Out of the Frying Pan...

…and into the fire… Daryl's rescuers have a hiccup in their plans and are delayed because of the herd that cornered them off in the first place. Evidently the dead don't move that fast.



"Best quote"

A crotchety wooden door squeaks open as Rick peeks into the makeshift shelter in the stretch of farmland where the group finds itself. Peels of white paint have chipped from the walls, leaving a mess inside, but its certainly safer than outside the shelter. Moans from outside heed the travelers to seek shelter as quickly as possible. Hopefully the dead won't want in. Or think to get in.

Rick opens the door further, beckoning in the ragtag group of women. In many respects, the shelter is little better than outside of it. On the plus side, it's intact. The walls are still held up. The sole window remains intact, and, fortunately, covered with a very dusty green (maybe it was once blue?) curtain.

There's no furniture in the shelter, just cans. Empty cans. It seems someone once hid out in here. Or perhaps, is still theoretically hiding out in here. Unless they ran for it. Which is possible. Some of the cans may even have the remains of uneaten food. But then, are food entrails all that appetizing?

The wooden floor has been dug out of the centre of the room in a fire pit — clearly done after the building was constructed. Possibly following the apocalypse. A small vent has been also cut out of the ceiling, but judging from the black marks on the ceiling, after some experimentation. Evidently whoever stayed here had few survival skills.

The first to enter the suspect shelter after Rick is Carol, moving back-first, weapons-ahead.

Thin shoulders tense, a sheen of familiar sweat swathed over her skin after the start of their countryside journey toward Woodbury, picking their way through the dangers that are commonplace but never, once, feel normal. The high-stress fluttering knot of adrenaline is a good thing, even though it might not feel like it— it means survival. And Carol's got more cause than usual to be jumpy, for all of the adrenaline that's got her on high-alert. She's not a front-liner.

But she's a survivor. Here she is, committed. Every one of her cautious steps in is stiffened by the staid determination she's had since embarking from the prison. She turns warily behind the other women to find Rick and catch glimpses of the house. Like all of them, she doesn't trust dark corners, hallways, closets, doors she can't see in. The sounds outside have her adjusting and readjusting her grip on the knife in her hand as much as the strap of the rifle she's become increasingly more skilled with. Her eyes are worried with questions she doesn't ask.

Maggie steps quickly in behind Carol. Her hand keeps a tight grip on the pistol and then the door that she holds open for Michonne. Focus is thrown first forward and then over her shoulder to make sure they're not being followed by the herd that drove them from Woodbury in the first place. As soon as the last member of their party is safely inside, she'll shut the door and lean against it.

Eyes level on Carol, as she knows the woman is not normally a part of any raids or outside expeditions. Despite her own jacked up emotions, she sounds sympathetic when she asks, "Alright?"

Steel glides into the back of a skull as if it were a sheath; a natural place to store a weapon. But stored it's not. Michonne yanks the weapon swiftly out, letting the fully disabled body crumble to the ground, more waste than human now. With a glance back and forth, she's certain that's the last straggler of the group they're dodging, allowing her to sideways trot towards the door Maggie holds then slip inside. A quiet watch of the others does not precede her joining them. Michonne sidles to a window, lifting an edge of a ratted and discolored curtain to slide the sword's blade across, leaving a rotted stain amongst the other filth. With a soft whisper of metal, her weapon's properly sheathed, hitting her back in a familiar weight as she peers out frosted— with something other than actual decorative frosting— glass.

Once everyone is safely inside, Rick finally steps further into the room. He can't help but feel like they left one prison for another, yet this one, with walkers on all sides, certainly feels more imprisoning. A glance is given to each of the women present, none looks maimed. "Everyone okay?" comes the question in a deep, wearied drawl. Yet even before he gets an answer, he's already thinking ahead. It's what makes him a survivor. He can't help but frown as he calculates their next move. He treads to a windowless wall, and slides down it, until he reaches the floor, drawing his knees towards his chest. Another breath is taken and then exhaled to scrub his face, releasing whatever anxiety he's been carrying since they left the prison. He needs to keep himself present. Mentally, he takes an inventory, drawing his eyes to the ceiling as he relives each of the moments that led them here to this place. With another deep breath, he presses himself up to a stand. "We need to wait it out. Least a little." As strong as they are, they're no match for a herd.

