After The End
Rosie eyed Michonne’s pet walkers carefully, keeping her distance from them. She let her eyes settle on Andrea’s weak form between the two women.
“How are you doing?” She asked quietly, her gaze darting around them as they neared the edge of the forest. She always hated being out in the open, but Michonne was right when she insisted that they raid the town for food.
Andrea didn’t respond, just sighed. She had become so weak in the five months that the women had been travelling with Michonne, their hooded rescuer from the woods.
“We’re almost there,” Michonne’s smooth, cool voice sounded and Andrea nodded, her gaze fixed on her booted feet.
Rosie glanced down at her own boots, happy to be rid of those ridiculous running shoes she had left the farm with. She now sported a sturdy pair of hiking boots, her tight jeans tucked into them and the thick woolen socks she had grabbed from a sporting store. She wiggled her foot, feeling around to make sure that the hunting knife from Rick’s gun bag was still secure, letting out a held breath when she felt it.
She glanced back at the walkers again, not liking that they were behind the three. Michonne caught her wary gaze and smirked slightly.
“They can’t do anything, even if they wanted to,” the woman spoke, keeping her eyes ahead as they reached the road.
“Doesn’t make it any less creepy,” Rosie retorted. She watched a grin creep over Michonne’s normally hard features. Rosie frowned. She hadn’t smiled since the farm.
The cool wind rustled through the trees and the breeze ruffled her hair that was now brushing the small of her back. She pulled her sweater closer to her, the speckled knit that Maggie had given her reminding her of her lost family. She sighed, fingering the ripped hem and trying to picture each face she had lost.
“You cold?” Michonne asked gently, nodding to the closest building, a convenience store.
Rosie just shrugged, though she was. Even though they were into spring now, the breezes were still cool. She hadn’t even had time to grab her pack from the farmhouse and was left to scavenge from houses and stores that they raided. She’d been lucky to find the boots. She didn’t think she’d be lucky enough to find a warm jacket or a pair of jeans that would fit well enough. She didn’t want anything too big that the walkers could grab on to.
“Not much of a talker, are you?” Michonne mused, tugging on the chain that connected to her pets’.
“Coming from you?”
Michonne chuckled quietly.
The truth was, Rosie had been a talker. She knew Daryl had hated it when she rambled on, and Rick had always loved to be distracted by her random thoughts, and T-Dog and Glenn loved to chat about their old lives with her. But now, anything that she wanted to talk about hurt her too much.
She glanced towards Andrea, seeing that her eyes were squeezed tight and pain etched across her features. Rosie tried the door, sighing with relief when it creaked open. She held up her hand to signal for the others to wait, grabbing her gun with the other hand and tapping it loudly against the wall. They waited.
She and Michonne had developed a system when Andrea had grown weak and sick. One of them would stay behind, usually Michonne with the walkers, keeping a look out, especially when they were in an open area. Meanwhile, someone else would stay inside, trying to cause enough raucous to bring out any hiding walkers. They had had more than enough instances with surprise walkers to risk it again. Andrea would wait between them, trying to stop herself from being sick or from fainting.
“It’s good,” Rosie muttered, holding the door open for the blonde woman and watching as Michonne ushered her pets in before herself. Rosie rolled her eyes, muttering about the ridiculousness of the situation as she closed and bolted the door behind them all.
“Anything you can find, okay Andrea?” She said quietly, watching her friend with concern. “Then we can rest.”
Andrea nodded, throwing what was supposed to be a reassuring smile her way, but it just came off as a grimace. “You got it, boss.”
The women split up in the small store, covering different sections to make it quicker. Rosie found herself in the canned goods aisle and worked at stuffing a backpack she had scavenged in their travels full with anything she could find. After spending their first month on the road starving, she wanted to be ready for anything.
She moved towards the fridges that had long since died and opened them, recoiling at the foul stench of rotten milk. She grabbed the remaining bottles of water, opening one straight away and quenching her thirst.
“Andrea,” she called quietly, before tossing an unopened bottle to the woman. She caught it gratefully and started chugging.
As she moved over to Michonne, she offered her the same one she had been drinking, now with half left. “Find anything good?”
“Batteries, flashlights, painkillers,” Michonne listed off, pausing to throw back the water.
“What does Andrea need exactly?” Rosie questioned, her voice much lower as she checked to see that Andrea couldn’t hear them.
“A doctor,” Michonne answered gravely.
Rosie sighed and moved away, wishing for the hundredth time that Herschel was there with them.
A loud crash caused both women to raise their weapons, Rosie with her gun and Michonne with her katana. They rounded the corner of the aisle they were in carefully, seeing Andrea on the ground clutching at her chest. Rosie dropped her weapon immediately and shot down so she was knelt by her friend.
“What is it? What hurts?”
“I can’t,” Andrea gasped, struggling to take in breaths. “I can’t breathe.”
