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Author's Chapter Notes:

An obvious realization.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Chapter 2

The moment the prison came within her sight, Michonne's heart leapt for joy in her chest. She didn't want to admit it, but, she missed Rick. She was glad to be home and so was Flame. All on his own, without even being prompted, he shifted gears, kicked up his front legs and galloped for the rest of their journey along the stretch of the gravely drive way towards the prison gates.

Carl was on hand to help open the gates in a timely fashion. The moment he heard the sound of Flames' hooves, he yelled, "Dad, Michonne's back" and sprinted to the gates to let them in. Close behind him was Rick.

Rick could see through the chain-linked fence Michonne's radiant, smiling face. As he watched her atop Flame advancing closer with her sword slung over her one shoulder, her well toned arms holding the reigns, and, her posture upright and confident, he could not help but think that she was the epitome of a warrior queen.

One week. It was the longest she'd been away from him. Before she left, he asked her how long she would be gone and she said no more than a week. He noticed lately that she kept their conversations short and thought it was because she was preoccupied with finding Governor. He told her he didn't like her going off on her own, but she said it was something she had to do. He insisted she take him along, but, she said the group needed him. He knew better than not to argue with her. He knew she was more than capable of handling herself outside the prison walls, but, it bothered him not being able to pick up a phone and call her to find out if she was alright and to hear her voice. He knew that she would return. She always does. While she was away, he missed her.

He enjoyed her company. Like him, she was contemplative and quiet. Even though they mainly spoke about finding food, the few rare times when they spoke about random topics, he found that they had similar taste in music and books. Before hell broke lose, they both liked watching CSI, Food Network and National Geographic channels. Whenever she smiled, the world lit up too. As time went by, he grew attracted to her found himself thinking about her more and more with each passing day. In the showers, when he had time to himself, he thought about her naked soapy body pressed up against his. Her exquisite shape and pretty face and the graceful way she moved made his body yearn for hers. Often times he daydreamed taking her aside from prying eyes and kiss her, cup her round firm ass and bury his face between her beautiful soft breasts. But, he told himself that he had his kids and others to think of. He felt that it was his duty and responsibility as a leader to put everyone first. Besides, he thought, there is no way she would find my bow legs and uneven teeth attractive. She probably thinks I am boring too.

Now that she was home, he became filled with gladness.

Once Michonne and Flame made it safely inside, she hopped off and reached for the saddlebags. Meanwhile, Carl and Rick secured the gates shut before running up to her. She immediately doled out their gifts. Carl was the first to receive his. He smiled broadly and thanked her for the comics and couldn't wait to start reading them. He gave Flame a pat and proceeded to lead him to the stables but not before Michonne retrieved her bags.

The moment Michonne's and Rick's eyes met, her heart skipped a couple of beats. God, those eyes are like pools of blue. If only I could dive into 'em. Wait, something's different about him, she said inwardly. She couldn't help but notice that his T-shirt appeared to be loose on him. She wondered if he had lost weight and hoped he wasn't sick.

"It's good to see you.", he finally said and helped her remove the saddle bags and her knap sack from Flame's back.

"It's good to see you too.", she replied.

"Did you find what you were looking for?", Rick asked referring to Governor while handing the bags to Michonne.

"No. I'll find him. How about you? You OK?", Michonne asked. Although he sounded like his usual self, she had to ask just to be sure while not sounding too worried.

"I'm good. Thanks.", Rick replied and was glad she was interested in his well being.

Holding out the shaver to him, she said, "Look what I found."

When he realized what it was, he smiled.

"Your face is loosing the battle.", she said jokingly and gave him a smile.

Rick chuckled and replied, "Thank you." and took the shaver from her.

Then he added, "We missed you", when he actually meant to say, I missed you.

Michonne replied, "I missed you too."

Oh no. I didn't just say that, she said to herself and reminded herself once more to get it together and to keep her feelings in check. For a fraction of a long second, they stood facing each other in silence. Akward, they thought simultaneously.

Just then, as luck would have it, the akwardness was broken when a car and motor bike pulled up. It was Daryll, Glenn, Maggie and Bob returning from a supply run. Thankfully, there were no casualties this time. There were no sad faces today. Everyone was more than happy to see Michonne and she them. A few who were inside joined in with smiles etched across their faces. Michonne handed out more gifts before going off with Maggie to Cell Block C. The small crowd that had gathered, dissipated. Daryll and Rick joined Carl by the stables.

Carl went about removing all contraptions from Flame. As he methodically peeled away saddle, bridle and, reigns, Daryll reported to Rick about how the supply run went. He said that on their way back, they checked out a storage facilty some eight miles away. He said that the facility was in good condition and that its fence and gates were secure. He suggested that it would make it a good rendezvous point in case things went south, to which, Rick agreed.

"Hey guys, check this out." Carl said getting both men's attention.

"Flame, are ya hungry?", Carl asked the horse and reached into his pocket. Flame nodded an emphatic yes.