Carol's beginning of a reassuring nod to Maggie serves Rick too. She's alright as the rest of them. Intact. "Yep," comes after. It's distracted; if they're supposed to take a break here, she's not doing a good job of it right away. Between pale-eyed glances here and there as she maneuvers further into the disparate room — landing on decayed scraps on the walls, evidence of a life before, looking almost nostalgic for people she never knew — her focus is past Michonne, out the hazy window.

Satisfied by Carol's answer, Maggie's thoughts quickly drift toward other pressing matters. Grabbing a bit of broken plank that must have been left behind after cutting a hole in the ceiling, she wedges the door shut so that if any of the dead should wander up, they won't be able to get in easily. "For how long?" The question is directed mostly toward Rick. "They could be out there for days. And we ain't got much in the way of supplies." A foot idly toes one of the empty food cans left to rot. She's not questioning his leadership - she knows better than that. It's a straightforward question so they can plan their next move.

Dark eyes flick over to note Carol there in marking her, a lack of camaraderie from the sentry Michonne makes at the window, though she does not ignore the other woman entirely. With a wide stance and elbow braced where two fingers hold the curtain just a tiny increment open to peer through without being noticeable, it appears as though the warrior woman will be taking her break on alert.

Idly, Rick rubs his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt, catching whatever grime he can from the already very dirty t-shirt. There's a nod at Maggie's question rather than an answer. Yes, those are the same questions he's struggling with himself. "We wait until first light tomorrow at the latest." Any later and their rescue mission may as well be a recovery one, but he doesn't say that. "We can move forward on the dead when daylight breaks again." Not that it's dark yet. "We can make it to Woodbury tomorrow if we push just a little harder — "

With a resolute nod, Maggie moves toward the back of the shed. It only takes a few steps, but it's hard to dispel the energy pent up after the events of the previous few days as well as the fight to their makeshift shelter. "I can take first watch." Though she is exhausted, she doesn't feel as if she can rest. Too many thoughts are running through her mind. They're in the middle of a herd and the last time she saw Glenn he was hurt and they fought. If anything happened to her out here… no, she can't think about it.

An uneventful first watch almost makes things worse. The oppressive sense of stillness— of stagnation, as the group fails to make progress while time trickles by, muggy— weighs like guilt and muscles twitch. It seems both like everything goes by too fast, and nothing's moving at all, except the occasional murmur of a twig or feverish groan from a mouth with no more concept of either. If the herd's nearby, they've curved away from the shed, attracted by their never-ending hunger to new— or old— grounds.

The world's still in a way that's grown typical now: no birds, no crickets, or simple signs of benign animal activity. No life.

Once in a while, Michonne breaks from the window to slip outside and pick off a straggler or two made too curious by the construct, her sword a silent goodnight. She seems to have dismissed the notion of turns on watches: hers is ever on.

She's outside again as the light changes, fitting her boot against the head of a twice fallen corpse to yank her sword from its skull. Rotted flesh peels easily against the tread of her boot.

Even when he's supposed to be resting, Rick finds himself staring into the distance rather than sleeping. If he tries hard enough, he can almost convince himself that it's as good as sleep. Whenever Michonne skulks away from the window, Rick fills the hole almost instinctively. He slinks into it, considers what's outside, and wonders when they should do their best to just fight through. Or whether this was a bad idea. His eyes twitch slightly as he glances about the makeshift shack. His lips twitch in turn. His eyes narrow as he glances between each of the women, and, as Michonne returns, he slides back to his usual space for the time being, regret over not bringing Carl creeps into his thoughts, but he bites it back, choosing instead to focus on more important things.

"Alright," he speaks low. "We should maybe discuss the plan once we get into Woodbury — "

Carol waits a beat.