Rosie moved her to sit up, leaning her against the shelf behind her and grabbing her hands. “Just relax, okay? Just relax and you’ll be able to breathe.”
Andrea did as she said and, eventually, even, steady breaths came out of her.
Rosie glanced up at Michonne, who was watching over them with worry. “She needs to rest. Do you think we can hole up here for the night?”
Michonne nodded wordlessly, moving away from the two while Rosie looked back down at her friend. Andrea’s eyes were shut now.
“Don’t go to sleep yet, Andrea,” Rosie muttered, shaking her shoulders so she would open them back up. “You can sleep soon, okay?”
Daryl found himself keeping watch one night, sat on one of their cars outside the house the group was holed up in. They had been there for two days and he knew they would have to leave soon, just as they had done for the seven months that they’d been on the road since the farm fell. He fiddled with one of his arrows, twirling it in his fingers as he watched the road around them, his eyes fully adjusted to the dark.
A sound behind him made him stand up, his back straight as he reached for his crossbow silently. He relaxed his shoulders when he saw that it was Rick exiting the house, shutting the door carefully behind him before heading over to Daryl, how had become his right hand man.
“Can’t sleep?” Daryl questioned, his voice low as he looked back to where the threat would come from.
“Nah,” Rick responded. His voice was tired and tense, like it had been for some months now. Daryl knew how hard Rick was trying to find them a permanent home, somewhere where Lori could have her baby with minimal risk.
Daryl glanced at his friend. Rick’s face was covered in a thick beard, something that he had taken to tugging at whenever he got too stressed, which was all the time now. The lines on his face never disappeared, the stress and the pain there permanently.
“We’re gonna find somewhere, man,” Daryl spoke softly, hoping to reassure the person who had become so important to him. He knew Rick relied on him, and it made him feel good to be needed. Like he used to be with her.
Rick nodded appreciatively, clapping him on the shoulder. They stood like that for a moment longer before Rick felt the need to speak.
“You think she’s still out there?”
“Who?” Daryl played dumb, making himself busy with his crossbow.
“You know who,” Rick responded softly, wondering if it had been a mistake to bring her up.
Daryl paused, before looing into the icy blue eyes of his friend. “Nah,” he spoke, the words tearing at the hole in his heart, threatening to bust it open. “We would have run into her by now.”
Rick nodded sadly, feeling the loss in a different way. He had lost his friend, someone who he trusted and loved.
“’Sides,” Daryl continued. “Ain’t no one who can survive on their own. Not even her.”
“She was tough,” Rick agreed, hands on his hips. “We can… do a service, if you want?”
Daryl just scoffed, wiping at his wet eyes and turning away from his friend. “Nah, she wouldn’t want us to waste time on that.”
Rick could only nod an okay. “Go get some sleep, man.”
Daryl shook his head, sadness creeping its way into his mind and gnawing away at him. “Won’t be able to sleep.”
The two men spent the rest of the night keeping watch together, silent.
Rosie watched helplessly as Andrea lay on her side on the floor of the slaughterhouse they had been in for the night. Andrea’s breathing was shallow and Rosie knelt down to fix her into a sitting position. It had now been almost eight months since the farm, and Andrea’s condition had worsened quickly. Rosie knew that if they didn’t get her the right medication, she would be gone in a week.
She heard the door squeak open and Michonne’s careful steps, looking up just in time to see the woman’s worried expression as she stared down at Andrea’s pale, sweaty face. She was leaning against the wall, having barely enough energy to open her eyes.
“Take this,” Michonne bent down and opened Andrea’s mouth before depositing two pills in there and tipping some water down her throat. The women had burned through their supplies from the convenience store fast, and were yet to find somewhere else that hadn’t been cleared of everything.
“How is it out there?” Andrea’s weak, slurred voice asked.
“You’re lying,” Andrea grumbled while Rosie pursed her lips. She felt Andrea’s forehead, recoiling at the burning heat that had built up within the hour. She exchanged a concerned look with Michonne.
“We should go in a few days,” Michonne spoke after a few moments of silence and Rosie nodded in agreement.
Andrea scoffed and shook her head sadly, making Rosie frown. “You should go. I’ll hold you back.”
“No,” Michonne’s voice was firm as she shook her head stubbornly.
“I can take care of myself. I saved your asses all winter, didn’t I?” Andrea tried to smile as she glanced at the two women next to her, but neither so much as chuckled. She turned to just Rosie. “Go and find Daryl, and the rest-”
“You think they’re dead,” Rosie responded, her voice flat and emotionless as she watched her friend burst into a fit of coughing.
Andrea shrugged, wiping the blood from her lips. “What do I know?”
Rosie let a smile crack onto her lips, but it didn’t make her eyes. “Absolutely shit-all.”
Andrea coughed out a laugh as Michonne fed her some water.
