After The End
Rosie could tell that was Daryl was pissed as the group traipsed through the forest, back the way they had come looking for little Sophia. Daryl was at the front of the small group, leading everyone and grumbling under his breath every couple of minutes. Rosie kept on the outside of the tight group, towards the back where Andrea stood.
After the single gunshot had echoed through the trees, the entire group had been on edge. Rosie kept her eyes focused on the surrounding area, relying on her senses while Andrea, Lori and Carol fretted about the shot. Glenn and Daryl had the same idea as her, keeping their respective weapons at the ready while they stayed at the edge of the tight formation the group had formed.
As the three stressed women sat down for a moment, needing a break, Rosie kept her gun raised. She noticed Glenn had relaxed and lowered his weapon, so she paced along the forest floor, inching further and further away from the group. She turned back to catch the tail-end of their conversation.
“…We’re gonna locate that little girl,” Daryl’s voice was determined as he stared right into Carol’s eyes, clearly intimidating her. “An’ she’s gonna be just fine. Am I the only zen one around here?” He started to walk away from Carol and Lori and caught Rosie’s eye as he passed her. “Good lord.”
Rosie held back a laugh as he spoke before turning to carry on as the group started to move again. She found herself walking beside Andrea who was lagging behind the rest of the group, looking downcast.
“You good?” She spoke quietly, keeping her eyes on her feet but still holding her gun at the ready.
Andrea sighed before answering softly. “Just tired of being treated like I’m useless. Don’t see you getting your gun taken away.”
Rosie raised her eyebrows at the sharp tone of her friend’s words before sighing as well. “I don’t see anyone taking me seriously, either,” she spoke, looking at Andrea’s surprised face. “You know how much I have to argue every day to even come into the woods? Even when I’m with Daryl, or Shane? It’s like I spend every minute trying to prove myself and every day I start from scratch.”
She kept her voice low as the words flowed from her lips, surprising both Andrea and herself. Glancing ahead, she noticed how far behind the two had fallen from the rest of the group.
“Wow,” Andrea let out a quiet laugh. “Seems like it’s been playing on your mind, huh?”
Rosie opened her mouth to laugh along with her friend but stopped short when she noticed the sound of slow footsteps approaching from the trees beside them. She raised her gun but Andrea was still unaware and kept talking.
“Shh!” Rosie hissed just as the rotting hand from the walker reached out and gripped onto Andrea’s shoulder. Rosie subconsciously took a step back, steadying her arms so that she could aim her gun properly.
In one rushed movement, Andrea had pushed the walker away from her with all her weight. Time moved excruciatingly slowly as the walker stumbled backwards right into Rosie, knocking her petite frame backwards onto the forest floor. The gun flew from her hand and she grunted as wind was knocked out of her.
Gnashing teeth were suddenly in her face as she felt the force of the weight of the walker’s body pinning her down. She pushed on the chest of the body with both hands, mustering up all her strength in an attempt to shove it off of her, but the walker was still relatively strong and Rosie had never been particularly muscly.
She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to wriggle out from under the body whilst still keeping it as far away as possible.
Turning her head, she saw Andrea frozen where the walker had attacked her, her hand over her mouth.
“Andrea,” Rosie’s voice was strained as her arms began to weaken. “Help me!”
It was like Andrea had gone into shock. Tears threatened Rosie’s eyes as she took a deep breath, ignoring the spit that was flying onto her face. She let out a short, sharp scream, not intending for her lips to form Daryl’s name.
Daryl’s panicked voice sounded miles away as Rosie attempted using her knee to help her shove the walker off, but she could barely lift her leg under the weight.
In one swift second, the movement from the walker had stopped and Rosie felt warm liquid hitting her face. She shut her eyes and mouth, moving her head to the side as she allowed the body to drop. It fell on top of her, unmoving, as she let her arms relax.
Tears overflowed from her eyes as she struggled to take in deep breaths, her heartbeat filling her ears. The body was yanked off of her and she opened her wet eyes to see Daryl throwing the body next to him, looking furious. He grabbed her hand and pulled her up.
Rosie looked up at him, only for her gaze to be torn away by the woman who had saved her. She was sitting atop her horse, still clutching her weapon tightly: a worn-looking baseball bat, now covered in brain matter. She was talking to Lori urgently.
“You gotta come now! There’s been an accident, Carl’s been shot.”
“What?” Lori’s voice was filled with panic as she shot forward, already shrugging off her backpack.
“He’s still alive but you gotta come now,” the woman’s southern accent was thick as she moved the horse closer, her eyes pleading with Lori. “Rick needs you, just come!”
