After The End
It had been almost two days since the reunion. As promised, Rick had allowed Rosie to pull him aside when they’d first stopped, Daryl joining them naturally. Much to her dismay, the leader had put his foot down and Daryl had agreed out of concern for her own safety.
“Rick,” Rosie held the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger, trying to contain her temper. “They’re relying on me.”
“Damn it, Rose!” Daryl’s gruff voice came out stronger than normal, surprising the two people stood in front of him. “We’re relying on you! I’m relying on you!”
Rosie watched him carefully as he tried to calm himself down. His hands were curled into fists and he shook his head so that the bits of hair falling into his eyes drifted away. Something in her urged her to keep fighting, to argue, but she knew it would be useless. Instead, she gave the two of them a long, hard look and walked away.
She had continued to ride on the back of Daryl’s bike, but only because there weren’t enough free seats in the cars. Daryl had gathered on his own not to push her to talk, but he was beginning to get desperate. She wasn’t ignoring him per se, but he was definitely getting the cold shoulder and it made him so frustrated.
A short honk of a horn sounded, pulling both Rosie and Daryl from their thoughts and Daryl quickly pulled the bike over. Rosie was off in an instant, already marching back to the small convoy with her hands on her hips. Daryl rolled his eyes, fixing the kickstand hurriedly before joining them himself.
“S’almost nightfall,” Rick spoke as Daryl arrived at the small huddle, shooting his friend a sharp nod. “I say we stop, gather ourselves, find some food…”
“I can go huntin’,” Daryl volunteered immediately. “Rosie’ll come with me.”
The young woman turned to shoot him a glare, opening her mouth to argue but Rick got in first.
“That’s a good idea. I don’t want anyone out there alone, got it?” He directed his last two words to the blonde with a pointed look as she sulkily crossed her arms over her chest.
After clearing and searching the small house that they had stopped outside of, Daryl effortlessly moved his bike so it sat right by the door and ready for an easy escape. He smirked when he looked up and saw Rosie watching him with a sassy frown on her face, impatiently tapping her foot.
“You ready?” He asked and she nodded wordlessly, but her glare screamed at him.
They headed into the surrounding woods, Daryl already feeling more comfortable with the thick trees surrounding him. He made sure to keep his pace slow and steady, not wanting to scare off any potential game but also wanting to be at the same pace as his companion. He glanced at her, seeing that she had moved her sassy standing position into a slight crouch, her knife now gripped tightly in her dominant hand. Her face was still showing signs of anger though and, when she caught him looking at her, she glowered slightly. He had to resist the amused snort from exiting him. She really was funny when she was trying to be intimidating.
They stayed like that, hunting, for what felt like a good thirty minutes until Daryl suggested they head back. Rosie just nodded wordlessly, clutching her one kill of the night in her left hand. Their walk back was slow and a little more relaxed as they weren’t worried about scaring off dinner, however were still on alert for danger. Daryl had opened his mouth several times to speak, but had chickened out on every occasion, instead shooting her small glances out of the corner of his eye every now and then. She seemed a little less pissed off now, her face was smooth of the glare and her shoulders loosened. He was surprised when she spoke first.
“I am happy I found you, you know,” her voice was soft and her eyes stayed glued to the ground. He looked at her in surprise, but kept his mouth shut, knowing she wanted to say more.
She cleared her throat and shot him a nervous glance before her eyes darted away. “I know I seem a little ungrateful,” she sighed, her voice thick and making Daryl’s heartstrings tug slightly. “But I’m not. The whole time I was away from the group – from you – all I could think about was finding you all. But I feel like I owe it to them, you know?”
Daryl could only nod, his gaze understanding as he watched her carefully. She looked up at him and he saw that her blue eyes were filled with sad tears. She sniffled, wiping at her eyes in irritation before letting her face fall back into a glower.
“I should have insisted on them coming with me,” she muttered, mostly to herself.
“Weren’t your fault,” Daryl said, his voice almost making her jump after the quietness of the woods around them.
“It was,” she muttered dejectedly, sighing as her eyes filled up again unwillingly.
“Don’t be an idiot,” Daryl said, moving closer so he could nudge her shoulder with his arm. She looked back up at him and smiled slightly, though it didn’t reach her sad eyes. “You don’t know if they’re dead.”
Rosie sighed wistfully and nodded in agreement, not having the strength to speak about it anymore. “Let’s pick up the pace,” she said instead, smiling gratefully as Daryl nodded and began to speed up, glancing back at her occasionally to make sure she was still with him.
