After The End
The group had holed up in an old creaky house. They’d broken front door down and killed the two walkers that occupied it, before settling in for the night with Daryl and T-Dog on watch.
In the morning, they had packed up their meager belongings after finding no decent supplies in the house and had moved on. Lori’s stomach was protruding massively and Herschel was certain that she would give birth any day now. This only fuelled Rick and the group further. No one wanted her giving birth on the side of the road.
It must have been close to mid-afternoon now. The hot sun was beating down on Daryl’s shoulders, but he kept the poncho he had nabbed from a random horse stable over his shoulders, fitting snugly. He was stood next to Rick while they poured over the map spread out on the hood of a car, T-Dog and Glenn pacing the road to keep watch. The group had been driving hours, only stopping to split their pathetic supply of water and to go over the map again, like they had been for so long.
Herschel and Rick began to argue over which way to head, both ideas ending up with being stuck between herds. Daryl glanced at the rest of the group. Everyone was looking absolutely miserable. Tired, hungry, defeated and broken.
“What about tonight?” T-Dog spoke up. “It’ll be nightfall soon.”
“He’s right,” Herschel said.
“Hell, I know he’s right!” Rick exploded. “I’m trying here!’
Daryl put a hand on his brother’s back, trying to calm him but Rick shook it off with an angry sigh. He went back to the map and this time Daryl joined him.
“We gotta sleep on the road tonight,” Rick eventually told the group.
“On the road?” Lori’s voice was shocked as she rubbed her swollen belly.
“In the cars,” Rick confirmed, nodding his head.
“I don’t know, Rick,” Glenn spoke up, his voice uneasy from where he stood next to his girlfriend. “Can’t we get to a house?”
“There’s nothing for another few hours. I don’t want to be searchin’ a place in the dark. Ain’t safe.”
“Look, we’ll keep a coupla people on watch, okay?” Daryl spoke up, supporting his friend. “We’ll head out at first light, find the closest town.”
Everyone begrudgingly agreed and it was decided that Rick, Daryl and T-Dog would take first watch and Glenn, Maggie and Herschel would take second.
Daryl decided to do a quick hunt before nightfall in the hopes that he could catch the group some dinner. Rick joined him and within a couple of hours, they had caught themselves a rabbit and two squirrels. When they headed back, Daryl got busy skinning and cleaning the meat while Glenn started a fire.
The group ate dinner in silence, no one daring to say a thing in case it tipped Rick over the edge. The others went to sleep straight after dinner, making themselves as comfortable as they could in the two cars.
Daryl found that their watch shift went faster than normal and he guessed that it was because he wasn’t at all tired. Ever since he was younger, he had always been able to run on a small amount of sleep.
“Rick,” he whispered, grabbing his friend’s attention as the shifts watched. “Imma stay up a little longer.”
Rick nodded and patted him on the back gratefully. He always felt a little safer when Daryl was on alert.
Daryl sat around the fire with his crossbow in his hands, ready and listening to the sounds of the forest. A sleepy-looking Herschel sat across from him, his own shotgun lying across his lap, while Glenn and Maggie stood at the first of the two cars, slowly pacing in and out of Daryl’s sight.
Daryl was in the midst of thinking about the sound of her voice, her laugh and even her snoring as the sun snuck up, slowly but surely.
“Let’s let them sleep a little longer?” Herschel spoke quietly, but it sounded like a question. Daryl just nodded, agreeing with the older man. They both wanted Rick to get as much sleep as possible.
The sound of a twig snapping brought Daryl’s attention to the edge of the forest only a few feet away from them. He stood up cautiously, holding his crossbow tightly in his hands. The sun wasn’t up far enough for him to see clearly and he squinted.
A small, frightened squeal from Maggie caused both Daryl and Herschel to wheel around, aiming their weapons at where two tall men had appeared. One was already clutching onto Glenn, holding him in a chokehold while a gun was pressed firmly to his temple. The other moved to grab Maggie, grabbing the back of her neck and shoving her so that she began to walk.
Daryl moved to turn around, but it was too late. He felt the cool metal against his temple and he tensed.
“We havin’ a campfire, boys?” A sleazy voice spoke from behind him, shoving him down on the shoulder so that Daryl fell to his knees. Herschel was shoved down next to him and the weapons were taken from them before the men patted them down and took their knives and spare guns.
Daryl glanced next to him to see Glenn and Maggie being brought down too, Maggie’s face wet with tears.
“Now, now,” the same man who had manhandled Daryl knelt in front of the girl as she cringed away. He brought his hand up to her cheek and stroked it. “No need to cry, princess. Imma treat you real good.”
They all froze as another voice was heard, this one coming from the cars.
“Yo, Tony!” The man yelled excitedly. “More in the cars. Asleep.”
A gleeful chuckle sounded from behind Daryl and he locked his jaw as he felt his hands being forced behind his back and taped together. He watched as the same happened to his friends before three of the four men joined the other by the cars.