As Lori began to mount the horse, Daryl stepped forward, gesturing wildly. “Woah, woah, woah, we don’t know this girl! You can’t get on that horse!”
Ignoring Daryl, the woman kept talking, giving them directions to get to her family’s farm. “The name of the farm is Greene.”
In a matter of seconds, the two women on the horse were gone, leaving the group dumbfounded.
If Daryl hadn’t been furious before, he was now. He cursed loudly, shooting an arrow through the brain of the walker that had attacked Rosie before turning back to her and Andrea. Rosie backed away subconsciously as she saw the look in his eyes as he advanced towards her.
“An’ what the hell was that?! Huh?!” He was so close to her face before he moved to look at Andrea, keeping an accusing finger pointed at Rosie.
“It was my fault,” Andrea said quietly, her eyes still wide with shock from the events of the last five minutes. “I-I froze up.”
Daryl stared at her for a moment before turning back to Rosie, his expression still filled with anger but his breathing much more relaxed now. “You hurt?” His voice was gruff, making her shrink back slightly. She just shook her head as she scooped up the gun she had forgotten about during the whole commotion.
“Forget it,” Rosie cut off Andrea as she stalked ahead, taking Daryl’s place at the head of the group as they began to move again, Glenn now shouldering Lori’s backpack as well as his own.
Rosie was perched on the steps of the RV as what remained of their group discussed moving to the farm. She kept her eyes on her twisting fingers as Carol resisted, not wanting to leave when there was the option of Sophia finding her way back to the highway.
As Daryl told the group his plan of leaving supplies and a sign, Rosie silently pulled herself up and into the RV, not glancing behind her but sure that there would be at least one set of eyes on her. She let herself into the tiny bathroom that the vehicle had to offer and locked the door behind her, wanting just a moment to herself. As she turned into the room, she caught sight of herself in the small mirror above the sink.
Half of her face was covered in dried blood, caked into her blonde hair and making it appear a dark brown. There was a cut below her hairline on the right side and her eyes were still slightly puffy from her near-death experience. She was at least happy to see that the bruising by her eye was almost gone, along with the cut that had adorned her top lip right in the centre from Shane’s attack.
As she touched her face gingerly, there was a rapping on the door.
“Yeah?” She called quietly.
“Everything okay?” She smiled at the familiar sound of Dale’s concerned voice. She opened up the door to see him there, his bushy brows pulled together.
“Was just wanting to clean up,” she smiled, pointing to the bloody mess on her face.
“I thought so,” Dale smiled, holding out a half-used packet of wet wipes.
Her heart swelled at the sight of the packet, something she never thought she’d be so happy about. “Thank you,” she breathed, taking them and clutching them tightly to her chest.
“Let me know if you need anything,” With a comforting squeeze on her shoulder, he disappeared. She locked the door again before getting to work on cleaning her face, trying to use as little amount of the wipes as she could.
Rosie was leaning against the side of the RV, trying to block out the sounds of Carol’s sobs for her daughter. It was dark now, and Carol had gone to bed without eating anything.
Rosie rubbed her temples, tiredness radiating off every part of her body. Glenn had taken T-Dog to the farm while she’d been cleaning herself up. They’d wanted to get T-Dog’s arm checked immediately, but no one else could stand the thought of not waiting one more night for Sophia.
Not wanting to go to sleep just yet, Rosie began to pace. Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, letting her mind go blank but still keeping a light hand resting on where her gun was tucked into her waistband.
She looked up at the sound of someone exiting the RV, frowning when Daryl spilled out, followed by Andrea. “Where are you going?” She asked, noticing how Daryl avoided her gaze.
“Goin’ to look for Sophia again,” he mumbled, eventually meeting her concerned gaze. “S’gonna be fine.”
“It’s dark out,” she responded and Daryl rolled his eyes at her obvious remark, however she didn’t crack a smile like she normally would.
“S’gonna be fine,” he repeated. He slung his crossbow over his shoulder, gun in hand, before adding, “You wanna come with?”
Rosie glanced at Andrea and back at Daryl, almost agreeing with him before an extra loud sob sounded from the back of the RV again.
“Nah,” she shook her head. “Best stay in case Carol needs something. But be careful, okay?”
Daryl just rolled his eyes before mumbling something about not needing her to be his mother, and him and Andrea were gone in the shadows, Andrea throwing one last guilty look at Rosie, who ignored it.
