She tries to busy herself with preparations. She packs her limited wardrobe, toothbrush, and nearly dried out stick of deodorant in her bag. She reaches into her pocket to feel Sophia's ponytail holder and Lori's broken watch. Taking a deep breath, she takes one last look at the empty cell she has called home for so long, and goes to join the group.
Everyone is scattered, in and out of their cells, packing and loading weapons. She places her bag by the door and starts over to Beth and Judith when Rick grabs her arm.
"Need to talk to you," he says.
She searches his eyes. Daryl has been gone for hours. She is automatically fearing the worst.
Rick pulls her into a corner. "Daryl's outside."
Her eyes flicker to the door. "He's back?"
"Something must've happened with Merle. He's just...sitting in the front yard. I've tried talking to him. He won't respond to me."
Carol nods. "Let me out?"
Rick escorts her to the door and unlocks it. She slips out of the cell block and heads outside.
In spite of what she knows it can bring, she has to admit it is a beautiful day as she steps out into the bright sunshine. Shielding her eyes, she searches the yard until she sees Daryl sitting in a far corner by the fence. There are walkers on the other side of the fence, snarling and grasping at the air around him, but he seems to take no notice.
She approaches him carefully, as one would a wounded animal. She knows he'd never hurt her, but she fears what her presence might do to him. She remembers the morning they found Sophia at the farm, and how he just sat with her in the RV. No words needed to be spoken.
With that memory at the forefront of her mind, she kneels down next to him, sitting back on her haunches. His eyes don't flicker her way, his index finger never stops drawing the same tiny circle in the dirt next to his leg.
The urge to touch him is almost overpowering, but she resists. She settles for just sitting by him, trying to block out the walkers renewed snarling at her presence.
She does not know how long they are out there when he finally speaks.
"Everybody ready?" His voice is a whisper.
"Yes. Everything is packed in the cars, all weapons locked and loaded."
He nods, still intent on the tiny circle he's carving into the dirt.
"Gonna have one less fighter."
She nods. "You want to tell me what happened?"
He shrugs. "Use your imagination."
"I am," she admits.
"Everyone around here'll be happy he's gone."
"Do you really think that?"
"He didn't exactly play well with others."
"Michonne told us what he did. How he let her go. That he took her in the first place because he wanted to try and keep the prison safe for you. I may not agree with his methods, but I know you were the most important thing to him in this world."
Daryl jerks his head away from her, toward the fence. He takes a deep, shaky breath.
She reaches out, her fingers hovering over the stitched wings on his vest. She'd give anything to be able to place her hand on his back. It suddenly feels as if this very action, this very moment, will dictate the path they will travel. Her instincts warn her not to, but she ignores them, and settles her hand lightly on his back.
He is hypersensitive, and flinches immediately. But she refuses to pull away. She will not give him more, but she refuses to give him less. Perhaps this is selfish, she thinks, but the thought that they might die today makes her do things she might not otherwise.
"When we found Sophia, you were there for me. In your own way. And now I'm going to do the same for you, whether you like it or not. That's what friends do."
"Don't I get a say?"
He looks at her for the first time, his eyes red. But what nearly breaks her are the tear stains down his cheeks – blurry lines in the dirt on his face. "I'm not going to talk about it."
"You don't have to."
A bustle of activity by the prison catches their attention. They both watch as Rick and Glenn begin to strategize positions and tactics.
"Better get back," Daryl says.
"You staying with Judith?"
She looks at him. "No. Beth is. Between the two of us, I'm the better shot. And I figured Hershel would feel better knowing at least one of his daughters was out of the line of fire."
He nods slowly. "Makes sense."
"I thought so."
He stands, running a hand over his face. He offers her a hand up, and she takes it. Before he lets go he squeezes her fingers.
She musters up as much courage as she can to convey reassurance. "I will."