"Do you want a frog?", Carl asked and showed him a tiny pet frog he carried in one of his pockets. Flame shook his head, no.

"How about a pear?", the teenager asked and presented Flame with a ripe pear. Flame nodded, yes, then took the fruit into his mouth.

Excited at what they just witnessed, Daryll and Rick cheered. It was moments like these that they all cherished.

"So wha' d'ya get?", Daryll asked turning to Rick while looking at the item that was sticking out from his friend's back pocket.

"Oh, a shaver.", Rick replied, retrieving it so that he could show him. He didn't realize it, he smiled when he looked at his gift.

"Fer real?", Daryll asked twirling a reed between his lips.

"Yep.", Rick replied and shoved the shaver right back into his pocket.

"Plannin' on usin' it?", Daryll asked even though it didn't matter to him what Rick did with his spare time. Besides, he was a man who seldom took baths so why would he care. Much to Carol's chagrin, the extent of Daryll's personal hygiene was rubbing lemon grass all over himself to ward off insects. Rick didn't know it, but, Daryll was fishing for something.

"Maybe. Should I?", Rick responded contemplatively while he tugged his beard.

"Wha'd you askin' me that for? I'm not the one who wanna kiss you?", Daryll said sounding annoyed.

"Oh hey, I didn't mean it like that... What?", Rick replied, confused at Daryll's obtuse reaction.

"You heard me.", Daryll snapped.

Rick was so involved into the increasingly strange conversation he was having with Daryll that he hardly noticed Carol approach. She was carrying a pail of kitchen scraps with her. On her way to the compost area, she looked directly at Rick and asked,

"So when are ya gonna kiss her, Rick?"

"Who? Ok. What is going on?", Rick knitted his brow feeling even more confused. He was beginning to feel crowed and ganged up on.

Carol chuckled, shook her head and emptied the pail behind the stables.

"Michonne, ya dummy! Who else!", Daryll exclaimed.

"Dad, everyone knows you have a thing for Michonne. We see you looking at her all the time", Carl pitched in while he gave Flame a good grooming.

Surprised and completely caught off guard, Rick fell silent. The only thing that he could think of next to say was, "You too?", to his son as he looked at him.

Rick had no idea that his feelings for Michonne showed, least of all to his son who just about now looked as though he was on board with the idea of his father showing interest in someone other than his mother.

Carl chuckled and turned to Carol and Daryll and said, "Guys, you know what Dad said to Michonne today? He said, "We missed you"."

Hearing this, made Daryll and Carol doubled over in laughter. In defense, Rick said nervously, " what's wrong with that?" His comment was met with even louder bursts of laughter.

Daryll finally caught his breath, wiped his eyes, looked at Rick square in the face and said, "Dude. She was away for a whole week and that's the best you could come up with? Douche bag."

"Who is a douche bag?" Hershel asked rhetorically just as he joined them. He knew exactly what was going on. He had been watching everything from the sidelines while he sat on a stool smoking his new pipe.

Rick threw up his hands in the air in defiance and wondered who else was going to join in on this roast. He was beginning to find the intervention to be a bit too much to handle.

"Rick, we are living in perilous times. If it isn't crazed armed men storming our home and walkers that are constantly threatening our lives, it is some deady virus that sneak up and wreak havoc. Three months ago, we lost close to a third of our people to some sickness. Time is short Rick. Make good use of it.", Hershel ended with more than an ounce of seriousness in his voice before he turned and departed. Hershel was a man who didn't say much but when he spoke, his words left you thinking.

Then, it dawned on Rick that Hershel was right. That time is indeed short, so why waste it.

"Ok. I admit. I like Michonne. But, I don't get the feeling she likes me."

"Dad, she likes you.", Carl replied with an absolute certainty.

"She told you that?", Rick asked. He knew that over time Michonne and his son developed a special bond. He wondered whether at some point they'd spoken of this.

"Dude, she said so with her eyes. Man, haven't you noticed the way she looks at you? Heck, even the kid gets it.", Daryll shot back impatiently.

"Rick. It's ok. We're with you on this." Carol said to him reassuringly.

Rick smiled and turned and looked to his son for his approval. Carl gave Flame's coat one final brush, looked up, met his father's eyes and said with a smile, "Dad, I am happy for you. You and Michonne deserve one another."

Hearing his son say that made him feel happy. A gigantic weight was immediately lifted. He watched his son leave the stables, run up to Hershel and show him the cool comics he got.

Carol walked up to Rick and stood directly in front of him. She looked at his beard which had grown thick, wide and down to his chest. Then, she said, "Put that shaver to some use. Douche bag.", chuckled, then headed back inside.

Daryll grunted before walking away.

Rick stood alone for a moment to collect his thoughts. He thought how lucky he was to be in company of fine people. Aside from the embarrassing roasting he just received, he thought about what Hershel, Carol, Daryll, and, Carl said and decided it was time he acted on it. Before he went inside, he reached over to Flame and gave him a good pat on the neck and said, "Do you think I'm a douche bag too?". Flame nodded.



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Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.