After The End
The hard thud of rain hammering onto a tin roof filled the air, making it impossible for the group to hold a steady conversation. It had been two weeks since Rosie’s painful and humiliating confrontation with Daryl in the woods, where he had shattered whatever they had had into tiny pieces, effectively rendering them as strangers again. By the time Rosie had made it back to the group she had composed herself, blaming her red cheeks, watery eyes, and sniffling on allergies from some mysterious element in the woods.
Everyone was well aware that something had happened between Rosie and Daryl, but no one dared to utter a thing. Every now and then Maggie would shoot a sympathetic, questioning glance at Rosie, as if to ask her how she was doing. Rosie ignored them. All she could focus on was how Daryl made every effort to keep as far away from her as possible.
Her frustration with Daryl was making her cold and she felt like she hadn’t sincerely smiled or laughed in weeks. Even Sam was avoiding her now after she had lashed out at him several times. Every time she saw his hurt or confused expression, her body was wracked with guilt, making her feel even more frustrated. It was amazing that she wasn’t bursting into tears every five minutes.
She was staring into her can of cold beans, trying to imagine that the beans were placed next to fluffy scrambled eggs on thick-cut toast. Each spoonful of mush was bringing her back down to earth. She raised her eyes, scanning the room of the small shack that the group was holed up in. They had decided to all sleep in the living area and let Lori rest on the only bed in the shack. She was close to labour, with Herschel predicting that she was approximately eight and a half months along in her pregnancy. The whole group was feeling the stress, a screaming baby on everyone’s mind.
She locked eyes with Daryl where he sat in the furthest corner from her in the shack. His knees were up at his chest with his forearms resting on them. His eyes darted away and he bowed his head down, fidgeting with his finger. This simple act made her want to both burst into frustrated tears and also march over to him and strike him across the face.
“The rain’s dying down, let’s clear out,” Rick said. His words were quiet but boomed through the small space in the shack’s living area.
There were muffled sounds as everyone lifted themselves from their positions and gathered the little possessions that they had. Rick quietly opened the front door, revealing Daryl to be already outside and standing guard, his crossbow resting on his shoulder. His stance inconveniently showed off his impressive biceps.
The group started to move through the woods at a fast pace, fueled with enough energy after a decent rest overnight. Rosie was at the back of the group as usual, her gun in her hand and her ears strained for the sound of walkers. She started as a loud thud interrupted her scanning the area. There was a quiet groan and her eyes were drawn down to the collapsed body on the forest floor. Sam had slipped on some leaves that were still wet from last night’s rain, landing him in a sloppy mess right in front of Rosie.
She quickly dipped down to his level. “You okay?”
He looked up at her in surprise and faltered for a moment before responding. “Y-yeah. Just slipped. Sorry.” His response was sheepish and he quickly stood upright, stretching out the leg he had bent in the process. “Ahh, fuck,” he breathed, wincing.
“Ouch,” she frowned, standing upright as well and examining his leg with concern.
“You guys okay back there?” They both looked up and to the front of the group, hearing Rick’s low voice. The group hadn’t noticed Sam fall but they all looked back at Rick’s words. Rosie eyes locked with Daryl’s narrowed baby blues from where he stood with Rick at the front of the group. His lips were in a tight line, making Rosie insides knot instinctively as she prepared for his jealous streak, but he just turned back and trudged on ahead of the group.
Rosie smiled and nodded at Rick, who turned back and followed after his friend. She turned back to Sam who had gone back to stretching out his leg.
“Can you walk okay?” She asked him.
He began to take slow steps forward, his heavy breathing showing that he was in pain, but he forced a smile at her. “Yeah, I’ll be fine until we take a rest in a couple hours.”
As he limped forward gently, she suppressed the urge to make him sit down and rest his foot, instead making the promise to keep an eye on him. “Okay,” she smiled.
They walked side by side, the group further ahead of them but still in their view. It was comfortable quiet between them, the sounds of their slow and careful footsteps on the soggy leaves the only thing to kill the silence.
Rosie inhaled quickly as if she were about to speak, but then stopped herself. She felt Sam’s curious eyes on the side of her face and knew he had noticed it. Looking to her right to meet his gaze, she threw him a small smile to reassure him, before turning her eyes back to the ground, making sure not to slip.
