane was in front, waiting. Andrea could tell by his stance that he was impatient.

"It's his initiation," Paula said. She took out her binoculars. "Jared, Gary, Jiro, Dwight, Morales, Mark, and Donnie are down there and some other guys."

"What's 'initiation'?" Andrea asked. She missed the mention of Morales as she was focused on Shane.

"Negan's way of testing Shane's physical strength and stamina," Michelle said.

"It's about who he can break," Molly said, while lighting a cigarette. She shook her head, annoyed. "Don't sugar-coat it for Andrea. She can handle what's really goin' on."

Andrea was inwardly grateful for Molly's vote of confidence in her, but the truth was she didn't think she could truly handle what she was about to witness. She wished she wasn't there now, but it was impossible for her to return to her apartment. Once she joined Paula, her day was set, no matter how awful it would become.

"He wants to see how much Shane can endure," Paula added. "Not all of them go through it. Only the ones that he's considering for high-ranking positions."

Andrea didn't know how to respond to this information. Fear for what Shane was about to go through? Pride because going through this final test meant Negan wanted to promote him? Relief that she would finally be with him again when this was all over?

"There he goes!" Molly puffed on her cigarette. "Your man's got balls of steel."

Andrea watched as Shane entered the gauntlet. He had only taken one step when one Savior punched him in the face. The force of the blow shocked him because he stumbled awkwardly across to the other row of Saviors who pushed him forward. She noticed he tried to maintain his balance even as he was pitched back and forth between the rows of men. He fell to the ground and was promptly yanked up and shoved hard. This time Andrea allowed herself to feel some relief when Shane kicked one Savior directly in the chest and punched another Savior in the throat. He was almost out of the gauntlet when another Savior kicked him in the shin, tripping him up. He refused to stay down and bounded right back to his feet. The same Savior grabbed his collar and attempted to throw him to the ground. Shane's clenched fist struck the man in the jaw and he fell backwards. Moments later, Shane stumbled over to where Negan and Simon stood.

"I don't think he's supposed to fight back," Paula commented.

"Who cares?" Michelle said. "Jared's a prick—everyone wants to knock him out."

"Shane punched the hell out of him." Molly took a drag on her cigarette. "Jared's still on the ground, but he'll get up. He never stays down for long."

Andrea said nothing. Her eyes were glued to Shane as he stumbled over to where Negan and Simon stood. Negan leaned over and brought out Lucille. She wished she could hear what he was saying to Shane because based on how it appeared from where she stood, his "physical examination" was far from over.

oOo

The sun beat down on Shane as he staggered out of the gauntlet. He made it out of there, although he had almost lost it. Catching his breath, Shane shook himself and stood upright. Simon was next to Negan, nodding in approval. Negan pointed Lucille at Shane's face. Shane glanced at the baseball bat and then glared at her owner. He swayed, trying to keep his balance. In the back of his mind, the Saviors he had went up against were tough—but not tough enough for him. He thought he recognized Morales—a mean and vicious version of Morales—but that was impossible. Shane put Morales out of his mind: he needed to get through this last test so that he could be with Andrea again.

"That was fucking impressive, Romeo. After all that, I have one question for you." Negan grinned. "Who are you?"

"Shane. Fucking. Walsh." His breathing was ragged, but he made sure to enunciate everything.

"Wrong. Fucking. Answer." Negan sighed, exasperated. "What part of this isn't fucking registering? There's no more you—subtract yourself out of the equation."

"You want me to say your name, then earn it. Otherwise, shove your birth certificate up your ass."

Negan's eyebrows rose and a shark-eating grin spread across his face. "If I didn't know any better, you just skipped through the park drinking fucking lemonade and eating chocolate chip cookies. The gauntlet was too damn easy for you."

"Child's play."

Negan scoffed. He brought Lucille under Shane's jaw and shoved upwards. Shane didn't flinch when the barbed wire clawed into his skin.

"You wanna prove that you got balls the size of the sun—alright Romeo, you asked for it, so now I'm gonna give it to you with a big fucking red bow on top." Negan took back Lucille and turned to the group that had just participated in the gauntlet. "I grant all of you full permission to beat the living shit out of him—humble his stubborn ass. Break him—but do not kill him."

"Are we timing this?" Simon asked.