Rosie waited another twenty minutes before she couldn’t take the heaviness of her eyelids any longer. She called up to Dale, who was sat atop the RV keeping watch, that she was calling it a night and headed to the car she’d been sleeping in the past few nights. She had moved the car she’d been calling home so that it was closer to the RV earlier in the day, not wanting to be further away from the group when it was so much smaller. As she made herself comfortable in her makeshift bed, she could still make out Carol’s crying. Squeezing her eyes shut, she wished that she had gone with Daryl instead of Andrea.
Rosie had woken with a jolt at the sound of the car door opening, surprising her from where she was laying on the backseat. As she blindly fumbled for her gun, the moonlight having disappeared behind cloud cover, a familiar voice shushed her.
“Jus’ me,” Daryl mumbled. He slid onto the seat next to her as she let out the breath she’d been holding. She allowed her hand to relax as she leaned back against the car interior and tried to slow down the beating of her heart.
Daryl wedged his crossbow on the floor of the car by his feet, his tall frame slightly bent in the small car. He looked at Rosie with a frown, not forgetting how frightened she had just looked.
“I don’t like you bein’ here all alone,” he said quietly, his voice rough. “Why’re you not in the RV with the others?”
“There’s not a lot of room,” she shrugged nonchalantly, making Daryl scoff.
“There’s plenty of room!”
Rosie rolled her eyes at the way he raised his voice before sighing in defeat. “I couldn’t bear listening to Carol cry anymore,” she muttered, guilt weighing heavy on her heart and making her avoid his eyes. She glared at the hole that was forming in her jeans at her knee before she began to pick at the loose threads. She only looked back at Daryl when he grabbed her busy hand, her skin soft against his calloused one.
“I know,” he grunted, dropping her hand once he’d realized what he’d done. “That’s why I went out. So sick of her cryin’.”
Instead of replying, Rosie just searched his eyes, knowing he was holding something back. He fidgeted as his eyes darted up to hers before immediately looking away again, and she realized that he was feeling helpless, just like she was. She decided not to pry, knowing any kind of emotional talk would backfire catastrophically, and instead changed the subject.
“You didn’t find anything then?”
“Nah,” Daryl shook his head and then let it fall back against the headrest, his eyes shutting.
“How was it? With Andrea?” Rosie’s voice came out slightly muffled as she began to chew on her thumbnail. Regret at not going with him and being able to have a little alone time with him was playing on her mind, causing the seed of jealousy to grow as she thought about Daryl and Andrea alone in the woods together at night.
Daryl just shrugged as he turned his head, opening his eyes to look at her. “S’okay.”
Rosie just nodded, letting her eyes rest on a hole in the shoulder of his shirt instead of on his face. She felt her cheeks start to burn as she noticed he hadn’t moved, his eyes were still watching her intently. As she nervously met his gaze, she saw that he was squinting in concentration.
“What’s wrong with ya?” He mumbled.
“What?” Rosie let out a forced laugh, her cheeks growing pinker by the second. “What do you mean?”
It was then that Daryl let out a genuine laugh, surprising her with the unfamiliarity of it. Her eyes widened slightly as his laughter grew louder, but not loud enough to draw any attention to them. She glanced at Dale atop the RV, relieved when she saw he was faced away, before she looked back at Daryl with annoyance in her eyes.
“What are you laughing at?” She hissed, hitting his chest as his breathing went back to normal. He still had that shit-eating grin on his face as the last of his chuckles subsided.
Rosie’s eyes widened before narrowing into angry slits. She folded her arms across her chest, trying to crush the fact that she knew he was right. Her cheeks were still tinted pink, now fuelled by embarrassment as well as anger.
“Jealous? And what the hell am I jealous of exactly, Daryl?” Her voice came out much steadier than she thought it would, making her tilt her chin a little higher with confidence.
It didn’t work on Daryl. He only smirked at her before rubbing the side of his jaw thoughtfully, the smugness still all over him.
“Ugh, you’re annoying,” she grumbled when he didn’t reply and she let herself sink further into the seat, her resolve defeated.
Daryl shuffled slightly closer and dropped a hand on her knee, surprising them both with his sudden confidence. She looked up at him and he was overcome with some feeling he hadn’t felt before as he stared into her clear eyes. The need to touch her was overwhelming him.
“You ain’t got nothin’ to be jealous of,” he smirked. Without thinking, he had his hand gently on her cheek, his thumb rubbing soothingly along her jawline, and he was kissing her gently. She was surprised by how sweet and soft he was being and immediately crumbled under him, letting herself melt into the kiss.