Sat down on the floor thick with dirt, she's found some rest against a wall, but rest is limited for all of them. It's hard to come by; she'd almost rather be on watch. Downtime and resting are two different things. She has too much on her mind, all of it splitting her thoughts into different directions: where they left, where they are, where they're going. The latter's a great big unknown; she's heard stories, but never seen the place herself. At this point, Woodbury's started to sound like something out of a dark fable.

"I'm— still worried about the gettin' into part." Carol runs a hand up one wiry arm, both eager and wary.

Maggie can't say much for sneaking in to Woodbury. She wouldn't recommend the way she entered the town. "I'm guessin' we can't use the way before, since they'll be on the alert. Maybe Michonne knows another way into the place?" Though there are dark circles under her eyes, she's still too tense to sit down. She's currently crouched on the floor with her back resting against the wall opposite of Carol. Her head tilts toward Rick. "Do you think you can find your way back to that prison once we're inside?"

Outside there is a faint rustle in the bushes. Though Andrea meant to take a straight shot toward the prison, the herd from before diverted her and turned her in what was basically a circle. She's managed to stay out of the way of most of the dead by keeping to the brush and moving quickly, but she's getting tired. Once she moves through the trees, it breaks into a sort of clearing and she sees the roof of the ramshackle cabin. Perfect. Carefully, she approaches, her sword wielding friend hidden by the corner of the building while she searches for a way inside.

A soft splat as Michonne's boot hits the ground through the remains of the walker's skull. Nothing else: dead stillness as she, muscles poised, listens for that distinct rustling of underbrush disturbance. She backs up, flattening her vest and shoulders to the shack corner as the footsteps approach, tracking in on the cabin with a suspiciously intentional flight-plan. It could be Woodbury.

Without a shout or utterance of violence, the warrior spins the cabin's corner, elbows flying back towards her shoulder to present the sword across the line of her face, tip measured to find the jugular of any average man.

Luckily, Andrea is not an average man. She's a bit shorter and is already on high alert while outside. Without a sound, she jumps backwards. The point of the blade still manages to find her, but it won't puncture. In the flurry of activity it takes her a moment to register what that sword may mean. Beyond that, who must be wielding it. "Michonne?" The blonde woman is flabbergasted and nervous to see her friend out amongst this herd. She's also, possibly, a little relieved. Even if the last time they spoke, she had trained a gun on her and forced her out of the Governor's room.

Even as her eyes train straight onto Andrea's face, a wisp of a thought of a tic of her mouth at the recognition, Michonne's sword-hand never wavers. It hangs as a marked line between them, as the one drawn in the Governor's housing. But then— those sculpted dark shoulders minutely relax, and it's as much as Andrea knows the other woman to be able read it as distinctive relief; an impossible match to the hardness of her eyes.

After a second of judging, she loosens one hand — sword raised — and bangs her left fist into the side of the shed three deliberately paced times.

"I think— " The sound interrupts whatever Rick was going to say about getting into Woodbury, prompting him to shift his weight to the balls of his feet. The knocks are too purposeful to be walkers, and considering Michonne's exit, yet Rick now errs on the side of caution pretty much always. He strides confidently towards the door, and then opens it slowly to peek out. His guard falls some at the sight of Andrea, but not entirely. His gaze shifts back to Michonne, not asking the question that lingers on his lips, choosing instead to back up and let Andrea inside. A tick of his head and eyes invites them both, holding the door for each to enter. "Did you push through all those walkers?"

There's so much to say to Michonne, but Andrea is completely unable to vocalize it. That should normally be fine, since the two never really did much talking about themselves in the time they traveled together. But, when she enters the ramshackle hut and sees Rick, Carol and Maggie, something breaks inside of Andrea and she almost cries out in a choked sob. These were her family after the horrible times and they're standing in front of her. A joyous step forward happens, but it is quelled at Rick's first remarks. So. That is the first thing said to her upon reunion? Fine. Her face steels into something much less emotional and welcome. "I was looking for ya'll." That's what her response is.