"Hell yeah, we are! Last guy only got up to thirty seconds. Let's see if Romeo can last twice as long long—a full fucking minute!" Turning to Shane, Negan piled on the rules. "You got stipulations: no defending yourself. No blocking, no punching, no kicking. None of that fucking bullshit. On the other hand—they can do whatever the fuck they want to you and you better be willing to take it. You think you got balls bigger than mine, so now you're gonna prove it to me—prove it to all of us." Loud raucous cheering erupted from the Saviors. "If you can get back on your feet—that is, if you're still breathing—then you have another fucking chance to tell me who you are. Better yet, let's make this be your last chance." Negan held out Lucille in Shane's face, the barb wire glinted in the sunlight. "Lucille's getting thirsty." He turned to Simon. "Start counting!"

Simon grinned as he stepped forward. "One…two…three…four…"

Before Shane had registered what Negan said, he was surrounded by the same group he had just completed the gauntlet against. In the blink of an eye, he was being yanked from all sides. Two Saviors grabbed each of his arms. He didn't recognize them, but he recognized the other two. Dwight grabbed his ankles, while Jared pulled back his hair. Together, the men snatched him up and threw him down on the ground. He had no time to recuperate and seconds later the entire group had enclosed him in a circle and started beating him up. Over the commotion, he heard the glee in Simon's voice as he counted slowly:

"Twelve…thirteen...fourteen...fifteen…"

This was more than he could handle and he was easily overwhelmed as he had spent his energy during the gauntlet. Now they swarmed all over him, ensuring he would get brutally beaten for refusing to take on their leader's namesake. Defying Negan resulted in violent consequences and Shane was receiving it to the fullest extent. Punched in the face, a clenched fist collided with his jaw, kicked in the stomach—and between the legs for good measure. After some time, he couldn't feel his face, it had become numb from all the abuse. Blood flooded his mouth and streamed down his throat. He couldn't open his right eye anymore. Someone stomped on his throat and he was afraid he wouldn't be able to talk again. Before he could complete that thought, iron hot pain rammed through his right shoulder—he didn't know if it was dislocated or not.

"Twenty-six…twenty-seven…twenty-eight…"

oOo

Andrea watched as the group of Saviors converged with Shane in the middle. Horror crept up her spine when she couldn't see him anymore—he was receiving a full on gang beating. Negan's "physical examination" of Shane was far worse than what The Governor had done. She didn't want to remember when Merle and Martinez dumped a bruised and bloodied Shane in front of her. This wasn't the same since Shane was facing five times more men. His hands were free, but he wasn't permitted to fight back. The helplessness and powerlessness she felt back then was magnified over ten times now and for an instant, she was tempted to go down there and get Shane to safety. She heard Simon counting in a loud voice.

"Thirty-five…thirty-six…thirty-seven…"

She couldn't stand it anymore. Andrea started towards the entrance so that she could get to the bottom of The Sanctuary and race outside to the courtyard. She was surprised when Molly blocked her from leaving.

"Honey, the pain will help him grow. It's the only way."

Paula didn't move from her spot, nor did she turn to Andrea when she spoke up. She continued to watch Shane's initiation. "Go down there and try to stop it. You'll make things worse for him."

"How can I make things worse than they already are?" Andrea didn't make any effort to mask the venom in her voice. She was fed up with Paula's coldness and she didn't believe that nonsense about Negan testing Shane's endurance. It was more about Shane not kowtowing to Negan.

"They'll restart the count—we've seen it happen before, haven't we, ladies?"

Both Molly and Michelle nodded. Andrea looked over her shoulder and forced herself to turn away. The sight of Jared with his arm wrapped under Shane's neck while Dwight and Donnie took turns punching him was too much for her. Her body trembled and tears welled up in her eyes, but she refused to cry. She wiped her face and took a deep breath, trying to remain calm. It was impossible as she heard Simon's counting. He was in the forties now.

"It's bad, Andrea, but he's almost done—he's almost there."

Andrea looked up to see Michelle facing her. "How can you say that?! You have no idea how bad this is!"

Michelle sent Andrea an annoyed look. "I know damn well how bad it is. They did it to my man to see how long he could take it." She sounded sad and Andrea thought it was strange how Michelle's tone of voice didn't match her facial expression.