It ended all too quickly. As she slid her tongue along his lower lip, he pulled back, his hand holding her face in place slightly as she tried to lean forward and kiss him again. He breathed a light laugh at her pout before throwing an arm around her shoulder and pulling her into his side.
“Go to sleep,” he whispered into her ear, his rough voice tickling her spine as she buried herself in his side, breathing in his earthy scent.
Rosie woke up the next morning in the car, alone. Daryl’s earthy smell was still thick in the air and as she looked around herself, she noticed that his jacket was draped over her. She smiled to herself, lifting it to her face and inhaling deeply, before she began to rub her eyes and get out of the car.
The first person she saw was Carol, leaning over the guardrail and staring deeply into the woods. I guess there was no sign of Sophia overnight, Rosie thought to herself, tearing her eyes away from the woman and seeing no one else around.
She began to mount the steps to the RV, one hand resting on the rail while the other clutched the collar of Daryl’s jacket. Her newly acquired backpack was swung over one shoulder; she’d learned to keep all her belongings on her at all times. As she made it into the RV, she heard the voices of Dale, Andrea and Daryl.
“Hey,” her voice came out croaky from sleep and she cleared it as all eyes moved to her.
“Sleep okay?” Andrea asked timidly, still aware of Rosie being mad at her. Rosie just smiled slightly at her and nodded.
“We were just about to wake you,” Dale spoke, adjusting his bucket hat and peering out the window at Carol before he looked back at Rosie. “We should get moving.”
“Yeah, I want to see how Carl’s doing,” Rosie agreed. She stepped out of the RV, the others following her to coax Carol into moving.
Rosie caught sight of large white letters on the windscreen of an abandoned car, the sign that Daryl had come up with to leave in case Sophia came back to the highway. In front of it was a hefty amount of food and water.
A body moved to stand next to her and Rosie squinted up to see Daryl looking at the sign too. She handed him his jacket with a small smile. “Thanks,” she mumbled.
All Daryl did was grunt and grab it without even looking at her.
As the group got ready to head out, Rosie was stood next to Daryl’s bike, waiting.
“What are you doin’?”
“I’m coming on your bike,” Rosie’s voice was steady and calm.
She glanced back at where the others were already in the vehicles, waiting for Daryl to take the lead, before looking back at him. “We’re really gonna do this again?” Her voice came out exasperated. She was trying so hard to catch Daryl’s eye, but he just mounted the bike and looked straight ahead.
“Not doin’ anything,” he mumbled, sparing a quick glance her way, his features hard.
“Daryl, c’mon, even after last night?” Rosie’s cheeks went a little pink.
Daryl looked at her straight in the eyes now and anger flashed across his face, confusing her. “Last night was nothin’, Rosie. When are you gonna get it through your pretty little blonde head? Huh? I. Don’t. Care. About. You.”
Rosie took a small step back, her eyes searching his face as her stomach dropped to her feet. He stayed staring at her, his features moving from angry to blank, just nothing. She had no idea why he’d woken up in such a shitty mood and why he had to take it out on her. Embarrassment-fueled anger swelled in the bottom of her stomach as she looked at him.
“So you kiss people you don’t care about, huh?” her voice came out shaky and she knew he could tell how much he had hurt her with his words. She knew that he must care about her just a little bit.
“We kissed! Big fuckin’ deal!” he was getting angrier and it was scaring Rosie a little as he moved his hands around, gesturing wildly. “I kiss a lotta people, Rosie! I kissed Andrea ‘bout twenty minutes before I kissed you!”
It was that last comment that made Rosie’s heart shatter into a million pieces. She looked down at her shoes as the tears started to fill her eyes. When she glanced back up, she saw that he was back to looking straight ahead, his face visibly pissed off.
“You don’t want me hanging around you anymore? Fine!” She spat the words out with venom, surprising him enough that he glanced back at her. Tears were streaking down her face now, making his heart thump in his chest. “You’re an asshole!” She shouted angrily, pointing a finger at him before storming over to the RV.
Daryl slammed his hands against the handlebars of his bike and cursed quietly. The sound of a horn behind him made him start up his engine and begin to move, quickly holding his middle finger up to whoever had beeped him.
When the small group reached the farm, they immediately saw the rest of their community spilling out onto the driveway. Rosie let out a sigh of relief to see that no one was hurt, but quirked her eyebrow at Shane’s outfit of overalls and a farmer’s shirt.
They began to file out of their vehicles and Rick explained what had happened with Carl and how Shane and Otis had saved his life, losing Otis’ in the process.