“Everything good?” Rick’s voice startled the pair as they emerged from the edge of the forest and made their way to the front of the house. He quickly strode forward, allowing them to see where he was, the cloud-covered moon concealing his facial features.
“Found a couple things,” Daryl answered, holding up his four kills and nodding to Rosie’s one lone squirrel. “Not too much game out there.”
Rick nodded and rubbed at his beard thoughtfully as he considered the man’s words. “Must be ‘cause the weather is startin’ to cool,” he murmured to himself and Daryl nodded slightly in agreement.
“I’ll start skinnin’ and cleanin’,” Daryl said, prodding at Rosie until she started moving. “You wanna help?”
Rosie handed him the squirrel she held with a disgusted face. “No, thanks.”
Daryl chuckled. “Go on inside, princess.”
The younger woman turned on her heel and made her way into the house, shutting the front door carefully behind her. Rick and Daryl watched her, only turning to face each other once she was safely inside and out of earshot.
“She still mad at us?” Rick asked, hands loosely placed on his hips as he squinted at Daryl.
“Nah,” Daryl dropped onto the front step of the porch and began working the corpses with a knife, glancing up to see Rick had begun to pace in front of him. “Don’t think she was ever mad at us.”
“She thinks they’re dead?” Rick guessed, slowing his pacing to a halt.
Daryl just nodded, focusing on skinning their kills.
“And she thinks it’s her fault because she didn’t bring them with her,” Rick continued, not needing to hear a confirmation from Daryl. The leader’s heart ached for his friend, having felt his fair share of guilt regret over the past year or so.
They were quiet for a while, both busy thinking similar thoughts. The only sound coming from Daryl’s busy, rough hands.
“You find out much that went on while she was out there?” Rick spoke up again, his voice sounding much more tired and worried than the authoritarian tone it took during the day.
Daryl’s heart twitched slightly as guilt invaded his mind. He hadn’t let himself forget about leaving her behind on that farm, and her skinny and worn-out frame when they had reunited had showed how she had suffered without the group. It wasn’t just physical either, something about her demeanor and personality had changed dramatically. She was a different person, more focused on survival rather than humanity and Daryl had wondered if she had had to do things in order to get to this place. The way that she had killed those men had been so nonchalant and callous, and afterwards she had barely spared the bodies a glance. He knew she had killed before, when she had to, but he wished he could get a glimpse into her thoughts.
Daryl quickly looked up to see Rick watching him, still waiting for an answer. He cleared his throat, gathering up the kills he had made quick work of and standing so that he faced Rick. “She ain’t said much ‘bout it. Jus’ that Andrea was on death’s doorstep an’ they were headin’ east.”
Rick nodded thoughtfully, going back to gently tugging at his beard in what had become a habit of his.
“I’ll get these cookin’,” Daryl’s voice was quieter as he began to head to the house. “An’ I’ll send someone out to take over watch once they’ve eaten.” He didn’t stick around to hear his friend argue with him.
Daryl parked himself in his usual spot next to Rosie, listening to her conversation with Maggie and Glenn while Carol began to cook up the kills. He suppressed a small smile when he heard the topic of their conversation, one that most of the group seemed to be smirking and giggling at.
“What about lasagna?” Rosie’s face was entirely serious but her voice was extremely teasing. She was only getting egged on by Glenn’s reactions.
“Rosie,” he begged, holding his stomach and groaning.
“Spaghetti bolognaise?” Maggie yelped, joining in on the fun.
Her friend’s words caused Rosie to let out an exaggerated groan and she rolled her eyes into the back of her head. “Oh God, I love spag bol!” She cried, putting her hands together into a praying position. “My mom made the best sauce-”
“No way!” Beth interjected from across the small room, her eyes alight with happiness. “My mom did, right Daddy?”
Everyone’s eyes went to Herschel as unease settled around the room, changing the atmosphere. The tension disappeared, however, when Herschel nodded in agreement, describing how his late wife would sneak vegetables into the sauce for Beth.
As the group laughed, Rosie turned to Daryl and a full smirk grew across his face. She smiled back at him, shifting slightly so that her leg brushed against his.
“Everything okay?” She asked him sweetly and he just nodded. She reached up a hand and instinctually brushed a piece of his ever-growing hair out of his eyes and tucked it behind his ear. The blood pooling in his cheeks didn’t go unnoticed by her, even in the dim candlelight, and her sweet smile turned into a knowing smirk as she pulled her hand back. She turned back to the group, feeling his gaze burning into her head as she did so. She was happy to see that everyone else was still enthralled in Herschel’s words.
Daryl did as promised and sent T-Dog out to take over watch after he had eaten his share. “I’ll come out in a couple hours,” he promised the other man.
