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"I always knew we were just alike."

Chapter Text

Rick knows Negan isn’t invincible. After seeing children ripped apart and adults with axes and guns being put through the same process, he understands no one is. It doesn’t matter how much bravado and charm a person has, how strong his swing is. No one is immune to the Walkers. But more importantly, no one is immune to man.

The Walkers are dangerous in hoards, when they come unexpectedly in waves and the sheer amount of them breaks down one’s defenses. But man? A single man can carry the ability to tear everything apart. Rick has seen that too and he won’t let others suffer because of one man’s greed or jealousy or whatever is driving the person.

What he and Negan have built, it may not be the perfect system but it works. People are kept safe, everyone who can work provides. So maybe leisure time is rare and the food is more mush than anything discernible for most of their people. They’re not out there with the Walkers are they? They can sleep in the same bed night after night, form bonds and relationships. They’re kept safe thanks to what he and Negan have done and so far, even the worst horde of Walkers has been child’s play to put down.

But some can’t seem to understand that. They call for a democracy, for the people’s voice to be heard. Rick tried that once and he learned pretty quickly that though one person can shout reason, people as a whole are as mindless as the monsters outside. He can’t risk his safety, his children’s safety, their community’s safety just because some call it unfair. What is truly more unfair? Allowing some lazy, prideful individuals to get their say and possibly hurting everyone in the process, or keeping those individuals in their place and having everyone help the community as a whole? It made sense so why can’t others see it?

Rick can’t just wipe out those that disagreed with him though. Democracy or not, that isn’t the kind of place he is trying to make. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t keep his eyes on those that detest his and Negan’s rule just a little to much though and it certainly doesn’t mean he isn’t willing to act if someone else does first.

And when they do act, it just proves that Negan isn’t invincible despite what some think. The man is still flesh and blood. He still experiences fatigue which can still overcome him, he can get wounded on a run, he can misjudge someone else’s intentions.

But that is why Rick is there. To watch his back and to pick up any slack in Negan’s defenses.

So when this idiot that Rick hasn’t been bothered to recall by name launches himself at Negan when the man is weaker due to a particularly grueling fight with a small nomadic group, Rick simply acts on instinct. He can grab his gun or the hatchet that securely swings by his side but why do that when a perfectly fine weapon has just fallen to the ground?

It isn’t the first time he’s ever held Lucille but it is the first time he’s ever swung her. The knife in the attacker’s hand falls as the bat connects with his head. Rick feels the vibrations run up his arms as skin snags onto the barbs before being torn off. He pops open the skull but the man is still alive and could still become a Walker. Rick hits him again, making him fall flat on the ground and then repeats the action once more just in case.

As the blood spatters across his face and he feels a bit of brain land in his beard from a backswing, Rick thinks of how happy he is Lori is dead. It’s a horrible thought and Rick tries to rationalize it by thinking he just wouldn’t want his wife to look at him and see his former best friend, her ex-lover, for her to find out she’d traded Shane for someone just like him. It makes the thought just rather than horrific but even a small part of Rick has to admit he doesn’t even care anymore. He knows he loved her once but now he honestly feels nothing for his wife. She didn’t make it and that was that.

Rick leans back, looking at the bloody pulp that had once been a man. He glances down at the bat and sees an eyeball hanging off Lucille along with all matter of flesh and blood. If anyone else had just did that, even to save Negan’s life, Rick imagines they would have gotten the same end. No one but Negan used Lucille. No one.

But then, Rick isn’t no one and all that happens is he feels Negan snatch the bat back with a little more force than necessary. The man is grinning though which isn’t too surprising. It seems to be the one of only two expressions he carries around: one of absolute glee or absolute fury.

“Hot damn Rick. What have I been fucking saying? Me and you? I always knew we were just alike.”

“We’re not,” Rick says, his voice steady and calm. Before, killing a human, even an enemy, would have left his mark on Rick. Now it’s just as easy to kill them as it is to kill Walkers, perhaps even more so considering most of them don’t hunger for flesh.

“Really? After that fucking glorious show? How can you say that?” laughs Negan.

“You get joy out of it,” Rick simply continues. “Not that you kill without a purpose. You always do. But you do enjoy it.”

“And you’re saying you didn’t? After making this fucking mess?”

Rick shakes his head. “No. But It doesn’t mean I won’t turn the next twenty men I see to blood and dust if it means keeping this community safe.” Keeping you safe, he adds silently.

Negan lets out a hoot, his grin widening as he throws an arm over Rick’s shoulders. “You are fucking something Rick. You know that? I still can’t believe the batshit crazy luck that had to come about for us two to meet.”

His mouth twitches into a small smile. He should hate his circumstances; hate how he’s ended up in this present of all possible outcomes. He had once held so much hope for his own community, before Negan, before all this. But he finds that he honestly doesn’t mind. It’s the new world order after all and someone has to do the dirty work if their community is to remain safe.

“I gotta get you a fucking bat. Just pop! I can already see you just tearing those fuckers apart. How’d you fucking like that?”

Rick finds the small twitches now turn into a full smile, Negan’s utter glee just as contagious as his fury during a fight. “I think I’ll stick with the hatchet, thanks.”

“Fine, just know the offer still stands,” laughs Negan as he pulls him away from the mess that barely resembles a corpse. Rick makes a note to have someone clean it up before it starts stinking up the hallway as he allows himself to join in Negan’s maniacal laughter.

Chapter Text

Rick remembers when he exiled Carol for the killing of Karen and David. Ironically, she’s the one that argues the least with this new world, this new way of doing things. They’ve settled in the factory longer than anywhere else before, longer than the prison, and they’ve come across far more enemies and survived with far fewer losses (though Rick has to admit he doesn’t know for certain if they could win against another Governor; hopefully they would never have to find out).

Carol is his right hand, his bridge back to his original group though Rick tries not to call them that anymore. Sectioning themselves off only weakens the community as a whole. Sasha at least understands this though it makes since considering how she’s had to rework herself into new groups in the past. Tara is a bit more comfortable being part of the Saviors rather than trying to distance herself and the two of them aren’t the only ones.

