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Play That Empty Hand

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The sun was setting, and Negan was on the road. His bike was pointed straight towards the orange fire that glowed over the horizon where the pavement seemed to drop off and disappear, as if it had fallen off the edge of the world. It was his favorite time to ride; he felt like he was chasing the burning ember of the sun as it lit the road before him with the beauty of its dying light.

A truck merged ponderously in front of him, and he scoffed in irritation. He sped straight up alongside it, shimmying between it and the cars on his right, before pulling back in front with a screech. An alarmed, angry honk filled the air for a moment before it cut off abruptly, and Negan laughed, waving his middle finger over his shoulder. He knew the driver was close enough to read the patch that adorned the back of the leather cut that sat snug over his jacket - Saviors.

Pissing his pants, Negan thought gleefully before leaning forward and shooting away, down the road and towards the painted fire in the sky. Negan loved a lot of things about the outlaw life, but the way that single word on his back granted him ownership of the road was one of the closest to his heart. He sped along it, straight into the wind, straight towards the edge of the world.

Too soon, the sky was turning inky-dark as the final remnants of the light of the sinking sun licked up over the horizon. It never failed to inspire a certain melancholy in him when these sunset rides were over, but it was nothing a drink or two couldn’t fix. Negan pulled off the highway and pointed himself towards the Sanctuary, a bar that formed the base of the Saviors’ operations. It was a front for the outlaw motorcycle club, and a flimsy one - everyone knew what the Sanctuary really was, and everyone knew about the Saviors that could be found there on any given evening, wrapped in leather and ink.

Negan ran a hand through his hair as he stepped through the door into the dim and smoky interior of the Sanctuary. It took him a moment for his eyes to adjust, but when they did, they went straight to the unfamiliar figure sitting huddled against the corner of the bar.

It was a man, and a goddamned good-looking one, too, with brown curling hair and the profile of a Grecian sculpture. The arms that emerged from his rolled-up shirt sleeves were well-formed and muscular, and Negan’s eyes roamed them appreciatively. His steps immediately turned towards him, and he nearly ran into Dwight carrying an armful of empty glasses back to the bar.

He caught his friend by the arm and jerked his chin towards the stranger. “Who the hell is that?”

Dwight shook his head. “No clue. Been here for hours, drinking whiskey and barely putting two words together. I think he’s lost,” he finished dryly.

“I like ‘em lost,” Negan replied, a predatory smile already spreading across his face.

Dwight snorted and pulled his arm free. “Yeah, well, you might want to help the lost boy out before he gets into trouble.”

“You think he’s up for some trouble? Oh, shit,” Negan said in a low, conspiratorial tone. “You know, I woke up feelin’ like today was gonna be a good day. Think he’ll let me plow that ass in the store room? I fucking hope so.”

“Whore,” Dwight said matter-of-factly before he turned and walked off to the bar.

Negan approached the stranger, licking his lips in anticipation. He gripped a stool and dragged it over the floor slowly, deliberately letting the screech fill the air as he nestled it right up to the man before hopping onto it. The stranger had looked up in confusion at the din and found himself inches away from Negan’s smirk. He was even better-looking dead on, with large blue eyes and full lips that had fallen open slightly in his surprise.

“My friend over there thinks you’re lost,” Negan murmured, jerking a thumb towards Dwight. “What do you say, blue eyes? You got any idea where you are?”

“I-yeah,” the other man stumbled out, blinking. “Yeah, I know where I am.”

“You sure about that? This place ain’t so fucking friendly to strangers.”

The other man looked down at his hands at that, and Negan studied his face.

He was distracted by his good looks before, but he could see now how the purple-blue skin beneath his eyes hung loose and how the worry lines looked etched into a face too young for their permanent stamp. He’s in trouble, Negan realized, and the thought sobered him up a bit. “Why don’t you tell me your name, darlin’? Then we won’t be strangers anymore.”

“It’s Rick,” the man responded after a moment, eyes still downcast and fixed on his hands. They were clasped tightly around a half-full glass. It shook in his grasp, and the liquid inside rolled like a troubled, amber sea.

“Hi, Rick. I’m Negan, and excuse the fuck out of me for being so forward, but you look like you’re in some shit. Am I right?”

The man lifted his eyes up to him. They were big, soft doe’s eyes, and they brimmed with silent misery.

Looking into them, Negan felt himself soften all over in sympathy. “It’s okay, honey. You’re in the right place.” He gave Rick his most charming smile as he pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and stuck one in his mouth. “This is a sanctuary, don’t you fucking know? Says it right on the sign. People come here when they’re in trouble. When they need help, and they can’t get it from anyone else. When they’re just about ready to make a deal with the devil.” He held the man’s eyes as he lit the cigarette and took a long drag, letting out a smokey exhale before leaning forward, getting way, way too close to those soft, inviting lips. “Is that what’s going on with you, Rick?”

The other man’s eyes had gone wide and eager. “Yes,” he whispered, forehead creasing in distress. Negan held the cigarette out to him in offering. He took it and took a hesitant puff before his face twisted in distaste.

Negan’s laughter rang out, filling the dimly lit bar as Rick pressed his face into his folded arm and coughed a fit. He plucked the cigarette from Rick’s slack hand, taking another slow drag and letting the burning smoke sit in his lungs. He exhaled slowly from his nose, watching the smoke billow softly away as he reached over and rubbed between the man’s heaving shoulders. Rick’s back was warm and muscular beneath his bold hand, and Negan let his curious touch find its way to the back of the man’s neck. He was surprised when the other man allowed it, making no move to shake him off. Negan rubbed his gloved thumb along the side of the tanned throat slowly, taking another slow drag off his cigarette as he waited for the other man’s painful coughs to subside.

“That was goddamn awful,” Rick wheezed finally, turning his head peek up at Negan over his forearm.

Negan chuckled, squeezing the back of his neck gently. “Sure, at first. But you gotta give it time, baby. It’s like taking a dick. You gotta stick with it; let that burn turn sweet.” He let his voice drop on the words as he bent towards Rick, purring down at him. He was gratified when every visible inch of skin on the man glowed red, and he grinned, tongue coming to rest at the corner of his mouth. “I gotta be honest with you, sweetheart, when I saw you sitting here, I was hoping you were just looking for a good time. I could show you a hell of a good time. Can the other shit wait?”

“N-no, it can’t,” the man mumbled into his arm, and suddenly his vivid blue eyes seemed to cloud over as his entire body sagged against the bar. “I need help,” he croaked, pushing himself up and turning in his stool to face Negan, whose hand stayed stubbornly clasped at the back of the man’s neck.

“Yeah?” he asked mildly. “What kind of help, darlin’?”

“I know who you are,” Rick said, and his eyes were luminous even in the smoky air. The expression they held was supplicating and desperate, and Negan was lost in them for a moment before Rick’s words sunk in.

He froze as an alarm sounded in his mind, and then he tightened his hold on the other man’s neck, gloved fingers digging into the sensitive flesh there. “Oh, yeah? Who am I, baby?”

Rick flinched at the painful grip, but his pleading expression didn’t waver. “You’re at the top of it - the Saviors. Next in line to lead.”

Negan frowned. “And how the fuck do you know that, sweetheart?”

“I’m a deputy. Sheriff’s deputy, at the King County -“

Negan squeezed hard, digging his fingertips cruelly into the sides of the man’s neck, and he choked off with a pained gasp, hands flying up to scrabble at Negan’s hand. He relaxed his grip again, giving the man a moment to recover. He panted heavily, and when the blue eyes rose to meet Negan’s again, they were bewildered and reproachful.

“Why’d you do that?” he rasped, and Negan was taken aback at the ingenuous question.

He scoffed, feeling a faint prickle of remorse at the sad-puppy expression Rick - Deputy Rick - was fixing him with. “Why’d I do that, deputy? Oh, I don’t know. Let me answer your question with a fucking question - you got a death wish? Or are you just the dumbest motherfucker alive?”

“I ain’t here as a cop,” Rick said insistently. “Hell, I haven’t even been back to work since…” he swallowed. “I need your help.”

Negan began to chuckle sinister-softly, hazy white smoke drifting from his mouth and nose as if something were burning inside him.