Maggie stares at Andrea in disbelief. In fact, she gives Rick an incredulous glare at his greeting. "Oh my God. Andrea?!" She takes multiple steps forward. "We thought we lost you when we lost the Farm." It's still quite an emotional event for Maggie. The fact that something she thought was lost during that fateful night was restored is nothing less than a miracle. "Thank God! How'd you know where to find us?"

Leaning to see around Rick and Maggie from her spot on the floor, Carol's driven up quick before she even realizes who's there: the mere fact that it's more than Michonne is cause to rise. When she hears (Rick not doing much to clear the confusion before Maggie's exclamation), then sees just who's walking through their temporary little door, her weighed-down muscles might as well be suddenly floating on air. She walks slower than she shot up, stunned; walking right past the others, the rolled-up hems of her scavenged trousers shuffling, she gravitates toward Andrea.


She doesn't stop until she's hugging the long-lost friend tight.

Last in, Michonne slips through the crack, steadying the door with her hand as she steers it shut in a tight, quiet sweep, shuttering the world out from the mini-reunion. It's from this separation that she casts eyes on the event, coolly watches the former friends of Andrea surround her; exclamations and professions hit rock against the woman's stance, but for the vague opening of her less stony expression. No warmth, nor express jealousy, to be read by any old person; just a sense of deliberate feeling. A notion that she possesses the capacity to have emotions, even when she choices not to emote.

Her sword rests, as a guard-dog, at her side, held in a loose but ready hand.

Andrea is stiff when Carol reaches forward to hug her. It's an unexpected and not exactly welcome gesture, however, the woman does awkwardly reach forward and pat Carol's back. They thought she was dead. She knows that. But, here they are coming to rescue Daryl through a herd of walkers and left her behind. "I, uh," she coughs at Maggie's question. "I saw Daryl at Woodbury. He's under arrest for having killed some of the guards. I came to find you guys so you could bust him out before they put him to trial. I got distracted by some walkers, found my way here. So, I take it you all are the rescue party?"

Rick pinches the bridge of his nose as he, quite subconsciously, shuffles to the window. A piece of him would love to lose his own hypervigilance from time to time, but it's that hypervigilance that has kept so many of them alive, even in a world where people like the Governor are the truest survivors. Darwin's law would make sense of such things. His grey-blue eyes stare into the world beyond, as each of the women reacts in their own way. The mention of Woodbury causes Rick's jaw to visibly tighten, and prompts him to cast Maggie a sidelong glance.

He clears his throat and turns back to the window before he drawls, "Is that the official byline?" There's no comment about the rescue party, but its implied by a slow nod. "No one should be in the comp'ny of that Govern'r of yours. Doesn't treat his guests very well— " No one has bothered to ask details of Glenn and Maggie's time in the Governor's care, but the patchwork quilt of Glenn's face is evidence enough that something is not right with Woodbury's fearless leader.

Carol is distinctly uncomfortable when she steps back, a gentle longing in her gaze as she watches Andrea; she glances quickly at the others, particularly Rick, and wishes she could just talk to Andrea alone; spoken as much as she could by the smaller smile she gives the woman when she looks back again. But normal conversation just isn't in the cards.

The mention of Daryl both lights her face up and causes it to fall and solidify. Her voice, however, is small. "Is he alright— ?"

"That Governor put together an entire town full of people and kept them safe. No one's died there in months until just two nights ago." Andrea glares at Rick, knowing full well the implications of what she's saying. They're the ones who killed those people. Not the mention the fact that they can't exactly claim to have the same success rate as he does. "He treated me just fine. But, I can't imagine he'll take kindly to people who killed his folk." This is getting off message. She's clearly angry and she takes a deep breath to calm herself down. "Look, I'm just here to make sure Daryl gets out of there alive. You all killed some people and I'm real sorry you did, but that doesn't mean I want Daryl strung up for it. I can get you to him." As for Carol, she nods. "He was alright when I saw him last. Restrained, but fine."

