the walking dead
Returning to the prison is not so much a happy homecoming for Rick and crew when they have to deliver the news — and head back out to reclaim one of their own.

Prison Exterior

"We have to go back — "

Scratching of vehicle tires was the first sign— before the hood crested the view from the prison's watch-tower. Blowing up dust along the old road, peaking the interest of walkers strung across the path or in the nearby foliage, it's a prison car. Not the car that left last. But as it squeals in, showing familiarity with the process, towards the main gates, Carl's there to haul the first open then trot it briskly closed, walling off the snaps and snarls of diseased arms— as well as the car, within the middle arena.

Up in the watch-tower, a thin, rifle-toting form is on the move. Sight of the car prompts Carol's tense, distant study from on high (and into the distance, down the road they came), and it gives her pause, but her shape is quick to vanish.

The car doesn't come to a complete stop before the passenger side door is opening and the lanky form of Rick Grimes is nearly running out. He opens the back door, it's the smallest courtesy he can issue before he's calling out standing orders to all those present, "We have to go back — " He twists around towards the back of the car, "Glenn is hurt — " His eyes track towards the watch tower and then back to the car. "Daryl." It's one word given its full weight. He never aimed to leave a man behind, and the weight of that decision feels heavy upon every part of his body. "We have to go back!" he repeats as he reaches towards the back seat to help Maggie help Glenn move out from his place.

A shadowed statue owns the front passenger seat: Michonne, sculpted to the spot moves not an inch— muscles held by an unbending willpower— in silent back-up of the plan.

From the bottom gate comes Carl, trotting in his now signature hat, a grim displeasure as befitting a man three times his age attempting to survive in what's left of the baby fat in his cheeks. He either hasn't heard his father's words yet or is fitting to disagree.

The pistol - now empty - has been shoved into the back of Maggie's pants. Even before Rick has opened the opposite side door, the woman is helping Glenn out of the car. Seeing Carl run into the distance, she quickly yells out, "Tell my dad Glenn's hurt!" Once they get him into the prison proper, he'll be seen to. Then, the worry and fear that has been buzzing in the back of her head since their capture will start to dissipate. They're safe.

The same can't be said for Daryl. She knows - better than any of them - what he'll be in store for. Maybe his brother will shield him from some of it, but they killed people. That camp will be angry. She doesn't look at Rick - her attention is entirely focused on Glenn. However, her reply is singularly meant for him. "We had to." Leave Daryl, that is. "We woulda gotten killed if we stuck around. Soon as Glenn's looked to, we'll go back for 'im. We know the lay of the land now. That herd'll keep 'em busy for awhile."

Glenn allows Rick and Maggie to help him out of the car, but slides a stitch away from the pair once he's breathing 'fresh' air again. He takes a few small steps away from both nearly staggering to the ground on the second step. He really is in rough shape, but in full anticipation of both Rick and Maggie's reactions, he picks himself up with a groan, managing to hiss, "I'm fine," before either really has room to react.

Carol's running out as Carl's running in, scuffing the ground in the yard somewhere between the attempt to stop and the desire to keep on running straight to the car, eager to absorb the update on everything now that the group's back. Maggie's shout and the brutal sight of Glenn's beaten face tells enough of a story in the immediate second, relief washing over her own for the fact that they've been brought back alive — but the expression is already at war. Late, she's only caught hints: Daryl. Herd.

She's doing a head-count, as has become a grim habit. Rick, Maggie, Glenn, and undeniably Michonne in the car.

She stops just short of the group, frozen instead on looking up at Rick. Her eyes seem to pale. In her reluctance to think ahead at possibilities, her voice pales too, an unintentionally wavering pitch. "Daryl— ?"

"You just got back— " means Carl to argue, over-ridden with the hop-skip before he takes off running for the inner door to fetch the old farmer.

When Glenn falls, Rick reaches out, but steps back at his reaction The weight of Rick's stare may fill in some of the blanks for Carol, however. There's a level of seriousness there that speaks volumes so he doesn't need to use words. Rick's blue gaze trails to Carol, and he shakes his head once. "The Governor," comes the reply as his hands ball into fists. "Carl," he drawls, "you'd want the group to do the same for me," these are their chosen family, and focus is one of the few things keeping the older Grimes from slipping entirely over the edge into madness. The last part isn't said, but on some level Rick knows it to be true. "We get ammo, we rest," his eyes dance around the group, "and those of us that are able and capable with a firearm head back." Except Carl. But that much is left unspoken.

Carol can read the gravity in Rick's eyes, but she's still left having to piece together those determined, ominous words of his. To one that's been left holding the fort, it's a matter of filling in the blanks with meaning, catching up. None of them are filled in with anything good, her gaze a flurry of worried interpretation.