“I do. That’s why I’m here. I want to…to hire you.”

Negan stared silently into the other man’s eyes for a moment, considering. Those eyes were so big, so honest, so… Sweet, Negan thought, and right on the heels of that: I really fucking hope I don’t have to kill him. “Hire me to do what, deputy?”

“Kill someone,” Rick answered, voice falling to a hoarse whisper. “Someone who deserves it.”

A slow smile curled Negan’s lips as he held Rick’s eyes for a long, silent stretch. He rubbed his thumb gently along the soft skin of his neck. Just as he had earlier, Rick allowed it, and Negan watched him with open fascination. He leaned in, once again getting dangerously close to those full lips. “That is some bloodthirsty shit, Deputy Ricky,” he breathed, “and I fucking love it. Tell me more.”

Rick’s eyes grew unfocused, and he seemed to sag even further. “He was my best friend,” he said slowly, “and he and my wife…they were…they-“

Negan cut him off with a low, mocking laugh, and Rick’s eyes snapped to his in surprise. “Oh, honey. That is fucking boring. You want to put a hit on the guy boning your wife? Here I was thinking you looked like a guy with a fucking story, something interesting-“

The change that came over the man was as sudden as it was intriguing. His eyes turned to ice in an instant, and his entire body tensed like a snake ready to strike. “Fuck you,” he hissed vehemently, “fuck you, you…it ain’t about interestin’.”

“Fuck me?” Negan echoed slowly, his grin widening. “Fuck me? You come in here, where you do not belong, honey, looking like a fucking deer at an NRA meeting, telling me you know who I am - baby, if you did, you’d watch your fucking mouth.”

The danger bled out of the man as swiftly as it had filled him, and it left him looking exhausted. He sagged, closing his eyes and shaking his head as his face twisted in distress. “I need help,” he murmured, “please. It ain’t what you think. She’s dead.”

Negan frowned sharply as a cold trickle made its way down his back. Shit. Of course it wasn’t about his old lady stepping out. That much should have been obvious in the way the man looked - ragged and drawn and just about ready to collapse.

“He wrapped his car around a telephone pole, and she was in it,” Rick went on, eyes still closed. “He was drunk, even though she was in the car. Even though she was pregnant. He was always doin’ that kinda thing - he knew better, ‘course he did. He was my partner. We been on the force together since right outta high school, but you couldn’t tell him nothin’. That’s the man he is. Thinks rules ain’t for him. Thinks he’s unbreakable.” He laughed bitterly. “He is, I guess. She died, and he ends up sleepin’ away in a coma for months while I’m…” Rick trailed off, and his eyes opened slowly, the dark lashes rising on them like a curtain. They were red and wet. “Now they tell me he’s wakin’ up,” he whispered hoarsely, “and he can’t. Please.” He swallowed thickly. “We were gonna name the boy Carl.”

Negan rubbed his mouth thoughtfully, searching the man’s face with a hard stare. A single tear escaped his brimming eyes, and Negan watched it trace a wet path down his cheek.

“Finish your drink, darlin’,” he said quietly, “and let’s you an’ me go someplace a little more private.”

 

They passed Dwight on the way to the storeroom in the back, and Negan barked out a brief order not to interrupt them. He could tell by Dwight’s wry expression what the sandy-haired man thought he was going to do with the beauty tucked under his arm. Negan was surprised again at how the other man allowed the touch, even leaned against him tiredly as they made their way down the dim hallway. He’s in trouble, Negan thought again, tightening his arm when he felt him sway slightly on his feet.

He considered himself a man of instinct, and his instincts about people were usually good. He had seen a flash of who the man beneath his arm could be, a flash of bared and dangerous teeth. But right now, the deputy wasn’t dangerous: he was on the verge of physical and mental collapse. Negan didn’t need his instincts to tell him that, not with the way Rick was leaning into the embrace of the criminal he was prepared to hire to kill for him.

He led him to the dusty back room and clicked on the bare bulb overhead. Its dull, stuttering light deepened the shadows on Rick’s face, and the overall effect was alarming. He looked like the walking dead.

Negan circled him slowly where he stood in the center of the room, head down and curls hanging. There was something in the back pocket of his jeans, and Negan slipped his hand in without warning. Rick accepted it with the same dazed pliancy he had shown from the beginning, and suddenly all Negan could think about was burying his lips in the brown curls at the back his head. Instead, he glanced down at the square of leather he had retrieved from Rick’s pocket. He knew what it was before he thumbed it open, and he gave a faint snort at the gleaming badge.

He slid an arm around Rick’s throat, tugging him against his body and holding the badge up to his eyes. “Is this a set-up, honey? I really fucking hope not,” he said almost gently. “I don’t want to hurt you. You’re not gonna make me hurt you, are you?”

Rick just looked at him, eyes hazy and still wet. “It’s not a set-up,” he said tiredly. “I need help. Please. I just need help.”

God, he felt good pressed up against Negan like that. He felt like his body was made to fit against his, and between that and the weary distress in his eyes, Negan couldn’t fucking help himself. He kissed the cheek that was turned towards him gently. The skin was salty with dried tears. “Relax, baby. I told you, this is a sanctuary.” He sucked at his teeth, tilting his head at Rick. “You know I need to check you for wires, right, officer?”

Rick nodded his head, swaying a little on his feet. He stayed obediently still under Negan’s searching hands as they slipped under his shirt, up his sides, over his arms and shoulders, down his thighs. Negan’s cock pulsed with interest, and he glanced up to make some insinuating remark. Rick’s eyes were solemn and distant, and the words died on his lips. There was nothing obvious that revealed itself to the searching hands, but Negan had lived the outlaw life long enough to know he couldn’t let it go at that.

“Take your clothes off. I need to take a look. We’ll be quick.” He surprised himself with the gentle tone he used, but the man in front of him looked so goddamn lost that it was creeping deep under his skin, awakening something tender and protective in him. It could still be a set-up, he warned himself, and he could be ready to collect his Academy Award, so stay on your fucking toes, numbnuts.

Rick was dutifully unbuttoning his shirt, eyes on the floor, exposing rolling muscle and smooth skin. He kicked off his shoes before undoing his pants, pushing them down his hips and stepping out of them. Negan tried not to, he truly did, but he drank in the sight of the man’s bare body clad only in briefs, corded with muscle but with areas of inviting softness from the curve of his ass down to his thighs. It rose up suddenly in his mind’s eye - Rick sprawled beneath him as he explored every inch of that delicious-looking body with his lips, teeth, tongue.

Fuck. He was getting hard.

Negan turned towards the discarded clothes, trying to will himself back down as he searched them briefly. There was nothing beyond his wallet and keys. He stood back up slowly and turned to Rick. The sight of him standing there in his briefs and shivering slightly, his eyes downcast and sad, made something ache in his chest. “No phone, officer?”

“I left it in the car,” Rick responded quietly. “Figured someone would think I was recording. I’m not. I swear,” he went on, voice suddenly thinner and more fragile, “I swear I’m not tryin’ to trick you. Please believe me. I need help.”

“You know what, darlin’?” Negan asked slowly after a silence. “I do believe you.” He stepped up close to the other man. “You’re not wearin’ a wire, and I don’t think you’d be stupid enough to come in here telling me you’re a Sheriff’s deputy, with your fucking badge in your pocket, if you were trying to set up a sting. I’ve heard what you have to say, and I can take your request for services to the powers that be.”

“I’ll do anything,” Rick said quietly, hardly over a whisper, and Negan gave a dry chuckle in response.

“Careful, baby. Standing here half-naked, talkin’ about doing anything…you’re gonna give me ideas. I’ll be honest, I already have a few.” He smoothed a stray curl behind the man’s ear and watched as his cheeks turned red with embarrassment and his eyes fell back to the floor. Sudden guilt bubbled up in him - he was taking advantage here, and he knew it. He did believe him, that was the thing - he believed that Rick was a cop who crawled into a gangland bar out of sheer desperation, crazy with grief and seeking retribution. “Get dressed, honey,” he said softly, “it’s fucking cold in here.” He turned away, letting the few moments of privacy be his silent apology for stripping him in the dirty back room of a bar. He listened to the soft rustle of fabric behind him and turned back around when it stilled.