“No, man, I’ll do it,” Glenn spoke up, meat juice dribbling down his chin before he hastily wiped it away. “You’ve been on watch the last couple nights, take a break.”
Daryl paused, considering the words before he nodded, hoping that his eyes conveyed his thanks. Glenn nodded at him before turning back to Maggie and Herschel and continuing their conversation.
Daryl threw the sucked-clean bones of the squirrel into the small plastic bag they were using for rubbish and fell back onto his behind with a heavy sigh. He glanced next to him to see Rosie licking her fingers clean before she wiped them on her jeans and yawned widely.
“What’s the plan for tomorrow?” She asked, feeling his eyes on her. She adjusted her position so she was laying back slightly and using her pack as a pillow.
Daryl shrugged, resisting the urge to reach out and lace his fingers into her messy blonde hair. “The same,” he answered quietly before clearing his throat and looking away from her tempting beauty.
She had shut her eyes now, one hand folded underneath her head and one hand curled up into her chest. Her legs were curled up slightly in a fetal position and a small shudder ran through her as she sighed sleepily.
“I am so looking forward to warmer nights,” she mused, eyes still shut as she snuggled a little bit closer to him. Her cute little nose was now nestled into the side of his leg and he grew tense, however didn’t move at all. In one quick movement, he had his poncho laid out on top of her frame.
Her eyes opened in surprise as she felt the familiar material. She smiled up at him. “Thanks.”
Before he knew what he was doing, he grabbed the hand that rested near her chest and squeezed it firmly in his. She just shut her eyes and let a dreamy smile grace her face as she fell asleep.
Ever since her days with Michonne and Andrea, Rosie had formed the habit of rising early and was always up before the other two women were. Daryl, however, was always going to wake up first and Rosie wasn’t surprised to see his spot from the previous night empty and his crossbow gone.
She stretched out slightly, taking in her surroundings to see the first rays of sunlight peek in through the drawn blinds. Everyone else was fast asleep, including Glenn. Rosie guessed that that meant Daryl had sent him off to bed as soon as he had awoken. With a quick rub at her eyes and a roll of her shoulders, she hopped up from her makeshift bed, noting how Daryl had left his poncho draped over her. She folded it over her arm, scooped up her pack, and dropped their weapons in place.
The morning air was cool and crisp as she stepped onto the front porch and spotted Daryl and Rick. She frowned ass he caught sight of Rick’s fatigue-ridden face and droopy eyelids.
“Morning,” his voice was gruffer than usual, indicating to Rosie that he had only recently woken up. Daryl turned at his greeting, his permanent frown softening slightly at Rosie’s sleepy smile.
“You get any sleep?” She asked them both, running her hands through her hair after offering Daryl his poncho back.
“You hold onto it,” he said, ignoring her question.
“Won’t you get cold?” Rosie frowned, her eyes raking over his thin jacket and the leather vest he couldn’t seem to separate from.
“Nah, I’m good. I’ll let ya know if I need it,” he had a slight smirk on as he spoke and Rosie rolled her eyes teasingly and threw the poncho on over her clothes. She was actually glad to have it, seeing as the winter air was still thick in the early mornings and the nights.
“What about you Rick?” She pressed, turning her attention to their leader. “Get much sleep?”
Rick paused to glance over at her with a slight smile, before going back to pouring over a map. “Yeah, I did. How about you?”
“Slept like a baby,” Rosie grinned happily, relishing in the fact that she didn’t have to act angry towards two of her favourite people anymore.
“Snored like a baby too,” Daryl teased, smirking slightly and dodging her elbow before she could bury it in his ribs.
“Babies don’t snore,” she laughed, shifting the weight between her feet as though she were dancing, in an attempt to jab him in the ribs. He couldn’t help but snort a laugh at her morning energy.
The small voice attracted the attention of all three adults. Rosie turned to see Carl standing in the doorway of the house, one hand clutching the frame and with a worried look on his face.
Rick started forward, exchanging a nod with Daryl. It was silently agreed that Daryl would keep watch while Rick dealt with his family. Rosie followed after Rick, her gaze on Carl and mind immediately wandering to Lori.
“Herschel thinks…” Carl’s small voice was panicked and shaky, as though he may burst into tears at any second. As Rick reached him, he strained to see through the dark house before he turned his gaze onto the boy.
“The baby could come at any second!” Carl’s tears dropped on his last word and Rick sighed. Without a word, the man pushed past his son and headed into the house, leaving a hiccupping Carl stood with Rosie.