A few more minutes passed and, without lifting her eyes, she began to speak. “I’m sorry that I’ve been a bit,” she paused to try and find the right word, her left hand doing some sort of wriggle to signify the dips in her behaviour as of late. “Um, mean, lately.”
Sam was quiet, sensing that she had more to say. She hesitated, glancing at him to see that he was listening intently.
“I’m just … frustrated. And I’m taking it out on the people around me. So … sorry.”
“Everyone’s frustrated,” Sam smiled, his tone understanding as they looked at each other. “I haven’t taken it to heart and no one else has, so don’t worry. We’re all as stressed as each other.”
She could sense that he desperately wanted to question her about Daryl and the horrible environment between the two of them, but she was grateful when he didn’t speak further, allowing them to fall into their comfortable silence again.
“Here, you can have the rest of mine, Carl.”
Rosie placed her half-finished tin of pears into the boy’s palm. He looked up at her, his eyes asking if she was sure. She smiled at him and nodded reassuringly, pushing the tin further into his hand and standing up, wiping her sticky hands on her pants.
The group was resting at the side of the road and Rosie guessed that it was the later afternoon and nearing nightfall. She glanced next to her where Sam was perched on a large rock, his hand absentmindedly clutching at his injured leg.
“We should get Herschel to check that out,” she said to him, nodding at his leg when he looked at her in question.
He glanced down, his hand flying from the injury where it was starting to turn purple from the swelling. “It’s fine,” he said, looking up at her and throwing her a half-smile. “Nothing to worry about anyway. Everyone’s got too much on their plates already, especially Herschel.”
He nodded his head and Rosie followed where it pointed to Herschel squatting next to an exhausted Lori who was collapsed on the ground. All Rosie could do was frown as she looked at the huge belly the poor woman was sporting.
She turned back to Sam, who had the same look on his face, and nodded at him. “Maybe tonight then.” He nodded in agreement.
Rick and Daryl made their way over to where the bulk of the group were settled, either resting their sore feet or enjoying a quick snack. “There’s a small town coming up, we think within the next hour or so,” he said, his clear voice dominating the group. He was a natural-born leader. “We want to get there before nightfall so we should head off in a few minutes.”
Rosie offered Sam her hand, which he took gratefully, and she helped to heave him up while keeping the weight off of his bad leg. She managed to get a better look at his leg and took a sharp intake of breath.
“Jesus, that looks painful,” she muttered to him, concern thick in her voice. “Are you sure you can do this?”
“Relax, Rosie, it’s only an hour,” he responded insistently. She kept her mouth shut, knowing that she would be the exact same way in his situation.
The group began to move steadily, following the brisk pace that their two leaders walked with. They couldn’t have been walking for more than twenty minutes when the low and familiar sound of a group of walkers welcomed them. The group huddled close, instinctively stepping into the comfort and hidden shelter of the surrounding trees. Rosie noticed that the shrubbery in the area had thinned and could hardly classify as woods anymore, meaning that they must have been closer to the town than Rick thought.
Fear was etched into everyone’s face as they looked around at each other, most of them having gotten used to just handling two or three walkers at once. From the sounds of it, there were at least ten walkers in this group and they were on the move.
Just like we are, Rosie mused to herself.
“Okay, here’s the plan,” Rick’s words came out in a hushed whisper as he glanced over his shoulder to where the noises were coming from. “There’s no other road into this town and it’s getting dark.”
Everyone instinctively looked at the sky, where the afternoon light was dimming and the cloud cover was beginning to darken the area. They had less than an hour of light left before they were immersed in the dark night.
They all looked back to Rick as he spoke. “We’ll be smart about this. Only go for the head, don’t use bullets unless it’s completely necessary,” he looked at everyone for a beat as he spoke, conveying the seriousness of his tone and words. “We’ve fought groups bigger than this before.”
Rosie’s mind flashed back to the farm and she winced, her eyes falling to the ground for a second before she looked back at Rick.
“Lori, Carl, Beth,” he looked at the three. “You hang back. Keep your guns on you. The rest of us, are we ready?”
No one spoke; everyone just grabbed their close combat weapons and took deep breaths. Rosie glanced at Daryl, watching as he fiddled with an arrow before loading it into his crossbow. He wiped his furrowed brow and was the first to step towards the noise of the herd. Rosie looked behind her to Sam, see him tuck his gun into his waistband and ready himself with the sharp blade of his knife. “Maybe you should stay back,” she muttered, looking pointedly at his injured leg.
