After The End
“Where are you driving to?” Maggie’s voice was loud and shaky from where she sat in the front seat. Glenn didn’t answer, just continued to drive in the direction away from the small town while Rosie sat in the back and stared out of the window quietly. Her teeth were subconsciously chomping down on her nails and her brow was furrowed into a worried frown as she imagined what could have happened to Daryl.
It was quiet for a few minutes, each of the minds going through different scenarios.
“Why don’t we try circling back?” Rosie asked quietly, her voice already sounding defeated.
Glenn shook his head, tense. “The car will make too much noise, only bring the herd right back. Besides, Rick and the others would never go back so soon.”
“Well what the hell are we supposed to do, Glenn?!” Rosie exploded, the tears that were threatening to spill suddenly falling with force. She wiped at her eyes angrily, flushing red when Glenn looked back at her with concern.
Now it was Maggie’s turn to comfort her friend. She leaned back and rested a comforting hand on Rosie’s knee, squeezing softly. “It’s going to be fine. You found us after all that time, didn’t you?” She asked with a small, if not slightly discouraging, smile.
Rosie just shook her head and stubbornly went back to staring out the window and chewing on her nails.
“Daryl would never leave without you,” Glenn said, glancing at his friend in the rearview mirror.
“He did once already,” Rosie muttered, more tears beginning to track down her cheeks.
They drove in silence for almost an hour and a half and Rosie’s defeated gut feeling had turned into determination. She wondered if Glenn had any idea where he was driving, especially with the moon being hidden by cloud cover.
“We stop for the night,” Glenn eventually spoke, pulling up to what looked like two conjoined warehouses that had been long abandoned.
Rosie looked at the place suspiciously as she followed her friends out of the car. “I don’t know, this place is way too big for just the three of us.”
Glenn gave her a knowing glance. “I know,” he muttered, pulling his baseball cap tighter onto his head. “But it’s the only place we’ve seen in a while and there’s no walkers around.”
“He’s right,” Maggie said, catching Rosie’s limp hand and squeezing it comfortingly. “There’s no point in us running around all night. We’ll get some sleep, eat something, and then find the others in the morning.”
Rosie’s gut clenched and she glanced around the deserted streets that surrounded the warehouses before nodding at her friends. “Okay,” she muttered. “Let’s clear it.”
She already had her knife ready and noticed that Glenn had his out too, while Maggie clutched her small handgun. They approached the door to the warehouse where it was nestled into the very side of the front. The walls were tin and Rosie winced just looking at them, knowing that they would make a hell of a racket if anything were to go down. Again, she glanced around her, worried that another herd could be near.
Her attention was drawn back to the task at hand as Glenn timidly tapped on the door a few times. No sound came from within and, with a quick glance back at the girls, Glenn turned the knob and sighed with relief that it wasn’t locked. Maggie positioned herself appropriately: gun aimed straight ahead, legs apart, arms steady; and Glenn edged the door open with one hand, his knife held tightly in the other, while Rosie stood next to the door, her back flattened against it.
It was excruciatingly tense as the three of them searched the large building, the inside was filled with dust and any windows it had possessed had been boarded up or painted black. Rosie was half-expecting something to pop out at her at any moment and she felt the hair on the back of her neck standing up every now and then.
Rosie was just clearing a corner of the upstairs balcony that looked over the rest of the building while Glenn and Maggie finished up in the main area on the lower level. She glanced down at them as Glenn called up to her excitedly.
“There’s water down here!” His voice was ecstatic and he peered up at her with a big smile on his face.
“Looks like someone was holed up here,” Maggie responded, opening one of the bottles of water and giving the contents a sniff hesitantly.
Rosie just smiled. “I’ll be down in a second.”
She began to double check where she had looked before heading for the stairs when she heard the smallest sound come from behind her, almost like the scuff of a shoe on concrete. Before she even had time to look behind her, she was knocked off her feet by a sudden force. Her body slammed into the nearby wall and the side of her head banged harshly against the concrete that covered it. She felt the air whoosh out of her body as she seemed to slide down the wall in slow motion. She couldn’t move for a few moments but the sounds of Glenn and Maggie calling for her were clear as a bell in her mind. A hand was suddenly on her throat with the promise of cutting off her air supply. She knew not to try to fight it or things would only get worse.
“Try anything and I’ll snap her neck.”