“It’s okay, buddy,” Rosie cooed, stepping forward and draping an arm around the boy’s shoulders. She led him onto the porch and the two sat on the top step. “We’re gonna find a place real soon. I can feel it.”
Carl sniffled, not sparing her a glance as he watched his hands twist nervously.
Rosie sighed quietly, rubbing his back soothingly and looking ahead of her only to see Daryl watching the two with a worried look on his face. She threw him a reassuring glance and he just nodded, frowning still, before turning back to the map Rick had been studying.
“I know it’s tough,” Rosie turned back to Carl, whose face was now dry but the tears had left tracks through the dirt. “But we’re surviving. Your dad is doing a good job and your mum is holding on.”
Carl glanced at her now, his eyes shiny and wet. “You really think we’ll find somewhere safe?” His voice was lower than she had heard before, and only resonated with her just how much he had been forced to grow over the past year.
“Yeah,” she said, believing her own words. “We’re good people and we’re survivors. I don’t believe in karma or God or anything, but I do believe that the strong will survive.”
Carl went back to looking at his hands.
“And you know what, Carl? You’re one of the strongest people I know.”
Rosie kept her cheek pressed against the Daryl’s back and her eyes firmly shut, knowing that the effect of being on his motorbike always made her eyes water uncontrollably. His familiar smell filled her nostrils as her face stuck to the warm, worn leather of his vest, the embroidery of the angel wings no doubt leaving a mark against her cheek.
They had been on the road for hours now and her body was becoming stiff and sore. Every so often she would feel one of Daryl’s hands squeezing her own where they sat wound around his middle, up against his flat, toned stomach. She would smile every time, relishing the feeling of his touch.
As the day began to slowly fade away, they drifted through the deserted streets of some small town, having not seen one of the undead for a while. This made Rosie anxious – either they were about to come across a herd, or someone else had recently taken out all of the unwelcome walkers.
Daryl slowed down after the sounds of the car horn behind them, and the bike slowly pulled to a stop. He reached down and squeezed her hand again before she dismounted. She stretched her arms out before bending down to touch the tip of her toes. As she rose, she caught sight of Daryl watching her and she smirked. Immediately, his face went bright red and he looked away and cleared his throat. Without a word, he headed over to where Rick was waiting for them and Rosie followed after, breathing out a laugh.
Rick wanted to check the area quickly; well aware that night would fall in less than an hour. He split the group up – Rosie with Maggie and Glenn, and Rick with T-Dog. Daryl would search the closest houses and clear one, where Lori, Herschel, Carl, Carol and Beth could stay and wait for them.
Rosie looked at Daryl uneasily and he frowned back at her. He hated to be separate from her as much as she did, they hadn’t been apart since the events on the farm, but he knew saying anything would stress Rick out more. He just nodded at her, trying to convey reassurance that he wasn’t even feeling himself.
“Me and T will go down this road,” Rick gestured to the empty street behind him before pointing the opposite way. “You lot head that way. Try to come back before sundown, okay?”
“Dad, I want to come,” Carl spoke up, his voice taking on a whiny tone.
“It’s not safe, Carl.”
Rick didn’t even glance at Lori as she spoke to their son, instead nodding at the others and walking away with T-Dog in tow.
“Hey,” Daryl’s gruff voice sounded as he walked over to Rosie. He gently cupped her face in his big hand. “Be safe.”
She smiled and he dropped his hand, hating even the thought of people seeing his weakness.
“You too,” she grinned, punching his shoulder lightly. “Don’t be a hero.”
Daryl rolled his eyes.
“Beth, keep an eye on him, okay? You too, Carl.”
The two youngsters laughed softly and Daryl grimaced, causing Rosie to laugh loudly before turning away to join Maggie and Glenn.
They began to head down the road and Rosie glanced back to see Daryl talking softly to Herschel and Carol. They were all eyeing off an exhausted-looking Lori.
“You think she’s gonna be okay?” Maggie questioned, catching what Rosie was looking at before the two women turned back to look the way they were heading.
“I hope so,” Rosie muttered, a frown finding its way on to her young features. “I’m worried about them. Carl seems to be more stressed than Lori is.”
“He’s a good kid,” Glenn spoke, squinting at the setting sun.
“Hardly a kid anymore,” Rosie said sadly and the others nodded in sad agreement.
They silently worked their way up the deserted road until they came across a small strip of shops.
“Should we split up? Cover it faster?” Maggie questioned, squinting to get a better look inside the darkened windows, but there was no point.
“We shouldn’t split up,” Glenn argued weakly.
“Sundown isn’t too far away,” Rosie piped up, glancing at the setting sun to see that she was right. “We’ll cover more if we split up.”