But Daryl finds it hard and Rick finds himself arguing with him more than he would like. Daryl is one of his closest friends and though he strangely finds himself trusting Carol more, he will always be connected to Daryl in other unspeakable ways. He’s his brother, he loves him, but he hates how Daryl won’t fully commit. He understands of course. After Merle and Beth, Daryl finds it hard to want to hold onto anything. Despite the struggles, Rick is happy that he’s stuck around as long as he has and that at the very least, Daryl sees reason to stay when he looks at Rick or Carol.

Carl though…Carl is another matter entirely. Even though the rest of the original group (Glenn, Maggie, Bob, and so on) aren’t as on board as Carol, most aren’t as standoffish as Daryl either. But Carl…Rick finds that usually Carl approves. After all, Carl had been ahead of Rick when it came to understanding what needed to be done. If it had been any other kid, Rick wouldn’t have minded, might have even been a bit impressed by their level of maturity. But a selfish part of him still wishes to protect Carl even though he knows it’s far too late.

His bias in the matter is a topic of conversation between him, Negan, and Carol quite a bit. Carol isn’t quite Negan’s equal, just like how Simon isn’t Rick’s. But that doesn’t mean Negan is to pompous not to include her in some discussions and on the rare occasion, will gladly use her to tag team Rick into doing something. Rick has learned Negan particularly enjoys using her in regards to Carl.

“Carl, you’re going out with Negan on a supply run today,” Carol says as way of greeting.

Rick can already see Carl perking up in excitement as Rick feeds Judith. His private room is a refurbished office on the same floor, though opposite side, as Negan’s in the factory. His is actually bigger than Negan’s, though that’s just because Carl and Judith sleep with him and despite how Negan is with everything else, he’s a sucker for kids (something which Rick is sure ties to his past though he can’t know for sure) and Carl and Judith are the only ones in their community that could really be considered as such.

He would almost call it doting on them though that seems like the wrong word. Either way, he focuses on what Carol has just said and replies, “Then I’m going to.” Carl immediately rolls his eyes.

“He said he knew you’d say that,” Carol smirks. “It’s going to be a longer one. Three days this time.”

“That’s kind of testing our boundaries, huh,” Carl comments. They all know he doesn’t just mean physically.

“Me and Simon will be in charge until you get back,” Carol answers to the silent question.

Rick trusts Carol, and Negan trusts Simon. It’s all that Rick needs to know that they’ll do their damnedest to keep things running smoothly. Still, it’s a good move though. If the community can still function without its head then it means Negan and Rick really are building something that can and will survive.

“You leave in about ten minutes. Truck’s already prepped,” Carol says. “I’ll meet you down there.”

“Thanks,” Rick smiles before turning back to Judith to clean up some of the food that’s dribbled out of her mouth.

He grabs his usual jacket and securely attaches his hatchet while Carl has already disappeared to do some last minute prepping of his own. Rick packs up some of Judith’s things since it’ll be a few days before they come back and then heads out to find Maggie. Now that her own pregnancy has kept her from going outside the walls, she’s only to happy to take care of Judith, calling it practice in times to come.

Rick expects to meet Negan at the truck but he’s not completely surprised as he shows up just as Rick is handing his little girl over.

“Can’t expect me to leave without saying goodbye to the little angel, now can you?” laughs Negan with a quick kiss beneath her growing head of hair.

Maggie gives a slight twitch, not fully comfortable with Negan’s presence even if she’s more accepting of the new home than others. For the most part, Negan never paid her any mind, at least not until the knowledge of her pregnancy had moved around and then her place in the usual bunks had gotten bumped up with the leaders and generals and “right-hand” men.

“And where’s my little serial killer?” laughs Negan.

Rick resists the urge to roll his eyes. “Should be at the truck by now.”

“Then let’s get this fucking show on the road! See you later angel.”

They walk over and Carl is already there, practically itching to go. They climb in, Negan taking the driver’s seat as Carl sits between them. Negan passes over the map, showing them the planned route. Once they get out of their familiar zone they slow down, they stop every few minutes to head off the road and see if they can find any structures, any abandoned campsites, lost book bags.

Negan mostly fills up all the conversation with his comments and jokes. Rick only really talks when Negan addresses him directly, asking, “Now why is it that to get Carl out and about it seems that it always has to fucking be me to do it and then you always have to fucking follow along?”

“Maybe I like family outings.”

“That was awful,” mutters Carl with a grimace just as Negan let’s out his trademark laugh.

“See kid, this is why I’m the motherfucker who does the speeches! It’s ‘cause I know how to make a god damn joke.”

“Dad’s given some pretty good speeches,” Carl says, at least somewhat sticking up for his old man.

“Well yeah if it’s about heart and shit,” laughs Negan.

“It worked with Terminus,” Rick adds, reminding them of how they’d all met.

“That it did. That it did. And if there’s some time when the fucking troops need to be rallied then I will call on you to do your god damn speeches.”

Rick simply rolls his eyes as he falls into silence again, focusing on the passing scenery and making sure they don’t miss anything of interest.

The first day they find nothing of importance and the second day is only slightly better. One more day of going down the same road and then they’ll have to turn back. If they still find nothing, Rick knows that everything sure as hell is going to need to be perfect back at the factory because Negan will not be in a good mood.

The third day sadly does end rather poorly though at least they manage to get a few tanks of gas for their trouble. As usual, they take turns on watch duty, Negan being the last and the one to wake them both up in the morning. It’s when they start driving back that things get interesting.

“Holy shit! That fucker was alive. Wasn’t it!?” cries Negan as he hits the breaks though not before they all feel the bump underneath the vehicle.

As they all jump out, Rick can very clearly see that the man they’ve just hit was very much alive but definitely isn’t anymore. Rick can tell Negan’s about to make some stupid ass comment about road kill when he hears the noise. Their guns are out right away as Negan casually swings Lucille.

Carl’s and Negan’s eyes are focused on the man that’s run out of the woods with a knife in his hands. Rick makes it seem like his eyes are focused there too but he’s checking his peripherals, only just barely listening to the man ramble on about how he was just chasing after some guy who stole his food.