Rick was just standing with his arms hanging at his sides, staring off with that faraway expression again.

Negan felt a chill creep over him. About to break, he thought. “Hey,” he said quietly, “blue eyes. Still with me?”

The eyes in question drifted up to his. “You can help me, can’t you?” he asked, tone heartbreakingly wistful. “We…we were gonna name him Carl.”

“Yeah,” Negan said softly, “I can help you. I can help you, baby, okay? Don’t even fucking worry about it.”

Rick crossed the distance between them in a few short, weary strides. There was a tentative relief just beginning to show on his face. “Thank you,” he said sincerely, angling his head up to look into Negan’s eyes.

The hot flush of pleasure that seared his chest at that surprised him. “My pleasure, darlin’,” he murmured. Impulsively, he lifted a hand and stroked the smooth, shaven cheek, sliding down to cup his jaw. His touch was possessive in a way it had no right to be, and yet again, Rick gave no protest. “Give me your keys. I’ll drive you home. You’re dead on your feet, and I guess the whiskey you’ve been tossing back ain’t helping.”

Rick blinked up at him, confused. “Then how will you get back?”

He got back by hot-wiring a car he found parked in the street a few blocks over from Rick’s place. The man dozed through the entire ride back to his house, and Negan found his eyes wandering to him again and again. He looked troubled even in sleep, and Negan was surprised at how powerful the urge to do something about that was. He wanted to wipe that fear and worry right off the lost deputy’s pretty face. Luckily, he knew just how he could start.

By killing Rick’s best friend: one disgraced and comatose Deputy Shane Walsh.

 

“Boy, have you finally lost what little mind you’ve fucking got?”

Negan was facing the grey-haired leader of the Saviors, having explained Deputy Rick’s little request. He wasn’t surprised that Bud wasn’t going for it. He figured it would be uphill convincing the old man, but Negan didn’t need any more convincing. This shit was getting done, one way or another. He’d prefer to get it done with a little back-up, though.

Negan grinned lazily. “What’s the matter, Bud? Too old for the excitement? Come on, this hit is goddamn righteous. Motherfucker killed his girl, killed the kid inside her.”

“Horrible shit, Negan, but it bein’ horrible doesn’t change anything. It’s too goddamn risky. A cop? Use your damn head, boy. Christ.”

“A cop who drove shit-faced and killed a pregnant lady. Nobody’s gonna fucking care, man. Sheriff’s department will be fucking thrilled if Drunky McAssface never wakes up. If he does, it’s gonna be a shitstorm of bad press, right?”

Bud shook his head slowly, reaching into his pocket.

“Looking for your balls, Bud?” Negan inquired pleasantly.

Bud pulled out a pack of cigarettes and drew one out between his teeth as he shot Negan a weary, half-hearted glare. “Kid,” he said gruffly, “if you get to be as old as me in this life, you’ll understand. It’s not about having the balls, it’s about what you’re willing to ask other people to risk.” He paused for a moment to light the cigarette, sucking in a deep lungful of smoke. “The minute this crew gets branded as cop-killers - fuck, if people even start whispering that word about us, the clock is gonna be tickin’ down on us. All of our contracts, all of our people on the inside, all of the connections it’s taken us years to build - fuckin’ gone, kid. Like a fart on a windy day. I ain’t doin’ that to the crew. Not for anything. Sure as hell not for some goddamn stranger.” Bud tipped his head back and regarded him with cold amusement, exhaling out a twin stream of pale smoke from his nostrils. “I guess he’s a fuckin’ looker. That’s your fuckin’ problem, Negan. Your dick. You’d be a hell of a lot smarter without it.”

Negan snorted. “I’m not interested in being smart and dickless, Bud. Seems like you got that covered.”

Bud continued to smoke, unperturbed, watching Negan with tired eyes. “I know you too well, kid,” he said with a touch of sadness in his tone. “I can see you’ve already made up your goddamned mind. I know better than to think that anything I say is gonna change it. But if you fuckin’ do this, and that shit blows back on you, you’re out. Out on your ass, out on your own. That’s gonna be the story - fuckin’ Negan went rogue. We’ll haul you in to the boys in blue ourselves. You fuckin’ got that?”

“Bud,” Negan said expansively, “you got no fucking faith. Why would it blow back on us? I ain’t gonna get caught. This shit is going to look natural.” He grinned at the older man.

The older man pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed heavily. “You’re a fucking idiot, Negan. I hope this ain’t the last fucking stupid thing you do, because it’s fixin’ to be.”

Negan let out a low wolf whistle. “I hope that deputy’s the last thing I do, old man.”

Bud hung his head. “Shit,” he said, and his tone was resigned and faintly mournful.

Chapter Text

Negan had been bluffing with Bud - this shit is going to look natural. Hell, natural wasn’t his M.O. He didn’t know shit about natural. He went for bullets when the kill was all business and something a little homier when that personal touch was called for - a Louisville slugger he’d had since he was sixteen. As much as he enjoyed the thought of splattering the prick across his hospital room, that was not going to fucking fly. Something like this called for finesse. For brains.

That was the thought that led him to pay a visit to one of the Saviors’ trusted associates, an oddball shut-in savant whose skill set ran from explosives to poison to home-made bullets, but that wasn’t all Negan had in mind for the chat he was planning to have with one Eugene Porter. In addition to being a font of information regarding any useless minutiae you could think of, the man was a news junkie, and Negan wanted to know more about the blue-eyed deputy he was prepared to do the riskiest job of his life for.

“Little pig, little pig,” Negan drawled as the door to the dim apartment inched open on its chain, “let me in.”

The eyes that peered back at him were a little frightened, and Negan shot the man a reassuring smile through the sliver made by the open doorway. Truth be told, he liked the weird little goober. He scurried like a terrified mouse around the Saviors and around Negan in particular, and Negan got the sense that the short, dark-haired, stocky man was just fucking used to being shat on by the alpha dogs. He had the endlessly hunted look of a man who had endured more than his fair share of swirlies and titty-twisters as a kid, and it made Negan itchy. As much as he loved to push buttons, he had a soft spot for the Eugene Porters of the world - people who just never seemed to feel fully safe.

He lifted the jar of pickles he was holding and swirled it enticingly. “Come on, Billy Ray. I’ve got an offering here. And I wanna pick your brain about something.”

“I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not closing the door,” the other man said nervously. “I have to shut it in order to have the room to operate the chain. It would be an act of unutterable incivility to shut the door in your face, and I want to assert with the utmost - “

“I know how a fucking chain lock works, Einstein. Do your thing,” Negan snapped impatiently.

The door clicked, and he heard Eugene scrabbling at the lock. It swung open a moment later, and Negan strolled right in.

Eugene cleared his throat timidly behind him. “I would never look a gift horse in the mouth, which is to say I would never question an act of generosity, and I do humbly thank you for your kindness in bringing me pickles, one of the foods of which I am the fondest, as you may very well have - “

Negan cut him off with a laugh, setting the jar down on his kitchen table. “Einstein, everyone knows you fucking love pickles. Eat up. I need your help.”

The man’s eyes grew round. “I would be happy to be of assistance in any way possible, Mr. Negan.”

Negan gave him a tired smile. He had asked him hundreds of times to stop fucking calling me Mr. Negan, Eugene. “Let’s get to it, then. What’s a quiet way to kill someone in a hospital? Someone who’s in a coma, not doing so fucking hot - how would you put ‘em down quietly? Keep people from askin’ questions?”

The man thought it over for all of ten seconds. “I would have to say that all things considered the best approach would be to inject them with a large amount of insulin. Insulin is the favored weapon of the angel of death, which is to say, that special spooky brand of serial killer that has been known to stalk a place of healing. Although it could be discovered that the dearly departed had been dispatched by unnatural means if a medical examiner were to get Sherlocky, for a mark who might be said to be knocking on death’s door anyhow, many an overworked internist would likely cross themselves and say that someone finally answered that knock. And that would be the murder she wrote, so to speak.”