"He's still there?" She presses her narrow hand flat to her ribs, holding in a thread of anxiety, keeping the rest bundled in. She looks around the car, as if expecting to see the missing subject of conversation despite what Rick said. But no. No Daryl. "… You left him behind?" It's impossible to keep the note of blame out of what is otherwise softly-spoken, strongly-felt pangs of worry. Maybe misplaced, but the fact is in front of her: they're back and he's not.

Rick manages to maintain his cool, but just barely. Evenly he stares back at Carol, "We were separated, and had to fight through a herd. Carol, Carol, we are going to get Daryl." There's a twitch of Rick's eye, yet his resolve remains strong. He will not yield to the demons tugging at each of his thoughts. Those blue eyes, lined with shadows and grime, hint that this man hasn't slept for ages, not that he intends to sleep now: Just to regroup. "We had wounded, and we just couldn't go back right away, but we aren't leaving him — "

Despite Glenn's waving of arms, Maggie ignores his assurance. He's hurt and she is not - she will help him. "Stop bein' like that," she tells him softly. While she glances at Carol and Rick, all she truly cares about at the moment is getting Glenn to her father so he can be looked after. And so what she says, she says moving. "We didn't leave him. He stayed behind. It was his choice." Daryl was the one that insisted on staying to provide cover fire. "And we're going back." While Rick may be haunted by demons, Maggie is sure that they did the right thing. They had to bring Glenn to the prison.

Even with Maggie on him like glue, Glenn's expression changes from tired complacence to irritation to fury. His nostrils flare, his eyes become wild with something burning deeply inside of him, and his adrenaline spikes once more. He stands straight, and quite literally takes a step from this woman he loves. "I will not — " he starts just to stop and look between all of those gathered. His arm rubs at his nose. "I'm not some excuse for why we had to come back. I'm fine." Shirtless. Beaten. Broken.

Misdirected anger boiling under the surface erupts. "Go. Go now. But kill the Governor. None of this ragtag bullshit. Take out the cheeky bastard, the other Dixon, and burn down that fucking town." He swallows hard, gives each his cold dead stare in turn, and then, with whatever strength he has left, tramps back towards the prison.

When Glenn takes a step away from her, Maggie's worry turns instantly to hurt. Her arms fall to her sides and she just looks at him with disbelief. "You're not an excuse!" She's emphatic about that. "Daryl stayed behind to get us all out. Even if—" even if he hadn't been beaten, hadn't been so wounded. She attempts to restart. "The four of us could never've survived the herd if we just waited around."

Maggie's comments are received by Glenn's cool emotionless (albeit very bare) back. But if she could see his face, she'd see his turmoil, his hesitation, and perhaps, even his guilt written across every feature. His eyebrows draw together to produce deep worry lines on his face, his lips part in a kind of shocked guilt drawing everything about him downwards, even his gaze.

A single glance at his own body has a similar effect. His bloodied and bruised arms, shoulders, and chest are but a patchwork of colours like a sadistic quilt sewn together as a torturous memento of their time in Woodbury. He'd been caught with his guard down. He'd let Maggie and him get caught. And then in the rescue mission, they couldn't wait for Daryl because of him. But he says nothing. He just stops in his tracks, processing the very real damage to his body, but worse than that, his powerlessness to keep it from happening.

With a more distant clang, the side door opens, admitting Carl into the yard, holding the heavy frame for Hershel and his able crutches. Perturb flattens the little boy's lips, noting that the group hasn't made it barely feet past the car, but the older man's expression denotes solemn gratitude.

Carol hears and understands every word said, she really does. It's just that they aren't good enough. No one's telling the whole story right away. She's getting bits and pieces and not a one of them are making her feel a damn bit better. Her eyes widen and narrow on each point, darkening particularly as Glenn rages; a blame certainly not laid on the injured young man himself. It's not until Maggie's round of explanation that Carol seems to breathe at all. She nods, disconnectedly, and stays quiet. No use standing around talking about it any longer than they have.

At the gate, there's no doubt where the old man's focus lies. He's sussed out his daughter's familiar face, and though there's something about her returned appearance that strikes him in the heart, Hershel can't get to Maggie fast enough. Couldn't even if he had both legs.

Click. The car door opens and Michonne rises serenely at its side against the contrary fray of her hair, the pattern of battle across her face; she stares at figures, having come to the conclusion watching them that they won't be leaving in a timely fashion after all.

Where Carl hasn't quite moved appears the gently rounded figure of Beth, the infant Judith swaddled in her arms. She pursues Hershel down the steps and towards the gathering with eyes awash in enthusiastic joy to see her sister— and the rest of an adopted family. "She started cryin' soon as you got back," she explains, the babe's poor omen spoken with an innocent grasp for humor. Catching light of Glenn's face in approaching, the younger Greene suppresses a thickened gasp.

And then, as natural as anything, she performs the same determined head-count as Carol before her.

At the click of the car door, Rick turns to face the copilot. "We need more ammunition," he states flatly with a frown. "And then we go." And then, as a second thought, he glances amongst those still gathered, he adds, "Riot gear. We get the riot gear — " and now it seems like Rick is on a mission, his paces marching him towards the prison to suit up. For now, from his perspective, Glenn is ignored.