Rick can tell that’s wrong. The guy they just hit didn’t have a pack on him and he had no weapon. Rick can imagine what they were doing instead though honestly, he realizes it doesn’t matter. They’ll see if he’s alone or not, steal from the guy, Negan may or may not kill him if he fancies to, and then they’ll move on. It only begins to matter when Rick catches a flash of skin and metal, an image through the leaves, and he doesn’t hesitate in pulling the trigger. Thoughts of what-ifs and reasons don’t even pass his head. It doesn’t matter. All that matters was he knew where that gun was pointing and now it no longer is.

“What the fuck! You fucking bastards! What the fuck!”

The guy launches himself forward and with a tantrum like that, it’s kind of surprising he’s lasted as long as he has. Rick ignores the man’s anguished charge though as he isn’t much of a threat with his sniper partner down. Negan starts taking him apart with a single swing. Rick chooses to walk into the woods and up to what ends up being a woman. She’s not quite dead, bleeding out on the ground. Rick puts away his gun and takes out his hatchet but doesn’t end her suffering right away. He looks her over, her clothing, what weapons she has. He takes one of her knives out, looking over it with an impressed eye. It’s been used plenty but taken good care of; still sharp and gleaming.

Rick looks back at the dying woman’s hate filled eyes as blood continues to bubble out of her mouth. “Don’t worry. I’ll take good care of this, just like you have,” he promises as he ends her life and keeps her from reanimating at the same time.

“Woo boy! We had ourselves a pair of little psychos right here,” laughs Negan as he comes up to his side. “Not to great a shot though Rick. You gettin’ soft on me?”

“She had that pointed at you Negan,” Rick replies, pointing back to the perch she had fallen from and the sniper rifle there. “Considering that, I think I hit her just fine.”

“Well excuse the fuck out of me,” laughs Negan.

“They were hunting him, right?” Carl suddenly juts in, a few new weapons on his person. “The guy?”

“Sure as hell looks like it. Let’s find their camp,” says Negan, pushing out and into the woods as he swings his bat to flick off some of the blood still trapped in the barbed wire.

They follow the obvious trail and though what they find isn’t a massive stash, the weapons are pretty damn impressive along with an off road jeep. It’s enough to put Negan in a good mood as they load it all into the truck and Negan drives the jeep back onto the rode. Once the final gun is secure and in place, they head straight home with their salvage. It takes a day and a half before they get there. Carol and Simon are of course waiting but before Negan orders them to get the weapons to the armory and to put the gas with everything else, Negan gestures Rick over.

“For saving my life yet again, I think it’s only right you get first pick.”

Rick raises an eyebrow. It’s always amusing, watching Negan pull shit like this. It makes since of course. Negan’s all about show and he likes to show people that he’s in charge, even if it really is him and Rick. As always, Rick doesn’t mind. After all, he’s the only one who can reply with, “If I’d wanted something, I would have taken it already,” and get away with it.

The response causes Negan to wear his shit eating grin as usual, letting out a laugh as he says, “Well in that case take these fuckers away I suppose. Rick is just fine with his little hatchet!”

Rick rolls his eyes, knowing full well Negan means it as an innuendo. “I can still swing as hard as you.” He smiles, watching how Negan continues to laugh his ass off at the comment before walking away. Rick just keeps smiling as he walks over to Carol to hear the reports of the past few days.

Chapter Text

A day off is rare, at least it used to be. They’re certainly more common than they once were thanks to them putting two other groups under their control. It was actually easing the strain on everyone though that sure as hell didn’t mean anyone had the right to laze around. He and Negan had made sure everyone understood that.

But that being said, Rick has decided to make an executive decision and take the day off to spend time with Judith. She’s getting big, will probably start talking soon, and Rick hates how he has been neglecting her, even though it’s been necessary for the community.

Funny enough, when he mentioned it to Negan, the man hadn’t done something stupid like trying to make it sound like a day off had been his idea or argued the fact or something or other. It seemed that if Judith was concerned then his more reasonable side was likely to come out. All he said was for Rick to have fun and that he’d probably stop by.

Now Rick is getting to properly play with his daughter, not feeling the need to rush a meal or cut story time short to run off and do a job. As his reading lulls her to sleep and it’s about her nap time anyways, Rick allows himself to relax in the chair and contemplates how content he now feels.

After the prison, he hadn’t thought such happiness would be achievable again and even if it was, it sure as hell wouldn’t be sustainable.

But then he met Negan and it seemed the final piece had fallen into place. You couldn’t keep a moral high ground and assure yourself that your family was safe. It didn’t work that way. Because of that, in some horrific way, Rick is happy they came across Terminus. If they hadn’t, then Rick wouldn’t have run into Negan and his family wouldn’t be as safe as they are now. After all, none of his family had died from the other group. That other guy that had been with them, had a handlebar mustache or something, his entire group had gotten wiped out and at the time Rick felt sorry for them. Now…well now he can’t even remember the guy’s name which probably speaks for itself.

Whatever, the point was that around the time Rick and his family ran into Gareth and the rest of those fucking cannibals, Negan’s group had done the same. Rick later learned about what happened to them, bad luck and just not enough time to set up proper defenses. Negan had begun building himself a pretty damn good community when a horde of Walkers had ruined it all and killed a lot of his men and people.

At the time though, Rick didn’t care about Negan’s past or even what his group was capable of. What mattered was they were men with guns who needed food and shelter and sure as hell wouldn’t be the kinds of people that Gareth and his crew would take in as part of the community.

The pact had been built out of necessity as neither group had been big enough to take on Terminus by themselves.

Rick can still remember how Negan tried to get in charge, tried to take control of Rick’s group. Prison Rick might have even allowed it to happen to try and preserve some warped sense of peace but the Rick born from Lori’s death, the Governor’s death, the prison’s ruins, hadn’t let Negan get in a single step with that thought.

At the time, Negan hadn’t been as amused as he would have been now with those same words and actions. In fact, he’d been fucking pissed and pretty close to starting a war between the two groups rather than tag teaming Terminus. A small group of Walkers had kept that from happening though and it also changed how Rick saw Negan.

