Author's Note: I don't own any part of The Walking Dead franchise and no profit has or will occur from this work. Set between seasons 3 and 4 with mild season 4 spoilers.

Here's another one from the archives. I needed a break from working on my other stuff so I dusted off this little experiment. It's a bit rough around the edges but presentable enough I suppose. Snow is on the horizon so, hopefully, that'll mean more updates on my other stories. Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading. Feedback is always welcome.

Chapter One

One day, a realization comes to Michonne as she leads Flame towards a familiar stream for a quiet drink and rest.

The funny thing is that it never seems like an epiphany or anything—just one of those stream of consciousness statements that run through your mind before you can censor it or backtrack or qualify it. In fact, when she turns the thought over in her mind, those deflecting tactics never even come into play. She just sort of rewinds the sentiment and comes to the same, newly articulated conclusion.

She really misses them, her new family back home at the prison.

It isn't just the absence of fondness or the longing for some specific sensation of comfort. She well and truly misses them. She didn't know she was capable of feeling that anymore after … everything.

She leads Flame from the shore and allows her to graze a few feet away. The horse seems happy enough with the respite, although she's usually as eager as Michonne is to be on the move. As Michonne looks around for signs of any useful food or supply items or hints of nearby life, her mind wanders to them again and she wonders if they miss her too; if anyone is thinking about her like she's thinking about them. She likes to think so. The promise of it makes her smile out here on her own with only Flame for company.

When she first started coming out alone, she knew that it was for a purpose. She'd gotten used to spending time out with Daryl, going on supply runs and looking for the Governor. But as time passed and their success dwindled, more pressing concerns and different priorities kept Daryl at the prison. It probably felt stranger for him to embrace his new role than it was for her to revert back to her old, solitary ways but it had been an adjustment for sure.

So she definitely misses him.

And she misses not spending as much time with Carl. They'd had a fun winter holed up in the prison, going through the stash of comic books she found over the fall. She thinks of him as a good kid, a boy a parent can be proud of. At such a young age, he's both obedient but prepared to become his own man and defend that identity to anyone who challenged it. Maybe she'd hit that housing development after all and see if she can dig up more treats for him.

She misses Rick too, ever the vigilant confidante. If Daryl could be counted as her wingman, Rick is her sensible companion dispensing advice and playing the role of her benign overseer. Daryl is more likely to sass her about something but it'd be Rick who put him up to it. They are an important support for each other in a way that no one else at the prison can be and it's lonely out here sometimes without that nearby.

Michonne can imagine what everyone would be doing at the prison right now. In a few hours they'd be shutting down for the day as all the various recreational evening activities started up. It was around that time that all the lovebirds found convenient excuses to disappear to a remote part of the prison. At least Glenn and Maggie didn't even bother hiding it anymore. Some would gather together for the friendly camaraderie while others would seek solitude and rest. Rick and Carl would be spending time with Judith. Hershel would be relaxing in the company of one or more of his numerous friends—he was definitely the most popular guy at the prison even if Daryl elicited more hero worship. Carol would be buzzing around in an effort to complete one of her long list of projects. Michonne swore that place would be a disaster without Carol getting on all the stuff that needed to be done. Maybe she'd get Daryl to help, listening to him grumble as he complied with every tedious request she made of him. Those two were a trip.

Flame turns from chewing on the grass and nudges Michonne in the arm with her nose, her way of telling Michonne to quit her stalling and get on the road.

"What do you say we head home?" she asks out loud, pretending she can carry on an entire coherent conversation with her equine traveling companion. It isn't any crazier than talking to her dead boyfriend, after all. Besides, in her mind, Flame has the uncanny ability to agree with almost anything she suggests.

True to her musings, Michonne passes by the abandoned housing development and scouts it out to report back to Sasha and Daryl. While she's out here, she may as well be productive, she figures, and her intel comes in pretty handy sometimes. She hits a few houses, noting which ones still have some supplies that might be handy to the folks at the prison. In the third house she finds a few graphic novels and comics, not a ton but nothing to sneeze at either. And these actually look pretty good. They'd been reading the same boring ones for a while now. Seeing the sun starting to make its descent, she hops back on Flame and gets on the road, weighed down with more supplies than she usually travels with. If Flame is annoyed about the heavier load, she doesn't show it.

She could have changed her mind and gone the other direction after leaving the housing development, spending a little more time on the road. But once she found the comics stash for her and Carl, she committed to heading back to the prison. Those earlier longings for her friends haven't faded away. Maybe she'd be gone again in a day or two, but for now it'd be nice to have the company, remind her why she's out here in the first place trying so hard to tie up loose ends.

Michonne rides steadily, trying to beat the sun so as not to sneak up on anybody. There is usually someone on watch at night but it's just harder to get in cleanly when folks aren't ready for her.

Luckily, when Michonne rounds the corner to come up the main path, Glenn and Maggie are walking outside having a lively conversation with Beth and that kid from the new group. Zach she thinks his name is. She's not really around enough to catch everyone's name and life story and such but she doesn't need to be completely in the know to protect them and what everyone is building with the group.

She whistles to announce her presence and tries to suppress her smile at seeing the familiar faces react to her return. The younger crowd isn't so constrained and telegraphs their delight at welcoming her back as they open the gate. Dismounting and unloading, she simply lets the pleasure of reconnecting with them take over. The small greeting party is full of an enthusiasm that is contagious. They remind her of who she used to be when she was their age. The end of the world didn't change some things.

Her yearning satisfied for the time being, she leads Flame up the main path into the further comforts of home.

TBC ...