Glenn isn't ignored by Maggie. He's all she sees right now. And as she knows him, she knows exactly what he's feeling right now. Just because she knows doesn't make it any easier to bear, though. When he pulls away, she doesn't force him to accept her help. "Glenn…" she trails off, attempting to put all her feelings for him into that one word.

However, she will also respect his wishes. She looks to Rick. "We should form a plan. We know the layout of that place now, but they'll be expecting us this time. If we just go rushin' in there, they'll overwhelm us in no time."

The sound of his name gives Glenn pause. He becomes nearly statuesque at the word and all it's weight as if his very naming bore some great magick all its own. It isn't until he gasps for breath that he realizes he's been holding it. The gasp, a sound of strange desperation has him collapsing to his knees underneath the heaviness of the last few days' events. The collapse causes dusty earth to displace from the ground almost as if the world itself sighed.

A lonely soldier next to another, Michonne marches precisely after Rick, having nodded succinctly once to his plan of gear— ammunition— her fingers settle decisively over her belt, sword safely strapped to her back, but she does not deny him this preparation, going silently along to do just that. This other business… it's not her business.

At the door to the prison, Carl's there to meet them, face a grim mature line made a mockery by his age— revealed more in the childish eagerness of his eyes, needing. "I'm coming with you— " he declares, after having let his father through the door.

All the shuffling, her own included, has positioned Beth tentatively near Carol, her gentle rocking of the baby Judith nigh instinctual, done absentmindedly as a real mother while she observes the train-wreck of conflicting plans.

With Michonne in tow, Rick's slow authoritative steps carry with them the purpose towards the prison door. He resumes on his direct course, even as Carl insists on his coming. "I need you here, looking after the others." And that is that.

"No— " argues Carl bullishly, matching his father's pace and stubbornness; even though a glimmer in his eye suggests Rick's not wrong, but an even stronger pulse has beaten the protectiveness this round. Now that he's heard the details, his feverish rises in levels dangerously enough to nearly reveal that he is, after all, just a little boy. "You need all the guns you can get." Note— he does with a pointed drift of his eyes towards the yard— the injured, and unavailable. "I can do this— "

Finally, with Carl's insistence, Rick just halts, stiffening at his son's emulation of his own stubbornness. His blue eyes narrow as he, quite literally, looks down at the boy. "I need some guns here to take care of things." Pause. "Look. You're capable with a firearm, that much is true, but you can't come," he hisses. "Not when enemies shoot back." Besides, Rick will need to focus on the Governor's men, and not getting shot instead of worrying about making sure Carl is not getting shot.

"Take care of things?" Comments on his capability lower Carl's fire none. Now that they've stopped walking, insistence grows to a boyish breaking point with nowhere else to expend the energy. "Daryl— " the name's briefly its own statement, shot out of him surging with uneven feelings; a firework of thought before he clarifies with an attempt at maturity that backfires. His chin jerks up to meet Rick, flaunting the sheriff's hat perched on his head. "He said he was gonna watch out for you and look what happened to him." In the heat, it sounds accusatory — but towards which man.

The name causes Rick's nostrils to flare and his fingers to lace through his hair irritably. There's a pause as his eyes track out to the distance rather than to Carl. "And now it's my job to look out for him. You see that, right?" His eyebrows peak expectantly on his forehead. "This is our chosen family. All of them. You need to stay to look out for them." Once more he reiterates: "You. Aren't. Coming."

Retaliation sucks in Carl's cheeks as he holds in a response aching to be spat out. Rather, the adolescent's face hardens stonily against his father, displaying an overly ripened sense of dismissal. Loss. It's always loss, isn't it. "I see how well it went the first time with you." Turning on his father, he strikes out across the prison's inside to stake out his forced claim there, far from others.

Having halted several paces ahead on the way to supplies, Michonne unabashedly watches Rick, eyes thick with neither judgment nor sympathy.

Hershel, slow but steady, is ready to hustle in on the tensions surrounding Maggie, Glenn, and Rick for the purpose of welcoming his daughter back to their barbed-wired home and making good and sure she's okay.

A quiet, unobtrusive observer, Carol's already prepared to move on to whatever must be next. For her, shifting closer to Beth in turn, that means getting on her way back inside the prison, where she has another span of waiting it out to not look forward to.

Magnetically following keeps Beth at pace with Carol, the baby unhesitatingly tended to in her arms even as she flinches to the sight of a less than full group, disjointedly moving back inside: broken. "This is bad," which surely the older woman knows; the murmur's no more than venting. "Daryl makes us strong." Fixating on that which is cracking— them, morally, physically… mentally. Her head shakes adamantly, whipping an unwashed ponytail. "They have to make it." Not quite optimism, no; not quite naive. Fact. Line drawn.

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