He looked annoyed. “What, and let everyone else fight for me? They already don’t like me, Rosie, I’m not going to let them risk their lives for me.” He limped past her, knife in hand.
She sighed and followed after him, swapping out her gun for her own knife that moulded perfectly into her palm. “Just be careful, okay?” She breathed to him as she caught up. He stopped for a moment, causing her to stop abruptly too, and turned to face her.
“Stop worrying,” he said, before flashing her a lopsided smile. “You’re reminding me of my mother.” And with that, he carried on limping, falling into line with the rest of them. Rosie rolled her eyes, suppressing an amused smile, and followed him.
While Lori, Carl, and Beth hung back, ready to shoot off any stragglers or to join in if things got hairy, the rest of the fighters moved in slow formation. As they neared the grizzly noises of the herd, they naturally slipped into two groups, with each group shifting to a side of the road so that they were flanking it. Rosie was in step next to Sam, with Glenn, Maggie, and T in front of her. She glanced once to the other group, her eyes focusing on Daryl’s figure as he stalked the walkers that were beginning to come into their view, and then she focused her eyes back on their target.
There were at least a dozen walkers there, just milling about in the middle of the road. They were slightly spread out, giving the Rosie and the group a chance to pick them off individually and, hopefully, stealthily.
It all happened very suddenly. Rick was the first, sneaking up on what was once a young woman, dragging her to the ground, and piercing her with his blade. Daryl began to shoot his arrows, his aim as meticulous as ever, while the others, individually and in pairs, took down the others. It wasn’t long before the walkers that were the furthest away were tipped off by the noise and began to charge at the group. Rosie had just stabbed a big, male walker through the eye while it was being held down by Maggie when she felt herself get pushed back with the wind knocked out of her.
As she struggled to sit up and inhale a deep breath, she watched Daryl grab a walker by its neck and, without hesitation, stab it through the eye with a bow. The corpse fell to the floor and Daryl looked down at Sophie where she sat breathing heavily. “You gotta be more careful.”
She watched him in disbelief, trying to find something to say, but he immediately walked away to continue fighting.
“Are you alright?” Maggie quickly swooped down and grabbed Rosie’s arm, pulling the young girl up with her.
Rosie inhaled sharply, rubbing her tailbone where it had bruised when she’d fallen backwards, and nodded at her friend. “Yeah,” she muttered, and they both trudged forward to rejoin the others, who were taking care of the last few stragglers.
Rick sliced his knife through the last walker’s skull and the corpse dropped to the ground with a low thud. He was panting heavily as he wiped the sweat from his forehead and looked up at the group, all of which were looking around and surveying the area. Rosie shielded her eyes from the sun with one hand and rubbed her tailbone with the other. She looked back to the group’s leader as he beckoned for Lori, Carl, and Beth to join them from where they hung back.
“Good work, everyone,” he said, his voice out of breath but still confident. He looked at everyone’s faces before something caught his attention out of the corner of his eye. “We missed one straggler,” he muttered quietly.
“I got it,” Daryl spoke up, reaching behind his shoulder for his crossbow but he was interrupted.
“No, I have it. I’m closest,” Sam insisted, already turning around and armed with the knife that he hadn’t put away yet. He began walking as fast as he could with his injured leg, a pained exhale leaving his mouth every time he put weight on it.
Rosie straightened up, her own knife readied in her right hand. After a moment’s hesitation, she pushed through the group and past Daryl’s concerned gaze, following Sam at a fast pace. He had reached the lone walker where it was positioned at the intersection of two roads behind a long-abandoned gas station. Luck was on his side as the walker didn’t seem to hear him until he was upon it, confidently pushing the blade of his knife through the back of the walker’s skull. Rosie relaxed, letting her jog slow down into a walk as she watched the corpse collapse to the ground. She was about to rejoin the group behind her when she saw two walkers stumble out from where they were hidden behind the gas station, their hungry eyes resting on Sam, whose back was to them as he retreated back to the group.
Panic set in as Rosie realized how much distance was between her and her limping friend, who was completely unaware of the dangers behind him. She began to sprint towards him and reached for her holstered gun. “Sam!” She screamed. “Run!”