Negan arched his head to the side, swaying his body into the motion like a cobra, a pleased smile curling his lips. “Eugene-y, I could get right down on my knees and suck your cock. You’re a motherfucking genius.” He reached over and pinched the man’s cheek affectionately, laughing as he turned brick-red at Negan’s words.

“T-thank you for the vote of confidence in my abilities,” Eugene stuttered. “I’m sure you are funning with me about the other thing, Mr. Negan, because although I know you are a man who is very fond of the carnal act, no one who looks like you is likely to be interested in congress with someone who looks like me.”

Negan blinked at him, his smile fading. “What are you talking about, Gene-boy? Don’t sell yourself short. You’re a fucking catch with that fucking Jeopardy brain. I’m sure there’s plenty of people ready to climb your pickle.”

Eugene peered up at him. “Really and truly?” he asked wistfully.

Negan found himself smiling almost fondly down at the man. “Cross my dick and hope to die. At the age of a hundred, enjoying the carnal act with a supermodel.”

“That is a death worth aspiring to, Mr. Negan,” Eugene said with such solemnity that Negan couldn’t help but laugh again.

“All right, I got something else I wanted to ask you. I guess I don’t have to tell you that this shit - what I asked you before, what I’m about to ask you - is all confidential? Nothing leaves this room, blah fucking blah? I’m serious, pickle boy.”

Eugene nodded earnestly. “I would never do anything to betray the confidence of the - “

“All right, all right, I know it. What’ve you heard in the local news about a cop named Rick Grimes?”

Eugene settled back a little in his chair, blinking up at Negan. “He’s the hero of a tragic tale. It reads like a country Western song, or a medieval ballad, or a Greek tragedy the likes of which might have been penned by Euripides himself - “

“Eugene,” Negan said sharply, “get on with it.”

“Well,” Eugene said, looking a little deflated at having his grand prologue cut so rudely short, “he was something of a local hero. A truly upstanding officer of the law. He had an impressive list of collars along with a record as pure as the driven snow. No one ever fell down and hit their face several times in rapid succession under mysterious circumstances when Deputy Grimes brought them in. The same could not be said for his colleague and partner - “

“Walsh,” Negan supplied.

Eugene looked a little miffed at having his thunder stolen yet again. “Yes. Deputy Shane Walsh. The kindest thing that could be said about his modus operandi was that he was possessed of an excessive enthusiasm for justice, but he hardly extended that enthusiasm to his own conduct - “

“So he was dirty. How dirty?”

“The extent of the officer’s extracurriculars have not been made clear, but he was at least of the habit of engaging in physical altercations, plus or minus the assistance of his close associates Johnnie Walker, Jim Beam, and Jack Daniels. These three wise men, as they are referred to in the common parlance, would sometimes accompany him on his travels in vehicles that are strictly not be operated under the - “

“Speed it up, Eugene. He got drunk, beat the shit out of people, and drove around town fucked-up, and nobody said boo because he was a cop. What else?”

“That’s where the tragedy comes in. He was the childhood friend of Deputy Rick Grimes, who helped him out of countless scrapes of his own making. He repaid his loyal and faithful friend by attempting to woo away his lady love - or so the more yellow-hued journalism on the topic insinuates. As for the final act - “

“I know all about the final act,” Negan said quietly. The inside of his mouth tasted sour. “He took her on one of his gin-soaked joyrides and wrecked his car. The girl died.”

“The lady was expecting,” Eugene said sadly, and his shoulders drooped. "And the hero of the tragedy, well, he has been elusive ever since. 'On leave' is the official word, but it is widely surmised he may never have the heart to return to his vocation after a devastation of this magnitude. I-I guess I don't know what I would do, if it were me. It's horrible to contemplate."

Negan felt another prickle of affection for him: the man with the silly haircut, sillier monologues, and the tender heart underneath it all. “Yeah. It’s shitty. Fucking shitty.”

“I can’t help but connect these two inquiries, Mr. Negan, and I’m lead to posit that, in this Euripidean-flavored drama of the present day, Shane Walsh is the comatose individual who has been marked for death by the Furies, who are those figures of divine retribution in the Greek mythos whose purpose and power is beyond the sway of even the gods.”

Negan snorted. “Shit. Really? The Furies? Beyond the sway of gods? Gene-boy, I’m a loudmouth asshole in a leather jacket. And I’m…I’m…” Negan faltered, swiping at his mouth. “Lemme ask you something,” he said, voice dropping to a growl, eyes glinting like embers in their sockets, “did you happen to see a picture of tragic hero Rick Grimes?”

“I did,” Eugene said quietly. For once, he didn’t retreat in the face of Negan’s menacing. “He looks like what I said he was. Like the hero of a Greek tragedy. Like a marble statue crafted by the old masters, broken in pieces on a beach in a sunny island in the Aegean - “

“Shut up, Eugene,” Negan said in a strangled tone. He didn’t know why it affected him so damn much, but the picture the man had conjured felt eerily close to what Negan himself had thought when he first saw Rick. Like a Grecian sculpture, that’s what had drifted through his head, and he suddenly hated to think of the man that way - as a myth cast in frozen marble, locked forever in an ecstasy of suffering. “Anyway, that’s my goddamn point. My motives here…nothing divine about them.”

“Perhaps it may seem that way, Mr. Negan, but I cannot help but notice that the evidence of our discourse here hardly supports your hypothesis. You seem to be uniquely interested in the plight of this gentleman, beyond what I surmise is your intention to entice him into acquiescing to fornication. His predicament hardly informs his appearance, so your interest in it must be related to some other considerations and concerns you are possessed of that are likely of a less libidinous bent. In conclusion, Mr. Negan, don’t sell yourself short.”

Eugene was looking at him in wide-eyed earnestness, and Negan sat back in his chair with an incredulous laugh. “Eugene,” he said after a long moment, “you really are a fucking pistol, you know that?” He rose to his feet, shaking his head. “Thanks for the fucking intel, pickle boy. This conversation never fucking happened.”

The man lifted his hand, parting his fingers in the thick V of a Klingon salute. “Yes, sir, captain,” he said solemnly.

“You are fucking endearing, you weird little shit,” Negan sighed as he left the small apartment, leaving Eugene to happily dig in to his pickles.

It was a hell of a lot easier than it should have been to slip into the hospital without being seen. Security was minimal, cameras nonexistent, staff stretched thin. It was hardly Ocean’s Eleven shit - Negan wore nondescript, dark clothes and strolled on in, going straight for the back staircase and prowling silently out of sight in the lonely corridors. The syringe of insulin hardly made a bulge in the pocket of the black hoodie he was wearing. Anyone who caught sight of him would see a visitor and nothing more, but Negan wasn’t going to let anyone catch sight of him.

He wasn’t stupid. He knew Bud was right - fucking crazy to go after a cop, disgraced or not. Getting tied to this would be the end. The smart move would’ve been to stay clear of it, but Negan wasn’t going to make the smart move: he had made his mind up in the back room of the Sanctuary, when he turned and saw that thousand-yard stare on Rick’s face.

Negan, you’re a fucking romantic, he thought wryly as he waited for the corridor outside the deputy’s room to clear. A romantic who would be smarter without his dick, according to Bud. He smiled sardonically to himself. Not worth it. Not for wisdom, not for longevity.

The man was in a single room, which made things easy. The lights were off, which made things easier. The man was in a goddamn coma, which made this the most stupidly easy hit of his life. He watched him for a moment, gloved hand clasped around the syringe. He could almost picture what the dark-haired man was supposed to look like - he was handsome even now, and he must have been strong and vital once. There were still some hard lines of muscle stubbornly refusing to succumb to the long convalescence. Overall, though, he was as faded and dried as the vase of pitiful dead flowers by his bedside. Hell, he looked dead already himself, still and marble-white underneath the lines and tubes and drains.

Just a needs a little shove into the afterlife, Negan thought, drawing closer to the hanging IV bag. Goodbye, asshole.

The hand digging into his wrist was so goddamn confusing that he couldn’t process it for a moment. He spun and stared incredulously.

“No,” Rick choked out. “Please.”

