The first boom of thunder masked the tires skidding as the car came to an abrupt stop. The second boom coincided with both doors of the sedan opening as Rick and Michonne jumped out with their weapons drawn. A picture perfect bolt of lightning split the sky in half illuminating the cluster of walkers - in their slow gait - as they invaded into the broken fences that surrounded Hilltop. The people of the community couldn’t be called fighters, but they held weapons in hands as they readied to defend their home. Jesus moved first to fight off a pair of walkers coming at him. When several heads started rolling towards his feet and others exploded around him he breathe a quick sigh of relief as he saw his two warrior friends rush around the corner. Rick and Michonne were in pure battle mode as they worked together to slay the walkers in their path. The odds were now stacked in Hilltop’s favor to stop the dead from overtaking their home.
The rain had subsided, but the ground was still moist. Hundreds of muddy footprints surrounded the community. Most were from the dead walkers who were laid out around the property. Some of the Hilltop residents worked to drag the bodies to the empty field on the east side of the property. Others worked on repairing the broken fences.
Michonne wiped her hands on her jeans as she exited the downstairs bathroom and stepped onto the porch of the main house. She looked over her shoulder to see Gregory shake his head at her before closing the door to his office. He wasn’t happy she went inside after getting dirty fighting the walkers, but she wasn’t concerned with his feelings when she rushed in. She had been determined to make sure no walkers had infiltrated the house where Maggie was still on bedrest to combat her high risk pregnancy.
Jesus was sitting on the steps but stood when he saw Michonne. She nodded at him then searched the yard for Rick. Her eyes landed on him at the fence helping with the repair. He was in his element commanding the people on the proper way to secure the community.
“Are you sure we shouldn’t tell Gregory?” Jesus voice was soft as he moved closer to Michonne. He wanted to continue the conversation they started before she left to get cleaned up.
She nodded. “I am.” She watched Rick for a few more moments then turned to Jesus. “I know he’s the leader here but - “
Jesus raised his hands. “Trust me I know better than anyone that’s Gregory isn’t the best at leading. I’m just want to leave no room for mistakes.”
She turned to face him fully. “Do you think it’s a mistake not telling?”
Jesus thought a moment then sighed. “No. I can’t really say I trust the man fully either. Gregory’s a coward. He hid in the house when we were fighting the walkers. Can’t exactly rely on him to help take down Negan. Rick’s plan is solid, but Gregory won’t go for it. We need to keep him in the dark.”
Michonne nodded again. “So we’re on the same page.”
“We are. I owe you and Rick my debt anyway. If you guys hadn’t showed up those walkers would have gotten the best of us.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. You guys were handling things, but I’m glad we were here too. We didn’t have plans to leave Alexandria today, but circumstances decided otherwise.”
Jesus nodded and scratched at his beard. “Those surprise visits from the Saviors can be a lot. Just when you think you have enough supplies to make it to the next visit, they pop up and take even more. Can be quite the downer.”
Michonne looked over at Rick again. “That it can be.”
“Did they tell you Negan said to kill one of your people if you didn’t give them more of your supplies?”
Michonne nearly laughed, but she raised an eyebrow at Jesus instead. “I guess they don’t stray much from the script.”
“No. Negan thinks this is his world. There’s a certain way he wants things to go. He’s not one for improvisation from other people.”
Michonne looked at the upstairs window where Maggie slept and bit her lip to try to keep the emotional pain at bay. “Learned that all too well.”
Jesus followed the path of her eyes. “Were you able to talk to Maggie?”
Michonne shook her head. “She was sleeping. She missed out on all of the chaos, thankfully. I don’t think she can handle any more stress. I’ll come back in a few days to see her.”
“Harlan’s a great doctor. Maggie’s in good hands here.”
“I know, and I’m grateful.” She looked up at the now cloudless sky. “We need to start heading home. Don’t want to be out after dark.” She started down the steps then turned back to him. “Some quick advice. Burn those walker bodies sooner than later. The smell is going to get overpowering soon.”
“Roger that.” Jesus placed his hand on Michonne’s shoulder. “See you guys soon and thanks again.”
Michonne looked at this hand, patted it, then smiled back up at him. “Anytime.”
Rick was finished with his fence duties by the time Michonne made her way over to him. She pointed at the blood stains on his shirt. “I can’t take you anywhere without getting into a fight.”
He chuckled. “At least it’s just walker blood this time.” He sat on the hood of their car that was parked just inside the community. He scratched at his eyebrow and stared off to where the walkers were piled up.
Michonne slid onto the hood next him. “Whatcha thinking about?”
“How it always rains when the Saviors come take our shit. How Carl always looks at me in disgust when they do. I actually woke up this morning in a decent mood. Then that surprise visit happened…”
Michonne rubbed his back. “Carl is mature beyond his years, but at the same time he’s still the kid he was when this all started. He can’t grasp the compromise adults had to do everyday before the world changed. This is an extreme version of putting up with a crappy boss. You need to talk to him. Explain the plan and why we need to lay low.”
“I keep trying to, but maybe I really am a coward. I can’t face him looking at me like that. There’s no worse feeling than your son being disappointed in you.” The lines around his mouth became prominent as he frowned.
Michonne looked down for a moment. She opened her mouth to say something then shook her head and gestured to the trunk of the car instead. “We found some good things on our impromptu run to replace what they took. It’s not all bad. Let’s go home and have a nice dinner with the kids. Then we can take a long, hot shower and get some much needed sleep. Tomorrow is a new day where we’ll be one step closer to ending all of this.”
Rick smiled and nodded. “OK.” He hopped off the hood and dangled the car keys in front of her. “You want to drive?”
She smiled back and took the keys. “You know it.”
They gave one last wave to Jesus then drove out of Hilltop onto the deserted road. The two road in silence until Rick grabbed her knee and started rubbing in a circular motion with his thumb. She spared a glance over at him. He was watching her with a look on his face she couldn’t decipher.
“What?” she asked.
“How do you do it?”
Her face contorted in confusion. “Do what?”
“Constantly make sure I don’t drown in despair. Making me see what we’re fighting for.”
Michonne placed her own hand over his that was still resting on her knee. “I do it because I believe in you and I love you. You know that. When I say I’m still with you it’s not just lip service. I mean it every single time.”
Rick clasped their hands together before leaning over to kiss her cheek. “And that makes me the luckiest man in this new world.”
They drove the rest of the way back in content silence with Rick still holding onto her hand. Both immediately knew something was wrong when they pulled through the gates. Father Gabriel looked scared and worried as he held tightly onto Judith.
“It’s Carl,” Gabe said as they exited the car. He handed Rick a note.
The vein in Rick’s forehead bulged as he read the words on the paper. His tanned skin couldn’t hide the red flush of anger. He balled up the paper and threw it to the ground with so much force it nearly bounced.
“What is it?” Michonne asked; her voice etched with worry.
Rick gritted his teeth and looked up to the sky as light rain started falling again. “Carl went after Negan.”
@2violetflower15 is up net with Day 9.