The action had been purely instinctive then and that near constant feeling of “keep him safe” hadn’t grown yet. But the fact of the matter was Rick saw Negan as something other than the charming, confident, invincible leader and ended up saving his ass. In all actuality, Rick’s little stunt could have led to nothing and as he thinks back on the scene, he imagines it would have if others had been closer. But as it was, Negan and Rick had been somewhat separated and Negan’s bravado slipped just the slightest bit since there wasn’t an audience. Rick had saved his life after all when just moments ago they had both considered tearing the other apart.

Rick of course hadn’t done it out of the goodness of his heart though. He needed Negan and his group if his own family was to survive and didn’t try and lie about it.

Once the Walkers were firmly dispatched, they finally reached an agreement, one where they would help each other destroy Terminus and get what they needed before parting ways.

Rick now wonders where he’d be if they had stuck with that bargain. Rick decides that whatever the outcome, it would have been a bleak future.

After confirming the partnership, they had gone about planning and scavenging before they finally went and tore Terminus and Gareth’s group apart. They could have done their damage and left but when Rick recalled that it was pure luck that no one from his group had been chosen to be bled, to be torn apart and fucking eaten, it suddenly felt wrong to let Walkers finish them off.

They got the remaining survivors in a group after the initial attack and blocked them off: Rick, Negan, and most of Negan’s men. Carol and Sasha were the only ones from his family that stuck around for what happened next and they were also the only ones that heard the story as well.

Trying to make a last minute plea for their lives, Gareth came out and explained why their community had resorted to cannibalism of all things. Rick can still recalls Negan’s response word for word to that.

“Believe me when I say I am fucking disgusted. But from what I understand, those people are long dead or long gone which really means I can do jack-shit about them. However, you lot killed one of my men, wanted to eat us, wanted to eat Rick’s little angel,” that had been the first time Negan had used the nickname, “and I cannot abide by that. I would say we’d just break you into working for us but I really don’t want to have to worry about one of you fuckers getting hungry and trying to gnaw on my fucking arm.”

And with that, he raised his bat and brought it down on Gareth’s head. Rick followed suit, hacking and slashing and feeling completely righteous with his hatchet dripping fresh blood for once.

He remembered that was around the last time he saw Michonne. Rick didn’t think she was the most disgusted with him for what he’d done. At the time, Glenn undoubtedly hated Rick’s guts the most. But Michonne was the most willing to leave and she had, claiming she was unable to be part of what was happening.

Perhaps Michonne would still be with them if Rick fought harder for her. He could have come up with something probably. After all, that was where the agreement with Negan had planned on ending. They would raid the remaining cashes of food and weapons, and then both leave for their own prospects. However, Judith had grown malnourished and sick due to her treatment in Gareth’s hands and instead of leaving Rick to deal with that, Negan offered to help him find a doctor. Rick chose to lead his group alongside Negan’s for just a little longer and Michonne chose to leave.

They ended up upon a Dr. Carson who was with a group of nomads that Negan gave the choice of joining or dying to. Dr. Carson was the first to get with the picture and was only too happy to help. He even directed them towards an abandoned factory (it had been empty even before the outbreak) and it had good cover and protection if one had enough men.

That is how Rick has ended up partnered with Negan and it could very well be why Judith is still alive. Maybe she would have gotten well on her own but Rick sure as hell wouldn’t have risked it to find out.

Judith stirs in his arms then, disrupting Rick from his reflection as she makes noises signaling her hunger.

Rick smiles and gladly obliges, rocking her back and forth even though the chair he’s in isn’t a rocking chair.

As he does so, he decides that this perfection is largely thanks to him protecting Negan, something originally done unintentionally and now something which feels like second nature. He chuckles at the thought, knowing that if Daryl could hear him he would go off on how Negan can fend for himself and he doesn’t need Rick and how much of an ass he is and so on and so forth. It’s a good thing Daryl isn’t there and hearing his inner thoughts then because Rick isn’t exactly sure how he could bring Daryl over, or if he ever truly will, to Negan’s side and their new way of doing things.

But Rick knows that he’ll continue to fight for Negan no matter what the others think. At the very least, he knows he’ll always have Carl and Judith by his side in the matter.

“How’s my little angel doing? Glad that she finally gets some one on one time with daddy?”

Rick just huffs as Negan enters his room without knocking. “You could have interrupted her naptime, you know?”

“Like hell I could have. I got this entire place’s pattern down to a tee. I know when the fuck she’s sleeping and when she isn’t.”

“Oh yeah? Then perhaps you’d like to keep her in your room since you’ll know exactly when she’ll wake up in the middle of the night,” Rick responds.

“Now just hold on one fucking moment,” Negan replies as he walks over and takes Judith from him, “I didn’t say that. Now what kind of man would I be depriving this sweet angel the ability of tormenting her father each and every night?”

Though Judith can’t possibly understand him, she seems to get a kick out of it nonetheless. As she giggles and claps her hand Rick simply looks on with a fond smile gracing his lips.

Chapter Text

Sometimes protecting Negan isn’t just about bashing in a few skulls. It’s been about two years of steady growth at their base. Getting the factory into a livable place, setting up the necessary precautions close and far away from home in case of Walkers or other humans. It’s only more recently that they’ve started putting others under their control but then, it’s only now that they really have that ability. Every day is spent doing something productive, whether it’s scouting, building, farming, or putting the fear of god into other communities. Through that time, Negan never directly says the words but Rick can pick up the pieces that Negan surrounds himself with.

He’s pretty sure Negan doesn’t know the exact day anymore, or if he ever did, but he’s got enough of a general sense that Rick isn’t surprised this time when he disappears. The first time he had been in a panic like most everyone else, trying to figure out where the hell he’d gone. But not this time. This time Rick keeps his eyes open as the time approaches and he follows Negan outside the walls on the day while most are fast asleep. They won’t notice they’re gone until the sun breaks the horizon but Rick knows it won’t be quite the panic it was last time. At least now Carol and Simon have a bit more of a head’s up and they’ll be prepared.

