A/N: A little one-shot inspired by the finale and something @dreamilytenaciousgarden said to me while we were chatting.
Her mouth was dry and the taste of blood was still present. Her eyelids were heavy and it felt as if she would not be able to tear them open. The swelling around the left one was much more prominent than it had been when her wounds were still very much fresh; it remained closed despite her efforts at opening it.
Michonne found the room to be well-lit; she had no idea what time of the day it was, or, in fact, what day it was. She stirred and felt a hand grasping her right one as rough fingers softly traced over her arm. Shifting her gaze and turning her head ever so slightly, she saw Rick at her side. He offered her a smile and the warmth and happiness in his eyes made her feel safe.
She went to speak, but her parched lips and throat made the greeting come out gravelly.
“Hey,” she managed, before Rick reached down to the floor and grabbed a bottle of water for her.
“Hey,” he replied, undoing the lid. Michonne struggled to sit up. “Hold on.”
He placed the bottle into her awaiting hand and proceeded to put another pillow under her head in an effort to prop her forward.
“I can sit,” she said hoarsely, not wanting Rick to fuss over her.
“I know,” he relied, somewhat amused by her persistent stubbornness. “But let me take care of you.”
Michonne conceded and gave him a thankful grin. Her body ached all over, and her head was pounding. Her face felt sore and heavy from the swelling; her bones felt tired. She was weary, but happy that she was still alive.
Rick took the water from Michonne, retrieved the plastic straw from the neck of the water bottle, and brought it to her lips. She took a sip and felt the cool liquid slide down her dry throat.
“Have a little more,” Rick urged, holding the bottle to her mouth again; she obliged.
“Carl?” she asked, her memory still unclear from her head trauma. “Where is he?”
“He’s fine,” Rick replied while he took hold of her hand again; his thumb trailing lightly over hers. “Helpin’ with the clean-up right now.”
“What happened? Did we get a win?” she asked; the concern for their community was etched across her bruised and beaten face.
“Yeah,” said Rick, his eyes glazing over as he thought about the loved-ones they had lost. “We drove ‘em off, and we’ve got a long way to go, an even bigger fight ahead of us, but you don’t have to worry about that now.”
He shifted closer, leaned down and pressed a languid kiss to her forehead, carefully avoiding any injuries.
“You focus on feeling better, okay?” said Rick while stroking her hair.
“Okay,” she said, with a small smile that caused her face to twinge; she lifted her free hand from her tummy and tentatively pressed her fingertips to her face. She winced when she applied some pressure to her cheek. “Shit.”
“You’ll be fine when the swelling goes away,” he said, squeezing her hand; he hated seeing her in pain.
“Does it look as bad as it feels?” she asked somewhat jokingly, trying to lighten the mood when she noticed the rueful expression he wore.
“You’re beautiful,” Rick whispered, not missing a beat, as he pressed a loving kiss to the back of her hand. She felt a warmth wash over her.
“Stop making me smile,” she joked. “It hurts.”
“Sorry,” he offered, brushing her hair back once more.
“How long have you been sitting here?” she asked, still feeling slightly disoriented.
“Since we brought you here and got you cleaned up,” he admitted.
“How are we looking?” she asked, needing to know their current situation after their initial skirmish; Rick pressed his hand to his brow.
“We…we took a big hit,” he explained. “But I don’t want you worrying about that right now. Maggie, Ezekiel, they’re handlin’ this. They’re helpin’ our people see what needs to be done…”
“Rick,” said Michonne. “You should be out there with Maggie and Ezekiel. Everyone needs you.”
“You need me, too,” he said, as if being anywhere but by her side made no sense.
“Rick,” she said softly. “I’ll be fine.”
He remained silent and stared at his beloved.
“You’re our leader,” she continued, with pride encompassing her expression. “You’ll take us forward.”
“Hey,” he said softly, gesturing between himself and Michonne. “We are the leaders. Me and you, together, and we will be the ones to show our people the way ahead.”
“I know,” she replied, feeling her heart swell with adoration. “But they need you right now. Remind them that they made the right choice to fight today. Mourn with them, and show them that we can win. All of us, together.”
Rick nodded his head.
“Okay,” he said. “I’ll do it; I’ll go now.”
“Good,” she said, resting back into her pillows.
“Then I’ll be back to check on you later,” he said; she smiled at his obstinacy.
“Okay,” she offered, eyeing his expression as he stood; he moved with difficulty and she then noticed he had changed his shirt.
“Rick,” she said. “You’re hurt, aren’t you?”
“Ah, it’s nothin’,” he replied. “You get some more rest. I’ll be back soon.”
Rick leaned in close, held Michonne’s hand over his heart, and kissed her forehead once more; they held each other’s gaze a moment longer before he whispered an earnest, “I love you.”