"How long did he last?"

"Thirty seconds…Darren was out of it for several days after. He never made it to lieutenant." Michelle glanced over her shoulder at the courtyard where Shane was surrounded by all ten men and being punched and kicked around. "Shane's gonna make it."

Over their conversation, Simon's voice rung out: "Forty-eight…forty-nine…fifty…fifty-one…"

oOo

Shane felt himself being pushed and shoved back and forth. The circle of men spun around him and he must've fallen to the ground several times only to by grabbed, held up, and punched or kicked again in the face, his stomach, his legs and arms—anywhere. Nothing was off limits and he wore pain like a second skin. He thought it would never end. Trying to mentally escape by relieving memories of holding Andrea, making love to her, dancing with her, kissing her, laughing with her, talking to her—none of it worked. Every time his mind drifted to her, he was yanked back to the present whenever a Savior attacked him. Someone pulled his silver necklace and twisted it, trying to choke him. He couldn't breathe and he knew he was finished. Above him, Simon made sure to stretch out the final count:

"Fifty-eight…fifty-nine and a quarter…fifty-nine and a half…fifty-nine and three quarters…sixty!"

When the group of Saviors finally cleared, Shane was laying on the ground, his chest heaving and his body shaking. He slowly got on his hands and knees when one Savior—Jared— kicked his stomach, causing him to hit the ground. Breathing unevenly and drenched in his own sweat, Shane managed to get to his feet, but this time, he couldn't maintain his balance and fell back down again. He heard Negan issue a command:

"Make him face me."

Gary, a high-ranking Savior, grabbed Shane's hair and forced him to look up at Negan and Simon. He was maneuvered so that he was kneeling—Negan's favorite position that indicated submission to his authority. Both men appeared blurry in Shane's vision. He couldn't focus.

"Let's try this one last fucking time: Who. Are. You?"

"I'm…Negan." His voice was hoarse. He couldn't speak louder, although he knew they expected him to.

"I DIDN'T HEAR YOU THE FIRST FUCKING TIME—SAY IT AGAIN!"

"I'm…" Shane swallowed the wad of blood stuck in his throat and with all the energy he could muster before he blacked out, he finally said what Negan wanted to hear. "I'M NEGAN!"

Negan grinned while he towered above Shane. "You are such a bad-ass! And here I thought you'd have to meet Lucille."

Shane never heard him—Gary released him and he hit the ground face-first.

oOo

During the week following his initiation, Shane recuperated in The Sanctuary's infirmary. Andrea went to see him every day, although he had no idea she sat next to his bed for hours. He was always asleep as Doctor Carson administered painkillers to him before her visits. She came again today after leaving Paula and the group earlier than usual. She reached for his right hand and tried interlocking her fingers with his. His fingers slipped through hers. She sighed, wondering when he'd wake up when she saw him open his eyes slowly—the first time in five days.

"Shane?"

He opened his mouth to speak and there was only silence. Andrea watched as he tried to move, but nothing happened. She rose from her seat to help him sit up when she heard footsteps behind her. She turned around and saw Doctor Carson had arrived. A memory of Negan and Simon taking Doctor Carson away from flashed through her mind, but she chose not to say anything. It didn't matter if he was the same Doctor Carson that helped her get better—right now, her priority was seeing Shane.

"He's still healing up from his injuries."

Andrea pointed at Shane's neck. His eyes followed her movements. "Why is he wearing a neck brace?" She also noticed bandages wrapped around his forehead and hands.

"He's been in severe pain for the past several days. We put a neck brace on him to limit his mobility while he heals. He…" Doctor Carson hesitated, "he had a nasty neck injury that looked far worse than what it actually was, but thankfully it's getting better."

Andrea nodded as she took in what he had revealed about Shane's condition. She heard more people enter the small area. Without looking up, she knew it was Negan and Simon. She could tell because Shane's eyes looked past her. She wanted to ignore them, but she had to do the same as Doctor Carson and genuflect on one knee. Andrea kneeled quickly so that she could resume sitting next to Shane.

"Do you know how bad-ass Shane is?" Negan asked with a wide grin.

Andrea squeezed Shane's hand affectionately. "Without question." She didn't realize he had called Shane by his actual name and not "Romeo".

