After The End
“Mornin’,” Rick’s tense voice spoke quietly as Rosie exited the car she’d slept in. She had gotten a terrible sleep and knew she would be kicking herself later for getting so caught up in her feelings with Daryl, resulting in her lack of sleep. She was just so frustrated by his actions and his mood swings.
She nodded at Rick, taking the bottle of water he offered her and having a deep drink before handing it back to him. As she looked around, she could see that she was still one of the earlier risers in the group. Rick was up, as well as Lori, both standing close and looking worried, while Shane was pacing along the edge of the road, near the guardrail.
Deciding not to intrude on the couple, Rosie grabbed one of the granola bars from her pack before heading over to Shane. When he caught sight of her he smiled, but his eyes remained hard and on alert.
“What’s the plan for today?” She asked as she swallowed the last of her breakfast.
“Daryl’s in charge,” Shane spoke but his voice was mocking. He obviously wasn’t happy with this decision.
“So go wake him up,” the tense atmosphere surrounding her had put a dampener on her already sour, tired mood. “We’re losing valuable daytime, you know that?”
Shane stared at her, frowning, before he put his hands on his hips angrily. “You go wake him up, Rose! And don’t you be talkin’ to me like that.”
His voice had risen slightly, alerting Rick and some of the others who had woken up. Rosie dropped her arms by her sides, anger starting to take over her before the man spoke again.
“The hell’s wrong with you, girl?” He muttered it under his breath, which only made her angrier.
“What did you call me?!” She shouted angrily, shoving a pointer finger in his chest. “Did you call me girl? Girl?!”
“Woah, woah, woah,” Rick’s voice sounded behind them but the pair ignored him, too involved in their stare-off.
“Well, that’s what ya are!” Shane responded, his voice still raised but not yet yelling.
Rosie’s face began to burn with rage as she fought tears of frustration, instead resorting to more yelling. “I am so sick of y’all!” She shouted again as she heard panicked hushing from behind her. Ignoring it, she continued to step forward, causing Shane to back up with every step, until he was pressed against the guardrail, just as surprised as she was with the outburst. “You think that just because I’m female, I’m no use?! You think I’m just here to wash panties and cook for you?! You know what Shane, I’m a good fighter! I can shoot and I know my way around a knife, and-”
“The hell’s goin’ on?” Daryl’s voice caused Rosie to stop mid-sentence, suddenly becoming aware of the way she was acting in front of the entire group. She heard Daryl coming up until he was stood beside her and Shane, but she didn’t look at him. She kept her angry eyes focused on Shane who was staring down at her petite frame.
“You both needa calm down,” Rick’s voice was hushed as he stepped up next to Daryl, his eyes darting from Shane to Rosie.
“You hear that, Rose? You need to calm the hell down,” Shane sneered down at her and Rosie narrowed her eyes at him, her blood boiling once again. “S’wrong with you, girl? You on your period?”
Rosie let out a loud cry of frustration and shoved him in the chest once with all the force she could muster up. She was slightly pleased as he stumbled backwards, surprised, before being corrected by Daryl.
“Asshole,” she mumbled before turning away and heading back to the car she’d spent the night in, right next to the RV.
The group, minus Dale and T-Dog, had headed into the woods under Daryl’s orders, keeping a tight huddle with eyes on every direction. Rosie waited in the back, wanting to be out of everyone’s sight. She had been so caught up with taking out her frustrations on any person when she had verbally attacked Shane that she hadn’t noticed that every single person had caught the tail end of her outburst, embarrassing her deeply. She had copped a lot of concerned looks, causing her to roll her eyes every time, the sassiness contrasting with her burning cheeks.
The most curious looks had come from Daryl, who stayed at the head of the pack, leading them with Rick. Every so often Daryl would glance back to look at Rosie, checking she was there and okay, before he tore his gaze away. She never once met his eyes.
After an unsuccessful discovery of a tent containing only the rotting corpse of someone who had ‘opted out’, the group stood briefly, listening to Carol’s quiet cries. Rosie turned her back on the group, glancing around the trees they stood amongst, keeping her eyes out for walkers and trying to strain her ears to hear any danger approaching. She kept her knife clutched in her right hand, her gun safely tucked in the waistband of her jeans. The group was talking quietly, tones filled with disappointment, as they crowded close. Rosie kept a few feet away, making sure to look every which way, knowing that their voices would carry and echo through the trees.
She glanced next to her to see Daryl. He was looking around the forest too, but she guessed it was just so he wouldn’t have to make eye contact with her. She nodded curtly before turning back to the greenery.
“You gon’ tell me what the hell that was about back there?”
“What what was about?” She mumbled, acting dumb.
Daryl’s grip on her arm caused her to look up at him to see he was staring at her now, giving her a smartass look. “You know what I’m talkin’ about.”