The four of them were forced to watch as these slimy men pulled their unsuspecting family from the cars and taped them up. They were all kneeling in a line, their weapons nowhere to be seen. Two of the men stood in front of the line, joyful smiles on their faces as they surveyed the group in front of them, their eyes lingering longer on the women. The other three were behind them, making Daryl extremely nervous. It was completely light by now and his eyes darted around, trying to find some way to get out of this mess.
“Who’s the leader?” The man, Tony, spoke up, a gun resting casually in his hand.
“Me.” Rick’s voice was hoarse as he spoke up after a silent moment.
“And which one is your woman?” Tony sneered, grinning maniacally.
Rick tensed and narrowed his eyes into hateful slits. “None of them.”
Tony laughed loudly, deep and bellowing. “Guess I’ll have to take all of them then, right fellas?”
A chorus of cheers erupted from the other men and Daryl felt himself wanting to throw up his squirrel from the night before.
“Touch any of them and I will kill you,” Rick said slowly. “That’s a promise.”
Tony bent down in front of Rick, his face teasingly close. “Here’s a promise, pal. You’re already gonna be dead.” He held his gun up, aiming it at Rick and the Sheriff squeezed his eyes shut, waiting.
She didn’t know exactly where she was going, but Rosie felt fiery determination in the pit of her stomach. She had tucked the bolt into the side of her backpack for motivation. It had been two days since she’d left Michonne and Andrea in search of Daryl and the others. She had managed to find a squirrel and capture it, thinking about how proud Daryl will be when she finds and tells him.
She had taken to tying herself to a branch with a belt in order to stay secure while she slept. Her water bottle was running low and she only had one more in her bag from the convenience store. She was completely out of food and relying solely on finding more squirrels.
The sun had just risen and she was already off, having been awake and preparing a plan in her head for an hour. She knew she was closer to the road than she would have liked, but she also assumed that the group had scavenged fuel from other cars and were driving. She was hoping that maybe she could flag them down, however she knew this was a long shot.
As she walked, she stayed close to the road but enough in the dense trees to remain unnoticeable. It was after half an hour that she realized she was walking on tracks that must be relatively recent. Her heart skipped excitedly as she surveyed them, seeing that there were multiple prints. This could be them, she thought happily, picking up her pace.
After another twenty or so minutes, the tracks began to dwindle and head closer to the road. Remaining quiet and careful, she inched forward, only pausing when she heard a booming voice that she didn’t recognize. It was male and it made her nervous.
She quickly climbed up the nearest tree, remaining silent and thanking God that she had become slightly better at the skill since her days on the farm.
She moved from branch to branch, tree to tree, inching closer to the voice until she could peer through the foliage at the source of the sound. She dug her nails into the rough bark and narrowed her eyes as she surveyed what was happening on the road.
She had found them, her family. But they were lined up on the road, kneeling down like cattle about to be slaughtered. Her eyes darted to the unfamiliar men stood surrounding them, counting five all up. She could see Daryl’s crossbow and Rick’s python along with a handful of other weapons in a messy pile close to the cars. Her heart leapt from habit as she spied Daryl’s familiar motorbike.
She let her gaze drift back to the group, watching as what she guessed to be their leader stopped in front of Rick and raised his gun. She could barely make out his words, but her heart stopped as her friend squeezed his eyes shut. Without another word, Rosie slipped onto one of the lower branches and reached into her pack, looking for something, anything, to cause a distraction. Her hands curled around a large Tupperware container she had picked up from the convenience store. It had once been filled with an assortment of nuts and dried fruit, and she had thought that maybe it would be useful for carrying future supplies.
Trying to make as much noise as possible, she flung the container against a nearby tree with all her might, and scrambled further into the foliage to stay hidden, making sure that she could still see what was happening on the road.
She watched, tense, as everyone on the road turned to look in her direction, making her let out a relieved breath. The man took his gun away from Rick and spoke something that she couldn’t hear, before casually pointing it towards the trees. Two of his henchmen began to approach and she readied herself, taking in a deep breath and grabbing her freshly sharpened knife.
When they reached the trees, she watched from above as one of them leaned down to pick up the container. “What the hell?” He spoke.
The other didn’t have time to respond as Rosie effortlessly dropped from the tree and stabbed him in the head. The other one barely had time to raise his gun before she had stabbed him in the chest and then plunged her knife into his forehead.
She was breathing heavily, adrenaline flooding her veins as she bent down and swiped the guns they both held, one a handgun and the other a sniper. She tucked the handgun into her gun and admired the sniper.
“Cool,” she breathed, readying it in her arms as she tucked herself behind the tree. She had given up on climbing and was now moving stealthily from tree to tree, trying to gain a good spot to use her brand new sniper in.
“Sam! Will?” The leader’s voice called and Rosie smirked smugly as she found the perfect position. She raised the gun, watching through the scope and seeing everyone looking towards the spot she had just been in. She was a little close to be using the sniper, but she desperately didn’t want to miss.
With a quick pull of the trigger, she had taken down the third of the three men in one clean shot. She was glad she had taken gun-training lessons when she was younger with her mother. They sure were paying off now.