Glenn looked very unsure as he wiped the sweat off his brow. Eventually he sighed and looked at the two girls. “Just be very careful okay? Don’t hesitate to shout out if you’re in trouble. You both have your guns?”
Both women nodded and Rosie pulled out hers, instinctually checking to see that it was loaded. “Glenn, you take that grocery store; Mags, take the clothes store; I’ll search the pharmacy.”
“Be as quick as you can, and be careful, please,” Glenn begged, still looking very unsure.
They quickly split up and Rosie made her way to the door of the pharmacy. She tapped on the glass briefly, waiting for any sign of something inside. A muted thud sounded before the sound of dragging feet and muffled moans. She quickly unsheathed her knife and tried opening the door, only to realize it was locked. With a quick force from her fist, she had the window of the door shattered, leaving nothing between her and the moans that were approaching the shutters. She readied herself, using her sense of sound to gauge the positioning of the walker.
With ease, she had taken down the walker and was waiting with heavied breath for the sound of more. Once it seemed clear, she unlocked the door through the window and made her way inside. The body of the fallen walker was heavy behind the door and took some strength to shove it to the side. She kept her knife poised as she glanced around the small shop, squinting in an effort to adjust her eyes to the darkness. A small amount of light was leaking in through the window she had smashed, but it wasn’t enough to light up the room.
She crept her way around the space, cringing every time she stepped on something or a floorboard creaked under her weight. After about fifteen minutes she had located area behind the counter and had filled her pack to the brim, along with a canvas tote discarded on the pharmacy floor. She had found plenty of medication, ranging from pain killers to the hardcore stuff that Merle would have been into, along with an array of bandages and the like.
Quickly scooping up her findings, she made her way back onto the street carefully, making sure to scan the area before stepping out. The other two must have been inside still, so she quietly paced along the road, keeping an eye out.
The familiar moans hit her ears before she spotted them. With a sinking heart and a wave of dread washing over her, she turned in the direction they had come from to see a sizeable herd, all with their sights on her.
“Shit,” she hissed, throwing her pack onto her back and racing to the clothes shop. She threw the door open and looked inside, the windows of the store letting in much more light than the pharmacy. She blinked, wide-eyed, at the sight of Maggie and Glenn making out, Glenn topless and Maggie’s head disheveled, before they glanced at her sheepishly. It was only when they caught sight of her panicked stare that Glenn threw his shirt back on and they gathered up the bags at their feet.
“What is it?” Maggie’s voice was hushed but vibrating with fear and urgency.
“A herd,” Rosie said, beckoning for them to hurry up as she looked back at the group that seemed to be growing.
“But they’re coming from the house!”
“I know,” Rosie tried to remain calm as she thought of Daryl with no one capable enough to help him.
“It’s going to be fine, guys,” Glenn said, his voice calm and cool as he pulled them back into the shop.
“They saw me, Glenn! What are you doing?”
“There’s a back way,” Glenn murmured, bending into a crouch and making his way through the racks of clothes and the untidy shop floor. “A car park out back. We might be able to get our hands on a car.”
“A car?” Maggie yelped and Rosie quickly elbowed her in the ribs. “But Beth and Daddy-”
“Daryl’s with them! It’s going to be fine,” Rosie hissed, imitating Glenn’s stance and shoving Maggie in front of her so she was sandwiched between them.
Banging on the glass alerted them that their friends had arrived, and Rosie whimpered out of fear. She was trying her best to remain calm and collected, but her hands were beginning to shake. In one, she gripped the canvas tote filled with medical supplies and she was reluctant to let it go, knowing that medical supplies these days were a godsend. In her other, she held her trusty knife, her hand curled up so tight that her skin was white where it hugged her knuckles.
With little effort, Glenn had navigated his way to the back door and the three let out sighs of relief when they saw that it was clear. Rosie winced as the door creaked slightly as Glenn opened it, the noise of the glass at the front of the store shattering enough to get her moving.
“The Jeep!” Maggie shouted, running for the dark green car that sat closest, its doors flung open in someone’s haste. They quickly jumped in, Rosie breathing heavily in the back and Glenn in the driver’s seat. He had no time to pause, instead finding the keys already in the ignition as he simultaneously locked the doors, not that it would do them much good if they were surrounded.
“Go!” Rosie screamed, her eyes wide as she caught sight of the first few walkers making their way out of the back exit.
The engine roared to life underneath them and Glenn straight away backed up, running over one lone walker in the process, before he floored it out of there.
So sorry for the delay!! I'm getting back into writing now -- I hope everyone enjoys this, leave me a comment xx