Maggie stares at Andrea, attempting to work through the words that she's hearing. The torture of the Governor is till quite fresh in her mind and what they did to Glenn raw in her heart. While she was approaching her friend in happiness, that stops cold. Her face falls and all she can do is focus on Andrea's lips moving. "He treated you just fine." She repeats Andrea's words emotionlessly. Her words get more vehement as she continues, until she's practically spitting them out. "He treated you just fine?!" Tears well up in her eyes, but they do not shed. "He made me take my shirt off in front of him. He threatened to rape me while he had Merle beat Glenn nearly to death. But, he treated you just fine." She doesn't attempt to approach Andrea any further. The back of her hand rubs roughly at her eyes. "Well, I'm sure he's just the perfect gentleman at parties."

Rick's chin drops and he stares at the floor when Andrea speaks. His body tensing with each word. There's something beyond defensiveness there. It's more vibrant. More painful. Nearly tortured. His lips part, but Maggie beats him to the punch, causing his head to snap back into alert position to stare openly at her. Her story has more weight than anything he could retort. His head turns again, this time towards Andrea. "We were just rescuing our people. Who were taken to that place. They didn't stumble on it, they were taken," he states flatly. "That Gov'nr got himself a fight because of what he did."

Hushed into silence by the words flying around, Carol crosses an arm over her chest, picking at the strap of her shirt, tense and feeling all the tensions all around her. She heard I can get you to him and the assurance that Daryl's fine, and she hangs on to that. While explanations go on back and forth, thrown like emotional punches — and Carol not exempt, hearing Maggie's recounting, and Andrea sticking up for the Governor— ? — she just keeps hanging on.

Her pale attentive eyes hop here and there from her limbo, silently imploring everyone to come to some kind of understanding. And soon.

Andrea watches Maggie with something like horror. "What?" While she was ready to believe that something happened to both Maggie and Glenn, this is a different story completely. "No, he wouldn't do that. He didn't even know who you were." Her voice is shaky, though, as if Maggie has rocked something essential in her belief in what she was saying before. "I am so sorry about what happened to you, but that couldn't have been him. He's helping me hunt down who took you. He didn't know that had happened." It sounds weird and horrible coming out of her mouth and she even sounds unsure saying it. "The people there are good people. They just want to be safe and to go back to a time when there weren't anything like Walkers." She almost sounds like she's pleading now.

Maggie takes more steps backwards until she's standing just behind Rick's shoulder. "Yeah. He didn't know what he was doing. I have no idea what I'm talkin' about. I'm just some dumb hick who didn't know 'bout Walkers till ya'll showed up to save us." Her tone is spiteful now, something dark and unforgiving. "Merle may be the one that brought us in, but that Governor of yours is the one that kept us there."

Andrea's shock prompts Rick to turn his gaze downwards again. Any defense of the Governor will not be accepted. Not even a little. Not after what he did. Rick swallows hard and then twists around to give Maggie's shoulder a brief squeeze before returning his gaze to Andrea. "He hurt our people. Just 'cause. Just 'cause he can. Men like that— " the thought is dropped. There's more he can say. More he can allude to. He is a police officer and had some understanding of sociopaths. Not that Rick has talked to the Governor. Or has intentions of talking to the Governor. But then, he adds, "Our opinions differ, but" for now "our goals are the same. We want Daryl out. Alive." And then, more instrumentally he tracks back, "You said you can get us in. How?"

"Men like what/? Men that can keep his people alive? People there have a life. One that's as close to as it was before as I've ever seen. He made that happen and kept it that way." The bitterness of being left behind had been buried, locked away. However, Rick's attitude is the key that fits that lock. He won't tell her that after what he did to her that her choices were the wrong ones. Andrea shakes her head in a fit of anger, but then takes a breath and gives Maggie a pleading look. She won't make apologies to Rick, but she certainly feels like she should say something to Maggie. "You know I don't mean that. I really am sorry about what happened to you. Look, you're right. Our goals are the same. I can lead you in through a back way. Distract the guards so you can slip in. I'll take you to where he's being held and you can take him out. He wants to make sure Merle comes back with you, though. He won't leave without him." It must be nice to have family to make sure you're not left behind.