“I won’t have you two dying for me,” She spoke stubbornly, pushing away the bottle of water that Michonne shoved closer to her. “Screw you.”
“We’ll go in a few days.” Michonne’s words sounded after a moment, but Rosie was sure Andrea had already passed out.
A few days had passed and Michonne was beginning to get antsy about leaving. The women had decided that it was now or never, as the walkers were beginning to creep a little too close for comfort.
They left the building through the back door. Michonne led the way with her pets in tow, Andrea next and Rosie bringing up the rear, her almost empty pack slung over her shoulder.
They were walking for hours, having opted to stay trudging through the forest, rather than on the open road. Rosie wasn’t sure where they were headed, just to the next town in the hopes of scavenging something decent. Every now and then she would glance over to Andrea, seeing the sickly woman looking as though she might throw up or faint. However, she carried on, impressing Rosie. The one thing Andrea hadn’t done was complain, something the must have picked up on after the farm.
As night began to approach, the women made a small camp in a clearing. Michonne offered to stay on watch first and they agreed that she would wake Rosie in a few hours to swap shifts. Then they would take off again at first light.
It felt like it had only been ten minutes since Rosie had gone out like a light, but Michonne was soon shaking her awake, daylight peeking over her shoulder.
“It’s daytime?” Rosie mumbled, disoriented.
“I didn’t get tired,” Michonne shrugged and Rosie nodded at her gratefully, happy to have gotten a few more hours sleep. They nudged Andrea awake and took off again into the trees.
“Haven’t seen any walkers in a while,” Rosie commented suspiciously, peering through the trees.
Michonne nodded. “I was thinking the same thing.”
“You think we’re close to people?” Rosie questioned, part of her hoping they were and another part hoping the opposite.
Michonne didn’t answer, only lifted her katana and pointed it through the trees in front of them with her eyes narrowed. Rosie followed it, seeing a pile of fallen walkers. She gasped.
Sticking out of the brain of the top one was a crossbow bolt with a fuzzy green end.
“Holy shit!” She breathed, bounding ahead of the others and closer to the pile. She tugged the bolt loose and examined it, her eyes beginning to shine with tears.
Michonne stared at her companion in wonder, this being the most emotion the young blonde had shown since they’d met. Michonne had never seen her laugh, let alone cry.
Rosie lifted the bolt so that Andrea could see it, hope in her face.
“Daryl,” Andrea spoke weakly, a small smile gracing her own clammy face. “You really think it’s his?”
“It has to be,” Rosie mumbled, twirling it in her hand delicately. She began to survey the bodies before looking at the other two. “How long do you think since they were killed?”
Michonne looked closely. The blood oozing over the bodies was dark and drying. She studied the ground, looking for any trace of tracks, just as Rosie was doing, but the path was messed up beyond belief.
“Looks like dozens of walkers have been through here,” Michonne stated. “Hard to tell but I think they’ve been dead a while.”
A part of Rosie deflated. She knew she shouldn’t be getting her hopes too high, but she was certain that the bolt belonged to Daryl. She’d spent enough time staring at him as he flexed his muscles around the crossbow. She stared with determination at her friends.
“We have to go after them.”
Michonne sighed, knowing this was coming. “We don’t know where they went, Rosie,” she stated reasonably. “We have to get Andrea to the closest town. She’ll die otherwise.”
Rosie was torn between her friend and her family. She stared pleadingly at Andrea, unsure of what she was supposed to do now.
Andrea was watching her with smiling eyes, happy to see her friend so joyous. “You go,” she said weakly, coughing a bit.
Michonne stared at her, annoyed.
“I can’t leave you,” Rosie knew that much, her shoulders slumping slightly. She was still clinging onto the bolt.
“Go find them and meet us in the next town,” Andrea said. “You have to find them, Rosie. That belongs to Daryl.”
Rosie stared wide-eyed at her friend. “Andrea, I-”
“I bet they have a place,” the sick woman continued, her eyes wet with tears. “You can come get us and bring us back. I can’t wait to see Carol, a-and Lori…”
She trailed off and Rosie knew that a part of the woman in front of her was saying goodbye. She stepped forward and pulled Andrea into a tight hug. “Thank you,” she whispered, holding her by the shoulders as she stepped away. “Don’t die.”
Andrea managed a weak but genuine laugh as she nodded, wiping at her wet cheeks. “I’ll try not to. Michonne will kick my ass if I do.”
“She’s right,” Michonne nodded and smiled sadly, folding Rosie into a swift hug. She looked her friend in the eye seriously. “You find us, okay? And be careful.”
“You’re going to love them, Michonne,” Rosie’s voice grew excited as she looked at her friend.
Michonne smiled at the woman’s naivety, but she was happy to see her friend looking so elated.
“I’ll see you two before you know it,” Rosie stated firmly, determined, before disappearing into the dense forest around them.