A/N: For all the fellow Richonne shippers! Thanks to ameliasponderland, kendrat199, and shygirly002 for requesting. Enjoy :)

Winking blue eyes scanned the yard through the sight of a rifle, searching for any sign of danger. He'd gotten everyone ready—Carol, Glenn, Maggie, Daryl. Even Carl had his gun locked and loaded, just waiting for the word. "He wants us dead...we're going to war."

But something—no, someone—was missing. He tried to justify her ransoming as a necessary evil; there was no way around it. Right? Hershel told him no, Daryl hitched, and even Merle hesitated. So what the hell is wrong with me?

His nerves were stretched taut, every sound, smell and sight plucking the thin strings. From the guard tower, he saw everything. Glenn and Maggie were on the far side of the gates. He could just make out their bodies as Glenn twirled her around and hugged her. Wonder what that's about. Over the chorus of walker groans, their feather-light laughter tickled his ears.

Beth, Carl and Hershel roamed by the benches, staring out at the undead rattling the fences.

"I want Michonne." He couldn't believe he'd given her up, just like that. The Governor demanded, and he'd folded without cause. Of course he knew the bastard was lying, even if one eye was covered. His other steel grey one spoke of nothing but death and destruction.

To watch their faces fall when he informed them about the deal…it was almost too much. He'd failed again. A familiar voice haunted him, all gusto and taunts. "I'm a better man than you, Rick. A better father…"

Still, he held onto the possibility, the foolish hope that the Governor would keep his word. But now, with death rippling at their backs, reality slapped him. I want her too. Lori told him so. She beamed down at him, hand on her rounded belly when—

A shadow caught his eye, emerging from the dense forest brush. Tracking it, the body became clearer and clearer until he was sure. Only when he lowered the rifle did he realize his mouth was open, gulping the decayed autumn air. How? Had something happened to Merle? Daryl?

He raced down to the yard and helped Carl yank open the gates. The old hinges squeaked, and he watched with slight pride as a single stroke of her katana sliced the heads off two oncoming walkers.

She strolled in, tipping her head to Carl and wiping her sword on the singed grass.

"Michonne!" he shouted, rushing forward to meet her. "Welcome back."

"Thanks, Carl," she replied, sheathing her weapon. She clapped him on the shoulder and continued on.

"You're back." Rick's voice was hoarse, his eyes wide in disbelief. Her pitch eyes bored a million flitting emotions into his, but one common thread ran through—anger. She quickly veiled it, and as fast as it appeared, it was gone.

"Am I?" The question was the nail in his coffin. She knows. And more than that, she knew that he almost went through with it.

He brushed the icy words off and walked alongside her, stuffing his growing guilt in a box for a day when they weren't at war. The others soon joined them, chattering away at how happy they were to have her back. Carol had come out with Judith, awkwardly fussing over the reddish bruise on Michonne's nose. Hershel asked if it hurt, he had something that could help. Maggie hugged her and whispered something in her ears that made her smile; Glenn gave her a tight hug.

It was a spot of sunshine on an otherwise glum day. In all the commotion, no one asked the right question. When they'd left her alone, he lingered, waiting for the right words.

"How'd you get back?"

"Merle let me go." Her words were terse, and she refused to look at him.

"He let you go?" He knew Merle; he didn't just let someone go. But there was no lie on her face. What the hell?

"Yeah," she snapped, tracing circles with her foot across the prison floor. "He let me go. Sorry to disappoint."

Shit. There was no easy way out of this. But for a multitude of reasons, he couldn't afford to lose her. She was pissed beyond words. Her lips were hard set, eyes low and glaring; her arms were laced across her chest.

She's great with a sword, he thought feebly. The growing knot in his throat reminded him that he couldn't hide from himself. That was definitely not why. Maybe it was the cedar and oak scent that wafted when she walked by; maybe it was the way she got along with Carl; maybe it was the fact that she knew about his problem and still put faith in him.

"Look," started Rick, summoning his strongest words. Please, let me say this right. "I'm not gonna sit here an' try to lie to you, Michonne. I screwed up and I know it, okay? I didn't know what to do—death's knocking on our door and I panicked…but truth is we need you. I need you."

He stepped closer, heart speeding. She was silent, but made no move to shy away. Like Michonne actually knows how to be shy. She only stared at him. From head to toe, she raked her eyes over every inch of his body, looking for something.

Rick felt the illegible brown eyes as they searched, her gaze burning hot trails on his skin. First, his face—his lips, his eyes—she saw right through him, taking time to memorize each part of what stood before her. His shoulders were next, then lower and lower…

Dammit, Michonne, say something!

"I know," she answered after an eternity of silence, a shrewd smile curving her full lips. Her words were simple, but her eyes said what her mouth couldn't. "I understand. You're too good for that."

The sun shone bright above their heads and he watched as Michonne strolled off, katana bouncing on her back and hips swishing. He cleared his head with a shake and started back for the guard tower, image of the mysterious beauty still dancing on the fringe of his mind.

Rick just had to smile. Bet she's real good with a sword.