The other two had forgotten about her worried-looking family on the road and were now searching for the threat against their lives. They had their guns aiming in her direction. “Come the fuck out!” The leader shouted, his voice filled with rage as he stared blindly into the trees.
Rosie kept her eyes locked in the scope, watching them both carefully before she responded. “Drop your weapons!” She shouted, trying her hardest to sound confident.
The leader narrowed his eyes, while the other man smirked and lowered his gun slightly. “It’s just a chick, Tony!” He laughed as he nudged the other one, before calling out loudly. “Do you even know what you’re doing, you little bitch?”
Rosie narrowed her eyes and squeezed the trigger, shooting the sexist dick right through the brain. She watched as Tony looked down at his companion, his face panicked.
“You gonna drop the weapon?” She called again, watching as he lowered it slightly, but didn’t drop it. She sighed, she had had enough.
Swapping the sniper for her trusty handgun that she had had since the beginning, she began to step out of the trees, aiming it right at him. He was still looking around, oblivious to her yet, just as her family was.
“Hey asshole,” she spoke calmly, training her weapon on his torso as he spun around to look at her, rage filling his body.
He started to lift his gun, but she had already fired three shots into his chest, watching as he dropped to the ground. She approached him slowly, her gun still tight in her hands. With one more shot in the brain, she was done.
She lifted her head to see her old group watching her. She quickly walked over to them, glancing at the bodies of the men she had killed to make sure that they wouldn’t reanimate.
“Rosie?” Carl’s voice was thick with tears as she turned to look at him, seeing his wet cheeks and red eyes.
“Hey buddy,” she smiled, ducking behind him and using the knife from her boot to break the ties around his wrists and ankles. “Did they hurt you?”
The young boy shook his head, a sob wracking his body as he turned around to fall into her arms.
“Here,” she handed him her smaller pocketknife after pulling away from the hug. “Help me untie everyone, okay?”
She moved on to Daryl while Carl untied Rick. Her fingers brushed against his wrists as she expertly sliced the duct tape keeping them in place and then she was up on her feet with him standing in front of her. He stayed down at her, his eyes wide and unbelieving. They weren’t touching and she ached to reach out and wrap him in her arms, but something inside of her was telling her to stay rooted to the spot and give him a moment.
Rick was suddenly next to her, pulling her into his strong hold and hugging her. He pulled back, his hands still firmly on her shoulders, and she could see the emotion in his eyes. “Thank you.”
Rosie smiled at him, tears filling her own eyes. She wiped at the corner of one, catching the first droplet before it could slide down her cheek. “I’m so happy I found you,” she murmured.
“How?” The rest of the group had come to gather around Rosie, their interest levels peaking at Rick’s question.
Rosie smiled softly. She dropped her bag from her back and rummaged through it blindly until she felt the fluffy tip of Daryl’s arrow and pulled it free. She turned to look at Daryl shyly, seeing recognition grace his face. His eyes flickered to the arrow and then back to her curiously.
“I found this a couple days ago,” she explained, glancing at the group before looking back at Daryl. “Tried my hand at tracking. I guess I’m getting pretty good.”
The slight laugh that left her lips was cut short from Daryl grabbing her arm and pulling her into him, knocking the breath out of her. His breathing was slightly staggered and one hand tangled itself in the hair that had fallen from her messy bun, making itself at home at the nape of her neck. A content sigh escaped her lips and she buried her face in his chest, inhaling his heavy scent. She pulled away all too soon, but snatched his hand and gave it a squeeze. She turned back to the group without dropping it.
“We should move,” her voice was much more serious now as she assessed the immediate threat. “There could be more.”
Rick nodded, rubbing his grubby beard as he turned to see where Lori and Carl were, satisfied when he saw them close. “She’s right,” his voice took on a similar tone. “We can catch up once we’re somewhere safe. For now we have to move.”
“Wait,” Rosie stopped him before the group could disperse. “I got out of the farm with Andrea.”
There were sounds of surprise and a stifled sob came from Carol, making Rosie frown in confusion.
“I told her and Michonne that I would go back for them once I found you.”
Rick shook his head, ignoring the unfamiliar second name. His eyes were hard, a stark contrast to the shiny emotion that had filled them minutes ago. “I’m sorry, Rosie, but there’s no way.”
“We can talk about it when we stop, okay?” Rick’s voice was strained and his eyes silently begged her to agree.
“Okay,” she murmured.
The group grabbed their weapons before heading to their cars quickly, leaving the dead bodies of the men on the road. Rosie was still clinging to Daryl and he began to pull her in the direction of the bike.
“You’re riding with me,” He murmured, his voice rough and emotional. He fussed with the kickstand, busying himself so that he could avoid her eyes.
“Of course, Daryl,” she responded, removing her hand from his grip and placing it on his back. He turned to face her, his eyes soft and gentle. She moved her hand to his cheek and smiled at him, receiving a small one in return.
They stood that way for a moment before Daryl turned to mount the bike and Rosie followed him, wrapping her lean arms around his frame.
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