He was crouched over her beaten body, his hand at the base of her throat providing only the slightest bit of force while his other hand was outstretched towards her friends in warning.
“Just-just let her go, please,” Maggie was close to tears again as she slowly lowered her gun to the ground before holding her hands up in surrender.
Glenn wasn’t so willing. He had traded his knife for his own gun and was pointing it at the man, his gaze flickering between the intruder and the hand he held against Rosie’s neck.
Rosie had begun to get her breath back and, despite the painful throb that now overtook her head and face, she was deep in thought about how to get out of this predicament. She immediately remembered the small knife she kept in her boot from her days on the road with Andrea and Michonne. Her legs were curled under her uncomfortably from falling, and she shifted her body slightly to gain access to her right boot. The man glanced at her, his eyes slightly concerned as he assessed the side of her face briefly before looking back at her companions. She briefly wondered if her face looked as bad as it felt, before she pulled the knife sneakily. She took in a deep breath before quickly and suddenly pushing his arm away from where it clutched at her throat. He shook slightly from imbalance but had no time to react as she thrust the butt of her knife into his temple and then again into the base of his skull, knocking him unconscious.
“Shit! Nice, Ro,” Glenn muttered, going over to where the man lay and beginning to rifle through his pockets in search of a weapon.
Maggie rushed over to Rosie and enveloped her in a quick hug, her eyes teary as she gently prodded the side of Rosie’s face. Rosie did the same, wincing slightly and pulling her hand back to see a thin layer of blood coating her fingers. She sighed.
“Lucky I got meds,” she smiled lightly at Maggie who just shook her head and frowned. “I guess the stash belonged to him.”
Glenn nodded, coming up empty from his search. “Looks like he has no weapons…”
“How does a guy survive this far without weapons?” Maggie wondered, prodding at his boot with her own out of curiosity.
“He’s pretty strong in case you didn’t notice,” Rosie rolled her eyes and pointed to the side of her face.
The three of them decided to carry the man’s body down the stairs into the more open area where it looked like he had been sleeping. They all sat around him with their weapons out, waiting. Glenn had picked up some tinned food and bottled water from the grocery store in the previous town and they ate a small supply of it, limiting themselves. None of them wanted to say it was in case they didn’t find the rest of the group straight away, but they were all thinking it.
When the man started to come to, Rosie straightened up, her gun tightly in one hand as she chewed on some beef jerky. She noticed the other two noticing as well, and Glenn’s face suddenly took on a deadly serious twist.
The man cocked one eye open and groaned before squeezing it shut again. He shuffled, shifting his body slightly so that he was sat up.
“That’s enough,” Glenn’s voice was thick and scary, surprising Rosie before she composed herself.
The man chuckled slightly, making the three of them narrow their eyes, Rosie more so in annoyance. He held up his hands in mock surrender. “You got me. Now what do you want with me?”
“Would like an apology,” Rosie spoke sarcastically and the man turned to look at her with an amused expression.
“Sorry about your face,” he said, his tone dripping with sarcasm.
It was silent for a few moments as the three of them surveyed him, unsure of what to do next. He looked at them patiently, considering the three of them in front of them.
“So…” He began, rubbing his hands together. Their eyes followed his every move. “You going to leave me any of my food?”
Rosie’s face twisted with confusion and he looked at her questioningly. “Huh?”
“I’m surprised you didn’t jus take it and go,” he responded. “Or kill me.”
“We’re not here to take your shit,” Maggie’s voice came out sharp. “We just needed some shelter for the night, asshole.”
The man furrowed his brow, confusion plastered across his features. He strained his neck to see his little spot in the corner of the warehouse, where his food and water remained untouched, before he looked back at them in wonderment. “You’re not with them?” His voice was completely changed, no longer taking on the mocking and accusatory tone it was before.
“With who?” Glenn’s voice was still serious, but less aggressive. Rosie could sense that the man’s four words now scared him, as they did her.
“That big group,” the man was quieter now, slightly fearful. “I don’t know who they are…”
“We are with a bigger group,” Maggie spoke, fear starting to mar her own voice. “But we got split up from them… we’re good people.”
It was quiet. Rosie was quietly wondering if Maggie should have let this man know that they had a bigger group, but then she decided that if he was a bad person and was putting on an act with others, maybe knowing that they had more manpower would put him off attacking them further. She cleared her throat and brought his attention back to her.