"I've never seen anything like it—your man is THE FUCKING MAN, Andrea! He allowed ten of my men to beat the living shit out of him for an entire minute! My best lieutenants haven't lasted half that long." Negan turned to Simon. "Wanna do the honors?"

Simon nodded. "Sure thing." He came to the foot of Shane's bed. "You remember your beat-down, right?"

You both just reminded him, Andrea seethed. She swallowed the words down, making sure they didn't escape from her. She found that she was holding back what she truly felt and thought a lot more in this new setting. Usually, she felt free to speak up, but not here. Not if it would result in her or Shane getting further harmed. She watched Shane closely, curious to see his response.

Shane blinked his eyes. It was the only way he could communicate "yes".

"Negan trusts you—you're on his good side now. Which means I no longer get to call you 'Shitface'!" Simon laughed. "The best part is you're not at the receiving end of Lucille. You just gotta remember to kneel, genuflect—you get the picture now, I'm sure."

Andrea remained silent as she rubbed Shane's fingers. She had to concentrate on Shane to avoid lashing out at Simon. She saw Shane blink again, indicating he understood what was expected of him.

"You've been promoted to lieutenant because we've never seen anyone take on that many guys and hold their own. In fact, you're getting your own area to supervise—Satellite Outpost—one of our major compounds!"

Andrea watched Shane's expression. She could tell he was digesting the news that had been relayed to him. Not only were Negan and Simon pleased that he allowed himself to get beaten up as a sign of strength and endurance, but now he was rewarded with the position he had demanded from the beginning: lieutenant. He didn't look pleased, relieved, or grateful. Andrea thought he was worn down from everything Negan put him through.

"On behalf of myself and Lucille, congratulations! You're the fucking man, Shane! I'll let you heal up and when you're released, we'll take it from there," Negan said.

They left the room and Doctor Carson followed them out, allowing Andrea time alone with Shane. A moment later, he came back in. Andrea noticed he looked pensive when he reached in his pocket. She saw silver glimmering in his hand; and she didn't realize what it was until he gave it to her. It was Shane's silver necklace with the number 22. The chain was broken.

"This was found on the ground after they brought him in."

"Thank you." She didn't look up when she heard Dr. Carson leave the room. Staring at the broken chain made her feel unnerved for reasons she didn't want to think about. She placed the necklace in her pocket and decided she would find someone who could fix it. For now, she wanted to spend time with the man she loved as her partner and best friend. "You're gonna be okay," Andrea said, squeezing his hand.

She wished he could squeeze back, but he couldn't move his hand. Maybe in a few days, he would be able to do so. She hoped he'd be able to talk soon as she missed hearing his voice. Shane focused intensely on her and closed his eyes moments later. Andrea remained by his side as he slept for the rest of the afternoon.

oOo

Two days later, Andrea was sitting at Shane's bedside again.

It was late afternoon and she rushed over after completing her shift with Michelle. After delivering supplies to the different outposts scattered in the area, they had been stationed at a small safe house. It had been quiet for the most part. Andrea was used to covering night shifts with Michelle at the Satellite Outpost, along with Molly and Paula—the same outpost Shane was assigned to lead in the near future. It was a larger compound with at least two dozen Saviors stationed there, so Negan required all the women to be out there.

Today though it was just her and Michelle and she enjoyed the time they spent together. It reminded her of working at the gate alongside Haley in Woodbury, only she found she made a stronger connection with Michelle. Michelle presented as tough when she needed to be, but she was soft-spoken when her and Andrea were together. When Andrea had shown her Shane's broken necklace, she offered to fix it, as she had created and repaired jewelry for a hobby before the outbreak. Michelle was also in a relationship, so she understood the ups and downs that came with it. Andrea appreciated that Michelle supported her relationship with Shane; unlike Paula, who expressed annoyance at her for constantly visiting him. Andrea vowed to continue to visiting Shane, regardless of Paula's snippy comments.

She had been sitting by his side for three hours and fell asleep holding his hand. It was a light sleep because she woke up the instant she felt something pressing on her hand. Her eyes widened when she realized Shane was squeezing her hand gently. His voice sounded raspy—but it was his voice!