Rick isn’t sure what kind of anniversary Negan keeps, whether it’s one of birth or marriage or death. He’s leaning to the two latter though considering how Negan will look at his left hand, his ring finger, and though he likes kids he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that’s ever had any. Rick wonders if he’s imagining a ring he never got to put on or if he’s thinking of the one he threw away. Rick had thrown his ring into the scrap metal a while ago to be made into something else. The act hadn’t been of sentiment, more one of practicality though.

Now Rick regularly paces around the small fishing cabin where he knows Negan is drowning himself in booze, killing the occasional Walker that stumbles in their direction. Since he’s prepared this time, there’s actually some food and around noon he forces Negan to eat some.

He complains like a god damn ten year old trying to avoid broccoli but he eventually allows it once he understands Rick isn’t going anywhere.

Once Negan has eaten, Rick swallows his own sandwich and heads back out. He continues casually moving around the perimeter for a few hours before heading back inside with his own bottle that he’s been saving until right before they have to leave.

“Damn Rick! You been hiding out on some good shit!” laughs Negan.

They sit at a simple, wooden table as Rick takes a swig first before passing it to Negan. The man’s cheeks are tinged red from how much drinking he’s been doing and his voice is even louder than normal, if that’s possible at all.

He lets out a whine as Rick slips the bottle out of Negan’s grip and takes his own shot before passing it over again.

“I don’t understand you Rick. Why come out here? Huh!?”

“And have you get bitten because you’re too drunk to know up from down? I don’t think so.”

Negan only catches a few of the words and mutters, “I know up and down Rick! I’m not stupid.”

Rick just rolls his eyes, more amused than annoyed.

“You know—” Negan stops as he tries to grab the bottle back from Rick. Upon failing, he continues, “You know I don’t get why you don’t tell the others ‘bout this. Sure they’d get a right old hoot of me running off and getting blind drunk over my god damn emotions.”

“I’m pretty sure even with what we’ve built, you’d kill me for that.”

Negan laughs far to long and to loud as he says, “Hell yeah I would! But why you here? Why do you care?”

“We’re partners Negan. And yeah, it’s been long enough that I think everyone would trust to follow me if something happened to you but that doesn’t mean I want that to happen,” Rick replies evenly as Negan manages to get the bottle back. “Besides, you led me here, figuratively and physically. You opened my eyes to a new way of doing things and I’ll forever be grateful for it.”

Negan frowns before starting to laugh again. It’s hard to tell exactly what he’s just understood as he replies, “I’d kill ya Rick. Then I’d be on top all by myself!”

“Then why haven’t you yet?”

He opens his mouth to respond and this time properly pauses, his alcohol infused mind trying to find an answer that doesn’t seem to come. Finally he just tries to launch over the table and growls, “Give me the bottle.”

Rick just chuckles, sliding the bottle over.

He takes Negan back before it can get to dark and Simon lets them in with a simple nod. He’s smart enough to not ask questions and keep his mouth shut. They don’t encounter anyone else as Rick takes Negan back to his room, most in the makeshift mess hall for dinner.

Once there, Rick helps Negan out of his jacket before the man falls onto the bed and pulls his pillow close.

“Rick. Rick. Rick—”

“Yeah Negan?”

The man repeats his name a few more times as if to make sure he’s listening before mumbling into his pillow, “Take care of Lucille. She…she needs to be taken care of. Take care of her.”

Rick moves closer, placing a calming hand on Negan’s shoulder. He glances over at Lucille which he’s placed in the armchair that’s basically hers. “Already done,” he softly says. Negan immediately relaxes at the words and Rick moves away and back to the door. Turning off the light, he takes one last glance at Negan.

The sound is soft but Rick’s heard it enough in this world to know what it is. Listening now, he vows that no one else will ever hear it coming from Negan. He’ll protect the man’s image just as he protects his flesh and blood.

With that, he softly closes the door and heads off to grab Judith from Maggie before bedtime.

Chapter Text

Rick thought that dealing with the new found community of Alexandria would be similar to how they dealt with the Kingdom. Just because he and Negan can make people piss themselves empty doesn’t mean it’s always the best approach.

And in all honesty, Alexandria doesn’t need anyone to die before everyone gets on the same page. They’re a pretty docile group, protected from the world with their wall and electricity and running water. Negan jokes that he’s found his new vacation house there.

But then Rick starts to notice something regarding their resident doctor and his family. He starts to take note of the bruisers and the woman’s attempt to cover them up. He’s not sure how bad it’s gotten but just seeing how she hides everything, how withdrawn she is, Rick knows it’s gotten bad enough. He speaks to Negan who decides to lead the pickup crew when they go to get their supplies next. When Negan comes back, Rick can tell the man’s seen the same damn thing as Rick and he’s pretty fucking pissed about it. They decide on the next run to arrive a day early and that’s exactly what they do.

Them being early and also Rick and Negan coming together (something which they haven’t done before), it’s obvious their leaders Deanna and Reg know that whatever’s about to happen isn’t good. However, they’ve already taken all their guns and Rick doesn’t feel he needs to worry about any fighting though he gestures for their men to keep their eyes peeled.

Negan yells for a town meeting and everyone obediently comes into the street.

“Now I thought we had an understanding!” cries out Negan. Rick stands by his side, their men casually standing around them. Simon is grinning the widest next to Negan, knowing full well what kind of show they’re about to have.

“You work for the Saviors now! You work for me and Rick now! That means…there are rules you have to follow.”

“Negan you haven’t—”

“Don’t interrupt me Deanna! I have told you everything you needed to know and the rest should be god damn common sense!” yells Negan. “Now, where is that fucking doctor of yours?”

Rick silently points him out before anyone can say anything. Technically he doesn’t really need to and the action is more for theatrics than anything.

“Doctor, please come down! You are our lucky winner today!” When the man doesn’t move, Negan’s smile falls away and he adds, “When I say now, I mean right fucking now you piece of shit.”

The man looks like he wants to run away but it’s clear that won’t do him any good. He ultimately walks up, slow and uncertain and very very afraid.

“Now, what’s your name?”