“Are you with anybody else?”
“No,” his voice was sad and he cast his eyes to the ground. Rosie narrowed her own, gun still raised and aimed right between his eyes. She couldn’t tell if he was genuine or if he had just been an actor in his past life.
“What happened?” Maggie was beginning to grow compliant to whatever he was saying, and Rosie could see that she was slowly and subconsciously lowering her gun.
“That group, the one I told you about,” he was a little suspicious now, eyeing off each of them but softening when he surveyed the bruised side of Rosie’s face. “I ran into them a few days ago. Four days, maybe? They killed my group, my brothers, tried to kill me.”
“How did you get away?” Rosie barked.
The man shrugged. “I just ran. Just turned tail and ran after I saw him, the big guy, the leader, shoot my two brothers dead. I heard gunshots behind me, was sure I’d been shot. Been here since.”
“They take your weapons, too?” Glenn asked from behind his pistol.
“Yeah, took ‘em before they lined us all up.”
It was quiet again. Maggie’s gun was completely dropped now and Glenn was trying to silently have a conversation with the two girls.
“Look, my name’s Sam,” the man spoke up, interrupting them. He turned to Rosie. “I’m sorry, for attacking you. I assumed you were with them, I thought they might be looking for me. They didn’t have any women with them, but who knows, right? I haven’t come across any other people since everything went down. I didn’t know there were any other survivors.”
“There are,” Glenn said with a nod. “Many of them. Our group have come across a lot of people, some bad, some good.”
Sam nodded, his body having relaxed somehow.
“I’m Maggie, this is Glenn and Rosie.”
Rosie glared at the woman who just shrugged back at her. A small chuckle came from where Sam sat on his heels.
“Don’t worry, Rosie,” he laughed. “I’m nothing to worry about. You want to worry about something, worry about those men. They’ll do a lot worse to you than I did.”
Rosie frowned. His words hadn’t been venomous or threatening, more genuine than anything. She slowly dropped her gun, seeing visible relief in the man’s eyes.
“You hungry?” She asked and nodded to his food stash. “It’s all there.”
He paused for a moment, eyeing Glenn who also had lowered his gun. It was as though he didn’t trust them, was cautious about turning his back on them. Eventually he stood up and headed over to his food, watching as the three of them huddled slightly.
“I don’t know,” Rosie muttered, cautiously surveying him as he glanced at them frequently.
“He has no weapons, it’s three against one,” Maggie argued in a hushed tone between looks. “What’s he gonna do?”
“Smash us against a wall?” Rosie responded, rubbing at the side of her face subconsciously.
“I trust him,” Maggie said, glancing over at him again. “He’s got a nice smile.”
Rosie rolled her eyes but couldn’t help but to internally agree with her friend. Sam was very clearly conventionally attractive, at least he would have been in the old world. In the new world, what made men attractive to Rosie was there ability to fight and to survive. She couldn’t stop herself from seeing his charming, if not slightly mocking smile, as well as the way that his tight black t-shirt showed off the tight muscles of his arms that were covered by colourful tattoos. She bottled it down though, knowing that nothing this man could do or look like would ever compare to how she felt about Daryl.
“We’ll give him a shot, okay?” Glenn said, putting a protective arm around Maggie.
“Fine!” Rosie said, slinking away from her friends and over to the canvas tote filled with medical supplies. She could feel eyes on her and looked up to see Sam watching her from where he sat on an upside down milk crate, drinking from his water bottle. Maggie and Glenn stood in the same spot she had left them, talking in hushed tones but with relaxed faces.
Rosie rolled her eyes at their newest companion before searching through the bag until she found antiseptic ointment and band-aids. Before she knew it, a pair of boots were in her eyeline standing right in front of her. She straightened up aggressively when she saw Sam stood in front of her.
“What?” She snapped, taking a step back.
“Need help?” He nodded his head towards the ointment and then at her face, his eyes looking slightly guilty if not also a little amused.
She wanted to say no, but knew that she was too weak-willed to enforce the stinging sensation on herself. She just nodded and sat on her own upturned milk crate, her shoulders tense. He dropped in front of her and smiled at her before dabbing the ointment onto his fingers instead of any pads.
“I hope you have clean fingers,” she grumbled, feeling a knot in her stomach as the stinging sensation burned on her face.