The man had seemed to just materialize in the room without making a single sound, like one of the mythical beings that been on his goddamn mind ever since he met him: an avenging spirit, or the statue of martyred hero come to life, or an -

“Angel,” Negan said, his voice low and rough and dangerous, “hey. Fancy meeting you here. You know, I gotta say, you’re…real light on your feet.”

“Please,” Rick said urgently. “I-I made a horrible mistake. I can’t. I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry for what I asked you. We need to go.”

Negan released the syringe in his pocket slowly, keeping his eyes steadily trained on Rick. He reached out and grasped his shoulders almost delicately before driving him straight back into the wall behind him, setting the IV pole rattling in an alarming way. “You think this is a fucking game, you fucking nutcase?” Negan hissed.

Rick’s eyes were wide and stark in his too-pale face, “No. I don’t. I’m sorry. I just realized that I can’t. I can’t. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have -“

“Rick?” The voice that reached them through the darkness was so rusty and raw with disuse that it hardly sounded human.

The effect on Rick was instantaneous. He sagged against the wall, knees buckling, staring towards the hospital bed with the face of a man facing some unspeakable nightmare. Negan braced him up, and Rick clutched at him..

“Rick?” The voice croaked. “That you, Rick?”

The man in his arms shook like a leaf, and Negan decided that this shitty reunion was fucking over. “Come on,” he muttered, throwing an arm around the other man’s waist and half-carrying, half-dragging him out. Rick stumbled a few times, legs unsteady beneath him, and Negan had to pause to help him catch himself. The lost deputy did not look good; hell, he looked like he should be lying in a hospital bed himself with his ashen face and stricken eyes. Negan led him outside and into the chilly night air, bringing him around the edge of the building and away from prying eyes.

Rick took a few shaky steps and slumped to the ground against the poured concrete wall of the hospital. Negan watched his slow descent, head cocked to the side. After a moment, he stepped up beside him and lit a cigarette, leaning back against the wall and staring up into the starry night sky. He wasn’t sure how long they stayed like that, silent in the cold and lonely night. He only knew that his cigarette had burned just about halfway through when he felt Rick’s arm wind around his leg.

He stiffened in surprise as the other man’s palm slid slowly up his calf, over his knee, up the inside of his thigh. The hand paused there, splayed, and Negan’s skin burned beneath it like it was radioactive. He blew a stream of smoke from his nose slowly, feeling the heat pool between his legs.

He was about to speak when Rick turned his head and buried it against his thigh, giving a sudden, breathless sob. Negan could feel it, wet and hot even through the thick denim, and the last bit of his anger vanished like the smoke whisked from the end of his cigarette by the cold wind. He stubbed it out roughly against the concrete wall and reached down, hauling Rick up by the arm and pulling him against his chest. He held him as he sobbed raggedly against his shoulder, hand clutching the back of his head and tangled in the wild curls there. His free hand rubbed the heaving back, and he was surprised to find himself murmuring soft and sweet and meaningless things into the chestnut hair.

Rick wept until he was too exhausted to continue. He hung limply in Negan’s arms, fingers buried in the supple leather of his jacket.

“You’re coming home with me,” Negan growled in his ear. “You’re a hot fucking mess.” He practically carried him away from the damned hospital and into the dim corner of the parking lot where he had left his bike. He plucked the helmet off the handlebars and sat it on Rick’s head. He frowned at the expression on the man’s face - dull and faraway. Thousand-yard stare. “Don’t do that,” he said quietly, taking him by the shoulders and giving him a firm shake. “Don’t go away somewhere. Stay here. You feel the ground beneath your feet?” He squeezed the shoulders beneath his hands gently. “Feel that?”

Rick nodded and blinked up at him, sending fresh tears sliding down his cheeks. “What am I gonna do now?” he asked faintly.

“You’re gonna get on the back of my bike and hold the fuck on,” Negan replied sharply. “Can you do that, or do I have to tie your goddamn wrists together?”

Rick shook his head slowly. “I can hold on,” he said quietly.

Negan grasped his chin and bent his head to kiss him hard. It was too abrupt to be a nice first kiss, but he had done it without thinking. The man’s lips were as soft as they looked, and they tasted of his tears. When he pulled back, Rick’s eyes were more focused, less lost, and Negan felt something in his chest ease in relief. He turned and wordlessly climbed on the bike, waiting. After a moment, Rick’s warm weight settled behind him, arms sliding around his waist and clinging tightly. Satisfied, Negan allowed the bike to roar to life beneath them.

He stopped at a roadside burger stand and insisted that Rick eat. He did, in a mechanical and dutiful way that hurt to watch. He paused once, with a french fry halfway to his mouth. “Was never gonna change the way I feel,” Rick said suddenly, eyes pleading and intense. “Him bein’ alive, dead…don’t matter. It’s wrong, and it was never gonna help, anyway.”

“Yeah, yeah, Gandhi, you already said your piece,” Negan muttered drily. He pushed a hand through Rick’s hair, pushing the curls back from his face.

“I’m sorry,” Rick said brokenly, and he looked so forlorn with his eyes red and swollen and a french fry dangling limply from his hand that Negan couldn’t stand it.

He wrapped an arm around his neck and buried his hand in his curling hair, pulling him in for a kiss. This time it was nicer, slower, softer. “You’ve got nothing to be sorry about, darlin’,” Negan said when he pulled back. “You’re okay. I’ve got you.” He jerked his chin towards the paper bag in Rick’s lap. “Finish that.” He kept the arm draped across his shoulders, leaning back against the metal bench they were sitting on together. It was past midnight, and the outdoor seating area was abandoned. He supposed that was a good thing.

The cop and the outlaw, Negan thought, feeling a grim smile tug at his lips. Cute.

Rick was wiping his mouth on the back of his hand, his eyes tentative. “You takin’ me home with you?”

Negan tilted his head back, looking at the other man from beneath his sooty lashes. “That’s right.”

“Good,” Rick said softly, and he leaned forward to meet his lips again.

The cop and the outlaw, Negan thought again as he sucked on the other man’s lips, his tongue. “Come on, baby,” he rumbled as Rick cupped his cheek and continued to press wet kisses against his lips, “let’s get going before we get indecent in public.”

If he were a better man, Negan reflected grimly, he wouldn’t let this play out the way it was going. He would drive Rick right back to his house and leave him there, untouched. The man was lost, adrift on a storm of grief and confusion, and he was about to fall straight into Negan’s arms because he mistook them for safe harbor. If Negan were a better man, he would never allow it.

But he wasn’t a better man. He was hard as he drove along the dark, silent streets, Rick pressed up against him. His dick was aching.

You’d be smarter without it, Bud had said.

He’d be kinder, too, he thought darkly.

Chapter Text

Negan’s apartment building was an old factory that had been converted years ago - the steel-and-cinderblock made for a severe aesthetic, but it suited Negan fine. It was cold, though, and drafty. Even so, Negan knew the way Rick shivered under his arm wasn’t all from the cold.

“You’ll feel better after a stiff drink and a hot shower,” Negan murmured as he lead him to his slate-colored couch. “Sit down.”

Rick obeyed, sinking onto the plush, silky cushions and wrapping his arms around himself. Negan shucked his jacket off and tossed it around Rick’s shoulders. Rick drew it around him more tightly, looking up at him with soft, grateful eyes, and Negan felt a return of that same sickly-sour guilt he had felt when he touched him in the storeroom. Leave him the fuck alone, a voice scolded from one corner of his mind. He’ll let you do anything you want, purred one from another corner.

He turned away to hide his confusion and walked to the heavy wooden sideboard shoved into a corner. He pulled out a cheap bottle of whiskey and a couple glasses. “What made you change your mind, anyway? About the hit?” Negan called over his shoulder as he poured out the drinks.

“It’s just like I said. I realized that it wasn’t gonna change anything. Wasn’t gonna change the way I feel. Wasn’t gonna…make it hurt less. And it was wrong. Ain’t it? Killin’ people?” Rick laughed unsteadily. “I don’t know. I don’t what to think. And I don’t know what to do now, with him bein’ awake. Bein’ alive.”

Negan snorted, making his way back over the man on the couch. “He’s dead to you now, baby. You don’t owe him anything else.” He handed Rick his glass and sat close beside him.