Loud footsteps sounded behind her but all she could focus on was the shrinking distance between the walkers and Sam. Confused, he looked behind him at the creatures that were only a few feet away. Rosie watched as he internally battled between fight and flight, terror taking over his features. He glanced back at her where she was gaining distance on him, just several feet away, before turning back to the walkers and holding his knife up to defend himself.
Rosie watched while she ran, seeing the first one lunge at him. Its eye met his knife with a sickening crack and the corpse went limp, catching him off guard as he was hit with the weight of the walker. His panic was clear as he stumbled backwards, trying to pull his knife free.
In the blink of an eye, the second walker lunged forward and its decaying hands landed on each of his shoulders. Its mouth met Sam’s neck for a brief second before pulling back, bits of his flesh dropping from its teeth.
“NO!” Rosie’s harsh cry sounded at the same time as Sam begin to scream in pain. He let the dead corpse fall to the floor with his knife still stuck in the skull, his focus shifting to trying to keep the attacker at arm’s length.
Rosie reached him a few moments after the first bite and grabbed the walker by its long, lanky hair, yanking it back like she was in a bar fight. The dead hairs snapped off of the walker’s skull and Rosie buried her blade deep into the middle of the walker’s skull with no hesitation, letting it drop to the ground with her knife still embedded.
Immediately, she was at Sam’s side while he dropped to his knees, hands clutching at his neck where the wound was bleeding profusely. “Let me see,” she breathed, prying his fingers away to take a peek at it. All she could see was torn up flesh and a steady stream of blood. Her eyes furrowed as she looked up, seeing the rest of the group huddling around them. She immediately looked at Rick while her hands assisted Sam in lying down on the dusty ground. She made sure to keep her bloodstained hands covering his wound as she silently begged Rick for help. All the leader could do was shake his head sadly.
“It’s bad, isn’t it?” Sam’s words forced her to look back down at him. His brow was furrowed but it was clear that he knew how bleak his future looked.
Rosie paused before answering, considering if she should lie to him but she knew she owed him more than that. Tears pricked at her eyes and she slowly nodded her head, pressing her lips into a tight line and swallowing the lump in her throat. “Yeah,” she whispered, her voice thick with sadness. “It’s bad.”
Sam nodded and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, he looked directly at her and let one of his hands rest on her arm. She was still desperately trying to stop the bleeding, her eyes flitting between his face and his wound. As he lay his hand on her arm and gently squeezed it, she looked at him.
“Promise me you won’t let me turn.”
“W-what?” She responded, getting distracted with the increasing flow of blood.
“Rosie,” he said, forcing her to focus on his eyes. He shut them briefly before opening them and smiling up at her. “It doesn’t hurt anymore.”
She faltered, slowly easing up on the pressure that she was applying to the wound. Another lump formed in her throat and she frowned, trying to keep her sobs at bay.
“Don’t let me turn,” he said again, his voice soft and breathing labored. “I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
Her furrowed brow cleared as she realized what he meant, glancing quickly at where the dead walkers lay nearby. She looked back at him and swallowed, letting one of her hands leave his wound and lay on top of his. His fingers curled around hers and he smiled, letting his eyes rest shut.
“I promise,” she whispered. His eyes didn’t open again and, after a few minutes, his breathing stopped and his hand fell from hers.
As promised, Rosie took her knife from where it was still stuck in the walker and wiped it on her pants. She positioned it at her fallen friend’s temple and took a deep breath.
“Let me do it,” Daryl’s gruff voice sounded from behind her right shoulder, but she shook her head without turning.
“I have to,” she said softly and he didn’t argue.
Shutting her eyes and breathing deeply, she pushed the blade into his skull. She pulled it back and dropped the knife next to his body before standing up abruptly and taking a few steps backward, retreating away from the group and turning her back on the scene behind her. She dropped down to her knees and let the sobs rise up out of her throat, covering her face with her bloody hands. Immediately, she felt two large, rough hands on her forearms before she was pulled into Daryl’s chest and his arms wrapped around her.
Soooooo it's been 2 years and I doubt anyone will read this but I was recently rewatching TWD and kind of got inspired and realised how much I missed writing. I'm super rusty but hey this was just fun for me to do.
If anyone reads this, please leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks xx