“Pete—”

Negan swings his bat against the man’s stomach, sending him to the ground before he can finish. As everyone cries out, Negan yells, “Never mind. I don’t fucking care! You know why? Because you fucking broke the rules and people are punished if they break the fucking rules!”

The man’s wife cries out just as Deanna tries to get a straight answer from Negan. The doctor is still rolling on the ground, his midsection bleeding from the torn skin, bones likely broken as he struggles to breath.

“You wanna know? He’s an abusive fucking husband, that’s why! Common fucking decency. I thought you people had it with your nice houses and clean streets but clearly I was fucking wrong!”

“He’s our only doctor!” cries Deanna. “We need him! We—”

“You need a fucking doctor? I got a fine old doctor back home called Dr. Carson. I’ll send him down here once a week, in between the supply runs, and have him patch anyone up that fucking needs it. And guess what? There’s even an added bonus. He’s not an abusive fuck!” Negan swings his bat again, this time hitting the man in the face. His skull pops but he’s still not quite dead causing several people to scream in terror.

Rick looks around and sees one of the doctor’s kids shaking like a leaf. It’s not from terror though. It’s pure rage.

The entire thing happens in an instance and in those few seconds that Rick has to understand what is going on, he steps in front of Negan. There’s a chance that the kid doesn’t have what Rick thinks he has, there’s a chance that if he does, the shot will go wide, or perhaps he’s not even going to aim at Negan. But either way it doesn’t matter. His first instinct is to simply keep Negan safe. It seems to be the right call when he feels his body falter backwards from the hit, the only thing keeping him upright being that Negan’s right behind him.

The kid is shot seconds later from one of theirs, though not Simon because suddenly he’s the one holding Rick up and Negan is gone, approaching the kid bleeding out on the ground. The kid may already be dead, from the screams it sure sounds like it, but it doesn’t matter because Negan starts going at him anyways, beating him to a pulp as his mother’s screams seem to attempt to break the sound barrier.

“Common fucking decency! It’s not fucking hard,” growls Negan as he stands up, blood dripping from Lucille.

His eyes turn back to Rick and there’s nothing but pure rage there. Rick wonders if he’s going to swing out into the crowd but instead he only steps away from the boy and slams his bat into the doctor’s head.

“I want this entire place torn the fuck apart and I want to know how the hell this kid had a gun!” Negan yells out, some of the people scattering to do just that. “Simon, get Rick back.”

Rick feels Simon’s grip on him tighten which is probably for the best as when he takes his first step, it feels like his legs are about to give out right away.

Simon gets Rick back to one of the trucks with the help of Arat. She focuses on keeping pressure on the wound while Simon drives, threatening him all the way that he better not fucking die.

Carol meets them at the gate and rushes ahead to Dr. Carson to get him ready.

The entire process is painful as hell and Rick passes out once from it only to wake up in his bed. Arat is at his side, looking pretty damn relieved that he’s alive. Rick doesn’t have to ask why. They both know that if he had died then Negan likely would have blamed her and Simon or Dr. Carson. She’s just thankful she doesn’t have to worry about Negan’s wrath.

“Anyone else die?” murmurs Rick.

“Don’t know. They’re headed back now though. You’ve only been out for about thirty minutes,” Arat replies.

“Carl?”

“He’s been out on a perimeter check. I’ll have someone inform him the moment they’re back. The baby’s with Fat Joey.”

Not Rick’s first choice for a babysitter but the guy was harmless enough and at least had experience with kids from before.

Rick simply nods at Arat and she heads out as Rick allows himself to relax and doze off for a moment longer. It’s difficult to say how much time has passed but the sound of someone running has Rick opening his eyes again. Carl runs in, body heaving and eyes wide.

“I’m ok. It didn’t—”

“Who the hell did it? Who?” asks Carl. He sounds like he’s stuck in between crying and screaming.

“Negan took care of it. Don’t worry—”

“You’re damn right Negan took care of it! Now what the hell was that all for Rick?” asks Negan with a narrowed gaze. Lucille swings by his side, still a few pieces of skin and clothing attached to the bat.

“Had to protect you,” murmurs Rick.

“I don’t fucking care. No more chivalrous shit,” growls Negan.

Rick just smiles back. He’s not going to stop and maybe Negan already knows that but he won’t argue the point now, not when Negan is still so clearly riled up.

“Who the hell did it though?” asks Carl.

“Some kid in Alexandria after we made an example of his dad,” says Negan with a satisfied grin. “He won’t be getting up again.”

Carl finally relaxes, looking pleased just as two men come into the room.

“Also got you a nicer chair,” Negan adds. “Took a bunch of their shit the ungrateful fuckers.”

“Any chance of more uprisings?” asks Carl.

Rick shakes his head. “They’ve been locked out of the real world for too long. Besides, their leader isn’t built for the kind of bloodshed that would bring.”

Carl nods, satisfied with the answer. “Judith?”

“With Fat Joey.”

“I’ll see you later then,” Carl replies, heading out to go get his sister.

Rick watches him go before turning back to Negan who’s still standing there and still looking pissed.

“Don’t pull that kind of shit on me again Grimes. I’m fucking serious.”

“Can’t promise you that.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Don’t know. Probably comes from the same place that keeps you from killing me and taking over this place by yourself,” Rick replies. “You could with not too much struggle probably. But you’d rather not.”

“That doesn’t exactly explain why the fuck you stepped in front of a bullet.”

Rick shrugs and he can tell it pisses Negan off more. But he decides his silence is probably better understood than pouring out just how thankful he is for Negan, for everything he’s done, and how he honestly can’t imagine going on without the man. Whether Negan would take him seriously or not, Rick isn’t sure but he chooses silence anyway.

“Fuck it. Just get back on your fucking feet soon,” Negan growls. It’s basically his equivalent of ‘get well’.

Chuckling to himself and being pretty damn thankful that the bullet hadn’t hit anything to major, Rick settles in and waits for his kids to come back up.