Rick took long, grateful swallow. “What do I owe the Saviors? For t-the…job,” he asked hesitantly after a moment, looking down at his hands. “I hired you, so-“

Negan cut him off with a laugh. “Honey, the job was…not official. It was just me. Kind of a private contract. Crew wouldn’t get behind it. You don’t owe the Saviors shit.”

“What do I owe you, then?”

Negan locked his gaze with Rick’s, his hazel eyes suddenly serious. “Nothing. You don’t owe me a damn thing. Listen, honey, that’s not why I fucking brought you here. You’re welcome to anything I got - the booze, the shower, place to crash for the night - and there’s no catch. No strings attached. Okay?”

Rick looked up at him with those eyes, those melting, cotton-candy blue eyes, and he lifted a hand to rest against Negan’s cheek. He held his gaze for a moment longer before leaning in and pressing a soft kiss to the corner of Negan’s mouth. It was the most chaste kiss Negan could ever remember getting, but it made his cock ache with want.

“On the other hand,” Negan whispered, trying to compose himself, “I gotta say - I’m starting to get the idea that you like me.” Rick looked down, flushing, and the way his lips quirked up at the corners in the barest hint of a smile made Negan feel almost light-headed with triumph. He wrapped a bold arm around Rick’s warm waist, tugging him closer. “You got a few impure thoughts rattling around in that pretty head, don’t you? Tell me the truth, angel.”

Rick huffed a laugh, eyes drifting away shyly. “You keep callin’ me that. I don’t think I’m much of an angel,” he murmured, taking a sip from the glass in his hand.

“Sure you are, baby. You’re just down in the devil’s den right now, that’s all.”

“Is that you? The devil? You’ve been tryin’ to help me.”

Sure, Negan thought wryly. Trying to help you right onto my dick.

Rick looked up again, blue eyes meeting his hesitantly. He slipped his arm around Negan’s neck, gazing falling to his lips. “Thank you for tryin’ to help me,” he whispered. “I’m sorry that I…caused you all that trouble. Really, I-“

“You didn’t cause me any trouble, deputy. Not yet. Are you gonna? I’d love it if you did.” Negan grinned at him, eyes softening as Rick’s gaze drifted back up.

Rick kissed him again, not so chaste this time. Their mouths moved against each other slowly, wetly. When Rick pulled back, his lips glistened in the soft lamplight, and Negan couldn’t resist darting back in for a quick peck.

“I don’t understand why you’re not angry,” Rick confessed softly.

Negan laughed softly, still hovering close to Rick’s lips. “Why the fuck would I be? Saved me a day’s work. Now I get to sit on the couch with this fox I picked up at a bar instead of worrying about covering my tracks and all that shit.”

Rick gave him a faint smile, but he began to worry at his bottom lip. Negan watched that happen like it was the most goddamn fascinating thing in the world. “I don’t get it, though. What I…what I asked you to do. What was it all gonna cost me? You weren’t gonna…just do it for free?”

Negan sipped his whiskey, giving an amused snort through his nose. “Didn’t think that far ahead. Thinking ahead isn’t really my strength, Rick. I probably would’ve said something cute. Told you the price was you having drinks with me at the Sanctuary once in awhile.”

Rick gave him a bewildered look. “Why? Don’t this kind of thing usually cost big money?”

“Jesus, baby, you’re really asking me ‘why’? Is it not obvious? Was it not obvious yesterday?”

Rick looked down, his blush staining his cheeks a deeper crimson.

Negan squeezed his waist gently, taking another long pull of whiskey. “Yeah. That’s right. I’m a fucking sucker for a pair of big, blue eyes, deputy.”

Rick pillowed his head on Negan’s shoulder, arm still curled around his neck. They drank in silence for a stretch, nestled together on the couch.

“What was her name?” Negan asked quietly, rubbing his palm along the small of Rick’s back and feeling the warmth of the skin just beneath the soft fabric of his shirt.

“Lori,” he replied hoarsely. “We been goin’ together since we were thirteen. Got married right after high school. Would’ve been six years this June.”

Negan gave a faint snort. “Right after high school, huh? Shit. Me too.”

Rick lifted his head to gaze up at him in surprise. “Where is she?”

“Same place yours is, darlin’. This year…shit. Would’ve been ten years. But I lost her after three.”

“Jesus,” Rick whispered, brows knitting in distress. “I’m so sorry.”

Negan bent his head and kissed his creased forehead. “Sweet of you to say so, baby.”

Rick dropped his head back to Negan’s shoulder, sighing. “Does it ever…ever stop feelin’ like this? Like there’s a piece of you that got ripped out that’s just…” he faltered for a moment, voice trembling on the words, “…just empty and achin’ every minute of the day?”

Negan lifted his glass to his lips and drained it, feeling the whiskey burn its way over his tongue and down his throat. He leaned forward and set his empty glass on the coffee table before taking Rick’s. The man’s eyes were bright with unshed tears. Negan settled back and pulled him closer to against chest, cupping his cheek with his free hand. “No,” he said gently, and his lips closed over Rick’s.

It was soft again, at first. Then their kiss grew messy, hungry, and wet - their mouths fell open against each other, and their teeth clashed inelegantly once or twice in their eagerness to devour. The jacket had long since tumbled from Rick’s shoulders, and Negan’s hands found their way beneath Rick’s shirt to roam the warm, hard, muscular back. Rick sighed shakily and leaned further into the touch, which is what emboldened Negan to let his hands drift further down, dipping his fingers deep into the waistband of Rick’s jeans in a silent query. The soft noise Rick made into his mouth as he surged against him, curling tighter into his embrace gave him his answer.

“I think I promised you a hot shower,” Negan whispered against his lips.

It was Rick, once again, who struck first when they arrived in the cold, white-tiled bathroom. He slid his hands beneath Negan’s white teeshirt, palms skimming warm skin, as he glanced up with a question in his soft blue gaze. Negan grinned at him and lifted his arms invitingly as Rick pulled the soft fabric up and over his chest, revealing the sprawling ink. Rick handled him curiously, fingers sliding and tracing over tattooed skin. Negan bit the inside of his cheek, trying to give Rick the space for his tentative exploration. It was fucking torture. His fingers itched to seize the front of the gray linen button-down Rick was wearing and tear the draping fabric in two.

“You don’t have to be so careful, baby,” Negan said when he finally found his voice, “I’m tougher than I look.”

Rick smiled at him, and though his eyes were still sad, there was an alluring glint of mischief in their depths. “So am I.”

Jesus. That sent a rush of arousal spreading through his hips so hotly and intensely that it almost hurt. “I believe you,” Negan said softly, and he set about stripping Rick with as much care as he could manage with his blood roaring in his ears and his dick a steel shaft between his legs. He made a pained noise when Rick’s wrist brushed the straining bulge at the front of his jeans as the blue-eyed man worked open his belt, and Rick met him in an eager, open-mouthed kiss. Rick got the jeans undone and pushed them over his hips, and Negan hissed into his mouth as his cock sprang free. He broke the kiss, stepping back to strip them off. He gestured towards his jutting, swollen erection. “Look what you’re fucking doing to me, deputy.”

Rick looked, crimson spreading across his face and down his throat. His own clothes were long shed by Negan’s eager hands, and Negan could tell by the way his hands were twitching that he was fighting the urge to cover himself.

Oh, hell, no.

Negan stepped closer, sinking to his knees and seizing Rick’s hips. “And look what I’ve done to you,” he murmured, leaning in to nuzzle Rick’s flushed, hard length.

Something between a gasp and a moan sobbed out of Rick as his knees buckled dangerously. His hands fell to Negan’s shoulders, clinging to him for balance. Negan wound a steadying arm around his waist as he pressed kisses all along the hot, silky skin, pausing to lap at the wetness already gathering at the head. “Negan,” Rick groaned shakily, and Negan shot a wicked look up at him from beneath his dark lashes. His eyes were shut tightly, and if Negan didn’t know better, he’d think it was pain that was twisting his handsome features right now.

“Baby, if you’re liking the preview, just wait until we get to the main event,” he murmured, letting his words hit the sensitive flesh at the head of Rick’s cock as soft, warm puffs of breath.