Rosie just rolled her eyes, dropping her arm that was raised with the knife but still keeping her body on alert, ready to spring into action. She sighed as she looked up into his face. “I don’t wanna talk about it, Daryl.”
“Fine, but,” he paused slightly and she looked up at him, an eyebrow raised curiously. “Don’t go doin’ dumb shit like that again, okay? I mean it, Rose. People like Shane, they could be dangerous, especially to you.”
“What do you mean ‘especially to me’?”
“I just mean don’t let your guard down, okay?” He was completely serious now and something about his face made her keep watching him. “I can only do so much to protect ya. Ya gotta be smart.”
Rosie was quiet for a moment. “You don’t needa protect me, Daryl,” she said softly, dropping her gaze to her shoes and lifting it again.
Daryl just smiled and laughed quietly. “Yeah, I do. You’re all I got, Rose. It’s you and me, even in this dumb group. If somethin’ ever happens, it’s you an’ me.”
Rosie’s chest tightened as she looked at him, unable to look away. Before she could say anything, their heads both whipped around to where the loud sound of chiming bells could be heard.
“That can’t be it,” Shane spoke as the group followed him, Rick and Daryl out of the trees to see the large white church. “Got no steeple, no bells.”
The group ran forward and Daryl and Rick prepared themselves at the front door of the building, getting ready to open it up and see what was inside. Daryl nodded at where Rosie stood at the bottom of the steps, a small sign of assurance and she returned it.
On Rick’s signal the two men thrust the doors open, revealing an almost-empty interior. As the men took care of the three walkers, Rosie stayed outside, wanting to keep watch while the others looked around. She still held her knife tightly as she searched the area around them, her eyes falling on spaced apart gravestones. She wondered about the people they belonged to, feeling somewhat grateful on their behalf that they got to live without this trauma.
“Dead end.” Daryl had come up behind her once again, surprising her this time. She tore her thoughts from the graves of people she didn’t even know and turned to look at him. He was squinting, his hand shielding his face from the sun as he looked down at her. “It was automated, the bells.”
“Oh,” was all Rosie could say as she looked behind him to where Carol and Lori were just exiting the church looking downcast.
“Look, Rosie,” Daryl’s pained voice surprised her as she looked back to him. He was looking at his feet, seemingly nervous. “About that night, at the CDC…”
“We don’t have to talk about it,” she said softly after he hadn’t continued. She could sense his awkwardness, knowing that him even bringing it up was a big issue.
He looked like he was about to say something when Rick waved the two of them over to where the group had now congregated. Rosie just nodded at Daryl and patted his arm briefly, before leading him the short distance to the group.
She didn’t notice Daryl discreetly placing himself between Shane and herself, his body angled so she was slightly behind him while Shane was completely in his view. Daryl didn’t miss the way Shane glanced at the girl, something unreadable on his face. All he did was edge himself fractionally nearer to his closest friend, keeping her well within reach. She smiled slightly as the back of his arm touched her own.
“Me an’ Rick, we’re gonna hang back, search the area. Shouldn’t be more than an hour or so,” Shane spoke authoritatively, placing Daryl in charge as he told them to follow the creek bed.
“Splittin’ us up?” Daryl’s voice was unsure as he looked at the two police officers, his thoughts on Rosie. “You sure?”
“Yeah, we’ll catch up to you.”
“I wanna stay too,” Carl piped up, moving forward from where he had been stood next to his mother. As he made his case, causing a small deliberation between the adults in charge of him, Rosie turned to Daryl.
“You reckon this is a good idea?” She asked him, nodding her head towards the church.
Daryl shook his head, eyes on the edge of the forest. “Nah, don’t think we should split up. That’s how Sophia got in this mess anyways.”
Rosie just nodded and watched as Rick offered Lori his gun.
“I’m not taking you gun and leaving you unarmed,” she said, smiling slightly.
Daryl stepped forward and Rosie’s skin suddenly felt cold where his arm had been pressed up against it. He held his newfound gun to Lori. “Here, I got a spare.”
She took it and Rick nodded gratefully at the man, before turning away. The groups separated but Rosie stopped when Carl called out her name, making her and Daryl turn.
“Will you stay with us?” he asked, his sweet voice making her smile. “You can help us find Sophia, you’re her friend too. Right, Dad?”
It was Shane who answered. “I don’t see a problem with that,” he looked at Rick who nodded as well and the two men looked back at her.
“Nah,” Daryl spoke, gripping her arm protectively. “Ain’t safe. She’s stayin’ with me.”
“Rosie? You gonna let him do all the talkin’ for you?” Shane grinned and she narrowed her eyes, realizing he was trying to rile her up.
Daryl took an aggressive step forward but she lightly placed her hand on his that was still clinging to her bicep. She just smiled at the two men in front of her, focusing on Shane. “Yeah, I am,” her voice came out sickly sweet before she turned and was tugging Daryl along behind her.
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