Maggie gives Andrea a confused and hurt look. With a shake of her head, she turns around and moves closer to Carol. For all intents and purposes, she can't be a part of this conversation any more. Not if they want it to be successful. For Carol's sake and for Daryl's, she'll keep her mouth shut. But, her hands clench tight - fingers digging into the flesh of her palm.

There's an air of uncomfortableness still around Carol; she'd rather not be standing where she's standing, feeling as though sides are being taken among friends. Instinctively, Carol sways slightly toward Maggie, quietly sympathetic. Her eyes barely leave Andrea, however, just as sympathetic, if more searching. Though she's began to soften hopefully since Andrea apologized, and on the news of Daryl, of getting him out — what they're on their way for — it's short-lived, overtaken. A sharp little shadow has now crossed her travel-wrought face. "Merle?" It's not quite disbelief … no, it's short of that, but it's definitely nothin' good, what springs up in her voice. Her gaze cuts away from everybody, but she goes quiet again — she can't very well give Daryl her opinion from all the way over here.

For an instant, she holds the younger woman's shoulder and goes back to eyeing some distant point through the walls until, inevitably, her attention, though worried and preoccupied, lands on Rick.

Rick looks like he just sucked on a lemon. His eyes narrow. His lips pucker. His jaw tightens. Everything about him stiffens. But he doesn't speak. Not until Maggie has turned towards Carol. Not until Carol has expressed her own consideration. His hands retreat to his pockets as something hardens over him. "He keeps his people 'live at the the expense of others. There's no way it'll hold. Men like that — " he smiles a deeply bitter, unhappy sort of smile, " — when his survival is threatened, that entire town'll be too. You mind that."

As far as Merle is concerned, well, Rick pinches the bridge of his nose. Merle. Fucking Merle. "We free our people 'gardless. What Daryl," his head turns towards Carol in turn, "and Merle do after's up to them. We got things to talk 'bout as a group." It may be a Ricktatorship, but there's no way he intends to make a decision about Merle's place with them on his own. "No one should be left to your Govern'r's hospitality." And then, equally hardened, he tacks on, "Yourself included."

She's been silently manning the door; Michonne, a pillar of enigmatic dark-skin and feelings kept as tight as her leather vest but now, on the verge of things, she shifts, rustling — purposefully — softly and leaning on one leg towards Rick. Though her eyes have been watching Andrea primarily, reading without saying, she curves now in a tiny physical show of support towards the man; she also cocks her head, shuffling her dreadlocks towards the door in a beckon for him and him alone.

"Unlike this group, you mean?" Andrea's eyes narrow at Rick. She's not about the forget the fact that she was left behind, that she was forgotten. "Others must be sacrificed for the good of the group." Her tone is flat. She doesn't refute the fact that the Governor is hers, nor does she respond to being added back into the folds - begrudgingly - instead, she tilts her head Michonne's way and frowns. So, the woman will talk to Rick but not her old friend. The break in her heart rips even further. Looking away from both Rick and Michonne, her eyes drop to the floor, glassy but hardened.

Maggie watches the exchange between Andrea and Rick, but finds herself unmoved by her old friend's emotion. Though she was not invited to the pow-wow outside, she doesn't wait for Rick's response. Instead, she pushes past and quietly slips out the door. She doesn't have to hear what Michonne wants to say to Rick. She just needs a moment to be alone.

Rick's eyes narrow at Andrea is turn, as his expression hardens all around. "You weren't sacrificed," he murmurs quietly as he begins to tread to the door. The room has becom too small for him— too confined, and far too contained. "Leavin' someone in the hands of a madman is very different than thinkin' they're already dead by walkers. Personally, would rather be eaten than left to your Gov'nr's devices." His hand reaches out to the knob of the door. Evidently, he's not staying inside any longer. He casts a look over his shoulder, "'Sides, in his case, it's not for the good of the group, Andrea." There's a pregnant pause as he turns back to the door, "S'for the good of the Gov'nr. Known men like that long 'fore all this began. It's not gonna stop any time soon." And with that, he steps outside.

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