The other man sank his teeth so hard into his bottom lip that Negan was sure he would draw blood, and he stood up and took his hands gently. Rick’s eyes drifted open, and Negan felt something flutter in his chest as the open, vulnerable gaze met his. He had already started the water, letting it heat up, and the air was warm and wet with the rising steam. The ends of Rick’s curls had grown damp in the now-sultry air, starting to cling to his flushed face. Negan blinked, and he felt it again: the same electric spark that had jolted through him the first time he saw him. Beautiful. He tugged Rick gently towards the shower, and he followed immediately, docile and trusting as a lamb.

He couldn’t keep his hands off of him as the warm water cascaded around them. Rick was flushed down to his navel, pressed against Negan’s body, giving himself up to the hungry, wandering hands.

He couldn’t keep his mouth shut, either. “You feel so fucking good up against me like this, baby. So fucking…so fucking right. I could hardly drive the fucking bike with you all cozied up to me. I was so hard, you made me so fucking hard, I’m surprised I-“ He caught himself, thankfully, before he could finish - surprised I didn’t drive right off the fucking road. He mentally scourged himself for even getting close to saying something so thoughtless as he kissed Rick’s soaked curls gently. “Surprised I could remember the way home.”

Rick tilted his head back against Negan’s shoulder, trying to meet his hazel eyes. “Yeah,” he said quietly, “I feel the same way. Started back in the bar.“

Negan gave a rueful laugh. He remembered the way he had mercilessly squeezed Rick’s neck when he said he was a cop, the way he had really made it hurt, and he felt another sour wave of guilt. “Is that right, honey? You get hard for a little danger? That outlaw shit get your panties wet?”

“No,” Rick said simply, “it was just you, I guess. Besides, I think you started liking me then, too.”

Negan swallowed. Rick’s plain honesty left him feeling utterly disarmed, and he struggled for something to say. “That’s right, sweetheart,” he said finally, lulled into matching him truth for truth. “I did. Saw you sitting there, and you were so goddamn pretty, I just followed my dick. Then you started telling me about all that shit you’ve been neck-deep in, and I…wanted to do something about it. Wanted to help.”

“You feel sorry for me?” Rick asked quietly, lowering his eyes.

“Is it gonna hurt your pride if I say yes, darlin’?”

Rick shook his head, and a sad little smile lifted his lips. “No. What pride? Like you said, I’m a hot fucking mess. Look at me - I was a cop, and I tried to hire you to kill my…my best…”

“You know what?” Negan interrupted swiftly. He didn’t like the way Rick’s eyes were looking just then - they were turning blank, unfocusing, drifting far away again. “I don’t think I want to talk about that right now with my dick pressed against your sweet little ass, Rick. I think I want to keep things moving the fuck along. Are they moving along? You gonna let me take you to my bed?”

“Yeah,” Rick sighed, and his gaze grew focused again, resting shyly on Negan’s face. “Take me to bed, Negan.” That glint of mischief returned, sparking in his eyes like sunlight on water. “Still need your help with something.”

Negan dragged him in for hungry kiss, awkward at this angle. He shoved a bar of soap into his hands. “Just hurry the fuck up, and I’ll give you all the help you can handle.”

Neither of them had the patience to towel off properly, and they both shivered and laughed as the chill struck their damp bodies the moment they stepped out of the steam-warmed bathroom together. Negan hurried Rick into his bedroom and deposited him rather gracelessly onto the rumpled bed sheets. He crawled over him, eager to be against him again, as Rick settled back onto the pillow with a shiver. “Nervous?” Negan whispered, bending down to brush his lips against the scratchy stubble at his jaw.

Rick laughed weakly. “Yeah. And cold.”

Negan reached back and pulled the comforter over them both. His eyes softened as they reached Rick’s. “Don’t worry, angel. Gonna warm you up with my fire and brimstone.”

He was rewarded with another laugh, stronger and more genuine. Warm, strong hands framed Negan’s face and tugged him down for a long, flowing kiss. Negan rolled onto his side, pulling Rick into his arms. The other man nestled against him as the soft, wet sounds of their mouths meeting filled the stillness of the darkened bedroom. Negan pulled back slightly, licking hard over Rick’s bottom lip.

“Just to be clear…fire and brimstone is what I call my dick,” Negan whispered against Rick’s parted lips. He felt the lips curve into a smile.

Rick’s eyes were hazy as they met Negan’s, and he splayed a hand against his muscled chest, just over the tattooed portrait of a woman with dark hair and a sly expression. The blue eyes dropped shyly as the hand wandered down, down his chest and over his belly. He paused just as his fingers reached the curling dark hair. “Fire and brimstone, huh?” Rick murmured, and that throaty, honey-slow drawl sent a lazy thrill shooting through Negan from his toes to the crown of his head.

He was just about to reply when the hand plunged daringly between his legs and seized the fire and brimstone. He groaned instead, head falling back, as Rick’s hand moved slowly over him. “Mm, baby. That’s good, that’s real fucking good,” he sighed. Rick’s touch grew a little bolder under the praise, and Negan gave another wrenching groan. He reached up and tangled a hand into Rick’s curls. “Come here,” he grunted, dragging him down and finding his lips again. Rick kissed him as he stroked the hard, hot length, swallowing Negan’s soft pants.

Some half-clever remark about being careful when you play with fire was trying to form itself in Negan’s mind, but the teasing felt uncomfortably close to the truth. What the hell was he doing with this man? Sheriff’s deputy, driven to the wrong side of the law in his grief. Driven right into the arms of someone who could burn him, consume his entire life with the taint of what he was and what he did. If Negan were smart, if he were kind, he would stop this right now.

Instead of being smart or kind, he nosed over to Rick’s flushed ear, putting his lips against it. “Are you gonna let me fuck you?” he whispered, and he felt Rick’s hand falter a little. He laughed and reached down, grasping the other man’s erection and giving it a firm stroke. “Because we could go on just like this if you want, honey, or I could turn you over and give it to you so good you won’t be able to fucking see straight. Your choice.” He passed his thumb over the wet tip of Rick’s cock, enjoying the faint whimper he was rewarded with.

Blue eyes met his, cloudy with lust. “Negan,” he sighed, thighs falling open a bit more as Negan worked him.

“Mm-hm. That’s me,” he rumbled, and he shifted over Rick, rolling him to his back on the soft mattress. He ground their erections together slowly, and he hardly registered the low, soft, broken noise that escaped Rick over the way his own body seized up and shook under the hot rush of pleasure.  “Fuck,” he breathed, rolling his hips slowly against the man beneath him.

Rick’s fingers sank into his hips, pressing into the soft flesh and urging him on. Negan dropped his head and moved his lips over the pale, exposed throat, feeling it vibrate as Rick gave another moan.

“God, you feel so fucking good,” Negan groaned into the other man’s neck as the sensitive flesh of his cock slid against Rick’s, trapped between their bellies.

Rick’s warm thighs closed around his waist. “Negan,” he sighed again.

“Are we gonna come all over each other like teenagers humping in the backseat, Ricky?” he panted, grinning against the damp skin.

“No,” Rick whispered, eyes shut tight, “come inside me.”

Negan let out a string of curses and stilled his hips. “Are you trying to kill me, deputy? Jesus Christ.” He shifted, propping himself up to gaze down at Rick. He lifted a hand and pushed it through chestnut curls. “Say it again,” he demanded softly. “And then please, pretty fucking please say some other kinky shit. That Southern drawl is really doing it for me, baby.”

Rick’s eyes drifted open, and he smiled faintly. Instead of saying it again, he said, “can we take it slow?”

Negan dropped his head and pressed a feather-light kiss to those full, pink lips. “Angel,” Negan said seriously, “we can take it however you want.”

He could take it slow. He could be patient and gentle and careful with the man beneath him - it was the fucking least he could do, seeing as he shouldn’t be touching him in the first place. That was the thought that rattled guiltily around his head as he stroked Rick from the inside with slick fingers. “I can be good to you, baby.” He couldn’t seem to stop talking; the words poured from his mouth as he watched Rick writhe and whimper in time to the tempo set by his questing fingers. “See? I can make it so, so fucking good. You like that, don’t you? You like my fingers inside, making you dance?”

