Carol's whole body was rigid as she served dinner at the long picnic table. By her calculations, it had been twenty-nine hours since Daryl had set off with Michonne and Glenn on what should have been a quick run into town.
She barely looked at the faces of her team as they sat around the table, eating another meal in tense silence.
In the distance, she heard what she thought was the sound of tires rolling in the dirt, but she shook her head, not wanting to get her hopes up again.
Maggie was the first to stand. She watched as the younger girl rose from the bench, head cocked to the side and eyes intense.
Rick must have heard it too because he was the next to rise, nodding to Tyreese and Carl to get them to help him open the fence.
All at once, the rest of the group ran to the door and Carol had to remind herself how to breathe as she stood in the doorway watching the truck roll through the gate.
Hershel called for everyone to settle down and it was only a few moments later that the trio was walking through the door, with Rick, Carl, and Tyreese right behind them.
Maggie was practically in tears as she rushed forward to embrace Glenn and he closed his eyes, eagerly returning her embrace.
Carl had been hanging back, but in the next second he had thrown his arms around Michonne's waist and she gently stroked his hair.
Carol raised both hands to her face as she took in the sight of Daryl, tightly pressing one against her mouth to muffle any cry that might escape.
"Relax. It's walker blood, not mine," he said softly, his expression solemn as he stepped in front of her.
She nodded wordlessly, wiping silent tears from her eyes.
"I'm fine," he insisted, walking past her. A quick glance over his shoulder told her that he wanted to her to follow him, so she did.
She stood against the wall facing his bunk, wanting desperately to throw her arms around him the way Maggie and Carl had done to Glenn and Michonne, but she held back. Instead she just regarded him softly, waiting for him to speak.
"Was getting attached to this shirt," he muttered as he proceeded to pull it off over his head. "Think you could wash that up for me?"
"Of course," she told him, reaching out to take the bloodied garment from him. "You know, there's dinner ready in the kitchen area."
He shook his head. "Not hungry." He reached into a pile of clothes for a new shirt.
"Maybe later then," she offered, trying to keep cheerful for his benefit.
"I told Rick I'd take watch."
She raised an eyebrow. "Now? But you just got back. And you…. y-you should rest."
He shrugged. "Ain't no way I'll be able ta sleep right now."
She nodded. "Alright." She held up the bloody shirt. "I'll get started on this for you then."
"Nuh-uh. It's dark out. Stay put."
She offered him a half-smile. "I'll be fine, with you keeping watch. Besides, I don't want you to go out tomorrow without your favorite shirt."
He rolled his eyes, muttering something about a "stubborn broad."