"Drea…?" He sounded like he wanted to ask her a question, but couldn't get out what to ask her. His free hand reached for his neck and started pulling at the brace, trying to remove it. "This thing…" He squeezed her hand tighter and Andrea got up and sat on the bed with him.

" You're awake!"

Shane felt disoriented when he looked around him. The setting was a cramped space filled with medical supplies. He occupied the single bed in the room. "Where am I…?" He looked ahead of her and saw Simon and Negan enter the infirmary.

"You're here with me, Shane. Don't touch the brace—we'll get Doctor Carson to remove it."

Andrea was so overjoyed to see Shane wake up and talk that she didn't look behind her when she heard several people enter the room. She didn't care who was there or if they were watching. Right now, it was only her and Shane. She felt him shift around as he slowly sat up in the bed.

"You don't have to get up." Tears rolled down her cheeks and she threw her arms around him, thrilled that she could hold him again. She had waited a long time for this moment and no one was going to it away from her.

"I gotta get out of here..." Even as he said the words, his arms encircled her pulling her close. His grip was weak and he didn't think he'd be able to hold her for too long.

"You can talk again!" Andrea pulled away to wipe the tears from her eyes. She stared into his dark eyes that were wide and questioning. As though he had no idea how he got there. She hugged him again and didn't realize her body was shaking the entire time.

"Yeah…I can." He struggled to get the words out as he still felt groggy.

Negan and Simon looked on, completely astounded by the scene in front of them. Shane and Andrea enjoyed each other as though no one else in the world existed. Shane was focused on Andrea so he didn't notice amazement in Simon's face. Nor did Andrea see Negan's skepticism melt to genuine warmth. Both men finally realized that Shane's and Andrea's love was real. Their relationship wasn't for show and they weren't pretending. Still, Negan had other matters to attend to and he couldn't stand there all day watching Shane and Andrea embrace each other. He decide to waive the whole kneeling thing just this once. Andrea hadn't noticed or she didn't care that she didn't kneel when he entered. He chose not to call attention to it…but there was one thing he wanted to be certain of.

"Now that you can talk, let's get Doctor Carson to remove that fucking neck brace," Negan said. "I bet you can sing your ABC's!"

He nodded to Simon, who left and brought back Doctor Carson. Andrea stood up from the bed when Doctor Carson went over to Shane. He carefully removed the neck brace and set it aside. Andrea's eyes widened when she saw fading bruises on Shane's neck. She was about to say something about it when Negan came to the foot of the bed and pointed Lucille at Shane.

"State your name."

Andrea looked from Shane to Negan. The clenched fist at her side revealed everything she felt. She couldn't believe it! Shane had been out of it for more than a week and the first thing Negan wanted to hear from him was his name: Negan. Anger jumpstarted her heart. She hadn't felt this angry in a long time and she had to make sure she didn't show it. She saw Shane's eyes flicker to her and then to Negan and Simon who waited patiently. Doctor Carson stood off to the side, uninvolved.

Shane swallowed and tried to talk again. "My name…" His neck felt stiff and his throat was sore. He winced when he tried to talk.

Your name is Shane. Shane Walsh. Andrea sighed, wishing she could speak her thoughts aloud.

"I'm…" Shane pushed himself. "I'm Negan."

Negan grinned. "Excellent." Without another word, he left the infirmary with Simon and Doctor Carson followed right after.

Andrea was still glaring at the place where Negan had stood when Shane's hand reached for hers. His fingers interlocked with hers, but it didn't make her anger subside. She wanted to scream at Negan for being so damn narcissistic. Shane had gave everything he had to earn Negan's approval and he still insisted on the name nonsense. She came around when she heard Shane calling her name. When she looked down, she saw that he had shifted to the edge of the narrow bed to make room for her.

"Stay, Drea."

She got in the bed next to him. It was a tight fit, but they managed it. She rested her head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat. It reminded her of the time after escaping Woodbury when they had finally tore down the walls that kept them apart—Shane more so than her. Her only wish was that they would remain together now that they were Saviors. They needed each other now more than ever. She didn't want anything to rip them apart, but for some reason she couldn't explain, she had an inkling that joining the Saviors would be their most difficult trial yet. Andrea tried to release the fear when Shane held her close to him. After some time she fell asleep in his arms, allowing her worries to dissipate—for now.