As Dale, Lori and Andrea moved forward to hug Rick and Lori, Rosie approached Shane, a friendly smile on her face. She pulled him into a tight hug before stepping back and looking him up and down.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” she smiled and he nodded at her, his eyes flicking around the group nervously. “And I love your outfit.”
Shane laughed then, but it was short. “M’glad you’re okay, Ro. I knew ya would be though,” he ruffled her hair before throwing his arm around her like he used to and they moved closer into the group.
“We’re gonna have a little service for Otis,” Rick informed the group and, as he said the man’s name, Rosie felt Shane’s arm tighten slightly, like he was tensing. She glanced up at him, but he was staring straight at Rick, his eyes glowering.
As the group began to disperse, Dale, Andrea and Carol going to grab their stuff from the vehicles, Rosie caught Daryl’s narrowed eyes. He was staring at her intensely, making her stomach fill with butterflies, but she squashed them down and scowled at him, remembering the words he’d spoken to her earlier on the highway.
Throughout Otis’ memorial, Rosie had fought her hardest to keep her eyes away from Daryl, but every now and then they would wander over, seeing him watching her. He would never look away after being caught, would only keep looking at her, his gaze burning with some heavy emotion that she couldn’t pick up on. As much as she tried to remember what an ass he had been to her, her face would tint pink every time. She couldn’t forget how he made her feel, so she instead moved slightly so that she was stood behind Carol, leaving her out of Daryl’s line of sight.
Shane’s short speech for Otis had been off, something that only Rosie had seemed to notice as she subtly looked at the faces of everyone else. He had been acting nervous since she’d seen him and his eyes were constantly darting around, like he was worried about being caught out for something.
At the end of the service, Rosie found herself sitting on the porch step, waiting to hear any news about Carl. She looked up when she heard someone swing the front door open behind her, expecting to see Rick or Lori. Instead, it was the girl from the woods who had saved her and whisked Lori away.
Rosie stood up and looked at her, the girl looking straight back before surveying the rest of their group. “Rosie, right?” her accent was thick as she spoke, not even looking back at where Rosie was stood a couple steps below her.
“Yeah,” Rosie replied, moving up the stairs so she was stood next to her when she finally turned to look at her.
“Thanks for saving me, back there in the woods,” Rosie shrugged sheepishly, hating the fact that she had to be saved back in that moment.
Maggie just shrugged. “Just doin’ what I have to,” she said before heading back to the front door. She turned back to look at Rosie before she spoke again. “You can come in if you want. Get somethin’ to eat, check on Carl.”
That was the only invitation Rosie needed, so she followed Maggie inside hungrily, finally feeling the relief of Daryl’s burning gaze not following her. As Maggie prepared something for her to eat, Rosie looked around before sliding into a seat and dropping her backpack by her feet. Maggie slid a plate with a sandwich on it over to her and she couldn’t stop herself from wolfing it down greedily.
Maggie sat across from her, watching her with amusement in her eyes. “So how’d you end up with Shane and Rick’s group?”
Rosie swallowed the bite of sandwich she’d just taken before answering, all food etiquette being thrown out the window at this point. “Found them on the highway just out of the city,” she responded, her voice flat as she tried not to remember how she’d ended up alone. “I was by myself, an’ I saw this big group of tents. Thought I was dreaming.”
“You were by yourself?” Maggie’s voice came out surprised, her brows stitching together to show a frown at the horror she imagined. Rosie only shrugged. “How’d you end up by yourself?” Maggie pushed even further.
Rosie glanced down at her lap as she slowed down her chewing, not wanting to get into it. She looked back up at Maggie who was watching her intently and sighed, knowing that it might feel good to talk about it. “You know, you’re the only one who’s asked me that.”
Maggie just shot her a small, sympathetic smile. “You don’t have to-”
“No, it’s okay,” Rosie finished off her sandwich before continuing. “I was with my older brother, Alistair, and my mom. We were just waiting in this massive line of cars; everyone was trying to get out of the city. Someone turned I guess, and that was it.”
“What happened to your family?” Maggie pressed, her hand having flown to her mouth at Rosie’s last sentence and apparent nonchalance.
“They were just…gone,” Rosie’s voice was still flat and emotionless as she shrugged at Maggie. Not wanting to look at the girl’s shocked face any longer, Rosie stood up and dropped her plate in the sink. “Thanks for the sandwich.”
And with that, she was out the front door, not even bothering to check up on Carl, knowing that even bringing up her family was enough to turn the waterworks on. She discreetly slid past the group and made her way around the side of the house before she lowered herself to the ground and began to quietly sob.