“Yeah,” Rick said breathily, reaching down and squeezing Negan’s warm thigh.

“You’re gonna like it a hell of a lot more when it’s my cock stretching you out, angel,” Negan growled, and he enjoyed the way Rick’s face flamed in response. He leaned over and placed a gentle kiss to Rick’s trembling stomach. “We’ll get there. But we’re gonna take it nice and easy, right?” He hooked his fingers, searching for-

“Negan!” Rick cried, entire body bending like a drawn bow.

Negan gave a pleased rumble deep in his chest. He thought he could watch Rick like this all night, face alternately slack and screwed tight with pleasure, chest flushed and heaving as if he were at the limit of his endurance. Well, maybe he could, if it weren’t for his own neglected erection screaming at him from between his legs. When Rick was ready, when his walls were soft and yielding around his fingers, he seized his hips and urged him over gently. Rick went, rising shakily to his knees on instinct and burying his face in the sweat-damp pillow.

Eager as he was to get on with things, Negan had to take a moment to admire the sight of Rick’s lush backside raised in the air. “Jesus, Rick.” He squeezed a handful from each cheek hard, and Rick made an indignant-sounding noise. Negan laughed. “Sorry, baby, but your ass is incredible. Work of art.” He bent and nuzzled against one smooth cheek, nipping lightly, enjoying the faint noises Rick made beneath him at the attention. He straightened up, unable to ignore his cock’s insistent throbbing any longer, and he guided himself to Rick’s entrance. “Ready, honey?” he asked gently, trembling a little with the effort of not pressing forward into the warm, welcoming flesh.

“Y-yes,” Rick sighed, knees slipping a little further apart.

Negan rubbed his back slowly as he sank into him. Jesus Christ, Jesus Horatio Christ, he felt like heaven around Negan’s aching cock. His muscles screamed with the strain of holding back, but he was damned if he was going to rush and risk hurting him. He asked him to go slow. He needed him to go slow. Fuck, he shouldn’t be here at all, in Negan’s bed, on Negan’s cock. Too fucking late, he told himself grimly, you’re half-deep in his ass, you fucking idiot. Too late to be noble now. He was never gonna be noble, anyway, and who would want to be if it meant forgoing this? The groan he gave as he slid home in him, hips coming to rest flush against his warm, soft skin, felt like it was ripped from somewhere deep inside. It almost hurt leaving his throat.

Rick gave a singing sigh beneath him. “Negan,” he said, sounding soft and dazed and faraway, “you feel so…so…”

Negan couldn’t help himself. “Big?” he suggested cheerfully. “Enormous? Like I’ve got my horse-cock buried so deep your ass it’s knocking against your ribs? I’m flattered, Rick, but I think you’re exaggerating a little.”

Rick shook with laughter beneath him, and Negan’s eyes nearly rolled back into his head at the way it made his body clench and slide around his cock. “You ain’t…much of a romantic,” he panted, turning his face back into the pillow.

Negan grunted at that, giving a shallow, experimental thrust. Rick gave a soft cry, pressing back against him as if trying to take him deeper. “Sure I am, baby. I’m all about the romance.” He withdrew almost completely and sheathed himself again in a slow roll of his hips. Rick took it with another cry, turning his face into the pillow to smother the sound as his fingers sank into the softness there. “There you go, honey,” Negan sighed, settling into a smooth pace. “You take it like you were made for it, don’t you?”

Rick whimpered something unintelligible in response, and Negan rubbed his hands over every inch of warm skin he could reach as he fucked him. He was a romantic, he thought to himself grimly, to go in for this Romeo and Juliet shit, to bring a goddamn cop into his bed and stuff him full of his outlaw dick. There were about one hundred and one ways this could go bad before either of them had a chance to come. He could almost hear Bud admonishing him again, but he shut that out with a shake of his head.

Rick’s face was still buried in the pillow, and Negan paused, leaning over him to nip at the shell of his ear and to nuzzle against the side of his face. “Come on, baby, come out of there and give me a kiss,” he coaxed. He stiffened when Rick gave a hitching, stuttering breath. He withdrew from the other man’s body with a curse, feeling the blood turn to ice in his veins. Rick made a soft noise of protest and lifted his face. It was tear-streaked, just as Negan suspected, and his heart plunged even deeper into his chest. “Fuck,” he hissed, dismayed, “Rick, I’m s-“

“No, no,” Rick croaked, reaching back to grip Negan’s arm, “don’t stop. Please. You’re not hurting me. Please.”

Negan stared at the man beneath him for a second. “Then what is it?”

Rick gave a sad half-laugh, half-sob. “I haven’t felt good in a long time. I don’t know what to do with it.”

Negan hung his head, feeling the pain in that sear the inside of his chest. He reached down and wiped the wetness from the cheek Rick had turned to him. “I’m sorry, baby,” he said softly. “You’ve been through some real shit. Still in it, I guess. I’m being a selfish asshole, aren’t I? You’re in no condition to get fucked right now. Hell, I guess I already knew that much.”

Rick turned his face further into the hand at his cheek, kissing the broad palm. “Don’t stop,” he repeated softly, and there was no mistaking the plea in his tone.

Negan stared at him for a moment, warring instincts inside of him. It was no big surprise to him which side won, and he leaned down and kissed Rick again. It was soft, almost innocent. “On your back, sweetheart,” he murmured.

Rick obeyed, turning over and settling back on the pillow. He reached up to scrub at the tears on his other cheek, gazing up at Negan.

He trusts me, Negan realized, and the thought was followed by another rush of dismay. He couldn’t be smart about this, and he couldn’t be kind. Rick was looking at him like he was some kind of savior, and that was all, all wrong.

Didn’t stop him from wanting it, though. Didn’t stop him from taking it, either.

He gently maneuvered Rick’s legs, lifting his knees and spreading his thighs. Rick caught on, and he draped one leg over Negan’s shoulder.

Negan turned his head and kissed the inside of Rick’s knee. “Can’t make your troubles go away, baby. But I can make you forget them for awhile.” He slid slowly back into the man beneath him, taking in the way his lips fell open in a soundless moan as his eyelashes fluttered. “Feel that, angel? That’s all I want you thinking about.” Negan gave a slow, careful thrust, and Rick made a sweet noise, arching his hips up to take it. “That’s right,” he breathed, and he set a languid place, taking his time as he traced a hand over Rick’s flushed chest and down to his weeping length. The sound that escaped Rick’s throat when Negan wrapped him in his fist was agonized, pitiful. “That’s right,” he said again, and it was the last thing he said for a while.

Rick gave a sobbing cry when he came, and Negan rocked hard and fast against him as he writhed through it, white painting his heaving chest and belly. Everything went fuzzy and dark when Negan slipped over the edge into his own completion, feeling himself release deep inside Rick’s quaking body. When his vision focused again, all he could see was the wetness - Rick smeared and damp with the come, sweat, and tears, and suddenly he felt almost ill with the guilt.

You shouldn’t have. You really fucking shouldn’t have. He’s too goddamn fragile. He’s ready to break into a thousand fucking pieces. What the fuck fuck fucking fuck were you thinking, bringing him here and putting your dick in him? You really couldn’t keep it in your goddamn -

Rick’s eyes were open and fever-bright, searching Negan’s face. “Come here,” he croaked, “please, baby.” He reached for Negan, who fell immediately into his arms, unable to do anything but obey. Rick curled his entire body around him, nestling his damp face into his shoulder. “I’ve never…” Rick began weakly. He swallowed with an audible click. “I’ve never fallen apart like that before. Cried all over someone like I did outside the hospital. Cried while…” He swallowed again, and he tilted his head back to look into Negan’s eyes.

“Keep it all buried deep, huh?” Negan offered quietly. “I get it. Sure, I get that, angel.” Tell him now, he screamed at himself. Tell him that you’re not a guy to cry on. Tell him you’re not a savior, not the kind he’s looking for. Tell him before-

“I know you do,” Rick said softly, “and I like it when you call me ‘angel.’” Rick’s lips were on his before he could even blink.

Devil though he may be, Negan was the one that felt himself ignite and burn to cinders in the heat of that kiss.