He chuckled. “As clean as they can be in a zombie apocalypse.”
She squeezed her eyes shut, hating the feeling of looking weak especially with something so small and wussy. “If I need stitches, I’m going to stab you,” her voice came out thick with pain and took away any sense of threat she had put into it, only making Sam chuckle at her again. She was infuriated at his nerve but couldn’t do anything as he pulled his hand away.
“All done,” he said, ignoring her words. He picked up the box of band-aids and ripped one open before gently applying it. “I am sorry about this.” His fingers were extra gentle on her skin as he sealed the stickiness shut.
“Whatever,” she mumbled before turning to the couple. “I’m getting some sleep.”
Rosie was incredibly tense as she lay still in a corner of the building, but her body and mind couldn’t deny the rest that she needed. She fell asleep almost immediately and when she woke, her body was stiff from not having moved at all. She stretched out her aching muscles, looking around the unfamiliar area until she remembered what the previous days events had been. The throbbing in the side of her face came back alongside the memory of how it happened, and it seemed to be even more painful today than it had been when it happened.
With a stifled groan, she rolled over to face the entrance to the warehouse, confused by the open door. The opening was letting light into the building and Rosie realized that this must have been the latest she had slept in for in quite a while. She got up, wide awake straight away, and looked to her left to see Glenn and Maggie asleep and curled around one another.
“God damnit,” she cursed quietly, checking herself for weapons as she sped over to the open door. She was held up short when she ran right into Sam’s broad back, where he was standing right next to the door.
“Oof.” The sound came from her knocking the wind out of him as he stumbled forward before turning around in shock.
“Oh,” she murmured, embarrassment taking over her panicked thoughts from a few seconds ago. “Sorry… I thought-”
“You thought I split?” He had a cigarette dangling from an amused smirk, both things reminding her of Daryl and causing her heart to ache.
She just nodded. “You had last watch?”
“Yep,” he responded, taking a large drag of the smoke and surveying her with his watchful, amused eyes. “Told Glenn to hit the hay.”
Annoyance tweaked at her. Glenn didn’t know this guy, what the hell was he doing?
It was quiet for a moment. His smirk was starting to get on her nerves, so she swiftly turned on her heel and went back inside to wake the others.
“Rise ‘n shine!” She called, only just noticing that Sam had followed her back inside and was easing the door shut again. “We got a big day ahead of us. Eat up and then we’re going.”
Glenn groaned, burying his face into Maggie’s back and making her giggle. He had his arms wrapped around her waist and was holding her down as she squirmed in an effort to get up, before collapsing into a fit of laughter.
“I usually find you guys adorable, but today is not the day,” Rosie said dryly before clapping her hands in an attempt to get them moving quicker.
“She’s right, Glenn,” Maggie said as she stood up and wiped her hands off on her jeans. “Gotta find Daddy and Beth.”
“You need help?”
The three of them turned to look at Sam from where he was perched on a milk crate a few steps away from them. His eyes were wide and innocent and he looked like a changed person from who they had come across yesterday.
“I know a thing or two about the area,” he offered when no one said anything.
“Actually, that would be awesome,” Glenn responded, stretching his arms behind his head and nodding enthusiastically. “Thanks, man.”
“Uh, wait a second,” Rosie interrupted just as Sam was about to shake Glenn’s outstretched hand. “We don’t know him, Glenn!”
“We’re not taking him to the group! Are you crazy?”
“C’mon, Ro!” Maggie pleaded. “We don’t turn people away.”
Rosie stared at her two friends in disbelief. “He could be another Randall!” This was a last-ditch attempt and she knew as soon as she said it that it wouldn’t work.
Glenn just laughed and grabbed Sam’s hand in a manly handshake.
Rosie rolled her eyes out of frustration before tearing into more beef jerky. She knew that Daryl would have been on her side.
The young girl had rushed the two men and the woman out of the warehouse as soon as they had eaten an adequate amount. They piled into the Jeep, Rosie and Maggie in the backseat with Sam in the passenger in front of Rosie. She had to hold herself back from kicking his seat out of annoyance.
They began to head back the way they had driven the night before, none of it seeming at all familiar to Rosie despite her having stared out of the window the entire time.
Glenn caught her gaze in the rearview mirror and smiled assuringly. “Don’t worry, Ro, we’re gonna find them. I promise.”