Chapter Text

Rick’s heard about Negan’s past community, about how it was run. Some of those aspects they’ve kept, others they haven’t. But Rick knows what went on there and he knows about Negan’s wives. He hasn’t had any at the factory, not for a lack of a sex drive (the fact that he notices that should be a warning flag already, that he knows exactly who Negan’s taken to bed and when, but the thought goes over his head). The lack of wives is probably just because he and Negan have been so focused on gathering their own community, protecting it from even the worst hordes of Walkers, and cementing their hold on those around them. Besides, what with their past, those too weak to work or fight hadn’t made it anyways. Like Sherry and other names Rick hasn’t bothered to remember, they hadn’t made it.

He doesn’t think about the wives often, not much point since they’re all gone, but then he hears the exchange between Negan and Amanda and something just snaps inside him.

Amanda’s mom is sick and she needs meds. Amanda and her boyfriend Mark just aren’t strong enough to provide for her though. They aren’t strong enough. Rick is right there when Negan throws Amanda the offer with a wicked grin and Lucille in his hand.

He’s right there and he doesn’t say anything as Amanda manages to say she’ll think about it and Negan laughs and walks away. Now it’s just her and Rick and she looks to him for help, for another offer. Rick doesn’t have one. He has very few exceptions to the rules and none that would apply to her. He can tell that the moment he shakes his head and walks away, she’ll cave, she’ll agree to Negan’s demand. He can’t help.

But he can’t let her go back to Negan.

Rick doesn’t think. He just acts. In all his time with Negan, he’s always stood by the fact that he doesn’t enjoy killing others. He’ll do it, doesn’t matter age or gender if it means protecting the Saviors and his family and Negan, but he’s always said he didn’t enjoy it.

He enjoys this though.

“You’re going to forget Negan’s offer.”

He doesn’t touch her. He doesn’t have to. His eyes convey to her everything he’s capable of.

“You’re going to work for fucking points like everyone else does.”

She’s trembling now but Rick doesn’t go to comfort her. He just leans in close enough to feel her shaking, gasping breaths.

“So if you really care for your mom, I suggest you get right back the fuck to work cause time’s a’waisting.”

She runs away with those words and Rick finally leans back, satisfaction spreading through his body. But in a blink of an eye he’s frowning, not completely understanding why he did what he did. He doesn’t feel bad for it but he doesn’t quite understand it.

He spends a good bit of the day simply thinking about his actions and what it could mean. The time that he isn’t, he’s watching Negan.

As the day moves on, he notes that Negan is a bit surprised that Amanda doesn’t show up. Not disappointed, just a little confused. That also gives Rick reason enough to smile, knowing that he’s probably scared her off for good.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Negan won’t go looking. He does and Rick is ready for the questions that will get thrown his way. He’s ready and doesn’t even try to hide his good mood when it happens.

They’re in a storage room, away from prying eyes when Negan finds him. He puts Lucille to the side and then walks closer, arms crossed.

“Now why the hell are you scaring off Amanda like that Rick?” Negan asks. He’s smiling but Rick can tell he’s a bit pissed. Rick doesn’t mind though.

“We don’t need more exceptions to the rules,” Rick easily replies.

“Careful now Rick. Some might think you’re acting like a jealous fuck.” Negan laughs like he’s just made a particularly good joke.

Rick doesn’t though. Actually, Negan’s words make perfect since. He’s jealous. Of course. It was that simple. He could deny it, force out a delayed laugh and move on. Maybe another Rick would, embarrassed by the realization. The him now, the one standing in front of Negan though, he isn’t embarrassed. With all that he’s given Negan, nearly his life several times, Rick decides that he’s allowed some fucking jealousy. Rick’s smile just widens, causing Negan’s own smile to drop and his laughter to fade.

“You’re right. I am fucking jealous,” growls Rick.

The look Negan gives him is one of pure surprise and it feels so fucking good to one up Negan in this moment. He moves in closer, having to look up from behind his lashes due to the height difference. He changes his smile, mirroring Negan’s own from just moments ago.

“What has Amanda ever done for you? Tell me why the fuck she deserves anything from you,” Rick murmurs.

Negan lets out a growl in the back of his throat. “You don’t fucking own me Grimes.”

He tries to shove Rick back but Rick simply grabs the edges of his jacket and pulls Negan with him. He takes a step back to steady himself. He can tell Negan is about to shove him away again so Rick acts fast. A hard punch to the jaw and then he’s holding the jacket again, pulling Negan down and closer with fire in his eyes.

“I own you just as much as you own me,” growls out Rick, “and if I say you’re not getting a fucking wife then you’re not getting a fucking wife.”

“Well holy shit. I am about fifty-percent more into you now.”

“Good.” Like that morning, Rick doesn’t really think. He just acts. His hands slip from Negan’s jacket as he steps even closer, chests bumping together. Grabbing his head, he pulls him down into a kiss. He pushes his tongue between his lips and into Negan’s openly shocked mouth. But the other responds so Rick doesn’t stop, sliding against Negan’s tongue, wet and hot and heavy as he explores the others mouth and continues to move his lips, allowing small spaces of air to slip in so the whole act can go on longer.

Nobody here has seen Negan like Rick has, seen the man at his most ruthless and then watch him break down. No one else could ever work beside him, be considered his equal. No one else can possibly appreciate what he’s done more so than Rick. And Rick’s given him everything, risked everything, because of that.

And then suddenly he feels the power balance shift. Negan takes control of the kiss and shoves Rick against the wall hard enough to leave bruises. He pulls away, his face completely serious for several seconds.

“You want to go down this path Rick?”

Rick is a bit breathless but he manages out a, “Yes,” all the same.

Negan’s seriousness completely disappears. His large, sardonic grin moves across his face as his eyes narrow in mischief and excitement. “Then let’s get out of here darling.”

“Don’t even think of going that route,” growls Rick. “I’m not one of your wives.”

Negan keeps grinning as he backs off and turns around. Picking up Lucille from where he’d set her, he swings her back and forth and says, “I wasn’t sure. It’s kind of hard to tell what with all that man bush on your face.”

Rick laughs, short and quick as he follows Negan through the factory and up the stairs to their rooms. Negan starts to whistle and Rick doesn’t say anything else. He’s not really afraid despite the fact he hasn’t really been with a man. All he feels is excitement. It’s only now that he’s realizing how fucking pissed off he’s been whenever he’s seen some woman leave Negan’s room, that he’s practically been keeping a list. Negan is his and he is Negan’s. Even if Negan continues to sleep with other people after this, which Rick wouldn’t be to shocked if he did, then at least Rick will know he’s had Negan in every single fucking way and no one else can say the same. No one else is Negan’s equal.