Rosie sighed loudly, her chin propped in her hand gloomily. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Glenn.”
“I have a good feeling, Ro.”
Rosie widened her eyes at the back of Sam’s head, surprised at hearing her familiar nickname coming out of his mouth. She narrowed her eyes as he turned around and winked mischievously at her, making Maggie giggle next to her.
“Oh shut up, Mags,” Rosie mumbled, making Sam chuckle and Maggie giggle harder.
They worked at retracing their journey from the night before and Rosie could only pray that the herd had moved on by now. She was hoping that Rick and Daryl had gone back to their original hideout to wait for them. She didn’t even want to think about any alternative scenarios.
What if Daryl is by himself? She wondered to herself with concern. She didn’t want to say it aloud in the worry that she might upset Maggie.
“Down here!” Glenn exclaimed excitedly as he made a swift right turn. “This looks familiar, right guys?”
“I don’t know,” Maggie admitted, peering closely through the front window. “It all kinda looks the same.”
Rosie muttered in agreement, watching a straggling walker turning its head towards them as they passed. She sighed in frustration before leaning forward so she was virtually between the two front seats.
“Yep, this is it, I’m sure of it!” Glenn sped up slightly as they zoomed along the road, eventually passing the small strip of shops that they had been raiding when the attack happened.
“Shit, yes! Go Glenny!” Rosie cheered from the back, finally recognizing where they were.
Glenn began to slow down, fearing an onslaught of walkers. There were no bodies around, meaning that the herd had either moved on or backtracked.
“Are we going to just head back to the house?” Maggie asked, fear beginning to show on her features. Rosie was just as scared of the unknown.
Glenn was quiet before nodding a yes. “It’s the best place to start.”
They were prepared as they drove, everything on the roads now familiar to Rosie. There was no sign of walkers or a struggle, instead the area was deserted. Eventually they reached the area where they had last seen the group, where Rosie had last seen and touched and spoken to Daryl. Glenn stopped the car and they all looked up at the house, waiting for something, anything, to happen.
After a few minutes of sitting in silence, Rosie turned to her friends, ignoring the newcomer. “Okay, me and Glenn go in, check the place out. Mags, I want you to watch this one,” she jerked her head at Sam who just rolled his eyes.
“I’ll keep watch,” Maggie corrected her friend with a tight smile.
Rosie nodded and got out of the car with Glenn on her heels. They made their way up to the small house and Rosie wondered aloud if Daryl had even had time to clear it.
“He’s going to be fine, you know that, right?” Glenn spoke as if it were obvious and Rosie sighed.
“I know,” she muttered, tapping on the front door slightly and hoping that one of their group would answer. “It’s just that I was only just reunited with him. I can’t lose him again.”
Glenn looked at her knowingly, a sympathetic smile on his face. Rosie knew he was trying to put himself and Maggie in their position.
There was no sound in the house so Rosie eased the door open, knife in hand. She spared one more look back at the car to see Maggie and Sam watching them curiously.
“You sure you wanna leave her alone with him?” She mumbled to Glenn who just nodded.
“I think he’s harmless.”
Rosie sighed dramatically. “If you say so.”
They made their way inside and immediately a dead walker body caught their attention. It seemed fresh and the crossbow bolt in the eye was a dead giveaway that Daryl had been here. Rosie frowned when she caught sight of Daryl’s heavy and hauntingly familiar crossbow abandoned on the dining room table.
“Daryl?” She called out, trying to keep her voice relatively soft in case of unwanted guests. There was no answer and panic began to build inside Rosie as she moved towards the weapon that she knew so well. She turned to look at Glenn who was trying to mask his worried expression that mirrored her own. “Why would he leave his crossbow here? It’s his thing-”
“Stop! Don’t get worked up,” Glenn had grabbed her bicep and was squeezing it gently as he tried to get her to control her panic. She closed her mouth and could only nod as tears flooded her vision.
“No one’s here,” she whispered after a moment, her voice thick with emotion as she wiped at her eyes nervously.
“Let’s go,” Glenn muttered, opening a few cupboards in the kitchen. “They won’t have gone far. Plus, everything in here is gone. Daryl probably left the bow so he could carry more food.”
Rosie nodded but inside she knew Daryl would never sacrifice his crossbow for anything, even food.