When Negan starts heading to his room specifically, Rick follows. Negan places Lucille in the corner and shrugs out of his jacket just as Rick does the same thing.

“You’re gonna fucking love this.”

“Oh I know it.”

Rick has moved closer so when Negan turns around, he’s at the perfect distance to be grabbed and pulled into another hungry kiss. Rick lets Negan pull him towards the bed, lets him lead in this instance. It’s unfamiliar territory that Rick’s going into after all.

Negan turns them around and pushes Rick to the bed, smoothly taking his shirt off in one fluid motion before kissing Rick again and pushing him onto his back. When Negan moves from his mouth to his neck, teeth pressing against skin, tongue creating a wet trail along his neck and collarbone as he sucks at the area, Rick can’t manage a single, steady breathe.

He feels Negan pulling away suddenly, momentary confusion quickly turning to understanding as Rick willingly pulls off his shirt and throws it to the side. He expects Negan to dive right back in but the man leans back on his haunches, studying Rick with a hungry gaze that has his cock twitching in anticipation. Negan’s eyes zero in on the freshest scar, the bullet wound Rick took for him. His fingers move over it and the gentleness is such a surprise that Rick can’t help but gasp and arch into the touch.

He can feel Negan’s grin when he starts kissing him again, moving down his chest as he unbuckles Rick’s belt. When Negan leans back, Rick lifts his hip and then kicks off his pants with a little help from Negan. He can feel one of Negan’s hands trailing down his chest, palming him through his underwear. Blood rushing to his cock, his eyes slip shut as a gasp leaves his lips but he can still feel Negan’s gaze on him, steady and piercing.

“Fuck Rick. When’s the last time you got laid?” asks Negan with a low laugh. He momentarily stops to take off his own pants and underwear unabashedly.

“To god damn long,” murmurs Rick, sitting up slightly so his eyes can travel up and down the completely exposed Negan.

Rick lays back down as Negan straddles his legs and leans over him. Again, that seriousness momentarily takes over.

“You sure Rick?”

He understands Negan’s morals and everything but it’s difficult not to whine in response. “Of course I’m fucking sure.”

“Just double checking,” laughs Negan. “Now, let’s see what you got.”

Rick expects it all to happen fast. He almost thinks it’ll be over in a few minutes and then he’ll go walking back to his own room. But Negan’s slower and gentler and besides leaving a few marks on his neck that are definitely going to show, he doesn’t inflict pain for no point and he doesn’t go faster than Rick is probably ready for.

He preps him, stimulates him, is practically fucking Rick on his fingers when Negan growls, “Get on your hands and knees,” in his ear.

Rick is only to ready to oblige, cock dripping precum as he feels Negan grab him by his hips. His mouth falls open in a deep moan as Negan pushes in and hits his prostate. He thrusts more readily once it’s clear Rick has grown used to the feeling of Negan inside him. Rick can’t think, can’t bring himself to say more than strangled noises and moans of pleasure.

He’s so desperate to touch himself but fears that if he moves one hand he’ll just collapse. He’s shaking so hard and he just needs—

Negan goes from holding his hips to doing just that, stroking him in time with his thrusts and Rick finds himself cumming all over the sheets, arms barely holding him as he feels Negan kiss the back of his neck.

“Gonna take a shower. You can join me if you want,” chuckles Negan as he finally removes himself and Rick feels practically empty.

The moment Negan’s gone, Rick collapses, utterly exhausted. He thinks about taking a shower, he knows he’ll regret it in the morning if he doesn’t. He also thinks of just grabbing his clothes and walking (really more stumbling) back to his room.

He doesn’t do either though, his eyes slipping shut as he lies on the sticky sheets. The next time his eyes open, Negan’s by his side, snoring softly and with an arm slung over Rick. It makes Rick grin, knowing that all of Negan’s partners always leave afterwards, never allowed to stay the night. It’s tempting just to lay there, to bask in the knowledge that no one else will truly have Negan, not like him, no one, but he forces himself to move out from under Negan’s arm, wincing as he peels off the sheets, and then heads for the shower.

When he gets out, Negan’s in there too, carefully shaving with a straight razor.

“Ah, and I was starting to like the beard,” chuckles Rick.

“You’ve fucking got enough man bush shit for the both of us,” Negan says with a grin as Rick leaves the room to find his scattered clothes. He’s just put on his jacket when Negan saunters out of the bathroom, clean shaven again. They don’t discuss what happened, they don’t try and put a name to it or talk it out. There’s no need and just that fact leads Rick to feel a wave of possessive satisfaction, knowing that no one else would be able to do that.

Rick doesn’t even feel the need to go find something to cover up his neck. It just shows to others how much Negan is his and not there’s and Rick feels warmer than he has in a long time.

However, upon walking out of Negan’s room he does find that there is one person left on the damned planet that does make Rick stumble and blush the slightest bit.

“You gonna be stayin’ over there a lot?” asks Carl with a raised eyebrow.

Rick shrugs and Carl seems content not going any further except that’s when Negan walks out, grin only widening as he spots Carl.

“What do you got on your god damn agenda today Carl?” asks Negan as he walks over and slaps a hand on his back.

“I’m supposed to be unloading—”

“Well forget it. We’re going to go on another salvage run, see what else is out there for us.” Negan suddenly stops, letting out a burst of laughter as he says, “What the hell did you call it? A fucking family road trip Rick?”

Carl rolls his eyes as Rick chuckles and replies, “Something like that.”

“Well then let’s get it on the fucking road huh? First, I gotta say bye to my little angel though. Where is she?”

“She stayed with Maggie and Glenn and their son last night. A little sleepover.”

Rick mentally reminds himself to thank them later as Negan gestures towards the stairs. “Lead the way then little serial killer,” he says with a laugh.

Carl just rolls his eyes again and the three head down and into the factory.